How Big is Your God

June 10th, 2011
Print This Post Print This Post

How big is your God?

I was reading in the book of Amos very recently and the thought came to me that God in the Old Testament has revealed just how big He is. His power, mercy, grace, justice and righteousness, and compassion as a father is shown in working with a group of people He called His. Now don’t go thinking that I am minimizing the greatest event that ever took place in the universe. That event really showed His Bigness. The greatest show on earth was His Son and His marvelous grace and mercy. And how He could change the hearts of depraved people like me.

Amos is a short book and not difficult to read. It is addressed to Israel the Northern Kingdom primarily but also to Judah the Southern Kingdom. God shows in Amos just how He is in charge of history. It is He who determines the destiny of nations and us humans. Us humans think we are in control. Not so says He. Leaders of nations made deals with other nations and boast of what the outcome will be. But it is Almighty God who in His Sovereign Providence of His creation determines the outcome. In Amos we can read of how the destiny of those nations and people were told what the outcome of their turning from Him to their self centered life will bring on them. His people had slide down into the pit of self worship and lived lives of the fat cats. BUT Yahweh, God, is big enough and powerful enough to determine the outcome of all human plans and we will suffer His wrath if we do not fear and worship Him alone. .

I challenge you to read the Old Testament. There we get a picture of God’s bigness. Human words cannot paint a picture in our head of just how big God is. His sovereign control over His universe is awesome. The human mind cannot fathom the depths of His power, His love, His sovereign control, His justice, His wrath, His mercy, His righteousness, His compassion, His wisdom, nor His awesomeness as God. His show of Himself to us hopefully shows us just how little and helpless we are. But our pride makes us think of self as a super being and expands our ego to the point that we believe we are a god and in control of our life in the present and the future.

His bigness is further presented to us in the New Testament. We are pointed to the God Man, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came into the world in human form so that He could die in our place. A perfect sacrifice and substitute to save all who believe in Him as Lord. Human words that describe and appeal to our senses cannot present to our mind the significance of His birth, death and resurrection. Faith in the power of the Holy Spirit fills the void.

There we also see the final nail in the coffin of our pride as the nails driven into our Lord and Savior on the cross show us His death for us. Then the resurrection shows us the glorious God in Christ. Those nails that held Him on the cross until His last human breath speak volumes. Some may say, “This nail in the coffin of pride doesn’t make sense.” Well the best in the shortest way of putting it is the following. You and I are helpless as to the control of our future even though we take great pride in saying “I’ll do such and such tomorrow or the next.” “I’ll do this or that.” But we are not in control of the final verdict of our life. (James 4:13-16). The following is a serious example of His power put into His universe.

Part of our family visited North Alabama on the Saturday after a major tornado destroyed much of Phil Campbell Alabama on April 27th,  where my sister-in-law lives and the area where my wife and I grew up. I visited many sites of destruction on that Saturday along with my daughter and wife. We talked to rescue teams and some of the early responders. We observed destruction unthinkable which had occurred three days before. Instantly fine brick houses had been removed from concrete slab foundations into thousands of pieces which were scattered over miles and left the concrete slab clean. In one of those houses two people had breathed their final human breath. One was a pastors daughter. Bodies with missing body parts had been located that were scatted thousands of yards apart. Destruction took place in seconds, not minutes or hours. By the time one could say “I’ll do this or that.” their life was gone without forewarning. The weather service had warned of a tornado hitting Hackleburg Alabama and would most likely do the same to Phil Campbell within 15 to 20 minutes. But instead of minutes it was seconds in destroying much of the little town. The force of wind was beyond imagination. It shattered concrete. It lifted a pickup with a driver in it and set it down hundreds of feet away with the engine still running and the driver still alive. God’s power through His created universe is unimaginable and awesome.

So how big is your God? Does your god have a little “g” or a big “G”? Is He constructed in your image or are you constructed in His image? Please my dear friends make your god a big God who is able to create from nothing and big enough to shatter 4000 sq ft houses into millions of little pieces.

I am reminded of James 4:10 where he says, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” Also in James 4:13-15 we read this, ‘Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are [just] a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, [you ought] to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that’ (NASB)

Dewey Wise
June , 2011

God Does Not Use our Standard to Judge Us

December 9th, 2010
Print This Post Print This Post

In reading Isaiah something jumped out at me as I read 11:3.The Holy Spirit through Isaiah is prophesying about the future coming of Messiah, Christ Jesus. In verse 1 of chapter 11, He is called “a shoot” and “a branch” who comes from Jesse, the father of David. Verse 2 reads this way, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” Now the really interesting thing to me is in verses 3 and 4.“ And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.” (NASB)

I am going to take you back to the Reformation for a moment so stay with me as I explain what jumped out. Martin Luther who is credited with getting the Reformation started with his 95 Thesis that he nailed on the door of the church building at Wittenberg. (By the way, a friend made a picture of the  door where they were nailed (not the original door) and gave it to the wife and I in 1964.) Luther had wrestled with Romans 1:17 as a monk as to what it meant to live by faith. (See Hab 2:14 and Gal 2:20) The meaning of “live by faith” played a major role in Luther’s becoming a believer in Christ Jesus. Prior to his conversion he had struggled and struggled to live up to the Roman church’s requirements. The basic belief, and I’m not being critical of the Roman church but just laying the ground work for Luther’s conversion, was that a person had to do certain things to obtain God’s favor. (Now hold on to that thought of man obtaining God’s favor.) When Luther was converted He preached that God’s favor by our actions was not the way we become a child of God but we live by faith alone.

