Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Chosen by God

Yesterday's post about the reformation and what we now call Calvinism barely scratched at the surface of the issues regarding how we regard God's sovereign rule over us. Before reading this offering please read the previous post, and links provided would also be a good read in preparing to approach the topics that I hope to touch on.

In debating with "anti-Calvinists" three things that irritate them the most come up, and I'll try to talk a little about them in separate posts. The three things are:

1. God not giving us the choice of being saved or not

2. Universal atonement vs. limited atonement

3. Perseverance of the saints (or what it has degraded into with "OSAS")

We'll start with #1.
Did God leave the saving power on our side? To choose or not to choose, that is the question....

I recently had a discussion over this with a couple of men who vehemently oppose Calvinism and promote the idea that John Calvin is a "pope of the Calvinists". One man boasts that he is very knowledgeable on the topic of evil Calvinism, stating that he has researched this for 40 years, yet in my discussions with him he acknowledged that he has never read anything written by John Calvin, or even Charles Spurgeon, stating that he doesn't want to poison his brain with such things. He said some other quite remarkable things that left me wondering why anyone was still giving his comments "likes" and calling me some kind of heretic for trying to tell others to go to the sources to read these things for themselves. I was going to share some of these characters' comments which reveal just how little they understand about this subject, but the one with the most ridiculous comments has deleted them all. Therefore we will look at what Mr. P has to say regarding unconditional election:

 First I'll start with a very brief overview of how God saved me in answer to his question:

Mr. P: "Susan did God force you to love him Or did you see God and run to him and love him because he first loved you"

Me:  "I was brought up "religious" in SDA, reading the Bible, asking and not receiving, yet God did it later after I went through all kinds of paganism and witchcraft, and He got me while I was on drugs and not able to help myself. That is grace"

Mr. P:  "I was brought up in catholics then I read the bible and saw the truth and make the free will choice to love my God who saved me"

 Me: "Believe whatever you want to Mr. P, I'll take God at His word in what He says in His word to me. He chose me and I take full comfort in it, you can thank yourself for choosing Him, I'll thank God for choosing me."

then he says

Mr. P: "Your God a raper and Calvinism just as bad as all the other false stuff you were in.. Susan get save ask Jesus to forgvie (sic) your sins he will .He ask you he does not force you to love him .He not a rapist .God seek ALL to be saved . Love does not force itself bible says plainly"

hmmm, alrightythen...yeah, I can see where Mr. P found THAT in scripture.

Me: "You choose to see a Sovereign God as a rapist because you still judge with the "eyes of the flesh", if you don't see it I cannot force you to understand things of the Spirit because you still judge by your lusts of your flesh. Take care, I'm done"

Mr. P:  "Susan did God force souls to go to hell . .God cannot judge someone he force to sin and force to reject him"

Me:  "the fall of man in the garden of Eden caused all to be destined for hell, but grace of God allows some to not receive justice instead receive mercy, gift, not earned through choosing, God chooses some, His word is everywhere but not all choose because most have not been given that ability, even many who hear the word preached cannot hear because the gift of hearing is not given, those who repent are given sight to see the truth about their utter depravity and are given the gift of repentance. We have nothing that hadn't been given to us by God."

The difference, bottom line, is that Mr. P thinks the person being saved is the primary object of importance, when in fact the Bible reveals that everything that happens is not for man's sake but to reveal the truth and mercy of God. The problem with most "Christians" today is they do not admit or understand what complete and utter depravity is. They believe there is still a little bit of their own innate goodness that gives them the freedom to choose God. The Bible reveals that we all are utterly hopeless and slaves to sin, worse than that, we are "dead in our trespasses" (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) which is....well, dead is dead. Dead people don't make choices any more than Lazarus "chose" to come forth when Jesus called to the dead man Lazarus and said "Lazarus! Come forth!" (John 11:32-43)

So in the next episode I will explore the utter depravity of our natural condition prior to the saving power of God who transformed us by the power of His will.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Choices and Faith

A brief background: 
Arminians (those who argue that we have or lose our salvation by our choice) vs. "Calvinists" (only more recently attributed with this name, more accurately they should be named "Dutch Reform", but at the time of John Calvin they would have simply been called "Protestants" (protesting the Church at Rome) and "Christians".

