Lost Luggage and the Sovereignty of God

For the record, I intend this topic to be a discussion starter. I don’t have any misgivings about Sovereignty or Election, but I won’t pretend to have all the answers, either. I do not think that many Christians think about God’s sovereignty until it is too late—something happens that embitters them and they throw in the towel. Along similar lines, I also don’t think that many Christians actually want to look Biblically at the topic of election. I have heard of pastors (not my own, thankfully) who—despite its clarity—actually do not even admit that this doctrine is contained within the Bible.

Enough with the disclaimers …

Lost Luggage

When my son John was away with a group from our church on a part-time missions trip to Jamaica, most of them—all but three, actually—had to wait until nearly a week had gone by to receive their luggage. (This is a common problem when traveling to Caribbean destinations. We were advised on a Christmas trip to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to bring at least three days’ worth of clothing and essentials as carry-on, because the airline would lose our luggage. We did, and they did.)

The mother of one of the few who got their luggage on the missions trip was thrilled that her daughter’s luggage had not been lost, and considered it “an answer to prayer.” But what about everyone who didn’t get their luggage? Was God angry with them, or was it just “one of those things?” I would like to think that most, if not all, parents with children on the trip were actively and earnestly praying for a smooth trip and for the children’s safety (just as Nichelle and I were), and having their luggage would certainly be part of a smooth trip. What prayer was actually answered? (I should have asked more pointedly, but I am learning to have a bit more discretion.)

Let me further complicate this particular matter. As one of the group leaders testified, on the last day of the trip, our group in Jamaica met another group from Merrimack Valley Baptist Church. The group from MVBC had much of their luggage impounded, as the Jamaican customs officials wanted to charge them over a thousand dollars in import duties on the paper, crayons, candy, and other items they were bringing in for a vacation Bible school they were going to operate. Our youth pastor was relieved that, when the luggage was finally picked up, because customs knew why they were there, they were essentially “waved through,” and were not asked to pay any import duties.

However, if God used (or caused) the luggage’s being late to get it through customs without an import duty, does that mean that God caused the other group’s luggage to be impounded simply to reveal to our group that the lost luggage was, ultimately, a blessing? For that matter, we believe in God’s omnipotence; if God wanted the luggage to get through customs without difficulty, His power is certainly efficacious enough to accomplish this.

Prayer and Hurricanes

A similar question might be asked about Hurricane Emily. Was the fact that Emily missed Jamaica while our group was there an answer to prayer? I prayed that the group would be safe, but not that God would move a hurricane. What about all the people in the Yucatan peninsula, where no doubt other equally important missions trips were underway, where Emily made landfall? Is my prayer for the safety of a small group rather than for moving the storm evidence of lack of faith on my part?

The topic of prayer and weather is particularly interesting because Pensacola Christian College sent out the following e-mail to their mailing list seeming to imply that it was an answer to prayer when the college was spared by the previous 2005 hurricane, Dennis:

Sunday, weather reports placed the path of Hurricane Dennis directly into the Pensacola area; but just hours before landfall the Lord weakened Hurricane Dennis’ winds and moved the storm north to make landfall across the Florida Panhandle east of Pensacola. It was great to be on the west side of the storm where the winds are less intense.

During the storm, student summer workers and Summer Music Academy campers were safely sheltered in the PCC Sports Center and Communicative Arts Center—they were back in their own residence hall rooms early Sunday evening with full power and air conditioning! In addition, shelter was provided in the Pensacola Christian Academy building for over 500 staff and their families. As a matter of interest, our campus buildings and shelters are architecturally designed to withstand hurricane force winds, and we are seven miles from the beaches where the damage from waves and storm surge make great news for television but no effect on our facilities.

We thank the friends of Pensacola Christian College who prayed for God’s protection during Hurricane Dennis. Above all else, we thank the Lord for answered prayer.

This letter seems to imply that God weakened and moved the hurricane as a response to the prayers of those at Pensacola. While this may be true, it seems at once both supercilious and overly facile from a doctrinal approach. If they expected God to protect them from the hurricane, why take shelter in special buildings? Is God powerful enough to move a hurricane? Of course. Would He do so in response to prayer? Quite possibly.

Now, before I am dismissed as faithless or minimizing God, allow me to direct your attention to James 5:17: “Elias [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” There is, indeed a clear Biblical basis for the prayers of one ordinary man affecting the weather. (I would not be so bold as to describe the prophet Elijah as ordinary, but that is the implication in James 5:17.)

