“If I ever do a perfect act of love, I’ll probably be proud of it, and then it won’t be a perfect act anymore. Maybe if I die in the midst of performing this act, I could do it.” – man on radio (wish I knew who he was)
When I heard it, this idea struck me. Even my best efforts are littered with selfishness and pride. My “wants” show up in the most unlikely of places – even when I “serve,” I want to be recognized – or I want someone else to take notice and look at me with more admiration, etc. My service serves myself. I’m sinful. Very sinful.
Scripture addresses this too.
Isaiah 64:6 – “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.“
Romans 7:21-25 – “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
So here’s the question: How can I get rid of this? How can I serve selflessly? Of course the only REAL answer is Jesus. He alone has done a “perfect act of love” – the cross. He alone is perfect, and so all of His acts were perfect. Ours are NOT. Nor will they ever be. Our acts of service and sacrifice are always going to be tainted with at least a little bit of selfishness. We are sinners, but because of His “perfect act of love” (the cross), we can receive forgiveness and will be made holy. Our selfishness is forgiven and covered by His blood.
A perfect act of love? This is not a goal for us to attain, but a grace that Jesus has offered to us.
I never finished this, but it was an idea for a poem or song or something to give to my children. It expresses the things I plan to share with my kids when I take them to visit Meridian State Park someday. I’ll tell them the story of how I came to know Jesus. I’m so excited about that day! These words capture some of the emotions I feel as I think about telling them.
Anyway, maybe I’ll finish it someday, but I wanted to go ahead and post something so I wouldn’t lose it.
Come let me show you this place, this place full of grace.
Come let me show you the spring where we sat and listened to the quiet
And the outcropping where we waterbombed the bus.
Let’s go walk the carpet of bluebonnets
and run past the bees on the trail of Mesquite
As a child I ran these trails and stepped on a snake
These vines scratched my legs but helped heal me too.
We played frisbee golf and waterballoon volleyball
Chased Bulldog to soak him
James Garner taught us the Scriptures under the tree.
Ross Senter spoke around the campfire.
Let me show you the grace in this place.
Come watch the horizon swallow the sun
Breathe in the lights. See the milky way run
From up on the ledge and above the lake
Lets watch the sky. and see the stars come awake.
Come hear distant voices from the lake down below
Let’s sit and sing and wait – take it slow
If we’re lucky we’ll see a star fall from space
Here in this place – this place full of grace
And this is where I sat and sang and cried
Around the campfire On the night I gave my life to Christ.
This place is so dear. It’s a place I want you to know
Whether this place or that place, I want you to have your own place full of grace.
Recently, I had the privilege to join some friends (Thanks Shelby’s!) at their bay house. It’s a beautiful place and a perfect place to “get away” a bit.
I don’t think I’ve ever really sat and watched pelicans diving for fish before. They fly up high to get a good wide perspective and scan for prey. When they see something they circle to get a good angle and then dive with abandon. Recklessly even. They aren’t very graceful – just effective. In order to survive, they must do this regularly – every day even.
I wonder what leaders can learn from pelicans? Do we escape our normal routines and seek out “high places” where we can get good perspectives? Do we continually scan for new opportunities? Do we work to get a good angle and then dive recklessly? Are we so afraid of being ungraceful that we just continue to circle without ever diving? Do we get comfortable enough that we stop working this process or do we do it daily?
Anne Lamott is one of the best writers I think I’ve ever read – and funny too. Anyway, this morning I started listening to her audio book (she reads herself) called “Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.”
Anyway, I just thought I’d share a few quotes that struck me:
Peace is joy at rest. Joy is peace on it’s feet.
One of the top five most annoying things about God is that He rarely answers right away. It can take days or even weeks.Can you talk about God like this?
Maybe it was the ‘Ham of God.‘
She describes how seasonal showers fill up potholes in the rocks in the desert and frogs live in them. Then she says, “it seems you can go from parched to overflow in the blink of an eye.”
Here’s another quote from a talk she gave to a bunch of Pastors:
She explains that cat’s fur is highly flamable, but God has also placed an oil in their skin which puts the fire out. Then she says, “Cats ignite, but luckily there’s grace.”
