Book Review: Four Views of Divine Providence by Dennis W. Jowers, ed.

I appreciate books that provide different views on theological issues.  (see my discussion on “Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?”  Wayne Grudem, ed.)  It’s important for objectivity to hear, read and understand opposing arguments or approaches to issues facing Christians today.  That challenge is to find people who will communicate in an understandable way and be objective themselves.  In this volume, there are four authors approaching Divine Providence: God causes all things,  by Paul Kjoss Helseth; God directs all things, by William Lane Craig; God controls by liberating, by Ron Highfield; and God limits His control, by Gregory A. Boyd.  Continue reading


Truth: God is merciful in all things

God is merciful in all things 

Rarely would anyone question God’s mercy.  We know God is all-powerful and able to judge.  Paul teaches in Romans how the attributes of God are revealed to all men, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20) 

Yet we only see God’s mercy through His written Word. Paul writes, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,” (Eph. 2:4) In what way do we see God’s mercy?

First, we see God’s mercy through forgiveness of sins.  Daniel, in his prayer on behalf of the nation acknowledges God’s mercy, “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.” (Dan. 9:9)  In fact, David who escaped God’s judgment, proclaimed God’s mercy in Psalm 86, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” (Ps. 86:5)  Man falls short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and because of sin, man is separated from God (Rom. 6:23).  Consequently, man deserves judgment in condemnation, but because of God’s mercy, God forgives and reconciles the world to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

Second, God is merciful in correction.  When God uses one believer to care-front another person, that correction is merciful.  That correction prevents many more sinful choices from being made.  James writes, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”(Jam. 5:19-20)  Covering a multitude of sins or prevention of additional sins is a demonstration of great mercy.

Thirdly, we see God’s mercy in judgment of the wicked. God’s judgment on the wicked is actually a form of mercy, because that person or group of people are prevented from committing more wickedness and hence they have less of a harsh judgment than they might have had.  Jesus explained that principle when He rebuked the wicked cities,

  • 20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:
  • 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
  • 22 “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.
  • 23 “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
  • 24 “But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” (Matt. 11:20-24)

Hence, God’s judgment is a tremendous form of mercy.  When Joshua destroyed the wickedness of Canaan, that was the mercy of God in action, because it prevented greater wickedness from mounting up and spreading to other people. The wickedness is cut off and the punishment is kept at a lower level that it would have been. Unfortunately, the wicked will likely not give appreciation for God’s mercy. The wicked, however, will bow their knee and confess Jesus as Lord (Phil. 2:9-11)

God is merciful.  God is merciful in forgiveness.  God is merciful in correction.  God is also merciful in judging and destroying the wicked.  Have you praised God for His mercy today or thanked God for His mercy in forgiveness of your sins?

Truth: Doctrine of the Divine Decree

This doctrine was left in outline form for ease of discussion. 

The Doctrine of the Divine Decree



     A.  The difficulties in understanding the Divine Decree relate to the finite understanding the infinite, the temporal understanding the eternal,  the sinful understanding the perfect.

     B.  Man has no need to be fearful of God, because God is holy and good.  Therefore if something is decreed, then it must be good.  It cannot be less than good from the divine perspective.  There is nothing more important than your view of God.


I.  Definition.

      The Decree of God is His eternal, holy, wise, and sovereign purpose according to His own pleasure, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be– in their causes, conditions, successions, and relations– and determining their certain futurition.


     A.  The decree is eternal in that it was established in eternity past and is certain forever.  It can never be changed by man.

     B.  It is holy–set apart by God, pure according to God’s righteousness, transcendent in character in relation to the cosmos.

     C.  It was fixed according to the wisdom of God, not whimsical or without thought.  It is perfect according to His sovereign will.

     D.  God`s sovereignty is infinite, eternal, according to His own self-determining will, totally independent of any other being.  The decree is purposeful.  That purpose is to bring honor and glory to Himself.

     E.  Everything is according to His pleasure.  Without it we rob God of His freedom. The phrase adds the fact that it is personal in relation to His plan.  The decree originates in freedom, and is not obligated to His purpose. God purposes without constraint.  The only necessity placed on God is what comes from His perfection.  The decree wasn’t made by external compulsion or internal caprice.  It was not whimsical; it is purposeful.  When God acts, He remains free.

     F. In the decree God comprehended at once all things that ever were or will be.  In God’s omniscience God knew the actual and the possible.  God knew when you would believe in Christ or if you would.  God knew what would happen if you married this person or that, and the happiness if you would have married a person for their integrity and character, rather than for their looks or lifestyle.  God comprehended in eternity past everything that would ever happen.  The past was as perspicuous as the present or future to God.  We forget about our childhood or instances in our life, but each one is as clear to God as another.

     G.  Their causes refer to what brought about the circumstances you face.  The causes refer to what preceded the event or thing.

     H.  The conditions refer to the surroundings, environment, and the set up in which the event or thing takes place.

     I. Successions relate what precedes and what follows.  It relates how each fits into the chronology of history.

     J. Relations state how each event or thing is related to those around it.

     K. Determining their certain futurition means that by comprehending all that ever was or will be, God made the sovereign choice concerning the events in history according to His direct, indirect or permissive will.  It means that God’s will is not intimidated by man.  God does not coerce man, but God knew how man would decide and God fixed the decree.  Man does not change history in time, man lives out the history as it is fixed in eternity past as God saw history from eternity past.

     L.  Everything God does is for His own glory.


II. The omniscience of God is the key to understanding the Decree.


     A. God has three types of knowledge.

           1.  Self-knowledge whereby God knows himself perfectly and completely.  He has never had to learn about Himself.

           2.  Omniscience whereby God knows the actual and the possible for all things in human history and beyond.  The possible could have happened had God programmed that into the decree, but only the actual was programmed.

           3.  Foreknowledge, which is the subcategory of God’s omniscience, related only to the decree.


     B.  God’s omniscience is a giant computer, which has the storage capability of every fact and possibility of divine history.

           1.  God never tampers with volition.  Human history is as you have thought it and acted.

           2.  God knows which way you will choose, even though you are confronted with 20 choices. The choice you make is in the decree.

           3.  God knew all that would have been involved had He adopted an infinite number of plans of action.

           4.  God knows all the consequences had you chosen a different course of action that you chose.


     C.  Out of the computer comes a printout, which is the foreknowledge of God.

           1.  The foreknowledge makes nothing certain, but acknowledges what is certain.

           2.  Foreknowledge was not known, until it was first decreed.  It first had to come out of the computer.  God had to choose what plan or system would be reality for the believer.  God knew in Eternity Past what decisions you would make and every decision is perspicuous, because He has the printout from the computer.

           3.  Foreknowledge is based on the sovereignty of God and His right to choose.

           4.  Foreknowledge does not determine nor affect any event.  The cause is your freewill.  It is what you decide.

           5.  Foreknowledge is the reality of life, what actually would happen.


     D.  The decree does not coerce the free will of man.  The following five points are from A.A. Hodge. God’s decree determines only the certain futurition of events, it directly effects or causes no event.  But the decree itself provides in every case that the event shall be affected by causes acting in a manner perfectly consistent with the nature of the event in question.  Thus in the case of every free act of a moral agent the decree itself provides at the same time–

           1. Every agent will be a free agent.  No coercion on the will of the creature.

           2. What precedes will be what it is.  Once something happens, nothing can change it.

           3. The conditions for the act will be what they are.  God will not change the physical laws spontaneously.  Therefore we can depend on the consistency with which all things happen.  Will they happen by chance?  No, all things happen by the grace and immutability of God.

