Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Faithfulness to God

Like the Persistent Asking of a Desperate Beggar

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

– Luke 11:1-8

Persistence in prayer is something I think many of us need.  I know I do.  My prayer life tends to go up and down depending on many issues.  There have been seasons of prayer in my life where I was praying earnestly and full of faith.  Then there are times of prayerlessness.

In Luke 11 we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray.  He gives them a model of prayer in verses 2-4 which are similar though not the same as Matthew 6:9-13.  The New King James along with the KJV add words to make these two texts match.  Most Greek texts do not have these additions.  I think this is important because the “Lord’s prayer” is not a magical prayer meant to be uttered and repeated over and over again.  The Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples a model prayer.  Prayer is not just reciting words.  Prayer is not just reading prayers.  Prayer flows from the child of God to our Father who hears our cries.  The disciples surely knew this having watched the Lord Jesus pray.  It was His prayer life that they asked for Him to teach them.  Not His miracles.  Not His teaching style.  Not His leadership style.  It was the prayer life of our Lord that the disciples saw and asked Him to teach them about.

I have been around saints of God who knew how to pray.   They would walk and talk with God all the day (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  There was a persistence in their prayer life that was continually.  They walked with God like Enoch of old (Genesis 5:24).  Prayer was like breathing to many of these saints of God.  I have heard the stories of the great prayer warriors such as Leonard Ravenhill and E.M. Bounds.  I have heard of the prayer life of David Brainerd and David Livingstone.  I have heard of the prayer lives of John Wesley and George Whitefield.  Their ministries were marked with souls but also with prayer.  Wesley would often rise up early in the morning before the sun came up to pray.  Martin Luther would labor for hours in prayer.

Where are the men of prayer today?  In fact, many of the intercessors I know of are women.  I praise God for them.  I thank God for godly women who pray like Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.  The Holy Spirit placed women among the Apostles as they waited for the promise of the Father in Acts 1:14.  These women were praying along with the men of God. We need mighty women of God.  But where are the men who pray?  Where are the men known for their prayer lives and the ministries marked by prayer?

Our Lord teaches us here in Luke 11 that prayer is to be marked with persistence (v.8).  The ESV translates the word as “impudence.”  I like the old KJV here as it translates it “importunity.”  The MacArthur Study Bible states it like this:

It conveys the ideas of urgency, audacity, earnestness, boldness, and relentlessness – like the persistence asking of a desperate beggar.

I like that image.  Beggars tend to just ask and then move along.  They don’t tend to be very persistent.  Jesus states that we are to be persistence in our praying.  It is not because God is not willing to hear us nor answer us.  In fact, that is the opposite of what Jesus is saying.  Our Father hears us and He knows our needs.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:8 that our Father knows what we need even before we ask Him.  If a friend will get up to give to the beggar what he needs, how much more will our Father give us what we need?

The balance is to pray the will of God.  The Lord Jesus is not saying that if we are persistent in asking for something, God will relent and give in.  As we pray the will of the Father, the Father hears us and He answers according to His will (1 John 5:14-15).  Jesus said that He always did the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38).  Jesus prayed to be close to His Father and to do His will.  Jesus submitted Himself completely to the Father to do His will (Hebrews 5:7-10).

As we persist in prayer, we are submitting our selves to God.  We want to do His will.  Prayer prepares us to do that will.  When we truly pray, we are wanting to honor the Lord and to bring glory to Him.  This is not about us.  This isn’t praying about foolish things.  This is about praying for the glory and honor God.  This is gospel-centered praying.  Like beggars, we know that our Father is the best and He is our reward.  This is not about finding bread.  This is about finding and seeking the One who gives us bread.

Finally, a word about praying.  I don’t want condemnation to come over you.  I have lived before under condemnation about prayer.  When I was in college I read that if a minister doesn’t pray for two hours a day, they are not worth a dime a dozen.  I wept at that because I was not praying for two hours a day so I made up my mind to pray for two hours a day.  I was a failure to say the least.  My “prayer life” was more about staring at the clock to get in my two hours.  At one point I was up to praying an hour a day but I was not praying.  I was hitting the clock.  I was doing my praying for others to notice my “prayer life.”  I wanted others to pat me on the back for my prayer life.  I look back now with sadness on those times.  My prayer times were not powerful times with the Lord.  They were just words uttered for others to notice me (Matthew 6:5).

