Thursday, May 7, 2009

Simply irresistible

"Saul sent men to David's house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, warned him, "If you don't run for your life tonight, tomorrow you'll be killed." (1 Samuel 19:11)

"When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. Word came to Saul: "David is in Naioth at Ramah"; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came upon Saul's men and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Secu. And he asked, "Where are Samuel and David?"
"Over in Naioth at Ramah," they said. So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel's presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 19:18-24)

This is amazing. Saul's men come after David to kill him. God temporarily turns would-be killers into prophets. So Saul then sends more men to kill David. God turns them as well. A third time Saul sends men to kill David, and God turns them into prophets too. Finally, Saul basically decides, "If you want something done right, do it yourself," and he comes to finish the job himself. But God even turns Saul into a prophet, long enough for David to escape. Saul was so overwhelmed by the power of the Spirit of God that he was prevented from carrying out his intention to take David's life, to the point of laying down in one place all day and all night.

This shows that God does indeed intervene in human affairs. It also shows that God does not allow human free will to reign supreme. In fact, it shows that the power of the Spirit of God is irresistible. God turned enemies into servants. He magnified His power over the spirits of men. God, in His sovereignty, for the purpose of insuring that His will is accomplished, and to glorify Himself, many times changes people, or causes them to do things that they would otherwise never do. Instead of seizing David, Saul and his men were seized by the power of the Holy Spirit. In similar manner, God also causes those who are lost, unsaved, under His wrath and His enemies to repent and turn their lives over to Him, whereupon He regenerates them (makes them into brand new creatures); washes away their past, present and future sins; legally credits them with the holiness of Christ; and then, being that they are now holy and clean vessels fit for God to dwell in, they become living tabernacles as the Holy Spirit then indwells them, and, like an engagement ring, serves as a sign guaranteeing that they will be part of the bride of Christ (the invisible, universal Church). Of course, this was not the case with Saul and his men, because this was the time before the promised Messiah, when God had promised that He would turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Therefore, the Holy Spirit only indwelled Saul and his men temporarily, and they were not regenerated.

Another thing this shows is that, when you trust in God, He is able to protect you. In fleeing to Samuel, David made God his refuge. While in Saul's court, Saul had already tried to pin David to the wall with his spear twice. So, even though David was in the palace of the king, the most powerful man in the land, David found little rest or satisfaction. However, when he joined with Samuel and the prophets, who were serving God, he found fellowship, safety and the greatest relief imaginable to him in his present distress.

14 comments:

Jeff said...

BTW, I've always wondered what the correct pronunciation of Saul's daughter/David's wife 'Michal' was. So I did a little research, and I found out that in Hebrew it is actually pronounced 'Mee-CHAHL,' (with emphasis on the second syllable) and the name means "a brook." This would sound similar to 'Michelle.' However, the most commonly-used (traditional) English pronunciation whenever the Old Testament is read aloud is the same pronunciation as "Michael." English dictionaries will also use this traditional English pronunciation. In summary, although the traditional English pronunciation makes it sound masculine ('Michael'), in the original Hebrew it does indeed sound feminine after all (similar to the English 'Michelle').

Greg said...

Hi, Jeff. In light of what the NT teaches about salvation, I have a different take on what happened to Saul and his men: they were simply used by God, against their own wills. Just as you cannot force someone to love you, God will not force someone to love Him; it's not His way. Why else does He plead with men to come to Him? Why else did his prophets (OT) and evangelists (NT) try to persuade the people to turn to God? This is why Reformist election doesn't make sense. God doesn't want mindless drones following Him; He wants willing followers who will welcome Him into their hearts. True, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we cannot love Him enough to serve Him, but the Holy Spirit will not force Himself upon someone, like a satanic demon would. Jesus said that He will knock on the door, not kick it in! It's up to us to open it.

thekingpin68 said...

'This shows that God does indeed intervene in human affairs. It also shows that God does not allow human free will to reign supreme. In fact, it shows that the power of the Spirit of God is irresistible. God turned enemies into servants.'

I have read in Calvin on more than one occasion the idea in Institutes and Bondage that all do the will of God, some in basic obedience, some in disobedience. God's purposes are completed and human free will is limited and influenced and guided by God. God does not force or coerce obedience or disobedience.

Cheers, Jeff and Greg.

Jeff said...