I am convinced that most believers have not really stopped to examine their words and doctrines in light of what the Scripture teaches about God’s sovereignty. We (rightly) are content to praise God when good things happen to us, and we certainly don’t curse God when bad things happen to us. The fact is, there are things to be learned from the good and the bad. According to Romans 8:28–29:

28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

These verses also deal with another important topic that closely relates to sovereignty: predestination (also called election). We’ll get back to that later.

Sovereignty

God is sovereign. He is the greatest in status or authority or power; He is ruler of all Creation; He is master of Heaven and Earth. By His will, the universe was formed. By His will, all things exist. We humans can scarcely grasp the omnipotence of God, as the concept of infinity itself is slippery enough, getting our minds around infinite power is even more difficult.

So, if God is infinitely powerful, what place is there in His universe for the free will of man? Is it merely an illusion? Do we actually have a choice in anything we do? Or is it all foreordained by God, and we are merely puppets acting out some great morality play?

I used to believe that it was just a matter of viewpoint: God did preordain, or predestine, all things and events, but from the human perspective, we have complete free will. The truth, as Scripture teaches it, is a bit more complicated.

Predestination

And that leads to perhaps the most-ignored doctrine of Christianity today: Predestination. Simply put, God has chosen some of us to be His elect. Those who will, by His grace, trust Christ as Savior, be redeemed, and live forever with Him in Heaven.

There are two extremes in this: Hypercalvinism and Arminianism.

Hypercalvinism would teach that nothing we do can influence someone to be saved. Why have missionaries? One church I attended as a child went this route. They changed the “pot luck dinners” into “covered dish suppers,” which might actually be more correct, but one parent of a clearly lost teen wrote that he had resigned himself to the fact that his son would go to Hell for the glory of God.

Whoa! The New Testament never talks about salvation this way. The fact is, we do not know who the elect are. It is our job to keep propagating the Gospel message of salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and keep praying for our lost loved ones, all of our days. The Apostle Paul wrote:

22To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. (1 Corinthians 9:22–23)

Arminian theology (see this excellent reference at about.com) is at the opposite end. In it, mankind has complete free will. God would seem to have no more control than making a few suggestions. Clearly, this philosophy is not Scriptural, either. (However, as the about.com article points out, Arminian theology was important for getting people to realize they could make a difference in society: Slaves were not predestined to be slaves; the poor might be helped to another, higher, station; the battle against disease could be fought and won.

In between, these extremes, yet more than merely the middle ground, is Calvinism:

“I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.” (Charles Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 1, 1856).

Whose Will Wins?

Just as God is sovereign, He has made His will clear:

4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)

If God wants all men to be saved, is there universal atonement, as the Universalists teach? Or, alternatively, are God’s will and omnipotence defeated because not all men will accept His gift of eternal life?

In regard to election, people do not become saved of their own will. The Holy Spirit must draw men to the Lord. C.H. Spurgeon put it quite eloquently:

“We declare on scriptural authority that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained toward Christ.” (Charles Spurgeon, Sermons, Vol. 4, p. 139). (See more of Spurgeon’s quotes on Calvinism.)

A Premature Conclusion

I did not set out to answer all these questions in this one post, but I have had this percolating for a month now, and did not want to procrastinate indefinitely. After reading a friend’s BLOG for a while, I realized that I had fallen into the “intellectual flabbiness of the larger society,” especially where questions of doctrine were concerned, and wanted use by own BLOG to both clarify and proclaim my own faith. This is a beginning. I expect this will generate some excellent discussion, and further expect to revise and expand this particular post over the next few weeks.

30 Replies to “Lost Luggage and the Sovereignty of God”

  1. WOW! I am so impressed with this BLOG posting, I’m ashamed to comment on it because my comments will pale compared to the thought and time and prayer you have put into this.

    I want to whole-heartedly agree with you!

    But I’m always bothered by the term “hyper-calvinist.” In essence, Calvinism is about the 5 points, TULIP:

    1. Total depravity
    2. Unconditional Election
    3. Limited Atonement
    4. Irresistable Grace
    5. Perseverance of the Saints

    So is a hyper-calvinist someone who really-really believes in TULIP, whereas a regular Calvinist believes only somewhat in TULIP?

    I know this is semantics, but you either believe the 5 points or you don’t.

    Your problem with hyper-calvinism in my mind can better be termed bad application of Calvinism. You’re 100% right that we do not know who the elect are and God commands us to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15.)

    In fact, the doctrines of grace (another term for “Calvinism”) encourage me in my evangelistic efforts, because they tell me, “It’s all in God’s hands and you merely need to be faithful to the message and not worry about methods or other trivialties.”

