29 For those whom he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us?
“Those whom God foreknew he also predestined.” God pre-determines those whom He then transforms into brothers and sisters of His Son, Jesus Christ. In order to transform us, first He has to call us, then He has to justify us and finally He must glorify us. The entire work of salvation is the Lord’s — from beginning to end.
I am not sure why this concept is difficult for seemingly so many Christians, but it is. Some Christians want to take credit for accepting Christ and even for becoming ‘holy’. But the Word contradicts this idea repeatedly.
God makes Pharaoh a vessel for wrath while He makes Moses a vessel for glory. Moses is a murderer, and as such is — at his worst — no more worthy of God’s mercy than Pharaoh at his best. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart repeatedly, each time the Egyptian king decides to let God’s people go, God changes Pharaoh’s mind.
God loves Jacob before Jacob does anything good or bad while He ‘hates’ Esau also before Esau does anything good or bad.
Someone I know told me that God is not a manipulator. God most certainly is! He is the great and ultimate ‘manipulator’! A manipulator is defined as “a person who handles or controls something skilfully”. God is the perfect manipulator, handling us as skillfully as a master puppeteer or gifted potter.
God is in control.
Why does this bother you (assuming it does)? Why do you resist the Master’s control? Don’t you believe He is perfect? Don’t you believe He is only good, that there is no evil intent in His plan?
If God is indeed perfect, then it follows that His control — His manipulations, if you will, are also perfect.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV)
Isn’t it great that Peter says love should be “above all” – should be our top priority – while Paul says that the greatest of the three pillars of Christianity (which are faith, hope and love) is love. Love is above all.
Why is this true? Because God is Love.
Even better, Jesus tells us that the world will know we are Christians by the love we show one another.
Yet, today we Christians bicker among ourselves, arguing about the relative spirituality or lack of spirituality of each other which only shows the world that we are no closer to God than it is.
So, how do we love?
We choose to do so. We put aside pettiness and one-up-manship and holier-than-thou attitudes and we look to our common ground.
What is our common ground? This should be obvious. Our common foundation is Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, glorified.
So, let us love one another for our love of each other covers a whole load of awful stuff — our rebellion, our pride, our self-hatred, our envy, our jealousy, our self-righteousness, our stupidity.
2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
James probably does not mean to set aside poor motivations for what we desire, what we see our neighbor owning that we want to own as well when he says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” Most readers would agree since James just mentions killing, quarreling and fighting over things.
So what do we need from God? James begins his letter by reminding us to ask God for wisdom rather than for things. Seems many have forgotten this truth, asking and expecting personal wealth, so much wealth that it’s hard to understand the subsequent lack of generosity.
The so-called prosperity gospel promises that as long as we are generous to God, He will be generous to us. We give the whole tithe to the storehouse — supposedly the physical church we attend — and He will give us so much we will not know what to do with it all. Even if this is true, why then do we find so little giving to those outside the church, to the poor? Why is keeping up with the Joneses so prevalent in the wealthy megachurch?
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38, NIV)
The final portion of Jesus’ comment about generosity seems downplayed by the very rich megachurch. Jesus says that the measure we use is what is measured to us. His comment seems a warning to me, not a promise. Jesus is calling us to unmeasured generosity rather than giving as a calculated risk. Hence His use of the words, “pressed down, shaken together and running over”. He asks us to give so much that we are spent from that very giving. God calls us to give the “good measure.”
And James tells us to ask God for the wisdom to do what is right at all times. No one fights over wisdom.
Stephen King stirred me with his tweet about the odd behavior of some evangelical Christians — an almost schizophrenic behavior. Supposedly evangelicals believe God is love and know Jesus warned not to prevent children from coming to Him. Jesus said something akin to “better to put a giant grinding stone around your neck and fling yourself into the sea than to keep one of these kids from getting close to Me.” Yet, some evangelical ( or fundamentalist or conservative Christians ) are up in arms to keep destitute, desperate South American children from crossing our borders.
Well, you might argue, that doesn’t keep these kids from coming to Christ. Really? Are you sure about that?
So, let’s look at another story Jesus told.
Remember the poor man who was fell upon by robbers along a road and left for dead? Remember the supposedly decent human beings who walked right by him, not offering to help him in the least? Sounds a bit like these schizophrenic evangelical Christians who — as Paul laments — see themselves in the mirror, turn away and forget what they are supposed to look like.
Now I include myself among evangelical Christians though I am not willing to align myself with those who call themselves “conservative.” Conservative is almost a dirty word. Conservative can sometimes mean — in my mind and in the minds of many many liberal thinking persons — “narrow-minded”, “hateful”, “violent”, “racist”, “wicked” — well I could go on but then I’d be too “conservative” for my taste.
GOD is LOVE.
He doesn’t ask us to judge. He doesn’t ask us to enforce His Laws — oops. Actually the one Law God asks us to enforce is the one that says “Love others as yourself.”
If we love others, then how can we turn our backs on these children? We can’t, not if we are truly Christian.
