This week’s sermon is called Straight Talk About Predestination. Now if I were giving someone else advice, I would say that a title like that is just asking for trouble. I think it’s called leading with your chin. It’s hard to think of many topics that get people hot and bothered faster than the whole question of God’s sovereignty and our free will. Sometimes the debate in couched in terms of the “points” of Calvinism. Tonight I received an email from a friend who wanted to know if I had come “all the way” on the doctrines of grace. By that he meant, was I a true five-point Calvinist? He wanted to know if I was in “with both feet” or was more prayer needed. Yesterday a Presbyterian friend said, “Now look, if you can just get over baptism, we’re ready to take you in.” Then I got an email from someone wanting to know if I was part of the Founders Movement in the Southern Baptist Convention. The answer is no because I am not Southern Baptist, although that’s how I was raised. Most of my ministry has been among independent evangelical churches. Then I got a note from someone who said my sermon made him think about predestination for the first time in years. He said he decided to do his own study, which he sent to me. It turns out that he disagrees with virtually every point I made in the sermon. But he said it in a kind way and I tried to reply in the same vein.
Then I got this note from a wise older friend who has seen a lot of ups and downs in his life:
I’m still not sure what is next and there must be a good reason I don’t….I don’t want to know. The heart problems seem to be less and less so that’s a plus. I guess you prepared me for this…I can remember your walking across Calvary’s stage on one end there is God and walking to the other end and there is me. So if God’s already there waiting for me, then I’m just tagging along. The thoughts of predestination are not so shocking. I’ve spent time learning ” If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans ”
A pastor in Alabama sent along this helpful insight:
I heard a great sermon by Tim Keller on Predestination. He talked about how we are tempted to say the doctrine just isn’t fair and then made these two great points–first, you don’t know enough about the choosing process to make that call. Second, no one can say God hasn’t been fair to me.
That seems exactly right to me. I am very comfortable with the Charles Simeon quote that I included in the message:
When I come to a text which speaks of election, I delight myself in the doctrine of election. When the apostles exhort me to repentance and obedience, and indicate my freedom of choice and action, I give myself up to that side of the question.
The bedrock of my faith is the sovereignty of God. The longer I walk with the Lord, the more precious that truth becomes to me. It is almost midnight as I write this note, and outside I can hear thunder rumbling because a massive storm is about to pass over us. A few feet away Marlene is sound asleep. I am glad that God is sovereign over all the storms of life. If he calls and chooses, at least he’s the one making the decisions that really matter. I’m going to sleep well tonight while the clouds roll past and the rain beats down outside. God knows what he is doing, and he is doing it, and that’s good enough for me.