    I’d recommend The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink, but it seems that you’ve thought this out enough on your own! 🙂

    In addition to the Biblical reasons to believe in the doctrines of grace, of which there are many, here are some logical ones:

    kids: We know that God has preordained the birth of every creature. The Bible teaches that God knew us before the foundation of the world. Since Isaac Wilcox could only have come about by the union of Doug and Nichelle, then God must have preordained Doug to marry specifically Nichelle. Furthermore, God ordained for them to know one another at the exact date and time that conceived Isaac. None of this nonesense about “I married the wrong person.”
    driving: We all drive like Calvinists, even if we profess to be Arminian. Don’t we pray, “Lord, please give us travelling mercies?” In effect we are praying, “Lord, please interfere with the free will of every driver on the road!” If Arminianism were true, i.e. free will existed, then God would have to answer, “I’m sorry, I can’t give you travelling mercies because I can’t interfere with Bill Jones who has decided by his free will to drink and drive and then cross the lane to kill you.” I praise God that he interferes with the free will of the drivers! Should I or someone I love get killed by a drunk driver, God is not in heaven saying “Yikes, I wish that hadn’t happened.” It would be a part of His sovereign plan, and I may never know the purpose. I don’t have to know the purpose. I am the creation – not the creator.
    Planning the ends requires planning the means: There’s a song by Caedmon’s Call called Table For Two that has this great line about God’s sovereignty in our everyday activities: “And You know the plan You have for me;
    And You can’t plan the ends and not plan the means.” Derek Webb, the author of that lyric, is 100% right! We know God plans the ends from the Bible. If so, He MUST plan the means as well. We serve a Sovereign God!

    So often we’re afraid to believe in God’s ultimate sovereignty because we don’t want to blame God for the bad things that happen. We want to be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who attribute good things to God and bad things to the devil, as if God is not in control of the devil. Well, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong about this. God is King of everything: good, bad, everything.

    Jonathan Edwards said: “Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.”

    “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47)

    It is GOD who added to the church. It still is.

    I paraphrase John Piper’s excellent book Desiring God when he wrote that it was inappropraite to ascribe to man the power to thwart the will of the Sovereign God.

    Amen, and Amen.

  2. I’m reading Piper’s Desiring God currently. It’s a wonderful book. I bought my own copy after hearing so many excellent recommendations about it.

    I’m going to continue to label hypercalvinism the way I have. It may be extreme, but I think of it as Calvinism carried so far that it removes the individual’s duty in spreading the gospel, and believes that those who are unwilling to accept the gospel at a particular point in time will never do so. (Plus, covered dish just sounds silly.)

    I’m also going to be digging into Spurgeon a little more. Everywhere I search I find jewels of wisdom in his theological preaching. On an aside, I’m trying to find a reference to a sermon I believe he did—something about four verses or four words he believed should have been made part of the King James Bible.

  3. Here’s a quotation from the famous and wicked-smart Theologian Mark Edward Sohmer 😉

    Calvinists are those who think much of God and little of man. Arminians are those who think much of man and little of God.

  4. Ray Comfort is a HUGE fan of Spurgeon. He compiled a “best of” book called Spurgeon Gold which you can check out and purchase by clicking here.

    The description is as follows:

    Books about the life and ministry of “The Prince of Preachers” are not uncommon. However, Spurgeon Gold takes a unique approach. It has isolated the great preacher’s deep passion for the lost, many of his powerful gospel proclamations, and his convicting exhortations to Christians to share their faith. You will weep your way through this rich compilation.

  5. Lots of good stuff here. I have been studying this for a while and have grown to be a HUGE Spurgeon fan (checked our Spurgeon.org yet?) Anyhow, Mark wrote “Your problem with hyper-calvinism in my mind can better be termed bad application of Calvinism.” and I whole-heartedly agree.

    In light of this discussion, let’s remember this theme. Every thing that we do, thought that we think should be durected at giving God the most glory as humanly possible. That’s what God commands. Now I ask, is God more glorified in a system of theology (you figure it out) that limits his power and knowledge, or is he more glorified when his soveriegnty and divine will is proclaimed?

    Doug – I am interested to know where MVBC stands on these issues. I have found many a Baptist church to have Arminian leanings. They have a strange definition of foreknowledge…

    Jason

  6. Let’s also be careful about using Romans 8:29 as a proof verse for predestination (I prefer Eph 1:4-6). From my understanding, Romans 8:29 is dealing with the sanctification of the believer (predestined to be conformed to the image of his son)

    And…foreknew in 8:29 does NOT mean that God looked down the annals of time to se who would choose him, and thus predestined those. This theology is propogated by many a baptist church and seminary and I do not believe it to be accurate. Again, it puts man in the driver’s seat – not God.

