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Posts Tagged ‘Sovereignty of God’

Conservatives are marking the mid-term U.S. elections as the day we “take back” the country. Count me pessimistic.

Nothing outside a great awakening brought about by our sovereign and merciful God will turn our country from its godless direction. The murder of the unborn will continue unabated. The entertainment industry will continue pushing the envelope of what is acceptable for viewing. The entrenched, monolithic education system, notwithstanding the many godly teachers employed, will continue treating our schools as entities for social engineering instead of institutions for teaching academic subjects. We will still have occupying the White House the most radical man who has ever ascended to the presidency of the United States.

This is not to say that November 2 is unimportant. It is undeniably important. At best, though, we will elect fallen individuals who will try to slow down the continuing erosion of values upon which our nation was founded. The number of Americans who see homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle will grow. Perhaps the federal legalization of homosexual “marriage” will be postponed, but it will be for only a season. A woman’s legal “right” to end the life of her unborn child will continue. The march toward socialism, a philosophy which strips individuals of both responsibility and incentive, may be slowed, but it will not be stopped.

I hasten to add that I am not among those evangelical and Reformed ministers who are “above the fray” of partisan politics, who claim to be pro-life and pro-traditional marriage but who vote for liberal Democrats out of a misguided sense of compassion. There is nothing compassionate about increasing dependency upon the government. Indeed, such policies enslave citizens.

I will most definitely vote on November 2, and I will vote for conservative candidates, but my hope and assurance will be in a sovereign Creator, not in the men and women we send to Columbia and Washington, D.C.

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Most people will tell you that they are hoping to go to heaven because they feel their good outweighs their bad. Such thinking, however, is foreign to biblical Christianity. The Bible clearly declares that all of us are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Therefore, all of us deserve eternal death (Romans 6:23).

Maybe you have heard of the man, believing that life was unfair to him, cry out to heaven, “God, just give me what I deserve!” There is hardly a more dangerous prayer because the best of us deserve the wrath of God.

God, however, did not simply leave us in our sins so that we might face his just and unavoidable wrath. The apostle Paul reminds us that “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:4-5a). Salvation does not begin with man’s realization of his sinful con­dition and consequent search for a solution. He does not have that desire or capability within his sinful nature. Salva­tion begins with God. It was the kind and loving God who saw man in his lost condition and chose to save him.

Al­though man deserves to perish eternal­ly, God desires that he repent (2 Peter 3:9). Man has fol­lowed the way of this world and the spirit of Satan (Ephesians 2:2). He has lived to fulfill his own lusts, showing that in his nature he de­serves God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3). God, though, gave his Son to be man’s Savior, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

William Barclay writes accurately, “God is character­ist­ically the Saviour God, whose last desire is to condemn men and whose first desire is to save them.” It is God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is God who “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

No person will ever enter heaven on the basis of his good works. All who spend eternity with God will do so because of the grace of God through repenting of their sin and believing in the Lord Jesus. The Bible states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If you are a true Christian, you have much for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving season. God has not left you to toil in a vain attempt to earn your salvation. In his infinite mercy he has freely given you eternal life through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

If you have not turned from your sin and believed on Christ, do so today. He took the wrath of God due believing sinners and counts all such believers righteous in his sight. “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

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The following started off as a response to some posts in an off-topic thread on the Logos Bible Software Forum, but I decided to put it here instead. (By the way, the new Logos Bible Software 4 is worth checking out!)

