Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CPR, Man's Inability, and God's Irresistible Grace (Part 3)

The above image is courtesy of my friend, Sye Ten Bruggencate.

In Part 2 of this series, I addressed man's utter inability to participate in his own salvation. Salvation is of the Lord (Psalm 37:39; Psalm 68:20; Lamentations 3:26). Salvation is not a right earned by man's participation in the salvific process. It is a right given by God, and God alone (John 1:12-13). Because man is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), he cannot participate in being born again. For it is God who causes man to be born again (1 Peter 1:3), as an act of His will (John 1:13).

Going hand in hand with man's inability regarding salvation is God's perfect irresistibility. God will do what He wants, with who He wants, when He wants, and how He wants. God's grace is irresistible.

Irresistible Grace

One last time, let's return to the CPR analogy. A person whose heart stops beating, a person who stops breathing, is clinically dead. And dead actually means.....dead. The person who is clinically dead cannot participate in any way, in their resuscitation. They are completely at the mercy, ability, and power of an outside source--the one who is performing CPR. But there is something else that must not be overlooked.

Just as a person cannot participate in their resuscitation, a person cannot thwart the rescusitative effort. Let me say that again. If a person is clinically dead, they can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to stop the effort to resuscitate them. And the same is true with salvation. No one can stop God from saving them.

And let's spend a few moments in a courtroom.

You have been found guilty of breaking the law. It is the day of sentencing and you are standing before the judge. The Judge commands you to pay a million-dollar fine or spend the rest of your life in prison. You cannot pay the fine. As the judge is about to impose his sentence, someone walks into the courtroom and announces to the judge that he is there to pay your fine.

The requirements of the law being met, the judge turns to you and says, "On the basis of this person making payment of the fine on your behalf, you are free to go."

With a look of determination on your face, you point at the judge and say, "No! I don't except the payment of the fine! I did the crime, so I will do the time! I want to go to prison for the rest of my life!"

So, who wins the day--you, the convicted criminal, or the presiding judge? If you assert you win the day, then you lack even a requisite knowledge of the judicial system and with whom authority in that system lies. It does not lie with you the convicted criminal. It lies entirely with the judge.

It matters not what you think of the judge or his decision. All that matters is the will of the judge. If he chooses to set you free, you will be free indeed. You can kick and scream and protest, all to no avail. The judge's decision is the only one that matters.

Granted, no analogy is perfect; but I think the point is clear. Yes, in this scenario, the judge imposed his will upon you, the convicted criminal. There was nothing unjust about the judges imposed will. So to with God. He is sovereign and free to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, to whomever He wants, in keeping with His perfect character. Paul makes this clear in Romans 9.
"What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills" Romans 9:14-18).
Man is not autonomous. His free will, as he perceives it, is limited by his corrupt, sinful nature. And the will of the creature will never supersede the will of the Creator (Romans 1:15). The will of the slave will never supersede the will of the Master (Matthew 10:24; John 13:16).

While the above is certainly true and consistent with Scripture, God's salvific work in a person's life entails so much more than merely overcoming or subjugating a person's will. Oh no; what God does to save a person is so much more miraculous than that. God changes the person's will!

I appreciate what Brian Schwertley wrote about God making the unwilling heart willing.
The reason that God’s grace is effectual or irresistible is that the Holy Spirit imparts an inclination to holiness in the human heart. Man’s heart is changed in such a way that the unwilling become willing. The person who is regenerated by the Holy Spirit embraces Jesus Christ because he wants to. Shedd wrote: “In the Scripture phraseology, he is ‘made willing,’ (Psalm 110:3. God ‘works in him to will,’ (Philippians 2:13). In the phraseology of the Westminster statement (L.C., 67), he is ‘powerfully determined.’ By renewing the sinful and self-enslaved will, the Holy Spirit empowers it to self-determine or incline to God as the chief good and the supreme end.” The old heart which hated Jesus Christ and considered spiritual matters to be foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14) is replaced with a new heart which is spiritual, which is deeply concerned about spiritual affairs. After a person is regenerated, Christ becomes the most important person in his life. The Savior becomes to him like a hidden treasure and a pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44, 46). Because the heart is made spiritual it desires and loves “the things of the Spirit.” “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:6-9). God doesn’t put a gun to man’s head and coerce him into the kingdom; rather, He changes him internally so that he voluntarily chooses Christ. The human will always acts in accordance with the human heart.
God is sovereign! Praise be to God! God is sovereign!

God is sovereign over the will of man. He can overcome any resistance sinful man can offer. And He can change any man's heart. And God does not need anyone's permission! The man who thinks He can withstand the will of Almighty God is every bit as foolish as the man who, while standing in an open-field, thinks he can withstand the power of an oncoming F5 tornado. Oh sinful man, you are but dust!

God is sovereign. You are not.

"The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord . . . The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:1, 9).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me" (Jeremiah 32:40).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45).

God is sovereign. You are not.

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them'" (John 12:39-40).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul" (Acts 16:40).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled" (Revelation 17:17).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

God is sovereign. You are not.

And anyone who balks at the perfect, comprehensive, masterful, unopposed, magnificent sovereignty of God should examine themselves to see if they are even in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Salvation is of the Lord. It is not a synergistic (cooperative) effort between God and man. It is a monergistic (God working alone for His own glory) miraculous, loving, gracious, merciful, and kind act of God.

Man is utterly incapable of assisting in his salvation, in his being brought from death to life. Likewise, there is nothing man can do to thwart God's predetermined plan, if it be His sovereign will to save him. God's grace is, indeed, irresistible.

In my final segment of this series, I will look at the implications of these precious doctrines, in the evangelism efforts of the Christian.

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