CHOOSE THIS DAY…..

hermannewticks

“Choose this day whom you will serve”

There’s an important saying in Biblical hermeneutics and it’s, “Context, context, context!”  I’m going to try and do this some justice because it’s based off a sermon I heard a few weeks back by my husband’s former pastor, Jim McClarty, who pastors a small church in Smyrna, TN, called Grace Christian Assembly (http://salvationbygrace.org).  I can’t for the life of me remember what sermon it was that I was listening to but when he used this verse as an example of how people take verses out of context, my ears perked up a little more.  Folks who oppose the teaching of predestination and election point to this verse and say, “SEE!!!  It says right here that WE choose whom we will serve!”  Not so fast, young grasshopper!

The problem with people using this is that they leave out what comes before it and after it.  This comes from a “speech”, if you will, made by Joshua to the Israelites just before his death.  We all know how fickle those Hebrew children were.  We all know how easily they turned away from God and turned to idols.  So, in Joshua 24 just before Joshua died, he summoned the people of Israel together one last time to encourage them, so to speak.  In verses 14-15, he says this to the Israelites:

(14) “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  (15) And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Notice in verse 15 it says, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Based on past experiences, Joshua already knew that the Israelites would not be faithful and serve God, so he was basically telling them, “You’ve already proven you can’t serve the Lord, so choose right now whom you’d rather serve, the gods beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But, me and my household will serve the Lord.”  Leaving out what came before and after that phrase is taking Scripture out of context.

We must be careful how we use Scripture.  To just say “Choose this day whom you will serve” definitely gives it a different meaning than what it was originally intended in the passage it’s being used in.  We have to be diligent to read Scripture passages as a whole and not pick out phrases here and there just to suit our purposes.

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!

Loved Before The Dawn of Time

This is a line in a song by Stuart Townend by the same name, also known as “Salvation’s Song”.  It is one of my all time favorites by him.  Sadly, there are not many GOOD worship/hymn song writers anymore.  There’s just too many 7/11 songs out there (same 7 words repeated 11 times…..it’s an exaggeration, but you get the gyst).  Anyway, I used this title as the point of this blog post.

Many in Protestant mainstream churches, I believe, do NOT fully understand or comprehend God’s love for them and His Elect.  Many a pastor have taught to his congregation, “if you do this, then God will save you.”  This type of thinking gives people the impression that WE have to do something in order for God to open up His arms and accept us as His children.  But that is sooooooooo far out in left field from what the Bible teaches.  Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  In love, He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.”  Those are two AMAZING verses.  I mean, you can almost sum up the totality of the gospel with them.

First, it states that BEFORE the foundation of the world…..BEFORE God even spoke creation into existence, he had already chosen those whom He would save.  Before he said, “Let there be light”, He already KNEW whom He would save.  But for Him to do that, there had to be LOVE.  In the last part it says, “In love, He predestined us….”.  So, before the first star was ever hung in space, He already loved us.  Isn’t that awesome??

And why is this awesome?  Because not one of us had to do ANYTHING to deserve that love.  Why?  Because we weren’t BORN yet!!  God knew that there would be no way that we could live up to HIS standards of perfection so, because of His love, He came to earth as a man (Jesus Christ), and offered HIMSELF as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind.  Why was He the ultimate sacrifice?  Traditional OT law stated that the sin sacrifice was to be a perfect, unblemished lamb.  No spots.  No diseases.  No defects.  So, because God is perfect, it is only natural that He would offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice.

The other important thing to note is that not only did we NOT have to do anything to gain or earn His love (because He loved us before we were born), but we can’t do anything to make Him love us any less!!  We’re going to sin…..EVERYDAY!  But as God’s Elect, because we are covered in Christ’s righteousness; because He has wiped our slate clean, nothing we do or say will change His love for us.

NOTE:  THIS DOES NOT GIVE US LICENSE TO SIN WILLFULLY!!

The point of my post is this……who we are will NEVER change God’s love for us because we were loved before the first galaxy was created.  We will fail Him, that’s a given.  But, His love will NEVER fail us.  Ever!

WHO ARE THE ELECT?

The Bible teaches that those who are truly saved are called The Elect.  Now, for someone to be called Elect, that means that someone had to CHOOSE them for something.  Right now, we’re in the midst of our presidential election season and millions of Americans are going to the polls to choose which person they want to see in the White House.  So, the person that makes it to that position will be called an ELECTED official because someone other than themselves put them there.  We call the person who governs over a city the “mayor-elect” because that was who the majority wanted to see take that position.  Then you have Governor-Elect, President-Elect, and so on.  All these officials were CHOSEN by the people to take office.  They did not assert authority and put themselves there.  It was done by someone else.

Ephesians 1:4 states that God chose us (Believers) in Christ Jesus “before the foundation of the world.”  This means that before one star, one planet, and one living creature were EVER brought into existence, God already had in mind whom He would save.  The idea that God choosing specific people for salvation and not others doesn’t set well with some and the arguments against this teaching are many.

Some argue that if God already knows who will be saved, why bother preaching and, certainly, why bother praying for the lost?  It’s called the Great Commission.  Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave the command that we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  Why is this so important?  Well, because we have no clue who the Elect are.  God’s Chosen doesn’t have a specific physical “birth mark” that we can see that tells us, “here is one of God’s Elect.  Witness to him/her.”  Another reason why their argument is invalid is because God called some to be pastors, teachers, and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11).  Why?  So that the gospel can go out to everyone.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), so if there is no one to witness and preach and teach, how can the gospel go out?

When Jesus called His disciples, He told them that He would make them “fishers of men”.  Some of his disciples were actually fishermen by trade, and back in that time, they would go out in their boat and cast their nets into the water.  At times they caught a few, at times they caught many, and at other times they came up empty.  But, I say this because I want to use the analogy of the fisherman and his nets.  As I stated previously, we don’t know who the Elect of God are until they are truly converted.  It is only after they respond to the gospel and surrender their lives to Christ that we see that they ARE the Elect.  Imagine a pastor/teacher/evangelist standing in front of a crowd of unbelievers sharing the gospel of Christ.  Now imagine him in the context of a fisherman.  He has cast his net (preached the gospel) into the water (congregation) and as he’s pulling in his net (making a plea for them to surrender to Christ), he finds several “fish” in that net (they surrender their lives to Christ).  Why did they respond?  Because the Holy Spirit illuminated their hearts and minds to understand.  He opened their eyes and ears to receive the gospel and their cold, dead, stony heart was replaced with a soft heart of flesh.  They went from being dead in spirit, to being made alive in Christ.

God doesn’t make us privy to who the Elect are before conversion.  He commands us to go out into all the world and preach the gospel.  Only when someone is truly saved and believes on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin can we know that they are God’s Elect.

 

Election vs. Free Will, Pt. 3

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

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

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.