Thursday, May 28, 2009
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
~2 Timothy 3:16-17
Last summer I was blessed to have a conversation with a faculty member of my alma mater, Bridgewater College, concerning our views on the Old Testament's place in Scripture. While I have great appreciation and respect for this man, his position, and all that he has done for the students and the college, his view on the Old Testament left me uneasy and greatly concerned. I fear that many others possibly hold similar viewpoints. He told me that he was taught and still currently holds to the understanding that the Old Testament is just the history of the Jewish people and has no bearing on Christians today because we are a New Testament Church. He also does not believe that many events (such as the Flood and the crossing of the Red Sea or Reed Sea) actually occurred. The major problem with such a view is that it places one at odds with the witness of the New Testament itself which unanimously affirms the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament. Holding such a view basically casts doubts on the reliability of the New Testament and the authority it should have in our lives.
The authors of the New Testament clearly held to the view that the Old Testament was more than just a history book. They saw it as God's very Word. Peter recognizes the origin of the writing of the Old Testament as being the Holy Spirit Himself. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21). The author of Hebrews in quoting Psalm 95 does not even credit David as writing the poem but the Holy Spirit. In introducing a quote from the psalm, he states: Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says (Hebrews 3:7). He recognized that though David penned the words, the origin of them came from the Holy Spirit of God. Even Jesus identified the Old Testament as God's Word. He stated that David "in the Spirit" wrote about Him in Psalm 110 (Matthew 22:43-44). Also, keep in mind that the Scriptures Jesus studied, quoted, and lived by were the Old Testament (The Law (Torah), Writings, and the Prophets). He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-18). He did not throw it away but was the culmination of it since the entire Old Testament pointed to His coming and the redemption God had planned through Him before the foundation of the world. Surely Jesus and the writers of the New Testament can't be wrong on this issue. If they are, then how are we to fully trust them with their other testimonies? If they were wrong about one issue, then there is a great possibility they were wrong about others.
One of the strongest portraits of the reliability and sufficiency of Scripture is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The all Scripture Paul refers to is the compilation of both the Old and New Testaments. The sacred writings (vs. 15) that Timothy knew from childhood was the Old Testament. In fact, the Greek word, graphe, typically refers to written words, further indicating the Old Testament at this time. Timothy would have understood Paul to be referring to the Torah. However, the New Testament authors themselves include each others' writings as the category of Scripture as well. For instance, Paul quotes a statement of Jesus' recorded by the author Luke and calls it Scripture in I Timothy 5:18. The quote is alongside one from Deuteronomy. Luke's writing is deemed authoritative by Paul in teaching that elders should be paid for their service. Also, Peter explicitly labels Paul's letters as Scripture. He states that the untaught and unstable distort his writings as they do the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). So, according to Peter, Paul's letters are a part of Scripture. Furthermore, these letters were intended to be read aloud to the congregations and admonish them (Colossians 4:16).
Paul acknowledges that these Scriptures are God's very words. The literal translation is God-breathed. God chose to use fallible men to write the infallible Word of God. This gives Scripture a greater weight and authority as what is written (in the original manuscripts) is what God Himself intended to be written. The Old Testament may contain historical records of events but the Holy Spirit inspired how the authors should record the events.
Paul does not view any part of Scripture as useless but profitable. Again, all Scripture fits under this description. Not just certain books, passages, or verses. Not just what fits with our presuppositions or our theology. Paul does not give us the luxury to choose what part or parts of God's Word are profitable and which are not. They all are. What is Scripture profitable for? Paul gives us a list:
Scripture teaches us about who God is and His character. It teaches about salvation as Paul points out in the preceding verse that Scripture is able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. God's Word is the means He uses to bring people to faith (Romans 1:16). We can learn a lot from the lives and decisions of the patriarchs, judges, kings, and prophets. In fact, the author of Hebrews points out how the examples of the Old Testament saints teach us "persevering faith" in Hebrews 11. In God's Word we find instruction for how to live a life which is pleasing to God and what glorifies Him.
Scripture reveals our sin to us, showing us where we are wrong or in error. In reading about God's holiness, it is hard to not see the areas in our lives where we are in sin and falling short of that holiness. It was upon the reading of the book of the law that King Josiah recognized the sinful rebellion and disobedience of his ancestors (2 Kings 22:11-13) and which led the Jews to weep over their sins upon the return from exile (Nehemiah 8:9).
