Monday, August 31, 2009
If you walk up to a random person on the street and tell them that they need to be saved, they will probably think to themselves that they really don't need to be saved from anything, because they see no danger. What do humans really need to be "saved" from, in a spiritual sense? I would say that people need to be saved from:
- The preeminence of sin over their life
- The power of sin in their life
- The presence of sin
- The penalty of sin
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God"
1 Corinthians 1:18
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
"Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."
As you can see, salvation is not only in the past, but also the present and future. I would encourage you also to read this website, LinkToAwesomeWebsite , which has another few awesome verses about this past/present/future deal. Anyway, if we have not yet attained our future salvation, how can we "lose" it? You cannot lose something you do not have. All we actually have right now is the salvation from the preeminence of sin in our lives, and the promise of ongoing and future salvation. That promise is God's promise, and God's promises always come to pass. If God promises that you will be saved in the end, then no matter what you or anyone else tries to do to stop that plan, you WILL be saved. It's that simple.
"And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish"
Never here is translated as "never." If Christ gives someone eternal life, they will never perish. Ever. Not now, and not in the future. That is a promise.
To go along with this whole idea that we have the promise of future salvation, there is the doctrine of predestination. That's a long word. Predestination means that before the world was ever formed, God choose our destinies. Before we ever existed, God mapped out our eternal destiny. Take for example a christian: God knows from eternity past that this person will accept Christ as Savior and pre-destines that person to be saved from sin, and from the eternal penalty of sin.
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son..."
"Moreover whom He predestined... these He also glorified."
We'll call this guy JoeTheWishyWashyChristian. So, from eternity past, God has chosen that JoeTheWishyWashyChristian will be with Him in heaven forever. Then, at about 0 AD, or 33 AD, or whenever, Christ personally pays for all the future sins of JoeTheWishyWashyChristian. Now time rolls on, and in 1984, JoeTWWC (his nickname now) accepts Christ as His Savior and is Born again. So far, so good. Now, during 1984, JoeTWWC is "saved" and so we know that his future is (as predestined from eternity past) heaven. Time rolls on again, and in 1994, JoeTWWC turns away from God and states that he doesn't want Christ to be His Savior. When he dies, then, God sends him to hell. Wait - what? We already established the facts that:
- God predestined JoeTWWC to be conformed to the image of His Son and to go to heaven
- Everything God promises or predestined will come to pass
- Therefore, it does not logically follow that JoeTWWC could possibly end up in hell
Philippians 1:6...will continue conforming him into the image of Christ, and will eventually welcome him into heaven.
"being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ"
Think of all the fictitious stories of people who sold their soul to the devil... the whole concept of selling their soul was that they couldn't just undo the deal later. They were afraid that they couldn't get it back. In a much less scary way, if you give yourself to God, and you belong to Him, you can't just undo the deal later. God is more powerful than the devil, you know. ;)
So basically, being rescued in not generally something that can be undone. The whole idea of undoing a salvation situation doesn't really make sense. Secondly, what we have in regard to salvation from eternal damnation is futuristic: we only have a promise. That's important because we know that whatever God promises will come to pass. Finally, a christian has been predestined, and that's in the past - there is no way to lose that, or otherwise get around it.
Now, the whole deal of salvation is about substitution. Christ took upon Himself the penalty of our sin, and we are allowed to wear the righteousness of Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
We are christians. So, in the middle of this whole confusing substitution thing, what happened to our sins? What happened to our sinful nature?
Well, what happened to our sins is that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all of our sins with His blood. He paid for all your sins: past, present, and future. Remember, when He died, all your sins were future sins. None of those sins can now be held against you - God already poured out His wrath for those sins on Jesus Christ. There is no wrath or penalty left for us, who are in Christ Jesus.
"For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God."
Christ died for all our sins on the cross, if He had paid for all our sins except one, then we still would not make it to heaven. That is not the case, He took the full penalty for all our sins, and we are clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus. Now, given that all of our sins were paid for by the precious blood of Christ, we cannot be punished for them again. This is important because unbelief and rebellion are sins.
"But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin."
If anything that is not of faith is a sin, then a person who turns away from God is unbelief is sinning. A christian's sins are all paid for, and therefore that act of unbelief, if it were to occur, would have already been specifically paid for by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some people say that if you, as a christian, turn away from God, then He will condemn you to hell. But if Christ already paid for that sin of unbelief, why would God require further payment for that sin? God could just as easily condemn you to hell for the lies you told, or for the wicked things that you have said. But God does not condemn us, because He has already punished Christ fully for those sins. Our sins, a christians, are paid for.
1 Peter 2:24________________________________________________________
"...Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree."
What else does the Bible say about our sins? It says that our sins have been removed from us. Practically, we still sin. Positionally, those sins are not identified with us, and our guilt is taken away.
“ Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “ Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool."
"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Now think about that for a moment. White as snow. Imagine that. Now think about the east and the west. If you travel north long enough, you will eventually be headed south, but the east and the west never ever meet. That is how far our sins have been removed from us. As christians, we are white as snow, and our sins are infinitely far from us! All our sins are gone. That includes the sin of unbelief and rebellion.
Now we know that all of us who are in Christ are born again. We know that we are a "new creation."
2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
But what of the old nature? Practically, we still feel the tug and temptation of the flesh, and we are exhorted in Scripture not to live according to the flesh, but to be slaves of righteousness. Positionally, we are a new creature, and we are not our old self. That is no longer who we really we. In Christ, as new creations, we are each perfect. Our old self, technically, is not the real you anymore, and technically is dead.
