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#337 SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON #8 GENESIS 12:1-9
CHOSEN FOR GODLINESS THROUGH GOD'S SOVEREIGN GRACE
As we begin our study of Genesis 12:1-9, it would be wise to ponder the meaning of the word "Genesis." It means "a beginning; origin; creation". We cannot understand the significance of the entire gospel message until we understand Genesis 1-12. I can see why Satan wants the churches to exclude the book of Genesis from the Bible. In so doing, Satan is trying to take away the very foundation of the gospels. Why is this so significant?
We read in JOH 1:1-3, "In the beginning was the Word [This teaches the authority of Gods Word. Many today gainsay the Word of God, arguing and excluding many parts.], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."
Now consider GEN 1:1-2. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." When the new creation takes place in the soul, it is identical to the original creation. The spiritually dead soul is dark and void. It is the natural state of man which so many in our day want to deny.
What do we see as the very first step of creation? "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," where all was in a state of confusion; "the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." Likewise the very first step in the new creation is the Holy Spirit moving in the natural heart where there is confusion, deadness, and darkness. The Holy Spirit moves first and makes us willing in the day of His power. He moves first, not the will of man. The second thing to take place is, "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light," GEN 1:3. The very beginning of the Holy Spirits work in the heart of man is also, "Let there be light." He takes away the spiritual darkness.
See JOH 1:1-3: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." This is not only true in the first creation, but it is also true in the new creation. When the Lord works a new creation in a persons heart, making that person a new man, it is the Holy Spirit that moves upon the soul. It is the Word of God that is light. The light shows us the depravity of our hearts, and that Christ must be lifted up. The substitutionary death of Christ is our only hope. This light comes through the Word.
If all things are made by Him, then who is the author of our salvation? We learn the answer from Genesis. This 12th chapter of the Book of Beginnings tells of the third great beginning of events. First, chapter one tells us of the beginning of time and the creation of all things by the Word of the Lord. The beginning of the human race is found in chapter two. GEN 2:7 tells us, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." In the new creation, the exact same pattern is followed. He teaches us we are formed of dust, spiritually dead; then His breath of life is breathed into the nostrils of man by the Holy Spirit, and man becomes a living soul.
So it is in the new creation. We have become spiritually dead through our shameful fall; and when the Holy Spirit quickens us by grace, He breathes into us the breath of life, and we become a living soul. The living soul knows hunger and thirst after what? After the world? No, we do that when we are spiritually dead. The living soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness. That longing desire is to be restored into the perfect image of God. We fell from that image, and now the soul hungers for restoration.
We read of the second great beginning of events in GEN 9:1, "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." After the first great beginning of the human race, they apostatized to the extent that the earth was filled with violence and people who had absolutely forsaken the Lord. The Lord destroyed that generation with water. Now the second great beginning occurs. Noah is commanded by God to go forth, be fruitful, and replenish the earth.
As soon as they began to multiply, they began to build Babel. They built a city in rebellion against Gods command to replenish the earth; they would not spread out over the face of the earth. They decided to build a tower so they could always see the way back. They did not want to obey the Lord. They again rebelled against the Lord.
What happened? When the second world also forsook the Lord, they began to serve idols. This time the Lord did not come with waters to destroy them, but He came with confusion of language to scatter them as He had originally commanded.
The third great beginning of which we read of is the beginning of a chosen nation through Abram that would serve Him. The Lord allowed the Gentile nations to live in apostasy, serving idols, and forsaking the Lord. In this third great beginning, this peculiar nation through Abram was chosen to serve God. It is a type of His chosen race, His church, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
GEN 12:1-3 says, "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy fathers house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." That is the third great beginning of events; the Lord has chosen, out of a sunken generation, a people for His service. They are to serve Him, not self or idols.
As we learned from the history of Babel, mankind had again corrupted themselves before God. Therefore, God gave them over to themselves. History repeats itself concerning this matter. In ROM 1:16-32, we see the awesome judgments that follow when God gives man over to himself! Read those verses carefully and compare those judgments with the condition of our present generation. We must examine our own hearts. Do we walk in our own ways in stubborn rebellion? If so, we quench the Spirit, and the Spirit withdraws, allowing us to walk in our own way. This is also found in ACT 14:16, "Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways."
In this lesson, we can see the richness of Gods sovereign grace. Satan would have us choose between Gods sovereignty and mans free will. This deception is an attempt to nullify Gods Word and lead His people astray. Satan divides by having them choose one or the other rather than see the harmony between the two. Satan loves to divide and send people into the barrow pit on either the right or the left side of the road. Another sermon will deal with the great harmony, not conflict, between the two principles.
