No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him – by Mike Ratliff

by Mike Ratliff, at Possessing the Treasure

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:41-44 (NASB)

One of the aspects of our Christian faith that we lose sight of sometimes, and it gets us in trouble when we do, is how vital it is that we remain totally amazed that we ever got saved at all. We make a huge error when we forget this because that path leads to self-righteousness, self-absorption, and an ungrateful heart towards God. Even though we may not be fully aware that we are in that place of self-focus, we cannot be Spirit-led when we are full of self.

“God works in people’s hearts by sovereign grace, taking away their imperviousness to his word, taking away their inability to respond to that word, and changing the disposition of their hearts so that instead of saying “Nonsense” when they hear the word of Christ, they say, “That’s just what I need,” And they come.
Are you a Christian? A believer? Then you came to Christ because you found yourself willing, longing, desirous, wanting to, as well as, perhaps, not wanting to but knowing you must. How was that? It was because God worked in your heart to give you this desire. He changed you. It was his irresistible grace that drew you to the Savior’s feet. Praise him for it! It was one expression of his love to you.” – From: To All Who Will Come pp 184-185 by J.I. Packer

Even the most mature Christians are in great need of reflecting on the cross and what an astounding act of grace it is on God’s part to offer up His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross as a perfect sinless sacrifice, The Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of all those who will come. Not only has God provided the way to eternal life through the Son, He also draws His people to Him in such a way that they believe and repent in total surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Those who were God’s enemies who considered the cross as “Nonsense” and Christianity as, at best, a pie in the sky religion that is only the “Opiate of the Masses,” come to Him as the Father draws them. All who come are His and He will raise them up on the last day.

Yes, all of us are in great need of seeing our salvation from God’s perspective. The current trend in the 21st Century in some parts of the visible Church is for the focus to be on being a Christian for temporal gain or to gain God’s favor through being a Social Justice Warrior. However, those who see the truth of their sin and totally lost condition until God saved them will not consider this life to be the focal point of it.

31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34 (NASB)

The part many have a problem with in this passage is in their own experience of not having what Jesus lists here as being added to them. The part that is misunderstood here though is that the condition is that they must first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness then all of the stuff is added to them. The interesting thing about this is that the key part of this passage is not in getting the stuff, but in the seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. This is describing what God’s genuine disciples do. They put God first in all things. They walk through each day seriously considering every decision in light of God’s glory and their walk with Him. When they do that the interesting thing which happens is that concern about “stuff” goes away. They become content where God has them doing what God has them doing. All of their needs are met to the point that enables them to accomplish His will in this. This passage is not a guarantor of health, wealth, prosperity, or acceptance by the world.

Those who live this way consider the cross and Christ crucified. They take that into account in all they do. They see that the cost has been counted and paid by their Saviour. They live the rest of their life seeking to be obedient to their Lord in all they do. They also know that it is by God’s grace that they can do so, not their own abilities.

Lastly, their values change to match those of Christ’s. Perhaps the believer starts out focused on the world’s concept of “justice” and “fairness” and attempts to align all that with the gospel and their walk with Christ, but when the focus of the believer becomes eternal rather than the temporal, they will see themselves as a branch attached to the vine (John 15) rather than a Social Justice Warrior. Their focus becomes that of one seeking to be that living sacrifice acceptable to God who is being transformed through the renewing of their mind daily, that is, living for Christ in all they do (Romans 12:1-2) with the result being them becoming that Christlike believer who finishes the narrow path to the Celestial City as a mature believer to be accepted into the arms of their Savior and hears that welcoming cry, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Most Precious Golden Chain?

Do you like gold chains? Most, if not all of us, certainly do. Go to a jewelry store and you’ll find a wide variety of them, different styles designed for various uses, for both men and women. Am I right? That’s a rhetorical question. Personally, I don’t have any because I’m just not into jewelry. Some men are; just ask Mr. T (remember him?)! Our oldest son, when he was about 4 years old, just about had a fit when he say what I called a ‘Mr. T Starter Kit’ and Mom didn’t want to buy it for him.

