“Permit” does not mean “cause”

In his book Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, John Calvin wrote, “[I]t is easy to conclude how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice by the suggestion that evils come to be not by His will, but merely by His permission. Of course, so far as they are evils…I admit they are not pleasing to God. But it is quite a frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them.”

Arguing that God is responsible for all things is akin to arguing that human parents should be held accountable for every sin their children commit; after all, they knew their children would sin and yet they brought them into the world anyway. And not only did they bring them into the world, but they refuse to keep them locked up although they know at times their children will hurt others.

I submit that as long as you are unable to differentiate between “cause” and “permit,” your view of God will be very skewed and you will never be able to see God as the loving father that he is.

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*I have to wonder if John Calvin’s view that God caused (not just permitted) every evil in the world enabled him to cause Michael Servetus to be burned at the stake as a heretic for not accepting the trinitarian view of God or infant baptism.

Pursue Righteousness

In the Bible, the adjectives tsaddiyq (צַּדִּיק ) in the OT and dikaios (δικαιοι) in the NT, which are usually translated “righteous,” were used to describe those who “remained on the correct path.” From Genesis to Revelation the word “righteous” is used to describe both God and humans. In 1 John 3:7, we read that “the one who does what is right is righteous.

We see in the scriptures there was an understanding that all who recognized God as the moral lawgiver and as a result, obeyed God’s laws were called “righteous” (Romans 2:13). A righteous person (also referred to as a godly person) was not a sinless person (Ecclesiastes 7:20) but a person of integrity (Proverbs 20:7), and some were considered more righteous than others (Genesis 38:26, 1 Samuel 24:17).

Since scripture makes it clear that people can be righteous, that God desires righteousness, and that only the righteous remain in Christ* and inherit the kingdom of God, let us live lives of faithful perseverance (Hebrews 6:11-12). Let us be doers of the law of Christ and not just hearers so that on the Day of Judgment we can share in the righteousness of Christ (Romans 2:13).

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*The phrase “in Christ” means joined with him in a covenant relationship. We enter into this covenant relationship by faith.

Does God need our help during the Christmas season?

Here’s an excerpt from a great article by Stephen Ingram that addresses the heresy of “Keeping Christ In Christmas”:

At the core of the problem is that any time people of faith chant slogans or mandate parade themes like “keeping Christ in Christmas” or “Put Christ back in Christmas” we prove ourselves people of little faith. When these are our battle cries we reduce the presence and power of God to only be where a government or law allows God. When we do this we deny that God was there before us, is there with us now and will be there long after we are gone. When we try to force God on others we reincarnate some of the worst epochs of our religious history, and default on its core founding principles of Love, Grace and Hospitality.

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To read the article in its entirety, click here: http://www.organicstudentministry.com/?p=61156

For fans of Left Behind…

Here’s an excerpt from a great article by Sam Storms that highlights some of the problems with Premillennialism:

My departure from premillennialism and embrace of amillennialism was gradual and came as a result of two discoveries as I studied Scripture. First, I devoted myself to a thorough examination of what the New Testament said would occur at the time of Christ’s second coming (or parousia). What I found was a consistent witness concerning what would either end or begin as a result of our Lord’s return to the earth. Sin in the lives of God’s people, corruption of the natural creation, and the experience of physical death would terminate upon the appearance of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the resurrection of the body, the final judgment, and the inauguration of the New Heavens and New Earth would ensue. But why is this a problem for premillennialism? Good question.

Scriptural Challenges for Premillenialists…

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To read the article in its entirety, click here: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-i-changed-my-mind-about-the-millennium

What is God like?

  • Do you believe God cannot be in the presence of sinful people?
  • Do you believe God can never really be pleased with you because you still sin?
  • Do you believe the only reason God loves you is that when he looks at you, he sees his Son rather than the sinful wretch that you are?
  • Do you believe the only reason he has a relationship with you is that when he looks at you, he sees his Son rather than the sinful wretch that you are?
  • Do you believe the only reason he hasn’t consigned you to hell is that when he looks at you he sees his Son rather than the sinful wretch that you are?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, I’ll bet it’s not because you came to this conclusion from reading the Bible.* I’ll bet the person who taught you to believe this way was also taught to believe this and if you were to trace it back through history, you would see a line connecting you to Calvin, Luther, and Augustine.

While all of these men were men of God and great theologians, Luther and Calvin held firmly to Augustine’s formulation of “original sin” and “original guilt.”

One result of this belief was their extremely pessimistic view of humanity, which caused them to believe all humans are guilty of Adam’s sin and are so depraved they can do nothing good. This in turn led to the development of the doctrines of unconditional election, irresistible grace, and the denial (by many in the church) of human libertarian free will.

