Thursday, June 30, 2011

Life, Death, and the Sovereignty of God (R.I.P. Amber Fields)

I just got back from the funeral of a 26 year old mother and wife. She was killed in a car accident less than a week ago. I knew her because she used to work for me in Louisville. Amber Fields truly was all of those nice things they said about her in the funeral service. One of my fondest memories of her is the way she spoke. She spoke with a sweet, country accent. She always had a smile. She was kind to everyone. Now, truth be told, I hadn't seen Amber much during these past couple of years. She had worked in our restaurant in Louisville for a year or so. Then she worked at our Lexington restaurant, so I had less contact with her. But, working for the same company still, we would occasionally see each other at company events. And she always had a big hug and smile for me when she saw me. She always made me feel welcomed and respected.

Because we hadn't been in contact as much, I was surprised by how hard the news of her death hit me. I am genuinely sad. I feel a sense of loss. This tells me how much of an impact she had on me. And by the two overflowing rooms of mourners at the funeral, she had that same kind of impact on many others.

I went into the viewing and service feeling rather numb. After seeing her and greeting her husband, I felt extremely sorrowful and could only cry. But during the service, the pastor quoted a Bible verse that changed my sorrow into something different. The verse:  Revelation 14:13,

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write,
'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'"
"Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors,
for their deeds follow with them." (NIV)

The pastor explained that Amber believed in the Lord Jesus and was therefore "in the Lord." She died "in the Lord" and was blessed. This verse and short explanation reminded me that even though Amber's death seems only tragic, the truth is not only tragic. There is HOPE! Yes, we mourn the loss of a truly wonderful person, but we have hope because Amber is BLESSED! We mourn, but she is worshiping God Almighty before His holy throne!    Now, I won't try to pretend that this truth will make Amber's husband and son feel no pain. Of course they will. But that is not the end of the story! Her husband and son can someday have hope knowing that their loved one IS BLESSED.

And guess what? This little verse reminds me that I have HOPE for other loved ones who have "died in the Lord!" It is less than a month from the 28th anniversary of my own mother's death. She was a young mom, too. She was 32. My mother loved the Lord Jesus and served Him the best she knew how... She died "in the Lord" and I am wonderfully reminded that she IS BLESSED!

The Lord is sovereign over all of the affairs of men. Even the events that seem to make no sense, like Amber's death. But in the midst of these dark Providences, we have hope. God, who brings darkness out of light, life out of death, order out of chaos- God gives us hope. He's the only One who can give us hope in life's seemingly hopeless events.
Remember, God's all sovereign and stuff....

Monday, June 20, 2011

Excursus: God Chose Some

"For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you ..."  1 Thess. 1:4 ESV

In my last post, I mentioned that God's choice of some and not others for salvation, the doctrine of election, is a "can of worms." If you are familiar with the doctrine, I do not need to explain WHY it is controversial. If you are not familiar with it, the following discussion will most likely reveal to you why it would be a touchy subject.

Paul has written elsewhere about the doctrines of election, predestination, and God's sovereignty in these matters. We will touch on some of these passages as well as what other Biblical writers have to say.

In order to be clear, let me state the doctrine first, and then we can look in the Bible to see what Jesus, Luke, and Paul have to say about it.

 By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels
 are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise
 of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation,
 to the praise of his glorious justice.
-from the 1689 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chp 3.

So basically, when it comes to salvation, people are saved because God chose them to be saved. God made his choice long before he even created the world. His choice was never based on Him looking into the future and choosing those whom He saw would choose Him. Rather, God chose WHO WOULD CHOOSE HIM. If someone never believes the Gospel, it is because God did not choose that person to do so. Most people who hear this for the first time do not like it and will often respond by saying it's not fair, or the Bible doesn't teach such a thing. I had a similar response the first time I ever heard this teaching. But let me show you from the Bible why I now believe it...

Jesus taught it:

"Jesus said to them,'I am the bread of life;whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.'" John 6"35-40

Jesus says that ALL that the Father gives him will come to him (v.37). This loudly implies that those who "are not given" will not come.

"So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, 'I am the bread that came down from heaven.' They said, 'Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, "I have come down from heaven"?' Jesus answered them, 'Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. '"
John 6:41-44

The Jews are complaining that Jesus is claiming to be from Heaven. Jesus tells them to stop grumbling and that (v44) "No one can come to me unless the Father...draws him." Jesus is saying no one CAN come to him. That is, no one IS ABLE to come to him unless something first happens. No one can come to him unless the Father DRAWS HIM. God the Father must first DRAW a person to the Son in order for a person to have the ability to come to the Son.

But why would people NOT have the ability to come to God/Jesus?
Romans 5 gives us some insight. There Paul tells us that through one man's sin (Adam's sin), "many died" v 15, "death reigned" v.17, "death spread to all men" v.12. And also in Romans 3, he tells us, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God..." v.10-11esv.  Paul paints an unflattering picture of mankind. We are dead in sin, we do NOT seek after God and in chapter 8 of this same book, Paul tells us that those who do not belong to Christ have "a mind set on the flesh" and this mind "that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" v.6-8esv.

Taking what both Jesus and Paul said, we see that mankind is dead in sin and CANNOT submit to God's law! I would paraphrase this: people in their natural, unconverted state, do not seek to be made right with God and they do not have the ability come to him anyway!

I may or may not write more about this. Let me know if you have questions. I would LOVE to interact with you over what the Bible teaches.

For now, when Paul says that "we know...[God] has chosen you," he's saying to the Thessalonians that they know God had chosen them for salvation and that this choice of them is the reason they are saved, not any desire or ability in themselves...

Remember, God is all Sovereign!