John 6:65

And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  John 6:65.

Imagine going to the White House, or maybe Buckingham Palace, and you want to go inside to see what it looks like and to meet the President or The Queen of England.  Imagine taking it upon yourself to TRY walking through the front gate.  How far do you think you’ll get?  Not very far!  If you’re at the White House, you’d have armed police/security on top of you in no time.  If you’re at Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s Royal Guard stands in front of the entrance to the Royal Palace grounds and would prevent you from going any further.  No matter how much you plead or beg, you’re not getting in to either of those places without the proper permission to do so.  Now, imagine you do have permission.  The White House security nor the Palace Guard will just take your word for it.  I imagine that a representative of the President or Queen would have your name written down on a special form letting security know that you have been granted permission to come inside (with proper ID, of course).

Both Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8 talk about the Lamb’s Book of Life and those whose names were NOT written in it BEFORE the foundation of the world.  Those whose names WERE in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world are those who were chosen to be saved.  Ephesians 1:4 says that we (Christians) were chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him…”.  I believe the Lamb’s Book of Life is like that special form with our names on it granting us access into the Kingdom.  But how do we get that access?

I believe it is through the work of the Holy Spirit.  God sent His Holy Spirit to draw us to Himself.  The Holy Spirit opens our spiritual eyes and illuminates our minds giving us comprehension to understand the gospel so that when the gospel is preached, we respond to it.

Many people claim to be Christians.  Many think just because their names are on a church membership roll, that makes them a Christian.  Some think that showing up to church on Christmas and Resurrection Sunday every year is all that’s required.  Others think that just mere intellectual assent to God’s existence is all they need.  That’s like saying we know WHO the President is, but the President has no clue who we are.  We may see him on the TV on a daily basis and someone will mention his name and we say, “Oh yeah, I know who he is.”  But, mention to the President who I am and he’ll say, “Sorry, I don’t know who that is.”  There will be many people who will come before God thinking they’ll be able to waltz right in and have a seat at the table.  But, their names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world.  They’ll say, “But I know who you are because I heard about you in church when I was a child,” or “I know who you are because I heard a preacher on TV talk about you.”  But they will only hear, “Depart from me for I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23).  Why?  Because their name was not in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Just as no one can take it upon themselves to walk into the White House or Buckingham Palace unannounced and without the President and Queen granting them entry, no one will be able to come to Jesus and enter into Heaven unless God has granted them the ability to do so.

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World Acting Like The World

Something I’ve learned over the years is that many Christians can be pretty haughty.  They are quick to point out the sins of the world as if they haven’t sinned themselves, but if every single one of those Christians were to have their inner thoughts played out on a jumbo screen for everyone to see, they would have to hide in shame.  I know I would.

Christians shouldn’t be shocked at how the world acts.  They are only acting according to their nature.  I’ve seen Christians berate non-Christians for acting ungodly.  Ungodly people are only acting according to their nature.  They don’t have it in their nature to act godly.  That’s like telling a lion to not hunt down and eat an antelope.  It’s in their nature to do so.

Many times when I watch Christian pastors and lay people on TV I cringe at some of the things they say about how we need more laws to curb the “sin” in our country.  We cannot legislate morality.  I don’t care how many laws you make, not everyone will obey them.  How many Christians go the speed limit every…single…time they drive a car?  I know I don’t!!  If speed laws don’t work, how can they expect other laws to work?  How many people still murder despite there being a law on the books that states it’s against the law to kill someone?  How many teenagers still gain access to alcohol and cigarettes even though there’s laws against them being able to purchase them?  Laws can’t make people act right.  Only when there’s been a spiritual change in someone can we expect them to live godly lives.

