“Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 GNB).
We received this from a reader of The Issues of Life, with whom we have been in contact:
As I continue to read, pray, & learn I’ll be asking some questions and checking my thought process.
I’ve been reading many of your writings and it has brought considerable light to unresolved matters I had in my mind.
I had always been very comfortable with the idea of free will.
That God gave it to us and it was our choice to love Him that brought Him delight.
The missing part for me had always been that it gave the power of redemption to us, not Him.
If I am understanding you correctly, free will is not what is going on.
God has chosen, by virtue of being the Creator, who is & who is not saved.
So we should seek only God’s will.
In that regard those who are chosen will follow God, those who are not will not follow Him.
In ministry that basically translates into pointing the chosen in the right direction and letting the others know who they are following.
So when we teach God’s truth, the chosen will abide, and the others will not.
If you or I follow God’s will as we should, it is to tell the chosen and the others which way they are going.
If I do not follow God’s will I will suffer for it, and from a ministry point of view, I am part of God’s plan that a believer who is not following God yet, will suffer until they realize they are chosen.
Perhaps I am giving these matters too much thought, allowing Satan to cloud my mind.
I wish to fulfill the role God has for me in His plan.
Where do I draw the line between reflection and questioning?
Michael, Paul here.
That God is in charge, making the decisions about what we are to be, the Scriptures unambiguously declare:
“No, but, O man, who are you who replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him Who formed it, Why have you made me this way? Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor?” (Romans 9:20-21)
Pharaoh, supreme ruler from the days of Israel’s bondage in Egypt, is given as an example:
“So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God Who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very thing I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My Name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Romans 9:16-18 EMTV).
Some will say that God already knew that Pharaoh’s heart was evil, and acted accordingly. But the Scriptures say this about all men’s hearts:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
And again, we find the Scriptures attribute salvation solely to God’s work and initiative:
“For Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? And if you did indeed receive what you have, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7 EMTV)
So, where does this leave you? It leaves you at His mercy, as you always have been, and always will be. You speak as if you have something to offer God, or that you could possibly do something for Him. You seem to think that if you understand how this “free will thing” works, you will then be able to better serve Him in ministry. But you have yet to come to the place where you could even be prepared to serve God, and if it is His will that you do, it will not come by your mental powers of comprehension.
Here is how you will learn of God:
“He that has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21 EMTV).
You say, “We should seek only God’s will.” Do you not know that no man seeks after God or His will?
“No one understands. No one searches for God” (Romans 3:11 GW).
Yes, it is true that we understand, but that is because we have found the Messiah and have been born again. We found Him, because He first found us. We are now crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live, yet not us, but Christ lives in us, and the life that we now live, we live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved us, and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). We do not place our confidence in the flesh, as do you. We preach Christ crucified, so that you too may learn of Him, by His will, and come to know Him by the power of His resurrection.
Have you red Obedience? If you will learn from us, it will come by your hearing the Word of God mixed with faith, and obeying Him in the same. We are not here to teach doctrine, but to preach the living God. The line between idle speculation in carnal knowledge and obtaining the truth is drawn at obedience. What are your issues, Michael, and what does God require of you?
Lord, Your will be done, and let these things be made manifest to Your glory.
The Scriptures you shared (and those that surround them) about God being in charge speak deeply to me.
After some reading I had done of your writings last week, I felt led toward reading Ecclesiastes.
I read & heard how our acts, our accomplishments are nothing.
(incidentally, can you tell me why you use the spelling red instead of read)
This all points me toward how everything is God’s.
I still find myself trapped in my human thoughts, reasoning, & selfish pride as I “offer” myself to Him, my “confidence in the flesh”, as you phrase it.
Obedience and faith.
Simple, but certainly not easy.
I had read your writing on Obedience, but it did not speak to me before as it did after I read this email & the Scriptures you sent.
I am making changes to my actions.
As far as the explicit commands of the Scriptures, please point me in the right direction for reading.
I am reminded of a time several years ago, early in my faith.
As I felt God taking hold of me, I was concerned that I was just going through the motions.
That I was falling into the trap of emotions and false Christian culture.
That I was trying to create my faith.
I prayed, asking God to direct me.
My eyes filled with tears as they often do when I feel God’s presense.
What first came back into focus was “the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works”.
While I am more obedient than I was, I have not changed all that I must.
I have issues of lust, issues of laziness, issues of complete honesty.
There is more, but that is where I will begin.
Thank you for your reply, your direction, your obedience.
Our Lord’s will be done.
Glad to hear that these things helped you, Michael.
Victor started the matter of using the spelling “red” for “read.” His logic, which is impeccable here, is that if “lead” becomes “led” (past tense) and “feed” becomes “fed,” then “read” should be “red.” We take for granted the many idiosyncrasies of English, and this is a little reminder of just how illogical it (and we) can be. Not that logic will save the day. Which brings me to what can:
Ecclesiastes is not saying, as you suggest, that all of our acts are “nothing.” What it is saying or doing is distinguishing between which acts are of God, therefore worthwhile and tending to life, and which are not. Consider what Paul wrote about the acceptability of these two different kinds of works:
1 Corinthians 3:9-15 EMTV
(9) For we are coworkers with God; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
(10) According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise architect I have laid the foundation, but another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
(11) For no other foundation can anyone lay, other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
(12) Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
(13) each one’s work shall be made manifest; for the Day shall reveal it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test each one’s work, as to what sort it is.
