The Good Shepherd watching over His sheep!
The thought occurred to me today, as I was studying my Bible, and as I began to think about the age old debate, regarding the Sovereignty of God, versus the free will of man, that God already knows it all… and that is why He is God and we are not!
As God, He is both the author and creator of time and space (and all that is in it), and because of the fact (as the Bible indicates) that He dwells outside of time and space (in eternity), He already knows what we are going to do and choose, before we choose it.
God always knows and sees all things in advance of their occurrence, regarding every detail of our life, and that includes everything that happens here in our time and space continuum; and even in the Psalms we learn that this is true, and that truly God knows it all:
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
And as you see it goes on to say in verses 7-18:
7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave,* you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me,* O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
Did you see that, did you notice it?
This verse of scripture actually says that God has a book, written in heaven, with each of our names on it; and we are told here (in verse 16) that he has actually scheduled (recorded) each day of our lives in that book… in other words God has a PLAN, a PURPOSE, and a DESTINIY for each of us, who are a part of Adam’s seed, and as such are His offspring (made in God’s image and after His likeness)… but we have to first choose to forsake our plan and follow God’s plan!
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord , thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
We are told in the Bible that the path to destruction (meaning eternal separation from God, for all eternity) is wide, and many there be that are following it; but the path to eternal life is narrow, and few there be that are following it… and ALL of this is our individual choice, which path in life we are on.
You see the problem is, something called “sin” has entered into the human race that has separated us from God; and this is true for ALL of us, who have descended from Adam and Eve.
God made our original parents (Adam and Eve) the masters of this world, and gave to them and to us all authority (meaning dominion) to rule in this earth; but as God often does, He also left a test for them, in one command that said they were free to partake of every tree in the garden (Eden) save for one; and they were not to eat from the fruit of that one tree, called the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” because that tree God said belonged to Him.
This sort of test (or temptation), as it was for them, and it is also true for us, is often set in place, even in our life, to test our resolve and loyalty to always put God first, and see whether we will trust Him and obey Him!
We don’t do this perfectly, for sure, none of us do, as it is not in our nature to do so. We have unavoidably inherited this obstinate nature, that opposes God in every way, a nature that is common to ALL of mankind by the way, from our original parents; but that very fact is why we ALL need a Saviour!
The decisions we make during these tests will determine what sort of people we are, and what sort of character we have.
As it happened, Adam and Eve failed their test, and they and consequently we too, have been doing our own thing ever sense… which is what “sin” is.
Sin happens anytime we do ANYTHING that goes crosswise against God’s original plan and purpose for our lives, which you and I both do everyday… and that’s several times a day for myself, I can tell you!
Sin brings disorder and disharmony to God’s perfect order; and that is why it (sin) cannot be tolerated in God’s presence, no more than a rouge musician, who is playing his own tune apart from the rest of the orchestra, can be tolerated… because it messes up the whole concert!
The one thing that makes Heaven a paradise is that there is no disharmony nor disunity found in it; and sin, this disharmony that we bring to the table by our earthly nature, cannot be tolerated there, in the presences of God.
In God’s system of Justice there is no impartiality, as we find in man’s system of justice; and for God the books always have to balance in the end!
With that said, however, with people being as they are, there are always those who don’t want to be pinned down to the God that Jesus reveals (in the Bible); nor do they want to obey God’s commandment, regarding LOVE, as Jesus exemplified through the example of His life and ministry in the earth. All of these things we can read and study in the Bible.
Jesus, who is Messiah, is the central focus of the entire Bible; and He (Jesus) provides the full and true understanding of God, of who He is and what He requires of us… and again, ALL of this information is readily available for all to read and study in the Bible!
With that said, there are always people who want to make up their own idea of who God is (general made in their image and after their likeness… in the likeness of man); and they also always make up their own rules too, about what God requires of us.
That is especially true when it comes to God’s commandment regarding Agape (Love), in how we are to love God and love one another.
1 Cor 13:1-7
If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. 3 If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.
4 Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.
Obviously none of us can do this either (love as God loves); and again that is but another reason why we need a Saviour; because as we surrender our will and die to “self,” in favor of what God wants for us; and then as we surrender our bodies (as we are instructed to do in Romans 12), God then causes us to become His conduit in the earth, through which His Spirit flows; and God then enables us to do what we cannot do apart from Him.
The absolute necessity, which is mandated by God (in His Word), is that the ONLY access to the Father is through the Son; and this requirement CANNOT be ignored!
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again,* you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.* 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.* 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You* must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man* has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.*
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. “
Truly there is no other name under heaven whereby man may be saved, as it is explained in the above verses of scripture, except in the Name and through the Person of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ!
Missing the mark of God’s requirements (which is what the word ‘sin’ in the Greek means) is something we ALL do, many times a day even, as it is our nature to do our own thing, and live as we choose; and all of this, this nature that is against God, is what we have inherited from our original parents, that has been passed down to us through the blood of Adam.