I long to just walk with God now.  I long to talk to Him like a friend, like a brother, like a father.  My little boys can just cry out and I’ll run to them.  They don’t have to say over and over again “Daddy” for me to run.  If they were in trouble, I would not come to them and say, “Do you really believe I am able to help you?  Seems to me that you haven’t been talking to me much and so I’m going to leave you be.”  No!  I help my boys because I love my boys and I want what is best for them.  The same is true of God our Father.

Hebrews 4:14-16 is so precious to me now.  My prayer life will never match the Lord Jesus’ prayer life.  He was perfect in every single way.  He bore my sins including my prayerlessness.  I am not advocating laziness in prayer.  Luke 11:1-8 shatters that.  There is a persistence in prayer lives.  In fact, Luke 11:9-10 speaks of this persistence further:

9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

But the balance of this is to see that our Father is good and He wants to answer our prayers as the Lord Jesus states in verses 11-13 where He contrasts our earthly fathers with our heavenly Father:

11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

If our earthly fathers would not be evil toward us (we hope), will our heavenly Father be evil toward us?  Of course not!  Our Father is good and He is loving and kind.  The Lord Jesus demonstrated that perfect love (Romans 5:8-9).

The gospel enables us to pray.  We don’t come before our Father with our righteousness.  We come in the name of Jesus who is our salvation, our righteousness before a holy God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  We come in the name of Jesus because He is our high priest before the Father (Hebrews 10:10-14).  We come in the name of Jesus because He is our advocate and our friend (John 14:12-14).  Through the Lord Jesus, we are able to approach the throne of God and He hears our cries.

I rejoice in the Lord that He hears our prayers!  May God be glorified through the prayers of the saints of God (Revelation 5:8).

Praying For Our Enemies

Someone wrote that worship of God is where we worship Him for who He is.  Intercessory prayer is where we pray what God has promised in His Word.  For example, when we pray for the lost to be saved we are praying the will of God (1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Peter 3:9).  We are praying what God has spoken.  When we pray for world missions, we are praying what the Father promised to His Son (Psalm 2:8; Matthew 28:18-20).

With intercessory prayer in mind, Jesus said in Matthew 5:44:

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

We are called to pray for our enemies.  What does this do in the heart of the believer?  This produces love.  When we begin to pray for our enemies, we will soon find that we have a love for them.  We begin to desire to see them turn from their sins and repent.  Yes we hate their sins but we will begin to love them for being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  True praying for someone will produce love for them.

I have been seeking to implement this into my prayer life.  When I hear a story about a church preaching false doctrine, I have begun to pray for that church to come to repentance.  I have been praying for those who are enemies of the gospel.  I have been praying for those who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) to come to faith in the Lord Jesus.  I have been praying for cults to turn from their false doctrines to the truth in Christ.  My longing is for genuine love to flow from me for those who are enemies of the gospel.

I am all for apologetic ministries and even discernment ministries but I fear that too often we are wanting to win debates with people and pointing out their false teachings while not praying for them.  To be clear, I detest false doctrines.  Yet I equally know that Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies.  I fear that we often want to destroy people while not longing for them to come to repentance.  May that not be.

Paul the Apostle was persecuted by his own people, the Jews.  Yet he prayed for their salvation (Romans 10:1).  Paul could have grown cold and bitter toward his own but he longed to see them repent.  His praying no doubt produced love for his lost kin.

My prayer is that I would pray for my enemies and truly love them.  I am far from that now.  In my heart, I want my enemies gone!  I look around at the wicked world and long for Jesus to come and make it all right.  Yet how many would be cast into hell if that were the case and Jesus came today?  Again, the Lord is patient with  lost sinners (2 Peter 3:9).  The heart of God is for sinners to repent and live (Ezekiel 18:32).

May the Lord help me to pray for my enemies for His glory.

Short Rant on Devotions, Praying, and Posting

Every since I became a disciple of Jesus, reading my Bible and prayer have been priorities in my life.  I by no means am perfect at them.  I am thankful for the gospel and the fact that I don’t earn my righteousness before God through my works (Romans 10:4; Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:5-7).  There have been good days where I have been in the Word and in prayer and it seemed the Lord was near.  There have been days where I was in the Word and prayer and it seemed the Lord was distant.  Thankfully, I am not saved by my feelings but by faith (Romans 5:1).

