Sunday, November 30, 2008

Willing To Die

My son Luke wrote this. I thought it profitable for all of us to read.

I was watching the News tonight with my dad and sister and something on it caught our attention.
It was reporting on the rise of Muslim Violence in the country of Somalia. As the report went on, a video clip came up with several masked men (one with a knife) surrounding a man on his knees. The reporter's voice came on and said, "This video shows Muslims shortly before they executed the man on his knees by cutting off his head because he had recently converted to Christianity." This made me stop and look at this man who was my brother and who had recently been killed for being a Christian.

This started me looking on the internet for statistics on Christians who have been martyred. I found out that between mid 2007 and mid 2008, it was estimated that 175,000 Christians were killed for their faith! That means that in the course of one year, one Christian was killed every 3 minutes because they would not deny Jesus!

These people, this man I saw on the News, these Christians who die for their faith are my heroes. They are Brothers and Sisters that I can't wait to meet in heaven. The world isn't worthy of them. I look at them and love the fact that they died for Him Who died for them. It makes me want to be there with them, enduring these things with them for our great King. I love them for loving Jesus enough to die for Him.

I also want to love Jesus enough to die for Him. I also want YOU to love Him that much. Not only do I want you to love Him that much, I want you TO WANT to love Him that much. If we had this kind of love for Christ we would have joy unspeakable. Please pray for this desire. Pray that you would love Christ enough to die for Him. He died for you!

And also remember to pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, that they would continue to stand firm in their faith. God's Word tells us to remember them like we were right there with them (Hebrews 13). Pray for them. They need our prayers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christians and President-Elect Barak Obama

Yesterday evening my church, Covenant of Grace Bible Church, squeezed into a small home where we enjoyed taking part in the baptism of an adult, a teenager, and three children. All were baptized in a hot tub--the children and teen by their fathers and the adult by me. Whereas, in many churches, which have facilities with built in baptistries this would seem a bit unusual but not for us. We've been doing this for almost five years now.

We did something else last night that I really do think may be unusual given the kinds of things I am hearing come out of other churches, Christian radio talk shows, and the forwarded email I receive on a daily basis. You see, we took our entire prayer time as a church and devoted it to praying for our new president-elect, Barak Obama. We didn't criticize him, curse him, question his policies, jest about his lack of experience, run down his family, or even debate whether he is a genuine citizen of the United States. We just prayed for him.

Furthermore, we prayed for his success and asked God to bless him and his family as well as protect them all. We asked God to give him wisdom beyond his years as well as understanding and the ability to lead this great nation. We asked God to show him where he is wrong and to drive him to his knees in prayer. We also asked God to drive us--His people who are called by His Name to our knees so that we would humble ourselves, pray, and seek His Face and turn from our wicked ways--especially the wickedness of cursing and criticizing rather than praying for the man God in His sovereignty and for His glory put into office on Tuesday November 4, 2008.

I think its sad and very unbecoming of those who do claim the Name of Christ to continue in the trashing of our next president. We, perhaps need to be reminded of the Apostle Paul's words in Philippians 2:12-16. Verse 13 must be understood to mean that God is sovereign in our lives and thus, the placing of Barak Obama into a position of authority over us as our president is God's doing. It is His doing, not for our good pleasure but for His and thus verse 14 makes it clear that we are not in any position to grumble or complain. Rather as verse 15 points out, we should appear as "lights" in the world.

This word for lights is referring to the function stars had in ancient days of serving sailors as navigational aids. Sailors would use the stars as their guides to ensure safe passage as they traveled. Interestingly enough, that is what God says we as Christians are to be like--guiding lights for unbelievers who do not know the way. And the way we do this is found in verse 16. When we hold fast to the Word of God and live it out before the world we in effect are acting like the stars that guided ancient sailors into the way they should go.

Call me naive or just plain politically uninformed, which is a nice word for stupid, but I don't think trashing the president-elect is obeying Philippians 2:12-16 and thus is sin. Perhaps, we really do need to humble ourselves and turn from this wicked way so as to pray for our leader rather than follow the example of unbelievers and curse him.

I do understand the disappointment Christians feel in the election of a man who does not have a track record of voting in accord with biblical absolutes and principles. Furthermore, I completely detest and oppose his stand on abortion. I disagree with a great deal of what President-Elect Obama proposes to do but none of that changes the fact that he is the man God chose for our country at this time (Rom. 13:1). Therefore, I am responsible to pray for him (1 Tim. 2:1-3)and I don't know about you but it just doesn't seem to work for me when I'm trying to obey God and pray for a man I have just trashed. But then again, maybe I'm just plain stupid.

The Romans Series Message #36 Romans 3:12-24

A Reason To Live Thankful

Picture this—you have just been summoned to greatest recognition and reward ceremony of your life to stand before Jesus Christ so as to be recognized and rewarded for all of your service and obedience to Him since the day you became a Christian. As you stand before Him and He reviews your life with you and your memory is refreshed so that you are able to recall with vivid clarity all the sacrifices you made for Him, all the money you gave for His cause, all the people you shared Christ with, all the hours you spent on church building projects, all the time invested in ministry to others, and all the battles you fought for Him………and as you are reliving all these moments…..and beginning to contemplate the rewards Christ will bestow upon you….and the crowns you will throw at His feet……you are brought back to the present by words you never in all your life expected to hear…….

“Oh my dear child--You wasted it all….oh you were so busy… very busy…..but you wasted it all…because in all that you did for me—you did not live as a thankful person and thus nothing that you did for me was done as an act of worship and thus you have wasted your life.”

Man-oh-man, can you imagine standing before Christ at the Bema Seat Judgment and having Him say to you—that you wasted your life as a Christian because you did not worship Him because you lived as an unthankful person?

I read a sentence the other day that really engaged and captivated my thoughts this week. I don’t know who said it or wrote it—all I know is that it greatly convicted me and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it may also have that same effect upon some of you as well.

“An ungrateful person will acknowledge God but won’t worship Him.”

Wow—that is a powerfully convicting and penetrating statement. And the problem with it is that it is true. You cannot worship God and be unthankful at the same time. Now—whereas, I think the sentence stands just fine without correction—I think you can fine tune it to say:

“An ungrateful person can acknowledge God but can’t worship Him.”

You see whereas, we can acknowledge God without being grateful thankful people—we cannot worship Him without being grateful and thankful.

If we are not thankful in any given situation, especially seemingly bad ones—it is because we are not recognizing God’s worth. We are either diminishing His sovereignty saying that He was not able to keep something bad from happening or we diminish His goodness by saying He had the power to prevent such and such but didn’t—thus He is not good. Either way, whenever a Christian is not thankful, he in effect is diminishing something about God’s character and thus is not recognizing God’s worth and worthiness and thus is not worshipping God.

