5 Encouragements from Predestination

I preached on predestination recently at our local church (audio here) because Pastor Bob Hapgood has been scaling the Kilimanjaro that is Romans 9, and one of the things I tried to do was show how encouraging this doctrine is to those who trust Jesus. Often predestination and election get treated as something meant for controversy and debate or as a mystery to be pretty much left alone and avoided. This is a sad, and, in my opinion, weakens the church because of the tendency to either dodge or debate this glorious aspect of its identity.

Predestination should enhance your joy not disturb it.

I’m convinced that if you ignore or just argue about the doctrine of predestination you will miss out on one of God’s ways of blessing you (Eph. 1:3). The first several verses of Ephesians 1 unpack predestination in order to show that it is a part of the multifaceted ways that God has blessed you in Jesus Christ. Therefore predestination should enhance your joy not disturb it. What follows are a few of the many encouragements for Christians to draw from the reality that God predestines:

1. God chose you because he loved you. Ephesians 1:4-5, in the ESV translation, says, “in love God predestined”. Therefore predestination is motivated by love. This means that God’s choice of you derives from his love for you. Sovereign choice doesn’t detract from God’s love it is the fountainhead of God’s love. We don’t go deeper into love by sidestepping predestination. We go deeper into love by diving into its deeps. We are familiar with the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his Beloved Son, but need to become more familiar with the fact that God so loved the world that he predestined adopted sons in the Beloved from all eternity (Eph. 1:5).

2. You are a gift of love from the Father to the Son. John 17 reveals that your salvation was planned in the heart and mind of the Triune God before there ever was a you (17:2, 24). This means that God’s love for you is bigger than you. It is tied to the love for which the Father has for his Son. And the reason this is encouraging is because the size of God’s love for you is not to be gauged by his love for you but by his love for Jesus. From his very own mouth, Jesus said, “[Father] you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (17:23). The astonishment that we should feel at being loved by God becomes even more mind-blowing because God’s love for us flows in the same stream as God’s love for God.

3. Your present sins may be many but your future sinlessness is certain. Romans 8:29 tells us that we have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of [Jesus].” As a son of God, you are guaranteed one day to look like the Son of God. Therefore you fight sin in hope not in defeated depression. Your Christlikeness is not dependent upon your performance but upon God’s predestination.

Your Christlikeness is not dependent upon your performance but upon God’s predestination.

4. Your very identity is “elect” because God has named you that. The apostle Peter begins his letter to those in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia by calling them “God’s elect” (1 Pe. 1:1). Contemporary Christians don’t normally go around calling each other “predestined” or “elect” or “chosen” or “called”, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t. In fact, if we were named this by God, what stops us from calling each other that? What kind of massive encouragement would it bring to believers to have spoken over their lives the fact that God has picked them? Psychologically we see in various social situations that many times a person lives up to what they are called to. If you are called “loser”, “failure”, even “sinner”, and the like over and over again you will probably live up to it. If you trust Jesus, you can be confident that God has given you a new name. You have been chosen. God has called you something that you are not in and of yourself to make you something that you are in him. So act like it. Be who you are. Be what you have been called to be. Live up to your name.

The little phrase “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace” helps us see that one of the best ways to do everything to the glory of God is to do everything celebrating and enjoying God’s grace.

5. God’s predestination of you enables you to live life to the highest purpose of your existence, namely, “to praise of the glory of [God’s] grace” (1:6). All of us have heard the phrase “do everything to the glory of God” and too often it becomes a cliché that means nothing in practice. The little phrase “to the praise of the glory of God’s grace” helps us see that one of the best ways to do everything to the glory of God is to do everything celebrating and enjoying God’s grace. Predestination has a unique way of drawing this out of us because it drowns out our propensity toward boasting and relying upon works and establishes the fact that it flows from the sovereign heart of God uninfluenced by human decision and work. Election strips us from taking one ounce of salvation and putting it in our portfolio and propels us into praising God exclusively for everything. Predestination is exceptional at displaying that every piece of salvation is gift, and one’s who have been given such a great gift will joyfully praise and glorify the Giver. We live “to the praise of the glory of the grace of God” when we recognize that predestination is all of grace and for God’s glory.