"But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."
"...knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin."
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
"Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. "
Our old nature is no longer us, and is technically dead. If then, a christian turned away from God in unbelief or rebellion, then technically it's not him who is sinning, but the old nature. The old nature was crucified with Christ, is dead, and otherwise doesn't count! Positionally, before God, we are perfect, being clothes in Christ's righteousness. Why would God send a (positionally) perfect christian to hell? He wouldn't.
Looking over the scriptures, we can see that christians cannot be damned to hell for the sin of unbelief or rebellion for these three reasons:
- We are positionally perfect - the part of us that is sinful has, technically, already been killed
- Any and all sins we, in any capacity, are responsible for have been laid on Christ, and He has split His blood receiving the full wages for all our sin
- Our sins have been removed from us, and before God, we are as white as snow
I know, it seems too good to be true. But the fact is, we could be damned to hell for any sin we've ever committed. However, God is so amazingly loving and gracious that He was willing to hurt and suffer for us, for our sins, so that none of our sins would be held against us. It really seems amazingly unreal when you start to think about how truly incredible it is!! No wonder people reject the gospel every day because it seems too good to be true...
The main point of that is the idea that humans err. All humans err. We all make mistakes, and we all intentionally do wrong. It's just the way things go. Now, suppose for a moment that you choose to never again make a mistake or do anything wrong. Do you think that it would work? Of course not. We cannot always keep ourselves from stumbling. There is only One Being who can.
"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless, before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy..."
That's right. God is only one who can keep us from falling from anything. So, supposing that it is possible to fall from salvation, we are not able to keep ourselves from falling, but who is? God. So, if God is able to keep us from falling away from salvation, will He?
"...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ"
For those of us who have turned to Christ for salvation, God has chosen graciously to hear our cry and save us. He has begun a good work in our lives, He has begun conforming us into the image of His Son. Here in this verse we have His promise that if He has begun the work of sanctification in our lives, that He will complete it. We have His Word. He's not just going to let us fall off the map. He will never give up working good in us, and since we are adopted as His children, He will also work good in us by disciplining us.
"If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?"
If you had a son, you would not let him fall off a cliff to his death, if you could prevent it, would you? Of course you wouldn't!
Matthew 7:11Not only is God the only One powerful enough to keep us from falling, but if we ask Him to save us, then we have His loving fatherly promise to see us through to the end and to discipline us when we get off-track.
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"
Speaking of us being in God's family, the Bible teaches that we, as christians, are in fact adopted. God is now our Father.
"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.'"
The interesting thing about having a father is that he will always be your dad! I'd like to also bring up this very awesome fact about the whole adoption deal: "as I have looked at 1st century Roman adoption, as well as modern adoption I note that one may disinherit a child born to a family physically, but legally one may not disinherit a child who has been adopted." (LinkToQuotedWebsite) This is God's part of the deal. We feebly ask for help, which accomplishes nothing, but God in love and power adopts us, and vows never to leave us. (Hebrews 13:5) He says that He has adopted us as sons, and He will not disinherit us.
Another part of God's dealings with us is His Seal upon us. I've already discussed that we have His promise. But not only do we have God's promise, but also we has His Seal on us. What do I mean by that?
"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."
We are sealed by the Holy Spirit, who is God Almighty, until we fall away. Wait. No. That's not what it said. It said we are sealed until the day of redemption. Not even the say of judgment and condemnation, but the final day of our redemption. Awesome! Now, in today's culture of twitter, email, and fed-ex, we've kinda lost sight of what a "seal" is. In the olden days, they didn't lick envelopes to close them. They would put wax or something on it, and put their metal seal on top of that, to help the wax take shape as their seal. It would not only emphasize the authority of the person who sealed it, as when a king would give his side-kick the royal signet ring, but also prevented tampering before it reached the proper destination.
"This seal that the Holy Spirit places upon us reflects the long usage of the signet ring by royalty. The seal of would indicate that the contents were not to be tampered with except by authorized persons, until the communication or container arrived at its destination. It was a sign of ownership (2 Tim. 2:19) and security. Interestingly, the same word is used for the seal set upon Satan in the bottomless pit in Rev. 20:3." The purpose of the seal was “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.” This is directly comparable to our sealing: same God, same purpose (until the intended time), same security. Satan will not be able to get out, will he? Neither will the Christian be able to “get out” of salvation. Thank God that our salvation is life and blessing, instead of death and punishment.
Finally, I love these verses, it just really sums things up really well:
2 Timothy 2:12-13
" If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself."
If we say "no" to God, He will say "no" to our requests. But when we are faithless and would fall away, God will never let us go. He cannot say "no" to Himself, to his own promises.
There is only one who can keep us from falling off of life's cliffs, and because He is an awesome and loving person, when we ask for help, He's actually willing to give us that help that we ask for. He has adopted us into His family, and works good in us until the day when we meet Him face to face. In addition to His promises, which are in some people's mind only words, He has sealed us with an unbreakable seal, until the day of redemption. It does not rely on us, but it depends on God to save us, to continue to save us, and to present us faultless in the end. And inasmuch as it relies on God, we can rest safely, knowing that though we might fail, God will not.
Throughout the Bible we see that the process of salvation is likened to irreversible processes. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit until death. A seal set by God, a seal that IS God, cannot be broken. We are regenerated, and as far as I know, a person cannot be "unregenerated." Our sins are as far away from us as the east is from the west, and so far, the west has never caught up with the east. As far as God is concerned, our future life is so set in stone that He says we've already passed from death into life, and will never come into judgment.
