Counting the Omer

Leviticus 23:15-16 (NASB)
15 ‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord.

When Adonai instituted the Passover celebration, He also used it as a marker to count towards the next festival. This counting of days is the Counting of the Omer or Sefirat HaOmer.

The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a Sabbath day. Beginning the day after that, on the 16th of Nisan (this evening), G-d commands us to count out 50 days. This span covers seven weekly Sabbaths over spring.

This 50th day is known as Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks. It is traditionally accepted to be the time of Adonai handing down the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

The Counting of the Omer, then, marks Israel’s time of deliverance from slavery in Egypt to their sanctification before the L-rd.

For us today, the Counting of the Omer is a time to prepare ourselves for the gift of G-d’s Word. Just as the barley fields were ripening for the spring harvest, we should prepare our spirits for G-d’s harvest. To ensure that we are an acceptable offering to Him.

We can take this time to reflect on our lives and our relationship with HaShem. Are we where we need to be according to Scripture? Do we need to make changes in our devotion, meditation or prayer time? How do we treat our neighbors?

With these and other questions, we test ourselves against the Word to see if we are walking a righteous path.

The Counting of the Omer also reminds us that we are called to be workers in the harvest fields.

When Yeshua spoke to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4), He planted a seed that not only brought her into the Kingdom of G-d but also sent her into the field to bring others in.

Her messages was simple, “Come see a man who told me all things. Is this not the Messiah?”

As she and others poured out of the city to come to Him, He looked out over the valley and remarked to His disciples, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”

May the Ruach HaKodesh always move our hearts so that we can recognize fields that are ripe for harvest.

Blessed are you, O L-rd our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who prepares us to receive Your Words of Life.

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Irresistible Grace

Irresistible Grace is the fourth point of Calvinism.

Despite the name, it does not mean that man is unable to resist the will of G-d or the work of the Ruach HaKodesh. We know from both Scripture and from observing human nature that man is very capable of resisting his Creator. Both the believer and unbeliever will have moments when they turn aside from a corrective action or instruction from G-d.

Instead, irresistible grace refers to the calling of the Spirit to regeneration. The quickening of a dead spirit to a live one, or the turning of a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

In basic terms, it is that one of the elect cannot reject the calling of G-d to salvation.

This is also known as effectual calling, referring to the effectiveness of the Spirit in the lives of those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 13.8). Yeshua said that, as the Good Shepherd, He would lose none of His sheep (John 10:27). Those that are His will answer His call at some point in their lives and respond favorably towards Him.

Irresistible grace is only one step in the process of coming to our Messiah. It is the regeneration of our dead spirit into a living spirit that can worship and serve the Creator.

Even after our calling, we are still capable of sinning. Of desiring to go our own way from time to time. Of seemingly turning our back on the One Who gave everything for our salvation.

But it’s never in open rebellion against Him. It’s never unforgivable.

There are two callings of the Spirit mentioned in the Bible.

There is the external calling that is universal. This is nature calling out to the world (Psalm 19) so everyone may know the attributes of G-d; His eternal power and divine nature.

It is the believer explaining the Gospel. Sowing seeds into the field so that some may grow and bear fruit. Some seeds will be harvested while others will be collected for the fire.

The Apostle Paul says this is so that each one may be without excuse (Romans 1:20) when facing judgment by the Almighty.

There is also an internal calling. The Spirit uses this to compel our dead spirits to accept and believe in the Messiah. It pierces our hard hearts and brings into us a faith so that we can believe the words and promises of G-d. This regeneration allows us to to put our faith in Yeshua so that we might be saved.

This salvation is an act of the Grace of G-d and is not dependent on us. We are saved through the grace of G-d, not by our own works (Eph. 2:8-9).

Grace is an unmerited, or unearned, favor given from the strong to the weak according to the need. It is suitable charity handed out willingly and freely.

The irresistible calling is not hyper-grace.

