Is God Reckless?

I saw that question on a Facebook post a couple of weeks ago, connected to the recently released Bethel Music song “Reckless Love”, written by Cory Asbury. Apparently it hit the top of some Christian music charts but has also garnered quite a bit of dialogue, some of which is helpful and some decidedly not so much.

Nevertheless, the above question is quite valid and deserving of discussion, at least when examined in light of what scripture teaches us about the nature of God’s love.

Here are the song’s lyrics:

[Verse 1]
Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me
You have been so, so
Good to me
Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Chorus]
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
[Verse 2]
When I was your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so
Good to me
When I felt no worth
You paid it all for me
You have been so, so
Kind to me
[Bridge]
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

To be fair, the song speaks well of God’s love, calling it overwhelming and never-ending. We can’t earn it and we don’t deserve it. God, through Christ the good Shepherd, seeks and saves the lost. God loves his own even when they are his enemies living in rebellion against him. And Jesus did pay the ultimate price, sinless and underserving, dying in place of sinners – absorbing the full weight of God’s just wrath against our sin.

But is the love of God for his own reckless’? The song’s claim that it is deserves closer examination, but not from our gut level emotions, which seem to have prompted the ongoing banter both, pro and con. We need to examine what the Bible has to say about God’s love to determine if the ‘reckless’ adjective is as well-deserved as the other descriptions “Reckless Love” presents to us. After all, it’s the adjective used in the song’s title and the author’s main point!

Here is the author’s response to many of the comments made about his song, as an attempt to clarify what he meant by calling God’s love ‘reckless’:

“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Again, to be fair, there is truth in this explanation, especially the descriptions of what God’s love is NOT. It’s the summary of God’s love that is problematic for many, including me:

“He (God) simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

Is that a Biblically supportable description of God’s love? While there is much in scripture that would answer with a resounding ‘no’, we offer a short passage from the book of Romans that should settle the matter:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)

That short passage speaks of intentionality, not recklessness. It describes deliberate actions of God toward his people! It describes the people of God from a point in eternity past and God’s foreknowledge through ultimate glorification in the presence of God for the rest of eternity.

I also offer to you that both major schools of theology (Calvinist & Arminian) are in complete agreement concerning God’s love being intentional and not at all reckless! Either God ‘foreknew’ his people in such an intimate way that he sovereignly changes their human will, causing their greatest desire to be to receive Christ when confronted with their sin (Calvinists), or he foreknew the ‘free will’ decisions many would make for Christ at some point in their lives.

Either way, God’s love is not ‘reckless’, as Corey Asbury describes recklessness! And because the song’s lyrics speak so much truth about God’s love, I cannot help but wonder why he thinks that God loves recklessly. It’d s popular sentiment among certain segments of evangelicalism. And that saddens me. Is my criticism justified? I believe it is. I also know that we should pray for Corey, his spiritual growth and ministry. Add to that prayer the thousands of young people who have been and are being terribly deceived by all the false teaching that Bethel Redding represents.

Contradiction in God?

Silly question, right? Do any of us know any genuine Christians who would affirm that there might be contradictions in God? I don’t. With that in mind, consider the following:

First, here are two passages of scripture that seem to say the God wants every human being to come to repentance and belief in Christ. At least that’s the prevalent belief across most of the Christian church.

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires ALL people (men) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Tim 2:3

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance.” – 2 Pet 3:9

Now consider the following passages that say very clearly that God personally causes ‘some’ to believe lies, and/or consciously blinds the eyes and hearts of ‘some’ so that they would NOT believe.

“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” – 2 Thess 2:11-12

He (God) has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart
,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.” – John 12:40 quotes Isaiah 6:10

If it is true that God desires that ‘all’ men, without exception, be saved, and at the same time the same God causes ‘some’ to believe a lie and blinds ‘some’ to the truth, so that they will NOT believe, we could logically conclude that

A. God can and will act contrary to his nature / desires.

B. God doesn’t always get what he wants.

C. We have, in some way, misunderstood the text of 1 Tim 2:3 and/or 2 Pet 3:9.

If A or B is true, then C might be false, an outcome we would prefer. We don’t like to be told we haven’t correctly interpreted the Bible.

