Sunday, September 21, 2008

God holds us responsible for what we can NOT do

Really. Something completely counter intuitive to most people yet unambiguous in Scripture is that God holds us responsible for what we CANNOT do. Let me show you at least 4 verses (notice the language).

First, Old Testament.
Jeremiah 6:10-11, "Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it. 11 Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in."

Hosea 8:5, "My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence?"

Second, New Testament.
Romans 8:7-8, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

1 Corinthians 2:14, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Most people say that God couldn't judge us if he also "elects" us (i.e. if we are unable to believe for ourselves). The problem with this philosophical presupposition is the Bible. The reason most people don't accept this is that we don't understand it. Let me offer a little help from my favorite dead guy, Jonathan Edwards (in Freedom of the Will)

(Carrie tells me that pictures keep people interested in blogposts...still interested?)

There are two kinds of inability. Simply saying we can't do something is too vague. There is "moral inability" and "natural inability". By "natural ability" we refer to those things we normally think, "I can't speak Chinese", "He's tied to a chair", "He's blend and can't see", etc. By "moral inability", think of a mom. She is unable to kill her kids. A child abuser, on the other hand, because of his heinous desires, is "unable" not to hurt people. Yet in both of these instances, we definitely do praise to mom and blame the criminal precisely for their inabilities. Take the supreme examples...God and Satan. God is unable to sin. Satan is unable to be righteous. Yet, shall we say that God is therefore NOT worthy of praise or Satan blame? Of course not. This kind of "inability" has to to with the love of our heart, the passions of our wills. We always do what our will finds the best option. Even the suicidal person thinks killing himself is better than living; we suffer long hours on the job because we think in the end it's better than being homeless and hungry. Notice even the language in the Jeremiah passage above, they "cannot listen" because they take no pleasure in His word. People get this topic wrong because people get the two kinds of "inability" wrong.

As Romans 6 say, we are ALL slaves to something, either sin or righteousness. We do what our master says. We are slaves to our fundamental passion. Therefore, we must have God graciously grant us "new cause [us] to obey..." (Ezekiel 36:26-27). As Romans 12:3 says, faith is a gift. 2 Timothy 2:25 and Acts 11:18 say, God must grant us repentance.

Two contemporary Christian songs that celebrate this reality and thus the manifold wonder of his grace are Caedmon's Call's "Thankful" and Shane and Shane's "Beg". If you are a Christians, enjoy his grace on your life today! If you are not a Christian and you are reading this, call out for mercy, "help my unbelief!" He is a gracious God!
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