Tag Archives: Election

Thoughts from Jude (part 1)

“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:1–2 ESV)

Jude writes to those who are called – “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30 ESV).  Don’t miss the string here – or elsewhere in scripture – there are no human fingerprints on it!  God called us to be His BELOVED (those are familial words) and He will KEEP US in Christ Jesus.  He predestines, He calls, He justifies, He keeps & He glorifies.  We are along for the ride as we ACTIVELY contend for the faith.

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4 ESV)

Ungodly people had crept in and perverted the truth.  These were designated for destruction – they did not catch God off guard and they did not cause God to have to figure out what He was going to do!  They were unnoticed because they acted like Christians, but were not.  They talked it, but did not walk it.  They perverted grace and made it cheap grace, which is no grace at all.  Cheap grace always produces license – sensuality.  They ultimately denied Christ by their actions and unwillingness to submit to His commands and obey Him.  We may be able to talk a good talk, quote bible verses, walk aisles & pray prayers, but ultimately if we are not willing to walk in joyful obedience to Christ and submit to Him then we prove ourselves to be on shifting sand.  This is perhaps the greatest risk in our modern evangelical churches.  We don’t know what we believe, we don’t teach it and people have a very weak view of God and His grace.  God is nice, but He is not compelling.  Unless one has been deeply moved by the sovereign majesty of God, he will not understand the grace that has been given to him – He will not be moved to worship or obey.
  This is why Jude starts with God calling, God loving & God keeping.  Most in our midsts today would not deny Jesus explicitly, but deny Him by the way that they live.  He is not important to them, He is not the hub that their lives revolve around, He is not adored or served, He is just One of many gods in our lives.  This should scare us all!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 ESV)

Jesus saved a people out Egypt.  Wow, Jude is saying that Jesus is God!  Powerful.  Those who did not believe were destroyed in the desert – that should really scare us.  These were people that experienced the miraculous deliverance God had provided them from Egypt, His commands at Sinai and His ongoing deliverance and guidance.  And yet they did not believe and were destroyed for their unbelief.  Our battle is for belief!  Those who did not endure in belief did not see the Promised Land (1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:16–19) – and neither will we unless we endure.  Judgement awaits those who persist in unbelief!

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” (Jude 1:8–10 ESV)

These false teachers had come to rely on the subjectivity of their dreams instead of the objectivity of the scriptures.  Revelatory dreams still happen, but they should always be subjected to the authority of scripture. These people pollute the flesh and defy authority. They blaspheme the glorious One.

We do not know what Jude is referring to in verse 10, it has been lost in history. Won’t it be a glorious day when we can see more fully what we only see in part now!?  Michael understood his place in God’s created order so he did not tread on God’s authority. Lord, help us to learn from your authority!  Michael left the devil to God’s authority.

These false teachers operated on their instincts (like an animal) instead of on the authority of scripture.  We must subdue our instincts, feelings and sinful thoughts – they must be engaged by the grace of God and wrestled into submission by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  All that these people knew was how to follow their instincts and feelings regardless of whether they adhered to God’s moral decrees or not. This is dangerous – this is how people end up in the weeds and destroy their lives and the lives of others.

“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:11–13 ESV)

These false teachers were motivated by coveting and greed because they were dissatisfied with the position that they currently occupied. He uses examples of Cain (Genesis 4:5-8), Balaam (Numbers 22:5-7, 2 Peter 2:15) and Korah (Numbers 16:1-3, 31-35). How often do we get derailed by being dissatisfied with where we are in life? We need believe that our deepest satisfaction in life is found in an abiding relationship with Jesus alone.  It is not found in the next accomplishment, relationship or position in life.

