A Prayer for Blessing

How grateful we are that You’re patient with us—willing to teach us, to speak with us, and
have us speak with You. You’re so willing to meet each and every need we have.
For those who have never trusted You as their Savior, help them to understand that the first
prayer You listen to from them is a prayer of confession, repentance, and surrender of their
life to You as their Lord and Savior.
We pray the Spirit of God will seal these truths in the heart of every person who reads them
today, tomorrow, and for years to come. May we begin to develop an intimate relationship
with You, and listen to You speak in prayer.
We love You, we praise You, and we bless Your holy name. In Jesus’ name, amen.

how to pray

Matthew 6:7-15
In Matthew 6:7, Jesus cautioned against meaningless repetition when talking to the Father. Just two verses
later, He left a pattern to help us pray. However, in using this passage, which is known as the Lord’s Prayer,
we’re often guilty of the very thing Jesus warned against: Instead of thoughtfully praying each line, we run
through the words mindlessly. But if we take time to carefully examine Christ’s words, we’ll find the pattern
that can transform our prayer life.
• ADORATION OF THE FATHER (Matt. 6:9). God the Father is the focus of all our prayers.
We should never forget what a privilege it is to bend our knees on earth and reach almighty God
in heaven.
• SUBMISSION TO HIS WILL (Matt. 6:10). Prayer should reflect a desire to align ourselves with
God’s goals and purposes, not to get Him to follow our plans.
• PETITION GOD FOR OUR NEEDS (Matt. 6:11). We are dependent upon the Lord, and He wants
us to come to Him with our requests.
• CONFESSION OF SINS (Matt. 6:12). When we repent and forgive others, we maintain fellowship
with God. But if we hold grudges, that fellowship is broken. God loves to answer our prayers when
the lines of communication are not disrupted.
• DELIVERANCE FROM EVIL (Matt. 6:13). Our enemy is too strong for us, but Christ has already
won the victory over him.
Jesus ended the prayer where He began—with praise to the Father for His kingdom, power, and glory
(Matt. 6:13). Next time you say this prayer, concentrate on each verse. Then, following this pattern will result
in a more dynamic and effective prayer life because it will be God-centered.

A PLace to Pray

As we establish a habit of prayer, we also need to pick a quiet place for prayer where we won’t be interrupted.
Christ went into the wilderness to be alone with His Father, but for most of us, it will probably be a room
in our home. Wherever it is, it will be like an altar where we meet with God to share our concerns and have
fellowship with Him.
Because Jesus lived an itinerant lifestyle, His place of prayer changed as He traveled, but prayer was always
a priority in His life and should be in ours as well. Here are some of the features and benefits of having a
dedicated prayer space:
• IT’S A PRIVATE PLACE. Jesus said to go into an inner room and close the door (Matt. 6:6). If we
are really serious about finding a quiet area to be alone with the Lord in prayer, He will provide one.
It may require a little creativity and adjustment on our part, but God wants to meet with each of us
privately so we can develop an intimate relationship with Him.

