His Achievement Are We
WHEN Abram and Lot went their separate ways, it is recorded that Lot lifted his eyes and saw the Jordan basin, “and Lot is choosing for his [part], all the basin of the Jordan” (Gen.13:8-11). When Moses’ father-in-law advised him to delegate some of his work to others, we read “Moses chose men of ability from all Israel and set them as heads over the people . . . ” (Ex.18:25). When the Lord visited at the home of Mary and Martha, Mary chose “the good part” in sitting at His feet and listening to His word (Luke 10:38-42). When we choose, we choose what is presently choice to us. It is not possible for us to do otherwise, for our choices reflect the true condition of our heart, and manifest our character.
Moral, or volitional, ability must be distinguished from physical ability. No one can prefer anything which is contrary to his preference, any more than he can love what he hates. A man may well lie to others concerning his preferences, but he can never truly choose with his lips what he rejects in his heart.
There are all manner of things we would be able to do, to carry out through the use of our bodily members, if we were only able to choose to do them (in the sense of acting upon them), or at least able to choose something else connected with them which would result in their being accomplished. However, one’s possession of a particular preference or ability to make a certain choice can only exist, like everything else, as the result of its own cause, of which it is merely a product.
A sinful will only reflects the much deeper matter of a sinful heart. The relative foolishness (or wisdom) of our preferences, reflects the present condition of our heart (cp Prov.4:23b; Matt.15:18,19). Our choices are not things of chance, but the effects of their causes. Our choices are constantly changing, and are changing in many ways, from one moment to the next. With the exception of internal organic functions and certain involuntary or reflex bodily movements, the rest of our actions, great and small, occur voluntarily. That is, they reflect the choices which we have made.
We do many voluntary acts, however, that, in themselves, we have never chosen. Instead, we choose other things with which our deeds are connected and from which they result. Insofar as external acts are concerned, in many cases we do them even though we have not chosen them. We can never do a voluntary act, however, except as the product of a choice, regardless of what our object of choice may actually be. When we “decide to do” things that are undesirable in themselves, our decision is never made in favor of such an object, but in favor of some other thing with which it is connected, something which is desirable to us, or at least slightly preferable to all other things presently in view or under consideration.
Any statement of actual preference is an exhibition of truth. In any certain moment, either we have a given preference (and consequently effect a corresponding choice and action) or we do not. We cannot have a new preference while our old preference still exists. Nor can we make a new choice while we still have an old preference. For the act of choosing is merely the exercise of existing preference. One cannot prefer what is not yet preferable. Yet when it becomes preferable it is preferred and cannot be unpreferred.
The gospel today is nearly always presented as a transaction, as something quite available to any and all who would simply of themselves do some certain thing or things, even if others will not. Much is said of the importance of making “decisions.” The idea, however, is simply that in these decisions it is man himself—not the spirit of God—which makes the difference between success and failure at present and, certainly, between happiness and horror for eternity. Indeed, it is insisted that God will do all for one man that He will do for another but that He will not do enough for any man to insure even his present pleasure, wealth or health, much less his eternal life.
It is insisted that when the lost—billions of whom either having never heard of Him or having only nominally done so—finally come into the Saviour’s glorious presence, it is then that Christ Himself will command them all forever to leave it and enter into the terrors of everlasting burnings! “Evangelism” is carried on in the man-centered hope that at least a few will be strong enough to meet the divine demands.
Few realize that “No one is recognizing the Son except the Father; neither is anyone recognizing the Father except the Son and he to whom the Son should be intending to unveil Him” (Matt.11:27). Even in His personal ministry to Israel, the Lord plainly said to His numerous disciples, “‘There are some of you who are [actually] not believing. . . . .No one can be coming to Me if it should not be given him of the Father’. At this, then, many of His disciples came away, dropping behind, and walked no longer with Him. Jesus, then, said to the twelve, ‘Not you also are wanting to go away’! Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we come away? Declarations of life eonian hast Thou! And we believe and know that Thou art the Holy One of God’. Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not I choose you, the twelve . . . ?’” (John 6:64-70). Indeed, “Not you choose Me, but I choose you” (John 15:16a).
Yet again, conversely, the Lord said to the throngs, “Wherefore do you not know My speech? Seeing that you cannot hear My word” (John 8:43). This was so “that the word of Isaiah the prophet, which he said, may be being fulfilled” (John 12:38a). Isaiah had prophesied long ago that unbelief would be widespread and that the strong arm of the Lord would not be revealed. “Lord, who believes our tidings? And the arm of the Lord, to whom was it revealed?” (John 12:38b).
Our closed minds must be opened up to understand the scriptures (cf Luke 24:45). Otherwise, we can no more grasp their true significance than a blind man can see the brightest of objects immediately before him. The reason for the unbelief of the Jews was that God had blinded His people: Therefore they could not believe, seeing that Isaiah said again that He has blinded their eyes and callouses their heart, lest they may be perceiving with their eyes, and should be apprehending with their heart, and may be turning about, and I shall be healing them. These things Isaiah said, seeing that he perceived His glory, and speaks concerning Him” (John 12:40,41).
If we are wise, we too will recognize that “It is the glory of Elohim to conceal a matter” (Prov.25:2a). “For there is not anything hidden, except that it should be manifested, neither did it become concealed, but that it may be coming into manifestation. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (cf Mark 4:22,23).
