What comes into our minds when we think about God?
Psalm 50:1; 90:2; 115:3; Isaiah 40:15; 45:9; 46:10; Dan.4:35; Romans 9:20-21; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 1; 1 Timothy 6:15
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Psalm 115:3
No religion or theological system is greater than its idea of God! Who God is rates as the utmost of importance not only to our understanding of Him, but our understanding of life as well. What comes into our mind when we think of God is perhaps the most fundamental and important thing in the theology of the Christian life. Who God is and who we are in Him will determine every aspect of our lives, our response to Christ, and our response to others. The question is, who is God in your life? Is He Sovereign, or is He an idol?
What is Sovereignty?
The sovereignty of God basically means that God is God, and He is in complete control, He is the Creator, King, and Sustainer of the universe. God can do as He pleases, as He wishes, without constraint; He has no limits or confines. Nothing else in concept or reality can move or exercise power or influence over Him. Nothing can have direction or permission outside of His knowledge and control. God's purpose is all-comprehensive and can never be thwarted.
"Sovereignty," as a word, occurs many times in the English Bible, as well as the clear idea thereof. It can refer to God's power and control or a earthly king's dominion (Gen. 15:2-8; Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Duet. 3:24; 9:26; Josh. 7:7; Judges 6:22; 16:28; 2 Sam. 7:18-29; 1 Kings 2:26; 8:53; Psalm 68:20; 71:5,16; 73:28; 109:21; 140:7-8; Isa. 7:7; 25:8,16; 30:15; 40:10; 48:16; 49:22; 50:4-9; 51:22; 52:4; 56:8; 61:1,11; 65:13-15; Jer.1:6; 2:22; 4:10; 7:20; 14:13; 32:17; 32:25; 44:26; 50:25; Ezek. 2:4; 3:11, 27; 4:14; 5:11; Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 1:4; Rev. 6:10-and there are 233 more!). Sovereignty, as a term, logically expresses the idea of what God is; He is The Supreme Creator and has total providence and absolute authority as ruler of all that exists in the totality of creation. Whether or not we acknowledge Him, His nature remains the same! Whether or not we acknowledge Him, we are dependent upon Him for every breath, every step we take!
God is the independent, self-existing, self-governing, and autonomous, supreme ruler over all things. He caused all created things to come into existence and has absolute control of any possible outcome of them beyond our comprehension. There is no random chance or occurrence in the universe; nothing is beyond His knowledge, influence, or command. Thus, nothing happens in our lives without a reason or a purpose, even things we do not see or understand! The sole purpose of the universe is for His pleasure and for His glory, as all that is created was created by Him (Prov. 16:4;33; 45:7; Rom. 11:36; Eph. 1:11). We need to ask ourselves, how do I glorify Him?
God is immutable; this means He is unchallengeable, fully, absolutely, and totally in control! He alone chooses who will be clued into His truth, and who is not worthy or ready to know . Thus, God is the One in whom we can have faith and worship! God is fully God, supreme, sovereign, independent, autonomous, and self-governing; thus, there is no external power, law, or influence on Him that can thwart Him, and there is nothing either in existence or even conceivable that is greater than He. This means we can trust Him! Furthermore, He has the absolute ability to exercise His power and control according to His will. He created the universe out of nothing; thus, all things come from Him and are dependent upon Him. God's Sovereignty means He has the absolute right to do with His creation as He pleases. He is not obligated to give us anything, and owes us nothing. Yet, He loves us and gives us the grace that we do not deserve. His grace and love are given to us because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and rose again for our sins (Gen. 1:1-31; Psalm 11:4; 45:6; Prov. 16:33; 21:1; Isa. 24:23).
God is the One who chooses and dispenses wisdom and life. He is the only One who is capable and sufficient in knowledge, wisdom, justice, and mercy to do so. God reveals Himself in the heart and through His Word. We cannot come to know or understand God from any secular means; no learning, science, or power can grasp whom God is or what He is up to. Everything in the universe belongs to God. Since He is God, Creator, and Sustainer, He has the right and authority to create and to control as He pleases. Thus, we belong to Him and our lives must line up to His precepts and will. Even the number of hairs on our heads are under His sovereignty; thus, we are to look to Him in truth in our dealings with one another, and not pay attention to material gain or dishonest gain, which give us nothing, since nothing is ours (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 47; 93; 96:10; 97; 99:1-5; 146:10; Isa. 6:1; Ezra. 1:26; Dan. 4:34-35; 5:21-28; 6:26; 7:9; Matt. 10:29-31; Rev. 3:21; 4:2)!