           4. The act itself will be perfectly free on the part of the agent.

           5. The act will be certainly future.  It is recorded history before the event occurs. Therefore, it must take place as recorded according to the Foreknowledge of God.

                 a.  This means that Hyper-Calvinism is wrong because God does not predestine anyone to go to heaven or hell.  People go because of their choice. You go to heaven because you choose to go to heaven.  You were elected in eternity past and God knew you would go to heaven in eternity past and God chose you to go to heaven in eternity past, but God did not turn your decider to positive so you would go to heaven.

                 b. This means that Arminianism is wrong because man’s volition is not beyond the control of God.  Man cannot cause things that are not in the decree.  Man is not elected or chosen the moment he believes in Christ.


           6. Application: When you witness, every person is first of all an unbeliever, but has the potential to become a believer.  No one but God knows whether they will believe in Christ, or not.  Therefore, you witness to every person God brings your way.

                 a. What was known about the person who rejected God is that they were not elected in eternity past.  That person has lived out the pre-recorded printout of history.  But the person chose to reject salvation.

                 b. What was known about the believer is that he/she was elected in eternity past.  Their salvation was sure, that it would happen, but the manner or the time is completely unknown to us. Death bed conversions are a reality.


III. Evidence for the Divine Decree.


     A. All things are included in the decree.

           1. Is. 14:26,27, “This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has planned and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand. who can turn it back?”

           2. Is. 46:10,11, “Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done. Saying My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure; Calling a bird of prey from the east The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.

           3. Dan. 4:35, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth. And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, What hast Thou done?”

           4. Eph. 1:11, “Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”


     B. Special things and events are included.

           1. Stability of the physical universe Ps. 119:89-91, “Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.  Thy faithfulness continues throughout all generations. Thou didst establish the earth, and it stands.  They stand this day according to Thine ordinances.

           2. Length of human life Job 14:5, “Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with Thee, And his limits Thou hast set so that he cannot pass.

           3. Mode of our death Jn. 21:19, “Now He said this signifying what kind of death he would glorify God.”

           4. Circumstances of nations Acts 17:26, “And He made from one, every nations of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.

           5. Free acts of man Eph. 2:10, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Gen. 50:20, “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.”


     C. Salvation of believers Eph. 3:10,11, in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.


     D. The nature of God.

           1. The sovereign, eternal and omniscient God implies complete order to history.

           2. God can be sovereign and still allow man to have freewill.

           3. Man cannot intimidate God with His decisions. 

                 If there is anybody or anything that is absolutely free, referring to will, you do not have a sovereign God.

                      (1) Divine foreknowledge implies fixity, which implies a decree.

                      (2) Divine wisdom operates according to a divine plan.

                      (3) Divine immutability indicates that there can be no increase in power or knowledge.

                      (4) Divine benevolence requires that both the course and end of history be determined by God`s will rather than by chance or the creature’s will.

                      (5) That fact that God is eternal means that His purpose is eternal.


IV. Characteristics of the Divine Decree.


     A. The ground of the decree is God’s grace, love, and good pleasure

           1. Matt. 11:25-26, “At that time Jesus answered  and said, I praise Thee, O Father. Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes.  Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight.”

           2. Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”

           3. Eph. 1:5,9,” He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ in Himself according to the kind intention of His will. . .He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.

           4. Rom. 9:21, “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?”

           5. Application: It doesn’t arise from outside of His nature. For example in a puzzle, all the pieces are in the box, but only when all the pieces are put together can you get the full picture.  God knows all the pieces before the puzzle is assembled.


     B. It is eternal

           1. 1 Cor. 2:7, “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”

           2. Eph. 1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

           3. 2 Tim. 1:9, “who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

           4. 1 Pet. 1:20, “for He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.”

           5. Application: every event is related to another, no event can be isolated from the whole.

                 a. lust–sin–death.

                 b. Death of Christ–personal faith–salvation.


     C. It is wise

           1. Rom. 11:33, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.”

           2. Eph. 3:10,11, in order that the manifold awisdom of God might now be bmade known through the church to the crulers and the authorities in dthe heavenly places. This was in aaccordance with the 1eternal purpose which He 2carried out in bChrist Jesus our Lord,

           3. Ps. 104:24, “O Lord how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all: The earth is full of Thy possessions.”

           4. Application: nothing is irrational or arbitrary, although it may be beyond our comprehension at the moment.


     D. It is free.

           1. Is. 40;13-14, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge. and informed Him of the way of understanding?

           2. Rom. 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

           3. Application: His determinations are influenced by no other.  No one was present when He decreed the decree.


     E. It is unconditional.

           1. Is. 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

           2. Acts. 2:23, “this man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”

           3. Eph. 1:11, “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.

           4. Eph. 2:8, “for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourself it is the gift of God.

           5. Application:There are no contingencies. Nothing is uncertain. Nothing in the decree is conditioned by anything not in the decree.  God is not waiting for anything to happen in order to know the outcome of the event.


     F. It is all-inclusive.

           1. Eph. 1:11, “ This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He 2carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, “.

           2. Acts 17:26, “And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.”


     G. It is immutable.

           1. Ps. 33:11, “the counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.”

           2. Is. 46:9,10, “Remember the former things long past. For I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like me, Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”


     H. It is efficacious.

           1. Is. 14:27, “For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”

           2.  Application: the works of God always succeed in having their intended effect.

           3. Some things God has decreed to do Himself immediately–direct cause.

           4. Some things He has decreed to do through the agency of natural laws–indirect cause.

           5. Some things God decreed to do through the exercise of the will of moral creature moral agency.

           6. Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology, “If God does not first decide what shall come to pass, he cannot know what will come to pass.  An event must be made certain, before it can be known as a certain event.”


     I. It is permissive regarding sin.

           1. Ps. 78:29, “So they ate and were well filled; And their desire He gave to them.”   God did not cause them to sin.  God did not cause them to crave for the food.  God permitted them to sin.  God cannot cause something to happen contrary to His own character or He would be denying Himself.             

           2.  What about Pharaoh.  God did not cause the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.  God hardened His heart by allowing Pharaoh to make the decision, which God foreknew would happen in eternity past.

           3. Ps. 106:15, “So He gave them their request, But sent a wasting disease among them.  God did not cause them to have the desire. They had the desire by their own freewill.

           4. Acts 14:16, “And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways.”

           5. Application: The decree renders the future sinful act certain, but does not hinder the sinful self-determination of the finite will.

           6. Permissive does not mean passive (which would imply that something was beyond his control).

           7. It does not mean compulsion (which would negate free agency and place the responsibility with God.


     J. The decree to act is not the act itself.

           1. @@ The decree to create is not creation itself.

           2.  The decree to redeem is not redemption itself.


     K. The purpose of the decree is the glory of God.

           1. Eph. 1:6,12,14,” to the praise of the glory of His grace which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved; v. 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory, v. 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.”

           2. Rev. 4:11, “Worthy are You our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for Thou didst create all things, and because of They will They existed, and were created.”


     L. The decree is all comprehensive.

           1. Not the slightest confusion could exist as to one of even the smallest events without confusion to all events.

           2. The decree does not eliminate the need for prayer. God in His omniscience saw what believers would pray.  The effective prayer is what God can answer in the affirmative. Is. 65:24, “It will also come to pass that before they call. I will answer and while they are still speaking I will hear.”


