Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Pinocchio Paradox - Wooden or Enlivened? 

“I am no wooden dancing doll!  God has sent His Spirit into my heart and by Him I cry out ‘Abba! Father!’ I am a son!”

Manipulation or Motivation - the Outward or the Inward

My exclamation above came in response to this statement: “Well, if it is about predestination, then we are just robots or puppets.”  I hear this refrain over and over again when the mind of man tries (or tires) in vain to grasp the wisdom of God. I am reminded of the struggle so aptly portrayed by Paul in Romans 7 - do we live this life out on the basis of outward works of law or by the inward renewing of the Holy Spirit?  On the one hand is the dilemma of excruciating agony and on the other is the joyous praise of the one set free from such bondage. “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24-25a NASB

Paul again confronts this issue, not only here but in nearly every one of his letters to the churches. “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees,...” Colossians 2:20 NASB The propensity to slide back into humanistic perfectionism is our constant unwanted companion as we are drawn along the path of Holy Spirit sanctification looking toward the final blessed hope.

Having our eyes transfixed...looking to the author and perfecter of faith -- Jesus,...

as "the author and finisher of faith": he is the author or efficient cause of it; all men are by nature without it; it is not in the power of man to believe of himself; it is a work of omnipotence; it is an instance of the exceeding greatness of the power of God; and it is the operation of Christ, by his Spirit; and the increase of it is from him, and he is the finisher of it; he gives himself, and the blessings of his grace, to his people, to maintain and strengthen it; he prays for it, that it fail not; he carries on the work of faith, and will perform it with power; and brings to, and gives that which is the end of it, eternal life, or the salvation of the soul. John Gill 1697-1771

Can we not also hear in the passage above the resounding affirmation:  “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  Revelation 1:17b-18 NIV We have been set free from the bondage of fear and it is wholly and completely of Him.  It is a fait accompli - an established fact - yet there is no iota of fatalism here.  This is the divine motivation of the children of God and produces within us a spiritual sacrifice of worship that is holy and pleasing to Him - spurring us onward to love and good deeds. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 NASB

For some inexplicable reason we want to hold on to what we believe is our right to choose. I heard one Bible teacher say that if we demand our rights, the only right we have is eternal separation from God and from there we would have to confess that He is holy and right. From the first Adam to the Second Adam there is no such thing as “free moral agency.”  All are dead in their trespasses and sins until the initiative of the Father intervenes. Let us also say it this way: All are enslaved - none have the ability to choose without the prior regenerative work of the Spirit of God and what He begins He will bring to completion. If the ability to love God - and one another - is dependant on our somehow inherent ability to choose then it is fickle and subject to failure. Could it even be conceivable that the created would say to the Creator: “I demand my right to choose.”  The prophet dispels such foolish notions: "Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker-- An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?' Or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands '”? Isaiah 45:9 NASB

If a single verse were to be set out as most clearly presenting gospel truth it must surely be John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ESV If this be true - and we concur that the love of God cannot fail - then we are left with two options and personal choice is not one of them.  We must either embrace limited atonement via election or universalism sometimes called ultimate reconciliation. Election and universalism are incompatible - if everyone is elect, then there is no election.

At this very moment I am hearing these words on the radio: “Your boundless love unfailing...Hallelujah, Glory be to our Great God!”

One author once wrote, “Read the (words in) red and pray for the power.” May the authority inherent in these words penetrate into the very depths of our being. "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 6:44  And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." John 6:65

What incredible presumption it is to assume that by our own volition we accept Him. The pseudo-evangelistic mantra of: “Have you accepted Jesus into your heart?” is countered squarely by Divine Initiative. “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved (the Son of His love).” Ephesians 1:6 KJV 

And returning to my opening declaration - He is the One who has sent his Spirit into our hearts.  ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."’ Romans 8:15 NIV Once again we are slaves until we are set free by a Power that is authoritatively outside of our abilities. The Father in His divine providence has chosen you as His child. You are no wooden dancing doll - you have become a son, a joint heir with Jesus Christ. ‘Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."’ Galatians 4:6 NIV Thus this confession is impossible without the prior work of the Father through the gift of the Spirit. “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:9 NIV

Did we invite the Spirit of God to come into our lives or was He sent rushing from the heavenly realms according to the unalterable pledge of Christ Himself? Peter unhesitatingly announces this: "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” Acts 2:33. Continuing with the words of Paul: “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5 We are bathed - baptized - in, through, with and by this precious love; we do not take a bath. “For we also are baptized by The One Spirit into one body, whether Jews or Aramaeans or Servants or free men, and we are all made to drink The One Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13 Aramaic Bible 

We are not being force fed - think of the baby bird eagerly receiving the nourishment provided by its parent - having no ability to feed itself. As the morsel comes near the latent hunger within the nestling is awakened to receive the gift descending from above. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13 ESV

"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 NASB

The awareness of having been chosen elect out of the depths of God’s love and wisdom (Ephesians 1:4) engenders no passive que sera, sera.  It is the supreme motive of the euangelion - inspiring such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Lemuel Haynes, William Carey, Amy Carmichael, Charles Spurgeon. Spirit of sonship in Romans 8:15 is also translated: “Spirit of adoption.” One who has been adopted has been chosen - the result being unparalleled gratitude. It is hard to imagine a greater motivating factor.

It produces not puppets, robots nor automatons - but sons!  It is the manifestation of these that all creation is longing for: “For the creation shall also be freed from the bondage of destruction into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God.” Romans 8:21 Aramaic Bible

The ability to choose is granted to those only who have first been chosen. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last.” John 15:16 NIV They are liberated by the agency of the Spirit of God: and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3b It is His a priori work that produces this result: If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 CSV

In awe of the continued revelation of the great mystery that is being revealed in these latter days through the church we turn again to the words of the song Our Great God:

Eternal God, unchanging
Mysterious, and unknown
Your boundless love, unfailing
In grace and mercy shown
Bright seraphim in endless flight
Around Your glorious throne
They raise their voices day and night
In praise to You alone

Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!

Here is the Father’s ultimate objective in creating a vast cloud of worshipers: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;...” Romans 8:29 NASB or as Weymouth translates it: “For those whom He has known beforehand He has also pre-destined to bear the likeness of His Son, that He might be the Eldest in a vast family of brothers;...”

“to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ--to Him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 16:27 CSV

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