Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Hope of Glory

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever!  Amen.   Ephesians 3:14-21(NLT)
Considering the number of times my parents had to have some of my limbs and extremities X-Rayed, I’m not entirely certain what the final count was of bones broken, or not broken.  I do know there were prayers being offered.  Some of the prayers were petitions that God might spare me further agony; some were that the cost of a cast or surgery might not keep us from having Christmas presents (those were from my brother), and I’m sure there were a few that I might have more sense about playing football next year!
It makes a difference how you get along if you’re not broken. 
Now, what’s true in the physical world is often true of spiritual issues.  In Ephesians 2:14 Paul held-up Jesus as “our peace”.  Peace is the opposite of chaos, when things are broken. 
Peace is putting back together that which was broken. 
It’s the Humpty Dumpty reality of every child of God.  We come to God all broken and pulled apart by our sin; we hold ourselves up like a toddler comes to Mom with her broken doll, and He fixes our brokenness.
If we could look at our inside brokenness on a spiritual X-Ray, we might understand that we don’t really know how to fix ourselves, and all the things we try only break us more.  Stuff like drugs, material things, bad relationships and sexual experimentation are no way to fix the brokenness we experience.
This is the essence of Paul’s prayers for the folks at Ephesus.  He reminds them (Chap 2) that they were far from God, broken and pulled apart.  But God healed their brokenness in Jesus Christ; he brought them into the kingdom and drew them close like chicks gathered into the safety of a mother hen’s embrace.
And now God wants them strong, overflowing with his grace by the power of His Holy Spirit, overwhelmed with love from Christ dwelling in their hearts, and experiencing every possible measure of what it means to be loved by God, so that they can love others the same way. 
It’s unimaginable, but Paul prays big for people he loves.  And Paul believes it will show up in their lives.
Let’s unpack that prayer a bit; here’s what Paul (and God) want for you and me, and every person on earth:

He Wants Us Whole and Strong

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  v.16
 Empowered is the word “dunamis”; we hear the word dynamite.  Paul wants the overwhelming, dynamic strength of God’s glory to be active in our lives.  But he prays for it to be on the inside, the inner being…spiritual strength.
In our world it seems everything is based upon the outward appearance, not inner.  Young girls jump through all the latest fad “hoops” just to look attractive.  That’s anything but authentic. 
When you ignore the inner self in favor of presenting a sensuous, lust-creating appearance, you’re prostituting away the best part of you; you exchange real life for an existence built on sand.
To be strengthened in the inner being is to be integrated, congruent, and whole; it’s when the inner character is so “together” that it shows through to the outside. 
It means you’re authentic; what you see is what you get!
God is that way – He’s authentic.  Scripture says He is the same yesterday, today and forever.[2] 
Authentic means you’re living into who God created you to be, because you are allowing God’s Spirit to control your life.  You’re the same on the inside as the outside.

He Wants Us Loved by Christ on the Inside

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  v.17
Christ dwelling in our hearts – how in the world do you explain that to a five year old?  You may have seen that email story a few years ago about the small boy who has to have heart surgery.  He is a faith-filled little guy, but the doctor is something of a skeptic. 
The night before the surgery the doctor tries to assure the boy by describing the operation.  The doc says “when I open your heart”, at which point the boy finishes the sentence… you’ll find Jesus there.
Well…is he there or not?  Yes AND no are the correct answers.  He may not be there physically, but his presence comes to unite with who you are on the inside, your spirit, soul – all that which makes you who and what you are – and his influence changes you from inside out.
What kind of influence?  Christ is dwelling, making himself at home in us, rooting us in him and building a strong foundation under us…Paul piles up methaphors[3] of how Jesus makes himself known to us on the inside, fitting us for living the kind of life a strong Christian can experience.
I became a Christian at a young age, but walked away from the faith in my teen years.  For a long time, more than a dozen years I was like the prodigal son – away from my Father.  Then I came home; God began (through a relationship of faith with Him in Christ) to change my wanter.  What is a wanterIt’s the source of most of our troubles.  It’s the inner craving for all the kinds of stuff, habits and activities that can either separate us from God, or join us to God. 
Can a Christian sin after he gets saved?  And do we?  Yes!  My answer is:  I sin all I want to; but when Jesus came and took up residence in my life, soul and spirit he changed my wanter.  I still have the ability to sin, but I want-to much less each year; He changes our wanter!

