Thursday, May 22, 2008

Give the Lord no Rest

As a pastor whose soteriology is solidly Reformed, I rejoice that I can evangelize without the "pressure" of having to convert anyone. With a view of the Gospel that rightly emphasizes God's sovereignty, a "successful witnessing encounter" is one in which I was able, by grace, to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly. Period. Making someone convert is not my job. That is a spiritual work that only the Spirit of God can perform. I just preach. Wow, y'know, honestly that really narrows the task down to something manageable.

But here's the rub: I still earnestly desire to see conversions. I still long to see people come to Christ in repentant faith.

Let's just be honest: I get sick of merely "planting seeds" and hoping that someday, by and by, I'll see some actual fruit.

Thus the emotional dilemma for the evangelistically-minded man: I know salvation is up to the Lord; but I am impatient to see it happen.

Now, the common way in which I and my fellow Reformed pastors have comforted ourselves and one another as we encounter this dilemma, is to say that we must turn our impatience into submission and contentment. After all, that sort of willful acquiescence to the Lord's will seems quite Biblical, and Reformed. Right?

Well, the famous giant of Christian history, George Muller, says no. Consider this quote from a preacher and pastor who knew more than we ever will about living by faith alone.

The Bible assures us that in everything we do for the Lord...our labor is not in vain. We have to guard against thinking that it does not matter whether we see present fruit or not. On the contrary, we should give the Lord no rest until we see fruit. Therefore, in persevering yet submissive prayer, we should make our requests known to God. (From his autobiography, emphasis mine.)

Muller would suggest that the line of thought we are using to comfort ourselves in our fruitlessness is the very thing we need to vigilantly struggle against. It does matter, what fruit we bear, what things happen as a result of our ministries. If none are being converted, or if we are not being persecuted as our Lord promised we would be if only we were faithful, there can be only one answer.

Let us commit ourselves to fervent, persistent, and as Muller says, still submissive prayer.

8 comments:

arminianperspectives said...

As a pastor whose soteriology is solidly Reformed, I rejoice that I can evangelize without the "pressure" of having to convert anyone.

As an Arminian I agree but there is still a need to present the gospel accurately and that carries some pressure, don't you think?

Making someone convert is not my job. That is a spiritual work that only the Spirit of God can perform. I just preach. Wow, y'know, honestly that really narrows the task down to something manageable.

Again, as an Arminian I agree.

But here's the rub: I still earnestly desire to see conversions. I still long to see people come to Christ in repentant faith.

Do you desire to see everyone you preach to come to Christ in faith and repentance? Doesn't that put you at odds with God Himself who may not desire that everyone you preach to come to faith and repentance?

Let's just be honest: I get sick of merely "planting seeds" and hoping that someday, by and by, I'll see some actual fruit.

I am feeling you on that brother. I would like to see more fruit too, but Paul seems to make it clear that the one who plants is as important as the one who waters, etc.

Let us commit ourselves to fervent, persistent, and as Muller says, still submissive prayer.

Kinda puts the "pressure" back on doesn't it? Or was that your point?

God Bless,
Ben

Gordan Runyan said...

Ben, greetings.

My post was fine, consistent Calvinism.

Now, your response, forgive me, looks like the product of a guy who is bored and looking to pick a fight over any convenient thing.

But I'll let you have this one: Yes, I still feel pressure to live in the light of my calling. And yes, I do reason and act differently than God does, seeing as how I'm not God and all that.

So, you got me. You win.

Machine Gun Kelley said...

I'll bite too:

"Do you desire to see everyone you preach to come to Christ in faith and repentance?"

Yep. Sure do.

"Doesn't that put you at odds with God Himself who may not desire that everyone you preach to come to faith and repentance?"

Perhaps, but then the same would be true for Paul as well. In Romans 9, we see Paul wishing that he could be accursed for his kinsmen according to the flesh and then go right into some of the strongest teachings on God's sovereignty in Salvation.