Furthermore, since 1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands us to give thanks in everything because this is God’s will for us who are in Christ Jesus—to not give thanks in everything would be sin and you cannot sin and worship God at the same time.

And if we are not worshipping God—we are wasting our lives!

Now most of us as believers have fallen prey to what John Piper calls the “debtor’s ethic” in which we feel that all of our service to and for the Lord flows out of our gratitude to Him for saving us. In other words, our gratitude is our primary motivation for service and obedience. However, the Bible seems to indicate that our gratitude has much more to do with being a primary motivator for worship from which all our service and obedience should flow. So this whole issue of whether we are thankful people is a very important one as there can be no true worship without it and therefore, there can be no true Christianity without it.

I have found that Christians who are genuinely grateful to God for His wonderful gift of salvation are people who typically don’t waste their lives complaining about their troubles, grumbling about their circumstances, criticizing others, regretting what could have been, and generally bemoaning the sorry condition of life around them. Rather, I have observed that Christians who are genuinely undone by the fact that God has forgiven them, justified them, saved them and given them new life in Christ give themselves to worshipping Christ in every aspect of their lives by living thankfully. I think this is why we are commanded in Scripture to be thankful in all things—God doesn’t want us to waste our lives!

Now how does all this talk about being thankful have to do with Romans 3? We have been in Romans 3:9-18 for a few weeks now and I doubt any of us have any illusions about being good people who were worthy of God’s notice and mercy before He saved us. And right now, I want to apply these things we have learned about ourselves by focusing our attention on the appropriate response to seeing who we really were and what we were like in God’s eyes and the fact that He loved us and saved us anyway. I mean—God certainly had no illusions about the kind of people we were and may I say—are right now—and yet He Who knew us best loved us the most and sent His Son to die for us so as to redeem us from our sins. So—what kind of response does that invoke in us? I don’t know about you but it makes me very thankful and my guess is it does the same for you. And so one of the reasons we look back at who we were when God saved us is because it makes us thankful people.

What I want us all to see this morning as we work through this passage is that:

“In spite of the fact that none of us were righteous in our conduct, conversations, connections, conceit, and thus were all under the power of sin as well as the condemnation of the Law—God placed us under grace and declared us righteous so as to save us from the penalty our sins deserved—And for this we should be thankful—regardless of what else is going on or not going on in our lives.”

In other words—if you are struggling with being a grateful and thankful Christian perhaps it is because you have forgotten who you were and what you were before God so mercifully saved you. And to help us remember—let’s give our attention to what we were like before we were saved.

Now, we are not going to spend a great deal of time today in developing these points because my purpose today is to simply remind us of how God saw us before we were saved. And I think this will help us to see that we of all people should not only be thankful but live thankfully as thankful people all the time. We will come back later and develop these points further but for now let’s just survey them.

1. We were desperately wicked and reprehensible in our conduct. (12)

Because of our depravity inherited from Adam we too have turned away from God in sinful rebellion and have become “useless”. This word actually and probably best means “corrupt” as in spoiled, worthless, rotten, and without value. The word was often used of milk or food in a market that had spoiled and thus was no longer of any value or worth. And since this corruption occurred in our very heart of hearts—everything we did was corrupt and without value as far as God was concerned.

You see, a person’s actions as an unbeliever, everyone of them without exception, are polluted at their very source—because the heart of the unsaved man is totally and radically corrupt. Therefore, whereas the unbeliever can do things which are good things as far as we can see and experience—he cannot do them for the right reason or with the right motivation and thus, he really is not doing a good thing in God’s sight—Who sees beyond what we can ever possibly see.

Listen—if at the source of a spring there lies a dead rabbit in the water—then all the water flowing from that spring has been ruined regardless of how cold and refreshing it may appear and taste.

2. We were desperately wicked and reprehensible in our conversations. (13-14)

Note that Paul makes the point in verse 13 that the source of the sounds of our speech, the throat or the voice box, as unbelievers was like “an open grave”. Thus again, the idea that if the source of our speech is corrupt and foul and disgustingly dirty then so will be our actual words and conversations.

3. We were desperately wicked and reprehensible in connections with others. (15-17)

Then in verses 15-17, Paul raises the corruption experienced in our relationships which resulted as a natural by-product of our corrupt deeds and words, which naturally flowed from a corrupt and unbelieving godless heart.

4. We were desperately wicked and reprehensible in our conceitedness. (18)

Then in verse 18, Paul turns to our conceitedness and pride, which is always gauged best by whether or not we have a healthy respect for and fear of God. As unbelievers, we did not fear God. And because we had no fear for God—we paid no regard to God and lived our lives any way we saw fit—independent and apart from God.

5. We were desperately lost and without hope in our condemnation. (19-20)

And as a result of having a polluted heart that was not righteous—our conduct, our conversation, and our relationships with other people and with God Himself were corrupted so that essentially everything about us as human beings was desperately wicked, lost, worthless, and without hope in God’s eyes. As God saw us, not only were we under the power and corruption of sin—we were also under the condemnation of His own righteous Law. And to make matters worse, there was nothing we could do about it.

Our condition was hopeless as there was simply nothing we could do to make things right with God—no even keeping His Law—as if that were even a possibility. There was simply no hope for us unless God Himself would reach down to us who could not and would not reach up to Him and somehow do something that could and would reverse the corruption of our sinful hearts and pay for all the evil we had done and give us a new heart that instead of being polluted at its very source was as righteous as God’s Himself.

6. We who were desperately wicked, reprehensible, and condemned because of our unrighteousness were declared righteous through the redemptive sacrificial work of Christ on our behalf so as to be freely declared righteous as a gift of His grace. (21-24)

Apart from the Law—God revealed His righteousness, which according to verse 22 was for “all those who believe”. And so in spite of the fact as verse 23 puts it that all of us were utterly sinful, had, and continue (present tense) to fall short of the glory of God, which is like saying we all had fallen and continue to fall far short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness and all that is glorious—God still reached down and took care of our need and met us in our need and gave us the gift of His righteousness so as to declare us who were anything but righteous—the very righteousness of God Himself—so that He could save us and make us His own dear children.

That is what Paul means in verse 24. We who were deplorably and detestably unrighteous and without value to God were declared righteous by God on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross in our place as our substitute when He redeemed us from the just penalty for our sins. And whereas, we will spend much more time on this later—let it suffice us to say that in using the phrase: the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”, Paul is making the point that in order for salvation to be free for us—God paid the price for it by crushing and killing His own Son as He hung on the cross in our place as our substitute bearing our sin and shame.