V.  Application of the divine decree to us.

     A. The decree is the sum total of God’s plan and purpose in eternity past, and centers around the person of Christ.

           1. Eph. 1:4-6, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him, In love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

           2. 1 Jn. 3:23,”And this is the commandment that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He commanded us.”

     B. Therefore the free will of man must face Jesus Christ before and after the cross.

     C. Without violating free will, God designed a perfect plan for every believer.

     D. There are primary, secondary, and tertiary functions within the plan of God.  All of which affect you in every decision you make.

     E. God is not unfair and He deals with reality.

Dedicated to many great teachers who have gone before.

Truth: Doctrine of Election

Doctrine of Election


God has three types of knowledge. They are all a part of the knowledge of God and the distinctions help us understand election.

First, He has self-knowledge; He knows Himself. In His dialogue with Moses, “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,`I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14)

Secondly, God is omniscient, which means He is all-knowing.  God knows the actual and the possible, especially in relation to His creatures. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)

And thirdly, God has foreknowledge, which is His acknowledgement of what is in the Decree of God.  David recorded in his famous Psalm 139,

For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.  O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
 2You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
 3You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
 4For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
 5You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.
 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. (Ps. 139:1-6)

This foreknowledge of God means every minute detail is completely known in eternity past. Every minute detail is in the mind of God, therefore the future is clear. God’s knowledge is not subject to change, development, or reasoning. God’s omniscience fed into the decree the actual facts. The decree is fixed, but does not fix. God’s foreknowledge is a printout of those elect ones. The elect ones experientially become elect at salvation. The elect ones are elect from eternity past.

Election depends on God’s sovereign application of the free will of man to God’s plan. John wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Election becomes experientially real at the point of salvation. Election was made in eternity past as Paul writes, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thes. 2:13)  God chose, or elected, every believer through means of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work that happens at the moment of salvation.  Paul also writes, “[God], who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, (2 Tim. 1:9)  There was nothing we could do for salvation.  That is why faith is non-meritorious, that is, there is no merit for man.  God does all the work through Jesus; we just accept that work on our behalf.  The choice is to humbly accept the work, rather than think we can do or become something of value on our own before God.  We cannot.  We can only accept what God has done on our behalf.

Scripture teaches Unlimited Atonement.  There are many passages that declare God’s unconditional sin payment for the human race by the blood of Jesus.  For example,

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)

John Calvin says of this verse: “He uses the word sin in the singular number for any kind of iniquity; as if he had said that every kind of unrighteousness which alienates men from God is taken away by Christ. And when he says the sin of the world, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race.” Additional verses in support of Unlimited Atonement are:


For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
(Rom. 5:6)


3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:3-4)


5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, (1 Tim. 2:5-6)


For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (1 Tim. 4:10)


The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)


And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 Jn. 2:2)


And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. (1 Jn. 4:14)


It would seem these are very clear that Jesus’ death was a substitution for the entire world – all the ungodly – those who would believe and those who would not.

Therefore, all members of the human race are potentially elect by the Father under the concept of Unlimited Atonement.  Paul writes, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tim. 2:10) The Greek grammar is important here.  The phrase, “that they also may obtain” is a hina + subjunctive of tugchano- which means it is optional and dependent on man’s volition—man’s choice. Paul did not exclude anyone from this choice.  Just above, we saw from 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord was “not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” Some people will say that those whom God calls will be saved. So in this verse if God wishes for all to be saved, is God’s wish different from God’s call? If God wishes for something, would not that happen if He wanted it to happen?  Could God wish for something and it not happen?  It would not, if God allowed for His glory man’s choice to enter into the picture.

Election is the present and future possession of every believer. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16) On his own, man would not choose God.  If it were not for the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, every man would turn from God.  It is only those to whom God calls and convicts, which is everyone, do they have an opportunity to make a choice.  The saving is not of anything on man’s part.  He only makes a non-meritorious decision, selfish as it may be, to receive the gift of salvation.  He does this by faith.  His purpose then becomes bearing fruit.  Paul states our purpose after salvation, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (Col. 3:12)  Once we are saved, our focus becomes bearing fruit for Jesus’ sake.  That becomes a life-long pursuit of sanctification, because of our position in Christ.

Every believer shares the election of Christ through positional sanctification. Even Jesus is elect, according to Isaiah, Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” (Is. 42:1)  Jesus, however, is not elect as we are.  He was chosen to be the sin-Bearer and our Substitute. All those in the church of Corinth were believers as Paul writes, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours… But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption… (1 Cor. 1:2,30)  We are sanctified in Christ and as we grow in our relation with Jesus Christ we become experientially sanctified. 

We can trust God in everything that He takes us through for our sanctification. Paul writes, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose… He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”(Rom 8:28, 32)  Why can we trust Him?  He chose us, elected us, from the foundation of the world, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Eph. 1:4)

This means that of the 1000 other decrees God could have chosen He chose one where you would believe in Christ (if you have). Give thanks to Him! It means that God is sovereignly in control of all history, not that He directly controls all history, because we cannot say God directs sin.  That would be contrary to the character of God.  However, He does allow sin in His permissive will and chose the decree in which there is sin.  That decree allows many wicked things to occur, which exposes the wicked evil that is in the world and ultimately reveals that only when God is in direct control, is there serenity and calm. What do you remember about the love of God?

           God gives and God corrects (1 John 4:9-10; Heb. 12:5-6). It means I share in the destiny of Christ, I share His election.  That is confident expectation of what lies ahead and is reason for us not to become frustrated about what we face now. It means every person may be elect, therefore we are under obligation to witness and give the gospel at every opportunity.  Are you taking advantage of the opportunity?

Words: Godly vs. Ungodly Results

Words: Godly vs. Ungodly Results

            In the Garden of Eden, Adam enjoyed perfect environment.  He was never concerned with rubbing his eyes from air pollution, testing the water for contaminants, or listening to foul-mouthed neighbors.  Everything was perfect, because he was made in the image of God and sin had not become a part of his nature or the world around him.

            Scream forward to Genesis 3 and the serpent allures the woman into a conversation, to which she can’t resist.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, `You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
 3 “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, `You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'”
 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:1-6)

At that moment, because of disobedience to God’s command, sin enters into the human race.  Now, instead of perfect environment, thorns and thistles grow, sweat becomes normal and childbirth is overcome only by the joy of new life. This initiates the contrast of godly and ungodly results. 

            Take for example the following chart. 

Proper Use
Sinful Use
Chemical Elements
Spoken letters
Bible teaching
Lying, slander
Written letters
Music lyrics
C.S. Lewis, “Messiah”
Moral filth
Gangsta Rap
Sound waves
Refreshing the spirit and body
Stimulating lust Instant gratification


There are four columns and four examples.  The first column identifies a component at its basic level.  For example, chemical elements can be hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen.   The second column identifies the particular discipline or category of study or function which comes from the “component.”  From chemical elements comes a discipline of “chemistry.”  From that discipline, there will be two types of uses of that discipline: a proper use or godly result and a sinful use or ungodly result.

There are many proper uses of chemistry. One example is to use chemistry to create vaccines.  Another is to develop prescription drugs, like pain killers for after surgery.  However, chemistry can be twisted in a sinful use or ungodly result, for example to develop poisons to hurt people. 

