Our main subject is the Love of God. We are trying to discover how a Believer can appropriate that love personally, and how that Believer can demonstrate God's love to others. This appropriation and demonstration needs to be real, vital, honest and right from the very pages of the written Word of God, and from the heart of the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ. We do not want to imitate those who try to achieve these through legalistic practices, and certainly we do not want to use the methods of those who live in license or as free spirits.

Satan's Control

To understand this great spiritual function, our study has taken us to many different subjects. Some that hinder and some that help this process. One of those many subjects is Satan's control or domination of a believer's life. We started this subject by looking at two Biblical illustrations.

One of those illustrations was from an event in the church at Corinth. A Believer was living in open sexual sin, and the church put him out of the fellowship. In the passing of time, that man changed his ways, and Paul said to receive him back into the fellowship as one fully forgiven. Literally, they were to release him from any obligation or debt to the congregation caused by this act. This process is vital in the Christian walk. It was in this context that Paul warns the church to follow through on this matter, so that Satan could not take advantage of them, or overreach into their affairs of life.

2 Corinthians 2:10-11 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

We must know the facts about Satan's devices, how and why Satan can overreach into the life of a Believer. However, our search was to find out what hinders the Believer from appropriating and demonstrating God's love. Obviously, if Satan is controlling or even influencing the life of a Believe, that Believer cannot reflect God's love to others. We also found another Biblical illustration of Satan's control or domination of a believer's life in an event in Peter's life.

Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Questions naturally come from this account. "Why did Satan have a right to ask for Peter to sift him?" If God is sovereign, and He is, why would He allow Satan any freedom in this matter? Did the conduct or actions of Peter have anything to do with the right of Satan to make this request of God? This request was obviously granted by God, because Christ says, "When you have returned to Me"... after being sifted by Satan. If God is sovereign, and He is, why didn't Christ just tell Satan to take a hike, or something?

Therefore, the subject of the sovereignty of God needs to be addressed before we can have a clear understanding of Satan's influence over our lives, and ultimately before we can have a clear understanding of how to appropriate and demonstrate God's love.

We spent some time establishing what sovereignty is, both from definitions and Biblical indications. The sovereignty of God is not something that is academically taught in the Word of God. The sovereignty of God is declared by God's actions, His promises and His predictions as recorded in the Bible.

The Sovereignty of God

The Biblical subject of the sovereignty of God is known as a doctrine. But whose doctrine and where do doctrines come from? The Bible does not give us a list of doctrines, and the doctrines presented by religious groups concerning the sovereignty of God differ like night and day. Many presenting these differing views of sovereignty are good men and women of God. Often these good men and women use the same Scriptures to present different views.

Therefore, it is not the quality of life or the academic standing of a person that allows them to know the Biblical definition of sovereignty. (Please refer to the last two lessons for discussions on spiritual discernment.) What we believe about the sovereignty of God will make all the difference in the world in what we believe about every other action or teaching from or about God, especially the Love of God.

More Questions

After all, if God is sovereign and a God of love, and He is, why does he allow all these bad things to happen? If He is sovereign, and He is, is He the cause of all these bad things? Did God direct or command the events of time in all their detail?

Those are very logical and justifiable questions that deserve a Biblical answer. So, we set out to search for facts, from the Bible, about God's sovereignty and to harmonize those facts with all other information in the Word of God. This type of study takes a little time, but if you will stay with us on this journey, you will know the sovereignty of God as a personal assurance, not a hand-me-down from some other person.

Biblical doctrine
The systematic gathering of all Biblical information on a given subject, and harmonizing that gathered information with all other information in the Word of God. Then presenting that gathered and harmonized information in a categorical or orderly manner through the spoken or written word.

To better understand how to make this Biblical journey, I have used an illustration of a young preacher who made a similar journey. We can vicariously travel with this young pastor as he discovers Biblical truth that he did not learn in school, nor did he discovery during his first 5 years of ministry.

As you recall, I met this young pastor at a Bible conference where I was teaching. Some of what I had taught at the conference did not jive with his concept of the sovereignty of God. However, when I asked him to give me a definition of Biblical sovereignty, he was unable to do so. The best he could do was give a summary of what two segments of opposing theology said concerning sovereignty. In our discussion, I asked if he would be willing to look at lot of passages dealing with this subject, and simply write down the facts found in those passages. Then we would attempt to harmonize and categorize those facts, and see if we could come up with a reasonable Biblical description of sovereignty. He quickly found that even an abbreviated study of this nature took a lot of time, and it was, at first, a little confusing and disconcerting. However, before he was through, he found answers and spiritual satisfaction like he had never known before.

Before we follow this story any further, please look with me at some of the research we did during those two days. I asked this young preacher, as I'm asking you, to do two things:

A Study Exercise

Look at each passage and ask yourself: What is the rule that God made and recorded in this passage? Then write that rule down in your own words.

Caution! Make sure what you are writing down is what you see in the Scripture, 
not what you read or heard from some speaker or a friend. 