And to whom did God pay the price of His own Son’s death on the cross so as to save us—to none other than Himself and His own perfect holiness and righteousness that demanded our sin—every ugly and horrid bit of it be paid for if we were ever to be able to enjoy Him and His love and His smile for all of eternity.

Oh—how much we who know Christ have to be thankful for—especially when our salvation is seen in light of our sin and when who are now in Christ is seen in contrast to who we were and what we were like without Christ.


So—with all this in mind—what keeps any of us from living our lives thankfully and graciously?

You know, a great many of us waste precious moments of our life complaining, criticizing, grumbling, feeling sorry for ourselves, and just plain being negative and downright mean. And I have wondered in my own heart of hearts just how many of those wasted precious moments it takes before you’ve gone from wasting a moment to wasting a life.

The remedy for wasting our lives by being chronic complainers and critics of others is to take a good hard look at the cross and what it took for God to save us. When we do that and see all that He has done for us—is there really any reason for us not to live as thankful people—being a blessing rather than always asking for one.

When I say we have every reason to live thankful what I mean is that instead of demanding our rights—we can and should relinquish them. Instead of criticizing another—we compliment them. Instead of complaining when cut off in traffic, stuck in line, or taken advantage of—we pray for the one who has offended us. Instead of grumbling about how bad life is—we thank God for how good it is and how much we can still enjoy it being the wicked sinners we are. Instead of holding a grudge against someone—extend forgiveness. Instead of bemoaning the fact that we are in a church in the middle of a building program and our time, energy, resources, and efforts are necessary to its success—we thank God for the opportunity to be used by Him to build a church facility for His glory and our family’s benefit. And instead of worrying and stressing about all of our problems so as to give the impression that we do not have a Heavenly Father Who loves us and cares for our every need—we give thanks for even our problems knowing that the problem is the provision of God’s grace to you that moment.

Wow—what a challenge for all of us. And we must take up the challenge because the alternative is to live unthankfully and ungratefully and thus waste our lives as Christians who while acknowledging God cannot worship Him.

And that would be a wasted life indeed!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Benefits of A Needy Life

If I could wish, for you, one thing that would bolster your faith and bring vitality to your Christian experience it would be a needy life. Now, of course, you are wondering why I would wish you a needy life. I mean, would it not be better to wish you a fulfilled and completely needless life? No, I don’t think so and let me tell you why. Without needs we would go nowhere in the Christian life. Furthermore, without needs I do not think we would grow very far in the Christian life. You see, our neediness is the impetus for our spiritual growth and maturity. Our needs cause us to turn away from ourselves and our own resources to Christ and His resources. Our problems produce stress, which results in the neediness that drives us away from our miniscule personal resources to Christ as our infinite and all-powerful resource.

Were it not for our needs, most of us would not search out, reach out and then appropriate by faith God’s promises. And if God’s promises are never appropriated we will not become partakers of God’s divine nature. This is what 2 Peter 1:4 teaches us.

“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

God’s plan for our spiritual growth primarily utilizes our problems, struggles, and challenges to promote within us the sense of need that pushes us to search the Word of God for the promises of God. Once these promises are found and we by faith grab ahold of them and appropriate them spiritual growth occurs and presto, we find ourselves becoming more and more like Christ—who, by the way, all the promises of God find their fulfillment in (2 Corinthians 1:20).

God does not so much reveal Himself to us through philosophy and higher education as He does our needs. As J.N. Darby writes: “. . . necessity finds Him out. I doubt much if we have ever learned anything solidly except we have learnt it thus.” Therefore, perhaps it is not the most knowledgeable and articulate that make the greatest ambassadors for Christ—perhaps it is the most needy.

And while most of us equate happiness with having our needs met to the point that we have no more needs, the Bible sees it completely the opposite. Jesus, Himself, said: “Blessed (happy) are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” In other words, the happiest people are not those whose belly is full but whose spiritual belly is always hungry and thirsty for God. You see, the need of spiritual hunger and thirst drives them to God and His promises, which satisfy them. However, this satisfaction is not an end in itself. No, it is the means to greater hunger and greater thirst and thus even greater satisfaction in God.

Thus, our need for God not only produces spiritual growth, it produces spiritual satisfaction and contentment for God, which in turn glorifies Him as nothing else can. As John Piper puts it so well, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Romans Series Message #35 Romans 3:11b

The Bondage of Our Affections

One of the interesting things I am finding about stopping drunks who are 20 to 30 years younger than I am is that even though drunk they can sometimes perform the field sobriety tests better than I can. But—when they bring that fact up after the handcuffs are on them and they are on their way to jail for DWI—I simply tell them—“I’m not the standard—the tests were and since you failed the tests as well as the breath test you are going to jail regardless of how much better you can keep your balance while drunk than I can while sober!” All that to say that we are good only in comparison to each other but not when our lives are compared to God Who is the Ultimate Standard of what is good.

One of the most important truths to hold up in the world is that all human beings, even though created in God's image, are corrupted by the power of sin. We are not morally good by nature. We are morally bad by nature. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul says we are all "by nature children of wrath." The attitudes and thoughts and actions that deserve the wrath of God are part and parcel of us and belong to us by nature. In Colossians 3:6, we are called "sons of disobedience." We are so disposed to disobedience against God that it is as though "disobedience" is our father. We are chips of the old block of disobedience. We don't just do sins, we are sinful. Which is why Romans 3:9 makes the point that we are all "under sin" as verse Sin is like a master or a king, and reigns over us and in us. Not that it coerces us to do what we don't want to do, but makes us want to do what we ought not to do. We are not innocent victims of sin. We are co-conspirators with sin against God.

So—be careful of falling prey to the politically correct but biblically incorrect philosophy of child-training that says: “Don’t tell your children they are bad—just tell them they do bad or somewhat less than good things.” The Bible says that “there is no one righteous—no not one” in Romans 3:10 and that includes not only us but our children and grandchildren as well. And if you disagree—let me ask you how you will answer the question, “why do I need to be saved from the wrath of God and the flames of hell if I am not a bad person?”, that your unsaved and unbelieving teen asks you when you are desperately trying to win them to Christ out a life of sinfulness. Now I realize, this is not a popular message. But it is a biblical message.

