Pleased and Displeased Without Contradiction

II Peter 3:9 reads as follows:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

And this is scripture and it is true, but what does it mean about God? I have heard people say that this verse means that God has no control over who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. If it was up to God, no one would go to Hell, they say and then are left scratching their heads at the idea of omnipotence.

Becoming a parent has helped clear these thoughts up for me. My son is almost 2½ and while he is a sweet child, he is also a son of Adam and born into sin. Because of this, there are times where I see him being tempted and while it is perfectly within my power to remove him from the temptation or the temptation from him, more often than not, and for a multitude of reasons, it pleases me to watch him struggle, it pleases me to watch him fall, and then it pleases me to spank him. And it pleases me, because by faith, I believe that God is using this process in both my and my son’s life. But at that very same time that I am so pleased, it also displeases me that Gavin has struggled and that he has failed. But consider this: there is no contradiction in my pleasure and my displeasure. Instead they sit very neatly side by side and the one complements the other. And I am just a man. How much more complex must an infinite God be?

We cheat ourselves and God of something when we think of Him so simply. To me, it is no contradiction to say that God has ordained all things for his purposes, to say that He is not willing that any should perish and then to affirm Romans 9:20-23:

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

What say you?

God for a Day

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine for a moment that you are given the infinite power of God to do with as you please. For all intents and purposes, you are God.

What would you do?

Think about it for a moment, and throw away your little answers, like “I’d bring about world peace”, or “I would end world hunger and eradicate disease”. That’s kid’s stuff. You’re God, remember, so what would you do? And don’t go and copy your predecessor either. You have to think of something completely original. In fact, throw out all the concepts that you have now and come up with all new ones. You’re God, and there is no idea of war unless you say so, nor is there the notion of peace, but that you make it to be so.

What would you do?

Seriously, think about it for a second.

If you’re like me, you’ll hit a wall very quickly. I have no idea, was my honest answer to this question. I lack the necessary traction to even process the question. Everything I know, every concept, every idea or ability to process an idea is framed by the One True God, Jehovah. I can only imagine within the framework that He has created. And that is exactly as it should be.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:3)

As always, feedback is appreciated.

The Order of Heavenly Memorials

Go look at Exodus 12 if you have not read it in a while. The first 28 verses detail the instructions concerning the practice of the Passover meal.

The scope of the instructions is broad enough to reach to all generations:

“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance” (v.

14).

“So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance” (v.

17).

“And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households” (vv. 26-27a).

Notice how God has chosen to act towards His people. Be astonished, even. The Passing Over, the event that Passover commemorates, does not occur until after these instructions (vv. 29-32). What kind of God is this? He establishes a memorial before He has yet done the thing memorialized.

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In the same way, also, Christ, on the night He was to be betrayed, took the bread and the cup, and established a new memorial that signified His death before He died. Christ memorializes the End of all sacrifices before He became the end. The Lord’s Supper: The New Passover.

We worship a God who establishes memorials before He brings all things to pass. Have faith, then.

Could Christ Have Sinned?: Understanding Temptation as “trying” or “proving”

In the New Testament, the Greek word peirasmos, is the word that is typically used when we read the words “temptation”, “trial”, or “test”, and it is the idea of trying or testing that I think sums up the nature of temptation (the other aspect of being tempted, which is being drawn away by our lusts or desires, I still want to talk about, but that needs a whole post to itself). At this point you might be saying, “what’s the big deal, I’ve always thought about temptation this way. It’s a trial that we have to face, a time of difficulty, a test.” And you’re right in a way. But sometimes, the concepts that we hold about a word or an idea don’t translate as neatly as we think they do. Sometimes, they actually introduce contrary concepts into the mix.

Let me try to explain how it happened to me. You see, I always used to think of a trial in the courtroom sense, and while that works on a certain level, I would let the other aspects of a courtroom drama invade the way I thought about the word. The essence of a trial is that something is tried against a standard, in the same way something that looks like gold is tried to determine if it is, in fact, actual gold, or in the case of a courtroom, the way a defendant is tried against the law to determine how they stand in relationship to it.

To my mind, temptation functions much the same way. When we are tempted by our desire for something, we are tested against the law based on whether we attempt to achieve our desire in accordance with the law.

As an example, let’s take a look at the three clearly documented temptations of Christ: He was tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, he was tempted to take his rightful place as ruler of the world, and he was tempted to use his position as the Son of God to bring glory to himself. (If these descriptions sound odd to you, go back and re-read the text.)

With the stones to bread, I think there is little controversy. Christ was hungry from his fasting, but his time of fasting was not yet complete and/or it was not His Father’s will that he do miracles yet.

When Satan offered him the kingdoms of the world, Christ’s temptation was not to worship Satan, but rather the thing that he rightfully desired was to take his place as King of King and Lord of Lords. Worshipping Satan was the unlawful means that he was offered to bring it about.

When he was taken up onto the pinnacle of the temple, he was tempted to extricate himself from a physical location in a way that would bring glory to himself (think angles streaming down from heaven to catch him). The unlawful means that Satan offers Christ was to tempt (test – same Greek root word) God by putting God in a position where He would have to act to save Christ.