Telling a lost person to “act” better doesn’t get them saved.  We can act high and mighty and criticize them for their behavior, but we forget that we still sin ourselves.  Christians have forgotten that salvation is of grace, not morality.  It’s a gift given to us freely, not something we earn by doing good deeds.  So, if we ever find ourselves getting up on that high horse that we should just shoot and put out of it’s misery, we need to think about the sins we’re guilty of.  Every lustful thought, every unkind word we speak or unkind thought we think about another person, and every prideful word, deed, or thought we may have, are still sins and the only difference between us and those who are lost is that we have been given grace and forgiveness for those sins.  It doesn’t make us better than anyone else.  It should make us humble knowing that we did nothing to deserve that grace, not prideful and arrogant in how we treat those who aren’t Christian.  God didn’t command us to be their judge and their conscience.  He commanded us to love them.  Sometimes we may have to give some “tough love” and they may not like that, but through that love, we are to point them to Christ.

Jeremiah 29:11

Once again, I saw someone who took Jeremiah 29:11 out of context, so I thought I would post it here within the context in which God spoke those words:

 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”  Jeremiah 29:10-14.

These words were spoken by God to the prophet, Jeremiah, who then wrote them down in a letter to be delivered to the exiles who were in Babylonian captivity through the sovereign providence of God.  King Zedekiah, who was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to be his representative in Judah, decided to turn and rebel against Nebuchadnezzar and in turn, Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem and took many Israelites into captivity.  This was God’s judgment upon Israel for their idolatry and rebellion against Him.  They would be held captive for 70 years, but then He would fulfill the promise He made to them that He would visit them after those 70 years and would return them to their homeland and restore to them all they had lost.  That was God’s plan for Israel and it was prophesied in earlier Old Testament writings.

In the original Hebrew, the verse reads, “plans for peace, not of evil.”  The Hebrew word for “peace”, of course, is Shalom.  The main definition of “Shalom” is  “completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace.”  Some translations use “peace”, some use the term “welfare” and others use the term “prosper”.  Now, if we think in American terms, to “prosper” means to have financial and material wealth.  Another definition is to “flourish physically; grow strong and healthy”.  I believe we need to use the original term “peace” so that we can get the true meaning of the verse.  So, is this peace referring to peace from war?  All you have to do is look at the news every day and see that’s not the case.  Or does this have a spiritual meaning in that they will have peace with God?  I say it’s a spiritual peace because we know there hasn’t been much earthly peace in Israel since they became a nation.  The peace Christ gives is peace between man and God, not between nations.

What about Israel’s “future and a hope”?  God made a covenant with Abraham that was made up of three parts:  (1) The promise of land; (2) The promise of descendants; and (3) The promise of blessing and redemption.  I believe in Jeremiah 29:10-11, we see God keeping all three promises.  First, the promise of the land.  He gave the Israelites the Promised Land and He was not going to take that away.  He was going to send them back after the 70 years was up.  Their future and their hope was in the promise of descendants and the promise of blessings and redemption because it was through Abraham’s descendants (future) that the Messiah (Blessing and Hope) would come and bring redemption not only to Israel, but to the Gentiles.

So, while we believe that God has a plan for each of our lives, this particular verse is speaking directly to Israel who was in captivity and God was reminding them that He had not forgotten them.  He would still keep His covenant and give their land back to them and they still had a future and a hope, but at that particular moment, they would have to remain in captivity as judgment for turning their backs on Him.

God Commands Us To Forgive

When King David took Bathsheba into his palace and slept with her, he knew that he had to do something to cover up his sin.  She had become pregnant and he brought her husband, Uriah, home from battle so that he could have time with her, that way people would think the child would be Uriah’s, not David’s.  But, Uriah, being the good soldier that he was, could not think about being with his wife while his fellow soldiers were still out in the battlefield fighting.  This upset David, so he came up with another plan.  He sent Uriah back to the battle and told the commanding officer to put Uriah on the frontline so that he would be killed.  Once the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin, David prayed to God saying, “Against You, and only You, have I sinned.”  That is the way it is with all of us.  When we sin, our sin is ultimately against God alone.

In Matthew 6:15 Jesus specifically says, “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  I’m reminded of the parable where the debtor who owed much money to his master begged him to forgive him of his debt.  The master showed compassion and forgave the man’s debt.  But, then this man turns around and goes to another man who owed him money (which wasn’t as much as what the first man owed his master), and demands to be paid back.  The man who owed the money begs to have more time but is refused and he is thrown into debtor’s prison.  Word gets back to the master of what had transpired and he immediately has the first debtor thrown into prison also.  He reminded him of how he was forgiven because he had owed so much money, but since he was unwilling to forgive the other man what was owed to him, then his debt would not be revoked and he would go to prison.