Nevertheless,. There is one Golden Chain that many believers (if not most of us), aren’t all that fond of. It’s the Golden Chain of Redemption and it’s found in Romans 8, Verse 29-30:

“For those who he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brother. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”

Essentially, what we have are five links in an unbreakable chain, about a group of people who were ‘foreknown’ by God and also ‘predestined’, ‘called’, ‘justified’, and ‘glorified’.

Of these 5 links, the first two are outside of time, as we know it. God both foreknew and predestined this particular group of people outside of time as we know it. We have a clue concerning ‘how far’ outside of time as we know it in Ephesians 1 and 2 Thessalonians:

The next two links are inside of time as we know it. Each person in this group of ‘foreknown’ and ‘predestined’ ones is ‘called’ and ‘justified’ during his/her  lifetime, in preparation for the final link, ‘glorification’, when they are all raised in newness of life to be with Jesus forever. Is that beautiful, or what!?

The chain is unbreakable in at least two ways. First, it is God who is performs all of the actions represented in these 5 golden links. If that isn’t enough to prove the indestructible nature of our chain,  each of these Divine actions is presented to us in the past tense, meaning that from God’s perspective, it’s a done deal! Each and every person of whom this text speaks, everyone ‘foreknown’ of God WILL be ‘glorified’!

Sadly, whatever ‘foreknown’ means in our text, there are those who will not be saved but will die in their sins. The Bible speaks of those who will suffer eternal punishment rather than eternal life. That means that there are those who are NOT ‘foreknown’ in the sense of our text. But that’s another post.

The question for you today, my friend, is this:

“Are you to be found somewhere in this Golden Chain?”

I can assuredly proclaim that if you have been convicted of your condition in sin, have repented of it, and believed in Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are not only ‘found in’ this Chain, but you are eternally secure in its warm embrace! If you are a believer in Christ you were indeed ‘foreknown’ by God, ‘called’ by God into a Holy life, ‘justified’ by the blood of Christ and will one day be ‘glorified’!

This is cause to rejoice and be exceedingly glad!

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“Go with the Gospel and Leave the Saving to Me” – God

One of the most bizarre things I’ve heard recently from someone in a conversation about discussing ‘sin’ when we evangelize was the notion that talking about sin should be reserved for AFTER someone accepts Christ and in order to help new believers overcome sin(s) that seem to hang on. Even when knowing that Jesus died for our sins, don’t bring up the issue of sin until after someone accepts Christ. It’s only necessary to ‘love’ them into the kingdom.

It was really hard NOT to rebuke the individual who expressed that sentiment, but I’m sure she really meant it! Then I remembered a long time ago when I believed the same thing, and just as sincerely!

So what changed? A combination of things, I guess:

  • Remembering the great big God I was taught as a young teen in Lutheran Catechism. A God who was more than just love.
  • Reading Martin Luther’s ‘Bondage of the Will’.
  • Reading Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Freedom of the Will’.
  • Reading great authors and preachers who talked about the sovereignty of God in salvation.
  • More than any of the above, reading and studying the Bible concerning the true state of fallen men.

There really was a time when I really believed I could just keep telling folks how much Jesus loved them and what great plans he had for them and some would finally catch on and run to Jesus. Another operating assumption – for NOT talking about ‘sin’ when trying to lead someone to Christ is that they might get offended and walk away. If/when we also believe that we need to make Jesus attractive to the lost sinner, we won’t mention that which would be offensive to them. I needed to keep the ‘love’ conversation going if I was going to help God save them!

On the other hand, when we realize, from scripture, that the lost are in love with their sin and hate God, but God opens hearts to the message of the Gospel (see Lydia in Acts 16), we become bold in our proclamation of it, including the offensive bits.

I’m reminded of an old commercial for a commercial bus line. “Go Greyhound and Leave the Driving to Us” I wonder if God isn’t trying to tell us, concerning our sharing of his Gospel: “Go with the Gospel and Leave the Saving to Me”

Food for thought?

This World Is Crazy and It’s Not Getting Better

I don’t know if we are getting ‘dumber and dumber’ or just know more of the ‘dumbness’ that’s always been there, thanks to social media.

Anybody with a big mouth can rant all over Facebook, with or without any brain activity having taken place, about ANYTHING. Pick a topic and you’ll find the lack of intelligent and logical thought of full display. It usually manifests as information taken out of context, or before all the facts are in before ranting about one’s pet peeve or worshipping/championing one’s favorite idol.

