Monday, December 04, 2006

The Sovereignty of God

Over the last 3 years or so, my doctrine has changed radically. Though I have named the name of Christ since I was five years old, I’ve had a major shift in vision during this brief last three years. Maybe I should back up a bit to tell the story.

In 2002, my sister-in-law who had Down Syndrome was diagnosed with cancer. I believe it was liver cancer, though I’m not sure. She went downhill fast, with about six months elapsing between the initial diagnosis and her death. At this point in my Christian walk, we were involved in a charismatic church. As I am wont to do, I also read numerous resources associated with our stated beliefs. I listened to other charismatic preachers. I say that to say that I may not have gotten this mindset completely from our church at the time, but I was at least influenced in this way of thinking by this theology. I am not disparaging these teachers, though I no longer agree with them. To clarify, my understanding of this teaching was that God has provided for all our healing. Satan is committed to bringing sickness on us all. Therefore, all we needed to do to get our healing is to have faith, reach out, and “take” it. Christ has already provided for healing on the cross, according to Isaiah 53:5. Well, here I was watching my sister-in-law die a death stretched out over 6 months, and all I could see were my in-laws preparing for the worst. This devastated me because I had known Lori since she was 7 years old. She was 21 at this time. She had been like a little sister to me. In my way of thinking, the devil was attacking her and we needed to stand strong and “claim” her healing. I said some things that I later regretted, because in my theological system all I saw was a “lack of faith” exhibited by her family.

2002 was a hard year. In addition to her sister, my wife also lost her grandmother, and I lost a grandmother as well. I didn’t blame God in all this. But I also didn’t see His hand at work in it either.

Meanwhile, my children were growing older. I could see that my daughter was quickly approaching youth group age at our church. Through at least one source, and I believe several sources, I found the ministry of Vision Forum. They have some excellent teachings on the hazards of the “Christian” youth culture. I began to listen to tapes and read books on parenting according to Christian principles. We were blessed in that a majority of our church homeschooled. Yet, when it came to worship, the whole church seemed to love the age segregated model.

To make a long story short, I had some other friends in Nashville who I met with at least weekly to do ministry at a local Planned Parenthood facility. I rarely “did ministry” with others from my church (though we did do a bit of street evangelism periodically). It was difficult to ever get any of them to join me at the abortuary for a time of prayer and passing out of literature. God was leading all of us (my friends and I) in a direction of Reformed Theology. We didn’t all approach it in the same manner. Yet, all of us were shown the truths of the Doctrines of Grace. I listened to an audiobook entitled The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink. I secured a printed copy and passed it on to the associate pastor at our church. He read through part of it and quickly dismissed it. I also began to realize that the senior pastor consistently preached an Arminian message, though he never called it that.

Through a series of events we ended up attending Reformed Baptist Church of Nashville for several months during the transition year of 2005 before our short move to Dallas, followed by our permanent move to Oklahoma.

The short of it is that I have come to realize the greatness of the Sovereignty of God. There is nothing that happens outside His control. When my sister-in-law passed away in 2002, it wasn’t that Satan “won this battle” as I had thought previously. Rather, God, in His Providence, and for purposes which I don’t understand “took her home.” God did it Himself, whether directly, or by using Satan as His puppet. It doesn’t matter. Satan can not thwart God’s will. This realization has shook me to the core and shaken up many of the old ideas that I once believed.

God reigns supreme. His Word is 100% accurate and true. He can be trusted to fulfill His promises, but He has never promised we would never have to endure sickness. That is a charismatic misinterpretation of the scriptures.

It all begins to make sense when you consider that if it is always God’s will for us to be healed, and we aren’t healed, then God failed. God never fails. Therefore we know that His will is always accomplished. Who are we to feebly attempt to thwart His will?

Likewise, God is sovereign over the salvation of man. For those who advocate a “free will” as the determining factor in salvation, they greatly exaggerate the importance of man in this decision. The scripture says we are dead in sin. Dead men do not respond to the Gospel. It is only when our spirit is resurrected by God Himself that we ever respond to His call.

I can now approach life with a brand new attitude. I need not fear death, for I know that I will not die until the day God has appointed for me to die. What’s more is that if God has appointed me to die on a particular day, there is nothing I can do to stop it. When I or my family is sick, I pray for the grace of God that they are healed. Yet, if they are healed, God gets the glory, not me for reaching out and “taking” it. If they are not healed, but get over it gradually, then I accept that as God’s will. If they are healed through the hands of doctors, then I can accept God’s sovereign will in that area too.

God is sovereign over the blessing of children. Who is man to deliberately try and stop God’s blessing of children? Sure, God can override man’s feeble attempts and give a child in spite of birth control. However, how much better it is when we freely surrender this area of our lives to His control as well, knowing that He is a much better judge of knowing the number of children we should raise.