And if this message about our sinful condition before we were saved was not enough—it gets even worse. Not only were we by nature—sinners—who were so morally evil in comparison to God and His righteousness that He considered us to be “by nature—children of wrath” who lived like the devil as the “sons of disobedience”—there was absolutely nothing we wanted to change about any of this. You see, in our sinful, unsaved, unbelieving, and unregenerate condition none of us had a desire for God that would be greater than our desire for sin. And the reason for this is because the essence of our corruption in sin as those who have fallen from our first estate an original condition as seen in Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is always best seen in our affections and our desires. In fact, when giving a description of man after the Fall and just before the flood—God says in Genesis 6:5 that “the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The Hebrew word for “thoughts” in the phrase “thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” is used to denote a person’s plans and intentions made in accordance with what they desire to do or desire not to do. In other words, when God describes the condition of fallen man—the first and most important thing He highlights is that fallen man has been corrupted in his desires and affections.

And of course this only makes sense doesn’t it. Because—we will only pursue that which we desire to pursue. And we will only pursue with passion—whether it be sin or God—what or whom we passionately desire. And the fact of the matter is that to not pursue God and love God with all our heart, mind, and soul is sin—so that by default when a person is not pursuing God or seeking God with passion, that is, with all of his heart, mind, and soul, he is pursuing sin. But the problem we had as unbelievers and the problem unbelievers have right now is that in our corrupted and unsaved condition—we simply do not desire God and thus will not seek Him or pursue Him.

This is exactly what the Bible says. As Paul puts it in Romans 3:11B, none of us who were in that position and we all were before we were saved—even had an interest in God so as to seek Him. Look at what the verse says.

“There is none who seeks for God.”

Now again, Paul is answering his question that he asked up in verse 9. Were we who are now Christ’s followers any better than those who have not become Christ’s followers? In other words, was there something in us and intrinsic to us and about us that made us come to Christ whereas the unbeliever would not come to Christ? Now Paul has already told us that none of us who believed in Christ and thus are now saved were more righteous than those who have not believed in Christ (10). He has also told us that we who now enjoy a relationship with Christ were not more understanding or more spiritually sensitive to the Lord than those who have not trusted in Christ (11A).

And now, in the second part of verse 11, Paul raises the issue of “seeking God”. Could it be, that we who have come to know and enjoy a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ were actually “seeking” that very thing by “seeking” God whereas those who are not in this blessed condition were not and have not been “seeking” God? But before—you can even think about it for a moment—Paul emphatically states “No”. There is no one in their unsaved, unredeemed, unconverted, and unregenerated state who seeks for God--absolutely NO ONE!
You see, sin has produced in every human being a revolting repulsion toward God that resists God and rebels against God. And this repulsion toward God has resulted in a darkened mind that is "under sin" and which, does not know God, understand God, obey God, fear God, honor God, glorify God, love God, or as we will see today—even desire God.

Now the Greek phrase in Romans 3:11b literally is rendered: NOT is the person who is seeking God. The placing of the Greek word for “not” at the beginning of the phrase means that Paul wanted his readers to see that word in the most emphatic of positions so that the reader would not miss the point and think that there could be some people who do seek for God. In essence, Paul is emphatically stating “NOT” to that possibility. The point he is making is that there simply was no one among us who are saved today who were in and of ourselves seeking God and thus that was the reason why He saved us.

Absolutely no one who is saved and in a right relationship with God right now is in such a condition because they were in and of themselves apart from the work of God’s grace in their lives seeking God while other unbelievers were not. And in answering his question by stating that “there is none who are seeking God”, Paul is actually making the point that apart from God initiating a saving work in you—you never would have sought Him. And in fact, apart from God’s grace in salvation and left to your original sinful nature there was nothing in you that was intrinsic to your nature as a human being that desired God so as to seek Him.

Therefore, you did not get saved nor did anyone get saved because you desired God whereas those who were not saved did not desire God. The word that Paul uses for “seek” is ekzeteo It is a compound word made up of “ek”, which means “out” and “zeteo”, which means to seek and search actively, diligently, earnestly, sincerely, passionately, and with all one’s heart for. When you put the two words together, the compound word means “to seek and search God out with all your heart—actively, diligently, earnestly, sincerely, and passionately. In our vernacular, we would say that there is no one who, before they were saved, were seeking and searching to find God with all of their heart—actively, diligently, earnestly, sincerely, and passionately pursuing Him as though He were the greatest treasure and pleasure in life.

So you see—those who have been saved and redeemed by Christ were not saved and redeemed because they were pursuing God while others were not. And again, the reason why no one pursues God in their original, natural, sinful condition as human beings is because they don’t want to. They simply have no desire to. And that is exactly where you and I were in our unsaved and natural condition as unbelievers—we did not seek God because we did not want Him. There was nothing in Him and about Him that attracted us to Him because our affections and desires for that which is truly and absolutely good had been corrupted. Not only that—the unbeliever does not seek God for the simple reason that he does not want to seek God because he is hostile to God and alienated from God and in fact more desirous of seeking sin than he is God. Remember our depravity is always best seen in Who we don’t desire—God and what we do desire instead—Sin.

Now it is not that man’s will cannot seek God—because it can and it will do so when God changes the unbeliever’s desires by giving him a new heart that actually desires God rather than hates God. You see, we who believe the doctrines of grace and hold forth the doctrine of total or radical depravity of man sometimes are not as precise in our understanding of the “will” of man as we should be and could be. We often, myself included, make blanket statements claiming that the will of man is completely bound and unable to seek God or choose God. But are we correct? Is our will bound to the point that we cannot seek God as unbelievers or is the will simply pursuing the affections and desires of the unbeliever’s mind—which is the seat of his intellect and emotions—which in its fallen and unregenerate state has no desire or inclination for God?

Jonathan Edwards was probably the first theologian to define the “will” in his discourse entitled, “A Careful & Strict Inquiry Into The Prevailing Notions of the Freedom of the Will”. After examining the issue from a thoroughly biblical perspective Edwards came to the conclusion that the “will of man” is simply the means by which a person’s mind pursues a certain course of action or decision rather than the cause of pursuing that decision and subsequent action. Thus, he concluded that whereas, the will of man is never totally free in the sense that man is able to thwart God’s sovereign will—the will of man is free to pursue and seek and choose whatever it is that the mind of man desires. And since the mind of man which is often characterized biblically as the heart of man is the seat of his intellect and emotions—the will simply is neutral and always pursues whatever decision or course of action the mind has intellectually and emotionally determined is best and most satisfying. And thus, the real issue in the depravity of man is not that he cannot come to God—the real issue is that he does not want to come to God and will not come to God apart from being given a new heart that desires God.

One way of illustrating this is to consider the lion. If a lion is hungry he while certainly having the ability to eat grass and leaves will not for the simple reason that he does not want to. You see, he is a meat-eater by nature and thus his inclination will always be disposed to eating meat and passing up grass even though he has the ability to eat grass if he wanted to. Unregenerate sinners certainly have the ability to come to God and pray to Him asking Him to forgive and save them if they so desire—but the fact is they don’t. They don’t desire to come to God and be forgiven by Him and enter into a relationship with Him because they have no inclination to because their nature is opposed to God. Thus, because their minds have no desire for God they will not come to Him.