Greg,

I have a different take on what happened to Saul and his men: they were simply used by God, against their own wills.

I agree.

The Holy Spirit temporarily indwelt them, causing them to prophesy. But they were not permanently changed, as a Christian is when he/she is born again. Saul and his men were not regenerated, but only used by God, just as you said. In fact, Saul had already been rejected by God (as far as his role as king) before that, because of Saul's disobedience. God was working in all of this to replace Saul with David, as king. In fact, this was not the first time that the Holy Spirit had indwelt (or possibly filled) Saul.

So yes, I agree with you on that.

Just as you cannot force someone to love you, God will not force someone to love Him; it's not His way. Why else does He plead with men to come to Him? Why else did his prophets (OT) and evangelists (NT) try to persuade the people to turn to God? This is why Reformist election doesn't make sense. God doesn't want mindless drones following Him; He wants willing followers who will welcome Him into their hearts. True, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we cannot love Him enough to serve Him, but the Holy Spirit will not force Himself upon someone, like a satanic demon would. Jesus said that He will knock on the door, not kick it in! It's up to us to open it.

I don't want to get into an argument/debate over Election vs. Free Will, because that could go on forever. But I will say that I believe in both Election/Predestination and Free Will, and I do not believe they are mutually exclusive. The tricky part is, how does each one apply, and to what extent? Jesus said that, just as the wind moves and you don't know where it's going next, the Holy Spirit works in ways that we cannot always detect.

I believe that God works in relationship with us. In witnessing to others (evangelism), the Christian has the easy part, and God has the hard part.

Likewise, in accepting Christ, we have a part, and God has a part. But how much of a part each party plays is probably where you and I would not exactly agree.

OK, just for clarification, let me mention what I believe (and I realize that you probably will not completely agree with me on this). I believe that God chose our names before the beginning of time, and the Bible does say this. I suspect that you believe (and I, too, used to believe this) that God chooses those whom He foreknew would accept Him. However, that's not really choosing them, because He is merely acknowledging that they will choose Him at a future date. So they are really the ones making the choice, not God.

What I believe now is that God chose a remnant (and in the Bible, there are many cases where God chooses a remnant for Himself), and guarantees that they will accept Him, by causing them to accept Him, through the power of the Holy Spirit. He does that (in a sense, I suppose) "against their will," just as He did with Saul and his men. However, in so doing, they are not saying, "No! I don't want to do this!" because God changes their mind and makes them want to serve Him, which is what I suspect that He did with Saul and his men. Some have told me that, when they came to Christ, they came 'kicking and screaming.' So, by their own admission, they came 'against their will.'

I believe that God guarantees that those whom He has chosen for salvation will in fact be saved:
-Because, if God left it completely up to men, it could be that Heaven would be completely empty if no one accepted Christ.
-In order to demonstrate His mercy and grace (and on the unsaved, He demonstrates His justice).
-To show that it is not by our works, but by God's will. If we had anything to do with it---any contribution at all---then we could brag for all eternity.

As far as those who do not accept Christ, God leaves them to their own free will, and human free will, in every single case, left on its own, will go its own way and not turn to God.

And, as far as those who have never heard the gospel, Romans says that all of Creation is evidence of God's existence (a painting had to have a painter; a building had to have a builder; etc.), so they are without excuse. And, if no one tells them the gospel, but they were still elected for salvation, then God will use another method, like dreams for example, which is the method He is using to bring many Muslims in the Middle East to be born again and accept Christ as the Son of God and their Savior and Lord.

But again, I am only spelling out what I believe, and I do not wish to get into a debate with you. If you disagree with me, we will simply have to agree to disagree, especially since I don't think this is a foundational issue (i.e., an issue that all Christians MUST agree upon, or else they are certainly not saved...I don't think Election vs. Free Will is such an issue).

Jeff said...

thekingpin68,

I have read in Calvin on more than one occasion the idea in Institutes and Bondage that all do the will of God, some in basic obedience, some in disobedience. God's purposes are completed and human free will is limited and influenced and guided by God. God does not force or coerce obedience or disobedience.

Thanks, Russ. I think Pharaoh in Exodus would be an example of this. The Bible says that God caused Pharaoh to be too stubborn to release the Israelites, in order that God would fulfill all that He planned first (all ten plagues, each of which was directed toward one or more Egyptian gods), before Pharaoh let them go. However, even before that, the Bible says that Pharaoh was too stubborn to let them go. So it seems to me that Pharaoh was stubborn, but God caused Pharaoh's stubbornness to continue until the time was right. So God caused Pharaoh to be disobedient, 'against his will,' you could say.

