The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, October 10, 2011

Living in Light of God's Sovereignty

God is sovereign over all. He predestined everything, including the Fall, all according to His good will and pleasure (Eph. 1:11). We also know that for the elect, for those who love God, all things work together for good because of God's sovereign control over all things (Rom. 8:28).

So how do we live in light of this? Do we "let go and let God," meaning, do we take a whatever will be, will be attitude and not work towards or strive for anything? Hardly. What happens when pain and sorrow comes? Do we not go to God in prayer, do we not find ourselves on our knees, on our faces? We tend to take the que sera sera attitude until we find ourselves in painful or difficult situations. Then we think prayer and action might be worth a try.

As a Christian, I sin a lot, in thought, word, and deed. I don't read my Bible enough, and I don't pray enough. I try to figure things out through what I have learned from Scripture largely void of prayer and reading Scripture directly more often than I care to admit. That changes the most when a crisis in my life comes, or at least what I perceive as a crisis.

It's interesting really. Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:38-39). This means that, no matter how bad things seem to get for me, they aren't as bad as I deserve, and in the end, the worst thing that can happen to me- say a painful death- will only lead to the greatest amount of joy in heaven.

It's that silver lining, that wonderful promise, than enables us to endure, to run the race with patience. Let's face it, even in the United States, with all the wealth, technology, and modern medicine, we still want more, we still get sick, people still sin against us, and loved ones still die. And it still hurts. We have so many gadgets and gizmos that we begin to think they can replace prayer, reading Scripture, and attending church. That is what we as Christians should be all about. That is how we make war against sin. Fellowship among the saints, prayer, reading Scripture. Technology, medicine, and wealth can't even touch our sin problem.

So why should it be such a surprise that we have so many unsanctified Christians today? Why should I be surprised at my lack of sanctification, if I am not reading the Word and praying as I ought to be? As a Calvinist, I more than anyone should see the value in reading Scripture and prayer. The weapons of warfare against sin, the world, and the devil, are not won by my willpower, nor by my intellect. they are won with the wisdom of God, and with the power of God.

The Bible says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, yet at the same time it is God working in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13). The Bible also says He who began a good work in us, will finish it (Phil 1:6). God's will for our lives is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). So it is clear that for the believer growing in holiness is the business we are to be about, because growing in holiness is how we glorify God. Growing in holiness/sanctification is getting closer and closer to being the spotless brides that we are for Christ. If obeying God more and delighting in living for God isn't our business in life, then we are not Christians; we do not love Christ if this be the case, for Christ said if we love Him we will keep His commandments, and that His commandments are not burdensome (John 14:15, Mat. 11:30).

What I take from these and similar passages is that we Christians, by the power of the Spirit, will actively take hold of the means of grace and kill sin, and delve deeper into God and who He is, in order to desire and understand His commandments better. The better we understand why sin is sin, and why righteousness is so righteous, the more we will love God's law, His commandments, and the more we will see they are not a burden at all but indeed the source of true pleasure and delight. This, of course, comes by degrees. To be honest, I do not think it is incorrect at all to say that sanctification is what the life of the Christian is all about, and sanctification is as simple as seeing the beauty of God's holiness, His commands, His glory, and seeing the ugliness of the lack of His glory, the opposite of His glory- sin. In other words, the goal for us Christians is to get God's perspective on sin, and on Himself. On the sinner, and on the Savior. What must never, never, never, be forgotten however, is that God in real space and real time acted on His perfect holiness by sending His Son Jesus Christ to perfectly reflect God in the totality of His being. In other words, in Christ we have the express image of the Father, in the form of man. This means that, when someone rightly understands the nature of sin, and the beauty of the goodness and holiness of God, they act upon that knowledge because it has taken root in their heart and has become part of their very being.

If we are Christians, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). And we know that to love God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul, and to love our neighbors as ourselves is the law and the prophets (Mat. 22:36-40).

The point is that living in light of God's sovereignty means to be an arminian... except you know that it is God who is ultimately directing all this, steering you towards holiness, and everything is going according to His plan.  God's sovereignty does not absolve the responsibility of taking action, of thinking, of striving for holiness, on our part. It does just the opposite. It gives us the hope and motivation to strive, to think, because we know it is not in vain, we know it is done by the power of the Holy Spirit, of God moving in us, sovereignly, mightily, and not in our own strength. We know that we will be successful because God is sovereign, and He has promised to grow us by His sovereign power. We may not know what God's sovereignty, what His plan and control over all things, holds for us in the short term, yet long term, in the big picture, ultimately we know it leads to everlasting life, unending bliss, in heaven.

So figure things out Calvinists. Try to ascertain what God wants you to do in life. Read your Bibles to know God more, so that it produces a greater love for Him, which produces greater devotion to Him, which is our calling. Preach the gospel, in season and out of season, knowing God has the elect out there. Make art, make pleasing music to God. Love your friends, love your spouse, love your family, and learn to love them more, for God's glory. Don't waste your life with the sins that you now hate and know cannot produce true, lasting joy. Spend it striving to glorify God, actively praying and studying the Word of God, knowing that God will grow you by His Spirit, for He indeed is sovereign and in complete control. Enjoy technology, utilize modern medicine and conveniences and entertainment, but do so to the glory of God, thinking Him for those gifts and the time and money to craft them and develop them. And never, never do so to the neglect of prayer and studying the Word of God. All the other things in the world is out of bounds and sin, a perverse misuse of them, if they are not being placed on top of the foundation of Christ, on the foundation of prayer and the Word of God.

I'll close this post with these verses, which I think captures the essence of what I am trying to say here:

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” Proverbs 19:20-21 ESV