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An Open Letter to Ron Vietti and Jim Crews

16 Oct

Dear Ron & Jim,

In the wake of your message entitled “Calvinism Exposed”, I appreciate very much that you have also posted Christianity Today’s debate entitled “Old Debate, New Day: Calvinism” on Valley Bible Fellowship’s website.  I especially appreciated Mark Galli’s introduction to the debate in which he said: “We will have our differences, and so our pages (that of Christianity Today) give space for those differences just like we’re doing this evening.  The one thing that has impressed me about these 4 men is just how much respect they have for one another right at the beginning of the conversation. We’re not talking about people who think, uh, one group thinks the other group is not a Christian.”

This debate has been going on for centuries, and I am thankful that Mark has pointed out that those who engage in the debate can and should do so respectfully.  Clearly, Mark and Christianity today do not consider Calvinism to be a heretical teaching, nor do Calvinists consider Arminianism to be heretical.  They are simply two opposing systems for understanding the scriptures, both founded upon the authority of the Scriptures themselves.  If there is room for these kinds of differences within the pages of Christianity Today magazine, there is certainly room for the same in the multi-denominational culture we find in the Christian community in Bakersfield and throughout the world.

Therefore, I believe that you both made several statements in your message entitled “Calvinism Exposed” which require your repentance, and a public apology.  Two examples of such statements are:

1. “This doctrine (Calvinism) is the ugliest doctrine I’ve ever seen in my life… We’ve been called to stand up against heresy, we’re commanded to do that as shepherds.” – Ron
2. “This doctrine (Calvinism) is blasphemous, it’s unbiblical, it’s heresy; I believe it’s a doctrine of demons.” – Jim

I appreciate your desire to shepherd your flock well. Please try to be more considerate of other Pastors, Churches, and Christians who don’t believe exactly the same as you do who are trying to do the same.  Calling a historic system of theology heretical just because you don’t agree with it’s doctrines is highly inappropriate.

In Christ and for His Glory,

Jay Kappel

 

PS – I originally posted a letter very similar to this one on the VBF Church website as a comment on the Old Debate, New Day: Calvinism post.  It’s disheartening to me that the comment has been kept in moderation.  Are you unwilling to be held accountable for what you publicly proclaim?

 
 

More Faith Needed!

28 Aug

     Well, as promised this is the second installment of my “Common Misconceptions as found in American Christianity”.  Before I begin this post, I have to admit that I myself struggled under this misconception for many years (as is true with most of these misconceptions I am writing about).  It wasn’t until God grabbed ahold of me and opened my eyes to truly see and understand his Word (the Bible) says, that I began to realize all the false beliefs I was holding on to.  My hope is that through this series, some of these issues will come before the light of Truth and be shown for what they truly are, misconceptions.

prayingHands     Have you every prayed really earnestly for something, only to feel that God has not heard your prayers?  He didn’t grant what you were asking for?  It’s not uncommon that in the frustration of such an event that people share with other Christians their disappointment.  Far too often, our well meaning friends try to comfort us by pointing out that we need to believe that God will grant the request.  This conveys the idea that one of the possible reasons that God did not grant your request is because you don’t have enough faith.  If only you could muster up a little more, God may hear and grant your request.  This concept comes from a misunderstanding of scripture verses such as the following:

  • Matthew 21:21-22 – “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
  • James 1:5-8 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

     In these verses, we can see that our requests are to be made in faith without doubt.  Therefore, we tend to connect doubt with a lack of faith.  The more faith you have, the less doubt you will experience.  The more doubt you experience, the less faith you have.  Part of the problem that leads us to this erroneous conclusion is that both of these scripture verses have been taken out of context.  What does that mean?  It means that just as I have posted them above, people tend to recall them and apply them to their situation without importing the context the verse was given in.  So, let’s take a moment to look at the context.