    I agree with Mark about reading Pink’s book. Sproul’s “Chosen by God” is also an excellent primer on these topics.

    J

  7. Hello all! First off I would like to say that I am very impressed with this BLOG and am thankful that God keeps bringing people into my life that care about my spiritual welfare.

    I get the feeling that God is always trying to tell me that I am not living right and that I need to get a clue.

    Although this post will not help you theologians, I am hoping you can help me…

    I really have no clue where to begin so I will begin at the beginnig.

    I really have a hard time with laziness, meaning I have a hard time not being lazy. This “way of life” has infected all areas of my life from exercise to my spiritual life. For instance I would love to lose a couple of pounds from my gut but I am too lazy to exercise. I would like to grow in my christian life but I am too lazy to read my Bible and study anything.

    My problem with Calvinism is simply this… Am I not interested in God and the Bible because I am not one of the elected or is God just letting me “work through” some “rough time” in my walk?

    I have been saved since I was 6 years old, I am now 30. Was I really saved or do I just think I am because I grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school and said a prayer at the age of 6. I was never really “drawn” to the Father by the Holy Spirit and never really enlightened of my own accord. I was “brought up” in a Christian home so I would have no clue if I was enlightened or just a product of my environment. What if my parents weren’t elected and they think that they are saved. After all the Bible says that many will come to Jesus and say Lord, Lord haven’t I prophesied in your name and He will say depart from me I never new you. What if I am in heaven and am say to God “Please I really do believe in you and don’t want to burn in Hell, I want to go to Heaven!!!” and God says “Sorry son I didn’t elect you.” That would suck so badly.

    I guess its not really a problem with Calvinism its a REAL problem I face everyday. I feel that becasue I am lazy then I must not be elected and that scares me. It scares me to the point of crying. I want to go to heaven, but I dont really want to do anything. I dont want to read my Bible, I dont want to study, I just want to arrive there one day and get in.

    Heres what I WANT to believe… I want to believe that God controls a whole lot of stuff but when it comes to salvation I get to choose weather I want to go to heaven or not. Why would God elect a lazy person to be saved?

    As you can see I have ALOT of issues. I guess Calvinism makes me nervous. It gives me the fear that one day God will say “You dope!! I didnt elect you.” However Calvinism could give me the peace I need in all of this. I could just resign myself to the fact that I am not elected and stop all of this fear crap and live my life like the unsaved person I really am. Also who is going to help me about my lazyness issues?

    Varamek

  8. Although Romans 8:28–29 is part of a chapter dealing with the sanctification of all believers, it’s valid to consider it speaking of salvation, especially in light of verse 30. I should have included it with my reference above:

    30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

    There’s little doubt that calling and justification are talking about salvation. In essence, Paul is working his way backward to predestination from final glorification (being made like Christ in our resurrected bodies).

    However, I do absolutely agree with you that the Arminian anthropocentric viewpoint you point out is quite wrong. This is probably also what gave rise to the “easy believism” that is so prevalent in Baptist and other evangelical churches today, which leaves people are trusting in a prayer they prayed, rather than in the Savior.

  9. Varamek:

    Thank you for your candid remarks.

    You are absolutely not alone in your concerns, and they are indeed real. At times in my life, I have been completely plagued with doubt about the authenticity of my salvation, and it is, unfortunately, also something few believers are willing to admit or talk about, mostly due to fears of being perceived as flawed or lacking in faith.

    To me, the scariest verses in the Bible are the ones you allude to:

    22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22–23)

    I don’t know how much comfort this will give you, but the bottom line is that I don’t think it’s possible to want to be saved and not actually be one of the elect. We might think about all the verses that guarantee salvation to those who ask, or the testimony of the new converts throughout the New Testament.

    But you do raise some valid concerns. There are many verses that talk about determining whether one is truly saved (the book of 1 Jobn has several “tests” for salvation).

    [More to come later … it’ll be a few hours.]

  10. I think I’d rather sit down and talk and search the Scriptures with you. This type of discussion can be hard to do on a blog. First, the verse (1 Timothy 2:4)just tells us that all are individually responsible to respond to God in faith; it’s not talking about universal salvation. Hyper-Calvinism would say God chooses people for condemnation as well as faith, but man condemns himself, God just allows him go on in the direction he naturally wants to go. He doesn’t have to cause anyone to sin, they are very happy to be doing so. There are so many verses about the spiritual blindness of those without the Holy Spirit. If you want to do an interesting study, get a Strong’s Concordance and do a word study on the words “choose”, “chose”, “election”, “elect”, “called”and “call” in connection with God. Then come to a conclusion. The answers are in your Bible and there is no quick fix to instant Bible knowledge. It takes regular time spent in the Word and meditation upon it. (Doug, it sounds like you’ve made a good start!) The books you mentioned are good – but read your Bible twice as often as you read a book (even a good one) and you’ll be amazed how your life will change.

