John 8:36 – “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
This week marks the United States of America’s 242nd Independence celebration. Freedom is a big deal. The Revolutionary War was fought over this idea of freedom, and specifically the idea of freedom from the tyranny of government. This is why the newborn country of the United States of America drafted her charter documents in such a way as to emphasize the rights and protection of those rights of her citizens. Freedom was such a big deal that some who fought in the Revolutionary War would rather have died as free men than to live under oppression. New Hampshire has as its state motto “Live free or die” as a testament to this concept.
This type of freedom is a good thing, to be sure. Those who have known this type of freedom and have traveled to other countries that don’t have it realize what a benefit it is. Our founding fathers got it right when they identified certain inalienable rights endowed to us by our Creator. This means that all countries in the world shouldrecognize these same rights for their citizens, but not all do. That being said, if we are brutally honest, it is still possible to live in a country where such rights are not afforded or protected, as billions of people now living could attest to.
While freedom from tyrannical governments does have benefits for this life, it affords no perks for life after death. Certainly the environment that is cultivated in a free society might be more conducive for the promulgation of the truth which can lead to eternal life. In other words, a free society with freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression is more likely to find someone who can and will declare the truth of the Gospel than a society that stifles such speech. This isn’t to say that the Gospel can’t go forward in a closed society – simply look at the growth of the church behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970s and 1980s, or the explosion of the church under Mao’s Communist China where it was illegal to speak of Christianity or to practice it. We can safely say that political freedom is not the same as true biblical freedom.
The Bible speaks of freedom, but we should never make the mistake of thinking that this is the same freedom as that which we enjoy in this country. The freedom that is spoken of in the Scriptures and offered is available to all the people of the world, in every country free or not. Jesus said in John 8:36 – “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” What freedom is He talking about?
To answer this question we need merely to look two verses prior. In Jn. 8:34 Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” The bondage that Jesus addresses is a bondage to sin. Therefore, the freedom that is offered is freedom from the bondage of sin. This is true freedom. This is the freedom that is available to every man, woman, and child across the globe: freedom from sin. And, this is humanity’s biggest need. In verse 34 when Jesus says “everyone who practices sin…” he doesn’t mean that there are some who don’t. No. The Bible makes it very clear that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 3:23). The biggest problem facing humanity is indeed a bondage or slavery problem. The issue is that most are content to live in this form of slavery and don’t even seek to be free. As fallen image bearers, we love our sin. Only when we realize that we are accountable for that sin to our Creator who is Holy and knows no sin does this become an issue.
Bondage to sin first needs to be recognized. And once it is recognized then comes the realization the we are powerless to remedy the situation ourselves. Our sin makes us guilty before God and places us in the path of His wrath. This is why Paul, as he contemplated the succinct gospel message of 1 Tim. 1:15 – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” said that when it was applied to him, he received mercy (1 Tim. 1:16). Mercy is the withholding of that which is deserved. Once he recognized his sin, he recognized that he stood in the path of God’s wrath. We all do.
The salvation of sinners that Jesus offers is salvation from sin, or as He states it in Jn. 8:36 – freedom. Jesus alone can offer freedom from the bondage of sin. Jesus alone can set you free. And, if He sets you free, you will truly be free: free from the bondage of sin. This is a freedom worth celebrating!
False teachers have been around literally as long as the fall of man. There will always be someone around who tries to twist or pervert the Word of God. The problem with false teachers is that they don’t announce that they are false teachers and they often sound spiritual, so it can be tempting to be led away. Have you ever wondered how they got to be that way?
The Apostle Paul addresses false teachers in his first letter to Timothy, the young pastor of the church at Ephesus. After his greeting the Apostle gets right down to business in 1 Tim. 1:3 – “…charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” Later in the first chapter Paul will call out two people by name, but here he doesn’t. This is most likely because Paul believes that there is still some hope to see them come around. That Paul would instruct Timothy to charge them not to teach different doctrine means that these people are doing just that, which is cause for grave concern. Part of the problem is that these people are “devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote endless speculation” (1 Tim. 1:4). One should note that these myths and genealogies are no doubt Scripture-based and would be akin to modern day numerology studies where people claim to be able to decrypt messages that are hidden in the Bible.
