Thursday, June 17, 2010
Sovereignty Series - More Case Studies
Question: What does Jonah, Abraham and Mary all have in common?
Answer: A relationship with the Sovereign God.
In the opening verse of the book of Jonah, God gives a call for Jonah to go to the people of Ninevah. ("Go to Ninevah...") In the first verse of Genesis 12, God sends Abraham out of his home country, to a land that the Lord would direct him to, and promises to make him a great nation. ("Go forth from your country...") And in Luke 1:31, Mary is told God's plan for her life. ("You will conceive in your womb and bear a son...")
Notice God doesn't ask many questions in scripture. When it comes to callings, He doesn't ask permission first, He just calls. He doesn't tap on Mary's door and say, "Can we talk? I have a quick question for you. I was wondering if you would be willing to be the mother of the Messiah?"
He didn't wake Abraham from a deep sleep and say, "Sorry to wake you but I really need your help. I was wondering if you would be willing to leave this metropolis of Ur and go to a strange land, where people won't really like you or welcome you, but I will give you the land and make you a great nation? What do you think? Are you interested?"
And He didn't go to Jonah and ask him, "Feel like going on a trip? I've got this message and I am looking for someone willing to be my voice..."
No, when it comes to God's calling, He is definitely sovereign. He calls and man responds. Oh, they respond in different ways, but they respond nonetheless. Technically, Jonah gave a negative response. If free will was really in play, then God would have found a willing soul. But Jonah teaches us that God's will is greater than ours, wouldn't you say?
I can hear the objections already - But Kristen, all these people had already chosen to follow God. These callings were just God working in the lives of those who had already chosen Him. None of these stories are about salvation.
Okay, so I don't know that I agree with that statement, but just to take any fuzziness off the table, let's look at Paul...or should I say Saul. You all know the story - Paul was a genius, really. He was sought by the highest positions in the religious community in Jerusalem and after spending time with the Sadduccees and the Pharisees and the Scribes, he chose the Pharisee route.
At the time he is introduced to us in Acts, he is actively hunting down the heretics that were claiming that a man named Jesus was actually the prophesied Messiah and that the religious leaders had killed Him. He was hunting them down and facilitating their stoning. We first find him at Stephen's stoning, holding the coats of the mob who were ending Stephen's life.
As Paul was heading to Damascus, Jesus knocked him off his ride, blinded him and asked him a question - "Why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4) Then Jesus makes his statement: "...get up and enter the city and it will be told you what you must do." (v.6) He doesn't ask Paul, He just tells him where to go. Then Jesus meets with a disciple or follower of His named Ananias, and tells him that he is bringing Saul of Tarsus to his home. He wanted Ananias to lay hands on him to enable Saul to regain his sight. Ananias responds a bit negatively, knowing that Saul is the persecutor of believers but Jesus says this, "He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name to the Gentiles and kings and sons of Israel..."
Thus Paul is saved.
Was Paul seeking a relationship with Jesus? Or did he hate Jesus and His followers? Can we deny that Paul was chosen of God without Paul having any real involvement? Was the salvation of Paul God's choice or Paul's choice?
In case you're not sure, Paul makes it pretty clear as the opening statement in most of his letters is "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God..." or "Paul, chosen of God..."
What Jonah, Abraham and Mary teach us is that God has a plan for lives and He doesn't ask, He tells. He is God, remember, and we are not. So when God moves in a certain direction, He is unstoppable.
If you think through the various characters of the Bible and study their callings, you will find that God doesn't ask. He calls. And the outcome is always obedience. Sometimes it takes the character a while to get there, but eventually God's will is accomplished. Let me name a few and you do the research: Moses, Noah, Daniel, Jeremiah, the disciples, Zacharias and Elizabeth...
And Paul. You cannot deny God's choice in salvation is Paul's life. Just a few more case studies to underscore God's sovereign choice in man's life...