Pelagians: (at the time of Augustine) did not believe in "original sin"
Semi-Pelagians: believed we are tainted by the "original sin" but not to the point that we are unable to cooperate with God to the saving of our soul.

Today's Christian (professing to be Bible believing) churches have become tainted by the same arguments that plagued the reformers at the time of John Calvin. 

The Arminian argument presented to Synod of Dort:

1. election conditioned on foreseen faith;
2. universal atonement (that Christ died for all men and for every man, so that He merited reconciliation and forgiveness of sins for all through the death of the cross; yet so that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer);
3. the need for regeneration if man is to be saved (here they seemed to be orthodox enough, but, as it later appeared, this was understood in such a way as seriously to underestimate the depravity of human nature);
4. the resistibility of grace ('but with respect to the mode of this grace, it is not irresistible'); and
5. the uncertainty of the perseverance of believers (in respect of this article the Arminians shortly came openly to deny such final perseverance) 

compared with the "5 points of Calvinism" particularly the points of total depravity, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints (also called "once saved always saved", though this term does not give an adequate understanding, it muddies up the water of what perseverance entails) :

Total Depravity (Total Inability)

Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. When Calvinists speak of humans as "totally depraved," they are making an extensive, rather than an intensive statement. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality -- his thinking, his emotions, and his will. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being.
The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called "Total Inability." The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God's making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).

Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption)

Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question, "for whose sins did Christ atone?" The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28). Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church -- the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name "Christian" (Ephesians 5:25).
This doctrine often finds many objections, mostly from those who think that Limited Atonement does damage to evangelism. We have already seen that Christ will not lose any that the father has given to him (John 6:37). Christ's death was not a death of potential atonement for all people. Believing that Jesus' death was a potential, symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly, in the future, accept him trivializes Christ's act of atonement. Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners. Christ died to make holy the church. He did not atone for all men, because obviously all men are not saved. Evangelism is actually lifted up in this doctrine, for the evangelist may tell his congregation that Christ died for sinners, and that he will not lose any of those for whom he died!

Irresistible Grace

The result of God's Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit, when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ, himself, teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44), and the very Spirit of God leads God's beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 5:10)!

Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God's hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God, he will remain in God's stead. The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. 1:6). Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the "last day" (John 6:39). The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ's promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect.

Today's Bible believing churches that maintain some form of orthodoxy are either "Reform" or "Arminian" with some Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian doctrines in their mix. Even those members attending Reform congregations can hold to the false doctrines of Arminius and Pelagius. To understand these in full would take many many hours, days, and years of study and I'm only still at the beginning of that journey. There are websites and books available that can get one started on that road. I will provide links at the bottom of this post which I used to provide the information I give in this post.

One that I found very helpful is one that gives an overview of what happened at the Synod of Dort.
The concluding remarks given:

Yes, we should get excited about the Synod of Dort! Because of this Synod, the Reformed Churches received a valuable confession, an authoritative exposition of scriptural Calvinistic theology. In essence, the Arminian Controversy represented an attack upon the sovereignty of God in the matter of man's salvation, and exalted instead the role of man in his own salvation. The Canons of Dort acknowledged, reaffirmed, and glorified God's sovereign grace. If we truly understand what happened so long ago in that old Dutch city of Dort, we will do the same, thankfully acknowledging that it is our faithful Saviour who gathers and defends His church, in spite of all heresies. Then in thankfulness we will also live and abide by those confessions, to the praise of His glory. (emphasis and underscoring mine)

Let us carefully guard our true understanding of our terrible depravity prior to the Sovereign good and perfect will of our God to save us by His power and preordained will to save us who were so depraved in our slavery to sin that He had to heal our blind eyes, convert our stoney heart, open our deaf ears so He could draw us to His marvelous gospel of completely undeserved grace.  

 "I am a ten-thousand-talents debtor to God and have not a penny with which to discharge it, and therefore unless His sovereign grace takes pity upon me and gives me everything for nothing there is no hope whatever for me" - A. W. Pink

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Avoid Such People

2Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

For people will be
lovers of self,
lovers of money,
disobedient to their parents,
without self-control,
not loving good,
swollen with conceit,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

having the appearance of godliness,
                                                  but denying its power.

Avoid such people.

Recently I saw a clever quote on Facebook meant to encourage those who have been rejected by someone. It stated that these persons who would leave you were just garbage anyway and they helped you by taking the garbage (themselves) out. The above list reminds me of the "garbage" that we don't need in our lives and are better without. Doesn't it read like a list of things you see and hear about on the evening news every night? 