Let me rant then just for a moment about devotions, praying, and posting them on social media sites.  I have seen this pattern for a while.  The great satire site, the Babylon Bee, ran a great post on a woman completing her quite time without Instagramming it.  That was pure gold because it is true!  I go on social media sites and people are posting pictures of their Bibles open, a notebook, a cup of coffee.

Even open air preaching posts drive me crazy.  I’m all for preaching the gospel in the open air.  I also understand that some of these guys receive money from people and so they want them to see that they are serving just as they said they would.  I find it ironic that missionaries don’t often feel the need to post them serving to prove they are actually doing what they said they would do if you supported them but I’ll let that go.  Open air preachers are notorious for posting pictures or videos of themselves preaching or asking for prayer as they go to share the gospel.  Again, I understand that for some of them, the prayer requests are real and their posting is simply to encourage people to follow their lead in evangelism.   Yet for some, I fear, they are posting out of pride (“look at me going to share my faith while you read this blog”).  God knows our hearts.

In Matthew 6 Jesus had strong words about doing things for the glory of God and not telling others about them.  There is no doubt that God knows our hearts (1 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 17:10; 23:24; Romans 8:27).  The Lord sees through our posts to know our hearts whether we are truly posting for His glory or for ours.  In Matthew 6 Jesus states that our good works should be done in secret so that we might receive a reward from our Father.  Again, nothing wrong with posting about our devotions, our church, our evangelism but God knows our hearts and whether we want the applause of men or not.  Jesus states that our giving (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (6:5-8), and fasting (6:16-18) should be done in secret and not for the applause of men.  Our Lord states that if do them for men, we receive our rewards (6:2, 5, 16).

Pride is dangerous.  I have battled pride my entire life.  I always will.  We all like for people to pat us on the back and tell us “good job.”  We want others to notice the good we do.  It’s human nature I suppose.  But Jesus tells us to do our good works for our Father.  Ephesians 2:10 even states that our Father has prepared the works for us to do.  This would include our prayer times, our fasting, our evangelism.  Our works should glorify God, however, and not us.  The temptation is to post on social media sites so that our good works glorify us even though we claim it is to the glory of God.

Finally, is it sinful to post our prayer times, our Bible study, our evangelism?  It can be.  It doesn’t have to be.  Again, the Lord God knows our hearts.  We can’t hide from Him.  Like Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, the Lord knows if we are hypocrites or not.  In Acts 4 we read that Joseph called Barnabas (son of encouragement) sold a field and brought the money to the Apostles’ feet.  This must have impressed Ananias and Sapphira so they did the same but unlike Barnabas, they withheld some money for themselves (which was their right) but they claimed to be giving all to the Lord.  The Lord saw their hypocrisy and He judged them before the church so that fear came upon the saints of God (Acts 5:11).  Ananias and Sapphira wanted the applause of men but were not willing to truly glorify God like Barnabas had done.  They wanted to cheat but the Lord saw their hearts (Acts 5:3).  The Lord knew the heart of Barnabas and He also knew that Ananias and Sapphira were not willing to pay the price that Barnabas had paid though they wanted the applause of the Apostles too.  Their story is for our example.

The Lord knows our hearts.  He knows if I post a picture of me sharing my faith if I’m doing it for me or for His glory.  He knows the same for people who use social media to brag about their devotions or their street preaching.  I have no doubt that the Lord loves us beyond words even in the midst of our hypocrisy and pride but I pray that He would sanctify us so that social media is not our place for our hypocrisy and pride.

Now let me go post this on various social media sites along with some pictures I have of me praying before blogging this.  Prayers appreciated.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/31/2016 at 10:32 AM

Should Theological Knowledge Lead to Meaness?

Let me rant just for a moment.  From my reading of the Bible, God honors the humble.  The Lord Himself states in Isaiah 66:2 that He acknowledges the one who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at His Word.  How many I know (myself included) have trembled at God’s Word but instead of it humbling me, I grew proud and looked down on those who didn’t have the knowledge and insights I had (or thought I had).

In Colossians 3:12 disciples are told to put on “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”  

In 1 Peter 5:5 we are told that God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble.

Does my relationship with Christ produce pride or humility?  Why does theological knowledge often bring pride and meaness instead of humility?  

I’m not arguing here for shallow theology or for not confronting theological errors.  We must (1 Timothy 4:11-16; Titus 2:1, 15).  Yet let us read and ponder 2 Timothy 2:22-26.  

