"Having been predestined according to [God's] purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11).
God took the initiative in salvation by choosing you and granting you saving faith.
In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says that God "chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." In verse 11 he reiterates that marvelous truth by affirming that believers have been predestined to salvation according to God's own purpose and will.
Many reject the teaching that God chose (predestined) believers to salvation. They think believers chose God. In one sense they're right: salvation involves an act of the will in turning from sin to embrace Christ. But the issue in predestination goes deeper than that. It's a question of initiative. Did God choose you on the basis of your faith in Him or did He, by choosing you, enable you to respond in faith.
The answer is clear in Scripture. Romans 3:11 says that no one seeks for God on his own. Unregenerate people have no capacity to understand spiritual truth. It's all foolishness to them (1 Cor. 2:14). They are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), blind (2 Cor. 4:4), and ignorant (Eph. 4:18).
How can people in that condition initiate saving faith? They can't! That's why Jesus said, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him. . . . All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:44, 37). Paul added, "God . . . has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Tim. 1:9).
God took the initiative. He chose you and gave you saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Rejoice in that truth. Rest in His power to conform all things to His will. Draw strength and assurance from His promise never to let you go (John 10:27-29). Then live each day as God's elected one by shunning sin and following after holiness.
Copied from https://www.gty.org/library/devotionals
Salvation belongs to the Lord! Jonah 2:9
Salvation is the work of God. It is He alone who quickens the soul "dead in...trespasses and sins," and He it is who maintains the soul in its spiritual life. He is both "Alpha and Omega."
"Salvation belongs to the LORD!" If I am prayerful, God makes me prayerful; if I have graces, they are God's gifts to me; if I hold on in a consistent life, it is because He upholds me with His hand. I do nothing whatever toward my own preservation, except what God Himself first does in me. Whatever I have, all my goodness is of the Lord alone. Whenever I sin, that is my own doing; but when I act correctly, that is wholly and completely of God. If I have resisted a spiritual enemy, the Lord's strength nerved my arm.
Do I live before men a consecrated life? It is not I, but Christ who lives in me. Am I sanctified? I did not cleanse myself: God's Holy Spirit sanctifies me. Am I separated from the world? I am separated by God's chastisements sanctified to my good. Do I grow in knowledge? The great Instructor teaches me. All my jewels were fashioned by heavenly art. I find in God all that I want; but I find in myself nothing but sin and misery. "He only is my rock and my salvation."
Do I feed on the Word? That Word would be no food for me unless the Lord made it food for my soul and helped me to feed upon it. Do I live on the bread that comes down from heaven? What is that bread but Jesus Christ Himself incarnate, whose body and whose blood I eat and drink? Am I continually receiving fresh supplies of strength? Where do I gather my might? My help comes from heaven's hills: Without Jesus I can do nothing.
As a branch cannot bring forth fruit except it abide in the vine, no more can I, except I abide in Him. What Jonah learned in the ocean, let me learn this morning in my room: "Salvation belongs to the LORD."
Taken from https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/daily-devotionals/2/26/2017/
John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” KJV
Mat 28:19, 20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” ESV
In these two verses, we see what could be considered a paradox. On one hand John says that God draws people to Himself and Matthew says that we are commanded to make disciples. How is it that God does the drawing, yet, we are commanded to make disciples? God certainly knows, after all who His elect are and since He (God) chooses, why should we bother then with the Great Commission?
God, in His Sovereignty has given us (believers) a command to evangelize the world to bring others to Christ. The question is then, to whom do we evangelize? And, how does our evangelizing and His drawing work together? When Christ came, He broke down the barriers of the Nations and division of peoples. This is why we (Gentiles) have been grafted in as one body in Christ.
We are told to evangelize the world, in the military that means lottie dottie everybody. It does not discriminate or alienate, it means everyone. Yet, as believers, we seem to pick and choose who we “evangelize”.
Peter had to be set straight in Acts before he went to the Cornelius household. Peter had some traditions and maybe even some prejudices he had to overcome before going to a gentile and a Roman soldier to boot. God had to show him in a vision not to show partiality to anyone. “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” KJV
So here is the question we must answer for ourselves, do we show partiality to those outside our comfort zone? Do we only evangelize those whom we have in common or are comfortable around? We have no idea who God is drawing to Himself and when the Holy Spirit gives us opportunity to share the gospel, we need to take that opportunity and either plant the seed or water the seed. Gods word will not return void and we can be confident that God’s drawing of that person will give the increase. We just need to be faithful.
The angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me’
- Genesis 22:11-12
Spend some time listening to testimonies of people who have been converted to Christ, and it probably will not be too long until you hear a promise that believing in Christ will make your life easier in some way. Most people who say such things or who give the impression that the life of faith is easy are motivated by a desire to see as many people converted to Christ as possible, so their ways of speaking about Christ are understandable. However, such individuals do a disservice to people who are considering the claims of Christ. In truth, trusting in Jesus adds complications to our lives that we do not have before placing our faith in Him. Often in the Christian life, we have to trust God in hard places, believing that He is commanding us to do things that are ultimately for our good even if we cannot yet understand how that could be so.
The life of Abraham illustrates this point. Abraham often had to trust God when it was difficult to do so, and he sometimes failed to believe the Lord. He was promised many descendants, but when God seemed to be taking too long to fulfill His promise, Abraham took matters into his own hands and fathered Ishmael with his wife’s maid Hagar (Gen. 15:1–6; 16:1–16). Such an action shows us that Abraham did not necessarily find it easier to trust God than we do.
However, the greatest test of Abraham’s faith did not come until years after he had Ishmael. Decades passed and finally Sarah conceived a child, and Isaac, the son of the promise, was born (21:1–7). The couple’s trust in God was finally vindicated after years and years of waiting, and we can hardly imagine the joy that Isaac brought to his parents. But soon this trust was tested again when Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, the son for whom he had waited for what no doubt seemed like an eternity (22:1–2).
Abraham did pass his test, but clearly he struggled to do so. He did not set out with Isaac right away, but he delayed his trip until morning, maybe even hoping that God would call off the test (v. 3). It seems that Abraham could finally move forward because he believed God would provide a substitute for Isaac (v. 8), but since God did not tell him that explicitly, he must have endured great agony until the Lord finally did provide the lamb just in time (vv. 9–14). Abraham was no superhuman saint; he struggled to trust God when it seemed impossible to do so. But he did trust God, showing himself to be a model of faith for us.
Authentic faith does not trust God only when times are good. It also believes God and acts upon His Word when doing so guarantees great difficulties. Resolve now to trust God even when it is hard, and ask the Lord to give you the courage, conviction, and stamina to continue following Him even when doing so means you must pay a high cost
Passages for Further Study
Job 1:20–21 Habakkuk 3:17–18 Matthew 15:21–28 Hebrews 11:32–40
Copied from: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/living-according-faith/
I remember one conversation I had with a seminary president critiquing the term and the vision that I call Christian Hedonism. And he had it fixed in his mind that the philosophical meaning for the word “hedonism” was that happiness becomes the criterion for right and wrong. Indeed, that is one of the historic meanings for the word “hedonism.”
A hedonist, in the old Greek sense, was somebody who said, “Whatever makes you happy is right, and whatever makes you unhappy is wrong.” And so, he took that definition and put it on my term and said, “That’s a bad idea, Piper. You shouldn’t be promoting Christian Hedonism.” My response is that Christian Hedonism does not make happiness the measure of right and wrong. Christian Hedonism makes God the measure of right and wrong and says, “It’s a sin to be unhappy about that.” That’s real serious. Christian Hedonism makes God and his word the measure of right and wrong, whether you like or not — and it’s a sin not to like it. Therefore, I am on a crusade to help people break free from that terrible sin of being out of sorts with God’s authority over their lives.
Christian Hedonism does not make a god out of happiness. It says, “Whatever makes you most happy is your god.” And that’s serious because our churches are filled with people for whom God is not their portion. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25) is flat-out false for almost everybody. What in the world did Asaph mean by that when he wrote that in Psalm 73? Or Psalm 16:1–2: “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’”
So, Christian Hedonism is on a crusade to cause people not to dislike God’s being all in all, but to be ravished by the sight of God as absolutely authoritative, absolutely sovereign, absolutely just, wise, true, loving, and powerful. It’s a sin not to like that. Therefore, we fight for joy.
Copied from https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/when-i-don-t-desire-god-part-3/excerpts/has-happiness-become-your-god
"If the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb. 2:2-3).
There is certain judgment for everyone who does not receive Christ as Savior and Lord.
Today the majority believes that God is a God of love and grace, but not of justice. One brief look at Hebrews 2:2-3 ought to convince anyone otherwise. The writer's point is this: Since the Old Testament makes it clear that transgression and disobedience met with severe and just punishment, how much more so will equal or greater punishment be rendered under the New Testament, which was revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?
Both the Old and New Testaments confirm that angels were instrumental in bringing the law (Deut. 33:2; Acts 7:38). The law the angels spoke, primarily the Ten Commandments, was steadfast. That meant if someone broke the law, the law would break the lawbreaker. The law was inviolable; punishment for breaking it was certain.
"Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense" (v. 2). Transgression refers to stepping across a line—a willful, purposeful sin. Disobedience, however, refers to imperfect hearing—the sin of shutting one's ears to the commands, warnings, and invitations of God. It is a sin of neglect or omission, doing nothing when something should be done.
Hebrews 2:2 also puts to rest the notion that God is not fair. The writer says every sin received a "just recompense." God, by His very nature, is just. Every punishment He meted out to those who defied Him was a deterrent to the sin He wanted to stop.
God severely punished the nation of Israel because they knew better. That leads to the important principle that punishment is always related to how much truth one knows but rejects. The person who knows the gospel, who has intellectually understood it and believed it, yet drifts away will experience the severest punishment of all.
Copied from gty.org/library/devotionals
If there was a vote to select the most devastating passage in the Bible, Genesis 6:5-6 needs to be a leading candidate:
"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart."
Could you get more graphic, more specific, more all-inclusive words than these? Perhaps even more shocking is the deeply personal nature, describing such heartbreak that you can imagine tears streaming from the Creator.
What could be so significant to evoke a response like this from the King of the universe?
A personal betrayal of relational love.
You see, whether you know it or not, all of us are lovers. It sounds funny, but you were hardwired to love. Everything you do, have done, and will do in your life is motivated by love.
Our first and only love was meant to be for our Creator. Jesus says that the great and first commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:36).
Out of that love for God comes obedience to the rest of his commands. Because we love God the lawgiver, we find joy in staying within his boundaries.
But something horrible happened. After the Fall, a seductive, powerful, and deceptive love replaced the love we were meant to have exclusively for God: the love of self.
When we choose to love ourselves, it becomes very easy for us to overstep God's boundaries, because our hearts aren't motivated by love for him anymore. And when we violate his law, designed to give us life, evil thrives in a way that Genesis 6:5 describes.
And so, humanity needed to be rescued. Someone needed to do for us what we could not do for ourselves: defeat the love of self and restore the love of God in our hearts.
"And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:15).
This Advent season, celebrate the baby who came to deliver betraying lovers like me and you back to our original love. But also remember that the rescuing work of the Messiah is both an event and a process.
By grace, we are no longer slaves to the love of self, free to experience the soul satisfying love of God. Yet the love of self still remains, so we must be aware of the battle for two loves that is being fought on the turf of our heart in the situations, locations, and relationships of everyday life.
One day, because that baby came, every cell of our heart will be captivated by the love of God, and we'll live joyfully inside his boundaries forever and ever.
Now that's a reason to celebrate Christmas!
Many Christians would be surprised, and perhaps even disappointed, to learn that the song often cited as our favorite Christmas carol is not actually a Christmas carol at all. The famed hymn writer Isaac Watts published “Joy to the World” in 1719. Millions of Christians sing this great hymn at Christmas, celebrating the great news of the incarnation and declaring “let earth receive her king.”
“Let every heart, prepare him room, and heaven and angels sing.” At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of Christ, the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem. But “Joy to the World,” though sung rightly and triumphantly at Christmas, is really about the Second Coming of Christ.
Watts led in the development of hymns in the English tradition, drawing many of his hymn texts directly from the Psalms. “Joy to the World” is based upon Psalm 98, which declares creation’s joy when the Lord comes to rule and to judge. When we sing “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come,” it applies when we talk about Bethlehem and when we rejoice in the gift of the infant Christ. But the song also reminds us that Christmas isn’t over; the promises of Christmas are not yet fulfilled. Earth will fully receive her King when Christ comes again, to reign and to rule.
Think with me about verse three of the hymn, in which we read,
“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”
The reversal of the curse is promised in the coming of the Messiah and the fulfillment of his atoning work. Implicit in this third verse is the promise of the new creation. We live in light of that promise, even as we look back to Bethlehem and as we celebrate Christmas.
But look carefully at the reference to the curse. Christ’s victory over sin is declared to extend “far as the curse is found.” What curse? How far does it extend? Where is it found?
We find the curse in Genesis, chapter 3. After Eve has eaten of the forbidden tree, and then Adam also ate, and after they found themselves facing God in the reality of their sin, God first cursed the serpent:
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Then, God cursed the woman:
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
Then came to curse to Adam, and through Adam to all humanity:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
By Adam, our federal head, the curse of sin came upon all humanity. We are dust, who must return to the dust, for the wages of sin is death. All creation is under the effects of the curse. “Cursed is the ground because of you,” Adam is told.
The curse is God’s righteous judgment of sin, and the effect of the curse is death. The curse has fallen upon all human beings, first because of Adam’s sin and then because of our own. In Adam, we all sinned. In Adam, we all died.