In contrast, Saul in the N.T. was persecuting Christians and having them killed. He was not looking to accept Christ. He was not even open to the gospel. God used an irresistible act in order to change Saul, the killer of Christians, into Paul, the greatest missionary of all time.

Jeff said...

I think, with Saul in the Old Testament, and with Saul/Paul in the New Testament, God did not force them like you would physically force someone to obey you. If that were the case, the O.T. Saul and the N.T. Saul/Paul would be secretly saying in their minds, "I don't want to do this, but God is making me. But as soon as I can get free of God's control, I'm gonna do what I want!"

Instead, God changed their wills, so that both Sauls did what God wanted, and did so willingly. But that "willingness" itself was caused by God. God is so powerful that He can even cause us to love something that we formerly hated, or enjoy something that we formerly despised. He can change our heart. He can change our mind. He can change our will. He is the Creator of all of it, and He is the one who originates and initiates and completes the transformation. So, even when we 'accept Christ,' God is the one who causes us to want to accept Him. God gives us the desire. The Bible even says that God gives us the faith, as a gift. It all comes from God, and it all originates with God.

thekingpin68 said...

God can harden hearts as in taking a sinner that is in disobedience and through circumstance lead a person to more disobedience. This is within God's holiness for the greater good. (Romans 9, also Judas more than likely)

God can take a sinner in disobedience and turn one toward obedience in Christ or toward obedience even outside of Christ within certain circumstances, in God's holiness for the greater good.

Either way God has total foreknowledge.

Anyway, even if God did not have absolute foreknowledge, he would be so brilliant as infinite he could 'guestimate' at a 100% level so the results would be the same.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

As a Reformed believer, I believe that God is sovereign over all things (including humanity). But that reality does not negate human responsibility in their own "free will" choices. God doesn't force a person to "accept Christ" against his will; likewise, He doesn't force a person to committ sin against his will.

Jeff said: "I believe in both Election/Predestination and Free Will, and I do not believe they are mutually exclusive"I believe this is Biblical. We find "tension" throughout the Scripture as we contemplate the glory of God in redemption. In attempting to ease this tension, many people (Calvinists and Arminians) tend to error (in my opinion) on one side or the other. While we certainly want to understand this glorious Gospel as fully as possible, sometimes we promote (consciously or inadvertently) doctrines and ideas that are patently unbibilical.

God's choice of an individual person in redemption does no violence to his/her will. Likewise, His choice to not redeem an individual does no violence to his/her will.

I believe that the Bible teaches that we are in bondage to sin upon our birth (the sin nature). And sin is first and foremost the condition of unbelief...only secondarily is it an action that we perform. In fact, we perform the action of sin as a result of our unbelief (but that is a topic in and of itself).

The "bondage" of sin that every human being is under, is the bondage of "self-authentication" or "self-reliance"...in other words, autonomous thinking. We live as autonomous beings in the state of unbelieving. And this "bondage" (the "bondage of the will", as Luther put it) was self-inflicted; we did it to ourselves in The Garden. But we also operate freely within our bondage: we always do exactly what we want to do at any given time. Sure, we may think our choices are slim, or we may regret something we did ("I made a mistake"), but we don't sense this bondage because we know that we are making our own determinations.

Now, as we've seen in some Scripture references, God sometimes intervenes in the "will of man" to further some purpose that He has, and we don't always know the reason for this or what His ultimate purpose in that situation may be.

But nowhere does the Scripture teach that God forces His will upon us in order to "save" us or in order to "condemn" us. We are all justly under God's condemnation already and, as we see in Romans 1, although we "know God" we all freely and willingly suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness. It is only as He frees the will from its bondage that a person then freely and willingly comes to Christ for redemption. And the Scripture says that the person who is freed will come willingly to the God of his salvation.

God "overcomes" our will with regard to redemption not by "forcing" us to come to Him. He overcomes our will by freeing our will. When the Son makes you free you are free indeed! And with our will free from the bondage of sin (unbelief), there is no chance that we will not willingly come to Him because we want the life that the Spirit has given to us.

