I’ts All About God — Part 2

April 24, 2008 at 9:31 am | Posted in It's All About God, Theology | Leave a comment

Ephesians 1-3.  I believe the reason some people have a difficult time with Reformed theology is that we all have an inborn desire to have a part in what is ours.  We have trouble believing that we have nothing to do with our salvation; we want to take at least some of the credit for it.  However, this doesn’t fit the clear teaching of the scriptures.  The first half of Ephesians emphasizes this point in a lucid way.  God is the active agent of everything in these chapters.  He is almost always the subject, and even when “we” is the subject of a sentence, the sentence is passive and God does it.  In other words, “It is all about God!”

Note that God blessed us with spiritual blessings; he chose us in Christ; he predestined us to be adopted; he lavished his grace on us; he called us to a glorious inheritance; he made us alive when we were dead in sin; he raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly realms; he preached peace to us who were far from him; he purposed all this; and he accomplished his eternal purpose in Christ.  We were chosen and predestined; we were included in Christ; we were marked with the Holy Spirit; we have been saved by grace (said twice and emphasized with “it is the gift of God”); we have been brought near to God through the blood of Christ; we are being built together as a dwelling for God (all passive sentences with God as the active agent).

I might add that all the above are past tense sentences, except the last one in my list.  Not only does God do it all; he has already done it.  It is finished.  Nothing I do can undo what God as already done!  Otherwise his word wouldn’t be true.

Paul adds to all this that even his preaching of the message is “the grace of God which was given to me.”   Even his prayers emphasizes the role of God doing it all for us.  He asks the father to give us a spirit of wisdom; to enlighten the eyes of our hearts; that we might know him better; that he would strengthen us through power in the inner man; that we might grasp the love of Christ.  Some of the things on this prayer list make it seem like we are the subject (that we might know him and might grasp his love), but why would Paul pray these things if they were our own doing!?  He prays them because he knows they are God’s work.

The clear teaching of the Bible is that God does it all.  It’s all about God!  That’s something worthy of my trust.  I can’t trust my sinful self to hold on to Christ; but I can trust the God described in these chapters, the God who has already done the things described in these chapters, to hold on to me!

Advertisements

Legacies

April 22, 2008 at 2:56 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith | 1 Comment

1 Chronicles 1-8

These chapters are a bore to most people who attempt to read them.  They consist of the genealogies of Israel – lists and lists of names.  As I read these in my devotions recently, I noticed something new.  I was scanning names while trying to absorb the little information between.  What would you expect to be said about people in your family a few generations back?  Or what things would you expect to be recorded when only a small comment is made every few generations?  There are some of the things in this text I expect to see:  major moves (4:38f) including the Assyrian captivity (5:25f); battles that were won (2:23f, 5:19f); the significant jobs of a few (4:23, 6:31); and that now-famous prayer by a man named Jabez (4:9f).  The surprise to me was the amount of tragedy recorded in these chapters.  “Judah’s firstborn was wicked in the LORD’s sight, so the LORD put him to death.” (2:3, which is followed by a reminder of Judah’s wickedness with his daughter-in-law).  We are reminded of Achan, “who brought trouble on Israel.” (2:7)  We’re told of a man who died while his wife was still pregnant (2:24); of Reuben, who “when he defiled his father’s marriage bed,” forfeited his rights as firstborn (5:1); of Ephraim, who lost two sons and named his next one “misfortune” (7:21f); and of one who was divorced twice (8:8).

Why so much tragedy when only the “highlights” are listed?  Maybe in the overall picture of things, it is the tragedies of life, more than the good things, which form our character.  God is a sovereign God who brings to our lives what is for his greater glory and ultimately for our good.  In the short view, we don’t always feel that way.  Whatever tragedy you may be facing, God can use it to build greater character in your life and to bring him the ultimate glory.  Some of those tragedies, or the lessons coming from them, may well be viewed by later generations as a part of the great legacy you’ve left behind!

I’ts All About God — Part 1

April 19, 2008 at 8:02 am | Posted in It's All About God, Theology | Leave a comment

Romans 9:11-18.  There have been some lively discussions in our church on the Calvinism/Arminianism question in recent years.  I was asked to address the issue before our worship service one Sunday morning, when it came up in a class I wasn’t teaching.  I read passages like this, and it seems pretty clear that salvation is all God’s doing.  God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”  This sentence is the conclusion of the section, and it is stated as a general principle for all, not as a specific application to people groups like Jews and Gentiles.  I can see the possibility of interpreting some other parts of these difficult chapters as teaching a “corporate election,” which requires an individual response to make it specific, but I can’t see that interpretation here.  Salvation is entirely God’s doing – God’s choosing.  As believers, we love the scriptures that say things like “not by works, by faith,” or “not by works, by grace.”  But how often do we hear these similar words quoted: “not by works but by him who calls?”