God’s requirement is always perfect Justice; and the books ALWAYS have to balance in the end.
So when God said to Adam, “When you sin you die” (see Genesis 2:15), that commandment became the Law, and there are no exceptions to it; and as I have already stated (above), God’s requirement is always “Justice” and the books always have to balance!
So when God says, “You sin you die” there can be no exceptions to that rule; and for God to ignore His requirement (His Law) would mean that the same corruption and biased treatment of the law that we find in man’s system of justice, would be in Heaven… and this cannot be.
Again, the books have to balance!
God’s solution to this problem is found in the verse of scripture I just quoted above (in John chapter 3), and I repeat there can be NO exceptions!
This means that for a Christian (one who has accepted the requirement of God, through faith in Jesus Christ), of those who have made this same Jesus both Lord and Saviour of their lives, when we transgress God’s Law, and miss the mark of what God requires of us all (something for which I can tell you I do every day, even several times a day), our transgressions (as per the Bible) are NOT counted against us, to our record; but rather the Righteousness of Christ (Messiah) is what is imputed to our record instead… and that is how God balances the Books of Heaven.
He (God) paid our penalty in full, Himself, in and through the sacrifice of Jesus (who knew no sin) on Calvary’s cross.
On the other hand, for the person who has failed to come by way of the cross, through Jesus, and have chosen instead to come through the “religion” of man, following the pattern and traditions of man, for them the good things they do CANNOT be credited to their account, as God’s standard of Justice (as I have already said) is always perfection; and since there is ONLY one perfect life, who bore our sin, and that is Jesus Christ, those who reject Him (Jesus), and His offer of salvation through grace (unmerited favor), they have also rejected their only access to the Father (just as Jesus warned Nicodemus, in the above verses of scripture).
Consequently, for everyone who has rejected God’s offer, they will be held accountable for their own sins, without benefit of a Saviour, for they have rejected Him and His offer of grace.
You see God, who has established a perfect order in heaven, cannot tolerate rouge children in heaven, who are living to satisfy only themselves, and therefore are ignoring God and His requirements.
If God were to allow that to happen in heaven, we would have in heaven what we see in the earth today… where each of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each one choosing our own way; but thanks be to God that He has provided us with a way out, as the Bible tells us (see Isaiah 53) that “God has laid on Him (Jesus) the inequity of us ALL!”
This means the penalty for our trespasses (our sins) has already been paid in full, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Messiah) on the cross.
That happened over 2000 years ago, at Calvary; and God has ordained that ONLY those who have accepted, through faith, this forgiveness (which is offered by God) ONLY through faith in Jesus Christ, and what He did on the Calvary’s cross, will be saved and reconciled back into God’s family… and that is what the Gospel message says (that we can read about in the Bible).
This thing called “sin” happened the moment our original parents followed Satan’s lead, when they choose to disobey God and do their own thing, and partook of the forbidden fruit, from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; and being their children, each of us has been doing our own thing ever since! And therefore we are ALL out of sync with God, even diametrically opposed to Him, and are as rouge musicians in God’s orchestra.
God’s mission has always been to set that estrangement right, and to be reunited again with His children.
However, as the Bible says many are called, but few there be that are chosen; meaning most people live their entire lives oblivious to the things of God, and the requirements of God, and so few there be who will choose to put God first place in their life, and will obey Him.
The caveat, as we read above in verse 13 of Jeremiah 29, is that our conforming to God destiny and plan first requires that we put God first place in our life.
This sort of relationship with God can only be had by those who are searching for Him with all their heart, as their one prime necessity in life; and God has required that we do so by faith, meaning that we begin to put our trust daily into the promises of “His Word” (The Holy Bible)!!!
The fact is your life is NOT an accident, and nor does happenstance and “luck” have anything to do with it.
With God there are two things that are ALWAYS important in our relationship with Him… one is COVENANT and the other is FAITH!
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
All the covenants that God has made in the past, starting with the covenant He made with our Father Abraham, and including the covenant He has made with us, through faith in Jesus Christ, can be studied in both the Old and New Testaments… which is the Holy Bible, also known as “The Word of God.”
Again I want to say this, that God in His foreknowledge has ordained that for us to be reconciled back into relationship with Him (something the Bible calls being “Born-again” or being “Saved”), and in order for us to become a part of His heavenly family, He has ordained that we each must come by way of “FAITH,” through our reliance and trust in Messiah Jesus, and His sacrifice on Calvary’s cross, as our Passover Lamb.
When one makes this decision to follow Jesus it truly changes our life forever!
In life we ALL have difficulties (as I am sure we all can attest), and believe me when I say that when you make the decision to follow Jesus, Satan (the Devil) will ramp up his attacks on you because you are now working against him, for the “opposition team,” the winning team!
The Bible tells us that before we enter into covenant relationship with God, and are born-again (saved) through faith in Jesus Christ, that we are all (as members of the human race) being manipulated and controlled (whether we believe it or not, or whether we know it) by Satan’s kingdom.