Romans Spells Sovereignty
The Sovereignty of God is clearly spelled out in the book of Romans, yet Paul is poured out and sorrowful; in Rom. 10:1, he is worshiping and in Rom. 11:33-36, he is praying. The big picture is, God is totally Sovereign, and we have free will and responsibility! God's sovereignty does not nullify our responsibility or call! Free will and sovereignty go together like roots and leaves; they may not need each other from God's perspective, but they do from ours. Spurgeon says "they are friends;" Augustine says, "we must work and do as it all depends on us, and pray and trust as it all depended on God". The God who ordains the ends (from creation to salvation) and numbers our hairs, also ordains the means to the ends; our prayers, witness, and free will are God's foreordained decrees and are far beyond our feeble understanding or the choices we make. God is sovereign and we have free will; the Bible teaches both. We may not fully understand it, but there it is. We are the elect and chosen although we know we have no right to it. Thus, our responsibility and call must be directive and purpose driven-His purpose! To sit and hide behind theology and claim we need to do nothing else is a coward's and reprobate's way out! We are called to be doers (James 1:22-25)!
Whether or not we acknowledge Him, God is also in total control and sovereign over our salvation and life. We cannot come to Him without He first interdicts upon us. We human beings think we control our destiny and our salvation because we can choose; but, we cannot choose because we are filled with a sinful nature that prevents us. We have no ability or power of our own to receive Christ as Savior; only the Holy Spirit can intervene upon our hearts and wills as we respond to the grace He has given to us, making us completely dependent on Him. This is not domination; it is incredible love! Which would you rather have making such a decision-your limited thinking and experience, or the Sovereign God of the universe who is completely fair and loving (Ex. 33:19; Deut. 7:7; John 6:44, 65; Rom. 9:15; Gal. 3:3-6; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 2:12-13)?
Do all Christians believe in Sovereignty? Surprisingly, the answer is no! Many Reformed people believe that the reason Arminianism developed and has been so adhered to over the centuries is that it gives us the comfort that we, in some way, have control over our lives. However, this is a false comfort in choices and will. Again, whom would you want to make the choices in your life, you and me who are flawed and sinful, or the One who is all-knowing and all-loving?
What is Arminianism (I was one for many years until I really started to study and understand Romans and then I had to convert my views to God's percepts and became more Reformed in my theological understandings)? It is a system of belief that has many aspects. There are three major points regarding Sovereignty:
1. God chose us (elect) because of His foreknowledge, thus it is ultimately by our works that God sees in advance and not because of His will or purpose. This would nullify the work of Christ on the cross for our behalf as we would have earned our salvation in some way.
2. Christ died for anyone and everyone (saved and unsaved) and we choose. (This leaves out God's perfect plan and authority.)
3. We can resist God's grace, thus nullifying His omniscient and potency attributes.
There are,of course, other aspects too (see our articles, Calvinism From the Critics and The Pelagian Captivity of the Church). Arminianism leads us to believe that we make the decisions in what matters in life, and God merely provides us with options and choices. In a way that may be true, but only from our limited perspective! Arminianism places the focus on the responsibility of man and devalues the purpose and control of God. The Bible clearly teaches, as in Reformed thinking, that the focus is on God's sovereignty, glory, and purpose. We cannot choose our own will and claim it as His! Christians may disagree and bicker over this, but consider this: what is your focus? Is it about you, or about God?
Classic Judaism taught a balance between our responsibility and God's sovereignty. We are not forced or manipulated by God. We have choices, and the ability to make both right ones and wrong ones. Rabbis taught that people with poor morals stumble just like people with poor eyes. Most problems in our churches and theology come down to how fully we understand who and what God is and His Divine Sovereignty! If we do not understand and trust God all we do in life will be skewed and come to nothing but stress and disdain!