Now think for a moment about trying to get God’s favor by the things we do. It can be frustrating and we have no measuring device to determine when we do the proper things or how much to do in order to get into His Kingdom. Luther did everything possible that he thought would get and keep him saved. The point being is that God would have to use what we do in order to determine (judge) whether He will accept us. Our behavior would determine if we would be His child. This is the way us humans think and function so if we are not careful we will begin to think God functions the same way. After all in courts of law physical evidence connected to the crime is crucial for conviction. What do witnesses see and hear? What did the investigators find? Thus what is presented in a court room is evidence that can be seen or heard by the the jury or judge. Our world exist of data collected by our five senses so that we can live. Based on the way humans function we will make God into our image and think of Him as collecting  the physcial evidence of our behavior which is outside Himself that can be seen or heard to convict or not convict us of being guilty. Our thinking and imagination of God can go like this. “Dewey you’ve been a good boy so your Christmas will be good.” or “John I liked what you did and I think it is enough for Me to adopt you as my son.” As humans we work hard at getting others to like us so we will transfer that belief to God. We will think that God needs us to behave a certain way so He can declare us righteous enough for His child.

How unscriptural this thinking is and in Isaiah 11:2-3 God specifically tells us how the Branch who will have the Spirit of the Lord will judge. The Branch will have the spirit of wisdom, understanding, strength, counsel, knowledge and fear of the Lord. Here’s what caught my eye in verse 3. “. . .He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; . . . .” God is telling us that nothing outside Himself will determine how He will decide regarding us. We cannot influence or persuade His decisions. So He is telling us “don’t try to put on a show for me so that I’ll think you are great because you are not. You are a rotten, corrupt, sinful person. If I do something good for you it is because I get pleasure and it glorifies me. You can’t make me love you. I love because I am love. I am wrathful because I am love and cannot tolerate your rebellion against me. Don’t try to manipulate me so I’ll give you a goody.”

I can only conclude from these verses that God’s sovereignty is absolute over His creation and that He does not dance to the beat of our drum. Our only response to Holy God and Christ Jesus our Lord is to be prostrate before Him in total dependency with gratefulness and worship. I have to remember that God is holy, righteous, love, grace, mercy, judging,and wrathful and I cannot change or influence any of His attributes.

I just need to cry out as the four living creatures of Rev 4:8 did, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” or as Isaiah said when he saw the Lord on His throne and the Seraphim were worshiping Him. Isaiah 6:3 tells us they are around the throne and one calls to another, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” (NASB) Then in verse 5 Isaiah says, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, . . . .” God is Holy and He is Almighty God who is sovereign in every aspect of His providence. And we of His providence are rotten to the core and need His mercy and grace.

Sole Deo Gloria

Dewey Wise
Dec , 2010

Predestination

August 14th, 2010
Print This Post Print This Post

Predestination

Recently I made a trip with my son-in-law to Birmingham, Alabama, where he was to purchase a car. On the way back, I drove the van which got us to Birmingham. As I do when I’m on the road to various places, I started searching through the radio stations for either some Christian music or good sermons, or I listen to various sermons that I have on an MP3 player. I ran across a message by Adrian Rogers. He died a few years back, but there is still a radio ministry that broadcasts his sermons from the past. The sermon was based on Romans 8:28-29. If I recall—but as old as I am my recall mechanism doesn’t work the way it has in the past—the sermon was entitled “Why Good Things Happen to Bad People.” Now that is a catchy little title, which seems to be a take-off on a very popular book entitled “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.’

Romans 8:28 states, “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.” (NASB) If we continue with verses 29 and 30, we see the word “predestined” in each verse.

Adrian was talking about how good God is to us and that the Christian is predestined by God for good things. He made a statement to his listeners that they probably did not understand predestination and neither did he. Now I found that odd because Adrian was a very learned minister of God. So the wheels in my mind started turning over faster and the questions started coming to me. Why did he not understand predestination? What had kept him for all his years as a pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, from developing some understanding of predestination? I’m sure that you can see why I could not find the answers to those questions. I just cannot know what goes on in the mind or heart of a person. I am not God. However I can learn and come to some understanding of “predestination”. So I believed that I needed to share some things I have learned over the past few years of my life with you, the reader. The first thing we must do is to examine the English word as to its meaning, then how that fits the Greek word and lastly to examine it in Biblical context as to it usage. Hopefully these will help us to some understanding of its meaning and use in God’s Holy Word. However, Adrian was right in some sense when he said we don’t understand. Why? Because we cannot know the mind of God. But we need to come to some understanding as He has revealed Himself through His Word.

In the English word, predestination or predestinate, we have basically two words which makes up the composite word, “predestinate”. Pre is considered a prefix meaning “before”. Destinate means to design or appoint. So what I get from the use ot this word is that something or someone has been designed or appointed in the past to a certain point in a future time line. Something was determined to take place before it was to occur. It was determined minutes, years, or ages in the past prior to its occurrence.

Now to the Greek meaning of the of the word, predistinate. If we look at a Greek dictionary such as Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary we find that “predestination” or “predestined” is made up of two Greek words. The first is pro which means “in front of” “prior to” or “before”. The second is the Greek word horizo which means “to mark off in boundaries” or “determine”. Think of this word as where we get the word, “horizon”. A horizon shows us a boundary. We apply this word to viewing the sky as it is related to earth. We see the boundary between them. When these Greek words, pro and horizo, come together in our mind we get a picture of something in the past, distant or not so distant, as having been predetermined to take place at a future point in time. So in summing up, hopefully we can now know in our mind that predestination means that something in the past has been determined to occur at a future point in time. There is the boundary between the past and the future or present. Let’s now look at Romans 8:28-30 to try to get some understanding of the word “predestined” or “predestination”.

