Saturday, December 22, 2018

An Inconsistency of Arminianism

Joh 10:28  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. Joh 10:29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
Php 1:6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Growing up in Fundamental Arminianism we didn’t hear very much about the sovereignty of God and especially so when it came to our salvation.  When speaking about that subject we didn’t hear about God’s sovereignty at all.  We were taught much about how each of us has a free will and it is up to choose whether we will believe in Jesus.  In Arminian thought all men have a sovereign, autonomous free will that even God can’t control if we won’t let him.  So our eternal destiny is determined, not by the will of God but by our will. 

Of course, we know that the Bible teaches that all men have a will only it is depraved, at odds with God, and so unable to do any good thing before God.  What many fail to realize is that there is a difference between a sovereign, autonomous free will (which only God can have) and a creaturely freewill that must be subservient to the eternal decrees of the only true Sovereign, God Almighty; notice it is not some mighty but all mighty! 

But let me just focus on one teaching of Arminianism that shows the inconsistency of this theology.  As a rule they make it clear that God cannot overcome our will or our will wouldn’t be free, so everyone must have a choice as to whether they want to believe or not.  But oddly enough, when it comes to losing one’s salvation they are perfectly fine with God forcing our will.

Often I would hear the idea of “Once saved, always saved” and “Eternal Security”.  They would use verses like those quoted above to teach that one cannot lose their salvation.  Some even go so far as to say that all Baptist are “Calvinists” because we believe you cannot lose your salvation.  By this they mean they believe the last point of the TULIP, Perseverance of the saints.  But, of course, this is a corruption of this doctrine.  They are saying that all this means is that God won’t let us lose our salvation but deny that he does this in part by transforming us so that we won’t walk away from the faith.  So the idea is that no matter how we live God won’t let us be lost even if we could care less about being saved anymore.

I have heard “Eternal Security” illustrated as a lobster in a pot of boiling water.  Once we are saved God closes the lid down and we can’t get out whether we want to or not.  One immediate problem with this is that no real saint wants to walk away from the Lord but when your theology doesn’t need a transformation of the will in order to be saved then your will isn’t changed to begin with.  So if you choose to be saved, the next day you might choose to walk away.  Fortunately, they are saying, that God won’t let you.

But the most striking inconsistency with this illustration as well as the whole concept of “Once saved, always saved” is that they are saying that it is perfectly okay for God to keep us from ever walking away from him but it is absolutely unacceptable for him to change our will so we will believe in him to begin with.  So it is okay for God to sovereignly keep us from rejecting Christ but he cannot sovereignly bring us to the point of receiving Christ.  It seems that they are picking and choosing when it is okay for God to be sovereign or be God.  And this is the whole problem with Arminianism; it puts man’s “free will” above God’s sovereign will and only one kind of will can be truly free and that is a sovereign will.

The Bible teaches our salvation is a result of the eternal plan and decree of God, not man’s will.  God can’t decree to keep a people saved unless he first chooses to save a people; otherwise how does he even know if anyone will choose to get saved to begin with?  So I ask, why is it okay for God to override our will (And I realize this is a totally unbiblical way to express it, but I am using the Arminian’s way of describing this) and keep us saved but he can only wait and see if we will choose him? 

Part of the problem with this unbiblical theology is that Calvinists know and the Bible clearly teaches that God doesn’t merely force our will but he makes us willing and there is a huge difference between the two. 

But at the end of the day even the lost can only do what the sovereign God ordains and yet they are at the same time doing exactly what they want to do and so are held accountable.  I leave you will these texts to confirm this:

Psa 33:10  The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. Psa 33:11  The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
Dan 4:35  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?"
Pro 21:1  The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
Pro 16:9  The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Psa 105:25  He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.
Finally, the passage that should end all debate, Act 4:26  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'—Act 4:27  for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, Act 4:28  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Will any doubt that Herod, Pilate, and the Jews all willingly crucified Jesus and that they were judged because of it?  This is the greatest sin ever committed and yet they were doing and could only do what God had ordained they do from all eternity.  It is not our job to understand how this can be true but it is certainly our duty to submit to this truth and live our lives in light of it.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Spiritual Nearsightedness and Dementia

2Pe 1:5  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 2Pe 1:6  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 2Pe 1:7  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 2Pe 1:8  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Pe 1:9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

In this section of 2 Peter, the Apostle is giving us some good spiritual meat as to how to be fruitful and effective in the Christian life.  If the qualities of vss. 5-7 are working in us, we will bear fruit in the Kingdom of God, vs. 8.  In vs. 9 he comes at it from a negative viewpoint.  If these qualities aren’t in us we are demonstrating spiritual weakness.  He illustrates this by using two physical weaknesses, nearsightedness and forgetfulness or we might say spiritual dementia. 