These false teachers are like hidden reefs because they are suffering no immediate consequences for their sinful behavior. This is sad! Like a ship sailing on the open water thinking that things are OK until they strike the reef just below the surface. These people live openly depraved lives and experience no consequences for their sinful behavior. They do what they want and are largely unchecked. Why is this? One can only speculate, but I wonder if this is because we don’t like conflict or because we feel like we are being ungracious by judging or confronting someone else?  It is not ungracious or unloving to confront people in their sin – it is what is required to help people see the light of day, though it is incredibly difficult!

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Job & Noah’s Righteousness

“And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.

“If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they ravage it, and it be made desolate, so that no one may pass through because of the beasts, even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate.

“Or if I bring a sword upon that land and say, Let a sword pass through the land, and I cut off from it man and beast, though these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they alone would be delivered.

“Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

“For thus says the Lord GOD: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! But behold, some survivors will be left in it, sons and daughters who will be brought out; behold, when they come out to you, and you see their ways and their deeds, you will be consoled for the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, for all that I have brought upon it. They will console you, when you see their ways and their deeds, and you shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, declares the Lord GOD.””

(Ezekiel 14:12–23 ESV)

These verses might strike us strangely because the bible overwhelming communicates that no one is righteous before a perfectly holy God.  We were dead, enemies, objects of wrath, rebellious and wicked (Ephesians 2:1-3).  So when we come across verses like these, it may seem like the bible is contradicting itself.  The bible always interprets the bible so there must be something else going on here.  The context of this passage in Ezekiel is regarding the severity of judgement that is to come.  Noah saved 7 additional people because of his “righteousness” and Job interceded for his moron (my interpretation) friends and God “heard his prayer” (Job 42:8–9 ESV).  But despite their previous ability to intercede on behalf of their friends & family, their righteous lives would not be enough to save anyone in light of how egregious the people’s current sinfulness was.

Neither Ezekiel (nor God) are trying to communicate that these men were perfectly pure or holy; the intent is to communicate that these men were morally upright & did what was right in the eyes of God and others.  They are like what we would describe as a “good guy” today.  We know what we mean when we say that someone is a good guy – faithful to their wife, honest, a hard worker, etc…Morally upright.  That is what the bible is communicating regarding these men.  Indeed, Noah blows it big time after the flood when he gets drunk and passes out in his tent “like a redneck on vacation” (Mark Driscoll’s commentary from Genesis 9:21 from On the Old Testament).  Job also had an overwhelming sense that he could successfully argue his case before God and win – does that sound familiar?  We know how that worked out for him!

Ezekiel is communicating that even though these guys were morally upright and that they saved others from judgement, the current sin was too great for them to save anyone but themselves.  When we see judgement in the Old Testament it is ultimately pointing to the destruction of the wicked at the end of the world.  This is most poignantly seen in the destruction of men, women & children when the Israelites take the promised land (that is a whole other discussion!).  How do we avoid this judgement & destruction?  By being perfectly righteous.  There are only 2 ways to be righteous – live a perfect life and obey all of the commandments all of the time or trust in Someone who would do that for you.

The most beautiful thing about this passage and ultimately about “righteous” Noah & Job is that God would accept the righteousness of another on our behalf.  It was Noah’s righteousness that saved his family.  Jesus is the true and better Noah.  It is by Jesus’ righteousness that we are saved.  So do we strive to rest on our own righteousness or are we grateful and rest upon the righteousness of Another.  This is seeing Jesus in the story of Noah.  The story of Noah points outside of the judgement & destruction brought by the Flood to the True Noah that would deliver many more than seven from the ultimate flood of God’s wrath & ultimate destruction.  Job interceded on behalf of his friends (Job 42:8-9) at the command of God.  Did God hear his prayer because he was righteous?  Yes.  The text points outside of itself to One who is truly righteous and intercedes on behalf of far more than just three friends.  Jesus is the true and better Job that sits at the right hand of God and intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:34).

