The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Waffle House and Calvinism

Some of the best theological discussion takes place at Waffle House. Well, for me at least. When I really first became a Calvinist at college, there wasn't a Waffle House nearby, but across the street there was a Huddle House, which is basically a knock off version of a Waffle House. There me and two of my slightly older, much wiser Calvinist friends would talk about God and theology and philosophy. Since leaving that college and returning home, Dad and I have continued the tradition by talking theology at the Waffle House. It is something about the atmosphere and the fear/excitement that at any moment someone might start a gunfight in the parking lot that promotes deep theological and biblical insights and discussion. And you can never go to Waffle House until after 11 P.M. It is simply a fact of life. The service is horrible by then, the really shady people are in there, and you really wouldn't want it any other way.

Lately, in the last six months or so, I have had a few opportunities to talk about the gospel and Calvinism to a few of my Christian friends who are not Calvinists. Such an opportunity presented itself last night, in the parking lot this time, and for probably two hours or thereabouts we talked about the gospel, and then the doctrines of grace (Calvinism). I was glad to see that our discussion was promoting more questions and more thinking. Both of my friends began to think that, if predestination were true and God chooses who will and will not be saved, then God is not fair, we are just God's puppets, God is an egomaniac, etc.

Now please understand, I expected these objections. These are the type of objections that I was thinking of when I first heard about Calvinism and predestination and limited atonement. It never even occurred to me that God could still be good and loving and righteous and just if He didn't send Jesus to die for everyone. Now I realize that the only way God can be good, loving, righteous, gracious, and just is if He sent Jesus to die for a certain chosen people out of the world for Himself.

One thing that we spent a lot of time on in our discussion was how, unless God works in your heart, you will always, by your own free will, choose to reject God and live in sin. I talked about Romans 3 to support this, where it says that no one does good, no one is righteous, and no one seeks God. I also brought up Romans 9, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Acts 13:48, Acts 16:14, and 2 Timothy 2:24-26 to support predestination and God's sovereignty and choice over who He will and will not bring to faith and repentance by His grace and work of regeneration alone. Different objections rose, such as why do evangelism if God has already chosen who will be saved (the answer of course, is that God tells us to do evangelism precisely because God has chosen to bring those whom He has elected to salvation through the preaching of the gospel by men, therefore the evangelists job is to bring the elect/chosen people the gospel and let God do the working in their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit to bring them to faith and repentance), and why keep preaching the gospel to someone that rejects it since, according to one of my friend's thinking, that must mean they are not elect (to this I quoted 2 Timothy 2:24-26).

My friends also tried to come up with a scenario where you could know a person is not elect, and they seemed to suggest, in their thinking and words, that such a scenario would prove arrogant for the one who is elect because he can say, "God chose me, but not you." Of course, I didn't fully get to explain that God does NOT choose us because anything good that we have done, but simply out of the good pleasure of His will, to glorify His grace, as Ephesians 1:4-6 tells us. I did point out that it is actually the non-Calvinist position which says that God chooses those who "first choose Him," which would make it the non-Calvinist who should be boasting in himself at least in part rather than God. I posed that to them as a question, asking them why they are saved and forgiven and a person who dies and goes to hell isn't saved. I asked them, why did they chose Jesus Christ, and other people do not; it is either because God made you willing to believe, and then you believed, or you made yourself willing, and then you believed. They tried to mix the two together, and as I expected they said God gives grace and works in the hearts of all men, but that ultimately man must choose to accept Christ and co-operate with the conviction that God is working in the heart.

Of course, that dodges the question. The question still remains, why do some choose to co-operate with God's grace so that they have faith, and why do others reject God's grace and do not exercise faith? Either ultimately they create saving faith, or God convicts them to the point where He produces within them saving faith as a gift to those whom He has chosen to save (which is what Ephesians 2:8-10 teaches). Ultimately, if God doesn't produce saving faith within our hearts, then we do, and that would mean WE did something good in order to be saved, which is ultimately another form of works salvation. Of course, my friends, on the one hand, did not want to brag or take credit for doing the "good deed" of producing faith and repentance themselves, yet on the other hand they didn't want to say that God produced it either out of fear that that would make God unfair and violate human free will.