John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
Irreversible. Remember that word. You cannot be un-born...
As well as our salvation being irreversible, we cannot separate ourselves from God. We are close to God, as christians, having God as a Father, being "in Christ," and being "indwelt by the Holy Spirit." What if we didn't like that closeness, and wanted to severe ourselves from God?
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Well, as long as we qualify as a "created being," that means that we are not able to separate ourselves from the love of God. And yes, hell is separated from the love of God. Very separated from all that is God.
"My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand."
No one. Not your mom, not your dad, not the devil, and not you are able to snatch yourself out of God's hand!
"Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me."
Awesome!!! You can play hide and seek with God, and He'll still find you! You can run from God, but like a true-hearted lover, He will pursue you!
Even if a person wanted to lose their salvation (but why would they?) they couldn't. It just can't happen.
Do these verses say that a child of God can lose their hope of eternal security?
Now, I've posted a lot of thought and scripture that seem to say very clearly that a born-again christian cannot lose the promise of eternal salvation, but I am aware that there are some issues that I have not yet addressed. I'm going to just very briefly respond to a few favorite "proof verses" that people use to try to prove that we can lose our promise of future safety.
Case 1: Fallen From Grace
Galatians 5:4Some interpret "fallen from grace" to mean "lost your salvation," because we are saved by grace. They fail to take into account that we need grace from God every day in our christian walk. To say that those who attempt to do things on their own apart from God's grace to not get God's grace is very logical.
"You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law, you have fallen from grace."
“...God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
God will resist a proud christian, but will give grace to a humble one. Galations 5:4 says nothing about salvation; it speaks of grace. Without reading anything more into the text, it does not at all seem to imply that a christian can lose the promise of salvation.
Case 2: Blotted Out from the Book of Life
Revelation 3:5, Revelation 22:19
"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels."
"And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
Some people take these verses to mean that if you a christian, your name is in the book of life, and if you either don't "overcome" or take away from God's word, that He will take your name out of the Book of Life. Serious stuff.
Now looking at this closely, we see that these verse say two things clearly:
1. God will not blot out (someone's) name from the Book of Life
2. God will take away (someone's) part in the Book of Life
Notice that the first verse does not say that anyone's name will be blotted out. One could figure that it would not say that those who overcome will not be blotted out if it didn't also mean that those christians who don't "overcome" will be blotted out. But what if all christians overcome, through the help/grace of God? That seems to me to be, by far, the more likely meaning, being much more in line with the rest of scripture. People can, and do, interpret it differently, but the fact is, the verse does not specifically say that anyone's name will be blotted out.
The second verse, you may notice, also does not say that anyone's name will be blotted out. It says that someone(hypothetical) will not have a part in the Book of Life. But I can already think of several people who don't have a part in the Book of Life! They aren't saved, and therefore of course don't have a part in the Book of Life. I believe that the verse is saying that God will take away their space - the space that He could have written their name. As we know, anyone whose name is not written in that particular book will be cast into the lake of fire. So, if there is no space to write their name, because the space that could have been theirs was removed, they are doomed forever! So yes, the person mentioned in the verse is doomed forever. Was he a born again christian? The verse does not say that he was, and implies strongly that he was not.
These verses do not clearly say that anyone will lose their salvation. The verses do say that some will be saved, that their names will not be blotted out, and that some will not be saved, that they will not have a part in the book of life. It further describes those who are saved as those who will overcome, and those who are not saved as the type to take away from God's word.
Case 3: Shipwrecked Faith
1 Timothy 1:18-20
"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme."
The first thing about this verse that caught my eye was the reference to these two reprobates being delivered to satan. Does that mean that they were christians, shipwrecked their faith, and then lose their salvation? It that what being handed over to satan means? I decided to look up another verse referring to delivering people to satan.
1 Corinthians 5:5 "Deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
Nowhere is it suggested that being delivered to satan means a loss of eternal security, since us humans cannot determine that, but we can, apparently, "deliver people to satan." The guy mentioned in Corinthians, I am pretty sure, is not saved, since the verse mentions hope of his spirit being saved. The two with shipwrecked faith do seem to be christians who had had faith, but are now in a dreadful situation, far from God, "delivered to satan"(possibly excommunicated), and being taught some sort of lesson about blasphemy. However, the text does not say that they have lost hope of eternal security. As far as we know, those poor fleshly christians, with all their failings and faithless, are still sons of God, whom He will chasten, as Father chastens a sons. Satan may, according to the verses, destroy the flesh, but not the spirit. Once again, this proof verse warns against shipwrecked faith, but does not say that a christian can lose their hope of eternal security.
Case 4: Disqualified
1 Cor. 9:27 “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Ahh, that does sound pretty scary. What if we become disqualified? What are we being disqualified from? Let's read it again, in context...
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
Disqualified from receiving an imperishable crown. Interesting. Also interesting to note his analogy of a competition, when we know that salvation is not at all a competition. So what might this crown be? Does it mean salvation for sure?
"Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved."
People can be a crown... hmmm
1 Peter 5:1-4
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away."
This crown of glory is offered to those christians who do live righteously on the earth, that Paul says he is an applicant for, (a fellow elder) and he also describes as not fading away. This crown seems most likely to be the one discussed in 1 Cor. 9:27. Paul speaks of competitions and of crowns for right living. Why then would anyone think that he is obviously talking about losing the hope of eternal safety? Nowhere does Paul say that were he to be disqualified somehow, he would lose hope of eternal life, the same "hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began."(Titus 1:2)
It seems to me that none of these verses at all seem to say that any person could lose their salvation. I believe that every verse should be interpretted in context with all of scripture, which clearly states many times that the children of God will be saved, and will not perish.