(14) If anyone’s work which he has built remains, he shall receive a reward.
(15) If anyone’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, but so as through fire.
If the things in which we are engaged by the faith and will of God are “nothing,” then God’s work in Christ is in vain, of no effect or value. None would or could be saved. The things recorded in the Book of Acts, as done by Jesus Christ to men, and through men in His Name, bringing salvation to lost souls, would be a lie. However we know, and do testify to the truth spoken there, our lives bearing fruit from the labors of those going before us, the very Substance of God, Jesus Christ, Whose work through His coworkers was not done in vain. We do have the faith of Christ, the evidence of things not seen, which is most certainly not “nothing.”
However, many are laboring and wearying themselves in religious works of the flesh that amount to “nothing.” These are to be burned up in the Day of Lord, as Paul wrote, which Day is here and is burning. You are in the midst of and are laboring in such works, Michael. We hope better things and therefore speak to you. Salvation comes by the Word of God preached by those sent of Him. The Lord is here and is doing His work. He has come ever since the events recorded in Acts, when He gave His Spirit to the disciples, His body, the true, invisible Church of God. Those who know Him hear our words, and rejoice.
So what are you to do? As has been shared with you, those things that you know to do, from common sense and Scriptures. Seek the Lord for those things you do not know, but which are most needful. Ask for faith. Know that it is His will that you should walk in truth in obedience by faith, and believe that He will show you. I can tell you right now that He is already showing you. Commit your way to Him, and do those things that you hear of us. As Jesus said that the Father was in Him, doing the works, so is the Lord Jesus Christ in us; our words and works are His. We are speaking by His authority to you and to all to whom we are sent, for example, in The Issues of Life.
Isaiah wrote of our legacy and calling in Christ:
“And those who come of you shall build the old ruins; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in” (Isaiah 58:12).
Do not be the man who looks in the mirror, sees himself, and walks away forgetting, because there is not a doing of what is needed according to what is seen. You are held accountable for what you are hearing and are being given, which is not little or insignificant. It is, we assure you, not “nothing.”
Also know that you will lose everything you have and think to have if you go on to follow Christ. Have you counted the cost? Many in “Christianity” think to have counted and paid, but that is not the case whatsoever. Many drink deeply in the works of men, deceived, being caught in a cycle of “ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the Truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). It is games and play acting, imitating what is imagined or presumed to be the real thing, but which is not. If and when you begin to step out in obedience, going without the camp, you will discover what we say is true. That is, if the Lord is doing it, because only true faith can bring such rewards. And you will know you are on the right path, because there will be resistance from the flesh, according to the words of the Lord:
“Do not suppose that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be his own household members. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:34-38 EMTV).
Are you up to the task? These things are impossible with men. But as you quoted, this is not the work of men, but the work of God. If He does not do it, all are sunk. But He is here, with us, doing it, and for those who can receive this, He will not fail them. This is the Day of the Lord.
It is a good thing and a sign of grace, Michael, that you admit your faults and sins. Those sins and attributes are impossible for men to overcome. Yes, you must continue to confess and resist, but to overcome you must come to the Lord, where He is, and He will, in His manner, deal with the root cause, bringing you through the cross to His resurrection life and power that prevails over sin and death. You must die. There is no other way. As I said earlier, keep being religious and you will keep your life, “ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the Truth.” The Truth is not doctrine, but is Jesus Christ Himself. Until you know Him, it is only a hearing of the ear, as with Job. Job was not condemned because he endured to the end and believed, yet not by his own virtue, but by God’s grace. There is a time for everything. Now you need to come to the place where you see Him and abhor yourself, repenting in dust and ashes because you see yourself for what you are, and Him for Who He is.
The grace of God be with you. You write: “Obedience and faith. Simple, but certainly not easy.“
For the flesh, it is not only “not easy,” but impossible. For the spirit, empowered in Him, it is as He said:
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30 EMTV).
If you find yourself heavily burdened and laboring “by the sweat of the brow,” it is because you are working as your own savior. There is a vast difference between you being your savior and Jesus Christ being your Savior. One trusts in self and the other is the true faith, trusting in God. One leads to destruction, being the works of the flesh:
“Concerning the works of men, by the Words of Your lips, I am kept from the paths of the destroyer” (Psalms 17:4).
The other leads to life, being His work:
“For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
How is it done? The answer is in those verses…by faith.
True, still it is not easy, as you say, but I want you to have a perspective here that you have not had. In one respect, if you can receive what I say, it is “as easy as falling off a log.” The ultimate admonition and command of God is this:
“Therefore, a promise being left to enter into His rest, let us fear lest any of you should seem to come short of it. For also we have had the gospel preached, as well as them. But the Word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter into the rest, as He said, I have sworn in My wrath that they should not enter into My rest; although the works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:1-3).
He wants us to trust Him:
“It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 MSG).