The Sovereignty of God, also called "Providence" (Genesis 50:20; Job. 38:1-41:34; Psalm 103: 19; Daniel 4:34-35; Acts 2:22-24; 14:16; Romans 1:26-32; 11:33-36; James 1:13-17) means that God sees beforehand and provides. This ties in with His Sovereignty because this is about God's control as He totally holds, directs, disposes, and governs all of His creation. This is an essential doctrine to know and understand because our Lord is no spectator! Providence is the doctrine that gives us the knowledge and comfort that God is sovereign, and thus, He is in control. We are not mere rats in a meaningless maze, without any divine plan or purpose.
Our Great Comfort is That God is Indeed in Control!
God, indeed, is in control. He does, indeed, have a plan; there is no stray molecule in the universe that does not have His hand of control over it. Jesus tells us that God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows the number of hairs on our head--or the number of hairs we do not have. Therefore, there is no chance, no luck, no gambling, no fate (in the worldly sense), to what if or what may have been or what is, as all things happen according to His plan.
At the same time, we have free choice, as well as determination. Somehow, beyond our capacity to reason, these two seemingly conflicting sets of reason come together as friends (St. Augustine and Spurgeon). In theological terms, this is called Concurrence. This is the coterminous relationship between God's decree and our free choice that somehow are shared in our journey through life, that our free will and choices work into His foreordained decrees without assault to His will and absolute control, or even, to some degree, our decisions.
Thus, if we do not receive His Grace and Salvation, even though His election exists, it is because we choose to not accept Him. He sees this by His foreknowledge, as applied to His purpose first. To what extent this occurs is a matter of hot debate amongst theologians over the centuries. But, it is safe to say that He is ultimately in charge. (Yes, this will "blow your mind," i.e. your thinking ability!) Even Calvin spent more time defending and explaining human responsibility and our duty to prayer more than any other subjects in his writings. So, it is all in His hands, and it is up to us to get to work, trusting and obeying Him.
Providence also refers to God's foreknowledge. That means that God sees beforehand, and provides. It is a word we do not see much of today, but it has a rich history amongst the Puritans and Reformers as the great comfort that God is God and LORD over all. God is no clockmaker who made the world, set it in motion, and then left it, as the Deists or some Natural theologians have proclaimed. God has ultimate authority and sovereignty over all the affairs of humanity. He is directing, involved, and working through it all, giving us mercy and guidance. He creates, He sustains. The universe is dependent upon His involvement, moment upon moment.
Providence gives us the comfort that He is in charge; there are no accidents or mistakes. You are here for a purpose and a reason; you are no accident (even if your parents told you that!) If you feel you married the wrong person--well, you did not! There should be no negative words or thinking coming from you or by listening to others! You are His loved one and in His plan if you are in Christ! You may feel you have made a lot of bad decisions. Well, you have-we all have-but God is still working things out for good. This is what Romans 8 is all about. Therefore, we have no need to dwell upon the past, complain, or play the what if games, nor should we allow past mistakes to hold us hostage from His plan for us now. Rather, we are to move ahead in the parameters of His fruit and in the knowledge that He is, indeed, in control.
Jesus affirmed Sovereignty as He preached the Kingdom of Heaven, which is both now and also is to come (Matt. 3:2; 4:23; 5:3,10,19-20; 6:10; 33; 7:21; 10:7; 13:24-47). The term, Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew is the same thing as the Kingdom of God in the other three Gospels. They both mean God's rule and sovereignty. They point to the church today and our eternal future. The Kingdom of Heaven will culminate with our Lord's second coming and a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13-14; Rev. 21-22).
What About Our Free Will?
God's Sovereignty does not contradict our freedom of will and responsibility. God is not the ""master puppeteer""with us as the marionettes! Even though He is in absolute control over every subatomic particle of energy in the cosmos and how ever many universes there are, we still have a choice. Look at it this way; no matter what the options or circumstances are or how interlinked they are with the choices of others, or how our circumstances transpire, our choices are His pre-ordained will. Whom you will marry, where you will live, and what you will do this day are all in His scope and control. Yet, we still choose. This may "²blow our minds,"² as it is far beyond our rationale or ability to reason. Just because we may not fully understand this does not nullify this doctrine. In fact, it should help us. Who would want to worship a God we can fully fathom and control? Maybe some would, as then they would be in control, not need to be convicted, and could do as they pleased. But, this would not be God; it would be an idol. If we did understand God beyond how He has revealed Himself to us, where would our trust be? I believe the fact that we do not understand helps prove His Sovereignty! The question is not whether we understand how He formed the universe out of nothing or how He determines our actions; rather, it is if we will trust Him, depend on Him, be responsible to His precepts, and be willing to follow through to let our faith grow in Him!