A few chapters later Paul adds the words, “at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace, and if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:5-6)  We each have a strong desire to hold on to the idea that we had some part in our salvation, as though we were smart enough to believe in Jesus while the rest of the world was not.  But the depth of sin is such that we are not smart enough, and the deception of sin makes us hold on to the notion that we are!  When we do that, grace is no longer grace; it becomes a work of our own efforts!  This is what I meant that Sunday when I was asked about the question.  Before my sermon that Sunday, I said, “I believe it’s all about God.”  I am almost certain that a few who would dearly hold to the Arminian perspective responded to that comment with a hearty “Amen!”  I guess they haven’t considered the logical conclusion to which their beliefs will lead.  An Arminian perspective is not all about God; it is, at least to some degree, about me!

          On an interesting side note one lady, who has numerous questions about Calvinism, sang a special in church a few weeks after my comment.  She has a misunderstanding what Calvinism is about and says she can’t buy into the system.  However, the main line of her song was something like, “I couldn’t come to Jesus, but he came all the way to me.”  That sounds very much like a Calvinist!  To be consistent, an Arminian would have to sing, “Jesus opened the door, and I came to him.”

Someday I hope to add to this blog a growing list of Old Testament scriptures demonstrating that in the matter of salvation, it is all about God.  I seem to have run across many of them in recent months.

Micaiah and today’s false prophets

April 10, 2008 at 10:56 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, Theology | Leave a comment

Those who are false prophets will say whatever is to their advantage, regardless of the truth, and they disguise their rhetoric in the words of people who believe the truth.  This is illustrated in the story of Micaiah, who prophesied against King Ahab.  His story is in 1 Kings 22 (and also 2 Chronicles 18 — I read the First Kings account this morning).  King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah joined forces to fight against the king of Aram.  At King Jehoshaphat’s request for a prophet, Ahab consulted his false prophets – about 400 of them – who all gave the same report, “Go to war, for the Lord will give victory.” (v6)  Jehoshaphat was not persuaded, asking, “Is there no prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?” (v7)

The upper and lower case letters are critical to a correct understanding of this story.  When the prophets spoke of “the Lord” (with lower case letters), they were using a generic term that could refer to any authority, false god or idol.  But when Jehoshaphat spoke of “the LORD” (upper case letters in most modern English translations), he was specifying what God he wanted to hear from; he wanted a word from Yahweh, the God who created the universe.  In other words, he was saying “these guys are false prophets, and I want to hear from a true prophet of God.” 

At this point two things happened.  First, Ahab sent for a prophet of the LORD named Micaiah, of whom Ahab was not fond, for Micaiah never said what Ahab wanted to hear.  And second, while they were waiting for him to arrive, the false prophets changed their tune.  They had been prophesying “the words of the Lord,” but after Jehoshaphat’s inquiry, they started saying, “This is what the LORD says.” (vv 11-12)  The only thing they kept consistent was the promise of victory.

Just like Ahab’s prophets said what Ahab wanted to hear and changed the wording so Jehoshaphat would also be pleased, so today’s false teachers promise what their audience wants to hear, using the words popular with Bible believers.  Unfortunately, again just like Ahab’s prophets, they change the meaning of those words to fit their agenda.

Be cautious!  Some of today’s popular teachers use good words but change their meaning.  They say what people want to hear.  They don’t talk about sin, which is so prominent in the Bible and without which there can be no good news.  Instead, they teach prosperity according to the world’s standards – exactly what most people like to hear.  Paul warned us that people would “gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  Let’s be like Jehoshaphat, listening to the truth, even when a part of that truth is not what our human ears are fond of hearing.  Then we can hear and experience the real good news!  The real good news is not news of temporal prosperity; it’s news of eternal prosperity.

Some eschatological thoughts

April 6, 2008 at 6:48 pm | Posted in Eschatology, Theology | 1 Comment

In our recent Sunday class on end times, I told of my journey from a Dispensational Pre-Millennium, Pre-Tribulation understanding to an Historic Pre-Millennium, Post-Tribulation understanding.  I wasn’t able to give all the references and reasons.  Here are some notes from devotion times in recent years that have influenced that migration.

