Vision

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) My prayer for this ministry is that by rightly dividing the Scriptures, I might be able to facilitate all those aspects of the Scriptures to the benefit of all those who visit this website.

Mission

The mission of this ministry is to be consistent with Jesus' original command to his disciples: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20

Personal Disclosure

I am a fellow traveler who doesn't have all the answers and still makes many mistakes. However, I am desperately in love with Jesus Christ, the one and only King of kings, and I am so amazed that he knows exactly who I am and yet still died on the cross for me, then rose from the dead and called me to be His follower!

God's Message To You

"Dear Child,

I wanted you to know just how much I loved you so I sent my only Son, Jesus, to tell you and show you. If you make the decision to believe in Him, then you and I will be able to spend eternity together! I Love You!" (John 3:16 paraphrase)

Method

“Here there is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment.

Here there is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without freedom to think.

Here is vibrant evangelicalism—freedom to think within the bounds laid down by Scripture.”

Dr. Vernon Grounds

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Destined For Glory

(Audio Version; Music: "Lead Me To The Cross" by Brooke Fraser--WorshipMob--Simultaneous Real Live Worship)




Introduction

            Growing up, I never learned about seeking God for direction and then listening to what He might be telling me. Our family’s Christianity was mainly about religious ritual as opposed to an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe; the One who saved me; the One who had a plan for my life. The practical implications of that kind of Christianity was one stupid mistake after another—majoring, academically, in a subject I wasn’t really interested in; then, after graduating, taking a job in a city I hated while doing something I was never called to do. In other words, lots of time and money wasted all because I didn’t seek God or bother to listen in case He was trying to tell me to change course. I wish those were the only mistakes I’ve made because I didn’t seek God’s direction or bother listening to His voice, but there are lots more. However, one of the great things about being a parent for me is that I have a “do-over” of sorts through my kids. I don’t mean that I can live vicariously through them but I can be instrumental in helping to influence my children to hopefully not make the same mistakes I did. In this case specifically, I have the opportunity to teach them to always seek God’s will for their lives as opposed to excluding God from the process and blindly charting their own course. I love when my girls tell me that they want to be like me. However, I also realize that they very often see only the things they like; the good things. That’s ok for a while, but as they’ve gotten older, it has become more and more important for them to learn from the mistakes I’ve made primarily because those mistakes can have life-long ramifications of self-inflicted pain as well as causing pain and suffering for those around us. One of the most important lessons I have been able to pass along to them is the lesson of seeking God for direction in life and then listening to what He might be saying. They know it’s not always perfect but the closer they grow in their relationship to Him, the easier it becomes for them to hear His voice—and they are getting really good at it! They have learned that God’s ways are always certain; not easy but certain. They believe He has a plan for them and His plans always succeed in all areas of life and at all times; in matters of life and in matters of salvation.

            Many years ago, the most important decision in the lives of my girls was the single most important decision in the life of every unbeliever: How would they respond when they were given the opportunity to put their faith in Jesus Christ? The incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, His atoning death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension back to where He came until the appointed time of His return is like a giant flashing sign from God inviting us to be in relationship with Him. God has taken such extreme measures to reach us that it almost seems like He’s begging to be in relationship with us. He invites us over and over and over in the hope that we will eventually accept the invitation. Have you accepted God’s call to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ?

I’m guessing that many, if not most, of you know what it’s like to let the phone ring without answering it because you either didn’t want to talk to whoever was calling or you didn’t want to know who was calling out of fear of what they might want from you or out of fear of what they might tell you. I wonder if this isn’t the same reaction that people have when God calls; when God extends His invitation to be reconciled to Him through Jesus. What will He want from me? What will He tell me? What will happen to my life if I accept His call? Well I’d like to provide some assurance from Scripture that responding to God’s invitation will be the single greatest and most important event in your life to deal with the guilt of your past, to provide guidance for the present, and to give you the promise of hope for a certain and amazing future. How will you respond once you have been invited? What can you expect—especially when you say yes? What does it mean to be Destined For Glory?