Friday, August 14, 2009
"Meek - evidencing little spirit or courage; overly submissive or compliant"
Now I would say that meekness isn't anything like that. It's much more the opposite! Compliant? Moses was a meek person (Num. 12:3) and stood against the ruler of Egypt! Little spirit? Jesus Christ Himself was meek (Mt. 11:29) and the last thing that could be said of Him was that He had little spirit. As for courage, which of the bravest of us would willing go to the cross?
So what does meek really mean?
Let's look at the original greek word: praus.
That word is used to describe a medicine that brings soothing relief from pain. It is also used in relation to horses that have been tamed. Finally, it's also been used it to describe gentle blowing breezes.
In each case, meekness describes power under control. An unbroken colt can cause serious damage, but a broken one has great power under control. A gentle wind brings relief, but hurricane force winds bring destruction.
Ephesians 4:1-2 instructs us to be meek in our interactions toward each other. That meekness involves gentleness also. (2 Corinthians 10:1) Meekness, then, in our lives is not a lack of strength, but rather a lot of strength, used only for good, and never to harm. To protect, and not to hurt. The more power there is, the more meekness there must be. If a kid was capable of killing people by glaring at them, he would much more quickly than other kids need to learn patience, gentleness and self-control.
But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”Revelation 5:5
Looking again at the example of Christ, He was described as a lion. Lions are epic, beautiful, and very dangerous! One day, we are told, the lion will lie down with the lion. That is not to say that the lion will cease being a lion, but rather to express that a dangerous lion will be protective and gentle toward others, especially helpless lambs. That reminds me, I really like the recent Chronicles of Narnia movies, and especially C.S. Lewis' depiction of the Christ-character as a Lion. It captured beautifully both His meekness and gentleness, even being led to death, and terrifying power which created life won battles.
Meekness is not weakness. No. Meekness is being to crush your opponent, but being merciful instead. But one must also remember that in addition to mercy there is justice. Someday Christ will come back to judge and destroy this earth. A meek ruler is still a ruler who punishes evil.
A non-believer once said "It's going to be fun to watch and see how long the meek can keep the earth once they inherit it. "
But as we can see, even in the analogy of Aslan the lion, a powerful and gentle ruler is truly an awesome force to be reckoned with! It is more scary to stand in the presence of calm power than angry impulsiveness. Now think about that for a moment. Gentle. Meek. Calm. Quiet. Powerful. Those all go together. Anger and frustration don't. Who get's frustrated - the one winning the game, or the one losing? The one losing of course! Those with power have a more naturally calm and quiet spirit.
"Walk softly, and carry a big stick."
I believe that's a good definition of meekness, except perhaps add in there a bit about being loving and gentle to all, but not at the expense of justice. I like this definition personally: God's meekness is absolute power under perfect control. Our power, similarly, should not just be restrained to being tactful in accomplishing our own sometimes unkind goals, but should be restrained in love. Christ could strike any person dead right now, but retrains His power every day because He is patience and loving, tender-hearted, caring, protective, and sympathetic toward us!
That's about all I have to say. Meekness isn't weakness, it's power under control. So go out there and be meek. Your words are more powerful than you know! Your love is more powerful than you know! Your spirit toward people, your looks of either encouragement or contempt are more powerful than you know. You have the power to lift up or to tear down. You are a powerful being! Now go out and use that power wisely!!! Satan wants you to use your power to hurt others, but we are instead to offer our bodies as powerful instruments of righteousness to God. Get out there and live a life of meekness and power! Make a difference - for the side of love!
The world's view of meekness:
My picture of meekness:
Friday, August 7, 2009
The basics of Calvinism are summed up by the word TULIP, which stands for:
Perseverance of the Saints
I’m not an Arminian, so I’m not going to bother going over their doctrine. I once read in a book that before you attempt to prove a point, you must tell your readers what you are not trying to prove.
So I’ll say right now that I’m not trying to disprove Perseverance of the Saints (once saved—always saved) I do believe that the Bible clearly teaches that if a person is promised salvation from eternal damnation, he cannot “lose” that promise. Whatever God promises will come to pass. I am also not trying to disprove God's soverignty, monergism, or original sin.
Now, let me first try to explain further those concepts that I mentioned above and will be arguing against: (These definitions are all copied from a Calvinist website, http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm)
Total Depravity: Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin. The doctrine of Total Depravity is derived from scriptures that reveal human character:
- · Man’s heart is evil (Mark 7:21–23) and sick (Jer. 17:9).
- · Man is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20).
- · He does not seek for God (10–12).
- · He cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14).
- · He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15) and, is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
The answer is, “He cannot. Therefore God must predestine.”
Unconditional Election: God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4–8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).
Irresistible Grace: When God calls his elect into salvation, they do not resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call.
But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God.
Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are:
- Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy.”
- Philippians 2:12–13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual.
- John 6:28–29 where faith is declared to be the work of God.
- Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12–13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.
Here’s how I would sum up these three concepts:
- Total Depravity: Man cannot do enough good to merit going to heaven. In fact, man can, in and of himself, do nothing morally pleasing to God, including having faith. Man cannot come up with the faith necessary for salvation. Man cannot so much as desire God. He is that bad, there is no good in him.
