Saturday, 18 October 2008

I Have Decided?

I played the music for St Catherines Anglican here in Edson on a recent Sunday. I wanted everyone to go out on an enthusiastic note, so I picked for the last song, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." Frankly, I gave a lot of thought to the theological correctness of the song, and here's why.

Occasionally I have opportunity to go into Edmonton on business on a weekday morning, and on the Christian radio I catch programs by Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah and others, many of whom seem to claim that our salvation depends upon our making a decision to accept Christ as Saviour. I always wince at this because some may be given the false confidence that merely mouthing the words of a 'sinner's prayer' ensures their salvation. I'm afraid the greatest example of this is Joel Osteen, who tacks on, almost as an afterthought, such a prayer at the end of every program, then says, "We believe that if you prayed that prayer, you got born again..." I shake my head at such an oversimplification of regeneration. I think this is misleading counsel, perhaps devastatingly so. It is God who gives us new life. We do not regenerate ourselves. We don't have any more control over our second birth than we had over our first.

But the truly born-again Christian can indeed decide to follow Jesus, Indeed, he must, every minute of every day. We must choose right over wrong, good over evil, in every area of our lives, personal, spiritual, business or career. We must choose everything we do by what God says rather than by how we feel. The authority of the word of God must govern every decision to which it applies.

Those who do not yet know God cannot decide to follow Jesus on their own. Because the things of Jesus are foolishness to him. It is a decision the unsaved person is not equipped to make. But the unsaved person must be invited to seek God with all his heart, with God's promise in mind that all who seek will find.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.(Jer 29:13)
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.(Luke 11:10)

Which, LORD willing, will bring him to the point where, as William Wilberforce is reported to have said, "I didn't find God... He found me."

Take Care


Jonathan D. Groff said...

Okay, we began this discussion over thanksgiving and got interrupted. I agree with you that simply saying the words is certainly not good enough. I think back to the parable of the seeds that were scattered over various types of ground; some took no root for whatever reason, others had poor roots and did not survive, and others survived and were fruitful. I would say that some of the people who say the words of the 'sinner's prayer' are like the poor rooted seeds. When it comes right down to it there is no real belief, just the semblance of it. But those who say the prayer with true belief in their hearts will show it in due time--we are not saved by works but the fruits of the Spirit prove who truly believes.

I would also agree that belief is not something you can choose or not. The verses that say you need to believe to be saved are valid, but I think your point is that you can not choose to believe (correct me if I'm wrong): you either do or you don't, and it's God's choice for your life either way. I tried thinking back to all the things I believe in, like 2 plus 2 equaling 4. I believe it, but can't recall a conscious choice I ever made to believe. I just do. I believe in my wife's faithfulness to me without question. I don't recall ever choosing to believe it, I just do.

But this is where I do have the problem: I believe that we have been given free will by God because He doesn't want drones. I think we do have the choice to accept whether or not we actually WANT to believe. Just like the verse you quoted from Luke that talks about knocking at the door. How is that not a choice on our behalf? And a similar, though inverted verse from Revelation that says it is God who is knocking and we who must let Him in? That sounds an awful lot like a choice on our behalf. And the verses that tell us that even Satan and his demons believe in God (James 2:19) tell us that belief without actions by the individual to show acceptance of the believe is not good enough to grant us salvation.

I think we do need to choose to accept that Jesus paid our debt. Just like I can choose to reject the belief that 2 and 2 is 4 and fight to the death defend that opinion. Just like I could reject my belief in the faithfulness of my wife and pester her all the time and hire an investigator to follow her and tell everyone I know that she isn't. I have a choice to accept or reject the things that I know in my heart to be true. Just like I believe I could reject Christ's precious gift of salvation and produce no fruit.

John K said...

Hi Jon,
Yes, I remember we started to discuss this matter and our important theological discussion was interrupted because I was supposed to be setting the table for dinner.

But I don't think we are far apart here at all. My whole point here is that we can choose whether or not to seek. Or, to put it another way, I believe God has given everyone a sense of His being/existence, and people can choose either to turn toward that call, or turn away from it. And people do both, for one reason or another. Mainly, I believe, John 3:19. I believe a person can reject God's call for a long time, then, for some reason, begin to respond to it, and then I beleive God will honour that response. I must reinforce, though, that I believe we can only even sense His call (and turn toward or away from it) because He has taken the first step, given us that awareness of Himself, and allowed us to sense it at all. The greatest example of that is me. I was saturated in the church, the old hymns and Bible readings for the first 20 years of my life and it meant nothing. To take your example of the sower, my heart was like the path for 45 years, then for some reason it wasn't. It changed. (Oops, I think I'm appraoaching all-out, flaming Calvinism here!)

I do not mean to disparage a sinner's prayer. Sincerely prayed it is an important step in the seeking process, and God may indeed honour it on the spot, and bring the prayor(?) immediately into new life. Or it may be, as I have also seen, a prayer revealing a true desire to know God, that He may honour at any time later, whether in the quiet of one's room or the inside of a car on the freeway. I have known people who have "found God" in both circumstances.

Dave Groff said...

Seems like a family discussion so I guess I'll join it.

There has recently been some questions from people in our church about this so I've been thinking about it again. Then you had the theological quiz on your blog and those questions made me think about it even more. Especially because I scored 93% as Evangelical/Holiness Wesleyan! I consider myself much more reform than my score on the quiz suggests. So why is that?

I do believe in unconditional election and irresistable grace(which I think this post is about). I see a number of places in the Bible that strongly supports those beliefs. BUT...I also see that we do have a part in all of this. We do have a will to choose. We are told to "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." What I'm saying is that I believe both sides can be supported from Scripture. I would say that's why both of these belief systems have strong, dedicated Christians who believe and support them.

I think this is another one of those paradoxes that we find in Scripture, but that we as human beings often come down on one side or the other because we can't figure out how to reconcile all the evidence. I can't reconcile it either, but rather than try to disprove the other side I would rather just accept that both sides are true and that I can't understand the mind of God in this. Is that a copout? Maybe, but I can't seem to get my mind around it any other way. And that is why I try to avoid labels such as Calvinism and Arminianism.


John K said...

You're right. Although only one side (at most) can be right, if it were clear-cut there would be no disagreement, would there? I just figure that if the Lord has allowed Spirit-filled believers to disagree about something for hundreds of years without settling it, it's not really of 'first-order' importance.

Dave Groff said...

Hi John

The point I was trying to make is that I don't think one side or the other is completely right. In my earlier comment I said that I believe both sides are true. Let me rephrase that and say that I believe both sides contain truth, but that neither side is completely right. I think that because we can't reconcile everything God says in His Word on the topic that we just have to live with that and not try to over-emphasize one side or the other. I try to emphasize which ever aspect comes out of God's Word as I come to those passages.

In the end, I think you're right that it is not really of first order importance.