Its Not About Me

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

Romans 9 is not about Jacob or Esau being predestined for salvation or not. It is about the role they were to play. Some of us are given “greater” roles than others, but we must remember, whatever role we are given, there is a greater picture beyond just us. When life becomes challenging, and things don’t go my way I like to claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a personal promise. I want to believe everything is going to work our for me personally. I read about how David faced challenges, but he always came out on top. But I have to admit, I also read some things in the story of David that disturb my “hope” that everything will work out for me personally. In 1 Samuel 22:18 85 innocent priests become co-lateral victims in the friction between Saul and David. in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah is killed for being loyal to his country! How does the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 apply for Uriah and the priests?

This may shatter the ego of a lot of western minds, but the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 was not given to an individual. It was given to a nation. The western mind loves to internalize the Bible, to the point that we actually believe it is all about us! We love to think that we are living in the last days, (which we are!) because that makes our role pivotal in the Great Controversy. After all, how could God win the Great Controversy without me? I have an important role to play in the church you see! With the game on the line and only seconds left in a basketball play off game, star player Scottie Pippin was outraged when his coach had him on the bench for the final play. There are “Scottie Pippins” in the church today, who cannot imagine God winning the Great Controversy while they just “sit on the bench” or rest in their graves.

Yes, Jesus is a personal Savior, and loves us individually, and would die just for you, but that does not make it all about you. Jesus died for the world. Believe it or not, as much as Jesus really and truly loves you, it still is not all about you, or me. In Exodus 32:32 Moses grasped who it was all about when he asked to have his name blotted from the book of life to save a nation. Had Moses been privy to Jeremiah 29:11 he would not have internalized it and made the promise all about himself. He would have realized the promise was given to a corporate nation. Esther may have very well been familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, when in Esther 4:16 she said, “If I perish I perish.” She was not applying Jeremiah 29:11 to herself. She was applying it to the entire Jewish nation it was given to. She was willing to perish to help fulfill the promise to save the nation.

Paul writes Romans in a corporate mindset, instead of the individualistic western mindset. In Romans 3:23-24 Paul writes how we all have sinned and all been justified. In Romans 5 he writes how we all sinned corporately in Adam, and were all saved corporately in Christ. In Romans 9:3 Paul is looking at the big corporate picture when he writes, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” While pointing out that Jacob and Esau had different roles to play, Paul was willing to be totally written out of the play for the greater good of the nation.

I believe the 85 priests and Uriah, will be in heaven. I believe Esther and Paul will be there too, and obviously Moses already is. After all didn’t Jesus say,

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 NKJV

Yes God loves us individually. I am just asking those of us with a western mind to think outside ourselves if we are not already. After a mission trip, my flight home was cancelled. I ended up spending the night, sleeping on the floor in a foreign airport. I asked God why I had to sleep on the floor instead of my nice comfy bed. God asked me, “What makes you think you ever deserved a bed in the first place? People a lot more deserving than you have been sleeping on the floor for years, and you are complaining about one night? Who do you think you are?”

Dear Jesus, I know you love me just as much when I am sleeping on the floor as when I am sleeping in my bed. I know you loved the 85 priests and Uriah as much as you loved David. Forgive me for the times I thought it was all about me, and help me to see the big picture, like Moses, Esther and Paul all saw the big picture. Instead of working for personal prosperity, help me to work for the prosperity of your church.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

How do we Become God’s Elect?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This quarter’s Sabbath School lessons, provide interesting discussions on predestination and election, making me examine what I believe. I became especially intrigued by the word “elect.” What does it mean, and how does one become elected?

God has not elected only a select group to be saved

I find nowhere in the Bible that God has a special select group composed of only those He wants to save, or that there is anyone He does not want saved.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 NKJV

As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ Ezekiel 33:11 NKJV

Ezekiel 33:11 is crucial, because we are going to see that the elect are those who turn from their wicked ways and live.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 NKJV

God has not elected anyone for destruction since it is not His will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

For there is no partiality with God. Romans 2:11 NKJV

While God may call some to “greater” roles than others, nowhere does the Bible teach that there is a group which God has decided He is not going to save. This is important, because I have visited with people who keep falling back into addictions and are tempted to give up, resigned that God does not want to save them. After much labor in trying to overcome, they are still heavy laden with the burden of guilt. Wait! Such people should not give up! These are the very ones Jesus calls! And He calls all of them!