Be encouraged! Predestination is meant to bedazzle your heart not just boggle your mind.

9 Reasons to Affirm Others

Sam Crabtree’s book, Practicing Affirmation, gives 9 reasons one should affirm others:

Affirmation is a way to bring life and healing to those around you.

1. Affirming others earns us the right standing from which to make suggestions. (p. 71)

2. Affirmation lifts morale. (p. 71)

3. Affirmation energizes people. (p. 72)

4. Affirmation of others makes us easier to live with. (p. 72)

5. Striving to affirm others puts us in the practice of looking at them positively–that is, looking for evidence of God’s work in them. (p. 73)

6. Affirmation constructively uses time that could have been wasted complaining. (p. 73)

7. By commending Christlike qualities, and celebrating them when we spot them, affirmation showcases the character of God, giving him honor for being the kind of God he is. (p. 74)

8. Behaviors that are rewarded and celebrated are more likely to be repeated. (p. 74)

9. When we commend God’s image in people, God is glorified, and that’s why we were made–to glorify God. (p. 75)

Life and death is in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). The tongue can be used either as a weapon or as an instrument of healing: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18). Affirmation is a way to bring life and healing to those around you.

Do it. A lot.

I need to grow in this area. Big time.

Is Jesus After Depth or Breadth?

Late nineteenth century pastor and Scottish theologian PT Forsyth answers:

A gospel deep enough has all the breadth of the world in its heart

…while Christ and Christianity did come to make us broad men, it did not come to do that in the first instance. It came to make us deep men. The living interest of Christ and of the Holy Spirit is not breadth, but it is depth. Christ said little that was wide compared with what He said piercing and searching…A gospel deep enough has all the breadth of the world in its heart. If we are only deep enough the breadth will take care of itself. I would…rather have one man who was burning deep, even though he wanted to burn me for my modern theology, than I would have a broad, hospitable, and thin theologian who was willing to take me in and a nondescript crowd of others in a sheet let down from heaven, but who had no depth, no fire, no skill to search, and no power to break. For the deep Christianity is that which not only searches us, but breaks us. And a Christianity which would exclude none has no power to include the world.” [The Work of Christ, 61-62. Accessed online: http://www.newcreation.org.au/books/pdf/277_WorkOfChrist.pdf (July 26, 2012).]

Don’t Go Back to Calvary!

…you sometimes hear people…saying something to this effect: ‘You know, we have to keep going back to Calvary’; and they draw this picture of the Christian life as a journey. You start at Calvary, and you walk in the fellowship, then you sin, and you have to go back to Calvary. No, you do not go back; in a sense Calvary is always accompanying you. You do not go back in your Christian life; if you fall into sin, you confess it and go on. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses, and Calvary is something that accompanies us in the grace and mercy of God. It is exactly like the picture which the Apostle Paul draws in 1 Corinthians 10:4, when he talks about the rock that followed the ancient people in the wilderness. That rock was Christ, he says. [Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 132.]

You do not go back in your Christian life

If you know Jesus you will not always be following him in every action of your hands and attitude of your heart, but Jesus if following you. And not just that. He’s always with you (Mt. 28:20). Even more, he’s in you (Jn. 17:26).

Our hope in following Jesus is that he is following us. His once-for-all work at Calvary is not something we come and go from. We were crucified with him there. Therefore when you’ve sinnned, don’t put more confidence in your sin than Jesus. You can “have confidence”–right now! right after sinning–“to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).

Penance moves backward. Faith moves forward. Don’t go back!

Rachel Held Evans, Wilson & Wilson, 50 Shades of Grey, God, & Gender Roles

I don’t normally dive into the fray of blog wars, and the blog title I chose to do it with is more complicated than a law firm’s signage, but I found the recent post of Jared Wilson in which he responded to the sexual perversions of 50 Shades of Grey from a complementarian perspective by quoting Douglas Wilson and the strongly negative response to it by commenters and the later egalitarian response to it by Rachel Held Evans worth my two cents.

All egalitarian and complementarian Christians hate rape, but not all of us affirm a husband’s headship and wife’s submission. That is the real issue here.