I’m just tired of the pride in my own heart.  Pride doesn’t produce righteousness.  Pride only brings death (James 1:12-15).  I’m tired of trying to prove my passion by my theological knowledge or how well I can rebuke another person (Christian or not).  I want to truly love Jesus not by merely articulating theology but truly loving Jesus for who He truly is (John 5:39-40; 17:1-3). 

So there is my rant and I confess that it’s aimed at me the most.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/25/2016 at 12:18 AM

Grey Areas of Theology

All of us come to the Bible with our systems.  It’s hard not to.  This happens when reading any book.  We bring our presuppositions to what we read, what we watch, what we hear.  This is part of being made in the image of God.  Animals don’t bring presuppositions.  Animals don’t get new ideas.  Animals can be trained but not reprogrammed to think differently.  People  can.  It often takes time and sometimes involves years of study, trials, etc.

This is true of theology as well.  I have never been a Calvinist.  I was raised in a Pentecostal home where Calvinism was avoided.  That said, I have known many friends of mine who “converted” to Calvinism.  None of them (that I know of) actually took time to study Arminianism or other non-Calvinist approaches to the Bible, they just enjoyed listening to John MacArthur or John Piper and dove into Calvinism.  Most of them were looking (as Austin Fischer points out in his book Young, Restless, No Longer Reformedfor something more in their faith.  They wanted to go deeper in the Lord and found Calvinism to be what they needed.  Of course, I would argue that Arminianism is actually deeper still.  Arminianism goes past Calvinism in my estimation.

What I want to point out here in this blogpost is that all of us have grey areas in our theology.  I don’t know of a perfect system. There are holes in all of our theology.  For honesty sake, I will post just a few holes I see in my own theology.  These are holes that I can’t fully explain but they don’t cause me to turn away from Christ.  I live with them and just seek to know Christ more and more.  My goal is to know God (John 17:3) but I know that I will never fully know Him and I believe that even in eternity, I will never truly grasp God.  He is infinite in His ways (Psalm 145:3).  So let me list a few holes.

1.  The Trinity.

Cults attack the doctrine of the Trinity because they say that it is illogical.  How can three persons be one God?  How can there be one God yet three persons?  I don’t grasp this myself.  I know the Bible teaches there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the Father is called God, the Son is called God, and the Holy Spirit is called God but there is only one God.

Again, the infinite God is beyond my understanding.  I humble myself before His truth and simply worship Him who is true.

2.  Prayer.

How does God answer prayer?  What role does faith play?  Why does God seem to delay?  What causes God to not hear our prayers nor answer us when we call?  Is God moved by our prayers?  All of these are unanswered questions I have about prayer.  No doubt God calls us to prayer (Matthew 6:5) and Paul the Apostle says that we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but I don’t begin to fully understand prayer.

3.  The Incarnation of God.

I truly believe that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh (John 1:14) and that this is based on the prophetic promises (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7) but how this is, I don’t know.  How a virgin can be pregnant with the holy one of Israel (Luke 1:35).  When Mary asked how this could be (Luke 1:34), I love Gabriel’s reply (Luke 1:37) and Mary’s response (Luke 1:38).  It was as if Gabriel was saying, “I don’t know how this can be but with God all things are possible.”  God can do whatever He likes and in this case, He becomes a human while not ceasing to be God.  Jesus was not a man on earth while God was in heaven.  Jesus was fully God and fully man.  Jesus was not half man and half God.  While Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus humbled Himself and became a slave, it does not say that Jesus ceased to ever be God.  He can’t.  Jesus was fully God before the manger and He was God after He ascended to the right hand of God.  Jesus has always existed with the Father and the Spirit before time began (John 17:5).  Yet how God became a man is beyond me.

4.  Regeneration.

I accept the biblical truth of being born from above (John 3:3) but I don’t fully grasp this miracle.  Even the good doctor Nicodemus in John 3:4 tried to ask Jesus how can this be.  Let’s give Nicodemus credit here and know that he was not asking about being born physically again.  He is wondering about this miracle of being born from above.  How can this be?  Jesus points to the wind and the mystery of the wind (John 3:5-8).  Again Nicodemus replies, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9).  I agree Nicodemus.  I don’t know.  I preach salvation through Christ alone.  I preach repentance.  I preach being baptized into Christ.  Yet the mystery of the new birth is beyond me.  I know Titus 3:5-7 is true and I preach that salvation is the gracious work of God yet I can’t explain how the God who created all things comes and indwells us.  It is a mystery that I am willing to preach and accept.  I praise God that He saved me!

