Thursday, July 4, 2013

A fatal choice?

On Sunday June 16th I was preparing for a Sunday school lesson later that morning and was reviewing numerous verses on election and fatalism.  Perhaps my blog post on May 30th was still on my mind.  Regardless, this subject has been upon my mind a lot lately.  When I prepare for a Sunday school lesson, I begin thinking about the subject a week or more before the class, and on the morning of, I begin gathering the relevant passages, and review them.  One of the most interesting passages was that of the Parable of the Talents found in both Matthew & Luke (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27).  But before we get to the parable, let's consider what we do know about our God and election.

God made his choice of us long before creation and even before sin (Ephesians 1:3-5).  The remedy for sin, Christ on the cross (1 Peter 1:20), was determined at this time also.  Never let the thought enter your mind that God sent his Son as "plan b"!  Not only did He plan a remedy, but he did so at great expense to himself, out of an extreme grace!
Some notable verses are listed here for you to ponder:
Prov. 16:9 "A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps."
Prov. 16:33 "The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord."
Matt. 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
2 Thes. 2:13b "God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth"
Acts 18:9-10 "Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.'"

As for the intent of this post - it is not to debate election at any rate - but rather to explain it plainly and particularly.  So often it ends up frequently twisted into religious fatalism.  The word election in the original is really just a word that means choice.  Yet in light of God doing the choosing, it bears more thought.  You and I do change our mind.  And for good cause, too!  Many times we find that we made a mistake, we goofed and make a mid-stream correction.  Often when we chose something ahead of time, we have to back up and alter our choice which was based upon a faulty or inadequate decision process.  But to say such of God, takes away part of His essential deity!  For if God, who by definition as God is perfect, were to change, he'd be less than perfect, and no longer God!  Therefore we must protect, as it were, our definition and understanding of Him as perfect and unchangeable, since it bears on His essential character. 
But consider what that means when we think of Him, before the foundation of the world, choosing a man, choosing a plan, establishing his will before he even begins to work it out!  If this really is God we are talking about, what an assurance it gives to us!  Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today & forever! (Heb. 13:8) 

Yet we do still have a problem...
What about the objection that God is cold and unloving in his choices?  At one level we really do not have to even answer this, for God defines good.  If, in our opinion, we chafe at His choice, the matter is really with our own opinion.  We have to bear in mind that this is God and he is NOT a man.  And the definition of His perfection and essential deity come under scrutiny for us to question Him so.  Nevertheless - if we do, with a bit of reverence, we may discover something of His other characteristics that bear strongly on the question.

And why not embrace fatalism - since indeed, if God HAS chosen already, and our end is determined after all, what hope do we have?  Should we all just "Eat drink & be merry, for tomorrow, we die"?!   Here is where we will look at the parable of the talents (or minas).  I will quote the part of the parable that bears upon the argument here: 
Matt. 25:24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.  27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.  30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Please note the attitude that the man with one talent had toward his lord.  He says, "I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours."  It is as though he was slapping in the face, his lord!  One would say that someone with that attitude would clearly be out of line!  And look plainly at the very phrase, "I knew you to be a hard man".  If so, he clearly did not honor his lord, not with his attitude, nor with his actions, as his lord showed saying, "So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest." 
I find it interesting that the lord in this parable is depicted as a good and honorable man by the first two servants, and they received a reward for their efforts.  Whereas the servant who had no respect toward his lord, received a reward equal to his lack of respect.  And if we begin to have a hard attitude like this man toward our Lord, we should expect no less from Him. 

Remember, that this is the One who has willingly, while we were still sinners, sent His Son to die for us (Rom. 5:8).  His Son willingly went to the cross out of love for us.  He left us His Word that we might be able to gain a heart of wisdom and walk in freedom from sin’s penalty, as we have been delivered.  And for us to call him a hard lord, is a slap in the face of all that He has done for us.  And what would you do, if you had done that much for someone, despite their active hatred of you, and you had loved someone so much that you would (in a sense) overlook those offenses and offer to them a truly loving and gracious offer of friendship, and they spat in your face?!
We have nothing to offer to this gracious Lord, but he offers to us Christ - which is everything!  How ought we to respond but in gratitude!  Job lost much in his trials, yet never did he accuse God of unrighteousness.  Who are we to put our defense before the Lord, "I knew you to be a hard man"  Instead let us resolve to beg for forgiveness of Him.  For He has said in John 6:37, " All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out."  Here is not fatalism, but a trusting of the One who is Good and is Loving.  Look at 1 Peter 5:6-7, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."

When I was 16 years old at my very 1st job, I had a brutal job to do.  It was a landscaping job and we were raking dirt, moving boulders, laying down rotten granite paths, etc.  On this one day it was particularly hot and we were sweating fiercely!  One of the managers had left and returned from town with something like four 6-packs of soda of varying types.  As he was passing them out, he offered me a Mountain Dew, and I requested a Pepsi.  "Beggars can't be choosers!"  It was like a slap in the face.  I wasn't begging?  My pride began to well up within and I felt the hot flash of blood to my face.  But I was, fortunately, not foolish enough to act upon such a visceral response.  Instead I backed away and popped the can and drank.  Strangely, that was the BEST Mountain Dew I ever drank! 
But isn't that curious, Beggars can't be choosers.  God is the chooser - we are the beggars.  But take heart my friends, we serve a gracious and kind God.  He is hard to those who treat him contemptuously, but for those who humble themselves and consider all that He has done for us, unworthy as we are, He cares for us!  He will by no means cast us aside! 

Thank you Father for such Love!  Amen.

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