- Irresistible Grace: Among all mankind who does not want God (see above point) some are saved. Since man cannot of himself have saving faith, it is obviously God’s grace that produces that faith in him. Not everyone is saved, obviously enough, and the Bible teaches that God appoints people to believe. Now if God appoints someone to believe, then they will believe, because we know that we can always believe the word of God, the decrees of God, and the promises of God. If God appoints someone to believe, and that must happen, then the grace He gives cannot be resisted. No one trusts Christ as Savior unwilling, though, so we know that God’s grace changes their heart and they desire the Lord. Irresistible does not mean that someone will resist and yet be conquered, irresistible means that God’s grace will change their heart so that they will not want to resist.
- Unconditional Election: We know that not everyone is saved. We also know that works will not achieve salvation. Therefore, when choosing those who will be saved, God does not choose on the basis of who we are or what we do (works) but rather unconditionally, according to the mysteries of His will, which we cannot argue with or question.
Sounds pretty logical, doesn’t it? Now to disagree, where should I begin?
Most people would begin arguing about unconditional election: God’s "cosmic dice" style of determining who will be with Him eternally, and who will be burned alive forever in the lake of fire. But, you see, that point follows logically from the first two points.
A- Man cannot have saving faith unless God gives Him that faith directly
B - If God does give him that faith, he will be saved for sure.
C - Not all are saved, therefore God must only give that saving faith to some. If faith is not the condition, and works are not the condition, there is no condition possible left. The choice is unconditional.
If A and B are correct, then C must be true. So I will start with pointing out the flaws of point A: Total Depravity. I also will cover irresistible grace before I discuss unconditional election, even thought that's not in "TULIP" order. But before I get to all that, I will write out a bunch of my thoughts about God's sovereignty and glory, which is where everyone likes to start!
God is Sovereign! Oh yeh. Definitely. God deserves all the glory in the world, and more! Not only because He is simply all-powerful and able to create life, but also because He is intelligent, creative, humorous, trustworthy, righteous, holy, and, most surprisingly of all, loving and merciful. He could have been an all-powerful God who loves to make people suffer just for fun. But He isn't. He could have been a dumb God who made really stupid laws of physics that didn't end up working so well. But He isn't. He could have been perfectly righteous and holy and still been cool with letting us all burn for our sins. But He isn't. He is so much more awesome than that! He is the great "I AM," the righteous, pure, and loving God. That is amazing. It's simply unbelievable that for no reason that I can think of, the God of the universe just happened to be this awesome - what if some other God had existed instead? Why isn't that the case? I don't know. I don't even understand how our God came to be existent in a universe where there was no other god. It makes me dizzy to try to figure it out. How did He just always happen to be there? Why didn't some sort of sadistic God just always happen to be there? I don't know, but I'm ready to sing and dance and praise God for eternity for being simply being so awesome!
God, having created us, is Sovereign over all. He can do whatever He feels like. Thankfully, He never feels like doing anything evil. God not only is all-powerful, but also refrains from doing everything He could do. He could make the earth crumble at this moment. But He does not. He could make me become ten feet tall. But He does not. I do not disagree with calvinists that God could, if He felt like it, causally determine every human action. I do not disagree that He could, if He wanted, save randomly selected people and leave others to burn. I do not disagree that He could, if He wanted, regenerate them so that they would have saving faith. I do not disagree that He has the power to create some people just to see them burn in hell, to give Himself more glory points somehow. I do not disagree that He could take away free will from every human on earth. I merely say that although He has the power to do all that, although He is sovereign in His reign, He does not use His power to do any of those things. I do not argue that God is not sovereign over all, I only argue about what God does with that sovereign power. I believe that God is powerful and sovereign enough that He could give men free will, and still remain perfectly in control of the universe. He would not lose His sovereignty somehow if He felt like giving men true choices. No, He would still be King. God is still on the throne.
God is sovereign, and deserves all glory. The main reason that I speak against calvinism is because, by misrepresenting God's character, they take away from His glory. They do not glorify Him for being the all-loving Being that He is! They do not glorify Him for being able to Author free creatures, and still remain in control of the world. They do not glorify Him for being tender-hearted, gracious, and merciful. They do not glorify Him for being just. They do not glorify Him for being the great "I AM," without any variation or shadow of turning, but rather claim that He decrees evil and that He is more loving to some than to others. They do not glorify Him for loving and dying for those who He knew would reject Him. They do not glorify Him for being Him, because they confuse themselves with God. They sometimes say that God causally determined that they would do something that, in fact, they themselves determined to do. That's not small. Calvin himself claimed that "every act of man is secretly instigated by God." Thankfully though, that that particular view is not a very commonly held belief. We need to understand God better, in order to glorify Him for being the awesome amazing righteous God that He truly is!
Now the question of free will is a very important one, especially when it comes down to assigning responsibility and blame. A person cannot justly be held responsible for that which he had no choice about. You have no choice about where you were born, and it would be unjust to kill you simply because you were born in America. But even more importantly, if a thing does not have free will, then it acts as an extension of the true actor. For instance, if I flip the light switch, the light will go off. The switch does not have free will, and acts as an extension of me, while I am using it, and therefore it is not said that the lightswitch turned the light off, but rather that "I" turned the light off. If God were indeed Author of our every act, and we only thought that we were determining what we did, then as Author, He would be responsible for the story. If I write a pornographic novel, and fellow christians rebuke me, I cannot blame the main character in my book for the dirty thoughts. No, indeed, that character had no free will, but was, in effect, an extention of me: a projection of my mind. The author, then, is the one with the dirty mind. If God secretly instigated and decreed every act of man, if He causally determined our every thought and choice, then He would be the one responsible for every act of cruelty, deceit, and genocide in history. I dream every night, and there are people in my dream. However, even though they look and act like separate people, they are only an extension of my own mind. Since I determine, subconsciously, their every thought and action, they are not free beings, and are an extension of myself. I maintain, then, that we are separate beings from God. I maintain that God loves us differently than He loves Himself. There is a God, and you are not Him. You are not an extension of Him, like a dream, or a puppet, or a lightswitch. We are separate beings whose actions are not causally determined by anyone but ourselves.