IT’S A HOLY PLACE. When we habitually meet with the Lord in the same place each day, it becomes
holy because it is set apart to worship and commune with Him. It becomes a visual trigger. We quickly
adjust to the setting and are immediately ready to talk to the Father—because that’s what happens
there. Some of the greatest things He accomplishes in our lives are the result of the relationship we
have with Him in that secluded place of prayer.
• IT’S WHERE OUR BATTLES ARE FOUGHT. Every time we go through difficult situations or
conflicts with people, we should bring our concerns to our heavenly Father and engage Him in
helping fight our battles. We need His guidance, assistance, and wisdom to know how to respond
and what to do. There will be times when no one else can help us, but He is always there to comfort,
strengthen, and encourage us.
• IT’S WHERE WE DEAL WITH OUR SINS. As we open His Word and our hearts before Him, we
have an opportunity to confess our sins and ask Him to convict us of anything in our lives that
is contrary to His desires for us. As we pray, we must give the Lord time to speak to our hearts.
Sometimes He uses a passage of His Word to convict, encourage, or direct us, and at other times His
Spirit communicates inaudibly with us in our hearts.
• IT’S WHERE WE DEVELOP AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD. There are times
when we pray with others or together as a family, but it’s only in our private times with the Lord that
we grow to know Him intimately and have the freedom to honestly and openly share our hearts with
Him. This is the most important activity of our lives—communing and fellowshipping with the Lord
Jesus Christ.
• IT’S WHERE WE LAY DOWN OUR BURDENS. God daily lifts our burdens, carries our concerns,
and forgives our sins when we confess them.
• IT’S WHERE WE WEEP OVER OUR TRIALS AND HEARTACHES. When we go into our prayer
room and cry out to God, He understands and mends our broken hearts.
• IT’S WHERE WE FORGIVE OTHERS. The Lord not only forgives our sins but helps us battle
through our hurts so we can forgive others.
• IT’S WHERE WE ARE STRENGTHENED. In this holy place we have the privilege of discussing every
area of our lives. As we pour out our hurts, sorrows, and burdens, the Lord comes to strengthen us.
Where do you go to pray? Having a dedicated place to come before God helps us focus and prepare our hearts
to hear from Him. Even when we’re on the go, we can set aside a time and place to talk with God, which ought
to be our greatest priority every day.

PRAY FOR OTHERS

PRAY FOR OTHERS. Sometimes God gives us a burden to intercede for someone else. Although
we may not be able to help, the Lord can.
• TRUST IN GOD’S POWER. Jesus said that an earnest prayer of faith has the power to move a
mountain (Mark 11:23). No task in harmony with God’s will is impossible to perform when we believe
in Him. Whatever He commands us to do, He gives us the strength and resources to accomplish. As
our heavenly Father, He’s protecting, supporting, and providing everything we need to obey Him.
• PRAY FOR DIRECTION. The Lord wants to guide us into His plan for our lives. If we’ll ask Him
for direction, He may not show us the entire course, but He will provide the next step. To receive
further instruction, we must be willing to obey whatever He has already revealed. As we keep walking
with Him, the path will gradually unfold to us.
• PRAY WITH THE WORD. Effective prayer is anchored in the Word of God. If we try to pray
without it, our requests may not be wise. But as we consistently read the Bible, the Lord will show us
how to pray wisely and according to His will

Put Prayer First

Prayer is one of the most important activities in our lives because we’re actually talking to the sovereign God
of the universe. He understands how we feel, knows what we think, and has the power to intervene in every
area of life. Our quiet time with God empowers us to face the challenges of each day. When we make prayer
a priority, we reap a whole host of benefits like comfort, guidance, and confidence. But an intimate and
effective prayer life never happens accidentally; we must intentionally take the following steps.
• SCHEDULE A TIME. It can be difficult to focus on prayer when the demands of life are knocking
at your door. You may have to rise early in the morning before anyone else is awake, or stay up late
at night after everyone else has fallen asleep, to have some quiet time with your heavenly Father.
• BELIEVE THE LORD HEARS OUR PRAYERS. We can be confident that God listens to us
because He never turns a deaf ear to one of His praying children. It has nothing to do with whether
we feel worthy or not. We are all invited to come boldly before His throne of grace

Our Relationship With God

In order to receive answers to prayer, we must first place our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our
sins. Because God is holy, our sins have separated us from Him. But when we repent and believe that Christ
died on the cross to pay our sin debt in full, we enter into a relationship with God and can then converse with
Him and be certain that He hears us.
The bottom line of all prayer is that access to the Father is only available through Jesus Christ, the one mediator
between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus came to open the door for us so we could have a relationship with
the heavenly Father and access to Him through prayer. And once we have entered into a relationship with
the Father through Jesus Christ, we can confidently expect answers to our prayers according to His will and
in His time

Making Prayer a Priority

ECCLESIASTES3:1-8

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.

Full Armor of God

We may forget at times but one thing is true – this world is a battlefield. Day by day, hour by hour, we face a spiritual war and an enemy who’s real. He wants nothing more than to bring defeat, for his main aim is to steal, kill, and destroy. The forces of darkness don’t wait for us to be ready for their attack. They’re ruthless, determined, and cunning.  The devil could care less if we “feel” prepared, or prayed up for our day.  In fact, he prefers we’re not.

