Understand the will of the Lord

two roads

“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

– Eph 5.17

Do you understand what the will of the Lord is?  Much has been said about the will of God.  We kill ourselves wondering which profession we should choose, who we should marry, where we should live, and other major life decisions, asking God for a sign or a direct revelation of His will.  Since we often consider these types of decisions the main emphasis when considering the will of God, we are left to speculation and discouragement while trying to interpret dreams, circumstances and omens.

God, however, is primarily concerned with our hearts and sanctification.  In fact, Scripture plainly teaches us that the will of God is that we are sanctified – that is, made more like Christ.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”

– 1 Thess 4.3

God sent Jesus to live and die in order to pay the penalty for our sin and offer us salvation.  God sent the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and push us on to righteousness (John 16.8).  The sanctification process, therefore, is us understanding what God defines as sin, allowing the Holy Spirit to convict and change us, dying to that sin, and living to righteousness.  Both of these passages that speak so simply about the will of God give us very clear pictures of what that sanctification looks like:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks…So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

– Eph 5.1-11, 17-21

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

– 1 Thess 4.3-7

Scripture clearly teaches us that everything we do can and should be done to the glory and honor of God.  Eating, drinking, talking, working, etc.  Anything you will do throughout your day should be done to God’s glory.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

– 1 Cor 10.31

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

– Col 3.17

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

– Col 3.23-24

Therefore, we should be primarily concerned about our hearts and sin in relationship to the will of God.  Then, as we are making decisions about work, moves, dating, marriage, child rearing, we have a clear standard by which to judge our decisions:  Are we making these decisions to the glory and honor of God?  Are we sinning or going against any of God’s commandments to make this decision?

There are also some big picture commandments that we are given, which we often neglect in making some of our major life decisions.  The final commandment Jesus gave us, for example, was to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28.18-20).  Is your job, relationships, family, everything doing that?  Is it enabling you to do that?

Perhaps we should reconsider how we pursue the “will of God”.  We should remember that God is primarily concerned about our holiness, and therefore we should also be concerned about dying to our flesh, repenting of sin and living our daily lives every day to His glory and honor.  Above that, as we are making our life decisions, we can simply ask the examining questions:  Is it sin?  Does it glorify God?  Is it obeying scripture?  Is it making disciples or enabling me to make disciples?  It is possible that there will come a time when there are two equally God-glorifying options before us and in those (very rare) situations, we can be confident to do what we want.  However, more often, we will clearly recognize that one decision will prove to be more effective at facilitating our holiness and obedience.

It is God’s will that we become more like Jesus.  He is, at fact, at work within us to produce this outcome.  Let’s join Him and understand His will.

“…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

– Phil 2.13

You know what assuming does…

assume

We all assume things in our daily lives.  We have an estimate of how long our commute to work will take, we figure that work requirements have remained the same as we go about our daily tasks, we make plans on what and where to eat based on our previous experiences with restaurants or recipes.  We understand scientific laws and expect that gravity will continue to hold us on the ground and that life will make general sense within our given set of variables.  But we have been taught to joke as a culture about the danger of assuming things that are on the fringe of reasonable expectation when it comes to people, because people will not always do what we expect them to do.

Have you ever stopped to consider that God will not always do what we expect Him to do?  And just because He told us to do one thing one time, He may ask us to do it differently next time?  My pastor showed a survey a few weeks ago asking the question, “Which generation turns to the Bible for direction in making decisions?”  The survey shocked everyone when it showed Millennials as the most likely to pull out the Bible looking for answers.  But as I reflected on the fact that the Baby Boomers and older were not very likely to pull out their Bibles, I had to wonder if it was in part because many of them have read the Bible so much that they think they already know the answers?

I have done no research and cannot offer that as a tested reason, but when I consider my own approach to Spirituality, I recognize that there are two types of questions that we ask God:  First, we ask God’s opinion on a matter.  God’s character, morality and promises never change.  They are established, they are set, and they are clearly outlined in Scripture for us to know.

“For I, the LORD, do not change…”

– Mal 3.6a

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

– James 1.17

Is murder wrong?  You can clearly look up the ten commandments in Exodus 20 and read “You shall not murder”.  You can also read Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5-7 and see that Jesus makes the teaching more intense by saying that being angry with someone makes one guilty before God, just as murder (Matt 5.21-22).  This does not change.

