I’ve just finished reading Ed Welch’s new book What Do You Think of Me and Why Do I Care? Wow. Just, wow. I wish every person in the church could read this book. It is sort of a spin off of his other book When People Are Big and God is Small, but still it is an excellent read and worth the time.
In What Do You Think of Me and Why Do I Care? Welch does a great job simplifying the issue of our insecurity and addressing it in very practical ways. The book is actually interactive. He leaves large blank areas on almost every page for the reader to write down notes and answer questions. It is as if the Ed Welch is talking directly with you and helping you to personally think through the issues in your heart.
About the Author:
Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He has counseled for over twenty-five years and is the best-selling author of many books including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression: A Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction; Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest; and When I Am Afraid: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Fear and Anxiety. He and his wife Sheri have two married daughters and four grandchildren.
Here is the book description:
Tired of Trying to Win Approval and Escape Rejection? Peer pressure, codependency, shame, low self-esteem these are just some of the words used to identify how people are controlled by others opinions. Why is it so important to be liked? Why is rejection so traumatic? Edward T. Welch s insightful, biblical answers to these questions show that freedom from others opinions and genuine, loving relationships grow as we learn about ourselves, others, and God. This interactive book includes questions for individual or group study and is suitable for teenagers and young adults.
Do you care what other people think about you? Does a critical comment get you down? Welch says we all share a common problem: fear of others’ opinions. Every human being has had to manage, tolerate, and struggle with it. We want to fit in. We want to be respected. Perhaps we act differently when we know people are watching. Perhaps we cave into peer pressure. Welch argues the heart of the matter is not other people. “Chances are that the problem is not so much the eyes of other people as it is something in you.” Much of life, Welch says, comes down to three questions:
1. Who is God?
2. Who am I?
3. Who are these other people?
You have the answers to these questions, he says. They just need to be uncovered. The Bible is the guide. The Bible will get to your heart. Welch notes that to want to be liked, loved, appreciated, and successful is common. To need these things is a problem. “You will either fear God or other people. There are no alternatives.”
Welch writes about worship and idols. “Even if you worship Jesus Christ and say that he alone is King, you can easily drift to mixed allegiances.” He helps readers see that God is to be relevant all the time (not just when we need Him). He explains how what may be a good thing turns to a bad one (idolatry can masquerade as something innocent). Welch lays out a path of a lifelong journey. First, turn around – turn back to God. Listen to Him. You will love Him more and want to act like Him, loving others more. “The more you love God, the less you will love the acceptance or recognition of others.”
I highly recommend the hasty purchase and thorough reading of this book.
Parts of the review provided here was taken from the Amazon website related to this resource and can be found in its entirety here.
Frank van Dalen is my very good friend. The work that he is a part of in Pakistan is truly amazing. I wanted to share with all of you the work that God is doing there. I hope it will encourage you as much as it has me.
Every trip I make to Pakistan includes a visit to our Christian Hospital in Sahiwal. It is a significant ministry that reaches over 35,000 patients per year, 98 percent being Muslims. As I enter the doors of the hospital, I am reminded of the words of Hosea 6:6. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice ….” With these words, Hosea challenges the people of Israel and Judah to demonstrate their faith by their actions, much in the same way that James tells us: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? …. If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warm and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” (James 2:14 – 17).
Jesus obviously thought this was an important teaching. Twice in Matthew’s Gospel, He quotes Hosea’s charge: “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” And in both cases, he tells his audience to “Go and learn what this means,” (Matthew 9:13). It is important to not only acknowledge this truth but also to act upon it.
What strikes me in Pakistan is how living by this Biblical code of conduct is effective in reaching the Muslim community. As I was visiting with the new Chief of Police in Sahiwal, he told me about a recent tour that he had taken of the city. “The first building I asked about was your hospital. The officer who was with me said, “That’s the Mission Hospital. They do good work.’”
I was so encouraged to hear these words from this officer. He did not have to offer praise. In fact, the Pakistani police often consider us more of a bother because of the effort they have to put in to protect us. But in this case, because of the ministry of mercy in our hospital, they consider us a blessing.
Please pray for more U.S. missionaries to hear the call to come to the hospital. Even though we read a lot of negative news about Pakistan, the security situation around Sahiwal is now quite positive. The Chief of Police described the current situation as “boring.” Pray for this opportunity to show our faith by the works of mercy with which we are privileged to be involved.
Thank you to all who support the hospital work and to those who support it through your scholarships for nursing students. The Lord is using this ministry to demonstrate genuine faith in the heart of the Muslim world.