We who profess Christ aren’t quite as bad, but we have our moments. Internet trolls camp out on our blogs talking endlessly about how they deny God and how believers can’t really think for themselves, but have to rely on a God who doesn’t exist. And they go on and on and on if we let them.

I think we become their enablers when we keep trying to ‘prove’ God exists. Atheists hate God by their very nature, while they DO know he exists, and when we use a bit of logic they say we aren’t capable of truly rational thought. When we keep using reason and logic it just fuels the fire, so to speak.  Is something a bit fuzzy here?

When we tell the atheist what God says about him we’re accused of personally insulting him. So we apologize for making him feel bad and go back to trying to ‘attract’ him to the God he hates. The atheist is more certain than ever that we are believing nonsense and, like the energizer bunny, goes on and on and on.

What’s wrong with us? My current reasoning is this:

There are basically two approaches to sharing God, Jesus, and the gospel:

1. We can try and attract people to Jesus by getting them to like us and our church to prep them to fall in love with the eminently likable Jesus, who is all about love, all the time, and nothing else.

2. We can, with a burden in our hearts for the souls of lost men, share the problem we all have(sin), God’s judgment against it, and God’s remedy (the death of His Son as our substitute).

When we mix the two it reinforces the atheist’s conviction that we aren’t rational thinkers. We can appear to be unsettled in our convictions or confused about our beliefs.

Something that puzzles me is how believers will ‘Amen’ the latter approach privately, and almost always use the former when they interact with atheist trolls. Why is that? I can only speculate.

Personally speaking, I confess to having used both approaches. When I was a young believer, fresh with the realization of God’s manifest love in saving this sinner, I wanted to share that love with everyone I met. Now that I am older and know what the Bible really says about fallen men, my approach has changed. Some call it the presuppositional approach to evangelism.

The danger of presuppositionalism is omitting the ‘love’ of God from the discussion and/or just telling the atheist what the Bible says about him too early in the conversation. Perhaps the approaches can be described as either 1) ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you. . .’ or 2) ‘God loves you, BUT. . .’

I’ve learned (at least I think I have) that knowing and believing what the Bible says about the ‘natural’ man doesn’t mean I should tell every atheist how the Bible describes him. Rather, that knowledge should be humming in my brain and should drive HOW I share Christ with him.

Can I tell the atheist what the Bible says a out him? Certainly, but at the right time and in the right way.

So how do we know when the time is right? Maybe we can’t, but God can. So we pray before, during, and after our evangelistic encounters.We proclaim the simple truth about God, man, sin, and the remedy for sin, trusting God to do the saving. He doesn’t need our ‘help’, just our faithfulness to the gospel.

100% Successful Evangelism

We tend to think that ‘successful’ evangelism means a sinner makes a decision for Christ after we share the gospel. If the decision is based on sincere repentance from sin and belief in Christ, it was. However, no all decisions are based on repentance and faith, but on other things, some of which represent material gain and some of which are based on all sorts of supernatural shenanigens we can experience.

On the other hand, I suggest that the Soverein reign of God over the salvation of sinners absolutely guarantees a 100% success rate for all of our human efforts at evangelism. Jesus WILL save all whom he came to save. The angel who spoke to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 told him, concerning the child in Mary’s womb, “. . . He WILL save his people from their sin, not that Jesus would only make salvation ‘possible’ for everyone who ‘makes a decision for Christ’.

Food for thought early on a Tuesday morning.

The Sovereignty of God in the Affairs of Men

In my opinion, it might be a gross understatement to say that we are living in a time of intense turmoil on nearly all fronts, both nationality and internationally, and in every arena (political, cultural, social), the impacts of which are seen and felt inside and outside of the body of Christ, the church. And of course just about everybody has an opinion about what’s causing all the turmoil as well as possible solutions. If you ask the ‘man on the street’ in ‘Anytown’ U.S.A. which issue is the most important you will get all sorts of answers depending on the demographic of the interviewee.

