DO I HAVE A FREE WILL ?

Rom.8:6,7 – For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.

How free is your will anyway? Do you always get to decide everything that your “will” wants? I know children have to have their will subjugated to their parents or really bad things would happen. Everything from eating way to much sugar to falling off the house and breaking a leg comes from bad choices from an unrestrained will. I remember watching a young boy at a restaurant eat an entire bowl of butter without a correcting word from his parents. His will needed to be reigned in. Maybe you don’t eat bowls of butter but without the intervention of Christ our fallen will seems to make many bad choices in life. Actually, the main result of the fall of man has to do with his free will. What happened? Our wills became ensnared by the fall; the result? We no longer had the moral capacity to make good spiritual choices. We were hopelessly separated from our Creator with unspeakable ramifications. Here are some thoughts from R. C. Sproul on our fallen will.

“When John Calvin was engaged in a dispute over free will with his opponent Pelagius in the sixteenth century, part of the debate concerned the nature of the human will. Calvin agreed with a definition of free will which holds that even in our sinful condition we have the power and ability to choose what we want. He did not agree with the definition of free will as the ability to choose from indifference, because we are all held captive by the propensity to sin. Calvin agreed that we do have free will in the sense that we have the ability to choose what we want, but that ability to choose is not only mildly influenced but is radically conditioned by the human corruption of our hearts, out of which flow the choices we make. In other words, we make evil choices not from indifference but from a prior inclination to wickedness.”

So what do we do about that “prior inclination to wickedness”? The will is obviously effected deeply by the things we love and enjoy. This is where the secret to freeing that will lies. What we love and desire in life has to change. That’s where grace comes in. The incredible attraction of the love of God is what brings us freedom from enslavement. What do I mean? When Christ comes into our lives we start loving different things. We love the Bible, and Church and worship. The foolish pleasures that had us ensnared suddenly lose their attraction.

HIS CHOICE

Ps.65:4 – How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You

To dwell in Your courts.

We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,

Your holy temple.

Before we came to Christ we had no idea what being close to Him would be like. We didn’t even know that was possible (at least I didn’t). All the unbelievers think about in regard to Christianity is the supposed rules they have to adhere to and the carnal pleasures they no longer can indulge in. This verse of scripture shows the blessedness of being one of His chosen ones. Jesus said it very plainly, “You have not chosen Me but I have chosen you”. Before we come to Christ we are living in a state of slavery. We are enslaved to our sinful passions. That is part of what happened to mankind as a result of the fall. Our wills have been ensnared by sin; as a result we always made the wrong choices. The only way out is to be struck or chosen by His electing love. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“We are chosen of God, according to the good pleasure of his will, and this alone is blessedness. Then, since we cannot and will not come to God of ourselves, he works graciously in us, and attracts us powerfully; he subdues our unwillingness, and removes our inability by the almighty workings of his transforming grace. This also is no slight blessedness. Furthermore, we, by his divine drawings, are made nigh by the blood of his Son, and brought near by his spirit, into intimate fellowship; so that we have access with boldness, and are no longer as those who are afar off by wicked works: here also is unrivalled blessedness. To crown all, we do not come nigh in peril of dire destruction…, but we approach as chosen and accepted ones, to become dwellers in the divine household: this is heaped up blessedness, vast beyond conception. But dwelling in the house we are treated as sons, for the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever.”

Once you fall into the grasp of the love of God you find yourself enamored with the presence found in His house. He chose us to be with Him. He loves us and we love to be with Him. I have to agree with David,

“How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You

To dwell in Your courts.

We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,

Your holy temple”.

DID I CHOOSE HIM OR DID HE CHOOSE ME?

John 15:16 – You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

This is one of those doctrines people have fought about forever. You know, the free will thing. Did I choose Him or did He choose me? If you disengage your preconceived idea about free will you will see clearly in the scriptures that He actually chose you. It’s the choosing part that gets us confused. In order to understand freedom of the will you have to go back to the garden and that tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is quite apparent that something tragic happened when our first parents ate from that tree. What was the effect on us? I believe it twisted us, especially in our ability to choose rightly. Our free will became enslaved. That’s why we often know and want to do right but find ourselves right back in the dumper of compromise and sin. It is the grace of God that liberates our will. How are we chosen, it is the work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. Here is R.C. Sproles and Jonathan Edwards on this topic.

“God used Jonathan Edwards mightily during the eighteenth-century Great Awakening in New England. Edwards was a firm believer in the doctrine of election. He believed that unless God had chosen a person, elected him to salvation, that person would never come to faith. Nevertheless, he pled, cajoled, and scared people half to death, telling them to repent and come to faith, because he did not know who was numbered among the elect…..Some heard Edwards and asked, “What if I am not elect? What should I do?” Edwards said, ‘Be in church every Sunday morning because you do not know that you are not elect, and you should do everything you can do in your fallen condition.’ Edwards said there is nothing people can do to incline themselves to the things of God. They cannot muster from their hearts true repentance unless the Holy Spirit changes their souls, but they can hear the Word of God and know that they are going to be judged at the end of their lives.”

