December 10, 2008

Sovereign Grace: Hope

"Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope." (Psalm 119:49 ESV).

So, some people like to argue that man has the free will to choose to believe, trust, hope in God, and God graciously gives us that option to choose. I don't like to argue about free will, although I feel like doing that sometimes when someone misuses the Bible (and have been overly zealous at other times to blast away with Scripture), but here is my reason why I believe God is completely Sovereign over my ability to have faith: The Bible teaches that God made me hope in His Word. It is plain, simple and true.

1 Corinthians 1:30:
"And from him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written [thus the title for my other blog :D], "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."

It cannot be more clear! But how hard it is to humble our pride and admit we depend on God for even the least amount of genuine believing, hoping, trusting faith? And knowing this must not make us proud and rough toward others, on the contrary, filling our hearts with confidence in God as the supplier of hope, we encourage and exhort others to look to Him in Christ.

6 comments:

quillandinkwell said...

Now Penn, you know where I stand on this, but don't you think it's quite a step to label fellow Christians 'proud' who believe God has offered us a choice: "believe and obey me, or be separated"? We do not deny His sovreignty. God gave Adam and Eve a choice in the garden -- they could obey Him, or they could eat the fruit and reap the consequences. We are both Christians, and we will both be on the other side. It just seems that you are a little hard on those of us who share in the Faith and simply have a different interpretation of some of Christ's words. I know we will not agree, but try to remember we are still your brothers and sisters.
In Him (His grace AND love!)
Phylicia

Penn Tomassetti said...

Hi Phylicia,

I did mention pride in this post, but I think you must have been mistaken by thinking I was labeling people like you proud... where did I say that? That is a bit of a step from what I actually did say. I was actually referring to the need for people who believe what I do to be humble about it.

Anyway, you may be correct about Adam and Eve's abilities to choose in the garden, but it is certainly a mistake to apply that same situation to us who live under the affects of the fall after they chose to sin. It is not a mistaken view of man's condition in the garden, but a mistaken view of our sinful condition after the garden that makes it hard for us to accept the God must be the one to initiate the choice to do what is good. I hope that makes sense, if not, just keep reading the Bible with a humble mind :)

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the Holy Spirit moves upon a man while he hears the Gospel as to allow that man to have the ability to choose or reject Christ. Another words....could both camps be correct on this issue? It is just hard for me to believe that God chose some and to hell with the rest of them.

"confused"

Penn Tomassetti said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thank you for your question... I realize you were probably not looking for a long answer, but I have provided one anyway, however, I would much rather direct you to all the extremely helpful resources listed on my sidebar. Thank you, and may God give you understanding about these difficult, yet important issues that we are challenged with. Below is my longer response. I hope it may be of a little help to you:

You asked a very good question, and it is one that countless other people have wondered about before you. So perhaps you would be interested in doing a little more reading to learn what others have said about this? One of the reasons I have so many links on the sidebar of this blog, is because they provide many excellent resources to help answer the questions that need a little more time invested. Anyway, God has shown through the Scriptures all throughout the Bible that the sin of Adam in the garden has caused a complete fall of all mankind into the very slavery of sin (Genesis 6:5 and John 8:34; Romans chapter 6; Note: if you view this page by clicking on the title “Sovereign Grace: Hope”, you can then scroll over these verse references to read what they say). This is the ground on which we stand before God, as completely weak and without strength as far as doing any good before Him (Romans 3:10-12; Romans 5:6), so that we are totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit to do the work in us upon hearing the gospel, which is also His work (1 Peter 1:12).