Add a Christian worldview to the mix and we are faced with all of above in light of all what are provided in scripture that speaks to our time, from Old Testament prophecy through Revelation, and all that the Bible speaks of concerning ‘end times’ and the return of Christ to our beleaguered planet. And of course there are various interpretations of just about all of it, from the rapture of the church to the timing of the 2nd coming of Christ. While the Bible doesn’t give us all the details, we sure like to try and figure it all out!

To try and make sense of it all, I had to boil it down to two questions.

1. As a Christian, how am I to think about it?

2. As a Christian, how am I to behave in the midst of it?

As to my thought life, I can ignore it all and just go about my merry way , which is impossible, obsess about, which is unhealthy, or I can remember and take great comfort that God is in complete control of the affairs of men.

19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all (Psalm 103:19).

3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3).

5 For I know that the LORD is great, And that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalm 135:5-6)

“He (God) changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; (Daniel 2:21)

English Bible teacher and theologian A. W. Pink (1 April 1886 – 15 July 1952) had this to say about God’s sovereignty:

“Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him. So His own Word expressly declares: ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’ (Isa. 46:10); ‘He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand’ (Dan. 4:34). Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things ‘after the counsel of His own will’ (Eph. 1:11).” – A. W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Swengel, Pa.: Reiner Publications, 1968), p. 27.

With the above passages of scripture in mind, and regardless of what I think about specific issues, I am to think about it all in terms of the Sovereignty of God. We can take comfort that God is not an absentee landlord, nor is he just a bystander who steps in now and again to make sure we don’t blow ourselves up. In the midst of all the turmoil it is God “…who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1:11-12, NIV)

Concerning my behavior, I suppose I could run away to a survivalist community far from the maddening crowd, grow my own food, keeps lots of guns and ammo while adopting an EMP proof lifestyle (no electricity). I could get involved in any number of causes that have been set up and designed to ‘save the world’. Or I could see what the Bible tells me what I should be doing. The courses of action mentioned in this paragraph are not specifically discussed in the Bible; at least that I can see. At the same time, we are not left in the dark.

First of all, we are to pray; not only for those nearest and dearest to us, but for all men:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” (1 Tim 1-3, NIV)

The Bible also tells us that as believers we are the salt of the earth and light of the world, in Matthew 5:13-16. We are to let our light shine before others so that they might see our good works and glorify God. So much for going into survivalist mode.

Secondly, as His servants we are follow the guidance the nobleman gave to his servants in the parable of the 10 minas in Luke 19.:

“He (Jesus) said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ – (Luke 19:12-13)

Our ’10 minas’ is the gospel that we have received and believed, and that we are called to share with the lost world around us.

Yes, we are living in times of intense turmoil, but we can take comfort knowing that, in the end God is working out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will and for his glory. As we continue to look forward to the return of Christ and the eternal Kingdom, we can confidently continue to share His gospel with a dying world.

Keep the faith and keep up the fight!

An Objection to God’s Sovereignty that Proves It

clip_image002In Romans 9, Paul discusses God’s absolute freedom in His saving purposes. He uses the illustration of the twins, Jacob and Esau, stating that God’s choice of Jacob over Esau had nothing to do with either of them. Rather, God chose “so that [His] purpose according to His choice would stand.” This choice was “not because of works but because of Him who calls” (Rom 9:11). He goes on to say that salvation “does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom 9:16), and then supports that claim by referring to God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart for the expressed purpose of demonstrating His power and proclaiming His name through the events that followed (Rom 9:17; cf. Exod 9:16). Paul then summarizes his point by declaring: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Rom 9:18).

Then, Paul anticipates an objection: “You will say to me, then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’”

First, let us understand the objection itself. Paul’s imaginary (or perhaps not so imaginary) interlocutor has understood all that Paul has said about God up until this point.

  • He understands that salvation is entirely a work of God’s grace, and owes to nothing in man.
  • He also understands that it is God’s will, not man’s will, that is determinative and decisive in salvation (again, Rom 9:16; cf. John 1:13). He asks a rhetorical question to underscore this very point: “Who resists His will?” That is to say, “No one resists God’s will.” “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps 115:3). He accomplishes all His good pleasure (Isa 46:10), and no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2).
  • The objector also understands that God still holds man accountable. “He still find[s] fault.”

So the question is, “Since no one can resist God’s will, how is it fair that He still finds fault?”

