By Jerry Price
Retired Pastor, Spring Hill
I really like two college football teams. I’ll not name them. I’ll leave you free to guess. I mention that because every game begins with a coin toss. One of the team captains gets to pick which side he thinks will land face up. The head referee then tosses the coin in the air. If the coin lands with the side up that the captain called, he gets to choose whether to receive the ball first or defer to the second half. The other team then gets to decide which goal they will defend.
Whether a regular coin is used or one specially made for the occasion, each side is different, being inscribed with different symbols. While each side is different, they are the same coin.
In Scripture, some of the attributes of God seem to be antithetical; for example, the love of God and the wrath of God. Some believe they have to choose one or the other — not both. But they are both true; they are two sides of the same coin. John 3:16 clearly declares His love; but John 3:36 declares His wrath.
Likewise, we encounter another set of seemingly antithetical doctrines: the Sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Scripture clearly states that God is Sovereign. He chose us…He predestined us (Ephesians 1:4-5). Also see John 15:16 and 19.
But Scripture also clearly indicates that man has a free will (John 3:15-16; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13; etc.). The parable of the Prodigal Son is an excellent example of this. When the prodigal finally had enough of himself, he said, I will arise and go to my father (Luke 15:18, emphasis “my”).
So how do we reconcile that which is seemingly irreconcilable? In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer uses the following illustration: “An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.
“On board the liner are scores of passengers. These are not in chains; neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.
“Both freedom and sovereignty are present here, and they do not contradict. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God.
The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history” (Knowledge of the Holy, Back to the Bible Broadcast, Lincoln, NE, p. 118).
Once we have chosen to believe in and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we must choose daily to follow God’s will instead of our own. So, how do we do that? We are to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1). There are three things to note about this sacrifice. First, it is to be a living sacrifice — not a dead animal. Second, it is to be a holy sacrifice — completely set apart to God for His use and purpose. Third, it is to be a pleasing sacrifice — that which meets with God’s approval.
The word “conformed” means to follow a pattern. The word age refers to the system or thinking of the world. The J. B. Phillips translation says it so well: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould” (“mould” is the British spelling from the Phillips translation). Don’t become like them. Allow the renewal of your heart to transform your mind so you can discern the perfect will of God.