||2018-08-23 21:03:07, 조회 : 132, 추천 : 43
| Rediscovering God's Love|
Part 1 - Chapter 2 - No Hidden Charges
Truly we have been blessed tremendously to be able to be here once again! No days are promised, and yet through God’s grace we have been blessed to have another day and to continue with our book, Rediscovering God’s Love, by the author, Frank Allred. And we look at chapter 2, No Hidden Charges.
The author begins our chapter today with verses coming from Ephesians 2: 8 – 9:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.”
As it was hinted, our first topic of today is that God’s Gifts Are Free. Now, to some of you this may sound redundant. As we know, usually, gifts are free, and by definition is done freely. No one gives a gift to a person and expects something in return, right? Well, we know that to not be true – unfortunately, we see it many times during Christmas time or a person’s birthday. We think, “I’ll get them a gift because they got me a gift,” and yes – I’m guilty of it too. We go even further then to analyze the value of that gift in order to see how much we should spend on our gift to them. If we find out that they spent very little we might return a cheap gift and if we find out that they spend a lot then we might return an expensive gift as well.
While this is frowned upon many of us – in a very weird way – God expects us to do so with His gift. When God gives to us His gifts, He expects that we take the time to understand and appreciate the value of the gift that was given. And it is when we do that we uncover that there are no hidden agendas or charges or ulterior motives. They are completely free and undeserved. And yet, it would be a serious mistake to assume that God looks for nothing in return, because the purpose of all His gifts is to bring glory to Himself, because He is God. As we learn from Romans 1:21, a failure to give God the glory for whatever the gift may be is sin. Moreover, all the ability that sinners need to give glory to God for his goodness and grace is given freely to those whom He chooses – as we learn from 1 Corinthians 10:31.
To avoid the possibility of dispute, the terms of a legal agreement between humans are always carefully worded. There must be no ambiguity and every single detail must be agreed upon. Whenever we enter such an agreement we are strongly advised to read the terms very carefully, including the small sprint, so that we know exactly where we stand. The terms of God’s agreement with us in the gospel is in the Holy Scriptures, which is the instrument that God uses to give us His spiritual gifts.
Failure to understand this point is one of the many reasons why so many Christians have lost their distinctive witness and their effectiveness during evangelism. This is also one of the main reasons why so many of us fail to see that the focus of Satan’s attack is to destroy our confidence in God’s free grace. Furthermore, this has forced many of us to forget that we are certainly the most privileged people in the world.
As some of you may know, doctrines, in general, have been seen as unpopular now. It is seen to divide more than to unite Christians, which has led many people to believe that doctrine isn’t needed. However, we also know that the prevailing uncertainty about what is truth is being effectively used as a tool to prosper the cause of a bogus unity – a unity that is either based on the shifting sands of experience or on the flimsy framework of deliberate ambiguous statements of belief, rather than the solid rock truth.
However, what Jesus has called for us to unite under is very different than what contemporaries Christians might be selling on the street. This is seen in the perfect harmony that pervades the relationship between the Father and the Son, found in John 17:21: “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
As Evangelicals we should never allow ourselves to be influenced by those who think doctrinal clarity is not important. The gratuitous nature of God’s precious gifts – repentance, faith, forgiveness, assurance of eternal life, and so many more – is not up for debate for the simple reason that the gospel as God has revealed it is not up for debate.
The Priority of Grace
In order for us to understand the significance of this dividing line between Christianity and other religions, we need to be clear in our minds what the word ‘grace’ really means when used of God. It refers to his undeserved favor to sinful and helpless human beings. We may think of it as God’s love in action to save sinners where the case is otherwise hopeless. But we need also to understand that divine grace did not merely make it possible for sinners to be saved as if it is still the sinner who puts the final touches by choosing to trust in Christ. Divine grace always achieves its objective without assistance from anyone.
The Westminster Confession defines the grace of God as “God, having predestine certain people to eternal life, he effectually calls them out of spiritual death, renewing their hearts and wills, and giving them the power to do what is right. He achieves this, not by forcing them to believe, but by enlightening their minds and making them more than willing to believe.” It also adds that “This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed by it.”
