Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dragged to Christ

While the enemy of Jesus Christ—Saul—was living in direct defiance of him, Jesus nevertheless knocked him off his horse. He blinded him and spoke to Saul in an audible voice, telling him what to do. This seems like a very strong-handed intervention by God into the life of an unrepentant sinner to me. Nevertheless, this is precisely the testimony of how the Apostle Paul got saved. My salvation experience 18 years ago was quite similar to his. I was walking in the exact opposite direction from God in defiance of Him, but He, nevertheless, intervened powerfully into my life. I say this because it is true, not to make Him sound ruthless or anything. For when God intervenes in a life it is to rescue.

A lot of people talk about God’s ‘gentle wooing’—that He is the ultimate gentlemen and never forces Himself on anyone. But the passage this concept is based upon has a much stronger meaning than simply ‘to woo’. This is the verse:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

The Scripture would seem to use this word draw with a meaning rather like "drag". The word “draw” here does not mean a gentle tug or prod. It is often translated “to drag” in the New Testament. In his essay on election in the Fourth Gospel, Robert Yarbrough writes,

“Draw” in 6:44 translates the Greek helkuo. Outside of John it appears in the New Testament only in Acts 16:19: “they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace. . . .” John’s Gospel uses the word to speak of being drawn to Christ (12:32), a sword being drawn (18:10), and a net full of fish being hauled or dragged to shore (21:6, 11). The related form helko appears in Acts 21:30 (“they dragged him from the temple”) and James 2:6 (“Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?”). It seems hard to avoid the impression that John 6:44 refers to a “forceful attraction” in bringing sinners to the Son.

- Do you woo a sword from its sheath?
- Do you seize a prisoner by force and then just tug ever so gently for him to follow you freely?
- Do you look at a net full of fish and coax it to be drawn from the water on to shore? Do you not rather exert your own strength to haul the net while the fish flop around trying to get away from you?
- Does your opponent just invite you into the courthouse? Are you not rather compelled to come?

All of the above texts of scripture are obviously about being dragged, forced to do something, and the same word "draw" in those passages is used in John 6:44. The fact that the identical word is used in Acts 16:19 is quite compelling:

“But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities."

What about this passage sounds gentlemanly? Did they really “woo” Paul and Silas into the marketplace, or did they in fact force them to stand before the authorities? The text clearly indictes they were forced—compelled to go. Compare this with the indisputable fact that Jesus is saying “no one is able”; “no one is capable” to come to Him unless the Father “draws” or “drags” him in such a powerful way as described above and the conclusion is obvious. It seems clear to me that John 6:44 can rightly be defined as follows:

"No individual is capable of coming to Christ unless the Father drags him to Christ."

This fits well with my own testimony and that of the Apostle Paul, but not so well with the idea of God approaching people as a gentleman. God intervenes like a conquering soldier into peoples’ lives. He comes where He is unwelcome and where He is uninvited, and He does this in order to save us, for we cannot save ourselves. We are not merely drowning men that He will rescue if we hold out a hand. We are dead men (Eph. 2:1,5). We are spiritual corpses that He must grab a hold of powerfully and resurrect from death. That is grace. According to the Bible, grace is both unmerited favor (Rom. 11:5-6) and a transforming power which according to Ephesians 2:5, raised every follower of Jesus from spiritual death to new life. Grace is a powerful forcefulness that raises us from death and drags us to Christ. The Bible describes the testimony of Christians in such a way, and by so doing, gives Him every spec of the credit and the glory of our salvation.


Bogi said...

Thanks brother, you rokk!

It's been a while since the 'day' of my conversion. Was more of a process than a momentary type event. But yeah, I'm sure I was dragged. There are times when God is definately not a gentleman. Sometimes that's a surprise. But we need to be reminded, on occassion, that He is in heaven, and we aren't.

Good word.

Litl-Luther: that's quite a tribute.

donsands said...

I've just finished discussing this with another brother over at Teampyro.

He asked me what I thought about Cornelius & Lydia before they were converted. Were they dragged?

I encourage to study both passages before you answer. Acts 10:1-4; 16:14

I'll BE BOK. Trying to do a little schwarzenegger.

Litl-Luther said...

Thanks Bogi!
I am delighted that you enjoyed and agreed with the article. I appreciate the encouragement, and that you too are amazed at God's incredible grace toward us.

Litl-Luther said...

Cornelius is an interesting bloke; I’ll give you that. He was clearly seeking God before he was saved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean God did nothing first in his heart to cause this to happen. The text is silent on that matter. But, if I was coming from the other view point, would certainly mention Cornelius. There is always a little tension in Scripture on all the juicy topics.

