We have now come to a section of John’s Gospel that stirs lots of emotion in people. Throughout the ages people have discussed and debated the relationship of Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility. This topic is at the heart of the Scripture we will take a look at this morning in John 6:36-40. Let’s read our Scripture and then we will see what we can learn.
36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:36-40 NIV)
It is interesting to me how so many followers of Jesus in our day are unwilling to take the time to study the deep truths of God’s Word. I have found through the years that it’s the deep truths of God’s Word that lead to peace in the turbulent waters of living everyday life. Like all of you, I want to be a good husband, father, and friend. I want to be a good pastor and leader, I want to be a good witness to the world around me, but I’ve learned that what is most beneficial for me is not to necessarily focus on bettering myself in these areas, but to learn more and more about God, His character and nature. The more I dig into God’s Word and learn of His ways, the more I am shaped and molded by what I learn.
I wanted to share this with you because I’m sure that for some of you, when you heard that we are going to talk about Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility, you concluded that you’ll just take a nap this morning. You determined that our topic for today has absolutely nothing to do with your life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me share with you just one aspect of why this lesson is so important for you and me. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve known who struggle with whether or not they are “good enough” for God. They made a commitment to Jesus at some time in the past, but they’ve stumbled, or as church folk put it, they “backslid.” “The accuser of the brethren” as John describes him in Revelation 12:10, has used their absence from worship, things they’ve done in the past that they are ashamed about, and their unChristlike behavior from day-to-day to sow seeds of doubt about whether or not God still loves them, whether or not they are “still” saved, and it haunts and terrorizes the minds of many. Have any of you ever been in that place? Have you ever, in the quiet of the night, had Satan bombard your mind with thoughts like, “Who do you think you are? Do you really think God could love you after what you’ve done?” I know that feeling, I’ve been there in the past, but it was lessons from God’s Word, like what we are studying this morning, that set me free. I wasn’t set free because I’ve somehow become a better person, a more righteous follower of Jesus, but because I’ve learned about the character and nature of God.
I mentioned to you earlier that there has been a big debate that has been waged throughout the ages. The debate really centers around two schools of thought concerning salvation: The Arminians and the Calvinists. These two schools of thought are centered around two men, Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) and John Calvin (1509-1564). I could spend weeks discussing the details of their systems of belief, but I’d rather just give you their main pillars of thought. Let me lay them out for you. This outline is taken from Kenneth Boa’s article, “Divine Sovereignty vs. Human Responsibility.”
Man’s responsibility in salvation
1. Man is a sinner, but able to do good and to respond to God.
2. God elects on the basis of foreseen faith.
3. Christ died for all people.
4. Man can, because of stubbornness and rebellion, resist God’s call to salvation.
5. The believer may, through persistent sin, fall from grace and lose his or her salvation.
God’s Sovereignty in salvation
1. Total Depravity – Man is unable of himself to respond to God.
2. Unconditional Election—God elects according to His own good pleasure.
3. Limited Atonement—Christ died for the elect only.
4. Irresistible Grace—The elect are irresistibly drawn to Christ.
5. Perseverance of the Saints, salvation may never be lost because it is the gift of God.
There are a couple of things I want to point out to you that I think we have to know with certainty from God’s Word. First, the Arminians say that even though we are effected by sin we are able to do good and respond to God. The Calvinists say that all of humanity suffers from “total depravity” and we are dead in our sins. Total depravity doesn’t mean that we are totally depraved, that we are as bad as we can be, but it means that every fiber of our being has been affected by sin. Now, where did they get that idea? Did John Calvin and his buddies just decide from watching the evening news that humanity is sinful through and through or did they arrive at their conclusion by some other means? Paul wrote to the Romans and said,
10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NIV)
Just like John Calvin, the Apostle Paul didn’t make up this line of thinking. In the Hebrew Bible, King David wrote Psalm 14, where he said,
1 …They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:1-3 NIV)
Now then, not according to John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius, but according to the Bible, how do we answer the question, “Are there any who do good of their own accord? Are there any who seek after God of their own free will?” The answer is as plain as day isn’t it? So where does that leave us if God does nothing? It leaves us dead in our sins doesn’t it? Have you ever seen a dead person who is capable of anything? I didn’t think so. Hopeless, absolutely hopeless, that is where we are and will forever be unless…unless God acts on our behalf. Paul put it this way.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV)
“God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” When we were dead in our sins, God moved on our behalf. That right there is reason for you and me to rejoice and be filled with overwhelming awe by the mercy and grace of God!
