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Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Man Centered World

I recently finished reading through the book of Exodus. I, like many others, have often wondered how it could be possible that a people who witnessed first-hand the amazing works that God did in their midst and in their behalf, be so unbelieving? How is it that they could experience miracle after miracle, from the plagues that afflicted the Egyptians, to the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the pursuers, and still be so unbelieving? Indeed, one of the first things they did once they had been delivered from Egypt, was to complain that they had no water!

During a get together recently, a group of brothers and I were discussing the tendency that humans have to think of themselves as more than they ought. We see a movie or read a book about one thing or another, and we immediately transport ourselves to the events described therein. Take war for example, I finished watching a series called “Battlefield Vietnam” recently (you can find it on YouTube if you like such things). You probably know that American soldiers were accused of all kinds of atrocities during that war. As I watched the programs, I began to think about how I would have behaved had I been there. And you know what? I started thinking that I would have been different. I would not have abused the Vietnamese. I would not have fired on the defenseless.
It is natural for man to think of himself as basically good, moral and upright. But the sad reality is that we likely would have been no different than those who were in fact there. Without the Spirit and grace of God, we would be no different than anyone else. We would be self-centered, deceiving, you name it. And that is the point when it comes to the Israelites and their actions in the desert. They were just as depraved as the rest of us, and their actions and attitudes were no different than every man in his unregenerate state. We all would like to think we would have believed, but absent God’s grace and regenerating power, we would fare no better. That is perhaps the greatest testimony to the fact that without God's grace, no amount of miracles is going to convince us!
That is what is so dangerous about a man-centered world and gospel. The primary problem with the Israelites in the desert was the fact that they thought that it was all about them. Witness what they told Moses when they complained about not having water. “You brought US out into this desert to kill US. WE had flesh pots and all the water WE wanted in Egypt. Why did you bring US out into the desert for US to die?” It totally escaped them, that they had been freed from Egyptian captivity, not for their own sakes (Deuteronomy 7), but because it pleased God. It was God’s purposes that needed to be done. His will had to be accomplished, not theirs. If they had understood that, their attitude would have been quite different.
The same thing happens today. The man-centered gospel tells people that they are in control of their conversion. It is man, not God, that decides how and when a man is saved. And not only that, but we are told that we have to accommodate to what people want in order for them to want to come to the Lord. I heard a minister one time say that our then home congregation did not have enough of the kind of people that we saw around us. In other words, our congregation was not diverse enough. As though the church was some sort of commercial business that needs to cater to the wishes of those around it and look like the world at large! This is a good example of the idea that if only we expend a little more energy, we’ll be able to bring more of the "right kinds" of people into the church.
James Montgomery Boise declared in his book “The Doctrines of Grace,” that Arminianism often slides into liberalism. Obviously not all of the Arminian persuasion will become liberals. But you can understand that when man becomes the center of the gospel, and “winning” him for the Lord is all that matters, little by little things that would otherwise not be considered, begin to look more attractive. If we don’t understand that the Spirit of God is the one that does the work, and that we are only His instruments, we will find ourselves utilizing more and more gimmicks to convince people to “try Jesus.”
When God is given His due, things go well with us. When God is at the center of our lives and His will is at the top of our priority list, things will work amazingly well. And even when we go through difficult times, we will understand that those obstacles are accomplishing in us what God wants and that He will see us through. Whether by life or whether by death, we will glorify God. To Him be the glory!

 

 


2 comments:

  1. Well said Brother. I'd only add to Boise's wise comment that sadly even "Calvinism" slips into Arminianism, and then down ultimately to Unitarianism, liberalism and other forms of unbelief...as is sadly writ large among many of the Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists of the past.

    Keep up the good work!

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    1. David, thanks for your always insightful and encouraging comments. It is all too sad and distressing that Christianity today is in a state of crisis. But crisis in Christian circles is nothing new. What was at one time called the "Pietistic Movement" is now the "if it feels good it has to be right" approach. God, however, has always had his people and as Elijah's episode reminds us, the remnant will always overcome. Thanks again.

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