World Witness medical missions is focused on Christian Hospital, Sahiwal. The hospital was established in 1915 and has developed into a full general 160-bed hospital with medical, surgical and public health programs as well as a fully accredited School of Nursing and a Nursing Student Hostel. The primary purpose of the hospital is evangelism. Our strategy is based on the evangelistic message of Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick and tell them the kingdom of God is near.” It is the quality of our health care and the attitudes our staff has toward each other and the patients that lends credibility to what we teach. Our three-fold strategy includes quality medical care, attitudes among the staff that reflect Christ to each other and to the patients, and a Spiritual Department that can present the Gospel clearly in a culturally acceptable way.
The hospital has a 16-bed ICU, 20 private rooms, 3 operating rooms, a labor and delivery suite, x-ray, ultrasound, endoscopic equipment, lab, pharmacy, casting room, emergency room, outpatient department, and chapel. Courtyards are available to patients, as space for relatives to cook food for patients, and there are separate wards and waiting areas for men and women. Though open to all segments of society, the hospital primarily serves the poor and disadvantaged.
Short-term and long-term assignments are available for physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, operating room nurses and Nursing School teachers. Your gifts mean that nurses can be trained at our Christian Hospital, and that each mother who has given birth will receive a Bible as a memorial gift for her child. Not only do the mothers see the Gospel lived out in the lives of our doctors and nurses, but they also hear the Gospel as it is shared by members of our spiritual team. Each year 30,000 patients who would otherwise not hear the truth are beneficiaries of your gifts. You are helping to support a hospital that has been a faithful witness for the past 100 years.
The School of Nursing at Christian Hospital, Sahiwal, is accredited by the Pakistan Nursing Council with an annual performance review. Students graduate with certification as Registered Nurses after three years followed by a diploma in Midwifery after the fourth year. The School of Nursing has been ranked as one of the top schools in the country for more than 10 years. Through its partnership with World Witness, the School has the premier Nursing School library in the Sahiwal District and the most modern of anatomic teaching models.
As a result, the Pakistan Nursing Council regularly sends national level interns to observe the School and learn its secret. The truth is simple: as a Christian School, all things are done with honesty and integrity “as unto Christ.” Graduates of the School serve not only in Pakistan but in the
Middle East, Europe and the United States. Eighty-one (81) young Christian girls study in the four-year program. All require a scholarship of $500 per year toward room, board, tuition and teaching supplies.
For more information and to learn about how you can be involved, visit: worldwitness.org
There are few men I admire and respect more than Chris Minard. He probably wouldn’t like me saying that publicly because he is too humble. And he probably wouldn’t like me saying publicly that he is humble, but he is. So many Christians, justified and covered by the grace of God, still live as if they need to hide. Chris brings some much needed clarity to every believer’s thinking on this issue. Read; and be encouraged.
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
In Genesis 3:6 – 10 we see in the Garden of Eden our first parents Adam and Eve. God told them not to eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden. They ate and in doing so committed sin against God. Actually this was the first sin committed by man against God. Sometimes called original sin, this sin has stained each and every one of us since the garden. We are all born into sin and as Romans 3 states this is our nature.
After Adam and Eve sinned against God they covered themselves and hid from God. When we see this we probably think, “Don’t they know they can’t hide from God?” The truth is we are just like our first parents. When we sin we try and cover ourselves and we try and hide from God and from others. We all do it! My desire as I write this is to remind us that we don’t have to hide. We can go to the Father and receive forgiveness for sins and help when we need it.
Reasons We Hide
One of the main reasons we hide is because we don’t want God and others to see us for who we truly are, sinful and fallen. We want others to think highly of us. We don’t want to face failure or be known as failures. Perhaps we may have been in situations where we felt judged or were judged for our failures in the past and we fear experiencing that pain again.
Many of us have a wrong view of our Heavenly Father. We put attributes of our earthly fathers onto God. We may not believe God can love us or care for us because we didn’t see that kind of love from our earthly fathers. We might not believe God can forgive us because we did not receive forgiveness when we failed from earthly parents or influential people in our lives.
It may be due to our faulty theology that says we have to make up for our sin and failures. We know there is no way we can accomplish this repaying for our sins because we don’t have the ability to pull it off in and of ourselves.
For some of us it is just pride and arrogance. We don’t see the need to go to God and receive help, cleansing and forgiveness. We can take care of our own mess. We may not say this out loud but that’s the way we live. These are just a few of the reasons we hide but not an exhaustive list.
What Does Hiding Look Like?
There are many different ways to “hide” from God and others. We will make up stories to cover up or not take blame for our sin. We will blame others just like Adam and Eve did (Genesis 3:12-13). Adam blamed Eve and Eve in turn blamed the serpent. If we can blame someone else then we don’t have to deal with our sin and we don’t have to go to God and seek forgiveness and help in times of need.
