Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Monday, June 25, 2007

“PREDESTINATION”. God’s design for our lives. By Gaius Columbus

Going along with line of thought which I expressed in my previous post , it seems to me that we may have the wrong focal point in our preaching of the gospel. We often emphasize escaping Hell whereas that is merely a first effect and a side benefit of our ultimate purpose—which is to conform to the image of Jesus. Salvation is like learning arithmetic, and matrices etc—all the rudimentary courses—that enable a mathematician to do the more heavy duty math. Salvation is necessary ultimately because it makes possible and available to us all the provisions God has made available for His ultimate goal—that we be like His son. If we focus too narrowly on escaping Hell, we miss the bigger picture.

An analogy is the medical student who fails to see that society desires and supports his training so that ultimately so he can be of service to others. The fat check at the end of the month is a side benefit. If this medical student loses this perspective, he runs the risk of becoming a doctor who focuses on how best to make money rather than how to serve the sick. With his goals misplaced, he may indeed start to do things to fatten his wallet that actually work counter to the ultimate goal society first had for him. He prescribes a drug, not because it benefits the patient but because a drug company is paying him to push the drug, or he acquiesces to patient’s demands for a drug even though he knows it is of no benefit, because he knows it keeps his patient’s loyalty.

Similarly, unless we know our “predestination”, we can become side tracked. We stop striving to become like Him and are content merely to have escaped death and hell. The emphasis Jesus put on the gospel was for men to follow Him. Our altar calls should ask some of the following questions: “Do you know about Jesus? Do you ultimately want to be like Him? Well, if you do, I have good news: God has made provision to enable you achieve this very goal. A fringe benefit, of course, is that you escape hell but this first stop you must understand is merely a necessary step of many steps for getting you into God’s family where the Holy Spirit can start His work of beginning to mould you into the likeness of His son—God’s ultimate goal”....I guess what I am saying is that this ultimate goal should permeate everything we say about the gospel, lest we run the risk of hearing the response, when we protest “Lord, Lord” on the last day, ”Depart from me, you evildoer”. Unfortunately, I fear, there are times when I am not focused on this ultimate goal—in my relationship with my kids, wife, colleagues etc., as well as in my thoughts, wishes, plans, attitudes. Fortunately, God in His mercy gives a fresh chance everyday for me to get back on track.

Finally, realize this interesting fact/observation: we are implored to be conformed to the IMAGE of His dear son. The same God who is opposed to the making of graven images and every false representations of himself—a bird, stones etc—is pleased and desires that we be conformed into living images of His son. It appears that our God is opposed to false representations/images of Himself and not to the true living image that is to be found in His son. After all, we were originally made in His image. It is apparent therefore, that representations of His son are the only images which are to be allowed into heaven. All other images—variants of every thing that is not of Him—are to be banished from His presence forever.

In contrast every variant image of the father of this world, the devil, will be given no admittance. Only those images of God’s precious dear Son will be allowed to adorn heaven’s galleries and hallways, no different than a doting father (or mother) proudly displays images of his or her kids on the walls of his or her home, his or her office, his or her cabin, his or her car and his or her wallet. So we too will be images, photographs of His dear son, in all ways like Him. If we know this is God’s ultimate goal, then we, if we love Him, will start even now, bringing this goal to pass—for this is our ultimate worship and hymn of praise.

How much do I want to be like Jesus? Do I merely pay Him lip service, or do I, knowing how important this is for the Father, live my life every day like I believe it. Like James says faith without works is dead. If I love the Father, I will do what He wants and He has declared that what He desires most from me is that I be like His son. The gospel call, salvation, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, scripture, all of these areas merely tools to be used toward securing this ultimate end. Whatever side benefits we derive as we reach for this ultimate goal—salvation from hell, peace of mind, joy, etc—are to be enjoyed, but should not to be confused with the real goal.