1 Tim. 1:5 serves as an important verse for two reasons. First, Paul tells Timothy the why behind the instruction to confront these teachers. It isn’t that Paul is filled with hubris, nor should Timothy be. But rather, the aim this charge true, selfless love (the highest form – agape) which finds its source in three areas:
What you need to know about those three nouns is that they are all feminine, singular, and genitive in the Greek. What all that means is not as important to the conversation at hand, but it must be noted in order to answer the question at hand. Remember, we are asking how a false teacher gets to be that way.
These “certain persons” come up again in 1 Tim. 1:6 and are therefore the same people referenced in 1:3. Paul says that they, “by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussions.” The these in view is a Greek relative pronoun (ὧν) that… you guessed it… is feminine, plural, and genitive. Each of the nouns of 1:5 is singular, but just as with English grammar, referring to a group, one would naturally use the plural. The point is that there is no other referent to which this relative pronoun can be tied. This actually answers our question!
A false teacher, at the beginning, is teaching from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. In other words, they're not false teachers. This is how people begin to follow them. So what happens after that?
The verb in question is translated “swerve” – to depart from. It tells us what they did, but not necessarily how it happened. Let us pause for a moment and consider this. From a practical standpoint, what would cause a person to depart from a pure heart and a sincere faith, to depart from sound teaching and the Gospel itself? That answer is also supplied in the text – for it is the TEXT ITSELF. Once we depart from the Word we open ourselves up to all sorts of the problems, prime among them, the departure from the cleansing and keeping power of the Word in our lives. It is the Word of God informs us of the picture of a pure heart. It is the Word of God that guides us to having a good conscience before God; and finally, it is the Word of God that guards and informs our sincere faith! So, what would tempt us away from the Word? Something that holds interest like the Word, but isn’t the Word.
To answer this we look at the next action in the verse which is that they “wandered away.” It might seem, at first read that they did this as a part of their “swerving.” However, upon closer examination we find that this verb is passive – that is to say, the action is being done by another party to the false teachers. Remember, it would be something that would hold the interest like the Word would but isn’t the Word. This would probably be myths and genealogies, as well as vain discussions that are no doubt spiritual, but lacking the substance of the Word. Spending too long on these without a steady diet of the Word is surely a recipe for false teaching.
This leads us to ponder who/what is doing the active leading when holding a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith. I would say that it is the Spirit, through the Word that is leading us (we are passively being led) “toward the mark of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” – Phil. 3:14.
When the Spirit, through the Word is not leading you, you will be led astray. Nothing else can keep you on the mark of the truth and aimed straight at the target! So then, beloved, let us hold fast to the Word; be steeped in the Word, and constantly praying for wisdom from God through His Spirit each and every time we open the Word so that we may not be in danger of becoming a false teacher.
Soli Deo Gloria!
“He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.” - Psalm 102:17
In the wake of the school shooting that took place yesterday in Parkland, FL I would like to offer some thoughts on prayer as well as ponder some of the deeper reasons behind the “why?” that so many are asking at this time.
First, prayer. Lately the fashionable reaction to Christians or even deists who offer prayers for the families and victims of horrible events is mockery. Social media political and philosophical couch warriors are never wanting for words when someone states that they are praying. The gist of their mockery is that prayer essentially does nothing. In our meme culture this has been represented recently by portraying King Théoden of Rohan (in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) receiving the news that “Gondor calls for aid” to which he imaginarily replies with “My thoughts and prayers are with Gondor. Sending positive energy their way.” This popular sentiment and meme also introduce another disturbing element, namely that our thoughts are roughly equivalent to that of prayers.