Lordship Salvation is the idea that in order to be saved, one must receive Jesus as both Savior and Lord. Belief in Christ is not enough, but good works are required. The guys who ascribe to this view would describe saving faith as repentance (turning from sin) plus faith (turning to God). They also say that to receive Christ, means to receive His whole person, which includes His roles as both Savior and Lord. John Stott says, “The call of God in the gospel is not just to receive Jesus Christ, but to belong to Him, not just to believe in Him, but to obey Him.”
Now, the guys who oppose this view are called “Free Grace” guys. They point to the Scriptures that speak of salvation as a “gift.” There is nothing one must do to earn it. No “good works” are required. They point to Acts 2:38 which says that we must only “repent” before we can be baptized and brought into the fellowship.
My own opinion actually finds its’ strength in 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul speaks of the “carnal” man. It’s clear that this man is saved, but also that he is not living with Christ as “Lord” of his life. Now, if he is saved but Christ isn’t Lord of his life then, “saving faith” must not require “Lordship.” There is no such thing as a “Carnal Christian” if Lordship Salvation is true.
When we went over this in class, our professor also described a 3rd view which he called “soft Lordship.” This view says that once a man is saved (by repentance alone), the Holy Spirit would begin to work on him and there would be “good works” or fruit to being to appear. It may be as small as a feeling of conviction which he never had before, but it’s still fruit. The idea is that Christ would begin to become “Lord” from that day forward.
Free Grace: Faith = Salvation and works/fruit may or may not follow.
Soft Lordship: Faith = Salvation and works/fruit will follow.
I think I’d have to put myself in the “soft Lordship” category. I believe that a “Carnal Christian” is just one who’s “works” have not had time to start showing up on the outside. In regards to the “Free Grace” view, I have a hard time believing that the Holy Spirit’s presence doesn’t make any difference.
How does this make a difference in my life?
There’s a part of me that is really comforted by knowing that the Holy Spirit’s work in us, might not be very evident to the onlooker. In my years of youth ministry, I
have seen many kids “walk the aisle” to receive Christ and then go for years with no evidence that it made any difference. Sometimes I watch them make decisions which clearly would not honor God. Jesus is definitely not “Lord” for them. It’s comforting to know that faith alone is sufficient. I will continue to teach and encourage His Lordship, but will also seek out the small, subtle things that the Holy Spirit might be doing within them. I think that this understanding of grace, makes me more gracious.
(Info from “Must Christ be Lord to Be Savior” by Everett Harrison and John Stott – also from “How Faith Works” by S. Lewis Johnson Jr., and “A Critique of Lordship Salvation Debate” by Charles E. Powell)
This one is a really a tough argument because both sides can be argued with integrity from the Scriptures. My best guess is that this particular issue is much like Brian McLaren describes in “A New Kind of Christian.” (I don’t agree with him all the time, but I like this illustration.) In his book, one of the characters was describing how men pick differing points on a line to argue their stances/viewpoints. He then wondered if God was not on the line at all, but hovering somewhere over the line in another dimension. I think that must be the way it is with this particular argument. The truth (God) is not on our line of predestination or freewill at all, but hovering somewhere over our imaginations – beyond our understanding. As the Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Here are the differences:
1. Total Depravity – Before they are saved, men are completely dead in their sins and unable to even come to God without His intervention.
2. Unconditional Election – God chooses who he will save.
3. Limited Atonement – Jesus died to save the elect.
4. Irresistible Grace – God gives a special saving grace to the elect that they will not be able to reject.
5. Preservation of the Saints – Once saved, always saved.
1. Depraved – Before they are saved, men are depraved in every area of their lives, but still able to choose good/God.
2. Conditional Election – God chooses who He will save based upon his foreknowledge of their choices.
3. Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died to save everyone/the world.