So then we started talking more about free will. I explained to them, again citing Romans 3, that no one does good, no one is righteous, and no one even seeks God, because we are dead in our trespasses and sins. I pointed out that it is not because of God that we are dead in trespasses and sins, but because of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Surprisingly, they didn't object to this, so I guess they understand the fairness and concept of Adam and Eve being our federal representatives. Since we are all of Adam and as long as we are in Adam, we are dead in trespasses and sins as well. Being spiritually dead, we are slaves to sin. Not slaves by force, but slaves by choice, by our own free will, our choosing. So I explained to them that, after the fall, we are still free to choose what we want, the problem is, all we want, because of our sinful nature, is sin, and not God, and not righteousness, and not salvation. I kept beating that horse until eventually I think they began to see what I was saying, even though they may have not liked all the implications they had yet to resolve and had more questions about the goodness of God because of it (and that is what happened to me too when I first was learning about Calvinism).

Now I think I did not present the best verses that demonstrate that God elects/chooses who will and will not be saved by predestination. I did not cite Ephesians 1:4-6. I should have, for it reads:

"just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved."

Now one of my friends who I was talking with pointed out, and I believe rightly so, that it was a bit unfair for me to quote all these verses and then give them my interpretation of it. And to an extent I agree, although I would ask them to look at Scripture for themselves, as I did, and I am convinced they will come over to see that Calvinism is the clear teaching of Scripture, and that God does predestine some to salvation and others to not be saved.

Now I want to quote from Jesus from John 6. This is probably the first place I should have went, but I failed to mention these verses at all. These really clinch Calvinism, because Jesus makes it so clear and because, after all, it is Jesus Himself who is saying it.

Now to fully understand the magnitude of this verse, some context verses must be given. Otherwise I will be charged with taking these verses and proof texts for Calvinism out of context. So, please, bear with me, read these verses, and see this life-transforming, God exalting truth.

32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
So we see that Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is salvation for everyone who believes in Him. Yet to get this eternal life and salvation from sin, you must come to Jesus (v.35), But then in verse 36 we see that Jesus says that some have seen Him yet still do not believe. Why? Jesus answers in verse 37 that the Father (God) gives Me (Jesus, the Son) certain people, and all that God the Father gives God the Son WILL come to God, and Jesus says He will not cast out those that come to Him.

Now we really begin to see what Jesus is saying in verse 44 of the same chapter. Here Jesus says,

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."

So notice what Jesus says in verse 35, verse 37, and verse 44. I want to put them side by side so you begin to see the picture:

35: And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

44: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."

These are all the words of Jesus, from the same chapter of the book of John. First Jesus says that all who come to Him will never hunger and never thirst (and in context we know that this means they will receive salvation from sin, because Jesus is the bread of life).

Then in verse 37 Jesus says that it is the Father, God, who gives Jesus those who will be saved, and those whom God gives Jesus WILL come to Jesus, and Jesus will receive them and save them. So we see already that God must do something in order for men to come to Jesus to be saved.

And then verse 44, which explains that "no one can" come to Jesus unless the Father (God) draws a person to Jesus. Notice, this doesn't say no one may come to Jesus, but that no one can. As our teachers in grade school so eloquently explain to us, can means that we are not capable, may means we do not have permission. God is not evil, because it is not as if God is not giving us permission to come to Jesus. No, Jesus is saying that, unless God draws man, no man is capable of coming to Jesus for salvation. Why? Because we are willing slaves to sin. The only way we can desire God and salvation from sins is if God gives us that desire through regeneration and the gift of faith.

Now some will object and try to say that God has drawn all men to Jesus, but some reject this drawing. There are several problems with that. First, Jesus says that all who God gives to Jesus will come to Jesus (verses 37,39). Not that they might come to Jesus, but that they will. Further, in the same chapter in verses 63-66 Jesus says:

"'It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe... therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by my Father.' From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more."
This removes all doubt. Jesus outright says here that the Spirit must give life, the flesh profits nothing. he then goes on and says that there are some who do not believe because, and Jesus repeats what He said in verse 44, "No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by my Father." The reaction to this? "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more."

