Perhaps you’ve heard the saying: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift; that’s why it’s called the “present.” With all the distractive elements intruding upon our busy lives these days, it is challenging to mentally set them aside and be present, in the moment, even with those you love the most. Jesus Christ is certainly the ultimate example of someone who mastered that art. If ever anyone could be anxious about his future, i.e., the Cross, it was God’s Son. Yet he was fully present with each human being he encountered, for their benefit. For example, the rich young ruler: “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” (Mark 10:21).
Next month we celebrate the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus. As you probably know, God gave His Son the revelation of Genesis to Malachi as the “blueprint” for his mission as the Redeemer of mankind. That was God’s plan for Jesus, but he was not the “God-man” robot, carrying out a rote course of action with no other real options. No, step-by-step he had to choose to obey what God “rote,” all the way through the Cross. Now, he lives in you and me via his spirit, and will help us do likewise.
Like the First Adam, Jesus had genuine free will, and he too could have disobeyed God’s directives for him. Thus, in essence, the Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures are God giving Jesus a “good reputation to live up to.” Because he loved God and people, Jesus chose to carry out each detail of God’s will for him. Like us, he was tempted in all ways to disobey the “personal curriculum” His Father set before him, not only in Genesis—Malachi, but also moment-by-moment as He walked with His Son and gave him whatever revelation he needed. But Jesus fully trusted the promises of God, and thus God carried him through his mission of redeeming mankind. Our Father will do no less for you and me, as per the vision and goals He has for our lives.
God absolutely sees each of us way bigger than we see ourselves, as far as what we can do with/for Him, and He can also see further up our path of righteousness than we can. Moment by moment, he is assessing every aspect of our lives and adjusting His unique vision for each of us according to our circumstances, as well as our responses to them and to His directives for us. The key to knowing, and accomplishing, God’s plan for our lives is knowing Him and His Son. That starts with hiding His written Word in our hearts.
One of the classic biblical examples of this is Joseph (Gen. 37-50). Given so much misguided teaching about the so-called “sovereignty” of God, most Christians think that God set up the whole scenario of Joseph’s brothers turning against him, selling him into slavery, his being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, et al. Not so, for as per Romans 3:8, God does not “do evil so that good may come.” The truth is that God’s Adversary orchestrated Joseph’s tribulation. But because Joe trusted God and precisely followed His guidance, the Master Chess player could bring to pass the vision/plan He had for this one key man to deliver all of Israel and preserve the bloodline of the Messiah. So, too, is each of us is “key” to God’s accomplishing what He has in mind for us and those with whom we interact, and that may be far beyond what we can see at the time.
Generally speaking, the following verses represent the will of God for your life and mine. “God desires that all men be saved and come to a thoroughly applied knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Obviously, how He works with each of us to accomplish those goals is very different.
In the simplest of terms, God’s plan for each of us is: OBEY–one thought, word, deed at a time. Our Father can see everything going on around us, and when we obediently follow His guidance for us, He helps us be in the right place at the right time, avoid the Enemy’s land mines, and attain His vision for us. Conversely, the primary deterrent in this reciprocal arrangement is I, which is also the middle letter in “pr-i-de.” My rejection of God’s will can limit the degree to which I grow into the man He sees I can become. As Psalm 78:41 says of disobedient Israel, “Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” In essence, they drew a line in the sand and told God to stay on His side. And He politely did so, while they trashed His plans for them.
The plan that God has for your life is not set in stone from the day you were born. Rather, God has been doing everything He can to help you attain His unique goals for your life, despite your sins and shortcomings. “His-story” is replete with examples of His persistently working with frail human beings like us to carry out His will “for such a time as this.” Among many others, Esther, Jonah, David, Nicodemus, and Ananias come to mind.
This moment-by-moment relationship—in real time— that God desires with us is too often obscured by the universally pervasive fallacy that He has “absolute foreknowledge.” This Hellenistic falsehood, blithely embraced by most Christians through the centuries, purports that eons ago, “in the beginning,” God saw every future event on the spectrum of human history as a present tense occurrence.
Now please think about that. If it were true, it means that there is no other way that Game 7 of the 1962 World Series could have ended other than with New York Yankees’ second baseman Bobby Richardson (a wonderful Christian who later became a friend of mine) breaking my heart into a thousand pieces by snaring the San Francisco Giants’ Willie McCovey’s line drive that, had he not, would have scored Willie Mays from third and Matty Alou from second, thus winning the game and the Series for the Giants. It also means that once upon a time God winced at the thought of having to read that agonizingly compound sentence in 2020.
And it means that God not only foresaw, but also somehow figured it was worth it to ALLOW, whatever tragedy you and billions of other people have suffered. But that makes God the ultimate source of all evil and suffering. Sure, the Devil is totally wicked, but only with God’s “permission.” That would make Satan little more than an accomplice in God’s over-arching plan.
