Giving Permission To The King

Cinderella's  ClosetThroughout the bulk of my Christian life, I’ve heard the following sentiments:

“God is a Gentleman; He won’t violate your will.”

“Give the Lord permission to work in your life.”

“You need to get out of the way in order for God to work.”

“Let go and let God.”

You’ve undoubtedly heard these same ideas, and maybe you’ve even said them. They sound very reasonable, and even a bit spiritual. Many celebrity evangelicals routinely teach them, urging us to partner with God as if He’s helplessly wringing His hands as He waits for us to participate in whatever He’s doing.

Now, I understand that the Lord chooses to work through human beings much of the time. He calls Christians to obedience, especially in regard to proclaiming the Gospel to all creation. The same letter of Paul that declares God’s sovereignty in determining who should be numbered in the elect (Romans 9:6-26) also pronounces His decree that the elect should come to faith by means of evangelism (Romans 10:13-17). In that sense, He indeed uses our obedience as the means of accomplishing His purposes.

But we make a grave mistake if we assume that a lack of cooperation on our part in any way hinders or prevents the Lord from carrying out His will. In truth, He has all power. Nothing any of us does, even at our highest points of rebellion, can possibly block Him from doing exactly what He wills.

From the time Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, men and women have tried to claim control over God. We cherish the notion that we somehow allow Him to have His way in saving us and then in working in our lives. Proudly, we believe He stands immobilized, waiting patiently until we grant Him permission to move.

Look again at Romans 9.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? ~~Romans 9:19:24 (ESV)

Who do we think we are? Do we seriously believe the sovereignty of God depends on our will or behavior? Does the King of kings and Lord of lords bow in subjection to us? Scripture certainly never portrays Him as such a dependent weakling, nor does it suggest that He gives us authority over His dealings in our lives.

We need to repent of our arrogant attitudes. Let’s stop flattering ourselves that anything God does hinges on our attitudes or actions. If sovereignty really belongs to Him (and it does), then He will do anything He wants to do with or without our permission.

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The Internet Can’t Silence The Gospel (Even If It Bans It)

Headstick 2013Longtime readers of this blog may remember my initial purpose for abandoning the blog I’d kept on Google’s Blogspot.com for nine years in favor of starting this one on WordPress. For the benefit of newer readers, however, allow me to reiterate why I made the move.

The Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, by which the United States Supreme Court unilaterally legalized same sex marriage signaled that the political left would no longer tolerate any opposition to their various viewpoints. Almost immediately, same sex couples began suing Christian bakers, florists and other vendors who chose not to participate in celebrating weddings that violated Scripture’s definition of marriage. Some of those vendors have lost their businesses as a result.

I was not surprised.

Along those lines, I realized that having Google host a free blog invited censorship because I write boldly from a Biblical perspective. In so doing, I firmly state that homosexuality is sin. I also firmly state that salvation cannot occur apart from repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such statements, of course, violate the liberal positions that Google officials hold. And, since Google essentially owned my old blog, they would have the legal right to shut it down because of my Christian stand.

Technically, WordPress could probably do the same, but the fact that I pay for it may delay the termination. I hope.

I’m sure some people think I made a knee-jerk reaction in leaving Blogspot.com. Until yesterday, I could have been persuaded that perhaps I did. Perhaps I sunk all that money into WordPress needlessly. But yesterday, YouTube (which Google owns) issued their new policy for combating hate speech and terrorism.

Like many Christians, I found the following section of the new policy disturbing:

Youtube policy change
Borrowed from James White’s Twitter feed

Obviously, Christians should consider this clause a warning that we will eventually be shut out from the Internet if we dare to proclaim Biblical principles. Compared to the persecution Christians endure in other countries, this is mild, I admit. But it does limit our ability to use social media to advance the Gospel and equip Christians in discernment ministry.

Yet Google can’t prevent us from spreading God’s Word. Christians proclaimed it for 2,000 years before the Internet, and we’ll continue to proclaim it long after Google, Facebook and Twitter block us. So let’s use social media as long as we can to declare the Gospel and prepare for the opportunities God will give us once we lose our online privileges. No matter what, we can trust His faithfulness.

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Sweet Apples Rot Quickly, And Other Consequences Of Promoting My Blog

Rainbow HeartMy vanity got the better of me yesterday. For months, I’ve been praying about whether or not I should try to promote this blog. Part of me knew I needed to be content with a small readership base. In fact, earlier this week, I finally decided not to pursue any more avenues of publicizing it. I would trust God’s sovereignty to bring my articles to the women He wanted them to reach.

Then yesterday morning I received a message from a woman who administrates a website for writers. She’d read my article, Transforming America, and claimed to “love” it. Further, she asked my permission to cross-post it on her site, explaining that she desires a diversity of viewpoints.

Glancing at the articles already posted on her site, I noticed that they overwhelmingly represented liberal perspectives. “Maybe,” I told myself, “she wants my article in order to bring balance to her site.” Her complements on my writing skills felt so good! And I thrilled at the thought of more people finding The Outspoken TULIP!