The one that seems the most innocuous and may actually be the most deadly is the "having a form of godliness but denying His power". It's so easy to think that a "religious person" is a good person. There are many (I believe) that are so religious, so seemingly good, and proper, and like an angel of light....but there's an important piece of the puzzle that is missing! The goodness is of themselves and not of the Lord. They will soak in your compliments and praise, forgetting that it is God who made them and if there are gifts of the Spirit, they are His gifts and He gets the glory, honor and praise, we are simply His servants, and perhaps if we are very blessed: His friends.

How many deceivers are out there, wolves pretending to be sheep, doing a pretty convincing job of it too... however they will be outed, and if they are very blessed, they will receive the gift of true repentance and God's grace...but until then, we should avoid them, pray for them but do not join them thereby giving the impression that you agree with such things.

Here's a better way, rather than surrounding yourself with false friends:

 1Pe 3:4-4 (KJV)
 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.  For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands...

this was taken by me on one of our road trips
so serene :)


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Examine Yourselves

2Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (KJV)

Yesterday I was notified of a cousin's passing, he passed away while at church, and I pray that his heart truly was converted and that he is with Jesus.

Yesterday was a day for much thought and prayer and self-examination while thinking about my cousin (who was a little younger than I) and his now widowed wife.

This had me reflect again on my acquaintance who I gave the name "Isabel" in "A True Story" (tabbed above). Isabel came to a point in her walk with Christ where she, like the people in the gospel of John chapter 6, realized upon self examination that her heart truly wasn't transformed by the Lord, and was still a reprobate, and instead of asking from the Lord without ceasing until her request became a reality of a true conversion, gave up on God, thereby giving up on herself and her own eternity with God.

I also came to such a point of a personal meltdown, a time of truth, when I had to confess that I was a reprobate because I did not truly have Jesus in my heart, soul and mind, and that I was the source of my own strength instead of truly relying on the strength, goodness and power of the Lord. I begged God for His mercy in the light of this truth, this understanding, and I would not let go of asking for the miracle of a true conversion. I asked with the centurion that begged Jesus: "Lord I believe! Help Thou my unbelief!!!" and then trusted that He would help my unbelief, and each time my unbelief would rear it's ugly head He would remind me that His faithfulness was greater than my unfaithfulness, and to trust Him.

This world is full of trouble and evil on every side, and our lives are but a tiny candle in a wind tunnel, only flickering for a short time until it is snuffed out, and by God's grace remains lit for the time that it is. Let us use the time wisely, to seek Him while there is yet time, and not follow the sick world in it's debaucheries and insanities.

Hold fast to what is true, Jesus is the way, the Truth, and the life. Ask, seek, and knock, and do not give up and give in to the weakness of thinking self is all you need because you err in thinking that God is too far from you...He is very near, even at the door, continue to persevere and He will give you the strength to go on persevering. Do not be cut off from Him, from Him flows life, and truth, and endurance to be with Him and of Him, continue in well doing by His might, not your own strength. Our own strength is very weak indeed, and in the end (even if we think we are being loving of others and selfless, we lie to ourselves if it isn't God doing it in us) the only true love can come from God through us to others. If we love others by our own strength there is always an ulterior motive, some selfish need being fulfilled, to seem virtuous to others and to try to gain their honor and respect for ourselves. Would we still love them if they spat in our faces the way Jesus continued to love and forgive those who despised and hated Him? We cannot, unless it is He loving others through us and forgiving others through our forgiveness of others,  as He also has forgiven us.

Trust Jesus instead of honoring yourselves,
                                                                    for without Him we are nothing.

2Peter 2:17-18
These are wells without water,
clouds that are carried with a tempest;
to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity,
they allure through the lusts of the flesh,
through much wantonness,
those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

in blackness 
of self-reflection without Jesus 
is a long, long time...

Monday, 16 February 2015

Life and Death

A family member passed away yesterday.
It made me ponder the fragility and the shortness of life.
Life is a miracle.
Life cannot be earned, it can only be lived.
What is my life? What am I contributing? Will God be pleased?

God promised all would turn out for good for those who are His (Romans  8:28)
That is my anchor, Jesus is my strong foundation.