He Wants Us Living it and Loving Others

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. v.18-19
To know in the Biblical sense is to experience by relationship. 
Knowing Christ’s love leads to the filling of the fullness of God.  To describe this is like telling a person what transcendent love means; words fail!  You might tell what you felt like in the presence of God’s transcendent love, but you have a tough time describing the love. 
How do you describe the wind? 
How do you describe the birth of a baby? 
You know what happened, but you’re awe struck at the magnitude of the event.
But let’s take a stab at it.  Imagine you’re in a fishing boat; you let down a net and pull it up again.  The catch is so tremendous that the net is breaking.  What will you do?  Will you keep this little occurrence to yourself, or tell the first eighteen thousand people you meet about your great prowess as a fisherman?
This is what it means to live the Christian life, and experience or know His transcendent love; this is what it is to know Christ Jesus, to be in the presence of Almighty God, and share with others, as best you can, what He has done for you.

He Wants Us to NOT Miss the Best Part

The dying words of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement are recorded as the best of all is, God is with us.[4] 
There is something of that in what Paul has said to us about not being broken.
In Paul’s text he says he prays for us to be
·  strengthened in the inner being,
·  that Christ would be dwelling in us,
·  and that we would know him and be filled.
In each case the words (strengthened, dwelling, know and filled) are in the infinitive…no ending.
Paul is saying,
·  we are strengthened and continuing to grow stronger
·  Christ is dwelling in us, and never leaving us
·  knowing Him and His filling are increasing and unending.
This is what is in store for a child of God who stays close to the Father through Jesus Christ. 
The “not broken” part is for keeps!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Amen!

[1] Title Image: See page for author, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Hebrews 13:8
[3] A.T. Robertson, WORD PICTURES IN THE N.T., Vol. 4: Epistles, (IA, Parsons, 2007) Quickverse.
[4] James Gilchrist Lawson, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians John Wesley – Edited by Albert C. Outler, , The Works of John Wesley (13 Volumes) Baker Books, Wesley Center Online

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Great Divide in the Road

Listen to this sermon HERE

God used Amos, a lowly shepherd from Tekoa, to announce the coming judgment on God’s own people….and it would be caused by GOD
Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?  Amos 3:3(NLT)
The divide was coming and it was Israel’s fault for turning in the direction of the world and forsaking obedience to the Word of God.  You can’t walk with God unless you walk the road God has chosen!

There is a lot of talk in our United Methodist Church these days about the possibility of a split over the issue of homosexuality. This denomination of 12.5 million people could become several denominations with splinter groups abounding.  Some peg next year’s General Conference as the place where the great divide in the road just might happen.

While all this is troublesome, I’m not particularly worried about the church organization; I am, however, intensely concerned about not having a great divide with the One we are all supposed to be worshipping!

But if it does happen, I believe God can certainly use the scattered leftovers of Wesley’s fighting children to God’s glory – even if it means we become like the inhabitants of ancient Israel taken to the woodshed. 

The presenting issue for this sermon is what happened on June 26th when the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) published its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

After the decision was announced there were a myriad of reactions throughout the land.  There were gay pride parties, dancing in the streets and even rainbow displays at the White House. 

There was also weeping in the streets by evangelical traditionalists who sensed that the institution of marriage God created in Genesis had been tossed in the trash bin. 

Rev. Alan Bevere (First UMC, Akron, Ohio) wrote:  According to the state, marriage is a right not to be denied, which is now extended across the U.S. to gay and lesbian couples. The church has never viewed marriage as a right, and those Christians who believe it should be so understood by the church need an introductory course in the theology of marriage. For Christianity marriage is a gift from God given to two people.(emphasis mine)

United Methodists are just as divided as the general public.  In our Annual Conference just weeks ago, the vote on removing all reference in our Book of Discipline to homosexuality being incompatible with Christian teaching was split: it was defeated 500 for and 700 against (which is a similar split with a different outcome of the SCOTUS decision, which was passed 5-4).

What that means is, as a world-wide church we are as divided as the culture, and that is prime territory for a move of God

And if I’m right, it won’t be a pretty move or a pretty outcome, because God takes no prisoners!  You either walk with Him or stand against Him.  