It is not through our moral striving and obedience that we are righteous and accepted before God.  Though we may be good compared to others, we are far from righteous!  It is by faith, belief that we are made righteous.  Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6 which is quoted 4 times in the NT:  Romans 4:3, 22; Galatians 3:6 & James 2:23).  It is beautiful to see that Noah’s righteousness was imputed to his family and Job’s intercession on behalf of his friends was heard by God.  We have a much better Noah & Job.  Rest on Him and not on your own righteousness.

The Lord is Patient Toward You

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”(2 Peter 3:8–10 ESV)

This is a very controversial passage of scripture around which many arguments have erupted.  This seems to be one of the primary passages that we gravitate towards when we want to place our own freewill at the pinnacle of the bible.  But, before we can come to any conclusions regarding this passage, we need to understand the context of it and what the Apostle was attempting to communicate to His readers.  Far too often, we grab a verse that sounds nice and begin to apply it without ever having a good understanding of the context and the author’s intent.

The first question we need to answer is who the letter is addressed to?  Peter writes this letter from prison in Rome and knows that he will soon be executed for his faith (2 Peter 1:14-15).  The letter was written to Christians (2 Peter 1:1).  In the opening verses of this epistle, Peter affirms that there are no tiers in Christianity. He is an apostle – He walked with Jesus, personally – but, their faith is equal to his (1:1).  There is no varsity squad &  junior varsity squad in Christianity.  Their faith is equal to our faith. Our faith is obtained by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  This faith was obtained – we did not possess it on our own. It is a gift that was earned by the righteousness of Christ.  Peter calls Jesus God here which is one of the strongest New Testament arguments for the divinity of Jesus.

Why did Peter write this letter?  Peter is in Rome nearing his imminent execution (1:12-15) so what He covers in this letter is of utmost importance in his mind.  He covers such sweeping themes as God’s grace toward us and it’s centrality in our ongoing sanctification, the pursuit of holiness, the Lord’s patience towards us and He combats false teachers & scoffers who had managed to work their way into the church and were doubting God’s presence & faithfulness.

We want to gravitate towards the part of this passage that says that God “is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (3:9b).  What is truly unbelievable is the preceding part of this verse that says that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you” (3:9a).  That is spectacular!  Don’t run past it!  What we perceive as slowness is really God’s patient mercy.  If I were God, I would have ended it all at Genesis 3 or 6:5-6, so the fact that we have air, gravity, water, a planet to inhabit and enjoy is nothing but His benevolent grace towards His creatures that want nothing to do with Him; we want His blessings & gifts, but don’t really want Him.  All of us – believer & nonbeliever alike – are recipients of His common grace.  If this part does not wow you and cause you to worship the Almighty then you are missing one of Peter’s main points!

The broader context of this verse helps us because it is eschatological in nature. It is titled, “The Day of the Lord Will Surely Come (3:1–13).”  What Peter is combatting is what the scoffers have been saying in the church – that God is distant, disconnected & slow in acting (3:1-7).  There is much connection between Peter’s Jewish eschatological beliefs (see Habakuk 2:3) and the point that He is making here.  The Word Biblical Commentary is quite helpful in interpreting this section of the passage.  It says, “God desires all, without exception, to repent and escape damnation. But (“all”) is clearly limited by (“you”). There is no thought here of the Christian mission”  The author remains close to his Jewish source, for in Jewish thought it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment. Here it is for the sake of the repentance of 2 Peter’s Christian readers. No doubt repentance from those sins into which some of them have been enticed by the false teachers (2:14, 18; 3:17) is especially in mind.  We need not suppose that the author put the false teachers themselves entirely beyond possibility of repentance and salvation, but here he addresses his readers, who are distinguished from the false teachers (3:5, 8, 17).”

God takes not delight in the destruction of anyone that bears His image – even the most wicked.  He is connected to them and derives no pleasure in their destruction.  Though we have seen that the “all” in this passage is limited by the “you,” some will still use this passage to argue that it is the will of God that all people on planet earth be saved.  All people are clearly not saved so one of these must be true:
1) God is not able to save all people,
2) Some will not turn to God because their free will prohibits them,
3) Peter (and Paul) are lying, or
4) God has another purpose.

