For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ordo Salutis: The Chicken or the Egg?

The old stand by conundrum is the question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  We think we're being profound.  We think we're being clever because we "know" that you can't get a chicken without and egg, and you can't get an egg without a chicken, right?  Shows how much our "knowledge" is worth.

God settles it rather handily.  He created each creature according to its kind.  He created, among others, the chicken kind.  He speaks; the chicken exists (despite what Darwinian lunatics postulate).  It's really rather simple.  The chicken was created, and the egg came as a result. 

What's the point?  We've recently been studying the book of Romans and have come to that wonderful 8th chapter.  One of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible.  It contains those fabulous words in verses 29 and 30.  You may know them, but before I get there, let me make the connection with that chicken. 

In a similar attempt at being profound and discussing a mysterious conundrum, we ask about the Ordo Salutis, the "order of salvation."  Which came first, regeneration or faith? That is, do we exercise faith which leads to our regeneration and salvation?  Or, are we regenerated and saved which produces faith?  A question men have argued about for centuries.  I mean, we all "know" that you have to have faith to be saved, so faith must come first, right?  Shows how much our "knowledge" is worth.

God settles it rather handily.  Now those verses: "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. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Romans 8:29-30

I'm a basic kind of guy.  So I look at this text rather simply.  I want to know who it is that is saved, who gets to heaven and is "glorified."  So I look at the text and see that those who are glorified are those whom God justified.  So who does God justify?  Those whom He called.  And whom did He call?  Those whom He predestined.  And whom did He predestine?  Those whom He foreknew.

Now, just a quick note.  Some want to say that "foreknew" means God looked down in history, saw those who would have faith, and based on that "foreknowledge" decided whom He would regenerate and call and predestine.  Aside from making God a reactionary deity whose will is determined by the will of men, which is heresy; this also misses the meaning of the word "foreknew."  

We've all heard the joking, wink wink, idea of what it means to "know someone Biblically."  We're referring to the way Genesis speaks of Adam "knowing" his wife, and conceiving a child.  Knowing in that sense means intimacy.  And that's just the point.  God has an intimate knowledge of His own children.  He knows us.  He knows our hearts because He created us, and made a covenant with us, even before the foundations of the world.  He had already chosen us, chose to set His affection on us, before we were even a blip on the screen of the universe. 

So then, back to the chicken and the egg.  The Ordo Salutis is equally simple.  God settles it rather handily.  He regenerates dead, lost, sinful hearts, and salvation exists.  He regenerates, and faith comes as a result. 

I know some will choke on their coffee at that.  But it makes perfect sense.  Men are dead in their sin.  Dead.  Not just a little sick and in need of a boost.  Dead.  Without life.  Unable to act from a spiritual standpoint.  Only when God regenerates our heart, gives us a new heart, gives us life, can we then act in faith.  Don't get me wrong, faith is necessary.  But faith can only come from a heart that is awakened, and that comes from God alone.  

God creates, life results.  God recreates, new life results.  God acts, men respond.  God saves, men come in faith.  He knows us, predestines us, calls us, justifies us and glorifies us.  Notice in Paul's words to the Romans, those things are all past tense.  We are predestined, called, justified and glorified.  God even speaks of our final glorification as a past deed; a done deal.  Because He has done it.  And what God has done, no one can undo.   

This is why Romans 8 is so encouraging, and why the words that follow bring such confidence, knowing nothing can separate us from Christ.  It's because He has accomplished it, and no one can destroy it.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reflections on Another Revolution

One more revolution.  I've survived 48 of them now.  Not the war and rioting kind of revolution, though there have been enough of those.  But I'm talking about the revolutions our fair earth has made around the sun.  I've made that trip 48 times now as of last weekend.  More than some, not nearly as many as others.  But my fair share. 

In the last year our oldest daughter graduated college and left to spend a year in Germany.  Our youngest daughter graduated high school. With the oldest son in between, that leaves only the little guy as a "child" in our household now. Having a hard time with that one on the questionnaires: "How many children currently live in your home?"  "1."  Only one, really?!

Health wise, I'm pretty blessed.  I just reflected on that little cup and needle thing, and the results say I'm pretty good, so that all worked out.  I do have a degenerative eye condition and just found out I have a bit of "moderate high frequency hearing loss" whatever that means.  But overall, I'm in pretty good shape for an out of shape guy.  

Can't say I'm having a mid life crisis.  Honestly, if this is mid life, I'm a bit scared.  I don't want to live to be 94. Nothing wrong with any 96-year-olds out there.  I'm just not so sure I want to hang around this old world that long.  