FaithDoubt     James is writing to Christian brothers (and sisters as well) who are in the midst of various kinds of trials.  He is encouraging them to remain steadfast because their faith is being tested in order that the testing may result in their being perfected or sanctification.  He gives them the encouragement that if they lack wisdom in the midst of these trials, they should ask God for it in faith without doubting because the man who doubts is double minded and unstable, and should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Why?  The trials that they are going through are for a purpose.  The purpose is to make “perfect and complete” those who are going through the trials.  This is God’s purpose for the trials.  To doubt that God has purposed trials for your sanctification is to doubt the nature of God and his promises to his children!  Does that sound like faith to you?  James is not talking about some arbitrary amount of faith here, he is talking about the stark difference between those who actually have faith, and those who do not!  It is those who have faith, whom are being tested.

     Well, how about the verses in Matthew then?  If you re-read it, you will see that it’s making the same point.  Verse 22 drives the whole point home by concluding that all that it promises is only so, “if you have faith”.  Those who do not believe in Jesus, those who do not trust in God, do not have faith, and should not suppose that God will grant their requests!  The whole idea that God didn’t answer your prayer because you didn’t have enough faith is based on a misunderstanding of the very source of faith to begin with.  What do I mean by that?  Is faith something that you have developed or cultivated for yourself, or does it come from somewhere outside of ourselves?  Let’s consider what the bible has to say:

  • Romans 12:3 – “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
  • Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this (faith) is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” – italic (faith) added to denote what the antecedent of the word “this” is.
  • Hebrews 12:2 – “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”
  • Romans 10:17 – “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

     God is the source of our faith, and he gives in accordance with his good purposes.  It’s really not a matter of whether you have faith enough, it’s a matter of whether you have faith at all.  Consider the following words spoken by Jesus:

  • John 15:7 – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
  • John 14:12-14 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

PraiseGod     Each of these above verses do not even mention faith, they mention being in Christ, or not in Christ (which condition can only be met by those who posses faith).  Those who believe are those who are in Christ (John 3:16).  Jesus himself makes the point that it’s not about the amount of faith you have, but rather that you have faith at all.  In Luke 17:5-6, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith.  He responds by pointing out to them that even the smallest amount of faith is completely sufficient.  Therefore, let’s repent of this idea that we must muster up our own faith, or somehow cause it to increase.  It’s God who gives faith, and God who causes it to increase as we faithfully walk in it.  Let’s be thankful to him for the faith he has given us, and let us walk confidentially in it trusting always in Him!

     One last thought, God always answers the prayers of his Children with one of three answers:  yes, no, or not now.  His ways are higher than our ways, his plan for your life is infinitely better than your plan for your life.  If you feel that God is not answering your prayer, it could be that his answer is no, or not now.  Someday, we will all praise him for answering “no” to these prayers about our plans so that he could bring about his plans instead.

 
 

The Goodness of Man

07 Aug

scales     Is mankind good?  To ask such a question in 21st century America is almost preposterous.  Why?  Because, such a question is seeking to make a universal statement about what is true all the while truth as a category is largely dismissed by our culture.  It is far to common to make a statement such as “So what if I speed on the way to and from work every day!”  Or “So I told a lie, big deal, everyone does.”  You see, today in America we are far too involved in justifying our behavior and the behavior of others by means of declaring there is no ethical norm to which we must adhere.  Instead we might say “Speed limits are in place for public safety, but I am a very capable and safe driver, so it’s okay for me to drive a little faster”.

Abraham Lincoln     So, how could anyone answer the question is mankind good?  Are all people exactly the same?  Do we have the same behaviors?  Do we all perform the same good deeds, or the same evil deeds?  Do we even universally label the same things good or evil?  Aren’t there just as many if not more variations on the scale between good and evil as there are between the colors of a rainbow?  Is there not a great chasm of difference between the actions of Adolf Hitler, and Abraham Lincoln?  Is there any person whom we would deem wholly evil, or wholly good?  If we are honest, we would all have to say that we perceive a sliding scale between good and evil and that this scale makes answering this question a ridiculously futile task.