God has given us his Word and Spirit, powerful and true, so we’ll have the wisdom and protection to stand against the enemy. As I read these verses this morning, the reality struck me again that Paul wrote them while in chains, in prison. But Truth says – this enemy we face, no matter how cruel and vicious his schemes, can never chain our spirits that have been set free by Christ. Paul was not silenced by the attacks from dark forces. Neither should we be.

What is the Full Armor of God?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Eph. 6:10-18

The Belt Of Truth

The Believer’s Integrity – A soldier in Paul’s day had a leather girdle or belt  that he tightened about his waist to protect his loins and carry his weapons of warfare, such as a dagger or sword. The belt also held his tunic together so it wouldn’t be snagged. In Christian armor, it is integrity that holds everything else together. If you do not have integrity in the big and small things of your life, you are going to lose the battle. Would people say that you are a woman or man of integrity? If not, then you cannot win the battle.

The Breastplate Of Righteousness

The Believer’s Purity – The breastplate of a soldier was sometimes made of woven chain and used to cover the soldier’s vital organs. For the Christian, the breastplate is righteousness.

The enemy wants to attack you not only with lies, but also with impurity. He wants you to read filthy magazines, watch immoral movies, and engage in all temptations of the flesh. The bottom line is that Satan wants to get into your heart and mind. He’s looking for a crack in your armor. And don’t be fooled. Satan knows where that crack is. Is your heart pure before God? If not, then you cannot win the battle.

The Shoes Of Peace

The Believer’s Tranquility – A Roman soldier’s would have hobnails on the sole, very much like football cleats because when they were fighting they needed solid footing from which to move.

Unless you have a solid footing of peace, you can never make war. Sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? When Satan comes against your tranquility, he throws out stones and briars of doubts and discouragement to cause you to stumble. Do you have peace right now? If not, then you cannot win the battle.

The Shield Of Faith

The Believer’s Certainty – The Roman soldier’s shield measured approximately two by four feet and was made of wood covered with leather. In that day, soldiers dipped arrows in oil, then lit them and shot them at the enemy. These shields were vital to protect the solider from getting burned.

Satan is going to fire flaming arrows of doubt at you. He wants to place subtle doubts in your mind about God and His Truth. He knows a spark can ignite a big fire. You will need to feed your faith and starve your doubts. Are there any seeds of doubt in your mind today? If there are, then you cannot win the battle.

The Helmet Of Salvation

The Believer’s Sanity – A soldier used a helmet to protect his head because if his head was wounded, he wouldn’t be able to think. Every believer needs to have the mind of Christ under the control of Almighty God.

When a person is saved, for the first time he has his right mind. A person withoof the Spirit ut the Lord Jesus Christ has a form of insanity. They do not operate with the mind that God made them to have. The most important thing for you to have at all times is an assurance of your salvation. Do you know that you are saved? If you aren’t, then you cannot win the battle.

Sword of the Spirit

The Word of God  – When we are tempted, the most effective weapon that God has given to us as believers is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Jesus modeled this so beautifully during His temptation in the wilderness. When the devil tried temptation after temptation against Him, Jesus used the sword of the Spirit. Jesus spoke the Word of God to Satan. In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord God only. Him only you shall serve.” and again brought the Scripture back into context, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”

The sword of the Spirit works. Memorize Scripture and use the Word of God to defeat Satan’s lies and attacks.

put on the full armor of god

God has a plan for our lives. The enemy has a plan for us too. We just have to decide which voice we’re going to listen to, and who we’re going to choose to follow each day. And chances are, if we don’t make a determined choice to follow God, we may eventually fall into the evil one’s trap. God gives specific instructions in his Word, he gives us all we need to stand strong in this life. Yet all too often we race through busy, full days, ill-equipped, unprepared, or simply not aware of what we’re up against, or who the real enemy even is.