As far as hell goes, nobody in the history of the world has had an easy time understanding God's plan to damn people (Proverbs 28:5 tells us that wicked people do not have a proper understanding of justice, but those who seek God do understand it). It is only when we understand who God really is from the Bible, that we understand His absolute purity and loveliness and holiness and justice, which does not allow for anything evil to dwell with Him. We also must learn what sin really is. Sin is not simply a minor mistake I've made, but it is lifelong rebellion and enmity against the goodness and love of God, and it rules in every one of us who are born after Adam. So if it wasn't for our Lord's bloodshed and death, as well as resurrected life, nobody would ever be saved. Therefore, God's absolute justice demands hell for sinners, while His mercy is providing heaven and peace totally undeserved for those who are in Christ. This is grace, mercy, kindness, love, etc. etc.. But by no means does God owe anyone heaven, or even owe us the choice, since it is all a free gift to those who are least deserving of it (See Ephesians 2:8-9 and 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). God's purpose in giving grace to those who are most helpless is in order to display His glory in kindness in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). Jesus said that anyone who does not believe in Him has already been sentenced to condemnation, but those who do believe in Him have now passed from death to life and will not enter into judgment (John 3:17-18; John 5:24).

This is such a brief explanation, but it is not difficult to grasp if you understand two simple things, 1. The absolute purity and righteousness of YHWH (Jehovah God), and 2. the absolute wickedness and rebellion of His creatures who were created in His image but have now utterly turned away from Him and fallen short of His glory.

Here is an excellent resource by John Piper concerning the need for the Holy Spirit to regenerate:
http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2007/2531_Why_Do_We_Need_to_Be_Born_Again_Part_1/

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying and thank you for your response. This is very difficult for me so I will ask you this way.
You are so amazed and thankful that God chose you...right? You have nothing but praise to God for that....right? Now....what if you were one of the "many" who were not chosen. You are now doomed for an eternal hell because you are like everybody else except the fact that God did not choose you. Now......what do you think of God? I'm not trying to be a wise guy.....this is the one area of reformed theology that I REALLY struggle with. Please answer my question. Thanks.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Anonymous,

"You are so amazed and thankful that God chose you...right? You have nothing but praise to God for that....right? Now....what if you were one of the "many" who were not chosen. You are now doomed for an eternal hell because you are like everybody else except the fact that God did not choose you. Now......what do you think of God?"

To answer your question, let me just ask you this first, do you read the Bible with faith in God that He is totally right, true and good? If so, you may struggle over these things, but you will most certainly seek their answers from His Word the Bible and trust it no matter what anybody else (like myself) might say about it.

Okay, so you asked about God not choosing me. If God had not chosen me, I believe He is still good, still loving, still merciful, still righteous, and still worthy of all glory, honor and praise forever and ever, even for not choosing me. The reason for this is because God deserves those things, while I deserve to be condemned forever because of His righteousness. It is amazing that He has not chosen to give me what I do in fact deserve. What I think of God would not matter in that case, because what I think of Him does not determine who He is. If He rejected me, I might hate Him for it because of my evil heart, but He would not be unrighteous for damning me for my own merits, I would be unrighteous for getting upset about it.

Romans 3 puts it very clearly, and I don't have time to comment on the entire chapter, but I want to direct you to at least a couple verses. First it says in Romans 3:5, "But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)" Paul is asking if it is wrong for God to show His glory by inflicting wrath on us who have rebelled against Him with such unrighteousness. This shows the righteousness of God he says. But the question is put in a "human way", because Paul knows the answer must always be what verse 5 gives: "By no means!" By no means is God wrong for doing this. The reason it is so hard for us to accept such an astonishing statement, is because our standard of right and wrong and judgment is distorted by our sinful minds as the Bible teaches. We have made up our own standard of righteousness that God does not go by. He goes by His standard which is always righteous no matter what.

What I am saying is that our understanding of God is all wrong. We want God to be the kind of loving God we make up in our own imagination, instead of the kind of loving God He tells us He is from the Bible. He loves His own name, and saves or damns people for that very reason (Psalm 106:8; Ezekiel 36). I believe that if you close out of all reformed websites, and turn off radio stations and put away all reformed books, and instead just open the Bible to Romans chapters 8, 9 and 11, and Ephesians 1, etc., just meditating and reading over them again and again... you may perhaps realize why reformed people talk the way they do. But I don't believe you will understand simly by reading what we say, only by reading what God has already declared to all generations for thousands and thousands of years through the unchanging word of the Scriptures. I hope this will be of some help, but if not, let it me a reminder to get into God's book and seek Him for the answers. That is what I did, and many others before me. I struggled over these things for a long long time my friend. :)

Ok, that's all for now. God bless you!