     God, however, is not a man.  His ways are not our ways, and his perception of reality is 100% accurate where ours isn’t even close.  So, rather than asking men “is mankind Good?”, which is analogous to a blind man leading another blind man, we must ask God.  What has he said about this in his word?

     God says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  What is this “glory of God” which all have fallen short of?  God is holy, loving, just, kind, merciful, and more.  More over, he is perfect in all of his attributes.  His love is perfect, his kindness is perfect, his mercy is perfect, etc.  All of mankind falls short of this standard.  Our love, kindness, mercy, etc. are all imperfect, often centered around our own selfish pursuits.  At the very best, we are begrudgingly loving and self sacrificing toward someone who hates us and is seeking our harm.  Typically, we sever such a relationship and walk away.  After all, none of us would naturally desire to be merciful to someone who killed our own child, would we?  This is why God is perfectly just in declaring that “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19).  God shows his perfect love for humanity in that while we were still his enemies, sinning and rebelling against him, he sent his son to die for our transgressions and reconcile our relationship with himself!  God didn’t walk away when we killed his son, it was his plan to reconcile with us through our act of murdering him! (Romans 5:6-11)

Saint Peter     So, if no one is good except God alone, then where does that leave mankind?  Are we on the sliding scale somewhere between good and evil?  We might have the tendency to look at the Apostles of our Lord and say they were good men and Hitler was a evil man.  An honest person would likely figure that they fall somewhere in between the two.  However, the scriptures have not left this option open to us.  For when Jesus’s was speaking to his Apostles, he said to them “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (emphasis added)(Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13) .  Do you see the contrast?  The Apostles (and by implication all humanity) are evil, but God alone is Good!

     The good news is this:  Though humanity is sinful by our very nature (Romans 1:16-32) and therefore are at enmity with God, he has intervened because of his goodness to save a people for himself!  Those who believe in the Lord Jesus have been declared justified or righteous before God and have been saved from His wrath against their sin.  Even better news is that those whom he has justified, He will also glorify, and transform them into the image of his Son! (Romans 8:29-30)

     It’s imperative for the Churches in America to get this right.  All people are sinners, evil and disobedient before God, but God is in the business of saving and transforming the same!  It is the very fact that you are a sinner in need of a savior that qualifies you for his salvation!  Below are a few more passages that further clarify God’s thoughts on the matter:

  • Isaiah 64 – our righteous deeds are as a polluted garment (filthy rags).
  • Genesis 6:5 – every inclination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil all the time.
  • Romans 8:5-11 – humans in their natural state cannot pleas God, and are hostile to God.
  • Romans 11:30-32 – all people are disobedient to God.
  • John 3:16 – God emphatically loves sinners and has sacrificed greatly to reconcile with them!

Praise God that in his goodness, he saves evil sinners such as you and I!

 

Back to the blog…

07 Aug

     I want to apologize to those of you who have been faithful readers of my blog in the past.  I say “in the past” because I recognize that I have not posted a blog since Christmas.  The reason is that I have been working on my Thesis for my Master’s degree in theology, focus on Biblical counseling which I completed in June.  Having now graduated, I am ready to get back to blogging and moving forward in other areas of ministry which were on hold while my schooling was the main focus.

So, Today, I will begin working on a new series entitled “Common Misconceptions as found in American Christianity”.  Currently I plan to write seven posts dealing with these misconceptions and showing scriptural support for my position as usual.  If more misconceptions arise as I am working on this, the series may grow.  If I find that it makes good sense to combine some, I may do that.

So, thanks for sticking with me through the lull.  The first article of the series “The Goodness of Man” will follow shortly…

 
 

Merry Christmas!

13 Dec

christmas-star     As I sit here thinking about Christmas, my mind is directed to the timeless classic Christmas song “Joy to the world”.  This as well as many other enduring Christmas songs has at it’s very heart a message of Joy and hope.  I think also of “Hark! the herald angels sing” which beckons all nations to joyfully rise because of the Glory of the newborn King and the peace that he brings through reconciling God and sinners.  I am also reminded of the message given to the shepherds by the angel who said “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)  All of this points to the idea that Christmas is supposed to be a season of great peace and joy!