God through Paul says that those who love God have been called according to His purpose in verse 28. Note that their love did not cause His calling. His calling was based on His purpose and nothing the believer does. God’s Love was the cause of the calling. God has done the calling and those whom Paul is writing to love Him because they were predestined. Paul tells us this in Eph 1:3-6: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would 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.(NASB) Read intently the words, “to the praise of the glory of His grace. . . “ If you read additional verses you’ll see “the paise of His glory” in verses 12 and 14. It is God who saves us. It is God who before we were born chose us and predestined us. It is God who is to get the glory. His gift to us is a most glorious thing.

In verse 29 we see a continuation of God’s thoughts expressed by Paul in that He (God) foreknew them. There we see two words. “Fore” which means before hand and “knew”. Of course “fore” means before a certain point in time and it comes from the Greek prefix, pro. “Knew” comes from a Greek word , “ginoisko”, which means to know completely or intimately. It does not mean to have data floating around in our head just to be regurgitated on cue but to know absolutely—as in an intimate relationship such as “Adam knew Eve.” The word has the thought that someone had a personal relationship by observing and being involved with another. So when we put those Greek words together we get “foreknow” or “foreknew”. We thus have God intimately being involved with those whom He called before they were born. He knew He was going to call them in their future (speaking of human time)earthly life. We get our English word, prognosis, from the Greek word and we know what prognosis means in the medical field.

We then come to the word predestined or predestinate. Based on the meaning of the Greek word, foreknew, then my understanding of “predestined” is that God in the past (before the foundation of the world) knew intimately those whom He had called and had determined that they would be conformed to the image of His Son—that they would be justified and glorified. In this way of thinking, and I believe that is the way to think about these verses with my whole heart, God performs a work in certain people so that they will love Him and glorify Him. In Isaiah 43:7 we read this: “ . . . everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yes, whom I have made.” And if we read the beautiful Psalm 139 we read about how God knows and forms every aspect of our being and that it is impossible to know God’s mind or the reasons that He does what He does. Maybe Adrian was talking about this when he said he did not understand “predestination”. If so I understand where he was coming from but if he was talking about “predestination” as to what it means in the life of a believer, then I don’t understand because it is very clear in the meaning of what God has done and does in the life of a believer. God in His absolute sovereignty, love, grace, and mercy made (created) us and He determined specifically what would take place in those whom He called. This plan was made before He created us. It is by grace that we are saved and not of ourselves. We cannot perform an act (work) to make all that God has for us or make Him do the things He does in each believer. It is Him alone who predestines, calls, justifies and glorifies.

If I try to put my feeble human mind around all of the above, I cannot understand and know the mind of God but will draw human conclusions to God’s reasoning and motivation. However in fact it is none of my business to determine God’s actions or plans or even try to figure them out other than accept them in my life as His child. He is the creator, I am the created. It is by faith that I must live and be wholly dependent on Him for my existence. Paul says in Romans that anything we do that is not done by faith is sin. Therefore I am left to this. I will accept it on faith and trust my Great God for the outcome. Spurgeon said “Look to Jesus.” There is where the answers lie—in Him who created us. See John 1:1-4.

One other thought and I’ll leave you to ponder God’s predestination. Read Romans 9:10-21 and Eph 1:3-12, my dear friends. Also read Acts 2:23 where Peter in his sermon is talking about Jesus being crucified. He uses the term, foreknowledge. It was God’s plan within His counsel that Christ Jesus be killed by the Jews. Can you find a relationship between foreknowledge as it is used in Acts 2 and foreknew as it is used in Romans 8:29?

If you love God, and I hope you do, you are blessed beyond the mind’s wildest dreams or imaginations. The joy of knowing a God we can trust in all aspects of our life is beyond words to express that joy.

Soli Deo Gloria

Dewey Wise

Aug 14, 2010

Who Chooses: Me or God

April 12th, 2010

Print This Post Print This Post

How can I be God’s if I choose Him?

I thought that you, the reader, might want to deal with or think about this question. It is an interesting question that seems to put one into an ownership position.

If I choose something or acquire it by my choice then seems like I own it. I realize that ownership of something can come about through different means. But the question is in reality, “How can God own me if I choose Him?” Now I realize that I might give myself to Him, but even that implies that I might take myself back because within that statement is implied that I always have control over me. Which takes away the idea of ownership. We know people that way, who give but then want something in return. I’ve watched my grandchildren around Christmas time as they give gifts. I’ve seen a couple of times when they indicated they wanted their gift back or one just like it.

So which is it? Do I choose to give myself to God or does He choose me? Can I be a child of God? Can I give up ownership and responsibility for my well being?

Seems I recall a TV and radio commercial from my past that ended something like this. “You decide.” But remember that if you “decide” you might not be deciding.

Have a great day, hopefully in our gracious, loving, righteous, judging, merciful, Holy God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Dewey Wise

April 9, 2010

Are We Free to Make Moral Decisions

March 4th, 2010

Print This Post Print This Post

Are We Free Moral Agents?

In our bible study the thought was presented that we humans are free moral agents. I questioned that in my mind and shared that I did not believe that we are free moral agents. My thoughts put me to wondering how we humans really fit into God’s purpose and plan for His creation. So I want to share with whoever reads these thoughts about the concept of free moral agent.

