Posts tagged ‘for God so loved the world’

Predestination: What the Bible Says

There is no doctrine taught that makes me want to jump out of my pew and yell “STOP” more than that of predestination.  How many people on the brink of accepting the salvation of Jesus have turned away because they heard a message that God picks and chooses.  “Obviously if God is going to hand-pick those He wants in Heaven with Him, He is going to choose the cream of the crop.  I can’t meet that standard, so He must not want me.”  And how many Christians do not share the good news of the Gospel because they have been taught, and believe, that God chooses the ones He wants, so therefore, He will make sure they get to Heaven one way or the other.  “Besides, how can I know who God has chosen?  If Bob or Julie aren’t chosen, then I am just wasting my breathe, and putting all of us in an unnecessarily uncomfortable position.”

So where does this idea of predestination come from, and what is meant by the doctrine?  Allow me to answer those questions in reverse.  The doctrine of predestination says that God has pre-determined who will be saved and go to Heaven, and who will not be saved, and will go to Hell.  Simply put, He decides.  The Bible passage often used to support this doctrine is Ephesians 1:4-5 which says:  “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.” (NKJV)

If we were to look at only this Scripture passage, the message would seem pretty clear cut.  However, we can’t do that.  No verse or passage in the Bible stands alone.  How can what Paul says here to the church at Ephesus stand against what Jesus Himself said in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  If God loves the world (and that would be all of it, every human, past, present and future); and if whoever believes (an open-ended invitation), then how can only part of the world receive God’s love, and only a select few be allowed to believe?

Let’s look at some other verses.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

These verses not only make it clear that God wants all men to be saved, but also that He is waiting patiently, holding back on His plans to establish His kingdom, so that as many people will come to Him as will choose to.

If God has pre-determined who will be saved, why not just pick the lot of us, establish His kingdom and be done with it?  The answer to that is free will.  That I know of, there is no particular place in the Bible that specifically says we have “free will”.  However, there are a number of passages that allude to the freedom that God gives mankind to choose whether to obey Him, whether to receive His salvation and serve Him, or not.  Adam and Eve, of course, are the very first example of that.  God commanded them to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But when it came down to it, He allowed them to make that choice.  Don’t fool yourself.  He knew it was coming.  He could have posted guards around it to prevent them from disobeying, but He didn’t.  He gave them the choice, but of course, also allowed them to suffer the consequences of that choice.  Some other verses that talk of mankind taking advantage of that free will are listed below.

Deuteronomy 30:19 (God to the people of Israel) – “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”

Joshua 24:15 – And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Mark 8:34 – “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.'”

Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Again I ask, if we have free will to choose, or not choose, God, how then could we be chosen by Him?  Either He presents salvation to us so that we can make the choice, or He picks us and says, “Here, take this.”  Either God so loved the whole world, and offers salvation to all who choose Him, or He designed a path to salvation for only those of the world that He truly loves.  It can’t be both ways.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world preaching the gospel.  What would the point be?  Unless.  Unless the Gospel is for everyone.  

Romans 1:18-20 says the following:  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

Paul is saying here that God put in every human being the ability to recognize Him and know Him, so that they/we would have no excuse to not know Him.  Why would He do that when only a select handful would be chosen?  An excuse would not matter if the right to choose was not there.

Take a moment to scroll back up and re-read Ephesians 1:4-5.  Now read these words from John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

So here it is.  God has predestined all those who choose to receive Him and believe in Jesus to become His children.  The predestination is linked to the adoption as a result of salvation, not as the salvation itself.  From the beginning of time, God had a plan to offer salvation to all the world.  Abraham was told that through his seed, all the world would be blessed.  The knowledge of God, and the desire to have a relationship is built into each and every one of us.  The invitation to receive salvation through Jesus is extended to every single person in the whole wide world.  And the promise is that everyone who receives it is already guaranteed, pre-determined to be, adopted children of God Most High.

 

 

God’s Dream Come True

Isaiah 46:9-10 (TLV) – “For I am God—there is no other.  I am God, and there is none like Me—declaring the end from the beginning, from ancient time, what is yet to come, saying, “My purpose will stand, and I will accomplish all that I please.”