To those who don’t believe that God exists, or more accurately, have worked to suppress the knowledge of His existence (cf. Rom. 1:18; Ps. 14:1), they may derive some comfort from the idea that others are thinking about them in the midst of a trial. However, our thoughts do exactly nothing. This is a phrase that I have personally grown weary of hearing, especially from Christians who profess to believe not only that God exists, but also that the Bible is His inspired Word. This is nothing more than mysticism, with the idea that we can somehow connect with the galactic energy of the universe and channel our thoughts along some pathway to someone else. Our thoughts do nothing.
Prayer, on the other hand, is different. Prayer really does have the ability to affect change. This process is mysterious even to the most learned Bible scholar. Bypassing most of surrounding arguments the simple fact of the matter is that Christians are commanded to pray. “I desire then that in every place the men should pray” (1 Tim. 2:8). This was a foundational element of the corporate worship of the early Church (Acts 2:42). The disciples of Jesus saw Him modeling prayer so often that they asked Him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Paul commanded it of the church in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:17). Whatever the mysterious relationship is between our prayers and an omniscient God who has seen the beginning from the end and known every day before one came to be (cf. Ps. 139:16), the simple fact is that God commands us to pray and somehow, when our heart is delighting in God (Ps. 37:4), when we ask, God delights to respond (cf. Mt. 7:7).
Notice the verse at the top of this post: “He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer” (Ps. 102:17). This one is especially applicable in light of yesterday’s tragic events. Why? Because God has said that those who call out to Him in destitution He will take note of and answer. What’s more, specifically for those grieving we have more promises: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). Today, from a national standpoint, can there be anyone more brokenhearted and crushed in spirit than the parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, and friends of those so tragically slain? Why do we pray? We pray because God has said that we should and that He alone has the ability to minister to their souls in a way that none other can. Again, the skeptic would ask – “why?”
As a firm believer in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, that it is the very record of God Himself that He chose to give to the world, I find in the Bible that God to whom I am commanded to pray has revealed Himself as the Eternal (without beginning or end) Creator (the ultimate cause) of all that is (cf. Jn. 1:3). He truly is powerful – the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). Unlike our thoughts which are powerless, He knows all – even our thoughts (Ps. 139:1-4ff)! And when we direct our thoughts and words directly to Him (not to others) this is called prayer and in this act, there is none more powerful to hear and answer! God alone can give true peace in the midst of tragedy. God alone can give eternal hope. To those who died in the knowledge of the Gospel, or good news of Jesus Christ, they were immediately ushered into the joy of the Lord (Mt. 25:21ff.) and for them, it was truly great gain (Phil. 1:21). For those who do not have this knowledge, there is nothing better than that they be exposed to the eternal Good News through this so that no matter what other pain they may suffer in this life, they can know that in the life to follow, there will be no more pain, no more death, no more tears, no more mourning (Rev. 21:4)! That is the power and hope of prayer, and is why we pray!
Back to that meme for a moment. Not only is there mockery of prayer (we already addressed the vacuity of thoughts), but also implied is the need for real action, which is exactly what was being called for by Gondor. May we take a moment to be precise? When applied to a real-world situation, there are important nuances to be made here. Apples to apples, this would be akin to responding to the attack on Pearl Harbor with prayer only. That was truly an act of war that required an immediate and swift military reaction. To be sure, prayers were offered up in the wake of the loss for life and no doubt had profound effect. However, to say that no prayers should be made in light of yesterday’s shooting is simply ignorant and is not truthful with the facts. That act, nor similar ones which preceded it, was not an act of war. Perhaps action is required, but not with the same haste as Pearl Harbor. In this case, in the seconds and minutes and hours and days afterward, prayer is the best action that can be taken by true believers.
As I compose this, Senator Marco Rubio (Republican, FL) was speaking on the Senate floor addressing this. Not long before, President Trump issued some remarks on it as well. Much of the nation is calling for stricter rules, tighter regulations, etc., saying that if only those had been in place, this could have been prevented. I would like to ponder this for just a moment and offer a different perspective from my viewpoint as a Christian.