I have heard in one form or another most of my life, I’m an old dude by the way, that we are free moral agents. I have never disagreed with that and believed it to the extent that I would go to bat for anyone to be free. While serving for over two decades in the military, I always saw the U. S. Constitution as a document that came from our fore fathers as my reason for being in the military. I wanted people to be free and govern themselves as a nation or community. People were and are precious and each has the right to be free from tyranny.

But how does the above fit into the idea of being a free moral agent? Does the U.S. Constitution gives us a right to be free moral agents? It only states in the preamble “. . . secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity . . . .” I don’t read in it that we are free moral agents. Maybe the Declaration of Independence will help here. It seems to be reflecting the right of people to govern themselves and not be governed by a despot or some other entity. Here is what I found. “. . .all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I cannot find anything in that which indicates that man is a free moral agent. It does say that we have a right to life, liberty and a right to pursue our own happiness. God does not speak of us this way in His Word however. Notice moral is not mentioned at all in the Declaration. I suppose that a person could stretch or read into those statements something moral but I find nothing that alludes to moral freedom. It does speak of being free from control of others and being able to pursue happiness and one’s life as to be determined by themselves, not someone else. So all this does relate to freedom. But this seems to focus on a freedom that comes from only external control. Still the question is, “Is man a free moral agent.?”

Just a little side note about where the founding fathers got many of their ideas.  They were mostly Puritans who left England in order to be free to worship God in Christ. Their belief in God had a major influence on the Founding Fathers but many of their ideas for building this nation came from John Locke. One of the major concepts that was passed on through American psychology to education was that the mind was a blank slate or “tabula rasa” at birth. He believed there was no original sin within the mind. It was blank at birth which is absolutely opposed by God in His Word. Locke did not believe in original sin nor the Trinity, which is a belief in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He seemed to be a cultural Christian. Now back to our reason for this writing.

Let’s define moral first. In my college teaching years, one hour of a course called Human Growth and Development, was devoted to ethics. Ethics and morals are closely related. Webster’s dictionary of 1911 defines moral as:

1. Relating to the practice, manners or conduct of men as social beings in relation to each other, and with reference to right and wrong. (In today’s society the concept of right or wrong is up for grabs. My words.) The word moral is applicable to actions that are good or evil, virtuous or vicious, and has reference to the law of God as the standard by which their character is to be determined. The word however may be applied to actions which affect only, or primarily and principally, a person’s own happiness.

(. . .reference to the law of God as the standard. . . . “ comes into play regarding man’s mental state of “morals” and discussed last in this writing. The question to be answered is: “Can man born in sin know what the law of God and right or wrong is prior to an internal change whereby one comes to know God?”)

So moral has something to do with conduct of a person in social relationships regarding right or wrong. A major consideration is that there must be a reference point for what is right and what is wrong. Is the reference in one’s self or others or laws written in books? Just where is the reference point. Is it inside or outside ourselves in a Supreme, Sovereign God? This point is where religion gets involved in a society. Is “moral” floating in the environment or passed on by parents? If so then what is right or wrong will change from person to person and over time. Is that good? The major point to be wrestled with is just who or how right and wrong is determined. There will be a point of reference always. Otherwise right and wrong will just float around with little certainty. We could say that relativism is a good example of right and wrong floating from person to person in that it is determined by each and having no relationship outside the person.

Maybe we need to examine the term, free, because each of us has a definition and it may differ from others. An assumption that I will make here is that when free is used in referring to the state of humans that one is considering that the person is autonomous which means to be self governing. I will agree with that. But in trying to define free the implication is that a person is not only self governing but has no restraints of behavior, period. This cannot be.

Webster’s dictionary gives a number of definitions in trying to explain what free means. Here is the number one definition.

“Being at liberty; not being under necessity or restraint, physical or moral; a word of general application to the body, the will or mind, and to corporations.”

Notice that the word, moral, is included here. So is Webster, in listing moral, indicating that society may restrain a person from making certain decisions and thus determining the freedom of a person? There must be of necessity limits on each person whether limits are imposed from without or those which come from within. Maybe we as individuals are not as free as we would like to believe.

Here is number five definition of free from Webster.

“Unconstrained; unrestrained; not under compulsion or control. A man is free to pursue his own choice; he enjoys free will.”

In this definition we have the concept of free will. Now for the definition of will from Webster so we can get to the heart of this thing called free moral agent.
Here is Webster’s definition of free will.

That faculty of the mind by which we determine either to do or forbear an action; the faculty which is exercised in deciding, among two or more objects, which we shall embrace or pursue. The will is directed or influenced by the judgment. The understanding or reason compares different objects, which operate as motives; the judgment determines which is preferable, and the will decides which to pursue. In other words, we reason with respect to the value or importance of things; we then judge which is to be preferred; and we will to take the most valuable. These are but different operations of the mind, soul, or intellectual part of man. Great disputes have existed respecting the freedom of the will. Will is often quite a different thing from desire.