Next ask yourself: "Did God give mankind a choice as to obedience or disobedience of this rule?" Then write, in your own words, the choice or choices given whether positive or negative.

Last, ask yourself, "Are there any results of obeying or not obeying this rule that God made? Then write, in your own words, what the results of not obeying or of obeying the rule that God made.

Look again at the Biblical subject material I was teaching at the conference that triggered this discussion on sovereignty. The text of the passage covers some 68 verses in this one chapter. This one chapter is only a small portion of the total information given on this subject. Therefore, to refresh our thinking, let's just look at some key verses that give a fair summary of the entire passage.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:
Deuteronomy 28:15 But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
Look once again at the contrasting responses of God, conditioned by the actions or obedience of humans. 

As this pastor and I read over this passage, this young pastor noted the facts, but said over and over again something like, "I see what you're saying, but God said that the Jews will ultimately get the land and will receive the blessing. Doesn't that prove that God is sovereign?"

My response was, "You are right, they will get the land. God said they would get it, and God will see to it that they do. The question is not, Is God sovereign, but what is sovereign?

So, I asked him again, as I'm asking you, to list the facts from the passages throughout the Word of God, then try to bring an internal harmony of those Biblical facts. After all, we don't care if those facts are in harmony with the external or the things of world. Our passion should be to find those facts and bring them into perfect harmony with all other internal facts of the Word of God.

I want to show you some of those passages we looked at, and some of the facts we listed. Time will not allow us to look at all of the passages or to list all the facts. Nor can we take the time to work through this process as we did at that meeting, and should be done in any private study.

Therefore, I will do some grouping of facts as we go, in order to make it possible to finish this segment before the next millennium. Please note the passages and the facts as we hurry over these many verses, today. I'm going to present this first group of passages in the order of occurrences in the Bible. This is for ease of study.

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.

Please notice that in most of this first group of verses, we will find a rule of God, then a possible reaction of mankind., then a response of God conditioned on that reaction (not necessarily in that order). I'm not going to insult your intelligence by making comments on each of these passages. If I did, we would be here way past lunch. I will highlight these three elements by formatting. Fasten your spiritual seat belts, and take a spiritual No-doze. Because we are going for a Bible Study, not a study about the Bible.

Exodus 4:21-23 And the Lord said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, "Thus says the Lord: 'Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.' "
Exodus 15:25-26 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and when he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them. And there He tested them, 26 and said, "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you."
Leviticus 26:17-24 I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you. 18 'And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. 19 I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit. 21 Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. 22 I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate. 23 And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and punish you yet seven times for your sins.

This same process is repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments in the same or similar manner. In this next passage, God is speaking to Moses. Notice the three elements given over and over again. We could take most of the book of Deuteronomy and see these same three elements over again, and over again, and over again, and over again:

Deuteronomy 30:14-31:1 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. 15 See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. 31:1 Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel.
Joshua 24:14-15 Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

We would have to take a large portion of the context to see God's promised response to their reactions of His rule found in Joshua 24. It would be good for you to take the time to read the entire book of Joshua, or at least the context around this passage. Why, you could even do that during the football game at half-time, this afternoon.

Nehemiah 1:6-11 please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8 Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, "If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name." 10 Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 11 O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.
Psalms 106:20-23 Thus they changed their glory Into the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt, 22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, Awesome things by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, To turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them.
Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
John 8:24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

If you have read the Bible or even scanned it, you realize that we could look at a great number of verses, and see similar facts. I trust this has given you enough evidence to see that these facts are presented over and over again in Scripture.

It is not an isolated fluke. Instead, it is a normal procedure. God presents a rule, mankind is given a choice of reactions, and based on the reactions, God responds to the conditions of His rule. The Biblical evidence is overwhelming that God has given mankind a choice as to their behavior, and that God's response is conditioned on that behavior.

Based on that great volume of information, one might conclude that mankind is in charge of their own destiny. Therefore, the future of the world and the events of eternity must be constantly altered by God to match the responses of mankind.

Not so fast! Remember, we must harmonize this information with all other information of the Scriptures. Even though the facts are numerous showing that mankind has a choice, we have only looked at one side of this coin of the sovereignty of God. We have looked at a very limited number of facts concerning God's rule and administration of time and eternity. However, it is very important that we note and carefully remember what facts we have seen in this matter.

If God has given mankind certain choices in determining their daily living and their eternal state, it would seem logical to the human mind that God must be in constant turmoil as to His future plans. After all, if mankind can choose, and they choose to disobey, doesn't it stand to reason that God is constantly changing plans based on those many different reactions of mankind?

Don't limit God to the position of a super-human, CEO of the universe. God is far greater than that. After all, God spoke the universe into existence by the simple words of His mouth. You don't think for one minute that the God of all gods is going to allow this simple creative act to control His actions for eternity, do you? Let's study on, and see some of the greatness of God. Someone asked the other day, "What is worship?" What we are doing is worship. We are seeing and saying that God is worthy!