My purpose today is not to recount grievances, point fingers, or debate whether homosexuality is a sin that can be forgiven.  Nor do I want to rehearse all the Biblical verses and theories about both sides of the issue.[2]

However, the issue of the SCOTUS decision brings us to the main thrust of what I want to say to you this morning about the debate that rages in modern culture, and particularly within the United Methodist Church:

This debate, for followers of Jesus Christ, does not hang on the decision of the SCOTUS, nor does it hang on the cultural choices of good or evil people; it doesn’t even hang on what is deemed legal or illegal.  Rather, this debate begins and ends with whether or not homosexuality is sin in the eyes of almighty God, Jehovah, JHWH.

Now, if it is not sin, we are beating a dead horse, and we ought to shut-up about all of it. 

But, if it is sin, and since the Supreme Court of our nation says it isn’t sin, then we find ourselves at odds with the government. 

And it isn’t the first time!  And, truthfully, it’s not all that bad!    

One of the sources I read this week quoted District Superintendent Sky McCracken (Western KY):  …there are some areas that already exist where church teachings and civil laws differ.  He noted that both capital punishment and abortion are legal but United Methodists challenge both. 

Indeed, that is a short-list; there’s actually a pretty long list of legal activities in our nation that John Wesley would have fired a preacher OR church member for, including:  use of recreational drugs and alcohol, tobacco, gambling, gluttony, lying, backbiting, gossip, and, well, about a ton more in the New Testament alone, including refusing communion if you’ve not been regular in church!

Friends, listen, there’s no shortage of times that true followers of Jesus Christ have been at odds with the government.

And, if the current trend in culture and American politics drive us back to the catacombs, well, we could do worse than live like the early church!

Now, with churches and culture divided, it is tempting to say SCATTER…DIVIDE…PART WAYS

What I want to say this morning is, hold-on…that’s NOT the Christian response.

The Sunday after the SCOTUS decision was announced, Rev. Jeremy Troxler, pastor of Spruce Pine UMC in our Annual Conference opened worship with these words from 1 Corinthians 12, where the Apostle Paul writes to a divided church about how we are all part of the body of Christ, a body where the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you,’ nor can the head say to the feet, I have no need of you. We are a body, where, paraphrasing what the Bible says about marriage, the many become one flesh. 

He went on to say: 
If you celebrated on Friday, you belong here and are needed here.
If you were upset on Friday, you belong here and are needed here.
If you didn’t know how to feel on Friday, you belong here and are needed here.

The Christian response, no matter what governments do or don’t do, is to be the body of Christ, striving in all we do, even when it’s messy – especially when it’s so messy we can’t see for the mud that’s being slung back and forth – to BE that body of Christ Jesus for the world to see a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb for the likes of even us!

And so, we come to the question that fills the air like an invisible elephant in the room…what in the world should we do; what can we do?

What should I do

There is a quotation attributed to St. Augustine I used in a sermon a year and a half ago here to form a response to Bishop Melvin Talbert’s departure from his ordination vows; I think it is a fitting response here:

In essentials, Unity; In non-essentials, Liberty; In all things, Charity

In essentials – UNITY

No condemnation of others….simple disagreement will do!

If the United part means anything in United Methodist Church, it means we try at all times to possess a unity of spirit and kindness towards those whom we believe are wrong.  We may not agree, but we do not have to batter each other.

Let me say it plainer:  It means judge not!

In one of the source files I read Indiana Area Bishop Mike Coyner….warned against being judgmental of couples who sincerely want to be married, committed and faithful. He noted that plenty of heterosexuals [straight people] have allowed ‘marriage to be violated, ignored, abused, and reduced to mere convenience.’

That is like the pot calling the kettle black.  God’s prophet Jonah got ticked-off that God didn’t destroy Nineveh.  The Ninevites and Israelites hated each other; so do the fringe elements of traditionalists and progressives. 

In the end, all of Nineveh’s people repented and turned Godward, except for the so-called man of God, Jonah, who wound-up sitting under a bush in a snit of a pity-party.

Live the good news until you earn the right to share it

One author I read this week said that people do not line up to be judged.  If we are going to be evangelistic, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, we will have no-one listening unless there is kindness in our voices.