Hyper-grace is a sub-movement that has flown through history since the days of the Apostles. It shuns all manner of obedience to G-d’s Word, seeing it as a “work” of salvation. Nothing is expected from the believer except for an initial confession of faith. Any type of intentional good work is considered an effort to earn your way into heaven.

In effect, they are actually saying, “Let us sin so that more grace may abound.”

Scripture instructs us otherwise. The Word tells us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires. To live sensibly, righteously and godly (Titus 2:11-12). To be active in our pursuit of holiness.

Paul specifically spoke out against the hyper-grace teaching in Romans 6. We have died to our sins he tells us. Our old self has been crucified to sin. We are free from it due to the sacrifice of our Messiah. While we still have a sinful nature that is tempted to break G-d’s commands, we are no longer known as sinners.

Due to our walking with the Messiah, our sins and faults stand out even more to those around us. A moment of anger, an outburst of frustration, or the giving in to a sinful habit can cause us to stumble in front of others. We may even be labelled a hypocrite due to a single, sinful act.

But the attacks of the world prove we are different from them. You don’t attack a friend, only an enemy. Just as hasatan did to Job before the Throne of Adonai, the world accuses us because we don’t walk their path. They don’t understand the forgiveness Yeshua offers us.

This becomes a chance to bear witness to the world. We are forgiven from our sins. We can repent and turn from our wicked ways to honor G-d.

In seeking repentance from our sins, we no longer walk in a manner that brings shame to the Holy One of Israel.

As G-d has called us to His bride, let us also call others to Him. We do not know who will be saved so we need to spread the Word freely. We do this by being a witness to the world both in word and deed.

This is grace working through us. G-d can use us to provide what is desperately needed in the lives of the unbelievers: an act of regeneration by the Ruach HaKodesh.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, Our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who is gracious to wake us from the dead and give us eternal life.

Limited Atonement

​3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:3-9 (NASB)

I said a few weeks ago that unconditional election was probably the most contentious teaching in the five points of Calvinism. It seemed in my experience that saying not everyone was even eligible for salvation was certainly the most condemning statement that a person could make.

I was wrong.

This week we take a look at limited atonement. This is sure to start a war of words, and maybe even punches, with a lot of people, so make sure you’re armored up and ready for action.

Limited atonement says that Yeshua did not die for all but only for His elect.

I’ll say that again, limited atonement says that the sacrifice of our Savior was only intended for those called from the foundation of the world. It can have no affect on those who are destined for destruction.

It is the one sticking point that most people have with Calvinism. There are a lot of people who call themselves 4-point Calvinists just because they cannot accept this.

2 Peter 3:9 is given as both a basis for this teaching and as the rejection of it. Those opposing the limited atonement quote it often saying that G-d, “is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

But to say this is to only quote half the verse. And when that happens it’s easy to take Scripture out of context.

In this passage, Peter is writing to believers, possibly in Asia Minor, to encourage them and warn them against false teachings. The gnostics believed the path to G-d lay through a mystical knowledge that Yeshua imparted after His resurrection. They blended Greek, Oriental, Jewish and teachings of The Way to come up with their belief system.

Needless to say it was a convoluted, error-prone mess.

In chapter 3, Peter is explaining that these type of teachers will always be around, even up to the last days. In fact, it will get much worse.

Apathy will take hold and mockers will say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” It doesn’t occur to them, or they purposely ignore, that G-d created the heavens and earth by His Word. And by His Word both heaven and earth are kept for destruction and judgment of ungodly men.

After explaining the outcome of the ungodly, Peter then shifts back to his audience, the followers of The Way, in verse 8.

He first notes that time is nothing to the Almighty. The one who created our timepieces — the sun, moon and stars, and the aging of years in man and nature — is not bound by them. He lives outside the bubble of creation and physics. It’s not really significant how long it takes for the return of the Messiah and it’s nonsense to say it’s been so long that He has forgotten His promises.

Then, in verse 9, Peter explains why the L-rd seems to be waiting so long. “But the L-rd is patient towards you,” the Apostle writes to the ekklesia. “Because Adonai is not willing that any (of you believers) should perish but for all (of you believers) to come to repentance.”