Notice words such as judgment, understanding, reason, importance of things and preferred. Webster here admits that the concept of the will is a disputed human characteristic. In areas of psychology the will is considered an operation of the the mind where the reasoning, understanding, and judging of the person takes place. In those operations of the mind, what is good, bad and important are determined. All of these operations within one’s mind then determine choices or direction of motion. All of these operations of the mind; emotions, reasoning, understanding, and judging have not developed nor exist in a vacuum. Something outside the mind and something in the mind influences these operations. The good. bad and important in our thinking are not determined in complete isolation within the person. They are determined by our mental processes but their roots are from our past and have been embedded in the brain. We came into this world with a genetic foundation and then grew up in an environment. The genetics and environments differ but there is a common thread which connects them and determines how we would think and understand our world. I’ll get to the common thread later. We came into the world with a specific mental functioning foundation determined by genetics. The environment then built on that foundation due to the way we are told to think, reason, feel (that which sets us into motion), and choose. A simple question to help us grasp how the environment effects our thinking is, “What kind of food do you like? Would you choose shrimp where another would choose steak?” Our genetics keeps us from grazing like a cow for our food. These preferences are rooted in our past whether it be in early childhood or of an experience a month ago.

Now there is one other component that must be considered in order to decide whether we are free moral agents. By the way the word, agent, we have not defined. Webster helps us here in defining this word. It gives us three definitions and there is a relationship between them. The relationship is in having power to act or accomplish something.
Here they are.

1. An actor; one that exerts power, or has the power to act; as, a moral agent.
2. An active power or cause; that which has the power to produce an effect; as, heat is a powerful agent.
3. A substitute, deputy, or factor; one entrusted with the business of another; and attorney; a minister.

Notice the words moral agent in the first definition. That seems to fit in with, We are free moral agents.

Now to the one other respect as mentioned earlier and one that, I believe, comes from God’s Word. What does God have to say about our being free. The concept by the way, free will does not appear in God’s Word. The question remains, “Are we free moral agents?” I think we’ll find the answer in God’s Holy Word. I’ll give some scripture here and if you believe in God’s Holy Word, (All of us called Christian should), you decide whether we humans are free moral agents.

Just to set the stage let’s refresh our minds regarding God’s creation of man and then go from there to see what He says about our freedom to choose and function in this world. In Genesis 2:7 God says this:

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (NASB)

What a paradise! Man was given a garden to tend and eat and live a life of Riley. He had a “help meet” and all the food he needed and all he had to do was take care of the garden but one restriction was applied. “Don’t eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or you will die.”, God told Adam. At this point in man’s existence the question of moral or moral freedom did not exist. Good and bad did not exist in the head of Adam for him to even consider making choices that required him to think of the goodness or badness of some choice. There was no social relationships except with Eve and he still was a companion with his Creator, God, in the cool of the evening. But God plants a thought in Adam’s mind about something he is not to do. So what did Adam do?  He did eat of the tree. And this was rebellion (sin) against God. Adam then got acquainted with good and evil of life and things. At that point things changed for the human race. Man (Adam) then lived in a world that was cursed and his slavery to sin was absolute. Adam could not escape the curse. Because of Adam we humans have no escape from sinful thoughts and decisions as a person. Why? Adam passed sin to us through his genes. God’s Word tells us that we have sin in our physical body. It tells us we are born with sin and that the flesh is sinful. Our minds now are bent toward sinful (rebellious) thoughts against our Creator and we cannot do otherwise. Where is the freedom?

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (Ps 51:5  NASB)

Question: If we are born with sin as part of our genetics, how can we be free moral agents?

Lets go to the New Testament and see what is said there about the moral state of man. In Ephesians and Colossians we find that we are dead in our trespasses and sin before we are born into Christ and in order to throw off this sinful state we must be born again (born from above).

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (Eph 2:1  NASB)
. . . even when we were dead in our transgressions, (God) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (Eph 2:5  NASB)
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. (Col 2:13  NASB)

So we are told in the New Testament that us humans are dead in sin before we are regenerated in Christ Jesus. Dead means we have no moral aliveness. We are not a free creature. We cannot make a moral choice. Now you and I know that people make choices regarding behavior but scripture says we either make choices while dead in sin or alive in Christ. There is no total, abosolutely free state from any influence. We are either influenced by the sin within that came from Adam or the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.

If that is true, ( I believe with all my being it is.) then there is no way that we can be free moral agents. Every thought that I think and every decision that I make is tainted with my sin state. I am born with that state of mind in my nature. It is in my genes. I got it from Adam. I am a slave to my state of mind. All my thinking, reasoning and choosing will be tainted or shaped by sin. Paul makes clear in Romans chapters 1 and 2 the state that we are in before becoming a believer in Christ Jesus. And then we read this:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned– (Rom 5:12  NASB)

Now I am not saying that an unbeliever cannot make some good decisions because most do to some degree based on what they learned from their environment as a child and by God’s grace in the providence of His creation.  Graeme Goldsworthy says there is something called by Christians,common grace. He says this,
“. . . non-Christians have an understanding of meaning and a sense of right and wrong which is the result of the goodness of God and of being created in His image. The fact that the non-Christian repudiates such a notion is not the point.”1

The point that I am trying to make is that just because a non-believer can have some knowledge of right and wrong does not make them a free moral agent. All truth of right and wrong resides in God not man. Thus unbelievers are still enslaved to sin and dead in their trespasses unless they know God. Paul in Romans 1 makes this very clear. He says:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:21)
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  (Rom 1:25)

(In Romans 1:21 above, the word, knew, in the Greek can have many meanings as in English also. As used here it means an awareness of God and not an apprehension or knowing God. It is a knowing of or about and not a knowing in an intimate fashion.)

In Ephesians 2:1 we read, “And they were dead in trespasses and sin.” Paul is talking about the soul/mental state of the Ephesians before they were born again or regenerated by God.

Jesus tells us that we will only be freed from the sin state when we know the truth. He is the truth. Knowing Him (intimately) is knowing the truth. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is what we will know in Christ our Lord.

