Friday, February 19, 2016

The Sovereignty of God (Pt. 3)

    Today is probably the second to last installment in this series. I will probably do one more trying to answer some of the common objections to God's absolute sovereignty, particularly his sovereign election. Today's article is what I find beautiful about this doctrine. Admittedly, a lot of today's article is based on my own personal experience and thoughts, but it was in large part the doctrines of grace that made the gospel come alive to me.

     It has come as a surprise to quite a few people who know me that I would be someone who believes in election and yet still desire to become a missionary. It has somehow become accepted in many of our churches that God's sovereignty in salvation and missions are contrary to each other. In actuality, there is no more encouraging doctrine to me when I think about missions.

     I spent several years in an independent fundamental baptist church. If you have ever attended an IFB church, you will remember the extreme emphasis on soul winning. I can still remember hearing sermons where we were told we would have lost people come up and point at us and say it was our fault for not telling them the gospel that they were in hell (Paul's arguments that all men are accountable for the truth were rarely mentioned though). The unmistakable point of all the preaching and hammering on soul winning, witnessing, and evangelism was that we had to get souls saved! The picture was God who desired all men to be saved but drew no one to Himself, instead relying on His servants on earth to do that. He was daily becoming more and more frustrated at his lukewarm children who weren't witnessing and passing out tracts every where they were.

     Missions and evangelism was a duty, not a pleasure. The idea of building a relationship with a lost person and preaching truth through our love and our lives rather than through a full, 30 minute gospel presentation was considered ludicrous. It wasn't our job to be their friends; it was our job to save them. I still remember the night this mentality was forever shattered. I was reading Charles Spurgeon's sermon on Calvinism in which he summed up the doctrines of grace as being, "Salvation is of the Lord."

     That, ladies and gentlemen, is my hope in missions. In Africa, as it is here, I do not save anyone. I'm not going to save anyone. God can do that anytime He wishes. I'm going simply because He has invited me to be His hands and His feet in Africa, and it is my pleasure to do so. Yes, I will and have preached the gospel there, but the results of the preaching and the sharing of the gospel are not in my hands, they are in God's.

     The story is told of a missionary flying over the streets of New Delhi in India, and his heart dropped as he observed the millions of Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims crowding the streets below. How could one man make any dent on such evil? But the realization that drew him from His depression was the memory that he was not there to save New Delhi; he was there to preach, teach, and let God work His will through him. Duties are ours, events are God's. Man proposes, God disposes. Many sayings have been worked up by theologians to describe this truth, but there is no subject that God's sovereignty does not touch on more than missions.

     My hope and my strength through what I know will be hard times in missions is that I am not there to save anyone. If I return home from the mission field with not a single church planted and not a single convert, the gospel went out, and God's Word will not return void. It will accomplish the purpose for which God sent it out, whether or not I see the results. So the truth that gives me hope and strength in missions is, in fact, God's total sovereignty.

     Secondly, God's sovereignty is a permanent marker pointing me toward His grace as completely unmerited and my salvation as a complete gift, not a work. His sovereignty in the realm of salvation keeps me forever bowing before the One to whom I owe everything, the One who owes me nothing. In a soteriology that takes into account God's great sovereignty, we are forced constantly to recognize how small we are and how great God is. We are forced to see that salvation is none of me and all of Him, that I contributed nothing and He contributed everything. Lutheran theologian Rod Rosenbladt gave the most poignant answer I have ever seen to the question of our contribution to salvation when he said our only contribution to salvation was our sin.

     This realization forces us constantly to look at God as my great Lord and Savior, not my business partner in salvation or sanctification. The gospel is most saturated with grace and mercy when God is the One who does the entire saving, and the One to whom we owe everything. This soteriology gives the gospel its proper emphasis with Christ as everything, the preeminent One around whom all history spins.

     Thirdly, this sovereignty gives me hope during hard times and suffering. The hard things, the trials, temptations, and struggles in my life are not accidental, a result of someone else's mistake that God is letting happen out of a zeal for man's free will. Instead, every single struggle, hard time, temptation, and battle in my life is something God sovereignly caused or allowed (ultimately these terms mean the same thing), something that did not catch God by surprise and that He has a specific purpose in allowing or causing.

     Most specifically, the hope during these hard times is that because everything is under God's unlimited control, any suffering or trial that enters my life has purpose and is there for a reason. There is no meaningless suffering. Knowing that my life is a piece of God's sovereign plan from before time gives me the knowledge to trust that whatever happens in my life, the pain is not meaningless, the suffering is not purposeless, and that a good God who is far wiser than I is working His plans in me.

     These are simply three ways I find that the doctrines of grace and God's total sovereignty really affect my theology and my outlook on life in general. I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this too! If you have some ideas of how this affects your life, I'd love to see some thoughts in the comments.


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  2. Dude, this is really great! I just found your blog and was intrigued by the sovereignty of God series, and I have to say, I agree like 1000%! Thanks for this!

    The absolute sovereignty of God, and particularly His sovereignty over salvation, has been a new understanding for me. Until about two years ago I had never even heard of the idea(s), and it wasn't until about a year ago that I recognized those doctrines in Scripture and believed them. Since then I've been filled with a much greater understanding and amazement of the Lord then I'd ever had before.

    So that being said, your series has been fantastic thus far! Very well thought out and articulated. I've used much of the same reasoning as I've thought through these issues myself.

    Almost no one I know believes in the absolute sovereignty of God over salvation (let alone over everything else), so I'm glad to see other young guys who are passionate about this truth. I look forward to the next post!

    1. Hey, Nathan! Great to see you over here, man. You're so right; I know so few young people who agree with this viewpoint, so it's nice to meet another one who does.

      It's interesting in that several centuries ago, deep thinkers such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield studied topics such as the bondage of the will and the sovereignty of God in extreme depth, and today in our generation where most take faith flippantly and Christianity lightly, we have lost our grasp on these truths.

      Thanks for reading! What is your blog address again? I've visited before, but I haven't in quite a while and I'm not sure I have the link still.

    2. My blog is . My second-to-most-recent post was actually about God's sovereignty as well. (By the way, is my first comment on here twice? I see two of the same comment)

    3. Yeah, it was. :) I just took a look at your article, and I like it! Cool to see someone going down the same path.