Let me start with a small vignette. I grew up in Central Oregon and went to high school in the 1990’s. I actually graduated high school a scant few weeks after the tragic Columbine High School shooting. Maybe not as readily recalled by those outside of Oregon was another school shooting which took place the year before, May 21, 1998 in Springfield, OR at the hands of Kip Kinkel, who had savagely murdered his parents before going to the school and killing two more. Up to this point school shootings were not a familiar national category for the average household. The events in Springfield shook us up quite a bit, but we all figured that Kinkel was pretty deranged. In fact, Central Oregon was sort of a cowboy kind of place with ranches all around in the high desert. People of all persuasions enjoyed gun sports whether for hunting or merely marksmanship. It may be that my class was one of the very last to ever recall driving to school as a teenager and seeing pickup trucks with guns in gun racks right next to us as we parked, or our friends showing us their .30-06 that they were going to shoot later that day just prior to going in for class. This was every-day stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. Chances are, at the high school I attended, if someone came in and started shooting, dozens of students and teachers would have run to their trucks and stopped him long before the police arrived. So what changed?
A quick search shows that school shootings have actually been going on for a long time. The first occurred in 1840(!) And there have been school shootings in every single decade since then. Every. Single. One. Equally fascinating to note is when they started to rise: the 1970’s. From that point on the number has never gone down. Television coverage and major media outlets have been giving them lots of coverage from about the time of Kip Kinkel forward. This led to cries of tighter legislation and continued debate over the topic of guns themselves that has continued nearly unabated since 1999. Let’s set that debate aside, as well as talk of the media’s coverage (although I would love to talk about that too), and focus instead on the 1970’s. What happened in that decade that caused such an uptick in violent crime? Why would school shootings nearly double from the decade prior? Let me propose to you that it was in the 1970’s that our country experienced a fundamental philosophical shift. Philosophic thought divides the history of the world into three categories: Pre-modern; Modern; and Postmodern. The Pre-modern age is basically anything prior to the 16th Century, or around the time of the Renaissance. The Modern age runs from the Renaissance through to about the 1950-60’s. There are differing opinions as to when precisely it ended and the postmodern age began. The history, development, and characteristics of each of these periods are also a subject for a different day, however let us zero in on the birth of what is known as postmodernity – it occurred right around the time of the uptick in public school violence (among other distinguishing events). Is this a fantastic coincidence, or are there characteristics of postmodern thought that might contribute to these types of events?
I will argue for the latter option. Millard Erickson, in his book The Postmodern World, gives us several characteristics of this age.
The sum of these characteristics is that there is no such thing as right or wrong. You may think something is right and may even have an argument for it, but if I feel differently than you, then your logic doesn’t matter. You may value life, but I don’t – so what are you going to do about it? Does any of this sound familiar? He illustrates this trend not only through discussion of philosophers and universities, but also through popular television shows. Back in the days of the early transition, shows on the tube actually taught morals and truths. Fast-forward to a purely postmodern show that typified the 1990’s, Seinfeld, and it was “a program about nothing. Yet actually, by not being about any subject, having no moral, it is itself telling a story about the world. There is no objective right or wrong.”
When the modern world stepped into post-modernity and cast off truth, morals, and values and replaced them with feelings, it was the beginning of the end. Now, say the purveyors of higher education, no one can tell you that you are wrong; no one can impose their values on you or morals. What kept violent crime at bay, at least to some degree? Probably the idea that there is inherent value in human life. We certainly cannot argue that this is the ultimate solution, but at least it is a step in the right direction. Clearly crime and murder have been ongoing since the fall of man (see Gen. 4:8ff) and the issue is with sin. But, even using terminology such as “sin” belies my belief in truth. God is the “God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16), and those that would worship Him must worship Him according to truth (Jn. 4:24). You see, God has given us an absolute standard of truth, values, and morality in the Bible, and when the teachers of our day profess to be wise apart from the Wisdom of God, then they are in fact displaying their foolishness (Rom. 1:22).
The hordes are already crying for more rules and legislation to be passed, but as I see it, if we want to see these sorts of things decline, a good starting point would be to bring back the notion of truth to the world, along with true, objective values, and morals. It would be even better if people would submit themselves to the Gospel, but acknowledging truth would be a good start.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_shootings_in_the_United_States, accessed February 15, 2018.
