Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The person who wrote the post quoted Acts 2:23: “This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to a cross.”
The writer’s point is that God pre-planned Jesus’ death and chose to use wicked men to accomplish this. I can agree with this. However, the underlying point of his post is that God basically caused the men to be wicked (that He planned for them to do evil), to accomplish His purposes. And that God – even though He planned for these men to be wicked – cannot be accused of doing evil or wrong.
He also goes on to say that God planned for Adam and Eve to rebel, to fall. That it is for His glory that they fell. The implication is, once again, that God caused them to fall, for His purposes.
But look it up online and you'll see that it's not that cut-and-dried. It's not as "predestination" as it sounds.
First off, it's important to not take it out of context or separate it from the rest of Scripture. If you do, then it could definitely sound like God predetermined that specific unbelievers would obtain eternal life. But we need to look at it in context and in relation to the rest of Scripture.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
If evangelizing didn’t really make a difference, then doing it just because God told us to do it would just be “going through the motions,” acting out a part just for the sake of acting it out. We would just be “pretending” to evangelize because it wouldn’t really be needed or have an effect anyway. This really waters down the Christian message and the urgency to reach the lost. And I think it can cause believers and unbelievers alike to not take seriously God’s call to salvation and Jesus’ sacrifice for them. What does it really matter what you think about these things anyway if it doesn’t really matter what you think and if you are just going to end up where God assigned you? It kind of makes a mockery of thinking and of faith and of sharing the Good News.
Monday, April 10, 2017
This one confused me for awhile. It sounded like Jesus is saying that all the people that God has pre-chosen to be believers are destined to come to faith in Him. And that only those who are chosen by God will come to faith.
But I’m not sure if that’s what this is really saying.
I would answer this way: Yes and no.
I used to think this was the case - that if the Holy Spirit didn’t open your eyes, you would not be able to come to God. That basically, the Holy Spirit decided who to “enlighten” and who to leave ignorant of God. And I guess, then, that if you wanted someone to become a Christian, you would have to pray, “Lord, make so-and-so become a Christian.” Because it’s all up to Him, right? He decides who to let into heaven and who to keep out.
But as I have learned more over the years, I now see it just a touch differently.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
God does not tempt us or encourage us to sin, but He does bring us opportunities to decide if we will choose to sin or not (see the previous post, “God Set Pharaoh Up”). And if we sin, it’s because it is what we were willing to do.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
But I read a post recently by someone who believes that God causes people to sin, for His reasons and His glory, such as causing Adam and Eve to eat the fruit and causing Pharaoh to have a hard heart so that he would release the Israelites.
I don’t agree. I do not think God causes (“forces”) people to sin. I think obedience or disobedience is our decision.
However (not to confuse you), I do think that God can set us up to make our decision to obey or disobey. He can put us in a situation that forces us to decide. But He already knows from the beginning if we are going to obey or disobey. And if He knows that He can work our disobedience into His plans, He might just set up the circumstances so that we make our choice to disobey, so that we act out the rebellion that is already in our hearts. And then He uses our disobedience for His purposes.
But He never forces us to disobey. He just gives us the chance to do it, knowing full well what we would choose to do.
Friday, April 7, 2017
I used to be really scared of looking up words in the concordance. I was afraid that I would learn that my “free-will” view was wrong all along. But I was determined to learn the truth, even if I didn’t like it.
But, thankfully, the more I have looked up words and their meanings, the more convinced I have become that salvation is a choice, that it’s not predetermined for us by God. God has made salvation available to all. We have the responsibility to choose whether to believe in God or to reject Him. And we will justly reap the consequences that go with our choice.
This post is a quick overview of some of the words that I have looked up and what I learned about them. However, due to copyright laws, I cannot quote directly from Strong’s concordance. So I will do my best to explain it in my own words.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Ah, the big chapter! (Read it all if you want to.) The one that really does make it sound like God decides who to make for heaven and who to make for hell. But I don’t believe this passage is talking about individuals being specifically, deliberately created for destruction.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
This is one of the key passages that makes it sound like we are predestined to choose Him or not, like He hand-picks who becomes His sons and who doesn’t, according to His pleasure and will.
However, I think it’s possible to view it this way: God has chosen and predestined mankind in general to be His people. From the very beginning, His plan was that we would know Him and choose Him. This was His over-arching Will for mankind, the reason He made humans in the first place. And it’s how He created it to be in the Garden of Eden.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
People who believe in predestination define the “elect” (the “chosen” ones) as those whom God has pre-chosen for salvation. And everyone else is destined for hell, with no chance of being saved. They would say that this verse confirms it. That we are chosen by God to be obedient or disobedient.
For starters, I don’t think the “elect” means that specific people are chosen by God to be saved. I think this verse means that God foreknows who will believe in Him and that He has planned to help them grow in obedience to Jesus Christ, through the work of the Spirit.
But I strongly believe that we have the responsibility to decide if we will obey or disobey. And I think the whole Bible attests to this, from the Fall . . . to the fact that God lays out “the blessings path” and “the curses path” for the Israelites to choose between . . . to the many calls to “obey” and “choose whom we will serve.”
