The Training Table: “Got Chaos?” REMEMBER! God Has a Providential, Purposeful, and Personal Plan.
Welcome to the Training Table where you can depend on some spiritually-nourishing chow, carefully prepared, to help you run the Godly and good race! For what good is a good race, unless it’s a Godly race (1 Corinthians 9:24)?
If there is one thing that I am really good at it is having a keen eye for the obvious! And one of the most obvious things going on in the world today is the increase of chaos… Chaos as the new normal… Chaos of virtually any and every form… Whether it be spiritual, or emotional, or psychological, or physical… The breadth and depth of chaos in the present time is very likely unprecedented.
So what are we to do about it?
Even though there are many messages that God might have us remember in times of tumultuous and/or teeny-tiny chaos, a fundamental truth of God is that there are foundations, a Foundation, that will never crumble, leave us, or forsake us—as it is as reliable and sure as the person and promises of God Himself. Period.
It does not matter whether it be the most intimate or the most ultimate form of freefall or freaking out… God knows we can only thrive while living on a foundation… And therefore He has assuredly and mercifully provided it.
As many of you know I wrote a book which in part takes into account “free falls and foundations”. The feast at the Training Table today consists of a very meaty part of my book that is offered as a remembrance to the book’s target audience: “Christians living in a culture of comfort”: Much of the Western church, in particular, has been in a much too comfy place for so long that when suffering of most any kind occurs we are left as gaping, wide-eyed, and surprised as the world—which is largely unconvincing in its claim in a belief in God… while knowing very little about Him.
Please be assured in the midst of any chaos, God has put in place the foundation of His redemptive plan that nothing in heaven and earth can destroy.
The Weeping, the Window, the Way
God’s Redemptive Plan
Have Peace: There’s a Person, a Promise, and Perfect Plan in Place
“One of my favorite passages of the Bible is a simple, yet supremely important promise, For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33, KJV). No, the God of the Bible is not a God of chaos or disarray… he is the God of order. His plan for our salvation creates peace within our heart, our spirit, and our life. Do you want God’s person, peace, purpose, and plan in your heart?
A variety of issues at work in our culture, our churches, and our own hearts today can give the impression that the people of God are as uncertain and confused as the world around us about the Bible, the God who inspired it, and his redemptive plan. Sometimes this uncertainty and confusion tempts the church to entertain substitute theologies or to flail in antagonism at those who espouse the True Truth of the Bible.
Uncertainty and confusion, along with their first cousins, worry and anxiety, are killers of the human heart. God created us in his image, to love him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Our hearts were not made for confusion. Please, beloved, don’t blame God for the confusion and uncertainty his people sometimes express. And don’t let it stir up doubts in your heart concerning his plan for your salvation. God has made nothing truly important to be a mystery to us. He does not intend to confuse you.
The fact is, God loves the world and has devised a very specific plan for it—The Plan of Redemption. How illogical would it be for the one who so carefully created you—the one who made you the culmination, the pinnacle of his creation—to leave you twisting in the wind, confused and despairing, over issues of life’s chaos, eternal life, and death!
No, God has displayed the truth about his awesome person, plan, story, and glory in what he has done to rescue us, his beloved image-bearers, from the misery, pain, shame, and fear that befell us when we fell into sin. Human beings have long tried to resolve this problem by creating religions and schemes by which we reached out to God, presenting to him supposed “good works” by which to merit his favor. These efforts never provided more than momentary, hollow relief. And they resulted in only hearts more hardened still.
Pursuing peace with God by any means other than the means of redemption he himself has provided always results in hardening and hiding. Only God’s Plan of Redemption creates the Shalom [everlasting and complete peace] our hearts most deeply desire. Only that plan demonstrates for you and for the world God’s deep delight in you!
The Good News is that the God of the Bible has done everything necessary to secure for us peace with him and within us. He offers it freely to us as a gift—a free gift of God’s grace, a gift that cost God the life of his one only Son. God expects us to receive that gift with realistic self-awareness, brokenness, repentance, relief, joy, and a deep gratitude that bears the fruit of righteousness and devotion.
Please don’t cheapen that gift by proposing to add your own merit to it. Rather, just receive it! Receive it as the free gift God intended it to be.