    Secondly, in response to “Varimek”: You have done the very best thing you could do – you are examining yourself to see “whether or not you are in the faith”. I think anyone raised in the faith reaches a point where they need to do that and not just “assume”. The Bible tells us there is, indeed, belief that does not save (Satan has this kind of belief.). Faith that saves has the element of trust in it. In I John, John has A LOT to say about what real faith is (in the context of how to tell a false teacher). I suggest you spend some time reading it repetitively, taking notes, meditating upon it. Make a list of what he says are evidences of faith. We’ve been translating it in Greek class & I wish I could share with you all of the amazingly clear things you see in the Greek that you don’t see in the English! [Everyone should go through the pain of learning koine Greek – it hurts, but boy, is it exciting!] Anyway, if you come to the conclusion at the end that you are not “in the faith”, then that is easily remedied! Turn to God from (habitual) sin (aka “repent”)and place your trust completely in Him. (Btw, in I John 3 the verbs are in a tense that mean continuous, habitual, lifestyle of sin, lawlessness or habitual, lifestyle of righteousness, not occassional sin, etc.) As I’m sure you’ve heard before, salvation is both a positive and a negative. Negatively: the penalty of your sins are removed. Positively: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to you. What an amazing thing!

  11. I have got to get a Hebrew-Greek-Intralinear. (CBD has it for $30.)

    The more I study this topic (and others), the more I need to get a better picture of how the original languages work.

    When and where do you want to start the Koine Greek class?

  12. The class I’ve been taking is offered by Northeastern School of Theology and Missions in Dracut, MA (though we are currently meeting at Salem Bible since most of the people and the instructor are from NH). It’s only offered every 4 years, unfortunately, and Greek II is now being offered. So, in 3 years beginning Greek will again be offered (I’ll try to remind you if you don’t find anything in the interim.) Meanwhile…you could teach yourself [very difficult; I tried, but I really needed the incentive of a class and grades to make myself DO it!]by getting either “Basics in Biblical Greek” by Mounce, plus the workbook (the text they use at Master’s College) or “Essentials of New Testament Greek, Revised” by Ray Summers, plus the workbook(the text we used – shorter, simpler, but fewer examples).

    The alternative is to use reference books, which while making it possible to understand the Greek, kind of oversimplifies everything (but is a definite GO for people who aren’t taking koine Greek!). You’ll need “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” (a must for every believer – my SS kids learn to use it regularly) and “Theological Dictionary of the NT: Abridged in One Volume” by Kittel & Friedrich (a really good, extensive dictionary with classical usage, common usage and biblical usage & which can be easily used with the front indexes in both Greek and English). This is an expensive book, but so valuable you’ll use it all the time doing word studies. Make SURE you get the abridged in one volume copy. If you get it from amazon, click on the cover picture and make sure it says “abridged”, otherwise you’ll get a single copy of the larger set. A simpler, less thorough dictionary is “Vine’s Expanded Expository Dictionary”. But if you’re serious about study, you’ll soon prefer the Kittel’s. An Interlinear is also a must, in Greek what comes at the beginning of the sentence is what the writer wants to stress. Reading the English translations you get no idea of that. Pretty much those 3 books (Strong’s Exhaustive – make sure it’s the Exhaustive or there won’t be Hebrew and Greek dictionaries in the back), Kittel’s and an interlinear will take you miles and miles and miles and miles (sing to tune by The Byrds ;). Oh, get Alfred Edersheim’s “Sketches of Jewish Social Life”, a BIG help for the culture. (We miss so much because we are not familiar with 1st Century Jewish culture!) When you REALLY get into it, you’ll need the two volume “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament” by Harris, Archer and Waltke (has English index in back of 2nd volume – it took me 2 YEARS to discover that! I was looking it up by the Hebrew letter (and I don’t know Hebrew!).