If you’re a believer living like salt and light in this dark world, you won’t go for long without encountering obstacles and attacks he’ll hurl straight your direction. This battle is real, it’s intense.

Focusing here today, putting on His armor, staying alert, and praying, that God will equip believers everywhere to “stand strong.”

Armor of God Prayer

Dear God,

We thank you that you hold the victory over sin and death in this world. We thank you that you came to set the captives free.  We thank you for your redemptive work you’ve done in our lives.  We thank you for freedom and the hope you bring.

We hold your Word of Truth as weapon against the enemy’s schemes, and proclaim he does not have authority over our lives for we’ve been set free. Give us wisdom and discernment to recognize his traps and to stand strong against his work. Fill us fresh with the power of your Holy Spirit.

Today we put on the full armor to guard our lives against attack. We put on the belt of truth to protect against lies and deception. We put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts from the temptations we battle. We put the gospel of peace on our feet, so we’re ready to take your light wherever you send us this day. We choose to walk in the peace and freedom of your Spirit and not be overcome with fear and anxious thoughts. We take up your shield of faith that will extinguish all the darts and threats hurled our way by the enemy. We believe in your power to protect us and choose to trust in you. We put on the helmet of salvation, which covers our minds and thoughts, reminding us we are children of the day, forgiven, set free, saved by the grace of Christ Jesus. We take up the sword of the Spirit, your very Word, the one offensive weapon given to us for battle, which has the power to demolish strongholds, alive, active, and sharper than any double-edged sword.

We ask that you’d remind us to pray, constantly, for all believers. We ask for your help to stay alert in a dark world. We ask for your help to be salt and light, that we’d be loving and gracious, yet unyielding to sin.

We ask for your help in remembering to put on your full armor every day, for you give us all that we need to stand firm in this world.  Forgive us God for the times we’ve been unprepared, too busy to care, or trying to fight and wrestle in our own strength.

Thank you that we never fight alone, for you are constantly at work on our behalf, shielding, protecting, strengthening, exposing deeds of darkness, bringing to light what needs to be known, covering us from the cruel attacks we face even when we’re unaware.

We love you Lord, we need you today. In the Powerful Name of Jesus, Amen.”

Predestination Cont

No one can get around that fact.

  • Romans 8:29 says that those God foreknew, he “also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”
  • Ephesians 1:5 says that God “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.”Let me begin with a simple definition.
  • Ephesians 1:11 adds that “in him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

Since predestination is a biblical concept, we must face this doctrine squarely whether we like it or not. It’s in the Bible, therefore we must first seek to understand it and then to ask what difference it makes.

What is Predestination?

Let me begin with a simple definition. Predestination means that God freely chooses some people to be the special objects of his grace and thus to receive eternal salvation. But I think we can make it even simpler than that: The word predestination is composed to two parts: “Pre” meaning “before” and “destination” meaning “point of final arrival.” To predestine something is to determine beforehand where it will end up. If I take a package to the post office, I don’t tell the people, “Send this wherever you like.” They wouldn’t know what to do with it. I write on the front, “San Francisco.” I have predestined my package to travel from Tupelo to San Francisco. By writing the address, I have predetermined its final arrival point and I have thereby excluded all other possible destinations.

Seen in that light, we can say that predestination means that God chooses those will be saved and determines in advance that their final destination will be heaven.

Predestination and Freewill

Now as soon I write those words someone is sure to ask about predestination and freewill. Like most Christians, I have wrestled greatly with this issue over the years. There is no single statement that can fully bring together the different strands regarding God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. But let me give you something I jotted down a few years ago:

God is in charge of
what happens
when it happens
how it happens
why it happens
And even what happens after it happens
This is true of
all events
in every place
from the beginning of time.
He does this for
our good
and his glory.
He is not the author of sin, yet evil serves his purposes.
He does not violate our free will, yet free will serves his purposes.
We’re not supposed to understand all this.
We’re simply supposed to believe it.

I hope that clears up any misunderstanding! (Actually this statement—brief though it is—does summarize the Christian position on divine sovereignty and human responsibility as it has been developed over the centuries.)