Hiding may look like self sufficiency. Working real hard and staying busy. If I do a lot of good deeds, serve people in need, keep myself real busy doing good things then I don’t have to deal with what I have done or what is going on in my heart. It is kind of like putting fingers in your ears and yelling “la, la, la, la, la” as loud as you can so you don’t have to listen to God as He is calling you to come to Him and receive help and cleansing.
For some it may be going to other things instead of God. It may be purposely not spending time with other believers who care for you and know you and instead spending all your time with others who don’t know you or won’t take the time to ask hard questions. One person sins against another in a very open way where many people know about the sin committed. Instead of staying and repenting and letting God do His reconciling work that person may stop spending time with the people who know what he or she has done. They may even decide to just change churches and start over.
For many it may be turning to relationships that won’t fulfill or to things that will numb us and help us not have to deal with things in our life that God wants to remove because He knows they are not good for us.
What Are the Effects of Hiding on Us?
There are many negative ways hiding from God and others affect us. When we don’t go to God when we sin or are sinned against we cannot have guilt and shame removed from our lives. We then tend to carry this guilt and shame with us. That guilt and shame then causes us to grow weary of serving God and relating with Him and in turn places us farther away from His throne.
We lack peace and are anxious because we have not laid our burden before God. We are too busy trying to take care of our own sin and consequences of sin that we grow weary.
Relationships are deteriorated between us and God and also between us and others. When we don’t spend time with God He can seem distant or uncaring. Of course this is not true and is actually the opposite of the truth. When we don’t spend time with God’s people we also fracture our relationships with those people God has placed in our life to serve us, help us, and point us to God.
Why We Don’t Have to Hide Anymore
God saw Adam and Eve in their nakedness and took an animal and made garments for them and clothed them. Even though covered there was still a separation from God due to their fallen sinful state.
But God had a plan to bring His people back into right relationship with Him. Covering mankind with the blood of animals would not allow them to come before Him so He sent His son to come to earth, live a perfect life for us and die on our behalf to remove the stain of sin from us. We now have access to our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus. Romans 5:8-10 and Hebrews 4:14-15 are verses that come to mind as we look to see what Christ has done for us and for encouragement to come before God for help and cleansing from our sin.
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
God now invites us to come to Him, run to Him, when we sin, are sinned against, are in need of mercy or are weak. We don’t have to hide and live in shame and guilt. We can come to God and be cleansed for the stain of sin.
God has given us Christ’s righteousness and has put His wrath that we deserve on His Son. This concept is called Justification (Romans 5:1-2,6-11). We now have right standing before God. We are forgiven for past sins, current sins and sins we will commit in the future. This righteousness of Christ is a one and done thing. It is not based on our performance but Christ’s performance on the cross. As believers we can come out of hiding because of what Christ has done for us. We don’t have to fear judgment from the Father and we don’t have to fear judgment from others.
When we hide from God and others we are not grasping the gospel, not understanding that we can be clean. God says to come to Him confess and be cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Confession and repentance are now a grace gift from God to keep us from running and hiding.
God wants us to commune with Him and with other believers. God has given us a family of believers for our good. He calls us to live out in the open with one another. When one has fallen into sin other believers can restore them with gentleness. When we are weak others can encourage us in the Lord and remind us of what Christ has done for us. When we are in hiding we are keeping ourselves from the grace and mercy that God provides and we are keeping ourselves from grace gifts (other believers) that God has given for our good.
Brothers and sisters come out of hiding. Let us come to God and receive hope, help, love, forgiveness and the peace that only he can give. Also, let us not neglect being with other believers so we can receive the encouragement we need and so we can continually remind each other of what Christ has done on our behalf.
Come out of Hiding! Run to God!
#10. Should we judge? 1 Corinthians 2:15 says “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment,” but 1 Corinthians 4:5 says “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
Although at first glance these passages may appear contradictory, a few basic considerations lead to a different conclusion.Whenever you read the Bible (or an document several millennium old) you have to keep in consideration that it was written in a different culture and in a different style than we in the 21st century western world are used to.
The first key to understand these passages is context. It is crucial to remember that all passages have a context, and to take this into account when interpreting any passage of Scripture. Often those who would accuse other Christians of being ‘judgmental’ may make the mistake of taking passages out of context and misinterpreting what they say. For example, most of the passages in the “Do Not Judge” category, when read in their wider context, clearly refer to not judging people hypocritically or arbitrarily according to human rules or opinions (eg: see Matthew 7:1-6,15-22; Romans 14:1 cf v10,13; etc.). The passages in the “Do Judge” category are all examples of judging by or according to God’s revealed standards in His Word. Or judging as God would judge, with mercy, justice, grace, and wisdom.