    As you probably know, but just in case you don’t – NEVER translate by the root (just as in English, Greek changes meaning over time and in different usages – just think of the root words of the English word “butterfly” – does “butter” and “fly” explain the word at all? It can be just as silly in Greek.). First look at all usages in the Book you’re studying, then in other books by the same author, then in the entire NT. Different writers can use words differently and a word does NOT ALWAYS mean the same thing in every usage (just like English). Just come to God’s Word humbly, without preconceived notions of what you THINK it will say [something very hard to do!] and define the word within its CONTEXT, not isolated. Sounds easy, but you really have to remind yourself constantly. If you’ve read a lot of Christian books, heard many sermons and been around Christians a long time – you’ve picked up erroneous notions along the way- we all have. All your comments concerning the sovereignty of God and believer’s “Christianized” comments about how they think God specifically answered prayer are proof of that. There is the revealed will of God (His Word, and to some extent His creation) and there is the Sovereign will of God, which only HE knows ahead of time. Even trying to discern God’s purposes specifically is futile. We do know from His Word that all He does is for His ultimate glory and that for a believer all things (good and bad) are for the ultimate purpose of conforming him to the image of Christ. Beyond that – we trust that God will bring His purposes to pass. (Have you heard of the illustration that life is like a tapestry? We only see the confusion on the backside, but God sees the completed front side where it all fits together.)We are to be thankful to Him for ALL things (good or bad). If you trust Him for your eternity, trust Him for your short time on earth. He’s more than capable of taking care of both (and we aren’t!). “God’s great concern for us primarily is not our happiness but our holiness.” (D.Martin Lloyd-Jones)

  13. Yep, it’s indices, although the second spelling of indexes is allowable. There aren’t many people who will get it right. Many of our words are strange when one stares at them. Eight is the first one that comes to mind.

    Thank you for putting your input into this topic. A “live” discussion might be even better, but the audience is geographically quite widespread, and this does give us time to think about responses. I started this as a way of codifying my own thoughts.

  14. Oooh…that would be an interesting blog – the English language. It can be a lot of fun to see all the different places our words came from. When we were in England I spent a day with a guide in Nottinghamshire (expensive, but HIGHLY recommended – you learn a lot with one-on-one tours). She had me get a book that gives the background of English place names. Some are Saxon, some French/Norman, some are Scandanavian. It was really interesting! I think you’re right; I’ll have to start my own blog one of these days. 😉

  15. I haven’t checked this BLOG in a while, so I missed Varamek’s post until today.

    I want to underscore what Doug said:

    the bottom line is that I don’t think it’s possible to want to be saved and not actually be one of the elect

    Amen to that! I agree 1 bazillion percent.

    However, if you’re lazy as you say, then I want to encourage and exhort you to take small steps top change that. It’s hard, I know, but start small. The grand word studies and language studies of Beth’sMomToo are superb, and should be encouraged, but you don’t learn to fly before you learn to crawl.

    In the Epistle to the Hebrews, people who WERE SAVED were exhorted to grow in Christ:

    ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

    These people were Christians, just not ones that were growing. So it is possible to be SAVED but not growing a whole lot. And the word to people like that is, change it!

    As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2)

    So Varamek, I am encouraged by your transparency and humility of your post. You have identified your sin: laziness. Now you can take steps to change that behavior andreplace it with new behaviors. If you merely try to repent without making new habits, you’ll likely fall back into that sin. Instead of laziness, make a plan to do a few things productive each day and force yourself to do it. Soon it will be a habit, and God will use your newfound productivity to grow in Christ! Some day you’ll be thriving on the meat of God’s Word, and you’ll be a soldier for Christ, and one day hear: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

    Everyone on this BLOG will be praying for you!

  16. “…you don’t learn to fly before you learn to crawl.”

    Huh? Which animal are you referring to here in your metaphor, Mark? 😉

  17. I only recommended Varamek read I John prayerfully. The later stuff (reference books, word studies, etc.) was written to Doug who’s already committed to working on his “flabby mind”. 😉

  18. Thank you all for your comments, it is very encouraging.

    My question is basically this… If you are elect then how do you know you are? God isn’t telling people they are saved, unless God is specifically speaking to you. The whole argument that because you want to be saved then you must be saved is a little illogical to me. To me that sounds like a way to comfort the unknown of actually not knowing.

    Anyone can sincerely believe that they are doing the right thing and still God can not elect them. The point is you don’t really know who is and who isn’t including yourself.

    Take Judas for example. He knew Jesus but was never saved. If he wanted to be saved he couldn’t have been. God did not elect him. That is my point. With election you never really know because who can know the mind of God.

    My point with laziness was just a question… Why would God elect a person who is lazy to go to heaven and not elect a person who really wants to go, to go to hell? I haven’t proven faithful with little so why would God give me greater responsibility?