In this sermon, however, we are concerned with Gods sovereign grace as seen in EPH 1:4-7. "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world [Those who are in Christ have been chosen by God, the Father, before He ever created the world. How much did we contribute to that? We can claim absolutely no merit. People can get so mixed up in the doctrine of sovereign grace, the doctrine of election. Why did God choose us? Did He choose us to serve the world on the way to glory? The rest of the verse answers that.], that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." He did not give us over to ourselves to work out our own destruction; He chose us to follow a godly walk in this life. Why? "To be without blame before Him in love." Abrams generation was guilty of idolatry and walking in utter apostasy, but God had a people that He loved. What is His first token of that love? Showing them the sinfulness of sin, He revealed His love by not allowing them to continue in sin. The Lord chose them unto holiness to be "without blame before Him in love."
Continuing with verses 5-7, we read, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Notice that verse 7 comes after verse 4. First, He tells us for what we have been predestined. It is important to see the chronology.
Look at ROM 8:29: "For whom he did foreknow [those whom He loved from eternity], he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." Now we can see to what we have been predestined. If we are walking in the ways of the flesh, the Lord comes with His chastening hand to show us we may not go out to destroy ourselves like the heathens. Do you see Gods sovereign grace in this matter? We are predestined to walk in His law of love, and He will use His chastening hand to bring us there. We can be rebellious, but it only means more discipline. He deals with His children as children; He does not allow them to walk in their own ways. This is the scriptural teaching on predestination.
The history of Abram gives us such a blessed revelation of Gods electing love and how He chose Abram in Christ "before the foundation of the world, that [he] should be holy and without blame before him in love." We must understand that this blessed electing love revealed in Abram was a mystery to the Gentiles until the gospels revelation in Christ. It is also a mystery to the world when they see a family or individual in whom God is working His grace by using His chastening hand to bring about a godly walk of life. The world sees the hardships a family or person endures, and they see a complete change of attitude. Old pleasures are no longer pleasurable. It is a mystery; they do not understand it. Abram was a mystery to the Gentiles.
In COL 1:25-27 we read, "Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." What is the mystery? It is Christ formed in you, the hope of glory. When God works His regenerating grace in the soul, it is such a mystery to all their friends and acquaintances. What went wrong with that guy? They dont understand it. Why? The knowledge of Christ in you, the hope of glory, has been concealed from them.
This word "mystery" comes from the same Greek word "musterion" as the word "mystery" in REV 17:5 with reference to the "MYSTERY BABYLON," which means "a secret, kept silent, or silence imposed." In other words, the revelation of the truth of the matter has been withheld from these Gentiles; that is why they dont understand. The Lord has revealed it "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles." Now look at verse 26, "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints." Notice that the revelation is not made to the world, but to His saints. The mystery "...is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
That is where predestination comes in; we are predestined to have Christ formed in us. That is the gospel; that is the sovereign grace of God. Gods saints fully understand why God does these things in their lives; it is to crucify the old man of sin in order that Christ may be formed in them, the hope of glory.
Before any person will ever rightly understand this mystery of the gospel, "...which is Christ in you, the hope of glory," there must be a right understanding of the principles taught in Genesis 1-11. There we see the power and the authority of the Word of God, the purpose of Gods creation, and the fall of man. Our predestined purpose, as Gods creation, was to serve God and be the reflection of His character. Until we understand this principle, we do not understand what it is to have Christ formed in us, which is our hope of glory.
We were created in the image of God, but we lost that image when Adam sinned. Christ formed in you is the renewing of that image of God in which we were created. ROM 8:29 says, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." When we understand this, we understand Genesis l: 1-11, because there we see the purpose of our creation and that the fall of man caused us to become spiritually dead. We see our need for Christ to be formed in us, that we might be conformed to His image.
No person can have a right understanding of this third great beginning of events, i.e., Gods chosen nation, until the first two are rightly understood. We must first understand the purpose of Gods creation in the first great beginning. Then we must see the total depravity of man after the second great beginning. God had spared Noah and his sons, but they in turn corrupted themselves in a manner equal to those who had been destroyed in the flood. They had the same nature of apostasy.
GEN 1-11 is the preface of the whole book of Genesis, but it is also the preface of the whole Bible. It is the foundation of the entire Bible. Until those revelations are understood, we cannot understand the plan of salvation. The plan of salvation is to reconcile man unto God.