It is interesting that God seems to desire something that does not come to pass. He certainly has the power, so why not fulfill His every desire?  He desired that Adam & Eve would not have sinned and He desires that we walk faithfully to His revealed will.  We rarely walk faithfully, so God does not always fulfill His wants.  Some would say it is because He is is a gentlemen and will not force Himself upon anyone. This sounds nice to my flesh, but is contrary to the overall teaching of the scriptures. God has many desires that are not met (yet) because they all come under his ultimate desire – that He be glorified.  Some would disagree with this and teach that God’s greatest desire is for human free will.  If I’m honest, I like this because it appeals to my sense of control over my destiny, to my ability to choose, to my autonomy and control over my life (kind of sounds like the original sin, doesn’t it!).  But, if I’m intellectually honest – my free will has never been my friend, it has always been my enemy.  I always chose (apart from God’s regenerating my heart) what I saw as best and most beautiful – which was always me, my sin and my way and NEVER GOD.

One of the overarching themes of the scriptures is God’s electing love. God chooses people to shower His affection on – not because they are worthy of it or because they sought it. God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He chose Joseph over his brothers, He chose, David, the prophets, and Moses.  Men did not chose Him, they did not seek Him. God’s glory is most shown by redeeming a rebellious people. He is most glorified when He takes the heart of a dead man and makes it new, when He showers him with His saving love and that man comes alive. He is most glorified when He takes a dead heart of stone and makes it a soft, sensitive heart of flesh.  This is the power for us to love even when the love of others is not reciprocal.

Paul helps us with this in Romans 9:  “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— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 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?” 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? 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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”” (Romans 9:11–26 ESV).

God gets no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32 & 33:11) – indeed there is a sense of sorrow & remorse at the destruction of that which was created in His image.  The problem is that we lack the ability to come to God, apart from Him calling us. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Some will say, “yes, no one can come unless God calls” (Jesus said so over and over in the gospels, especially in John) so God calls some (or all, depending on one’s belief) and those who respond of their own free will are saved.  The problem with this theology is what the rest of the bible teaches; this is man centered, intellectually lazy & theologically shallow.  There are challenges with the sovereignty of God in election and salvation, but by far and away the continuous theme in the scriptures is one of God’s effectual, electing love.  We would rather stop short and avoid asking all of the questions. There are mysteries, for sure, but there are not nearly as many as we’d like to lazily believe.  When we face these mysteries, we must ask Who & what is ultimate?  God’s glory or ours?  If we are the ultimate determining factor in salvation then we are most glorified.

All of history is in the hands of the Lord and it is moving to the climax of Jesus’ return and restoration of all things.  Verse 9 is in response to the scoffer’s accusations in the immediately preceding verses saying that God is absent, disconnected, aloof and slow to act.  Peter says, “no He is delaying because He is patient with you – He is providing an opportunity for more people to respond to the Gospel by faith.”  God is indeed slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Exodus 34:6).  God’s patience is a central theme in the Old Testament and indeed it is a central theme in our own lives.  It is beyond me how the perfect holiness of God tolerates the continual rebellion and perversion of His creatures.  This is the definition patience.  Though He is long suffering, He will not tolerate it forever – His wrath will be spilled – and rightfully so!  He is patient, but His patience with sinners will eventually expire and all that there will be is His just wrath and judgement.  In the meantime, His patience are meant to lead you to repentance.  Will you repent & believe?