If A or B is false, then C just might be true, and we have indeed misinterpreted 1 Tim 2:3 and/or 2 Pet 3:9.

That brings up the final question for now, “IF we have misinterpreted either passage, how have we erred?

I suggest that we very well might have erred in interpreting “ALL” in these texts to mean every human being without exception. It could be that “ALL” means, in both cases, all kinds of people, i.e. rich men, poor men, leaders/rulers, ordinary folk, Jews and Gentiles.

I further suggest that if we define “ALL” to mean all kinds of people, our high and loft view of God’s power and immutability remains intact, and there is NO contradiction in God. After all, he IS GOD.

Food for thought. . . yours? The lines are open.

Thoughtful Study of The Decrees of God

I Will Surely Tell of the Decree of the Lord

by Mike Riccardi

clip_image002In numerous passages throughout the Bible, there are places where Scripture speaks of God’s “purpose” (Acts 4:28), His “plan” (Ps 33:11; Acts 2:23), His “counsel” (Eph 1:11), “good pleasure” (Isa 46:10), or “will” (Eph 1:5). In one way or another, each of these designations refer to what theologians call God’s decree. The Westminster Confession famously characterizes describes God’s decree as follows: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

So in those instances where Scripture speaks of God’s purpose, plan, counsel, pleasure, or will, these passages are referring to the divine decree by which God, before the creation of time, determined to bring about all things that were to happen in time. John Piper, summarizing God’s decree, says, “He has designed from all eternity, and is infallibly forming, with every event, a magnificent mosaic of redemptive history” (Desiring God, 40). This helpful summary presents three characteristics of God’s decree that succinctly encapsulate the teaching of Scripture: God’s decree is eternal, immutable, and exhaustive.

God’s Decree is Eternal and Unconditional

First, Scripture presents God’s decree as having been determined before the creation of time, and thus it is said to be eternal.

· David praises God because all his days were ordained and written in God’s book before any one of them came to pass (Ps 139:16).

· God’s election of individuals to salvation is said to have occurred “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4; cf. Matt 25:34; 1 Tim 1:9).

· Paul also says that the plan of salvation of the Gentiles was in accordance with God’s eternal purpose (Eph 3:11), which mystery was “predestined before the ages” (1 Cor 2:7).

· In Isaiah 46:10, Yahweh asserts that He will accomplish all His good pleasure and establish all things according to His purpose.

· Paul makes a similar statement in Ephesians 1:11 when he states that believers have been “predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

What these passages are teaching us is that all of God’s providential actions in time conform to a fixed purpose which precedes time. And this “fixed purpose” is none other than God’s eternal decree.

A very important implication of the eternality of God’s decree is that it is entirely unconditional. That is to say, nothing external to God moved Him to decide to do one thing as opposed to another thing. Edwards said, “His will is supreme, underived, and independent on anything without himself; being in everything determined by His own counsel, having no other rule but his own wisdom.” In fact, not only is that not the case: it’s impossible. Because God, who is the only self-existent, eternal Being, was the only entity present in eternity past (Col 1:17). To put it simply, God’s decree wasn’t influenced by anything external to Him because there was nothing external to Him (Gen 1:1; John 1:1–3).

The consequence of this reality is that every one of God’s decisions that make up His decree—down to the minutest of events and actions—was an entirely free decision according to His own will. This is why Scripture so often refers to God’s decree as His “good pleasure,” or that which pleases Him (Ps 115:3; 135:6; Isa 46:10; 48:14; Phil 2:13). So far from teaching that any part of God’s decree was based on an external influence, Scripture proclaims: “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven” (Dan 4:35).

God’s Decree is Immutable

“OK. So maybe God’s decree is unconditional because it was formed in eternity past. But what if the decree could be changed now that we’re in time? After all, God can do what He wants, right? You wouldn’t dare put God in a box, now would you?”

To such an objection (one that is unfortunately all too common), Scripture replies that God’s decree is not only eternal and thus unconditional, but also unchangeable.

