God’s Will

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:12-14

We learn a couple things from Jesus’s teaching here. First, we learn about the loving heart of the Father. God will pursue people in order to restore them. Secondly, we see one of the paradoxes of the will of God. We learn that the Father “is not willing” that any of these little ones should perish. And yet, we know that not everyone is saved. Some are lost even though it is not God’s will.

Peter put it this way:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:8-9

Here we learn again that God doesn’t want anyone to perish. God wants everyone to come to repentance. Yet, we know not all will come to repentance. This is just a reality of the fallen world we live in.

From both of these passages we see both the loving heart of the Father and the fact that His will is not always done on earth. It’s why Jesus had to teach His disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven“(Matthew 6:10). We wouldn’t be instructed by Jesus to pray this if it was somehow automatic. While God’s will is always done in heaven, His will is not always done on earth. So we must pray for His will to be done on earth, and we must walk in obedience to His will so that it may be done on earth.

The freedom that God gifted His creation with has been used to resist His will, rebel against His will, and thwart His will. The freedom to authentically love God as we experience His love for us has been twisted by sin and is now used for evil. That means that many things that happen in the world and many things that happen to us are not the will of God.

Dallas Willard writes, in his book Hearing God, about the erroneous belief that some Christians adopt that states that everything that comes in life is God’s will:

If you wish to know what God would have you do, it is no help at all to be told that whatever comes is his will. For you are at that moment in the position of deciding what is to come. Does it mean that whatever you do will be God’s will? I certainly hope not. If Moses had accepted this view, there would have been no nation of Israel…

Many things that happen are not the will of God…

God’s world is an arena in which we have an indispensable role to play. The issue is not simply what God wants, but also what we want and will. When we accept whatever comes we are not receiving guidance. The fact that something happens does not indicate that it is God’s will.

Dallas Willard, Hearing God, Chapter 3

God desires an authentic relationship with us. He wants to hear from us and wants us to hear from Him. Our actions and our prayers impact the outcome of the future, as does our obedience or disobedience. It matters if you pray. It matters if you obey. It changes things. We are not just fatalistic robots.

Your life in Christ really does matter!

All In

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:32-39

Those who like to paint Jesus as light and fluffy tend to skip over scriptures like this one. Those who like to think the gospel is all about unity and peace at any expense–at the expense of truth and surrender–are offended by Jesus’s words here. Try as they might to wiggle their way around what Jesus says here, they cannot.

These are not the words of a universalist. Persecuted Christians, particularly in Muslim countries, find hope and life in these words of Jesus. If we find these words difficult it is mostly an indication of the pampered and bastardized Christianity that has been handed down to us in the U.S. The hundreds of thousands of Muslims that are surrendering their lives to Jesus in Pakistan right now understand that the decision to follow Jesus is one that will likely cost them their families and might cost them their lives.

Universalism is not a message of grace and good news in countries where people are literally giving up their lives to follow Jesus. Universalism says their sacrifice was pointless. Universalism declares to them that being ripped from their family, rejected by loved ones, beaten, bloodied, scarred and broken was all very unnecessary. It tells them they could have lived in comfort and ease, rejecting Jesus, and everything would have been just fine. Does that sound like Jesus to you? Or can you now see it for the lie that it is?

Universalism is far from good news to the millions of persecuted Christians around the world. It is a message of mockery to their tremendous sacrifice. It also makes a mockery of Jesus’s own words here in Matthew 10.

The good news of Jesus is that if we are willing to surrender our lives in their entirety, we will find true life on the other side. If we are willing to join Jesus on the cross and in the tomb we will also join Him in the resurrection. If we are willing to make Jesus THE priority in our lives above all else, we will discover a river of life flowing through our life.

Clearly, Jesus is not messing around. He’s not playing church. He’s not interested in establishing a religion. Jesus is interested in sold out, all in, lovers who are willing to surrender everything to Him and His Kingdom.

Have you surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Are you all in?

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

By His Wounds You Have Been Healed

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:23-25

Jesus taught us that we don’t always have to be the one to defend ourselves or try to get retribution. Our job is to imitate Jesus who forgave the ones who hurled insults at Him. Then He entrusted the whole situation to “him who judges justly.” If we can trust that God is a just judge who sees our situation, we’ll have more peace and confidence when we face hardship and suffering.

Peter then goes on to quote different parts of Isaiah 53:4-6.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-6

In this passage in Isaiah 53, and in Peter’s restatement of this verse (often using different verb tenses in order to apply this verse to his audience’s current situation), we see that Jesus paid for the healing of our bodies, the restoration of our souls (mind, will, emotions), and the redemption of our spirits. In other words, Jesus on the cross and in the resurrection provided for our salvation–body, soul and spirit.

Our sin has been paid for and forgiven. Our wandering soul has been returned to the Good Shepherd. Our spirits have been married to the Holy Spirit and therefore united with Christ. And by Jesus experiencing suffering in His own body, He has paid the price for our physical healing.

This doesn’t mean that everyone experiences physical healing. There are a number of variables that push against people getting healed in this broken and fallen world. But what scripture is saying to us here is that physical healing is always available to us. In other words, as followers of Jesus we always have the right to ask for physical healing in any given situation. And we have a right to expect physical healing when we ask for it.

When someone gets healed it is Jesus’s reward for something He already paid for. It’s simply Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. Physical healing is part of our inheritance in the Kingdom of God and so, as sons and daughters of the King, we always have the right to ask for it. And as we learn to overcome the variables that hinder healing in this world, we’ll see more and more of the people we pray for experience healing.

The Grace of God

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Titus 2:11-14

Paul writes to his co-minister in the gospel, Titus, who is acting as the apostolic leader over the island of Crete. Notice how Paul describes grace and the gospel. Here are some things this passage of scripture teaches us:

  1. Salvation is offered to all people. This lines up with 1 Timothy 2:3-4 which says that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
  2. If God wants everyone saved and offers salvation to all people and yet not all people are saved, then this means that what God wants to happen in this world doesn’t always happen. There are forces of sin and evil that push against God’s will being done.
  3. Notice that grace here doesn’t just save us. It doesn’t only justify us, putting us in right standing with God. Grace also teaches us–empowers us–to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions. Grace doesn’t just forgive. Grace enables. Grace empowers us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives even in the midst of this present evil age. So if someone is making excuses for their sin and then follows with something like, “But, I live by grace, not works-righteousness” then they don’t understand grace. If we truly live by grace, we are empowered and enabled to say “No” to sin. Grace enables.
  4. Notice also the reason why Jesus sacrificed Himself. Paul gives us two reasons: a) to redeem us from all wickedness, and b) to purify for himself a people who are eager to do good. Jesus’ death and resurrection wasn’t just about getting us saved. It was also about having us purified. We are washed clean by the blood of of the Lamb, cleansed by the washing with water through the word, refined by the fire of the Holy Spirit, and illuminated by the light of Christ in whom there is no darkness. Jesus wanted a people who were His very own, who lived and acted just like Him.