I am to the point of being ready for the grandparent thing.  For the longest time, when I'd go to the hospital to visit a church family having a baby, if the lady at the information desk asked me if I was the grandfather, I took that as an insult. Now I say, "I wish!"  I'm looking forward to that part of life.  Not that my kids are being helpful in that regard.  Got to get them married off first, and they just aren't cooperating.  But I guess God has a plan, and I have to patiently wait for that, too!  (Not that I don't spend some time teasing the older ones about the whole thing!)

Again, no mid life crisis, but honestly....there are some struggles.  After almost 25 years as a pastor, there are times I feel a bit drained.  Again, I know a lot of guys who have gone a lot more years, seen a lot more "action," etc.  But sometimes...  There are weeks when I just feel weary, and sermon prep is just a struggle.  The old brain just doesn't work like it used to. 

My oldest says I need a "sabbatical."  Yeah, the idea of taking a couple months off sounds great.  But, for a small church, that's not very practical.  I'm hoping to take at least a couple days here in a couple months to attend a little conference.  I don't get the chance to do that very often, and I'm looking forward to it.  

Sometimes I think this is part of the problem.  A lot of "outgo" and not a lot of chances for "intake."  Again, I know a lot of men have done a lot more than me with a lot less, but I'm pretty weak. I sort of need to be taught and encouraged and challenged, and I need the ministry of others to do that.  The internet is great for that, having such a ready supply of teaching available.  What a blessing, and I feel so pathetic for even complaining.  But there are days when I think it would just be nice to sit back and be taught for awhile.

Well, enough of the whining.  Overall, I'm so blessed.  I have a beautiful, understanding, encouraging wife.  I have four great kids, three of whom God has grown into outstanding young adults.  I have a church family that loves me and prays for me.  In fact, in spite of a few bumps along the way, God has been extraordinarily gracious to our little church family and we are looking at great days ahead.

All this seems small when I look at the real revolutions going on in the world, the real persecution our brothers and sisters are facing in so many places, so many other things.  Who am I to complain about anything?

In front me stretches another potential revolution.  I'm anxious to see what God will do with it.  I know I can't do anything, but I also know each revolution I survive is because of His grace and because He has a plan for it.  So I look forward to what He will do.  And I pray that each trip around the sun brings honor to the Son, and rejoice that it brings me closer to my eternal home.  Until that day, we press on.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, February 9, 2015

And the Winner Is....

I guess the Grammy Awards were last night.  I don't know.  I didn't watch.  I have no interest.  I have no idea who won.  I only know they happened because of the endless ad campaign leading up to it.  I take that back, since I follow Christian rap artist Lecrae on social media, I did see him mention that he won a Grammy in some category or another.  I'm happy for him. 

Really, I'm happy for all the winners, I guess.  I'm sure this is important to them.  Many of them worked hard to get the recognition.  Far be it from me to down play what this might mean to an artist's career, etc.  It's just, well, I don't really care all that much.

In a few years, not many will remember.  Some will continually remind us that the are "Grammy Award Winning Artist So and So."  But most folks won't remember.  Any more than many will remember in a couple years who won last week's Super Bowl.  All the hype, all the media attention, and in a year or two the casual observer will be hard pressed to tell you who won.

I'm really not trying to be cynical.  In truth, I'm a pretty competitive person.  I like winning.  My wife claims I cheat at board games just to win.  I deny this.  And we'll move on. 

I like winning.  I like when my team wins.  I get frustrated when they don't.  I like winning stuff myself.  Back in high school, I won all kinds of things.  I was what we called a "band jock."  I have a letter jacket full of medals from State Contest for both solos and ensembles.  I won the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award for outstanding high school jazz musician, even though I've hardly picked up my sax in the last few years.  

I was also into drama contest stuff.  I have trophies for duet acting and radio speaking.  I even won and award for French!  (And even after taking three semesters in college, all I can do is say "My name is..." and "where's the bathroom?").   Some of that followed me to college.  I won some more awards there, some with monetary value which was pretty cool. 

Hey, a couple weeks ago I even took 3rd place in the chili category and the Annual Faith Southern Baptist Soup n Chili Cook-Off.  I won a microwave dish cover.  Good stuff.  A few years back I even took first place, and still have the red cooking apron with "Faith's Chili Champ" embroidered on the front. 

But here's the point.  None of the things are really all that valuable today.  No one but me remembers.  It's not like I'm the answer to a trivia question somewhere. (Who won the 1985 Louis Armstrong Jazz Award at Windsor High School?.....  uh, nobody cares, Alex)  As much as those things might have meant at one time, they're just not that big a deal in the overall scheme of life. 