The word "conciliation" means a state of perfect harmony. So we must understand the state of harmony before the fall before we can understand re-conciliation. If we dont understand the foundation found in Genesis, we cannot understand the gospel.
To illustrate the importance of these first chapters, one might rightly say, "As the root is to the stem, so are chapters 1-11 to the book of Genesis; and as the trunk is to the tree, so is Genesis to the rest of the Bible!" If you remove the root, there cannot be a stem. If you take Genesis 1-11 out of the Bible, you dont have the gospel. The entire significance of the Bible would be lost.
Until we understand Genesis 1:1-3, ["1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."], we will never understand Gods plan of salvation and the work of regeneration. Those three verses teach us it was by the power and authority of the Word that God created all things.
Remember when Lazarus was lying in the grave, it was the power of the Word of the Son of God that brought Lazarus to life. JOH 11:43-44a says, "And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth..." It is the power of the Word that brings life. It is so important in the preaching of the gospel that we instill the Word into the gospel. That is where the power is. The quickening power is in the Word.
Now see the blessed harmony in the New Testament teaching of the work in the heart. Turn to EPH 1:17-19: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him [Where do we receive the knowledge of Him? It is only in His Word. We must understand the essential element of the authority there is in the Word.]: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power."
Where do we receive the knowledge of this? It is in the authority of the Word. As we begin to see this, it is the understanding being enlightened. How does this happen? "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light," GEN 1:3. It is the power of the Word that enlightens the understanding. However, if we develop a religion outside of the Bible, we are outside of Gods Word and plan.
This "...spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him," can only be obtained in proportion to our growth in the knowledge and reverence of the authority of THE WORD, which is Christ.
The wisdom or insight of a human being goes no deeper than God grants. We must go to the Word to get our enlightening, not to any human theologian. I have a high respect for the works of godly men, but I dont put them above the Bible. Take their works, compare them to the Bible, and decide if they are true.
I find these old fathers are much like Moses, Peter, and Abraham, who were flesh. Why did God allow Moses to sin to the extent he could not even enter the Promised Land? So we dont worship Moses. Why did the Lord allow Peter to curse and swear and deny he ever knew the Lord? Why was Peter allowed to go to the extent that Jesus said in MAT 16:23, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." Why did the Lord say that? It was so you and I do not worship Peter. Why did the Lord allow these old fathers to be imperfect? It was, "That no flesh should glory in his presence," 1CO 1:29.
I read the works of our forefathers, and I glean much from their works, but I try to be as wise as the men of Berea. I search the Word to see if those things are so. What do I find? So often, I find these highly respected men are far from perfect. So it is with my work. No human being will be allowed to glory before God. This is something we must understand from Genesis l. From the beginning, the authority of Gods Word is supreme; He enlightens the understanding of men through the Word.
As far as the Word of God is my authority, I become like John the Baptist; I am the "voice of one crying in the wilderness," bringing forth the Word of God without any private interpretations, Cf. MAT 3:3. This is so significant because there is nothing to be seen in a voice. No flesh shall glory before God.
The Lord laid this powerfully upon my heart when He called me to preach the gospel. JER 15:19 states, "Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth..." What is more precious and powerful than, "Thus saith the Lord."? What is more vile than human reasoning or anything that is added to or subtracted from the Word of God?
The beginning we see in GEN 1:1-3 is the exact replica of the new creation when God works grace in the soul. Christ, being the perfect image of God in our human nature, glorifies our heavenly Father. The Lord Jesus Christ, in our human nature, fulfilled Gods purpose in this station, the station from which man fell. God created man. GEN 1:26 says, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." God would be glorified therein. Why? Man was the representative of Gods character. It is as if God were ruling over all of these things.
Look at EPH 1:20-23 and see how the Lord Jesus Christ represented the true character of the Father in our human nature, "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet [God put Jesus Christ in the station He created for man, putting all things under His feet. Adam left his station; Adam fell. Now the Lord Jesus Christ is placed in that station.], and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." Jesus has now fulfilled the purpose of Gods creation. Christ has accomplished Gods purpose for man. He created man for His glory. He created man to serve Him and to be the representative of His character and person on the earth. We see the purpose of Gods creation recorded in GEN 1:26 and the fruition of it in EPH 1:21-23.
Without understanding mans shameful fall recorded in GEN 3:6, we could never gain a right knowledge of Gods blessed predestining love recorded in ROM 8:29-30. In GEN 3:6 we read, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." That is the record of the shameful fall. In ROM 8:29-30 we read, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."