I challenge you to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in every area of your life. Live your life according to the scriptures. Share the Gospel with those you come in contact with. Pray for your sick loved ones. Pray for your unsaved loved ones. Having obeyed His commands, leave the results to God. For He controls it all anyway. He is much better at bringing His results to pass than we are.


Ken Hurst said...

It is good. You are now getting it despite the charismatic church you belonged to. God is in control and you are a living testament. now you can live that live unto Christ and be and example of gods grace. God provides for his truth.

Ken Hurst

Eric said...

In a theological system dominated by God's sovereignty what is the "Good News"? Can you look at anyone and say without hesitation, "Christ died for you"? If that is not the "Gospel," what is?

Mike Southerland said...

The Gospel is this:

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
(Act 16:31)

This is as true today as it was in the day that Paul and Silas declared it unto the prison guards. This is a glorious truth! The Bible is clear that all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ *will* be saved. Only the elect will believe. Only those whom the Father has drawn will be saved.

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
(Joh 6:44)

Nowhere in scripture do you see Paul walking up to someone and declaring blindly, “Christ died for you.” If I’m wrong, please give me the scripture reference, and I will admit my fault. Rather, the Gospel message is one of conditions. The proper response for the sinner to repent is only possible through the drawing of the Spirit. In our flesh, we despise and reject him 100% of the time.

Eric said...

I posted a response on my blog.

Mike Southerland said...

Here is the response I just posted on Eric's blog. Feel free to read it there or here.
Thank you Eric for this conversation. Let me state for the record that it is a glorious thing for fellow believers to discuss such topics of spiritual matters. Not many who call themselves Christians desire to take the time to discuss these matters of great importance.

Most likely, I am very similar to you politically. I would *never* vote for Hillary Clinton for many, many reasons. That is a conversation for another blog, I'm afraid. What I failed to grasp, though, is how the leap in logic from Hillary Clinton to Jesus Christ occurs. I would not vote for Hillary even if she did "promise me the world." The Bible says it is a curse for women to rule over us. (Is 3:12) Her gender alone disqualifies her from this very important position of leadership. Secondly, some of the liberal politicians *are* attempting to "advocate some good policy initiative" in order to win the Christian vote. I, for one, will not be fooled regardless of their election year claims.

You claim, "How are you going to trust Jesus Christ if you don’t need anything from him? How are you going to trust Jesus Christ if he died for some, but not all? If Jesus died for all, then we have good news to share with a lost and dying world. If Jesus died for some, all we have to offer is, MAYBE."

We all have need of Him. Scripture tells us that "all have sinned and have fallen short of the Glory of God." The problem is that we don't all realize that we need Him. Because of Adam's imputed sin, we are blinded to our need. We are all running headlong away from God and directly to destruction. Unless we are drawn of the Father, we will never strive to enter His Kingdom. The Bible is clear that all who believe will be saved. So, your theoretical "maybe" is unfounded. There is never one who repents and turns to Christ that Christ will reject. We would both agree on that, I hope. The difference is, "What caused that sinner to repent and turn to Christ?" It is certainly not his own righteousness. It is only Christ's elect that will ever have any desire to come unto Him.

Consider this quandry. Does an infinitely just God require double payment for sin? I think not. Next question: Is every last man, woman, and child who has ever lived "saved?" In other words, will *any* human in any age ever enter hell? I'd say the answer to these questions are No and Yes respectively. If you agree with that then this will make sense. If you disagree, then you have embraced a theology of universalism, which we can debate on another thread. So, assuming you are not a universalist, let's pick a couple of downright evil people for examples. How about Pharoah (for a biblical example) and Hitler (for a modern day example). I'm reasonably sure that both of these guys are burning in hell today. Would you agree? Now, if Christ died "for them," why are they being punished? After all, God is just and will only require a one time payment for their sins, regardless of their crimes. If Christ paid for their sin, and now they are paying for it again, then the Father is requiring double payment from them.

Next it conceivable in a "free will" theology, that not a single person would ever choose Christ? Now I know that you would say that this has not happened, for we see at least scriptural examples of believers. However, in theory, every last person on Earth could have rejected Christ. In this case, there is the possibility that Christ would have died in vain. It is possible that His death would have secured the salvation of "no one." Is this a claim you are willing to make?

I'll end with this quote by John Owen in his work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ:

God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the
pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: "If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?"
Ps.130:3. We might all go to cast all that we have "to the moles and to the bats, to go into the
clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of
his majesty," Isa. 2:20, 21. If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why, then, an not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, "Because of their unbelief, they will not
believe." But this unbelief, is it a sin or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be,
then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them
more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.

The Schaubing Blogk said...

Wierd. Eric found my blog a while ago and has been debating me on baptism. Then I independently (from laf) find Mikes blog... and find you two debating here.

Keep up the good work Mike. I have added you as a link on my blog.