Subject Text

Romans 8:28-30

            28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Context

            Paul’s letter to the church in Rome has been described as the greatest theological treatise in all of Scripture because of its significant contribution to orthodox, Christian doctrine. In the immediately preceding pericope to our Subject Text, Paul is telling his readers about the hope of future glory that awaits the believer. Paul explains that the long awaited redemption of all of creation has arrived through Jesus Christ and that they can look forward to the day when the natural world would be liberated from its bondage to decay and their own physical bodies would one day be redeemed to correspond to the redemption of their spiritual bodies (the soul) which occurred the moment they believed. In the pericope that follows our Subject Text, Paul is teaching that since they have been promised complete redemption one day, spiritually now and physically later, they can live now as conquerors in the face of any hardships they might have to endure in this life. However, the hope called for in the text that precedes our Subject Text could prove to be fleeting in the light of the hardships and persecutions described in the text that follows our Subject Text. Therefore, what we need is a promise; an assurance that what is hoped for will be worth the trouble. And that’s where our Subject Text comes in.

Key Theological Terms & Concepts

            Before we move on to analyzing our Subject Text, I’d like to identify a few key theological terms and concepts you may not all be familiar with that could help you better understand this lesson. These same terms are displayed on the website under the heading: Significant Theological Terms. However, I’ll be using a few of them in the lesson so I would like them to be fresh in your mind.

Election—This is God’s choice of: 1) A person such as a prophet of the Old Testament or an individual believer in the New Testament; 2) A group of people such as Israel or the Church, in any case for a specific purpose with a specific destiny in mind. This term can be synonymous with the concept of being “called.” Although the basic idea of “called” necessarily implies that the one being called can reject the call, the theological idea of “calling” carries with it the compulsion to respond positively to that call by the person or people being called. Although “calling” is often interchanged with “invitation,” “‘calling’ in Paul never means ‘invitation’; it is always ‘effectual calling’.”[1]

            Predestination—For God, past, present, and future are all the same. This can be a really hard concept to wrap your mind around as a temporal being. But God simply “is.” Predestination is something that has been established by God before it has occurred. However, it is only “pre—” from our perspective because time is linear for us. For God, predestination and destination contain the same degree of certainty because God sees past, present, and future all at once. Therefore, if God predestines something to occur, it is because He already knows it has occurred. Does that mean we no longer have the free will to choose our destiny? No. It means that God already knows what your choice will be before you make it.

            Justification—This is a legal term used in Scripture that renders those who put their faith in God according to the Old Testament and subsequently put their faith in God incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ according to the New Testament as “not guilty.” Regardless of our sins, when we put our faith in Christ, we are in Christ and He is in us. Therefore, when we stand before God who is the perfect Judge, He only sees Christ in us who is sinless and therefore must render a “not guilty” verdict. Here’s a good way to remember what it means to be justified: “Just-as-if-I’d” never sinned.

            Propitiation—It would be nice if the story would just end with our justification through Christ but it doesn’t. You see, God can’t pretend that sin doesn’t exist. He must deal with it. If God is to be understood as perfectly holy, perfectly righteous, and perfectly just (and we certainly hope He is), then someone must pay the consequences for sin—either each of us pays for our own sins or someone else has to pay for our sins. That payment is called propitiation. Propitiation is the satisfaction of the sentence for our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross; Christ’s death in exchange for our death; death is the cost of sin.

            Redemption—When we sin we are indebted to God to pay for that sin. Unfortunately for us, Scripture makes it clear that the wages (cost) of sin is death (Rom 6:23). And, as previously stated, God can’t just turn a blind eye to sin if we are going to trust Him to be perfectly holy, righteous, and just. Look at it this way, if you borrow money from the bank, you incur a debt and the bank expects to get their money back at some point. The harsh reality is that they don’t care whether or not you can afford to pay it back—they want their money back! So how long do you suppose they would stay in business if, whenever someone said to them that they couldn’t pay the loan back, they say: “Oh don’t worry about it; Let’s just forget all about it.”? Not very long I would guess. However, they also don’t care if you pay it back or someone else pays it back as long as it gets paid back. This is the concept of redemption as it relates to our salvation. Jesus has paid the debt resulting from our sin, which is death, so we don’t have to.

