Sunday, August 09, 2009

Clarifying the Docrines of Grace

Today, I think, marked another turning point in my Christian walk. It has, I believe, been coming for some time but today was the day of reckoning.

My wife and I have been meeting on our own on Sunday mornings. We've been doing this since September of last year. During that time, we've been going through 1 John each Sunday morning. Well, most Sunday mornings except for those when we ventured out seeking a home church. So far, no results. We've run into all kinds of things that just indicate that "it wasn't for us".

No, we aren't looking for the "perfect church". We know that such an animal doesn't exist (well, in a way it does...if you say that the "perfect church" is the one that God will use to conform you, in spite of itself, to the image of Christ through its imperfections). But when you get to a point where pastors reject your "conversion story" because it doesn't include a "free will decision" (per a Wesleyan-Arminian pastor) you know it just isn't going to work. And my testimony is one of "Hey, where'd I make a 'decision'? I had no choice!". Rather like Saul to Paul in Acts 9.

Many other disappointments as well. Some theological...and theology does matter because what is taught from a pulpit enters the mind. And what you hear will ultimately effect your behavior because it will effect how you think of God, rightly or wrongly.

So we've been around the block a few times.

Last week, I expounded -- in my own way -- on 1 John 3:1a which commands us to "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God..."

The only way to understand the wonder in that verse is to understand at least the following 2 things:

1. The character of God.
2. The depravity of man.

If you understand those two things as they are presented in the Scripture, then the 'wonder of it all" becomes patently obvious. If you were to look out your window and see a flying saucer from Venus landing in your front yard, you'd be totally awed. It would be something completely beyond your understanding or grasp. And this is kind of the idea that John was getting at in 1 John 3. The kind of love God the Father showed us in transforming us from lost, vile sinners to children of God. It is a totally "alien" kind of love. Period.

So, with this in mind as well as other things going through my mind of late, you can perhaps understand the pursuit of our study of the Doctrines of Grace.

I have long been, to one degree or another, been convinced of the doctrines of Grace (which some call "Calvinism"). I have been aware, for decades, of the difference between what is referred to as Calvinism and Arminianism. And it has never been an issue of fellowship. I have had many friends of the Arminian persuasion and I've never been tempted to beat any of them over the head with chubs of frozen beef. As a matter of fact, given our country's current drift to socialism, communism, facism or whatever "ism" we are turning into and considering that real Christianity is slowly being criminalized (through proposed "hate crime" legislation), I'd much rather find myself in a jail or prison cell next to an Arminian who shows the fruit of regeneration than a "Calvinist" who claims to be born again regardless of his or her rank lack of fruitfulness.

With the study of the "doctrines of Grace", we will be reminded of the sheer and utter grace of God. Today we spent our time considering the 'prelude' which has to do with the sovereign nature of God. And, you know, He is sovereign.

We in America cannot understand the concept of a "kingdom". We view everything through the lens of a democracy. We know nothing, at least experientially, of a king. See, as someone wiser than me has already said, in a kingdom there are only two parties -- "the king...and the dom".

Well, God is the king...guess who we are? Co-kings? Nope. guess again. And quit thinking "democracy". You don't get a vote.

You may well say something like "I know where you are going and if you are right, it makes God an unjust God!" because God, in His sovereignty, chose who He would redeem, apart from any human decision. And I say to you, "You are looking at it wrongly, for what did God ever owe any man? What are the wages of sin for any man?"

See, no one ever said the same for an outgoing American president who chose to pardon some but not all. It was a sheer act of mercy and grace. But somehow, many won't allow God the same right. He is supposed to be there to serve us. That is not how it is for all things were created by him and for him (Col 1:16). And He works all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11). He doesn't counsel with man. He doesn't need his permission. God just does, in his own Sovereignty, as He will.

It's just kind of a "wow" time to go through this.

See, we tend to...over time...kind of leak man's counsel and wisdom into how God works. We have a tendency to, from our own human pride and sinfulness, exalt our own importance. And in doing so, we elevate man and "deGod" God. As fallen creatures, we love our autonomy and in some way, rail against the real Autonomy of God. But that is an expression of our falleness and nothing else.

So, this is where my wife and I find ourselves. The next five weeks or so, I will be doing a study of what the Scriptures say about our depravity, election, the atonement, the irresistible nature of grace and the perseverance of the saints. And she'll be receiving the fruit of my study on Sunday mornings.

Your prayers appreciated as we undertake this wondrous subject.

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