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Posts Tagged ‘Minor prophets’

Sin and the sovereignty of God.

Allow me for a moment to attempt to stave off the impending stampede.

I mean the stampede of professing Christians, falling all over themselves to excuse God from today’s awful slaughter on the campus of Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia.

No doubt all of you have heard about the thirty-three victims who were gunned down today. It is a heinious thing that occurred, I am here to offer a warm blanket of encouragement: God is still sovereign.

Just as after 9/11, scores of professing Christians are going to be telling us that God had nothing to do with this. They will say that God had nothing to do with it. they will say that God has nothing to do with evil. They may say that God would have stopped it, if He could, but He couldn’t. They may say that God stands back while we work things out. They may insist that He is good, but that evil persists because God does not control everything.

They are all wrong, and I thank God that they are wrong.

The sovereignty of God offers us security because at a time like this the only thing that preserves my sanity is the knowledge that no detail escapes the the control of the Everlasting One. A world left to its own devices is a world in which I would fear to leave my own home. Life goes on because God is in control.

Many Christians believe that the only way to reconcile God’s goodness with the existence of evil is to excuse Him from control. However, God Himself claims to control everything:

1.) Creation (Genesis 1-2)

2.) Maintenance of the physical universe (Heb 1:3)

3.) Salvation (Romans 8:28-30)

3.) Calamity (Is 45:7)

4.) The very hairs on our head (Matt 10:30).

5.) The length of life (Job 15:20)

6.) Pretty well everything (Jer 32:17, 27, Psalm 115:3, Eph 1:11)

I could go on.

Yes this is an evil world. It is evil because of our sin. Those who died today did not personally heap this tragedy on their heads. We all make our contributions to this cesspool of a world we have made. The deaths suffered today were terrible, but because of sin we all will die in time (Rom 3:23). Made in the image of God, designed for immortality, we find ourselves in cursed bodies doomed to expire in time if sickness or violence don’t come for us first.

And yet God is in sovereign control of everything. That God allows evil to continue is part in parcel to His plan to bring the full number of His elect to salvation. That God allows us to continue breathing despite our sin is sheer mercy, That God saves any is utterly to His own glory.

We are not the first to wonder how God can be both good AND all-powerful, and yet evil can continue to exist in the world. The book of Habakkuk was written because of this very question. The prophet asks God how long He will continue to watch as the nation Israel slid into chaos. God responds by saying that He would deepen the crisis by bringing a foreign nation to judge them. An evil people as God’s own tool! How can it be? God responds by urging Habakkuk to trust him, as it says “The just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4).”

How is the sovereignty of God our blanket of security?

By faith.

By faith the perfect life of Christ is credited to us as righteousness. By faith His death sees the just wrath of God for OUR sin poured out on Him. By faith we are united with His resurrection and are are born again. There is no greater security than that.

As with Habakkuk, we will have to wait in faith to see God vindicated and evil vanquished. As with Habakkuk, we will have to have to be satisfied not to see all the connections in our lifetime.

As with Habakkuk we can find joy in the worst of times because of the sovereignty of our great God.

“Yet I will exult in the LORD,  I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.  “
(Habakkuk 3:18)

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Judging the judges.

Recently, as our High School group has been going through the book of Judges, one particular thing keeps jumping out at me: man those guys had problems! Seriously, most of these people just could not get it straight. Samson, probably the best known judge, pretty much did nothing right.

I was discussing this over dinner the other day and it really hit home. Samson was constantly selfish, violent, committed sexual immorality, and was so stuck on a Philistine that he gave in to her even though it was obvious she was trying to get him killed. Even his famous death was tinged with selfishness.

God’s people clearly struggled and a major reason why was the Holy Spirit, or permanent indwelling lack thereof (grammar check, please!). Without the Spirit to impel them to fruitfulness, many of the Hebrews Ch.11’s “hall of faith” were pretty spotty (re: Jepthah).

This is why it is so significant that Jeremiah says:

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer 31:31-41)

This is made possible only by the coming of the Spirit, foretold in more detail by the prophet Joel. The coming of the Spirit would enable God’s people to obey Him. Where the history of Israel shows the inability of man to please God, the “New Covenant” (Jer 31) promises that someday, God Himself will perfectly repair the relationship, through the Spirit.

Here’s your teaser for next week’s post” Are you a Judges “christian” or a church age “Christian”?

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Majoring on the Minors: Pt.1

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness and relenting of evil.”

-Joel 2:12-13

Rend your heart and not your garments. As I have been working through the minor prophets recently, several key themes have jumped out at me. One of them is the subject of repentance. True repentance. Biblical repentance. Through all of Israel’s cycles of sin and return, God continually pleads with the nation to return to Him. Most, if not every one of the prophets make this demand of God’s people, the exceptions being a book like Nahum in which God is pronouncing final judgement on Nineveh for its gross, unrepentant sin. Over and over again God calls the nation of Israel to return to Him and certainly none of what the nation has done over the centuries has satisfied God’s demands.

This brings us to the subject of repentance, and its bookend, obedience. The repentance that God commands is not one of perpetual resolve and subsequent defeat that is the product of effort in the flesh. instead, God commands us by the power of His Spirit to cease from sin, and put off the deeds of the flesh since the old man has already been crucified.

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” -2 Cor 7:9-10
When our sin continually haunts us, we must conclude one of two things:

1.) As Christians we are using the power of our flesh which is in fact our deceiving enemy, and failing to use the power of the indwelling Spirit through prayer and the knowledge of His Word.

OR

2.) We are not Christians and lack spiritual power to effect real change. Inability to repent reveals our need to be saved.

This is the crisis that Israel faced as Joel wrote his prophecy: That The nation’s unbelief was revealed by their perpetual failure to finally repent of their sin. Ultimately He will pour out His Spirit upon them (Jer 31), enabling their obedience as HE has foreshadowed in the Spirit’s ministry to the Church. Until then, they will continue in their unbelief just as the Gentile unbeliever drowns in his sown sin.

The bookend of repentance, as mentioned before, is true obedience; obedience of the heart. Rend your heart, and not your garments,” the Lord says. He is not satisfied with outward obedience. As the 2 Cor 7 passage continues to say in v11, spirit-born repentance yields spiritual fruit. Israel was guilty of keeping up appearances, going through the routine. They would engage in superficial acts of grief over their sin (i.e. the rending of garments) but they wouldn’t submit themselves wholly to God. Unfortunately for them, for God “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22). Spirit born repentance yields fruit, not merely cessation from sin.

I find this passage from Joel to be a troubling one because it calls me to do more than go to church, read my Bible, and pray. It is easy to do just that. God wan’t so much more. He is not satisfied with struggle because He has given power for victory. He has not commissioned a painting, but created a living, breathing thing. He is not satisfied with hiring employees because He has adopted us as sons. He will not accept mediocrity because HE has sacrificed His greatest treasure, His son.

So weep and mourn over your sin. Be sick about it, but be done with it. Don’t play with your sin, rather deal with it.

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