Look at Matthew 23:37.

Note the reason why the Jews would not come to Christ—it was because they “were unwilling” to do so (NASV). The KJV renders it that they “would not” come. And the NIV pus it, but they “were unwilling”.
Now the interesting thing about the word that Jesus uses here is that it is the Greek word athelasate, which simply means “no desire or inclination or disposition to choose and pursue a certain decision or course of action. Its root word is thelo, which means to desire or want to do something so as to actually do it. The root word is actually used twice in this verse. In Jesus’ remark that he had often “wanted” to gather the Jews to Himself—the word “wanted” is the same word thelo that when joined with the negative prefix “a” is translated as “unwilling” at the end of the verse.

You see, the problem was not so much that the people could not come to Jesus—the problem was that they were unwilling to because they did not want to.
The word thelo first appears in the New Testament in Matthew 1:19 and is translated as “wanting”. In Matthew 2:18 it is translated as “refused”. Thus, the word thelo can mean to do something or not do something depending upon what you want or do not want to do.

In 1 Corinthians 4:21, Paul uses the word when he writes: “What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

It is used again in 1 Corinthians 7:36 of a father allowing his daughter to marry if he so wishes. It is also used in verse 39 of a widow remarrying to whomever she wishes as long as the groom to be is a Christian.

In 1 Corinthians 12:18, Paul uses the word to sat that God has placed each of us with our various spiritual gifts in His Body the Church “just as He desired.”
In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul uses the word when he says: “Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

It is used again in John 5:6 when Jesus asks the man who had been ill for 38 years if he “wished” to get well.

And then in the very last chapter of the Bible, John writes in Revelation 22:17 “. . . And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

Now this was just a sampling of the few hundred times the word “thelo” is used in the New Testament to denote a person pursuing a course of action that he wants to pursue. And with all this in mind, now look at John 5:39-40, where Jesus makes the point that those who did not come to Him did not want to. He uses the same word thelo.

Tying this all back to Romans 3:11b, people only seek and pursue with passion and purpose what or whom they desire and want to pursue. Thus, if people do not pursue God it is because they do not have a passion for God. If unbelievers do not seek God as their greatest treasure and pleasure in life it is because He is not their greatest treasure and pleasure in life. Unbelievers don’t seek God because unbelievers don’t want God. The unbelieving sinner will not come to Christ—for the simple reason that he does not want to—and thus this is the reason why he cannot come unless the Father, as Jesus said in John 6:44, draws him.

Listen, whoever wants to come to Christ for salvation can come! It is absolutely and unequivocally true that whosoever desires to come to Christ may come. The problem is that apart from God giving a person a new heart that desires Him—no one will want to come to God because they are too in love with their pride, their sin, their independence, their self-righteousness, their self-reliance, their personal ambitions, their sense of self-autonomy, and their distaste for the God of the Bible.
You see, it is not our wills that are bound—it is our affections—what we desire—that is truly bound. Its not that we can’t choose God so we won’t—it is that we won’t choose God so we can’t!

This bondage of our affections as unbelievers is what makes our guilt before God not only worse but real. Jonathan Edwards insisted if the will of man was bound so that he had no ability to come to Christ—our guilt for not doing so would be minimal and even understandable to a degree. You see, the fact that we may come and can come to God is what makes our refusal to seek God and come to Him so unreasonable and really incomprehensible. The fact that we can choose God over sin and that we can pursue Him as our most valuable treasure rather than pursuing a life of living out of a sin-laden dumpster is what makes our guilt so great and inexcusable.

You see, the will of man is free to choose what the desires and the affections of the man deem most enjoyable and most valuable. And when the unbeliever continues to pursue sin rather than God it is because his will is simply choosing what his affections desire the most. He is simply living out Psalm 14:1-3 from which Paul took this thought that the unbeliever does not seek God. Since the unsaved person has only hostility in his heart for God, he is unable to submit himself to God’s law according to Romans 8:7. The fact that he feels only hostility toward God so as not to desire God leads his will to choose against God and God’s Law at every turn.
Now, if this is the condition of every unbeliever as a result of the Fall of man back in the Garden of Eden then how is it that anyone ever gets saved? I mean—obviously when you came to Christ for salvation—it was because you all of a sudden had a desire for God and for being in a relationship with God that you did not have before. All of a sudden, you desired to seek God whereas before you didn’t. What happened to produce such a change of affections and desire? God regenerated you and renewed you in the sense that He gave you a new heart that could and in fact would now desire Him—look at Titus 3:5. And then, He ripped the blinders off your eyes and turned the lights of your mind back on so that you could see the irresistible glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and when you finally were able to see Christ for the first time with this brand new regenerated heart—you ran to Him for salvation (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).

Paul’s point, which he continues to drive home here in Romans 3, is that as unbelievers we were desperately lost and without hope but that God in His great mercy and grace reached down to people like us who hated Him and had no desire for Him and were not seeking Him in any way, shape, or form and gave us a desire for Him and then opened our eyes that we might see Him so as to find Him irresistible and exactly what our hearts had been craving for all the time.

You and I were no better than the person who chose not to become a Christian. We were just as lost as they were and just as caught up in our love for our sin as they were. The difference—the only difference between us was and always will be the grace of God. And this morning if you are here and you know that you are lost in your sins and living life apart from God and have never ever wanted anything to do with Him before—But now all of a sudden you sense a change in your heart of hearts and you desire to seek Him and to know Him and to love Him and to embrace His Son the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior then you must simply turn to Him right now in the privacy of your own heart and give your life to Him.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Transcript of A Speech By One of Our Church's Home School Seniors

The following is a transcript of a short speech written and delivered by one of our church's homeschool seniors--Morgan Lowery. I thought it was very courageous of her to tackle such a theological watershed issue as to God's irresistible grace in the life of a sinner He has and is calling to Himself. Great Job Morgan!

Can Man Resist God’s Love and Calling on His Life?

Can man resist God’s love and calling on his life? This important question was answered by such men as the great pastor Jonathan Edwards. As you look through the Bible, what God commanded to be done was done. And it was done promptly. This can be seen in Genesis 22:2-3, when God spoke to Abraham, saying, “‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac.” God was telling him to sacrifice his son, but does the Bible say that he hesitated even a second? No, he obediently packed and prepared to sacrifice his son. So, I ask you again, can we resist God’s love and calling on our lives?