     Today, many people are struggling greatly to make ends meet.  Many others all around the globe are struggling just to survive.  With all the turmoil in our midst, can this Christmas still be a season of great joy?  I believe it can if we can remember the source of that joy.  The source is the grace filled gift of Jesus Christ, given to us by God the father in order to reconcile God with sinful man!  Why is this such a source of joy, let me explain.

     Many centuries before Jesus was born, God had revealed to mankind that he is Holy (different or separate from us).  That He is perfectly righteous (morally right and fair), but we are not.  To illustrate this, God gave mankind 10 commandments based upon his righteous nature which we are to constantly keep.  Anyone who truly understands these commandments immediately recognizes that it’s impossible to keep them all the time.  Because this is true, the bible tells us that all have fallen short and all are guilty before God.  To make matters worse, you must be perfectly righteous and Holy in order to enter Heaven and the presence of God.  Therefore, we can see that it is impossible for any of us to ever enter Heaven.

Christ-is-born     So, when the angel shows up proclaiming that a Savior is born, this truly is a message of great joy!  Somehow, God himself is intervening in our situation, and on our behalf in order to provide a way that we can be with him!  He has accomplished this by coming into the world and being born as a man.  Jesus is Immanuel which means “God with us”!  Jesus mere presence here is not what brings about our salvation, rather Jesus came and lived a perfect life of righteousness and holiness.  He perfectly represented the nature of God within the body of a human and lived out all of the commandments God had given us on our behalf.  Since we could not be righteous through our own efforts, he came to achieve righteousness as a gift he would give us!

     Not only does Jesus give us his righteousness, he also paid the debt we had incurred against God by breaking his commandments.  Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins against God.  So, what we have is a savior who came from Heaven to Earth in order to live a perfect life on our behalf, and to pay the price of our falling short of the Glory of God.  When we trust in Jesus, we are trusting that His work is sufficient to reconcile our relationship with God.  We are trusting that we no longer are under any law, but under God’s grace which has been given to us in the person of Jesus.

     As you celebrate Christmas this year, let Jesus fill your heart with joy because you recognize that he has accomplished everything necessary for your salvation.  If you have not trusted in Jesus as your savior, there is no better time to do so than Christmas!  No greater gift has ever been given than the gift of Jesus Christ!

Merry Christmas!

 
 

Legalism: Doctrine of Man

02 Dec

Legalism: Doctrine of Man

This post is so wonderful, I had to re-blog it!

Enjoy…

 

The Sovereign LORD – part 3

17 Nov

     Welcome to the third and final response to the informal poll I took of my readers.  In the first post, I responded to the question “Is God Sovereign?”, to which all of you responded that he was!  In my second post I responded to the question “Must a person be chosen by God in order to come to Christ for salvation?”.  There was a serious amount of division here, which I hope I have adequately addressed.  So, in this post, I will be looking at the question “Why should God allow you to enter Heaven?”.  Here we go…

saint-peter     The first option I presented for this question was “Because, I always follow His laws and He has declared that those who do so will enter Heaven.”  I am very pleased to report that nobody chose this answer.  I think it’s obvious to most Christians that we do not always follow God’s law.  In fact, if we are really honest with ourselves, we would have to say that we rarely follow Gods law.  I mean how many of us can honestly say that we have always “Loved the Lord our God with all our hearts, our minds, and our strength”?  An equally difficult question is have you continuously loved your neighbor as yourself?  None of us, if we are honest with ourselves, can answer affirmatively to either of those questions.  However, if it were possible for you and I to have always kept the laws of God, he would absolutely accept us into Heaven.  The problem is that we are born tainted by a sinful nature which is in constant rebellion against God.  This is why Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

greatest is love     The third option I presented (clearly I will not be going in order) was “Because God is very loving, and I am a pretty good person. It would not be loving for him to reject me.”  I am pleased to announce that even though many churches in America are teaching this message today, none of you voted for it.  While it is true that God is Love (1 John 4:8), it is not true that we are good (Ephesians 2:1-3).  It is also not true that God will be loving at the expense of his Justice.  What do I mean by that?  God is Love AND at the same time He is Just (Isaiah 61:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:6).  He tells us in Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”  The problem here is that no matter how loving God is, his justice requires him to judge everyone according to their ways, and according to their deeds.  We have already established that we failed to keep his law, and all have sinned and fallen short.  Therefore, God cannot simply ignore our sins and lovingly accept us anyway lest he would become an unjust judge.