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

God has not elected anyone for condemnation. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17 KJV

Since Judas was one of the twelve, even he was “chosen.”

Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? John 6:70 KJV

Many assume Jesus is referring to Judas as the one who had a devil, but Jesus and Scripture never say that. In Matthew 16, Jesus tells Peter “Get thee behind me Satan.” In Luke 22, Jesus tells Simon Peter He has prayed for his conversion. So, regardless who the “devil” was in John 6:70, he was not elected to be a devil, nor had to remain a devil. In John 6:70 Jesus has chosen all 12 while He understands there is still some work to be done. This should give us all hope.

So who are the elected? Paul describes the elected.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:12-17 NKJV 

Ellen White expresses the same thought:

Every soul is elected who will work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. He is elected who will put on the armor and fight the good fight of faith. He is elected who will watch unto prayer, who will search the Scriptures, and flee from temptation. He is elected who will have faith continually, and who will be obedient to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. The provisions of redemption are free to all; the results of redemption will be enjoyed by those who have complied with the conditions. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 208

Now let’s finally answer the question in our title. How do I get to be elected by God?

God elects those who have been working on the plan of addition. The explanation is given in the first chapter of Second Peter. For every human being, Christ has paid the election price. No one need be lost. –Ellen White, SDA Bible Commentary  Vol. 7 Page 944.

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;  for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-11 NKJV  [Bold print supplied]

Those who are elected turn from their sins, remembering they have been forgiven and freed from sin. God wants everyone to be elected. God has not willed or elected anyone to be lost. Jesus has paid the price to justify, sanctify and turn us from our sins which have been forgiven, so we can choose to make our election certain.

Predestination in Light of the Cross

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Satan knows our salvation is found in the love of God. Therefore he does his best to skew the love of God that shines from the cross. One horrendous ways he does that is by presenting a “gospel” in which the unbeliever, instead of perishing, is burned and tortured throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Another way he skews the love that shines from the cross is by teaching that God’s sovereign will has predestined some people to be lost. They simply have no choice. This teaching suggests that because God knows the end from the beginning there is no way we could have any choice. John 8:36 tells us Jesus came to free us from Satan’s dominion over us. Thus the Almighty’s sovereign will and the purpose of the cross is to give us freedom so we can choose who we will serve.

So first, let’s look at choice.

In Genesis 24 Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac. The servant prays for a sign showing who God picked to wed Isaac. The sign points to Rebekah. After much discussion and the family all agreeing God had picked Rebekah, look what happens:

 Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” Genesis 24:58 NKJV

So even though God knew the end from the beginning Rebekah still had a choice! Did God know Rebekah would say, “Yes”? Sure! Did he force Rebekah to say Yes? No!

On the fourth Sunday of the month all my friends know I am going golfing. Do my friends make me go golf? No! So knowing what will happen is not necessarily forcing what will happen. In the case of Rebekah and Isaac, God did arrange the meeting with Rebekah, but Rebekah still had a choice.

Of course, God foreknows much differently than we do. He reminds us that His ways are not like our ways. (Isa 55:8) Thus we just have to accept what He tells us, even when it is outside our realm of experience. That, too, is a matter of submitting to His sovereign will. Over and over He gives us a choice, and He also tells us He knows the end from the beginning. It was not God’s will for Israel to wander 40 years in the wilderness, but because most of the spies chose not to believe, that is what happened. It is not God’s will for people to starve to death around the world. These are the results of sin which are a by-product of allowing freedom of choice for this planet, and not specifically the consequences of God’s sovereign will.

Remember that we are in this sinful world in the first place  because God realizes that love without choices is not real love. That’s why He created Lucifer, even though He knew that he would become became Satan. God knew that, in order for love to reign in the universe, free choice has to reign too. Jesus says,

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32

Jesus is drawing everyone to Himself. Everyone. Nowhere in the Bible do we see where God chose anyone to be lost. We will get to that in a bit, but for now we see that while Jesus draws everyone to Him, obviously everyone is not choosing to be saved. That is why Paul tells us in Hebrews 2:3 not to neglect this great salvation and in Hebrews 4:7 not to harden our hearts against this salvation.

Jesus is drawing the world to Himself, and the only way to be lost is to resist this love! You have to choose not to be drawn to Christ, otherwise, according to Scripture you will be drawn to Him.