This has turned into more than your average complementarian and egalitarian exchange, as not only has Evans charged each of them with misogyny (a hatred of women), but, for some, Doug’s quotation has brought images of rape and sexual violence into the discussion. The main issue surrounds two of Doug’s sentences regarding sexual intercourse:

 A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

I have misgivings about some of these words because of the negative overtones associated with them. “Conquer” particularly stands out to me as where the charge of rape comes from, and the word “colonize” too seems to carry echoes of enslavement. There is a legitimate reason why people cringe at “conquer” (especially women) and “colonize” (especially African Americans), and we shouldn’t be surprised at why they do. When these words are used in reference to sex further nuance is required, and to their credit both Doug and Jared have done so and shown that they are not using those terms in a coercive, violent, or dominating way and the context of Doug’s book and Jared’s post confirms this.

The whole point of Jared’s post is to show how the biblical view of sexuality is antithetical to rape and any sort of masochism in the bedroom (or anywhere else for that matter) like what I am told is depicted in 50 Shades of Grey. In his follow-up post Jared writes,

I thought it a deft point; perhaps what we see in this sort of BDSM fantasy garbage is a perverted overreaction to God’s good design of authority and submission.

That’s how I read the excerpt, and thanks to Douglas Wilson’s clarifications, I am content that I am reading it correctly

Jared and Doug are not misogynists nor are they endorsing rape of any kind. Doug settles this in his post-Evans response here and Jared did so after the commenting onslaught of his initial post here. If you need outside validation for Jared, you can read Jared’s wife’s comment in the comment section of Rachel’s post. You can also read his interview with our mutual friend Justin Holcomb on the horrendous effects of sexual assault and how the gospel brings healing to it. On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of interviewing Jared, following his feed on Facebook, and have read his material off and on for quite some time and he has never endorsed any of the above and in fact has taken his stand against some of those very things.

Feel free to disagree with their complementarianism and feel free to correct Doug for using particularly loaded words, but lets immediately drop the charge of women-hating and associating these men with rape. What Jared and Doug are describing is how sin pollutes God’s design of appropriate male headship and female submission, and how this is corrupted and abused in any act of sexual violence. No biblical complementarian would ever endorse such a heinous thing. All egalitarian and complementarian Christians hate rape, but not all of us affirm a husband’s headship and wife’s submission. That is the real issue here.

While Evans thinks most all this comes down to a complementarian infatuation with power, I think most of this comes down to a disagreement between complementarians and egalitarians about how love itself functions. Egalitarians seem to struggle with how love can be truly and fully loving within a relationship of headship and authority. They believe that headship and authority diminish equality. On the other hand, complementarians believe that loving mutuality and reciprocity can occur within a relationship of headship and submission without diminishing equality or reciprocal love. In fact, complementarians believe that love thrives and relationships are nourished in these very kinds of relationships.

I think we get gender roles wrong because we get the nature of God wrong.

I think we get gender roles wrong because we get the nature of God wrong. God is Triune and because of this love comes first not power. Three of the Gospel Coalition-ers themselves discuss this point in their little talk on the Trinity: listen to the 7ish minute mark to the 11ish minute mark.  The reality of a tri-personal God assumes that love existed between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit throughout all eternity. God didn’t start loving when he made men and women in his image. He loved himself with inter-Trinitarian love from all eternity. But this love does not cancel out headship and submission in the Trinity. For instance the Father loves and is well pleased with the Son (Mt. 3:17), and remains his head (1 Cor. 11:3).  Furthermore, the Son cannot do anything but the will of the Father (Jn. 5:19), seeks the will of the Father above his own (Jn. 5:20, 6:38), and is happy to do so all the way to the cross (Heb. 12:2). The Son gladly submits to the Father who is his head in a mutually reciprocating relationship of divine love of which we cannot plumb its depths.

Similarly, in the relationship of husbands and wives, Paul makes clear that husbands are to love their wives, are the head of their wives, and that wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:21-33). He does not say that husbands are to wield power over their wives but to live in a relationship of self-sacrificial, self-giving love with them. These two themes of submission and headship meet in covenantal love. This should not be surprising because God himself in a much greater way shows how the God who is love demonstrates headship and submission in perfect equality. Love simply works this way.