Not only does Scripture point out where we are wrong, but it also shows us how to correct our errors and walk aright.
4) Training in Righteousness
The Bible is our manual or "playbook" on how to live the righteous life which the Lord has called and enabled us to live. The Greek word used, paideian, connotes the training of a child. God's Word is food for the growth of the Christian. man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3). We need to daily read our training manual on how we must live life to glorify God. Like a little kid needs training and instruction on how to live, the Christian needs training as well and Scripture is where we can find that training.
The end result of what Scripture does is to fully equip the minister (as man of God normally refers to in Scripture) in everything that he needs to do. This is great encouragement for young Timothy as Paul reminds him that he has all that he needs to perform what he is called to do with the very Scriptures he has internalized since his childhood. Likewise, these Scriptures provide us with all that we need to live a life of godliness. We do not need the latest self-help book which attempts to tell us how to "live our best life now" or the latest fad. The Lord has already provided for us in His Word. May you use this provision in whatever you may be facing or with whatever the Lord has brought you to.
Soli Deo Gloria
Saturday, May 16, 2009
God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry?
Anger is not always or necessarily sinful, but it has such a tendency to run wild that whenever it displays itself, we should be quick to question its character with this inquiry, "Doest thou well to be angry?" It may be that we can answer, "Yes." Very frequently anger is the madman's firebrand, but sometimes it is Elijah's fire from heaven. We do well when we are angry with sin, because of the wrong that it commits against our good and gracious God; or with ourselves because we remain so foolish after so much divine instruction; or with others when the sole cause of anger is the evil that they do. He who is not angry at transgression becomes a partaker in it. Sin is a loathsome and hateful thing, and no renewed heart can patiently endure it. God Himself is angry with the wicked every day, and it is written in His Word, "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil" (Ps. 97:10). Far more frequently it is to be feared that our anger is not commendable or even justifiable, and then we must answer, "No." Why should we be fretful with children, angry with servants, and irate with companions? Is such anger honorable to our Christian profession or glorifying to God? Is it not the old evil heart seeking to gain dominion, and should we not resist it with all the might of our newborn nature? Many false believers give way to temper as though it were useless to attempt resistance; but let the true believer remember that he must be a conqueror in every point, or else he cannot be crowned. If we cannot control our tempers, what has grace done for us? Someone told Mr. Jay that grace was often grafted on the stump of a crab apple tree. "Yes," said he, "but the fruit will not be crabs." We must not make natural infirmity an excuse for sin, but we must fly to the cross and pray to the Lord to crucify our tempers and renew us in gentleness and meekness after His own image.
Morning By Morning,
This seems to be one of my hardest struggling points in my walk with Christ. Sometimes I think my main problem is when my anger pops up I let it take over, or more appropriately I let my flesh take over; then the anger grows into a monster that cannot be controlled. At times like those I have to pray to Christ to help me to, "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor 10:5). Many a time I find that I am trying to control my anger, and yet the anger still burns. Instead I should be humbling myself, swallowing my pride and falling to my knees and asking Him to purify my heart and banish my fleshly nature. I have found out, sometimes the hard way, that our submission to Christ in ALL things is one of the greatest things we can do in our walk with Christ.
Lord help me to continue to humble and submit myself to You. Lord help me to make every thought obedient to You. Help me to come to my knees and let You do Your work in me. I also pray Lord for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ who also struggle with their fleshly anger. I pray that we all continue to be angry with sin and hate our sinful nature, but not to let our anger cause us to sin against You Lord. Lord may you help us all to know what righteous anger is and to use it to glorify You.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning
Will land you on fair Canaan's coast.
The labors of our feet.
