Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Can a baby choose to be born?

I've been pondering over John 3 (and related Numbers 21:5-9) and from a pre-reformed view I was having trouble grasping the text.
John 3:14
Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 3:15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
I kept wanting it to say that man has a choice, man has free will to choose salvation, God enabled man just enough to choose or deny him. Just look, God gave the Israelites the option to look or not look at the staff with a snake on it. So, since Jesus Himself is talking to Nicodemus and telling him that is what salvation is like then there is a choice. God must have enabled man to be able to choose Salvation. 'Believe in him and have eternal life.' But still, something just didn't sit right.

So I looked for some commentaries on it. No one I could find (of the teachers I was already reading) seemed to hit on it. They always looked around it, skipping to John 3:16 or going back to John 3:3.
So I tried to get some context...
Numbers 21:5-9
And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, for there is no bread or water, and we detest this worthless food.” 21:6 So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit the people; many people of Israel died. 21:7 Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord that he would take away the snakes from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 21:8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and set it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will live.” 21:9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole, so that if a snake had bitten someone, when he looked at the bronze snake he lived.
Recently my perspective has changed; I have started looking at the Bible from a reformed perspective, and it makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE!
Jesus wasn't telling Nicodemus about salvation in 3:14, He was prophesying what would happen to Himself. He wasn't talking about salvation, but faith.
God, who is already dealing with Moses and His chosen people (the Nation of Israel in the OT), tells them that to show their repentance they must look upon the snake and they will be healed. Here in the NT, Jesus, who is talking to His chosen people (those born from above) is saying that, like that snake on a stick, He will be put on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of His people. Notice how after God presented the opportunity to live, no other death is mentioned. Likewise, Jesus died for those who will put their faith in Him. With the working of the Spirit in you no one "chooses" spiritual death.

As you may very well know, my wife will be delivering our 3rd child in a few short weeks. And just like this child has no say in whether he's coming out or not, we have no say whether the Spirit, through the Father's election, gives us new birth. It is for His Glory alone. That is tough to take, I want to put my will above God's and say I did the choosing. And from my perspective I did, but from God's perspective He chose me. Yes, it is terrible that not all are chosen unto salvation (Matt 22:14), but Adam messed it up for all of us and God is fair and just. He doesn't send anyone to Hell- they are going there already. God, in his mercy, will save some of us. All I can do is reflect on the reverence Job had when he was put in his place by God (Job 38). Romans 9 is also a great section on God's mercy and who are we to argue with it.

38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you possess understanding!

Romans 9:20 But who indeed are you – a mere human being – to talk back to God? Does what is molded say to the molder,Why have you made me like this? 9:21 Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use?

Those of you filled with the Spirit, rejoice! Those of you not filled with the Spirit.. well, you probably aren't reading this blog anyways. I will live my life as a testimony to the grace God has bestowed upon me, love my neighbor, preach the Gospel, disciple fellow believers, and one day see Jesus in Heaven (Paradise restored).

Grace and peace to you. Amen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What is the purpose of Church?

This is a controversial topic for sure- has been for thousands of years. Not looking to stir up a wasp's nest here (pun intended), just providing some of my contemplations. My exploration of the subject started with the Great Commission being taught at church, in tandem with trying to understand Reformed Theology, and then followed by an article on the seeker sensitive church over at CRI. Those three thoughts merged and this question came about. This is how it changed my understanding of the Great Commission and the purpose of church.
The Great Commission
Matthew 28:16 So the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had designated. 28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. 28:18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 28:20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
For years this has always been presented to me in a fashion that seemed to change the text to say 'Go and make believers', not 'Go and make disciples'.
Contextually, the commission is telling the disciples to go and make more disciples. Which means taking those whom the Lord has ordained and instructing them in the same way Christ instructed His disciples, whom He hand picked.

How do you know who is ordained, or who you should present the Gospel to? This is the Reformed Theology part. If only it were as easy as Spurgeon is attributed with saying:
"If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn't I must preach "whosoever will" and when "whosoever" believes I know that he is one of the elect."
In obedience to Jesus' commands we definitely should proclaim the Gospel message. (Col 4:2-6) But how and when? Is church the place to do it? My quick response is, Yes! Proclaim the Good News in church.. duh. It benefits Christians to hear it too. But who is there with you, other believers or non believers? And why are they there? To be discipled, trained and educated, or just entertained like some 'seeker sensitive' churches. I hate that term. Don't get me wrong, some churches that are 'seeker sensitive' have great ministries. And just because you are a big church with good music doesn't mean you are doing it all wrong. But it's the seeker sensitive issue that got me thinking more about what church should be like, what the purpose of it is. Is it to edify they body of Christ or reach the unsaved with the Gospel? Do both, sure, but do you try to reach the unsaved so hard that you entertain more like the world we are called to be separated from.
Sacrificing the Bible for entertainment isn't really in line with "I have become all things to all people . . . for the sake of the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:22-23) We are not to be of the world. [1John 2:15] The Gospel isn't entertainment- it's grace, it's repentance, it's forgiveness.

In summary:
We don't need 'seeker sensitive' churches. God seeks us, we don't seek him. Rom. 3:11 "there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God." The Lord does the work; we obey him by encouraging and teaching believers. We are blessed to be used by God in response to His commands. Go out into your community and love, live, outreach and present the Good News! As God reveals himself to man, bring them as brothers and sisters adopted in Christ into the fold for worship, instruction, correction, and fellowship (2Ti 3:16). The Church is the body of believers, not a facility built for entertainment and fluffy feel good messages.

Romans 16:25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that had been kept secret for long ages, 16:26 but now is disclosed, and through the prophetic scriptures has been made known to all the nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – 16:27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory forever! Amen. -The Apostle Paul