Hover over Romans 1:20-22 for proof of God's existence, and over Matthew 5:27-28 for Judgment Day’s perfect standard. Then hover over John 3:16-18 for what God did, and over Acts 17:30-31 for what to do.

Monday, June 9, 2008

For Christians Only

"Are you actually suggesting that these individuals, can soften their own hearts? Are you suggesting that they can take a small step of faith which will somehow open the doors to God's saving grace? I am confused. And if I am confused, I can guarantee you that they are confused. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. What is your message Ray? Does God supernaturally open the eyes and hearts of the unredeemed if they are somehow bright enough to see it, or is salvation a result of some special quality in a man that makes him superior to the ‘blind and ignorant atheist’ that God honors and therefore saves?” ForHisSake

Thanks for taking the time to share your concern. This is an issue with which I regularly wrestle--how do God's sovereign grace and man’s responsibility to turn to Him fit together? For example, Ezekiel 33:11 says, “'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die...?" God Himself tells the sinner to “turn” from his evil ways.

It is clear from Scripture that He gives us repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25), and He also gives us faith as a gift (Romans 12:3). But He then commands all men everywhere to repent and to have faith (believe). See Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30.

Also, James 4:8 addressees sinners directly telling them to draw near to God, cleanse their hands, and purify their hearts: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Jesus rebuked His disciples and called them "foolish" because they didn't believe (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:25).

Charles Spurgeon proclaimed divine sovereignty and yet he also preached man’s responsibility, although he admitted that he didn’t understand how they fit together. Look at his exhortations to the sinner: “Believe in Jesus, and though you are now in slippery places your feet shall soon be set upon a rock of safety.” He said, "Sinner, fly to Christ.” He addressed him directly with, “O sinner, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God . . .” And it is the sinner’s responsibility to trust in the Savior: “Trust Christ with your soul and He will save it. I know you will not do this unless the Holy Spirit constrains you, but this does not remove your responsibility.”

Here is a perceptive atheist who can see the result of believing the error that man has no responsibility to the demands of the gospel: “If ‘salvation’ is a ‘supernatural’ act of a ‘supernatural God,’ then evangelism would be superfluous, no? The good news is, you and Ray and all your Christian brethren may now knock off and hit the beach.”

The Armenian and Calvinist views are diametrically opposed to each other, yet believers on both sides point to a thousand scriptures to back their theology. If you choose one view or the other, don’t let your choice cut you off from others who may believe differently. The two opposing truths can walk together. All that’s missing is some information for them to harmonize. The day will come when we will understand everything (1 Corinthians 13:12), and it is then we will be so glad that we didn’t cause division by arguing about which one is right.

Sadly, church history has shown us that Christ-centered men of God have clashed over these issues (e.g., Wesley and Whitefield). More recently, I have seen brethren make a theological stand and much to their dismay, they were marked by their home church as “troublemakers.” Fine missionaries have been pulled from the field, pastors fired from the ministry, and churches have split, simply because of different views of God’s sovereignty.

So, if you do get it worked out, be careful that you strive to keep unity among the brethren, and then focus on your God-given commission. Firefighters exist to fight fires, not to fight each other. They must have unity of purpose.

Every moment that you and I spend arguing about theological interpretations is time we have lost forever, that could have been spent in prayer for the unsaved or in seeking to save that which is lost.