Thursday, May 29, 2014

Faith comes by hearing? ... or heeding?

On Sunday, I heard a sermon preached on Acts chapter 13.  It was titled "Heed the Message of This Salvation!", along with the following summary:

"The message of the gospel presents each one of us with a choice – will we embrace God’s salvation in Jesus for eternal life, or will we reject that salvation and be rejected ourselves?"

Now listen to what the preacher had to say as he expounded on verse 48 of Acts 13:

Audio: 50 sec.

"And it says, 'as many as them were appointed to eternal life, believed.' "  There's abolutely no getting around this statment.  God is the one who appointed them to eternal life.  And in consequence, they believed.  Had He not appointed them, they would not have believed.  God determined, God took the initiative, God brought the gospel to them, and they responded in faith.  Notice how there's absolutely no tension for Luke between divine election, and human responsibility.  The unbelievers are utterly responsible for their scoffing unbelief.  They have judged themselves unworthy of eternal life.  And yet those who have believed do so because they have been appointed to that same eternal life, by God."

Here is a question. Is there, for you, a tension regarding our "choice"?  The preacher puts forth that there is no tension "between divine election, and human responsibility". The bible is pretty clear about this with regard to our guilt. But what about in regard to the role of our "choice"? I invite you to an exercise in discernment as you listen to snippets from another sermon I listened to on Sunday.  Do they compound the tension?  Do they relieve the tension?

As always, the purpose of these posts are to catch a glimpse of "the subtle wonders of the good news".

Audio: 3m:31s

You've probably noticed these days, that everybody seems to think they have to do something to be a christian.

And this gets us into the real issue here with Nicodemus.

And so he says to Nicodemus, "well, you know, it's sort of like the wind blowing, Nicodemus".  Isn't that frustrating?  Really, that's just frustrating, isn't it?  If there's any place in the gospels, where it would have been the moment for Jesus to have said, "Here's how you get in, Nicodemus ... you accept me as your saviour."  He didn't do that.  Because after all Nicodemus, even when it comes down to this final and important relationship between God and you, you are not in charge.  You have nothing to say.  And that really offends us.

And that's why it's just so tempting to say there's only one thing you have to do.  Just one little thing.  God's done everything else, 99.9%.  Everything, but that one little thing now ... you have to do to close the deal.

...But if there's even a little bit left for you or I to do, then as Paul was to say ... Christ is of no benefit.

...Now Luther called it a myth.  The myth of free will.  Because he understood quite properly that to claim to have a choice before God is blasphemy.  It is acquiring unto yourself an attribute that belongs to God alone...freedom. Only God is free.  So to suggest to sinners that they have something within them that is able to flip a switch in heaven, to make God respond to them ... well Luther said again ... it's the worst form of blasphemy.

There was a free will decision made all right.  And it was God's free will to choose me as His child.  And I will stand on that promise, and that choice, rather than my own.  Because I know what my choices are all about and so do you.  If you make some decision for Christ because you're afraid of going to hell ... what kind of decision is that, for example?  That's about you ... fear ... self concern.  But to make choices in life based on the promises of God for you, that came to you before you could understand, before you could say anything.  To build a life on that kind of foundation, is to build on the foundation that no one else can lay, and that is Jesus himself.  And His promises to you, and for you.

You see, that leaves us with nothing to say and nowhere to go and nothing to do, and that's exactly what makes it so uncomfortable, this gospel business.  It enters us into a new reality called grace. It's not a seemless movement from the world I'm putting together for myself out there, into the church, and back again.  I'm now confronted with something that stops my mouth, that shuts me up, that kills my action, and says ... "Receive" ... what you and the world could never buy, the gracious forgiveness of your sins, the un-merited mercy of God in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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