Consequently the deal is this… either we are in God’s Kingdom by choice, through faith in Jesus Christ, or we are in Satan’s kingdom by default!
We should always seek to do the best that we can, with what we have (problems or no problems); but if we now belong to Christ (Messiah), we now understand that we have a foundation undergirding us, that requires that each day of our life, once we are in convent relationship with God and are born-again, that by faith, we are daily seeking unity and oneness with Him (Jesus), trusting that His hold on us is ALWAYS greater than our hold on Him.
It is because of our faith in God (and in His Word) that we willingly begin to hang both our lives and our circumstances on the promises of His Word, taking life one day at a time… one step at a time.
There is another scripture in the Psalms that I have to read and remind myself of often, and this Psalm is also a prayer of David… and it has also become my prayer too:
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from my enemies
and from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, O Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
My point is this, God started at the end of time and He backed up to the day you and I were born, having preordained a purpose and destiny that has been predetermined for each of our lives; and it is our mission in life to first enter into covenant relationship with Him (through faith in Jesus), and then having been born-again, we then are to find out what that purpose is, and then having done so, we each day begin to plug into God’s plan for us, and mind you this whole process is done by and through faith… one day at a time, one step at a time… with God’s Word being the only “Lamp” unto our feet!
Now none of this that I can see, that I have mentioned here, as it pertains to God’s foreknowledge and sovereignty, in the fact that He knows ahead of time what we are going to choose, and what we are going to do and say (because He sees it all from end to beginning), none of this at all takes anything away from the fact that God has given to each of us each a free will, to choose as we want.
However, that being said, Heaven will only be heaven for those who are in relationship with God in this life on the earth, of those who have been Born-again, who have chosen to serve Jesus, and are being trained by Him, following Him every day, with all their heart, mind and strength. By the way, these are those who have chosen to follow the narrow path
On the other hand, the reason why the path to destruction is so wide, is because most have elected to rejected the forgiveness that is offered by God, through faith in Jesus, and they have chosen this wide path, which the Bible says leads to destruction, and by their own free will they have chosen to live apart from God, which is their choice, and consequently they will be forced to live this way, separated from God, for all eternity!
Listen to this story, that was an actual occurrence that was told to us by Jesus that shows what happens after one dies out of covenant relationship with God:
19 “There was a certain rich man,” Jesus said, “who was splendidly clothed and lived each day in mirth and luxury.
20 One day Lazarus, a diseased beggar, was laid at his door. 21 As he lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
22 Finally the beggar died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham in the place of the righteous dead.
The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and his soul went into hell.
There, in torment, he saw Lazarus in the far distance with Abraham.
24 “‘Father Abraham,’ he shouted, ‘have some pity! Send Lazarus over here if only to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us, and anyone wanting to come to you from here is stopped at its edge; and no one over there can cross to us.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘O Father Abraham, then please send him to my father’s home- 28 for I have five brothers-to warn them about this place of torment lest they come here when they die.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘The Scriptures have warned them again and again. Your brothers can read them any time they want to.’
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham, they won’t bother to read them. But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will turn from their sins.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even though someone rises from the dead.'”
The fact is everyone eventually becomes a believer in God; but it is only those who have accepted God’s gift of grace, which is the Gospel’s message, which is offered only in this lifetime (and is available to each of us only between when we are born into this world and when we die), it is also only available through faith in Jesus Christ; and it is only these people who have accepted this message, the Gospel’s message, and have made Jesus both Lord and Saviour of their lives, only these people will spend eternity with Him.
The rest, again by their own choice, will live for eternity, as they have lived their whole life on earth, separated from God!
The fact is, God knows in advance what all of our choices in life will be, and from His perspective (in eternity), having wound this universe up (including all of time and space), and then having set it all in motion, and having given each of us life, the fact that He knows all of our tomorrows and He knows all of our choices that we will make during our life, none of that takes away from the fact that it is only WE who have exercised our free will to make those choices… God didn’t make us do anything!
Again, none of this that I have mentioned takes away from the fact that we each are given a free will, to choice as we want.
It is for each of us to choose how we will live our lives… either following God’s requirements, as spelled out in the Bible, or following our own.
God gave us each our life, and He also has given us the right to choose how we will spend it.
It is God’s desire that we choose to spend it on Him, and that we live for Him; but for those who have elected to do otherwise, and live for themselves, there eternity (as we just learned in the story of Lazarus and the rich man) has also been predetermined.
So it behooves each of us, if we haven’t already done so, to first find out about the Covenant which God has made available to us, through faith in Jesus Christ, and again we may each learn about this covenant by consulting the Bible.
Then after having done that, having become a Believer and having been Born-again (meaning we have entered into covenant relationship with God), we are each now seeking to follow God, to be married to Him (meaning to become one with Him); and we seek each day, and every day, from now on, to grow in faith, and to grow in the knowledge of Him, who is our Abba Father!