One last note that I’ll make in this post is that the things that Christ was tempted by were not evil, but were good things (feeding his hungry body, taking his rightful place as the King of the earth, and bringing himself glory.) It was only the unlawful means that Satan offered that would have been sin. For me, this ties right into Galatians 4:4

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law

What do you think?

For the Love of God

I was reading John B’s most recent Blog Meridian post when I came across this description of a Wichita bookstore that he frequents:

There’s no coffee bar there, no fancy tilted shelving displaying the stock, no subdued, recessed lighting. You go there to buy, sell, trade and talk about books. But not in a pretentious or refined way. Books are the commodity there, just as with any bookstore, but nothing there detracts from the books. You don’t go there for Atmosphere. You go there for books. Period. It possesses all the analogous refinement of a livestock-auction arena; it’s a meat-market for book-lovers. Everyone in there is on the bibliophilic make. You hope to get lucky and pick up a few to take home. Everybody knows why you’re there, so you don’t have to pretend. Drool. Fondle. Grab an armload of books–the implicit promise of a trip home–until something better presents itself around the corner… Take one over to the comfortable (if well-used) couches for, um, closer examination. Hope for jouissance.

Besides the thought that if I’m ever in Wichita, I want need to visit this Bookaholic place, here’s what popped into my head as I read this: when was the last time you heard someone praising a church for similar reasons?

There’s no coffee bar there, no “come early and have a doughnut” sign on the front lawn, no grandiose choir, no special classes for 3 year olds, 5 year olds, junior high teens, senior high teens, college kids, career-minded girls, single moms, single people, desperate housewives, mid-life crisesing men or golden agers. You go there to think, talk, hear, and learn about God. You go there to worship. But not in a pretentious or refined way. God is the focus there, just as with any church, but nothing there detracts from Him. You don’t go there for Atmosphere. You go there for God. Period. It transcends analogous comparison; it is the only thing like it. Everyone in there is there for worship. Everybody knows why you’re there, so you don’t have to pretend. Listen. Sing. Ask. Fellowship. Sit in your pew or chair and meditate upon the greatness of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Pray for conformity to Him.

What do you say?

Sermon Prep on Assurance of Salvation, Faith, Works, and I John 3

Tomorrow night, I’m preaching at my church and my central text is I John, chapter 3. It’s an interesting passage and the core idea that I’ve taken away from it is that while salvation is of grace through faith, our assurance of salvation is through our works and that we abide in Christ and not in sin.

I’ll post more later, but if anyone has any thoughts I’ll be checking back in before I preach tomorrow night, so you have a prime opportunity to influence what is preached from a pulpit.

Any takers?

Questions about Prevenient Grace

I don’t know a whole lot about Wesleyan Theology. I do know a little bit about the concept of Prevenient Grace, but I have some questions. If anyone out there is a Methodist (or a follower of any of the other churches in the Holiness tradition) who wouldn’t mind answering them, I’d be delighted.

My understanding of Prevenient Grace is that it is what gives all men the ability to exercise their free will to choose or reject God. Here is my primary question: If God has given all men the power to choose him, then what is it that makes one man choose God and another reject Him? Is it their upbringing? Their environment that shaped them? And what role does Wesleyan Theology ascribe to God in making those choices? What I am getting at is this: if God makes the man and determines all the little things about him, and if God chooses the man’s parents and so on and so forth, then how is Wesley’s concept of free will any different than Calvin’s? What am I missing?

Thanks in advance.

Analogous Grace: Why God chooses to bless certain things

In my last article on grace, I wrote about Prescriptive Grace and the way that grace is always applied specifically according to God’s desires. In this post, I want to talk about grace in a slightly different way, but first I want to clarify some things. Because this post is about why God chooses to bless certain things I don’t want to give the impression that I believe that we can control or even manipulate God, however, because God has told us that He is a God of order and because He has revealed a great deal about Himself through His Word and through the world, there are things that we can know about His behavior and that we can, through faith, respond to. Of course, God can do anything He chooses at any time and is not bound by anything other than His own nature. As C. S. Lewis writes of Aslan in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: He’s not a tame lion.
Continue reading “Analogous Grace: Why God chooses to bless certain things”

Prescriptive Grace: The How’s and Why’s of Grace

If you’ve grown up in Christian circles or read many books on Christian topics, you probably run across a lot of different definitions for grace. Things like, “Grace is the unmerited favor of God” or “Grace is the power and desire to do God’s will” or my personal favorite, G.R.A.C.E. is

God’s
Riches
At
Christ’s
Expense

(This one is the best because it both defines and spells Grace at the same time!!!)

And while I don’t really want to knock those definitions (except maybe the acrostic), I wonder if you’ve ever felt like me that such simplistic definitions do not do grace justice?

I should point out that I’m not saying that we can completely understand grace. In fact, as we discuss grace a little bit, I’d like to try to show that to understand grace completely, we would have to understand God completely.

The seed thought that I have for thinking about grace is this:

Grace is associated with the specific work that God is performing in any situation. What we identify as grace is the interaction of God with us as His creation to accomplish His purposes. Grace is tied up in the specific actions of God and in our perception of those actions (think revelation).

In this post, I want to focus on the specificity of grace in any given situation.
Continue reading “Prescriptive Grace: The How’s and Why’s of Grace”