Having looked at the immediate context, we must also look at the context of the rest of Scripture to allow those passages that speak most clearly to be a priority in our interpretation. When we do refer to those scriptures with greater clarity the issue of Judging becomes much clearer. For example, John 7:24 states: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (NKJV). God’s righteousness is revealed in His Word, so it follows we are to judge by it. Hence, it is clear from even this one passage that there is a superficial judging which is forbidden, and a godly judging which is commanded and commended. This confirms our findings above.
Once these factors are taken into account, then it becomes apparent that there is no contradiction, as these passages refer to different kinds of judgement. The judgement that is forbidden is hypocritical judgement. The judgment that is commanded is judgement according to God’s Word. Those who criticize people who seek to judge by the standards given in God’s Word seem oblivious to the fact that in their criticism they too are judging those they oppose by labeling them ‘judgmental’! However, when critical judgment is based upon God’s Word, such judgement is good and right.
#9 Is God good? Many verses seem to suggest that God is, indeed good. There are too many to list. But the Bible also says “Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.” Ezekial 20:25-26.
This is a great question to raise. It does seem like there are two very different Gods; One in the Old Testament, full of anger and wrath, and One in the New Testament, full of grace and mercy. But it only seems like this; upon further analysis we see God be very gracious, patient, and merciful to the Israelites in the Old Testament, and Jesus talking about hell and judgement more than any other topic in the New Testament. So there is balance on this issue through out the Bible.
The question presented before us, however, is one that can be cleared up from Romans 1. Here, Paul says:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
You can see the repeated phrase of God “giving them up” to their desires and passions. Tim Keller has a great definition of hell that I think is not only great, but biblical. Hell is finding your identity in something other than God. Such is the case with the people described by Paul and Ezekiel. These are people who are wanting hell. They want to find and found their identity on something other than God. When people pursue hell with such fervor and passion, ignoring the call and grace of God, eventually God will give you what you want. Heaven, is saying to God “Thy will be done.” Hell is God saying to you, “Thy will be done.”
Now this may sounds mean. If God is so good and wants every body to love him because that is what is best, why doesn’t God MAKE them see that he is good? Why doesn’t he MAKE them follow him? Is this not what Ezekiel tells us as to the very reason why God has “given them up”? Notice the last phrase in the last verse. [T]hat I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD. The purpose of bringing these kinds of people (God doesn’t do this necessarily to every person) is so that they might know God. Some people are just thick-headed and stubborn-hearted, and it takes them longer to learn. Since God knows what is best, he has chosen that this is the best (only?) means through which these kind of people would recognize that he is God. This is process of “breaking” people is not only right, it is good.
#8 Does God ever change? Ezekiel 24:14: “I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD.” (KJV) But God changed his mind about destroying or punishing people several times in the Bible, most notably in Genesis 18:23-33. The Bible also directly contradicts Ezekial 24:14 in Genesis 6:6: “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”
This would indeed seem like a contradiction, however, this objection is a bit misguided, or misinformed at best. When theologians speak about the “immutability” (unchangeableness) of God, they speak about the character of God. For example, when God says that he “is love” in 1 John, that cannot change. He will never be hate. He will always be love. When God says that He does not change, He is speaking about His nature and character. But this does not mean that He cannot change how He works with people throughout history.
When we see God changing His mind, we are seeing it from a human perspective. Since God knows all things from all eternity, He has always known the ultimate plan that He would carry out–even the plan to “change His mind.” As we have seen in Jonah’s account of Nineveh, they repented and God relented from the destruction that was to come upon the inhabitants. Of course, God knew this would happen and instituted the warning to them in order to bring about their repentance. There is no mystery here.
Consider, for example, the following episode that took place in the time of Moses:
Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.” So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exod. 32:11-14)
God “relented”? Other translations render the words here, “changed His mind.” This narrative seems to make it absolutely clear that God does, in fact, change His mind from time to time. Maybe His being doesn’t change, but does His mind cast a shadow every once in awhile? The problem becomes more vexing when we read elsewhere in Scripture:
“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. (Num. 23:19-20)
This same concept is repeated elsewhere: “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent” (1 Sam. 15:29).
Is this a contradiction in Scripture? R.C. Spoul writes,
Scripture frequently describes events in terms of how they appear to the observer. The Bible does not “teach” that the sun revolves around the earth, but it does speak about sunrises and sunsets. (Even modern scientists do this when they are using ordinary language. Listen to what the meteorologist on your local TV station says about the sun’s “rising” and “setting.”)