It happened to me at the lakefront in NOLA in 1973, the scales came off my eyes and my will was set free. Has it happened to you? How would you know, by testing the inclinations of your heart.

YOU MAKE ME SICK

Rev. 3:15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.

Rev. 3:16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

 

That’s one thing you never want the Lord to say about you, “You make me sick”. That verse always reminds me of a prophesy in the book of Amos: 5:23 “Take away from Me the noise of your songs,

For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.”

The Lord told the people of Israel through Amos that He was sick of their services. Whew! You thought you were the only one that got sick of church. Can you imagine? Even God was sick of the services. That’s when you really know you need a change. The Lord is not so much about how professional or talented the music is or how dynamic the preaching is. What is He after? He is after the heart. He just wants it to be real, not perfect. Here are some thoughts on today’s verse from Jonathan Edwards.

 

 

“The Scripture distinguishes mankind into three sorts: those that are cold, who are those that have no appearance or show of religion and are not to be looked upon as visible Christians; and those that are hot, those that are true Christians, that are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, that have within them that holy ardor and engagedness of mind in religion that has been spoken of; and those that are lukewarm, that is, those that make a profession of religion and have some show of religion, but are not thorough in it, are cold, dull, and lifeless, are an indifferent sort of professor, have no great concern about the honor of God and interest of religion, who are not true Christians and never will be accepted of Christ as some of his if they continue….The lukewarm Christians are more hateful to Christ than the openly profane, than the very heathen that make no pretenses to religion. Christ declares expressly that he had rather men should be quite cold than only lukewarm…. As the stomach nauseates lukewarm water more than either cold or hot, so doth Christ abominate lukewarm Christians that are destitute of Christian zeal in religion.”

 

That really takes a lot of pressure off. All of us are not that talented but we can all be real. The Lord would rather endure the passionate off key singing of one of His children than the professional hirelings that have no passion. Rather than the Lord being sick of our songs He comes and sings and rejoices in the midst of His children.

LOST 2012

2012 “LOST”

Luke 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

We at Victory Fellowship have named the year 2012, “LOST”. We feel the Lord intensifying His call to follow Him in seeking and saving the lost. Have you ever been led by the Lord to pursue the unsaved aggressively? In our tolerant, seeker sensitive, relevant world; evangelism can be considered intolerant or narrow minded. How dare us impose our beliefs and values on anyone else. Don’t you know that everyone’s opinions and beliefs are valid and just as significant as yours? At least that is what the world believes. For those who know Christ and listen to His voice, you know the time is now to reach out to the hurting, confused, and disillusioned who are around us every day.
How would one know that the Lord is calling you to reach out to the lost? Its really quite simple. It often starts with a growing compassion for an individual or a group of individuals. Every time you see this person (or persons) or even think about them there is a growing compassion for them. Sometimes its as if you can even feel their pain. This is a sure indication that the Lord is calling, equipping, and anointing you for this opportunity for evangelism.
This reminds me of my wife Parris and her love for hurting young women. All throughout our Christian journey, Parris has talked about having a ministry for these hurting young girls. This compassion (some would call it a burden from the Lord) resulted in the forming of a rehab ministry called Mary’s Song. The result of yielding to this affection and passion for hurting young women has been a steady stream of girls giving their lives to Christ, being nurtured and discipled 24 hours a day, and finally reentering their world with a new faith, a new confidence, and frankly, a brand new life. There is nothing that compares to the joy of seeing the lost found, to see them discovering a love for Christ and beginning a brand new life.
Have you ever felt a love for someone or a group of someones that you do not know? If you have, be assured that this is the work of the Holy Spirit. All that is left for you to do is to yield. This compassion from the Lord is supernatural in nature and is a guarantee for success in the area that the Lord is calling you to. Rest assured, if you yield to this calling from the Lord, you will not be alone. You may be surprised at others who are feeling the same thing. Obviously, if the Lord is involved in this strange kind of love, He is speaking to others as well. Maybe He is calling you to work with young women, Mary’s Song always needs help. Maybe, He is calling you to reach out to the homeless, there is a group of people that do that on a regular basis here at Victory. Could it be evangelism in the inner city that is pulling at you, every Friday night there is a team on the streets at Broad Street in New Orleans. The opportunities are endless; from prisons to hospitals, from child evangelism to ministry in the retirement homes, there is a place for you to reach the lost.

