Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Malachi 3:3

I received a forward today from my best friend. I've read it before, but it's a great analogy and I wanted to share.

Malachi 3:3 says:

"He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study. That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says:"He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it."

If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Monday, March 2, 2009

God's Sovereignty vs. Man's Responsibility

In recent weeks, I have been wrestling to reconcile God’s sovereignty to human responsibility. God’s sovereignty is declared throughout the Bible (Luke 18:27 and 1:37, John 3:27 and 6:44 and 15:16, Ephesians 1:4-5). However, the Bible is also clear that man has the ability to make choices and is, consequently, responsible for those choices (Genesis 3, Proverbs 22:8 and 14:23 and 6:32 and 11:18, Hosea 10:12, Job 4:8…and the list goes on). But where do these two truths intersect? How does God’s control not supersede the free will of man? It seems, at first glance, that one can not believe both of these biblical truths. That for one to be true, the other must be false. After all, if God is sovereign over man’s actions, how can man be blamed for his sin? If God is sovereign, why do we make choices? Why try to be good? Why pray? Why evangelize?

It occurred to me that this attitude of indifferent fatalism – the view that God controls everything, therefore we can do nothing – is flawed and logically impossible, for “doing nothing” is a choice within itself! When presented with alternatives, which we constantly are, we are forced to make a choices. If someone offers me a red shirt or a blue shirt, there are four possible results: the red shirt, the blue shirt, both or neither. Even refusing to make the decision, resulting in neither shirt, is a choice in and of itself. Therefore, it is impossible not to make choices and I cannot use God’s sovereignty as justification to sin.

Furthermore, because we must choose to either live righteously or live immorally, we can’t conclude that God’s sovereignty would logically lead to a sinful life instead of a godly one.

Christians do not pray in an effort to coerce or control God, but rather as an expression of one’s own inadequacy and dependency on God. If God is sovereign and predestines, then perhaps the prayer is just as much predestined as is the outcome of that prayer. Furthermore, God has graciously invited us into a relationship with Him which can only be fostered through prayer. God commands us to pray (1 Thes. 5:17) and so it was modeled to us by Christ (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:15-16). If Jesus, who is God, prayed to His Father, how much more do I need to be in prayer with my Father?

In order for me to understand the purpose that evangelism serves, I must first understand what evangelism is not. First, evangelism is not man convincing others of God’s existence. Rather it is God who opens and softens our heart to him, for apart from God, man is willfully ignorant of these things (2 Peter 3:5). Second, evangelism is not persuading man of his sinfulness. Again, it is God himself who convicts man of his sin. Lastly, we cannot convince man of his need for faith in the Savior. We can speak of our own experiences and the importance of Christ in our lives, but it is God alone who births these works in man. Although we cannot, by our own merit, bring others to Christ, we can be used as tools to lead unbelievers to Christ (1 Cor 3:6-8). God commands us in Scripture to evangelize (Matt 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, 1 Thes. 2:4) and offers us guidance on what this looks like. First, we should participate in intercessory prayer for other’s (Ezekiel 22:30-31, Exodus 32:7-14). Second, we must live out our faith, being an example for others. We are Christ’s ambassadors and have the opportunity to show other’s Christ through our behavior (2 Corinthians 5:20). Lastly, we must verbally share our faith (1 Peter 3:15, Matt 28:19-20).

J.I. Packer stated as the root cause for rejecting the validity of these two truths, “a reluctance to recognize the existence of mystery and to let God be wiser than men, and a consequent subjecting of Scripture to the supposed demands of human logic.” After much research and prayer, I have concluded that, though I do not completely understand the subject of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, I will not let it destroy my peace. God has revealed to us, through His word, all that we need to know (Deuteronomy 29:29). The rest is for Him to know. God spoke through his prophet Isaiah, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9). Not only will I not let it destroy my peace, but I will (try to) delight in God’s mystery. Who am I to understand the holy God?