When someone does wrong to us, we tend to forget that our sins are no better than theirs.  We think that just because we haven’t done something “as bad” as what was done to us, that it’s our right to not forgive them.  But the reality is, our sin(s) are just as bad because God doesn’t see any difference.  It really is very prideful to think that our sins aren’t like someone else’s.

What does it mean to forgive?  Well, it doesn’t mean we can forget the wrong done to us.  Sure, over time, we may not think about it as much as we did at first, but there will be times when something will trigger that memory of what that person did.  Second, it doesn’t mean we have to be friends with that person.  Forgiveness doesn’t obligate us to have any kind of relationship with them.  We don’t have to buy them gifts for their birthday or Christmas; we don’t have to invite them over for coffee or dinner.  What it does mean is that we are not going to be a slave to bitterness for what they did to us.  The more we allow that memory of their action(s) to fester and stew in our brains, the more bitter we become and we find that the very thought of that person affects how we live our life.  Ever known of someone who refuses to go to a family reunion/gathering because someone who hurt them in the past was going to be there?  Oh, they were going to go at first but as soon as they got wind of Uncle Jimmy or Cousin Beth being there, they quickly changed their minds.  Why?  Because they are allowing that person and their past sin to control their life.  They keep hanging on to that bitterness and refusing to forgive.

To withhold forgiveness from someone is like us telling God “I expect You to forgive me, but I don’t have to forgive this person for what they did.”  God don’t play that game.  We’re not above God.  We’re on the same level playing field as the one who wronged us and I’m afraid that many will find out that those sins they thought were wiped clean, aren’t.  We can’t expect God to treat us one way while refusing to do the same to others.

Nothing New Under the Sun

I’ve heard people say, “What is wrong with this world?”, or “What is the matter with people these days?”  Well, let me tell ya…..this world is no different than it was centuries ago.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, it says in chapter 1 verse 9, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”  In other words, nothing we see going on in this world is anything new.  It has been going to hell in a hand basket since Adam and Eve took that first bite of the forbidden fruit.  It’s just that those of us who are living in this day and age are seeing things happen that we’ve never personally seen before, but that doesn’t mean it’s never happened previously.  There have been cultures and kingdoms that have flourished and fallen because they have allowed all forms of perversion to become the norm whether it’s homosexuality, or pedophilia, or beastiality.

People haven’t changed over the millennia.  People want to do what they want to do with no consequences and no retribution.  I don’t care what it is, they think they can do anything without having to accept responsibility for it and that others should just let them go about their merry way without so much as suffering consequences.  But, it doesn’t work like that.  You steal money, you go to prison.  You rape a child, you go to prison.  You pull a gun on a cop, you get shot.  If you live, you go to prison.  If you die, you get put six feet underground.  People don’t like to live under rules/laws and they believe they should be able to live however they want and everyone else can just get over it.

The world is like it is because people have always been pushing God out of the way.  They don’t like the idea of there being a God because they know that He has a standard and they don’t want to live up to it.  But, none of this is a surprise to Him because He knew it was going to be like this.  He knows that people are full of pride, hatred, malice, and just pure evil.  But, as I said earlier, this is nothing new.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Just as we have read in the Old Testament how the Israelites forgot God and turned to idol worship and all kinds of perverse living, so we’re seeing people in this day and age do the same thing.  The sad thing is, many churches/denominations are ACCEPTING of these perversions.  God cannot and will not bless a nation that has turned its back on Him and allowed all this to become the norm.  I think we, as Christians, have been silent way too long.  And we have shown our hypocrisy.  We can criticize actors/politicians and other well known people for their sexual perversion, yet have no problem tuning in to a TV show that allows it to be shown.  If we’re going to laugh at what’s happening on our favorite TV shows but get condescending towards what people are doing in real life, that is being hypocritical.  Yes, I’m speaking to the choir.  Guilty as charged.