In the Exodus incident Moses pleaded with God, arguing that God would look bad to the Egyptians if He carried out His threat. Then God changed His mind? Think of the meaning of this in human terms: If God first thought about punishing His people, He must have overlooked the consequence of that action on His reputation. His reasoning was flawed. His decision was impulsive. Fortunately, Moses was astute enough to see the folly of this decision and persuaded the shortsighted Deity to come up with a better plan. Fortunately for God, He was helped by a superior guidance counselor. Without the help of Moses, God would have made a foolish mistake!
That God could be corrected by Moses or any other creature is utterly unthinkable. Yet, that seems to be the implication of the narrative. This is a major reason why we must interpret the narrative passages of Scripture by the didactic or “teaching” portions. If we try to find too much theology in narrative passages, we can easily go beyond the point of the narrative into serious errors.
The biblical narratives in which God appears to repent, or change His mind, are almost always narratives that deal with His threats of judgment and punishment. They are what are called “conditional threats.” That is to say that God promises a certain outcome if certain measures are not met. In this case, God is threatening judgement unless there is repentance. These threats are then followed by the repentance of the people or by the intercessory petitions of their leaders. God is not talked into “changing His mind.” Out of His gracious heart He only does what He has promised to do all along – not punish sinners who repent and turn from their evil ways. He chooses not to do what He has every right to do.
We’ve all been to Wal-Mart. Whether you like it or not, the laws of probability and statistics says you have been to Wal-Mart at some point in your life. You don’t have to agree with Wal-Mart’s corporate policies or its affect on small businesses. In fact, you don’t have to like Wal-Mart at all. But if you lay aside your objections to the corporation, you can see a very interesting analogy, and learn some important lessons about the Church and its role in the community.
Jeff Noble, a Southern Baptist pastor, has written a very interesting book correlating the role of Wal-mart in our everyday life to the role the Church should have in our everyday life. He was kind enough to send me a copy of his book for this review. Here is the description of the book:
Through the use of metaphor and analogy between the Church and Wal-Mart, Noble weds a connection in parabolic fashion to the the average person’s life in Wal-Mart and the Christian’s life in the Church. His purpose for writing is simple; to call the Church to live out the mission that we’ve been called to as Christians.
With the use of humor and, at times, pointedly witty remarks, he drives home his point: as Christians, we ought to live for Christ everyday of the week and not just on Sunday. Everyone should be able to relate to the Wal-Mart analagy for that is how most people (especially the in the South) live their every day life. While addressing some of the biggest questions for today’s church such as How do we mobilize the church to be seen as more than just a purveyor of gatherings? and What can individual followers of Christ do to line up their lives with a stream of daily relevant and powerful living? Noble displays an ability to weave meaningful cultural insight with biblical imperatives.
This book challenges churches and believers in no uncertain terms that our mission is to reach outward to a lost world. Noble has designed the Wal-mart analogy itself to reinforce that we should be more focused on the people we are serving than on ourselves as we serve. At times, it seems the book tries too hard to integrate humor with examples of how we can make a few important changes in our life that can result in a significant impact for the work of Christ. But then again, I do not know Jeff Noble personally, so it could just be his personality coming through. Nevertheless the humor doesn’t really do much to reinforce the premise of the book, though it does have its moments for keeping the reader engaged.
Super Center Savior is a helpful challenge to live like Christ. It is not a theologically weighty book and could be easily read in an evening. Every person, from a small town to a big city, will be able to relate to the Wal-Mart analogy. And every person, from a small town to a big city, can put into practice a few important changes in their life that can result in a significant impact for the work of Christ.
Parts of the review provided here was taken from the Amazon website related to this resource and can be found in its entirety here.
#7 Freewill or not? There is almost no greater theological debate bigger than the idea of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, or freewill vs. predestination. Do we humans have any choice whether to believe in God or not? Though most Christians acknowledge the differing viewpoints, somehow the fact that the issue is confusing because the Bible is so contradictory on the subject escapes many.
Andy Naselli is a member at my church and a brilliant mind. He received his PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School while studying under D.A. Carson. His insights into this question are superb. I’ve included his words below as the ideal response to this “objection” to the Bible. His article can be found in its entirety at the Reformation 21 blog.
Non-Christians and Christians alike often give the same answer to difficult questions like these: Why did God allow sin in the first place? Why does God save some people and not others? Why does God send people to hell? Why can living like a Christian be so frustrating? The immediate solution often suggested is simple: “free will.” To many people, it’s a satisfying answer: “Oh, that makes sense. Yeah, God does x because he has to preserve my free will. Yeah, OK. Next question.” I’d like to suggest that we re-think this important issue.
