The Bible teaches us to expect mental jolts when we think about God. It teaches us that our familiar ways of seeing things may be replaced. For example, it says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33). Or again, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
One of the reasons (not the only one) that some people reject the biblical teaching of unconditional election is that it seems and feels to them out of sync with other teachings in the Bible – like the compassion of God for people or the moral accountability of people before God. It seems to many that God can’t choose unconditionally to save some and not others and then also feel compassion for those he does not choose and hold them accountable for their sin.
The problem here is that our instinct or intuition for what is right or possible for God does not fit Scripture. And the danger is that we shape Scripture to fit our feelings.
The Scriptures teach that God chooses who will be saved before we are born or have done anything good or evil (Romans 9:10-12). “It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). The Scriptures also teach that we are responsible for the obedience of faith and will be judged if we are disobedient. “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8). We are chosen (or not chosen) unconditionally for salvation. And we are accountable for our faith (or unbelief).
As I said in my sermon on 12-8-02, I do not fully understand how God renders certain the belief of the elect and the unbelief of the non-elect. If you want to go deeper into this, I recommend Jonathan Edwards’ book The Freedom of the Will. It is slow reading, but you will grow more from the effort than you can imagine.
To help you accustom yourself to living with such felt tensions (unconditional election and human accountability) consider two similar ones from the example of Christ.
First, we see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because the things of the kingdom were “hidden from [their] eyes.” But on the other hand we also hear Jesus say that God has “hidden these things.”
- Luke 19:41-42. And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
- Luke 10:21. In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
Second, we see Jesus feeling compassion for those who were sick – irrespective, it seems of their faith. On the other hand, we know from illustrations and teachings elsewhere in the Bible that God is finally and decisively in control of sickness. So we have Jesus feeling sorry for people who have sicknesses that God’s wisdom has ordained (at least for a time).
- Matthew 14:14. When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
- Exodus 4:11. Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
- 1 Samuel 2:6. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
Implications: 1) Don’t cancel one truth in the Bible because it feels out of sync with another. 2) Don’t draw emotional or behavioral implications from God’s sovereignty that contradict faith, compassion, accountability, prayer, evangelism, or hard work. On the contrary, consider Colossians 3:12 and let your unspeakably happy condition as “chosen, holy and loved” produce “compassion, kindness, humility and meekness.”
So agree with this…people have no idea what it is to be a “charity” you are judged as being “fit and well” because you aren’t lying in a hospital, thing is people don’t see the inside, they don’t realise how far you have come for so long and the permanent damage it has had on your physical, mental and emotional well being. They don’t see how their response to you adds to the effect, they carry on judging…playing games…manipulating….generating opinion. Yes there are scroungers out there, but not everyone is one and quite often the scroungers don’t need the food banks!
The Daily Mail chose today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, champion of the oppressed, by publishing this article today. Here’s my response.
Dear Daily Mail,
I’ve got a little boy. His name is Isaac, and he’s nearly three. Like any little boy, he loves cars, balls, and running around. He’s barely ever still.
A few days ago though, he was. I took him to the supermarket to spend his pocket money, and we passed the donation basket for our local food bank. It was about half full – nothing spectacular, in fact, mostly prunes and pasta – and he asked what it was. As simply as possible, I tried to explain that it was for people to give food for other people who couldn’t afford it.
This affected his two year old brain fairly deeply. After a lot of thought, he decided to spend a little bit of…
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Fall In Love Again
I saw her for the first time during my freshman year of college.
We were standing in the lunch line at the same time, and even though I was having a conversation with my friends, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. It probably made her uncomfortable the way I was staring her up and down, but I was smitten.
I was absolutely determined to get a date with her, and I was absolutely convinced that we needed to be together – she wasn’t so convinced! As our relationship progressed, I fell deeply, madly, hopelessly, and desperately in love.
I’ll never forget that first summer we were apart. I couldn’t function – I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it an entire summer without seeing her. So on July 4th weekend, I hitchhiked 800 miles each way to see her, even though our time together lasted only 36 hours.
When I finally made it to her house, she walked out onto the porch. I fell in love all over again. I hadn’t forgotten what she looked like or what her voice sounded like, but it was a fresh sensation of love rushing through my soul.
