Sovereignty and Responsbility

February 28, 2008

In last Sunday’s sermon text, Malachi 1:1-5, God proves His love for the returned Israelite exiles in a strange way. “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? . . . Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” There was nothing to choose between Esau and Jacob. Both were horrible sons; both were disobedient to God; the descendants of both were stiff-necked and rebellious. Both deserve judgment. Both deserve condemnation. Both peoples deserve hell. But God chooses to destroy Esau’s descendants and to love Jacob/Israel and his descendants. This is His sovereign choice. Only because He loves them are they not cut off.
We too need to see ourselves as deserving of hell, as undeserving of His mercy, and thus to bow before Him, asking for that mercy only on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross. That is the clear message of the passage.

But a question remains: How can God say He hates Esau when God is said to love the world (John 3:16)? Doesn’t God love everyone? Doesn’t God desire all to be saved? Read more

What is Your Task?

February 22, 2008

What has God called you to do? What should be the aim of your life?

  • Not to have an easy life: As Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24).
  • Not to amass earthly wealth: As Paul says, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim 6:9).

Surely one aim of your life should be to become holy, to be sanctified, to become like Christ: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

But while our sanctification, our becoming like Christ, begins with change inside us by the power of the Spirit, it does not end there. For as Paul says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

What are these good works? Read more

Where is Your God?

February 15, 2008

Who is in control?

Last week, we saw a tornado rip through Tennessee, killing dozens and causing dormitories to collapse on students at Union University; then yesterday, a former student walked into a classroom at Northern Illinois University and opened fire with a shotgun. At least six are dead.

We know there are daily tragedies in the world. We know of ethnic violence in Kenya, of refugees in Darfur, of AIDS orphans and malaria deaths. Yes, yes, these are horrible; we don’t expect such problems to end – for those who live far away from us. But when young students face death at seemingly safe universities within the US, we ask, “What is going on? Who is in control?” And the skeptics around us – including, at times, our own doubting hearts – ask, “Where is your supposedly all-powerful God?”

“The nations” ask a similar question in Psalm 115:2: “Where is your God?” Verse 3 answers the question: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

Note four ways that this verse refutes the skeptic: Read more