in Theology & God

God Plans Our Desires

He Has Sovereign Control Over Everything

We Christians easily recognize God’s control over events both good and bad. When good things happen we praise God for the blessings he has given us. When bad things happen we recognize that God must have good reasons and we await to see how God is working amidst the trials and tribulations. But it’s not often that we think about how God works in the hearts and minds of man. The invisible hand of God not only plans every event, but He also plans every thought and desire. In fact, all of redemptive history and the crowing achievement of Jesus Christ has a dependence on God’s incredible orchestration of the desires of a multitude of men. Our salvation is dependent on God’s ability to affect individual desires. An understanding of this may seem insignificant for the Christian life; however, with further inspection, there is great truths, comforts and encouragement to be understood. If you desire to know God more, an important part of God’s character is His sovereignty over all things, including desires.

The Jealousy of Josephs’s Brothers

I recently listened to an R.C. Sproul lesson on the life of Joseph where Sproul points out how the entire story of redemptive history can be traced back to that multicolored coat given to Joseph.

Joseph’s father made a coat, and gave it to Joseph. The coat produced envy in the brothers who responded by selling Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Joseph was a faithful servant in Egypt and eventually became the second-in-command in Egypt; rightly interpreting a dream which allowed for Egypt, under Joseph’s command, to collect enough food for the years of drought. During the famine, Joseph’s brother come to Egypt for food and results in Joseph moving the entire family into Egypt. The following Pharaoh forgets Joseph and his deeds; and is defensive towards the growing number of God’s people; so the people get enslaved. Moses is born and later kills an Egyptian and is banished to the wilderness where he meets God in a burning bush. Moses is used by God to free the people into the wilderness. The 10 commandments are given, resulting in sin, sacrifices, rebellion and the prophets. Leading finally to the sacrifice for sin by Jesus Christ.

The coat is a key part of the entire story; but even more important than the coat is the jealous response of the brothers. Is it coincidental that Joseph’s brothers responded with jealousy? Not at all. God had planned for their evil response, in order for good. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20).

The Hardening of Pharoah

Moses had given Pharaoh several warnings which were followed by plagues that brought disaster. Each time, the Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let God’s people go. So the plagues increased in intensity until the final plague resulted in the deaths of all the first born sons in Egypt. Is it by coincidence that Pharaoh was stubborn? No, it was not simply Pharaoh’s own character at work here, “but the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh” (Exo 9:12).

God had a purpose in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. God never acts arbitrarily or without purpose. It makes perfect sense that a perfect God would do everything with perfection and purpose: In regards to the purpose, God says, “for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Exod 9:16-17).

God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart to show His supreme power throughout the world. This is certainly true considering 1,000’s of years later people like you and I are still learning about it! God did this so that we know His power, His holy character and fear Him, for “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov 9:10 ®RG3¯NAS®RG0¯)

Confusion and harmful spirits

In 1 Samuel 18:10 we learn that “a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul” (1Sa 18:10). God’s people won battles because the “LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion” (1Sa 7:10). Isaiah says of the Egyptians that “the LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion” (Isa 19:14).

God is always one-step-ahead. He actively works in the heart and mind of man to accomplish His purposes.

History is not made up of simple men making bad choices and God working good purposes through them as if God is just trying to do His best with man’s mistakes. God is always one-step-ahead. He actively works in the heart and mind of man to accomplish His purposes. When we pray, “your will be done” it is not a pray that God is unable to accomplish. God’s will is the only totally autonomous and free will. It is His sovereign will that the will of man depends on.

Jesus Christ Crucified

Do you think the people who cried for Jesus to be crucified had truly free-autonomous will independent of God’s Sovereign plan? Was God simply sitting back, hoping that they would make the choice to crucify Jesus? Perhaps, just in case the people chose otherwise, God had a back-up plan for the salvation of sinners.

No, he was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23). It is fascinating to read through the Gospels and note all the places where we see the invisible hand of God working in a multitude of ways.

Consider the Pharisees, they had developed their venomous religious legalism over a long period of time. If you lived with the Pharisees up until that time, you might have thought that God must really be absent in Jerusalem to have left it to a “brood of vipers”. This was not by an accident and not without purpose.

Consider Herod and the government. The political climate was such that crucifixion of a human being was even possible. This punishment by crucifixion was not something that existed without a purpose by God. The Roman’s practice of crucifixion created an avenue for the Pharisees to plan for crucifixion of Jesus.

All these small details could not have happened properly, without God’s sovereign control over the desires and minds of men. But we must be careful not to think that because God is sovereign, and men do evil, that God is responsible for, or the author of evil. The Scriptures make it clear in a multitude of places that man is accountable and responsible for his evil desires. This is one of the paradoxes of God’s sovereignty where some people have fallen into grievous error. “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Act 2:36). Although the plan to crucify Jesus was God’s plan for salvation from the beginning, it was “you” who crucified him.

Rebellion Against God

This is perhaps the most controversial part of God’s sovereignty. God is in total control of those who are in rebellion against himself. The Pharaoh is an example that was already mentioned. Jesus said this of the Pharisees, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them” (Joh 12:40). God not only actively hardens, but he also passively hardens by letting people to their natural desires, Isaiah said, “O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?” (Isa 63:17). In Romans, Paul says that “God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (Rom 1:26).