So, like Eve in the garden, I bit into the fruit. I allowed her to cross-post my article. All afternoon, I savored the sweet taste of drawing readers to my blog, of course convincing myself that I wanted more people to read the Gospel.

I finished yesterday’s blog post late yesterday, so I couldn’t check email until late. But my in-box had several notifications of comments on my article. Obviously, I expected some negative comments, but surely they would engage intelligently with my content.

Instead, I encountered an onslaught of personal attacks including a very hurtful remark regarding my profile picture. Honestly, the experience reminded me of 7th Grade. I’ll spare you further details, except to say that the administrator (who so eagerly answered my emails yesterday) now seems a lot less happy to send responses today.

I wonder if she wanted my article in order to take me down a peg. I realize that’s only speculation, and that only the Lord can judge her motives. Even John, who normally sees the best in everyone, has expressed some cynicism, though.

Although the Lord used this unpleasant episode to convict me of my vanity, He also used it to encourage me. Yes, I know that seems odd. But consider the message of the blog post she put on her website. That article focused on the fact that Christians should expect animosity from the world. The more I’ve thought about the vitriolic reactions of the commenters on that website, the more amused I am that they inadvertently proved the very point I wanted to make.

Being human, I don’t particularly enjoy people making fun of me. But the humiliation I’ve endured, besides confronting me with my pride and selfish ambition, gives me an opportunity to rejoice.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~~Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)

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Saturday Sampler: June 11 — June 17

Bezier Flower SamplerLike Michelle Lesley, I’d never heard of Karen Ehman, but based on The Mailbag: Did Jesus Really Teach Karen Ehman’s 3 Step Life Plan? I don’t think I’ll bother. In addition to examining questionable aspects of Ehman’s teaching, Michelle shows us the importance of keeping everything we read in context.

Praise the Lord that Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day pays attention to her Bible! She supplies Some Encouragement for Marrieds & Parents in response to the Social Gospel and its call to radical living.

Is The Bible A Love Letter From God? Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center says no. Find out why he disagrees with this popular view of God’s Word.

Lysa TerKeurst is, from what I’ve read, a false teacher. I’m still researching her, but I know enough about her to be very wary of her. Sadly, she’s announced this week that she’s decided to divorce her husband, alleging he’s been unfaithful. In response, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life has written Some thoughts on ending a marriage. I appreciate Leslie’s balanced, compassionate approach to this matter. This is not a time for self-righteousness or glee, but a time to pray for Lysa’s repentance.

Highlighting two very different incidents from Martin Luther’s life, Allen Cagle writes If he is inviting me to my death, then I will come for Parking Space 23. Even if you don’t normally like history, this article is an inspiring portrayal of courage. Don’t cheat yourself out of it!

As a woman with a disability, I resonate with Elizabeth Prata’s Two or more good things about having a disability in The End Time. It’s not a typical Elizabeth Prata essay, but I love the way she points to the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty in giving us various trials.

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God Saves Whether We Cooperate Or Not

Hope in the LordLast Tuesday we saw that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that, even though Christ died to forgive our sins, we need to go through various sacraments in order to receive His grace. And yes, I understand that I’ve oversimplified the matter in one respect; the Catholic system for obtaining salvation is highly complex and confusing. Yet the primary message of the Protestant Reformation declares that Christians needn’t go through all the sacraments, penances, indulgences and rituals prescribed by Catholic tradition. Returning to Scripture, the Reformers brought us back to the Gospel message that Christ alone accomplished our redemption by His finished work on the cross.

The idea that God does all the work of justification caused Rome to proclaim, at the Council of Trent:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

I can go to a variety of Scriptures which refute Rome’s assertion that justification requires human cooperation, but today I want to limit myself to Paul’s teaching in Romans 9 regarding election. (Please read the entire chapter before continuing.) I’ve chosen this chapter because it emphasizes that God chooses His elect on the basis of His sovereign will rather than because of any performance on our part.

Paul’s main argument in Romans 9 centers around God’s choice to save believers, whether Jew or Gentile, as opposed to saving physical descendants of Abraham. Within this framework, however, we can reasonably apply the embedded principles to individuals, concluding that He brings some to salvation while leaving others to die in their sins. Notice, in the passage below, that His determination of who receives His mercy has nothing to do with human performance.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. ~~Romans 9:6-16 (ESV)

Verse 12, in particular, holds the key to our discussion because God chose Jacob without considering Jacob’s works. Indeed, the Lord didn’t even take Jacob’s future works into account. Jacob was pretty much of a scoundrel, after all. Very little about him could have possibly warranted God’s favor!

Applying this passage to Catholicism, we see that the concept of cooperating with the Lord to achieve justification is absolutely foreign to how He dispenses mercy.  When a person, by the grace of God, trusts completely in Christ’s atoning work on the cross for his or her justification, salvation needs no augmentation. Sacraments and penance become unnecessary, as does Purgatory, because the Lord Jesus Christ has completely accomplished our salvation! He has mercy, not because we contribute to His grace with our obedience to Rome’s rituals, but because He is compassionate to those He chooses.