5.  Free Will.

As an Arminian, I hold to libertarian free will.  I believe all people have the power to choose to either do or refrain from a given action whether sinful or good.  Yet I can’t explain how God allows free will and yet His decreed will is always done.  The cross, for example, was predetermined by God (Acts 2:22-23) yet God did not make the Jews or the Romans kill Jesus.  He permitted them to kill His Son and it was part of His plan but no one believes (even Calvinists) that God made the people kill Jesus.  The people chose to kill Jesus by God’s definite foreknowledge.

The mystery is here is how God in His sovereignty still accomplishes His will while allowing people to make free decisions.  I have no doubt that God knows the free decisions of people but that He knows just means that He knows.  Knows and causes are not the same.  My mystery in free will is that God allows free will people to make free will decisions yet God’s decreed will is done.  However, not everything that happens in this world is the will of God.  Even God said about His people in Jeremiah 7:31 that they did that which He did not plan nor came to His mind.  How can that be?  If God knows all things and He plans all things (according to determinism), how can this be?  Right before Jeremiah 7:31, God says that He had sent prophets to warn His people but they stiffened their necks and became hardened.  This would be later on as well in John 12:40 where God says that He has allowed the Israelites to be hardened for the purpose of the cross.  How can these things be?

6.  The Cross.

Could there not be another way?  Did the cross have to be?  I understand the holiness of God demands a sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 9:22) but could there have been salvation without the cross?  Could God have accomplished redemption of sinners by some other means?  Biblically I know that the cross is a must.  Sinful humanity sinned against a holy God with the fall of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12) and the cross demonstrates both the love of God for human beings and His holiness at the same time (Romans 3:22-27).  Amazing!  Jesus died for sinners since He never sinned Himself (1 Peter 2:21-24).  Jesus suffered at the hands of sinners to redeem sinners (Luke 19:10).  Simply amazing!

Yet did the cross have to be?  Could the Lord have saved us another way?  I don’t know.  I am thankful for the cross and I praise God that salvation comes through the cross but the mystery of the cross is beyond me.

7.  God Changing His Mind.

Genesis 6:6 is tough.  How could God truly be sorry for making mankind when (according to determinism), He knew what would become of them in the first place?  Is this not true emotions from God?  The typical answer is that such talk from the Lord is only given to show us humans so that we can relate to God who is beyond us.

In Exodus 32 we read of the Israelites and the golden calf.  God declares to Moses that He is going to wipe them out for this sin yet Moses intercedes for the Israelites and God relents (v. 14).  Some say that God did not really relent but He was using this to teach Moses how to be a leader or how to pray.  Yet the text is a mystery.

There are more.  I could go on.  There are texts that suggest that God relents and I don’t know how to answer them.  The open theist points to them as proof that God learns certain things (see for example Genesis 22:12).  I can’t ignore the language but I don’t have clear answers either.  Yet the same God can say of the unborn Cyrus that he will be his servant (Isaiah 45:1).  God could call forth even the city where the Messiah would be born (Micah 5:2) and arrange entire nations for this purpose (Luke 2:1-2).

So on the one hand God is said to relent of things and learn things yet the overwhelming teaching of Scripture is that God is infinite in His wisdom and awesome in all His ways.  This is a mystery to me.

What To Do With Grey Areas?

My advice: keep studying.  Keep praying.  Keep hoping in God.  Grey areas don’t mean that God’s Word has failed nor do they mean that God is not trustworthy.  His promises are sure (2 Peter 1:4).  Grey areas mean that I don’t have God figured out and that He is God.  I am satisfied with that.  I will never grasp God.  His ways are beyond me.  His thoughts are beyond me (Isaiah 55:8-9).  I do know that He loves me (John 3:16) and He has demonstrated that love through the cross (Romans 5:8-9).  I rejoice that this is clear: Jesus died for sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  This is clear: Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 1:3) and salvation comes through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10).  I rejoice that the gospel is simple and clear (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  My prayer is to know Christ more (Philippians 3:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/30/2015 at 11:18 AM

