April 14, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The Prayer, Predestination, & Evangelism

Throwback Thursday is a series of posts, wherein I will on (some) Thursdays post a piece of writing from back in the day. Generally not from this blog. I will edit lightly for readability, but my intention is to allow each piece to stand basically as written. Over the years my mind has shifted on many things, as my knowledge of life, the Scriptures, and myself has grown. I'm not in the business of hiding this fact, so these will probably (at least on occasion) contain some things which even I think are crazy.

Originally posted on Facebook as "Further musings..."
February 10, 2010 at 1:06pm
So this one I will preface. Not because I worry about offending people or having people disagree--I fully expect that with most things I say and do. But because I want you to understand where I'm coming from. First off, I'm not claiming to be some super smart guy who is infallible, quite the contrary. I've never taken any Bible classes, I'm not educated, I'm just a blue collar working guy who loves Jesus. And I like to think, and my writing is a result of that. So while I wouldn't be writing this stuff if I weren't convicted of its truth, I am more than open to learning and being corrected where I am in error. I pray that God will at the same time use me to teach others and help them. That being said, let's begin.

In my previous note I brought up some points I had been thinking about in regards to "the sinners prayer", evangelism in the typical sense...and rethinking them, looking at things from a Biblical perspective. Some of those things I either didn't cover very well, and some of it brought up other questions, so I will try to address them as thoroughly as I can here.

1-"The prayer": honestly, while this is what I discussed the most previously, it is what has been on my mind for the shortest period of time, and I have studied the least. Again, I see no evidence in Scripture of there being "a prayer" that leads to Salvation. Many calls are made to confess sin out of a repentant heart, and turn from that sin; but this does not lead to Salvation, this is a result of Salvation.

Romans 3:10-12 (NIV)-As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

1 John 4:9-10 (NIV)-This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The problem with believing a prayer leads to Salvation is that it contradicts what God tells us: that no one loves Him, no one seeks Him. It is our nature as sinful human beings to flee from God, flee from the presence of holiness. Only God Himself can create that spark, that interest, at least in any meaningful way. We can be spiritual people, we can be nice people, we can be a lot of things, but without the gift from God that is not only grace, but the very faith to accept that grace, we are nothing, and have nothing.

2-Predestination/free will: this is an issue that has split churches, denominations, it's huge. It used to be a real struggle of mine until I really read this passage:

Romans 9:10-21 (New International Version) Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

Before they were born God had picked out which He would love and which He would hate. I hear people question all the time how this could possibly jibe with God's perfect love...and my answer is, I don't know. What I do know is that His love is perfect, and both my love, and my understanding of His love, are flawed. That's not always the most comfortable thought, we're humans, and we like understanding. The fact of the matter is that while God does give you freedom to choose, in the end He's going work out His plan. In the words of CS Lewis, "For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John." We can do nothing to save ourselves.

Ephesians 2:3-4 (NIV)-All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)-For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

It's grace. Total, complete, grace that we can't even comprehend. Salvation is a gift from God, there is nothing we can do to earn it or get it for ourselves. We are held to account for how we respond to that though. Which is why in the book of James it tells us faith without works is dead. Saying you love Jesus, "praying the prayer", putting on your Jesus life preserver...that's not good enough.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)-"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Interesting. By grace through faith...but works are required? How do those ideas mesh? And there will be those who prophesy and cast out demons in His name whom He will turn away. This is why I believe the idea of election and predestination is so important. Because it is by grace that we are saved. The unilateral decision of God, not something we work together on. But here's where our responsibility, our "free will", if you will, comes in. When God reveals to us, and gives us faith to trust in Him, He calls us to something more. He calls us to be set apart, holy, and do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do. We can't be the sit on our butts lacksidasical "Christian" who prays a prayer and thinks that's that. And we can't be the person who thinks anything we can do will affect our status with God or affect our salvation. We have to realize that this salvation we have is an enormous gift, and this should spur us on to a life of set apart worship of Christ. Everything we do, every encounter we have. I kind of attacked evangelism in my previous post; perhaps I was a bit on the harsh side, but it was to illustrate a point.

Yes, we do need to share the love of Christ, and if that's with a stranger, awesome. Everyone needs to hear. But where we get into trouble is being that person who goes around sharing with strangers at the expense of taking time to build relationships. The whole purpose of Christ's sacrifice was to bring you back into relationship with God--God is all about relationship. This is not at the expense of things like preaching and teaching; quite the contrary, Jesus himself preached to the masses, and the church as we know it started with a sermon by the apostle Peter. But we have to be a community, a church body, a church family, where relationships are being built to build up that body, that family. And we need to be building relationships with unbelievers so that we have a relationship with trust and honesty. Are you more likely to talk to some weird whack job who randomly walks up to you, or someone you have a friendship with? Yeah, that's what I thought. My point on evangelism is that talking to strangers, and having big meetings are good things, but if that's where it stops it useless and without point. It's scary, it's not comfortable, and it's not easy...neither was Jesus' work. He hung on a tree for three hours with nails in His hands, was beaten, bruised...and He who was God Himself, and one with the Father had the Father turn His face, and faced complete separation while carrying the load of your sin. Makes our efforts seem pretty pathetic.

From the ridge road.

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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).