Seen this way, foreknowledge/predestination is not to be seen as a fait accompli but as a target to be reached by men and women who fully understand God’s will for their lives and hope to achieve it out of their love for Him and His pleasure. - G. Columbus


Anonymous Robbo said...

Excellent words, brother. Thanks for this reflection on the practical implications and applications. I have heard/read a lot of talk recently accusing many modern day preachers of “sugarcoating" the Gospel and de-emphasizing Hell which makes your point about the way we preach the Gospel most relevant. The claim is that such preaching produces complacent converts who have no Fear of God. But I think that suggestion cuts both ways. A “fire and brimstone” sermon could similarly produce a complacent convert who thinks because he has followed a prescribed formula for salvation, he or she has escaped Hell and that is all that is important.

I had not thought about it the way you put it before i.e., rather than emphasizing or deemphasizing the reality of Hell, we out to be teaching at the point of evangelism the glorious riches that are in God's Kingdom through Christ and what God has made available for us to be transformed and conformed to the image of His Son. Maybe there is a balance to be made in talking about Hell versus the invitation to follow God's plan with the scales being tipped in favor of the latter. There is still a lot in this subject to reflect on ....

June 25, 2007 at 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Annang said...

I totally agree and indeed applaud G Columbus’s analysis of the goal of our redemption as becoming "conformed to the image of Christ" and so to glorify God. The way Paul expressed this concept is to use Adam as a model to construct such an understanding of our redemption. The whole point of Adam for being in God's image was to glorify God. Christ came to redeem and recreate us so that by conforming to His image, we will become the new Adam, the new humanity who will fulfill Adam's original purpose. This concept is most prominent in the book of Romans in which the Apostle more succinctly explains the theology of redemption and its consequence for all people from chapter 1 to 15. The fall of all men into sin was because, like Adam, human beings didn't glorify God as Creator but "became vain in their imagination" (Rom 1-3).

Abraham was a temporary correction to this fall, whose faith was accounted to him for righteousness (Rom4); but it is through Christ and by faith in His name that the condemnation of Adam is removed (Rom 5), God's righteousness is restored (Rom 6), Sin is overcome (Rom 7) and the Power of the Spirit is unleashed in the believer's life (Rom 8). Predestination (Rom 8:28 -11:33) is merely history from God's perspective, but its goal is to produce a new people of God who, like the original Adam, are to be totally devoted to Him as acceptable sacrifice and priestly saints whose duty is to glorify God (Rom 15:6). Predestination for us is just fitting into this overall strategy and plan of God.

It is therefore interesting that in those passages in which Paul attempts to give a glimpse of what believers will eventually become like (e.g. Rom 13:11-14; 1 Cor 15:42ff) Adam is never away from his thoughts. Incidentally I have recently submitted an academic article for consideration for publication in a Theological Seminary Journal which makes this link between Paul's description of what we shall be like when the Lord comes, i.e. the IMAGE of Christ and the image of the first Adam.

For me such a thought that the goal of my salvation is that I will one of these days become like Christ, fulfilling what Adam was like in the garden, talking and walking with God and His angels; such a thought is indeed motivating to my discipleship today. - Annang

June 25, 2007 at 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Gaius Columbus said...

Thanks for your comment, Robbo. Your perspective gives the right recipe—neither over-emphasis nor under-emphasis, but instead, right balance. I too feel that this topic has a lot more to it and that we have merely scratched the surface. For me, the key realization is that all of God’s attributes, His foreknowledge, His love, and His justice, His power/provision work not at cross-purposes (as some who preach traditional predestination inadvertently lead us to believe) but together for His ultimate goal for all men—conformity to the character of His son, Jesus Christ.

Stated differently, God does not become less just to satisfy foreknowledge. Neither does He become less righteous to be loving, or less knowledgeable to stay just etc. Instead, all of these divine attributes work together, in concert, for the ultimate goal, in our case, of making us more and more like His dearly beloved son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
– G Columbus.

June 25, 2007 at 11:15 AM  

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