Not counting an Indian-related shooting in the 18th century. ibid.
Without going completely off-topic, let me encourage you to read How to Watch TV News by Neil Postman, followed quickly with Amusing Ourselves to Death by the same author. You’ll never look at any form of media quite the same way. And you shouldn’t.
Millard Erickson, The Postmodern World (Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL: 2002), 13.
"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."
"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.
"Not because you are?"
"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."
C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia Book 4: Prince Caspian (Harper Collins, NY: 1979), 148.
Lewis' understanding of the Christian faith coupled with his ability to communicate through the written word place him in a unique category of authors from the time of Christ to the present day. He wrote many other works besides the Chronicles of Narnia including The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. The Narnia Chronicles are perhaps his most well-known and are loved by a vast audience, Christian and non alike.
The non-Christian can certainly enjoy these works simply from a literary standpoint, as can the Christian. However, the real beauty of the books is that there weren't simply written to be a fanciful story, but rather an allegory. Lewis used the characters and worlds found in Narnia to tell the story of redemption. Aslan, the majestic and kingly lion is a type of Christ. In every book Aslan is portrayed the same, with his attributes paralleling the attributes of our Creator God.
Lucy, the youngest, has child-like faith (which is necessary to enter the world of Narnia). She was the one who first told the others about it back in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Thus, we see her as a Christian. In the aforementioned work (book 2 in the chronicles set) the four Sons and Daughters of Adam ascend the throne of Cair Paravel and rule for the Golden Age of Narnia. Then, as if no time had passed at all, they were drawn back to the wardrobe by the lamp post and when they came out in England they were children again, despite spending decades as the benevolent monarchs they were in Narnia.
Fast forward to Prince Caspian and a year has elapsed in England, but hundreds, if not thousands of years have passed in Narnia and once again the children are needed. My apologies if this spoils anything for you. There are still bountiful riches to be had to read them through to this point. All this is stated to get us to the quotation above. For Lucy, who first came to Narnia a year and a lifetime ago, her faith in Aslan has only grown. She hasn't laid eyes on him in perhaps 80 years (her time as queen plus her year in England), but she has never wavered in her faith. Now, when she sees him again he is bigger.
Aslan's answer that he does not grow old or bigger is a nod to the eternality and immutability of God. Aslan simply does not change just as God never changes or grows old. He has no beginning and no end; He is the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega. For the Christian who believes in God and in Jesus Christ His Son through the revealed Word of the Bible, the longer we are in Christ, growing in the Word, growing in faith, the bigger God becomes, not because He has changed, but because we have grown in our understanding of Him.
This is the joy of the Christian life. If you do not know the joy of seeing God, through Christ, ever increase before you as you study the Word and increase your faith, then let me encourage you to spend more time in the Word, more time in prayer, and more time simply meditating on the goodness of God, so that He may ever increase (cf. Jn. 3:30)!
Proverbs 21:30 lays out three means of defeating God, or at least, three means that mankind tries to employ against God. In the end, as we shall see, they are all futile.
The first means of outwitting God is from the standpoint of wisdom. Truth be told, all three relate to one another, but let us briefly consider each one. Each means is preceded by a negative - "No wisdom." Therefore we know that this is not true wisdom, for God is the embodiment of wisdom and used her in creation as well as all aspects of His sovereign activity (see Proverbs 8-9). The wisdom in view in this verse is therefore the world's wisdom. The world indeed claims to be wise, but Paul sums up this claim succinctly in Rom. 1:22 when he states that "claiming to be wise, they became fools." We hear the world's claims of wisdom all around us. In fact, the echo is so loud it is almost deafening. In worldly wisdom they reject the notion of God altogether. They come up with their own way to view our origin and refuse to admit that their theory also employs faith. They do the same with the afterlife, some explaining it away altogether claiming that we simply cease to exist after this life while others adopt a more religious view that they can tolerate because it does not come from the Bible, namely that we will somehow be re-incarnated and come back to live over and over and over again. They also foolishly claim that the form of one's reincarnation is based on how they lived this particular life. Superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Also, according to the self-proclaimed "all-wise" world, there is no such thing as sin, for sin presupposes the existence of God who would be offended by sin, the One against whom sin is a violation. This is played out in the notions that are constantly trumpeted that "all men are born good;" "if left to themselves, mankind would choose to do the right thing." If I may be so bold as to interject at this point - how did the world come up with the notion of "right and wrong" anyway? A world that exists apart from God, where there is no afterlife, where truth is subjective can't possibly have any standard of morality because you can always find someone who disagrees. But I digress. How does God view the world's wisdom? "The wisdom of this world is folly with God" (1 Cor. 3:19-20).
