There is in theological circles a great debate. It concerns Arminianism and Calvinism. It is a false debate because it is based on man’s linear logic, and not upon the practice of God’s superior wisdom.
We come in our study of Mark’s Gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ to the final verses of chapter 3. In the last verse, Jesus makes this statement.
WHOSOEVER SHALL DO THE WILL OF GOD, THE SAME IS MY BROTHER, AND MY SISTER AND MY MOTHER
Or to put it another way, anyone who does not do God’s will, is not related to Jesus Christ and so will certainly not know him in this life or the life to come. In other words, they are not saved from eternal damnation, but condemned by God.
The New Testament is quite clear. It repeatedly states that Jesus followers must do his will. They must obey his teaching. That should be obvious. How can you claim to be a Christian but not follow the party line. To claim one thing but actually do another is called hypocrisy. Which is another form of lying and falsehood. It is to claim something about yourself which is not true.
A helpful passage to understand all this is to be found in John’s Gospel, chapter 8 and verses 31 to 32. Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him:
IF YE CONTINUE IN MY WORD, THEN ARE YE MY DISCIPLES INDEED; AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE
In other words, if you carry on obeying Christ’s teaching, that is what makes you a true disciple. And the result is extremely positive and important. You will know the truth and that truth will set you free.
The problem for the intellectuals who debate this philosophical question around Arminianism and Calvinism is that they are looking at this according to human logic, and not according to God’s spiritual practice.
You cannot arrive at an answer to their question, without taking the route which Jesus requires ie to obey his teaching. Simple. Having done that and lived it, you will know the truth. And therefore you will have the answer to the issue Theologians waste time debating – such issues the apostle Paul fastidiously avoided and told Timothy to do the same. [2 Timothy chapter 2 and verses 23 to 26].
And Paul tells the Philippians this in chapter 2 and verses 12 and 13:
WHEREFORE MY BELOVED AS YE HAVE ALWAYS OBEYED – NOT AS IN MY PRESENCE ONLY – BUT NOW MUCH MORE IN MY ABSENCE, WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING. FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKETH IN YOU BOTH TO WILL AND TO DO OF HIS GOOD PLEASURE.
It is God’s purpose; it is God’s strength and grace; it is God’s plan. Therefore, it is not our purpose, nor of our own human resources or power, nor of our own ideas and plans as to how our lives should be lived or how they should work out. It is ALL of God.
Our responsibility is to respond to what God is doing in our lives. We are to consciously and actively co-operate with what God is doing – both in making us more like Jesus and in causing us to serve God, using whatever gift he has equipped us with.
And we know and understand what God is doing as we are prepared to surrender Self and obey God.
The apostle told the Roman believers, in the first 2 verses of chapter 12 of that epistle:
PRESENT YOUR BODIES A LIVING SACRIFICE, HOLY, ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD, WHICH IS YOUR REASONABLE SERVICE. AND BE NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD: BUT BE YE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, THAT YE MAY PROVE WHAT IS THAT GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT WILL OF GOD.
Again as we obey, we begin to know and understand the spiritual life God wants us to live.
Please note that this is an obedience to his teaching. It is to live a lifestyle, bearing the fruit or manifestation of God’s life in us.
This is NOT about being given direction as to what to do next in our lives. Do this or do that; go here or go there; marry this person or not; take this job or that; go to a particular church or not; paint your living room in this colour or that ! That is the spirituality of darkness – not Christianity. The Christian entrusts their circumstances to God’s Sovereign knowledge and control. The Christian’s primary responsibility is to obey the teaching on lifestyle, summed up by Jesus Christ as
LOVE GOD – AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF
[nb eg Matthew 22, verses 36 to 40]
In obeying the teaching faithfully, the Christian will then see God sovereignly arranging the believer’s circumstances. Obedience and lifestyle first; trusting in God for the consequences of that obedience.
And please note here now that the consequences may not be agreeable. The apostles Peter and Paul suffered imprisonment and worse as they faithfully witnessed to Jesus Christ. But God delivered them every time. As the Psalmist says, in Psalm 34 verse 19:
MANY ARE THE AFFLICTIONS OF THE RIGHTEOUS: BUT THE LORD DELIVERETH HIM OUT OF THEM ALL
And this is what we must understand. God is not a convenience for giving us everything we could possibly want in this life. No. God has a purpose to refine us and make us HOLY, that is dedicated to him in our nature, lifestyle and in whatever we do – be that at home, at work, at play or wherever.
But let me end with this. I have subscribed to the Christian faith for several decades. I say subscribed because at times my life has hardly been a faithful witness to God. But this I can say: it is all of God, and none of me. It is all of God’s grace, and none of my doing. I could not earn forgiveness of sins. Nor can live as I should. Only God can do this – for me, or for you.