Each of the components has a resulting discipline and then a proper use or sinful use.  It depends on whether God is behind it or whether man’s sin nature is behind it.  If you understand this, you’ll understand why there is evil in the world and not be shocked when wickedness develops.  What other examples would you suggest to continue lengthening this chart?



Q & A: Get A Grip on your Father’s Will

These are suggested answers for the Message Based Discussion Questions included on the reverse side of the insert for the message “Get a Grip on your Father’s Will” presented on March 24, 2013.  The full information from the insert is provided first, then the Message Based Discussion Questions are reiterated with suggested answers.  These answers only provide a beginning basis to answer the questions.  Each person should consider how he might answer the questions. Continue reading

MSG: Get A Grip on your Father’s Will

This message was presented on March 24, 2013 as the second of a three part series about God the Father related to the Resurrection event.  Jesus went through the resurrection tumult, because He had a Grip on Father greatness, on the Father’s will and the final message for March 31, on the Father’s Promise.  Considerations for questions at the bottom will be posted on March 28.

Get A Grip on your Father’s Will

Luke 22:39-46

I remember it like it was yesterday.  My dad and older brother were standing at the entrance of our house, the inside door was open, the screen door was closed and the rain was coming down pretty hard.  Dad and Gary, my older brother, were facing off and it seemed like the blows were about to happen. I was in eighth grade, my brother was a junior in high school.  I was standing in the dining room peering around the corner to watch and listen to what was about to happen.

      They were talking about what Gary could do and not do in the house and in life.  I was young enough, that I just did what dad and mom said.  I didn’t care about staying out late at night. I didn’t know what opportunities existed.

We lived in a new addition and there were new homes going up behind us between our house and the great fields where we built forts.  We used scrap lumber to build our castles and play empire against other neighborhood rivalries.  Gary was old enough and had his driver’s license.  He didn’t think he needed to be in at a certain time, do chores any more or eat with the family at dinner, or something like that.  I was young. I didn’t even consider those as options. I like to eat.

      I’ll never forget the anger my dad needed to express at that moment.  I remember him saying he was willing to scrap it out right there in the house.  Dad wasn’t a big man.  My brother had surpassed him in height by that time, however.  But my dad needed to get his attention and I had heard about dad’s scrapping as a kid during the depression.  I know he sure got my attention.  I didn’t want to go through the arguments they had.  I didn’t always, however, want to do my father’s will.

      When we moved onto White Bear Lake, my brother graduated from high school that year and went off to college.  That left a lot of the lake and yard work to me. Huge trees meant over a hundred bags of leaves.  The lake meant weeds floating in and needing to be piled up.  It was the blessing of living on a lake, but it was work.  The annual putting out of the 120 foot dock and taking it back in was a chore my friends didn’t have. 

Have you ever heard of Minnesnowda? With my brother away, that meant much of the show shoveling rested with me. There were a few years, when the piles on either side of our driveway were up to eight feet high.  We prided ourselves on how well we kept the driveway clear.  It also meant removing snow from the house, garage and carport with a snow rake and shovels.  Fortunately, it rarely ever snowed when it was below zero, but blizzard conditions were not pleasant.  I wanted to do what my dad expected, but my flesh didn’t want all that work.  How do you get a grip on your Father’s will?

1)      Jesus’ Father gave Him strength to press for you Luke 22:39-40

It was Jesus’ custom to go out of Jerusalem to Gethsemene on the Mount of Olives. Gethsemene means “oil press,” which is a term where olives are put into a press and the oil is pressed out.  Olive oil is wonderful for cooking, eating, burning in a light and topical medicinal purposes.  The “Oil Press” is where we see the true humanity of Jesus squeezed under extreme pressure and the “oil” or the “Holy Spirit control” come out of Jesus by His submission to the Father’s will.

39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. (Luke 22:39)

Jesus had just eaten the Last Supper with the disciples and while they participated, they still did not understand what was about to happen.  They were believers, except for Judas, yet they still did not understand the unfolding events.  While the disciples followed Jesus, Jesus stood alone with God, knowing what needed to be done and pressing forward for you. God the Holy Spirit strengthened Him to press forward for you.

40 When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40)

Jesus came to “the” place.  This was a particular place.  The disciples had been there before. It was familiar to them.  It was familiar enough that they became complacent and were not vigilant.  Jesus left the disciples to pray and He went alone.  Jesus commanded them 1) to pray so that they 2) not enter temptation. Someone might be reverently sarcastic and ask, “What were they going to do, steal from a store? Get into a fight? Throw rocks at people? Look at pornography on the internet?” No.  They would be tempted to not act in faith. Paul writes, “…for whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Rom 14:23)  What is faith?

Faith is dependence on the Lord.  Faith at salvation is dependence on what Jesus did. It is trusting what Jesus did on the cross.  As Paul says, “For by grace are you saved through faith…” (Eph. 2:8-9) We are also to live by faith. Faith in life is dependence on the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18)

The temptation warning was a warning of trusting self rather than God; it was lack of depending on God.  Prayer is dependence on God.  Pray is an external form of faith or dependence on God. That’s why prayer and prayer meetings are crucial to spiritual growth.  People don’t think about getting to a major sports event 30-45 minutes early.  Yet people often run into church at the last minute. 

Jesus left the Last Supper and ventured to the vulnerable place where He would be arrested.  Jesus was depending on Father greatness.  He was willing to go through the worst to receive the best. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus.  The writer to the Hebrews records, “2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)

When you get a grip on your Father’s will, God will give you the strength to go through your trial.  You need that grip, because the Father may put you in a place for you to reveal His glory.

2)      Jesus’ Father wanted Jesus to hang on the cross for you Luke 22:41-44

Now, how could the Father want to hang Jesus on the cross?  Even if it is for you?  Would the Father put His only Son on the cross?

 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. (Is. 53:10)

The word for bruise means to crush.  The Father put the Son on the cross to crush Him for the sake of our sins.  In fact, it was the pleasure of the Lord that prospered in His hand.  Why?  Because it brought everyone who would believe on Jesus to be with Him forever. Jesus went to be alone in prayer.

41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, (Luke 22:41)

Jesus withdrew to pray alone.  He is teaching you that your faith is your faith.  You have to make the decisions yourself.  You can have support, but prayer and faith are personal decisions.  Additionally, He was on His knees.  He was in anguish.  He had become weak.  He knew He didn’t have the power.  He was totally dependent on the Holy Spirit.  Why did He have to be dependent on the Holy Spirit? He was our model of dependency to show us there is NO glory to God without total dependence on His Spirit. Jesus said,

42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

The word “take” means “to remove” or “carry alongside,  lead aside.” Then Jesus requests that the cup be taken “from me,” literally “from the ultimate source of Me.”  He DID NOT want this (from His humanity.) That is not sin to not want something; it would have been sin if He refused His Father’s will.

This verse has two major implications.  The first is that Jesus did not want the cross? Why did He not want the cup, which was used as a symbol of the cross?  (God would pour His wrath into Him on the cross, like pouring into a cup)  He knew He would be identified as sin, He knew He would bear the penalty of sin. He knew the anguish of separation from the Father, so that He would cry out for three hours in darkness.  He was silent through the ridicule. He was silent through the beating.  He was silent through the whipping.  He cried out when He became sin for you and me, when He was “separated” from God the Father.