People stopped listening to Jesus when they found out that they could not be saved, no one could even come to Jesus for salvation, unless God gave them the ability and desire to do so. They were self-righteous, thinking that they were following Jesus out of the goodness of their own hearts. When Jesus revealed to them that the only way they could be truly trusting in and following Jesus was if God gave them the desire to do so, they wanted no part of God and Jesus anymore. It wounded their pride, and they hated it.

There are many other verses, particularly in the book of John, that I could quote to point out that God chooses who will come to Christ for salvation. But this blog post is already too long, and I think I have given everyone enough to chew on for the time being. To close, I want to remind everyone of when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. This is also found in the book of John, the eleventh chapter.

Here we read in John 11:38-44 that Lazarus has been dead for four days. How does Jesus give Lazarus new life? He tells Lazarus to "come forth" to Him (verse 43). Now, think about this. Lazarus is dead. How can Lazarus, who is dead, rise up and walk and come forward to Jesus? He cannot. So, where does Lazarus get his power to come forward to Jesus? From God. Notice verse  41b-42 where Jesus says:

"Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me."

Then the next words of Jesus are, "Lazarus, come forth."

So we see this: That Jesus gets His power to raise Lazarus from the dead from God. This means that it is God, through Jesus, who raises Lazarus from the dead and gives him the ability to come forth to Jesus. And of course, Lazarus has new life, he is raised from the dead by the power of God and comes forth to Jesus. And this is exactly how God saves us. We are spiritually dead in our sins, God gives us new spiritual life as He gave Lazarus new physical life, and because God has given us spiritual life, we now have the ability and desire to come to Jesus, and we do so, because all whom God has given to Jesus will come to Jesus.

So this shows us that God does not give spiritual life to those that have already come to Jesus through faith, but rather, God gives spiritual life to those who have not come to Jesus through faith, so that they can and will come to Jesus through faith. Lazarus could not come to Jesus until God gave him physical life, and men cannot come to Christ for salvation until God gives them spiritual life. Regeneration precedes faith.

All I ask is that you read the Scriptures and be honest with the Scriptures. I think if you do so you will see that Calvinism and predestination is what the Bible teaches, and it is far more kind and far better than anything you could have ever imagined.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Makes Jesus Christ The Savior of Men From Sin And Hell?

I have been probing, for several years now, at why people who are professing Christians, who attend church most Sundays, who claim to love Jesus, live like they care more about anything but Jesus.

I want this to be brief so people will actually read it, because what I am going to discuss is so basic that I think I have, to an extent, overlooked it. While I was trying to help others see the true meaning of faith and repentance, God's sovereignty and our depravity, I simply assumed that everyone knew why Jesus Christ was our Savior.

What do I mean by that, by saying "Know why Jesus Christ is our Savior." What I mean by that is, why does trusting in Christ to forgive us of our sins and to save us from our sins, actually do so? What is so special about Christ? Why is it only through the name of Christ that we are saved?

People refer to the "shed blood" of Christ, and say that "nothing but the blood of Jesus" is what saves us. It sounds good but, I am beginning to think people have very little understanding of what that phrase means. Or what about the phrases "Jesus died for you" or "Jesus died so that you could have new life and forgiveness."

Again, great phrases, it is like Christian shorthand, but the problem is, if we do not know what these phrases mean, if they have no meaning and we just utter them like a mantra, if the words contain no knowledge of what Christ did for us to save us, then they are useless. It would be no different than saying Jesus "played the flute so that I could be forgiven of sins." Great, I can be forgiven of my sins, but I don't see what Jesus playing a flute has to do with me being forgiven of my sins, or why I should trust in Jesus playing the flute so that I can be forgiven.

It just doesn't make sense, and the same is true if we do not know why Jesus dying on the cross matters. What is it about the death of Christ on the cross that, if we believe in what He did on the cross, we will receive salvation from sin and forgiveness of sin?

