Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sovereignty and Free Will

As a parent, would you rather your child followed your every whim, or was free to make their own choices? True love wants them to make their own choices… and this is God’s desire for His children. I will never be able to fully reconcile the two inherent truths of our free will and His sovereignty, but God has shown me an inkling in the following perspective.

We as human beings cannot control everything. It’s a basic fact of life and one of the main reasons many of us struggle with anxiety. In many cases, “life” throws us many circumstances that play a huge role in charting our course. Now consider… if God is truly sovereign, then He has control over all things, including those circumstances. One thing that must be understood before we move on is that “…God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13b) God may allow circumstances caused by sin and evil intent, but He Himself hasn’t a shadow of evil in Him. (“…God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5b The context being darkness is sin.) So, if He is sovereign and good, then why does He allow circumstances caused by evil?

Enter the beautiful truth of Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that God causes all thing to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren[.]

Paul is giving us a rare peek behind the curtain of God’s will, here - and not just any peek, but a look at what lays the foundation for all of God’s will! According to this passage, God’s purpose is that His children would be “conformed to the image of His Son,” or, in other words, that we would think and act like His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is part of the Triune God, and as such, lived the example of how we should act and think like Him. (Just like we want our children to be like us!) So if the beginning of that quoted passage is true, then God is using His sovereignty (His power over everything) to work everything to teach us to be more like Christ (please note the distinction to being like Christ rather than being like God; they had very different roles). Even our trials. Even our joys. And make no mistake - Job 42:2 says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

Just as we don’t control every little thing our child does (and even less as they get older), God does not control us (unless, of course, we engage in the joy of offering ourselves to be used by Him), but rather lets us make our own choices. This is how we learn and grow. And just like our children often make wrong choices, so do God’s children (us). While we may regret a poor choice, God, in His sovereignty, uses it to make us more like Christ! We as parents can sometimes do this, but God, per Romans 8:28, uses all things toward this end. This is another piece of the joy of following Christ: even our failures don’t make us less, but instead God, in His grace, uses them to teach us. God does not want to force us into the image of His Son, He wants us to choose to be like His Son. 

God’s sovereignty enables our free will.

As I said before, this doesn’t fully explain how free will and God’s sovereignty coexist, but it satisfies me enough that I can look at Job 40:2 and 40:8 and bow humbly before His will. God addresses Job in both verses:

Job 40:2
‘Will the faultfinder [that would be me, too] contend with the Almighty? Let Him who reproves God answer it.’

Job 40:8
‘Will you [again… me!] really annul My judgment? Will You condemn Me that you may be justified?’

Who am I to reprove God and question His judgment? Did I create the earth and its workings? Did I create man and know his very thoughts? Do I really want to serve a God I can fully understand? Would He be God if I could fully understand Him?

I am insignificant and yet, God, in His amazing grace, chooses to work all things for the good of His children (of whom I am one!), and for His glory! These two goals never part. Our good gives Him glory! This isn’t to make it all about us - it’s all about Him! - but to show you the value God has given you as His child. In this lies our worth - not in what we can do for Him. This granted value never changes. It is not raised or lowered by anything you do, and God Himself does not raise or lower it. God loves you with a love so pure, it brought Him to death on a cross. God is so pure, that He rose again, freeing us from the penalty of our sin.

Praise God for His sovereignty! And praise God for granting us free will!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Better Than I Deserve

2 Corinthians 4:16-17
"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison."

One question has been at the forefront of my mind lately: what gives saints (and by saints, I mean followers of Christ) joy through physical suffering? I have seen saints with such perseverance in Christ that joy pervades their being in a powerful and brazen witness to those around them. Yet I have feel as though I have barely persevered in this fight against chronic pain, and also keenly feel my own general lack of joy through it. So I keep returning to God with that question. What am I missing?

My last post (God's Gift) was a partial answer to this question, and today's post may make more sense if you've read it first. God revealed this second crucial piece to me today: I deserve eternal death. I deserve worse than anything this life can throw at me (which, it actually can't do apart from my Father allowing it for our good and His glory). This pain is better than I deserve.

I've known this before, but He had to remind me, and once I did, such joy flooded me! This life is better than eternal death, and when I do finally die, I get to enjoy eternal life with Christ! Pain itself is the opposite of enjoyable, but it is better than I deserve, and it has no real power, but instead serves God as He works all things together for our good and His glory. According to God's grace, Christ has redeemed me, and what I deserve no longer matters, except to remind me of my joy in Him!

In that lies the victory, the power, and the JOY of the God I serve. I fervently pray for that joy to fill me so intensely that those around me can't miss it! May Jesus Christ be praised!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

God's Gift

1 Peter 1:13
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Chronic pain has been God's learning tool of choice for me, lately. I don't claim it's my favorite tool, but I am learning (again) to be thankful for it as He uses it to teach me. I have struggled lately with the concept of God's protection - not only in my situation, but in regard to those suffering persecution to the point of torture, slavery, and death. (I like to dwell on the light subjects...) 

God may choose to protect his saints' physical safety, but God promises to protect our souls. While it's comforting to know He'll protect my soul, I sometimes find it a difficult pill to swallow that He won't always protect my body. It is during these times that I must remember His goodness and His purpose: to make us more like Christ, and to bring Him glory. There are moments when I'm all too happy to face affliction for His glory and my benefit... but what about those times when I just don't want to hurt anymore?

I love something my husband said, paraphrased: "Our hope in Christ isn't a perspective that diminishes our present affliction, but that recognizes how much greater is the prize of eternity with Christ. Our present affliction pales in comparison." 

It's like the parable Christ tells in Matthew 13:44: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

I want to be so excited about the treasure God has given me that my present afflictions pale in comparison. My focus has fallen from that treasure, and consequently, so has my joy. Thank God for His grace, to continue His work in me and remind me of who He is and what He has done. 

What has He done?

I highly suggest reading 1 Peter 1 and dwelling on each concept he states. There's a lot there! God chose us - not because of who we are, but who He is. His grace to us is rife throughout. He set us apart, sacrificed His Son to take our penalty, raised Him again to conquer death for us, and gave us an eternal inheritance we had no claim upon. I might add He also gave His Holy Spirit to enable us to conquer our spiritual battles on earth.

God is good! I am not forgotten, but rather He is walking these trenches with me. 

I stumble over this "need" to do something, to prove my worth to myself and to Him. But it isn't about what I can do, it is about what He has done, and the work He is doing in me now. The victory is His, not mine, and when I try to snatch that away, everything falls apart. Of course the path grows difficult when my focus draws inward: I have no power

If you're like me, you may want to dwell on that for a minute, because it takes a bit to sink into my brain. Then when it does, I'm disgruntled, because I mistake my powerlessness for worthlessness, which isn't true. God didn't choose me because of what I could do for Him. Realistically, there is nothing I can do that the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Creator of the Universe can't. 

Isn't it amazing, then, that while He doesn't need me, He still chooses to use me? How privileged are we?

"[F]ix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" and remember the joy of His gift! Purposefully meditate on it and let it permeate your thoughts and actions. Then watch your affliction begin to pale in comparison!