I Found God! I accepted Jesus...I made Him Lord of my life. These phrases and many more like them have come to be the common vernacular of much of modern evangelicalism. Even worse might be the campaign slogan: “I found it.” All of which serve - at least in our own minds - to reduce the God of Glory to some form of amorphous or abstract deity void of any concrete relevance either in our lives or in the world at large. We must ask ourselves, “Who was lost and in need of being found?”
Without too much difficulty we can see a similar thread running through each one of these interjections and that is - of course - the strong emphasis on the pronoun I. At first glance we may glibly conclude that all of this is really just innocuous. However, I am convinced that we must consider the possibility that something much more insidious has entered into not just our conversation, but has warped the very essence of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Instead of being a living creation we become some sort of zombie-esque creature. Yet it is impossible for the Immutable to produce a mutation. The Divine initiative of the Father can only produce living children - born anew by the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”’ Galatians 4:6 ESV
By so trifling with the omnipotence of God the quality of childlikeness is exchanged for childishness - the adoring progeny becomes a demanding brat. “On the contrary, who are you—mere man that you are—to talk back to God? Can an object that was molded say to the one who molded it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’" Romans 9:20 ISV Or what might be more common in our modern era: “How can the one who has been chosen say that it is my own choices that determine the course of my fate?” Can we not hear the echoes of the atheistic anthem Invictus: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
We must concern ourselves or even “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 1:3 NAS As the commentator pastor John Gill states: “it was delivered by God the Father to Christ as Mediator,...” The ancient declared faith has devolved into modernistic sloganism. The truth has been exchanged for something that is decidedly less than that.
I am drawn repeatedly to the confessions of the Reformers and also to the hymnody that has subsequently arisen–much like the bloom of the morning glory at dawn’s first light. I like to call these “timeless truths.” Recently this verse from 1836 found my attention which I posted to Facebook.
My Lord, I did not choose You,
For that could never be;
My heart would still refuse You,
Had You not chosen me.
You took the sin that stained me,
You cleansed me, made me new;
Of old You have ordained me,
That I should live in You.
A good friend who has come to the awareness of such truth responded: “A most liberating truth that changes one's perspective entirely and causes a spring of hope to transform into a river of gratefulness for the goodness, grace and wisdom of God!”
This is the purpose of my endeavor here. We must have a change in perspective. Our focus needs to depart from the allegiance to our personal I - I made Jesus my personal saviour - to the supreme majesty of the I AM. “for unless you believe that I AM, you'll die in your sins." John 8:24b ISV
Our salvation is far greater than something He does for us - it is something He does to us for His Glory. With that in mind let us consider this: “Grace is much, much more than the definition that we have been taught of ‘unmerited favor’. It is all that and more. Grace is the power of God to save us, to change us and transform us and do for us that which we cannot do for ourselves or for anyone else.”
Apprehended By Faith
While recently considering the matter of faith I was drawn quite logically to “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 Yet it seemed that faith had to be much more than something we “understand” or to which we merely acquiesce via our intellect. I much prefer this alternative “By faith we apprehend...” (Darby) or even “Faith convinces us...” (GOD’S WORD).
Saul on the Damascus Road did not just come to understand that Jesus was the Lord of His Church. No mere intellectual assent could suffice here. He was apprehended - the force of which propelled him through the rest of his life on into eternity–which he now had in his heart. It is hard for us to see here where he accepted any sort of invitation - so why then do we invite people to come to Christ? Indeed his commission by the Word of the Lord was: “for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake.” Rest assured in confidence that when God says He will - He does! To ease the fears of Ananias He said, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name...”
Paul would then write: “but I run so that I may obtain that thing for which Yeshua The Messiah apprehended me.” Philippians 3:12 Aramaic in Plain English or even “I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” To be apprehended is to be laid hold of by something or Someone who is outside of and decidedly greater than ourselves. This goes far beyond the realms of intellectual assent alone. This is the faith of which our Lord Christ is the author and perfecter.
To presuppose that our salvation depends on our ability to initiate - or even respond - indicates something inherently good within ourselves which flies in the face of Original Sin or as the Reformers called it: Total Depravity. “for all alike have sinned, and all consciously come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23 Weymouth If we do deny the doctrine of Total Depravity, do we not also deny the need of a Total Saviour and Lord?
If He is not total - and absolute - we subject Him to the limited abilities of our minds to conceptualize or quantify and qualify. This gives rise to such statements as, “My god would not do that.” The subsequent effect is to make God into our own image which is none other than “mind idolatry.” Essentially we have become our own god–thus subjecting ourselves to the whims of hypotheses.
God Will Not?
In a recent conversation with a fellow pastor he defiantly claimed, “God will not cross over our free moral will.” Really? One must wonder what Paul would have thought about just such a statement. “But when he who separated me from my mother's womb chose and called me by his grace...” Galatians 1:15 Aramaic in Plain English Do we repeat things so often that we have come to believe them even though they fly in the face of the Authoritative Word? Have we become so deceived because of our desire to be profound? "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:5 NAS
Was Paul unique - some sort of super-apostle as he deridingly refers to those who thought they were special at least in their own eyes. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15 KJV As it has been observed he referred to himself as an apostle in his earliest letters - then toward the culmination he was the chief of sinners or a bond servant. He descended into greatest becoming more and more conformed into the image of his Lord--the Glory of God was increased in him.
On my last trip to Uganda as I was sharing with a group of pastors in the Sembabule District I began to relate the story of the Moravian missionaries who were willing to sell themselves into slavery so that they might fulfill their calling to bring the Good News to the slaves on the sugar plantations of the West Indies. Their commission has resounded down through history. As they left their friends and family possibly never to see them again: "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering!"
My scripture reference was: "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 NAS The Father is presenting us to His Son as a reward for His suffering! We are therefore “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28b NAS It cannot be possible for Him to lose that for which He has paid such a dear price. This is the inviolate purpose initiated by the Father in His Son before the world was ever framed. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish--ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:28 HCSB
Welling Up of Gratitude
This revelation can do nothing but cause a deep well of gratitude to rise up within us to the One who is able to complete that which He has begun in us. It is this confident gratefulness that will propel us toward the goal that we might say with Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” 2 Timothy 4:7 NAS
To quote Sam Storms in Chosen for Life: “It is God’s gracious and loving action to which we contribute nothing and for which, therefore, God receives all the glory.” “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:29 KJV
Returning to another great anthem of the church:
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
And with the Reformers we declare: “Soli Deo gloria! - Glory to God alone!”