As far as free will goes, of course we have free will! Calvin spoke of this in most of his writings. In addition, he spent more time on our responsibility than any other subject except prayer-including anything in the acronym of TULIP! Calvin taught that we have responsibility, duty to faith, and responsibility to pray-three areas that require free will. God gives us dignity and the ability to choose what to be aware of, to make moral decisions, and to live a life either for Him or against Him. If He did not give us some free will, we would just be pre-programmed robots unable to reason, relate to Him or to others, to love, or to worship Him. Thus, we can never say, since God is sovereign, it makes no difference what we do because anything we do will be His will. We are still responsible for the choices we make. We just do not have the ability to act independent of God! We are in God's control and we are responsible for our actions (Deut. 7:7-10; Rom. 9:19)! These ideas are not contradictory even though they do stretch our reasoning abilities beyond human logic. Because God is God, these two contradictory ideas can take place even though we may not have a grasp of it.
This is also called Liberation. God is in control and has a plan for us, but what are we going to do about it? Like driving a car in a strange, unfamiliar area, if Christ is a passenger, we will spend most of our time arguing, complaining, and debating the destination. Therefore, we end up going nowhere as well as hating the journey. In addition, we do not have a clue as to where our destination is. Others will just sit on the couch and do nothing in life, blaming God because what they want has not dropped from heaven directly upon them therefore, they end up doing zero in life! If we allow Christ to get into the driver's seat, He will be able to take us where we could never have gone on our own. The journey of our Christian life becomes the road trip of a lifetime, filled with wonder and excitement. Even when we hit those potholes, the ride is a joy. Moreover, if we will sign over the pink slip of our will to our Lord Jesus Christ, He will take us to places beyond our wildest imaginations. Our ultimate freedom is found in His Sovereignty applied to our service and His glorification. There is no better way of life (Deut. 7:9-10; Jos. 24)!
In Reformed theology, debate over free will and Sovereignty is sometimes called "The bondage of the will." Perhaps it was Jonathan Edwards who coined this phrase, but its grasp is clearly taught in Scripture. In a nutshell, it means we have free will to choose; it is also called free agency (The degree of our freedom is debated by theologians in the Reformed camp and outside in Dispensationalism and Arminianism. The reasons are too long and complicated to go into here; however, virtually all agree that we do have it, and the Bible clearly teaches it even though some Reformed theologians disagree.). This means we make our own decisions and reap our own consequences. We have the ability to see all the options of a decision or situation along with the virtue that can come from them and the destruction they can cause. The main point on free will is that because of the Fall, we no longer have the desire to seek God first; thus, we need the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf through what Christ did. We have a conscience that knows who God is as revealed in our hearts even without the Word (Rom. 1; Psalm 15; Isa. 40). This will is at war with the desires of our freedom, our sinful nature to rebel as Adam did first. The bondage is that our hearts are captured by sin; thus, our choices are bent toward sin and rebellion. The only way to gain true freedom is to accept what Christ has done. It is He that sets our will free. And once freed, we will choose to be surrendered to Him as His bondservant-the ultimate freedom! Then we will have a will inclined to seek our Lord's face and live a life pleasing to Him (John 8:34-36; Rom. 6:16-23; 2:20; Gal. 5:1-13).
