August 4, 2017

Grace, faith, and new life

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

I used to think that was a silly question because the Bible says God created the birds and therefore they came first — with an ability to make eggs and more birds. Now I understand this question probes our belief systems. It challenges the theory of evolution. It also challenges the idea that there is no Creator.

A similar question pops to mind concerning salvation. What comes first, new life so a person can say YES to God, or saying YES and then receiving new life?

Both propositions are supported by Jesus’ statement, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him . . . .” (John 6:44) That is, no one can come to Jesus because even the religious people of Jesus’ day refused to come. He said to them:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39–40)

However, God lovingly persists. He orchestrates circumstances so a rebelling sinful person is ready to cry ‘uncle’ and let God have His way. As today’s devotional writing says, He changes the sinner’s nature making him or her perfectly willing to receive Christ as Lord and Savior.

The devotional writer also says that by nature we humans have neither the will nor the ability to come to Christ for salvation. If God the Holy Spirit does not effectually call us to Christ, we never will come because we cannot do it.

This sounds more like the first proposition, that God changes hearts and with a changed heart, yielding to Christ is not only possible, but it is easy and natural, even irresistible. I came to Christ because He came to me — in my mind there was no other option, just as Jesus said:

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)

Pastor and author John Piper believes that both new life and saying YES to God happen at the same instant. God brings us to the place where our hearts have stopped resisting Him, then gives us the new nature we need for that last step that takes us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son.

I’m observing this in the life of a friend. Her view of God is changing as her need for His love and forgiveness increases. She has not said YES yet, but she wants to. When she is ready, she will come to Jesus and He will receive her as His own.

Today’s Word from the Lord invites me to consider Jesus, first as the light shining in a dark place, but also continually as the Sent One who is permanently in my life to intercede for me . . .

“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession . . . .” (Hebrews 3:1)

Jesus, what a delight to consider You, the Author and the Completer of my faith. You allowed those life-changing circumstances that would draw me closer, preparing me to want You. Also, You waited for the right moment to open my eyes to the reality of Your love and grace. Like many, I thought that I was choosing You, but now realize that it was You who called me, changed me, and enabled me to come to You so that You could share Your life, Your eternal life, with me.

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