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: Matthew 25:41 NKJV

Notice the fire is not prepared for anyone but the devil and his angels. Jesus does not say, “the fire prepared for the devil and his angels and those who I have not elected” or “those whom I’ve predestined to be lost.” He does not even say “Judas!” Clear and simple: The fire was prepared for the devil and His angels, and nobody else. Will Judas be there? Sadly inspiration tells us yes, but not by God’s choice. It will be by Judas’ own choice!

God’s choice is for us all to be saved, which leads us to the next point I want to share.

The Bible does teach predestination!

But it does not teach predestination without choice. Also, whenever the Bible mentions predestination, it is always predestination to be saved. The Bible nowhere teaches that God has preordained or predestined anyone to be lost.

“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! Isaiah 45:22 NKJV

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved…1 Timothy 2:4 NKJV

“All” has to mean “All.” If God wants all humankind to be saved, that has to mean that He does not want anyone to be lost. Therefore He has not chosen or predestined anyone to be lost.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…Ephesians 1:5 NKJV

These and Romans 8:30 are the only times predestination is mentioned in the NKJV. God’s predestination always leads to salvation. Nowhere does the Bible teach that anyone is predestined to be lost. Some people reason within themselves, independently from Scripture, that since God knows who is going to be lost, that takes free choice away. But Scripture teaches we are all predestined to be saved. Therefore the only way to be lost is by using our God-given free choice to be lost, totally independent of God’s plan.

Wait a minute though! Didn’t God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Yes, in the same way that the same sun that melts butter hardens clay. When we choose to resist God’s love we actually use God’s love as a way to harden our hearts.

Exodus 8:15 says,

“But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.”

And again in Exodus 8:32 we read,

“And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.”

So we clearly see that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, while God takes responsibility for what He allows or does not prevent, since He gives us all a free choice.

Does Romans 9 teach us God wanted Jacob to be saved, but Esau to be lost? Didn’t God even say, “Jacob I loved, Esau I have hated?” Yes, but by using the words love and hate, God was not saying He loved one and hated the other as we use those words today. Remember in Luke 14:26 Jesus says we must hate our families in order to follow Him. Of course He simply means we must prefer Jesus over our families. Likewise, in Romans 9 Paul is not saying God wanted Jacob to be eternally saved and Esau eternally lost. That was not the issue of Romans 9. The issue is clear:

 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” Romans 9:12 NKJV

The issue was clearly the temporal birthright and not eternal salvation. God wants all men, including Esau, to be saved.

Some say that God predestined Judas to betray Jesus, but while God did know what would happen, it was not God who arranged for Judas to betray Jesus. It was not God but Satan that entered into Judas.

Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:27 NKJV

So we have seen that God wants all men to be saved, and that predestination in the Bible always refers to salvation and never condemnation. While God wants everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) does that take away our choice or does God give us a choice?

choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…Joshua 24:15 NKJV

I believe Ellen White stated it well when she wrote:

The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him. Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians. Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ Pages 47-48

Just as God worked everything out for Rebekah to be Isaac’s bride while she was still allowed to choose if she would “go with this man,” so today Jesus has worked everything out for us to be His bride, but He still gives us free choice. Will you go with this man?

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here. 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Its Your Own Choice

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death. Proverbs 8:36 

Speaking of the destruction of the wicked, it is said,

This is not an act of arbitrary power on the part of God. The rejecters of His mercy reap that which they have sown. God is the fountain of life; and when one chooses the service of sin, he separates from God, and thus cuts himself off from life. He is “alienated from the life of God.” Christ says, “All they that hate Me love death.” Ephesians 4:18; Proverbs 8:36. God gives them existence for a time that they may develop their character and reveal their principles. This accomplished, they receive the results of their own choice. By a life of rebellion, Satan and all who unite with him place themselves so out of harmony with God that His very presence is to them a consuming fire. The glory of Him who is love will destroy them.
At the beginning of the great controversy, the angels did not understand this. Had Satan and his host then been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.
But not so when the great controversy shall be ended. Then, the plan of redemption having been completed, the character of God is revealed to all created intelligences. The precepts of His law are seen to be perfect and immutable. Then sin has made manifest its nature, Satan his character. Then the extermination of sin will vindicate God’s love and establish His honor before a universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His law.
Well, then, might the angels rejoice as they looked upon the Saviour’s cross; for though they did not then understand all, they knew that the destruction of sin and Satan was forever made certain, that the redemption of man was assured, and that the universe was made eternally secure. Christ Himself fully comprehended the results of the sacrifice made upon Calvary. To all these He looked forward when upon the cross He cried out, “It is finished.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 764