In non-essentials – LIBERTY

don’t get bogged-down in outward appearances or even others’ behavior.                              

How do YOU expect pagans to behave?

Lost people act like lost people, because they’re lost.  If you are put-off by pagan behavior you’re closer to self-righteous judgment than you are to loving forbearance.

Remember you were once a condemned sinner also. 

Canadian pastor Carey Nieuhof was in my reading resources this week.  In writing to pastors, Nieuhof spoke from a position of having dealt with same-sex marriage as law in his country (Canada) for the past 10 years.  He:

reminds us that there isn’t any kind of difference between same-gender sex and other sexual sins…You’ve been dealing with sex outside of traditional marriage for a LONG time.  If you believe gay sex is sinful, it’s really no morally different than straight sex outside of marriage.  Be honest, pretty much every unmarried person in your church is having sex (yes, even the Christians).  I know you want to believe that’s not true (trust me, I want to believe that’s not true), but why don’t you ask around? You’ll discover that only a few really surrender their sexuality.  Not to mention the married folks that struggle with porn, lust and a long list of other dysfunctions.  If you believe gay marriage is not God’s design, you’re really dealing with the same issue you’ve been dealing with all along—sex outside of its God-given context. You don’t need to treat it any differently.  By the way, if you don’t deal with straight sex outside of marriage, don’t start being inconsistent and speak out against gay sex.  And you may want to start dealing with gluttony and gossip and greed while you’re at it.  At least be consistent…humbly address all forms of sex outside of marriage.

Whether you’re a progressive waving the multicolored LGBTQ flag, or a traditionalist-conservative worried about if God can stand up to all this sin, we all need to remember that we are all children of Adam’s race, steeped in the depravity of our sins.

If you‘ve come out of that and can say with the Aldersgate side of Wesleyan assurance, I’m saved, and going on to perfection in love, you also need to remember that you have not arrived at perfection in all things, and God is still in charge of judging – for all the rest of us, that’s way above our pay grade!  Which leads us to our pay grade….

in all things – CHARITY

How do you love someone with whom you disagree so strongly?

I would point you to my wife.  She has learned to love someone whose views are so wrong....Me!

Of course you can love someone who is so wrong!  How do you think the offer of the cross got here? 

Scripture declares we were all sinners, lost, and enemies of God.  But God proved that he loved us by coming to earth and dying for us while we were yet sinners.[3]

So, it’s what you do for people…not the way you feel about people, that conveys the love of Jesus Christ.

be ready to meet needs, and love like Jesus who gave himself

When you come face-to-face with those who hold such a different view than yours, I hope you’ll remember to speak truth in genuine love.

David Dorn is a professor who wrote in response to a confused student’s question, If I choose to be gay does that mean I can’t go to heaven:

Personally I really wish I could read the biblical text and see the argument that homosexuality isn’t a sin. Unfortunately I still see that it is. The way I read it, the sin is not in the orientation but in the act. The same holds true for heterosexuals who engage in sexual acts outside of what God calls holy. Culture doesn’t define holiness, God does. And that steps on all people’s toes.

In the end, this great divide in the road speaks of the need for the kind of bridge-building God said we can do to bring those who have taken a wrong turn back together.  I think, and I think God says that includes all of us. 

There is only one God, there is only one King;
     There is only one body, that is why I sing.
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together
     With cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together,
     Bind us together with love.[4]

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!


Father God, our hearts are torn sometimes.  We come to you confessing our ignorance of how to pray for those we love, but see things so differently that it causes us to be Cain, killing our brother.

We kill with words and sometimes it gets so out of hand there is physical violence, and even murder.

And sometimes we murder Your church in the name of our way of thinking.

O Lord, how can we speak peace to a world lost in killing and hedonism when we are no different with our jihad-holy war attitudes.

Forgive us, Lord; set us on a right path of understanding, forgiveness and love toward each other.

Give us humility and forbearance to act like your children. 

For those of us who jump strongly on one side or the other of this issue of homosexuality, despising both the sin and the sinner, help us to remember you died for sinners so they could come close and find redemption.

For those lost in the sensuality of selfish need, grant wisdom – an opening of the mind, so the heart can be set on Christ, not pleasure.

