GOD’S DESIRE

Are God’s desires something that can go unfulfilled? Is God’s plan for mankind dependent upon man’s willingness to line up with that plan? Is it really possible that our freedom of choice could actually frustrate God’s desire? What do you think?

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To say that a desire is just a wish that something might happen cannot be appled to God and His purposes for mankind.

I was raised as a Catholic from the time I was born.

I was baptized as a baby, had my first communion when I was six and became an altar boy when I was seven.

I attended Catholic school for my entire 12 years of pre-college education.

During my senior year, I became more spiritually aware than I had ever been up to that point.

I attended Wednesday night Novena on a regular basis.

Novenas were a time of special prayers and petitions made to the Lord through the mediation of Mary, also known as the Blessed Virgin.

I served at Mass almost every school day for Father Licari who could do the whole Mass in less than 15 minutes.

In spite of my best efforts at devotion, nothing took. Nothing stuck.

When I joined the Navy the summer of my graduation, I was essentially done with religion.

But then one Wednesday night in downtown Norfolk, VA I allowed one of the street evangelists to talk to me.

He gave me a card and said if I ever wanted to talk I should call him.

I did eventually call him and he invited me out to his house to talk.

He showed me the passage from 1 Tim. 2:5

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
1Ti 2:5

I was not at a place where the Bible meant anything to me at the time, but those words began a work in me that eventually brought me into the things of God.

As a Catholic, I knew that Mary was the mediator of all graces, because I carried a picture holy card in my pocket that said so.

But this thought from Timothy worked its magic in my mind.

I began to realize that the pope was not a mediator, the priest was not a mediator, the nuns were not a mediator, Mary was not a mediator, the saints were not mediators.

No one stood between me and the Lord.

I did not have to ask any one of those to pray for me, because I could go straight to God on my own behalf.

This is true for each and everyone of us.

There is only one mediator between God and you, and that is Jesus.

That also means that no one’s prayers are any better than yours including mine.

I get requests all the time to pray for folks, and I don’t mind doing so.

Often, though, those requests are preceded by “since you are a pastor, would you pray for me?”

My being a pastor has nothing to do with our coming to the Lord.

Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites were met with a mediator called the priests or the High Priest.

Jesus changed all that.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
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.
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.
Heb 4:14-16

That last verse is written to us all.

We can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace when we have a need.

This verse in Timothy about the mediation of Jesus is linked to a very important concept which is presented in our Scripture Lesson this morning.

Jesus as mediator is linked to the truth that we are all supposed to come to know.

(God), who desires all people to be saved
and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1Ti 2:4

This is one of those verses which causes people to argue over God’s plan for man.

Before I get to that, though, let’s first realize that this is one of those parallelisms here that I have been pointing out to you as they occur.

This verse is not saying that there are two different things that God desires.

Coming to the knowledge of the truth is Paul simply explaining what he meant by “saved” in this passage.

We see this truth in the Lord’s prayer as recorded in John 17.

And this is eternal life,
that they know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:3

Eternal life—that which we know is a result of being saved—is to know the true God and Jesus.

We are to know the truth, which is what Jesus said would make us free.

and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

Back to the verse in Timothy—we read that God desires all people to come to the knowledge of the truth, or to be saved.

The controversy swirls around the English word “desires.”

Some emphasize the fact that it is only God’s desire, not His will, that all be saved.

Of course, we can make that argument from what we see around us in that it does not appear that some folks ever make that decision for Christ.

This is not the place to go into that right now, but for the sake of argument, let’s consider another aspect.

To say that God only desires something, but He might not have His desires met because man has to make a decision first, puts God’s desires and power beneath man.

Man is elevated to the position of power based solely on his freedom of choice.

However, let’s remember what I have often told you about translation being an interpretation.

This is a plain example of how that can affect our understanding.

The Greek word that is translated “desires” is used 210x in the NT.

The word “desire” or “desirous” is used to translate that word only 16 times out of those 210.

It is translated as “will” 177 times.

Even with that information, though, we are still left with the possibility of God’s will not being met, according to our thinking of man’s choice being superior to God’s choice.

Let’s remember, however, that is simply our natural reasoning entering into the argument and not any specific passage or thought of scripture.

All the arguments about man’s free will or his freedom of choice in my experience are based on human logic and not on any passage from the Bible.

With that consideration, let us consider what Paul has to say as he further elucidates God’s plan for man in our passage.

who gave himself as a ransom for all,
which is the testimony given at the proper time.
1Ti 2:6

Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all.

The “all” is not identified here.

It could be all Jews. It could be all who accept Him. It could be all anything.

However, since it is in the passage and sentence with which we are working, it would seem most appropriate to make it the same “all” as the one just prior to this—which is all men.

And in that passage, the word “men” is there in the original.

Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all mankind.