Secondly, we ask God for His direction.  In the Bible God has not given us a road map, turn-by-turn, for the life decisions that we are to make.  He intends for us to “abide” in Christ and receive direction for those life decisions by intimacy with Him and seeking His plan and His will.

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up in search of David; and David heard of it and went out against them.  Now the Philistines had come and made a raid in the valley of Rephaim.  David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? And will You give them into my hand?” Then the LORD said to him, “Go up, for I will give them into your hand.”  So they came up to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there; and David said, “God has broken through my enemies by my hand, like the breakthrough of waters.” Therefore they named that place Baal-perazim.  They abandoned their gods there; so David gave the order and they were burned with fire.  The Philistines made yet another raid in the valley.  David inquired again of God, and God said to him, “You shall not go up after them; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees.  It shall be when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you shall go out to battle, for God will have gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines.”  David did just as God had commanded him, and they struck down the army of the Philistines from Gibeon even as far as Gezer.  Then the fame of David went out into all the lands; and the LORD brought the fear of him on all the nations.

– 1 Chro 14.8-17

When David became king, he had the promises of Samuel in his heart and mind that God was going to use him mightily and prosper him as king.  The Philistines set out to fight against David and David, even with those promises, turned immediately to God asking for instruction.  “Shall I go up against the Philistines?”  God not only said yes, but gave him battle plans.  Shortly thereafter, the situation repeated itself.  Would you be tempted to just jump in and do the same thing you had done before?  If you had just been through a battle, against the very same people, in the very same spot, would you expect God to bring victory just as he had done before?  I think I would.  But David was wise and chose to ask God for direction and God instructed David with a different battle plan.  The ultimate outcome was the same, but the method was different.

We cannot presume upon God.  He has promised us big picture things:  We will have ultimate victory in the end.  People from every tribe, tongue and nation will hear and believe the Gospel.  Nothing can separate us from His love or cause us to be lost.  But we still need to turn to Him for the battle plan.  Why?  Because God’s primary concern is our sanctification, and our sanctification is achieved through remaining in Him and relying on Him for daily support, instruction, and sustenance.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”

– 1 Thess 4.3a

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

– John 15.4-7

God rarely does the same thing twice.  Just because a certain ministry works in one church, it does not mean that God intends to use it in your church.  Just because you shared the Gospel a certain way one time and someone came to faith, it does not mean that God wants everyone to hear the Gospel the same way.  Just because God miraculously gave you a job through a random move one time, it does not mean that God wants you to move again.  These are morally neutral issues about which we must seek God’s will.  If we attempt to do these things on our own, we will fail or have moderate, fleshly success.  If we seek God in prayer and submission, He will guide us into His perfect path.

God’s primary concern is His glory and our satisfaction through resting in and knowing Him.  He does not need us, He is not served by us, and He will accomplish His plan with or without us.  But it is our blessing and honor to be included in the accomplishment of His will of bringing people to faith from every tribe around the world.  And if we want to be involved, or better yet, if we want to learn and see what God’s will is for our life, we must stop and ask Him.  Just because He led us one direction before does not mean that He will lead us the same way again.  Let us not presume upon God, but let us stop and ask Him what we He wants for us to do, even if we have been in a similar position before!

How far is too far?

How far is too far?

This question plagued my youth group while I was in High School.  Everyone wanted to know where exactly the line had to be drawn in their physical relationships with their boyfriends/girlfriends.  Students, in general, were not concerned about honoring God in their relationships, they only wanted to know at what point they were sinning.  And being a single thirty year old, I am realizing that people are still asking that same twisted question.

Unfortunately, Scripture tells us that by asking that question we are already sinning.  Why?  Because anything apart from faith is sin (Rom 14.23).  What that means is that if you are not holding hands with your significant other in faith to the glory of God, then it is sinful.  If you are not eating in faith to the glory of God it is sinful (1 Cor 10.31).  If you are not speaking or working your job in faith to the glory of God it is sinful (Col 3.17).

Have you ever stopped to consider the evolution of line drawing?  Two generations ago, going to the movie theater was unthinkable for Christians.  Playing cards was an offense worthy of being kicked out of the Church.  One generation ago, the Church unanimously considered bars forbidden.  In fact, many Christian members of the baby-boomer generation and generation before would not eat at restaurants if they served alcohol.  It was illegal to make, sell and drink alcohol in the United States from 1922 to 1930.

Where is the line today?  The church is more diversified in some of their line drawing, but many Generation X believers frequent bars.  Their ethical line is drawn at strip clubs.  Can you imagine that your grandparents could have felt about movie theaters the way you feel about a strip club?  That playing a game of solitaire would be as reprehensible as paying for a lap dance?