· Rather than the possibility of a creature altering God’s decree, the psalmist declares that it is God who nullifies the creature’s counsel, even frustrating the plans of peoples (Ps 33:10).

· The next verse cements that reality: “The counsel of Yahweh stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (Ps 33:11).

· Daniel 4:35 declares that “no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”

· In a similar fashion, God Himself tauntingly asks, “For Yahweh of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (Isa 14:27).

· And after receiving what is perhaps the most scathing, forceful rebuke in all of Scripture, Job simply summarizes the immutability of God’s decree when he says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

God’s Decree is Exhaustive

Finally, God’s eternal and immutable decree is also exhaustive. God is said to work all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). The psalmist repeats that the Lord does whatever He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6). He Himself declares that He will accomplish all His good pleasure (Isa 46:10).

However, such exhaustiveness is not merely a general control; rather, God’s control over creation is specific and meticulous. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem provides a helpful survey (318–21).

· God is the cause of the various kinds of weather (Ps 148:8; Job 37:6–13).

· He causes the grass to grow (Ps 104:14) and the sun—which Jesus calls His sun—to shine (Matt 5:45).

· He feeds the animals of the earth (Ps 104:27).

· It is His will that determines the deaths of even the smallest of birds (Matt 10:29).

· He determines the boundaries of nations (Acts 17:26) and rules over them (Ps 22:28)

· And not only does He remove and establish kings (Dan 2:21), but He even turns their hearts wherever He wishes (Prov 21:1).

· Even those events which seem random are determined by God (Prov 16:33).

· Neither do the events of our personal lives escape God’s sovereign foreordaining, for He supplies our every need (Phil 4:19; Jas 1:17), determines the length of our lives (Ps 139:16; Job 14:5), and even directs our individual steps (Prov 16:9; Jer 10:23).

· His control extends through the entirety of salvation (Rom 9:16; Eph 2:8–9; Phil 2:12–13), to suffering (Gen 45:5–8; 50:20; Job 1:21; 2:10; 12:9), and even evil (Isa 45:7; Lam 3:37–38; 1 Sam 2:25; 2 Sam 24:1; Acts 2:22–23).

Perhaps the greatest summary statement comes in Paul’s great doxology in Romans 11:36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”

Conclusion: God is the Ultimate Cause

In light of the Scriptural teaching concerning God’s decree—(a) that it is eternal, and thus uninfluenced by anything external to God, (b) that it is unchangeable and cannot be frustrated, and (c) that it includes absolutely everything that occurs in time and space and beyond—the only reasonable conclusion for the student of Scripture to come to is that God may be properly said to be the ultimate cause of all things. As John Frame says, reflecting on the Biblical evidence, “Through the centuries of redemptive history, everything has come from God. He has planned and done it all. He has not merely set boundaries for creaturely action, but has actually made everything happen” (Doctrine of God, 58).

The exhaustiveness and meticulousness of God’s sovereign decree raises a significant question: How can God be the cause of actions and events that are evil and sinful—things which God Himself prescribes against—and yet not be rightly charged with unrighteousness? That’s a question that needs to be answered, and we’ll take a look at it in a future post. But for now, let us at least acknowledge that, based on the biblical doctrine of God’s decree summarized above, Scripture gives us no other option but that God is indeed the Sovereign Lord who works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11).

_______

Mike Riccardi is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master’s Seminary.

The Reality of God’s Wrath

There is a segment of the Christian church that will tell you that the wrathful God of the Old Testament somehow changed over time, and now that we are not under law but under grace, God is no longer a God of wrath, and is no longer angry at us humans. At this point I could get into a lengthy dissertation concerning the immutability (unchanging nature) of God, but I lest I generate a snooze fest, I will merely present a few passages of scripture that should settle the issue.

I post these passages for information purposes only, because the text is clear. There is no way out other than redefining terms or taking other passages of scripture out of their natural context and using them to assert God is now just all about love and some sort of cosmic sugar daddy who just wants to give us stuff and help us feel good about ourselves.