Remember

“So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:7–10 ESV)

Glory & honor is for those who are built upon the Cornerstone; it is not for those who reject the Cornerstone.  Jesus is a stumbling stone and a rock of offense to unbelievers & especially to the Jews:  “And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:14 ESV).  But, God is an obstacle that people cannot overcome!  They stumble because they disobey – as they were destined to do.  Unless God regenerates the heart, we all walk in disobedience and blindness.  Peter sounds like Paul here in Ephesians 1:11 (“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”).  God works all things according to the counsel of His will.  The disobedience of unbelievers is due to their own disbelief & it is their responsibility.  This is not intended to foster fatalism, but to encourage the heart of true believers. Nothing catches God off guard; God has never said, “I didn’t see that one coming, what should I do now.”  So those who were persecuting Peter’s readers and pressing against them unjustly – those who were the source of their suffering will one day see ultimate justice.  One day, all sin will be justly paid for – either by the blood of Christ or by the sinner himself; justice will be served.

We don’t stumble about like blind men; we see the Cornerstone for who He is.  We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.  This is not because we chose God, but because He chose us.  He called us out of darkness and into His glorious light.  He’s the One that calls; He’s the One that saves, not us!  And why does He redeem us?  He saves us to glorify Him (proclaiming the excellency of Him who has called us).  We were nobody’s and now we are somebody because we are His children.  We had no mercy, now we have profound mercy.  Praise God!  Hosea speaks this way regarding Israel (Hosea 1:6, 9, 10; 2:23), but the church is the fulfillment of these prophecies – we are now a people – according to His sovereign grace.

Regardless of the situation that is currently staring you in the face, regardless of the persecution and injustice that you are facing, there is cause for rejoicing.  Don’t ignore the difficulty and pain and pretend that it does not exist; Christianity is not about producing cold, emotionless Stoics!  But remember that this is not your true home – you are a sojourner, an exile.  Remember that you have an inheritance that is far greater than anything that the world has ever seen.  Remember that you are a beloved, chosen child.  Remember that this life is short and momentary.  Remember that God’s approval and affection for you has nothing to do with how faithful that you are, but rather how Faithful Jesus was.  Remember…

Faithfulness’s Fuel

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:13–21 ESV)

This section starts with “therefore” which causes us to first reflect on Peter’s previous train of thought which was because God has saved you & is ensuring an inheritance that is spectacular – let us set our hope FULLY on the grace of Jesus Christ!  We are to do this by dwelling on, mulling over & meditating upon true & transcendent things – things which we easily forget.  We have to get outside of ourselves and our worlds and the difficulties that we face and think on ultimate realities.  Realities like this world is transient and is coming to an end, a perfect and never ending kingdom is coming in which we will dwell as sons of God.  God’s undeserved approval has been showered upon us, not because of what we have done or can do, but solely upon His sovereign goodness & grace.

Peter calls us not to be conformed to the “passions of our former ignorance.”  Passions are our inner drives and desires, deep down things, not merely behavioral things.  Peter’s exhortation to his readers is to be like Dad.  Our holiness & sanctification is tied to our identity as His children.  If you read this as a list of what you must do and how you must behave without marrying it to your identity in Jesus Christ then you have departed from the gospel of grace and have embraced a works based righteousness theological system.  The entire book of Galatians is a treatise on how they had departed from the gospel and embraced works based righteousness.  Paul deploys strong words in his epistle to the Galatians like bewitched (3:1), emasculate (5:12) and accursed (1:8) to communicate the danger of departing from grace and embracing works based righteousness.  Gospel oriented sanctification, or grace driven effort, is rooted in what God has done for us and our identity as His children.  It seeks to root out idols of the heart by identifying the false beliefs that drive our external behaviors.  It is root focuses, not fruit focused.  Works based righteousness places the responsibility for change primarily upon our shoulders – it is up to us to manage our sin.  It is primarily focused on our behavior and never asks the deeper question of what is driving our sinful behavior.  It is fruit focused, not root focused.