To help you unpack that gift with deeper appreciation and hope, I have included an explanation of various key facets. A few pages cannot begin to exhaust the beauty of God’s redemptive plan. Nor can it hope to delve deeply into all the details. But it does explain that plan in broad and biblical strokes. While my words are fallible, the plan itself cannot fail! It is built on the character and promises of God.
Read on to discover the unsurpassed joy of knowing more deeply the infinite, yet intimate God who is at work in you and for you, the God who wants you to receive the spectacular benefits of his redeeming work… If you are in Christ.
[As a reminder, the 8 points below are not only biblical, infallible doctrine, the unbreakable promises of God Himself, you can put your UTMOST TRUST IN… But they are also sequential: God is a God of reason, of strategy, of planning, of an undefeatable, indefatigable, inexhaustible, relentless, PLAN OF REDEMPTION; it is linear; it is ultimately ascending, but there are certainly up’s and down’s along the way; it has a beginning and an end. No matter what… No matter what… No matter what… kinds of chaos this broken world either bludgeons or ultimately blesses you with, in Christ God’s Plan of Redemption will never leave or forsake you!]
1. Effectual Calling—This is the supernatural work of God’s Holy Spirit, by his own sovereign and free will, to convince a person of his sin and misery, enlighten his mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renew, persuade, and enable him to embrace Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel. “This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.” (Westminster Confession of Faith; see also Matthew 22:14; John 6:37; Romans 8:7-9; 30; 9:11; 1 Corinthians 1:9; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; and 1 John 3:1; 3:9; 5:1)
2. Regeneration—This work of God is closely, yet mysteriously, linked with his effectual calling so that the two could conceivably be considered one simultaneous work of God. It is distinguished as that act of God’s grace whereby he supernaturally implants a new, Christ-aware heart and spiritual life in us so that our internal spiritual governance changes. It “carries with it the operative grace whereby a person called is enabled to answer [God’s specific and effectual] call…to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel.” (Berkhoff, Systematic Theology) This supernatural work of the Triune God working separately and in union is frequently illustrated in Scripture as God’s gift of a new heart, a heart that is alive and honorably responsive to Biblical truth. It is God’s work alone that initially changes the heart, and yet Christians are called to evangelize and make disciples. This apparent contradiction or tension is God’s to command and ours to obey, nonetheless. (See: Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26-26; John 1:13; 3:8; 6:44-45; 1 Corinthians 2:5,12, 14; 2 Corinthians 3:3, 6; 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:1, 4, 18; James 1:18; and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)
3. Faith and Repentance—These actions are demonstrated only by those whom God has first effectually called and regenerated. They are interdependent so that faith leads to repentance and repentance requires true faith. Faith, therefore, consists of knowledge, conviction and trust specifically in Christ as Lord and Savior as he is presented in the gospel. (See: Isaiah 45:21-22; Ezekiel 33:11, 18:23, 32; Romans 19:17; and Ephesians 2:8) Repentance, most simply, means “to turn.” Christian repentance is a specific kind of turning. It happens when we are first made aware of and grieved by our sin and our utter confusion apart from Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We then hate the sin and turn away from it to Christ for mercy, forgiveness, and the grace for new obedience—all based upon gratitude and no longer hoping to earn merit of any kind for ourselves. (See: Thessalonians 1:9-10; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 2:37-38, 5:3; Romans 6:2, 6; and Hebrews 6:1)
4. Justification—How can sinful people be just or right with a holy God, and therefore justified before our Judge? This also is a work of God alone and is a gift from him, a gift freely offered to those whom he effectually calls and regenerates. It has to do with how we are made just (legally right, righteous, or “at peace”) with the God of the Bible. More specifically, justification is an act of God’s free grace which takes place at one specific point in time. It involves his freely pardoning all our sins and declaring us righteous, not based on anything we have done, but solely upon the righteous life and sin-paying death of Jesus Christ. (See: Deuteronomy 25:1; Psalm 89:15-16; Proverbs 17:15; Romans 3:14, 20, 4:2, 10:3, 8:33-34; Galatians 2:16, 3:11, 5:4; and Philippians 3:9)
5. Adoption—“But as many as received him, to them gave he the authority to become children of God, to those who believe in his name” (John 1:12). We become children of God because he bestows that right upon us. He gives this right to all who believe on Jesus’ name. God adopts believers in Christ, and we become his own children. This adoption is the embrace of God made possible by justification. In this joyous movement of God, he receives those he has justified as his own children, puts his name upon them, gives his Spirit to them, and binds them to himself forever for his care and protection. (See: Matthew 6:9; Romans 8:15-16; 1 Corinthians 2: 9-10, and Galatians 4:6)
