‘Hard’ truth: God is sovereign over salvation.

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[This blog post is part of a series called 'Hard' truth]

This last Sunday we spent an hour and a half in one of my classes processing what the Bible teaches about God’s role in salvation.

Every semester there are girls in my class who hear this idea for the first time, and it’s tough for them.  It’s not that they have a problem with my exegesis of the text or that they disagree with the logical flow of the passages we look through.  The idea that God is fully sovereign over salvation brings up some uncomfortable implications for them.  Doesn’t believing in God’s sovereignty make life futile? What does it mean for all the people who aren’t saved?  How are they held responsible for their unbelief?

It never fails that I have a student walk out of this lesson convinced that I’m heartless.  I always have one or two girls that think that I could only believe this truth if I’ve never actually had a friend or family member who doesn’t know Jesus.

But they’re wrong.

I believe this truth because it’s written down for me in the Bible.  I can’t figure out how to get around it without cutting out big chunks of God’s Word.

I don’t believe this truth because I love it.  I don’t believe this truth because it convinces me that God is gracious.  I don’t believe this truth because it gives me the greatest peace I’ve ever known.

I believe it because I trust the Word of God.

But here’s the thing, and I mean this with all my heart: I do love this truth.  It does convince me that God is gracious and it does give me the greatest peace I’ve ever known.  Those things aren’t the source of my belief, but they do flow out of it.

God’s sovereignty over salvation is a truth that leads me to lift my hands in worship and trust.  Believing it has left me more convinced of His love than ever before.  Believing it has enabled me to breathe in and out these past months.

This summer, in France, my theology about God’s role in salvation wasn’t just something that helped me sleep at night, it kept my heart knitted together.  And I was so thankful that God had written this truth out in His Word.

He doesn’t do that to mess with us or because He wants us to feel sad or burdened.  He shares this great truth with us because it leads us to trust.  It brings comfort.  Its prompts prayer.

Imagine sitting across the table from a dying father who doesn’t trust in the goodness of God and thinking that his salvation depended on you or him.  I don’t know how that would lead to anything but fear, panic and a dependence on self.

When I was in France, my theology led me to pray as if God was sovereign.  I prayed as if He alone had the power to save my dad.  They weren’t eloquent or thoughtful prayers.  They were mostly prayers like: please, please, please. help, help, help.  

 I shared the Gospel as if God had already prepared my dad’s heart to hear.  I saw the opportunities to talk about God’s glory as divinely ordained moments, and I spoke up in those times without fear or anxiety – because I knew that my words were tools in His hands.

At night I would lay in bed and try to shut out the ticking hands of the clock counting down the moments of my dad’s life until he would be lost to me.  And instead of replaying all the times that day that I had missed opportunities or botched gospel conversations, I would thank God that my dad’s soul was in His capable hands.

Believing in God’s sovereignty didn’t change the trajectory of my dad’s soul.  Theology doesn’t save.  God does.

However, my theology did free me up to be a part of God’s plan through prayer and trust.  My theology did free me up to love my dad as well as I knew how in those last two weeks.

I can’t tell you with 100% certainty where my dad’s soul is tonight.  Based on the last moments of his life, I think I have good reason to hope that He’s with God.  But I can’t tell you that for sure.  There are a million things I don’t know today and I could go crazy thinking about them.

But there are some things I do know.  I know for sure that God has and will continue to get glory out of my dad’s life and death.  I know for sure that my dad’s eternity wouldn’t have been different if he lived for another week or month or year.

I know for sure that my dad’s eternity didn’t depend on my ability to be more articulate.  I know that I don’t have to listen to the lies that if I’d just been a better daughter, or if I’d just been able to reflect His glory a little more clearly then everything might have been different.

God alone is Judge and Savior.  He alone is Creator and His creation is His to do with as He pleases.

Tonight, almost four months after my dad has slipped beyond the reach of my words, those lies are creeping at the door, eager to torment me with shame and regret.  And tonight, God is saving me from despair by the glorious truth of His sovereignty over salvation.

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Comments

  1. Your writing seems to put things back into alignment sometimes for me. Thank you.

  2. I can definitely relate to this post and your prayers when you were in France. I basically prayed the same thing the last time I saw my grandfather at the hospital before he died in January. Like you, I cannot tell for sure where his soul is. I hope with all my heart that I will see him again when I’m gone to be with Jesus, but I really can’t tell. Thanks for your honesty and thanks for reminding me of His Sovereignty!!! Love always!

  3. debbie okenyi says:

    Wonderful words

  4. debbie okenyi says:

    Sorry, I just did the first comment to see if the system worked! (Save all that typing for nothing). My dad passed away suddenly and unexpectantly one night in his sleep. There was no time for a “death-bed conversion” or to call upon the Lord in surrender. I can identify with your feelings of “guilt and shame” creeping at the door. I have experienced nothing but since Dad’s death. “Could I have done more, done things differently to have hime saved?” etc etc. But, the Lord IS sovereign (as much as I want to have control and to have answers e.g. where is Dad’s eternity?) I have to rest in his eternal limitless love, to know that he loved my dad and wanted him to be saved even more than I did. Having said all that, I am just glad that I did not have any children to reject Christ and go to Hell. At least I do not have to live with that one.

    • fabsharford says:

      Debbie! This breaks my heart. I cannot imagine what that’s like for you. Rest your heart in the sovereignty of God.

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