I recently went to a question and answer time at a church where anyone from the community could come in and ask the pastor any question they had about Christianity.  The premise was to engage the community where they are, let them feel out the church, and let Christians and non-Christians alike find Biblical answers to whatever it is that would hold them back from belief.  It was held in the church building.  And they served alcohol.  80 years ago that would have been illegal.  Two generations back, you could have been kicked out of the church.  And today we use it as a meeting ground.  Will the next generation of Christians find strip clubs morally acceptable?

My intention here is not to discuss the moral acceptability of kissing, movies, restaurants, bars or strip clubs.  My intention is to observe the fact that the Church, when operating in legal freedom, has wrestled with defining the line.  But the fact that we would set up for ourselves lines by which we can flirt with sin exemplifies a lack of Spiritual transformation in our lives.  If we set up ethical or moral boundaries and function without consideration of glorifying God within those boundaries, we are white-washed tombs.  We are paving our path to Hell in gold.  We are defaming Christ.  Why?  Because we have not been transformed and we would call ourselves “Christians” – people who are like Christ – when we are living for ourselves and our own consciences when we have not sacrificed or suffered or fought any battles with sin.

Therefore, we must be confident of our daily activities that they are not only morally acceptable to God, but that they are done in faith and to His glory.  If the Bible says to honor the marriage bed (Heb 13.4), can you in faith obey God making out with your significant other?  If the Bible says that liars are sinners (1 Tim 1.10), can you in faith fudge on your income taxes or tell white lies to keep peace with coworkers?  If the Bible says that cowards and unbelievers’ place is in Hell (Rev 21.8), can you live by faith in fear and doubt?  If the Bible says do not store up treasures on Earth (Matt 6.19), can you buy a vacation home, expensive clothes or a fancy car in faith?

Ask the Spirit.  He will guide you.  He will reveal sin in your life.  God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor 14.33).  If you ask Him to reveal sin in your life, He will not ignore your request.  Just be ready to hear the answer!  And we must search out His will in Scripture, because His will is our sanctification (1 Thess 4.3).  The Bible says do not get drunk (Eph 5.18).  We do not need to ask Him about that.  The Bible says do not fornicate, have affairs, have idols, practice homosexuality, steal, covet, gossip and swindle others (1 Cor 6.9-10).  No need to wrestle over His will on those things.  He will not change His mind.  But He will give you the strength to overcome, and a way out of the temptation (1 Cor 10.13).  We all have our sins of disposition.  Perhaps you are prone to lying.  Perhaps alcoholism runs in your family.  Perhaps you are physical hypersensitive and are what psychologists would call a “sex addict”.  We all have sins of habit and entrapment that are natural to us.  But God transforms us from the inside out, giving us clean hands and a pure heart (Ps 24.4).

Let us not walk the line.  Let us run with the freedom granted to us and glorify God with our whole beings, humbly submitting to His standards and walking in faith.

 

True Success

“A successful man is one who, given the opportunity to wear anyone’s shoes, chooses his own.”

– Jim David

Jim is a friend of mine and he said this to me one day last month.  I have chewed on it and reflected on it many times, as I vacillate between regret and thankfulness for my life story.   I don’t know why our culture engages the question, but we regularly do:  If you could do it over, would you?  Or,  If you could change anything, would you?

Clearly none of us have the ability to go back in time and relive events or change history.  And our culture strives for success.  The American dream of pulling one’s self up by his boots straps, each generation providing more for the next so that our children can have “more than we had” permeates our educational system, our entertainment and our worldview.  While people might value certain things differently as success, we all want to be successful.

Jim argues that contentment is the key.  There will always be someone smarter, more talented, prettier…but success, in Jim’s eyes, is being satisfied and desirous of one’s own life above all others.

“Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance…You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.”

Ex 12.14, 17

The Hebrew people found themselves in captivity in Egypt, over 600,000 men – plus women and children.  God miraculously freed them from bondage by a series of plagues on the Egyptians.  The final plague that secured their escape was the death of the firstborn of every man and beast in the country.  God warned the people through Moses that the angel of the Lord would come and kill the first born in every household, and to escape this plague the family must put the blood of a lamb on their door frame.  The Hebrews did this and they were spared from the slaughter:  the angel of the Lord literally “passed over” their homes.  After their escape, God established an annual celebration for the people which was called “The Passover” in which they remembered their salvation both from death and their freedom from slavery.

