A Little Time With The 1689: Day 180

Day 180

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 5.

“The will of Man is made perfectly, and immutably free to good alone, in the state of Glory only.”

Scripture Lookup

Ephesians 4:13

Reflection

“It’s only for a season.” This advice I have read numerous times, given to frustrated moms of little ones. While seemingly stuck in a time-loop of tantrums, tidying, and tiredness, the time these mothers have with young children is relatively short. No matter how dragged-out those days of toddlers seem, they will inevitably end.

Some seasons, however, do not end until our life does. The Christian’s struggle with sin is such a season. Until we die and are received into the presence of our Savior, we wage war against the remaining corruption of sin within us. The battle of our will to choose good is constant in this world.

While the fight against our sinful flesh lasts in this life, there is a glorious hope that the Christian possesses. All remaining corruption will no longer be part of us after death. There will be no choosing of evil in heaven, but only the free choice of good.

There shall not be the least aversion to good, nor the least inclination of evil, in their wills, but they will be brought to a perfect conformity to the will of God….they will get such a fixed habit of purity, as they can never lose. – Thomas Boston

Salvation in Christ is better than creation in the image of God and citizenship in the garden of Eden. God does not place believers back at the starting line in the same position in which Adam was created. He grants irrevocable, eternal life based on the doing and dying of Jesus to all who believe the gospel. The end is better than the beginning.  -Richard Barcellos

We may be “tempted, tried, and sometimes failing” throughout all our days, but Christian, your victory is a done deal. Because of Christ, you can look forward to the day when that fighting against evil is finished, never to return. Stand firm! This battle is only for a season. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

Questions to Consider

  • How often do you forget that you have glory to look forward to?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 179

Day 179

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 4.

“…yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions he doth not perfectly nor only will that which is good; but doth also will that which is evil.”

Scripture Lookup

Romans 7:15,18,19,21,23

Reflection

Ah, the struggle. Changed by Christ we are free to will and do that which is spiritually good, yet find ourselves falling short and sinning every day. Failing for the fifth time, the tenth time, the hundredth time, over and over and over! Frustration, fear, and doubt all sidle up to you in these moments, offering their unwanted advice. “Look at your sin,” they scoff. “Real Christians don’t have this problem. There’s no hope for you.”

While the life of a Christian is sometimes presented as all beaming smiles and living happily ever after, the godliest Christian alive still sins. Every Christian still sins. These sins are not always the “oops, I went 10 miles over the speed limit” type of sins, but even vile, horrid transgressions. To admit otherwise is to deny the remaining corruption of sin that remains in the believer.

If Christians still sin, then, what makes them different than the rest of the world? The difference is this: the Christian is able to will and do good. When convicted of sin, the Christian is sorrowful for their sin, repents of it, and trust the work of Christ for forgiveness. Through reliance on the Holy Spirit, the believer hates sin and grows in godliness. The Christian is never left to wallow in despair, but receives in due time the comfort that only God can bring to her soul. Sin does not define a Christian – Christ does.

So when the struggle seems particularly strong, remember that Christ has saved you from this body of death. He who began this good work in you will complete it. Don’t harden your heart to prove yourself never called in the first place. Repent, humble yourself, and lean on Christ for a “more constant dependence for their support, upon Himself” (LBCF 5.5).

Questions to Consider

  • Do you ever think that Christians are perfect?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 178

Day 178

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 4.

“…and by his grace alone, enables him freely to will, and to do that which is spiritually good;…”

Scripture Lookup

Philippians 2:13

Reflection

When Christ converts us and frees us from the stranglehold of sin, we no longer automatically want to do wrong. Our inclinations now are enabled to desire that which is spiritually good. Learning about God and His will for us becomes enjoyable, something that we want to spend time doing. We also are now able to act upon these inclinations. Loving God and loving our neighbor was something we could never do before. When God transforms us, acts of mercy and kindness are realized in our lives.

Remember, though, that it is God through His grace alone that changes us. The good works performed by the most godly people you know are not a result of some super-Christian status they possess.  Any good you do is not cause to celebrate self. For it is God who works in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) When you want to promote yourself, or secretly envy the fellow believer that seems to have all the fruit of the Spirit and then some, remember: it is all of God.

