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>Walk the (grace) line

2008 November 23 1 comment

>I intermittently watched the movie Walk the Line recently. It is about Johnny Cash (1932–2003). I did not know that much about him other than he was a Christian and I have heard a few of his songs.

I am cautious about how much one can rely on a movie for biography; at times “artistic licence” seems to be a euphemism for “flagrantly disingenuous.” Nevertheless, it told of his his addiction to (prescription) drugs and possibly alcohol; and his marriage break-up due to this and possibly his infidelity.

He subsequently recovered from his addictions and also married singer June Carter. He remained married to her until her death 35 years later.

The story reminded me of a prayer by a fellow parishioner. His own marriage had dissolved many years ago following his indiscretions. He subsequently remarried. He apparently prayed a few years ago during an open prayer meeting something along the lines of, “Lord, thank you that you are a God of second chances.”

These are excellent examples of God’s grace in people’s lives. The God we serve is a God of redemption, of the returning prodigal, of mercy and goodness toward a race of sinners; a God of second chances.

As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live;… (Ezekiel 33)

Categories: grace, mercy, sexuality, sin

>God's sovereignty and glory

2008 August 29 11 comments

>Calvinists have claimed that God chooses specific men for salvation because he is sovereign. Those are saved to maximise God’s glory in his mercy, and others are damned to maximise God’s glory in his wrath.

These ideas, I think, are incorrect. The issue of sovereignty is a logical question. And damnation, while giving God glory, does so less than salvation.

I don’t think it possible for God to force anyone into heaven. Or rather force anyone to love him; heaven is the destination. So I think the Calvinists are incorrect about sovereignty over who is saved because it is not an question of sovereignty.

God can create, God can woo (prevenient grace), God can save, God can give eternal life, God can create freedom of the will.

None of which man can do.

However I think that if God creates us as beings that have the ability to choose or reject God then I think it logically impossible to force love from such a being.

To have such a high view of sovereignty that claims that God can make us love him, seems, to me, as preposterous as a high view of God’s omnipotence means he can make 2 + 2 = 5.

So I don’t think that non-Calvinists have a low view of God’s sovereignty, I think they have a more accurate one.

Further I think God does desire every single person go to heaven. I don’t think any have been created specifically for destruction. Neither are we created for redemption; rather for fellowship. Because of Adam’s choice we become estranged. God’s grace gives us a possible path back. Those who continually reject God’s drawing are handed over to destruction. They become unredeemable* objects of wrath whom God prepares for destruction based on our rejection of him.

It is theoretically possible that every person could choose God.

God does seek his own glory, but the Calvinists are incorrect about this being the reason for creating beings for damnation. Why? Because if we choose obedience and become objects of mercy, God gains even more glory.

God is glorified when he destroys the wicked.

God is glorified more when he shows mercy to the repentant wicked.

What of Romans 9?

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called,…

It is not that God creates beings solely so they can be destroyed and they have no choice to escape that destination. Rather they have insisted on wickedness, they have rejected God’s offer of mercy, therefore they are prepared for destruction. Given they are not redeemable, God uses them to maximise his glory in the view of the vessels of God’s mercy. God uses a bad situation for good.

If Calvinism was correct about God’s sovereignty then he would maximise his glory by saving everyone. That would bring him more glory than damning some.

*We are children of wrath because we are fallen (Ephesians 2:3). If we reject God to the point we are not redeemable then we are vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22).

>The long-suffering of God

>The time of the judges is an interesting period. God intends to lead Israel by men he raises up. Though he commands the Israelites to obey him, frequently they don’t and God removes his protection and allows evil men (of which there is no shortage in the world) to oppress them. We see them following God in the time of Joshua but depart soon after his death and several times again even though God delivers them thru Othniel, Ehud and Barak.

We reach a period when the Israelites again choose disobedience:

The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed. (Judges 10)

It is in their distress that they cried out to the Lord,

“We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” (Judges 10)

I find this response of God interesting. God said,

“Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”

God says enough! He has delivered Israel repeatedly, he will do so no more. And if Israel continues in her idolatry then let her ask for help from the false gods she clings to.

This example of wearing out God’s patience is reminiscent of God’s words to Moses when the Israelites made a golden calf shortly after God delivered them from Egypt:

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” (Exodus 32)

After rejecting God, God rejects them. In the first he would have destroyed Israel had not Moses interceded for them. In the second he tells Israel that he has delivered them several times already and he is thru.

Nevertheless, the Israelites acknowledged their sin, acknowledged God was right, accepted God’s judgment on the matter, stopped their idolatry, and again requested deliverance. They would have worn out my patience, yet God remains ever merciful and kind. After the Israelites’ repentance in word and deed God…

became impatient over the misery of Israel (Judges 10)

And again God raises up a deliverer for Israel!

These passages tell us much about the patience and grace of God and it gives us much hope that even those who reject God continually may not be beyond his redemption. But we would do well not to presume on his grace. Some have rejected God and are then only useful for God to show his glory thru his righteous wrath, such as God’s judgment on the Egyptians. Proverbs warns:

He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,/
will suddenly be broken beyond healing. (Proverbs 29)

We do not know the length of our days. None of us deserves life. God is not compelled to save us. These stories give hope for the sinner contemplating repentance but leave no room for presumption.

Categories: judgment, mercy, patience, sin