In other words, G-d is patiently waiting and enduring evil for the sake of bringing His elect to Him. He puts up with mockers, false teachers and other ungodly persons because of His love for the ones He’s chosen.

He’s hesitant to bring judgment on the world because He’s waiting for all those who can be saved to come to Him in faith.

We need to turn our thinking around and realize that this is about G-d, not us.

We selfishly insist that God has to put up with whatever we give Him. That G-d can wait until we’re ready to come to Him, and then He must accept us on our terms.

But He’s the one who is giving us our faith to believe and accept Him as L-rd. And this happens at His appointed time of salvation. He’s the one who has chosen us from the foundation of the world. He’s the one who is currently enduring rejection by the majority of His creation so He can save a few more.

Don’t take this lightly. There will come a judgment time. Adonai walked with Israel through the wilderness for 40 years. He endured their complaining and unbelief while patiently forming a holy people.

He does the same today. He faces the humiliation that mankind throws at Him while forming and perfecting a nation He can call His own.

This body of believers includes Jews and Gentiles who are bound together as one family united in their faith in Yeshua. We share the same G-d, the same Scripture, and the same promises.

But didn’t Yeshua come to intercede for the entire world? I believe He did.

The Messiah’s sacrifice for our sins is the turning point in history so how can anyone not be affected by it?

But this doesn’t mean that everyone will accept the forgiveness that is freely offered to all. Only those with the faith to accept it will benefit.

The sacrifice can still cleanse others, but it never will due to their unbelief or lack of faith. 

So, yes, The Son of G-d did come to seek and save the lost and He will save all those who were given to Him by the Father (John 17:6-12).

Isaiah 53:8 also speaks to the sacrifice of Yeshua:

“By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation , who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?” – Isaiah 53:8 (NASB)

This also affirms that the precious blood was spilt for the elect. This passage is plainly speaking of Israel as G-d’s people, but we know that all believers are grafted into Israel by the work of the Messiah.

John the Immerser pointed to Yeshua and called him the Lamb of G-d that takes away the sins of the world. Yeshua did take away sin and will take away all sin eventually. This is not restricted to Israel but is available to all who are grafted into and identify with Israel.

I want to repeat the last line of Isaiah 53:8.

“For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?”

We deserved nothing more than death. It was our place to be nailed to the tree and hanged in shame. It was for our sins that Yeshua was cut off out of the land of the living.

The stroke was due to fall on us.

As we walk with G-d, let us stay humble before Him and remember our place.

G-d redeemed the first born of Israel during Pesach and they lived.  Egypt was not redeemed and paid for their sins with the lives of their firstborns.

We are redeemed by the Lamb who has been slain and may we be eternally grateful for G-d’s grace.

Blessed are you, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who purchased us by the sacrifice of Yeshuah, the Son of G-d.

Unconditional Election

Ephesians 1:5-6 (NASB)

5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Yeshua Messiah to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

The concept of unconditional election, or predestination, is the second of the Five Points of Calvinism.

It’s also likely to be the most controversial.

But the idea of predestination shouldn’t cause so much contention. The concept of a select chosen is plainly taught in Scripture and some congregations take a position on it.

I spent a few hours on the internet exploring the different denominations and how they approach this doctrine. 

It’s pretty amazing that I kept coming across the phrase, “many denominations or churches teach this, but we don’t believe it.” That line came up so many times that I began wondering who actually did teach it. It was pretty hard to find anyone who did so despite everyone pointing their finger at the “many churches” that did.

The problem people have is not the idea that G-d elects those to be saved. No, the denial only comes when people realize there is a flip-side. If G-d chooses some, then He doesn’t choose others.

Many people view this teaching as hateful and unloving, They get very emotional about it. “Unjust,” “ungodly,” and even “hellish” were words used by those who disagree.

Some denominations try to accept the positive side but not the other. The Lutherans accept predestination, but not what they call the Calvinistic double-predestination. They believe some are chosen for eternal life but don’t address the other side: that those who aren’t chosen are then condemned. They don’t say what will happen to them, preferring not make that judgement call.

