Master of My Own Destiny?

OK, I warned you this week might get deep.  forgot to mention controversial! I’m going to be sharing what Father is teaching me as I study His word. You may exercise your free will to skip this post, but I’d love to hear your opinions!

FREE WILL!

It’s probably one of the most hotly contested issues among Christians and non-believers alike. Protesting a lack of free will is often sited as a reason not to believe in Jesus. No one wants to be told what to do, given a list of 10 commandments or told that disobedience spells eternal doom.

Christians argue about who chose who. Did God elect those whom He would save, or does each one have free will do chose or deny God.

Does God’s choosing eliminate free will?

Is God unfair by choosing some and not others?

Does God’s presumed unfairness make Him less loving and less good?

Sticky stuff. Until recently, I hummed quietly in the background when these conversa

Well, I can’t hang out on the sidelines anymore. It’s time to defend the sovereignty of the God I love and know and worship. Honestly, if He is not the sovereign God I believe Him to be, if He really handed fate’s reigns over to his own creatures, then I can’t devote myself to Him heart and soul. I might as well make my own way and be my own god.

HUMANS HAVE FREE WILL. The problem is that our will is only against God and against righteousness. Always, no exception.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Romans 3:10-12

That’s the long and the short of it. Sure, not everyone is as evil as he can possibly be. That’s not what total depravity means. Total depravity means that all of us, from our very core to our smallest appendage is bent toward evil. And if you don’t want to qualify yourself as evil, you can certainly understand that you are less that perfect. And perfect is what God requires. Short of absolute equivalency to God’s righteous standard, we are evil.

Consider: the Fahrenheit temperature required to freeze water is an indisputable 32 degrees. It doesn’t matter if your nose is frostbitten and you can’t move your lips. It doesn’t matter if schools are closed and everyone tells you, “It’s freezing outside.” Anything short of 32 degrees is not freezing. There is an absolute standard and anything, no matter how legitimately, unreasonably cold, just won’t cut it.

So, even if you choose a pro-life stance, you give generously to charities, you are kind to every stranger and never speed, and never raise your voice – you still fall short of the absolute standard of perfection set by an uncompromising God. You cannot will yourself to achieve that righteous standard. Given his own free will, every single man without exception will spend eternity in hell.

So here’s where I land. God created man in His image. He gave us free will and we proved that our free will would chose our own appetites over God’s commands. God’s justice demanded death for our insolence. God’s mercy sent Jesus to pay that debt. God did chose who would chose Him.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

It’s a tough pill to swallow. God knowingly, willingly allows people to chose their own appetites even though He could change the rules? change their choices? change their behavior? It’s not unfair. God is fully merciful and fully just. Some receive His mercy for their sins, some receive His justice for their disobedience. Neither receives injustice.

Yes, God is Sovereign. One definition of Sovereignty is: Indisputable. We cannot argue with His truth anymore than we can argue with 32 degrees.

A very helpful resource for understanding this doctrine, an element of Reformed Theology, is R.C. Sproul’s teaching series, “What is Reformed Theology?”

The Holy Spirit, Numbness, and the Hole in My Lip

Whew, I survived today. There are still seven hours to go, few of them daylight, but the hard part of today is over.

Doesn’t everyone dread the dentist? It’s a shame. A dentist really never stands a chance, because no matter how good they are, the smell of a dental clinic is enough to turn the strongest stomach and the sound of a drill is enough to melt the sturdiest knees. Such was my lot today. I tried to conjure up some legitimate reason to cancel my appointment, but as I had already rescheduled it once, I figured I should just get it over with.

I was lucky, the lady dentist that I saw last time is on maternity leave. So I got to see Dr. B….. I can’t begin to pronounce his last name. The poor guy was spinning like the Tasmanian Devil trying to see all the patients and keep up with his three assistants. He was about 30 minutes late getting to me and I had nearly decided that was enough of a reason to skip the appointment.

But I didn’t.

I lived through it. Dr. B numbed my left jaw as locally as possible so I can still speak pretty well. My smile looks terribly lopsided and I’ve already drooled coffee and water down my chin. The tingles are now returning, so I’m on the mend.  However, along with the tingles, I just realized that I apparently viciously bit my lip while I was numb.

Now my lip is still swollen – because of the chomp and not the medicine. This pain is going to last a while longer too.