            Righteousness—Where “justification” is a legal term, “righteousness” is a relational term. English translations for both the Hebrew and the Greek can muddy the waters a bit because justice and righteousness are often interchangeable. And while the distinction might be subtle, there is, nevertheless, a distinction since both words are at times used within the same pericope (cf. Ps 89:14). We should be mindful that the “the Hebrew usage, which influences that of the NT writers, tends to be relational and concrete; one is ‘righteous’ with respect to another human being or to God, in a particular kind of conduct, or in a particular ‘contention’ which has arisen.”[2]

            Sanctification—This is the process of continually being transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to reflect the character of Christ in our words and in our actions. It is a long and often painful process that is never fully completed during this lifetime. For some, the sanctification process is more obvious outwardly than it is in others. However, we can never assume that the process of transformation is not taking place simply because we can’t see it. In fact, the biggest transformation, the transformation of the heart, is not visible to us. Outward transformations are lasting and sincere only after there has been an inward transformation of the heart.

            Glorification—This is the state of being that occurs for believers after we die; a time when our sanctification is completed. It is in this state that our entire being will be an accurate reflection of what it means to be a Christ follower because it is only in that state that our spiritual and physical nature will be a perfect reflection of Christ. “Glorification is multidimensional. It involves both individual and collective eschatology [relating to end-times]. It involves the perfecting of the spiritual nature of the individual believer, which takes place at death, when the Christian passes into the presence of the Lord. It also involves the perfecting of the bodies of all believers, which will occur at the time of the resurrection in connection with the second coming of Christ. It even involves transformation of the entire creation.”[3]

            I know there is much to digest already and we haven’t even begun to analyze our Subject Text yet. However, I think the terms will make more sense when we begin to analyze the text and I’m certain the text will make more sense now that we’ve identified some of the relevant terms.

Text Analysis

            I’m guessing that when you read v. 28 you might have thought to yourself, ‘that sounds familiar.’ Well it is and I’ll tell you shortly of a similar text from the Old Testament. Like many biblical texts, this is one of the more popular verses to be taken out of context and it has served to hurt those who are struggling instead of encouraging them. Specifically at issue is the idea of what is “good” for us. We somehow think that the “good” that God has planned for us will make life smooth and easy and all we had to do is love Him. I mean, that’s what it says doesn’t it—God works for the good of those who love Him? Yes, that’s exactly what it says. However, nowhere does it say, either implicitly or explicitly, that it will be easy—“good” doesn’t mean easy. Nor does it say that all things that happen in our lives will be good. In fact, the very next verse will give us an idea of just how hard the “good” will be for us. What it means is that God will use all things, good and bad, for His purpose and for our benefit. We must begin to understand what “good” is from God’s perspective especially with respect to our salvation. “Present tribulation and trials do not make Christian hope less sure according to Paul. He even turns them into a positive component in God’s plan of realizing salvation. Through God’s direction ‘all things’—Paul means adversities in particular—‘work together for good,’ the supreme good of eschatological salvation.”[4] Have you figured out why this verse sounds familiar? Its companion verse can be found in the Book of Jeremiah: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer 29:11)’.” We often forget the context of this promise in Jeremiah and therefore misuse it much like we misuse v. 28 from our Subject Text. We embrace these words of encouragement from Jeremiah as our own and they were intended to be words of encouragement for Judah as well. However, by the end of Jeremiah’s ministry, Jerusalem was a pile of rubble and Judah was conquered by the Babylonians. Much needed to be accomplished before God’s promise to Israel could be realized. Nevertheless, God’s promise was certain then and it is certain now even if appearances try to convince us otherwise.

            V. 29 has caused more division within Christianity than necessary all because of the word “predestined.” Proponents of John Calvin’s theological perspective (Calvinism) believe this means that God has only chosen some people to be saved and conformed to the likeness of Jesus while others are left to perish. Not everyone has the opportunity to be saved, only those who have been predestined by God for salvation. Proponents of Joseph Arminius’ theological perspective (Arminianism) believe that God knows beforehand who will accept His offer of salvation and it is those people who are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus and be saved. Nevertheless all have the opportunity to be saved. While I recognize that there is implicit biblical support for the former (albeit limited support), there is significantly more explicit biblical support for the latter and I can demonstrate it with on famous verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).” And there are countless other, less famous, verses that affirm the same thing—“And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved (Acts 2:21).” Therefore, “predestination is not God’s predetermining from past ages who should and should not be saved. Scripture does not teach this view. What it does teach is that this doctrine of predestination concerns the future of believers. Predestination is the divine determining of the glorious consummation of all who through faith, and surrender become the Lord’s…It has been determined beforehand that all who are truly Christ’s shall be conformed to His image.”[5]

