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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Irresistible Grace-God’s ability to bring us to Himself

Posted by Gary on April 27, 2009

Matthew 9:9  “As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.”

Sometimes things are best taught by pointing to them as they are happening. Those of us who believe in the Doctrines of Grace hold in counter-distinction to Arminianism that God’s saving grace cannot be rejected by those God has chosen.

Case in point, Matthew (Levi). Let’s consider him for a moment. He has a very lucrative (granted, despised) career, he is a tax collector for the Roman empire. This job brings with it two very attractive benefits. First, authority, Matthew is a man that other men must submit to. We can rightly assume that Matthew had Roman military strength at his beckon call if someone refused to pay the taxes he commanded. We haven’t talked about money yet but don’t underestimate the value a man puts on holding a position that allows him to tell other men what to do and to have force at his disposal. To most men this is second only to a large pay-check.

Second, Matthew makes a lot of money. From what we know of his position Matthew was required to raise a certain amount of revenue for the Roman empire but was free to attach whatever amount he chose to the required amount, the additional being his to keep. This is one of the reasons tax collectors were so hated.

So, we have a man who makes big bucks and has a position of authority and a stranger walks up to him and speaks two words to him, “Follow Me” and Matthew leaves it all. Does this make sense? Does it seem likely? When you factor in that Jesus is a stranger this is all the more amazing. A stranger walks up and tells you to follow him, are you going to?

There is only one explanation for Matthew’s response, irresistible grace. Irresistible grace is the grace that God sends forth to those He has chosen, this grace accomplishes its mission, it results in the person coming to God. What is the success rate of this grace? Well “irresistible” ought to tell us something, this saving grace succeeds every time without fail. Scriptural proof?

John 6:37  “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

Who are the “all”? The elect. How many of them will come to Jesus? All of them.

There is what is called “common grace” that is God’s kindness to all His creatures (life, food to eat, rain from heaven, love of family). There is also a “general call” to trust Christ that goes out to all mankind. You ask if it can be resisted? Yes, as a matter because of our depravity it is always rejected unless God imparts this irresistible grace which enables a person to respond by faith. Scriptural proof?

John 6:44  “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:65  “And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

Now here is the beauty of this irresistible grace, it is irresistible not just in the sense of power and force but also, desire. Some things cannot be resisted because they are too strong other things cannot be resisted because they are so desirable and wonderful.

This is how it is with God’s work in salvation, God makes Himself known to someone and when He is seen for who and what He is, that person does not want to resist. The person who has come to Christ can speak of having something wonderful done to their hearts in which they sense new life, they want to hear Christ’s words, they wonder at His power, they cannot resist Him though they may have been resisting previously. We are told of this wonderful work done to the heart in the account of the two disciples Jesus appeared to on the road to Emmaus shortly after the resurrection:

Luke 24:30-32  “When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.  They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”

God does not bring men to heaven kicking and screaming in opposition, He causes us to desire Him, He causes our hearts to burn within us, He makes us willing to come to Him. You may know the hymn, “Who Is On the Lord’s Side?” and it’s statement, “Thou hast made us willing, though hast made us free.” God’s grace results in a person desiring Him so strongly that He cannot be resisted. Thank God that He has and is willing to impart “Irresistible Grace” you and I could not be saved without it.

Spurgeon on election

Posted by Gary on January 17, 2009

Some thoughts from Pastor Charles Spurgeon on the fact that God chooses those who are saved…

John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you."

“Whatever may be said about the doctrine of election, it is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it. To me, it is one of the sweetest and most blessed truths in the whole of revelation, and those who are afraid of it are so because they do not understand it. If they could but know that the Lord had chosen them, it would make their hearts dance for joy.”

————————————————————————————-

 “Some say, ‘It is unfair for God to choose some and leave others’. Now I will ask you one question: Is there any of you here who wishes to be holy, who wishes to be born again, to leave off sin and walk in holiness? ‘Yes, there is,’ says someone. ‘I do!’ Then God has elected you.

 But another says, ‘No, I don’t want to be holy; I don’t want to give up my lusts and my vices.’ Why should you grumble, then, that God has not elected you? For if you were elected, you would not like it according to your own confession.”

————————————————————————————

 “I believe in divine election , because somebody must have the supreme will in this matter, and man’s will must not occupy the throne, but the will of God.”

