Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A few thoughts on the providence of God

This past Thursday, Daniel and I were at Newks playing Go with some friends and members of the Mississippi Go Society when we became involved in a discussion about predestination and the providence of God. This set me thinking once again about the providence of God and why it is so comforting to me, and why it is sometimes so difficult to understand or believe.

Why is providence comforting to me?
It sets forth God created me and knows me through and through and he will provide for me. A lot of people like to use the terms predestination and providence interchangeably and in truth they are synonymous, but I like the term providence because for me it holds that connotation of God's provision.

How does it differ from freewill?
Many people who believe in freewill focus on the way they chose to follow Jesus, but they are only speaking about half of the story when they do this. God does not wait for us to choose him; when we are lost and far from God he seeks us out.
I think of the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15 (verses 3-7) when I think of God seeking us out. He finds us and carries us home in his loving arms.
Luke 19:10
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Once we have been sought out by God, he uses his spirit to draw us towards himself, we are then responsible for praying and receiving his provision of salvation.

I like the example one pastor gave of it being like a marriage proposal. God wins over the love of his life (the lost/sinners) and proposes to her (offers her salvation) now it is up to this sinner to accept. We do seek after God, but only after he has sought after us.
1 John 1:15-19
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
We love, because He first loved us.

Can we say no to a marriage proposal from someone who loves us even though we don't deserve it? I know I can't say no. This is what some refer to as irresistible grace.

Does God know all about me? Has he always known?
God knows us through and through. I love these verses from Psalm 139:1-6
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

He has always known: Psalm 139: 13-16
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

Once we are brought into his fold he has specific plans for his people.
I would love to quote all of Ephesians 1 and 2 but I don't have room. I do encourage to read those chapters and read this verse in context.

Speaking to believers: Ephesians 2:10
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Now that I have talked about God's providence a little bit, I'd like to talk about the flip side of that which is human responsibility. I already touched on it. Now I'm going to try to make a little chart.

God’s Sovereignty or Providence
God created us and we chose to disobey him.
He sent His Son to die for us and rescue us from sin. He seeks his lost sheep out and will not rest
until we are found.
God sends out His Spirit to win sinners to himself.
He prepares the hearts and minds of people for His Word.
God moves and works in our lives changing us and making us whole.

Human Responsibility
We have done sinful things in the sight of a Holy God. We need to be grateful for His provision of redemption.
We must accept his offer of salvation. He does not force us to accept Him.
We as believers must share the good news of God’s salvation with others. We are his witnesses. He uses His word, His Spirit, and our testimony to bring others to Himself.
We follow after him walking in newness and light.

Hyper Calvinism
This is the belief that takes God’s sovereignty farther than it is outlined in the Bible. People who believe in God’s sovereignty but like to cut out their own responsibility in the process are Hyper Calvinists. Usually they don’t even realize that they are falling into this trap.

I know I'm leaving out a lot. This may be too simplistic for some people. I'm not a theologian. This is as much as I understand about the will of God and the will of man as explained to me from the Bible. I may never understand more than this, this side of heaven. Then again I might have a clearer understanding next week.

I like this quote on this subject though:
I know men who are wise in their own eyes, and very well assured of their own
intellects, who, while palpably ignorant of everything that is rational, are conscious that they know everything that is spiritual. Their acquaintance with theology is thoroughly exhaustive; they have learned long ago to count to five, to reckon them at their fingers ends—one, two, three, four, five. These mystic figures comprise all the doctrines of the gospel. They know them, and they are ready to fight anybody about them. They are men of a great deal of wisdom,—seeing men; but I think a man that gets a little nearer to God discovers that he does not know everything; and he is quite clear that he can no more compass the whole of divine truth, than he can hold the ocean in the hollow of his hand. I have long felt that I shall never understand where the two great truths of free agency and predestination meet. I believe them both—believe them with equal faith; but how to reconcile them I no longer wish to know, because I do not think that God intends we should know. - Charles H. Spurgeon

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

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