            When the text says that we will be conformed to the likeness of Christ so that Christ can be the “firstborn” among many believers, “firstborn” is not an ontological reference but a positional reference. God has predestined our conformity to the likeness of His Son “in order that His only-begotten Son might not be alone in enjoying the privileges of sonship, but might be the Head of a multitude of brothers [and sisters], of the company of those who in, and through, Him have been made sons [and daughters] of God. It is as their conformity to Christ is perfected in glory that believers finally enter into the full enjoyment of privileges of their adoption in fellowship with Him. The Greek word prOtotokon [“firstborn’] expresses here at the same time both the unique pre-eminence of Christ and also the fact that He shares His privileges with His brethren [and sistren—ok so I made up that word but you get my point—Christ shares the privileges that come with His position as the Son with all believers].”[6]

            In v. 30 Paul provides us with a very rough trajectory of salvation. God calls those He knows in advance are destined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Upon answering that call for salvation, believers are then justified—deemed “not guilty”—through Jesus Christ and are on a path to be glorified, physically and spiritually—they are Destined For Glory. Paul’s reference to our glorification in v. 30 can be seen as one bookend with the complimentary bookend to be found in Rom 8:17. What began as Adam’s failure to glorify God resulted in the loss of humanity’s glory and comes full circle with an opportunity for humanity to return to glory through Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross; the glory that was always intended for humanity before Adam’s sin. Unfortunately, our English grammar translates the Greek aorist tense of “glory” as a past tense act which is why it is translated as “glorified.” Some have tried to explain this away by claiming that we have been made new through baptism or through some other means. However, “the aorist should not be required to yield the idea of a glorification already accomplished now, in baptism or wherever: if the process of glorification is at all in view here, it is the process seen from its end point and completion (aorist; ‘the certainty of completed salvation’)…Paul deliberately sets the whole process of cosmic and human history between its two poles, pretemporal purpose and final glorification as the completion of that purpose…Paul is not inviting reflection of the classic problems of determinism (Calvinism/exclusivism) and free will (Arminianism/inclusivism), or thinking in terms of a decree which excludes as well as one which includes. His thought is simply that from the perspective of the end it will be evident that history has been the stage for the unfolding of God’s purpose, the purpose of the Creator fulfilling his original intention in creating.”[7]

Application

            I know this lesson contains a number of complicated theological terms and concepts and not a few controversial ones at that. Nevertheless, there is no disputing that God has invited us to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. The varied differences in the interpretation of who will and who won’t accept God’s invitation will no doubt continue to be debated for years to come in the same way it has been debated throughout centuries past. However, we can all agree and be confident about the certainty of a few things with respect to those who accept His invitation to believe:

1)     God already knew in advance that you would accept His invitation without coercion.

2)     God has set a plan in motion for your life so that your life is destined to conform to the likeness of Jesus Christ according to God’s perfect plan, provided you submit to God’s sovereignty over your life.

3)     You will share in the rights and privileges enjoyed by Jesus Christ.

4)      Since you are already destined to be transformed and to conformed to the likeness of Christ, God has called you to fulfill the purpose He has established for your life.

5)     Standing before God when it comes our turn for God to render His verdict with respect to whether or not our lives met God’s standard of holiness, we can be confident that with Christ by our side as our Advocate, God’s verdict will be ‘not guilty.’

6)     Finally, we have a certain and guaranteed future to look forward to. Eventually, we will no longer have to struggle with any remaining sins that wound us and others and offend God. We will no longer struggle with weak faith, doubt, and never-ending questions about the purpose of trials and tribulations. Furthermore, we will never again suffer with sick and broken minds and bodies. We will achieve the spiritual and physical state that awaits all of us in the life to come when our glory reflects the glory God intended for us from the very beginning; the glory we will enjoy for eternity in the presence of God.