Only those who are called and chosen actually choose Christ. The ecclesia (OUT-CALLED ones) of the Thessalonians had chosen Him, and Paul could perceive (the results of) their choice: “having perceived, brethren beloved by God, your choice, for the evangel of our God did not come to you in word only, but in power also, and in holy spirit and in much assurance, according as you are aware” (1 Thess.1:4,5).
How marvelous it is that God has revealed His Son to us: “This is My Son, the Chosen; Him be hearing” (cp Luke 9:35). No one can genuinely choose Christ who does not find Him Choice, or to be preferred above all others. Likewise, anyone to whom Christ is Choice, cannot but choose Him during the time in which He is deemed Choice. For example, when it delights God to unveil (FROM-COVER) His Son in us (cf Gal.1:15) and while He continues to do so, we choose Christ and cannot reject Him. For we are no longer blind; we now see Him as He truly is: choice indeed. And we are getting to know Him as well, for God has unveiled Him in us.
Many, however—to whom Christ, in fact, is not choice—out of selfish interests, can only choose to make a profession of Christ. Their faith is only simulated or “feigned” (cp 1 Cor. 15:2). Fleshly attempts at self-conviction do not constitute God-given faith. A decision merely to profess Christ or to make a supposed public “acceptance” of Him, is a very different thing from actually choosing and accepting Christ. No one can “accept” (or “take along,” paralambano) Christ who has not first chosen Him. Yet Christ can never be chosen by those from whom He is veiled. An object must first be perceived before it can be compared and selected from a field.
Furthermore, we cannot tell the unbeliever that if he will only do a certain thing, God will then in return give him faith. All such claims are false. For they represent God as a Rewarder in granting faith, as One Who has obligated Himself to “meet halfway” all who will fulfill His requirements. Since salvation is a matter of grace, it cannot also be a matter of meeting requirements. All genuine faith in Christ is graciously granted to us (Phil.1:29).
Again, no one to whom Christ is not yet choice can choose Christ. And Christ cannot be choice to anyone to whom He has not yet been made choice. When He is made choice He becomes choice and so is choice; or to say the same thing, He is chosen. This first act of the believer in which Christ is consciously chosen, is merely a consequence of his new mental preference which has been graciously granted to him by God.
THE NATURE OF VOLITION
No one can choose what he does not prefer. There is no such thing as an object being choice which has not yet been chosen. A man can no more exercise volition contrary to his understanding and disposition than a tree can bear fruit contrary to its nature: “Either make the tree ideal and its fruit ideal, or make the tree rotten and its fruit rotten, for by its fruit the tree is known” (Matt.12:33). There is no middle ground. “Progeny of vipers! How can you be speaking what is good, being wicked? For out of the superabundance of the heart the mouth is speaking. The good man out of his good treasure is extracting good things; and the wicked man out of his wicked treasure is extracting wicked things” (Matt.12:34,35).
“From their fruits you shall be recognizing them. Not from thorns are they culling grapes, not from star thistles figs. Thus every good tree ideal fruit is producing, yet the rotten tree noxious fruit is producing. A good tree cannot bear noxious fruit, neither is a rotten tree producing ideal fruit” (Matt.7:16-18). “Will the Ethiopian turn his skin, or the leopard its spots? Moreover, then, you can do good, when taught to do evil” (Jer.13:23).
Since there is therefore no hope from within, let us look only to our God and Father, but not, craftily, to ourselves. Our humble prayer, serious and heartfelt, should be that God might be “adapting [us] to every good work to do His will, doing in us what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory for the eons of the eons. Amen!” (cp Heb.13:20, 21). It is glorious to know that we are making our requests known to One Who is able. And so, to the One “Who is able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending, according to the power that is operating in us, to Him be the glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons! Amen”! (Eph.3:20,21). Only thus can our outlook and attitude accord with the truth. May God enable us to say from the heart and with understanding, even as it is written, “He who is boasting, in the Lord let him be boasting” (1 Cor. 1:31).
This is not at all to say that our efforts are not essential or that there will be nothing for us to do since it is God Who saves us from our failings. To the contrary, God graciously saves us by causing us to work, “training us that, disowning irreverence and worldly desires, we should be living sanely and justly and devoutly in the current eon” (Titus 2:11,12). But our efforts are merely a product; they are the means through which God saves us. We contribute nothing.
It is not a question of our discipline and volition, but of pride and self-reliance concerning our discipline and volition, of boasting in the flesh instead of glorying in the transforming power of God. As long as we continue to see ourselves, in a final sense, as the key to anything, we will remain proud, antagonistic to “the grace of God in truth” (Col.1:6).
It is one thing to conceive of ourselves, in a dutiful sense and relatively speaking, as “cooperating” with the Lord Jesus, as He leads us into paths of better service. It is quite another, however, proudly to fancy ourselves to be so utterly independent of the Supreme Deity Himself, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, that even He is at a loss to change our will or walk without our help.
Christ is the Head of the ecclesia, and He is the Saviour of the body (Eph.5:23). He “gives Himself up for its sake that He should be hallowing it, cleansing it in the bath of the water ([that is,] with His declaration) that He should be presenting to Himself a glorious ecclesia, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it may be holy and flawless” (Eph.5:25-27). He is “nurturing and cherishing” the members of the ecclesia, “ . . . for we are members of His body” (Eph.5:30). Though the course is often arduous, slow, and disappointing, nonetheless, the entire ecclesia is growing in the growth of God (Col.2:19). We will be made to stand, for the Lord is able to make us stand (Rom.14: 4). And it is by the power of these words of faith, because of their influence upon us, that we are learning to be choosing what is choice.
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