February 24, 2011

Laus Deo Part 2

Here is the second piece of Ben's discussion on Free Will and Grace.  You can read it (and Ben's other posts) in it's entirety at http://www.bzhogan.blogspot.com/.

"Remember when you were the last one to get picked for kickball in junior high? If both teams had an even amount of players, then you could sometimes jump in on either one. The team that got stuck with you didn’t choose you. You chose them. It would almost be a lie to say that the team that received you as their player actually chose you. They didn’t. This is where I feel Conditional Election falls on its face.

It’s an attempt to explain something that is difficult to grasp, emotionally. Think about that, too. It is emotionally difficult (at first) to accept that God would decide, so to speak, who will be saved. We will get to this because it’s important, often misunderstood, and a great question to ask.

Chapter two goes on to explain how we were actually dead, spiritually. By nature we were following our sinful, fleshly desires of the world. We were losing to the sinful desires which made war against our souls, as Peter talks about in 1 Peter 2:11. What chance do you think a corpse would have at bringing itself to life? No, seriously… it’s exactly like that. Don’t let the “spiritual” aspect put a make believe feeling on all of this stuff. Sometimes concepts like this can be hard to really see for what it is when in fact, we were a spiritual corpse. Our only hope at life was from an outside intervention, apart from ourselves, that could step in and change us from a state of filthy, rotting rags to a life overflowing with the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Remember this analogy because we’ll keep referring to it.

Ephesians 2:4,5: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

This is gold right here. Think of God, upon seeing our corpse rotting on a table, stepping up to breathe real life into us: spiritual, eternal life. This is called regeneration and is done by the Holy Spirit. God has to bring us to a point of acknowledging him as Lord. We can’t when we’re dead, but when he opens up our eyes, we will.

It is only because of God’s mercy he did this. We deserved to stay the way we were and to continue our path of disobedience and end up in Hell. That’s where we were headed. Scary stuff. Thankfully, because of God’s mercy and great love for us, He made us alive, even though we were effectively dead. Listen to this ending statement of this wonderful truth—it is by grace you have been saved. That’s the only way a spiritually dead man can be brought to life…by grace. It is the only hope of salvation that we have—on God alone to bring us to eternal life. When we really get this and understand that we no longer have Hell as a (deserved) destination forever and ever, we can really have something to praise God for. It is the understanding of these great differences of what is deserved, versus what is received (grace!), that humbles us and brings forth worship so heartfelt that no worship concert could ever do it justice.

Calvin knew this when he said, “For were it not said in clear terms, that Divine wrath, and vengeance, and eternal death, lay upon us, we should be less sensible of our wretchedness without the mercy of God, and less disposed to value the blessing of deliverance.”

I once heard a great example of what grace is. Consider a judge sitting behind his counter with his gavel in his right hand, ready to smack the wood plate, signifying a final verdict. The criminal is standing before him, head down, knowing his fate is sealed while the judge is looking over his records. He had stolen millions from people in bad investments. Imagine the judge telling him that he was going to let him go without spending one night in prison, even after millions of dollars were stolen from thousands of people! This is mercy. Now imagine that the judge stepped down from the bench, looked him in the eye and then, without a word, wrote out a check from his personal bank account for the millions of dollars that he owed, so that this criminal could pay back his clients and never have to bear the penalty for his sin. This, my friends, is grace: being given something that you could never deserve or never achieve on your own. He wasn’t only pardoned, he was given much more. So it is with the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life, upon receiving Christ as our Lord.

So the question must be begged: Where, then, does free will fit in to our lives at all? How can God hold us responsible for sin if he decides who will remain unsaved?

A.W. Pink once wrote, "The very first thing said of Him in the New Testament is - "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people...(not "from the wrath to come [hell]," but) from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).  Christ is a Savior for those realizing something of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, who feel the awful burden of it on their conscience, who loathe themselves for it, who long to be freed from it's terrible dominion." (Pink, A. W. Present Day Evangelism, Chapel Library, Mt. Zion Bible Church, Pensacola, FL.)
To clarify and set up for Ben's third piece of this discourse, I would like to point out that faith is also a gift from God"so that no man may boast".  Obviously no one boasts about receiving a gift, they boast about the part they had in deserving the gift.  Some people believe that people come to Christ logically through their own rationalization.  They are walking down the street and say "well, OK Jesus, I'll give you a shot. Nothing else seems to be working," or "Well, Jesus seems to makes sense."  Scripture says that the cross and method of God's redemption are complete foolishness to man.  Left to our own devices, we would never make sense of Christ and God's grace.  Even Faith is a gift from God.
 This makes some people angry.  It is makes the receptor of such grace all that much more humble and grateful for the eternal security that comes from God saving hand.  He makes us aware of the awful burden and then frees us from it so that we might not be overcome by it.  Think about that.  See you tomorrow.
  With you for His glory