Morning By Morning
I read this devotion this morning and immediately I knew that God was speaking to me. In light of the trials and all the other things my family and I have been going through; this was God's way of telling me that everything will be o.k. tomorrow. Immediately one of my favorite pieces of scripture came to mind.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifeb]">?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Each new day in our lives on this earth may have trials and tribulations. However, we who are in Christ have have the greatest hope in all eternity. We know that if our troubles should bring us to death, then we will be joined with our Savior for all eternity. We have the blessed hope that throughout all our troubles that He is with us. He can and will carry us through. For every trouble we endure has been preordained by God for us, to conform us to the image of Christ. This is so that, (Philipians 1:6) "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.", would be fulfilled.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
(By Matt Waymeyer)
Today’s post concludes our series on this important topic, with a fifth and final reason why believers should pray in light of God’s sovereignty.
5. God has ordained prayer as a means by which He accomplishes His eternal purposes.
At this point, some may wonder how it is that Scripture can teach both that God providentially brings all things to pass in conformity with His eternal purpose and that the prayers of men can have a significant affect in the unfolding of world history. The seeming contradiction between these two truths vanishes, however, when one realizes that “the same God who has decreed the end has also decreed that His end shall be reached through His appointed means, and one of these is prayer” (The Sovereignty of God, 167). In other words, God in His infinite wisdom was pleased to ordain prayer to be a means through which He accomplishes His good pleasure in and through His creation. As A.W. Pink writes,
God has decreed that certain events shall come to pass, but He has also decreed that these events shall come to pass through the means He has appointed for their accomplishment. God has elected certain ones to be saved, but He has also decreed that these ones shall be saved through the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel, then, is one of the appointed means for the working out of the eternal counsel of the Lord; and prayer is another. God has decreed the means as well as the end, and among the means is prayer (Ibid., 171).
Understanding this relationship between the sovereignty of God and the prayers of men begins with recognizing the comprehensive nature of God’s eternal purpose. Richard Pratt writes,
God’s plan is so comprehensive that it not only includes the final destinies of things but also includes the secondary, creaturely processes that work together to accomplish these ends. For instance, God does not simply ordain light to shine on the earth each day; He also employs the sun, the moon, the stars, and countless other things to accomplish that end. God does not merely determine that someone will recover from a disease; He uses doctors and medicine to accomplish the healing. As the playwright of history, God did not simply write an ending for the book of time. He wrote every word on every page so that all events lead to the grand finale (Pray With Your Eyes Open, 109-10).
In other words, the “all things” which God works out “according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11) includes the means that He uses to bring about His ultimate ends. God uses the sun to bring light to the earth, He uses doctors to restore people to health, and He uses prayer to bring about many things He has purposed in eternity past.
When one wants to cross the street safely, he uses the crosswalk and looks both ways before doing so; when one desires his family members to turn to Christ for salvation, he seeks to proclaim the gospel to them; when one desires to provide for his family, he works hard at his place of employment. And in the same way, when one desires such-and-such to happen, he prays to God to bring it about, recognizing that prayer is one of the means through which God brings about His purposes here on earth.
Several examples in Scripture indicate that God has ordained prayer as a means to accomplish His eternal plans. First, when Abraham sojourned in Gerar in Genesis 20, he lied and told King Abimelech that Sarah was his sister, at which time Abimelech took Sarah into his harem of wives (v. 2). In response, God closed all the wombs of the household of Abimelech and threatened the king with further judgment if he did not restore Sarah to Abraham (vv. 7, 17). However, at the same time that God warned Abimelech of this judgment, He also told him, “[Abraham] is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you will live” (v. 7). In other words, God revealed to the king that His plan was for Abraham to pray and intercede for the King so that divine judgment would be withdrawn. Then, in verse 17, God’s preordained plan came to fruition: “And Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children.”
A second example can be found at the end of the book of Job. God addressed Job’s friend, Eliphaz the Temanite, saying,
I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly (Job 42:7b-8a; NIV)
Then, as verse 9 reveals, Eliphaz “did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer” (NIV). From this it is clear that God not only ordained that His wrath toward Eliphaz would be turned aside, but He also ordained that the means He would use to accomplish that end would include the intercessory prayer of His servant Job.
A third and final example of God’s ordination of prayer as a means to accomplish His end can be found in God’s promise to Israel of future restoration in Jeremiah 29. In verse 11a, the Lord told Israel that He knew the plans that He had for her. In other words, the God who knew the end from the beginning was not unaware of what He had purposed for Israel’s future. He continued by telling Israel that His plans were “for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (v. 11b). What will happen in the future when God’s plan unfolds and He providentially brings it to pass? He continued:
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile” (vv. 12-14).