Do you see the blessed image of the Son of His love? He came in our human nature to fulfill the purpose of Gods creation. He came for much more than to bleed and die to take away the penalty of our sin so we can go to heaven. He came to fulfill the purpose of Gods creation; it was the glory God purposed in the creation of man. Jesus had to take away the penalty in order to be in the right station. After Jesus had fully taken away all of Gods wrath upon our sin, He placed Him in the station Adam was created to fill.
Without a right understanding of GEN 3:8-10, one would never see the beauty in Gods sovereign pleasure in predestining you and me unto holiness. In GEN 3:8-10 we read, "And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden [See Gods predestining love. Adam and Eve would never have returned unto the Lord, but He sought them out.] And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? [Adam didnt come crying to the Lord to beg forgiveness for sinning and for Gods mercy; God sought Adam hiding among the trees.] And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
We need to rightly understand those verses, or we will never understand the predestining love of God calling you and me unto holiness. The reason God must seek man first is that man will not turn back to the Lord on his own. It is only the drawing power of the Holy Spirit that works in us to will and do of His good pleasure. We need to understand the meaning of salvation. It is when the Lord comes with His Holy Spirit into our hearts to will and do. We are predestined to holiness to will and do of His good pleasure.
GEN 4:7 says, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." In this we see the result of mans shameful fall and the righteousness of God in the destruction of all flesh.
ROM 1:16-17, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. [There is great power in the gospel; it is the power of God which draws us out of the fallen condition, out of the state of apostasy, out of the state of spiritual deadness and darkness. It is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.] For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. [The power of God draws us to the cross where the righteousness of God was poured out in His holy wrath upon His only Son.] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness."
In the gospel, when we see and understand the power of God, we see the righteousness of God revealed in pouring out His wrath upon Christ for our sin. Mount Sinai only drives man away, but when our eyes are lifted up to the cross, we see the righteousness of God revealed on the cross and in the Garden of Gethsemane. We see that God would rather have His Son pay the penalty than let one sin go unpunished. We see how righteous God is. That revelation of Gods love toward fallen sinners in the unspeakable gift of His Son to die in our place is the drawing power of the gospel.
As we stand in holy amazement and reverence for what we learn from the first beginning, then we look at the second beginning with Noah and his sons. Therein we see the awful lesson of mans total depravity. We see how the generations could again turn from the living God after they had been delivered in the ark from the massive destruction of the world. They turned to serving idols and away from the living God. That teaches the total depravity of man.
Now, in the third new beginning, what do we see? We see it was only Gods sovereign grace and electing love that He chose Abram. Abram was also serving idols. We look back at these lessons to learn there is a connection between Genesis 11 and Genesis 12. It is deeply significant! The Lord had decreed to have a people of His own, whom He had called by grace; but He also had decreed to first repudiate all humanistic claims of free choice. How? It was by giving men over unto themselves. God never used compulsion to serve sin; He merely left man to himself.
How could man return to God of his own free choice? We see this in ROM 1:28-32. "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful ." That was the state of man at the time God called Abram. After having just been through the flood, they knew the judgment of God as we read in the next verse, "that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." Thereby God repudiated all claim of any human choice in their own salvation. Salvation is wholly of the Lord.
Before the time of the flood, we read of the apostasy of the human race and yet, how God chose one man whom He saw righteous before Him. GEN 6:5 says, "And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
After the flood, for Christs sake, God entered into covenant with fallen man which we read in GEN 8:21-22, "And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for mans sake; for the imagination of mans heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." Christ is the sweet savour; Noahs offering pointed to Christs blessed atonement. Now for Christs sake, God would never again destroy the whole world.
It was not until after Gods judgment upon the world for rebellion at Babel that we read of the third great beginning of events, i.e., the beginning of a chosen nation in Abram. The world had again rebelled and was in a state of total confusion. Now we have the third beginning of events. It was the chosen nation.
The beginning of these first two great events spoken of in Genesis 1-11 must be rightly understood to comprehend the righteousness of God in free and sovereign grace, and of sovereign grace alone. Gods choice of Abram was not for any works he had done which merited Gods esteem! The cause of election must always be traced back to Gods own foreknowledge, i.e., eternal electing love as Paul said in ROM 11:1-8, "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. [Paul is pointing out that he would have destroyed himself as he was destroying the church, thinking he was doing Gods service. He is telling them to look at what God did to him.] God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. [He thought he was alone, not knowing God had reserved thousands. The only reason we have the gospel today is Gods free and sovereign grace. He has chosen a people to bring under the gospel while allowing the rest to perish in their sins.] And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day."