The doctrine of faith alone is a demonstration of our will to choose, and we do choose to accept His amazing gift of grace, as He first comes to us. (To what extent is a matter of debate in Reformed circles.) He seeks us; we do not have the will or the ability to seek Him because of our sinful nature (Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:19; Rom. 3:10-12; 6:14-20; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1). However, we cannot choose it if we do not know about it, and that is the point of this doctrine. Sin, by the way of our false presumptions, pride, or what we think is fun and inviting is in the way of our choosing. Yet, if we allow His work to continue in us, the Holy Spirit will lift our sin and our will out of the way. Therefore, we can be saved by God's predestined decree (Grace Alone), and by what Christ has done (Christ Alone). We accept Salvation (Faith Alone), which is revealed by the Word (The Scriptures Alone), for God's glory (Glory to God Alone). (Slogans from the Reformation, adhered to by Calvinists and Lutherans.)
God is in control; this should help us realize that our contentment is in Him and not in things or circumstances! Ultimately, control by us is an illusion; even though we make decisions and we are to peruse and pursue life and His call, we do not have control over life or death. We make decisions that somehow are intertwined in His foreknowledge and total Sovereignty, and we are primarily called first to seek Him (Matt. 6:33). He is our ultimate safety net and security, both in life and eternity. This helps us see Him and trust Him and not to worry or stress out. Sovereignty also means we have a God in whom we can trust, whom we can obey, and in whom we can take comfort! Worry should not even come to our minds, for He is in charge (Matt. 6:25-34). We are under God's provision, and nobody else has ultimate control. All power and authority are His by both direct and indirect means.
So, we need to see our lives as being in His hands of love and comfort, that He does have a wonderful plan for our lives, and that everything happens for a reason and a purpose. We need to look beyond logic, reason, and scientific explanations that can change completely every few years. His truth remains the same. We have to see all that happens in our life-sufferings, tragedies, good times, and all-as opportunities to learn, grow, develop character, and mature. If not, we will miss out on what is important in life, causing it to be meaningless!
As Spurgeon said, free will and God's sovereignty are friends. His preordained decrees are also our free choices working out. Hard to understand? Well, remember, God is beyond the confines of time and space, and is infinitely beyond our understanding. He is beyond how He revealed Himself to us, so accept His precepts and trust Him for the joy ride of life! Just because He knows all things, what we will choose before we do, or when and what we do, we still choose. Thus, our free will and choices are incorporated and in relation to God's Sovereignty and foreknowledge and He does not negate our freedom. We are limited but He is not (Acts 4:27-28; 1 John 3:20).
Why Some Teach We Do Not Have Free Will!
Some people teach we have no free will. This is called Hyper-Calvinism. It is a false doctrine that emphasizes divine sovereignty "to the exclusion" of human responsibility. "Be aware of the misrepresentations," a seminary professor told me years ago. Many people claim to be Calvinists, but few will actually read and adhere to what he taught. They have no concern for what Scripture teaches-only for their bloodlines and suppositions. We have to be aware that Hyper-Calvinism can be much more than a mere threat or distraction. In fact, it is more dangerous than Arminianism or any other variant theological system could ever be. People will get the wrong impression of biblical Calvinism and will fall away to doctrines that have roots in human trends and not in God's most precious Word. This can come about because of misrepresented ideas or from arrogance and pride.
Hyper-Calvinism is the misrepresenting of the teachings of John Calvin, which are a logical and systematic look into what Scripture reveals to us. Calvin, a French reformer in the 16th century, called the church away from idolatry and corruption and toward adhering to the Word of God for all faith and practice. Yet, Calvinists started virtually every revival of Calvinism, such as the First and Second Great Awakenings in the U.S. along with the great writings of the Puritan era. They were then taken over by other theological systems that claimed them as their own while misrepresenting what great thinkers, theologians, and pastors such as Bunyan, Edwards, Spurgeon, Aquinas, and the great Augustine taught, as well as most denominations such as Episcopal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Lutheran and many, many more.