John tells us of our Lords glory, truth and grace in 1 John 1:17.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14  NASB)
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17  NASB)

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32  NASB)
In the above statement Jesus is saying that we are not free before we come to Him to get the truth. We are enslaved until know Him intimately and cannot be a free moral agent until we do come to the truth  that resides in Jesus, the God Man.

The question remains, “Are we a free moral agent?” Can we truly make decisions that come from an unbiased and completely neutral state of mind? Some will say “Yes we can even though our mind is biased toward or saturated in badness. We don’t have to be a new creature in Christ. We are free from external influences and constraints.” I will concede that we may emote (have an emotion) and do make decisions toward external objects (people, places, things) without some external influence or constraints but the internal influence does not allow freedom of our mind unless we have the Truth which makes us free to make moral decisions.

We must always remember or think about external influences also because we are never free from them. We are influenced by our peers, parents, fellow workers, politicians. news media, and all the things from our society that we take into our mind such as TV, church, school and work.

Are we humans moving through life as a free moral agent on this planet from conception to death? Do we come equipped at birth with the freedom to always choose what is good? To think good? Can we be free from any influence upon our decisions and choosing? I think of it this way, “No Virginia there is no freedom in our sinful social and moral state.” You decide!

Here is what I have decided. I cannot find anywhere in God’s Word that I am free unless I am in Christ Jesus. That is where real freedom lies. BUT I do find in God’s word many times that I am accountable to our Great, Almighty God for what I think and how I behave. How we live our life whether a believer or unbeliever is commanded by Holy God. Therefore we are accountable to Him. Along with that accountability I have a grave responsibility to Him who created me. Accountability and responsibility were given to me starting in the Garden of Eden. There is a Creator/creature relationship that falls under the providence of God which does not allow us humans to be autonomous. However we were from the beginning given self awareness and reasoning ability to know reality in order to live a life that would honor the Creator.

Here are God’s words:

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”  (Gen 2:15-17  NASB)

God does not discuss freedom with Adam. You may see the word freely in the above BUT this is not in the Hebrew. The word, freely, is the exact same Hebrew word as eat in the above translation. The best translation is the ESV or English Standard Version which says, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but . . . .” The literal translation of the Hebrew would be “eating you do eat.” Nothing is said about freedom. God is giving permission to eat except of one tree’s fruit. Responsibility and accountability are given to man. The responsibility to be productive and care for what God had given him. He is held accountable to God the Creator for choices of what he eats. Adam had no control over the consequences of his choosing. If one has no control over consequences how can one be free?  We are like men/women on board a raft floating down a river where we have no means of determining where the raft goes. We only can determine where and how we move around on the raft. If we can’t see the river we believe we have a lot of freedom. If we see beyond the raft we know we are trapped. So where is the free moral agent to determine the future of one’s existence? Adam was not in control (free) to determine what consequences he would experience. God had given him permission to choose but the consequenes of his choice were determined by God. I am not in control of the outcome or direction of my life. I may think I am. My wife will tell you that I think I am because I have a “bent” toward  controlling  all that goes on in my life. My thinking comes from a belief that I can control my life. But I live an illusion if I am not in Christ. To live an illusion is to be a slave to one’s illusions especially the illusion that humans are not influenced by forces we cannot see, hear, smell or touch.

I recall a statement made by a pastor over 40 years ago that fits with the idea that we are free moral agents. In a sermon he said, “God has a vote, satan has a vote and you’ve got the deciding vote.” I’ve heard that statement many times since then and I’ve said that because it sounded so good at the time I heard it. It was brief and to the point which I believed. It indicated the freedom of us to make our choices for God. Since 2001 I’ve come to another conclusion based on God’s Word and not human driven assumption. We don’t have a vote in the matter of being free to make choices for or against God. We are born in sin and that is where we’ll be and continue unless God Almighty through Jesus Christ whom God in His counsel tells us we are His. Ephesians 1:3-12 tells us that God in His Great Majesty chose believers before God created the world and then made it known to us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would 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. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  (NASB)

May the Sovereign God of the universe through His Son, Christ Jesus, touch your inner being and set you free. Free to live as a FREE person who is loved by Him for all eternity so that you can love freely yourself and others. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Soli Deo Gloria

In Him,

Dewey Wise
Mar 1, 2010
(All underlining is mine.)

1 Goldsworthy, Graeme, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), p. 17.

What to do with a New Year

January 7th, 2010
Print This Post Print This Post

Well the New Year is here. It is 2010. It came on schedule with no stops and starts or jerks along the way. And here it is January 7th which seems like it was yesterday that we had a New Year’s celebration but yesterday, Jan 6th seemed like many days that occurred in my life last year and the year before. Since retirement seems I’ve done more work than I did when I was working. The burning question that I keep asking myself is, “What’s different about a New Year?” How come we call it a New Year when nothing ever changes. Seems like it is not so new but old. But on to the more serious questions to be answered.

Now that we’ve got it what do we do with it? Do we go to work everyday as we did last year or do we just hang out hoping that things will get better? Do we plan for our future or do we wait for others to plan for us? Do we wait on another year to roll around or count each day as an opportunity to thank God and love others?

I’ve been wanting to get answers to these question most of my life, so help me out. But another thought could be that might get to the heart of my concern, “What is life all about?” Yes I think that is it. Therein lies the answer to each of our New Years if we can put a handle on this thing called life. Otherwise it is being born, creating problems on this earth for others as we age, and then dying. Sounds kinda scary and sad.

Have a great year answering that question. Oh, I think I have might have some answers to all those questions, but !