     The fifth option I presented was “He shouldn’t and I don’t expect him to.”  Very rarely do you run into hellsomeone who would agree with this statement, but it happens.  I am glad to hear that none of my readers feel that this is the state their soul is in.  Someone who answers yes to this question usually has a very clear understanding of God’s justice, but has not yet encountered the Gospel!

     The sixth option I presented was “There is no God, there is no Heaven.”  Since no one voted for this option, I will not be writing a response to it.  This topic deserves it’s own series, not simply a paragraph or two.  If you desire a response to this assertion, please feel free to contact me and let me know.

The second option I presented was “Because I have accepted Jesus as my Lord, and I have done and continue to do what his word requires of me” received 19% of your votes.  Let’s consider what the scriptures have to say about this.  I’ll begin with what I believe is the most popular scripture verse in the world John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

WhyBotherWhat does this verse say is required for receiving eternal life?  It requires simply that we “believe in him”.  But you might say “Believing is not enough!  There are things we must also do.”  Yet, we find in Romans 4:3 that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Righteousness is a key part of our salvation.  Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 5:20 “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  But the Pharisees and scribes were the most righteous people in Jesus day!  Jesus was pointing us back to Abraham!  It is faith in God, trusting in his promises that credits righteousness to our account.  Nothing else.  This is why Jesus and his apostles state over and over again that whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life!  Biblical Christianity is not a matter of following rules in order to be righteous enough to stand before God.  If you take that viewpoint, then you will always be doubting your salvation or be worried that you can lose it.  You will always be wondering if you have done enough.  You will always feel nagging guilt, and uncertainty because honestly, you haven’t done enough.  Rather, put your trust in Jesus Christ as the one who perfectly lived out the law of God on your behalf!  He did for you what you could not do on your own.  Not only that, he also died on the cross in your place to settle the debt your sins against God had incurred!  God’s wrath toward those who trust in the work of Christ has been propitiated by Christ!  Isaiah 64:6 says “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”  Don’t trust in your worthless righteous acts, trust in Christ!  After all, the law of God was not given as a means of salvation, it was given to show us that we need a savior! (Galatians 3:24)

     The fourth option I presented, and the last one to discuss, was “He shouldn’t and I deserve Hell but I trust in Jesus and his promise that all who trust in him will be saved.”  Almost 81% of you knew this to be the correct jesus-christ-on-crossanswer!!!  Praise God for his grace and mercy upon your lives.  I think it has been made abundantly clear that we all fall short.  We all deserve God’s wrath and there is nothing we can do about it.  Therefore, God would be perfectly righteous to send each and every one of us to hell.  That’s not his plan though.  He sent Jesus to satisfy the demands of his Justice so that he could have mercy upon us!  He initiated with us!  He is the one who performed the work!  For Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Salvation in Christ comes as a gift from God and not by anything you can do!

     If this is not the Gospel you believe, you are living under a false Gospel.  There is only one Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is portrayed in the pages of the bible.  A false Gospel can’t save you!  Only faith in the finished work of Christ and looking to him instead of to anything you have done will result in salvation.  If you are adding your work to his perfect work, you are only adding blemishes or filthy rags!

     If you desire to learn more about this, start with the book of Romans in the Holy Bible.  There you will find this Gospel plainly portrayed.  As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I eagerly desire to interact with you and help you wrestle with the word of God as you seek His truth!