Our God is our Father and Judge.  We will be called to account for how we stewarded our lives in this world which should strike sobriety in our souls.  We should have a reverent fear and awe of God as we live our lives.  God is still a consuming fire Who is too glorious for man to see; He’s not our buddy, He’s the Almighty Creator who breathes galaxies into place.  Because of our identity as His children, we should walk in ways that are in keeping with our identity – this is not by focusing upon external behavior modification.  The external things that we do that are sinful should be ferociously attacked on the surface to hold them at bay, but the deeper question of what is driving them needs to be answered.  When their source is identified, God can remove the roots that are causing the sin.  We should walk in holy, reverent awe of God as our time as exiles in this world knowing that a perfect place in the presence of God is our future inheritance (a new Eden).

We are to walk in reverent awe (fear) because we were rescued at great cost – the cost was the blood of God Himself.  God died for our sins.  What sacrifice?  He tasted death, wrath & separation; the God who was never created and is perfectly holy was dipped in the disgust of sin, was separated from all goodness and bore His own wrath for me.  I was indeed bought with a price.  We were delivered from a life of meaningless futility where we are constantly chasing after the wind to one of profound significance; He breaks our bondage to generational sins and frees us.

The cross was the plan before time began.  It is not plan “B” because plan “A” did not work out.  Before anything was formed or put into motion, Jesus knew He would die to atone for the sins of His chosen people.  But, this complete revelation was not made known until recently (2000 years ago) for our sake.  Jesus was raised so our hope is firmly planted on the One that death could not hold.  What profound encouragement & glory.  Understanding and embracing that God has bought us with a profound price and that our inheritance is glorious provides fuel for us to walk faithfully.

Chosen to be trophies of His grace

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16 ESV)

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19 ESV)

In case you have forgotten, the bible explicitly proclaims from Genesis to Revelation that He chose us, we did not choose Him.  He was the initiator, He was the one that sought us – we did not seek Him.  No one seeks God (Romans 3:11), we were spiritually dead (Genesis 2:17, Ephesians 2:1-10).  This means that if you are a Christian, then you were chosen according to God’s sovereign electing purposes which are mysterious to us.  You were not chosen because you were more spiritually attuned, more moral, had the right upbringing or because of what you would become after God saved you.  You were chosen to be a trophy of His grace.  You were (and still are) undeserving.  When you present yourself as worthy before God, He finds it disgusting (Isaiah 64:6) because you are not and the fact that you are trying to present yourself that way indicates that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of grace.

He foreknew you and predestined (determined before He created anything) you to be conformed into the image of His Son.  He predestined, He called, He justified and He will be faithful to glorify (Romans 8:29-30).  There is nothing about you doing anything in Romans 8:29-30, the emphasis is upon a gracious, saving, adopting God who redeems enemies and adopts them as family.  The more we understand this, the more that we worship God with hearts of gratitude.

A few passages to consider:

  • Deuteronomy 4:37-39 (God loved & chose Abraham & his offspring), 7:6-9 (it is not because we are awesome that He set His saving affections upon us, but because of His love & sovereign choosing), 10:14-15 (God owns everything and yet, He set His heart upon us), 14:2 (the Lord chose you as His treasured possession out of all of the people of the earth)
  • Isaiah 41:8-10, 44:18-20 (God blinds those who worship idols), 48 (God uses Cyrus, a pagan king), 57:18-19 (God creates repentant hearts), 65:1 (sought by those who did not ask for God)
  • Ezekiel 33:11 (God desires that all be saved and finds no joy in those who reject the Gospel)
  • Luke 24:31 (their eyes were opened, and they recognized him)
  • John 3:27 (A person cannot receive one thing unless it is given to him from heaven), 8:47 (those of God hear God), 10:26 (you don’t believe because you aren’t part of Jesus’ flock), 13:18, 15:16 (You did not choose me, I chose you), 15:19 (I chose you out of the world), 18:37
  • Romans 10:20 (Gentiles, who did not seek God found Him)
  • Ephesians 1:4-11, Ephesians 2:1-9 (But God, being rich in mercy, made you alive)
  • Colossians 2:11-15 (He made you alive)
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14 (God chose you to be first fruits)
  • 1 Peter 1:3-5 (He has caused us to be born again)
  • 1 Timothy 2:4 (God desires that all be saved and finds no joy in those who reject the Gospel)
  • 1 John 4:6