Even the term, Hyper-Calvinism is misrepresented as critics unthinkingly slap this label on any variety of Calvinism that is higher than they think it should be. Armenians like to associate all five-point Calvinists as hyper, as do many Evangelicals who do not know what Calvinism is really all about. (See article on "Calvinism from the Critics")
The main aspect of Hyper-Calvinism is that it is a false doctrine. It emphasizes Divine Sovereignty and excludes human responsibility. To call it Hyper-Calvinism is something of a misnomer. It is actually a rejection of historic Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism entails a denial of what is taught in both Scripture and the landmark Calvinistic creeds such as the Westminster and Heidelberg Catechisms. It minimizes the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners, and emphasizes irresistible Grace to such an extent that there appears to be no real need to evangelize, because Christ may be offered only to the elect. It has five aspects associated with it:
1. A Denial of the Call of the Gospel. It says that the gospel does not apply to all who hear it. They deny that the gospel calls all sinners to repentance and faith. The gospel call, the invitation to come to Christ for salvation as proclaimed by the pastor, evangelist, or lay person and interceded by the Holy Spirit even before the earth was made (now we get into temporal physics) is muted to anyone except the elect, so only certain people have the dog ears to hear the message and understand it. (Isa. 45:22; 55:1-7; Matt. 11:28-29; Rev. 22:17).
2. The Denial That Faith is the Duty of Every Sinner. This is the denial of faith alone, the hallmark creed of the Reformation. It says unbelievers are incapable of faith or even love apart from enabling grace. They even believe that Christ must never be presented to them. This is a copout. They ignore the Great Commission! (Matt. 28)
3. The Denial That the Gospel Makes Any "Offer" of Christ, Salvation, or Mercy to the non-elect, and "denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal."
4. The Denial of Such a Thing as "Common Grace." (There go the Epistles out the window!)
5. The Denial That God Has Any Sort of Love for the Non-Elect. (This ignores John 3:16)
All five varieties of Hyper-Calvinism undermine evangelism and missions and twist the gospel message so it seems to be only for those already in the church. Those holding this position go to great lengths to deny that faith is ever presented in Scripture. They must not have read it well, or did so with a cut and delete attitude. Scripture twisting is crucial if one would come up with such a doctrine that directly countermands what Christ taught-what He commanded! I believe it is to justify laziness and the mindset of, "I do not want to do it," by rationalizing reasons not to reach out to the community and the world!
One of the other false teachings concerning this is called Open Theism which states that God has given total free will to all of humanity to make choices independent from God's or that are equal to God's; thus, He does not know what lies ahead. God's knowledge and power are then limited. The reasoning is that if God is sovereign, He already knows the future. Thus, we do not have free choosing, so we must not have free will. This comes from a misunderstanding of God and how He as revealed Himself (Dan. 2:29; Psalm 90:2). These systems of false doctrine demonstrate how flawed human thinking can be when we try to put God in our box!
Sovereignty Does Not Release Us From Responsibility!
Remember, the doctrine of Sovereignty does not rule out our responsibility to accept, trust, have faith in, and believe in the redeeming work of Christ (John 3:16-18). The objection by the Armenians is based on a misunderstanding of the term. They believe the Reformed position rejects people's responsibility, which is not so. They also ignore the sovereignty of God! Who is better qualified and more trustworthy to determine salvation (the greatest gift)¾our fallen reasoning, or the holiness and purity of God?
We cannot fathom the true implication of meaning or reasoning. We have to trust that God is God and we are not. Thus, we have no idea of His plans or purposes. All Christian groups who use the Bible must believe in God and let God be God. He must be sovereign; and, if He is sovereign, there must also be Election. The division is in the meaning and purpose, which God has not revealed to us. We can only speculate. We know only what He has revealed: that He does elect, and that Election is to His glory and purpose. There is a balancing act between God's sovereignty and our responsibility. Neither Calvin nor anyone else has been able to resolve this tension. This is why there is so much debate.
What does this come down to? Our call is to trust and obey (there is no other way!). (1 Cor. 1:8-9; Phil.1:6; 1 Thess. 1:3-6; 5:23-24; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:18; 2 Pet. 1:10). It is not our purpose to argue over this, but to accept His wondrous and amazing Sovereignty and the Grace He gives us even though we do not choose or deserve it. God, in His reasoning, which is perfect and holy, does not select some, and allow others to stay in sin. It does not mean that He chooses that those should go to hell. This is also under Hyper Calvinism or Double Predestination and is not biblical doctrine (Psalm 81:12; 1 Pet 2:8)!