————————————————————————————-

“Is your heart resting upon Jesus Christ? Does it meditate upon divine things? Is your heart a humble heart? Are you constrained to ascribe  all to sovereign grace? Do you desire holiness? Do you find your pleasure in it? Does your heart ascribe praises to God? Is it a grateful heart? And is it a heart that is wholly fixed upon God, desiring never to go astray? If it be, then you have the marks of election.”

Robots in heaven?

Posted by Gary on July 30, 2008

The more time goes by the more I perceive that nothing means more to man than his perceived freedom of will even above the will of God. That we have a will I do not deny and that we have been given the serious privilege of making choices by God I affirm. Speaking of will, when will be willing to affirm that the Bible teaches us that our wills left the realm of freedom and entered the state of slavery when Adam rebelled against God and became a sinner? The nature of sin is that it enslaves:

John 8:34-36  “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’”

If man (since the fall) is free, why does Jesus tell us we are slaves? Why does He say that He must make us free if we were free already? By the way, use a concordance and see how many times the word “slave” is used in reference to man in the New Testament.

Many times I have heard that God gave Adam and Eve a choice in the garden because He wanted us to love Him freely and that He doesn’t want “robots”. I understand this reasoning and in many ways agree but I do have a question: “If this is the system: our will preeminent, our love for God and our choice of God being the ultimate, should God leave us the option of leaving heaven after we get there?

I do not believe that God’s grace in a person’s life makes them a robot but I am convinced that the Bible teaches us that it is God’s choice of us and His love for us that are preeminent, not the other way around:

1 John 4:10  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

How about this one?

John 15:15-16  "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain…”

If you don’t see the beauty of God choosing you and keeping you because of His determined love for you, I feel sorry for you. The teaching of Scripture is that those God saves, He saves forever and that means that His salvation means that I will never depart from Him in heaven, it will not be possible for the children of God to turn from or fall away from God through all eternity, because He will not allow it to be so. So, does that make us robots?

Those who are concerned about being a robot need to be asked, “Do you want the option of being able to turn away from God after reaching heaven?” If you are consistent you must say you do for to your mind you must always have the choice to turn away or it isn’t really love. Are you planning to ask God for this right when you get to heaven?

Some will argue, “It will be different for we will be perfect in heaven”. Adam was a perfect man in a perfect world and he fell away. Do we realize that a major difference between heaven to come and the original creation is that God allowed an option for Adam to fall on earth and will not allow that option in heaven? Again I ask, does this make us robots? Are you going to insist to God that this isn’t really love because He isn’t allowing at least the potential for you to choose otherwise?

I realize that there is much more that could be said in this vein about being a new creation but I speak in these terms to help us see ourselves and our idolatrous insistence on our wills and choices. When are we going to quit emphasizing our choice and our love over God’s choice and God’s love? As for me, I am grateful that God will take the option from me of falling away in heaven, I wouldn’t want it any other way. You may call this being a robot, I call it being loved by my Creator to a degree that He is not willing to leave me to myself.

Humbling, saving truth

Posted by Gary on June 22, 2007

Colossians 1:13-14
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

In the early 1990′s I was granted by God to understand and embrace the Doctrines of Grace, simply put, the fact that God is sovereign and man is totally incapable of saving himself. This truth is a bone that I cannot seem to release from my teeth. By bone I mean what I come to chew on again and again in my dealings with man in his need. Man has a bone to be picked with if he is going to be saved and as I look on a Godless, unsaved world I am more convinced than ever that the message that man needs to hear from the Church is that God alone saves: we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:5) and are incapable of even the slightest movement toward God without Him first choosing us (Ephesians 1:4) than granting (John 6:65) us to come to Him.

I am weary of hearing man speak of his “free will”, how blind we are to the fact that we are not free but slaves to sin (John 8:34), until the Son sets us free (John 8:36). My challenge to the one who claims to be free in regard to spiritual things is to stop sinning. If you have a free will then exert the freedom and stop sinning.

The passage quoted from Colossians above is another clear proof of the slavery of man making clear his need of God to rescue him. The Bible tells us plainly in these verses that mankind can be reduced down to two categories, those who dwell in the domain of darkness or the kingdom of the Son of God. Notice the two words, “domain” and “kingdom”, what is implied in both? That the inhabitants of these two realms have a ruler over them. Man is continually boasting that he is his own master, that he is free in regard to God and Satan, that he can actually maintain a place between the two of them and does not have to choose one or the other unless he decides to. Blind, foolish man, you don’t see the truth about yourself. Domains and kingdoms are by definition places that have a ruler over them, the inhabitants of these places are not in charge, their king/master is.