Dewey Wise, Jan 7, 2010

Give Thanks

November 28th, 2009
Print This Post Print This Post

Well Thanksgiving (I hope it was a day to give thanks.) has come and gone. Next stop on the dash to the year 2010 is Christmas. How it is celebrated in the U S of A is certainly different than when I was a little’un in North Alabama too many years ago to think about. Since we were poor country folk and the family attended church very little seems like we kids, my sister and I, just looked forward to Christmas day when we might have a present to open.

Thanksgiving was good this year as it has been since the year 2005 when we first had our first Thanksgiving here at Hope Fruit and Berry Farm. All the children and their spouses were here with all our Grand Children except for last year. Little Lathem went to be with the Lord four days after he was born but his presence (not physical) was with us. We were so grateful for God’s Marvelous Grace to help us through the death of a precious child. But He wanted Lathem home with Him. God’s Amazing Grace as John Newton penned the song over two hundred years ago rings sweetly in my ears.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me –
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T’was Grace that taught –
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear –
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares –
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far –
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me –
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be –
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years –
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise –
then when we’ve first begun.

How wonderful to pause and bow our heads before Almighty God who provides all the blessings . When I think of those who are not a Child of the King I become very sad and want to shed a tear for them because my question is, “Who can they thank for their life and the blessings they have enjoyed?”

So Christmas is coming. That will be the day we celebrate the birth of the One who gives us all blessings. We’ve just given Thanks to our God Almighty and the Lord Jesus. Now can we look forward to celbrating His coming into the world as a man because of His Great Love for us? So can we give thanks for Life in Him. I hope so. I hope He is the center of each life. Praise Him, We can Worship Him for Life eternally if we believe and have faith.

Sola Christus

May your life be richly and wonderfully blessed in Him.

Dewey Wise
November 29, 2009

November 26th, 2009

Print This Post Print This Post

How Is My Life Lived?

Now that question has haunted me since I was a teenager. I know that may seem silly for a teenager. Us teenagers of long ago and teenagers today have difficulty getting our minds around such a profound question for one’s life. Why is that question so abstract and I’m sure all folks know what abstract means. If you don’t here’s a short definition. Abstract basically means thoughts that exist in the mind only but they deal with issues of life. Now put you mind around that. For example the question poised can take one’s mind in many different directions. The how could mean my daily routines that must be accomplished each day such as how does one dress or do how do I cook a meal. Those how’s are not abstract and can be very simple.

The question really has to do with my life being lived by law or faith. Law has to do with rules of living, moral laws if you will. Faith has to do with believing in an unknown with an expectation that a future thing will be good.

I can say that my life as a young person was lived mostly by law (rules my parents and school told me to live by) with little faith. But moved toward faith in the One True God when I became a teenager around 15. Lord Christ became my faith object due to Him giving me the faith to truest in Him.

The writer of Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is: “. . . the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So faith does not focus on an unknown. Notice faith always has an object. Only in Christ Jesus can we have the assurance that our future will be well. Faith is the key to Amazing Grace. Grace that will lead us Home. Living by Faith is the way to go. Living by law where all my future rest on me and my abilities is a dead end street. Living by Faith is the only way to live.

On this Thanksgiving Day 2009 May God richly bless your life of faith that you  have only through Faith in Him.

Sole Fida
By Faith Alone

Dewey Wise
Nov 26, 2009

The Hope that Gives Life

November 13th, 2009
Print This Post Print This Post

What is hope?

Firstly, hope is the fuel that runs us moment by moment and day by day. It is what gives us the energy to get up in the morning, to go to work, to do house work, to be a parent, to be a husband or a wife, to dream dreams, to pray, to accomplish some great human work, to be a missionary, to build buildings. It is the fuel necessary for existence as a human being. It is a vacuum within us searching, searching to be filled with something that is good for us. This vacuum was created by our Creator to move us through life while we exist in this earthly body. It is a gift of God.

On an internal, mental level it is an expectation with desire for some future event or circumstance that we long for day by day. It is not easy to put the longing into words but it is there within our mind. It is closely related to expectation which is a state of mind, not necessarily associated with a desire though. Expectations just look for an event that is to occur in the future. There is no maybe about the future event, there is a “yes” it will occur. Expectations can get us into trouble with our spouses or those who we relate to because when they don’t do what we expect, we can get upset, frustrated or just plain mad. On the other hand when our expectations occur we can be very happy. So expectations can be good or bad for our emotional state. Hope has a goodness quality to it which moves us to get out of bed and go to work. It is future looking to a good that will occur.

Hope is a more powerful mental state than expectations are in that hope comes from a powerful desire for a “good thing” which is seldom satisfied in material things or relationships with people. It is more than a specific event. It is more of an internal longing based on a need which hunts for something good. We believe the need is something that can satisfy. We sometimes label our hopes as just “I hope such and such occurs.” We see it in little children, “Oh I hope I can play ball with Dad this afternoon.” “I hope I will get a Transformer for Christmas.” (You know about Transformers. Not the big objects on a power pole, but the little objects that we step on when a child has been playing with them.) Hope pulls us to something that we believe will fill our vacuum, but it seldom, if ever, does. However there is one hope that will satisfy all our longings. It will give us something to look forward to eternally and will NEVER disappoint.