I dedicate this post to ‘Bones’ who tried to begin a lengthy debate to ‘prove’ that God is no longer a God of wrath, using passages of scripture taken out of context and very familiar to the folks who maintain what I call the gospel according to the ‘Beatles’. If you don’t get it, don’t worry about it.

First, here is a passage from Romans, Chapter 1 (written by the Apostle Paul) specifically concerning the wrath of God, that is part of an entire small section devoted to the wrath of God.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. – Rom 1:18

That passage was dealt with in some detail in this post. For the moment note the ‘present tense’ phrase – is revealed’. The 20+ Bible versions, half dozen commentaries, and Greek lexicon(s) that I consulted all agree with the present tense. That alone could/should settle the issue, but apparently it doesn’t.

The next passage is from Ephesians, Chapter 2 and presents the natural condition of all of us mortals:

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. – Eph 2:2-3

Either everyone born into this world is ‘by nature’ deserving of God’s wrath, or at some point in time things changed and all of a sudden everyone was born innocent and deserving of heaven when they exited the bitch canal.

The final two passages are from the Gospel of John, Chapter 3:

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. – v. 18

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. – v. 36

Note the ‘universality’ of both of those passages. All who believe in the Son are not now, nor will they be ‘condemned’, but all those who do not believe are ‘condemned already’ and living under of God’s ‘abiding’ wrath. They didn’t suddenly come under God’s wrath for consciously rejecting Christ, they are already under God’s wrath for their unbelief, and God’s wrath will remain on them as long as they remain in a state of unbelief.

I’m sure that some who read this will want to try all manner of argumentation to explain away God’s wrath, but please don’t try it here, unless you want to attempt to explain how the passages of scripture don’t mean what they clearly say. I will NOT engage in useless arguments over whose ‘opinion’ is right and whose is wrong. And if you want to try and say that passages about God’s love somehow ‘trump’ passages about his wrath, don’t even bother. Passages about God’s love as well as his wrath both mean what they say.

"The End of All Being is The Glory Of God"

By Paris Reidhead

Christianity says, “the end of all being is the glory of God.”  Humanism says, “the end of all being is the happiness of men.” And one was born in hell – the deification of man. And one was born in heaven – the glorification of God.

That this philosophical postulate that the end of all being is the happiness of man has been sort of covered over with evangelical terms and biblical doctrine, until God reigns in heaven for the happiness of man, Jesus Christ was incarnate for the happiness of man, all the angels exist and everything is for the happiness of man.  And I submit to you that this is unchristian.

Isn’t man happy?  Did God intend to make man happy?  Yes.  But as a bi-product and not prime product.

This is the betrayal of the ages, and it is the betrayal in which we live.  And I don’t see how God can revive it until we come back to Christianity that is in direct and total contrast with the vengeful Humanism that’s perpetrated in our generation in the Name of Christ.

I have talked with people that have no assurance of sins forgiven.  They want to feel saved before they are willing to commit themselves to Christ.  But I believe that the only ones whom God actually witnesses by His Spirit that they are born of Him are the people, whether they say it or not, that come to Jesus Christ and say something like this, “Lord Jesus, I’m going to obey you and love you and serve you and do what you want me to do, as long as I live even if I go to Hell at the end of the road, simply because you are worthy to be loved and obeyed and served, and I’m not trying to make a deal with you.”

Why should a person come to the Cross?  Why should a person embrace death with Christ?  Why should a person be willing to go in identification down to the cross and into the tomb and up again.  I’ll tell you why.  Because it’s the only way that God can get glory out of a human being.

There is only one reason for you to go to the Cross, dear young person.  That’s because until you come to the place of union with Christ in death, you are defrauding the Son of God of the glory that He could get out of your life.  And until you have understood the sanctifying work of God by the Holy Ghost taking you into union with Christ in death, and burial, and resurrection, you have to serve in what you have, and all you have is that which is under the sentence of death – human personality, and human nature, and human strength and human energy.  And God will get no glory out of that.