How, then, should we approach a passage such as Romans 9:18-29 with its heavy emphasis on God’s sovereignty in our salvation? In his commentary on Romans, John Stott offers this quote from Charles Simeon, the great British preacher from the early 1800s. Simeon lived at a time when the Calvinist-Arminian controversy was particularly bitter, and he warned his congregation of the dangers of forsaking Scripture in favor of a theological system:

When I come to a text which speaks of election, I delight myself in the doctrine of election. When the apostles exhort me to repentance and obedience, and indicate my freedom of choice and action, I give myself up to that side of the question (Stott, p. 278).

It is possible that some people may simply not like what Paul says in Romans 9. If so, there isn’t much I can do about it. You’ll have to take it up with the great apostle himself. As I thought about it, I recalled a scene from the movie “Analyze This,” where Billy Crystal plays a psychiatrist who against his better judgment takes on a Mafia crime boss (Robert De Niro) who can’t control his emotions and starts crying at odd moments. There is a scene when De Niro’s top henchman (a character named Jelly) comes to fetch Billy Crystal at a very inconvenient moment because the boss is having another breakdown. When Billy Crystal says, “What is this? You think you can call me any time day or night?” Jelly replies, “You’re part of the family now. When the boss needs you, you come.” Billy Crystal starts to protest but Jelly cuts him off with, “It is what it is.” That simple truth applies perfectly to our text.

It really doesn’t matter if we like it or not. It is what it is.

Having said all that, we are still left with many questions. Does the Bible really teach predestination? Does it destroy free will? Does it turn us into robots or puppets on a string? How can we reconcile God’s sovereignty with the dignity of human choice?

As we examine Romans 9:18-28, it helps to remember that Paul is grappling with the difficult problem of Jewish unbelief. Why have so many Jews rejected Christ if he is indeed the Jewish Messiah? This was no abstract theological issue to the Apostle Paul. His heart was broken by the reality that so many of his friends and loved one were going to hell. We may be tempted to focus on the controversial aspects and to forget the human reality behind these words. I’m convinced that Paul wept when he wrote Romans 9. These words come not from some theoretical discussion in a seminary classroom; they come streaming from a broken heart.

Let’s plunge into this text and discover together God’s answers concerning the difficult question of predestination.

Answer # 1: God has the right to do as he wills.

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ’Why did you make me like this?’ “ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (vv. 19-21).

These verses sound harsh to modern ears tuned to talk of personal freedom. We live in a “Do your own thing” era in which the highest human value is to seek your own happiness. Our heroes are those men and women who have put personal happiness above every other consideration in life. If you don’t believe that, when was the last time you heard someone say they were getting a divorce because they weren’t happy in their marriage? You hear it all the time. Personal happiness is our national excuse for doing whatever feels good to us at the moment. Against all such me-centered thinking stands Paul’s unanswered question, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” There is no answer because the question answers itself: No one can talk back to God.

The illustration from the world of pottery-making is clear enough. The potter sits at his wheel watching the lump of clay as it spins in front of him. With one tiny touch, he creates an indentation; with another slight touch he produces an intricate swirl. By the barest changing of pressure, the potter radically alters the shape of the clay. What emerges may be an object of dazzling beauty, such as a Ming vase. Or it may be a rather ordinary, unremarkable coffee cup. Both come from the same clay. One is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars; the other is worth 25 cents. What made the difference? The potter’s hands.

Don’t overlook the main point. The coffee cup can’t say to the potter, “I wanted to be a Ming vase.” It doesn’t work like that. From one lump the potter has the right to shape the clay any way he likes. The same is true for us. We’re not all the same. In fact, God makes each one of us unique from everyone else in the world. Some have more intelligence, others less. Some are born into one race, others into another. Some are tall, others short. Some have musical skill; others can repair diesel engines. Some love to fly kites, others prefer to knit sweaters. Some will become leaders, others will live mostly in the shadows. That’s the way life is. And that’s not just the result of sin in the world. You’re different because God made you that way. No one can talk back to God and say, “You blew it.” Number one, he didn’t blow it. And number two, even if you think he did, he’s not taking any complaints from you or me.