PLEASURES EVERMORE

PLEASURES EVERMORE

John 4:10,14 ¶ Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water. Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Let’s face it, sin is pleasurable. As a matter of fact, the Bible confirms it. But it also reveals sin’s flaw, the pleasures of sin are fleeting, they don’t last. Hebrews 11:25 ESV “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” No matter how much you enjoy your sinful pleasures, one day the music stops,and as they say, you have to pay the band. The problem with these carnal pleasures is their addictive nature. Sin always takes you further and keeps you longer than you intended. There is a way out but it is different than most people would ever imagine. How can one escape, why the solution is a greater pleasure of course. We must fight fire with fire. The only sure, permanent escape from the snares of carnal bondage is the pleasure found in Christ Himself. He is altogether lovely and there is joy and contentment found in Him. Sam Storms wrote about this freedom found in the pleasures of God. Check out these powerful words.

“How do you fight the pleasure of sin? I’ll tell you: with another pleasure. Holiness is not attained, at least not in any lasting, life-changing way, merely through prohibitions, threats, fear, or shame-based appeals. Holiness is attained by believing in, trusting, banking on, resting in, savoring, and cherishing God’s promise of a superior happiness that comes only by falling in love with Jesus. The power that the pleasures of sin exert on the human soul will ultimately be overcome only by the superior power of the pleasures of knowing and being known, loving and being loved by God in Christ. Or again, the only way to conquer one pleasure is with another, superior, more pleasing pleasure!”

Maybe this all sounds strange and foreign to you. That’s okay, the natural man can never imagine joy that is real and lasting outside of his physical experiences. But all of us know, there is more to life than what we see. There is a real spiritual world. Your heart was made for that world and nothing else and nothing less could ever satisfy your heart. Christ came to earth, He suffered and died to restore us to God. That is the place of ultimate contentment, in the presence of the Lord. So if you are trapped in one of this world’s snares of sin there is a way out for you. The way out is not human will power or just trying to do better. The way out is through yielding your heart totally to the Lord.

JUST DIE

Just Die!
Merry Monday by Parris Bailey
There is a saying over at Marysong, our women’s restoration center. When the girls begin to all harmonize about their hurts, issues and what have you- Debra McNabb yells—JUST DIE!
A.B. Simpson says it like this, “Perhaps, you say, How can I reckon myself dead when I find so many evidences that I am still alive, and how can I reckon myself risen when I find so many things that pull me back again to my lower plane? It is your failure to reckon and abide that drags you back. It is the recognizing of the old life as still alive that makes it real and keeps you from overcoming it. This is the principle which underlies the whole Gospel system, that we receive according to the reckoning of our faith. The magic wand of faith will lay all the ghosts that can rise in the cemetery of your soul; and the spirit of doubt will bring them up from the grave to haunt you as long as you continue to question. The only way you can ever die, is by surrendering yourself to Christ and then reckoning yourself dead with Him.”
We have been bought with a price but then He comes condescending to us and waits for our voluntary surrender. This will take the rest of our lives, surrendering and reckoning ourselves dead. While at Bible school we were often sent tree planting in the mountains of Oregon. Tree planting always happens in the winter months. I believe I can still feel the cold! Ha ha. I remember one of those trips, I was probably 17 years old, with my toddler son living in tents for months at a time. This particular day I received a precious letter from my sister in law who was a new Christian. I walked into my tent from the cold pouring rain to read it and noticed our sleeping bag was soaking wet. The air was damp and Jeremy was cold, our diet of starch had my weight under a 100 lbs. Hot tears begin to roll down my cheeks—it was one of those days. The next thing I knew was that somehow my contact fell out from all the tears. There was no holding back my torrent of frustration. Realizing finding the contact was a lost cause I finally opened the letter and begin to read the following scripture. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” What seems like a random scripture became like living manna to me that day in that cold, rainy, wet tent with a toddler and a contact in one eye! It was time to die! Again! Funny how even now the circumstances seem so real but yet the presence of God even more real. I knew that that season wouldn’t last forever. I was hungry and cold but even more hungry for God to do His work in me. As you can see we came down out of those Oregon mountains in one piece and only had His grace to thank.
Through the years we all have had circumstances and situations that can rock our world. It will turn over our apple cart, so to speak, or even be a season that becomes our turn to roll in the barrel. I found out that day, years ago, that we are not alone. Let’s read in Duet.33:12 “And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders. And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew,and for the deep that coucheth [to crouch (on all four legs folded, like a recumbent animal); by implication to recline, repose, brood, lurk, imbed: – crouch (down), fall down, make a fold, lay (cause to, make to) lie (down), make to rest, sit.” Did you read what I just wrote? He coucheth in the deep. Your depth of despair, your depth of pain. What is your part? JUST DIE! When you do, He is there.