Monday, June 28, 2010

Sovereignty Series - James MacDonald

I was reading in a book by James called "I Really Want to Change...So, Help Me, God" and came across this paragraph. It fits in well with our sovereignty series, that I wanted you to hear it:

"Let's deep-six some wrong ideas about what God is doing in this world:

...3. God's trying to reach everybody with the Gospel. Is that what God is doing? Is that the bull's-eye on God's heart - evangelism? The Bible does say "The Lord is...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Yes, God does love the world, and we are commanded to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. And yet Jesus taught that "no one can come to Mu unless the Father...draws him" (John 6:44). God's highest purpose is not to reach the whole world, or the whole world would already be reached. He is partnering with us to get the Gospel out, so that everyone can hear. But Christ told us that only a "few" would actually find the narrow road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14). To say that God's highest or ultimate purpose is to get the Gospel to everyone contradicts Scripture and experience; it pronounces failure upon God in something He is not even attempting to do."

I agree with his perspective - we have to start with God.

We agree that God is sovereign, that He rules over the earth, that His plans are never thwarted. If you take a quick look at the book of Judges, you see God dealing with the sin of the Israelites by "selling" or "giving them over" into the hands of their enemies (over and over again). These enemies are helpless without God - He gave them the power to be successful in their aggression over Israel - they did not do this on their own. (Doesn't that make you look at world events a bit differently?)

So, what God wills, He accomplishes. Now, I know that in scripture we are given glimpses of God's desires, as in that 2 Peter verse, but we cannot develop our theology based on one verse. James' point is that we have to consider the whole of scripture. As we have looked at the call of God in many Bible character's lives, we have seen 100% success in Him accomplishing what He sets out to do. So how do we reconcile that verse in 2 Peter? Well, as Kathy mentioned in her comment on a previous post, I think we have to accept that God does not act on this specific desire, but continues to accomplish His plan which He laid before He set the foundations of the world. Because if God chose to act on this desire, then all men would be saved. Because He is God. Right?

So where does free will come into play? We see it in scripture - we see the call to respond to the gospel:

If we confess, then He is faithful to forgive...(I John 1:9)

If we humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, turn from our ways, He will forgive and heal...II Chronicles 7:14

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved...Acts 2:21

Unless we repent, we will also perish...Luke 13:3

There are many more verses like this, but I think you get the point. We have to respond to His call and I believe this is one place where our free will comes into play. We can fight His "drawing" and resist His pull, and prolong the battle until He does whatever it takes to get our attention (and there are many with this testimony), or we can give in and receive His gift early in life. But this I know for sure: He wrote the names, He does the drawing, He gives His Spirit and no one can come into an eternal relationship with Him without those three things.

Another area where free will comes into play is after salvation. Here is where we jump to the "reap what you sow" verses (Galatians 6:7-10) - God gives you the choice to obey and receive blessing, or as Dave says, "choose to sin, choose to suffer." Scripture is full of practical Christian living counsel and if I believed that every thought, every action and every choice in life was predetermined by God, I doubt He'd bother instructing us at all.

No, there is true free will that doesn't negate the sovereignty of God. Tough, huh? Sounds contradictory, but remember, He's God and we're not, so we just have to trust that when He says He's in control, but still gives us choices, this is a mystery that is crystal clear to Him. This is why we have to stay in the Word, compare scripture with scripture, seek to understand God better and walk by faith. Remember, the bigger God gets, the quicker we will see ourselves for who we truly are and will quit trying to make life all about us.

Okay, I've already written more than I intended, but I am going to make a note to do one more post on a comment that I've heard a million times - "If God does the choosing, then He's just not fair." It will have to wait until I return. Tomorrow I am going to write you a quick note on what my plans for the next week and a half are and then I'll be gone...

Hope you all are having a good day!

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