    I hope I don’t sound like a babbling idiot…

    If I was God, I would only choose people who would go crazy and light the world fire for Him. I like Arminism because it makes sence. If salvation is based on me making a commitment then it makes sense that it would falter sometimes(my commitment), becasue I am human. Why would I pick you to be on my team if you suck at the sport we were playing? You would definatly be picked last if at all.

    Varamek

  19. Varamek,

    I just want to say that I think I completely understand where you are coming from because I have been through the same thing! I hope in the paragraphs to follow I can be of some help or encouragement.

    I, like you was brought up in a Christian home my whole life and made a profession of salvation at an early age. For all of my teen years and some of my early twenties, one of my biggest fears and concerns was always, “Am I saved? – I sinned again today – Am I really a Christian”. Seriously, this mind set plagued me for 10 or so years! I got to the point where I was physically nervous about this.

    To make matters worse, I then attended a school known as Bob Jones University (a school I do not recommend one attends or sends their children to – however, God did use that school in His Sovereign will to bring me to where I needed to be )where some different doctrines and view points were introduced to me that I had never even heard of before. One of them being the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty (which I would later find out was that this was the “calvanism thing” everyone was talking about).

    That whole doctrine really through a kink in my world view. I actually became more afraid and more nervous about my salvation when first hearing about the doctrine of election and predestination. I thought as you did, “well if this is true, then I must not be saved because I spent my whole life thinking it was my choice and my committment to Christ that saved me”. I also thought, “If election is true, then how would I ever know if I were a Christian or not”. I actually became angry with God one day at school and “raised my fist” towards Him and said something like “will this fear of my eternal security ever pass – will I ever know if I am saved or not? – why are you confusing me God with all these different doctrines?”.

    At that point in my life, I was a mess mentally. One day I decided to just start studying the Bible for myself (which was actually the first bit of real Bible study I ever did – all the while having grown up in church and a Christian home). As I began to study, I had so many questions about salvation, election, and all that goes with them. A couple of my friends (Mark and Steve – whom I thank God for) were there to edge me along in “my pursuit” for correct doctrine.

    I used to ask them as you asked us, “well, if I am elect, how would I ever know? Because who can know the mind of God?” I am going to quote some Scriptures at the end of this entry that deal with “assurance of salvation”.

    God eventually brought me to the conclusion through His word that election and sovereignty are correct. There was no denying on my part anymore that these doctrines were taught in Scripture, because I was reading them right there in the Bible word for word. At first I was still very unsettled about election, but the more I read the Bible, the more God gave me peace in knowing that this was the truth. After reading the Scriptures I have quoted below, I think you will come to the conclusion that I did. That we are to search the Scriptures and to live righteously to make our “election and calling sure”. True assurance of salvation comes from the Holy Spirit, reading Scriptures and exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. To paraphrase a verse, “If we say we love God and profess Christ as Lord and Savior with out mouths, but with our actions we deny Him, then we are liars and are not one of His children”.

    An example similiar to the one you used in Judas is Pharoh in the Old Testament. God told Moses in the burning bush years before he ever went to free God’s people that He would harden Pharoh’s heart so that he would not let His people go, that He might show his power to the world. If you read the Scriptures, there are so many stories where we see God’s Sovereignty at work. He is always controlling things. We later find out in the book of Romans, chapter 9 that Pharoh had no choice – that God ues him to show His glory and power to the world. We find out that it “is not of him who wills or chooses, but of God that shows mercy”. In response to all of this, the people in that chapter reply, “then how can God find fault with us because He is the one who controls us – why did you make us this way God??”. To which Paul replies, “who are you to say anything against God and His will – we are just the clay and He is the potter”. Basically, here Paul is telling us we may not understand the Will of God and His Sovereign power, but who are we, the clay, to question it. We can see through the story of Phraoh that through his life he denied Christ, he lived for himslef, he did not exhibit fruits of the spirit, – in essence, Pharoh was not elect. I hope that doesn’t add more confusion to your questions. Just keep searching the scriptures and God will lead you to truth!

    I know there are so many more issues to discuss regarding this topic, but as some else said in this blog already – this discussion is too broad to be handled over blog entries. I would love at some point in time (when you’re ready) for us to be able to discuss this topic in person. It is a topic dear to my heart! I praise God for what He has taught me through His word and through wonderful Christian freinds. I will keep you in my prayers as I always do! Here are those scripture verses regarding “knowing you are elect”:

    2 Peter 1: 3-11 (English Standard Version)
    3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to [3] his own glory and excellence, [4] 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, [5] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities [6] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, [7] be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Galations 5:16-25 (English Standard Version)
    16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, [4] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
    25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

    -Phil

  20. I’d just add that none of us DESERVE salvation. Rom.5:8 is a favorite of mine “But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were YET sinners Christ died for us.” Look at I Corinthians 6:9-11. If you’ve read much ancient history you know what a cesspit Corinth was in the 1st Century. Paul lists all those horrid sins and then adds…”And such WERE some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” He chooses for HIS purposes, not because there is anything lovely or worthy in His choice.