Basically, we all understand what a ransom is.

a sum of money or other payment demanded
or paid for the release of a prisoner.

In our movies, there is always the double-cross that is played out as someone pays the ransom for their kidnapped loved one.

But that is not the case here. There is no double-cross.

The ransom Jesus paid was to release the prisoners—all of them.

Now, for those people who are still stuck on their human logic, there is still the argument that, “Yeah, but they have to want to be free. They have to leave the prison.”

Although there is no scripture to support that concept, I cannot argue with such stubbornness.

To say that Jesus’ death only made salvation possible presents the ridiculous scenario that maybe His death was completely ineffectual, if no one were to choose His salvation offer.

We can see the answer to this in another section of Paul’s writing to Timothy.

For to this end we toil and strive,
because we have our hope set on the living God,
who is the Savior of all people,
especially of those who believe.
1Ti 4:10

Jesus is the savior of all.

Those who believe get to enjoy that salvation as a result of their belief.

Yes. Not everyone believes today.

And many of them won’t believe tomorrow, or maybe anytime soon.

But we cannot say they will never believe, because we just do not know that for certain.

Paul ends this section of his writing to Timothy with a statement that we should consider.

After saying that Jesus was given as a ransom for all, Paul writes

For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle
(I am telling the truth, I am not lying),
a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
1Ti 2:7

He claims that he was appointed to preach this truth to the Gentiles.

He makes this thought very clear in his letter to the Corinthians.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
2Co 5:18

He then goes on to explain what the ministry of reconciliation consists of.

that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2Co 5:19

Through Christ, God reconciled the world to Himself.

That reconciliation means that there is no more enmity between God and man; no more fear of retribution for having screwed up in this life.

In fact, there is the plain statement that God does not count our trespasses against us.

So, yes, God does indeed have a desire that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth that is in Jesus.

But, that desire is not just wishful thinking.

It is the result of His plan that He purposed from the beginning, before the foundation of the world.

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,
Eph 1:4a

You were known, loved and chosen before the foundation of the world.

There are others also for whom this is true, whether they recognize it or not.

So what?

What are we to do with this?

We are to recognize that contrary to popular opinion and the doctrine we have all grown up with—

God is not mad at you.

He is not mad at you are anyone else.

The other concept was preached and proclaimed and lived out by Christians for centuries.

It is now time for that to change.

You have been given the ministry of reconciliation, which is to share the truth with people that God is not mad at them, because the sin debt has been cancelled in Christ Jesus.

This means that we need to let go of judgment of others for the way they live.

They live that way because they do not know they have been reconciled to God.

You have been called to relate the truth of God’s love to them.

Go out and love someone this week.

THE MASTER TEACHER

If we are told a secret, we can’t wait until the first opportunity to share that secret with someone else who also loves secrets.

Older folks may recall the tv game show called
I’ve Got a Secret, which aired for
15 years from
1952-1967.

A guest would come on the show with something unique about themselves and the panel had to ask questions trying to guess the secret.

Humans seem to love secrets.

In fact, if we are told a secret, we can’t wait until the first opportunity to share that secret with someone else who also loves secrets.

Of course, we won’t do that unless we vow them to secrecy first—the same way we promised to keep the secret when it was given.

We can keep secrets from each other when we want to; and some people are even able to keep a secret that is revealed to them—in spite of what I said before.

Some people even try to keep something secret from God so that He doesn’t know about it.

Of course, we know in our heart of hearts that is an exercise in futility; still we try to deceive ourselves into thinking otherwise.

You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
Psa 90:8

God knows our innermost being. He knows what makes us tick.

There is no secret that we can keep from the Lord about anything.

We have all heard the modern adage that says “Payday someday,” which means that it will certainly catch up with you.

Some call it karma; or what goes around comes around.

Moses said it this way.

But if you will not do so, behold,
you have sinned against the LORD,
and be sure your sin will find you out.
Num 32:23

The Lord knows us. He knows you inside and out. There is nothing we can hide from Him, as Jesus said.

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed,
or hidden that will not be known.
Luk 12:2

These verses each have to do with our secret sins, but there is another aspect of the Lord’s knowledge of us that is revealed in our gospel reading this morning.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother
and wife and children and brothers and sisters,
yes, and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Luk 14:26

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Luk 14:27

We read these statements as hard requirements of those who want to follow the Lord.

Is it literally true that I must hate my family in order to be a true disciple of the Lord?

That is certainly how it appears from these sayings of Jesus.

In trying to dance around the harshness of these words, some have said that what Jesus meant was by way of comparison.

In other words, you must love Him more than you love your family.

That sounds nice, but it waters down the words of Jesus as recorded here.

I think it is possible that Jesus was using a certain psychology on His hearers for a reason.

When people discover something good, something that everyone around them is talking about, they naturally want to be a part of that.