 

The Sovereign LORD – part 2

16 Nov

     Welcome to the second part of my blog series entitled The Sovereign Lord.  As I mentioned in part one, this series is written in response to the results of an informal poll I took of my blog readers.  In the first part, I responded to the question “Is God Sovereign?”.  Today’s post will be responding to the second question: “Must a person be chosen by God in order to come to Christ for salvation?”

throne     We have already established that God is sovereign, and we have fleshed out some of the implications of that statement.  We have seen what the scriptures say about his sovereignty and his rights as our sovereign God.  So, now I ask a simple question.  Should our understanding of the sovereignty of God influence our understanding of who God is, and how he works?  In other words, is God’s sovereignty an isolated part of God that is compartmentalized, or does it extend throughout everything he is and does?  I believe logic answers this question quite clearly.  God would cease to be sovereign if he were to set aside his sovereignty.  However, God himself answers this question as well when he says in Isaiah 45:4-5 “For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.  I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God;”.  This is only a tiny sampling of what Isaiah has to say about the sovereignty of God, I recommend you read the entire 45th chapter to gain a more complete understanding.

     There is quite an interesting phrase in that passage of scripture.  God calls Israel his chosen.  We might tend to miss the importance of this.  Let me ask a question: What is another popular title for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament?  It is “chosen people”. Consider how the following verses illustrate God’s choice:

    • Deuteronomy 7:6 – For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
    • 2 Chronicles 6:5-6 – ‘Since the day I [God] brought my people out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any tribe of Israel to have a temple built for my Name to be there, nor have I chosen anyone to be the leader over my people Israel.  But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there, and I have chosen David to rule my people Israel.’

     There are many more verses in the Old Testament that speak of God as the one who chooses his people.  We know he chose Abraham and all his descendants.  He chose Noah, He chose Moses, He chose Joshua, He chose every prophet, and many more He has also chosen.  And since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, has he continued to choose in the New Testament?  Consider these verses:

    • John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.
    • John 6:44-45 – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me
    • John 6:70 – Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve?”

saul_blinded     In these verses, Jesus himself clearly states that no one can accept him or his message unless that person is drawn to him by his Father.  God is the one who chooses who comes to Jesus.  If Jesus taught this message to his apostles, we would expect to see them teaching it as well right?  Luke reported in chapter 9 of the book of Acts, that God told Ananias to go and lay hands on Saul.  In verse 15, he gives the reason “for he is a chosen instrument of mine”.  Does this match up with Saul’s conversion story?  Certainly Saul was not desiring for Jesus to show up on the road to Damascus.  Saul had no interest in becoming a follower of Jesus, but rather he desired to kill as many of Jesus followers as he could.  It is clear, God chose him!  Saul later testifies to this fact in Galatians 1:15 where he states “But when he (God) who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace…”.  1 Peter 2:9 also agrees with this view.  It states “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  Here we clearly see Peter professing that God has chosen the people whom HE would call.

     It is inescapable that the entire bible illustrates time and time again that it is God who chooses his people, we simply respond to his choice.  In fact, for a good example of God stating the fact that it is His choice alone we can look at the ninth chapter of Romans where it is written:

though they were not yet born (Jacob and Esau) and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she (Rebekah) was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

     I recognize this is a difficult passage to come to terms with.  Yet Paul does not relent.  He continues on in verses 15 & 16 to say: “For he (God) says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”  Do you see that “it depends not on human will” nor on  “human exertion (or workings)”?  It is completely up to God whom he will have mercy upon.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been JesusWelcomessaved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  If it’s not your own doing that you were saved, who’s was it?  It was God’s work.  He saves those whom he has chosen.  The New Testament refers to them as “God’s elect” (Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1).

     The good news is this, If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and have placed your faith in him for the salvation of your soul, then you have been chosen by God.  He chose you when he was crafting his plan (Ephesians 1:3-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Romans 8:28-30) and has been faithfully working his plan in sovereignty ever since.  He does not add names to the Lamb’s book of life because he wrote them all before the creation of the Earth (Revelation 17:8).  The scriptures really have a lot to say on this matter of God’s sovereign choice in election.