That’s answer # 1: God has the right to do whatever he wants to us and in us and through us and with us.

Answer # 2: God delays his punishment to some in order to show his mercy to others.

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory? (vv. 22-23).

These verses teach us that although God is always just, he doesn’t always treat everyone in precisely the same way. That almost sounds un-American because we are used to hearing that all men are created equal. That’s true in one sense and not true in another. It’s true that we are all created in God’s image which gives us dignity and worth. We’re “equal” in that we are all significant to God.

But these verses specify two different groups within the human race. One group is called the “objects of wrath.” They are said to be “prepared for destruction.” The other is called the “objects of his mercy.” They are “prepared in advance for glory.”

W.H. Griffith-Thomas has a helpful word at this point:

The contrast here between “vessels of wrath” and “vessels of mercy” should be closely examined. The “vessels of wrath” are described generally as “fitted to destruction,” that is, fitted by themselves, through their own sin. On the other hand, the “vessels of mercy” are described very significantly as those which “He had afore prepared,” that is, God through His grace and mercy prepared them. Men fit themselves for hell; but it is God that fits men for heaven. (Romans, p. 148)

There is a great mystery here. However, these verses make it abundantly clear that not everyone is going to heaven. Some people are simply “prepared” for destruction. They live in such a way that their only possible destination is hell. It’s easy to think of examples: Hitler comes to mind. Or we might think of someone like Saddam Hussein.

But Paul’s thought isn’t limited to those we consider gross sinners. It really includes all of us. Left to myself, I deserve to go to hell. Left to yourself, you deserve hell. No one deserves heaven. If you go there, you go as a gift because someone else paid the price of admission for you. You aren’t good enough to get in on your own. Mercy means receiving something you don’t deserve. Paul’s point is that if God were just and not merciful, we’d all go to hell together. But since God is just and merciful, he delays his judgment on sinners in order to show mercy on those he is calling to salvation. He gives everyone more time to be saved.

Yesterday I received the sad news that the brother of a dear friend died from a sudden heart attack. My friend is grieving because of the loss of his brother and because he does not know if his brother was saved or not. He fears that he was not. What can we say in such a situation? I begin with the words of Genesis 18:25, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” When my father died over thirty ago, the minister who conducted his funeral comforted me with that verse. I take it to mean that God will make no mistakes in his dealings with humanity. No one will go to hell by mistake. It’s not possible that God will somehow get the files mixed up or hit the wrong button and send someone to the wrong destination. The Judge of the all earth will do what is right–not just in the mega-sense but also in dealing with my father and with my friend’s brother and with all our loved ones and with each of us individually. There will be no mistakes in eternity. Everyone who truly belongs in heaven will be there. No one will be in hell except those who truly deserve to be there. God’s grace will take care of those who go to heaven. God’s justice will take care of everyone else.

Charles Spurgeon applied this great truth to himself:

I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterwards; and he must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that doctrine.

But does this doctrine not destroy all incentive to evangelism? Here is Mark Dever’s answer:

I understand that some worry that if we accept the Bible’s teaching on election we will never evangelize. Should we not also be worried that if we reject the Bible’s teaching on election we will never be humbled enough to make Christianity look like anything worth having? I love Spurgeon’s humility. I love his boasting in God. I think it is attractive. I think it is motivating to evangelism. I think it displays God’s love. A biblical doctrine of election highlights our poverty and Christ’s riches, our weakness and Christ’s strength, our need and God’s supply.

I know of a man who came to Jesus Christ after many years of people praying for him. For a long time, he seemed so close, but he couldn’t quite make the decision. Then someone shared the gospel with him and he said, “I’m not going to accept Christ tonight. I’ll do it next Wednesday.” He said he needed more time to study the death and resurrection of Christ. When the next Wednesday came, that man said, “Okay. I’m ready. Let’s do it.” And he gave his heart to Jesus Christ. His first words after he prayed to receive Christ were, “I feel like a great burden has been lifted from my shoulders.” Who was behind that? God! He gave that man more time to think about Christ. And when he did, he was saved. That’s how God’s grace works.