I heard someone speak recently who strongly believes that God controls everything (even when we sin or reject Him) and that everything that happens is because God caused it to happen. He said that God has the right to ordain (“cause”) evil to happen in your life, and that He is still good, and that He does this for His purposes and for your good and because He knows what trials you need to humble you. And this speaker included childhood abuse in this list of “God-ordained evils.” He says that the bad things that happened to you are God's "Plan A" for your life, and you just have to trust Him about it. (He seems to believe that God causes everything that happens and that everything that happens is because He made it happen, for His purposes and glory.)
Monday, April 3, 2017
I’ll confess that I often struggle with decisions I’ve made, always wondering if I made the wrong one, if I missed His guidance and got off-track. I do this a lot. I always doubt myself and then have to re-evaluate my choice before I can feel confident that I made the right one (unless, of course, God lets me know that I was wrong.) In this post, I want to look at ways we can evaluate our decisions and do our best to figure out which one God wants us to pick.
How can we know that we are making the “right decision”?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
This verse says that we can “test and approve” what God’s will is. I have always wondered about this phrase, about what it means and what it means for us. The conclusion I have come to is that as the Holy Spirit renews our minds, we will come to better understand God’s goals - His desire to reach people, to save people, to pour out love and forgiveness and grace and mercy and compassion and truth on them. As we grow closer and closer to the Lord and let the Holy Spirit transform us, we will be able to grasp this concept and our responsibilities more and more. We will learn to work for His kingdom and righteousness.
I think this is how many of us view God’s sovereignty. We think that because He is all-powerful, He always uses His power and controls every detail.
And this view of “sovereignty” is used to support the idea of predestination, that God decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. If you end up in hell, it’s because He wanted you there . . . because He always does what He wants. We don’t have any real free-will because He is all-powerful. If we sin, it’s because God made us sin, because He wanted us to sin, for His purposes.
And this view is also used to support the idea that He controls every detail on earth. If there is a tornado, it is because He put it there. He decided the exact path and who would be destroyed and who wouldn’t. He puts the cancer there and causes it to grow or not grow. He decides if a child should be born with a handicap or abnormality.
But is this what “sovereignty” means? That because He is all-powerful, He controls every detail of our lives? Our eternal destination? Every tragedy? That we have no choice? That He makes us sin? That He caused the Fall of Adam and Eve?
Interesting, right? When I first read this, it really sounded like a story of God forcing what He wants to have happen, as though He overrides mankind’s free-will in order to accomplish what He wants. He wanted Ahab dead, and so He forced Ahab to go into battle where he would die. Could this then also mean that He does indeed “force” heaven or hell on people, giving them no choice?
Yet the more I read it, the more I see how God gets His Will done by working with free-will (maybe even by playing to our free-will), not against it.
When encountering the idea of “predestination,” this dilemma often comes up: How could a loving God deliberately condemn people to hell? How could He predestine people for hell, and then still be called “loving”? It doesn’t make sense.
And I think the reason it doesn’t make sense is because it assumes that predestination is true, that God does indeed predetermine that many people will go to hell, with no chance of being saved.
And so the problem with this question is the question itself. “Why does God condemn people to hell?” When we ask it this way, it sounds like God deliberately removes some people from the bus to heaven and puts them on the bus to hell (or He predestines them for hell), for one reason or other, such as for punishment or to show off His sense of justice or to highlight His grace and love to those being saved.
God is all-powerful and He wants all people to be saved, surely He would force
everyone to be saved, right? So if He
hasn’t done this, it must mean that He is not all-powerful or that He is not very
loving or that He wants people to go to hell, right? And since He is in control of everything,
doesn’t that mean that He controls everything (even people’s decisions), that
He always does everything He wants and that everything that happens is because
He wanted it to happen? So if people end
up in hell, it’s because He wanted them there, right?
I think that this is where a lot of people go wrong. (And I used to think this, too, and it caused me a lot of confusion.) They assume that since God is all-powerful, He forces whatever is important to Him, that He always forces His Will and His plans on people. And there can be no free-will if God is always exercising His all-powerfulness.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
As I pointed out in the last post, I
have noticed some “techniques” that predestination-believers use to manipulate
people into agreeing with them, such as claiming that predestination is “just
what the Bible says and so you have to accept it, even though we can't understand it.” (I am sure that free-will-believers have
similar techniques, too, but I am only looking at the other side right
And I am sure that while some of the people do this on purpose, as a sort of “power play,” I am also sure that many are not doing it on purpose, that they are not trying to manipulate others as much as they just want to honor God by being true to what they think Scripture teaches.
So before I get into the specifics, I want to give the benefit-of-the-doubt to those who are really just trying to be true to Scripture and who are not intending to “bully” others into agreeing with them. But I still think it’s important to point out some of the “manipulation techniques” that people use, so that we don’t get distracted and diverted by them.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
I was listening to a speaker recently who strongly believes in predestination, that God decides who to save and who to condemn to hell and that He causes everything we do, even our sins, for His glory and purposes.
And I . . . well . . . I couldn’t disagree more!