I’ve belabored this point because Pope Francis world have us believe that the Reformation is now over, and that Protestants can now consider the issues that divide us from Catholics as inconsequential. Next time, we’ll look at Galatians to see what the Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, said about adding human works to Christ’s work, and we’ll apply the principles there to Catholicism’s sacramental system. I believe we’ll realize, from that study, that the Reformation continues.

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Saturday Sampler: June 4 — June 10

Bertucci Sampler
Sampler plate at Bertucci’s

Clint Archer posts Running for the  Reward: Comrades Marathon and the Bema Seat in The Cripplegate. Sometimes we Christians forget that rewards await us when we finish this life.

Reprising a column that she originally wrote in 2011, Marsha West of Berean Research chronicles the Purpose Driven dismantling of Christianity as  a testament to the many corrosive influences on the 21st Century church. Her comments on psychology particularly interested me.  In addition, she unmasks the resurgence of Gnosticism among evangelicals and explores Rick Warren’s affiliation with Robert Schuller.

Sometimes we ignore seemingly inconsequential sins, assuming the Lord also overlooks them. Tim Challies directs our attention to one such sin (grumbling about fellow Christians) in The King Is Within Earshot.

People commonly object to the doctrine of election because they infer that, if God elects some to heaven, He conversely elects others to hell. In The Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson writes Reprobation: Does God elect people to hell? as a way to demonstrate the logical fallacies of this argument. After you’ve read this piece, however, I strongly suggest that you read Reprobation Rejoinder by Mike Riccardi, also in The Cripplegate.

I’ve been disturbed, for the past few years, about the common perceptions professing Christians have regarding heaven. So it encourages me to read Heaven: The Biblical Version by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day. I feel less alone in my understanding of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Denny Burk provides a sobering reminder that American Christians have already begun to face persecution. His article, Watch Bernie Sanders tell  a Christian that his faith disqualifies him from office, reminds me that we can no longer expect to be embraced by our culture. But Jesus repeatedly warned us that the world would reject us, so we really shouldn’t be surprised.

If you want to read something both fun and educational, look at The Mischievous Protestant’s Guide to Catholic Rome by Tim Challies. Now, why do you suppose my art history professor at Dominican University of California  (a school started by Catholic nuns) never mentioned the items in this piece.

In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Kendra Dahl shares The Lesson That Saved My Marriage to help us adjust our expectations of our husbands. I definitely needed to read her wisdom this week!

 

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Saturday Sampler: May 21 — May 27

Bows SamplerReflecting on her personal study of Titus 3, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life reminds us that For So We Once Walked. Her insights help us have humility toward God and compassion toward non-Christians.

16-year-old Squid,  purveyor of Squid’s Cup Of Tea, is wise beyond her years. Her recent post, Not a Bad Temptation, offers a fascinating take on Eve’s disobedience in the garden. Why didn’t I have the caliber of discernment she has when I was young?

In a creative, but pointed essay in The End Time, Elizabeth Prata shows us how the Bible might read If Jeremiah, John the Baptist and Paul were Armimian… This piece is entertaining, and yet it wonderfully demonstrates the sovereignty of God in electing us to salvation.

Examining tongues, prophecy and healing as present-day Charismatic churches practice them, John Chester explains Why Our Church Isn’t Charismatic in Parking Space 23. As a former Charismatic, I appreciate his clarity in demonstrating how the current interpretation of these gifts differs from their Scriptural functions.

Jennifer at One Hired Late in the Day responds to the timely question How do we love and engage with our unbelieving friends without compromising our testimonies? In this era of political correctness and unbridled sexuality, Jennifer’s advice offers encouragement and wisdom.

Recycling an essay she wrote two years ago, Michelle Lesley ministers to those who need to find a new church, either because they’ve relocated or because their present church fails to uphold Biblical doctrine and practices. Throwback Thursday ~ Six Questions for a Potential Church includes links to three other posts that list important things to ask pastors or elders before joining a church.

Along those lines, Nichols T. Batzig, in his blog, Feeding on Christ, writes The Weight of the Church as encouragement to factor in the availability of solid churches when considering a move or a college.  Batzig provides an excellent perspective.

Infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell falsely believes himself to be a Christian, and has recently published a manifesto attempting to defend his actions from Scripture.  In 5 verses used to justly abortion, Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate exposes Gosnell’s wrong use of God’s Word. This blog post both shows that abortion can never be defended as a moral act and affirms the importance of properly using the Bible.

Reformation 500 has been steadily posting daily history lessons highlighting various events of the Protestant Reformation. In their article, Ignatius Loyola, they present a powerful discernment lesson by comparing and contrasting Ignatius Loyola and Martin Luther. The article applies so well to evangelicals in 2017.

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