Answer # 3: God determined to show mercy to both Jews and Gentiles.

Even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles. As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ’my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ’my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ’You are not my people,’ they will be called ’sons of the living God.’ “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah” (vv. 24-29).

At first glance, you may say, “What’s the point of all these Old Testament quotes?” They speak to one of the primary objections against predestination. Many people think that predestination means that only a few people will be saved. Nothing could be further from the truth. God has determined to open the doors of heaven to the whole wide world. Anyone who believes in Jesus can be saved. In Paul’s day that meant that salvation was not just for the Jews, it was also for the Gentiles. Today there are approximately 13 million Jews in the world out of a total population of 6.5 billion people. Who are the Gentiles? That’s everyone who isn’t Jewish, which is roughly 99.999% of the world.

If God had said, “I’m only going to save the Jews,” he would still be fair because no one deserves to be saved. We couldn’t complain if salvation were limited to a small group if that’s what God had decided to do. Remember, no one can talk back to God. But he didn’t do that. These verses teach us that God opened the door of salvation to everyone! Hosea prophesied of a day when God would say to those who were not his people (that is, the Gentiles), “You are now my people.” God has opened the door of salvation to the world. Anyone who wants to can walk right in. Will there be any Jewish people in heaven? Absolutely. But not every Jewish person goes to heaven. These verses use the term “remnant,” which describes a smaller group out of larger population. Paul’s point is that we shouldn’t be surprised by Jewish unbelief because the Old Testament predicted it in several passages.

But don’t miss the greater point. God is so determined to populate heaven that he has invited the whole world to join him there. Anyone who wants to can go to heaven.

Jew or gentile.
Slave or free.
Male or female.
Rich or poor.
Young or old.
Educated or illiterate.
Healthy or sick.

None of those things matter with God. In his great mercy, God has opened the door and included the whole world in his invitation. All he is waiting for is your RSVP.

Let me wrap this up with three conclusions about the doctrine of predestination.

  1. Predestination is true because it is biblical.

Romans 9:19-29 doesn’t use the word, but it does contain the doctrine. Some people are vessels of wrath; others are vessels of mercy. Some are chosen; others are not. God shows justice to all, saving mercy to some. The fact that we don’t fully understand this doesn’t change the truth. We would do better to simply say, “The Bible says it, I don’t understand it, but I still believe it.” In that sense predestination fits into the same category as the Trinity. We wouldn’t have thought of it ourselves, but the Bible teaches it, therefore it must be true.

  1. Predestination humbles us because it exalts God as the author of our salvation.

In the final analysis, this is why some people fight so strongly against predestination. They don’t like any doctrine that gives all the glory of God and none to us. But that’s precisely why predestination must be true. It teaches us that salvation is of the Lord. It is a work of God from first till last. It starts with him and ends with him. If predestination is true, it means that we can never claim any credit for our salvation. We don’t even get credit for seeking the Lord because he sought us before we sought him. Harry Ironside told of a prayer meeting where a man gave a stirring testimony of God’s grace in his life. Afterwards someone came up to him and said, “My brother, that was a fine testimony you gave. You talked a lot about God, but you didn’t mention your own part in salvation.” The man thought for a moment and then said, “You’re right. I did leave that out. My part was to run away from God as fast as I could, and God’s part was to run after me until he caught me.” So it is with all of us. We do the running away. God does the catching. We’re in charge of being lost. God is in charge of saving us.

  1. Predestination preserves human freedom because each person must still personally respond to Jesus Christ.

Someone may say, “Why should I bother responding? If I’m predestined, God will save me when he’s ready.” Not so fast, Bubba. The Bible says that God saves those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. No one is saved without faith in Christ. God has the first move, but the next move is up to you. Henry Ward Beecher used to say that the elect were the “Whosoever wills” and the non-elect were the “Whosoever won’ts.” If you are wondering whether God has predestined you to salvation, just answer this question: Have you ever placed your faith in Jesus Christ—and in him alone—for your salvation? If the answer is yes, then I’ve got good news, you’re predestined for heaven. But what if the answer is no. Or what if you’re not sure? One reason God has delayed his punishment is to give you more time to be saved. The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish but wants all people to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Think about that. God wants you in heaven. He even paid the price of admission—the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. If you go to hell, it won’t be God’s fault. He’s done everything necessary to make sure you go to heaven. Don’t worry about predestination. Make sure you know Jesus. That’s the issue that determines your eternal destiny.