4. Resistible Grace – God offers a special saving grace to all men, but he can resist.
5. No preservation – Man can lose his salvation.
I would consider myself a 4 point Moderate Calvinist: Here what I mean:
I agree with points 1, 2, 4, and 5 of Calvinism, but completely disagree with 3 (Limited atonement) and number 1 needs an explanation. Let me explain each one for me:
1. Total Depravity – If one is completely dead, he cannot even choose God. This would mean that the work of salvation is completely God’s work. This is called “monergism.” Scripture seems clear that it is a complete work of God, but it’s also pretty clear that man’s decision matters somehow. This view is called a “synergism” of God’s work with man’s decision. This is the difference in a Dutch Calvinist (hardcore) and a Moderate/Princeton Calvinist who believes that man does still have some responsibility in it all. The moderate would say that “God woos men” to Himself, but that man still chooses. Here’s the summary of the depravity issue:
Arminian – Man chooses God.
Moderate Calvinist – God woos man.
Dutch Calvinist – God rapes man. (God chooses man in spite of his decision or opinion.)
I’m a moderate.
2. Unconditional Election – It is completely God’s choice who he will save. There are no conditions or works that man must accomplish.
3. Unlimited Atonement – This is where I completely disagree with the Calvinist view. This is also the most popular point in which people disagree. Scripture seems clear that Jesus died for everyone.
4. Irresistible Grace – This is not to say that God doesn’t give grace to everyone – He clearly does – Rain falls on the crops of the saved and the unsaved. All are given breath, and life, etc. This is speaking only of the saving grace which God chooses to give to the elect. They may reject it for a while, but since God’s plan can not be frustrated, he will eventually respond properly to His offer. If God could be resisted, then he must not be sovereign, because he couldn’t accomplish His own plan.
5. Preservation of the Saints – This is the once saved, always saved idea. You cannot lose your salvation, because that would mean that salvation was not God’s work. Your works/lifestyle can not make you lose your salvation, because they had nothing to do with it in the first place. You were saved because God chose to save you, and He doesn’t change his mind. He knew what He was doing when He chose to save you.
There you go. I’m sure there are all kinds of flaws in my logic and understanding ’cause I just don’t have a really good grasp on it all, but this is just where I find myself at this point in my life.
How is my life different because of this concept? I’m not sure. It certainly affects my view of Christianity and also of the world, but in trying to live out my faith, it doesn’t change much on a daily basis. My wife and I disagree on this issue and have chosen not to speak of it, because it just causes division between us. I hope that sometime we can really work to come to a solution, but the truth is that it really doesn’t come up very often, and it hasn’t affected our relationship too much. I do believe it’s gonna be an issue as we raise Kasen. (He’s due Oct 30th). By the time he starts asking those kinds of question, it’s my prayer that we can have a united common view regarding this issue.
(Info from “Man’s Destiny:Free or Forced” by Norman Geisler, also from “The Potter’s Freedom” by James White, Also from “Arminianism or Calvinism” by Steele and Thomas)
In class last week Dr. Loken pointed out something that seems pretty basic, but it was just something I never really thought about before. Paul uses the phrase “grace and peace” alot. Here’s why – “Grace” was a standard greeting for the Gentiles. “Peace” or “Shalom” was the standard greeting for the Jews. Anyway, every time he used this phrase, he communicated that both Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. It’s also a beautiful picture of the first century church which spread from the Jews to the Gentiles through Paul himself. Anyway, I just thought it was cool stuff!!!
I went to see the movie “Amazing Grace” yesterday. Dr. Loken gave us credit for one of our class projects if we saw it. I must say that it was pretty good, but I was still disappointed. The film told the story of William Wilberforce, who fought against slave trade in England. His pastor, in the movie, is the man who wrote the song, Amazing Grace. He had been a slave trader himself, but then discovered God and found his real life in Christ. There are certainly good points in the film, but in general it moved pretty slowly. There wasn’t much action or even stimulating conversations to pull me into the story. I thought the highlight came during a scene where he was trying to convince some rich people about the horrors of the slave trade buisness and had their tour boat park up next to a slave traders ship. He was able to speak to them about the inhumanity and they could see the shackles and smell the “death” around them. There’s nothing like personal experience to turn our hearts around and make us aware of our own callousness.
One other scene that is worth telling you about happens at the very end of film. After many years of fighting, he finally wins the votes he needs to have his bill banning slave trade pass and another man stands up and talks about other “heroes” like Napoleon. He says that those guys come home to crowds of people cheering and chanting their names, but they still have to live with the horrors of war in their hearts forever, but that one like William Wilberforce, only has the souls of men who have been freed on his mind.