Another result was their doctrine of paedobaptism: Any baby not baptized would go to hell if they were to die.

The truth is God hates sin, but he loves ALL people. And he has a special love for his children—those who have placed their faith in him. And when God looks at his children…he sees his children, warts and all, and he lavishes them with his love. God does not give a derisive snort and throw something against the wall every time that we sin. He does want us to change, to be conformed to the image of his Son and his Spirit is at work within us to that end, but he loves us every step of the way. Like the good father that he is, he sees and fully understands our weaknesses, but loves us unconditionally!

Stop thinking of God as a perfectionistic tyrant, and see him as Jesus—God in the flesh (John 14:9).

 

 

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*I’ll grant that some may answer one or more of the questions at the beginning of this post affirmatively after reading a handful of proof texts. However, the Bible isn’t meant to be read this way. Verses are a part of the whole and must be interpreted within context as they relate to the whole.

What is Hyper-grace?

Hyper-grace says all of your sins—past, present, and future—were forgiven at the cross so there is no reason for believers to ever ask for forgiveness since God now sees you as perfect. It also says if you feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit when you do wrong, ignore it because it must be from Satan.

This is a perversion of the truth. Yes, our sins were paid for on the cross, but sanctification is a lifelong process. When we sin, we are to repent and then God forgives our sin (1 John 1:9).

Hyper-grace goes hand in hand with easy believism—say a sinner’s prayer then feel free to ignore everything the Bible says about holy living and obeying God’s commands; after all, when God looks at you, he sees Jesus.

Again, this is a perversion. Grace has not clouded God’s vision; he sees you just as you are and he wants you to be transformed into the likeness of his son.

This false doctrine emphasizes a few “proof texts” while ignoring much that Jesus and his apostles taught.

Salvation vs. Rewards

The Bible clearly says that we are saved by faith with works since faith without works is dead; however, faith is the means by which we are saved. Works done in obedience to Christ demonstrate that faith is genuine and show God’s love to the world. This demonstration is not to inform God; God knows all things, including our hearts, so if a person is unable to do good works as a result of a disability or some other reason, he need not fret about losing his salvation since he is united with Christ (“in Christ”).

So good works demonstrate that our faith is genuine and are a means of showing God’s love to others, but good works also produce future rewards. We have not “just been saved from eternal damnation.” We have been empowered to serve Christ faithfully, something which he treasures and rewards. As Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” (Matt. 16:27)

Consider these verses:

“God will give to each person according to what he has done.” (Romans 2:6)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

“Because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:8)

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age” 1 Tim 6:18-19.

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys ” (Luke 12:33 ).

It’s critical to understand that the judgment of believers by Christ is a judgment of our works. In 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, Paul says of each believer, “His work will be shown for what it is,” and God’s judgment fire “will test the quality of each man’s work.”

Through this reward system, the believer is considered to be receiving his “due” for his works—good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10).

It’s also critical to remember that those who are in Christ need not have fear of condemnation on the Day of Judgment: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
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Q&A

Q1: What about the story Jesus told of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46? Doesn’t it teach that a lack of good works can keep one from not just receiving rewards, but from receiving eternal life?
A1: This was a story Jesus told to his disciples as he was teaching them how they should live. The primary purpose of the story seems to be to show the importance of looking out for the needs of others, specifically brothers and sisters in the faith. The “sheep” were the “doers” of the word; they had faith and it was demonstrated through good deeds. On the other hand, any faith the “goats” may have had was nothing more than intellectual assent. Their lives were characterized as looking out for only their own selfish desires.

Q2: Doesn’t Matthew 7:21-23 teach that even with faith and good works, we can be blindsided on the Day of Judgment?
A2: No. The verses preceding this talk about hypocrites and false prophets. These are people who claim to have faith (and works to demonstrate it), but in reality, they are “bad trees” pretending to bear “good fruit.” Since Christ knows the heart of all men, he cannot be taken in. This is why he says, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

Q3: What if I don’t care about rewards? Do I still have to do good works?
A3: It’s not about what we “have to” do. And it’s not just about future rewards. Loving others is one of the best ways to tell God, “I love you!”

Are you righteous?

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You? ’

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these * brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you didn’t take Me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of Me.’

“Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You? ’

“Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as [Christ] is righteous. (1 john 3:7)

Righteousness doesn’t come from saying a prayer, being baptized, going to church, or reading scripture. We are righteous if our faith motivates us to do good works in obedience to Christ. If we remain in Christ, there will be no fear of condemnation on the Day of Judgment.