                    God’s invitation to be saved through Jesus Christ is just like any other invitation, we can accept the invitation or we can decline the invitation. Although you can procrastinate or ignore the invitation, a day will come when the default answer will be “no” regardless of how “good” a person you think you are. When you die, your chance to accept the invitation will have passed and you will have declined the offer by default. If you accept the invitation, you are assured a beautiful difficult life; a life of struggle and suffering; a life of trials and tribulations; a life of sincere love and relational depth; a life of hope and faith. When you accept God’s invitation, your destiny is immediately assured and God will use anything and everything in your life for your benefit; for your good to fulfill your destiny. So now you know what to expect if you accept God’s invitation to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ; a life of great pain and struggle together with a life of deep joy and love. This is the life you can expect when you are Destined For Glory.

       Let me ask you something: Has God been calling you; inviting you to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ? How will you respond to that calling; to that invitation? If you haven’t done so already, would you consider accepting God’s invitation to put your faith in Jesus Christ right now? Are you at the end of the line with your life; nothing seems to be working; you’re miserable and unless something changes then life just doesn’t seem worth living? Are you wondering if you’ve gone too far for God to forgive you? Maybe you’re a drug addict, or an abuser, or an adulterer, maybe you’re hooked on pornography, or divorced—maybe more than once, maybe you’re a practicing homosexual, or maybe you’ve had an abortion, maybe you’re a liar, or a cheater, or greedy, or filled with hate, or______________, you fill in the blank, and you think you’ve been disqualified—well you’re wrong! In fact, not only are you not disqualified, you are just as qualified to be saved as are any of us. However, maybe you’ve been hesitant because you don’t know what will happen to your life if you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. What about the drugs, the pornography, the divorce(s), the homosexuality, the abortion, the lying, the cheating, the stealing? What about all the destructive things you find yourself repeating over and over again? What will God do about all these things? Here’s my honest answer: First He’ll forgive them and then—I DON’T KNOW! But what I do know is that God has invited you into a relationship with Him so let’s not try to look miles and miles down the road before we’ve even taken the first step. How about you take the first step and make the decision to enter into an honest and committed relationship with Jesus Christ and just see what happens next; just follow Him wherever He might lead you. Spend time with Him and His Word (the Bible) and learn to live openly within a community of believers. Just be in relationship with Jesus and see what happens. I trust the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit to carry you through all the doubts and fears that you will face along the journey. However, I also know that you will have taken the first steps in a new life that is Destined For Glory. If you’re ready to take that step, you can simply talk to God and tell Him what is in your heart and ask for His forgiveness. If you’re scared or confused and don’t know where to start, you can pray the words I have provided for you below. There’s nothing magical in the words. Instead, the words are the fulfillment of Scripture: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Rom 10:9-10).”

Salvation Prayer

            Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life I have lived; I need your forgiveness.

            I believe that your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to repent; to turn from my sins.

            Right now, I confess that Jesus is the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved. I relinquish lordship over my life and submit my life to Jesus as the true Lord of my life.

            Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus, transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to You alone and not to myself.

            Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.

            Amen.

            If you just recited that prayer or used your own words for the first time with complete sincerity then you have been saved. And just like that you’ve crossed over from death to life! If it is possible, share your decision with someone and seek the opportunity to be baptized as a public pronouncement of your new life. Also, please try to attend a sound, biblically based church and return to this website as often as possible for new lessons posted weekly. However, I know that a public announcement of your faith may be very dangerous for some of you so please be wise and careful with this instruction. You are still saved even if you are unable to share your decision with anyone else or unable to be baptized or can’t attend church or visit this site very often or ever again. I desperately wish I could be with those of you who have made the decision to accept God’s invitation to be saved. I wish I could be the one to baptize you. I praise God for you! Perhaps we will have the opportunity to meet one day. Your feet are now on a divinely appointed path to fulfill the destiny planned for you from the very beginning. You are Destined For Glory.





[1] W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), p. 652.
[2] T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D. A. Carson, Graeme Goldsworthy, eds., New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 740.
[3] Millard J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), p. 334.
[4] Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 41.
[5] Herbert Lockyer, All the Doctrines of the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), p. 153.
[6] C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans—International Critical Commentary, Vol. 1, (New York, NY: T & T Clark, 1975), p. 432.
[7] James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988), pp.485-486.