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In the final analysis, we take up our privilege as proclaimers of the gospel, not because we are more intelligent or creative than the world, nor because our powers of rhetorical and logistical techniques are greater than those of other religious spokesmen. None of these powers will ever serve to win one person to Jesus Christ. We must never forget that the Christian Church always advances from a position of human weakness, not human strength…Instead, we step out to accomplish the greater works because the Spirit of God, on the merits of our Savior’s death, has been given to us. According to His own good pleasure He will be pleases to take our feeble and flawed presentations of the gospel and fill them with His irresistible power, consequently overcoming the hearts of sinful people that, otherwise speaking, will prove to be impenetrable.
Arturo G. Azurdia III, Spirit Empowered Preaching: Involving The Holy Spirit In Your Ministry (Great Britain: Mentor, 2007), 26-27.
Does God’s sovereignty remove the need to work hard. Take the last post as an example, if God fulfills His promises whether we are on board or not why do anything? God is just going to stir our spirits and do what He intends to do, right? What can I say to such things?
Here are some of my thoughts on the question.
First, we are Biblical people and must let the Bible shape our thinking when we meet paradoxes in it. Just because we run up against mind benders in Scripture does not mean that we start preforming hermeneutical gymnastics to erase the verses. Yes, there are times the verse must be understood in the fuller context of the Bible and shaped accordingly. We can’t pick out one verse and have it run contrary to what is clearly revealed in the rest of Scripture. However, we should not also in turn construct a theology from select verses and then deny the clear teaching of other verses because it relieves a tension. We go where the text leads us even though we have to say with the Psalmist, “such things are to wonderful for me, there are too high I cannot attain them.” The Trinity is probably the best example of reading the Bible like this. We don’t have two camps: the three gods camp and one god camp. We see all that the bible teaches and hold it in tension, One God in three persons. And so, if the text leads us to a tension we must wrestle with it and not take an easy route in erasing it.
Second, the Bible reveals a compatiblism in regards to Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. One example can be found in Acts 13. “And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47). Paul new the command which he had to follow. He was called to preach the good news of Jesus Christ He gave the gospel to the Jews first but after they rejected the good news He knew he had to take it to the Gentiles. this was the responsibility given to Him by Christ. Yet, everything rested on divine sovereignty. “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48). And this is not a strange thing in the Bible; example upon example can be given. For starters, Gen. 50:15-21; Ex. 4:21, 8:15; Rom 9:16-18; Eph 1:11.
Thus, there is this compatibalism that exists in Scripture. God calls us to go, and says that everything rests on Him. Both truths are some how compatible with one another.
But how can we live in this tension?
I will say two things. 1. Being able to live in the tension rest on our trust in the Lord. 2. In the end, there is no better place to be then living in the tension.
1. When it comes to my understanding of God on this matter I believe it all boils down to this: trust. Do I trust completely in my Lord? Do I trust that He is good and just in commanding me to do that which He, Himself is the cause of its performance? Do I trust in the righteousness of my God when I proclaim the gospel to my co-worker when I know that he will only come to faith if God chooses to save him?
“But isn’t that pointless?” you ask. Isn’t that God just making a promise like the politicians make? Making a promise which he never intends to fulfill?
I can say with absolutely certainty, “no.” Why? Is it because I have understood the mind of the Lord and can completely discern His thoughts? Absolutely not! Why can I say no then? Because I know my Jesus. Jesus, who looked upon a young rich man, who would not come to believe in Him, with compassion. Jesus, who could never be blamed for any wrong doing. He was completely righteous and just in everything He did. This is the Jesus I know. And I know what He has revealed, we are to proclaim the good news of the kingdom while knowing that no one comes to Him unless the Father draws them.
How can I reconcile these? I can’t. All I can do is trust in who my Lord is and enjoy His glory. I can’t give you a nice, neat little box which encapsulates the exact workings of God on this matter. All I can do is see what my Lord says on both sides of the tension, and then trust that He has everything worked out.
2. When it comes to my day to day life I find that there is no better place to be than in this tension. Crazy right? Wouldn’t it be a better life if it was a simple answer? Either I do the work or God does the work. With the first one I know that I need to be out their striving and sweating for the kingdom. With the latter one I could know that everything is going to work out and that I don’t need to worry about it.
Here is amazing thing about living in this tension: I get to experience both realties! Because I trust in the words of Christ I can hold both and experience the benefits of each side of the tension while letting each side hold in the other.
I simply trust in my Savior’s word that my choices matter and so I can press forward and strive for the kingdom. I have a call to preform and a purpose in life. I can’t just sit around, my Christ has summoned me to follow Him. I cannot give the pathetic excuse that “God will do it all so I can do nothing.” I don’t remember Jesus giving that option to excuse myself. Even while He is saying such things like, “Without me you can do nothing.” Instead he calls me to follow Him with a cross in view.
Yet, what rest and peace is mine in knowing that the salvation of the world does not rest in my hands. My God is the one fighting this war, and nothing can stand up against His sovereign might. The fulfillments of the promises will happen, Christ will win! He will win in the relatively small battles like providing for me. And He will win the ultimate battle against sin and death. Nether the will of demons or men can stand against Him. All of history is being moved by His hand towards its final destination. Thus, I cannot say that my workings and striving are bring the kingdom to earth. I am not making the new creation take place in human hearts. I am not conquering the darkness of this world. It is my God alone who is achieving the victory. All glory will be given to Him for this.
In the end, living in this tension is the best place to be. Even though I can’t figure out how it works it proves to be most satisfying to my soul. I don’t have all the answers. But He does. And I can trust Him with them as I follow the answers He has revealed to me. And in the end I find more joy and delight in Him.