The second implication regarded the Father, who also didn’t want the cross.  Jesus said, “If it is Your will…” and the implication is that it was God’s will that the cross be removed, but that is not what the Father determined.  The Father didn’t want it, but He chose to hang Jesus on the cross for you.  The holiness of God is more important than any personal desire.  Remember, we are talking about the infinity of God and it will not be fully understandable.  Note how Jesus’ desire is expressed physically.

43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.

 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:43-44)

When it says that Jesus was in agony, the word describes exactly that – Jesus was in agony, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  This was not a walk in the park or a tip toe through the tulips.  This was the worst agony any human being ever experienced and the Father hung Jesus on the cross for you.

Luke is the one gospel writer that records the medical agony of Jesus.  Jesus’ prayer is pictured as with drops of blood. This is a medical condition called “hematohidrosis.” One writer explained this in medical terms,

Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form. Under the pressure of great stress the vessels constrict. Then as the anxiety passes the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture. The blood goes into the sweat glands. As the sweat glands are producing a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface – coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat.

As Jesus prayed, He was in a battle with His flesh.  He did not want the cross, but He was getting a grip on the Father’s will.  As He gripped the Father’s will, the Holy Spirit sustained Him and the blood vessels ruptured.  The further constriction forced the ruptured blood vessels to spill out from His skin onto the ground.  Jesus was willing to hang for you.

Men, are you willing to hang where God places you?  This is not just being tough to get a job done.  It is the strong calling at home to get children to follow your godly lead.  It is the challenge of the second half of your daily championship.  Your work is the first half of the game.  When you arrive home you enter the second half of the game each day, although it is not a game.  Remember, no game is ever won in the first half.  Your real battle is how you lead your family.  You may be very successful in your job, but if you lose at home, you’ve lost far more than what you can lose from a job.  Are you ready for the 2nd half of the game?

            This is the calling to lead your wife spiritually.  It is your leadership to discuss Scripture with her.  It is your calling to lead your children to understand Father greatness.  You have to be as tough as nails, but gentle as a shepherd.  You have to be fixed to pure holiness, but tender to reach the heart.  You have to be unwavering with God’s righteousness and merciful at humble repentance.

We saw this in the Lord’s relationship with Abraham.  The Lord said, “…I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice,  (Gen. 18:19)   It is the ability to command your household WITH compassion.

Jesus showed He was dependent on the Father’s will and then He exposed the complacency of the disciples.

3)      Jesus’ Father left Him without men who would stand with Him Luke 22:45-46

45 When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.

 46 Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:45-46)

We often put the disciples down, because they fell asleep and didn’t remain alert for Jesus.  Notice the text says, “They were sleeping from sorrow”, i.e. they were worn out; emotionally drained. They had just experienced the Lord riding into Jerusalem and the people shouting Hosanna.  They were hoping that Jesus would deliver them from the Roman oppression.  Jesus is not mad, critical or making a cute cut. He knows the answer to His question.  They need to ask themselves the question.  Their temptation is to make decisions apart from the Lord.  They need to be in prayer over the next few hours.  They would be tested and they would run.  Remember, failing isn’t the problem as much as not returning to Jesus and strengthening the brothers as Jesus exhorted Peter,

32 “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”

 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:32-34)


Men, are you on spiritual red alert for your family?  Does your wife know that you would never waiver from God’s Word?  Does she know that she can count on you to pursue Jesus for your decisions?  Does she know that you will lead your family to Father greatness?

Are you willing to go through any situation to raise your wife and family to Father greatness?  You may have friends like Peter who tell you they will stand with you, but leave you on your own in suffering and crucifixion.  Yet, you also may not have someone standing with you, or holding you accountable.  Will you say, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup from Me, nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)  Are there men willing to do that?

Father’s, men, let’s look at what we’re like. This first slide exposes where most of the problems come,

• Men commit 90% of major crimes

• Men commit 100% of rapes

• Men commit 95% of burglaries

• Men commit 91% of the offenses against the family

• Men comprise 94% of drunk drivers

Source: Raising a Modern-Day Knightby Robert Lewis, pg. 46

That does not speak very highly of men. 

            It’s interesting when you compare Christian and non-Christians there is often little difference,


FACT: Christians own about the same amount of technology as the general population

·         Born Again adults spend about seven times more hours each week watching television than they do participating in spiritual things, like Bible reading, prayer and worship

·         Born Again adults spend twice as much money on entertainment than they donate to their church

·         Born Again adults spend much more time surfing the Net than they do conversing with God in prayer

So the question exists, “Where are the men?”  Barna responds,

Where Are The Men?

·         26 Million Men Attend Church

·         68 Million Do Not Attend Church

#1 Reason… Men do Not Find Church to be Relevant to Meet Their Needs

Source: Barna Research Group

Some people might say, “Okay, so what difference does it make? Does it really matter that men are not involved in life or ministry?”

The Power of Influence

Attending Church First Families Follow

100 Children 1.7%

100 Mothers 18%

100 Fathers 93%

This chart is saying that if you have 100 kids that are won to Christ, then 1.7% of the families of those children will also be won to Christ.   If you win 100 women to Christ, then 18% of the families will be won to Christ.  But if you win 100 men to Christ, then 93% of the families will also be won to Christ.  I’ll explain more of that next week.

            The problem today is that we often mix up the order or the priority for reaching men.  For many churches, the church pours their resources and people assets into winning children and then winning women, hoping that men will follow.  God’s order is that we should reach men, who will then draw their families to church.

The Order to Reach People

Gods Order                                                  The Church

Man                                                                Child

   V                                                                     V

Woman                                                           Woman

   V                                                                     V

Child                                                               Man   

            Richard Baxter makes a clear statement regarding the importance of the father person for the family,

“The husband must be the principal teacher of the family, he must instruct them, examine them, and rule them about manners of God.” – Richard Baxter

But not everyone is that wise.  There are many in the world who are duped by the god of this world, deceived that man can handle things himself and make foolish comments, like Rousseau did in the 1700s,

“If there are laws for adult life, there should be laws for childhood, which teach obedience to the others; and just as the reason of each man is not left to be the sole judge of his duties, so too the education of children should not be left to their fathers’ capacities and prejudices, especially since it is even more important to the state than to their fathers…the state remains while the family is dissolved.” – Rousseau (deist-humanist)

Rousseau was way ahead of his time for far-left thinking.  Families and fathers may fail, but that does not discount God’s order of the father’s being responsible in their families for communicating truth to their children and the following generations.

            Jonathan Edwards clearly understood the principle,

“Family education and order are some of the chief means of grace, if these fail in the home all other means are likely to prove ineffectual.” – Jonathan Edwards

In fact, George Whitefield said there should be a longing for holiness in our families until family devotions and reverence returns.  He wrote,

“We must for ever despair of seeing a primitive spirit of piety revived in the world until we are so happy to see a revival of family religion.” – George Whitefield

How do we see this?  How are men held responsible?  Paul places responsibility for child rearing on to one person’s shoulders,

4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

Notice it says, “fathers.”  Obviously in single parent homes, whoever is parenting must fulfill that responsibility.  Fathers are responsible for 1) training – which means to bring the child up under the authority of the parents so he will learn to obey God and 2) admonition, which word means to “put into the mind” and refers to the necessity of every parent knowing well the Scriptures first, so that he/she/they can put God’s Word into the child’s mind.  How is this done?