Many people throw around the words "free will," but a good majority of those cannot agree on what it actually means. I will give a working definition that I will be using throughout all my explanations and theories. Despite any talk of two-sides coins, any being's choice only has one determinent: one being that actually determines what choice is made. The chair moves when I push it. Its motion is determined by an external source, and therefore I would qualify it as not having free will. A cat walks across the room. I may have influenced the cat, by calling for it, but its motion is determined by itself. The determinant is internal. Therefore I would qualify it as having free will. Man has free will. This is not to say that nothing can influence him, for many things do. This is not to say that he is not born with a thirst for sin. He is. But because every man's choices are internally determined, man is has free will. God also has free will. He Himself is the determinant for all that He chooses to do. He is, however, more free than we are in power. We can also choose to try to fly. He can choose to try to fly, and actually succeed! However, I must add that God, having free will, chooses to be bound by His own nature. He will always and forever do what is right. One reason that it is important to understand that free will is determined, (self-determined is still determined) is that people always trip over the question of foreknowledge. How can God know something for sure about the future, if the future could change, was random, or free? God can know the future, for certain, because every one of our acts are determined. Those acts, though determined, are free because we are the ones to determine them.
I think that it is very important, in order to understand the rest of the story, to understand the beginning. In this case, I am referring to the earth before the fall of man. That was the beginning. That was a time when God looked at everything He created and called it "good," it was a time when God would walk with man in the garden. Why is this important? Don't we already know all this? Well, first of all I think that it is very important to note that in God's ideal set-up, man had free will. Man was able to choose whether to climb a tree or walk on the ground, to disobey or to obey. Why is this? Perhaps it's because God wanted to actually relate to humans. Christianity is only religion that teaches that people can have a relationship with God Almighty. The only religion that teaches of a God who, for some reason, loves people, and wants to interact and enjoy their company.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."Revelation 3:20
So, after all that, man fell and it was a huge disaster that is still tearing apart all of mankind. God, because He is loving and just simply awesome, chose to interact again with humans, and to help them. He still wants man to exist, to be in fellowship with Him, and to choose to want Him instead of sin.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!"Luke 13:34
Also, there is the question of the origin of sin. Satan sinned, and so did Adam and Eve. Did God cause them to sin? There is no scripture to support that, and in fact many scriptures which claim that God does not look on evil, tempt people, and is not anything but pure from any point of view. Who made them sin? Well, I think the only possible answer is that they themselves caused themselves to sin. Three logical possibilities:
- -God caused a created being to sin
- -Someone God didn't create caused the created being to sin
- -The created being caused itself to sin
This brings me back to the concept of God's will. You may remember that I said previously that God is Sovereign. I still stand by that. Now, a person may fairly ask, if God is sovereign, why do evil things happen in the world? If God wants people not to murder each other, then why do people murder each other? Is it because God's moral will commands people not to murder, but with His sovereign will, He decrees that people do murder each other? I would have to say no. That's more like what the devil does. With one hand, he offers happiness, and with the other hand, he takes away happiness. Like abusing hard drugs. God is the great "I AM," and what He is, He is. He is just to one, He is just to all and for always. He is love to one, He is love to all and for always. We know from the scriptures that He is not only righteous but completely Holy and Pure.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."James 1:17
It's as simple as me and brownies. I want brownies. I want to be healthy and not weigh too much. I can't always have both. My complex will is what I choose to do: I only eat brownies every one in a while, because I want to be healthy and skinny more than I want to eat brownies. My simple will is any simple statement of will, without reference to any other desire. My simple will is to eat brownies. Why then am I not eating brownies while I write this blog? It is a mystery! It's because I have so many things that I want that I act according to my complex will, my integration of all my desires, after sorting which ones are most important to me. God does not like evil, but allows it because, apparently, even more than He wants evil not to exist, He wants His creatures to have freedom, He wants them to choose to ask Him for help, and He allows them to make their own choice, even if it includes doing evil. One must keep in mind, however, that He is patient, but not permissive. He will allow it only for so long, and then will destroy the earth with fire. It is not God's simple will that happens, but rather the counsel of His will.
"According to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."Ephesians 1:11
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."Romans 8:28
Sometimes, God even directly intervenes, to make sure that His will happens. He does not, however, seem to enforce His will by "secret instigation." I see throughout the Bible and real life that He seems to prefer straight-forward external methods of persuasion. For instance, do you remember the time when God wanted Jonah to go to Ninevah, and Jonah didn't want to go? Did God respect Jonah's choice and just give up on His own plan? God forbid! Did He override Jonah's free will, or give Him some irresistable grace or something? God forbid! Instead, He simply made a storm, and then had Jonah swallowed by a big fish, who transported Jonah to exactly where God wanted Him. Now Jonah, in the belly of the fish, finally sorta repented and agreed to do what God asked, even though he really didn't have the best attitude about it. I'll come back to that point later. God used eternal methods of persuasion, and let Jonah choose for himself what choices to make. Consider missionary biographies as well. I've read several accounts of supernatural protection. God wants the missionary to remain alive, and some people want to kill the missionary. Does God give up His plan of keeping the missionary alive? Of course not! Does He choose to over-ride human free will, "restrain the evil in their hearts," or give them irresistible grace to do right? Again, no. The stories always say that He physically retrains them. One time the missionary was guarded by nine angels, who the bad guys could see, and fled from. Another time, an attacker raised his arm, holding a knife, but then was unable to move his arm! God's plans happen. That's right, and if God's plans include man having free will, that's going to happen too!