God will restore His people in response to their prayers, but these prayers—rather than being an intrusion into God’s eternal plan—are actually part of God’s plan. Both the means and the end—the prayers and the restoration—have been ordained by Him and will be brought to pass by Him (cf. Ezekiel 36:37).
Prayers of petition and intercession, then, should not be thought of as attempts to alter the eternal purposes of God. As Pratt writes, “Trying to alter the eternal decrees of God through prayer is like trying to reach the moon on a trampoline; it is impossible. Our petitions cannot interrupt God’s plan for the universe anymore than a trampoline can break the power of earth’s gravity” (Pray With Your Eyes Open, 109). Instead, prayer should be understood as “one of the many secondary causes through which God fulfills His plan” (Ibid., 110).
It is obvious, then, that one need not deny the sovereignty of God in order to be committed to a life of fervent prayer. For such a life begins in an obedient submission to the command of God and the model of Christ, it flows out of the recognition that God is able and willing to respond to the prayers of His children, and it rests in the assurance that God has sovereignly ordained prayer as a means to accomplish His purposes.
Friday, May 8, 2009
(By Matt Waymeyer)
So far, we have considered two reasons to pray in light of God’s sovereignty. Today we will consider two more.
3. God is able to respond to our prayers.
Rather than hindering the prayers of believers, the sovereignty of God ought to motivate them to pray, for “prayer grows from the certainty of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty” (The God Who Hears, 47). Put another way, if God does not reign in sovereignty over His creation and is not able to accomplish whatever He desires in and through it, why bother requesting of Him what He is unable to deliver?
To illustrate, if a five-year-old boy repeatedly asks his mother to make it stop raining on a Saturday morning, this may create a precious memory, but in the final analysis the boy’s request is misguided. As much as his mother might like to alter the weather, she simply lacks the ability to do so, and therefore to request this of her makes little sense. But when the children of God come before the throne of grace, they come with the full assurance that their heavenly Father is able to accomplish whatever He is pleased to do, for nothing is too difficult for Him. And this ought to motivate them to pray.
“To be worth praying to,” Hunter writes, “God has first of all got to have the power to do what we ask. Second, he must have sovereignty over creation to do what he wants to do” (The God Who Hears, 48). So perhaps the question, “If God is sovereign, why pray?” could be replaced with the question, “If God is not sovereign, why pray?” Believers must come to their God presenting to Him their requests because He has both the authority and the ability to grant what they have requested in their petitions and intercessory prayers.
4. God actually does respond to prayer.
The fourth reason that believers should pray is that God not only can, but actually does change the course of history in response to prayer. Jesus said, “[A]sk, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.” As Wayne Grudem points out, Jesus “makes a clear connection between seeking things from God and receiving them. When we ask, God responds” (Systematic Theology, 377).
Scripture is filled with examples of God granting to His people what they have requested in their prayers of petition and intercession. First Chronicles 4:10a records the prayer of Jabez in which he said, “Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm, that it may not pain me!” In response to Jabez’s prayer, “God granted him what he requested” (v. 10b). In Exodus 32:10, God told Moses of His intentions to destroy the people of Israel because of their idolatry. But Moses interceded on behalf of Israel (vv. 11-13), and in response to his prayer God relented and did not destroy them (v. 14). And as James records, God responded to the earnest prayers of Elijah in both initiating and ending a three-and-a-half-year drought (James 5:17-18; cf. Genesis 18:22-33; 32:26; Daniel 10:12; Amos 7:1-6; Acts 4:29-31; 10:31; and 12:5-11).
At the same time that it is acknowledged that God is sovereign, then, it must also be acknowledged that “[t]he effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16b; cf. 4:2). In fact, immediately after answering the question of how to pray in Luke 11:2-4, Jesus goes on to answer the question of why to pray by giving two reasons—because God rewards diligence in prayer by granting requests (Luke 11:5-10), and because God delights in giving good gifts to His children (Luke 11:11-13).
