by Mike Ratliff
Resh. Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise! Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes. Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies. I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands. Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. (Psalms 119:153-160)
Even though the most hated and despised form of evangelical Christianity is Historic Calvinism we should not shy away from living it, breathing it and telling any who will listen all about it. The mature in Christ are those who live entirely for the glory of God. God has upgraded their value system to match His. These beloved of God understand that the Kingdom of God is not a democracy. God's children, all true believers, have no vote in what doctrines are valid and which are not. We err when we measure the veracity of a doctrine by the number of adherents it does or does not have. The Bible clearly teaches the opposite. Throughout the Bible, we see case after case where the makeup of the Kingdom of God is the few when compared to those outside. Some prophets, such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel stood virtually alone against the masses of apostate Israel and Judah.
The Western Church is predominantly Arminian. I have pondered a great deal on this. The pinnacle of Christian doctrines consists of those that have the right understanding of God and His ways. As stated earlier, unless a doctrine glorifies God we must question it. However, if it does then we must seek to understand it as we make it our own. The common denominator in all doctrines that seek to suppliant the doctrines of grace is their source. Arminianism, Semi-Pelagianism and Pelagianism have their roots planted firmly in Man's common sense rather than the Bible, God, and God's ways. Their hold on God's people is directly related to how easily they are grasped by those who have little, if any, Bible knowledge. In other words, their intent is not to teach God and His ways to Man, but instead attempt to describe what Man can and should do to gain eternal life because they imply that God is helpless to do anything until that happens. Even though the Bible speaks volumes about election these false doctrines describe it as simply God electing everyone while salvation is only for those who are smart enough to seek God. In other words, salvation's basis is whether people choose God or not. This type of belief says that it is Man's will that determines who is saved and who is not. This type of unbiblical thinking places Man's will over and above the sovereignty of God.
We should never be surprised when God's revealed ways are contrary to our understanding. I heard a sermon nearly 20 years ago from a former pastor who said, "I can't explain the contradiction between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man." He followed that with, "We must simply accept that on faith." What he was attempting to describe was a how God would never override Man's free will, Human Freedom, with His sovereignty. He was saying God is sovereign, but He does not exercise His sovereignty over Man's will. I was not very mature at that time so I thought he knew what he was talking about. For the past several weeks, as God has guided me into the development of this book, He has laid this very incident heavy on my heart. I knew that at some point it would be a major part of the message God has for those seeking to become Christ-like Mature Christians. Therefore, here we are. My former pastor was an Arminian and so was I. However, at that time, I had no idea there was any such thing. I knew very little about doctrine. I simply believed what I was taught. After all, what he preached about salvation made sense to my very logical mind. However, I have good news! There is no contradiction between God's sovereignty and Human Freedom. There is no conflict at all.
God is sovereign. He created the universe. He owns the universe. He created Man. He did not create the evil and sinful predicament Man is in now, but He did allow it. Before He created anything, He foreknew and predestinated those whom would receive His grace. That means He knew the fall of Man (Genesis 3) would happen. He knew all about the plan of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ before the creation of the world.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
The "us" in this passage are believers. He chose "us" before the foundation of the world. This is election. This states emphatically that the contradiction my former pastor attempted to explain was a fallacy. There is no contradiction at all because God elected those whom He chose for salvation. Human Freedom has nothing to do with it. God's sovereignty overrides Man's free will because He is sovereign. It is His universe. We are His to do with as He pleases. The Spirit-led believer may struggle with this for a while. However, if he or she prayfully examines the doctrines of grace as they submit to God's sanctifying fires which are burning the truth into their hearts, they will see how amazing God's grace really is. Election is a wonderful doctrine to those who have grasped it. No one deserves grace. God is not obligated to save any one of us. He could easily have left Man in his sins. Praise God, He did not!
Many say the doctrine of election is not fair. They say their God would not create a system of salvation where only those He elected are saved and everyone else is damned. The problem with that logic is their God is a figment of their imagination. God has determined who are His before the foundation of the world. He provided a complete set of processes through which He effectually calls His chosen. Through that effectual call, the Holy Spirit regenerates their hearts. The regenerated heart is Born Again. Because of their new nature the new believer sees the enormity of his or her sin. This causes them to repent and believe. As they turn from their sin to Jesus Christ for salvation God justifies and adopts them. He then starts the sanctification process that will continue for the rest of their lives. At the end of their physical life, they are glorified by being conformed unto the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29-30)
The Mature Christian will look back on their salvation journey and will never doubt that the whole process was a work by God alone. They understand they had no chance to repent and believe until God resurrected them by His grace. The immature believer will struggle with this concept because he or she is still fighting it out with their old nature. However, once God breaks down our resistance to His truth the magnitude of our salvation as His work alone becomes clear and precious to our hearts.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10)
The interesting thing I see in Arminians is their inconsistencies within how they pray compared to what they teach. They say Man is capable of choosing salvation. However, if that was true then why should we pray for anyone's salvation? If their salvation is an act of human will, why do we need to pray for it to happen? However, they do pray for people to repent and believe. How does praying to God for John and Jane Doe to "come to Christ" make them choose to do so? That is absurd. Christians pray to God for John and Jane Doe to "come to Christ" because we know within our hearts God has to make it happen.
Another inconsistency I have found in believers who are unsure of their doctrines is their concept of their own salvation when compared to those "potential converts" out there. When they look at their own salvation, they see it as a work of God alone, but when they speak of sharing the gospel to the lost they go hard after persuasion with attempts to "talk the lost into deciding for Christ." I am not saying we do not need to be very radical in sharing the gospel. I contend we must get the gospel to everyone, right now! However, as we share the gospel we must do so within our understanding that God saves people. We cannot simply talk people into salvation. We must present the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and pray that God will effectually call all who hear.