This is never popular with sinful human beings and even Christian sinful human beings. The idea that we cannot contribute anything to our salvation goes against the grain. It is not uncommon for those who claim to be believers to protest. They argue, “are there not clear statements in the Bible that say God is found only by those who earnestly seek him?” Indeed this is what is said clearly in the Bible. Jeremiah 29:13 reads, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” The writer to the Hebrews confirms this in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Even Jesus says it in Matthew 7: 7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened.” Now, we do not doubt for a moment that God rewards those who seek him. If it were not true, who would ever find him? We have cause to thank God that he has promised never to disappoint those who have a deep longing to know him.
“Ah-ha!” you may say – a contradiction! But when we understand the verses we see that these precious promises do not contradict the priority of God’s love and grace. If God had left us alone then we would NEVER seek him. Psalm 14:2-3 reads, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek after God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” And Apostle Paul states, in Romans 3: 9-17, that this inability to seek after God is a universal human condition. In Hebrews too, it states that it is impossible for anyone to seek after God until faith is born in the heart. And faith, far from being the proper use of our natural reason, is God’s gift. Ephesians 2:8 reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Indeed, it is through hearing precious promises about God like the ones just quoted, that God creates faith in the human heart.
If the Bible taught that we all have a natural ability to seek God and that he is found by those who have the good sense to use it, then Christianity would certainly be a religion of merit like the rest. But it does no such thing. On the contrary, it teaches that since faith is a love-gift from God, no one ever seeks after God except those on whom he has already set his love.
The Futility of Human Effort
Although this whole time we have stated that human effort is ineffective in achieving our salvation, it would be extremely foolish for the reader to conclude that he does not have a responsibility to seek after God. It is read in Isaiah 5:6, “Seek the LORD while he may be found.” And that is a command, and God’s commands put all who hear them under an obligation to obey. In which then we may be faced with another objection: “How can God put sinners under an obligation to obey if he does not give them the power to do so? Would it not be unjust to issue the command if no one has a natural ability to obey it?”
To put the objection into focus we need to remember that God demands obedience to all his commands, the greatest of which, according to Jesus are these two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Two things are immediately obvious: first, no useful purpose would be served if God issued his commandments with his tongue in his cheek as if he were not really demanding obedience after all. Secondly, anyone who thinks this is an attainable standard – or even worse, claims to have observed it – is fooling no one but himself. But the good news is this: God will hear the cry of those who plead for mercy – those who freely acknowledge their inability to do what he requires – and he will come to their aid. Not only so, but he will also continue to open their hearts to his love.
Unfortunately, many churches today see his love as universal in the sense that anyone in the world may enter into a relationship with him if only they will make the effort. They also see God’s love as being altogether idle until the sinner has the sense to respond to it. Only then does it become active. For them, the worldly idea that “God helps those who help themselves” is invested with an authority that is almost equal to that of the Bible.
It is obvious that in these circumstances, the proclamation of the gospel cannot mean anything more than an advertisement of God’s love, published abroad in the hope that someone somewhere has the sense to reply. Meanwhile, God cannot do anything except wait and hope for a response. Now this is no slight difference of opinion about some secondary doctrine of the faith. It is a fundamental error that strikes at the very heart of the gospel.
Now if this is the case with us, the first thing we need to recognize is that the Scriptures do not support us in our belief. Indeed, this self-centered ‘gospel’ differs from the gospel of the Bible. If this is the gospel we proclaim, we are, in effect, telling people that God will love them only on the condition that they will stir their stumps and start loving him. It is a message of despair. The Bible is emphatic. Love does not begin in the heart of a sinner, but in the heart of God. And his love never fails to achieve its objective.
The conclusion of the matter is this: if God waited for us to respond to his love he would wait forever, The reason being that, as it is said in Romans 8: 7-8, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires… Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” It is easier for sinners to pick themselves up by their bootstraps than to start loving God. God must always make the first move.
1) What does ‘grace’ mean referring to God?
2) What is the difference between merit-based and grace-based concerning Christianity?