            We’ve studied Deuteronomy 6:1-15 several times.  The Word must be hidden in the parents soul and  every opportunity must be used to train the children. Whether sitting in the home, or walking along the way or lying down or rising up, the parents, especially fathers, must train the child to holiness.  Ultimately, the purpose is to get a grip on the Father’s will.

We all need to Get a Grip on the Father’s Will!

I’d like to be able to tell you I was a perfect son of my father.  After my father died last year, I mentioned to my mother some of the things I shouldn’t have done, some of them.  She said, “Bryan, how could you?”  We laugh now about it, but we don’t really talk any more about it.  We do talk about life now and how my father desired to live an honest and ethical life.  I never wanted to confront my dad, like my brother did or get on my dad’s bad side.  I wanted to eat.  But I was more subtle about doing wrong things.  I now know how moral and ethical my father was and what he was trying to teach me growing up. 

I’m glad he was strict with me to do what needed to be done. I’m glad when I complained about painting the house in the hot sun, he didn’t give in.  I’m glad when I mistreated my little sister, he came down hard on me.  I didn’t want to do many things my dad made me do, but I liked to eat. I wonder if we fathers are too easy on our children.

      Men, do you know the Father’s will to live out Father greatness?  Are you going over and over the message from last Sunday and answering the Message Based Discussion Questions?  Are your children understanding that there is NOTHING more important to you than that they learn Father greatness from you?  Do you talk about Jesus more than you talk about sports?  Do you talk about what you are learning in your relationship with Jesus, more than bemoaning the downward spiraling of our nation?  Do you command your children and household to God’s holiness in the compassionate mercy of a shepherd? 

      Twice each week, lead your family in discussions about the questions and give them opportunity to show you how they are applying them to their lives?  Lead them to talk about how they are applying what they are learning to life.  The enemy does NOT want you to do that.  If you are not doing that, he is winning.  If you are doing that, regardless of how well, you are letting Jesus win through you.

Rodney Atkins wrote a great song about the influence of father’s over their sons.  It’s the attitude we should all have toward God the Father of wanting to be like Him AND also being aware that younger men are watching everything we do.

Drivin’ through town just my boy and me
With a Happy Meal in his booster seat
Knowin’ that he couldn’t have the toy ‘til his nuggets were gone.
A green traffic light turned straight to red
I hit my brakes and mumbled under my breath.
His fries went a flyin’, and his orange drink covered his lap
Well, then my four year old said a four letter word
It started with “S” and I was concerned
So I said, “Son, now where’d you learn to talk like that?”

He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you.
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are.
We got cowboy boots and camo pants
Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we dad?
I want to do everything you do. So I’ve been watching you.”

We got back home and I went to the barn
I bowed my head and I prayed real hard
Said, “Lord, please help me help my stupid self.”
Just this side of bedtime later that night
Turnin’ on my son’s Scooby-Doo nightlight.
He crawled out of bed and he got down on his knees.
He closed his little eyes, folded his little hands
Spoke to God like he was talkin’ to a friend.
And I said, “Son, now where’d you learn to pray like that?”

He said, “I’ve been watching you, dad ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I want to be like you.
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are.
We like fixin’ things and holding momma’s hand
Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we dad?
I want to do everything you do; so I’ve been watching you”

With tears in my eyes I wrapped him in a hug.
Said, “My little bear is growin’ up.”
And he said, “But when I’m big I’ll still know what to do.”

“‘Cause I’ve been watching you, dad ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I want to be like you.
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are.
By then I’ll be strong as superman
We’ll be just alike, hey, won’t we dad
When I can do everything you do. ‘cause I’ve been watchin’ you.”


Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      When you were less than seven, how did you look at your dad?

Digging Deeper:

2)      Read Psalm 78:1-8.  How many generations are included in this passage? _____________  What are several admonishments and exhortations of the passage?

3)      Note Malachi 4:4-6. Whose heart must turn first? __________________  What is the context of Malachi?  What are the consequences if the exhortation is not followed?

4)      Look at Deut. 6:1-9. How many ways does it say a parent should teach their children? ____________  Based on that, what does the word diligently look like?

Applying the message to life:


5)      How can you help the fathers at Grace be more effective to get a grip on the Father’s will?  What specific steps can you take?

6)      How should Grace best help fathers who do not grasp the Father’s will?

7)      How can Grace best help single moms or moms who do not have husbands who are leading spiritually?

MSG: Get a Grip on Father Greatness

Get a Grip on Father Greatness

Luke 22:24-34
            As we approach Resurrection Sunday, I want us to examine Jesus in how He revealed His Father.  It’s very subtle, but I perceive extremely important in our society.  We need to get a grip on Father greatness.  As Jesus prepares His disciples for the fulcrum of history, the cross, He exhorts them to examine themselves.  Let’s get a grip on His words,

34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.  35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

Note that Jesus exhorts them to “take heed,” which means to “watch” or “be careful” about themselves and not get distracted in life by things in the world.  It is easy to become distracted by things in this world, even good things like family (Luke 14:26). Then Jesus exhorts them to “watch” in verse 36 and He uses a different word that also means “be on alert” because there is trouble coming.

            The late Dave Simmons, author of the book, “Dad the Family Coach,” writes,

When I was five years old, my family lived in on-post housing at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  Every afternoon, at quitting time, I stationed myself on the front porch as the lookout for Dad.  He came home at irregular times because he passed the NCO club on his walk home.  When he did approach, he had to walk down a long slope, cross a footbridge, and march up a long flight of steps to get to our house.  My job consisted of observing his passage over the uneven terrain before our house to determine if he was drunk.

If it looked bad, I flew through the house like a midget air raid system to alert everyone.  I waited in the kitchen at the head of the basement stairs.  Everyone waited in fearful suspense to see what would happen.  You never knew.  Dad was an unpredictable drunk.  Sometimes, he bubbled into the living room with smiles and cheers for everyone. Most of the time, the door opened and slammed back against the wall and Dad walked in glaring at us in screaming silence.

The family scrambled.  I liked to bail out down the stairs and hide in the basement.  Poor Mom.  She always held her ground and faced him head-on to give us a chance to hide out.  I can remember trembling in the shadowy dank basement for hours waiting for the storm to blow over.  Sometimes, I didn’t escape.  There has never been anything in my life that upset me more than the cold-clutching clammy fear I felt grip me when Dad turned his fever on me.

Afterward, Dad could be the nicest man in the world.  You could not imagine the regret, sorrow, and shame he felt.  He would hold us, sometimes crying, and apologize over and over.  I can vividly remember his giant lumberjack hands pressing me against his brass buttons and campaign ribbons and smelling his beer dampened wool uniform.  I squeezed my little chest to let escape great gobs of sorrowful whimpers.  It confused me so.  I didn’t understand.

Naturally, I developed ambivalent feelings toward Dad.  I harbored a love/hate, crave/reject, fear/comfort kind of attitude toward him.  These feelings toward the dominant male authority figure in my life became locked into me and, later in life, every time I encountered an authority figure, these feelings resurfaced.  I grabbed the network of feelings toward Dad, lifted them up, and settled them down on any authority in front of me.  I have never done well with coaches, professors, or bosses.

Bad dads make bad kids.  A dysfunctional dad causes a dysfunctional family which produces dysfunctional children.  Negative father power rolls on and transfers the sins of a father to the children, even the second, third, and fourth generations.  A bad dad can poison his seed.