The title of this short essay is a question: “Do We Have a Free Will?” That question may be jarring to you because it asks if something exists that most people assume exists. My short answer to that question is that it depends on what you mean by “free.” The longer answer is the rest of this essay.
We should study “free will” because it is theologically significant and because many people assume a particular definition of “free will” that is incorrect. Studying “free will” is challenging because it is not defined in Scripture. Further, it is complex because it connects to many other larger theological issues; it intersects with philosophy, historical theology, and systematic theology.
What is “free will”?
We should start by learning the standard terminology associated with the “free will” debate.
1. “Will” means the function of choosing.
2. Constraining causes force people to act against their will. For example, a person being robbed at gunpoint is constrained in this sense. Non-constraining causes do not force people to act against their will but are sufficient to cause an action. For example, if you have a fear of heights, you probably will not want to walk on the edge of a tall building’s roof; that fear is a non-constraining cause.
3. Indeterminism holds that genuinely free acts are not causally determined. Determinism holds that everything is causally determined (i.e., that prior events and conditions necessitate every event).
4. Incompatibilism holds that determinism and human freedom are incompatible; it rejects determinism and affirms human freedom. Compatibilism holds that determinism and human freedom are compatible.
5. Libertarian free will is the ability either to do something or not. Free agency is the ability to do whatever a person wants to do (apart from constraining causes). This difference is not a small one. For example, do non-Christians have the inherent ability either to choose to trust Christ or not? Is such a decision ultimately dependent on their will?
6. God’s general sovereignty holds that God is in charge of everything without controlling everything. God’s specific sovereignty holds that God ordains everything and that he controls everything to accomplish his purposes.
What are biblical and theological reasons for compatibilism and against incompatibilism?
1. The Bible never says that humans are free in the sense that they are autonomously able to make decisions that are not caused by anything. Libertarian free will is often merely assumed based on common-sense experience but not proved.
3. Humans are morally responsible, which requires that they be free. There is no biblical reason that God cannot cause real human choices. The Bible grounds human accountability in God’s authority as our creator and judge, not in libertarian free will.
4. Both (1) God’s absolute sovereignty and (2) human freedom and responsibility are simultaneously true. Here are just a few of many passages in which both elements are present without any hint of contradiction. “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps…. The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Proverbs 16:9, 33). “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27- 28).
5. The Bible condemns some people for acts not done with a libertarian free will. For example, Judas Iscariot was destined to betray Jesus, which means that he did not have the ability either to do it or not.
|Incompatibilism - as held by many Arminians||Compatibilism – as held by many Calvinists|
|Definition||Determinism and human freedom are incompatible.||Determinism and human freedom are compatible.|
|Determinism||Affirms indeterminism; rejects determinism.||Affirms determinism; rejects indeterminism and fatalism.|
|Human Freedom||Affirms libertarian free will||Affirms free agency|
|God’s Sovereignty||Affirms God’s general sovereignty||Affirms God’s specific sovereignty|
6. God is omniscient (e.g., he predicts future events). John Feinberg observes, “If indeterminism is correct, I do not see how God can be said to foreknow the future. If God actually knows what will (not just might) occur in the future, the future must be set and some sense of determinism applies. God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of the future, but it guarantees that what God knows must occur, regardless of how it is brought about” (“God Ordains All Things,” in Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom [ed. David Basinger and Randall Basinger; Downers Grove: IVP, 1986], 33- 34).
7. God breathed out Scripture through humans without violating their personalities. The way that God inspired the Bible requires compatibilism.
8. God enables Christians to persevere: Christians work because God works (cf. Philippians 2:12- 13). Indeterminism would mean that Christians can reject Christ and lose their salvation, but the Bible teaches that all genuine Christians are eternally secure and will persevere to the end by God’s grace.
9. God himself does not have a free will in the libertarian sense. Can God sin? If not, then he does not have a libertarian free will, and thus a libertarian free will is not necessary for a person to be genuinely free.
10. God’s people do not have free wills in heaven in the libertarian sense. Will God’s people be able to sin in heaven? If not, then they will not have a libertarian free will, and thus a libertarian free will is not necessary for people to be genuinely free.
Is libertarian free will the reason for the origin of sin?
Short answer: No.
When addressing this hugely difficult question, it is helpful to consider the following:
1. God is not the author or agent of evil, and he is not culpable for evil.
2. Satan is not God’s equal opposite (i.e., a God-versus-Satan dualism).
3. God, who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, ordained that sin would enter his universe. (See the short essay in this series entitled “How Could a Good God Allow Suffering and Evil?”) God sovereignly works through secondary causes (such as humans) such that he is not culpable for evil but the secondary causes are.