I hate to know how far down the toilet we’re going to have to go before we finally see people turn to Him.  God hasn’t left us.  He’s still here.  It’s just that we’ve turned away from Him.  God hasn’t abandoned us, but there are times when people are so stubborn in their ways that God throws up His hands and says, “You want it your way, you can have it your way, but you have to suffer the consequences of your actions.”  And I truly believe what we’re seeing in our country and world today is the result of God pulling His hands away and saying, “You’re on your own.”  The phrase “you reap what you sow” is true.  We are reaping the effects of abandoning the faith and doing things our way instead of God’s way.  I hear of people getting angry and saying how could God allow bad things to happen, but it’s not God.  It’s us.  God doesn’t just sit back and say, “Oh, that’s okay.  You do what you want.”  Actions have consequences and we are seeing that taking place in our society.

A society that turns it back on God will see the adverse affects and its eventual demise, unless it repents and turns back to Him.  At the rate it’s going now, it won’t be too much longer before that happens in our country.

ARE YOU A PHARISEE?

pharisees

It’s getting tiresome looking on social media and seeing Christians bashing one another.  No wonder the world points their fingers and laughs at us.  The sad thing is, Christians are fighting each other over trivial matters.  They’ll argue over the most minute things but when it comes to defending God’s Word and how to properly interpret Scripture, they’re silent.  Jesus accused the Pharisees of “straining a gnat but swallowing a camel”.  This comment was made because they concentrated too much on one aspect of the law but ignored a more important part (https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/difficult-sayings/index.cgi?a=419)

I just finished reading the comments to a post where a member of the Christian band, Third Day, went to see a friend of his who is in the band Tesla and they were in concert with Poison and Def Leppard.  This friend he went to see is also a professing Christian.  The majority of the people commenting were saying how they were glad he got to hang out with his friend, some were saying how they would love to see those three bands in concert together, and one woman jumps in and criticizes the guy for being at “secular, heavy metal concert” because if he’s a Christian, he shouldn’t be there.  He needs to be in the world not OF the world.  Mind you, if she understood the context of that verse, being “of the world” means he would have been partaking in the stuff that went on at the concert such as drinking, doing drugs, and all the other things some band members and concert goers partake in.  But, I’m guessing he was not.  He was just there to see his friend and hear the music.  Now, in her case, she may have an issue going to concerts like that and that’s FINE!!  It may be that her conscience doesn’t allow her to go to concerts like that.  But, the Bible speaks against us imposing OUR conscience on someone else on matters that the Bible doesn’t not address specifically.

Most good ol’ southern Christians will tell you that you can’t drink alcohol.  “It’s a SIN!!!”, they say.  No, the Bible doesn’t forbid alcohol.  It forbids getting drunk with alcohol because it comes with serious consequences.  Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana.  The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach because apparently he had health issues.  Now, there are people who cannot drink alcohol in moderation.  To them, they can’t stop at one or two.  “Go big or go home!” is their motto.  In cases like that, it IS a sin because it shows lack of self-control.  Some people abstain from alcohol just because they believe it will harm their witness.  And that’s FINE!  But, I know some Christians who drink a glass of wine or two or have some sort of alcoholic drink IN MODERATION because they like it and that’s fine, too!  It’s called self-control.  Just because Jim Bob Billy Frank can’t exercise self-control, doesn’t mean that we have to tell everyone that they can’t drink.  And, in reality, there’s nothing more hypocritical than an overweight preacher who can’t limit his trips to the buffet bar trying to tell people to abstain from alcohol when he can’t control how much food he puts in his mouth.  Again, it’s called lack of self-control.

The same goes for movies, television, and music.  At this point in my life, I’m getting very picky about what I watch just because there’s things being portrayed on the screen that make me uncomfortable as a Christian.  But, I’m not going to force my conscience on someone else just because they have no problem with watching it.  I still listen to the music I grew up with and the sad thing is, I’d rather listen to that than most of the Christian music that’s put out today because it’s man-centered and void of any good, sound theology.  It’s too sugary and bubble gum for me.  Thankfully, there’s a few Christian artists out there that put out some good music but it’s very few.  But, if I choose to listen to a particular group/musician or watch a certain movie/TV show, it’s not someone’s place to impose their conscience on me just because they feel convicted by it.