In the words of Richard Pratt, then, “Prayer is a powerful human effort that can significantly affect not only the lives of individuals but the very course of world history” (Pray with Your Eyes Open, 112). This truth, no doubt, should be a powerful motive for the children of God to pray. As Grudem writes,
If we were really convinced that prayer changes the way God acts, and that God does bring about remarkable changes in the world in response to prayer,…then we would pray much more than we do. If we pray little, it is probably because we do not really believe that prayer accomplishes much at all (Systematic Theology, 377).
Thursday, May 7, 2009
(By Matt Waymeyer)
In this series, we will consider five reasons why believers should pray in light of the sovereignty of God.
1. God has commanded us to pray.
The most obvious reason to pray is that God has commanded us to pray. This is evident throughout the teachings of both Jesus and the apostle Paul. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13, introducing the prayer with the words, “Pray, then, in this way” (v. 9). Afterward, He instructed His disciples to be persistent in their prayers (Luke 11:5-13). In Luke 18:2-8, Jesus told them a parable “to show that at all times they ought to pray” (Luke 18:1). And upon arriving at the Garden of Gethsemane, He instructed them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40).
The apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17); he instructed the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (4:6); he charged the Colossians, “Devote yourselves to prayer” (4:2); he wrote to the Ephesians, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf…” (6:18-19a); and he urged Timothy “that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1 Tim 2:1).
The point is clear: God has commanded us to pray, and our response to this command must first and foremost be one of obedience. Even if we never reach a clear understanding of the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the prayers of man, the fact that God has commanded it should be enough to move us to pray. When God promised Abraham a son through whom he would become a great nation (Gen 21:12b) and then commanded him to sacrifice that very son (Gen 22:2), Abraham bowed the knee of submission before His Creator and simply obeyed what was commanded of Him (Gen. 22:3-10). The believer who asks the question “Why pray?” must follow his example and do the same.
2. Jesus modeled a life of prayer.
A second reason believers should offer prayers of petition and intercession to God is that such prayer was modeled by Jesus who “would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” during His ministry (Luke 5:16). Jesus’ consistent example of fervent prayer to the Father is evident throughout the gospel accounts. During His ministry in Galilee, Mark records that “in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there” (Mark 1:35). After feeding the five thousand in Bethsaida, Jesus sent the multitudes away and “went up to the mountain by Himself to pray” (Matt 14:23).
On the night before He chose the twelve disciples, Jesus “went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). Later Luke refers to a time “while Jesus was praying alone” (9:18), and eight days later Jesus “took along Peter and John and James, and went up to the mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28). And who could forget His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:39-44; Mark 14:35-39; Luke 22:41-45) or the “High Priestly prayer” of John 17? And what believer fails to cherish the fact that He lives to intercede even now on our behalf (Heb 7:25)?
In offering prayers of petition and intercession, Jesus was not ignoring or denying the sovereignty of His Father. This is obvious from several of Jesus’ prayers, not the least of which include His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:39-44; Mark 14:35-39; Luke 22:41-45). As Hunter writes, “He knew that by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge he would be put to death by being nailed to the cross (Acts 2:23). He told the incredulous disciples this at least three times…. Yet in Gethsemane, as Mark tells it, he ‘fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him’ (14:35)” (The God Who Hears, 51). In other words, even though Jesus was well aware that His death at Calvary had been preordained by God, He still saw fit to petition His Father that this cup might pass from him.
If the followers of Christ are to be imitators of Him and “walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6), they too must be characterized by fervent prayer for themselves and for those around them. Knowing that Jesus prayed as a way of life may not clear up the tension that exists in believers’ minds between the sovereignty of God and the prayers of men, but it should motivate them to imitate the One who Himself saw no disparity between His own prayers and the sovereignty of His Father.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
(By Matt Waymeyer)
* Matt pastors Community Bible Church in Vista, California. He is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary, and a periodic contributor to Pulpit.
The story is told about a small town in the south. For many years, this town had been “dry” in that no alcohol was ever sold or served there. But one day a businessman in the area decided to build a tavern. In response to this new tavern, a group of Christians from a local church became concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. Shortly after the prayer meeting that night, lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.
In the aftermath of the fire, the owner of the tavern sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible for his loss. But the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible. After his initial review of the case the presiding judge began the trial with an official statement. He said: “No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear: the tavern owner believes in prayer, and the Christians do not.”