4. Satan and then Adam and Eve sinned because they wanted to sin, and they are morally responsible to God for it. (The ability of humans to sin has four historical stages. First, Adam and Eve were initially able to sin. Second, after their fall, all unregenerate humans [i.e., those who are spiritually dead] are not able not to sin. Third, regenerate humans [i.e., those whom God has given spiritual life] are able not to sin. Fourth, glorified regenerate humans are not able to sin.)
5. Tension remains because compatibilists cannot explain exactly how God can ordain all things without being the author or agent of evil. It is at places like that that your head will start spinning if you try to put all the puzzle pieces together (we don’t have all the pieces!). Rather than deny explicit statements of Scripture that support compatibilism, a far better option is to acknowledge that this is a mystery that we finite and fallen humans simply cannot comprehend exhaustively.
6. There is no easy answer to explaining why God ordained the origin of sin in the first place. John Piper offers a helpful pastoral perspective in Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). (This is available online for free as a PDF: http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/books_bss/bss.pdf. See esp. pp. 39-64.) Why doesn’t God simply wipe out Satan? Piper concludes, “The ultimate answer . . . is that ‘all things were created through [Christ] and for [Christ]‘ (Col. 1:16). God foresaw all that Satan would do if he created Satan and permitted him to rebel. In choosing to create him, he was choosing to fold all of that evil into his purpose for creation. That purpose for creation was the glory of his Son. All things, including Satan and all his followers, were created with this in view” (p. 48).
Is libertarian free will the ultimate reason for conversion?
Conversion consists of turning from sin (i.e., repentance) and to God (i.e., faith). Why do people convert from being non-Christians and become Christians? Is it ultimately because of their libertarian free wills? Or is it ultimately because of God?
We do what we do because we want to do it (as long as we are not constrained), but we are not always able to do something or not (i.e., we do not always have the inherent ability to choose between options). Non-Christians do what they want to do, and they will never want to come to Christ as their master unless God first changes their “wanter.” Here’s an analogy: if a person is locked in a room but doesn’t want to get out, then even though he can’t get out, he is not there against his will.
1. Total Depravity. Unbelievers are totally depraved in the sense that depravity affects their entire being (Genesis 6:5; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 9:3; Isaiah 1:6; 64:6; Jeremiah 1323; 17:9; Romans 1:18-3:20, 23; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8, 10) including the mind (Romans 8:5-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Titus 1:15), body (Romans 8:10; Ephesians 4:17-19), and will (John 8:34).
2. Total Inability. Total depravity describes the human condition, and total inability describes the result of that condition (John 1:13; Ephesians 4:18 and Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Timothy 2:26; Romans 6:17, 20; 8:7-8; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Unregenerate humans are incapable of obeying the gospel (Matthew 7:18; John 8:43-44; 14:17; Romans 8:7- 8; 1 Corinthians 2:14).
3. Regeneration. Conversion is entirely a work of God (John 6:37, 44, 65; James 1:18). Regeneration transforms a human’s will and enables a person to come willingly to Christ. Regeneration is the act whereby God through the Holy Spirit by means of his word instantaneously imparts spiritual life to the spiritually dead (John 1:13; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18). It is a spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 2:1-6; Colossians 2:13), birth (John 3:3- 8), and creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
4. Human Responsibility. This does not mean, however, that humans are not responsible to obey the gospel because God may command humans to do what they cannot do by themselves (cf. Leviticus 18:5 with Galatians 3:12). Human inability and responsibility are mysteriously compatible.
5. Evangelism and Prayer. The God who ordains the ends also ordains the means, and evangelism and prayer are God-ordained means to God-ordained ends. J. I. Packer argues that you already “acknowledge that God is sovereign in salvation” because “you pray for the conversion of others” (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God [Downers Grove: IVP, 1961], 14-15).
Concluding Applications on the Free-Will Debate
1. Praise God for sovereignly planning the universe and for flawlessly executing his plan. If you are a Christian, praise God for giving you spiritual life when you were spiritually dead and for giving you the gifts of repentance and faith. Praise God that a day is coming when God will consummate his plan and transform us so that we will never again want to de-god God but instead will always want to delight in the glorious God.
2. Recognize that other orthodox Christians who disagree with you on this issue are not the enemy! Although some Christian leaders have embraced what I think are errant views on free will, many of them have been godly men worthy of emulation (e.g., John Wesley). So disagreeing with them on this particular issue in no way questions their devotion to Christ.
3. Since it is unlikely that all living Christians will agree on the issue of free will, promote unity on this issue as much as possible. This does not involve overlooking important differences, but it does involve keeping such differences in perspective.