The purpose of this rant, if you will, is to point out that the Holy Spirit deals with each person’s conscience differently when it comes to matters such as these.  A Christian who can exercise self-control in areas such as alcohol sees no problem with having one or two drinks, but to one who cannot exercise that same self-control, it IS a sin because they are NOT exercising self-control, one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  The same goes for all the other subjects I covered.  If you, as a Christian, refrain from watching a certain movie or TV show, or listening to or going to a concert of a secular band because your conscience tells you to, it is not your place to tell someone else they can’t because now you’re imposing your conscience on them when the Holy Spirit has not put any conviction upon them about it.  You are now exercising legalism and acting like a Pharisee.

ELECTION vs. FREE WILL, PT. 3

salvation

In these blogs I have been discussing the Doctrine of Election.  People have many objections to the Doctrine of Election–“man was born with free will and salvation is their choice” or “if God already knows who will be saved, then there’s no reason to evangelize.”  Another question people may ask is, “Well if God has already chosen those who will be saved, then doesn’t that mean that they are saved against their will?”  No!!!  God is not going to drag people into His Kingdom kicking and screaming.  But I do believe that when the Holy Spirit begins to draw and convict people of their sin, I believe that He also conforms their will to God’s.  Their desires change.  Instead of being satisfied with living in the state of their sin, they realize how unsatisfying and empty that life is, and they desire to give their life to Christ because only He can satisfy and give them eternal life.  That’s not to say that life will be problem-free and everything goes their way, but it means that no matter what life throws at them, they have immeasurable peace through Christ and that they can depend on Him in all things.  What about those who reject Christ?  Why do they reject Him?  They reject Christ because their minds have not been opened to the truth of the Gospel.  There has been no drawing or conviction of the Holy Spirit.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate their minds and to conform their will to God’s.  Because when you think about it, whose will is stronger, ours or God’s?  God, in His Sovereignty, has chosen whom He will save.  Look back at Acts 13:48 where it says “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”.  What God has predestined from before the foundation of the world, will come to pass.
There is a term used in the Bible, “born-again”.  This means that a person is re-born spiritually.  When we are born into this world physically, we are spiritually dead.  We come into this world sinners.  But God made a way for us to be “born again” spiritually and that is through the death of Christ on the cross and His gift of salvation.  How many of us were given a choice as to what family we’re born into?  None.  We didn’t pick who our parents would be.  Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”   In cases of adoption, the child isn’t the one who chooses the parents, the parents choose the child, just as in the case of natural birth, we didn’t choose who our parents would be.  This is the same with spiritual birth and adoption.  There are countless people who are walking around  professing to be Christians, but I believe they are not.  They’ve been sold a bill of goods.  They’ve been told “just walk the aisle, say this prayer, sign this card, get baptized and you are saved.”  I don’t think this is done intentionally, but I believe many have bought into the teaching that all it takes is to say a little prayer, get baptized, and they’re safe.  Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” There will be a lot of sad people who will stand before God and realize that they were never saved.
I guess after reading these three blogs, people would label me a Calvinist.  But my intention isn’t to gain a label.  The only label I want is that of Christian.  My intention is to study and dig and learn what the Scriptures say.  And I believe that it is the duty of every Christian to interpret and understand the Scriptures correctly!!!  I don’t want to be labeled a Calvinist but I guess that will happen whether I want it to or not.  All I want is to know and understand the Scriptures the way they were intended.  People will disagree with what was said here, but they aren’t disagreeing with me, they’re disagreeing with Scripture.  And I hope that this will begin to stir up questions in their minds and cause them to look closer and deeper at what the Bible says.  I heard a saying once, “Question everything”.  In this particular instance, don’t question Scripture, but question what you’ve been taught and see if it lines up with Scripture.