I also went to the Assembly of G-d, Church of G-d (Cleveland, Tenn.), and Foursquare Church websites. These Pentecostal religions all say that man has a free will to choose his own eternal destination. 

Their take is that predestination is based on G-d knowing the choices that we will freely make throughout our life. This is known as conditional election. It depends on us making the choice to move toward G-d when He calls us into His elect.

They (and many others) also believe that we can freely remove ourselves from His calling. There are different views on this. Some believe it’s a process of hardening our heart against G-d until we no longer hear His call to repent. Others believe it’s instantaneous; that as soon as we sin we must repent or we are lost until we do so. 

The Southern Baptists acknowledge an elect of the saints called by G-d but remain silent on predestination in their Statement of Basic Beliefs.

While there is no structured Messianic denomination, the popular belief seems to be the conditional election that the other churches stand for. Salvation is a work of both G-d and man coming into agreement to affect salvation. Man can backslide by sinning and refusing to repent. 

The only mainstream denomination that fully accepts the Calvinistic interpretation of predestination is the Presbyterian Church. They are as close to “5-point Calvinism” as any congregation seems to get. 

So for this being a teaching that “many other churches believe in,” it’s amazing that in the U.S., a denomination of less than 3 million members is it’s largest endorser. 

Why is this so unpopular?

What seems to be an issue for most people is that unconditional election says that man has no free will in the matter. It is the Creator Who determines, plans and executes our redemption. He graciously offers us His faith at His appointed time of salvation. 

The problem comes when it’s called unconditional. This implies to some people that G-d is just randomly picking and choosing some people to save and, even worse, some to send to hell. That goes against our sense of fair-play and a just G-d.

Predestination also counters the teaching that man has a free will. That we’re not in control of our own destiny. How can G-d send anyone to an eternal hell when it’s not even their fault? 

So the idea of a pre-selected, chosen few, which has been taught for centuries, is now becoming ancient history. Instead, man is now free to call on G-d at a time and place of his own choosing. And G-d is not at liberty to deny him for any reason.

But is this what the Bible teaches? 

Scripture tells us that Adonai lays out our path from the time we’re conceived. In the first chapter of Jeremiah, G-d calls Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. He says that He knew him before He formed him in the womb. That He had already appointed him for this mission. So HaShem appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet from the beginning. 

In Revelation 13:8 we’re told about the Lamb’s Book of Life. This lists the names of all the saints who have faith; those who persevere in their relationship with HaShem throughout their life. And Scripture states that the names have been there since the time of creation. 

In Romans 8:28-30, Paul says that G-d foreknew those He called for His purpose. That He predestined them to a calling to conform to His Son. He works in their lives to bring about a justification and glorification.

So we know that G-d creates some humans destined for life.

In Malachi 1:2-3, we are told that Adonai loved Jacob but hated Esau. In Romans 9:11-13, Paul says that this took place before they were even born. Later in verse 22 he says there are, “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”

Those who oppose Calvinism say this was an example used to illustrate G-d choosing Israel and setting them apart from the nations. That it doesn’t apply on an individual basis. 

But we’re told in Romans 11:17-24 that we are grafted into the olive tree of Israel. Adonai is still expanding and growing the Chosen People by bringing in the Gentiles. If Israel was predestined from the beginning then wouldn’t those who join with them also be?

If that’s the case, then Paul is speaking about individuals who are not a part of Israel. Esau did form a nation that fought against Israel. But Esau was also an individual that rejected the birthright and promises of Adonai that were given to his father, Abraham. Esau, personally, was rejected by G-d.

And now we also know that the Father prepares some for destruction. 

It goes against our sense of fair play to admit this. It violates our desire to give everyone an equal start in life.

It scares us that our loved ones may not be in the Book of Life.

But is having the freedom to make our own choice any better? 

How do we know we would choose the Almighty if He hadn’t chosen us first? 

Would my parents and siblings still believe if it was left strictly up to them? 

