Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Freedom and Faith

As I work on Sunday's sermon, I'm using the text from Mark 6:1-13 where Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth.  The language has always fascinated me from verse 5, "he was unable to do any miracles there".

The Revised Standard Version states, "...he could do no mighty works there,..."  If you look at Matthew's account of this story, 13:58 states, "...he did not do many mighty works there,..."  Scholars believe that Matthew's Gospel is based upon Mark's and it is interesting to see the language change.  Almost as if Matthew was saying, "He could have done them but he chose not to."

I believe we all have free will - our trouble
begins when we use it to hurt others
or ourselves which is sometimes debatable!
Photo by Beniamin Pop of Romania
But both versions agree it had to do with unbelief.

This really allows us to ask the question, how much do we have to do with our own faith, healing and salvation?

John Calvin's famous TULIP referring to salvation includes the following points:

Total Depravity – the idea that all human beings are in a state of sin (total refers to all people rather than all people are totally evil).  People are unable to choose God because their natures are corrupt and choose self.  Only God can grant this grace to an individual.

Unconditional Election – salvation is not based on merit or works but is entirely the work of God in human beings.

Limited Atonement – only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus’ death.

Irresistible Grace – when God desires for someone to be saved, God will make it happen – i.e. overcome resistance or obstacles.  A person cannot resist God.

Perseverance of the Saints – those whom God has chosen for salvation cannot fall away from salvation (once saved, always saved).  Those who backslide were likely not saved to begin with (not those of the elect).

John Wesley followed the tenets of Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch Reformed Theologian of the 16th Century which tended to disagree with the final four points.  As I prepare for worship for Sunday, I looked for an affirmation of faith that incorporated the Arminian understanding dealing with salvation and free will but didn't find anything.  So here's what I wrote.  I invite you to look for the differences in Arminianism and Calvinism:

                    We believe that God is always the initiator in our salvation and refer to this 
                    as prevenient grace.  We have the free will to accept or reject God’s

                    We believe that salvation is authored by God’s grace.  This is a free gift 
                    uninfluenced by human action or merit.  Our salvation comes through our 
                    acceptance of the atoning gift of Jesus Christ and his subsequent Lordship 
                    of our lives.

                    We believe that the love of God and this free grace through cross and 
                    resurrection is for all people.

                    We believe that while God seeks out all people, God does not force our 
                    belief or faith and that this grace may be resisted.

                    We believe that God gives disciples of Jesus Christ the freedom and power 
                    to resist sin but that this is also freedom to reject God’s grace through 
                    persistent, unrepentant sin.

                    We believe that no matter our choices, God continues to love us and will 
                    always seek after us, offering us mercy, grace and salvation.

You can see that free will is essential to this and that we do have control over our choices - even the choice of grace or rejection.  I think that this shows up in this week's gospel lesson.  Clearly the people of Nazareth resist the grace offered in their midst.

So our struggle really becomes, "How do we resist God's grace in our lives and how can we do this less often?

No comments:

Post a Comment