Given the definition of “allow” being “I could stop it but choose not to,” that lie is just short of pure Calvinism, which grotesquely states that the Creator planned the death of your loved one, the Holocaust, etc., as well as who would believe and who wouldn’t. No wonder Charles Darwin and millions of others have turned away from Him due to being unable to square the concept of a supposedly loving God with the horrors besetting the entire planet every second of every day for nearly 6000 years.
If you have not watched Segment 14 of One Day With The Creator, our foundational video presentation in which we exposit this truth from Scripture, PLEASE DO. It is titled “God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will,” a liberating topic that my colleagues and I discussed for quite a few years before we felt we could sufficiently lay it out from God’s Word. Most folks report that they had to go through it numerous times to really understand it and be able to articulate it. And they are so glad they did!
At first blush the idea of God NOT having “absolute foreknowledge” might sound like it would diminish Him, but exactly the opposite is the case. This vital truth makes Him look BIGGER, not smaller. As Greg Boyd says in his book, God of the Possible, “It takes a greater God to steer a world populated with free agents than it does to steer a world of preprogrammed automatons.” Here’s my review of it.
The other book that massively contributed to our understanding of this liberating topic is The God Who Risks, by John Sanders. The thesis of Sanders’ book is that once upon a time, when God was all by Himself, He sovereignly decided to establish a world of free will creatures with whom He would linearly (in real time) relate in a give-and-take dialogue. Since the fall of man, God has invited each human being to participate with Him in the overall plan of redemption. The title of Sanders’ book indicates the “risk model” of God that he propounds, that is, a God who does not control everything that happens and who risks being unloved, and even hated, by the creatures He has designed to love Him. Here’s my review.
Notice the thread about FREE WILL. That said, you don’t have to. Come on, that’s funny! If God foresaw 80 trillion years ago the socks you are currently wearing, did you really have a choice about which pair to put on this morning? No, they had to be the ones God saw way back when. But I maintain that the reason it felt like you had a choice when perusing the contents of your drawer is because you did!
It is critical to understand that the issue is not about God’s lack of ability to know something, for He absolutely knows everything knowable about both the past and the present. Rather, it’s about the fact that the free will choices of human beings do not exist to be known until we decide to make them. What are you having for lunch this coming July 7? You don’t know, and neither does God. But He will as soon as the thought enters your mind.
As Sanders states, God invites us to join Him in fulfilling His plan of redeeming everyone He can. He needs human cooperation in order to bring to pass many aspects of His will. That’s why the Word speaks of us as his “fellow laborers,” as Adam and Eve were in the Garden—briefly. Think about how exciting that makes walking with our Father and our Lord Jesus. Today, being “in the moment” is not only a popular phrase, it is also most relevant in regard to our relationship with God and His Son, who are ALWAYS in the moment—flanking us on the unfolding path of our lives.
In short, the Word does not say that God does not have foreknowledge. He does. You’ll see that we simply reject the pagan Greek concept of ABSOLUTE foreknowledge, as defined above. In Segment 14 of ODWTC we show that God has the same kind of foreknowledge that the parent of a six-year-old has. In one of Franco Bottley’s many grabbing graphics, we show a plate of broccoli and a plate of brownies. Question: which of these will your child choose? How do you know that ahead of time? Only because you’ve had six years of what is actually very limited knowledge about the kid. He has not always been in sight, nor do you have any idea of many of the thoughts he’s thinking, but you know enough about his penchant for chocolate to accurately predict his choice.
OK, what about GOD Almighty? (I just corrected what may have been a God-breathed typo in that last sentence—God Alnighty—which is true, given that He neither slumbers nor sleeps). He has perfect knowledge of the past and perfect knowledge of the present, including the thoughts of every human and every demon. And He has perfect knowledge of His own will and purposes.
Armed with such mind-boggling-to-us information, the Word shows that He makes two kinds of prophecies/promises/predictions: Unconditional (e.g., the Abrahamic Covenant: “I’m doing this no matter what you do”) and Conditional (the Mosaic Covenant: “I’m doing this if you do that”). If God makes an unconditional prophecy, He knows He can pull it off without usurping anyone’s free will. How? I have no idea, that’s why HE IS GOD, and I’m not. Well, there are also a lot of other reasons why I’m not.
The above paragraphs are only a sample of what is set forth in Segment 14. Honestly, at the moment I finished teaching it, I very nearly burst into tears at the privilege of knowing and presenting such emancipating truth. Please see if you agree.
I, like other believers, have fallen so short of who God says we are and what we can do with Him that we may think we are so far off His track that we will never really get back on it. Not so, as His Word clearly shows that He is the God of redemption and limitless second chances. All He needs is for us to choose to change, and He is right there, no matter what we have done, to help us do the next right thing. That’s our GREAT BIG WONDERFUL GOD.