The answer to this question can be found in Romans 8:28-30 which says, “28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Calling can mean nothing else in this passage than what Christ does in a sinner's saving conversion. It seems evident that this calling is done at once and not gradually. Edwards, in his Treatise of Grace, said, “Christ, through His great power, does but speak the powerful word and it is done. He need only call and the heart of the sinner immediately comes.”

Christ’s call to us can be symbolized in the calling of His disciples and their obedience in immediately following Him. For example, Mark 1:19-20 says, “19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.” They didn’t say, “Sure, Jesus, we’ll follow you in a bit after we finish mending these nets.” No, they got up, left their father and the servants and followed Jesus.

Only God knows whether the disciples were then converted. But Edwards says, “Yet doubtless Christ in thus calling His first disciples to a visible following of Him, represents to us the manner in which He would call men to be truly His disciples and spiritually to follow Him in all ages. There is something immediately and instantaneously put into their hearts at that call that they had nothing of before, that effectually disposes them to follow.”

Almost all the miracles Christ performed on earth were types of His great work of converting sinners, and the manner of His working those miracles demonstrates the immediacy of conversion. Edwards says that, “After the same manner Christ cast out devils, which represents His dispossessing the devil of our souls in conversion; and so He settled the winds and waves, representing His subduing, in conversion, the heart of the wicked, which is like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest; and so He raised the dead, which represented His raising dead souls.”

Edwards’ comparison of conversion to resurrection is based on Scripture. There is no standard between being dead and alive; the person who is dead has no degree of life in him, and the person that has the least amount of life in him is alive. Natural men are said to be dead, and to be raised to life when they are converted by God's mighty power. Like resurrection, conversion occurs at the moment God speaks it into existence. John 5:25 says, “‘25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.’” Jesus is referring here to a work of conversion, as shown by the words which speak of the time of this raising of the dead, not only as to come in the future, but as to what had already come. This shows conversion to be an immediate, instantaneous work, like the miracle when Christ called Lazarus from the grave: Christ spoke the words, and Lazarus was immediately alive. Before the call, sinners are dead, completely destitute of life, and immediately after the call, they are alive. Edwards says, “The first moment they have any life is the moment when Christ calls, and as soon as they are called, which further appears by what was observed before, even that a being called and converted are spoken of in Scripture as the same thing.” And so I leave you with this conclusion: Conversion must be the immediate work of God’s calling, a product of His almighty power on the soul.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thanks For Praying--Please Don't Stop!

It is hard for me to imagine that my son Mark who has only been in Iraq since October of this year has seen more friends killed and injured in a month than I have in almost 50 years. Last Sunday, November 9 is but one example. About 3 pm in the afternoon (Iraqi Time), Mark's team of soldiers, which is made up of seven soldiers including him, were scheduled to make a patrol in the town of Mullalah. On this particular patrol Mark was not scheduled to go and so he took the time to enjoy some much deserved rest and listen to a sermon on his MP3 player since there are no church services where he is at. Toward the end of the sermon he heard the explosion.

When he ran outside his quarters, he realized something was seriously wrong as the sky above him suddenly filled with two Apache attack helicopters protecting two MEDIVAC Blackhawk helicopters who were landing in an Emergency LZ (Landing Zone). Then as the call came in for "ice" and lots of it--Mark began to put together the pieces. The explosion he heard had been an IED and the only team out on patrol in the immediate area was his.

As Mark began to help in what was now a rescue and recovery operation it wasn't long before the story of what happened began to filter through the ranks. While on their patrol, Mark's team entered a house to clear it not knowing it had been "boobytrapped" by Insurgents with an IED (improvised explosive device). Three members of his team were severely injured, two losing legs and a third soldier, an arm in the explosion.

After the bodies and limbs were recovered and quickly placed on the MEDIVAC Blackhawks, Mark and what was left of his small unit stood in their compound, in bloodstained uniforms, weeping at the loss they had just experienced. It might be helpful to know that Mark's unit had been attacked by mortars a little over three weeks ago leaving two soldiers dead and seven wounded. The losses experienced in that attack as well as in the IED explosion took their toll that afternoon and Mark told us that he along with who was left in his unit experienced a deep overwhelming sense of sadness. As Mark told us, "Many were crying and holding each other . . . . .We just stood there for at least twenty minutes. Some asked questions trying to figure out what had happened. Two guys were kneeling down, holding each other's heads as they wept. . . . I teared up. I felt that I should just stand there in the midst of them, so that at least the Lord's presence in me would be near to them."

Mark didn't have long to grieve as within the hour he had to meet with a local Iraqi man. And then the next day Mark went out with another platoon into the same neighborhood checking and clearing more houses. Soldiers just don't have time to weep for long--not even when they lose friends who become closer than brothers to them, which was the case for Mark. One of the soldiers injured in the IED explosion was a combat medic whom he had become quite close to.

A few days later, after things were beginning to get back to normal, Mark's best friend in the Army--a guy who we at COG have prayed for during the last two years--a guy Mark has known since AIT was on patrol in another town when the soldier next to him stepped on an IED. Mark’s friend was hit with shrapnel but miraculously was not injured. The same cannot be said for the soldier who stepped on the bomb.

Nancy and I sure do appreciate all the prayers being lifted up on behalf of our son Mark and his buddies. And now you have a better idea of why.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for praying and please don't stop!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reflections On Veterans & Sons

There are a few places that I don't call home yet which I feel at home in. You know, the kind of places where you can walk right in the door, grab a cup of coffee, hang out with the guys and shoot the bu...... (uh--male counterpart to a cow), and feel as though you belong. The funny thing about it is that in most of these places I don't even know the other guys' names. That's not important. What is more important than your name in these places is where you served and how you served. You see, I like to hang out with Veterans--ya that's right--vets, whether they be the old salts who served aboard Coast Guard Cutters like me or soldiers, marines, flyboys, or those men and women who served in the Navy. These are the kind of people who energize me because these were the kind of people who gave up time with their families and in their hometowns living convenient and comfortable lifestyles to give themselves to a cause bigger than themselves in the service of our country. Most, if not all, put off college, careers, and courting for a time to answer Uncle Sam's call and we all are the better for it.

I raised my kids to appreciate not only our veterans but also the young and the old men and women who are presently wearing the uniform of this nation and proudly serving in time of war. They learned the lessons I taught them well and today I have one son serving in the Army in Iraq. Of course, I am a proud father. He is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Milton D. Waite, who served in WW2 in the Army Air Corp for several years before being shot down and becoming a POW until the war ended. He is also following in the footsteps of his great grandfather, Donald Waite, who was wounded in WW1 while serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army.