Spiritual nearsightedness happens when we focus on this life with no thought to eternity.  We live for the here and now but fail to lay up gold, silver and precious stones in Heaven.  It is myopia in which we can only see what is in front of our face and forget that the Lord is coming soon for us and this world will be left behind.  It could also be applied to idolatry in which we are focused on some object and fail to see the big picture which is that this life is to be all about serving the Lord.  So it is to be too busy living life or too busy loving this world that we are not focused on the Lord.

Spiritual forgetfulness fails to remember something that is vital for effective Christian living.  In the first case we don’t see what is coming; in the second case we are not keeping something in our minds that is needed to serve the Lord.  Vs. 9 explains that what we have forgotten is the Gospel; that we are sinners saved by the cross of Christ. 

The reason this is important is that when we walk through life without the gospel in our “RAM”, in our working and usable memory, we forget who we are; we are unable to properly identify ourselves.  This happens all the time with both the lost and Christians.  We identify ourselves primarily as men or women, Americans or some ethnic group.  We can also do it by seeing ourselves by what we do for a living, a doctor, union worker, teacher, etc.  We are seeing a particularly destructive form of it when people identify themselves by their sexual choices or their gender preferences, etc. 

The problem with each one of these is that very often we allow our life, thoughts and actions, to be guided by these identifications rather than the fact that we are children of God first and foremost and that is to guide us in every aspect of our lives.  To some extent there are other lesser identities that we must deal with.  As an American I have certain laws to obey and taxes to pay.  I cannot function properly if I live as if I am a citizen of another country.  When I get up in the morning I must keep in mind that I am a pastor and I have to get ready to preach the Word this coming Sunday.  If I forget who I am in that sense then I will fail to fulfill my responsibilities as a pastor. 

But before all these other things I must get up in the morning and remember that I have been saved from the darkness of sin and live in light of who I am.  And who I am is a redeemed sinner whose primary job in life is to bring honor to the Lord in all I do.  Forget this and I will fail as a human being in every area of life.

Those that attempt to identify themselves by who they have sex with or by being any gender that they would like doubly fail in this matter.  They are choosing to identify in a way that God has specifically told them they are not to.  He has given us plain parameters as to how to function sexually and it is rebellion to go outside those commands.  He has made us either male or female and pretending to be one that you are not, not only causes confusion and the inability to live a God-honoring life, but it is also rebellion to the natural order that he has established and it will bring his judgment sooner or later.

Fortunately God has given his saints two things to help us in our natural conditions of spiritual nearsightedness and dementia.  He gives us new sight and new glasses.  He regenerates us by the Holy Spirit and gives us light so we can understand the truth.  And he gives us some eyeglasses if you will.  We have the Word of God through which we can evaluate life.  When we look at life through the truth of his Word, we are able to understand who we are and live our lives as they were meant to be lived.  David seems to sum it up well in Ps. 119:97-105:

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Loving as We are Loved

Rom 5:6  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Rom 5:7  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—Rom 5:8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The passage above lays out God’s love as few others do.  It states the two-fold aspect of his love and in so doing helps define what our love for each other should look like.

First of all in verse 6 we see that God loves in a way that gives and helps those who have nothing to offer him.  When he saved us we had nothing to offer him and that includes any work or response that would aid in our salvation.  While we were still weak he died for us”.  Our salvation is not a cooperation between God and sinners but such that glorifies his strong arm alone, 1Co 1:28  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 1Co 1:29  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  These verses aren’t saying that there are some people who are strong enough to take care of themselves for there are none righteous, no not one; but God generally chooses the ones who are comparatively weak to grow his kingdom just to demonstrate to Satan and this world that there is absolutely nothing they can do to stop the Lord from establishing his kingdom.  So God loves those who have nothing to offer him.

Then secondly he goes even further by loving those that are in rebellion to him.  So they aren’t just helpless but engaged in warfare against him and he saves them anyway!  In verse 6 they are described as ungodly, so they are living lives that dishonor the Lord and they do not live in gratitude for what he has done for them but instead live as if life is just about them and their pleasure.  So verse 8 says that when God died for us we were sinners; we had transgressed his law and stood as condemned criminals and he paid for our sins in his body on the tree.  So God loves his enemies as well.  To those who are both unable and unwilling to come to him, he goes to them.  In both cases God alone is able to meet our need; he is both able and willing to save.  

What an example to us of how to love one another.  If we only love those who are attractive to us, that have something to offer us or if we only love those that like us and are nice to us, then we have not loved as we have been loved.  Once we get hold of this our marriages will be better and our churches will be more enjoyable; when we start loving others, not for what they can do for you but what you can do for them all to the glory of God and in thanksgiving to him.