Would my wife and son make the right decision (well, my wife would… she always chooses wisely)?

Where would I be without G-d forcefully bringing me under His care? 

Mans’ condition at the time of Noah was that the earth was corrupt in the sight of God and filled with violence. Thousands of years after hitting the reset button the world is heading back to this evil. It is arrogant to think we could do any better if we were left in charge to decide our own salvation. 

The salvation of G-d is full of grace. If He has predestined some to Him then it’s due to His grace and love for us. If He rejects others, we must also assume that this is due to His love, justice and mercy. 

The promise to Abraham is that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Clearly, G-d’s method of predestination and unconditional election provides for that to be fulfilled. We should not speculate that our way would be better, especially if it’s based on fear.

Another argument against predestination is that it stifles evangelism. That those who believe in it would have no motivation to disciple others into the Way of our Messiah. Since the chosen will be brought into the Kingdom by some means, then why bother with it?

But this goes against the facts. Some of the greatest missionaries have been Calvinists. John Calvin himself built a school for missionaries and sent them around the world. John Eliot was the first missionary to the American Indians. Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, William Tennent, William Carey, David Livingstone, Adoniram Judson and John Stott are all Calvinists who dedicated their lives to the mission field. 

The Presbyterian Church has 3 times more missionaries per capita than the Southern Baptist Convention that has over 7 times their number of members. 

Just as G-d called Jeremiah from the time of his conception, these individuals were given a mission to take the Scriptures to the world. They faithfully followed that calling by the grace of G-d and by their endeavors, millions were brought into the Kingdom. 

Let us follow their example. Let us take the Gospel of our Messiah into the world wherever we can and present the Good News of repentance and reconciliation. G-d does love this world and sent His Son to redeem the chosen. Let us be the ones to carry this message.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who chose us from among the peoples and gave us Your salvation.

How Do We Learn The Glory Of G-d?

* NOTE – I had to take a break from the series on Calvinism for this week but will pick it up again next week.

Psalm 19:1-6 (NASB)
1 The heavens are telling of the glory of G-d;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
6 Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

In his book, What is Reformed Theology, theologian and teacher, R.C. Sproul, notes that there are three ways that man learns about G-d.

The study of Scripture is the most common. Regular study of the Word can build our faith like nothing else can. It teaches us how to glorify G-d, how to walk a sanctified life, and how to love G-d and our neighbors.

The study of history also demonstrates G-d’s nature and will, Many men and women, having run the race before us, have poured their lives into studying and walking out the Scriptures in a practical way. Learning their way of thinking and bringing it up against the Word can teach us much about HaShem.

The study of nature is the third way we learn about G-d. This reaches out to everyone; even those who won’t study Scripture or the history of what brought us here, can still learn about the Creator of the world in this way.

Psalm 19 has much to tell us about Adonai’s glory and how it is evident on the earth. Looking into the night sky with its starry scene; watching the sunrise with the brightness of His glory; and sharing a beautifully painted sunset canvas with a loved one are all pleasures we can experience that prove our Maker does exist.

“The heavens are telling of the glory of G-d; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2 (NASB)

The skies shout out with praise to G-d all day and night. They are filled with His glory and the works of His hands. The sun and clouds speak of Him during the day, and the moon and stars reveal the knowledge of Him throughout the night.

This image, known as the Hubble Ultra Deep-Field, took over nine years to compile from photos taken by the Hubble telescope. This picture shows one thirteen-millionth of the total area of the sky. Yet it is estimated to contain over 10,000 objects at a distance of up to 59,000 light years away. While the Bible says that G-d finished His creation work in six days, we can see that the majority of the acts of His creation are still unknown to us.

So the entire universe declares the glory of G-d and it does so in a silent but persistent way.

“There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterance to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun.: Psalm 19:3-4 (NASB)

Although nature speaks boldly about her Creator, she does this in a visual way. She has no voice, and makes no speech. Instead, we see the glory of the rising sun in the east that reflects the Son of G-d. It teaches us to look to the east for our hope, to the city of Jerusalem where G-d will reign when He returns to earth. The sun warms us and gives life to this world, just as the Son gives life to those dead in their sins.

