Glimpses of Grace; Grace and Providence

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In my work as a Bible Instructor, I find many people who have a chip on their shoulder, and harbor a grudge. They blame others for their own unhappiness. I do not see that with Joseph. Joseph takes control of his own happiness.  Once reunited with his brothers who sold him into Egypt he tells them, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years [hath] the famine [been] in the land: and yet [there are] five years, in the which [there shall] neither [be] earing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “Genesis 45:5-7

Did you catch that? God sent me here not you! Seriously, we give people too much credit sometimes. People cannot control our lives and emotions. God can!

While writing to the Ephesians from a Roman prison, Paul calls himself “the prisoner of the Lord.” Ephesians 4:1 Paul would not call himself a prisoner of Rome.  Paul was not about to give mere mortal man the credit for a master plan that only a God of infinite wisdom could come up with. Neither Joseph or Paul, would credit mere mortals with the power to control their lives. Both Joseph and Paul were exactly where they needed to be when God needed them to be there. What more could you ask for?

Even in prison Joseph and Paul both knew God had a wonderful plan for them that man could not detour.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God had a purpose for Joseph. Everything worked out for him to deliver many from the famine. For Paul, he was able to write much of the New Testament while in prison. If he had been free to speak face to face back then, he would not have needed to write the letters that have been preserved to inspire us today.

You too are destined for God’s grace! “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. “ Ephesians 1:5-6

If you are in the Tampa Bay area, I would like to invite you to experience this grace at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world by clicking here.

Ephesians; Us in Christ and Christ in Us.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love the book of Ephesians! It is one of my favorite books. What is really cool is that the first half of Ephesians brings us Justification, which is me in Christ, my deliverance from the penalty of sin and is my title to heaven. The second half of Ephesians transitions into sanctification which is Christ in me, my deliverance from the power of sin,  and is my fitness for heaven.

Here are some of my favorite passages in the first part of Ephesians, illustrating the me in Christ idea.

Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  Ephesians 1:3-6

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him:  Ephesians 1:10

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:  Ephesians 2:4-6

In the above verse, not only do we see the in Christ idea, but we also see that grace saves us from more than just death. It saves us from our sinful lifestyle.

Now we see Paul transition to Christ in us. Below is one of my most favorite passages in all the Bible. It tells us, that not only do we have Christ (God) in us, but we can be filled with all the fullness of God! That is powerful!

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.  Ephesians 3:14-21

I encourage you to study the book of Ephesians and see what treasures you find!

Romans 9; Predistination

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Some people try to twist Romans 9 into saying that God predestines some people to be lost, when in reality, the only predestination the book of Romans teaches, is for all to be saved. See Romans 8:29. When you read Romans 9 in its context, you see that God is defending His right to save people even though they deserve death. He is defending His right to be merciful. When you study this in the context of the entire book of Romans, this becomes even more clear.

 

It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.  Romans 9:12-13 

Some people use this verse to teach pre-destination, saying that God had already decided before Esau was born that he would not be saved. God says that He hated Esau, right? Before we jump to conclusions lets see how Jesus uses the word “hate.” In Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Of course Jesus does not want us to hate our families as we think of the word “hate.” All He is saying is we must prefer Jesus above our families. So in Romans 9:13 when God says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau have I hated” all He is saying is, I preferred Jacob to have the birthright rather than Esau. This is very clear as verse 12 tells us that “the elder shall serve the younger.”  The context is very clearly about the birthright and not Esau or Jacob’s personal salvation.

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Romans 9:15-19

  

Many take the quote, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” as God defending His right not to be merciful to some people. However it is a direct quote from Exodus 33:19 where Moses is asking for a special favor to see God’s glory. The question is not one of personal salvation, but rather God defending His right to give Moses the favor he requested and receive God’s mercy in seeing His glory. By showing mercy and compassion on whomever He wants, God is not defending His right to not be good to people but rather the exact opposite, which is His right to be good to people who don’t even deserve it. If you think about it, God would not have to defend His right to not be good to people as no one deserves that right in the first place.

  

Did God give Pharaoh a rebellious heart? Not at all! God did not make Pharaoh to be rebellious just to accomplish His own purpose. God was actually preserving his life through all of the plagues. God simply preserved his life even though he deserved to be destroyed and accomplished His purposes.

  

God did not actually harden Pharaoh’s heart, but rather accepts responsibility for what He did not prevent. 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 verse 32 of the same chapter 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, and God takes responsibility for what He allows or does not prevent, since He gives us all a free choice.   While some people allow God’s goodness to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4) others take advantage of God’s goodness to continue in sin and rebellion (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Thus because of people’s own choices they are softened or hardened by God’s goodness. The same sun that melts butter hardens clay. You have a choice. You can let God’s love melt your heart or you can harden yourself by resisting that love. The choice is yours. 

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 10 Pharaoh’s Heart

I am writing today from the Beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson quotes, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Romans 9:18).  This verse has confused many into thinking that God actually wants some people to be lost. Here is an explanation that I have provided on my In Light Of The Cross website in the section, “Difficult Texts“.

For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Romans 9:15-19

  

Many take the quote, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” as God defending His right not to be merciful to some people. However it is a direct quote from Exodus 33:19 where Moses is asking for a special favor to see God’s glory. The question is not one of personal salvation, but rather God defending His right to give Moses the favor he requested and receive God’s mercy in seeing His glory. By showing mercy and compassion on whomever He wants, God is not defending His right to not be good to people but rather the exact opposite, which is His right to be good to people who don’t even deserve it. If you think about it, God would not have to defend His right to not be good to people as no one deserves that right in the first place.

  

Did God give Pharaoh a rebellious heart? Not at all! God did not make Pharaoh to be rebellious just to accomplish His own purpose. God was actually preserving his life through all of the plagues. God simply preserved his life even though he deserved to be destroyed and accomplished His purposes.

  

God did not actually harden Pharaoh’s heart, but rather accepts responsibility for what He did not prevent. 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 verse 32 of the same chapter 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, and God takes responsibility for what He allows or does not prevent, since He gives us all a free choice.   While some people allow God’s goodness to lead them to repentance (Romans 2:4) others take advantage of God’s goodness to continue in sin and rebellion (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Thus because of people’s own choices they are softened or hardened by God’s goodness. The same sun that melts butter hardens clay. You have a choice. You can let God’s love melt your heart or you can harden yourself by resisting that love. The choice is yours.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.