A person must be "born again", he needs a new nature. Can a leopard change his spots? Can we do anything (even believe) to change our nature? If we can, then God is a liar because He says that we must be "born of the Spirit". But, when he is "born again", he willfully comes to Christ his Savior. A person who is not "born again", willfully and willingly rejects the offer of life because he is still bound to his "original sin" nature, the nature of unbelief; and he doesn't want to be freed from his sin, his self-reliance and self-authenticating autonomy.

When I came to Christ, God did not exercise "faith" on my behalf; He didn't "believe" for me. He freed me from my bondage and I, myself, willingly exercised faith in Christ. I, personally, chose to believe. Just because God chooses to leave some in their sin doesn't mean that He's forcing them to disbelieve--they do it willingly.

Our inherent bondage to sin (unbelief) is why "salvation" is (and must be) solely the work of God. I love my Arminian Brothers and Sisters, but the Arminian Gospel is a man-based, man-centered Gospel that denies the efficacy of Christ's work and the ministry of the Spirit. Like the lifless bones in Ezekiel 37, only God Himself can enliven our deadness. We can do nothing to participate in our redemption--we're dead in our bondage of unbelief. But when God grants us life (New Birth) by the Spirit (frees us from our bondage), then we freely and willingly come to Him. Those who Christ frees are no longer under bondage (dead)...period.

God is sovereign and people are responsible. We must be faithful to the language of the Bible, even when we are confronted with tension.

I know this comment was lengthy (I'm giving Jeff a run for his money with this one! :-), but this is a difficult topic. I hope my ramblings are at least somewhat coherent. Sometimes it's hard to write exactly what's on the mind.

To God be the glory in all things!

GGM

Jeff said...

thekingpin68,

God can harden hearts as in taking a sinner that is in disobedience and through circumstance lead a person to more disobedience. This is within God's holiness for the greater good. (Romans 9, also Judas more than likely)

God can take a sinner in disobedience and turn one toward obedience in Christ or toward obedience even outside of Christ within certain circumstances, in God's holiness for the greater good.

Either way God has total foreknowledge.


Agreed. And you said it more succinctly (including probably more accurately) than I did. Thanks, Russ.

Jeff said...

GGM,

But that reality does not negate human responsibility in their own "free will" choices.

Yes, agreed.

We find "tension" throughout the Scripture as we contemplate the glory of God in redemption.

Yes, and I think that this is because God is far above us, so we wrestle to understand certain concepts about Him.

In attempting to ease this tension, many people (Calvinists and Arminians) tend to error (in my opinion) on one side or the other. While we certainly want to understand this glorious Gospel as fully as possible, sometimes we promote (consciously or inadvertently) doctrines and ideas that are patently unbibilical.

I agree. And not just with Election/Free Will or Calvinists/Arminians, but in other areas, as well. For example, one time I was trying to explain the Trinity to some Jehovah's Witnesses---I was trying to show that Jesus is not a separate being from God, or a created being, and, in my attempt to show that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were the same Being, one Pastor accused me of Modalism.


In C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters," a senior demon, Screwtape, said to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, "All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged." And indeed, Satan does try to push us to one extreme or the other. If we move toward one way doctrinally, for example, Satan attempts to push us towards the extreme.

And sin is first and foremost the condition of unbelief...only secondarily is it an action that we perform. In fact, we perform the action of sin as a result of our unbelief (but that is a topic in and of itself).

Yes, and similarly, I believe people are condemned to Hell not merely for specific acts they perform, but also because of their sin(ful) nature.


Someone once said that every time we sin, we are acting like an Atheist, because we are acting as if God doesn't exist. Every time we willfully sin, we are, at that moment, demonstrating our lack of faith and trust in God.

We are all justly under God's condemnation already...

I think that is a very important point.

...the person who is freed will come willingly to the God of his salvation.

I assume you are referring to "whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17), or some similar "whosoever will" verse.

He overcomes our will by freeing our will.

I assume that is similar to, or synonymous with, freeing us from the bondage to sin.


Of course, Satan tries to make people think that following Christ is bondage (to laws, rules, rites, etc.). And I confess that I probably don't fully understand the concept of "freedom in Christ." I think, though, that in my limited understanding, I might compare it to a small child and a parent. If the child is left to do as it pleases, there will be chaos, danger, probable injury (especially if there is more than one child involved), and even anger and frustration. The child will be confused, because it won't know any limits or boundaries, and when the child tries to climb onto something and falls and gets hurt, or when another child bites him/her because this child punched the other child first, then there will be rage, and it will be a miserable situation. The child will end up crying or throwing a temper tantrum, and will not be happy.