6. Sanctification—This is a continual work of God’s grace that begins at justification and ends at glorification. As the word implies, sanctification involves God’s “scrubbing program,” carried out by him as he graciously and sovereignly applies the realities of the Gospel and the various Christian disciplines to the hearts of his regenerated, justified, adopted, and faithful people. In so doing, God works to release us from the power of sin and grows us up to be more like Christ, both in our inward thoughts and outward behaviors. In regeneration, God gives us new hearts. In sanctification, he nourishes and strengthens that new heart, sheltering it so that it may grow as a tender vine to full, fruit-bearing Christian maturity. (See: Matthew 5:48; Romans 7:22; 1 Corinthians 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:54; Phil 3:21; 1 John 2:16, 3:3, 4:4, Deuteronomy 30:1-10; John 14; and the Book of Titus)
Christians are called to be willing participants with God in this grand work of sanctification, much like a little child is called to cooperate with his mom who is giving him a bath. Cooperation does not necessarily or ultimately determine whether growth happens. But it does certainly determine the joy and depth of the endeavor to the one sanctified. True Truth and one’s obedience, as it has its way in the re-born human heart, sanctifies it. In contrast, when falsehood and disobedience has its way, it condemns, defiles, desecrates, and disintegrates our hearts.
Ultimately, we are sanctified and made more holy, not for ourselves, but for service. Sanctification sets us apart for serving God by serving those around us—just as Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve. We grow more and more like him as God applies the Gospel to our lives, day by day.
7. Perseverance—Like all that has come before, perseverance has to do with God’s work in and for his adopted children. Many mistakenly pivot perseverance on a new Christian’s dutiful discipline or continued faithfulness. While these things are essential to our experience of security in Christ, they do not determine it. Perseverance is a work of God whereby he seals and secures his adopted children as such to the very end, to glorification. This Christian teaching glorifies God in his kingly power to keep his children spiritually safe in his arms for all time. It is upon this platform of divine security that an adopted child of God joyfully, not fearfully, nourishes his relationship with Christ and freely, not full of guilt, serves him.
The lesson of the seed sowed on rocky ground, (Mark 4: 5-6, 16-17) is that the seed took root and sprang up, but when the sun rose, it was scorched (the heat of the battle) and brought forth no fruit. It did not persevere. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Everyone who is truly called is called to persevere. As Paul wrote, Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
8. Glorification—If justification is God’s freeing his people from the penalty of sin, and sanctification is his freeing us from the power of sin, then glorification is his freeing us completely from the presence of sin. Even more, glorification is God’s giving us, his beloved, adopted children, other indescribable gifts as well:
• Impenetrably holy souls.
• Unfettered and direct access to God himself.
• Complete freedom from all sin and misery, and pure and unending pleasures of immeasurable magnitude.
Like justification, this is an instantaneous change that will take place for the whole company of the redeemed in Christ when Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. He will descend from heaven with a shout as he triumphs over death, the last enemy:
Oh death, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting? (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
Rejoice, Peter writes, insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13). Glorification has cosmic proportions:
According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Union with Jesus Christ: The Context for all God’s Work
If anything is clear from the Plan of Redemption described here, it is that God alone is the Initiator and actor. He either does the work directly (as in justification), or he makes that work possible (as in faith and repentance).
While we have a duty to respond to his actions, what should be equally clear of is the absolutely astounding fact that God gives us a new heart and everything that flows from it as free gifts and expects us to receive them with joy and gratitude. He gives them despite the fact that we are so undeserving. In fact, we deserve precisely the opposite!
Still, you may be asking, “Since I am so undeserving, how is it that God offers me these gifts?” Good question! He offers them to you based on something called “union with Christ.” In brief, this is a phrase the Bible uses more than 160 times to describe God’s working an “intimate, vital, and spiritual joining together of Christ and his people, in virtue of which he is the source of their life and strength, of their blessedness and salvation.” Adopted children of God receive his blessings because Jesus deserved God’s blessings. Since God put us in Jesus, we get to enjoy God’s blessings, too!