The second means of outwitting God (or at least attempting to) according to Prov. 21:30 is tied in with wisdom, and that is "understanding." Again, the negation in front of understanding sets it apart from God's understanding and lands it squarely with the world's version. Using their wisdom, which we have already seen is folly, they consult with one another to gain understanding of their lives and the world around them. The word here in Hebrew (תְּבוּנָה) is tied to cleverness. Think of this as the reasoning process, or what we might call logic. In what they claim to know (their wisdom), they weave it together to form an argument against God and His revelation. It is as though they say to God Himself "You don't exist; you didn't create; you don't judge sin; you won't judge sin in the future; there is no sin and here are all our reasons." Is God open to this kind of reasoning from man? Hardly. In His Word, the Bible, God has revealed that He is unchanging, without beginning or end. Ps. 2:4 says that God, who is in heaven (which is to be instructive to us here on earth), laughs. This is the end of the world's understanding and logical arguments against God. They too are utter folly.
This brings us to the third attempted means of outwitting God in Prov. 21:30 - counsel. Again, it is stated with the negation, so it is not the Lord's counsel, but the counsel of world. Here, they are not just using their own minds and logic, but rather are coming together. Each of the three means builds on the other. We start with what one person knows, then move to his reasoning. Now, at the end, we bring all of mankind together and pool his collective wisdom and understanding. It is a global symposium of sorts and at this symposium they comfort one another with their godless epithets and foolish conclusions. "Don't worry, you can live as you please - God doesn't exist!" "Don't worry about the afterlife, there is no afterlife." "Don't talk about sin - it doesn't exist. That's simply an antiquated notion from centuries back and is a holdover for the religious and superstitious only." "Look at all the millions of people who agree with us; surely they can't all be wrong!" God answers this last one through the pen of Paul in Rom. 3:4 - "Let God be true though every one were a liar."
So what does God do with the counsel of the world? Back to Psalm 2:1-4. Here we find the nations gathering together to counsel with one another - it is the very global symposium we just hypothesized! And, the counsel they are taking together is to unite against God and against His Anointed. Ps. 2:4 - God, who sits in the heavens laughs; He holds them in derision.
Prov. 21:30 employs these three means that the world tries to use against God and concludes this way: None of them can avail against the LORD. God's wisdom is infinite and perfect; the world's is limited and flawed. God's understanding, His reasoning and Logic is infinite and perfect, in accord with His holiness and perfection. As the Creator of Heaven and Earth and all that is, we being the work of His hands (cf. Is. 64:8), He is the author of understanding and reason and wants us to come to Him and learn from Him (Is. 1:18)! We should not turn to one another for counsel against God, but take His wise and infinite counsel! When it comes to a battle of wits with God, man will always lose.
Ephesians 1:4 tells us that God chose those who would believe in him before the foundation of the world. In fact, verse 5 tells that he predestined those whom he chose for adoption. One thing that we learn from this is that God's knowledge certainly knows no timely boundary. In other words, he didn't have to wait for us to be born to find out that we were going to be here. His knowledge of the entire human race, from Adam all the way to the last human that is ever born is exhaustive and has been from eternity past. Now, certainly we didn't exist before the foundation of the world, yet God's knowledge of us did. It is absolutely incredible!
