November 16, 2009

Did I do it, or was it God?

In a day and culture that believe truth is relative, or that each person decides what is “true for you” but not “true for me,” discussions about the sovereignty of God are impossible. If truth sways according to opinion, there is nothing to talk about and the topic can be avoided.

From childhood, I’ve been a black and white person. Of course in some areas I need to back off. Opinions abound and I cannot say what is the nicest color or the best music or the most important topic of discussion. However, when it comes to God, it is quite clear that He is either sovereign or He is not. That is, He either has the power and does use it to control the events in time and space, or He does not. He can influence, persuade, or make things happen. Nothing is impossible for Him. Partial control is not sovereign.

If He only controls some things, then He is not God and Lord of all. Further, I could not worship a weak God or one that I defined. If God cannot do everything He wishes, then I might as well worship myself, for that puts Him into my category.

This discussion is problematic in Christian circles because theologies differ. Traditional Reformed theology, called Calvinism, emphasizes God’s sovereignty and says that no one will come to Christ apart from the work of God to initiate a call to them, drawing them to Jesus, giving them the gift of faith and new life, and then keeping them in His care by His grace and power.

On the other side of things, Arminian theology emphasizes man’s power of choice. This view says God provides spiritual help, but it is up to each person to decide if they will follow Jesus and persevere in their walk with Him. Arminians say that if they want, they can choose to not believe and lose their salvation.

Today’s reading points to a verse written to believers who are, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace be multiplied” (1 Peter 1:2).

I’ve heard every argument possible. Some say that God is not fair if He does the choosing, the electing. Others say that God loves us and gives us the choice. If we don’t want Him, He respects our decision. Still others say that God knows who will choose Him, so these are the ones He elects. Election is thus about man’s decision, not God’s.

Some of the people that I’ve known who held to this theology also believed that their life was going to be measured by their deeds. They were never sure where they stood with God and worried that they might sin and face death before they had a chance to repent. Their salvation was all about them, and while they loved Jesus, they insisted they could stop loving Him if they wanted to.

I’ve listened and studied all of it and realized that my sin nature, the person that I was without Christ, would certainly never choose Jesus, not because of desire, but because it is impossible. Romans 3:10-12 says, “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12).

To love and follow Him, I must have a new nature, and I know from both the Bible and my experience that I cannot make that happen. That is a God thing. He came into my life and made all things new. In my case, there was no prayer of invitation; He just showed up. For some, there is such a prayer, but in either case, it is because He has come and offered Himself. If He did not do that, no one could be given new life.

As a Christian, there is a conflict between the old nature and the new, yet that old nature has already been declared dead in Christ and separated from God. I need to shed it like old clothes and walk in the newness of life God has given. Should I wear that old me, the new life might get covered up, but it will persist because it is of God — and God persists.

People who think salvation is about human choice cite all sorts of people who were “once Christians but changed their mind.” I tried that once. However, the Bible says I have the mind of Christ and He will never leave me or forsake me. He would not let go of me.

As for those who seem to be able to do it, I have to leave that alone. God knows if they had new life or not. God also knows if their decision was permanent or if like me, they realized the hand of God let them run to the end of their tether, but He was still there, able to save them to the uttermost.

In my mind, this discussion can only be evaluated by one question: Which view glorifies God as sovereign, almighty, and true to His promises? It is not glory but blasphemy to even think that I could, by an act of my own will, do or undo all that He has done in my life.

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