Who rules the domain of darkness? Satan. The Kingdom of the beloved Son? God. Let every man know that he resides in one of these two places at this very moment. You are not the captain of your destiny man and you are not free to go wherever you will, you are one who is ruled. Satan being the deceiver is quite willing to let man think otherwise though. He does not insist on drawing attention to his lordship yet, he is actually quite willing to give man enough rope to blind his eyes to the truth that he has been captured.

The modern day Church has not been of help in this matter. The gospel often preached is peppered with untruth. We actually exalt the will of man in the modern gospel and tell men that God has laid His will down at our feet to allow us to do what we will. There is no question that being damned or saved involves a choice but this doctrine teaches us two things: First, fallen man will choose nothing but damnation if left to himself and second, that a man’s decision to be saved is always preceded by God’s choice of Him which requires God to free him from the bondage of his sin and the domain of darkness in which he is imprisoned.

Listen to the language in these verses…are we told that a person makes a choice to leave the domain of darkness and then waltzes out as it were into the kingdom of Christ? Is this simply a matter of exerting his will and “viola” he is in a new place? Not according to the Bible, “For He rescued us…” Salvation is not man moving himself from one kingdom to another, it is God breaking into one kingdom and unshackling a person and blasting His way back out through the enemy’s territory, carrying the prisoner on His shoulder until the gate of His kingdom is reached and the prisoner is safely inside.

Another interesting word is chosen to describe salvation; sinners are “transferred” to the kingdom of Christ. Transferred? This a term that we use with prisoners isn’t it? Prisoners are transferred from one facility to another. Do these prisoners transfer themselves? Do they motion and prison doors open and do they gesture to electronic gates and find them to open wide simply because they want to leave? No, for a transfer to take place an officer must go in who has authority to move the prisoner. In no way can the prisoner be said to have effected their transfer, it has been done by others who have the authority to do so.

A great many people will never be rescued because they refuse to accept the fact that they are not free but prisoners. Far from seeing themselves subjects of one kingdom or another they believe they are their own masters. It is only when God opens the eyes of an unsaved person that they come to see the truth about their status. It only when someone sees that sin and Satan have taken them captive that they will cry out “Christ, save me, rescue me.” The gospel is generally scorned and rejected and this is because men do not see the truth about their condition and standing. Jesus is rejected as Savior because most do not see themselves in danger and in need of rescue.

To be saved I must first be humbled by God, it is necessary for Him to strip me of every notion that I possess any goodness or freedom apart from Him. This humbling does not produce resentment in the one being saved, it is a blessed humbling, a humbling that saves. Once I have been saved I do not resent being told that I am a creature that must be ruled by one or another. I do not resent being told that I have no power or willingness, it is true and I know now that it is true and I embrace it, grateful to Christ that He rescued me.

If these things are true, who then receives the glory for man’s salvation? God alone. How can a man who was a prisoner boast of having to be rescued from a domain that kept him enslaved? Any other view of salvation makes it possible for man at some level to say that he did something to contribute to his salvation, he can boast of his choice, his willingness, his decision to enter the kingdom of Christ. This must never be for it is not so.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

1 Corinthians 1:30-31But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.””

The great straw man

Posted by Gary on January 17, 2007

If you have never applied yourself to consider the claims of Calvinism and Arminianism, you owe it to yourself and the kingdom of God to do so. I regard Arminians as brothers but their doctrine is harmful and must be opposed. Often in the midst of debate between Calvinists and Arminians the Arminian will allege that Calvinism fosters sinfulness. The argument goes something like this: “You teach that a person cannot lose their salvation and that leads people to think that they can do whatever they want, you are promoting sin!”

Before responding to this accusation I would like us to acknowledge something about the gospel. The gospel is such good news that it leaves itself open to just such an accusation. I have always found this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans interesting:

Romans 3:7-8 “But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner? And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come “? Their condemnation is just.”

Note the accusation being made against Paul and those with him, they are accused of teaching that we should sin so that good (God showing mercy) might come. This is essentially the Arminian accusation, you are teaching that we can sin and sin and God will continue to keep us as His children.