Going back to the story of Jonah, you might notice in the story that God loved those Ninevites more than Jonah did. This should not be surprising, because usually men love others less than God loves those people. I would even argue that God loves each person more than any other person loves them. God is love. There is no love more perfect than God's love. This point was probably my first reason for rejecting calvinism as unbiblical. Throughout the Bible, I see God as a loving God. God is love. There is no way in which He is not loving. We are told that God hates the wicked, (Psalm 11:5) but even in hate, God is pure and loving. He hates the wicked, yet died for us wicked people so that we would not longer be wicked, but would be a new creation.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us."Romans 5:8
Years later, calvinism tells me that the only reason she didn't repent was because God didn't feel like giving her enough grace that she would even have the option of crying out for help. She wasn't saved because God didn't really want her to be saved enough to do anything about it. How could that be? How could it be that I would give my life for her, but God could have saved her with no extra cost to Himself, but didn't want to enough to choose to? How could it be that I loved someone more than God did? I would have, for no extra cost, saved her. (Except, of course, for the undeniable fact that I would want salvation to be conditional upon faith - as God truly does) But not taking into account free will or choice, I loved her enough that I would have saved her, and God didn't? That is not a scriptural view! The only true love I have is from God! If I love her that much, it is only because that love is from God, and God loves her that much. He loved her enough to be willing to give His life for her, and that is the only reason that I loved her that much.
One objection that people sometimes have to the teachings of non-calvinism is that the doctrine is too comfortable, and therefore people only believe it because they are unwilling to face the hard truth. Well, you know, it's not really my fault that God is so awesome that the truth is so much more awesome and wonderful than untruth! It's not my fault that the God of the universe just happens to be so amazing that people think He's nothing but a fairy tale. It's not my fault that He made up all these comfortable doctrines: that we are all loved, that we can know for certain that we are saved, that we can spend eternity in HEAVEN, that the Being who made the universe has no flaws at all, etc. Sometimes the hard truth is facing the fact that the truth isn't as hard as you think it should be. The jews stumbled over the same problem: the hard truth was that the way to gain salvation wasn't as hard as they thought it should have been. Prostitutes able to go to heaven! Imagine that!
Looking back across the post, I have to admit that it all seems rather poorly explained. To fully explain any of these paragraphs, complete with piles of Scriptural support, I would need a chapter for each point! Someday I hope to actually write a book about it all, and I'll have a chapter for each topic. Meanwhile, for the purposes of this particular group of posts about calvinism, I'm going to have to be content with a more sketchy explanation of all these questions and concepts. I will post, later, more extensive blogs covering each concept covered only breifly here, and if any of you want more explanation/verses for any of these topics, just ask me, and I'll either message you a long and cohesive response, or post a blog about that topic.
One other point I should add here, while I'm randomly rambling about random calvinist topics, is the idea that I do believe in monergism. I do very strongly hold to the idea that God saves us through His own power, without any assistance from us. It does not depend on us, it depends on Him. Now God, being a picky sort of fellow, does definitely have some conditions for who He likes to save. God, being God, has conditions, and who are we to answer back to Him and tell Him that He can't? These conditions, whether they be having red hair, or having faith, do not help save us at all. God saves us, single-handedly.
Let’s start with what everyone agrees on: Man was created perfect. Man chose to sin. Man is now sinful and imperfect, cannot in his sinful state come into a perfect heaven before a holy God, and deserves eternal separation from God in Hell.
Here’s the disagreement:
- A Is there any good left in man?
- B Can man desire God?
- C Can man, without God’s direct intervention, having saving faith?
A. Is There Any Good Left In Man?
I’d say yes. There is good in man. Man was made “in God’s image,” and sin scarred that and twisted that, but man still has some of that good that God placed in him. Man has a conscience, which is good, but he may choose to ignore.
Even the most obvious sinners showed virtues: If a murderer killed someone carefully or diligently worked to kill many, he showed carefulness or diligence, both of which God designed as “good.”
Man is valuable, as taught in all of Jesus’ stories, his parables. In the story of the lost sheep, that one last sheep, though disobedient, had value enough to justify the shepherd leaving the 99 and seeking diligently after that one.
This value is from whatever part of “God’s image” that we still have, for God does not go to such trouble to rescue animals, which were not made in His image. Therefore, although we are imperfect, we have good and value left in us from whatever God made us, originally, to be.
We are desired by God. To say that is not boastful, because whatever good we are comes from He who made us. If we have intelligence of beauty, we know that God gets the credit.
We must have some good if God desires us so wholeheartedly!
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, And speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there, And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, As in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
'And it shall be, in that day,' says the Lord, 'That you will call Me "My Husband," And no longer call Me "My Master,"'"Hosea 2:14–16
"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well."Psalm 139:14
"For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, nothing good dwells."Romans 7:18
"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?"Jeremiah 17:9
We are entirely imperfect, but there remains good in us. Not that we can save ourselves with that good, but that the good that remains in us points toward the most amazing creator: God.