    You need to get into God’s Word, just as the above commentor did. THAT’s where the power is, THAT’s what the Holy Spirit uses to convict, change and assure hearts! I guess I would disagree with Mark about putting works before repentance. When the heart is right, the works follow. If you are feeling such strong conviction, then you really need to spend some serious time reading God’s Word and praying. My daughter (now 29) was raised in a Christian home, attended church regularly, went to a Christian private school up through 12th grade. She had her facts down, but she wasn’t saved until around 5 years ago. She had had intellectual knowledge, but it went no deeper. She kept trying to “do”, but it would fall flat. Then she went back to the Bible and the Lord opened her eyes. Now she exhibits the fruit of the Spirit. She is not the same person she was when she was going through the motions.

  21. I’m lazy, too!

    One of the things that has helped me immensely in the past couple of years is buying the Bible on CD to listen to in the car while commuting to work.

    The Word is an absolutely vital part of our spiritual growth. Now instead of struggling to read a little bit each day, I’m through the Bible 1-2 times a year. (I usually do the old Testament once, and then the New Testament twice.) It has made a huge difference. Now on days I’m not commuting, I find it easy to take time to read my Bible “the hard way.”

  22. So, has my study of God’s sovereignty helped me spiritually? Yesterday and today I got to put that to the test in a more thorough way.

    Our minivan has, over the past few days, gotten quite loud. I checked it, and couldn’t find anything wrong, although the noise in the engine compartment seemed to be outside of the engine.

    We’ve watched it carefully, and took it to the mechanic this morning.

    One thing I have (I think) learned: Nothing can happen to me—regardless of how difficult—that God has not intended for my ultimate benefit.

    I’ve noticed that getting in touch with this principle has reduced my level of anxiety quite a bit. That seems to have held true of the car (having to replace the engine now would be a financial blow I don’t think I’m ready for—especially with replacing our boiler and roof on the “any month now” list of home repairs).

    I’ll keep observing. The car problem seems to be just the water pump, which is moderately-expensive, but not jaw-droppingly so; we won’t know until tomorrow if that’s the extent of the problem.

  23. Woke up today with virtually no anxiety about the car.

    The mechanic called us early this morning to say the van was ready. The repair was $367, and there were no other problems. We’ve learned to get things to the mechanic at the first sign of trouble.

    I would say that this new understanding of sovereignty has had a profound impact on my life.

  24. Regarding hurricane prayers, I just received this by e-mail from Pastor José Mallen Malla, of the Iglesia de Convertidos a Cristo in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic:

    MIS AMADOS HERMANOS:

    OREMOS POR LOS HERMANOS DE CUBA, MÉXICO, LA FLORIDA Y TODOS LOS QUE SERÁN AFECTADOS POR EL HURACÁN WILMA PARA QUE DIOS LE FORTALEZCA Y LE BENDIGA EN ESTA PRUEBA, PERO PRINCIPALMENTE PARA QUE NO HAYAN PÉRDIDAS HUMANAS Y QUE LOS QUE NO CONOCEN DE CRISTO VUELVAN SU ROSTRO A ÉL.

    PASTOR JOSÉ MALLÉN MALLA

    In English, it reads:

    My beloved brethren:

    We pray for our brothers in Cuba, Florida, Mexico, and all those who may be affected by Hurricane Wilma, that God would strengthen them and bless them in this trial—but most of all that there would not be human lives lost and that those who do not know Christ would turn their faces to Him.

    Amen!

  25. This past Sunday we saw a documentary with Steve Saint as a lead up to the movie. When my kids were little I read just about every book I could find about this. Jim and Elizabeth Elliot had been classmates at Wheaton with a woman at our church. Tim was especially interested in Jim Elliot and I remember taking him to hear Elizabeth speak. (She did a marriage conference at our church once, too.) I was more interested in Nate Saint. I just loved “Jungle Pilot”. This past summer several men from our church went to work with this tribe. They got to see all the places that had become so familiar to me in name. God did an amazing work there. I don’t think any of those men would have chosen differently. I often think of this when something seems so tragic on the surface. I think how God sees the larger picture, the finished tapestry…and then have joy even in tribulation. Thanks for the heads up on the sermon!

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