I’ve described living in ignorance of the Holy Spirit as feeling numb. When a Christian has experienced walking daily with the Holy Spirit, speaking to him and being spoken to, His sudden distance is more than lonely. It feels like I’ve lost touch with myself. Without the Holy Spirit informing my every thought and enabling my prayers, all my senses seem dull. My head feels stuffed with cotton. I can’t concentrate, and I flit from one vain pursuit to the other – completely ineffective.

In those numb moments it’s easy to sin. Just as it was easy to bite a near hole in my lip and not even notice it right away – when we are estranged from the Holy Spirit, it’s easy to slip inattentively into sin. We don’t even know it right away.

But the pain will come. Sin always has consequences. The Holy Spirit won’t leave us to ourselves. He will bring conviction, the distinct return of feeling, awareness and conscience. Suddenly, the pain is real – the reality of our offense and the repercussions of pride, unbelief, judgement, adultery, greed, lust or other sin.

This pain won’t last forever. As it heals, a Christian whose heart is fully devoted to God will repent and return to the Lord. His pain will be a poignant reminder of his sin and God’s overwhelming mercy. 2 Cor. 7:10

We’re Doomed!

When Breakaway started up at my church, Burke Community Church, this fall, I immediately, like a good disciple, enrolled in the Beth Moore study. The other studies sounded familiar or I had never heard of the author. It seemed like a natural choice. Funny, the delightful Holy Spirit sometimes leans against my spirit, pushing me in a different direction. The hard part is, he doesn’t usually say why. Fortunately for me, this time I was obedient.

Just in time, I switched into the marriage study, Enhancing Your Marriage, by Judy Rossi. How often do you have the study’s author for a teacher?

To be honest, right now I feel like I’m drowning in marriage advice. I really wanted to focus on something else for a while. So I have really enjoyed the first four chapters of the book as they seem to deal with personal, interior issues. I guess the premise is that I have to be personally right with God before I can begin to focus on any relationship besides mine to Him.

A question came up last week as we were reading in Deuteronomy. Do you have a problem with this verse?

“You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:9-10

This is one of those verses that send people running, screaming, “How can a loving God allow future generations to suffer for their parents’ sins? That’s not FAIR!”

After a lengthy discussion in class, I continued to ponder this verse. Yes, God is sovereign and can do whatever He wants, but that simplistic explanation doesn’t work for me. God has allowed us to know Him through Jesus Christ and His word and everything He does is consistent with His character. So, how can a God who IS love, punish innocent generations?

Consider:

Amanda had been shooting heroine for three years. After an untimely one night stand, she stood in the stall at Wal-greens and a little pink stick told her future. Pregnant. Forty weeks later, her daughter was born addicted to heroine before she ever had the chance to say no.

The consequences of Amanda’s sin were instantly translated into her daughter’s life. Amanda was destroyed every time she looked at her little girl. But that agony thrust her into an all out effort to get clean. She would offer Julie the best future possible.

Amanda began to speak about drug addiction in public schools and other forums. Every time she held Julie she was reminded of her sin and recommitted to abstinence and reaching out to others in desperate situations.

God allows the consequences of sin to tarry for three and four generations because people are hard headed and slow learners. He allows the consequences to linger so that future generations will not repeat the sins of their fathers. And remember, He said, “to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him.”

BUT GOD…

And hear the goodness of your Father’s heart: “showing steadfast love to THOUSANDS of those who love me and keep my commandments.” God’s love endures infinitely beyond the curse of sin. It is absolutely in keeping with God’s character to work for us to keep us from sin and to offer us an undying, incorruptible love. (Jer. 31:3)

Let Me Be the Weakest Link

A common Christian misconception is that we will spend most of our lives battling our weaknesses. We bemoan our weak faith and idolize the super saints. We wish we had a bigger testimony. We wonder what we are doing wrong that God doesn’t remove our limitations, heal our illnesses or enable us to be more generous.

If only I could get a better job! Then I could send my kids to good Christian schools and support the missionaries at church. If I had gone to college I  could get a real job, then I could be so much more effective for God. Instead, every spare minute and penny goes right back into just staying afloat.

I wonder what I did wrong to deserve this cancer? I spend half my life in and out of the hospital. When I am home, I’m too weak to be effective. God, I’m so sorry, please, please make me more useful to you.