I hope Mark's time in the service will not be as eventful as his granddad and great granddad's was but I do hope it will be as profitable and as memorable. I trust that he will always enjoy the honor of being counted among those men and women who have served their country in uniform and who are doing so right now. As our Lord put it--"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Not all veterans or servicemen and women have died in the service of their country--some haven't even come close. But all have given their lives in the sense of giving up comforts and conveniences, careers and college, and other things we so often take for granted to protect our opportunities to enjoy them.

Thus, the reason, I enjoy hanging out where old soldiers, sailors, marines and airdales hang out. And the reason why today--I had the distinct honor of hanging out in an Army Recruiting Office with my old friends, whose names I do not know, as my second son, Luke enlisted today as a combat medic.

Happy Veteran's Day!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Romans 3:11A November 1, 2008 Message #34

Were Those Who Became Christians Better
Than Those Who Did’t? (Pt. 2)
Romans 3:11

Has anyone here ever been congratulated or made much of because you made a decision to come to Christ and be saved? Have you ever congratulated or made a big to-do about your children coming to Christ for their salvation? My guess is that we have all experienced something like this at some point in our Christian lives but however well-meaning the congratulations may have been or the making much of someone’s decision to come to Christ may be—it is wrong for the simple reason that you had nothing to do with it.

You see, to praise someone for becoming a Christian means that the person must have had something to do with this decision that is worthy of praising. In other words—they must have contributed something to their salvation in terms of some kind of merit. And if they had something in them like some sort of intrinsic righteousness, knowledge, understanding, or sensitivity to God that contributed to their salvation in someway then they should get some of the praise and some of the glory for their salvation. And thus—the salvation of sinners is a shared experience of glory in which God gets some of the glory for His work in the transaction and you and I get a portion of the glory and praise for our part. And if this is true then we can also conclude that those who did not get saved probably had nothing to contribute or at least were unwilling to contribute anything to accomplish their salvation. And this leads us right into Romans 3:9-11.

Last week we with the Apostle Paul asked the question whether we who became Christians were back in our unsaved state and condition better than those people who did not become Christians? Perhaps you were saved at a Billy Graham Crusade or at a Christian concert or at some evangelistic event or maybe you were saved at a church service where the Gospel was being preached—well, why if you had several unbelievers listening to the same Gospel presentation—were you saved and not others? If you all were hearing the same Gospel proclamation from the same preacher at the same time why did you respond to it and not others? Were you spiritually more in tune with God? Were you smarter? Were you more sensitive to the Holy Spirit? Did you have more understanding? Were you perhaps already seeking God? In other words, was there something about you even in your unsaved condition that was better than those who did not respond to the Gospel when you did?

This is the question Paul is asking in Romans 3:9 and answering in the rest of that verse and on down through verse 18. As we saw last week—his initial answer is a resounding “NO WAY”! Look at verse 9. He says—there is absolutely no way that you were any better than any other unbeliever because of the fact that all unbelievers are completely under the rule and the dominion of sin so that all unbelievers are completely captive to sin and alienated from God so that all unbelievers, according to Romans 5:10—are the enemies of God and according to Romans 8:7-8—are unable to even obey God or be considered pleasing to God in any way. Then, as we saw last week in Romans 3:10, there are absolutely no unbelievers who are or were righteous in God’s sight—not even one single person!

So again, were you somehow better than those who did not come to Christ? Was your condition as an unbeliever not quite as bad as those others who being unbelievers themselves did not come to Christ? No—absolutely not! And now in our text for this morning, Romans 3:10, Paul takes his answer one step further and makes the point that not only were we not any better in terms of having any intrinsic righteousness of our own than those who failed to respond to the Gospel and come to Christ—we weren’t even better in the sense of our spiritual understanding let alone that we were somehow seeking for God because the fact of the matter is we weren’t seeking God and we did not possess a greater or better understanding of God and spiritual things.

Let me remind us again of how Paul prefaces these arguments in verse 10. He states and I quote: “As it is written. . . .” In other words, your argument, if you have one today, is not with me but with the inspired, revealed, recorded and true Word of God. So, with no further introduction, let’s jump in here in verse 11 and see what Paul means by saying that even in our unsaved condition we were no better than any other unbeliever because there is absolutely no such thing as an unbeliever who understands or who seeks for God so as to be saved.

1. We Were No Better Than Any Other Unbeliever Because We Were Exactly The Same As Them In Our Lack of Understanding. (11a)

The Greek rendering of this first phrase in verse 11 is simply translated: “None there is who understands” or “There is not one who understands.” The phrase itself does not point out what it is the unbeliever lacks understanding in. But the word Paul uses for “understanding” is helpful. Essentially, the word means to comprehend or understand something by taking all the facts and putting them together so as to see how they all relate and what they all are pointing to, so as to make sense of what is being seen, heard, felt, perceived, and experienced. In other words, it means that there is no such person as an unbeliever who has the ability to grasp all of the facts of life and of his particular experience in living life so as to put all those facts together and rightly understand them so as to understand what life is all about. To put it another way—all unbelievers are universally and completely ignorant of why we are here and what we are here for. Thus, they are all completely ignorant and unable—don’t miss the point of what Paul is saying—to figure out life and thus they are unable to figure out God.

Listen, if all the facts of creation are pointing to the existence of God and the reality of God and making known certain attributes of God but you as an unbeliever do not have the ability to recognize these facts or to string them together so as to see how they relate to one another and especially to the One Who created them as facts—then you really are unable to understand life, the reason for life, and especially the Creator of life.

Now, this has great ramifications for education and who is doing the educating—doesn’t it? I mean—if you believe the Bible to be true then what the Bible is telling us here is that unbelievers, while recognizing certain facts about the universe and life can’t connect them to come up with their very reason for being and certainly cannot trace them back to a Personal Creator so as to understand them fully and correctly. Thus, non-believing teachers who are teaching science, who while knowing that the people exist—cannot figure out why, how, or for what reason they exist and so they in concert with their non-ability to put all the facts of what they see together so as to see the facts of science all pointing back to God and for God—simply teach that there is no reason for all these facts—they all simply appeared and evolved into what we have today for no apparent reason whatsoever.

The historian who is a non-believer looks at history the same way. He sees the facts of history but does not see the Providential Hand behind history and so interprets history with complete inaccuracy so that things just happen because they happen. I saw one example of this while reading through the preface of a history book last month. It was a book about George Washington in a series of books about pivotal moments in American History. Listen to the introduction to the series:

“Each book in this series examines a large historical event or process that changed the course of American Development. These events were not the products of ineluctable forces outside the boundaries of human choice; they were the results of decisions and actions by people who had opportunities to choose and act otherwise.”

