“God wants to choose YOU!”

The above statement is from a recent Facebook post with a link to a message presented at one of a mega-church’s many campuses by a young enthusiastic pastor. The FB post included a short excerpt from the actual message and invited the reader to listen to it in its entirety.

When I first read “God wants to choose YOU!” my immediate thought was:

“God WANTS to choose you?”

I didn’t remember anything in scripture that says, or implies, that  God ‘wants/wanted’ to choose anything or anyone. My second thought was this:

“God wants to choose YOU, but . . . . .”

But ‘what’? How many times has any one of us had an experience something like “I wanted to buy such and such, but. . . .” There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there? I wanted to hear the young preacher’s ‘but’, although I suspected an end of sermon invitation of some sort. So I listened to the entire sermon. I also had a pleasant FB conversation with the gentleman who posted the invitation.

On to the message. It was based primarily on a single passage, 1 Peter 2:9:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (NKJV)

The pastor then presented a lot of truth from scripture concerning salvation, grace, and the fact that the only thing we bring to our own salvation is SIN. It was really good!

At the same time, he suggested that Peter’s theme in the letter was to persuade/convince the elect exiles of their identity as believers, as if maybe they weren’t sure, or had doubts. I would disagree with that. Peter was reminding them of who they were and proceeded to encourage them to persevere through suffering. I base my disagreement on having studied both of Peter’s letters recently in an adult Bible Study using John MacArthur’s study guide, and multiple commentaries I consulted as the leader of our small group.

Back to my immediate thoughts concerning the thought “God wants to choose YOU, but. . .”

But what? God can’t just choose for himself whomever he wants and make it happen? He is God, after all. Well, he could, but before he chooses, something else has to happen? What might that be?

While the young pastor didn’t specifically include a “but” at the end of his key assertion, the clear implication is that he meant “but YOU need to do something”. That would be perfectly consistent with the thought by many, if not most evangelicals, that God ‘elects/chooses’ those who he knows will choose him. That’s called the ‘prescient’ view of God’s foreknowledge – that God looked down the corridors of time and chose those who would choose him. Is that scriptural? I’ll leave that there for you to ponder.

As for this young pastor, I pray that he would listen to his own sermon, the glorious portrait of the total sovereignty of God in salvation he painted for his audience, and then realize the invitation he gave left the determining factor in salvation up to human decision.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13, ESV)

The Power of God in Salvation

15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Rom 1:15-16, ESV)

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul expressed his eagerness to personally visit Roman believers and preach to them the gospel face-to-face. He then explains why he so eager, because (for) the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

The above passage poses to us two questions, 1) What is the gospel?, and 2) What is this “power of God” of which Paul speaks?

The answer to the first question, ‘What is the gospel?’ is really simple, since Paul defined it, and very specifically, in his first letter to the Corinthian church;

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. . .” (1 Cor 15:1-4)

As to the second question, What is the power of God for salvation?

First of all it is for, or unto salvation, meaning that it’s a power that unfailingly moves an unbeliever to repent of sin and believe in Christ, and then carries the new believer all the way to ultimate glorification and eternity in the presence of God, and his Son. Why do I say this? Because of what Paul tells us later on in the same letter to the Roman church:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.(Romans 8:28-30, ESV)

Note that in the above passage Paul first tells us that everything works together for the ultimate good of the those who love God and have been called according to his (God’s) purpose. Most of are familiar with, and love that verse. We also tend to separate it from what follows – the WHY of Paul’s argument. With the use of the preposition ‘for’, Paul tells us how all the ‘stuff of life’ works for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Secondly, this salvation pertains to a group of people he calls ‘foreknown’ ones. God foreknew them, not what they might do at some point in their lives. The text is unmistakably clear. It’s the same ‘knowing’ expressed concerning the prophet Jeremiah, of whom God said “before you were in your mother’s womb, I knew you”. And on behalf of all those whom God foreknew, he demonstrated his mighty power in

It’s predestining, or predetermining power. We are told that God determined beforehand that a certain group of people would be conformed to the image of his Son, not that he would create the possibility to be conformed to the image of Christ. If you are thinking that salvation is not in view here, think again. Does being conformed to the image of Christ require salvation, or not? if the former is predestined, so must be the latter.

It’s calling power. It’s a call that produces the desired results, each and every time it goes forth. Jesus didn’t ask dead, stinking Lazarus if he would consider coming out of the grave, He commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” If God’s call of the guilty sinner is ‘for salvation’, guess what is going to happen?

It’s justifying power. When God justifies, he declares the sinner perfectly righteous IN Christ, although not a one of us will die completely free of sin in our mortal selves. Who is IN Christ? All those who have been predestined to be conformed to Christ and called by God to repent of sin and believe in Christ.

And finally, it’s glorifying power. Just as Christ was resurrected and glorified in the presence of God, at whose right hand he now sits, all who were foreknown, predestined, called, and justified, were also glorified. Note the past tense used on our Romans passage. It’s important. It’s a done deal in the mind of God! We have yet to see it, but God has decreed it!

You might have noticed that sanctifying power is not mentioned in our Romans passage. I would like to suggest that sanctification is undeniably implicit in God’s having predestined those he foreknew to be conformed to the image of his Son,  We would all agree (Reformed and non-Reformed) that being conformed to the image of our Savior is the very definition of progressive sanctification,

In concluding this article, I ask you one thing. Do you think, even for a moment, that the power of God for salvation that is described herein could be thwarted by any other power?

Dear Lord, we pray that those who are already yours will be greatly humbled in the face of your power to save. We pray also that wherever there are those in need of salvation power, you would open hearts to hear the gospel, and send messengers to share that gospel.

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.