I grew up thinking that we had the only unhappy family.  I thought we had some rare family affliction that all other families were vaccinated against.  They all seemed so healthy and happy. It never occurred to me the greater the dysfunction, the greater the family tries to hide it.  Many other families hid their anguish behind carefully constructed masks just like we did. (pp.14-15)

           Dave struggled growing up, because he lacked a father that lived and taught Father greatness. What was it like for you growing up?  Do you know others who had a difficult time growing up where their father was not leading to Father greatness, or maybe you didn’t have a father?  How do you get a grip on Father greatness?

            How do you get a grip on Father greatness?

1)      Jesus served His men to show greatness Luke 22:24-27

One of the greatest traps we suffer from today is comparison.  We compare ourselves to others in many different ways.  Young women, and older women, compare how they look, their figures and how they dress to each other, wanting attention from important men, normally men in their lives, but sometimes any man. Most ungodly women want a little attention, unless they’ve been mistreated or abused. If they’ve been mistreated, they don’t want attention and go the other way to avoid it.  If a father doesn’t give his young daughter attention, then when she’s a young woman or a teen, she’ll start looking elsewhere.  She subtly wants attention to feel good about herself and if she doesn’t get it from home, she’ll get it outside the home.  She’ll make herself look attractive, even alluring, just to get a man’s attention.  She’ll draw attention by make-up, unusual dress and even revealing more and more body just to get attention.  Why?  While she’s comparing herself to others, she wants moments of attention from others. She doesn’t understand Father greatness.

Boys are no different, but they often do it by their prowess, achievements and abilities of one-up-manship, or competition.  Some of it is healthy competition, but most of it is a strong desire to be better than others.  It’s pretty sick to hear inadequate men competing with their words or stories about how great they are.  Why?  They don’t understand Father greatness.

Turn over to Luke 22:24 and let’s start looking at the text.

24 Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. (Luke 22:24)

The word “dispute” literally means “love of strife.”  There is something inside most of us that loves to compare and compete and that leads to strife.  Some love it.  They would not admit that, but it is part of our flesh, or sinful nature.  It’s what Paul wrote in Romans 7:15,

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. (Rom. 7:15)

Then the word “considered” means that “something seems to be so” or the “perspective is” this way.  From the human perspective, they were looking at who was the greatest among themselves.

From the human perspective, the older gets to tell the younger what’s what.  I laugh at the foolishness of a person who says, “You’re 42? You’re just a young pup,” when he is only 44.  Or, some other cute cut that puts down another, “You’ve been married 20 years? That’s all?” and he is married 23 years.  People love to compare and compete and it causes great strife.  Then Jesus says,

25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called `benefactors.’ (Luke 22:25)

That last word “benefactors” is interesting, because literally it could be translated “good worker” and reveals that the one in authority thinks of himself as a good worker.  In other words, “I’m in authority, because I’m a good worker, so you serve me.”  Or, “I earned this position, so you deserve to serve me.” From the human perspective, the one in authority gets his way and expects those under authority to serve.  Often younger men try even harder to make a name for themselves, because they are competing with older guys.  That’s how unbelievers think. 

However, that’s not how godly Christians think or act to reveal Father greatness. Jesus says,

26 “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. (Luk 22:26)

Jesus exhorts the disciples that Christians need to think differently.  The greater one needs to be humble like a younger person and willing to learn from the older person.  The godly one who governs doesn’t use his position for himself, but he uses his position in order to serve others.  Jesus explains in the next verse,

27 “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. (Luk 22:27)

Jesus is our perfect example and model in every circumstance.  He is the example of true greatness. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18)Where does a person learn that?

            We are sliding down the spiral today in our society, because we do not understand Father greatness.  We are losing our faith in God.  Note this slide information on where we are in our faith:

Where Are We Now?

Profession of Faith by Generation

• Builder generation – 65% professed faith in Christ

• Boomers – 35% professed faith in Christ

• Gen X – 15% professed faith in Christ

• Of the kids today, a projected 4% will profess faith in Christ

Source: Billy Graham Association (provided by Bruce Einspahr)

In fact, for every 10 men in the average church…

• 9 will have kids who leave the church

• 8 will not find their jobs satisfying

• 6 will pay monthly minimum on credit cards

• 5 have a major problem with pornography

• 4 will get divorced affecting 1,000,000 children each year

• Only 1 will have a biblical worldview

• All 10 will struggle to balance family & work.  Why?

Because they really want to HAVE FUN! (provided by Bruce Einspahr)

 What is missing? Father greatness. We are so focused on the horizontal that we’ve forgotten to train the vertical. We’re so focused on where we can get in the world, we have forgotten what matters is the vertical. 

We spend so much time comparing and competing to get ahead, that we’ve forgotten or never learned Father greatness. We’ve forgotten to pass on the Father’s greatness and to quit worrying about individual greatness.  How much time did Jesus spend trying to be the best at anything?  How much time did Jesus spend trying to become the best competitor at anything?  Did He not understand and become absorbed in His Father’s business when He was twelve-years-old?  Is He not our model for all things?  Then Jesus reveals how greatness is assigned.

2)      Jesus declares how greatness is assigned  Luke 22:28-30

Note the central text of this passage,

28 “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. 29 “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30“that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30)

Jesus acknowledges the disciples have been with Him through His trials.  There is a reason for that.  Trials make us stronger, because they teach us to depend on the Lord.  Going through trials is always difficult, but once we get through the trial and learn the lessons, we learn what the Father provides, equips and is in the process of blessing.

            Note verse 29.  Jesus says, “I bestow upon you a kingdom.” This is the first of three things that He “bestows.  The word means “to assign, to ordain, agree to, or make a covenant.”  It’s the promise that as we go through trials, we should consider that the Father is in the process of assigning great blessing.

            Note the rest of verse 29.  Jesus says, “just as My Father bestowed one upon Me.”Jesus doesn’t have the kingdom yet.  It’s the Millennial Kingdom, but the Father has assigned it already.  The assignment is fixed, but Jesus still had trials to go through on earth.  And Jesus was telling the disciples that just as He was receiving a kingdom, so also the disciples would be receiving a place in that kingdom with Jesus. 

There are two other aspects of that agreement.  First, they would “eat and drink” at His table.  That references far more than physical eating at the table.  It refers to the honor of being with Jesus in the kingdom.  It refers to access with Jesus.  It refers to the blessing of His presence.  Secondly, Jesus promises they will “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Because they were faithful, they would reign with Jesus. 

Jesus mentions this in the book of Matthew, “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matt. 19:28)  This is from the Father.  It is part of life.  They went through trials and they would be assigned greatness in the kingdom!

Who is training young men Father greatness? Who is ensuring that the next generation understands Father greatness?  Some might say, “I had my kids, so I did all I need to.”  What about your grandchildren.  What about children and grandchildren of other people who do not have fathers passing down Father greatness to their children? 

Finally, Jesus explains how to receive that blessing.  He explains what is necessary to experience Father greatness.

3)      Jesus forewarns how greatness must humbly depend…      Luke 22:31-34

            During that Last Supper, Jesus challenges Peter,

31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32“But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Jesus explains four things to Peter.  First, Satan is going to sift him.  That is true for every child of God.  The enemy has an organization that  plans, prepares and proceeds to sift your life.  Will you depend on the world or yourself, or will you depend on the Lord.  Secondly, Jesus said He would pray for Peter.  Thank the Lord that He prays for every believer also (Rom. 8:34).  Thirdly, Peter would fall away. That likely began to stir up the comparison/competition emotions inside of Peter. He notes that Peter will both fail and will return.  That’s true for us.  When we return to trusting the Lord and depending on His power instead of our own, then we are to do the fourth part.  Jesus told Peter to “strengthen your brethren.”  That is what Father greatness is all about – strengthening other people to press through the trials of life. 