God doesn’t do this for his twisted pleasure or for mean evil purposes. We should not think of God as that stereotypical wrathful God of the Old Testament. No, God has perfect purposes that are above our ability to comprehend, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Rom 9:22-23).

Drawing US To Him

Everything pertaining to a persons salvation is under the gracious sovereign providence of God. Do you, Christian, think that it is by coincidence that the preacher preached and you heard? Do you think that you just happened to be in the right place at the right time? Do you think that under your own, naturally born, free-will you were able to understand and grasp the Good News of Jesus Christ? Jesus said, “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). It is not natural for us to accept either the Law or the Gospel. Our natural inclination is to deny the righteous requirements of God and His holiness. Our natural inclination is to deny our sinfulness and our need for a savior. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom 8:7).

There is a need for us to be born of the Spirit so that our minds are illuminated to understand our dire need for a Savior. Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ” (Jn 3:3–8)

In systematic theology, the grace that is given by God prior to saving grace is called prevenient grace. It doesn’t save a person, but it is a special grace given by God that provides illumination to a darkened mind so that the Gospel no longer seems like foolishness.

For the Christian, when the Gospel was preached to you, it was not by the “plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:4-5). So it is not the preacher that teaches you the Gospel for you to have faith, but it is a teaching that is happening deeper than simple words from the mouth of a man. The apostle Paul explains it here:

We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:13-14)

Keeping Us In Him

God also keeps us on the right track. We would not last long if it was up to our own free-will. In Ezekiel, God explains how He will preserve a remnant.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Eze 36:26–28)

If our desires and our will was truly free and independent of God’s supernatural power, God would not have a remnant preserved. It is not by coincidence and chance that humanity has a Savior, but because God’s plan for humanity includes pouring out saving grace in a display of His power and glory. For individuals, it is true that only those who persevere in the faith will be saved in the end, but if we trace the invisible hand of God, the trail does not end within an individual’s mind, but continues beyond the individual’s desires and lands in the sovereign will of God as the source of perseverance. God is the protector of those He has elected and predestined for salvation:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Rom 8:28-29)

This is of great comfort for Christians who are anxious about persevering until the end. This is also very encouraging for unbelievers who are apprehensive about joining a faith which calls for self-sacrificial love and suffering for a lifetime in order to succeed. Ultimately, we cannot succeed under our own power and will; it is by the power and will of God that we succeed.

Means of Grace

I think it is helpful to point out some of the means, other than the ones already mentioned, that God uses specifically for those He has “called according to his purpose”. For those who God very specifically pours out a special saving grace, there is something called the “means of grace”. The classical list of the means of grace includes: the Scripture, the Church, the Sacraments, and the Holy Spirit. God uses these means to pour out grace and keep Christians in His grace. I will not talk about all the means of grace, but I will mention some of them that are strongly related to our desire to persevere.

Means of Grace in the Bible. The warnings and admonitions do an incredible work of affecting our desires to persevere. If God has placed a new heart in you, and you are truly a new creature in Christ, then these verses will have a tremendous effect to stimulate you towards faith and good works—especially if you find yourself drifting into a spiritual stupor.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Heb 3:12).

“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom 11:22).

These verses are like the poison label on a bottle, warning us not to ingest; they are like the dead end sign telling us not to go in that direction. These verses warn us of the impending danger. God uses these verses to steer us clear of destruction.

God uses a wide variety of means to affect our desires and keep his elect in the faith. In God’s Word we find warnings and admonitions; stories of God’s faithfulness; promises towards the faithful; encouragements and instructions in righteousness; wisdom and discernment; and most importantly—a special affectionate knowledge of Him as our heavenly Father so that we draw near with our hearts and not just our intellects.

Means of grace in the Body of Christ. In the body of Christ, God uses fellow Christians to keep us in the faith. It is dangerous for a Christian to be on his own and wandering from the safety of the flock. Christians fellowship is a means of grace that God uses to keep us in the faith. Fellow Christians are to instruct, exhort, correct and train each other, so that the body is “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Col 2:7), and by this way, Jesus can confidently say about the church, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

Concluding Remarks

I hope this discussion has helped you to see the glorious truth about the Sovereignty of our God. It is good to know God more and know Him fully. God is ultimately unknowable in the sense that we will never know everything about Him. The finite mind of man cannot grasp things which are infinite in degree. Think of it like climbing to the top of a mountain to get a better view. Look out into the distance and the view disappears past where you can see. But in looking out across the expanse, you say, “what a view”. It is the same with God, climb into His Word and climb to the top of a tiny hill of theology, look out across the expanse of God’s character and try to see out into the infinite. Be filled with wonder and awe at the majestic and holy character of God and say, “what an amazing God.”

It is my prayer that more people would have the desire to climb these little mountains of theology, see the expanse of God’s character, be filled with love for God, a desire to know Him more, and a desire to do His will in radical self-sacrificial ways.

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Comments

  1. Supernatural says:

    Thanks for sharing such useful information. I think this is really a very nice post. Thanks for the great content!

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