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.

OUR BLESSINGS IN CHRIST (Part 3)

WE ARE PREDESTINED

NOTE: This is the text of a recorded message. You may find the video here. (38 minutes)

Have you ever said to someone, “You can’t tell me what to do!”? Maybe you said that to your parents when you were about ready to fly the coop, to test your own abilities. Maybe you have had a child say that to you.

Our individual sense of and desire for freedom feels that if someone tells us what to do, then our freedom is being challenged. We simply do not like to be controlled.

Then we come face-to-face with the biblical doctrine of predestination, and all sorts of problems arise in our thinking.

“Whaddya mean ‘predestination?’” I’m not a puppet! I have free will!

Well, let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about that.

We have been looking at the passage from Ephesians 1:3-14. In that passage, we found eight blessings that have been given to us in Christ.

We have looked at the first two that we have been given—every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, and that we are chosen in Christ. We saw that the heavenly places mentioned in v.3 have more to do with what goes on in our mind than any of the other meanings of heavenly places. For those of you just tuning into this series these can be found on my Youtube channel at dalehill47.

Last week we looked into the second of the eight blessings, which is we are chosen. We saw that we were chosen in Christ before the earth was ever created. We were chosen simply because God wanted us on His team. It has nothing to do with what we will or won’t do once we landed on planet Earth. God chose us …according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [Eph 1:11b ESV]

This verse also contains the third blessing—PREDESTINATION—, which is also contained in v.5 — [Eph 1:5 ESV] he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

These concepts of being chosen before hand and being predestined usually challenge our minds in various ways, one of which I have already mentioned. They can bring up questions. I believe that questions are a good thing. It shows that we are thinking.

While questions may reveal a certain level of doubt, I do not think that doubt is a bad thing. I believe it reveals a growing faith, a faith that is not stagnant. For instance, last week someone asked a question about being chosen. They saw that essentially, God has chosen everyone to be saved, but not all necessarily respond to that call.

I am sure that the concept of predestination will also bring up questions for us. Please ask them. For those of you viewing this online, whether live or the recording or the article, ask your question in the comments.

So, let’s take look at predestination—what it means, what it involves, how it affects us.

PREDESTINATION—determined in advance by divine will or fate.

In Christian theology, predestination is the doctrine that some or all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul.

There are those who believe that ALL events have been pre-determined by God. Since predestination is mainly promoted by Calvinists, the idea that ALL events are predestined is usually called hyper-Calvinism. The hyper-Calvinist falls down the steps as he is leaving church. He gets up, brushes himself off and says, “I’m glad that’s over with.”

I am not going to get into the process they use for making the claim of every event being predetermined by God, but, much like I showed you last week about God’s foreknowledge, it is derived mainly from man’s logic.

However, there is no denying that predestination is in fact a biblical doctrine. The word is used 6x in the Greek NT. In the ESV that I use, it is translated as predestined 5x and “decreed” once.

The first occurrence is found in Acts 4:28 — to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

This is in the account of Peter and John being arrested by the Sanhedrin for healing the lame beggar at the temple. They then returned to the gathering of believers, told their story, and this was a part of their prayer.

It is in reference to Pilate and Herod turning Jesus over to be crucified. So the apostles believed that the crucifixion was predetermined by God to happen just the way it did.

However, they did not extend this idea of predestination to themselves, for in the next verse we read [Act 4:29 ESV] And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,

If they had believed that EVERYTHING was predetermined by God, they would not have asked for God to grant boldness, but would have thanked God for it already being given.

Again, however, the scriptures are fairly plain as to the purpose of Gods’ plan for us. It does not appear that everything in your life is predetermined to happen. At least, I cannot find any indication in the Bible that such is true.

Explanations of predestination often seek to address the “paradox of free will”, whereby God’s omniscience seems incompatible with human free will. In other words, we accept the doctrine of God’s omniscience—the fact that He knows everything about all things that have ever happened or ever will happen. The logic seems to follow that if He knows everything, and He is all-powerful, then what He knows is what He has determined.

This takes us into philosophical discussions about God’s omniscience. Does His knowledge guarantee the event? If man has free will, can the event be changed? These are great conversation starters, but I cannot find a way to end the conversation. We are dealing with an unrevealed mystery about which we can only speculate. So, whichever side you fall out on, that is probably the correct one.