A good salesman will paint a picture of how great you will be if you just do like everyone else and buy his product.

One insurance company I worked for used something like that in their opening line with a new prospect.

We would say, “I believe this will interest you also,” and then go into our spiel.

Jesus understood this human characteristic to want to be in on the next big thing.

An example of this is given in Matthew’s gospel account.

And a scribe came up and said to him,
“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Another of the disciples said to him,
“Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
Mat 8:19-22

These two were volunteers, looking to join up with the exciting band of disciples who were getting to witness all the miracles up close and personal.

Jesus did not tell them no, they couldn’t follow Him.

He told them to consider what they were asking. It might not be as exciting as they were hoping.

Most of us would have said to the volunteers, “Sure. Come on. Let’s go.”

But Jesus tried to discourage them.

Why?

Maybe it was because Jesus understood the human frame.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast,
many believed in his name
when they saw the signs that he was doing.
But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them,
because he knew all people
and needed no one to bear witness about man,
for he himself knew what was in man.
Jhn 2:23-25

Jesus knew what was in man, what made him tick, how they thought.

He knew it was not wise to commit Himself to them in any way.

Even though we may think of Jesus as being outgoing and gregarious, I think that He often played His cards close to His chest, (if you understand the idiom.)

He wouldn’t let everyone know what He was thinking.

He probably knew that people who volunteer based on the excitement of the moment seldom last long enough to make it through the tough times.

We see that in many marriages today.

Jesus saw this possibility as He looked at the crowds following Him and told them how hard it would be to follow Him.

He purposely discouraged them from wanting to join His little band.

That is not the way we do things, though, is it?

We do everything we possibly can to promote ourselves and the work we are doing.

We talk about it. We post it on Facebook.

We take pictures of ourselves doing the work.

Jesus worked in exactly the opposite direction.

We find seven accounts in the gospels where it is recorded that

he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Mar 8:30

Most of what Jesus said and did goes contrary to the way we think things should be.

I call these the paradoxical principles of the kingdom.

Things like
be humble in order to be exalted.

Give and you will receive.

Die so that you might live.

None of these make any sense to the natural man, but as you grow spiritually, you begin to understand.

Why didn’t Jesus just make things plain at the outset?

Why did He have to make things difficult to understand so that we had to think and meditate before gaining understanding?

I believe it was because He was a master teacher.

A master teacher doesn’t tell you what to think.

A master teacher will teach you HOW to think.

In our society today, however, people become very upset if thinking is required of them.

Of the more than 100 questions put to Jesus, He only directly answered three of them.

For the others, He either asked a question or replied with a parable.

You may say, “Yeah, but that was a different time. People were different then.”

Yes, they were. They were mostly uneducated people who didn’t have a wide range of knowledge about the world.

And yet, Jesus realized that making them think was the better way to go.

Recall the time Jesus recommended that everyone become cannibalistic.

So Jesus said to them,
“Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you.
Jhn 6:53

We have come to understand what He meant with these words because we have had them explained to us.

But put yourself in that place when He said these words.

What did the people hear?

When many of his disciples heard it, they said,
“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
Jn 6:60

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Jn 6:66

There is no record that Jesus went running after them saying, “Wait! Let me explain.”

In fact, He did just the opposite. He left them alone with their confusion.

So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Jn 6:67

Most of us are intent on trying to understand many things and how they might apply or what they might look like.

We are not very comfortable with mystery.

We want answers. We want solutions.

And we want them NOW!

But that is not how the Father works with us.

We are left in the dark on many things so that our understanding only comes much later after the fact.

However, Jesus did leave us a clue as to why we may have a difficult time understanding the mysteries.

“I thank you, Father,
that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding
and revealed them to little children;
yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
Luk 10:21

Do you remember what He said about becoming like little children?

He said,
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:3

What is it about children that applies to what we are saying today?

They certainly ask questions. They can ask A LOT of questions.

But, what is their response when the answer from an adult is “I don’t know”?

Generally, they accept it and go on to whatever they were doing.

Can we become like little children and simply accept the fact that there are mysteries which we may never understand?

Can we also recognize that if we would give up our pursuit of trying so hard to understand, then we might just be given the revelation we need to set everything straight?

I want to encourage you this morning to not give up on your questions, but to give up on the pressure you may put on yourself in trying to understand.

Jesus allowed the questions and asked a question in return so as to make the questioner think more deeply about what they had asked.

Let your questions become the focal point of your meditations, and in due time, the Holy Spirit will reveal to you what you need to know as you need to know it.

We have that promise from Jesus.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth,
Jhn 16:13a

Notice that He said “GUIDE”.

You will be given the opportunity to see and to understand.

But the answers will not be given to you.

A guide takes you into places with which you may be unfamiliar; but he doesn’t make you see the things around you.

That is up to you.