Dr. Henry Morris, founder and president of the Institute for Creation Research, says, “Scientists now know that the heat energy transmitted to the earth by solar radiation empowers all activity on earth, either directly (e.g. wind, rains) or indirectly (plant life through photosynthesis, and therefore also animal and human life).”

In other words, the sun is responsible for giving and maintaining all life on earth and is a witness of G-d’s Son who gives us life.

All of creation witnesses this continually. Man is without excuse when he looks up to the sky.

In our age of knowledge and learning, we try to explain away G-d with science. We think that we have no need of a Creator since science can explain that everything can be accomplished without a G-d.

But having a scientific explanation for what we see does not mean there is not a Creator full of wisdom and knowledge. It means, instead, that we have a Creator that blesses us with His wisdom and knowledge. He uses His works to declare Himself to us.

And this is where the believer differs from the unbeliever. This witness of nature is only an external calling for those who reject the Messiah but it is an internal calling for those who walk in the Spirit.

Some cannot accept what they plainly see. To acknowledge that the heavens declare G-d’s glory is to also acknowledge that there is a Ruler of the Universe; That they are not in charge but He is.

So they make up other gods, or declare that there is no god, in order to put themselves in control of their life.

Romans 1:20-23 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (the ungodly and unrighteous) are without excuse. For even though they knew G-d, they did not honor Him as G-d or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible G-d for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

In order for man to deny G-d, they had to invent gods in other images. Some resemble men, some beast, some are birds and others take the form of the lowest creatures on the planet. But man uses all of them in his refusal to acknowledge Adonai. Instead, he attempts to regain power for himself by creating a god in his own image.

This goes against the work of G-d. Yeshua came to end that struggle for us by reconciling us to the Father. He delivered us from the consequences of our sin. His sacrifice is the pivotal point of all of creation. It is the reason that nature declares the glory of G-d.

Let us walk in a way that acknowledges our Creator and appreciates the beauty of His work.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who created all things for Your glory so that we might know the work of Your hands.

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Two Natures Within Man

Someone asked me if Calvinists would agree with this line:

Two natures beat within my chest.
The one is cursed, the other is blessed.
The one I love, the other I hate.
The one I feed will dominate.

I think they would but only after salvation. They still acknowledge a struggle between the flesh and the renewed spirit as Paul talks about in Romans 7:14-25 and his conflict of the two natures lesson.

Jesus purchased our salvation through His sacrifice, and our deliverance from the wages of sin (death) and our ability to obey G-d (sanctification) are a result of His work (Romans 6:22-23). However, we still have a struggle between our fleshly nature and the renewed man that is led by the Spirit.

But before salvation, we are free from walking righteously; everything we do results in sin and death (Romans 6:20-21) no matter what our motivation is.

Those who aren’t saved can still perform good deeds and they still have an innate sense of right and wrong (but it’s to different degrees in different people) but it’s without the Spirit. There’s going to be some selfish reason that motivates them (meaning it’s not done for the glory of G-d).

A person may struggle with being “good” without applying the salvation of Jesus. They may do this because they don’t want their spouse to leave, they want to a better quality of life in some area, or they may be living up to the standards of a religion of social group. There’s some reason for their actions that leaves G-d out of the picture even if they think they are doing it for Him.

But as believers we have a different motivation — “…do all to the glory of G-d.” (1 Cor. 10:31). This is the difference between the actions a disciple of Jesus that is led by the Spirit and a non-believer.

There are many Christian denominations that accept the teaching of original sin and being born with a sinful nature. This isn’t unique to Calvinism. Psalm 51:5 confirms that we’re conceived and born in sin.

If any Calvinists want to give their thoughts, please leave a comment.

Total Depravity

Eph 2:1-5 (NASB)
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Messiah (by grace you have been saved),”

Total depravity is the first of the 5 points of Calvinism. It tells us that man has a sinful nature that affects our entire being. Body, mind, soul and will are all impaired by sin. It drives our decisions and makes us incapable of doing good in our own strength.