So the reason for you to go to the Cross isn’t that you are going to get victory, you will get victory.  It isn’t because you are going to have joy – you will have joy.  But the reason for you to embrace the Cross and press through until you know that you can testify with Paul “I am crucified with Christ,” isn’t what you are going to get out of it, but what He will get out it, for the glory of God.

May the Lamb that was slain, receive the reward of His suffering!

I’m going to say to you dear friend, if you are out here without Christ, you come to Jesus Christ and serve him as long as you live whether you go to hell at the end of the way, because He is worthy.

I say to you, Christian friend, you come to the Cross and join him in union and death and enter into all the meaning of death to self in order that He can have glory.

I say to you dear Christian, if you do not know the fullness of the Holy Ghost, come and present your body a living sacrifice and let Him fill you that He can have the purpose of His coming fulfilled in you and get glory through your life.

It’s not what you are going to get out of God, it’s what He is going to get out of you.

-Paris Reidhead

____________

The above is an excerpt from the sermon, ‘Ten Shekels and a Shirt’. A transcript of the entire sermon and the audio can be found here.

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When God told Job to "Man Up!"

Most of us are familiar with the story of Job, a man considered righteous among the men of his time, and greatly blessed by God in terms of this world’s riches. Satan was allowed to take it all away and Job was counseled by four friends concerning why he was suffering and by his wife who recommended he curse God and die. If you haven’t read the account of Job for yourself, we recommend you do so, paying particular attention to the dialogue between Job and his friends.

After all of the dialogue, in itself interesting because it revealed the true character of everyone in the discussion, we finally have in Chapter 40, God speaking directly to Job and reminding him of exactly whom he and his friends were dealing with:

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

“Dress for action like a man;

    I will question you, and you make it known to me.

Will you even put me in the wrong?

Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?

Have you an arm like God,

    and can you thunder with a voice like his?

“Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;

    clothe yourself with glory and splendor.

Pour out the overflowings of your anger,

    and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.

Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low

    and tread down the wicked where they stand.

Hide them all in the dust together;

    bind their faces in the world below.

Then will I also acknowledge to you

    that your own right hand can save you.

              – (Job 40:6-14 ESV)

What follows through the rest of Chapters 40 and 41 is a wondrous and awesome declaration of God’s sovereignty over all creation. At the end of God’s declaration and challenge, Job replies:

Then Job answered the LORD and said:

“I know that you can do all things,

    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

‘Hear, and I will speak;

    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

    but now my eye sees you;

therefore I despise myself,

    and repent in dust and ashes.”

           – (Job 42:1-6 ESV)

Whatever self-righteousness Job might have had vanished completely as Job considered what God had spoken and his own stature compared to the sovereign Lord of the universe! As a result Job concludes the matter by saying to God:

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Ch 42,vv. 5-6)

It is with that confession to God that Job provides us with what I consider to be a perfect definition of true humility before God; realizing exactly who God IS and who we are!

For Job to ‘man up’ before God turned out to be ‘seeing’ God, realizing who he was compared to God, and finally assuming a posture of repentance and humility before Him.

What a lesson for us in today’s evangelical culture of self-centered Christianity!

May God richly bless you as you consider these things!

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Can God do everything, including sin?

by Matt Slick

No, God cannot do everything.  God is holy and He cannot sin.  The Bible tells us He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2).  Also, since God is eternal by nature (Psalm 90:2), He cannot stop being God.  He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).  God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone with evil (James 1:13).

Some critics of Christianity will say that if God is so powerful and He can do anything then He should be able to make a rock so big He can’t pick it up.  If He could do that, then there would be something He could not do.  But such absurd and illogical challenges are meaningless.  The truth is that God must be consistent with His own nature, and He cannot violate His own nature.  Therefore, God cannot lie, cannot stop being God, cannot deny Himself, and cannot be tempted by evil.  Why?  Because He is God.

The thought that God could sin violates all we are told about God in the Bible. Unless one reduces Scripture as we have it today to fallible and merely human transmission, without any Divine oversight/influence, I cannot see how any genuine Christian could even think that thought, much less express it publically, as I have actually heard of late.