I am surprised that your friend would bring up Lydia. What a mistake on his part! So many Christians will miss quote Rev. 3:20 (I did it too as a new believer): Behold I stand at the door and knock…” They assume that Jesus is standing at every hearts’ door, awaiting them to open it, and like a gentlemen he won’t open it; they have to. But that is not what is going on in Rev. 3:20. It says nothing about unbelievers because in the context, He is clearly talking about the Church. Now, in the case of Lydia, on the other hand, though it does say she was a worshipper of God, her worship of God was not enough to bring her to Christ. Rather, God first had to open her heart, which is what made it possible for her to accept the Gospel. If anything, this text makes my case stronger: Not only does God have to reach down from heaven and intervene in the lives of rebellious sinners like me and Apostle Paul, but He even has to intervene in the hearts and lives of the religious too! That is exactly just what He did in the case of Lydia. Even those who may be termed “seekers and worshippers of God" still need God to do a work in their hearts in order for them to accept the message of Christ. Lydia is an incredible example--whether one is an enemy of God, as evil as Hitler or the most religious people this world has known, they each need God to do a powerful work of grace which turns their hearts toward Christ. The evidence is there my friend, even in the life of Lydia.

donsands said...

"they each need God to do a powerful work of grace which turns their hearts toward Christ."

I agree bro. God saves a sinner by His grace, and in one sense we are all rescued in the same way, and in another sense we are not.

Paul's salvation was incredible. Cornelius' was less incredible, but both needed a "powerful work of grace".

Amen Triston.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

thanks for your comments - and for keeping them civil even when the others are not so - I appreciate it!

I'll be here a few days more and then will hopefully get a new post up shortly thereafter - although I don't think that the "comments" are going to change but rather continue to rage on against believers - it seems that no matter what I write, this is what it comes back to - but, it appears that there are others reading who do not comment, so I let it go on so that they will have a chance to read the truth that is written, which I assume will shine against the darkness of drivel that is there too.

So - again, thanks

NaNcY said...

this is good thought process for me and gives me a new perspective to the phrase "fishers of men".

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20At once they left their nets and followed him.

when we FOLLOW Jesus
we are in fact
dragging in the net

Love to you from God and from you to God in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit.

Litl-Luther said...

Thanks Nancy! I like your take on the fishers of men passage. I might use it! Good thoughts.
Blessings to you.

Susan: You are welcome, and thank you for putting up with me and all my comments I leave at your site!

lorenzothellama said...

Surely you have just confirmed Maalie's point about everything being predetermined?
So unless we are dragged there is very little we can do about it anyway.

Litl-Luther said...

Hi Lorenzo,
My own pastor, who is a much better Bible scholar than me fiercely disagrees with my interpretation that God drags us to Christ. Most Christians have not studied it, and most of those who have would probably disagree with me and say I take the extreme position.

Even if my position is correct, don't think that lets you, Maalie or anyone else off the hook. Jesus has given an open invitation to every human being to come to Him and find forgiveness. God never stops people from coming. Please don't misinterpret it that way. Jesus' arms are open wide to all, but people, as you noticed in my article, are unwilling to come. Is that His fault? No! The passage I was looking at was John 6:44. Just a few verses earlier in that same chapter (v. 37) Jesus promises "whoever comes to me I will never drive away."

His invitation is real. Maalie may come, anyone is welcome to come. But if they don't come, is that really God's fault? Does He own anyone salvation? No. I guarantee you Lorenzo, if you call out from a sincere heart to Jesus and say something like, "Lord, I want to know you. I want to belong to you." He will accept you. He would accept Maalie if he did that from a sincere heart. But if the rest of his life Maalie says, "I don't believe and I will never come to Jesus." Whose fault is that really? Who is really to blame? Maalie is to blame. It is not Jesus fault. Jesus opens His arms wide and bids all to come.

lorenzothellama said...

Please don't lump me together with Maalie on every subject! He is my big brother and I love and respect him totally, but I differ enormously in personality. Maalie is a scientist and I certainly am not. I am a potter, and a struggling Catholic with Buddhist leanings. It's just the reincarnation thing I can't get my head around, but I love their teachings. This is fine with my priest.

I don't know what to believe. That's why I come on blogs like Susan's and starting to come on yours. I also visit Bluecollar now and again but frankly they freak me out, and often I end up getting banned from their site.

Litl-Luther said...

Hi Lorenzo,
Sorry, I don't mean to lump you with Maalie. You have never come across as antagonistic to Christ as he seems to.

I am excited for you, Lorenzo. You know why? When you say "I don't know what to believe. That's why I come on blogs like Susan's and starting to come on yours." This indicates to me that you are searching for truth—that you are searching for God. This is extremely good news about you as the Bible says that there is "no one who seeks God." (Romans 3:11) The fact that you are seeking Him is evidence to me that God is seeking you. It does not come natural for us to seek God. If you are seeking Him, which it sounds like you are doing, then He has a special love for you reserved for those He plans to adopt as His own children. I find it very encouraging that you don't know what to believe but you are reaching out and searching for truth.

But one thing you should not overlook is that truth is a Person; that is where truth is found. Jesus said of Himself “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Do you want to know the way to God? Jesus is the way—the only way—to God. Do you want to know the truth? Jesus Himself is the embodiment of truth and anything or anyone that contradicts Him is a lie. Do you want to experience true life? Jesus is Life itself, and outside of Him there is only death.

