June 26, 2017

Where do I say NO?

God’s first ‘revelation’ of Himself is that He exists. The Bible tells how He does this: He puts eternity in our hearts; His creation reveals His glory and makes it plain:

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19–20)

This passage adds that people who refuse to acknowledge God exists are not thankful. Their hearts are darkened and their thinking becomes futile and foolish. They slide into deeper sin and are lost. At that point, what good would further revelation do if a person already rejects that He exists?

If a person believes that God does exist, this is good, but not a saving faith; even the demons believe and tremble. More revelation is required. This may involve a deeper understanding of who God is and what He does, yet eventually the most important concerns God’s high standard of righteousness and that we fall short. In this revelation, the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin. No one can get past this without agreeing with God.

Many will agree that all people sin, even that Jesus died for everyone, but when it comes to believing that “I am a sinner” and “Jesus died for my sin” there is resistance. A helpful illustration is to imagine everyone lined up on the west coast of the USA and given the task of swimming to Hawaii. Good swimmers might go several miles, but no one will make it; it is too far. So also is the high standard of God. Even the best ‘good’ people cannot reach it.

No person can be saved without agreeing that they need to be saved. Remember, God is not asking for a robot-like love. He wants our hearts engaged in saving faith. Saying no to our need of it will not produce it. Not only that, when God says I have sinned and I do not agree, I am calling Him a liar. What more can God say to convince me?

In today’s devotional reading, the author makes a difference between God’s general call to everyone, and His specific call to those who will be saved. He says the latter invitation is irresistible, but the first is not. Interesting, yet the Greek word used for ‘calling’ is the same, whether the invitation is accepted or rejected. In some mysterious way, people can resist the will of God. Jesus explained it this way:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1–14)

Some accepted, some did not. What makes the difference? Perhaps it is that reference to a “wedding garment” required for being at the feast. In those days, it was supplied by the host, the person who sent out the invitations!

John Piper writes that salvation is a combination of two things that happen at the same time. God reveals the good news about Jesus Christ to a sinner and as that invitation is heard, He gives us the ability to believe it.

That is, the gift of faith and the gift of eternal life are God’s grace. This does not happen to those who reject His existence, or who refuse to believe that they sin and fall short. Yet for those who do go that far, it is still outside of our ability to say yes to God’s invitation. We need repentance and saving faith — both gifts from God. At that point, these gifts are irresistible because we have already agreed with God about our deepest need.

Jesus, I’m trying to balance Your sovereignty with our responsibility. My efforts may fall short because the real question is why should You save anyone? Denying that You exist blinds us to see our sinfulness and need for You. Some of us will often fall and fail and fall and fail many times before admitting we cannot reach Hawaii by our own efforts. We often try over and over to please You, totally stubborn in our attempts to establish our own righteousness. Yet You are incredibly merciful. You keep calling, inviting, revealing, patiently saying, “Come to me . . . .” What a wonder that You should be gracious and change our NO to YES and transform us from darkness into light, from self-rule into Your kingdom, from lost lambs into Your children. 

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