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God's Sovereignty & Man's Responsibility

God’s Sovereignty & Man’s Responsibility

        You clicked on this article for the same reason I choose to write about this topic. Because how one balances these two truths found in Scripture is still a hot issue in Christian culture and is one that is not going away. When we think about God’s Sovereignty and man’s responsibility we are talking about a pair of truths that stand side by side that seem irreconcilable, yet are both undeniable. A Christian cannot seriously read the bible and deny God’s complete sovereignty in all things. And yet, the same serious reader, cannot deny that man is responsible and that his actions, or lack thereof, have real consequences.

            First, lets consider God’s sovereignty. Prov. 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” Or consider Isaiah 46: 9-10 “remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose”. How can God declare the end from the beginning? Not only does God know what is going to happen but he is the one who will sovereignly bring it about.

Now for man’s responsibility. Consider Luke 13:3 which says, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” It is not merely the hearing of the gospel which saves someone but man is responsible to repent and trust in Christ to be saved. Another example is found in Jonah. Upon hearing that God was going to overthrow his city, the king of Nineveh commanded a city wide fast and said, “let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish?”  

God is sovereign and yet man is responsible. Sometimes even in the same verse! Consider Acts 2:22, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God but who does God hold responsible? Scripture says that lawless men crucified and killed Jesus! Wow! How can both be true at the same time? The author certainly admits mystery but not contradiction.

J.I. Packer, a well-known and respected theologian echoes this truth when he says, “God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are taught us side by side in the same Bible. Both are guaranteed to us by the same divine authority, both therefore are true…they must be held together, and not played off against each other.”

God wants us to embrace his sovereignty in all things but he also expects us to act. God has end goals in mind which he will achieve through the means of sinful people like you and me. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? If this confuses you, even a little bit, you are in good company. God does not expect complete understanding in everything he has written down but does expect us to study what he has written down in an attempt to understand it in the best way we can. It would be a mistake to neglect the study of something even though we recognize we cannot understand it completely. It would also be an equal mistake to assume that we have arrived in complete understanding of this topic. Balance is the key. We should not over emphasize God’s sovereignty to the neglect of man’s responsibility and vise versa. God bless you as you continue your study.

Posted by Matt Williams
in Bible

Do you pray for your Pastor?

Do you pray for your Pastor?

The pastoral office is an office that is not very well respected today. No one is impressed with our title, education or experience. It was not always the case. Old pastors tell me stories of when they were so well respected that they could show up at one of their members’ homes, uninvited and unannounced, and be welcomed in for dinner by the insistence of a family who was honored that the pastor would pay them a visit.

          These are different times now where pastors have lost the respect of their people and the general public. Some of this is self-inflicted. Pastors have fallen into sins, we have neglected prayer and study and therefore have no message from God’s Word for our starving sheep. Our societies view of pastors is now skeptical at best. We are kept at arm’s length and considered strange by our neighbors. Pastors, in general, are no longer esteemed, well-respected men. I think much of this is self-inflicted. We have lost respect because we have not earned it. There is a sizeable gap between how an average church member views their pastors and how the Bible says church members should view their pastor. The acknowledgement of this gap is, I believe, the first step in rebuilding this God ordained relationship in the Church.  Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

A pastor’s calling is to patrol the outer walls of your soul as a watchman with or without your respect. However, the honor a church member shows his pastor allows him to pastor with Joy. Don’t underestimate the power of joy! Joy is fuel to a pastor’s tank. A joyless pastor can perhaps be effective for a season but he will not endure long without joy which we so desperately need. You, the church member, can provide us with this as we labor for your growth in Christ. 1 Thess. 5:12 says “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you”

All pastors struggle with leading because of the weight of responsibility God has called us to bear. We are often reminded by God of our humanity. Our own sin and unworthiness never escape our thoughts. We are humbled by our lack of talent and mental inadequacies. God reminds us of this to keep us humble. Satan reminds us of this to depress us. Spurgeon said, “who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust? Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment.”        

Few people can endure failures. Even fewer can endure success. Most do not have the character and self-awareness to avoid the flaming arrow of pride sent by the enemy the day after a victory. King David fell only after his many victories in battle. Jonah sits under a worm-eaten bush requesting that God take his life after his message results in the salvation of 120,000 persons.

All Christians have a target on their backs. Pastors have a larger one. Satan knows that all he has to do is to destroy the pastors to destroy the Churches. All Christians deal with adversity. But the adversity a pastor deals with is greater. I say all this to ask you a question. Do you pray for you pastor?

Posted by Matt Williams
in Bible

Are you Neglecting the Old Testament?

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Are you Neglecting the Old Testament?

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

What are these “Scriptures” that Paul is referring to in this verse? I thought the term “Scriptures” was a term designated only for the 66 books of the Bible? Since the NT (New Testament) was not yet complete, Paul refers to, what could only be a reference to the OT (Old Testament) when he calls them “Scriptures.” This is important for us to consider because I fear that we are living in a time when so much emphasis is placed on the “new” to the neglect of the “old.” After all, it is old. Really old! But the age of these “sacred writings” (2 Tim. 3:15) is exactly why we should place great emphasis on, not only reading the OT, but treating these Scriptures the way the NT authors did. Have you read every book in the OT? I imagine, if you are like me, you have read Matthew’s gospel more than Hosea. My question is, why is this? Here are 3 reasons you should read the OT.

  1. The God of the NT is the same as the God of the OT

One of the reasons people neglect the OT is because they do not like the God of the OT. After all Jesus is so nice in the NT and God is so mean in the OT right? Let’s look at this a little deeper. Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” God does not change. He is the same in the old as he is in the new. This is so comforting. Also notice in this verse that the immutability of God is the reason why the people are not consumed. The notion that the OT God is only a God of wrath and the NT Jesus is only a God of love is…well…just not true. The grace and compassion of God spew out of every page of the OT and there are plenty of “woes” cast from Jesus in the NT. Consider Jonah’s confession about God when he says, “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” The character of God is exactly why Jonah fled! He did not want those wicked Ninevites to meet the real God who relents from disaster. You say, “But what about all the foreign armies God sent to destroy Israel, God’s chosen people?” You are forgetting about the years of warnings God graciously gave Israel to turn from their sin. The loving thing for God to do was discipline his son Israel. Even in the mist of their discipline Lamentations records that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” If you have the impression that God is only a mean-spirited God in the OT then you need to read it again or perhaps for the first time with a new set of lenses.

  1. If you neglect the Old Testament you are neglecting Jesus

 

The whole of the 66 books of the Bible is about Jesus. The OT speaks of a coming deliverer and the NT looks back on his life and explains the significance of it. Jews spoke of the OT in three main parts; The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets. Recall Jesus words at the end of the Luke’s gospel when he told his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Lk. 24:44). Did you catch it? The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets were all written about Jesus. Just a few verses earlier Luke tells us about Jesus talking to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and says, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” In John 5:46 Jesus says, “if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” To the degree that you neglect the OT is the degree that you are neglecting Jesus.

 

  1. The NT explains the OT

What is the best commentary ever written on the OT? You answered correctly if you said the NT. This is not to demean the NT to a level that is not scripture. It absolutely is. This is my simple way of making the point that the NT explains the OT. You would have a lot of questions if you watched The Two Towers before you watched The Fellowship of the Ring, wouldn’t you? Why read book two before book one? The new does not replace the old. It fulfills it. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Mt. 5:17-18). Read the old stuff my friends. Your passion for Jesus will increase if you understand the stage that was set for him by God the Father. By reading and understanding the OT you will gain a greater appreciation for NT.

Posted by Matt Williams

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