We are given this sinful nature at birth, inheriting it from our earthly mothers and fathers. Proof of this can be seen in the inbred selfish actions of children. They must be taught to share, be kind, not lie, and obey. Ever since the disobedience of Adam and Eve it has been the default state of humanity. A sinful life is something we are naturally comfortable with and we are reluctant to make any changes.

This is not to say that man is utterly or completely depraved. If that were the case then we would only see the worst of humanity continuously. We would all be Hitler’s, engaging in mass murder and ethnic cleansing.

There would be no structure to our government or laws. Each nation would live in anarchy. Israel found itself in this condition after rejecting the judges that Adonai had established to rule them. Judges 21:25 (NASB) says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

But we do see much good in the world today. There are false religions that feed the poor, shelter the homeless and provide clothing to those who need it. There are godless philanthropists who give millions of dollars to charities. There are atheists that run soup kitchens.

I’m sure we all know that one guy that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. We all know the woman that would volunteer to watch your kids while you visited a sick relative in the hospital. But they may never open their mouths or their hearts to glorify G-d and worship Him.

They do these acts with a selfish motive. They may want to impress someone or atone for some past wrong they committed. They may be trying to comfort some feelings of guilt about having a better life than other people, but it’s usually an effort to make themselves feel better or gain an advantage. There’s some kind of benefit they’re seeking for themselves.

They may perform a good deed out of love for the person their helping but they won’t do it with love for G-d.

So to say that man is totally depraved is not to say that he is utterly or completely depraved but that he has a sinful nature to some degree. Still most people in this world are what we could consider as “basically good.”

The concept of total depravity also teaches that man is incapable of seeking out G-d.

In fact, it’s much worse than that. We not only don’t want to seek out our Creator; we turn from Him and flee from His care.

Romans 3:11-12 (NASB) tells us, “There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for G-d; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”

“There is none who seeks for G-d; All have turned aside,”

The Apostle Paul is not writing about a different people in a different land at a different time. He clearly states that “all” of humanity have turned aside from seeking G-d.

And he says again, “There is none who does good,” and then emphasizes, “There is not even one.”

Since the time that Adam and Eve hid from the voice of HaShem in the garden, humanity has been turning their face from Him.

We have, in fact, become as Paul says later in Romans 3:18, “There is no fear of G-d before their eyes.”

Humanity has disobeyed and defied G-d. We are now in the stage where we are openly mocking Him with no reverence or respect.

And this cannot be helped. We are a people that have no care for G-d and His ways. We will not and cannot seek Him out.

Then what is our hope?

Scripture says we are dead in our sins. How are we to be brought to life? Who can resurrect our spirit so that we can stand in fellowship with the Almighty as He intended us to do?

In John 6:63 (NASB), Yeshua says, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

It is the Ruach HaKodesh, the Spirit of G-d, in the words of Yeshua that gives us life. The words of G-d were powerful enough to bring creation into existence and the words of G-d bring life to our spirit.

He follows this up with a confirmation in verse 65 that, again, we must be called to follow Him as His disciples; we cannot seek Him out on our own. “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

Yeshua is our hope. He is the one who can bring life into our dead souls, can give us a true, selfless love for G-d, and can cause us to run towards G-d with a desire for more fellowship with Him.

Blessed are You, Adonai, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who wakens our spirit from the dead and restores us to fellowship for Your Name’s sake.

Calvinism

Proverbs 20:24 (NASB)
24 Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord,
How then can man understand his way?

As we study through the book of Romans we’re hearing a lot about Calvinism. It’s not surprising since many Calvinists use the Romans Scriptures to confirm their teachings.

Over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at John Calvin and the main teachings of his theology. We’ll compare them to Scripture so that we can make our own decision.

While looking at Calvin’s biography (1), one thing stands out: he was eager to see reform in the Catholic Church. I believe that, based on Prov. 20:24, this was intended by G-d.

He was born in 1509 and, at the urging of his father, began studying for the priesthood when he was only 12.