 

Mark 13 The more I read the more I become a Post-Trib.  I see no other way around passages like this.  Jesus is not just talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that was to come in 70AD, because of words like (v26) “At that time, men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds.”  Yet he says of the troubles (v19) “Those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning … and never to be equaled again.”  If this is not the “Great Tribulation,” as Pre-Mills like to call it, then it is something far worse, because it will never be equaled again!  Isn’t it the Pre-Mills who pride themselves on “literal interpretation” of the Bible?  The only literal interpretation I can imagine is that this description is the Great Tribulation.  Yet two different times in this same context, Jesus implies that the elect will be in that Tribulation (vv20, 22).  Then he says “following that distress, the sun will be darkened … At that time, men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds … and he will gather his elect.”  This is a Post-Trib passage to the max!

 

Revelation 7:9.  The older I get the more I wander away from the Pre-Tribulation rapture position that was so popular when I was a youth and interested in prophecy and end times.  I took a Pre-Trib position for my seminary paper, but came away from the study more convinced of the Post-Trib position than I’d ever been.  I’ve come to believe that passages like Mark 13 and Matthew 24 (a reference in my journal to the above note) teach a Post-Tribulation position.  Now I believe this passage in Revelation does the same.  John saw “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, language and people.”  Later they are described as the ones “who came out of the great tribulation.”  If this is not all the saints, then one has to believe that a great many will come to know Jesus during the Great Tribulation, yet the descriptions of that period are descriptions of people in complete rebellion against God.  In spite of all the miracles they will see, they will not praise God, they will curse him.  (16:9, 11, etc.)  These in the white robes in chapter 7 must be all the saints not just those who might believe during a Tribulation period when no one is there to tell them the truth.

 

Revelation 15:2.  In a follow up to yesterday’s entry, here is another reference which denies the Pre-Tribulation idea:  There are, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image.  Who are these if they didn’t come through the Great Tribulation?  Maybe God is preparing me with a new understanding because he is about to do something amazing.  Then again, maybe I’m just seeing things anew as I get older.

 

Revelation – some general thoughts.  I am also becoming leery of the method I was taught to interpret Revelation – that is as a blow-by-blow, linear account of the end-times events.  The above passage is after the seven trumpets but before the seven plagues.  If those plagues are after the Tribulation, they don’t fit on anybody’s charts.  Jesus is supposed to return at the end of the Tribulation period, but here those who have overcome the beast are already in heaven and the wrath of the Tribulation hasn’t yet begun.  To take this as a blow-by-blow account, one would have to say that the Tribulation is described only in the earlier chapters of Revelation, and that all these plagues and trumpet woes are a period after that but before Jesus returns.  No charts of the literal/linear interpretations have such a period of time on them.  The literal/linear method leads to many contradictions at worst or many confusing issues at best.  I guess I should look more to the A-Mills who have often taught Revelation as repetition-on-a-theme book instead of blow-by-blow account.  That seems to fit the pattern better.

In addition, I also see some overlap in the plagues presented as seals, trumpets and bowls that would point to a repetition-on-a-theme understanding of Revelation.  For instance, the fourth seal tells of 1/4 of the earth dying, then the sixth trumpet tells of 1/3 of men dying.  The sixth seal says the stars fell from heaven (sounds like all of them), but in the third trumpet (later if we take a blow-by-blow understanding) another star falls and in the fourth trumpet 1/3 of the stars are made dark.  In both of these dark or black is mentioned, yet in the fifth bowl darkness comes over the earth.  I could go on to mention the thunder and lightning and blood which is repeated, but this suffices to give one the idea.

The wisdom of Solomon

April 3, 2008 at 8:16 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Wisdom | Leave a comment

I often wonder how much wisdom it took Solomon to ask the Lord for wisdom!   I read 1 Kings 3 this  morning.  When I ponder this passage, I realize that I often feel just like Solomon did when he said, “I do not know how to carry out my duties.  .  .  .  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” (vv8-9)  As a church pastor, I find myself having to repeat that prayer often.  Many of people feel that way, wherever they are in life.  May God grant you the wisdom to carry out the duties he’s given you.  Remember “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God,  .  .  .  and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Pastor Glenn’s first test post

April 3, 2008 at 1:21 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I will be sharing numerous devotional and theological thoughts from my own quiet time and study here.  I hope it will be an encouragement and blessing to many.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.