His grace solely enables our freedom to will and do that which is spiritually good. This is also a great comfort when failure seems constant and you start to question if Christ died for you. In those times, look up from you despair! God’s work in your life, not your efforts, are what cause godliness in you. Strive to be holy, repent of sin, but rest on His omnipotence and faithfulness to produce that holiness.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you ever forget that the ability to will and do spiritual good is from God’s grace alone?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 176

Day 176

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 3.

” …is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself; or to prepare himself thereunto.”

Scripture Lookup

Titus 3:3-5

John 6:44

Reflection

Lying on the floor, an elderly woman called out to her emergency alert system: “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” That tv commercial of a couple decades ago enjoyed immense popularity, spawning t-shirts and jokes. Despite the cheesiness of the commercial, though, that one phrase – “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” – describes the state of mankind concerning salvation. Because of the corrupt nature humanity inherited when Adam and Eve fell, there is nothing we can to do restore ourselves to that place of communion with God.

Our modern culture likes to tell us that we can have it all. Great job, good friends, health, happiness, inner peace – anything can be ours if we just visualize it or work hard enough for it. In other words, we have the power within us to align stars and create our own destiny, no matter what lies in our way. Such philosophy makes us the strongest being in the universe – if we have enough drive to become it. This thinking has crept into some churches, offering a salvation of our own doing. Such insidious thinking places God in the backseat of saving faith, rather than the author and perfecter of it. The truth is, dead men cannot align stars, much less move an atom. We are wholly dependent on Christ to save us.

We are fallen, and we cannot get up. Unlike that elderly woman in that old commercial, the unregenerate man or woman cannot even cry out for help. Our wills must be changed so that we can will that which is spiritually good. Thankfully, God is the bringer of life!

Questions to Consider

  • Are you guilty of expecting people to save themselves, rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to regenerate them?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 175

Day 175

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 3.

” …so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in Sin,…”

Scripture Lookup

Eph. 2:1,5

Reflection

People, in their corrupted, fallen nature, do not want to be saved.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. It is foolishness for them because, in their view, they don’t need saving. Surrounded by comfort, family, and friends, they have all they desire. Why change your life if there’s nothing wrong with it?

Or there are some who are perishing that are not pleased with their life. They want a solution and are eager to follow any promise of deliverance – except the true one. Backing away from the gospel, they readily turn to a false one.

While mankind has a free will and the ability to act upon that will, that will is averse to any good concerning salvation. This is a result of the corrupted nature inherited from Adam and Eve. With sin seeping through every pore of ourselves, it is impossible that we could be stirred to any interest in redemption on our own.  We need intervention before any thought of the gospel sparks interest in us.

Questions to Consider

  • If fallen people are averse to any spiritual good, how does that affect your evangelism?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 174

Day 174

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 3.

” Man by his fall into a state of sin has wholly lost all ability of Will, to any spiritual good accompanying salvation;…”

Scripture Lookup

Romans 5:6, 8:7

Reflection

When Adam and Eve sinned, they plunged humanity into a state of sin and misery. As a result, every human born of ordinary generation has inherited a corrupted nature. This corruption did not leave man’s free will unscathed. There has been a fatal malfunction in his will ever since.

Does humanity still have free will? Yes. Mankind is able to choose freely and has the ability to act upon that choice. However, the will that we are born with differs from the will Adam originally had in one vital respect: it has totally lost any ability to choose that which is good and well-pleasing to God. That ability has been stripped from us, never to return without divine intervention. No amount of “positive thinking” will ever enable the corrupted will to change the fallen man’s state.

Salvation can never be sought by oneself. The fallen man has no direction of where to find such salvation, no knowledge of how to obtain it, and no ability to move towards it. This is why Christ’s offices of Prophet, Priest, and King are essential for our salvation. Without His work in our lives, we would remain blind and lame.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you ever expect fallen people to will any spiritual good on their own?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 173

Day 173

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 2.

“…but yet was mutable, so that he might fall from it.”

Scripture Lookup

Genesis 3:6

Reflection

Adam and Eve were righteous. They knew God’s law, loved it, and were able to keep it. They had open and unashamed fellowship with God and each other. Their interactions with creation had no hint of wrong.

