There were two issues that it took me some time to come to terms with after I became a Christian. Having been a dispensationalist, the first was to get over my unbiblical understanding of eschatology (But that is an issue that I’ll save for a later post). The other was an issue that seemed small on the surface. It was just something that annoyed me. But when I came to understand the nature of the scriptures and the doctrines of grace, I saw this as being a much larger issue. In fact, it was a gospel issue, and absolutely worth our time, our understanding, and our scrutiny. I’m talking about ‘altar calls’.
I struggled with this issue for a time after my conversion, but I quickly came to realize that my own pride was what was causing all my confusion. I thought, ‘clearly I must have the will to chose God or not, right?’ But, I was never looking in the scriptures to see what God says about how free my will really is. When I finally did, I was shocked. The bible is more than clear on this issue. While there are several passages of scripture which speak of the will of men, there are none which claim that this will is free. Unfortunately, many see the very presence of will at all as implying its own freedom. And therefore, we invite men to come to the altar, and choose.
So, let me just state this as clearly as I can. The gospel is not an invitation,.. it is a revelation!
But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:5
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
Maybe it’s our American heritage, and our “Land of the Free” mentality that coaxes us into believing that a life without freedom is a life that isn’t worth having… Hogwash!! Personally, I pray for the day that I can say, as the New Testament writers do, that I am a bondservant of Jesus Christ. That my will might be conformed to His will and that all my steps will walk in His truth. Now, that is a hope that won’t be fully realized until Christ returns, but the desire is still there. And it’s a far cry from the New Hampshire motto of “Live Free Or Die”.
The Christian life is one of submission, and it’s one that we’re all called to. Submission to God, submission to Christ, submission to the influence of the Holy Spirit, submission to the word, submission to our elders, submission to our husbands and wives, submission to one another, submission to our employers, submission to our authorities; we are called to a life of submission, not freedom.
Let me put it this way. I drive around a lot for my job. And on occasion, I’ll spot a dog on the side of the road. A stray. Being the huge dog lover that I am, I pull right over, in the hopes that I can find a collar with a tag so that I can call whatever number I find, and get this dog back with its owner. Of course, this all hinges on one very important thing. Whether or not I can get the dog to come to me.
But how do you call a stray dog? Do you invite him to come with you? Do you suggest it? I would hope not. Dogs are domesticated animals. They respond to commands. You may say it softly, but you say ‘Come’. The same way you’d call your own dog to you. ‘Come’, ‘Come here’! Then, there’s the moment of truth. Will the dog recognize your authority, or not?
If I call a dog, and he’s willing to submit, and come to me, then I’ll take care of him, and take him home. If not, then he’s left to world as he was before I got there. He can go any way he wants, but he won’t be cared for, and he won’t get home. I would equate it to Joshua’s words to Israel, shortly before his death.
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
It’s just like when Jesus spoke saying, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it (Matthew 7:13). That’s freedom. You can pick any way to hell you want. That is the extent of your free will. Which is ironic, when you consider the motto we brought up earlier. The motto that I’ve seen on flags and T-shirts, and even tattooed on the occasional arm. “Live Free Or Die”,.. when the truth is, if you’re living free, you’re already dead.
God has told us, that when He calls, you will respond as your heart allows. But we are not in control of our own hearts. We either respond with the hearts of stone that we were born with, or we respond with the broken hearts of flesh that were given to us by God’s grace.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born , not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.
Case closed! It amazes me that we would even have to go past this passage since it completely describes the source of salvation by distinguishing the will of God from the will of man. Yet, time and time again, those who believe that man has free will put the emphasis on the wrong words. They’ll slow down at the words ‘Received’ and ‘Believe’, not even putting two and two together. Those who received ARE those who believed, who ARE those who are born; and they ARE those born of God, not the will of man.
But do we have any other place we can go to more fully describe this process of being born? Oh that’s right, just a couple of pages forward in John 3. And let’s take a moment to remember that chapter numbers and passage divisions were not in the original scriptures, so this connection of birth spoken of in John 1 is the exact same birth spoken of in John 3. There is nothing to indicate that the term means anything different over the course of two chapters, or even throughout the rest of the scriptures. The analogy of birth is consistently used to illustrate our entrance into our new life as new creatures.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Unless we are born again, BORN OF GOD, we cannot enter or even see the kingdom of God. The same way we were born in the flesh, against our will, completely dependent on God. So too were we brought into the kingdom of God, through Faith.
Oh, if only there were some scriptural assurance of God’s sovereignty that could give us comfort that our own free will is just a fabrication invented by the enemy…
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.
But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him that forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? Woe who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth’?
All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?”
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
For with God nothing will be impossible.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Please hear those words. Read them again. Read them carefully. Know that God is indeed sovereign and in complete control. Don’t burden yourselves with the fruits of pride and your own petty need for control. Submit to your Lord and rest your cares on Him. He is calling you, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Come. Sit. Stay.