For why what is to me in heaven; and what would I of thee on earth? (For what is there for me in heaven, but thee? and what else do I desire here on earth, but thee?) My flesh and mine heart failed; God of mine heart, and my part is God [into] without end. (Though my flesh and my heart fail; but God is my strength, and my portion forever.)
David could be the weary and suffering Job in this passage. Here David speaks perhaps after the shame of murdering Uriah so as to have Bathsheba; perhaps after the death of his son. At any rate, David sings that even if his flesh and heart fail, God is his strength and his portion forever. David rhetorically asks, What else in heaven and earth do I desire? And his answer is, Nothing but You, God.
This truth is what Job discovers in his ordeal. At the end of his rope, so to speak, Job realizes that only God matters, that everything else is a pale shadow compared to Him. Job’s devotion to God does not, however, diminish his love of others or his view of himself. Rather, as Job falls in humility before God, God lifts him up and places him above where he was in the first place.
What do we desire?
Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
My little sons, love we not in word, neither in tongue, but in work and truth. (Wycliffe)
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? (King James Version)
Jesus says exactly the same thing as His disciple says. Jesus says that the least kindness you show to the least is a kindness you show to Him – if you visit the prisoner, you visit Jesus. If you feed the homeless man, you feed Jesus. If you adopt the orphan, you adopt our Lord. And so on.
If we talk love but never show love, then the love of God is not in us. Worse, if we talk love and show hate, then our spirit is not of the Holy Spirit but of our own corrupted nature. We are like pigs remaining in our own mud and corn husks.
God calls us to love in action, not in talk.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
In the nitty-gritty of day-to-day living, people sometimes – perhaps many times – find God far away or even non-existent. God reveals His Love for people by sending His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ into the world so that people might see Him face to face and know His Love firsthand. (God blesses those who do not see Him face to face and nevertheless believe His Love is real.)
Q: What is the point?
A: God reveals Himself so that people might live through Him.
Q: What does that mean?
A: Jesus tells us to throw off the burdens of life, pick up His yoke (which He reminds us is light and easy to bear) and follow Him.
Q: Where are we going?
A: Wherever He leads.
Q: What is the cost?
A: Everything; and yet nothing.
For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
A very familiar statement – that God intends good for you and me. Perhaps you don’t doubt this; perhaps you do. Maybe you wonder if the apparent lack of “a future and a hope” is your own fault. Maybe you don’t believe you “search for God with all your heart.” Maybe you believe this is why your circumstances seem so bad. Maybe. Maybe not.
Perhaps you are one who sees God’s hand in everything that happens to you. You look around and see that your life is good; that you do indeed have “a future and a hope.” Maybe. Maybe not.
The author of Hebrews pulls out the heroes of the past to illustrate God’s hand in everything. The author writes:
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Then shows how men and women of faith move through seemingly impossible situations with hope. The hope is a country not of this world, but of the next. The present is not the prize, but the future.
21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and the other by a free woman. 23 But the one by the slave was born according to the impulse of the flesh, while the one by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. 24 These things are illustrations, for the women represent the two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery—this is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
God does not change His mind, but He does create two separate covenants with mankind – the first covenant, often referred to as ‘old’ provides the Law and for a long time, mankind lives under this Law. The second covenant, often referred to as ‘new’ provides the Grace and from that point on, mankind lives under this Grace. Once Grace arrives, the Law is no longer needed. In fact, the Law is nailed to a tree and is essentially fulfilled in the Life and Body of Jesus Christ, once and for all!
Putting oneself back under the Law once under Grace is like going back into Slavery once Freedom is obtained. Who does that?
Paul wearies over the church at Galatia, even saying he remains in labor pains until Christ is formed in them. He wonders how it is that they’ve lost their joy, covering themselves with once-removed burdens. He wants to change his tone, but he is bewildered and hurt that they’ve returned to Slavery unnecessarily.
Don’t make this mistake. Our mother is not Hagar but Sarah; and she is Freedom.
Therefore all things, whatever things ye will that men do to you, [and] do ye to them, for this is the law and the prophets.
Almost every person – at least every person who grew up in the Western world – knows this saying of Jesus. Jesus says, “If you want it done to (or for) you, then by all means be sure you do it for (or to) others.”
Don’t be spewing hate at other people if you don’t like hate spewed at you. Don’t throw rocks at dogs if you don’t want dogs to bite you. Don’t drop a nuclear weapon on your enemy if you don’t want a nuclear weapon dropped on your neighborhood. Don’t steal from your government if you don’t want your government to steal from you. Don’t cheat on your spouse if you don’t want your spouse to cheat on you. Don’t whisper and gossip about poor Mrs. Jones down the block if you don’t want Mrs. Jones to whisper and gossip about you.
And so on.
Except Jesus says one more thing. He says that the so-called Golden Rule is the sum – the whole – of the Law and the Prophets. The Golden Rule is the whole shebang.
Yes, yes! I hear you. The first part is critical to the second part – Jesus says to love the Lord your God with your all, with everything you have, everything you are. But He also reminds that if you do not love the one you see next door, how can you possibly love the One you can not see!