A Parable for Hyper-Calvinists

To those who say, “if God has ordained all things, then what does it matter if I witness since all who will be saved will be saved regardless what I do?,” you would do well to consider the parable of the talents:

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Matthew 25:14-30

It matters a great deal what you do, for by either your obedience  or your disobedience to the commands of God, you testify to whether you are a son of God or of the devil. This is not to say that salvation is by works, but that salvation does not exist without producing works. Those who hold to this position say in effect, God is so powerful and so completely in control, that I do not need to obey Him. It is nothing more than rebellion dressed up as obedience.

Comments?

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?

The rebuke of a friend is sweet

Yesterday, a friend of mine took me to task for something, and while it wasn’t pleasant, it was comforting to know that he cares about me. He wasn’t mean or rude or unfair to me in any way, he was honest, he was direct, he was gracious. It was quite humbling.

We all need a friend or two like that. The sort of person who will look at us and say the thing that needs to be said and not necessarily the thing that would be most pleasant. The sort of person who knows how to cut you, but kindly, the sort that Proverbs 27:6 speaks of when it says, “faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”.

I think there’s a great deal more to be said about friendship, but I wanted to get this down while it was fresh in my mind. And to Bruce, who I’m not entirely sure will read this, I wanted to say thank you. You are and have always been a friend, and I appreciate that, more than you may know.

Treating the Scripture as a Person

Imagine the following scenario:

Your husband or wife calls you and tells you that they need to talk to you about something important when you get home. When you arrive, they usher you into the living room. “I’ve been thinking,” they say, “about how uncertain words are and how difficult it is to truly understand someone. I know that you try to talk to me, and that you expect me to understand what you’re saying, and I appreciate that, I really, really do, but I’ve made a decision. From now on, I’m just going to interpret what you say the way I want to, based on what makes the most sense for me. I think that will make things simpler.”

When they finish speaking, you sit, slightly bewildered, collecting your thoughts. Finally, you ask, “Why? I know we have misunderstandings from time to time, I know that sometimes I confuse you, but fundamentally I thought we’ve understood each other.”

Their response leaves you breathless, “Exactly,” they say, “This seems like the right thing to do. It means so much to me that you understand. I think we’ll get along so much better now. I hope you know how much I love you, and how much you mean to me.”

How would you react to such a conversation? Shock? Confusion? Bewilderment? You might begin to wonder if your loved one has some sort of dissociative disorder. You might even wonder if it’s you who have the disorder. You might wonder a thousand different things, but no one would think that this is normal.

But what if instead of you, the person being addressed was God Almighty? And what if instead of a loved one, it was you who had sat God down for the talking to?

How often do we treat the Word of God as less than a person? How often do we forget that when we open up the Word to read, it is not a dead man, but the living God Himself who is speaking to us? How often do we let the fact that we must interpret the Word, pervert itself into the idea that we can interpret it, anyway we want?

How often do we forget that the exact message that God wants us to know cannot be rendered unknowable? I don’t know about you, but I forget it all the time.

Christians and Science

There is a lot of talk today about the difference between science and religion, about the gulf between the Christian and the scientist, the chasm that separates faith from fact. There is a tone to the rhetoric that suggests that these two areas are not only incompatible, but that the Christian’s ability to view the world is inherently limited, and is therefore operating at a distinct disadvantage.

The heart of the idea that is being sold is that the scientist deals with the real world, with atoms and energy, with metals and chemicals, with universal laws and cold hard facts, while the Christian is left in the fanciful world of magic and fairies, of gods and miracles, of spiritual and invisible things that are only knowable through that slippery thing called faith. This idea supposes that the theologian who is studying the nature of grace is doing something fundamentally different than the astronomer who is studying the nature of the heavens.

The problem with this is that it is a lie.

Continue reading “Christians and Science”

Is There Truth Outside of Christianity?

Jamie Kiley is wrestling with a worthwhile question, namely, “What does Paul mean when he says that ‘everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God’?” Her question was prompted by the book Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (someone who I do not respect at all as an expositor of the Word of God.)

Bell uses this verse as part of his justification for the following statement:

As a Christian, I am free to claim the good, the true, the holy, wherever and whenever I find it. I live with the understanding that truth is bigger than any religion and the world is God’s and everything in it.

Continue reading “Is There Truth Outside of Christianity?”

Soulwinning, Methodology, and Going in unto Hagar

Abraham had a problem. God had made a promise to him, and to the best of Abraham’s understanding, God had not delivered. Plus, the way things looked, God was not planning on delivering any time soon. And it was starting to bother Abraham. It was also worrying his wife. It worried her enough that she finally approached Abraham and said to him:

Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.

Sarai makes it clear to Abraham that she knows it is God who has kept her from having children. She recognizes that God is the one who opens and closes the womb, but at the same time, she also doesn’t believe it or at least is not satisfied with it, because she tells Abraham to go into Hagar and see if God will bless that union and give him the promised heir by her (as if God does not control the womb of Hagar as well).