Have you ever wondered why if God knows everything—past, present, future—why did He create the earth in the first place?  He had to know that Satan would rebel, that Adam and Eve would fail the test, and He would have to take the form of His own creation in order to sacrifice Himself for our salvation.

When Cain killed Abel, why didn’t God stop there?  Why did He provide another son, Seth, through whom salvation would eventually come?

When the world had rejected Him so completely that every thought and intent of the heart was evil, why did He go through the trouble to destroy every living creature…except for Noah, his family, and enough animals to start over again?  Why didn’t He just wipe the whole thing out and just say, “Forget it!”

The painstaking care God took to create, and then ensure the continued existence of His creation insists that there is a purpose beyond plain sight.  He spent thousands of years preparing for, and then establishing a nation through whom He would send His salvation.  At the same time, He used that nation to demonstrate to the world, both then and now, how very much we need Him and just how far He was willing to go to for us.

Story after story in the Bible shows us the character of God.  He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  He shared His plans with Abraham.  He called Moses friend.  He adopts anyone who chooses to receive His salvation and calls us His children, and the brothers of His Son, Yeshua (Jesus).

The answer to the “why” is in God’s character, and what He showed us about Himself in the Bible.  Why did He bother with this enormous, elaborate plan to create a world that would reject Him, and turn against Him?  Because He loves us, and He wants a relationship with us.  But not a forced relationship.  God wants a relationship that is based on truth, faith, trust, love, and choice.  God built a world that would hate Him for a time, so that He could have an eternity with those who chose to love Him.

Before God said, “Let there be light,” He saw the pain and death of sin.  Before he breathed life into the nostrils of man, He saw the hands that would drive the spikes into His wrists.  But when He closed the door of the Ark, with only eight people and a bunch of animals inside, He saw eternity with those who would faithfully choose Him over the world, and love Him with all their hearts, minds, and souls.

God didn’t give up.  He didn’t quit before He began, and He didn’t scrap the lot of us to start over from scratch…because He loves us that much.  Every single tiny detail of His plan must be fulfilled so that, in the end, we will be together with Him.  He planned for us, worked for us, and sacrificed for us.  We are God’s dream come true.  We are what He has worked and longed for from before the very beginning.  How profound, and how humbling is that?

Why does He love us that much?  That is beyond me, but it is enough to know that He does.  With a heart, overflowing with His love, I sing:

Oh, how He loves you and me, Oh how He loves you and me. He gave his life, what more could he give?
Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how he loves me; Oh, how he loves you and me.

Copyright: 

1975 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16 TLV)

PEOPLE NEED A SAVIOR

Are you saved?  If you were to die today, how do you know you would go to Heaven? 

When I was a kid growing up as a Baptist in a large Midwestern city, these were probably the two questions I heard the most.  Baptists then were all about evangelism.  People needed to get saved.  Period.  I truly have fond memories of joining the adults from our church to go knocking door-to-door to witness, hand out tracts, and ask those two questions.  We were people on fire and determined to win as many souls as possible for the Lord!

I don’t know if the 1970’s were a time of worldwide revival, or if that was just how Christians were…or maybe just how Baptists were.  But there is something wrong today when there appears to be none of that, or at least precious little.  Of course, the world has become a much more dangerous place.  I recognize that, so I don’t think we really need to go banging on doors.  We are just as likely to get our heads banged on in return.  But I do think we have lost the fervor, the fire to seek the salvation of souls.

During my teen years, my family switched denominations.  At some point, I recall someone telling me that “we don’t use the word ‘saved,’ it makes people uncomfortable and confuses them.  Saved from what?  People don’t think they need to be saved.’”  I was an impressionable youth and went along…for a LOT of years.  I think about that little conversation today, and I wonder, “What in the world were you talking about???”  I realize now that it was just another way that Satan has watered down the effectiveness of the Church, and in truth, of the whole Gospel message.  The whole reason Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus) came to earth WAS TO SAVE!!!!  Every human being on the planet NEEDS TO BE SAVED!!!!  And the ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN IS SALVATION through Yeshua Messiah.  The Church was given one directive-  to go preach the Gospel…the message that brings the good news…a SAVIOR has come and died to SAVE the world.

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says.  In Psalm 68:20, King David said that “God is the God of salvation.”

