Yesterday I wrote about taking care of God’s stuff in a really simplistic manner. I even said that I didn’t want to get into a discussion about original sin, free will and the evil in this world. After I slept on it I thought, why not? Why not go into the reasons we have so much trouble with this subject?
Our free will got us in trouble from the start. It’s the Adam and Eve thing. God wanted us to be with him but to also be free in our decision. To freely love Him without any problems. So God created the evil (serpent) and the Tree of Life. We were to choose Him over the Tree. But that free will thing got in the way and Adam and Eve got curious…
When I was writing the blog yesterday I could almost hear everyone going “But…” I agree, this is a really hard thing to do. We need to take care of everything and everybody. Do we do that? No. And now more challenges have come our way; Puerto Rico, Houston, Florida and the evil that happened out in Las Vegas. These are large things that are happening. Many people are there, right now, to help. If I jumped on a plane to go help I don’t think I would have much to offer, but I would if I had the means to do it.
So we give money to the church or to an organization like Samaritan’s Purse to help. I’m not knocking that, I wouldn’t be able to go to the corners of the earth to help and they do. Do we give that magical ten percent? Some do and some don’t. It really doesn’t matter as long as we give.
But then, what about your neighbors? They weren’t effected by flood. But they have other needs. We need to be actively looking around at the needs that surround us. We need to be asking “Lord, what can I do?”.
In the Old Testament God made it a law that ten percent of the first-fruits should be tithed to Him. I have one of the scriptures up in the meme at the head of this blog. God wants us to test him. But I don’t think that he only means our income. Yes, we can give of our income and support our church, organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, the local christian radio station, the homeless shelter down the street; the list is endless. We also need to give of ourselves. Help our neighbors, friends and others through the needy times. Be there for them. Give them hope and encouragement. Pray for them and for all these other organizations that are the hands and feet of Jesus. Then we need to get up to join them.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed and those who resist will incur judgement.” Romans 13:1-2
This is a hard teaching, and one many people seem to disagree with during this time of political transition. However, it is the plain words of Scripture–God is the one who is in charge of everything, even governments, even elections. Does this mean politicians are always choosing wisely and following God’s will? Of course not. However, even things that seem very bad to us may be used for good in God’s plan (read the story of Joseph in Genesis for an example of this).
How does this fit in with our free will? Well, I’ve been studying that. It’s also a thorny question that is hard to wrap our human minds around. I would recommend a book by Randy Alcorn called hand in Hand. It explains that while we can choose to violate God’s moral will(God’s laws), and we do this often by sinning, we can never violate his decretive will, the things that God has promised and decreed will come to pass. How does this all work out? It’s a mystery, we must leave it in God’s hand.
And are the bad things that happen really for our good? Well Alcorn says that things that seem to us to be for our immediate good, are not always for our ultimate good. How do we tell the difference? I don’t think we can, we have to trust God. It’s one of those things Lutherans are content to admit we cannot completely understand or reconcile in our human way of thinking.
This was the verse for my devotional reading today:
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:17
If we trust in God, we don’t have to fear earthly governments and powers or try to take events into our own hands. Our free will can never thwart God’s will for us and for the world. Of course, the Bible also tells us there is a time to “obey God, not men”(Acts 5:29) but I will take that up in my next post!
This is the new topic this month and it’s a hard one. Many people who hear the word obedience will think of a dog. We train dogs to sit, come, go, fetch and so on. That’s what we think of (myself included!) when we hear this word.
Do you think that God’s up there going Sit!, Lay Down!, Fetch! That the Master calls out commands and Christians are just supposed to be puppets doing what He tells us to do?
I don’t think so. The choice is ours. That is the point. We still have free will in all that we do. God actually made us this way. He doesn’t want puppets, he wants followers.
I just put obedience in BibleGateway.com and a whole big list of scripture comes up. Yes, the scripture tells us to be obedient to the will of God. So now we have to think, What is the Will of God? That’s when we go back to the Word of God: the Bible.
“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:16 So if we want to walk in God’s Will, we need to be like obedient slaves. We can be a slave to sin or a slave to God. But there are more scripture that outlines it for us. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30 We can take up the offer that Jesus holds out for us, to take up His Yoke. Imagine this: you see those old photos with oxen pulling a cart. There is this big piece of wood riding across their shoulders. That’s the yoke holding the oxen together so that they can share the weight of the load. To be yoked with Jesus in our lives would mean that He is taking the larger portion. We can drop the worry and fretting. His yolk is easy and light. Who wouldn’t want to go through life like that?
So to be obedient we need to obey his commandments. Jesus gave that to us in Matthew 22:36-39 when he was asked:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
“I Don’t Want Free Will” by Martin Luther
“I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want “free-will” to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground ; but because even were there no dangers. I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success.¦ But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God.” – Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 313-314.