What happens next? We all know the story. Hagar brings forth Ishmael, and fourteen years later, Sarah née Sarai, brings forth Isaac, a son of her own. A few years later, Ishmael is sent away, and he grows up away from his father and his step-mother and brother. The next time we see Ishmael in Scripture, he is meeting Isaac to bury their father Abrhaham. Go a few verses further and we are reading Ishmael’s obituary as it were.

And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
(Genesis 25:13-17)

We know a little more about Isaac. We know that he married Rebekah and that he had two sons, Jacob and Esau. We know that he became wealthy. We know his story in greater detail without having to look it up. But, here is my question:

If we accept the premise that the spiritual counterpart to bringing forth children is seeing souls born into the family of God, then what is the spiritual counterpart to going in unto Hagar?

I believe that as Christians (both individually and collectively as the Church), we often find ourselves in situations that bring us to say, the LORD has restrained us from bearing. The LORD has not given us souls. We know and testify that salvation is of God, that it is by the working of His spirit and by His hand alone that sinners come to repentance, but at the same time we do not believe it, because we go in unto Hagar. We go in to the world and we say, perhaps by these methods that we once thought were wrong, we might raise up souls unto God. What it terrifying is this. More often than not, by these methods, we see fruit.

What we have forgotten is this, Ishmael had twelve sons, each of them a prince with castles and land, and Issac had only two, one of them a shepherd living in semi-exile. If someone looked at the fruit of Abraham’s life, at his child with Hagar and his child with Sarah, which one would they conclude was more “successful”. Would they conclude that going into Hagar was such a bad thing after all? Could they even conclude that it was a good thing? Based on Ishmael’s life, would the modern church have told Abraham: Go down into Egypt and purchase from the slave blocks one hundred Hagars and get them all with child and raise up an army of Ishmaels? Sometimes, I wonder.

What I am saying is this: the ultimate fruit of Ishmael was not determined in his or in Abraham’s lifetime. In many ways it has still not been completely determined and will only be known in full, in eternity. But It is no different with our methods of winning souls today. It is not immediate results that tell us whether we are doing the work of God or not. There was no lack of people to dance around the golden calf that Aaron made, yet Noah preached 100 years and only reached his household.

What do you think? Does this hold up to the light of God’s Word? Have we gone in unto Hagar? If so, how do we make things right?

Protecting your family

There are certain Bible verses that stay in the forefront of my thoughts. They are typically verses with strong imagery, with straightforward application, the sort of verse that you can see in action around you practically anywhere you look. I Peter 5:8 is such a verse:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour

I think about this a great deal lately, about the last five words in particular. I know people who have been devoured by the adversary, people who have been eaten and metabolized by the awful work of sin. We think of being devoured as being destroyed, but nothing eternal can be destroyed, it can only be changed, and we all know people who bear the marks of such a transformation. To some degree, we all bear such scars ourselves.

I think about these things when I look at my children, when my daughter is squeezing my hand and looking up at me with large and innocent eyes, when my son is standing in the center of our living room staring up at the television and drinking in whatever we have chosen for him to see, when my wife is at home and I am at work and she is facing the dark thoughts of a dreary afternoon. I think about these things, and I wonder what, if anything, I have done to keep this beast at bay. Some days, I know and fear the answer to that question.

But I should be clear here, we are not to fear Satan. There is only one thing that we are to fear, and that is not fear itself, but God Almighty. For Satan, we reserve our vigilance. For Satan, we reserve our seriousness and our sobriety of mind. And we know what this means. It means no more laughing at little sins, at cute wickednesses and clever blasphemies. It means being wise and alert and sleeping with one spiritual eye open. It means going through our homes and looking at everything with an air of suspicion, with an air of caution, with the thought in the back our minds that our families and our own lives may depend upon it. Because whether we like to think about it or not, there is a beast out there, and he is hunting for more than just you.

A Message for Monday: The Evangelization of the Home

I had the opportunity to speak at my church last week and I ended up bringing a message about the evangelization of the home. You can listen to it right here, or if you want a copy for yourself, you can click here to download it.

[audio:The Evangelization of the Home.mp3]

Let me know what you think.

The First Type of Evangelism, part III

In the part one of this ongoing series, we talked about the Shema Yisrael and its connection to what Jesus Christ calls the first and greatest commandment. In part two, we discussed evangelism in general and the dangers of over-simplifying the Gospel. Today, I wanted to go in a slightly different direction and talk about marriage as a form of evangelism. But before we can do that, we need to lay a little more ground work.

We are spiritual beings, and that’s important to remember, if for no other reason than the fact that we are constantly forgetting it. And it’s so easy to do. We wake up in the morning, and the first things we are faced with are the pressing demands of our bodies.

“To the bathroom,” screams our body, “but you should also start the coffee. Also, how about some breakfast? I’m thinking sausage and pancakes and maybe some eggs… Or a bagel!!! One of those asiago cheese thingies with bacon scallion cream cheese… But first, I need a shower, and a good gargle or two — what did I eat before I went to bed?!? — and by the way, HOW’S THAT COFFEE COMING?!?!”

Continue reading “The First Type of Evangelism, part III”