Where is the curse found? Everywhere we look, we see the curse and its malignant effects. How far does it extend? To every atom and molecule of creation — from coast to coast, shore to shore, sky to sky, and to every square inch of the planet. That’s how far the curse is found.
Most importantly, every single human being is found under this curse. “For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
So, how can we sing about joy to the world?
Look with me to Galatians 3:10-14:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”-- so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Here is the gospel of Christ, the good news. But first, the bad news. All who rely on works of the law are under a curse. All humanity is born under this curse, and under the law. The congregation that originally received Paul’s letter would have understood immediately where Paul grounded his argument, in Deuteronomy 27 and 28. At the end of the series of curses God delivered from Mount Nebo, we find the most comprehensive of all: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” [Paul in Galatians 3:10, citing Deuteronomy 27:26]
We are born under the curse, we are cursed by the curse, and the law offers no escape. We cannot work our way from under the curse.
So where is the good news? Where is joy to the world? Look at verses 13 and 14.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. What we sinners could not and cannot do for ourselves, Christ has done for us. He removes the curse and the power of the law to condemn us.
How? He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us. The sinless Son of God became incarnate as the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. That sinless Son of God became sin for us, in order that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became a curse for us, by hanging on a tree, in fulfillment of Scripture.
Christ died on the cross, in our place, bearing our shame and guilt, paying the full penalty for our sin, dying as our Substitute, in our place, by his shed blood. He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us. He died our death, in our place, bearing our sins, redeeming us from the curse. And on the third day the Father raised him from the dead. The cursed and crucified Savior rose victorious from the grave.
Paul concludes that all this took place so that in Christ the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, and so that we, as Christians, might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.
Today we celebrate commencement, the graduation of ministers of Jesus Christ who now enter into a new season of service to the church and to the gospel. The main contours of the ceremony would be recognizable to almost anyone. Here you see graduates, diplomas, faculty, academic regalia, dignity, proud loved ones. But this is a distinctively Christian service. This is an academic ceremony, but it is a Christian service of worship.
These graduates are one of the most remarkable sights you will ever see. Who gets to observe such a moment as this, looking at newly minted ministers of Christ and knowing that they are soon to be deployed to the church and to the ends of the earth? No school is worthy of them, and not one of them is worthy of their calling. Everything you observe is by grace, and to the glory of God.
Graduates, you are wearing the gowns of academic and ministry preparation. You will soon hold diplomas as evidence of your seriousness of preparation and devotion to the ministry. You are surrounded by a host of friends and family and faculty. Their own hopes and dreams of ministry go with you and in you. This faculty has taught you with conviction and affection, and now you go to bear the gospel of Christ and to preach the Word.
Why? Because the world is full of sinners who live every day under the curse, and the penalty of the curse is death. You go to preach the gospel and to declare salvation to all who believe in Christ and repent of their sin. You go to feed Christ’s flock and to shepherd the church for whom Christ died.
How far does the gospel reach, and to what lengths must it be taken? Far as the curse is found. Go and preach. Go and tell. Teach the good news that Christ has redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found.
And so, prayerfully and proudly, we send you out — ministers of Christ, heralds of the gospel, far as the curse is found.
This is the text of the commencement address preached by President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. at the December 8, 2017 commencement ceremony at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
"He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (Heb. 1:3).
Jesus is both God manifest and God in substance.
Just as the rays of the sun give light, warmth, life, and growth to the earth, so Jesus Christ is the glorious light of God shining into the hearts of men and women. As "the radiance of God's glory," Jesus expresses God to us. No one can see God in HIs full glory; no one ever will. The radiance of that glory that reaches us from God appears in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Just as the sun was never without and can never be separated from its brightness, so God was never without and cannot be separated from the glory of Christ. Never was God without Him or He without God, and never in any way can He be separated from God. Yet the brightness of the sun is not the sun, and neither is Jesus exactly the same as God in that sense. He is fully and absolutely God, yet as a distinct Person within the triune Godhead.
Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). As the radiance of God's glory, Christ can transmit that light into your life and mine so that we can radiate the glory of God to a dark world.
In using the term "exact representation" to describe Christ's relationship to God's nature, the writer employs terminology usually associated with an impression reproduced on a seal by a die or stamp. Jesus Christ is the reproduction of God—the perfect, personal imprint of God in time and space.
How wonderful to realize that Jesus Christ, who is both the full expression of God and exact reproduction of God's nature in human history, can come into our lives and give us light to see and to know God! His light is the source of our spiritual life. And His light gives us purpose, meaning, happiness, peace, joy, fellowship, everything—for all eternity.
Suggestion for Prayer
Thank God that He determined to become a man so we could know what He is like.
For Further Study
Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 and note who allows people to see or not see spiritually.
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187.