And yet…

…with such an ability to will and choose good, there was also an ability for Adam to change his mind. He could will to disobey God and act on that disobedience. This is proven to us in Genesis when he took the fruit from Eve and ate it. The upright man, righteous and holy, plunged from such a happy state to a miserable condition. And it was entirely his choice. Despite blaming everyone else around them, Adam and Eve were fully responsible for their action. Adam was not so severely tempted as to be unable to resist. He had the ability to freely choose what was pleasing to God, but he willingly disobeyed.

What Adam and Eve did was disgraceful. Lest we be too harsh with them, though, let’s remember that we freely choose to sin as well. Christians, who have the ability to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), still fail each and every day because we decide to do so. This makes Christ’s intercession on our behalf all the more necessary and urgent, so that we may continue to rely on His work, and not on our own efforts. Through His provision may find a way of escape, and resist evil.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you consider Adam and Eve worse sinners than yourself?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 172

Day 172

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 2.

“Man in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power, to will, and to do that which was good, and well-pleasing to God;…”

Scripture Lookup

Ecclesiastes 7:29

 

Reflection

There was a time when man freely chose to do good, and was capable of doing it. Pleasing God was an ability that Adam had without the intervention of a mediator. Such an ability is foreign to us, and hard to comprehend. How could Adam do good without relying on the work of the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be upright without redemption?

Thomas Boston, in Human Nature In Its Fourfold State, says thus: “[God] did not first make him, and then make him righteous, but in the very making of him, He made him righteous.” Boston explains that Adam had perfect knowledge of God’s law, and what God required of him; Adam’s will was inclined to be in line with the will of God; and that his affections were pure and holy. No war against sin raged within Adam and Eve in their pre-fallen state.

Everything Adam and Eve did before the Fall was done in keeping with God and His law. They tended the Garden of Eden and ruled over the creatures with incredible wisdom, for it was not tainted with sin. Guilt was unknown; all pleasures of the world were acceptable and delightful. Their character was above reproach. They were the glorious creation of God.

“Had Adam stood, none would have quarrelled with the representation.” -Thomas Boston

Questions to Consider

  • What do you think Adam and Eve were like before the Fall?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 171

Day 171

Of Free Will.

Chapter 9, Paragraph 1.

“God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil.”

Scripture Lookup

Matthew 17:12

James 1:14

Deuteronomy 30:19

Reflection

Reformed folks believe in free will. This will has been bestowed upon humanity by God; autonomy is not a by-product of evolution. Each and every person has the ability to freely choose. I may choose to get take-out or cook a meal at home; you may choose to move across the country or stay put where you are. Not only do we have the freedom to choose, we also have the ability to act upon our choice. I can call the pizza place or I can pull out the cookbook; you can fly, drive, or walk across the country or flop on your couch. This ability to decide and act upon a decision is a natural part of being human.

This free will that all humanity possesses carries with it responsibility, for we are not subject to the whim of fate. There is no impersonal force that makes us live one way or the other. We cannot blame others for our actions, for we have the freedom and ability to decide what we do. It may be hard to accept that we all have free will. Sometimes it’s easier to wallow in self-pity, blaming parents, society, other races, or even God Himself for our choices.  But Scripture does not leave room for such wallowing. We are not forced to desire certain things; we alone choose them. We alone act on our desires. And we will always freely choose what we desire most.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you blame others for your choices?

 

A Little Time With The 1689: Day 54

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Day 54

Of God’s Decree

Chapter 3, Paragraph 1.

“… nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established;...”

Scripture Lookup

Acts 4:27,28.

John 19:11.

Reflection

Asked to lead my college Bible study group, I chose to work through the book Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton. I had recently learned of the doctrines of grace, and was eager to share that knowledge with the group of ladies who attended Campus Crusade with me. All claimed to be Christian, so diving into these great doctrines would be fun. Or so I thought.

The other girls balked when the idea that God was sovereign over all was introduced. “I’m not a robot!” one young woman vehemently said. You know what? She was right. Reformed theology agrees with her: God does not carry out His decrees by violating human will. Through His wisdom, He carries out His decrees while allowing for freedom of will and action.

It is important to remember that while God has decreed all that comes to pass, that does not mean that we have no responsibility in our actions. Fatalism is not biblical. Rather, God orchestrates so that all things work according to the counsel of His will, yet in that orchestration uses our desires and events to serve His purposes. Thus we are still responsible for how we think and behave. May we seek His aid to freely do His will.

Questions to Consider

  • Does the notion that God has decreed all that comes to pass, yet we still have free agency, confuse you?