They had quite a hard time in the wilderness – even though God physically and miraculously gave them food to eat every day, they grumbled and longed for their life of slavery back in Egypt.  They disobeyed God and did not trust Him to preserve them, even after he parted the waters of the Red Sea for them to cross over as the Egyptians pursued them.  But every year they still celebrated the Passover to remember the things that God had done.

The promises of God, of the faith, are those which sustain us in good and bad times:

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13.5)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Rom 8.28)

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1.6)

Thus it becomes and exercise of faith to be satisfied in the paths which the Lord has established for us and not wish to change things.  Whatever path you have walked, the Lord has guided your steps (Prov 16.9).  He has never left you, and He causes everything to work together for your ultimate, spiritual good.  And He will perfect and complete the work that He has begun in your life.

Are there things I would change about my life?  My flesh wants to scream out, “YES”.  But when I choose to trust God I become confident that the trials, the failures, the struggles are all a part of His perfect plan and will enable me to honor Him the most with my life.  And therefore, when we trust God we can become “truly successful” by enjoying the benefits of faith and our security in Him, and still choosing our own paths – no matter how difficult they may have been.

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.”

– Ps 143.5

God Is In Control

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

– Prov 16.1

Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.

– Prov 16.3

The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.

– Prov 16.4

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

– Prov 16.9

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

– Prov 16.33

As I typed the title for this post, the old Twyla Paris song jumped into my mind.  But this morning I have been reflecting on the weight and beauty of Proverbs 16.  If you ever need a reminder of God’s sovereignty and provision, just settle in that chapter.  What is so amazing to me in this passage is the tension that we feel in daily life:  I truly feel as though I am making my own decisions, or that decisions are being enacted over me – but “every decision is from the Lord” (16.33).

I might encounter a situation and react, but “the answer of [my] tongue is from the Lord”(16.1)!  I might think that I am planning my path, my route, my life, whatever – but “the Lord direct [my] steps” (16.9).  And the most effective encouragement in my life is that “every decision is from the Lord” (16.33).  The Scriptures show us regular examples of people casting lots (rolling dice)  to determine the will of the Lord.  We can certainly use logic, discernment, and educated decision making processes, but V. 33 tells me that even if I throw dice, flip a coin or “pick a hand” to make a decision, the Lord is in control of that decision!

He has a perfect plan for my life to result in His glorification, a plan to sanctify me and to establish my path.  Do you trust Him to that end?  Or are you pushing back, imagining that you are in control?  Let us trust Him.

My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

I have written the past two days on trusting God:  Trusting that His timing is perfect, and that He has a perfect will that works all things out to His glory – including sin.

As the day passed yesterday the example of Jesus and His trust of the Father was etched onto my mind.

Here’s why.

Jesus was God.  He was perfect, and He had a plan.  He came to the Earth with his face set toward the cross.  Toward redemption.  Toward paying the penalty for the sins of those who would believe.  He had a purpose.  The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are (Heb 4.15) yet He was perfect.  But when it came time to go to the cross, Jesus was wary of the cost.  He prayed fervently that the Father would spare Him from the cross (Matt 26.39).  As he invited his disciples to pray with him he told them that “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death” (Matt 26.38).  He was certainly not excited about what was ahead of him!  But then Jesus’ second prayer was submission to God and trust in His ultimate plan, “If this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matt 26. 42).

Then Jesus went through the entire trial.  He submitted to crucifixion.  The mockery came twofold:  from the thieves, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself.  If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” and from the chief priests, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself…He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now” (Matt 27.39-40, 42-43).

Jesus, in approaching the cross, knew the plan.  That is where our life circumstances differ slightly.  We do not know how long our trials will last our the ultimate outcome.  But, we are also not taking on the sins of the world and satiating the eternal wrath of almighty God in our bodies.

But God turned his back on Jesus.  Darkness covered the earth.  Earthquakes shook the ground.  God, in some inexplicable way, separated Himself from Himself.  And Jesus cried out at that moment:

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

Jesus was so prepared for his suffering that He had meditated and memorized David’s plea!  This is a direct quote from Ps 22.1!  Jesus clung to God, He trusted God and His plan.  As I wrote yesterday God had planned the crucifixion and suffering of Christ since before the foundation of the world.  And Jesus trusted God’s plan.

