Saturday, October 27, 2007

Appreciating God's Sovereign Grace

God's Grace TrophiesIn my ministry at the local Rescue Mission working with men and women in the New Life Disciple program, I've recently had the privilege to get to know a man named Brian. Brian is much like many of the others that pass through the mission and the program - coming out of a life of drugs, crime, alcohol, you name it. Brian, who is in his late 30's, is an exceptionally bright guy who is really thinking as we study the Word together and asking great questions. He is what I refer to as one of God's "Grace Trophies" - a person who has been radically transformed, both inside and out, eternally and completely, by God's sovereign grace. People who knew Brian before he trusted Christ cannot believe he's the same person now. And the truth is that he isn't the same person - he's been recreated in Christ Jesus, by the Spirit, by the Gospel.

As we've been studying these aspects of the identity of the believer in Christ, Brian has been understanding the reality of his depravity and total inability to please God before he was born again. In fact, yesterday as we were studying the ramifications of being reconciled to God through faith in Christ, and the resulting freedom from the condemnation for sin that we all have brought upon ourselves, Brian asked me about election. He said he had heard of this doctrine and knew that there were some who are vehemently opposed to it, but that it really seemed to make sense to him. In his reading of the Bible, with no pre-conceived teaching or other notions, Brian had come to the conclusion that apart from Christ he was a spiritually dead and rebellious sinner, worthy of God's righteous and just wrath, and that on his own he would never have responded to the Gospel. Brian understood that the life he had been living before coming to Jesus Christ was simply the outward expression of his inward state of spiritual lifelessness. And that it could only have been by God's grace in choosing him, regenerating him and imparting the life and righteousness of Christ to him that he actually did come to Jesus in faith.

I find this over and over again as I work with these disciples, these people who have lived the depths of the depravity that all of us possess in our natural state. They understand clearly that they were dead in their sin, that they were totally unable to respond to God, not even wanting to. They have no problem with the Biblical truth that it was God alone who chose them for His own, who redeemed them from their sin, who declared them righteous in His sight and brought them to faith in Jesus. And they revel in that knowledge. They have no pride, only glorious praise to God that He indeed does show sovereign grace to the likes of them.

And at the same time, I find those people who have the biggest problem with these Biblical truths and doctrines of God's sovereign grace are those who have been in the church for some period of time. I rarely encounter anyone at the Rescue Mission that will argue with me or disagree with what the Bible says about these doctrines, but I constantly have these responses from churched people when I am teaching there. I find the people that seem to be the least receptive to really examining the passages in the Word that refer to God's choosing of us as His people are those who have sat under a variety of Christian teaching for some time. So what does this say about the general bent of today's teaching in most our evangelical Christianity? Obviously that it is Arminian at best, and more likely semi-Pelagian. And that's just those that have actually formed some opinion on the matter. Far more prevalent are those that have never struggled with these hard truths or thought seriously about the source of their salvation. They've simply gone along with the "make a decision" and "accept Jesus" language that pervades our Christian-ese these days.

But when I see those like Brian, who have been snatched from the fire by the sovereign grace of Jesus Christ and are now living as a new redeemed creation and understanding that it is all of God, I am joyful. It is a great joy to see God at work, and to see His relentless gracious purposes recognized and appreciated. To see Him creating Grace Trophies for His glory, that truly do give Him the glory He alone deserves.

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