Being Careful With the Love of God

The love of God is a biblical truth.  I adore the God of the Bible because He has revealed Himself as loving and good.  Psalm 145:8 says that God is abounding in steadfast love.  1 John 4:8 says that God is love.  Some believe that love is an attribute of God.  However, I agree with others such as A.W. Tower who said that love flows from God and is part of His personage.  Love then is not an attribute of God but is freely given by Him toward His creation.  Truth is said to be a part of God but we would not say that truth is an attribute of God nor should we say this about God’s love.  God loves because He chooses to love.  God has demonstrated His love toward us sinners by the giving of His Son (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

I do think that we can make too much about the love of God.  Of course, I rejoice that God is love.  I rejoice that God has sent His Son to die for our sins and to rise again on the third day where the Son now sits at the Father’s right hand till His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1).  I rejoice that the Christian message is one of love as we point to the cross as the greatest example of true love (Galatians 2:20).  I rejoice that God has revealed His great love for us sinners (1 John 4:10).  This love should flow from God into our lives and we in turn are to love others (1 John 4:11).  Jesus said that loving others was the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:39).  Jesus said that His disciples would be marked by loving others (John 13:34-35).  He told His disciples in Matthew 5:43-48 that we were to be perfect in love as our Father is.  John Wesley defined this love as “perfected love that flows from the God of love.”  Wesley said that this type of love can only be found in the grace of God and His Spirit working within us to perfect this love.  Perfect in love then was Wesley’s preferred term for entire sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

The love of God drips from the pages of the Bible.  We see God’s love demonstrated toward Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14-15, 21).   We see God’s love in the calling out of the Israelites from Egypt into the promised land.  God Himself even says that it was His love that motivated Him to choose Israel and not because of the Israelites themselves (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).  It was the love of God that called the prophets in the Old Testament to call His people to repentance (see Hosea as an example).  It was the love of God that motivated Him to promise the Messiah and then to send His one and only Son to earth (Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:23; John 1:1, 14, 17).  Jesus was God manifested in the flesh (John 1:14) and He fully revealed God to us (John 14:9).  Jesus never said He was the Father nor did He say He was the Spirit but instead He fully revealed the fullness of God to us (Colossians 2:9).  Jesus is the exact representation of God (Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:3).  What do we see when we see Jesus?  We see Him “doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).  We see Jesus coming not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  We see Jesus coming to call sinners to repentance (Luke 19:10).  We see Jesus telling the Pharisees that God goes looking for the one sheep out of the ninety-nine who turns and is lost (Luke 15:1-7).

There is no doubt that God is love.  There is no doubt that Jesus has revealed the love of God.  There is no doubt that Jesus shows us that God is good and that He desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:5-6; 2 Peter 3:9).  There is no doubt that the love of God flows throughout the Bible.

But I do want to place a warning.  Just a fire across the bow if you will.  Again, I am one of those who gladly preaches the love of God.  I gladly preach Arminianism because I see that the love of God is limited in Calvinism.  In fact, I don’t see a loving God when I study Calvinism but instead I see the overwhelming issue being either the sovereignty of God (in this case the all-power of God in Calvinism) or the glory of God (wherein God must determine all things lest He share His glory).  The love of God is seen as a part of God’s sovereignty either in choosing the elect by arbitrary means rather than love but in some form of love nonetheless or the love of God is seen as part of His glory.  Calvinism diminishes the love of God by failing to proclaim the truth of the unlimited atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Oh yes, His atonement is infinite in value and could atone for the sins of the world but instead the sovereign God has chosen that He will place His love only on the elect.  To me, this doesn’t match either the biblical view of God as loving and good nor does it fit with the parables of Jesus such as found in Luke 10:25-37.

Let me fire this shot though across the bow.  This is a friendly shot to us Arminians.  I do believe in the love of God but let us not exalt the love of God above other truths about God.  For example, God’s wrath or God’s justice or His holiness.  The open theist, in my estimation and I know I have some brothers and sisters who read this blog who are open theists, elevate the love of God above all other truth about God.  The same might could be said about the conditional immortality holders (whom I likewise regard as brethren in the kingdom).  Others want to lift up the transcendence of God.  Some want to exalt the power of God (my charismatic brethren might fall here).