With this in mind, I don’t believe that complementarians are just on a power trip. Biblical complementarity affirms headship but the kind of headship that doesn’t say to husbands “Go exercise your headship”, but that says “Go die for your wives. Go, nourish and care for them.” Godly authority nurtures growth and self-sacrifices for growth it doesn’t stunt it (or rape it.) The Holy Spirit through the Scriptures calls for men to exercise the kind of authority that Jesus took—one that went straight to the cross.

This goes for the bedroom too. Husbands should give themselves up for their wives with sexual intimacy that is nourishing and caring (Eph. 5:25, 29). This kind of self-giving nourishment and care should characterize the husband’s role in the marriage bed itself. In fact, I much prefer those terms (self-giving, nourishment, care) when it comes to marital sexual intercourse than some of the terms used by Doug.

Sex is not about husbands exercising their authority and wives receiving it by submitting to it. Sex was given by God as a gift for both to enjoy, to have pleasure in, and to fulfill the task of multiplying and filling the earth. Evans is correct in pointing out that the apostle Paul taught mutuality and even showed how each spouse has “authority” over the other spouses body (1 Cor. 7:3-4), as well as, accurately showing how in the Song of Songs the Shulamite lady initiates and does not just receive. But Doug or Jared do not disagree with either of these points as their later posts (and other writings) indicate. What they disagree with are her wider conclusions on the matter and the egalitarian categories that are informing them.

This issue here is not about power. It is about love. Love that is reciprocal and mutual and also has headship and submissiveness embedded into the very fabric of the love relationship. This kind of love honors, respects, and is full of joy.

The Great Exchange & The Great Reconciliation

“For our sake [God the Father] made [Jesus the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

This verse expresses the beautiful doctrine of substitutionary atonement: Jesus dies for, and, in the place of, sinners. At the cross, Jesus is treated as sinful as a sinner bearing the full weight of the wrath of God, and sinners who trust Jesus are treated just as righteous as Jesus is. As a result of the death and resurrection of Christ, God no longer counts sinners sins against them but counts them righteous (5:19).

Some have called this The Great Exchange: Jesus takes my sin and I receive his righteousness. Others think this is far too transactional and even some have called it a legal fiction because sinners are named what they in reality are not, namely, righteous. Regardless of these critiques, the weight of this text stands, and The Great Exchange and the imputation of an alien righteousness that belongs to Jesus is given to sinners so that God views those who trust Jesus as pure and blameless in his sight.

Don’t simply engage in developing a good theology of justification and lose the experience and daily benefits of adoption and reconciliation.

But there is something else at work here too. Substitutionary atonement is not only transactional, but is also thoroughly relational. If you are a Christian, you don’t have righteousness like you have a handful of one hundred dollar bills in your hand. You are righteous. This takes place at the level of your identity not at the level of your pocket. New Testament scholar David Garland writes,

“We do not simply have righteousness from God, we are the righteousness of God as a result of being in Christ.” [2 Corinthians, NAC, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 1999), 302. Emphasis added.]

Your identity itself is caught up in Jesus himself, because you have been placed in him. God has not only initiated The Great Exchange but also The Great Reconciliation. You are not simply a beneficiary of money or credit from the family estate, but you are tightly knit to and in relationship with the Father. Not only did God conduct a transaction, but he also created a new creation and made enemies friends through reconciliation (5:17-18). In Jesus God has made sinful rebels sons of God. Garland puts it this way:

The judge enters into a personal relationship with the accused. This is necessary because the judge is the one who has been sinned against and is the focus of the personal hostility. God does not simply make a bookkeeping alteration by dropping the charges against us. God gives himself to us in friendship. [Ibid., 290]

Jesus work on the cross is transactional and personal. Yes, you are righteous before God and you are also friends of God. God is Judge and God is Father. He is your “Abba”. Don’t simply engage in developing a good theology of justification and lose the experience and daily benefits of adoption and reconciliation. God has accomplished The Great Exchange and made you righteous to give you the enjoyment of The Great Reconciliation by making you friends.