Another observation that we can make is that God's choice of us had nothing to do with our behavior in this life. He wasn't choosing on a merit-based system. In fact, in another epistle we find out that the saving that God does is "not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy" (Titus 3:5).
One fallacy that some people can fall prey to is the idea that the election and predestination of God somehow negate all obligation on the part of the person. The fact is, that while God knows everyone from eternity past and chooses some only because of his mercy, everyone is born into sin which separates us from God (cf. Rom. 3:23). In fact, in the letter to the Ephesians, Paul said that those believer that he was writing to used to be dead in their trespasses and sins in which they once walked (Eph. 2:1-2). What do we say to this then? Well, we want to somehow make the transition from spiritual death (Eph. 2:1) to life. John said that the purpose of his gospel was so that people would believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, they would have life in his name (Jn. 20:31).
The answer is faith. God is presently calling everybody to repentance (Acts 17:30). They are to repent of their sins, and look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2) for life (Jn. 14:6), who by his death and victorious resurrection from grave removed the wrath of God that rests on every soul (Jn. 3:36).
Put simply, when asked what must be done to be saved, Paul replied to the Philippian Jailer "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). So then, let us understand that God's omniscience doesn't negate our need for faith!
"Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder- no end to the prey!" - Nahum 3:1
This is the message that Jonah wanted to preach. Instead he got to preach a message of repentance to the bloody city which was full of lies and plunder.
From man's raw perspective (and in these cases, the perspective of Israel in particular) the message of Jonah was good news for the Ninevites and bad news for Israel. In contrast, the book of Nahum was good news (finally) for Israel and bad news for the Ninevites. There are a couple of applications that we can make.
First, God is sovereign and his timing is not ours. When we speak of his sovereignty we mean that because he is outside of time and sees all, there is no escaping his judgment. This also brings to mind a New Testament truth: that God is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. We know from Jonah that the Ninevites did repent, to the praise of His glorious grace! From Nahum we learn that he will ultimately bring justice about, but that it may not be in our time or generation. Jonah was long-gone, and all the people that were alive in his day, both in Israel AND in Nineveh. So, don't despair thinking that God doesn't notice - He does, and he will not be mocked. His timing is different than ours.
Secondly, let's look at two messengers. Both Jonah and Nahum are prophets, called to deliver God's message. They bear different messages, but more importantly, it is not their right or privilege to change the message. Jonah fought it at first, unsuccessfully, and ultimately delivered the message that God called him to, albeit tersely. The application is this: we are called to deliver God's message, no matter how we personally feel about it or the recipients. This is a sword that cuts two ways. On the one hand, we must give the good news of God's offer of salvation from sin to all without exception. It is not for us to decide who should and should not hear this message. On the other hand, we also cannot change the message. Just as Jonah preached repentance, so Nahum preached wrath and destruction. While we are not Israel or preaching to specific cities or nations, part of the message we preach is that God will ultimately judge the wicked and there is a day coming in which he will pour out his wrath against the wicked. Therefore, let us share the entire message that God has given us, for through it He has ordained to bring salvation to all who are His!
"If you are looking for an excuse not to follow Jesus you will always find one!"
That is an application from Matthew 8:21-22 where one of Jesus' disciples came to him and said "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." Jesus' response to him was a command: Follow me! Followed by an explanation: "let the dead bury their own dead." In that day, and still in some cultures in the present, this phrase does not necessarily mean that someone has just died or is in the last moments of their life. Rather, it means that eventually they would die, and in a family-centered culture, an adult child or relative would stay until the parent passed away, thus helping them in their family trade and securing an inheritance of their own.
In other words, the disciple was really saying this: "Someday, after my father has died, I will come back and follow you." He was making an excuse. Many people do this in life today. They like the idea of what Christ offers but don't like the requirements. They would rather go and live their life however they choose and someday, if they can time it just right, at the very last second, would grasp after him.
There will never be a lack of things to entice you away, whether they be family, promotions, pleasures, or the like. If you look for an excuse, it will always be there. However, the call of Christ is right now: Follow him! Believe on Him! It is worth the cost.