Making Sense of the Objection

This objection proves very helpful in the Christian’s understanding of the nature of God’s sovereignty in salvation. Because whatever our conclusions are about the doctrines of grace, they must make sense of that objection.

And the fact is: the only way that this objection makes any sense at all is if three things areclip_image004 true: (1) Man ought to repent and be saved as commanded by God, (2) Man lacks the moral ability to repent and be saved, and (3) God still holds man accountable to repent and be saved, and will punish them for their failure to do so. In philosophical terms, this objection only makes sense if “ought” doesn’t imply “can”—that is, if commanding something of someone does not necessarily mean that they are able to do what you command. In theological terms, this objection only makes sense if the doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, and irresistible grace are true.

But it is repugnant to the natural mind that we could be held accountable for something that we are unable to do—especially if we claim that it is a loving God that imposes this standard. And so different schools of thought devise alternative understandings of God’s sovereignty in an effort to save Him from what they believe to be unfair.  However, none of these alternatives make sense of the objection in Romans 9:19. Let’s consider these alternatives.

Universalism

One alternative is universalism. God has required something of humanity that they are unable to do, so he brushes their sins under the rug—after all, kids will be kids, right?—and He lets them off the hook. Now, aside from being patently unbiblical, this position would be to deny that God “still finds fault” with humanity. No one can resist His will, so He simply does not find any fault with them.

Conditional Election Based on Foreseen Faith

Another alternative is to deny that God’s election is unconditional, and rather to assert that it is conditioned upon faith which God foresaw in a particular person. Said another way: He chose them because He knew they would choose Him. Since our natural minds find it unfair to hold people accountable for something they are unable to do, this theological position maintains that we actually were able to do something—namely, believe—that would result in God granting us mercy.

But if this were the case, Paul’s imaginary companion would not have made the objection in Romans 9:19. It would be no mystery as to why God “still finds fault” with those who do not believe. They simply did not have the faith necessary to be elect.

Libertarian Free Will

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Still another alternative, akin to the previous, is to claim that God is indeed sovereign, but God has sovereignly chosen to grant a sort-of-sovereignty to humanity in the form of libertarian free will. God commands repentance and faith, and He will find fault in those who fail to repent and believe. But according to this view, those who fail to repent and believe do so because they have the free will to accept or reject God. God did His best, and He would save everybody if He could, but He left the final decision for salvation up to man. In other words, they can “resist His will.”

Here again, we find that the objection in 9:19 would make no sense. There would be no mystery as to why God would find fault with those who reject Him. But Paul’s interlocutor makes the statement (via a rhetorical question) that no one resists God’s will.

The Genius of Grace

And so, if we are to make any sense of the objection Paul raises in Romans 9:19, we cannot explain God’s sovereignty and man’s inability by appealing to conditional election or libertarian free will. This objection only makes sense if the Calvinistic doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, and irresistible grace are true.

But how is that fair? How can God command that which is impossible, and still hold people accountable? How can He command people to be born again, even though the new birth depends entirely upon “God, who has mercy” (Rom 9:16)? Well, to the questioner who seeks to impugn the righteousness of God, Paul’s answer is a stinging rebuke: “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (Rom 9:20). If you seek to find fault with God’s character, you have a skewed understanding of righteousness, for there is no injustice with God, by definition. (Rom 9:14; cf. 3:5b–6). You, a creature of the dust, are contending with your Creator, and Paul says you better put your hand over your mouth fast.

But there is a way to ask the question out of a sincere desire to understand God and worship Him for how He has revealed Himself. And if the question is asked in that spirit, I believe there is a clear answer. And that is: God grants to His people what He requires of them. This is the genius of grace. By commanding something of everyone that is impossible for them to do, God magnifies mankind’s true helplessness and inability related to our spiritual condition. And because He commands only what is possible for God Himself to accomplish, He magnifies His own sufficiency and fullness of glory. As Paul goes onto explain, He does this “to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy” (Rom 9:23).

By granting what He requires, God displays Himself as all in all. He places humanity in our proper position, as needy beggars eager to receive from His hand. Then, as our benefactor, He grants what He requires and thus captures our affections, so that we see Him as altogether lovely, altogether worthy, and altogether wonderful.

Posted by Mike Riccardi at The Cripplegate