On this earth we can try to build our life on hope, but if the object of our hope has no lasting quality then disappointment is the result. When all hope is gone within a person, we call this a “depressed state”. Depression sets in when one’s mind sees no hope that the future will be good. Most people look at the short term future in trying to fill their vacuum. How short sighted this is. And our culture promotes this shortsightedness. Ever bit of our waking moment is filled with people or things that tell us “Get your wants and wishes nowl you can feel good.” Fast cars, dream houses, big boats, planes, instant communications by cell phone or texting are all things for instant gratification of our desire for the good things. When our hope which pulls us through life is founded in these things, how can we wonder that depression is at an all time high in America and becomes more common daily? We see more people today in treatment for depression than ever before, and each year there is an increase. The big question is “WHY?”. Our mental vacuum is being filled by “junk” – this is the reason. We live roller coaster lives going from one hope to another hope which never satisfies. So what is the ANSWER?

A very simple answer can be found in God’s Word. Between the first page and the last page of the Bible we can and will find the answer if we read God’s Word. Hope is written all over each page. In Romans 5:1-2 we read this:

Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into his grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope for the glory of God. (NASB)

Paul connects faith and hope here to God’s Glory. Faith and hope are also connected in Hebrews 11:1. But how does he connect it? He says faith justifies us and we can have peace with God. Hey! Wow! Now we can look for the TRUE Hope and not some phony, fleeting hope. The vacuum can be filled but it is or can be so good that we want more. Now we have eternity to look to because it is joy divine. We don’t have to go from hope to hope in hopes we will be satisfied. We can get up each day with a longing for more. And ironically the vacuum is filled but we are never satisfied on this earth. More and more we want God, we want His presence, we can’t get enough of studying His Word, we thirst, we hunger for more and more of Him. Now we know we’ve found the hope. And what is that hope? Paul says it is “. . . through our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is the object of our hope. He is IT. There is nothing else. Only through HIM can we have the hope that satisfied but never satisfied. He is IT. We can shout, we can sing, we can praise, we can worship. Our longing is now focused and we can get out of the “rat race” because we have hope built on a rock. IT IS CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.

Do you have that hope? My desire is that your hope rest in HIM.

With this insight about HOPE which is the fuel for day to day activity let’s put our faith in THE ONLY HOPE. You need to know that you cannot generate that faith. That faith comes from HIM.

Through faith alone by grace alone in Christ Jesus alone can we have hope. All other hope is on sinking sand. He is our ONLY HOPE.

Dewey Wise
Hope Fruit and Berry Farm
Nov 12, 2009

WHEN ARE WE AT OUR BEST?

October 22nd, 2009
Print This Post Print This Post

We Are At Our Best WHEN!

We are at our best when we are most dependent on Almighty Loving God in Christ Jesus. When we are at our worst (humanly speaking) in our helplessness; when we turn to God for help, we are at our best (Godly speaking)’ and if may add, for all eternity. At that moment we are honoring and praising our Holy God because we are helpless and turn to Him in absolute need and dependency on Him.

Our culture tells us to be in charge of our life. It tells us be strong, be courageous, have pride, put our best foot forward, take charge of our life and be somebody. It tells us that we will never get far unless we have a “stiff upper lip”, as has been said about the British. Self esteem is held out to be the cure all for what ails us. Therefore self-esteem becomes the focus of all education because unless the child has self esteem they will not do well in school. We say, “Buck up and get a grip on your life because you are esteemed. You have worth and can do something.”

The flip side of society is to tell us that we are helpless so we need help. Those that can help themselves are to reach out to those who cannot help themselves. No one can argue with this. But many times we even help those who can help themselves. Our government—it makes no difference which one (local, county, state, national)—tells us “You’re down and out so let me care for you,” or “you don’t have to be concerned, we’ll take care of you.” Even as caring individuals, we do this at times because we “feel sorry” for others, not even knowing whether they can or cannot help themselves. We see a lack of self esteem in them who appear down and out even though they have an ability to care for themselves. Our society says these kinds of people do not have self esteem so we need to make them feel they are wanted.

You may be wondering by now what is going on with all this talk about what society believes about us and wants to do for us. I’ve said these things to point out that we as a people (culture if you may) are very uncomfortable when we have an awareness of a person’s helplessness. We tend to think that they are just not healthy and something is wrong with them. But we (I include myself) are really at our best when we turn to the Source of our existence and beg for help. It is then that the true self emergences and that we are at our best. (Notice I said “we turn”. Some of us don’t turn to our Creator. We’ve been brain washed to believe that the world is where we turn to.)

However, we were created as a being dependent on our CREATOR and we were created to GLORIFY Him. All our needs are satisfied in Him. He gives us our food, the air we breathe and life everlasting. So when we are at “rock bottom” or when we “hit the bottom”, as is used in a discussion on alcoholism, we are helpless, and that means we MUST be dependent. All that our friends and society can do for us is just put a little bandage on our hurt. When the bandage comes off, we may be right back to helplessness. Our friends may not be there with another bandage and society may be morally bankrupt. Why? They’ve got the same need (problem). Where does that leave us? Helpless again!! Why am I helpless in a world full of people who want to help? I am distant and separated from the One who made me, Almighty God, my Creator. I am separated by my sin or rebellion against Him. But we need the One who made us. He is our lifeline. Can you see why “Just buck up and take charge” or “we’ll take care of you” doesn’t hack it? Do you see how we are treated as though we are an unlearned child who needs constant care from society? And society says we just have low self-esteem. Our deepest needs can never be met through others, our family or our self esteem. Why? They’ve got the same problem. Have you ever seen one drunk helping another drunk? I (we) need One who is not in the same condition, one who can save us from our helplessness.

Who can make us alive? And who is that? It is Christ Jesus our Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria

Oct 22, 2009

Dewey Wise