For the United Methodist church, steeped in this broiling conflict, we pray for attitudes, demonstrations and arrogance to be dialed-back, that Your Holy Spirit may be once again sensed in our holy conferencing and following Christ.

Protect us from the evil one, and give us the daily bread of holiness to spread across the land.

In the name of Christ.


There is some quoted material and ideas throughout this sermon which are not footnoted (but usually italicized), which are simply a distillation of thought generated by the “sources” listed below.  There is no intent to utilize any author’s work as if it were my own.  There is simply too much to footnote each word, phrase or idea.  I am indebted to all these contributors for this sermon end-product.


2.       John Pavlovitz, Six Ways Christians Lost This Week
11.    Marc Tooley in The American Spectator, Justice Kennedy’s Pursuit of Gnosis
12.    David Dorn in Ministry Matters, Am I Going to Heaven?
13.    Talbot Davis in Ministry Matters, Reuniting Christology and Sexology
14.    Jason Byassee in Ministry Matters, The Church and Homosexuality: Finding a Way Forward
17.    Heather Hahn, United Methodist News Service, Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Adds to Church Debate

[1] Title Image: By Duncan Lock, Dflock, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] For more on that see my sermon Open Our Eyes Lord, November 10, 2013
[3] Romans 5:8

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Plan

Listen to this sermon HERE

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.  He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.  God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure.  And this is the plan:  At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.  Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.  God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God.  And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you.  And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.  The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people.  He did this so we would praise and glorify him.   Ephesians 1:3-14(NLT)
God loves YOU!  That is the message of Paul in this passage. 

Me?  He loves me?  Yes, and He has done so much for us that we don’t deserve or even know about.  It is His will, His nature. 

Now, another big question is HOW; how does God love us?  Having created everything, does God just sit back and watch us, hoping for the best?  Or did God plan out everything that will happen to us, and everything we will do in our lives?  

In theological discussions those are somewhat competing doctrines.  One is called free will, where everything is up to us in this life.  The other is the doctrine of predestination, where God is controlling everything. 

A popular dictionary[2] defines predestination this way: 

…the doctrine that God, a deity, or fate has established in advance everything that is going to happen and that nothing can change this.

Now that may be consistent with our human rationale that a sovereign God can (and does) do what He wants.  However, I think it is too incomplete to just leave it there; there are other issues to consider. 

Five or six years ago I took a walk around the block with my grandson, Micah.  When we got back near the house he ran up the driveway, touched the garage door and proclaimed, “I won”!  My thought was, “Nobody was racing except you, boy!”  My grandson had “won” his race based upon an incomplete understanding; in order for there to be a race, there must be more than one participant.

We tend to think that way about God; we assume that our understanding must be right, because it works for us. 

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had strong thoughts about predestination.  But even with very strong convictions on the topic, Wesley treaded very lightly in his doctrinal sermon,[3] calling this what the Apostle Peter mused about Paul’s writings….some things are really hard to understand.

What Wesley pointed out was that we sometimes throw terms around without really applying them correctly. 

The prefix “pre” in predestination indicates some action or event in point of time.  This is not relevant when you refer to God, as He is outside and above time and space.  For God, a thousand years is as one day. 

Does He know our future?  Of course; God sees all time at once, experiences all time as present, past and future.  As Creator it is impossible for him to be less than what He created; He is not hemmed-in by time as we are.

The “other side” of predestination is “free will”.  The equally popular train of thought here is that my relationship to God, and all my actions, thoughts and experiences are all up to me.

The author Isaac Bashevis Singer was once asked whether he believed in free will or predestination.  We have to believe in free will, he replied. We’ve got no choice.[4]

The Debate

The debate is obvious…if God predestined everything, down to the indigestion you had when you added anchovies to that pizza, then nothing will change; it will all happen as He planned, and we are insignificant. 
On the other hand, if there is free will, we are everything, and God is only a spectator.

The Dangers

Just as the debate is obvious, there are obvious dangers in getting too far on one side or the other.  (Everyone has an opinion…just how far you track to one side can have far-reaching consequences.)

Let’s consider the fringes of predestination and free will:

I.                 The foolishness of holding predestination and ignoring free will.

John Wesley[5] said it most simply:  if man were not free, he could not be accountable either for his thoughts, word, or actions.  Without some valid form of freedom to make choices that are consequential, we cannot be held responsible. 

