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Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller


The God-Enhanced Heart

Romans 9:1-33

Remember Steve Austin - the Six Million Dollar Man? "We have the technology; we can rebuild him - faster, stronger, and a better actor!" Well maybe that last part was beyond the technology of the time - but that fictional story involved giving a man enhanced body parts to make him better than he was.

Today some of that dream has become reality - we now have artificial hips, cochlear implants to give deaf people hearing, and even synthetic eyes to give the blind sight. They're not perfect but they would seem like miracles only a generation ago. You can also enhance your mind by taking certain herbs that increase memory, supposedly - I can't remember their names - but?

There is such a thing as the enhanced heart as well. I'm not talking about your cardio-vascular system, but the spirit - and this enhancement comes from God Himself. God takes the way we are and makes it more that way - in the process He reveals things about people only He knew - like: knowing which people would receive His Son before they were ever created, then predestining them to that end.

It's one of the toughest of philosophical topics, and it presents itself in Romans chapter 9. In theological terms it is the argument between predestination and free will. We even have names associated with the two sides: Calvinism, and Armenianism. Many books have been written on the subject and Christian thinkers of good conscience argue both sides. So we're not going to fully debate that subject today and as I said a few weeks ago, I can point you to some good resources to do your own study.

I will tell you my position right up front so that you use that as a filter for what I'm going to teach as we make our way through the passage. Basically, Calvinism says that man has nothing to do with his salvation - that God does it all. That's pure predestination. Armenianism says that man has complete "free will" to choose to come to God and God doesn't have much to do with it. I'm way over-simplifying it but you get the idea, I hope.

My position, and that of Calvary Chapel, is that neither side is correct, but that the truth is found in the middle between predestination and free will. That's not a compromised cop-out, but I think is the correct interpretation of the Scriptures as a whole.

It's important which way you lean because it will affect how you feel about salvation and about how you approach others with the gospel. So let's walk through this, as Paul starts by making a startling statement about wishes for his brothers who don't yet know Jesus.

I speak the truth in Christ-I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit- 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel.

That's a pretty strong statement - Paul saying he would be separated from Christ if his Jewish brothers could be saved. I'm not sure I could say that - but it reminds me of what Moses said to God in Exodus 32 - when God was ready to wipe out Israel, Moses told God to wipe his name out of the book of Life but spare Israel. God didn't wipe out Israel, nor did He wipe out Moses' name from the book of Remembrances - instead He used this to prompt Moses' intercession for the people, then used the intercession to spare them.

Remember - Moses was actually feeling the heart of God as he spoke this deep felt desire - just as Paul did. He felt so much love for the people that he could do anything, the worst thing, to see them saved. This is the heart of God - and God demonstrated it Himself. Think about it - He sent His Son to be accursed to that we could come back into fellowship. It might be a foolish statement, but it communicates his heart. Paul goes on:

Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

You see, the Jews had all the pieces of the puzzle - all they had to do was put them together to see the picture of Christ, the Messiah. All the things Paul mentions speak to Jesus' coming. But they became blinded due to pride. They thought being Jewish was made them special - when in fact what made them special was being chosen to be the communicators of God's love through the Messiah to the world. The fact that many of the Jews didn't recognize Jesus didn't mean that God blew it when He chose them.

6 It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 8 In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."
You remember the story - God promised Abraham an offspring, but Abraham got impatient and had a son by his wife's maidservant Hagar. Ishmael did not inherit because he was not the son of the promise, like Isaac was. So, in other words, just because you are descended from Abraham doesn't mean you are part of the covenant community, and just because you were born into a Christian family it doesn't mean you are a Christian. You too have to recognize the promise of God pointing to Jesus, and be born again into that promise in order to be a part of His family.

That's the key to remember as we move through the chapter - it is through faith, simple belief in what God promised and has done - that we enter in. Paul uses another example:

10 Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls-she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

The Jews might have argued against Paul's first statement by saying that "Sure, Ishmael was born from an Egyptian, so he couldn't be the son of the promise." So Paul then uses the example of Jacob and Esau - twins born of the same mother - where in Genesis 25 God told Rebekah that He was choosing the younger one to rule the older. It is not genetics that gets us to heaven, nor is it birth - but God's choosing. So that's where things start to get dicey:

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

The quote comes from Exodus 33. Moses was at a crisis point - he wanted to know from God what kind of help he would get to lead God's people. Moses said "if You don't go with us don't send us anywhere." Moses was putting his entire trust in God. God told Moses that He was pleased and when Moses asked to see God's glory God said: Ex 33:19-20
"I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

God is saying: "Just because I'm pleased with you doesn't mean you have earned the right to see me. I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." We'll get to the "is God unjust" part in a moment - but read on:

16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Again back to Exodus - 7 times it says Pharaoh hardened his heart, then 7 times after that when it was the Lord who hardened Pharaoh's heart. So which was it? It was both. God basically gave Pharaoh an enhanced version of what he wanted - a hard heart. Just as God gave Moses an advanced version of the heart he wanted - a heart of mercy and of wanting to know and be near God at any cost. But it didn't turn on Moses or Pharaoh - but on God doing the work - that's why God is just - because it doesn't depend on us to earn anything.

So then you think - then how can God send anyone to hell since it's all Him anyway?

19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

This paragraph might suggest that Paul was a Calvinist - that he believed that man has really no part in salvation, that God makes either beautiful vase or a toilet and we don't have anything to do with it. Well, let's let the argument develop fully:

22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction?

See that "bore with great patience" part? That's a clue - remember, Pharaoh first hardened his own heart, then God hardened it. God had the Israelis stay in Egypt for 430 years in part because He was waiting for the "sin of the Amorites" to reach its "full measure" before driving them out of Canaan - again showing His patience - but also to allow it to become fully evident what nature the Amorites really were - in opposition to God and unwilling to bow to Him.

23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory- 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Similarly with the objects of His mercy - "whom He also called" Paul says. God called you, you respond, then, amazingly, you were created just for that reason. I'll explain that more in a minute but let's let Paul finish the thought.

25 As he says in Hosea:
"I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," 26 and, "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'"

This describes you and I - we were enemies of God until He made a way for us to enter His family. So how did He do it? Did He just arbitrarily pick - "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe, now to hell you all must go?" No. Jesus said "If I be lifted up I will draw all men to Me." And "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." God gave, Jesus draws.
In Acts 26:14 Paul tells us what God said to him on the road to Damascus.
"It is hard for you to kick against the goads." Goads are sharp pointed sticks used to get draft animals to move. The image became proverbial for refusing to admit to a reality you cannot change. That's what coming to Christ is like. Christ died for all the world, but we are all resistant to that reality and it is by God overcoming our resistance that we become saved.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. God wants all to be saved, but not all will heed the call.

27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
"Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. 28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality."
29 It is just as Isaiah said previously:
"Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah."
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 33 As it is written:
"See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

So summing up Paul's argument - you can't do anything or be anything that will get you salvation. You can only trust in the work God has done - and He has worked it out so that it was as if it was going to be that way all along.

So now - what does this all mean? I want to suggest that what we're talking about are enhancements to the heart brought about by God - whether hardness or humbleness - toward hell or heaven.

For Pharaoh God took what was already his nature and enhanced it - made his heart so hard that what Pharaoh wanted, which was self-interest, came about fully. Even after God killed all the first born - the worst plague - even Pharaoh's first born died - Pharaoh told Moses "Okay, you can go - but bless me."

God also enhanced the heart of Moses - after Moses put his complete trust in God, God showed him His glory and enhanced his heart so much that Moses even asked God to curse him in order to save Israel.

You will get a heart enhancement - whichever you ask for. If you want nothing to do with God then He'll work it out so you were designed for that end. If, instead, you feel the draw of His love and draw near to Him through Jesus, God will make it so that was your destination the whole time.

Our problem is that we put God in a box. Remember, there is no time for God - He sees the end from the beginning and can work at the end and at the beginning simultaneously.


So what should we take away from this chapter?

My simple encouragement to us all is this: pray for God's heart. Pray that you'll think like Him, talk like Him, walk like Him and act like Him. Pray that you'll have a heart enhancement like Moses and Paul - realizing that you aren't earning it and you aren't doing it.

And for those of you who may have never given your heart over to God at all - consider: are you predestined for heaven or hell? How can you know? One way is to give your heart over to Him today and see.

Just pray: Jesus, I've been selfish like Pharaoh - always wanting You to do things my way. I relinquish my life now to You - I believe that You did the work to give me eternal life on the cross and I give the reigns of my life and my whole heart over to You to be my Savior and my Lord.

He's drawing you, even today - feel the draw - feel the love - the simply respond and put your trust in Him today.

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