The problem is like Peter, we often become too self-confident.

            Peter lets his mouth start running before he thinks very long.  He doesn’t realize he is reacting to the Lord’s words and he is in comparison and competition mode.  Luke records,

33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)

We find similar accounts in two other gospels.  In Matthew, Peter says, “though they all fall away, because of You, I will never fall away.”Do you see how Peter is comparing himself to both the other disciples AND to Jesus?  He says about Jesus, “…because of You…” Peter is breaking through thin ice. In Mark it says, “Though they all fall away, I will not.” Luke adds the foolish comment that He will go to both prison and death for Jesus.  What a he-man! 

We want young men to be confident, but not in themselves. We want young men to find their greatness in the Lord in the Father’s greatness. Too often we want others to think we are great. We don’t realize we are really just trying to be God. Self-confidence is independence from God. We need to have Christ-confidence or Spirit-confidence. 

Jesus responds to Peter’s self-confidence,

34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34)

We will fall when we depend on ourselves.  The same thing happens to every man who does not humble himself before God and humbly learn God’s way from Jesus as Jesus humbled Himself before the Father. It is a fearful thing for the one who doesn’t humbly depend on the Lord.

            Jesus, however, knows when and where we will fall and yet He wants us on His team.  That is the grace of knowing Father greatness.

4)      Jesus wants you on His team Luke 24:49 

49 “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

Jesus wanted the disciples on His team.  Even thought they blew it.  Even though they denied Him.  Even through they ran from the trial, Jesus wanted them on His team.  Why?  Jesus knew the promise of the Father in the coming Holy Spirit.  That same promise is now available to every Christian today.  

            What happens when Father greatness is not passed down to each generation?  Note what happens when a father is not in a home:

The Influence of Men- Fatherless Homes Produce

90% of Runaway Children

85% of Children With Behavior Problems

71% of High School Drop Outs

75% of Children Addicted to Drugs

63% of Teenage Suicides

80% of Rapists

85% of Prison Inmates

Source: The National Center for Fathering

Further, the lack of Father greatness certainly affects what woman say:

What the Women Are Saying?

Women often feel that they are abandoned emotionally – there is a sense that men are not really listening to them.

Women are desperate for men to provide strong spiritual leadership in the home. One woman said it this way, we long for a rock.

If men are not strong leaders in the home, women have a tendency to take it back.

Men are in need of more accountability—many men have not built the necessary trust level with their spouse, so she can encourage him to share with other men. (provided by Bruce Einspahr)

How did we get into the problem today?  It’s not one issue.  There are many issues involved.  Note this quote,

Whereas in 1820 Protestants had thought about children’s religious experiences primarily in terms of family and church, by 1880 it was impossible to conceive of them without reference to the Sunday school. During the nineteenth century, this new institution became the primary locale – outside of the family – for religious indoctrination of Protestant youth. In the annals of church history the saga of Sunday school was unique, involving…the creation of a new institution to fulfill functions previous entrusted to parents and pastors… – Ann Boylan (provided by Jeremy Thomas)

IN the 1800s, Sunday School was a great opportunity to reach out and help families raise children in the Lord.  It became a strong influencer by the 1880s.  Yet, the fathers and  families became more dependent upon it, and not assume their own responsibility to pass on Father greatness. If fathers do not resume their responsibility for raising children to Father greatness, the children will be lost to the world. This is further stated regarding contemporary youth ministry,

It is obvious that youth ministry in America has not produced a generation of young people who are passionate about the church…the number of full time youth pastors has grown dramatically and a plethora of magazines, music, and ideas aimed at youth have been birthed along the way.  Meanwhile…the numbers of young people won to Christ dropped at about as fast a rate. – Alvin Reid (provided by Jeremy Thomas)

The point is NOT that youth ministry has failed.  The point is that families and specifically fathers have not passed on Father greatness.  What should happen? 

            Solomon gives very focused words regarding the issue,

Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding; 2For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. 3 When I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, 4He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live.  5 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. (Pro. 4:1-5)

It certainly takes two people – a father and a son (or daughter).  When children do not listen or seek to understand, sometimes parents give up or become content with just being able to talk to the children.  Okay, we don’t disciple our children, but they at least come home for dinner.  Really?  Is that what God’s standard is?  Does God only want parents to raise children physically and let the children decide what they want to believe?  Really? 

            The Father put Adam in the Garden of Eden and made it clear what he was supposed to do, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” (Gen 2:15)  The Father gave Adam a mission for life.  Human fathers ought to pass down to their children what their mission is in life – go make disciples!

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt. 28:19-20)

            Let me give you an example of God’s way of being a human father.  Abraham is God’s example,

17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18“since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Gen. 18:17-19)

God saw that Abraham was a good father passing down Father greatness.  Abraham ensured his family kept the way of the Lord.  Abraham was humble and depended on the Lord to do righteousness and justice.  Abraham trusted God and followed through with his responsibility.  How does this happen? 

            Moses made it clear how fathers were to pass down Father greatness.  We see it in Moses’ last sermon to Israel before they went across the Jordan River into the Promised Land,

“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess,

 2”that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.

 3“Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you–`a land flowing with milk and honey.’

 4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!

 5“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

 6And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.

 7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

 8“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

 9“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 10“So it shall be, when the LORD your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build,

 11“houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant– when you have eaten and are full–

 12then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

 13You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.

 14“You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you

 15`(for the LORD your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth. (Deut. 6:1-15)

Beloved, do not take lightly the Lord.  Here’s the summary of this message:          

The Lord is calling on men to rise up to Father greatness!

Dave Simmons gives us words of encouragement to close this message,

How I wish that my dad and I had learned [how to love].  For instance, I would have really appreciated [if Dad would have]:

·         Occasionally congratulated me on a job well done.

·         Put his arm around me or let me sit on his lap

·         Read stories to me or told me stories.

·         Let me borrow the car more than once a semester.

·         Invited me to go fishing on the officers’ PT boat with him while we lived in Alaska.

I now know that Dad loved me, but I missed all the signals when I was growing up.  Dad and I didn’t learn to love each other and communicate it until the last three years of his life when we finally began to [love each other].  How sad we waited so long. 

Don’t you wait.  Get going now. (Dad the Family Coach, p. 27)



Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      When you were growing up, what were the fathers of your friends like?

Digging Deeper:

2)      Who was Adam’s Father (Gen. 2:7-17)? _______________________  What kinds of things did Adam receive from his Father?  What were his responsibilities?  Who else was there to receive responsibility?

3)      Read Gen. 35:1-12.  When God called Jacob to go up to Bethel, what did Jacob command his family?  _________________________   What things do we learn from God’s appearances to Jacob in this passage?

4)      What kind of sacrifice is discussed in Exodus 12:21-28? _________________________ What does the passage describe regarding the roles and responsibilities in the family related to this event?  How did the people respond?  What does that look like today?

Making application from the message to life:

5)      How should children learn about the Father’s greatness?  What practical things should they see and learn?

6)      Why is a father’s role of assigning responsibility to his children so important?  How should a father discern what and when to assign responsibilities?

7)      How should a father help a son learn humility to imitate the Father’s greatness?