I wanted to share this with you because it has to do with the Scripture we are taking a look at this morning. If you will remember the events that have just taken place in Jesus’ life. Jesus fed the massive crowd of people and they wanted to make Him King. Jesus left and they followed Him. He taught them about the Bread that satisfies for all time and then He announced, “I am the Bread of Life!” Still, they wouldn’t hear Him, didn’t hear Him, they just wanted another meal. Jesus had to have been disappointed. He rejoiced when people received Him, He rejoiced when sinners repented, and He told stories that illustrated the rambunctious rejoicing of Heaven when the lost were found. Don’t you remember Luke 15? Jesus told a story about a man who had 99 sheep that were safe in their pen, but the man left them all to go looking for the one that was missing. Jesus said,
5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:5-7 NIV)
Immediately following the story of the lost sheep, Jesus told another story about a woman who had ten silver coins, but one was lost. She tore her house apart looking for that lost coin. And then Jesus said,
9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:9-10 NIV)
Jesus wasn’t done telling stories. In the very next verse He began to tell a story about a father who had two sons. The youngest said, “I’m out of here. Give me my inheritance dad, I’m heading for the big city!” The father gave him his inheritance, the boy made his way to the big city where he squandered all of his father’s money, and he ended up with no food, no fun, and no friends except for the hogs he was feeding. Taking care of hogs is not what you would call every Jewish boy’s dream. Finally, Jesus told the crowd, “The boy came to his senses.” He was going to go home and offer to live like one of his dad’s hired hands. Jesus said,
20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. (Luke 15:20-23 NIV)
These are pictures of God, the Father who loves us so much that He seeks us out and runs to gather us up in His arms! Jesus longed for those who had eaten the little barley loaves to desire to feast upon the Bread of Life, but they didn’t. In response, Jesus said,
36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:36-37 NIV)
Jesus already knew that He was headed to the Cross to die for the very ones He had fed and taught about the Bread of Life. Would His death be in vain? Would those who heard the message just simply turn and walk away when they didn’t get what they were after? No way! Jesus reminded Himself that those the Father has chosen will come, they will respond. Jesus didn’t get caught up in the emotion of the deadness of people’s hearts, He came to do His Father’s will regardless of whether anyone came or not…and some would come, just not those in attendance that day.
I have to tell you that this story, and the truth of God’s calling the lost, has enabled me to continue to do what I’ve been called to do. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t pray for the Lord to use the lesson He has given me to open the eyes of those who don’t know Jesus. Most Sundays, when I offer the invitation to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, nobody comes. There have been many times that I’ve searched my heart, I’ve prayed asking the Lord to show me what I’m doing wrong. There have been times I’ve felt like an utter failure because I knew how the Scripture had affected me during the week, but when I shared it with others…nobody came. I don’t beat myself up anymore because of this. I spend time in prayer and study during the week, I bath the lesson in prayer, I intercede on behalf of those who will be in attendance, but I can’t make someone believe.
That leads me to the second thing I wanted to point out to you. It is found in vss 37 and 40. Let me share these two verses with you. Jesus said,
37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37 NIV)
“…and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” Wow! What an amazing promise! I want that to sink into our hearts and minds this morning. Whoever comes to Jesus, He will welcome you with open arms. When we hear that we are dead in our transgressions and sins and that unless God moves we are hopeless, some conclude that God’s “election,” His electing grace, is already settled and whoever is going to be saved is going to be saved so we might as well sit back and relax because it’s a done deal. If that is what you’ve been thinking then your thinking is messed up. All throughout the Bible we find the call to come to Jesus, it is God’s will that you come. Take a look at verse 40. Jesus said,
40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:40 NIV)
Those who look to the Son, who believe in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, will be saved. In the very first chapter of John’s Gospel we read,
11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– (John 1:11-12 NIV)
Will you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Will you recognize your hopeless condition apart from receiving what Jesus has done for you by offering His life for your redemption? Though the Bible teaches that God is Omniscient, He knows all things, Omnipotent, He holds all power in His hands, Omnipresent, He is everywhere at one and the same time, and He is Sovereign, in absolute control…He is calling you to Himself, but you must come. In Revelation we have this amazing picture painted for us. Listen to this powerful Scripture found in Revelation 3:20.