  • Sarah Palin has been stereotyped by much of our news media (opinion writers masquerading as journalists) in the same way that Dan Quayle was. That, on the surface, she did poorly in early interviews may have been as much of the McCain handlers’ fault as hers. Put a microphone in front of any of us and we’ll say some pretty stupid stuff that can get constantly replayed by those who disagree with our basic positions.
  • Do those who believe that a display of superior intelligence is essential for the vice presidency honestly consider Joe Biden to be one so endowed? Really? For every Palin gaffe, I’ll give you a Biden.
  • Why does Barack Obama come off as one possessing superior intelligence? We can throw in some jaw-dropping Obama responses, too, with our Biden gaffes, but they don’t get much play in our “news” media. Obama is super cool and gives a wonderful speech from the always-present teleprompter. He bounces down steps without touching the handrail. Cool is often confused for intelligence.
  • Frankly, I think Palin and Biden and Obama and McCain and George W. Bush are decently intelligent people.
  • Most of the news media in the U.S. are quite liberal on the political spectrum. Those who champion their causes (pro-choice on abortion, homosexual rights, etc.) are portrayed as wonderful, intelligent leaders. Those who do not are portrayed as doofuses. Reagan was denigrated by our press, as most conservatives are. Carter, Clinton, and Obama are portrayed as deep thinkers.
  • The word “evangelical” has lost almost all sense of meaning so as to have become essentially useless. When folks call Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen are viewed as evangelicals, we need a replacement term for evangelical.
  • Nations often get the leaders they deserve. We Americans so thrive on celebrities and entertainment that we have elected a man to the presidency because of what he has portrayed himself to be, not what he has proven himself to be. Where has Mr. Obama really shown himself to be capable of leading a nation? Did he excel in college and law school? He did become editor of the Harvard Law Review, but that position’s going to the student with the highest grades was changed in the 1970’s. What about after law school? Our president has shown himself capable of being elected to office, from editor of the HLR to Illinois state senator to less than three years as a U.S. senator to now president of the U.S. We’ll have to wait to see what really comes of it, but no one that I’ve read has been particularly impressed with what he did as either a state senator or U.S. senator.
  • Citizens in other nations often cast aspersions upon the U.S., but they have their issues, not so dissimilar to those of the U.S. They’ve got their poverty and discrimination. Admittedly, a lot of the evidence put forth is anecdotal. Much, but certainly not all, of the poverty in our country is a result of bad choices. I’ve been in homes of people who seemed quite destitute to find them with a cable television package that I could not justify for my own home. Drugs and out-of-wedlock births greatly contribute to poverty. And yes, the leaders of other nations are also often portrayed in a quite uncomplimentary light.
  • God is sovereign over the affairs of men. Even in a representative democracy, God ultimately chooses who leads. And yet we as believers are to be involved in the process, attempting to understand the issues at stake and how those seeking to be elected will deal with those problems.

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Many evangelical Christians verbally affirm the sovereignty of God in all of life, until, that is, the topic of election arises. Then a bit of hedging starts to take place, with something like this being said: “I believe that God is sovereign over all things, but when it comes to election, God has chosen to allow man the free will to choose or reject Christ.”

A person can parse his words however he desires, but the result is the same: the claim that God is sovereign but has given persons free will in the matter of salvation is a claim that God is not really sovereign after all.

Is every person required by God to repent? According to Acts 17:30, God “commands all people everywhere to repent.”  Then a person has the free will to repent, right? Ephesians 2:1 declares, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” A person need not have a degree in biology to recognize that a dead person isn’t able to do much! Dead in trespasses and sins, there is nothing within a person which desires the one true and absolutely holy God. That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus that a radical change in a person’s life brought forth by the Almighty has to take place before that person will believe on Christ: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, ESV).

Serving as pastor of a church associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, I recognize that my view is in the minority. I remind fellow Southern Baptists, though, that our own “Faith and Message” places these statements under “Salvation”:

Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.

Notice that regeneration, being “born again,” precedes repentance and faith. God makes the person of his choosing “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) before that person is able to believe on Christ. Speaking of choosing, the apostle Paul writes of this undeserved blessing, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6, ESV).

Under the heading “God’s Purpose of Grace” in the Baptist Faith and Message, we find:

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

Again, note that regeneration precedes justification, sanctification, and glorification. This order is intentional. That man is responsible is seen in the words “free agency.” God regenerates a person so that he will freely repent of his sin and believe on Christ.

I realize that attacks are made against those of us who believe that God is sovereign in salvation. We are called “Calvinists,” though we do not believe in infant baptism. If one wants to call me a Calvinist because of what I’ve stated above, then that is fine. I do not run from the charge and will happily discuss the matter from the Scriptures.

It will be charged that we do not believe in evangelism and missions. Such a statement betrays the ignorance of the one making it. A Baptist Calvinist by the name of William Carey (1761-1834) is often called the “father of modern missions.” A Baptist Calvinist by the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) saw multitudes come to Christ.

“Well,” our friendly Southern Baptist antagonist will venture, “Calvinism is just not Southern Baptist.” Just for starters, the first four presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention (W.B. Johnson, R.B.C. Howell, Richard Fuller and P.H. Mell) were Calvinists, as were the first four faculty members of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (James P. Boyce, John A. Broadus, Basil Manly, Jr. and William Williams), as is the current president, Dr. Al Mohler.

I believe God is sovereign in salvation, however, not because it is popular and not because of my Baptist heritage in the early Particular Baptists and not because of the early history of the SBC. I believe in election and God’s sovereignty because I am convinced that this is what the Scriptures teach about salvation. It would be easier not to believe such things in the current climate of the SBC, but I am constrained by the Word of God.

With Calvinist (though not Baptist!) John Newton, every Christian who understands something of God’s absolute holiness and man’s total depravity can sing from his heart the words of that converted slave trader:

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

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