Law doesn’t inspire the heart

““You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 11:18–22 ESV)

The way to avoid our hearts from wandering is to lay up the words of God in our hearts and souls, teaching them to our children and placing practical reminders around us.  This isn’t just the law (or a moral checklist) because the law, on its own, does not inspire the heart.  God is after a heartfelt love for Him.  This has to also include the constant, persistent recalling of God’s goodness, faithfulness & provision to an undeserving people (you & me).  This is a major theme in Deuteronomy – Moses continually unpacks the majestic power & greatness of God and the Israelite’s rebellion & hard heartedness. He anticipates that they will be prone to rob God of His glory by attributing the abundance in their lives to something else – and they did.  We do the same thing today.

Perhaps, we should follow the pattern of intentionally recalling God’s goodness, faithfulness & provision to us despite our persistent hard heartedness toward Him.  We need constant reminding that we are not deserving, but objects of His mercy – not because of anything that we did or will do.  He chose us because He is gracious and is working good, not because we did/do good.

The goodness in our lives is not because we are awesome & obedient, the goodness in our lives is because God is gracious

““Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’” (Deuteronomy 8:11–17 ESV)

When we are in times of relative prosperity, ease, comfort and blessing, we must be aware that we don’t forget the Lord, who benevolently gave us all that we have.  Our hearts run the risk of being “lifted up” and forgetting the Lord.  Remember, remember remember that God delivered you, led you, provided for you, loved you – even in your rebellion.  Beware and remember the benevolence of God and your weak, frail, depravity, “lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’” (Deuteronomy 8:17 ESV).  We deserve nothing, not EVEN breath!  Everything is a gift from on high, it is not because we unlocked the secret spiritual code, executed better than others, worked harder, were wiser or did something on our own to deserve the good that we have.  God’s grace is the reason that you have any of these things.  REMEMBER AND BE OBEDIENT OUT OF GRATITUDE FOR GOD’S GOODNESS AND PROVISION FOR YOU!

The people are warned not to say in their heart, “‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’” (Deuteronomy 9:4 ESV).  If the Israelites were prone to forget God’s miraculous provision even though they had experienced profound miracles, how much more are we prone to forget.  The Lord is the One who thrust their adversaries out of the land because of their wickedness and because of His covenant to Abraham.  It is “not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land” (Deuteronomy 9:5 ESV).  These people are the recipients of God’s grace – unearned, undeserved, unmerited.  They are not receiving the land because the followed well enough, trusted deeply enough or were more spiritually attuned.  No!  They were being given the land because of God’s righteousness, glory and grace.

The goodness in our lives is not because we are awesome & obedient, the goodness in our lives is because God is gracious – we deserve nothing except wrath because of our rebellious nature.  The Israelites would have viewed their military victories as a result of their righteousness and God rewarding them for that – this is the same way that we think today, but God completely obliterates that thinking.  “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9:6 ESV)  He reminds them of their rebellion every since He had delivered them from Egypt.  We are cut from the same cloth as these ancient people.  We readily take credit for the good in our lives as if we deserve them and quickly cast blame (often times on God) for hardships in life.

We must work to remember & believe that God is good, does good and is able to accomplish His purposes.  When we believe this then we are able to handle good & bad things because we know that our good Father is sovereignly reigning over all things – even things that we can’t understand.  We no longer have to carry the weight of being god in our world because we know that there is a God who is on the throne.

Remember

““Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’”
Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land
“Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.”
(Deuteronomy 9:4-7 ESV)

The people are called to go into an intimidating land and conquer it – a land that is populated with those who are greater & mightier with fortified cities.  This is why they didn’t go into the land the first time – the spies (except Joshua & Caleb) said that the people were too mighty for Israel to over throw (Numbers 13:28-14:10).  The Israelites are reminded that these people were indeed mighty and their cities were fortified, but their God was mightier!