In Luke 2:11 the angel announces, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This was the good news, of course, that was for all people.

When the Apostle Peter gave his incredible speech in Acts chapter 5, he quoted the prophet Joel and said (vs. 21), “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

Yeshua, Himself, said in John 3:17 – “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Titus 2:13 – “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”

Acts 4:12 – “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  [Side note:  This is the reason I call Jesus by His Hebrew name, Yeshua; His given name…given before the time of His birth by God, Himself.]

Hopefully, I have given enough samples to illustrate that the word “saved,” and its derivatives have a Biblical foundation when it comes to the Gospel message.  We are saved from the power of sin over us; the slavery to sin (Romans 6:6-7).  We are saved from the punishment of death as a result of our sins (Romans 6:23).  And we are saved from the wrath of God against the non-believing/in-saved sinner (Romans 5:8-11).

Why would we think that we can express the salvation message better than the authors of the Bible?

Here’s the bottom line-.  Yeshua commanded us to go into all the world preaching the gospel and making disciples of all nations.  We need to tell people they need to be saved, and explain what they need to be saved from.   We need to introduce them to the Savior, and lead them into salvation.

Look at the people in this world.  They are seeking a savior!  You and I know that drugs, alcohol, sex, video games, over-eating, excessive shopping, material possessions, etc., etc., etc. will provide nothing more than temporary escapes from the troubles of this world.

PEOPLE NEED A SAVIOR, and we have the answer! 

We know the one and only Savior who can deliver them from this world of despair, and He is not meant to be kept secret.  We were not commanded to become complacent, and slowly and carefully develop a strong relationship with someone waiting for the perfect time to tell them about Jesus.  But that is exactly what we do.

How many people do you know who have died without ever having been told about what Yeshua did for them because you were waiting for the right time to speak up.  There are four people who immediately come to my mind.  How many came to yours?  Even if it is one, that is too many.  Salvation has become the best-kept secret the world has never known—while we secret-bearers sit back in our Lazy-boys and rest in the knowledge that we are safe.

Personally, I believe that we are living in the end times, and Yeshua is standing on the edge of Heaven just waiting for the word.  When He comes back, that’s it.  Game over.  But even if He doesn’t return next week, over the summer, or for another 150 years, every single day people die, and the majority of them die without having been saved.

Paul said, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

*All Scripture passages taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.

How To Clean Coal

An illustration for you today:

I was born with a piece of coal in my hand – filthy, dirty coal.   I held on to it and carried it with me everywhere I went.  Even as a babe, it was with me in my cradle, and when in my mother’s arms.  I never let it go.  As I grew, so did the coal.  Bigger and heavier and dirtier it became.  Yet I continued to carry it with me.  Never once did I consider leaving it behind or getting rid of it in any way.  It was a part of me, in a sense.

As a young teen, I wondered once what would happen if I left it at home when I walked out the door.  Out of mere curiosity I tried it.  But when my foot stepped across the threshold of my door, I found the coal was still with me.  I shrugged and went on.

The coal seemed to grow with me.  By the time I was full grown, the coal was nearly as big as I.  It weighed me down and was becoming burdensome.  It’s filth rubbed off on everything I touched.  I thought more and more of being rid of it.  One day, feeling especially labored by its presence, I determined to leave it behind.  I recalled my attempt as a youth, so decided that I would lock the coal inside a closet in the house, and lock the house door behind me.  Alas, when I turned to leave, I discovered the coal still clung to me.  I heaved it higher on my back, and went on my way.

Years went by.  The coal stood like a bastion between myself and anyone I would have a relationship with.  I got in the way of my work, and prevented me from enjoying any part of life.  It had now grown to twice my size.  Still, I carried it.  My body could not bear the strain much longer, I knew.  The blackened dust was continually filling my lungs, leaving me coughing in fits and unable to breath.  My heart pounded in my chest from the exertion.  My muscles cramped and my joints throbbed with the pain.  Finally I drove to the edge of a cliff, the highest one I could find.  I couldn’t live like this any longer.  I had to be rid of this unbearable weight.   I turned my back to the cliff and let go of the coal.  I held my breath, straining to hear the crash as it hit the ground far below.  But it never came, and I realized with horror that the coal would not fall.  I hung my head and lumbered home, resigned to living with this burden until it would eventually over-take me, and my life would be over.