ELECTION vs. FREE WILL, PT. 2

election

As I had said in my previous article, I grew up being taught about the free will of man; how it’s our decision whether we choose salvation or not.  But even though I accepted that teaching, there were always questions that bugged me, especially when I ran across verses in the Bible that spoke about election and the Elect.  Anyone who knows anything about going to the polls to vote in an election knows that to “elect” a person means that you CHOOSE one whom you believe to be the right candidate for the office in which they’re running for.  The definition of elect is “to select or to choose”.  If the Bible says that we are the Elect, then that means that we were selected or chosen.  And, if we are selected or chosen, then that means that someone had to do the choosing.  And that someone is God himself.  The Bible says that He chose us before the foundation of the world.  Think about it, before God even spoke the first words of Creation, He already had in mind who would be the Elect.  So, if it is God who selects or chooses the Elect, how is it that it’s our decision to choose salvation?
I was baptized at the age of 8 and I thought that I was set.  That was it, I did my “Christian” duty and I was safe.  But 10 years later I began to sense in my heart that my conversion wasn’t a true conversion.  People would say, “you’re just having doubts”.  Well, yeah!!!  I believe that 10 years after I had walked the aisle and was baptized, the Holy Spirit began convicting me of my sins.  I kept thinking “but I walked the aisle.  I was baptized.  I AM saved”.  But still that conviction would never go away.  I began to think back to that night during revival and why I had walked the aisle and I realized that it wasn’t because I was being convicted of sin, it was because my friends did it so I went up there, too.  Then I realized that I had no sense of peace about my salvation.  But now that I faced the reality that I wasn’t saved, I began to make excuses.  What would people say about me?  I had been living a lie all this time, what would they think?  I finally couldn’t take the conviction and unsettledness in my heart any longer and I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.
People may say “well what’s the difference between the two experiences?”  The difference is that the first time there was no conviction of the Holy Spirit.  A person is not saved just because they walk the aisle, say a prayer, sign a card, and get dunked in water.  There has to be that drawing of the Holy Spirit.  There has to be the convicting of our sins by the Holy Spirit.  I realized in the first case that I wasn’t being drawn by the Holy Spirit; I did it because I chose to.  People may say “But you said the sinner’s prayer!”  There is no magic prayer that a person can pray that will make them saved.  A person is saved when the Holy Spirit draws them, convicts them of their sin, and they surrender their heart and life to Christ.  This is where election comes in.  In John 6:65 it says, “And He was saying ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  Notice the last part of the verse….”no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”  So this tells me that it doesn’t matter what prayer a person prays, or how many times they pray it, if they are not the Elect of God, then they can’t be saved.  Look at what John 12:39-40 says, “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again “HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.”  Let me remind you of Romans 9:18 that I mentioned in Part 1, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”  How much clearer can it get?
And here’s a hard reality to face.  We can go witness to people and get them to say “The Sinner’s Prayer” (who came up with that anyway????) but if there hasn’t been that drawing of the Holy Spirit and that conviction of their sins, then all they’re doing is repeating words.  We walk away thinking we’ve added another soul to the Kingdom of God, but in reality, we’ve just added another name to the long list of false converts.
People then ask the question, “Since God has already chosen those whom He wants to save, then we don’t have to evangelize?”  If there is to be no evangelism, why does God still call pastors today?  If we are not to evangelize, why did Jesus give us The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20?  There are those who hold to the Doctrine of Election that believe there’s no sense in sending out missionaries to spread the Gospel, but that’s in disobedience to God’s Word.  God knows who the Elect are, we don’t.

ELECTION vs. FREE WILL, PT. 1

hands-in-shackles

For centuries there has been a debate between the Doctrine of Election and man’s free will.  I grew up being taught about the free will of man in regards to salvation.  And although something about the teaching of free will just didn’t make sense to me, I still accepted it because it was all I was taught.  So which is it?  Are we saved through our own free will or were we chosen for salvation?  You can go into any number of American churches today and you’ll hear the preacher say something like, “You have a decision to make:  heaven or hell.  It’s your choice.”  Yet in John 15:16 Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in my name He may give to you.”  Notice the first few words in that verse:  “You did not choose me but I chose you, and appointed you…” so now which is it?  Did Jesus choose us or did we choose him?  See the contradiction?  What about this verse, Acts 13:48, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” What is being taught in churches today doesn’t line up with Scripture.  There are several other verses which use the words election, choose, chosen, or any word synonymous with that:

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world

John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Mark 13:20 “And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.”

