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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Obligatory Grace? Part II
When I assert that no person presently bound in sin has the ability or desire to come to Christ of his own free will, I am asserting no more than what the bible teaches. John (the Apostle) records where Christ taught those who were following Him that no one has the ability to come to Him unless God Himself chooses to grant that ability (cf. John 6:44,65). As a result of this very teaching, many who had been His disciples, stopped following Him (we read this in John 6:66).

The problem with bondage is that you are unable to do anything about it. You are incapable of escaping your bonds. If I assert that you are in bondage to sin (singular), I am saying that it is impossible for you to repent. If you could repent, it would hardly be bondage. This is what Paul describes in Romans 6, the fact is that we are in bondage to sin and are thus incapable of escaping its rule, that is, that we are unable to escape sin because, at our core, this bondage shows itself as an utter unwillingness to submit ourselves entirely to Christ's rule.

Don't get me wrong, anyone sufficiently frightened of hell may well try and avoid it by becoming a Christian, and giving up individual sins as they are able to do so. Such as these view the gospel as a way of escaping hell, rather than a way of being reconciled to God. These are possessed of that superficial flavor of faith that lacks genuine repentance. These have refused Christ's rule over them, yet imagine themselves to be saved by Christ because they have believed the facts of the gospel. James, the brother of our Lord compared the faith of such as these with demons who likewise assent to the truths of the gospel - agreeing that all these things are true - but such agreement in no way pardons them either.

Christ was not kidding when He said that many people on that last day are going to call Him Lord, but He will command them to depart from Him because He never knew them. This isn't a warning for the atheists and people of other world religions, for they are not going to come to Christ on that last day claiming to have done great things in His name. He is talking about people who thought they were real Christians because no one told them (or they ignored those who did) that in order to come to Christ, you must come to Him completely. You can't come to him with your head, and leave your heart somewhere else. You will not find the Christ of scripture until you seek for Him with your whole heart. Seeking here doesn't mean looking for Him as though He were lost, it is being used to describe how you approach Him. Are you giving your whole being to Him, or are you holding back in reserve the right to rule yourself? Until you sell out, you aren't in.

That's the picture we get from Christ's own teaching. The parable of the man who finds the treasure buried in the field, and sells all that he has in order to acquire the land, or the man who finds a pearl of great value, and sells all that he possesses, holding nothing in reserve for himself, but selling it all in order to secure the Pearl - that is the picture of how one enters the kingdom of God. That is the picture of salvation, and those who are half hearted, though they attend church, pray, sing, and read their bibles - if they have never given themselves entirely to Christ, were never His.

That was the picture of Judas. He travelled with Christ, believed Him to be the Christ, loved Him, ate with Him, did miracles in His name. He surely prayed, and ministered, perhaps even zealously - but Judas wasn't "all in". He had never been all in. He did not have a moment in His life where he surrendered Himself entirely to God, and failing to do so, his religion was a sham.

Christ called Judas to follow Him, but Judas was not chosen by God to follow Christ. This shouldn't shock you since the scriptures tell us in unvarnished clarity that many, in fact, are called, but few, indeed, are chosen.

Scripture illustrates salvation as something God originates, and not man. God has certainly left all of mankind without excuse - the heavens and the earth themselves declare God's glory - and testify to all creation that there is a God. We are, every last one of us, without excuse - we all know, deep down, that God has given us life and breath, and that we are beholden to Him as His creation. I say, even the stoutest atheist knows this, and even the much touted aboriginal person who has never so much as heard of the bible, or Jesus or the God of the Jews knows this. Every last sinner suppresses this truth so that they justify their own pursuit of sin.

So if sinners cannot come to God, and every last one of us is a sinner, how then can anyone repent and exercise faith in Christ? If we truly are in bondage, how can we escape this bondage?

Some may agree that we are all in bondage to sin, but they mean something else when they say "bondage to sin" - they simply mean that we are incapable of suppressing individual sins indefinitely. They mean that we are so entirely inclined to committing sins that we will never be able to utterly give it up or walk away from it. They do not think of sin as rejecting God's rule, they think of sin as a mistake you make. They think you can accept the rule of Christ in one hand, and commit a sin in the other, and so they see nothing irrational about a sinner coming to Christ of his own accord. Sure the sinner commits sins, but that is no barrier to "faith".

These have erred in that they don't define sin in terms of "who we are" rather they define sin in terms of "what they do". Hence they are more concerned with trying to stop "sinning" than they are with the fact that they are corrupt from the core, and that all of their "sins" are flowing from a fount of sinfulness - themselves. They therefore fail to understand that their problem is that they cannot, and will not surrender themselves to Christ's rule. They don't understand that when the scriptures speak of being in bondage to sin, it is describing their inability to submit themselves to God's rule - and so the "faith" that these come to is a superficial faith, a faith that cannot clean the inside of the cup because it has ignored the fact that there is something incurably rotten within the cup - so they spend themselves trying desperately to polish the outside, in order to convince themselves that the constant, nagging feeling that something is judgment-day wrong about their walk with Christ is anything they should be concerned about.

But when we say we are all in bondage to sin, we mean just that, we are bound to rebellion; we are chained (in and by our hearts) to rejecting God's rule. We will not come to Christ; we cannot come to Christ. Yet many, as a desperate act of self preservation, are willing to "become" Christians in order to avoid damnation. They haven't surrendered to God's rule, they are just doing whatever is necessary to avoid hell, and being blinded by their own desire to secure a better afterlife, they fail to realize that they have come into the fold over the gate and not through surrender to Christ.

I ask again, if these things are so - if no one can come to Christ, how is it that some do?