Have you ever gotten cynical in your prayers?  “God didn’t do what I asked Him to do, so why would I ask for this?”  Or “What difference does it make anyway?”  Jesus prayed that the cup of wrath could pass from Him.  And God was silent.  So Jesus continued in obedience.  He didn’t give up, or throw up His hands in defeat when the religious leaders mocked Him.  I can imagine few greater insults than having claimed the things Jesus claimed and people to mock Him saying that God is not able to save.  But Jesus trusted God’s plan.  And because He trusted God’s plan, He suffered the worst of insults, He suffered death, He was separated from God.  But then God turned the tables and raised Him from the dead and declared Him “the Son of God in power” (Rom 1.4)!

Would you trust God to that end?  If he is silent to your prayer?  And leads you straight into a trial?  A trial where you are sinned against?  Do you believe that His ends are so great that it might require your sacrifice?  Is your mind so saturated in the word that you cling to Scripture and cry out with the very words of God when you need Him?

Is God Schizophrenic?

“…and may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

– 2 Samuel 10.12

I grew up in a church that highly valued discipleship.  As a child, in 1st – 3rd grade I learned about God and his power.  In Sunday School I learned about God’s omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.  Yes,  at 7 years old I was taught those doctrines and terms.

God is omnipresent:  He is everywhere at all times.

God is omniscient:  He knows everything, past, present and future.

God Is omnipotent:  He is all powerful.

I am reflecting today on God’s power.  He is sovereign.  So why the title of this post, “Is God Schizophrenic”?  Because sometimes – scripture teaches us – that He wills that something come to pass that He forbids or commands to not come to pass.  The most obvious example of this is the cross.

Exodus 20.13:  “Thou shall not kill.”  

God clearly forbids the murder of innocent people.  Yes, there were times in the Law that God commanded justice in the form of the death penalty.  But apart from the enactment of social justice, killing was forbidden.

Acts 4:27-28:  “Truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.”

There are quite a few passages of scripture that speak clearly to God’s will and plan of Christ’s crucifixion.  We see the prophecy of it in Gen 3 at the fall. Isaiah 53.10 says that it pleased God to crush Him, and Acts 2 says that Jesus was crucified according to the predestined plan of God.

Salvation through grace by faith in the blood of Jesus was God’s plan from before creation.  Revelation 13.8 notes that all who would be saved have had their name written in the book of life of the lamb who has been slain since before the world began!

Now, I realize that that is a weighty doctrine that takes much humility and reflection to grasp with an American, entitled, presupposing humanity’s innate goodness mindset.  (Most other worldviews have no problem with this…)  But what does that have to do with me?

“Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.  And this we will do if God permits.”

Hebrews 6.1-3

This is what it has to do with me.  With you.  The author of this book implores us to 1) leave elementary teachings behind, 2) press on to maturity, and 3) not relay foundations.  The foundations are good.  They are great!  They are what we need to grow up to maturity.  But we need to be purposeful about practicing the basics – the foundations – so that our spiritual senses are trained to discern good and evil (Heb 5.14), and through this ability press on to maturity!

But notice the last sentence of this direction:  “And this we will do if God permits.”

We can only leave behind the elementary teachings, press on to maturity and not relay foundations IF God permits!  Hebrews speaks to this a few different ways.  In 13.20-21 he says, “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.”  We can only do His will if He equips us.

And one of the most quoted verses in the New Testament about salvation is Eph 2.8-9 “For by faith you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so that no one may boast.”  God gives faith.  You do not have faith in and of yourself.  You are dead in your sin apart from God giving you life (Eph 2.1).

Therefore permitting us to grow, allowing us to mature is God’s mercy towards us.  Leaving us in our sin and rebellion is God’s justified judgment.

And sometimes God’s perfect will includes sin.  Sometimes He ordains the most horrendous of sins (the murder of His son, who had never sinned and did not deserve any wrongdoing against Him), to work out His perfect plan.  Sometimes He ordains vessels of wrath to exist and sin in order to make His power known (Romans 9.22)!

So what does that mean for you and me today?  Let us press on towards maturity and let us repent as long as we are able, for there will come a time when – if we continue in sin – it will no longer be an option (Heb 12).  Let us trust God as the world continues in it’s worldly way that He is indeed in control.  He is indeed omnipotent.  He is not caught off guard by what is happening in your life, quite the opposite – He ordained it!  He is using it to His perfect end.  Love Him.  Cherish Him.  Embrace His plan.  And take comfort that He has allowed you and drawn you to repent, pouring out His mercy on your life.

Let us trust God.