For example, in Jesus by faith, we died with him on Calvary’s cross. In Jesus by faith, we rose with Christ when God raised him from the dead. Similarly, all the other blessings that come along with the new birth belong to us, all because the Father has placed us in Christ. Celebrate these astounding provisions of God today!
Union with Christ is the central truth in the whole doctrine of salvation. All to which the people of God have been predestined in the eternal election of God, all that has been secured and procured for them in the once and for all accomplishment of redemption, all of which they become the actual partakers in the application of redemption, and all that by God’s grace they will become in the state of glorification is embraced within the compass of union and communion with Christ. Not only does the new life of regeneration faith, repentance, justification, and adoption have as its inception being in Christ, it is also continued by virtue of the same relationship to him.
For now, we live in Christ as we go about our everyday activities. It is in Christ that believers are dead to sin and that we are resurrected. When Christ returns, the union will be complete. Glorification with Christ at his second coming will mark the beginning of that consummation as Jesus makes all things new and ushers in the New Heavens and New Earth.
Amen! And Amen.” (John Dozier, WWW, emphasis added)
A Few Closing Assertions, Encouragements, Exhortations…
- Amidst the chaos of this or any time, it is the born-again, Bible-believing Christian’s responsibility to wake up each and every day to humbly yet boldly march into the chaos as a co-redeemer in Christ. God’s love, God’s truth, God’s doctrine as found in the Bible is the only foundation we can rest on AND use as a platform to move forward—into the chaos—from.
- In the chaos—even in the church today [the relativistic culture have infected every institution]—many would have us believe that doctrine divides… that no True truth exists. This is a lie either of ignorance, arrogance, or from the pit of hell. Rather, it is true, in fact, that doctrine—God’s True Truth and Love—is the only thing that unites!
- It is the world’s, the flesh’s [our own sin], and the devil’s [yes, he is alive and well] ways to cause division amidst the chaos; it is God’s aim to cause His people to unite and stand firm against the chaos, to be God’s light in the darkness and salt to stem the decay, in the name of the One who has conquered the chaos for time and eternity, Jesus Christ.
- In any period of macro or micro chaos in our personal life or the life and lives of people and civilizations all around us, the very first temptation to enter into our hearts and emotions is one of forgetfulness. And if we forget God’s universal yet personal Plan of Redemption we are like all others in this fast decaying and dark world: Living life in a freefall… Kicking and screaming in mid-air… Weeping and wailing from the existential vertigo… This is no way to live. And this is why one of the most often used words in the Bible inspired by God and penned by its authors are the words remember, remember, and remember… My beloved people!
- God’s Plan of Redemption has a universal, historical, and objective purpose associated with it. BUT must be internalized on a highly personal story line, and subjective basis. It’s Absolutley True… But is it true for you?
- The Bible—as well as our own personal experience of living as human beings—is emphatic about the fact that we cannot live a meaningful life devoid of hope, assurance, and a peace that transcends the chaos of this broken world… while we redeem it. Can we live in denial and distract ourselves from the existential angst and spiritual, emotional, psychological despair of living a hopeless, anchorless, and pointless life? No question! The array of distractions, addictions, and mind-numbing alternatives is practically endless. But no human being can do it indefinitely… And certainly not eternally.
- The abstract reality of God’s Plan of Redemption is true and everlasting, but it is vitally important to know and to internalize that each Christian’s story line—you and me—our personal experience of the person of Jesus Christ, His Father God, and the person of the Holy Spirit is lived out in each of the “steps or phases” of God’s Plan of Redemption:
- Over time, as you and I grow up in Christ, we are provided innumerable opportunities to see the details of our own, personal, intimate story line… WITHIN God’s effectual calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance… And finally glorification! It’s True… Is it true of you?
Rest… Stand firm… Assured… As you urgently and compassionately step into the chaos each day to love and serve those who are soldiering with you as well as those who have not yet come to know the Lord… and see their personal story in God’s universal Plan of Redemption.
God’s Plan Before the Ages Began