Now, I'll confess that winning a Super Bowl might be a little more impressive that a church chili contest.  Winning a Grammy will bring more fame and fortune than my state contest medal.  But in the big picture of life, the universe, and everything, those things are still only temporary and fleeting. 

How many Super Bowl winning players end up bankrupt?  How many Grammy winners go on to a life of poverty and drug rehab and so on.  It's all fleeting, just like everything else in this life.  In the end, there is only one award any of us should be looking for.  In the end, there is only one thing that counts. 

I jokingly call it a family award.  My last name is Weldon, after all.  And I, for one, can't wait to get to the end of this life, and when the envelope is opened, and the winner is announced, I hear those words:  "Weldon, my good and faithful servant."  Okay, so that's not actually what Jesus says.  He does say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into your reward."  And that's what I want to hear.  That's the trophy I want to win.  

And I know that I only have a hope of winning it because Jesus has already won it on my behalf.  All my awards, all my talents, all my efforts, they all mean nothing.  But Jesus died to suffer the penalty that my sin deserves, and in it's place, He gives me His righteousness, His merit.  And so on that final day, when we all stand before the throne of God, when we all answer for the lives we've lived, the good and the bad, the announcement will be made:  And the winner is...Jesus Christ.  And because He has given me His merit, His righteousness, I get to accept the award along with the millions of others for whom Christ died.  What a day. 

What are you living for?  The applause of men, which is here today and gone tomorrow? Or are you living for the One who can give you an eternal reward?  Are you longing to hear those words "well done, my good and faithful servant?"  I hope to stand with you one day and accept our award together. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Needle and a Cup - Is This All I Am?

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that my wife and I were looking into some new life insurance.  We decided to go ahead and make the change.  Now, if you've ever been through this process, you know that before a company will issue a new policy, they need...well, just a little information.  Like your family history going back 18 generations and the name, address and phone number of every medical facility you've even been within 10 miles of in the last decade.  You know, simple stuff. 

Which is why a lady showed up at my office the other day with a needle and a cup.  The needle was to draw a blood sample with; the cup...well, you can figure that out.  Actually, worse than just the cup was the fact that she also handed me a couple test tubes with instructions to transfer from the cup.... you get the idea.  So there I am, stuck in the arm and playing mad scientist with the cup contents.  Just a bit awkward to say the least. 

And here was my thought process.  With this needle and cup, this company is going to develop a summary of my life to see whether it's worth insuring or not.  All my life reduced down to the contents of that needle and cup.  Is this all I am?

Much of life these days has been reduced to these kinds of things.  Most of us are summarized by a series of numbers: bank numbers, ID numbers, Social Security numbers.  We're a series of user names and passwords.  A digital blip on the screens of this world.

Or we summarize ourselves by relationships.  I'm husband, or dad, or ___________ (insert job title here).  While those relationships are great, and I love nothing more than being "Dad" or "Sweetheart" (to my wife, not on the job!), or whatever...still, is this all I am?  Is this the sum of my existence?  Or is there more?

God would say, "There is much, much more."  As Samuel was sent to find the next king of Israel, he ended up at the house of Jesse, doing a lineup of the man's sons.  Each one, from Samuel's immediate summary, looked pretty good.  But God said of each: "This isn't the guy."  And then there was David.  Out taking care of the sheep.  Little David.  He wasn't big and tall and strong and impressive looking.  His numbers wouldn't have made anyone look twice.  But God said, "Man looks on the outside, but I'm looking at the heart."  

God saw in David more than a summary of his relationships, more than his current job title, more than what would have been discovered with a needle and a cup, had such things been around.  God saw what He would make of this boy.  He saw the shepherd king whom He would make into a foreshadowing of the true Shepherd King to come.  

And God sees each of us in that way.  Not just in the physical makeup of our DNA; not just in the summary of our digital footprint; not only in our relationships in this world.  He sees us in relationship with His Son.  He sees sinners in need of salvation; unworthy of His love, deemed worthy of His sacrifice because of His love and mercy.  Oh, He sees so much more.  We are, in Christ, so much more.

Keith and Kristyn Getty, maybe this generations best hymn writers, have penned a new hymn along with Graham Kendrick which speaks to this a bit.  It's called, My Worth is Not in What I Own, and it speaks of exactly what it sounds like.  We are more than the things of this world.  We are more than our physical makeup, our material wealth, our family history. Our value is found in Christ, and in Him alone.  He sees us through the lens of Christ, what He wants to make out of us in Christ, and that's where we find our true worth and value.  This is all we are: in Christ.  Here are the words to the hymn and then a video of the Gettys singing it.  I pray this will be an encouragement today for someone.

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom's fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross


Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed - my ransom paid
At the cross