The answer is that although no man can or will, by himself, come to Christ; yet God draws men to Christ so that God is the "cause" of their turning. God is not obligated to draw anyone to Christ, so we say that they are drawn to Christ as an act of mercy and grace on God's part.

When we speak of being "saved by grace through faith" we are speaking of the fact that no one comes to saving faith except those whom God has singled out and drawn to Christ while they were yet rebels and His enemy. These same repent, and exercise faith without compromising the integrity of their free will, and yet God tells us that it is He, and not they, who caused this faith to happen. He hand picks who will be quickened, and so who will come to saving faith. Thus faith is a gift of God, a grace of God, that salvation is not something we make happen, but something God makes happen

God determined beforehand who would be the recipients of this "saving" grace. That may irk some people, but it is entirely biblical. When the bible speaks of election, and predestination, it is speaking of God's having chosen beforehand whom He would pour this mercy out on. No one deserves this mercy, and no sinner left to himself would ever incline himself to pursue it. There is no one who is righteous, that is, no one who seeks God, not even one (cf. Romans 3:10-11). God is not only the Author of our faith (the one who instigates it), but He is the one who sees it through to the end (the Finisher of our faith) (cf. Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 12:2).

That being said, everyone who comes to Christ, does so without coercion. We were blind in our sins, and could by no means "see" (if you will) the truth, both of our own estate, and of God's promises. God, on a day of His choosing, through the gospel of Christ, opened our spiritual eyes to see, and we responded in the only way possible - in faith.

If you want a picture, then picture how water flows downhill. If you dam the flow, the water stops flowing, if you breach the dam, it flows again. In the same way man was created to be in fellowship with God, our hearts were inclined to God, but the fall walled up that inclination. In the moment of salvation, God, in an act of grace, breaches the wall and so restores our natural inclination to depend upon, and draw near to God. We respond to this as naturally as we do anything else that we do. Not because we are coerced, but because we are inclined to the hand of our Master by a nature that was corrupted by sin - when we are set free from this "bondage", we respond to God in the way we were created to respond to Him.

Imperfect analogies aside, I hope you follow the notion that God isn't turning people into puppets in order to save them. God isn't controlling their will so that they come to Him kicking and screaming. No, God simply reconnects them to Himself, and they come to Him because that is the very thing they were created to do. Pascal speaks of the "God shaped hole" in every man - I think that is what He was trying to to express. It isn't that we all have a longing for God, it is that we were created to want God, and the very moment God reconnects us to Himself, our hearts are opened, as it were, and we incline ourselves to Him freely.

It is my experience, and if you are in Christ, it is your experience also, that one day, though you likely heard the gospel many times, you suddenly saw yourself for what you are, God's enemy, and alongside this you suddenly found yourself wanting to be reconciled to God. You didn't create these feelings, they came unbidden when God opened your heart to receive the gospel. You, like water, flowed naturally into the relationship God had restored. It was His work, not yours, that saved you.

Now, We can talk about God obliging Himself to show you this grace, but that is a temporal misnomer. God isn't bound by time, so He did not decide to "eventually" show you grace and thereby save you. Rather God chose to show grace to you and it was done, you just hadn't been born yet to receive it. You didn't know you were going to receive it, and until you did you were as much a child or wrath as anyone else. But in the fullness of time, God's grace came to you, and you were reconciled to Him by faith, and this not of yourself, as though you pursued God, but rather this was of God who had chosen you as the recipient.

Yet in order for you to receive this grace, God had to make sure you were born, and that the world continued until you were. More on this in the next post.
posted by Daniel @ 1:00 AM  
  • At 7:12 AM, August 26, 2011, Blogger donsands said…

    Excellent teachings Daniel. Thank you brother. This truth surely does "irk" some. But what a wonderful truth, when we can see it as you brought it forth here.

    I look back on God saving me, and how He used my Catholicism at first, where I went to "confession" and confessed my sins to a priest. And from there the Lord brought me to His truth, and perhaps I was a Cornelius for a season, I'm not sure. But I know now I am His 100% purely by His grace and forgiveness of the Cross.

    have a terrific Lord's day my friend!

  • At 7:46 AM, August 26, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Don, Thanks for the encouragment. I am preaching on Sunday, and am not entirely sure just yet what to preach on. I was considering this particular topic, but I am not settled on it yet. If you find time to remember me before our Lord this week, it would be appreciated.

  • At 11:34 AM, August 26, 2011, Blogger donsands said…

    Absolutely. It's a privilege to pray for God's shepherds.

  • At 3:13 PM, September 01, 2011, Blogger Mark said…

    Hi Daniel,
    I enjoyed this thoughtful post - thank yoy. Can you help me with where in scripture Judas is said to have done miracles in Christ's name? God bless!

  • At 8:35 AM, September 05, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…


    Sorry for the late reply, I have been on vacation for the last week.

    While there is no explicit narrative account of Judas doing a miracle in scripture, but there are several accounts of our Lord giving authority and power to the twelve Apostles as a whole (c.f Mark 6:7-13 for example), where the Apostles went out in twos and cast out demons and healed the sick.

    We understand from 2 Corinthians 12:12 that the things which mark an Apostle were signs, miracles, and wonders, and Judas was a genuine Apostle.

    I think it follows that if Judas was a genuine Apostle, given authority and power by Christ, to do the signs, miracles, and wonders that marked him as an Apostle, that Judas would certainly have done so. In fact I think if Judas failed to do so it would have stood out like a sore thumb so that when Christ said that one of the twelve was going to betray Him, the others would have looked immediately at Judas and said, Ahhh. It must be Judas since everyone else has been doing miracles, but not Judas...

    I don't have time to give you a complete run down of all there is to say in the matter, but this is the line of reasoning I am using.

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