And Scripture indicates plainly that there is human responsibility for our actions.  Paul said, the wages of sin is death; that is plain!

The danger (or foolishness) in ignoring free will is that shedding all responsibility – with the excuse that it is all pre-planned and fate can’t be changed – leads to rebellion; we want to rip the commandments out of the Bible which tell us we must live a holy life before God.

I have been chosen many times.  The first was when a little girl in the second grade decided I was her boyfriend.  Girls were “icky” at the time, so I rebelled against the choice – she hit me with her lunchbox.

Uncle Sam “chose” me too; the letter began…You will report to the induction station at Fort Dix, New Jersey….  I rebelled there too, but Uncle Sam’s lunchbox was bigger than the little girl’s.

The sovereignty of God cannot be questioned by anyone seriously considering the Almighty.  Yet, there is so much in the New Testament about freedom.  Jesus said the truth would make us free.  Paul’s letter to the Galatian church told them that they were set free to live free.  It is foolishness to hold only predestination, to the exclusion of free will.

II.              The foolishness of holding free will and ignoring predestination

Like my grandson who “won the race” which only existed in his mind, we have a freedom that extends only so far.  The moment our “free actions” contradict the sovereignty of Almighty God the contest is over! 

It is like a father who asks his six kids where they want to eat lunch.  They all scream “McDonalds”; then Dad recalls he has coupons for Burger King.  Dad’s commitment to keeping the family out of bankruptcy demands use of the coupons, so the “free will” of the six kids gets vetoed in sovereign favor of flame broiled Whoppers.

If holding to predestination alone leads to rebellion, holding only to free will leads to humanistic thinking – that we humans are the center of the universe.  We can become apathetic to God if there is nothing but self-help and personal growth.  God has never taken too kindly to being ignored.

One writer offered a unique perspective about the sovereignty of God in this Ephesians passage; all of the phrases begin with God doing something…He is the one taking the initiative; that’s what a sovereign God does:
Consider only the grammatical construction, with an eye toward who acts and who is acted upon, who gives and who receives:
  God "blessed us…
  God "chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world"…
  God "destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus…
  God "has made known to us the mystery of his will…
  In Christ, "we have redemption through his blood…
  In Christ, "we have also obtained an inheritance…[6]

God is the one Who is active and in control in this passage.  The writer also suggested that if you had to sum-up these twelve verses in one sentence “you might try this:  ‘Christ Jesus is in charge (and you are not).’”[7]


So, Russell, which is it – predestination or free will? 

For me?  Both! 

You cannot seriously or intelligently hold to one and completely ignore the other.  Since both are valid and important, it is dangerous to ignore either; it’s better, even profitable to embrace the mystery that there is a relationship between predestination and free will…and God is the referee. 

One preacher told of hearing God’s sovereignty and human free will described as “…two ropes going through two holes in the ceiling and over a pulley above.  If I wish to support myself by them, I must cling to them both.  If I cling only to one and not the other, I go down. 
I read the many teachings of the Bible regarding God’s election, predestination, his chosen, and so on.  I read also the many teachings regarding ’whosoever will may come’ and urging people to exercise their responsibility as human beings. 
These seeming contradictions cannot be reconciled by the puny human mind.  With childlike faith, I cling to both ropes, fully confident that in eternity I will see that both strands of truth are, after all, of one piece.[8]
This is a good way to remember that the mysteries presented in God’s Word must sometimes be understood as not being able to be understood…yet; we simply embrace the truth.

The bigger reality which flows out of this passage, (and more important for life and our relationship before God) is that God chose us!  It was His plan! 

He did not have to do anything.  Sovereign God could have refused to create us, forgive us, love us or make a home for us in heaven…but he did!

God loves YOU! 

The appropriate response to love like that is to be people of praise – those who live in loving response to the love of a sovereign God who chose us!

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

[1] Title Image:  By Μηχανικός1, via Wikimedia Commons
[2] Encarta Dictionary
[3] Sermon 58, On Predestination, (1872 edition, Thomas Jackson, editor)
[5]Sermon 58, On Predestination, (1872 edition, Thomas Jackson, editor)
[6] Hans Weirsma, commentary
[7] Ibid.
[8] Paul Fritz quoting R.B.Kuiper on