God can do anything He wants, except control our free will, right? Hmm... God has orchestrated all the events of the world, and we can't change His mind, right? Hmmm...
A recent blog comment got me to thinking, what is it that God is going to do between now and eternity that I cannot hinder, that the world cannot change? And if that is the case, then should I just coast until the sound of the trumpet? After all I am saved, and the seal of the Holy Spirit is upon my heart. Once you get your ticket, there can't be much left to do, right?
It's a lot to think about -- kinda heavy. What I am getting at with these questions is basically the age old debate of Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Are we predestined by God, or do we play a part -- a role in our own destiny? I think it's both. But don't start rolling your eyes yet!
Q. How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. God has predestined when the lights will be on.
Q. How many Arminians does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.
There are lots of theological books out there that make my head spin. Me, I am more like the secretary in a big office. I have been hanging around for a long time, and now I know a few things from hanging around the business. Don't worry, I am not going to regurgitate someone eles's teaching. But I do want to quickly toss a few verses your way, then I'll lighten up and tell a few more jokes.
As evangelicals, we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8-9) but we can fall from grace (Gal. 5:2-4). We are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1) but our faith can become shipwrecked (1 Tim. 1:19 - 20). We are not under the law (Rom. 6:14-15) but if you live according to the sinful nature you will die (Rom. 8:13). Paul taught against legalism (Gal. 5:3-4). So, which is it? It's both/and.
God has set in motion creation, I don't think many would disagree with that. Some may think that He does not interact with His creation, and that creation is like a watch wound waiting for the last second of this age to come. It is true that Jesus will come back once a specified set of events takes place. You know, a cashless society, 12 kingdoms, one-world rule and stuff like that. It is going to happen!
But it is false to think that God has prescribed the day and the hour on a calendar. The day and the hour are unknown, but there will be a season in which we will see the return of Jesus is eminent. God can plainly see the culmination of earthly events. It is kind of like peeking at the envelope containing the solution cards in the game Clue. You know how it turns out, but you don't know how long it will take the players to figure out that it was Mrs. White in the Ballroom with the Candlestick.
The Kingdom is happening right outside your widow, have you noticed? It's a bit like proving Global Warming and Evolution. Yet, in the case of the return of Jesus, it is for sure going to happen. (The other two are a farce in my book, lest I digress.) If you read the book Song of Songs, there are many verses about God pursuing His lover the church. That's you! God cannot be hands-off and pursuing you [us] at the same time. No one cannot love without showing signs or expression of that love. And according to the Bible, love is expressed in a relationship between God and His beloved church. Faith is knowing the God on the other side of the relationship. As His sheep, we know His voice. That is NOT hands-off!
How we pursue our relationship with a living God, changes the pace of time as we near that end of the age. What? You mean something I do could change the outcome? No. However; it just might speed it up, or slow it down though. The outcome is known. Jesus will return, there is no question about that. We know how it ends, just not how long it will take.
Consider this: If the Gospel must be preached to all nations, then what if you and a dozen friends went out and preached the Gospel message? Conversely, what if you just sat there reading this blog and did nothing at all? Which would get us to the end of the age faster? If you are thinking that it is impossible, then you are suggesting we don't have free will and God is controlling our thoughts and actions. Thus we become predestined, and like a car being pulled though the car wash, we just need to sit back and wait for the end. I am sorry, I can't buy that. God's wish is for all mankind to be saved. That statement asks the question, how come He didn't predestine everyone to be saved? That would make Him unloving and we would be denied our free will, right? You can't have it both ways or God would be a liar and the Bible would not be true. If you are truly saved, that just cannot be the case.
I believe that the plan is predestined, but the characters (you and me) get to make choices based on spiritual laws laid out in the Bible. That is what we'll be judged on once we get before the throne.
Some folks worry about losing their salvation. There are doctrines on both sides of the issue. Personally, I say you can't. Otherwise we'd live our lives on eggshells meticulously trying not to make a mistake, falling short, and losing the prize of faith. That thinking basically says that God doesn't really have grace. Paul said that God's grace was sufficient, we can't live hoping that it's enough to cover our sin. It has to be! The Bible says that we were saved while we were still yet sinners. By the way, God is very familiar with sin. If you subscribe to the doctrine of lost salvation, where do you stand on works? And tell me, which sin is it that causes us to fall back into the miry pit? And what sin can we put behind us to get saved again?
Thinking it through, if we are all predestined and God's in charge of everything, then why pray? For that matter can prayer even change God's mind? What about the notion of asking God what to pray for? After all, whatever we ask in His name He'll do, right? Oh yes, according to His will. So, is His will what predestines us? Then why ask for it? Don't you think prayer has to be much more than hoping God will hear it and do it? Love keeps no record of wrongs.
I do believe that God has the earth in his hand, but I also think that you and me need to do our part in achieving our own destiny. Consider this. There is a person that God wants to save, and He has chosen you to deliver the message. What happens if you have an argument with a family member and don't feel worthy to deliver the message? Thus the chosen person in your life never hears what you have to say. Is that God's fault? Do you think God will send someone else? What if He doesn't?
Church, what we do and don't do matters a great deal to God. We make choices each and every day that will put us closer to Him, and more in the stream of His will for us, or put a distance between Him and us. The latter is sin. Yes, we have grace, but with it comes much responsibility. If you are saved, you already know that you can't do enough, or be good enough to receive eternal life. Now that you are saved, you need to be aware that your actions can change history for the better, or for worse. Church, we will married to the Lord.
Maybe we see biblical rules, laws and regulations through the lens of grace alone. The Bible says 5 times, "great each other with a Holy kiss." Do you do it? Why not? Probably because our cultures are a bit different then at the time of the Jesus-- I guess we do need grace, but does that change God's word? Think about it?
In the final analysis, we make choices to follow God, or not. What is God really after? Loving disciples that lay down their lives for His purposes; that they may achieve the following.
Matthew 11:12 "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.
God is building a Kingdom in which He will rule and reign forever, one which we've been invited to participate in building. Jesus said that the kingdom is at hand. Do you see it?
It is time to repent of the notion that it is all up to God, and He'll do what He damn well pleases, when He pleases. It is time to stop saying, if He wants me to do something, He'll let me know. There is a gospel to be preached, any questions? I tell you, unless you put the old man to death, it is unlikely that you will ever see the kingdom of God at work here on earth. But gracefully, He is pursuing each of us in love, and for a purpose that will achieve a Bride without spot nor blemish.
So, I am predestined to be there in the end, and I have a chioce to join God now to bring His kingdom.
Now for one final joke. I am sorry, but it s a knock-knock joke.