July 16, 2018

Not Exactly As Planned

I'd like to capture in writing something that I spoke about in a sermon, a few weeks ago, that I titled "Not exactly as planned".

Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

Isaiah 46:8-11

In the King James Version (KJV) of the bible the phrase "I will do all my pleasure" is translated in several other versions as "I will accomplish all my purpose". From this and other verses, we understand that the will of God is going to be completed as he has chosen and to his pleasure. Kind of comes with the territory for an all powerful deity, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. This certainty is how we can read the book of Revelations and be certain that the victory we see there is absolutely certain to happen. Yet, even within that absolutely guaranteed victory we still see a number (unfortunately a large number) of people reject the Lord's attempts to warn them of the foolishness of their rejection of him. Even within the accomplishment of the will of God, we see human freewill being exercised.

Freewill is tricky stuff. It's a dichotomy, to quote Jocko. On one hand it allows us to choose to seek the Lord and a relationship with him that results in our eternal salvation, yet on the other hand, it allows to choose not to do so. We get to choose. In these modern times, claiming the right to choose is a very popular thing, but I have noticed that there is no corresponding claiming of all of the consequences of these decisions that people like having the right to make.

When you combine the certainty of the fulfillment of the Lord's will and the ability to exercise freewill, we find a very interesting phenomenon. Perhaps the most timely example of this is the New Testament church. The church is the set of saved believers who will spend eternity with the Lord after the end of time. The institution of the church came into existence approximately ten days after the ascension of Jesus on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost. (Check out Acts chapter two for the full exciting account.) The church is important to the Lord. He describes it as his bride and him as the bridegroom. That's a pretty close and special relationship. The church, in the book of Revelations is present at the battle of Armageddon and assists in securing the victory. The victory at the end of the book of Revelation is certain, but what is not certain is who is going to be in the church. You see, with freewill, no one ever needs to accept the Lord's invitation to allow him into their life and for those who do start a relationship with him, there is nothing forcing them to continue that relationship. There are plenty of scriptures to assure us that the Lord will never leave us, but we also have a good number of scriptures showing that we have liberty to walk away from him at any time of our choosing.

There are many more examples in the scriptures of people not following the Lord's plans and causing the will of God to take the scenic route on its way to being fulfilled. Look at the children of Israel, they seemed to delight in doing the exact opposite of anything the Lord asked them to do, regardless of his divine blessings and protections. Yet for all of their disobedience the will of the Lord caused the promised land to eventually be established and the Jews to live there in a blessed manner.

Let us return to the matter of the church for our final example of the tension between the Lord's will for it and the freewill exhibited by his chosen people, the Jews. It is not unusual for people to refer to Judeo-Christian beliefs. When they use the compound term, they mean Judaism and Christianity as two separate religions that are related by their shared heritage. This term is so common that it sounds completely normal to us these days. Well, I got to thinking about this after the Lord talked to me about the sermon I was supposed to preach. As I did so, I realized that this term was never originally supposed to exist.

When the Lord selected Abraham to be the father of his selected people, the Jews, it was with the intention that the Jews would be an example to the world of his love, care, provision and protection. They were to be at the cutting edge of spiritual revelation. Whenever the Lord chose to reveal more of himself to the world they were intended to be the first to receive these new revelations. As his chosen people they would get the first of everything. This was also supposed to include salvation under the new dispensation that the Messiah's arrival would herald.

In a sad demonstration of the exercise of freewill, the Jews instead of being delighted at the arrival of the Messiah, rather chose to reject him and called for him to be crucified. The result of this is often explained as causing them to miss out on the opportunity for salvation and while this is true, it misses another crucial point. If I have explained my central thought well enough, I hope that you will not be surprised when I explain that the other, and in my opinion bigger, issue was that they fundamentally altered the church. The Jews were never supposed to be a separate religion from the church, they were supposed to become the church. It was going to be the most recent example of the Lord providing for the Jews first.

The next phase of Judaism was going to be the church, the Spirit-filled body of believers. And after the Jews had transitioned into the church, the Lord intended to bring believing gentiles into it as well and keep growing it with whosoever will. The Lord's intent is all well documented within the scriptures, but it's equally as well documented that the Jews caused the exact process to be changed. Yet, for all of the spanners that the Jews threw into the Lord's works, the church came into existence, it contains Jews, Samaritans and gentiles and it will be victorious in the battles at the end of the Great Tribulation. No matter how much humans affect the plans of the Lord, be it deliberately or accidentally, they can only cause those plans to take the scenic route. The plans of the Lord can never be forestalled or nullified.

This concept also works on an individual basis. As long we do not deliberately walk away from the Lord or dig our heels in and refuse to cooperate with him, the Lord will work in our life to bring about his original plan for us. I find that quite reassuring.

Tags: Church Writings