Exercise Continued

Psalms 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; 10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. 11 Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.
1 Samuel 2:6-10 The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He has set the world upon them. 9 He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked shall be silent in darkness. For by strength no man shall prevail. 10 The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.
1 Chronicles 29:10-13 Therefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation; and David said: "Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name."
Isaiah 41:8-9 But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend. 9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to You, 'You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
Jeremiah 27:5 I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me.
John 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
John 6:44-45 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me."
John 19:11 Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."
Acts 2:22-24 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-- 23 Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
Acts 17:26-27 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
Romans 14:10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

Man of God

Wow, it seemed pretty simple, until we put these last verses into the mix. That is the problem with using only some passages as proof-texts. We can draw the wrong conclusion even if we look at two dozen passages. We must see the whole council of God in harmony.

These are just some of the verses this young pastor and I looked at as we jotted down the facts that were pertinent to the sovereignty of God. The next morning, we were going to meet in the church sitting room and try to correlate and harmonize those facts.

He arrived at the sitting room a little before 7AM., and frankly he did not look very good. I asked him if he felt OK He told me he had been up all night looking at passage after passage. He looked the part. He hadn't shaved and didn't have a tie on. He just didn't have the polished preacher look, whatever that is.

He sat down and said, "Clyde, I've looked up every verse I could call to memory, and then I just started thumbing through the Bible. Now I'm more confused about the Bible than I've ever been! I did come to realize something last night, and I have a confession to make."

Before I let him tell you his confession, let me give you a thumb-nail sketch of this young man. This Biblical confusion he was experiencing was not the result of a lack of knowledge or schooling. He had gone three years to a Bible School, and then transferred to a Seminary and spent five years there to graduate and do some post-graduate work. This fellow had forgotten more in one week about Biblical archeology than I've learned in a lifetime. At the time of this event, he had been in the active ministry for five years. He was a good preacher, taught from the Bible and had a growing church.

But remember! Spiritual discernment comes only one way. 

Spiritual discernment comes the same way for the unlearned as the learned. It comes the same way for the wealthy as it does the poor, and it comes the same way for the clergy as it does for the parishioners.

This young fellow said, "I must confess, I've studied the Bible more during your teaching at the conference and last night's search, than I have in all my life."

He went on to say, "I've studied a lot about the Bible, and I've studied a lot about what others have said about the Bible, but last night I opened my Bible with nothing else but the Holy Spirit. Yes, I've sat and read the Bible many times, but to study it by going from one place to another to another and see truth take shape, that I've never done." He went on to say, "This is great, but I still don't understand sovereignty!"

He told me that in his study he had discovered what seemed to be two different sovereignties. One sovereignty that was absolute, and one, for lack of a better word, was permissive.

I told him he had come a long way, and was only one step from seeing some real deep spiritual truth. To help him see that truth, I drew him another picture. Well, it really wasn't a picture. It was two lines that were somewhat straight. Those two lines started at the front edge of the paper about two inches apart, and came progressively closer until they ran off the paper without ever coming together.

Of course, I had to explain my picture! It's because I'm such a deep expressive artist that no one ever recognizes the real essence of my drawings. I just can't understand why! So, I told him that the two lines represented railroad tracks. Immediately, he recognized my drawing for what it was. I guess he also has a very vivid imagination.

Why have two tracks? It is such a waste of time, energy and resources. After all, they are both going to the same place, and they are carrying the same thing. Those two tracks can never be perfectly reconciled. If those two track ever come together or are reconciled, we call that a train wreck!

I said to this young preacher, "Let me introduce you to a God that is big enough to allow His creatures certain freedoms, and yet He is great enough to never allow those choices to change one thing of all He has predetermined." We went into some other aspects also. Some of those we will look at in the next lessons.

He looked at the lines on that paper for a while, and then his eyes raised and he stared for the longest time at the end of the room. He never said a word, but as I watched him, tears started to trickle down his face, then there was a rush of tears.

When he could finally talk, he said, "Clyde, do you know how many passages of Scriptures are starting to make sense to me?" You see, he quit trying to defend his position, and started discovering what the Bible really says.

The Holy Spirit promised that He would teach us by comparing spiritual with spiritual. This young man had a lot of spiritual facts tucked away in his mind, and little by little the Holy Spirit was comparing that spiritual truth, and it started coming together like a picture puzzle.

After some time together, and sharing what he was learning, I asked if I could tell his story to the others. He thought for a while and said he would just as soon that I didn't, because he was still pastoring a church near by. So, I asked him that if I change enough of the logistical facts so that no one but he and I would recognize the event, then could I tell it? To that he was agreeable.

I understand where he was coming from. Some churches seem to think that their pastor should know everything about the Bible, fresh from Bible School, and if he is still learning Biblical truth, then he shouldn't be their pastor.

So, I changed the story a little, and shared it at the conference that morning. I haven't shared his story again until now, but I thought it might help to walk along side this young man of God. In that way, maybe he could be an example to help us to do likewise. Please take these passages and more, write down the facts, all the facts, and begin this spiritual discovery for yourself, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.