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20 NIV)
There is an amazing promise for those who will answer the call, those who will open the door and receive Jesus, and it is security. Jesus said, in John 6:39,
39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39 NIV)
For those who receive Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life there is this promise that nothing can separate you from the love of God this is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus said, “I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” Now, I want to point one final truth out for you. If our salvation was dependent upon us, our behavior, our thoughts, and our devotion then Jesus could never have made that statement.
Let’s face it, we are a mess. Some of us may look like we’ve got it all together on the outside, but I’ve been around people long enough to know that some of those who look the best have it the worst. Our lives are a contradiction at best. We say we love the Lord and we really do, but our lives betray our words. Jesus said that He came for the sick and the church is the hospital where the sick come together for healing. I love the story Shane Claiborne told to a group of students at Baylor University. Shane said,
A few months back as I was getting ready to speak to a group of folks, the pastor approached me beforehand to point out that a couple of gay men were sitting on the front row, holding hands. He felt the need to point it out. “Are you going to say something about that, about homosexuality?” he whispered. I laughed, and said, “I’m not sure what you have in mind. I could begin by saying I praise God that they felt welcome enough to come into this place, that I am glad they are here.” That is not what he had in mind. I wondered to myself, following his logic, if he would then want me to ask everyone who had been divorced and remarried to stand up so we could give them a little firm rebuke. In fact, maybe we should just station folks at the doors of the church like bouncers in clubs—sort of a sin patrol. They could ask people as they enter the building: “Have you been prideful or greedy this week?” And we could bounce all the nasty sinners out of the service. We’d be left with much smaller crowds to deal with. In fact I would probably end up preaching to a small handful of proud saints, whom I could point my finger at, call them all liars, and tell them to leave as well. What in the world has become of us? (Shane Claiborne, Jesus is for Losers.)
Some how, some where along the way, we lost our way and decided to turn the church into a sanitized hideaway for God’s people to escape the world. That’s not at all what Jesus desires for us. We are a hospital and we are to invite the sin-sick and broken to join us in seeking mercy and grace at the throne of our Savior.
Our salvation, your salvation and mine, is God’s—we are saved by grace and held secure in the Father’s hands. We can’t lose what is not ours. If salvation was something you and I earned then we would most definitely lose it, but it is a free gift given to those who will have faith in Jesus. The more we spend time seeking to understand just how glorious His grace truly is, the more we will find His transforming power at work in our lives. The more time we spend seeking to understand that nothing can pry us from His strong hands once we receive Jesus as Lord of our life, the more we will want to live our lives solely for His glory.
If you are here this morning and you know that you are a mess, then you need to know that He is able to make a masterpiece out of your mess. He will never give up on you my friend. “He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.” (Philippians 1:6) Let me close by telling you about another group of folks who were a mess. Long ago the Chosen People were living in Jerusalem and enjoying every blessing from God, but they were a mess. They were rebellious, apathetic towards God’s grace, and they did what they wanted to do. God was patient with them until His patience ran out. The Babylonians marched on Jerusalem and destroyed the city. They took the citizens of Jerusalem back to Babylon where they were oppressed and living in exile. They wondered if they had blown it for good this time. Listen in.
14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:14-16 NIV)
There is no greater illustration of love and devotion among people than a mother and her nursing baby, but God said, “Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Had the Israelites blown it? You better believe it, but God wasn’t finished with them and neither is He finished with you and me. Won’t you come to Him today? Won’t you cry out to Jesus, receive Him as Lord of your life this morning, and watch Him begin to work in your life in ways you can’t even imagine?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73012
July 6, 2014