Ever had thoughts like these? Last week, I stumbled across a verse that surprised me. I think I read it wrong to begin with. Mentally, I replaced a “you” with an “I”.

“And call upon me in the day of trouble, I shall rescue you, and you will honor me.” Ps. 50:15 God tells the author that he will call upon God, God will rescue him and the author will glorify God. That’s where I found my weakness lie: God is pleased with my strength as a Christian. 

The truth, according to Psalm 50:15, is that God is honored when He rescues me. God is shown to be the great, awesome, super natural, astonishing, against-all-odds, Savior that He is. When I am beyond all hope and God activates His favor on my behalf, then His character, His greatness is on full display. But God shows more than His power in my weakness. He shows his everlasting love. When God rescues a weak, hopeless, failing, impotent mortal He shows His absolute power and His absolute goodness.

Here’s the secret: the more aware you are of God’s grace, the more humble, prayerful, thankful, patient, gracious, content and joyful you will be. And you are more aware of God’s grace when you are weak. – John Bloom

So be careful as you analyze your life. Continue asking God to search you and know you, to try you and know your thoughts. Then be willing and ready to hear Him. Confess your sins because He is faithful and just to forgive. (Ps. 139:1-2, John 1:9) But don’t confuse your weaknesses with sin. They are different.

Remember the blind man to whom Jesus restored his sight? The disciples wanted to know who had sinned so that this man had been born blind. Jesus told them that the man’s blindness was not a result of sin – it may have been a limitation, a weakness but it was not from sin. And in the man’s healing Jesus was identified as the Christ.

 

Undercover Evil

It’s just a pretty, little sin.

Does it really matter?

Everybody does it.

A pretty, little head appears on my shoulder,

Subtle, demure, it’s never been bolder.

While whispering to me,

“You’re of no import,”

It also implies,

“You’re the self-less sort.”

Of course I am.

I pray all the time.

And, “Praise the Lord!”

I encourage others.

I pat their backs.

I serve my friends.

I call just because.

I try to believe I am being so humble.

Then conviction protrudes and bursts my bubble.

The less and smaller I think of me,

Inspires this infamous entity.

Conviction arrives.

The little head pops.

My self-image tumbles

To bottom from top.

It’s always been said.

It’s long been known.

That when you believe you’re humble

Pride’s cover is blown.

Who Do I Have to Love?

Every kid asks the question at some point.  In fact, most adults are still asking it quietly in their heads, although most of them have formulated an answer that belies their behavior.  What’s the question?

“Aren’t some sins worse than others?”

Will Davis Jr titled the fifth chapter in his book, “Ten Things Jesus Never Said,” It’s Okay Not to Love Certain People.  Yes, those two thoughts are related.  It seems that most people, due to the fact that they are human, cannot reconcile the concepts of disapproval and love.

The news is inescapable: Certain denominations are condoning homosexual behavior to the extent of ordaining them in leadership positions, other denominations are demonizing them for this blatant disobedience to God’s word.  Murder is justified by the age of the victim.  Spending beyond our means is acceptable if it makes us happy.  Sexual immorality is permissible if it’s only pictures.  Do some of these lies sound familiar?

How about this one: “It’s okay to judge.  It’s okay to condemn.  It’s okay to write off, avoid, criticize, dislike, and even hate people whose lifestyles repulse you.  The more sinful they are, the more it’s permissible to bash them.” (pg. 79)

Davis gives several modern examples of Christians behaving according to this unbiblical ethic.  Think of slandering a public figure that you don’t respect, or name-calling a celebrity with an immoral lifestyle.  Personally, the pastor of a church I once attended was discovered to have propositioned several women in the congregation.  As his insidious behavior became public knowledge, I participated in defaming him.  While demanding that he repent of his sin, I was engaging in a sin that would just as surely condemn me to hell.

“God doesn’t hate gays, [or any other specific sinner] and a person isn’t automatically condemned to hell just because he or she is gay.  It’s a sin, but it’s not THE sin – even though many churches and Christians preach, teach and act as if it is.” (pg 78)

Davis concludes every chapter of his book  with, Come to Me, All You Who are Weary and Burdened.  It’s surprising how exhausting it is to take the fight to someone, to argue or to hate.  Jesus calls us to love; Davis shows us that obedience to this command is for our good – it brings us peace.

Col 3:14 “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”