Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Election and Predestination

"[God] who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his purpose and grace." 2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV)

What is election and predestination? Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines predestination as the biblical teaching that declares the sovereignty of God over human beings in such a way that the freedom of the human will is also preserved.

Christians and the Church are appointed by God according to the Scripture. Acts 13 says "when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the Word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed" (48). Does this mean that God chooses some for salvation and condemns the others for death? Paul writes "this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:3-4). And Romans 9 says "What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (14-16). So the only way that I can understand election is that there is no way for me to comprehend it in my humanity. Ephesians says "for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves" (1:4-6). I believe that everyone is given the opportunity to come to know God, but many refuse the offer. This doesn't mean that God doesn't want them to be saved, it just means that He ultimately knows they will refuse because He is omnipotent and knows everything from beginning to end. I think it breaks His heart to know that so many will be judged in the end, but in His holiness and perfection, He is a just God who will do what is necessary to fulfill the plan.

So what does this mean for His disciples? We are given the Great Commission in the gospels of the New Testament. Jesus said "therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). Our purpose here on Earth is the spread the good news of Jesus' love and sacrifice for all the world. We should not be confused by election or predestination, saying that "whoever will be saved will be saved" for we never know when we are the one persons who is supposed to reach out and succeed at bringing someone into the family of God.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:19 (NIV)

So much animosity and hatefulness has been plaguing Christianity lately. It seems to me that it is most popular to disagree and ultimately hate the Truth and the Christians who proclaim it. But the Bible says that Believers will be persecuted for their faith. This should not be a surprise to anyone, but should be expected. Paul writes in 2 Timothy "in fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have know the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (12-15). Christians are God's elect, and should live under the knowledge that we were chosen for His pleasure and will before the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 1:4-6, Revelation 17:8). Jesus said, "you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last" (John 15:16).

So do not be afraid to be persecuted for Christ. James writes "consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (1:2-3). Notice it does not say "if" but it says "whenever." This means that trials are not an option, but will come to those of us that love the Lord. Tests to our faith will only make us stronger and more able to defend our belief in Christ and assure our place in heaven. May we remember that all of the people of the world are God's children, whether they choose to acknowledge Him or not. Romans 12 says "be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse" (12-14). And perhaps my favorite verse on persecution, Proverbs 25:21-22. "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." If you do not give your persecutors any fuel for their fires of anger and hatred, it will be frustrating and difficult for them to continue in their animosity. You will be living according to God's Holy Word, and the Lord will bless your efforts.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Bible

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

What about the Bible’s standard of truth? What makes the Bible pertinent to today’s society? People tend to think that the things they are going through are SO different than what people went through 40 years ago. What about 200 years ago or 2,000 years ago? Why does society believe that our Bible is outdated and impertinent today? Because Satan has convinced us that it is outdated and invaluable to us. He understands that God’s Truth is pertinent for yesterday, today, and forever.

God understands humans because He created us in His own image. He knows us from the inside out. Why would He give us instructions for an obsolete model of human? He would not. Has our capacity for human emotions changed? Do we experience a different type of love, hate, fear, awe, animosity, lust, pride, courage? Or are these the same emotions that people have experienced since the Garden of Eden? Do we honestly believe that we are different in a human capacity than those men and women who lived 2,000 years ago? They committed the same sins as our society today like adultery, being prideful, having family disagreements, trying to cheat each other out of money, and on and on.

We somehow think that just because Jesus didn’t walk around with an iPhone and a blackberry strapped to his waist running a corporation from his laptop on board his jet that he did not experience any of the things that people today experience. He still had temptations from Satan (Matthew 4), love for his family and friends (John 19:26), compassion for people (Luke 19:41-42), a desire to be what God intended him to be (Luke 22:42), the stress of knowing there were people out there who wanted to kill him (Mark 14:34) and animosity for those who were using God’s commandments to judge others and abuse their positions of authority (Mark 7:13). In fact, He probably experienced human emotion far more completely than most of us do today. Hebrews 4:15 says “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” How many of us have ever truly had to fear for our lives? Jesus knew he was going to die by the hands of men. He also had to fight the temptation from Satan to use his power as God’s own Son for selfish ambition and human comfort. How many people do you believe would go to the desert and fast for 40 days, only then to refuse to be tempted to use holy power to draw up some food and water for themselves? He could have been prideful and shown the world He was the Messiah by coming down off the cross with a multitude of angels at his beckon, but He didn’t. He stayed up there and died for each and every sinful and worthless soul on earth before, during, and after his death so that we may have eternal life.

We must understand that Christ’s sacrifice is what makes us good. Without Jesus in us, there is nothing but the sinful nature of our human flesh. So for those who say that the Bible no longer has anything to teach us, I say that is a bunch of garbage. The Bible teaches us everything we need to know about how to treat other people, ourselves, and our Creator. Just because Satan has convinced many people of this world that their sins are no longer sinful doesn’t mean that it makes them alright. Our standard of truth is not our laws and society, but God’s Holy Word. It is the only standard by which we will be judged in the final days (Revelation 22:18-19).

Sunday, July 5, 2009


"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

On this weekend where we celebrate our nation's birthday and independence from Europe almost 250 years ago, what is this "freedom" that we hold so dear? There are political freedoms, like we have here in the USA, that allow us to live in democracy rather than be ruled by a dictatorship. There is philosophical freedom that allows us to think whatever we want and vocalize it as such. There is personal freedom that gives us the ability to go wherever we want whenever we want. There is religious freedom that allows us to worship our God without fear of persecution. And on and on they go. We are so overwhelmed by our freedoms that we often take them for granted not realizing what we have in them. Freedom supposedly allows us to be in control of our own lives without the interference of others on our actions or thoughts.

But are we truly free in a personal sense? Nelson's New Christian Dictionary says "freedom is not a natural state of human beings but is gained through faith in Jesus Christ and the right relationship with him." Our freedom extends only as far as we are personally able to control our actions and words. And because we are controlled by sin, we are not truly free until we abide in Christ and He abides in us. Jesus said "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34-36)

This freedom that Jesus provides is a complete package that includes eternal salvation, freedom from sin, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Cor. 3:17) So we can be assured that if Christ is the Lord of our life, then the Holy Spirit dwells within us providing true freedom from the oppression and slavery of sin.

Jesus also provides eternal freedom from death. Romans 8 says "therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (1-2) This does not mean that we will have immortality on earth, but will be eternally alive with Christ in the kingdom of God. Those who believe in Him will not die the second death and be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity. (Rev 20:14-15) Jesus said "If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) If we live by the teachings of Christ and in the will of God our Father, we will truly be free from sin. This does not mean that we will never sin again, but that we are dead to the sinful nature and it no longer controls our destiny in this world or our eternity. The Holy Spirit will lead and guide us so that we may be representatives for Christ in all we say and do. Peter wrote "for it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants for God." (1 Peter 2:15-16) So by becoming a true servant of Christ, we are set free. These two ideas don't typically co-exist, for humans understand that if you are a servant, you are not free. But in God's kingdom, the servants are free and the slaves are condemned to a life of misery in sin and Hell.

So while we celebrate our independence in this fair country and the freedoms that go along with our government, let's not forget that Jesus Christ provides the only true way to personal freedom. "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14) God is our Master and we are His servants, and Jesus is the only way to Him. For Christ said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me." (John 14:6)