Gospel-Centered Community

Last night in CG a question was asked regarding the doctrine of election. I thought the answer might be helpful to others as well. (A caveat: brilliant men have been debating this topic for centuries and have not come to an agreement and thousands of books have been written on this topic. I understand the following is a simple answer for, what appears to be, a complex issue. I reason that God’s ways are much higher than ours and although we strive to gain complete understanding, as we should, we will never have that until we, without the fog of the flesh, see Him. Until then grace prevail.) As we look at the doctrine of election we must also keep in mind that the Gospel is about glorifying God and not man’s ego.

If God chooses us and we don’t have a choice, aren’t we like robots?

In the garden, our original parents had it all: A perfect relationship with their creator and with each other. As evidence, the Bible says they were naked and were not ashamed. There was no shame because there was no sin. Their eyes were perfectly fixed on their creator and on each other, NOT themselves. They had the freedom to roam, to work, to eat, to love. They loved each other and they loved God. God gave them an opportunity to demonstrate that love through obedience. He told them not to eat from one tree; He placed no other restrictions upon them. Each time they passed that tree in obedience they declared their love for God (John 14:15; 1 John 5:2). One day they did not love God more than themselves and they disobeyed, they sinned. Through their disobedience, sin entered mankind.

Sin was passed down to all men (Romans 5:12). The Bible tells us that we all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and are slaves to sin. We do not have an option, we will sin (Romans 6:16-23). But God chose us (Ephesians 1:4). He opened our eyes, gave us understanding to see our need, understanding of who He is and what He has done (1 Peter 1:3). Like Saul, when the scales fell from his eyes, he rose and was baptized (Acts 9). We choose Him because He chose us. We are believers because we are born again, regenerated in an instant (1 John 5:1). We also love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). In responding to God’s effective call in our lives He then sets us free from sin. That is the power of the cross: We are no longer bound by sin. We have the freedom to obey (Romans 6:1-4). We do not always obey (Romans 6-7). We all sin, so we are not robots, but as our time with Jesus grows we sin less. That is the process of sanctification, becoming more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So effectively by God choosing us we have more freedom, not less. We are freed from sin to obedience. Apart from Jesus we would not have this freedom. Our obedience to Him is a demonstration of our love and His great grace.

Remember the study of doctrine should increase our devotion and desire for Jesus. It is not a quest for more knowledge but a pursuit to know Him who is worthy of our full attention and affection. He has called us to Himself. He has brought us from darkness to light, He loved us when we were His enemies. We may not fully understand today but our hearts should burst with gratitude and our mouths be filled with His praise.

 

 

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Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

John Wesley
John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement. In the early 1700s, John was raised in the home of a minister. He attended Charterhouse and Oxford and he was subsequently ordained into clergy of the Church of England. While he was at Oxford he helped to form what was called “the holy club.” Finally he accepted an invitation from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to become a missionary to the American Indians in Georgia, where he failed miserably.

Forced to return to England he wrote, “I went to America to convert the Indians; but, oh, who shall convert me?” Upon His return to England John met with an old friend from a group called the Moravians who led him into an understanding of faith and grace. Prior to that experience, he knew more theology and was more dedicated than most believers, but he was powerless. Much like Apollos, he was filled with knowledge but his understanding of the Gospel was incomplete, like many in our city and our churches today.

Apollos
Apollos was Jewish-raised with an understanding of the law and ceremonies, and the coming Messiah. He was a native of Alexandria and highly educated (the Alexandrian library held 700K books). He was eloquent and competent in the Scriptures and understood the Bible – he may have worked on the interpretation of the Hebrew OT to Greek. He was instructed in the way of the Lord and had been exposed to some things of Jesus/Messiah. What he knew of Jesus, he taught accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. John the Baptizer preached repentance and the coming Messiah; his call was to prepare the way for the Messiah. Apollos’ message was not incorrect or insincere, just incomplete – he did not know the full story. How much did he know? Apparently not the death, resurrection and the Spirit of God who comes onto all who believe.

Like many of us today, we understand only half or part of what the Gospel has for us. We hear it preached that we are saved by grace and from that point there seems to be two paths: an over-realized position of grace or an under-realized position of grace.

Over-realized position
New creation – Forgiven with no more sin, this group over-emphasizes positional sanctification, but neglects the process of being sanctified. There is no working out of salvation or demonstration of love through obedience. This group does not understand the holiness of God and lives under a powerless life.

Under-realized position
New Creation – Forgiven and justified, this group emphasizes the process of becoming sanctified, but lacks the positional sanctification in Christ. This group is always working and never rests; and therefore lives under condemnation, failure and a powerless life.

The first position lessens the need to appropriate grace and the call to holiness. The second position gives us no standing for grace and makes the call to holiness impossible. Both positions negate the need for grace and faith, believing grace is solely for the past (salvation). The Gospel, the Good News that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and raised from the dead, that He called us from darkness to life, is not only the key to salvation but our walk with Him in this world. God’s grace is just as important for our living out the Gospel as it is for our salvation, justification and sanctification. We are justified in Christ, positionally set apart and made holy, but we are also to work out our salvation, to run the race, to continue on.

1 Peter 2:5

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

James 1:4

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Hebrews 10:10-14

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We are sanctified and we are being sanctified – this should be no surprise as the Kingdom is here but not fully here; we see through a glass dimly so we see but not fully.

How does a proper understanding of grace and faith affect the way we handle sin?

Understand that by faith in Christ, positionally we are holy, set apart, and righteous – there is no condemnation for past, present, or future sin. We give thanks for the grace we have experienced, we rely on grace for victory in the present and we hope in the grace that is ours in the future. His victory is ours (1 John 5:4) and we have a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) BUT also realize that we are being made holy through our walk. We are being transformed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18) and conformed in the image of Christ (Romans 8:29); as we walk in the Spirit, we have victory over our flesh (Galatians 5:16-17).

We are moved by our love for God. Our love for Him is demonstrated as we act in faith through obedience to the Father (1 John 5:2; 1 John 2:1-3). As our love for God grows, our obedience grows and He becomes our treasure and our great delight because we fix our eyes on Him (Psalm 119:11).

John 17:17 – Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Psalm 119

Saturate yourself in the Word of God and let Him do the work – let Him identify the strongholds, the idols, and the weakness of your flesh. Idols are powerless in the presence of God (1 Samuel 5 – The Philistines captured the ark of God and set it next to Dagon, god of the Philistines. During the night, Dagon fell face down before the ark with its hands and head cut off – the ark represents the power and presence of God).

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