However, if the mother and/or father stays alert to guide and correct that child, clearly setting boundaries and teaching that child correct behavior, and teaching that child that there are consequences to its actions, then that child knows how far it can go, and it has a sense of security and confidence, because it knows it is safe as long as it stays within those boundaries. That child then has the freedom to play and enjoy things without worrying about dangerous results, and that child is no longer confused or frustrated, because it now knows what it can and cannot do.


I suppose another illustration of this idea of "freedom" could be a train on a track. As long as that train stays on the track, it can move freely about. But if the engineer decides to do some crazy thing that causes the train to derail and go off the track, the train is now stuck and trapped, and cannot move freely on its own. These illustrations probably do not demonstrate the exact idea you are trying to get across, GGM, but they help me, at least, understand the idea of "freedom" a little better. True freedom is not autonomous (this applies to everyone except God), because it only leads to chaos.

He freed me from my bondage and I, myself, willingly exercised faith in Christ. I, personally, chose to believe.

Yes, but it is a tough balance to understand, because, at the same time, as creatures, we cannot do anything completely under our own power. All gifts and abilities are given by God. We are dependent upon God to give us the power to do anything. But somehow, within that dependency, there is limited free will.

Just because God chooses to leave some in their sin doesn't mean that He's forcing them to disbelieve--they do it willingly.

Yes, they are already corrupted and separated from God, so God leaves them to their own free will, which, in its unregenerate state, is bound to that "autonomous thinking" that you mentioned, GGM, and is completely unable and unwilling to surrender and give up its selfish will. It naturally rebels against submission to a Higher Authority.

Like the lifless bones in Ezekiel 37, only God Himself can enliven our deadness.

Yes, being born again/regenerated is not merely choosing one World Religion over another. It is not merely choosing to believe that God exists, or that Jesus exists. It's not even choosing to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, because even Satan believes that. Neither is it merely filling some "vacuum-shaped hole" that we have in us. It is not merely a way to make us happier or more fulfilled people (being involved in sports or some exercise class could even do that!).


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)


"I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart." (Jeremiah 24:7)


"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26)

I'm giving Jeff a run for his money with this one!

Yes you are. : )

...but this is a difficult topic.

Agreed.

To God be the glory in all things!

Amen!

Tamela's Place said...

Hello Jeff,

God does intervene and i totally agree with this because i have witnessed it. But as far as who, when, why, how, i do not have the answers so i will just leave it in God's hands!


God bless you Jeff BTW have you found another job yet :)

Jeff said...

Tamela,

God does intervene and i totally agree with this because i have witnessed it.

Yes, and thank you for that confirmation, Tamela.

But as far as who, when, why, how, i do not have the answers so i will just leave it in God's hands!

And, since God is far above us in His ways, His power, His understanding, etc., sometimes that's exactly what we have to do, because we do not have the capacity to understand it all.

God bless you Jeff BTW have you found another job yet :)

Thank you, Tamela, and no, I have not found one yet.

thekingpin68 said...

Jeff,

Thanks for blog comments and I replied. I also am glad I can serve as a little bit of promotion as others see your comments on mine, and of course vice versa.
A two way street is best.

I am off to Darren's for a night walk, but I pray now in Jesus' name that you will be blessed with work and peace.

Russ:)

Jeff said...

Russ,

You're welcome. And yeah, two-way promotion is good. I also posted your article on Facebook last week, I think, which was linked directly to your blog site.

Thank you for your prayers. I am going to check again today about jobs. A graphic artist position, or possibly some sort of ministry position (preferably utilizing evangelism) would be preferable. But Christian jobs usually pay very little, and missionary work often requires you to pay your own way or beg other people for money, which I hate doing. Finding a job where I will make enough to pay my bills is not easy in this city. However, God is faithful and trustworthy, and He has never failed me, and He never will. Above all, in the years I have left on this earth, I want to bring glory and honor to His Name, and to spread abroad His kingdom and the fame of His Name, including working to bring others into His kingdom. Personally, I think the most important job we can do on this earth is evangelism. (And the most important attitude is one of love.)