In 1 Peter 4: 1-11, use whatever gift means to practice our spiritual gifts and realize that the diversity we have is beneficial. It also means being charitable or generous to others with what Christ has given us, and serving Him without being held back by fear, time, or lack of talent. As Christians, we are to typify faith and reason together so we can exhibit the maturity needed to make wise decisions and follow our purpose in life. This also means directly caring for those in need, such as the sick, infirmed, and poor. However, some Christians will have a specific call and empowerment to do this. People in the world may be more concerned for their own needs and agendas than they are for God's clear doctrine and purpose, but as Christians, we are called to go beyond ourselves to serve others well (Titus 2). Kindness is the proof of authenticity (Rom. 2:1-4; 12:4-21; 16:1; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:16-23)!
God does not want us to be controlled by the past or to be fearful or cowardly. Now does he want us to make up false theological systems to rationalize why we do not have to evangelize, do missions, or help one another out! Rather, we are to learn from our experiences and grow from them, yet not be tied to them so they become our identity. We have been born again in Christ; our old life is old; it is no longer who we are. Thus, we are to grow closer to Him and be an example to others who are still in the old life without being influenced and enticed by them. Our focus needs to be on what is going on now, what God is doing, and how we can contribute to it, not just what we can get, but what can we learn and gain to be better for His glory?
Take comfort; God is in control. He does indeed have a plan for you even when you cannot see it. His will for your growth in Him is clear! He wants you to be faithful and good so others can see in you a demonstration model for the new life that they can have too. He gives you the ability, the power, and the strength to endure and to enjoy (Gal. 6:7)! The most important aspect is to keep our eyes focused on Christ, with racehorse blinders on to block off the rest.
The bottom line is that everything in the universe belongs to God. Since He is God, Creator, and Sustainer, He has that right and authority. Remember, the number of hairs on your head are under His sovereignty too; thus, we are to look to Him in truth in our dealings with one another, and not pay attention to material gain or dishonest gain, which gives us nothing-since nothing is ours! In Matthew 6: 5-15, Jesus declares, Your will be done. This illustrates for us that we are to seek His character and sovereignty in all things, and not bully what we want over what He has called us to do! His needs must precede our needs, because He wants what is best for us! This is about God's Will for us, to have a right relationship with Him.
We are to recognize His sovereignty over the universe and in our lives. In this way, righteousness, character, and virtue become the main objects in our quest. These are the jewels that we take with us into eternity! Righteousness, character, and virtue must be our essence that spills onto others. If not, we are definitely not in His Will nor are we understanding or practicing His Sovereignty. When we worry, we cannot grow in righteousness, character, or virtue, because it takes over our lives, leaving no room for growth or maturity. Worry will cut us off from our faith and growth because it blocks our focus and concentration upon our Lord (Heb. 11:10).
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. Isaiah 46:10
"Forasmuch as some people imagine that they must look on God as a respecter of persons if they believe that without any respect had to the previous merits of men, He hath mercy on whom He will, and calls whom it is His pleasure to call, and makes good whom He pleases. The scrupulousness of such people arises from their not duly attending to this one thing, namely, that damnation is rendered to the wicked as a matter of debt, justice and desert, whereas the grace given to those who are delivered is free and unmerited, so that the condemned sinner cannot allege that he is unworthy of his punishment, nor the saint vaunt or boast as if he was worthy of his reward (Augustine)."
The Sovereignty of God is clearly spelled out in Scripture: Ex 20:3; Job 25:2; 33:13; 41:11; Psalm 19:1-14; 44:4; 47:8; 50:1; 59:13; 74:12; 82:1, 8; 83:18; 93:1-2; 95:3-5; 96:10; 97:1, 5, 9; 98:6; 103:19; 105:7; 113:4; 115:3, 16; 136:2-3; Isa. 24:23; 33:22; 40:15, 22-23; 43:15; 44:6; 46:10-11; 52:7; 66:1; La 3:37; Micah 4:7, 13; Mal. 1:14; John 10:29; 19:11; Ac 7:49; Rom. 9:19; 11:36; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 6:15-16; Heb. 1:3; James 4:12; Rev. 4:11; 19:6. Is it spelled out in your awareness of Him?
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (M.Div.) and Canbourne University in London, England (Ph.D, Doctor of Philosophy in Practical Theology). He has garnered over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.
© 1999, 2001, totally revised 2005 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/