     There was quite a division over this question in my poll.  44% of you said that you must be chosen by God, 50% said No, God has invited but anyone can accept, and 5% didn’t know.  I pray that as you continue to study God’s word for yourself He will reveal more and more of his Truth thereby renewing your minds in Christ, and setting you free from the bondage produced by the lies and sinfulness of this world.  Please feel free to comment or to ask a question.  Your feedback is always welcome.

In my next post, I will respond to the question “Why should God allow you to enter Heaven?”

 

The Sovereign LORD

15 Nov

     Recently I took an informal poll on my blog of which you are likely aware.  I want to thank those who participated in the poll.  Today’s post considering the Sovereignty of God will respond to the results of the poll.  Let’s get started.

     I am pleased to report that 100% of those who answered the poll said that they believe God is Sovereign.  Since we are all in agreement on this point you might expect that I would quickly move on to the next point.  However, I believe the Sovereignty of God to be a foundational truth upon which we build the rest of our understandings of God.  What does it mean to be sovereign?  According to my favorite dictionary (the 1828 Webster) sovereign is defined as:

    1. Supreme in Power; possessing supreme dominion; as sovereign ruler of the universe.
    2. Supreme; superior to all others; chief.
    3. Supremely efficacious; superior to all others; predominant; effectual; as a sovereign remedy.

sunset-space-pacific-ocean-thumb     We all know and agree that God is the creator but we tend to bulk at statements such as we belong to God, we are his possession.  As the one who created us, he has the right to do with us whatever he pleases.  This is undeniably asserted in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans.  In the 9th chapter and in verses 14-18 we find Paul writing “For he [God] says to Moses ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whim I have compassion’ … So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”  After all, we would agree that this verse certainly portrays a Godly level of sovereignty.  Paul continues his discourse on the Sovereignty of God throughout the rest of the chapter using such images as God as a potter, and we are the clay.  He has the right to do whatever he wants with his clay.  In fact, Paul continues on this theme all the way into chapter 11 where he states in verse 32 “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”  Are we getting a clear enough picture here of exactly how sovereign God is?  For God when speaking to Israel through the prophet Jeremiah says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Or again, as God has spoken through his prophet Isaiah “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (46:11)  Did you notice God’s emphasis on I?

     To drive this point all the way home, the gospel of Luke tells us in verses 28-33 that we must consider the cost of following Christ.  It would be to our shame to start out following him, only to turn back because we are not willing to pay the price.  Do you think that God has given us a principle which is not a part of his very nature?  Do you think that before he laid the foundations of the Earth he did not count the cost of doing so.  He is all knowing!  He knew everything that would happen, and he made a plan to encompass it all!  He planned Christ to come as our redeemer before he even created a thing as 1 Peter 1:20 states!  God didn’t just plan the beginning (creation), the middle (the atonement of Christ), and the End (Christ’s return and the age to come).  He planned everything!  This is how he is able to work out all things in accordance with his will, and this is how he can say to us that all things work for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28).  If God did not have a plan, he would not be sovereign!  He would always be reacting to whatever we decide to do.  This is not how he operates, no God is proactive through his providence!  He has a plan and he is working it.  For Philippians 2:13 says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  God works in you that you will be caused to desire to carry out that which he has purposed you to carry out!  We must not miss this!

Think on this, Pray on this, study the scriptures I mentioned, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to other scriptures.  May God in his mercy enlighten our darkened minds to see the truth of his holiness and majesty as our Sovereign Lord!

More to come in The Sovereign LORD, part 2: Answering the question “Must a person be chosen by God in order to come to Christ for Salvation”.

 

A Quick 3 Question Poll

11 Nov

Based on feedback from my last post, it seems appropriate to do a quick poll to see where people stand on these issues.  The poll is completely anonymous. I do not have any access to who has answered what so, answer as honestly and accurately as you can…

(if you do not believe that God exists, please answer only the third question)