In short, what does it matter if Jesus died on a cross? Why is that important? What is it that Jesus did on the cross that accomplishes salvation for me, so that by faith in what He did on the cross, I can have complete forgiveness of sins and fellowship with God again?

Romans 4:24-26 tells us that we are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

There are big words here. But notice, these big words relate directly to what Christ did so that we may be forgiven of our sins. In other words, you must know what this means. If you don't know what this means, you cannot have faith in Christ as Savior, because the words propitiation and justification is what we must trust in by faith if we are to be saved.

So what does justification mean? Justification means that God declares someone righteous. It means that God looks at you as sinless and with righteousness, with obedience to His law, perfect obedience, so that you are not guilty of sin and have righteousness, which means that you can be in fellowship with God again.

The problem, of course, is that we know we are not sinless, we know that we have no righteousness. So, how can God declare us righteous, if we are not righteous? How can God declare us righteous if we have no righteousness? How can God say that we have no sin when we do have sin?

The answer to these questions is propitiation. Jesus is the propitiation for our sins as 1 John 2:2 says. So it is crucial that we know what this means if we are to have saving faith in Jesus Christ. What propitiation means is that God's wrath is satisfied. To propitiate means to satisfy the wrath of God. So when the Bible says that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, that means Jesus satisfied God's wrath for our sins.

And that is the heart of the good news of the gospel. The reason my sins can be forgiven through faith in Jesus is because Jesus paid the penalty for my sins, which is God's wrath (hell), on the cross. On the cross, God poured out His wrath for my sins not on me, but instead on Jesus. And Jesus, being God, was able to satisfy, or propitiate, God's wrath. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. He paid for my sins in full, He satisfied God's wrath, and THAT is why faith in Jesus forgives us of our sins.

It is important to note that we also need righteousness. As I said, to be justified means that we are not only forgiven of sin but also viewed as if we had positive obedience to the law of God. We were made in the image of God to reflect that image and be obedient to the law and nature of God. So to merely not break the law, to not sin, is not good enough. We also need good works to be saved. But where can those righteous deeds come from? They come from the sinless life of Christ. Jesus, on the cross, paid for our sins by suffering the wrath of God that we deserve for our sins. At salvation, through faith in what Christ did on the cross and through Christ living sinlessly, obeying the law and nature of God for us, we get his righteousness, His obedience. So faith receives what Christ did for us in His life (obeying the law of God, thus giving us righteousness) and in His death (dying for us on the cross, being the propitiation for our sins, thus wiping away our sins so that we are no longer guilty or under the wrath of God, since Jesus satisfied God's wrath for us).

Finally, Christ, because He had defeated sin and death, rose from the grave. The wages of sin is death, but Christ paid in full the wages of our sin. Therefore, sin has lost its power, and death has lost its sting. Death no longer has dominion over Christ, because Christ paid for our sins fully, satisfying God's wrath. Therefore, since God was satisfied with Christ's propitiation, God gave Jesus new life, He raised Christ from the dead. And this proves that Jesus defeated sin and death and paid for them on our behalf. Now, through faith in Christ, we have new life, free from slavery to sin and free from the wrath of God as well. 

So what makes Jesus Christ the Savior of men from sin and hell? His life, His death, and His resurrection. But unless we know what it is about His life, death, and resurrection that makes Him Savior, we do not and cannot truly trust in Christ as Savior. If I walk up to a person who has never heard of Jesus and tell Him that Jesus died for his sins, that person does not know what it means for Christ to die for his sins. We must explain that to him, as I have attempted to do.

So to conclude, it is because Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins that God can justify us, thus saving us from sin and hell. We get Christ's righteousness and He gets the wrath we deserve. Therefore, we are viewed as obedient to the law through  the righteousness and obedience of Christ, and we are seen as innocent of sin because Christ's blood, the propitiation, paid for our sins in full. It is faith in this, the work of Christ for us, that we receive the salvation from sin and hell that He alone has won for us.