Do you see wherein the mystery lies? "And the rest were blinded." It was kept secret from them. They were never given an understanding of Christ formed in them. They were not predestined to holiness. Therefore, they were left to the sin of their own hearts. The mystery of the gospel is that the Lord has blinded the eyes of those who are not of the election of grace. They can sit under the same teachings as those who are elected, but the Word is withheld from them.
Does this teach fatalism? No. Does it justify those who do not believe in predestination saying that would mean God is unjust because they want to be saved and cant be saved? No. It does not teach any such thing. Does it cause despair of Gods grace for those who desire to walk in holiness and to be saved but cant because they were not predestined to it? No. Let me show you what we need to know. First, we must keep everything in context with the gospel.
Jesus said in MAR 8:34, "And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." The whole problem with those who are not saved is that they will not; it is not that they cannot. There is not one place in Scripture where the Lord says He will not let people deny themselves, take up his cross, and follow Him because they are not elected. The fault lies with us. It is because we will not. Our rebellion has never been broken; we are still rebellious against the will of God. "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself," and that is what takes grace. Until you and I understand that God comes with His grace in our hearts and gives us the grace to deny ourselves, that ugly monster, Self, will continue to stick up his filthy head. There can be no self-denial to our own damnation without grace.
What does it mean to "take up our cross?" That means to daily cut off everything that serves our fleshly desires and ourselves. Why? It is because we have a desire for holiness. If our will has been changed, if we desire holiness, if we desire to be delivered from the power of sin, that is evidence that we have that new desire by the grace of God. That is only obtained by grace, i.e., "Divine influence upon the heart which reveals itself in the life," as the word "grace" means in the original Greek.
When our hearts desire is delivered from the power of sin, sin becomes our greatest enemy. That is grace. That is the work of regeneration; it is our evidence that we are following in the steps of holiness. It does not mean we are perfect; it means we have received a new heart, a new desire, because by nature, we do not want God to reign over us. By nature, we are as written in ROM 8:7-8, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." We are filled with bitterness and hatred against the Lord by nature.
When we will come after Him, when we will deny ourselves and pick up our cross to follow Him, we have our evidence that He has worked in us to will and do of His good pleasure. Who can come against Gods sovereignty to predestine those whom He has loved from eternity unto holiness? Who will ever argue that God is unrighteous because He did not come with His chastening hand to tear their flesh away from the things of this world to bring them to walk in holiness. It is by Gods chastening hand that He disciplines His children and breaks their will to accomplish His grace in them, causing them to desire to walk in the way of holiness.
Do others see that discipline and envy them? No? Who can say God is unfair when they would not desire that persons portion? People can see a person being taken through the furnace of affliction and not envy them at all. However, like Balaam, they would say, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his," but they have no desire to live the life of the righteous! NUM 23:10.
It is grace that makes one to will and do. It is a mark of grace to desire to live the life of the righteous. How can we say the Lord is not fair after one has refused Christs own blessed invitation to "...deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Him," in the way of holiness? That invitation is to every human being. Every human being that refuses that invitation will have his mouth stopped from coming against the righteousness of God in the Day of Judgment. They will not be able to say it was because they werent chosen. The invitation is to all. "Whosoever will!"
No person who desires to be conformed to the image of Christ need to despair of Gods grace. Any person, who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and desires to be delivered from the power of sin, need not despair of Gods grace. See the blessed invitation Jesus gave in MAT 11:28-30, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Notice the invitation is to ALL that labor and are burdened.
Jesus does not say for all the elect to come. He says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden." Under what are they laden? It is under the load of sin. When we know we are laboring under a load of sin, we will have a desire to be delivered from it. Look again at that blessed invitation. It goes out to all that labor and are heavy-laden. Every person who has that hungering and thirsting, not just the elect, will find rest. Now look at the next verse. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me." What does that mean? It means to come under His service. Stop serving the prince of this world. Stop serving the ugly monster, Self. Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him. What do we learn of Him? He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. You and I must humble ourselves, become obedient unto death of self and sin. It means putting to death everything of the flesh.
ROM 6:10 says, "For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." We are to learn from Him; He died unto sin. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall [not maybe] find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." There is no maybe about Jesus invitation; those who are burdened by sin, heavy laden, will find rest. Jesus said it. Notice the comfort in "will" and "shall."
Where does faith come into exercise? We start believing what He says, and we begin acting upon it. What is that? We now have to obey and take His yoke upon us. What makes His yoke so easy and His burden so light? That new desire that accompanies grace makes it our greatest delight to do the will of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. PSA 112:1, "Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments." Amen.
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