I am telling you the truth. I have come to know who He is; I have come to know Him personally and to belong to Him. I have no doubt Buddha and others had great wisdom, but you will not find ultimate truth anywhere else except in the person of Jesus. Reincarnation is a lie because God tells us it is appointed for all people to die once and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) There are no ‘second chances’ after death. You will not come back as a butterfly; you, and I, will stand before the Son of God and give account for our lives. And the only thing that can possibly wash away the debt that we all own to God for our sins is the blood Jesus shed on the cross. Our only hope is to run to Him for life. Great assurance of peace with God, of forgiveness of sins, etc. comes to the one who has done this—who has run to Jesus. If you don’t have that assurance than you still need to run to Him for life, and it is as simple as crying out to Jesus where ever you are and asking for His mercy. I am hopeful that you will do this at some point because it indeed appears that God is pursuing you. That is wonderful news.

lorenzothellama said...

Yes, of course I am searching and seeking. I seem to have spent most of my life doing it. Sometimes I've just been told to calm down and 'do not strive'.

Jesus said much the same things that Buddha said 500 years before hand. As I said, I do find reincarnation difficult, although it is a lovely philosophy, the laws of karma etc.

My priest says we should follow our spirituality where it leads us. A bit like St Augustine said really.

Re your comments about seeking: Blaise Pascal said (about God) "you would not seek Him if you had not already found Him".

Have you ever read any of Anthony de Mello's books?

Litl-Luther said...

Blaise Pascal also said, “No man believes with a true and saving faith unless God inclines his heart; and no man when God does incline his heart can refrain from believing.”

And since you mentioned Augustine, he said about God, “Thou didst seek us when we sought thee not; didst seek us indeed that we might seek thee.”

I’m sorry your priest is giving you such bad advice. It sounds like he should open up and read his own Bible more carefully.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

You can’t trust where your spirituality is leading you because you cannot trust your own heart. And the reason you have searched your whole life and haven’t found what you are looking for is because you keep searching outside of Jesus Christ.

There is nothing “lovely” about Karma. I could go on for pages about how evil it is. Karma leads to the belief that people of certain castes are lesser human than other castes. Karma leads to people having no empathy for the poor and downtrodden and people of lower castes. When something bad happens to you, people do not feel sorry for you because you must have deserved what you got. You must have done something in a past life to deserve it. There is so much evil in Buddhism really. They don’t even have a concept of sin. The whole world outside of Buddhism recognizes when someone has wronged you. If some middle aged man rapes an 8 year old girl, I don’t care who you are, you are going to call his actions sin and evil. But Buddhism cannot even define sin. And your “lovely” Karma leads to the belief that the 8 year old girl had it coming to her, or that she was born into a prostitution caste because of her past life and she needs to remain a prostitute until her next life. It is full of evil. Stop fooling yourself by looking into a dunghill for food when the living Son of God is before your eyes.

If you are still searching, then you have not found Christ. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." John 6:35

You are still searching because you have not bowed your life over to Jesus Christ.

lorenzothellama said...

Karma also says that you can CHOOSE to come to a difficult life full of suffering, and that this will help with your Karma in the next life etc. The rapist you attacked an 8 year old girl will pay out his bad Karma in his next life. There is a logic to it.

Please do not dare to criticize my priest. He is the kindest, most humble man who is truly holy. I will not hear one word against him. The tiny things that I have told you about him tell you nothing about the man, his personality or his way of life. You are making a judgement, which is against Christian teaching.

Litl-Luther said...

Hi Lorenzo,
About your priest: Your rebuke is justified, and I'm sorry. I don't know the first thing about the man. I do know three Catholic priests who I have the utmost respect for, so I can understand why you stand up for him. None of us have a perfect knowledge, however, not him and certainly not me. I’m sure he could teach me a lot….BTW: I have four nuns in my family. My Mom’s side of the family, especially the older generation, were all very religious Roman Catholics. Three of my Grand mother’s four sisters became nuns, and my Grand mother’s parents gave their possessions away—house and all—to a Catholic mission.

The logic you are seeing in Karma is the same teaching in Christianity (you reap what you sow). However, Christian teaching does not have all the negative side effects that come with Karma. If it wasn’t for Christians, there would have been no schools, hospitals and compassion ministries toward the poor in countries where Karma is taught. Following Christian teaching leads to compassion (loving our neighbor as our self). Karma leads to complete lack of concern for our neighbor.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Thanks for working so hard to be salt and light - and to do so in accordance with Eph 4:29 - I just wanted to say that I realy do appreciate it!

Litl-Luther said...

Susan: Thank you for all the kind words. I'm grateful. It has been fun contributing at your site.

lorenzothellama said...

Thank you for your apology Luther. It was very gallant of you.

Litl-Luther said...

Thank you for your graciousness toward me in being so quick to forgive. You have been able to look past my rough exterior and lack of tact, and I really do appreciate it.