Monday, June 20, 2011

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Born Again 8: An Act of the Will

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As I considered Sharon's journey toward Christ, two issues were foremost in my mind. First, I needed to give her some helpful guidance in approaching Scripture. Her last note about feeling discouraged and "flipping to a page" reminded me how big and mystifying the Bible can be to someone who doesn't know it well. I decided to give advice on three issues: what books to read first, finding a good study Bible, and what to do when you're confused. Those were three things that I remember needing help understanding when it was all new.
If you're looking for something to just sit down and read, I might suggest this ... start with John and then just keep going ... Acts, Romans, etc. You'll find much to challenge and encourage you, and probably plenty that you don't understand. But that's fine ... just say, "God, please reveal to me what this means when I'm ready" and keep right on going.

Also, you might think about picking up a nice "study Bible" if you don't have one. I personally am a fan of the NIV Study Bible, because it's clear and easy to understand and has lots of helpful notes, but is also very reliable and true to the original meaning. It can really be a help!
 
The other issue involved how to move Sharon from inquiry to decision-making. More than anything I wanted her to make an informed and sincere decision to follow Jesus. It was time to start talking about acts of the will.
I once saw a video that depicted a person struggling with whether to follow Christ. He was trying to come to terms with 3 things: his intellect, his emotions, and his will. I think this is helpful, because we all fight through our objections, but it's helpful to know where those objections come from. Are they intellectual, are they emotional, or do we just not want to make a decision?
Figuring out where our objections come from can help us to figure out what we need to do next.
This all seemed very wise and perceptive to me, but as the old saying goes, "Man plans, God laughs". Indeed, God was about to move things along in His own way ... a way I had not contemplated. He would remind me once again that His salvation relies on His work, not on my cleverness.  For that you'll have to wait for the next chapter!

In the meantime, suffice it to say that this unexpected turn would mark the confluence of two competing theological understandings: the role of "free will" as opposed to God's sovereignty in saving the sinner. To me, this has gradually ceased to be such a great dilemma. Man does indeed choose to follow God, of course, but only because God chose him first. From man's perspective, his choice is very real and wholly "free".  However, because his unregenerate will is enslaved to sin, Scripture makes it clear that God's intervention is required to enable man to choose Him. Or, as I have blogged previously:

The tension between predestination and free will is real, but exacerbated by the limits of our human understanding. To many of us, to accept the idea of predestination would seem to reduce us to mere automatons. To be sure there is mystery here, but choice is not a zero-sum game. The Bible clearly teaches that God foreknew, predestined and then called me, but it also clearly places upon me the responsibility of choosing to "Repent and believe the good news." God chooses, and I also choose ... both are true without diminishing the other, in the same way that my body occupies physical space without in any way reducing the amount of space left available for the omnipresent God to occupy.
(For more on this subject, please see my entire post at "Predestined to Write This?")

This concept is difficult to grasp at first, but it is also wonderfully freeing to the evangelist. My wisdom, advice, concern and prayers may be useful to Sharon, but only God's sovereign will and action would be decisive.   Put more simply, I couldn't be smart enough to pull this off or dumb enough to screw it up, because it really wasn't up to me.

Next:  Born Again 9:  Jesus Without Religion

3 comments:

  1. I completely understand what you mean when you say that the Bible is a big book to anyone who is unfamiliar with it. Even as a Christian, I sometimes find myself stumbling through its pages searching for strength, comfort or answers. Such was the inspiration for my book, "There's a Verse for That." It is a guide to finding verses that offer encouragement when you're afraid, confused or worried. I have nearly worn out my copy, but it's been such a blessing to me.

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  2. Finally caught up and now must wait...

    I like the suspense, though, especially since it is all about God in the end and not about our cleverness! Looking forward to the next installment!!

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  3. Thanks for the post Raymond. I am now "following" your Blog and enjoyed your post "Born Again: An Act of the Will". I look forward to this continuing series. God bless....

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