4. As in all areas of controversial doctrine, hold your view with humility. We are fallen and finite creatures who know such a small fraction of what there is to know (and we often can’t even remember the little bit we used to know!). So when you are discussing this issue with others who disagree with you (and even when talking about it with people who agree with you), ask God for grace to display humility in your words and attitude because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
#6 Where is Jesus? In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus is quoted as saying that he would return before the end of that generation. There are some interesting theories as to why he has not yet returned, the most common being that there is a gap or a figurative generation, however, it is obvious that the writer’s of the text thought he meant that physical generation. I find it hard to believe that a theologian 2,000 years later can better figure out what Jesus meant than the people who were actually there. Some people think it is a mistranslation, and that Jesus actually meant “race,” not “generation.” This probably makes the most sense, but still is dubious and does not explain much.
For a thorough response to this question, I have found Professor David J. Engelsma most helpful. I will put his response in his own words below.
The apparent difficulty with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:34 is that they seem to predict the end of the world in the lifetime of His disciples. He has been instructing the disciples concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (v.3). He has just spoken of His visible, bodily coming in the clouds (v.30). Then, in verse 34, He declares, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
In fact, of course, He did not return, nor did the world end, in the lifetime of the generation to whom He was speaking.
Various erroneous solutions have been proposed for this seeming difficulty. Theological liberalism finds in the text evidence that Jesus Himself, like His apostles later, mistakenly supposed that His personal, glorious, perfected, Messianic rule over all the world would occur within a few years. This is unbelief.
Others interpret “generation” as referring to the Jewish race, to believers, or to the human race. On this view, Jesus merely affirmed that there would be Jews, or believers, or humans yet alive when He would return. This is a forced and unnatural reading of the text. It is an effort to escape the difficulty posed by the words of Jesus. It does not do justice to the vehement assertion by Jesus in verse 35 concerning the truth of His words.
Presbyterian J. Marcellus Kik limited the reference of “all these things” to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Implied is that verses 3-31 speak exclusively of the destruction of Jerusalem. There is nothing in these verses that applies to the days leading up to the second coming of Christ. There is nothing in these verses, therefore, that applies to the church at the end of the 20th century. All was exhaustively fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. All is past.
This explanation is obviously false inasmuch as it ignores that Jesus’ teaching answers the question of His disciples about His coming and the end of the world, not only about the destruction of Jerusalem (v. 3). Also, Jesus speaks in verses 3-31 of events that cannot by any stretch of the imagination be restricted to the destruction of Jerusalem. Such is the mention in verse 14 of the coming of “the end” (Greek: to telos) after the gospel of the kingdom has been preached “in all the world” (literally, ‘in the whole inhabited earth’) “for a witness unto all nations.” Such also are the events spoken of in verses 29-31: the catastrophic signs in the heavens; the sign of the Son of man; the visible coming of the Son of man in the clouds; and the gathering of the elect by the angels with the great sound of a trumpet.
How then is verse 34 to be explained?
The natural sense of “this generation” is the normal lifetime of those to whom Jesus was speaking. If a generation is of some 40 years duration, “all these things” spoken of in verses 3-31 would, and did, take place within 40 years of Jesus’ having foretold them.
“All these things” would happen, or take place. The King James translation, “be fulfilled,” might be misleading, as though these things would occur fully and exhaustively during the span of that generation. The Greek is simply, “…till all these things happen” (geneetai).
“All these things” are the things that have to do with the destruction of Jerusalem, the (second) coming of Jesus Christ, and the end of the world. These were the things about which the disciples asked Jesus in verse 3. These were the things that Jesus prophesied in verses 4-31.
All these things would happen before the generation addressed by Jesus would pass away. They would happen within about 40 years. They would happen in the destruction of Jerusalem by the then risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ through the Roman army in A.D. 70.
All these things would happen typically, or in the historical type.
The destruction of Jerusalem was a God-ordained historical type of the deliverance of the elect church at the second coming of Christ through the judgment of tribulation. The New Testament church was delivered by the destruction of Jerusalem. It was delivered from the persecuting hatred of the Jewish nation. It was delivered also from the clinging, entangling Jewishness of the now transcended Old Testament worship: the temple service; the civil and ceremonial laws of the nation of Israel; the earthly forms of the promises and hopes of the people of God. The grand temple had to be thrown down, to the last stone, so that the mature church of believing Jew and Gentile might flourish in her New Testament spirituality.
This deliverance took place only by way of struggle, affliction, and tribulation.
Indeed, all these things took place in A.D. 70.
The reality was yet in the future from the vantage point of the church standing on the ruins of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The early church understood this well, as is evident from her early exegesis of Matthew 24 and related passages after A.D. 70.
The reality is still in the future from the vantage point of the church today.
This response was taken from Professor David J. Engelsma and can be found here.