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you.

These are just a few examples found throughout the Word of God how we are chosen by God.

Need more convincing?  Ephesians 2:1 says “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins”.  Here’s something to contemplate.  When Lazarus died (Mary and Martha’s brother) he lay in the tomb four days.  He was dead…..until Jesus called him to come forth from the grave.  He didn’t just decide four days later through his own will to get up off that slab of rock and walk out of the tomb.  Jesus called him by name and it was through that calling that Lazarus was made alive.  This story not only shows how through Jesus can the dead in body be made alive, but also only through Jesus is the dead in spirit made alive.

Here’s something else.  The Bible says in Romans 6:6, 6:16, 6:17, and 6:20 that we were “slaves to sin”.  If the Bible says we are “slaves to sin”, how is it that we have free will?  As a “slave to sin”, apart from Christ, our master is sin.  We are bound by our fleshly nature and we obey the desires of the flesh.  Through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the elect are redeemed.  We are set free from the bondage of sin.  Now instead of being held captive to sin and dead in our trespasses, we are made alive in Christ and we become His bond-servants living to please Him and to do His will.

In Romans 9:17-18 it says, “(17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.”
(18) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”
People will say that this is not fair.  Why would God have mercy on some and harden the hearts of others?  I heard a message a few weeks back and the pastor preaching addressed this same issue.  He stressed that if we want “fair”, then God will give us all what we deserve and we all deserve death and punishment for our sins.  None of us are worthy of the mercy and grace He gives to us.  But God demonstrates His love to us by giving us what we do not deserve.  God is Sovereign and He has a divine plan and whether we like it or not, there are those people like Pharaoh and Judas Iscariot who each played a role in His divine plan.  Judas was chosen as a disciple, not for salvation, but to hand Jesus over to the authorities to be crucified.  But some may say “what if a person doesn’t believe in God’s existence, how can they reject what they don’t believe in?  In Romans 1:18-20 Paul writes, “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. “
All humankind are born with a knowledge of God because as verse 19 says, “that which is known about God is evident within them” They are without excuse.

INTELLECT vs. EMOTIONALISM

maryatchristsfeet

As a Christian woman I am offended by the so-called women’s Bible studies and teachers that are available to us.  The landscape is littered with many women’s teachers whose studies and conferences are geared toward our emotions and not our intellect.  I realize that we are the more emotional gender, but to ignore our intellect is just downright offensive.  It’s as if they’re saying we’re not smart enough to understand theology.

In the past I went through a few Beth Moore studies and conferences, and each time, I came away thinking something was wrong with me because I got nothing out of them.  Her worship services were emotionally charged and her studies didn’t explain biblical text at all.  She found a way to make the stories and scriptures about us.  I don’t do emotional fluff.  I’m not saying I’m not an emotional person.  I can get pretty emotional at times.  But when it comes to studying the Bible, I don’t want emotional fluff.  I don’t want someone to tell me what THEY think the scripture means about us.  I want to know what GOD meant when He gave us His Word.  That is why I got nothing out of Beth Moore.  I went in wanting to learn the truth of God’s Word but instead got emotional goo.  Once we know and understand what scripture teaches, once we understand why God did what He did, and why Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins, then we can respond with the proper emotion.

The number of true women’s Bible teachers are very small.  Two that come to mind are Nancy Guthrie (http://www.nancyguthrie.com/) and Susan Heck (http://www.withthemaster.com/).  These two women go through the Bible and explain what the verses mean (God’s interpretation), not what they think they mean.  If you’re interested in their studies, they both have podcasts you can listen to.  Nancy’s is “Help Me Teach The Bible” and Susan’s is “With The Master”.  No emotional goo, just straight up Bible study.

So, I’ll pass on the ladies conferences.  If I want emotional, I’ll find some chick flick to watch.  When it comes to Bible studies, I prefer those that challenge me to increase my knowledge of the Bible.  Give me the Greek and Hebrew words and what they mean so that I can understand it better.  You can keep the Kleenex.