It is very easy to dismiss the power of prayer, isn’t it? It is very easy to drift into thinking that prayer is a nice sentiment, but in the end, a waste of time because it doesn’t really make any difference anyway.
For some people, this kind of dismissal arises from unbelief and doubt that God really can answer prayer. For others, however, the question that paralyzes their prayer life is this: If God is sovereign, why pray?
In other words, if God will simply do what He wants to anyway, why offer prayers of petition and intercession? Why bother requesting that God do such and such when everything has been ordained by Him beforehand? If prayer consists of pleading with God to change His eternal purposes, isn’t such an undertaking feeble at best and arrogant at worst?
Although there are no easy answers to these questions, Scripture is not silent on this issue. My purpose here is to examine the Bible’s teaching on the sovereignty of God and the prayers of man with the goal of answering the question, “If God is sovereign, why pray?” This will be done by briefly defining what it means that God is sovereign and then by offering five answers to the question of why people should pray.
God Is Sovereign
When people make plans, it is not uncommon for those plans to fail or to be thwarted in one way or another. In contrast to His creatures, however, Almighty God always brings about that which He has purposed. In a word, God is sovereign.
This truth is perhaps most clearly seen in the words of Isaiah 46:9-11, where God demonstrated His superiority over the Babylonian idols by declaring:
Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure”; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.
In this passage, God indicates that He both purposes what He desires to happen and then actually brings those purposes to pass. In other words, God providentially brings about in time and history what He has sovereignly ordained in eternity past. As the apostle Paul writes, God “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11).
The truth of God’s sovereignty over His creation is taught throughout Scripture. The psalmist declares, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps 135:6; cf. 115:3; Dan. 4:35); Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand;” and Proverbs 21:1 states, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” As W. Bingham Hunter writes, “From a biblical perspective, your world-history book should be prefaced with 2 Kings 19:25: ‘Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In the days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass’” (The God Who Hears, 49).
(To Be Continued Tomorrow)
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
One of the hardest four letter words for us to comprehend and live out is the word "wait". We struggle with this while driving or shopping. We always want to be in the fastest lane or shortest line. We can't stand hearing that it'll be just "five more minutes" till we can be seated or seeing a traffic jam up ahead. We just don't like to wait. Yet several places in Scripture, we are called to wait. In fact, the word is found 142 times throughout the entire Bible. Several times we are even commanded to "wait upon the LORD" (Psalm 27:14; 37:7, 34). This is not easy for us who do not like to wait. Often we feel like David when he says, I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; / My eyes fail while I wait for my God (Psalm 69:3). This song is a great reminder that just because God may have us in a place of waiting, does not mean that we should lie dormant and do nothing. May God help us to "take every step in obedience," "serve Him," and "worship Him," even while we wait.
Soli Deo Gloria!!!
Monday, May 4, 2009
If the angels in perfect harmony with God could sin and fall, how can we be sure this won't happen to us sometime in eternity? If it's at all possible, eternity is long enough that it is bound to happen at some point.
Yes, if it's at all possible, eternity is long enough that it is bound to happen. And so it's good, I think, to know that it will not happen.
I do not have an answer to why God would permit Lucifer, an angel, to fall. In other words: How can a perfectly pure being with no evil inclinations suddenly have an evil inclination? And the answer is: I don't know. The most ultimate mystery to me is the origin of sin in created beings.
I will say God oversaw it and ultimately ordained it without himself culpably causing it. Culpably causing it. How you could cause it any other way, I'm not sure! And yet God reigns and ordains from before the Fall that there would be a crucified Savior for sinners. Therefore, it was all in the plan.
I don't know about the origin of sin, but us I know about, because the Bible talks about us.
"He who began a good work in you will complete it" (Philippians 1:6). If you have eternal life, it is eternal life! It's eternal life. He gave us eternal life. It's not 8 billion year life. It's eternal life: it lasts forever: "Nobody can pluck them out of my hand."
So the doctrine of perseverance in the New Testament is the doctrine that assures us that that work of perseverance in us lasts forever.
"I know my own, I make them mine, I chose them, they follow me, and nobody—not themselves or anybody—can pluck them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28).by: John Piper
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