For me, the bottom line is that He's God and I'm not. Whatever He does -or does not do- He is good and right.

Strong Tower said...

...but God gives the increase...

I think? We sow and water what else can be done. We scatter seed, but the parable says that it is the Word that is scattered and the Son who does it. He is also the one who brings the rain in and out of season, and also the conditioner of the ground and all other circumstances that accompany the seed time and therefore regulates the harvest. Practically speaking we can only do what he gives us to do and regeneration is not one of them. We might wish to grow the ear and cause its hearing but alas, it is he alone who does that. What then can be said except that we "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today..."

I am glad he does it, and you?

arminianperspectives said...

Rhett,

Perhaps, but then the same would be true for Paul as well. In Romans 9, we see Paul wishing that he could be accursed for his kinsmen according to the flesh and then go right into some of the strongest teachings on God's sovereignty in Salvation.

Which to me is a pretty strong indicator that you have misunderstood what Paul is trying to teach in Rom. 9.

Gordan,

It is not a matter of being different than God for me. It is a matter of being of like mind with God and desiring what He desires which is what we should all be aiming for.

If we are to live and pray in accordance with God's will then I am puzzled why we should be grieved that some do not repent that God does not desire or will to repent.

Rhett's Scripture reference is a great example. Paul is speaking of the same "reprobated" Jews and making it clear that he desires their salvation. That puts Paul at odds with God's will and has Paul desiring and praying for what He knows is contrary to God's will.

Just some thoughts. Not trying to start a fight or get into a long debate. It is just how I see it. One of the reasons I can't be a Calvinist is because it seems so hard for them to express themselves (even in simple matters) and be consistent with their presuppositions.

I often try to put myself in the Calvinists shoes and see how things might work out practically. When I do that I see a lot of inconsistency and confusion. Of course you might see the same on my side and that is why it is good to discuss this stuff soemtimes to try to better understand where each other is coming from.

God Bless,
Ben

Strong Tower said...

I don't know guys, I might have to agree with Ben on this. Why should we grieve if God gave man freewill so that by that God's will would be fulfilled such that some would choose him and others not? Should we not rather rejoice that God's will was fulfilled in the self-condmenation of freewill? So, maybe Ben is right, why grieve when men choose their own path? Isn't that the will of God? Didn't God give men the choice to choose not to follow and by that secure his will that not all sould be saved? So, maybe the Arminian is correct and the Bible contradicts itself. We shouldn't grieve when God's will is accomplished, should we, even if it contradicts God's will that all men should be saved?

Gordan Runyan said...

Ben, while I can sympathize with your exhasperation at people not expressing themselves well, I must admit that when I've seen you point up instances of a Calvinist thinking in non-Calvinist ways, it has only served to convince me that you have manufactured some implications for Calvinism that we just do not see.

This post and your comments to me and Rhett are case-in-point. You seem to believe that Calvinism must imply idleness or at best an uncaring attitude toward the lost around us, since we believe some of them are not going to be saved.

I don't think Paul said in Romans 9 that all the unbelieving Jews were decretally non-elect. He continued to preach to them and long for their souls precisely because he held out hope that God would choose to save some of them at least, if not all.

Our point here is narrow: God has chosen some. We don't know who those are, but we feel a sense of longing and sorrow for our fellow man, struggling in sin. Now, if God were to reveal to me infallibly that Joe Blow is not of that great number, then I would cease to care about Joe Blow. Since He's not about to do that, I care about Joe Blow and want to see him repent and turn to Christ.

I fail to see how you arrive at that being an instance of not aligning my thoughts with God's.

Thanks for interacting on this.

Machine Gun Kelley said...

Ben,

Which to me is a pretty strong indicator that you have misunderstood what Paul is trying to teach in Rom. 9.

Yeah, I lacked a good Arminian commentary when I first read through it. Perhaps if I would've had one I may have had a chance to understand it as well as you do.

Shalom,
Rhett