In other words, this is a series of history books that believes that the only thing acting upon history is the human hand apart from divine Providence and so they miss the whole point of history, which is that God is behind all human events—moving human history to its climax. You see, again the unbeliever sees the facts—he just doesn’t understand them and in fact cannot understand them apart from a relationship with God. Thus, who educates your children and their relationship or non-relationship with God has a direct bearing upon the quality of education your children are receiving from them.

It also has direct bearing upon the influence Hollywood has upon those believers who spend countless precious hours in front of the TV being bombarded with mindless entertainment that bears no resemblance to the truth of God as revealed in creation.

Listen—the fact of the matter is that unbelievers can see the dots but they cannot connect them. And thus they cannot understand God or themselves correctly let alone their dire need of God and His salvation. And when you and I were unsaved we were no better than they nor any better off. We too, were ignormases in every category of life, having a knowledge of the existence of facts but without the ability to put them together to know and understand the truth. Thus, as unbelievers none of us possessed true knowledge about anything because true knowledge always finds its source in God who is the Truth. Unless, what you know points you to God—what you know is not true knowledge or complete knowledge. You only have a portion of the story because you are not seeing how everything ties back to God as its source and very reason for being.

Look at Romans 11:36 and Colossians 1:16-17. If these verse are true there is absolutely no way one can be truly educated apart from knowing God and thus there is no way one can be a true educator apart from knowing God. Look at Colossians 2:1-3. If this is true then—apart from Christ there simply is no such thing as true education or wisdom because in Christ all the facts of life and in life that there are to know find their source, their reason for being, and their meaning.

If God is exhaustively sovereign over everything and there is not a square inch in the Universe, not a split second of time, nor even the most insignificant atom that is not dependent upon, controlled by, and subservient to Him—then there is no such thing as a “secular” subject or any field of study that is not related to and in fact dependent upon God. In fact, there is absolutely nothing that we can do, enjoy, and know that does not find its absolute and unperverted source in God. And thus the reason why we are taught in Proverbs 1:7, that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. . .” Listen, when you live in a Universe created by God, controlled by God, and which constantly is revealing God—this universe cannot be understood correctly apart from God and apart from knowing God. Thus, there is absolutely no subject matter you can talk about in the world that at the same time you cannot and should not talk about God—from sports to hunting to quilting to sex to work to playing with the kids to physics and algebra. It is all His stuff—we didn’t create any of it. Therefore, to rightly understand it and use it and enjoy it—the way God intended for it to be—you must know Him. That is why no one should enjoy life more than the believer who knows the God of life.

Now, is Paul arguing in Romans 3:11 that the unbeliever cannot know or understand anything at all? No, the word he uses has to do with being able to understand how to relate the facts that he does know and especially how to relate them back to God. In other words, Paul does not mean an unbeliever cannot understand individual facts and even a multiplicity of facts and work with these facts to observe, learn, teach, manufacture, produce, and solve problems—it simply means he cannot understand them in relation to and in reference to God and thus cannot understand them completely or correctly apart from having these facts related to God for him by some external source such as a Christian influence or by an internal source such as the fact that in spite of his unbelief, he still is a creature created in the image of God. You see, Paul is simply arguing that the unbeliever in and of himself has no intrinsic ability to see life and understand life from God’s point of view because he has no connection to God. He is not arguing that the unbeliever is a complete idiot because he isn’t or else he would have an excuse before God at the judgment. In fact, the unbeliever actually reveals that he still retains within his being the image of God he was created in by the fact that he can so much with the facts he has been given in spite of the fact that he doesn’t and in fact can’t relate them back to God.

What Paul is really arguing is that the unbeliever is a complete fool in that he is sees life and tries to live life apart from God and God’s perspective—the very creator, giver, and sustainer of life. Thus, the unbeliever is a fool. Now understand, that the Scriptures do not describe the fool as a shallow-minded illiterate ignoramus—no, he can be quite educated and very much worldly wise but he is a fool because he has forsaken God and has no desire for God or to see life from God’s point of view. And if you look back to the very passages of Scripture that Paul is alluding to in Romans 3, you will see what the biblical definition of a fool is. Look at Psalm 14:1-3. Did you see what verse 1 said?

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Look at the other Old Testament passage he is alluding to—Psalm 53:1-3. Again in verse 1, it says:

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

You see, all unbelievers—ourselves included back when we were unbelievers were fools in that we lived our lives as though there was no God we were responsible to. We operated as though life could be lived correctly and with fulfillment apart from God.
We tried to find meaning in life without God. And ultimately, we could not make sense out of life and the big questions of life such as—

• Why am I here?
• What is my purpose?
• Why does life seem so meaningless?
• Why can’t I find lasting satisfaction and happiness in the people, things, and experiences I thought would give it to me?
• Where am I going?
• And What is the meaning of it all anyway?

And the reason we could not make sense of life and find the answers to these questions in and by ourselves was because we lacked the understanding to be able to see all of life in relation to God and so we just stumbled along just as badly as unbelievers do today. And the reason we lacked this understanding was because we were not of God but were of the devil.

Look at what Jesus said in John 8:43-47. Listen, this is the situation all unbelievers are in—they cannot understand what God has to do with anything because they cannot hear His Word. Oh they hear the sound of it but they cannot perceive it or comprehend it because they are of the devil just like we were before we were saved. And not only is the unbeliever deaf to the Word of God—he is also blind to the glory of God. He can’t hear what we can hear and he can’t see what we can see and that is why all this stuff that we do on a Sunday morning makes absolutely no sense to him at all.

Do you see the desperate position and condition that the unbeliever is in? Don’t you remember the desperateness of your own lostness and your life without Christ?
We were just as spiritually deaf, spiritually blind, and spiritually dead as they were. So what happened? What made the change?

God reached down and unplugged your ears so you could hear and took the blinders off your eyes so you could see and once you really heard the Gospel for the first time with ears that could hear and once you saw the beauty and the glory of God in the Christ presented to you in the Gospel—all of a sudden you were able to understand your desperate condition apart from God and to your great surprise—now you wanted Him with every fiber of your being and at that point no one could hold you back from coming to Christ to have Him as your own Lord and Savior forever.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

“But by His [God’s] doing you are in Christ Jesus . . .so that just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

We weren’t any better—we didn’t possess a greater understanding—we were no different from those who could care less about Christ and a new life in Christ. We were no better—we were no different—we were simply the recipients of great mercy and undeserved grace. So when people congratulate you or your children and try to make much of you because you made the decision to give your lives to Christ—you may want to kindly correct them and make it clear that there was simply nothing in you that is worth making much of and then tell them Who is the only One worthy of praise and the One Who is totally responsible for your salvation—God.

Let’s pray.

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13