Monday, September 24, 2007

Freedom and Sovereignty

“Where does free will and God’s sovereignty intersect?”

This is an issue all believers grapple with from time to time. Am I free or am I programmed? Is God fully in control or not in control? If everything is programmed, why work? Why pray? This issue becomes even more problematic when we see evil and suffering? How can a good God who is in control allow evil?

As we look at Scripture, we see truths that cannot be ignored. The Scripture makes frequent references to God’s sovereignty (it would be impossible to list all of those). But scripture also supports humans as volitional beings.

Dr. Robert Peterson at the latest Reformed Men’s Club listed four human freedoms in the Bible. There is ample Biblical support for these.

Freedom #1- Man in the Garden- Man was given responsibility and choice in the garden. This freedom is a beautiful gift that glorifies the Creator. This freedom also allowed the possibility (and I say probability) of evil entering it. Which it did.

Freedom #2- Man After the Fall- The Bible indicates that Adam’s sin was cursed and passed on to humanity. According to many places (Ephesians, for example) we are born dead in trespasses and sin. Our freedom now is a bondage. We are bound to sin. Isn’t it interesting that when we revel in our freedom and rebellion, we actually are chained? We cannot choose God because of our nature. We are inconsistent in good and evil choices.

Freedom #3- Man After Conversion- Once the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to our sin and the need of a Savior and respond to His call, we repent and put our faith in Christ. At that point, we have a new freedom, the ability to respond and serve the Creator. I John makes it clear that we are inconsistent in that new freedom. But we now have many helps to follow the path of sanctification.

Freedom #4- Man After Glorification- In heaven, it will all be clear and glorious. God allowed sin and evil to make salvation more glorious, the harder the struggle; the greater the victory. We will say with Joseph, “What was meant for evil, God meant for good.” We will no longer choose evil in light of the gloriousness of God. If sin never happened, we would not know God’s mercy. We would not see God’s sacrifice. We begin to see how truly great God is.

You may hate this answer, but the Bible indicates that God is sovereign and that man makes choices. Our choices do not undermine His plan. He even channels evil intentions to His holy purpose. The clearest example of this is the cross. The Roman soldiers freely chose to hammer the nails, God clearly decreed the exact moment and it was according to His plan put together before the foundation of the world.

This blows our mind. It makes God majestic and mysterious. It keeps us responsible for our choices and keeps us secure in His sovereignty. He is THE LORD!

Friday, September 21, 2007

What Surprises Me the Most About God

As I have been reading the Bible for over 25 years, there are some of God’s attributes that I have grown to love. I have to start with His compassion, love, and grace. My very breath and life is so grateful in that God forgives me. I am so far from His ways. The fact that I am an adopted son of the Savior is thrilling to me. I also admire His holiness, his omnipotence (space… His creation, by His word, wow), His omniscience… all of that is amazing and adored.

On top of that, though, there are some characteristics that have caught me off guard, but make me more appreciative of how He directs me. The fact that God is surprising should not be surprising. He is God and far beyond my ability to grasp.

Surprise #1- God Loves Competition

Our God is a warrior God who seems to relish competition. We pick up some of this in Job where God welcomes Satan’s challenge. We also see it in Revelation and OT references to battles. God is not removed from competition; He puts Himself right in the middle of the battle. We see it in more personal detail when He wrestles Jacob. Christ also shows incredible competitive ability against Satan, flipping the tables and enduring the cross. As a coach, this is encouraging as I seek to teach young men how to compete. Some Christians over the years have challenged me on this (“should Christian schools have football?”) and I have always believed that the natural tendency to shrink from a hard competition does not glorify the Lord. We must, at times, step up and compete! The main attribute missing is us in intensity.

Surprise #2- God Ordains Defeat as a Part of His Ultimate Glory

I hate losing. But I am convinced that God has ordained my defeat at times to show our opponents how we are supposed to be in the loss. I don’t think He favors us over other teams because we are a Christian school. There are believers at the other schools and sometimes a greater blessing is to lose. Who can understand the myriad of His purposes? When I pray, I ask for a win, but there are times when I know He has said ‘No’. It hurts, but I know I am to shake the opponent’s hand, offer congrats, and seek opportunities to still honor my Savior. These defeats teach us humility and keep us from loving the world. Dealing with pain is a part of the ministry of football. Undefeated seasons are special, but persevering in hard times may be more beneficial. It does not give us an excuse to not compete. These defeats go beyond football- Death, tragedy, broken relationships, betrayal, unfair treatment, are all channeled by Him in my life for my good and His glory.

Surprise #3 God Loves to Play the Hero- Showing Up When All Seems Lost

Is there anything more dramatic than a last second win or a comeback? The Lord is the king of comebacks! If history is “his story”, it is a story of awesome drama! The resurrection and many other great Bible stories are winning against all odds. Of course, the Lord is the ultimate hero with every quality admirable one could wish for! Those attributes are ingrained in us as we have His imprint on our hearts.

Our God is full of surprise- it is what will make eternity unbelievably exciting!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Apologies?

Apologetics is the discipline that deals with a rational defense of Christian faith. It comes from the Greek word ‘apologia’ which means to give a reason or defense.

We are reminded of I Peter 3:15, which says, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

One of the biggest issues in apologetics is the futility of reasoned arguments to non-believers. I Corinthians 2: 14 says, “ The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

This leads us to some important foundations of defending our faith.

#1 The goal of a Biblical apologetic is not to win arguments, but be used of God to present the claims of Christ and His wonderful gospel. Evangelism and apologetics are very close.

#2 Reasoned arguments alone will not talk anyone into accepting the message of faith. We do offer answers for our hope, but we will not get discouraged if these answers are found to be unacceptable in the world’s eyes.

May the Lord of Glory open the eyes of your heart to His existence and His truth. In Him is life, true freedom, and peace!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Intelligent Design and the New Discrimination

Google “Intelligent Design” and you will see an amazing battle being fought today in the context of academic institutions. If you are a professor in most colleges and universities and even hint of a favorable attitude toward intelligent design and you will be blacklisted and viciously attacked by peers and media.

What is the problem? There is a world-view battle raging between Neo-Darwinists and Theists over the boundaries of science and what should be allowed in the context of debate.

Is it a fair fight? The answer is “NO”- the Darwinists pull a great sleight of hand in the debate. Their basic premise is that evolution is science and ID proponents are theologians. Evolution is good science while I.D.’s (or they like to call them “creationists”) lack any scientific credibility.

What is the trick? Well, evolution is not exactly what they purport it to be. No one debates micro-evolution. It is accepted and proven that species do successfully adapt to environmental changes. But that is where the science ends and “speculation” begins.

There is no consensus that “macro-evolution” is proven. Macro-evolution extrapolates the concept of micro-evolution in theorizing that , over time, these slight, successful variations produce new species.

So when Darwinists say evolution is science and intelligent design is not, it is an unfair comparison. Both materialists and theists accept evolution, but both differ as to what the universe is telling us about origin and diversity.

Is it random chance or intelligence? There is good and reasoned debate on both sides.

There needs to be a legitimate debate about the theories of origins and there needs to be respectful hearing of both sides.
Isn’t it ironic how history has flipped? The famous Scopes trial was about the unwillingness of conservative Christians to include evolutionary theory in the classroom. In the famous portrayal, Inherit the Wind (more drama that truth), the Christians are shown to be bigoted and mean. The hero is the lone science teacher who just wants a fair debate in the classroom.

Looking at the trail of fine scientists who have been villainized over mentioning design including denial of tenure and media attacks- the question is “Who are the bigots now?”.