One day as I walked in the country, gasping for fresh air, back buckling under my now enormous piece of coal, I heard a voice in the distance.  “Come to me,” it said.  Something in it drew me.  I turned toward the voice and trudged on.

“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened,” the voice said, and a single tear rolled down my face.  I fell to my knees and crawled on.

A third time, I heard the voice, “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  I collapsed at the crest of a hill, unable to move one inch more.

“Take my yolk upon you and learn from me,” the voice, who was just before me now, spoke.  But I cried, “I cannot bear anymore weight!”

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  

“Oh, to have your burden rather than mine,”  I wept, with my face on the ground.  “But how can I when I have never been able to rid myself of this foul mass?”

“I will deliver you, if you trust me.  It is my gift to you.  You need do nothing save give up your coal to me.  I will take it as my own,” the voice gently coaxed.

Sobbing now, and unable to believe someone would take my burden from me only to carry it himself, I asked, “But why?  Why would you do that?”

And he replied, “Because I love you.”

Slowly I pushed myself up to my hands and knees.  My head hung low.  I couldn’t understand this offer, but I couldn’t continue to live if I did not accept it.  I had not choice but to believe he would do as he said, and take the chance, a leap of faith greater than I knew I had strength for, I pushed the weight from my back, and it fell to the ground.  As I felt freedom for the first time in my life, I rose to my feet.  My body was completely renewed.  I stood tall, stretched my back and reached my arms to the sky.  I felt strength I had never known.  I inhaled deeply of the air free of soot, and opened my eyes.  There before me, suspended high above my filthy load hung a man, severely beaten, bruised and bloodied.  Large nails had been driven through his wrists and his feet and held him to this wooden cross.  A crown made of long, piercing thorns had been pressed onto his head.  Streams of blood flowed down his body and began to drip onto my coal which lay at his feet.  I was horrified that this was the man who had taken my burden, but I could not take it back.   In spite of the scene before me, my soul was being filled with unspeakable peace and even joy.  I knew that it must be from him.

I fell back to me knees, but this time looked up to the man on the cross and thanked him over and over.  Then I said, “You have taken my weight, and given me your peace and joy instead.  What can I do to repay you?”

The man replied, “Your debt cannot be repaid, however, do this for me.  In everything you do or say, do it in my name, Yeshua*, and give thanks to my father, who is God. Love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love the people around you like you love yourself.  If you make this the basis for how you live, you will bring honor to me.”

I bowed my head.  “I understand,” I said, “I will honor you in this way for the rest of my life.”

I looked again at the coal heaped at Yeshua’s feet.  It was covered with his blood, except for one tiny spot.  As a fresh drop of his blood fell to cover it, Yeshua said, “It is finished.”  Then he hung his head and died.  I wept.

Soon some men came to remove his body and bury it.  I followed, not wanting to be far from him, even in death.  I mourned for this man who had taken my own burden and made it is, then covered it with his blood.  I noticed that my burden had followed him into the tomb.  It was buried with him.

I prepared to remain vigilant at his tomb for days.  Waiting for what, I did not know.  I just knew that I could not leave.  But on the third morning after his death, something strange and wonderful happened.  The large stone that stood in front of the grave was rolled away, and Yeshua walked out, alive as ever!  I ran past him into the tomb.  What I expected to find, I don’t know, for Yeshua was not there.  As I turned to go back out, I realized that my blood-covered burden was gone.  Completely vanished.

I knelt at Yeshua’s feet and praised him!  He smiled and gently placed his hand on my head, and said, “No go.  Go into all the world.  Tell everyone about what I have done for you.  I will do the same for them.  And I will always be with you.”

*Yeshua is the original Hebrew name of Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30 (CJB – Complete Jewish Bible) –  “Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 (CJB) – For you have been delivered by grace through trusting, and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift.  You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast.

1 Peter 2:24 (CJB) – He himself bore our sins in his body on the stake, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness by his wounds you were healed.

John 3:16 (CJB) –  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.”

Colossians 3:17 (CJB) – That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV) – Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) –  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

 

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It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightest weapons. ~ William Gurnall

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