He soon became convinced that, like his contemporary Martin Luther, the Catholic Church had errant teachings and needed to straighten some things out. But after failing to work within the church, Calvin became a leader in the young protestant (or reform) movement that Luther began in 1518.

Calvin spent years writing and revising his thesis that he called, “The Institute of the Christian Religion.” This became a running commentary on his view of the calling of G-d to man for salvation.

After fleeing persecution many times, Calvin settled in Geneva, Switzerland in 1541 and established a school there, sending missionaries across Europe and to the America’s.

He became ill in early 1564, and preached his last sermon on February 6 of that same year. His health worsened throughout the spring, and he died on May 27 and was buried in Geneva.

What Calvin is still most known for are his views on salvation and the way G-d calls His elect. He was the first to preach this viewpoint and make it popular.

The most common phrase used to describe Calvinism is “once saved, always saved” but this cliché is a very simple way to describe a very complex idea. And it doesn’t even touch on the other concepts that Calvin taught and wrote about in his commentaries.

Over time, there have been five points used to describe Calvinism. They are:
1) Man is born in sin and does not desire to restore his relationship with G-d. He is incapable of even wanting to seek out G-d. G-d must reach out to man and supply the faith it takes to receive His grace and salvation.

2) G-d has chosen some as His elect and has predestined these for salvation. The other side of this is that some are predestined for destruction. It is not up to man to choose his final destination.

3) Yeshua died only for the salvation of the elect. His sacrifice has no effect on those not chosen and it was never intended to apply to them. Their sins cannot be covered or else they would be saved.

4) G-d’s calling to His elect is irresistible; they must obey and respond to it. Again, man has no choice on his eternity. When a man is called by the Ruach HaKodesh, at whatever stage in his life, he will answer it.

5) Salvation given by G-d is eternally secure. His chosen cannot fall from His grace for any reason. Making a decision to walk away from G-d is either temporary or evidence that you were never called in the first place.

These five categories are not exclusive to Calvinism and they are not only the beliefs but they do represent the defining doctrines. They were crafted from Calvin’s teachings after his death in response to another theology, Arminianism, that rejected the idea of G-d having an elect and instead favored man willfully choosing or rejecting G-d and His salvation.

We’ll take a look at Scripture in the coming weeks and compare what we find with Calvin’s teachings. Does this fit into our Messianic theology and, if so, how?

There has always been controversy about this and we may find we agree with all, some, or none of these ideas. But let’s talk about them and see what the Bible shows us.

Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has risen up men to establish Your Word among us and to set us on a path towards You.

(1) http://www.calvin500.com/john-calvin/biography/

Never Forget!

Adonai, Master, Creator
who set the round course of the world,
birth, death, and disease –

Creator, who caused veins, brains, and bones to grow,
who fashioned us air that we might breath and sing

Remember that we are incomplete
and inconsolable, our vision clouded by ashes.

Remember the chimneys, the ingenious habitations of death where part of
Israel’s body drifted as smoke through the air.
Remember the mutilated music of their lives.

We lament in fields of loneliness
for six million of our number torn away. Remember them.

There are some who have no memorial.
They are perished as though they had never been.
Forget them not.

Remember the landscape of screams
engraved at entrance gates to death.
Remember the unborn dreams.

Remember the terror of children, whose tears were burned. Remember the
agony of parents, whose blessings were consumed.

Remember the prayers of the dying,
the shame and suffering of the innocent.

Remember. We have not forgotten You
though all this has befallen us
.

Remember the God-forsaken millions in a silent world,
their loneliness was matched only by Yours.

Who is like You, Adonai, among the silent,
remaining silent through the suffering of Your children?

Are You not God, Adonai, that we may hope in You?
Renew the light of Your creation, which has been dimmed.

Renew in Your creatures Your image, which has been desecrated. Restore the
covenant, which Your people have maintained.

Remember the hopes of the slain
by sending redemption to Your shattered world.

In spite of everything which strangles hope,
help us to continue the sustaining song of their lives.

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