Every Decision Is a Free Choice

That leads me to give you my personal understanding of predestination and free will. I confess that I struggled with this whole question for many years, and did my share of arguing late into the night. Eventually I came to an understanding that has freed me from the necessity to argue anymore. It basically consists of two points. First, from our human standpoint, we are completely free. When you wake up in the morning, you have a choice to get out of bed or to stay in bed. You can put on a red dress or a blue one. When you get in your car, you are free to drive to work or you can drive to St. Louis if you like. Every decision you make is a free choice. By that I simply mean that you do not feel constrained by some divine power that forces you to eat at Burger King instead of McDonalds.

That leads to the second point: God sees and knows everything you do. He hears everything you say. He will someday judge you for all of it. Nothing escapes him. Everything is transparent before his eyes. Yes, you have free will but you are 100% responsible for every choice you make—that includes the choices you make in the words you say and the thoughts you think. He won’t just judge the “big” things; he’s going to judge the “little” ones too.

Salvation is of the Lord

Let’s apply this truth of freewill and predestination to your salvation. Several years ago I spent an hour with two friends who couldn’t believe in predestination. So I asked them if they freely chose to come to Christ. Yes, they said. Did you feel pressured or coerced by God? No, not at all. Was is it a free choice to accept Christ? Yes, absolutely. When I got them far enough out on a limb, I sawed it off behind them. I asked a very simple question: As you look back now, are you conscious that Someone was drawing you to Jesus? They paused for a moment and both answered yes. That Someone is the Holy Spirit who draws unbelievers to Christ (see John 16:8-11).

What does it mean? When you came to Christ, you made a decision of your will. You chose him. Predestination simply means, God chose you first and if he didn’t choose you first, you would never have chosen him. To say it another way, God so arranged the circumstances that when the moment was right, my two friends literally had no other choice but to freely choose Jesus. They weren’t aware of it at the time, but in looking back, they could see the invisible hand of God drawing them to Christ.

So it is for all of us. Salvation is of the Lord. It is a work of God from beginning to end. Our choice is a free choice, but it is made possible only by God’s Spirit enabling us to believe and be saved. Someone has illustrated the truth this way. Think of the gate of heaven, and above it is a large sign, “Whosoever will may come.” As you pass through the gate, you look back and from the inside the sign reads, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.”

Or to say it yet another way: “He doesn’t make you go against your will, he just makes you willing to go.” I have often said that God will not force anyone to believe. He is a perfect Gentleman. But that is only part of the story. When the moment comes, God so arranges the circumstances that you are irresistibly drawn to Jesus Christ. He gives you a new heart and a new desire, and from that new desire you freely choose the Lord.

Run to the Cross

Here is the good news for sinners. No one has to go to Hell. If you go there, it won’t be because you were predestined for Hell. It will be because you are sinner deserving of God’s judgment. Earlier I said that no one can be saved unless God calls him. That thought may trouble you, but it shouldn’t. How do you know if God is calling you? If you have the slightest desire, then God is calling you. If you want to be saved, then God is calling you. It truly is as simple as that.

If God is calling you, then come running to the cross of Christ. Fling yourself upon God’s mercy. Hold fast to the bloody Cross as your only hope. If you want to be saved, you can be saved and you will be saved. That is the promise of God to you. No one will ever be lost who turned to Christ for salvation. No one will be in hell who truly wanted to go to heaven by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.

“Whosoever will may come” is still the gospel message. When we finally get to heaven, we will look back and discover that we were indeed “chosen before the foundation of the world.”

If you are still without Christ, may he make you restless in your heart until you find your rest in him. If you are a believer, may you find comfort and joy in believing both now and in the days to come. Amen.