The sanctification process God initiates in the heart of the believer is cooperative in nature. That means we have to cooperate with God in our spiritual growth. He puts us in circumstances in which our faith is tested. We must learn to believe and trust God as we exercise our faith in these tests and trials. This grows us in grace. Our faith grows and we eventually learn to walk in the spirit. However, there will never be a time in our walk in which we will not have to believe God by faith. Walking the Walk by Faith is a walk of faith by humbly walking in belief in the power of the Holy Spirit, not a walk by sight. We see our circumstances as God's instruments of sanctification. We seek humility as we deny our fleshly desires. What the world sees in our lives as costly we see as God building up the treasure of godliness in our hearts. The Mature Christian has learned to love this process because humility is spiritual treasure and pride is nothing but a weed. He or she sees affliction as God's discipline because they are His adopted sons and daughters. (Hebrews 12)
The title of the stanza we are looking at in this chapter is, "Resh." The first and second lines in this stanza are, "Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!" Just because a believer is growing in grace as an adopted child of God does not mean affliction will be absent. In fact, as stated above, it is God's tool of choice in most cases to discipline us to grow unto Christ-likeness. Those who believe they "decided for Christ" will become perplexed as disaster after disaster dominates all parts of their walk. They start to believe they made the wrong choice. They retreat from God and become hardhearted. They are full of unbelief. They are no longer cooperating. Their faith is miniscule. Their focus is inward. However, they are in Christ so they are regenerate. There will be a deep-seated desire stop squandering their treasure by repenting and going hard after God. Of course, God has put that desire in their heart. He is drawing them back to Him. Their call is now, "Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law…give me life according to your promise!" They become desperate for God. If they cooperate with God this time and humbly go hard after Him, they will find Him. (James 4:8) If they do this, they get back into the Walk by Faith.
Walking the Walk by Faith
- Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- Come to Jesus (Matthew 22:28)
- Take on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 22:29)
- Learn what Christ teaches (Matthew 22:29)
- Present our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God (Romans 12:1)
- Keep the Lord’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- Renew our minds and become transformed unto Christ-likeness (Romans 12:2)
- Discern God’s Will and submit to it (Romans 12:2)
This process cycles over and over and God draws the believer to surrender totally to Him. The believer never enjoys affliction, but he or she sees it in the proper light. Submission to the will of God in the midst of affliction builds our faith and produces humility. Humility is valuable treasure along with a clear and undefiled conscience. If the believer completely surrenders to God's sanctification processes, they become tenderhearted. That means God cuts away the fatty, greasy callousness that separates the conscience from the soul. This cleansing produces tenderheartedness. The conscience and its contents, God's value system, become apparent to the heart of the believer. This is precious treasure. The maturing believer must seek to keep their conscience pure and undefiled by obeying the Lord in all things.
The third line in this stanza is, "Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your statutes." At first, this verse seems out of place in this stanza. However, God wants us to see the difference between where we are, by His grace, and where the unregenerate are because they are outside of His grace. Multitudes of lost people surround us. They show no interest in salvation. If we share the gospel with them, they smirk and put us down. Disobedience to the Law of God marks their lives. They see the Ten Commandments and decry their veracity. They demand that the courts order them cast out of their sight. Why do they do this? The Law of God convicts those under it of their sinfulness and complete inability to be righteous. The unregenerate are under the Law. The Law, at the Final Judgment, will judge them. The regenerate believers are under grace, but the Moral Law is still their standard of obedience. Unlike the wicked, we must seek the Lord's statutes in order to live by them unto righteousness.
The fourth and fifth and sixth lines in this stanza are, "Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies. I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands." God's grace is truly amazing. He has no obligation to save any of us, yet He has chosen to save those whom He elected. Salvation is according to God's rules. It is according to His sovereign will. We cannot do one thing to change it. False doctrines change nothing as far as God's sovereignty is concerned. They only confuse people about God and His ways. As we take our stand for the truth, those who believe their will and freedom are equal or greater than God's sovereignty will attack us. These people display their complete lack of fear of God. They build these man-focused doctrines and see no harm in doing so. They are not concerned about God's opinion or reaction to this at all.
No other doctrines have ever defeated the doctrines of grace. These wonderful doctrines are the result of pure and undefiled expounding of scripture. They are contrary to Man's common sense. They fly in the face of it. Each part of the doctrines of grace shows and expounds upon God's glory. The enemies of the doctrines of grace must compromise on God's glory and that they do at their own peril. (Isaiah 42:8)
The seventh and eighth lines in this stanza are, "Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." When we fall in love with God's truth, we make a huge step forward in our maturing unto Christ-likeness. When we get into God's Word as we get it into us it performs its proper function. It flushes out the uncleanness and false beliefs we have been hanging onto. These false beliefs satisfy our common sense, but are contrary to God's precepts, rules, and ways.
We must pray for God to reveal His truth to us from His word. It is okay to read the works of godly men, but the Word of God is the basis by which we should believe or disbelieve them. Sacred scripture is God's Word. What a blessing it is that we can hold it in our hands, read it, meditate on it, and obey what the Lord reveals to us from it. As we pray for God's truth, we must also ask Him to show us the truth about doctrine. As we mature, God will implant the truth in our hearts. Our minds may not grasp them at first though, hence the inconsistencies we discussed earlier. We must pray for God to make these evident to our hearts and verify them via our conscience. Ask Him to set our hearts on fire so they will burn when we read His truth. I pray you will grasp the veracity of the doctrines of grace and their importance in our maturing unto Christ-likeness.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.