The verse that says “in my flesh, nothing good dwells” may seem to say that there is nothing good in us, but think for a moment. What is meant by flesh? We as Christians are told to live according the spirit, and not according to the flesh. Does that mean that we are to no longer use our bodies, mind, will, or emotions? Of course not.
It means that we are to no longer listen to our old twisted sinful unregenerated spiritual man: the “old man” that Paul talks about in Romans 6. We were spiritually dead, which means that our spirit is where the sin nature dwells.
When we were regenerated and given spiritual life, we have a new spirit: a true spirit which is always alive and with God. The flesh, then, that “old man” of sin that Paul talks about, is our old sinful and dead spirit. that has nothing good in it. Nothing at all. When we die and go to heaven, we will be free from it forever.
"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"Romans 7:24
That may have confused you, but let me recap: In your flesh is nothing good. That means that your old nature, which is that part of you that still haunts you and tempts you to do evil, has nothing good in it.
There still is good in the rest of you: In your conscience, mind, will, emotions, body, and in your heart: all of which were designed “fearfully and wonderfully” by God.
B. Can Man Desire God?
I say yes. Man cannot save himself from sin or reconcile Himself to God, we know that, but there is nothing to say that a man cannot want God.
"There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God."Romans 3:11
"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God,
nor indeed can be."Romans 8:7
The unsaved man cannot submit himself to the law of God, and thus be at enmity with God, but he could wish! Many cannot win the lottery, but they wish.
"For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness."Romans 6:20
"Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You."Psalm 73:25
And then they ask me: How can a dead man want anything? Well, when you think of death, maybe what comes to your mind is a limp body that can no nothing."And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins."Ephesians 2:1
Perhaps “inability” best described what you think of, but this is not the scriptural meaning of “death.” Death is separation.
Man spiritually died when his spirit was separation from God, we die physically when our bodies are separated from our spirit, and the final death is when a person is separated physically and spiritually from God eternally. The idea that death means inability is a pagan concept, which comes perhaps from a person who sees another person drop dead, and notices that the dead guy is no longer able to move or so anything. From a biblical point of view, however, that death was merely the separation of body and soul. Dead men can desire things. Remember for a moment Lazarus and the rich man: they both died, and after that the rich man was asking Abraham for stuff:
“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’"Luke 16:27-28
"But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear."Isaiah 59:2
C. Can Man, Without God’s Direct Intervention, Have Saving Faith?
People will babble on and on about saving faith and how it is imputed to us by God and is morally good. But what is faith? Is it actually good? When asked what faith is, many people will recite this:
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."Hebrews 11:1
That tells us what faith acts as, or what it’s used for. Faith is used as evidence. Faith is used as a foundation for hope. But what is it made out of? As far as I can tell, faith is a belief and a choice. That’s why faith without works, which is a choice, is not faith at all. According to James, “even the demons believe.” True faith is defined in terms of a belief and a choice:
"That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."Romans 10:9
Believe plus a choice to confess. A belief and a choice. That what faith is. One kid once described faith as “choosing to believe what you know ain’t so.”
But no, faith is something that happens everyday. I have faith, that when I click “publish post,” this message will posted so that you can read it, and so I choose to spend a lot of time recording my thoughts. The people at the grocery store believe that the money I gave them is not fake, and so they choose to accept it in exchange for merchandise.
Even people who hurt other people have faith. My sister believes that if she kicks my knee hard enough, I will experience pain, and so she chooses to kick me. All this is faith, and what’s so “morally good” about it?
What determines whether the faith is good is what that faith is in. If I have faith that my airsoft gun is empty, and choose to point it at my brother and pull the trigger as a joke, but the gun is not empty, then that faith was bad.
On the other hand, if I believe that the airsoft gun is loaded, and chooses not to shoot my 6-year-old brother, then that faith is good. Faith, in and of itself, is not helpful or unhelpful, morally good or morally bad.
Anyone can have faith, and everyone has faith in something. Faith in Christ as Savior is helpful and good only because what the faith is in, Christ, is good. We can come up with faith in Christ or faith in anything else.
When I got saved, it was selfish—nothing “morally good” about it. I was in trouble, I was raised to believe that God could save me (belief) and I choose to ask Him to help me (save me) because I couldn’t get out myself!
That’s the same act that is done by a crook who gets arrested and then, having faith that his friend has enough money to bail him out, chooses to call his friend and ask for help. When a crook does that, we call it selfish or irresponsible.
When someone asks God for help for the same reason, people call it “morally good.” This is illogical, and has no scriptural basis. We can have faith in God. Anyone can have faith in God, and anyone can repent. God commands everyone to repent.
"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked,
but now commands all men everywhere to repent."Acts 17:30
And we know that whenever God gives a command, He gives the ability to follow that command. God commanded Moses to lead the Jews out of Egypt, which seems impossible, but God made a way. Christ commanded Lazarus to come forth from the grace, which also would be impossible, but God made a way. God does not give any command, but makes a way for us to do it; a way for us to avoid disobeying Him.
Some, reading this opinion of mine, will say that I believe in works-based salvation, that man can save himself, or that it means that man is in control, rather than God. I can assure you that nothing is further from the truth."No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."1 Corinthians 10:13
Man can do good, sure; man can repent, sure; man can desire God, sure; man can have faith in God, sure; but none of that can make someone good enough to go to heaven.
The blood of Christ saves, and it is only because God is gracious enough to offer that to us that any of this even makes a difference! God is in charge. God is one who determines who He wants to save, and it is He that saves us. Monergism. He determines who to save, conditionally, because He has every right to be picky.