God then issues a warning to the people: “Do not say in your heart, ‘it is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land” (verse 4, also 8:17).  They would have viewed their military victories as God rewarding them for their righteousness; God completely obliterates that thinking.  God reminds them that they were the recipients of His grace – unearned, undeserved, unmerited.  They were not receiving the land because they followed or obeyed well enough, trusted deeply enough or were more spiritually attuned.  No!  They were being given the land because of God’s righteousness, glory and grace (see verses 5-7).

We are not much different than the Israelites.  We tend to believe that the good things in our lives are the result of our obedience, intelligence or hard work.  We think that God is our cosmic genie who is obligated to reward us; He owes us.  Nothing could be further from the truth that the bible paints for us.  The goodness in our lives is not because we are awesome & obedient; the goodness in our lives is because God is gracious – we deserve nothing, but wrath because of our (ongoing) rebellion.  All good things are a gift as Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “what do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”  We are owed nothing, not even breath – everything is a gift from on high, it is not because you unlocked the secret spiritual code, executed better than others, worked harder, were wiser or did something on your own to deserve the good that you have.  God’s grace is the reason that you have any good things.

It seems like we are hard wired to take credit for the good in our lives and forget the grace of God.  So how do keep the right perspective that it is God who benevolently gives us good because He is gracious, not because we are deserving?  The answer is to REMEMBER.  Deuteronomy 8:18 tells us to “remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” and 9:7 tells us to “remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.”  The people were called to remember their moral failures and disobedience in the wilderness to crush their self righteous pride.

You are called to remember that God delivered you, led you, provided for you, loved you – even in your rebellion.  You were dead in your trespasses, but God, being rich in mercy, made you alive (Ephesians 2:4–5).  You did not do anything to deserve it, you didn’t earn it, it is only by His benevolent grace that He made your heart alive to spiritual things.

Remembering involves deliberate, dependent discipline.  There is indeed action on our part.  Our role is to get ourselves in proximity to the waterfall of God’s grace and beg Him to ignite our hearts.  The Spirit ignites the kindling that we gather around us.  So let us work at gathering kindling and get ourselves in close proximity to the Almighty and beg Him to ignite our souls.

Moses the Mediator

“And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’” (Deuteronomy 5:24–27 ESV)

In verse 27, the people request a mediator because they feared the glory of the Lord; their reverence & fear is appropriate because man does not get to speak with the Almighty and live, unless He is merciful.  The glory was too great for their souls to bear, this is reminiscent of Isaiah’s experience in the temple when he was struck with fear at the presence of the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-7).  Most people lack this awe of the Almighty today.  The people feared the voice of the Lord so greatly that that were content to have Moses listen to God and relay the message.  It is ironic that they were so moved with fear of the living God then they quickly left Him and complained against Him as if He were like the impotent idols of Egypt.

God deems their assessment as true and right (v28), but the Sovereign, who is out side of time, laments:  “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV).  He knows the open rebellion that His people (and all people) will continue to walk in and the cost to buy back this rebellious lot.

God obliges the people and gives Moses His laws.  The purpose of the law was to reflect His perfection, to restrain sinful behavior in the community, to reveal our sinful hearts and to point us to the perfect Fulfiller of the law.  “You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.”  God calls them to obey and He will protect & prosper them.  Ultimately, we know, the people could not obey.  Thankfully, Someone has obeyed on our behalf.  (Deuteronomy 5:33 ESV).

Moses is a picture of the perfect Mediator (Hebrews 9:15 & 12:24) that was to come – One who would stand between us and a holy & perfect God to resolve the conflict the existed due to our openly rebellious hearts.  We are not worthy, but He set His saving affections upon us anyway.  This Mediator not just intercedes on your behalf, but He also gives you His perfect obedience to law so you can stop strivingThe proclamation of the cross is “it is finished.”