My point is that we must seek balance.  There is no doubt that God is love.  There is no doubt also that God is holy.  There is no doubt that God is sovereign.  There is no doubt that God is powerful and He does hear our cries and can demonstrate His power.  Yet we tend to uplift the truth about God that we love the most.  Arminians might be guilty of doing this with God’s love.  Calvinists might be guilty of exalting the sovereignty of God (or actually the omnipotence of God).  I pray that we would simply make sure that when we preach that we don’t make a god in our image.  This is what cults do.  Their gods are figured out but our God is beyond our understanding.  God has revealed Himself in the Bible but not exhaustively.

I pray that we preach to sinners both the love of God (that He has demonstrated His love toward sinners through the cross) and the wrath of God against sin (Romans 1:18).  Both are true.  God loves but God also hates.  God cannot tolerate sin in His presence so let us preach the truth of His holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16).  Let us preach that God desires the sinner to come to repentance but let us also preach that all who reject His love remain under His just wrath (John 3:36).

I rejoice in the love of God, the goodness of God, the grace of God.  I also preach the biblical truths of His holiness, His justice, His sovereignty, His transcendence, His wrath.  May we be balanced in our preaching.

Is It Okay To Fear Falling Away from Christ?

I am wondering about this question.  I know that the Bible promises much to believers about out security in Christ (Romans 8:37-39).  I know that Jesus promised to abide with us forever (Matthew 28:20).  I know the promise of the Lord to finish what He has started (Philippians 1:6).  I know the promise of God to forgive me of my sins when I confess them to Him (1 John 1:9).  I know that the Lord promised that no one could snatch us out of His Father’s hands (John 10:29).  I know the promise of Jesus that He would never cast me out (John 6:37).  I know the promise of Jesus as well that whoever believes has eternal life (John 6:47).

And yet I equally know that we are to fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; Romans 11:20-22).  We are to live a life of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).  I know the grace of God empowers the believer to forsake sin (Titus 2:12-13).  I know the promise of God is faithful to not only forgive us of our sins but destroy the power of sin in our lives (Romans 6:6).  Those who are slaves of sin are not His children (John 8:34-35; 1 John 3:4-10).  Romans 8:12-13 warns us that we have an obligation before God to not live according to the flesh lest we die.  Jude 21 tells us that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God.  Even the Lord Jesus warned us to make every effort to enter by the narrow door (Luke 13:24).  Paul the Apostle spoke of disciplining his body lest after he preached to others, he might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

So here is my question again: is it okay to fear falling away from Christ?  I am not being so presumptuous as think that I could never fall away from Christ.  I think of 1 Corinthians 10:12 and how Paul warned us to be careful lest we fall.  I don’t look down on those who have committed great sins and turned away from the Lord and think, “That could never be me.” That would be the pride of Peter and the Apostles (see Matthew 26:31-35).  I can turn away.  I can become engrossed in sin.  I could live a double life of sin.  I could be committing adultery on my wife, stealing from my job, filling my mind with worldliness.  I could be drifting along without prayer, without the Word, without the church, without true discipleship.  I could be faking it to others.  That could be me.  I pray its not but it could be.

I do rejoice in knowing that the promises of God are true.  I rejoice and believe that there is assurance and security in Jesus.  Yet I know that there are no promises given to those living in sin.  To say that I love Jesus but live a life of sin is not acceptable before a holy God (1 John 2:3-6).  My words and actions must go together (James 2:14-26).  This doesn’t mean that I earn my salvation.  Again, Jesus alone is Lord and He alone is the One who died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Yet the Bible is clear that we are to persevere in the faith, to hold fast to Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:11-12).  We must fight for holiness.  I see nothing in Scripture to suggest otherwise.  This is a battle and Satan wants me to turn away from Christ.  Satan wants me to live for me, to do what I want, to be my own god.  This was Satan’s lie to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:4-5).

On the one hand I live in comfort knowing that the Lord is faithful to watch over me and I am saved in Him and secure in Him.  On the other hand I fear the Lord and don’t want to turn away from following Him.  I sense the wickedness in my own heart (Jeremiah 17:9).  I know I am capable of great sins.  I fear that.  I don’t want to ruin the Lord’s name.  I don’t want to be another casualty of war.  I want to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in all that I do (Colossians 3:17).  I have a long way to go to get there.  For now, I trust in Christ alone to save me and I trust in Him to sanctify me (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).  I know that without Jesus, I would surely turn away and live a life of sin.  The Scripture is clear that we are to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).  I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me to turn away from evil and live a life that exalts Jesus Christ my Lord.

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