Luella has been my wife for 42 years (I was married at 7), and even to this day, when I go on long international trips, I experience a similar sensation when I get back to my loft. Even though life with Luella has become so familiar, there’s something about her that makes me fall in love again.
WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?
If you had to write a short description of Christianity, what would you write? If you had one sentence to capture the essence of your belief, how would you phrase it? I’ll give you 5 common answers:
- Christianity is having your sins forgiven and going to Heaven
- Christianity is a commitment to ministry within the body of Christ
- Christianity is a commitment to evangelism and service
- Christianity is theology that provides answers for major life questions
- Christianity is a moral code for daily living
None of these answers are wrong. Christianity is absolutely about justification and eternity; Christianity most definitely includes ministry and evangelism; Christian theology provides a framework to interpret life; and Christianity does lay out a moral code for daily living.
However, at its essential core, Christianity is not about activity, theology, or evangelism. All of those things are good and meaningful parts of Christianity, but they miss one key ingredient.
THE MISSING INGREDIENT
In a word, Christianity is about love. The core of the Christian message is the comfort of God’s love for undeserving sinners, coupled with the call that Christians should love God above else. Christianity is about a life altering, agenda-setting, love relationship.
The message of the Bible is that God has moved toward me in love when I really deserved His condemnation. He’s wrapped His arms of love around me and He’s in the process of changing me at the level of my heart.
If you remove this fundamental love relationship, all you’re left with is theology and rules. Those five common answers to Christianity suddenly become dangerous and damaging when you forget that their foundation is built upon love.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Is your faith more about an organization, meetings, and activities than it is about a deep appreciation and affection for Christ? Imagine what my marriage would look like if I wasn’t personally in love with Luella. Sure, we might go out to dinner, participate in church activities, and visit family together, but if you take away the love we have for each other, you couldn’t call that a healthy marriage.
At street level, where the rubber-meets-the-road, do you really love the Lord? Do you get a fresh sensation of awe when you meditate on the majesty of God? Do you get a fresh rush of gratitude when you reflect on the Cross? Even if you’ve walked with the Lord for decades, do you still experience a fresh appreciation for His Word?
I’m concerned that many Christians experience a stale “romantic” relationship with the Lord. As I travel around the world, I’m saddened to discover that Christianity has often been reduced to a Christ-less Christianity of rules and activities.
I would encourage you, right here and right now as you’re reading this Article, to reflect on your relationship with Jesus. Don’t reconsider “Christianity” in the corporate sense of the word – keep it personal.
Meditate on His beauty. Focus on His glory. Bask in His grace. Fall in love again with your Savior.
Relationships: A Grace MentalityThis is the final devotional in an 8-part series on Relationships. We\’ve had such positive feedback on the series that I want to make an additional resource on Relationships available to you.Tim Lane and I co-authored a book called \”Relationships: A Mess Worth Making\”, and for the next week, you can get it for 50% off the retail price in the PaulTripp.com store.CLICK HERE to add a copy of the book to your cart, and before you check out, enter the Coupon Code relationships plural, all lowercase.This offer is available until January 28. Happy reading!Get \”Relationships: A Mess Worth Making\” for only $8.99!Last week we discussed what it meant to live in our relationships with An Investment Mentality. Here\’s the third and final mentality:3 YOU MUST LIVE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH A GRACE MENTALITY:When I got married, I didn’t understand grace. I had a principle-istic view of Scripture that caused me to bring a law economy into all of my relationships.The central focus of the Bible is not a set of practical principles for life. No, the central theme of the Bible is a person, Jesus Christ. If all you and I needed was a knowledge and understanding of a certain set of God-revealed principles for living, Jesus wouldn\’t have needed to come.I think there are many Christians living in Christ-less relationships. Without knowing what they\’re doing, they construct law-based rather than grace-based relationships. And because of this, they ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish.The problem with this is that we\’re not just people in need of wisdom; we\’re also people in need of rescue—and the thing that we need to be rescued from is us. Our fundamental problem is not ignorance of what is right. Our problem is selfishness of heart that causes us to care more about what we want than about what we know is right.The laws, principles, and perspectives of Scripture provide the best standard ever