For me, I feel safest when I stay within the parameters outlined within the Bible and not venture too far beyond that. So, what does the scripture say? Let’s look again at our verse from Eph. 1:5 — he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

When we use the word adoption, we think of an orphan child being adopted by a mother and father, and given the family name. While that is somewhat the concept here, the main thought is that of the “placing of a son,” which comes from the Greek word translated adoption.

In modern terms, the placing of a son, or adoption if you will, is seen in the Jewish celebration of the bar-mitzvah. The bar- and bat-mitzvah are the ceremonial recognition of the coming of age of the Jewish boy or girl. That coming-of-age recognition entitles them to the recognition of adults in the synagogue. They were already a son or daughter of the family, but this is a special recognition.

Therefore, for us, our adoption as sons and daughters is the full recognition of our placement in the family of God. This thought is brought out more fully in Gal 4:1-5 (ESV) 1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

So, to make sure we don’t get confused with this and what has been shared in previous weeks, let me try to state it plainly.

As I showed you a few weeks ago, we are all children of God, but we may not know it or act like it. However, God’s predetermined plan is for you and me to be full heirs of His kingdom. Therefore, we were predestined to be adopted to Himself, as we saw earlier in our verse for the day, Eph. 1:5 — he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Our adoption, our being placed as sons of God, is a part of God’s plan for the ages. However, the full plan has not yet been revealed as John says in his first epistle—Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. [1Jo 3:2 ESV]

In this verse, the word “children” is different from the word for adoption as sons, or even just the word sons. It is the Greek word “teknon” which means “technically speaking.” But, then John goes on to explain how that is all going to change.

He says we are not able to see all of it yet, but when Jesus appears, we will be like Him. We will be able to see Him as He is. (Just as a side note—that word “appears” could take us into things most of us have not yet even considered or thought about. There is some fascinating stuff in the Bible about Jesus when He appears.)

Let’s consider for a moment, though, the thought that we shall see Him as He is. HOW is He? At this moment of time, what does He look like? We don’t know the physical characteristics such as the color of hair or eyes, or how tall or short of frame, and I don’t think that is the point.

The point is that the physical body of Jesus was changed after the resurrection. Remember? He was able to appear and disappear at will. He walked through walls. He ascended into heaven in bodily form while the disciples watched from the ground below.

So, whatever form His other-worldly physical body is now, it is the same form in which we will find ourselves. That is the only way we will be able to see Him.

Paul tells us that our mortal bodies, which are now subject to disease and decay, will be changed to be like the body of Jesus. (Jesus) who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. [Phil 3:21 ESV]

We are all familiar with the passage in 1 Corinthians that says we will become immortal — For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [1Co 15:53 ESV]

Paul puts this all together in his letter to the Romans where he explains what our full adoption entails — [Rom 8:23 ESV] …we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

The comma after “sons” shows that the phrase following is an explanation. The KJV ads the words “to wit” meaning it is a definition. The NLT makes the meaning very plain — [Rom 8:23 NLT] … for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.

So, it is when we receive our resurrected bodies that our full adoption takes place. Until then we are in the process of this adoption taking place. It is a process as intimated in Rom. 8:29 — For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Have you ever thought of that? Did you know that Jesus is your older brother? And you are being conformed by the predetermined plan and purpose of God to the image of Jesus. Everything about your life is a part of the process to bring you into His likeness.

Yes. I said EVERYTHING. Everything about your life—the good, the bad and the ugly. Your victories and your failures. Your successes and your sins. Your good times and your bad times. EVERYTHING. Maybe everything, all events in your life have not been predestined by God; but all events are being worked out for your good.

And how do I know that? The same way I know that Jesus loves the little children—the Bible tells me so — And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Rom 8:28 NLT]

So, YES. You have been predestined for good things in God’s kingdom. That hasn’t made you a puppet. It has not taken away your freedom of choice, your free will.

You were chosen to be a part of His family, and predestined to inherit all things. You have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness, including every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Because of this, you should have no problem in giving thanks and praise to Almighty God.