Friday, July 17, 2015

Reaching Down

Let's say that I wanted to see the president.  No, I NEED to see him.  Not just from a distance, I need to sit down and have a private conversation. What can I do? Dial up the White House and say, "Sir?  Could I come over to the Oval Office next week and have a heart to heart with you?"

No.  If I tried for a month, I probably couldn't get past the phone operator at the White House. 

Let's reverse things.  Let's suppose the President is passing through Wyoming and decides to do some slumming.  So he delegates a handler to call an ordinary citizen, me, to see if they can wrangle room and board for a day or two.  
I get to decide whether or not to break bread with him. 
Now before we devolve into all the reasons you might or might not like to sit down and chat with the president, let me get straight to the point.  The difference in our positions is so profound that no amount of reaching on my part would have any significant impact.  No amount of wanting his attention would make any difference.  But the president could want to see me. Asking to meet me is within his purview, and it would be an honor to host the Commander in Chief of the United States of America.  But I could say no. Even the president doesn't have the power to MAKE me welcome him.  
This metaphor helps me understand the grace and initiative of God.  I have this wonderful friend who has taught me so much about Calvin and his teaching.  We can't come to any kind of agreement, but I very much enjoy talking to him. 
He believes in the idea that we have no choice at all. If God calls, he says, we are irresistibly drawn to him. If God never calls, we have no capacity to come to him.  I firmly believe, on the other hand, that God offers pardon and peace to all, but so many of us are implacable enemies who will refuse him to the end. To which he leveled the criticism that we (people who reject Calvin's idea of the irresistible call) think WE are good enough, smart enough, wise enough to choose God when in fact, God did all the work.
It's not an unfair criticism.
Sometimes we focus obsessively on people's response to God to the vast neglect of the fact that God initiated salvation.  In other words we think it's all about us and what we do.  We focus on the .1% where we respond (or not) instead of on the 99.9% where God made our salvation possible.
See, if God didn't create us, we wouldn't be (Genesis 1). If God didn't reveal himself in nature, no man would know him (Romans 1).  If God didn't reveal himself in his word, no man could obey him.  If God didn't speak to Abraham, preserve Abraham and make covenant with Abraham, there would be no Israel.  If God didn't send Jesus Christ there would be no perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 10:3-5).  There would be no way, no revelation of truth, no life (in either sense) in the world, if God didn't move (John 14:6).
And us?  In the final evaluation, God called us. He would like to come and stay at our house every day for a while then bring us back to His place.  He offers to pardon us, adopt us, and live with us forever.  It's all ours and we didn't do anything.  
Can we say no?  "No thank you, God.  I'll just continue on my own."  Yep.  And it would be the saddest refusal of our lives.  But that "No." or "Yes." is all the power we possess, because we certainly couldn't call God up and invite him into our lives.  If he wasn't reaching down, no amount of reaching up would matter.  
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. 
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