towards which our relationships should strive. They can reveal our wrongs and failures, but they have no capacity whatsoever to deliver us from them. For that we need the daily grace that only Jesus can give us.We must not simply hold one another to the high relational standards of God’s Word, but we must also daily offer the same grace that we\’ve been given to one another so that we may be tools of grace in the lives of one another. Our confidence is not in the ability we have to keep God’s law but rather in the life-giving and heart-transforming grace of the One who has drawn us to himself and has the power to draw us to one another.When we live with this confidence, we look at the difficulties of our relationships not so much as hassles to be endured, but as opportunities to enter into an even deeper experience of the rescuing, transforming, forgiving, empowering grace of Jesus, the One who died for us and is always with us.Three mentalities—each an essential building block for a healthy biblical, relational lifestyle. Each require the honesty of personal humility, and each encourage us to be reconciled to one another and to God again and again and again.God blessPaul David TrippREFLECTION QUESTIONSWhat is the difference between LAW and GRACE?What does a LAW-BASED relationship look like?What does a GRACE-BASED relationship look like?Are you better at laying down the law than giving grace? HINT: no one lays down the law better than the one who thinks they are keeping it themselvesHow can you give grace better? HINT: no one gives grace better than the person who knows they need it most
Relationships: Mercy in the MessThis is the second devotional in an 8-part series on Relationships.Read the first devotional – \”Relationships: Gaining Ground.\”We all dream of the perfect relationship. You know, the one that’s free of disagreement, conflict, communication difficulties, power battles, anger and control. We can envision what it would be like. The problem is, none of us ever get what we were once able to imagine. When we wake up from our dreams, we’re all greeted by the reality that all of our relationships live in the same location – the fallen world – and all of our relationships are with the same kind of people – imperfect human beings I’ll remind you again, you\’re one of those too!.Now you just have to ask why God would choose to subject us to such difficulty and disappointment. Is there meaning in the mess? Is there mercy in the mess? Maybe right now you’re facing things in one of your relationships you never imagined you’d face. Maybe right now you’re dealing with such deep hurt and disappointment that you simply don\’t know what to do. Have you wondered what in the world God is doing? Have you been tempted to doubt his goodness and question his love?Here are some things to remember:1. God never gets a wrong address:Acts 17 tells us that God determines the exact place where we’ll live and the exact length of our lives. Your life isn’t out of control. What you’re facing isn’t the result of God forgetting you. God hasn\’t turned his back on the promises he made to you. I know it\’s hard to grasp, but what you\’re facing is the result of God being faithful to his promises to you.2. God is in the middle of the mess with you:Psalm 46 tells us that \”God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.\” If you’re God\’s child, you’ve never been in a location all by yourself. If you’re God\’s child, you’ve never been in a relationship all by yourself. You’ve never endured difficulty in isolation. Why? Because God is always with you and he’s there so that you would have a place to run \”refuge\” and help in your moments of greatest discouragement and weakness \”strength\”.3. God is up to something good in the mess:Here\’s the mistake we make in the way we attempt to make sense out of lives. We think that the mess is a sure sign that God isn’t working in our lives, because if he were at work, we wouldn\’t be in such a mess. The Bible tells us something completely different. It tells us that because God loves us so, he’s not satisfied with us as we are. He looks down at us and sees many areas where change and growth are needed. He couldn\’t love us and be willing to leave us in our immaturity and weakness. So God takes us where we don’t want to go in order to produce in us what we couldn’t achieve on our own – character.And how does he do this? He uses the difficult experiences of life to expose and change our hearts. One of his main tools is our relationships. These messy relationships expose our hearts, bring us to the end of ourselves and cause us to reach out for the help that only Jesus can give us.I know it’s hard to face the hurt and disappointment of a relationship gone bad. But there is hope. You’re never alone. The One who’s with you is up to something very good and because he is, there really is mercy to be found right smack dab in the middle of the mess!REFLECTION QUESTIONSWhere are you experiencing relational conflict and difficulty?Are you shifting all responsibility to the other person, or are you humble enough to admit that your flaws are a factor for the mess?Do you wish you lived at a \”different address\”? How is God using your specific location for your redemption?How can the Person of Jesus Christ – with you in the middle of your relational difficulty – help you in your relationships?