The gospel is such good news that it leaves itself open to abuse. Because salvation is absolutely free to the sinner and God has promised to keep His children to the end, one might think that sin no longer matters and that we can do whatever we like because our sin has been paid for. If I am preaching the gospel faithfully, I expect that some mistaken people might think I am teaching that we can sin and it doesn’t matter. The fact that some may think this and maybe even act upon it cannot keep us from preaching the true gospel that is gloriously free, the potential misunderstanding did not keep Paul from preaching the good news nor must it stop us.

Now to the accusation itself, what is our response to those concerned that we are promoting sin? The answer quite simply is that the person who believes they can sin all they want without fear of losing their salvation has never had salvation to begin with. This person needn’t fear having salvation and then losing it, they never had salvation to begin with.

On what basis do we say this? By very nature a person who has been born again is a person who has come to recognize the evil nature of sin. A person cannot become a Christian without coming to the place where they hate sin and turn from it. If you want a picture of a person who has truly become a Christian here are two:

Luke 5:8 “But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’”

This person the Arminian holds forth who believes they can continue in sin and yet go to heaven is a straw man. The Calvinist is not willing to accept the premise. The Arminian claims this is a child of God who thinks he can sin all he wants, the Calvinist responds, “He is not a child of God”.

The gospel is not a revamped system of works, it is what it claims to be, “Good news” news so good some in their sinfulness will try to distort it to indulge their sinfulness. That being said, the good news must be preached and the person who has come to understand it and has truly believed it is a person who hates sin.

A love greater than God's?

Posted by Gary on October 17, 2006

Some years ago I had a conversation with a man who maintained that salvation could be lost. As we talked I asked him if he thought it imaginable that he could disown one of his daughters. He said that he couldn’t imagine disowning them, even for the worst of actions on their part. I then asked him if he thought he had a love greater than God’s, “Could it be possible that you would love your child so much that you would never disown them yet you hold that God would disown a child of His?”

I wish I could say that our conversation changed his mind, it didn’t but I do remember that this point seemed to make him think. I know that on the surface Arminians would never want to claim that they have a greater love than God, but that certainly is what many of them believe. Why is it that our mistaken brethren cannot apply their own parenthood to the question of our salvation?

I pastor a church with many people who have adult children and many grandchildren. In many instances, these parents are being grieved by the behavior of their children, yet one thing is obvious, their love for their children remains.

I am sure that the Arminian response to my post would be that the parent/child relationship with God is not primarily flesh and bone but spiritual (yes, true) and that the issue in our relationship with God is one of righteousness (true again). This is just where the Arminian goes wrong, he is right to maintain that our relationship with God is one based upon righteousness but where does our righteousness come from? Is it not from Christ?

The fact that Christ is our righteousness is the very reason that God will never disown His children, we did not become His children by our righteousness and we do not remain His children by our righteousness.

So often we hear the cry that the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints encourages sinfulness, the charge is that teaching people that God will never disown them gives them license to do whatever they want. Enough of this straw man, the person who believes he can sin at will and who desires to do so needn’t ask if he can lose his salvation, he has never had salvation to lose.

I wonder if it has ever struck the Arminian that those who have held the Calvinistic position most staunchly in later Church history bore the title “Puritans”. I find it amusing that we are told that the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints leads to sinfulness when those who believed in it lived such holy lives that they earned a title that linked them to purity, not sinfulness.

We are never to be presumptuous concerning our relationship to God, but thank God that our relationship with Him is irrevocable and safe because we are righteous in Christ and in Christ are dearly loved as children.

(By the way, if you would like some help understanding the Calvinistic position of the Perseverance of the Saints you would be greatly helped by reading “The Forgotten Spurgeon” by Iain Murray. In this book Murray catalogues Spurgeon’s battle with Arminians, it contains a masterful refutation of Arminian theology).

Arminianism in its true light

Posted by Gary on September 29, 2005

I was exposed to the following quote from Charles Spurgeon while watching a video entitled, Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism (very well done and worthwhile by the way):

You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an
Arminian prayer—for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and
mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He
cannot pray about free will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,

Lord, I thank
thee I am
not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists.
Lord
,
 I was born
with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of
myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their
grace that I have
,
 they might all have been saved.

Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we
are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve
it
,
 but I do.
There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I
was;  they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a
chance
,
 and were
as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it
did a great deal
,
 still I turned the point; I made use of what was given
me
,
 and others
did not—that is the difference between me and
them.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »