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There is a very short list of the items we’re supposed to be majoring in as Christians. This is God’s order of priorities established from the foundations of the world. Everything else can be neatly summed up under one of these four:
- Submit to God.
- Love one another.
- Control our flesh.
- Resist the devil.
Simple isn’t it? But as one of my favorite proverbs goes, “The important things are always simple. The simple things are always hard.” As a result, we bozo human beings have an unfortunate drive to mess these items up in both order and content. Our sinful flesh nature’s take on this list is as follows:
- Resist God.
- Love our flesh.
- Submit to the devil.
- Control one another.
And no one is immune to this tendency to hash this list up — we’re all in the same boat. It’s just that some of us are farther down the road to overcoming this than others due to a greater quantity of time, teaching, prayer, divine correction, and revelation of Who God is and of the grace that He freely makes available to us. In other words, experience with God.
The Root of the Problem
Tom Mercer, pastor of the High Desert Church in California and author of the excellent book Oikos stated in the foreword that we human beings have been in open warfare with God ever since the Fall of Man and have been trying to make peace with Him until now. The sticking point in the negotiations is that He steadfastly refuses to accept our terms for His surrender. Truer words have never been spoken by any human who isn’t Jesus!
So why do we strive after this illusory control with such single-minded obsessiveness? Well, like most things sinful, it starts at the very beginning of time in the Garden of Eden with The Lie. The Lie, like all high-quality deceptions of Satan, is has just enough truth in it to get us to buy the lie part, hook, line, and sinker. So what is The Lie?
“For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” — Genesis 3:5 (emphasis mine)
Boiled down to its essence, The Lie is this: You can be your own god and it will work.”
The truth portion is that, yes, we can be our own god. The lie portion is that it will work. Why is that?
It all boils down to the answers to the question of who God is — His divine character/attributes. So what are they? Funny you should ask, I was just about to tell you! 🙂
God’s Right to Reign Over Our Lives
I want to ask a question of you: “What right does God have to demand to be Lord over your life as a condition for salvation?”
If we are to hand over complete control of our lives to another Being — to wit, enter into total slavery — we had better have an excellent grasp of just what kind of Person to whom we are granting that level of control. People cannot entrust their lives to someone without a good idea what kind of ability, personality, and character that someone possesses — to do anything else is utter foolishness! So let’s take a look at what the Scriptures say about just Who God is:
God is Self-Existent
For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself… — John 5:26
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. — Colossians 1:16-17
Some have mistakenly taught that God is one of a series of divine emanations. Completely untrue! God is the Absolute Source of all life and existence, the Uncaused Cause. He is the One True Living God, Creator of every thing and being that has ever existed. He has never not existed and His essence and being are completely independent of anyone or anything else outside of Himself.
God is Unique (He is the Only God)
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.’ — Isaiah 44:6
For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), ‘I am the Lord, and there is none else…’ — Isaiah 45:18,21-22a Amplified Bible
God is One of a kind! There is no one else in the universe with His combination of character and ability.
So what is so significant about that? If there was even one other person in the universe who could do the same job, then it would be selfish and vain for Him to demand total control over our lives and for us to worship Him with our lips, actions, and substance! If there was even one other being with God’s capabilities and character, we would have the choice, not Him! (more on this in a moment!)
God is Eternal
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory, forever and ever, Amen. — 1 Timothy 1:17
Before the mountains were born, or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. — Psalm 90:2b
God exists now, He always has existed, and He always will exist. We can rest in the great security of us never having to worry about God dying and stranding us high and dry with no one to take care of us!
God is Immutable (Unchanging)
I am the Lord, I change not… — Malachi 3:6a
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever. — Isaiah 40:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. — Hebrews 13:8
God does not change His methods or standards as time passes because He is outside of time and cannot age. He will not change His methods or standards because of new information because He already knows everything.
God’s methods and standards are always consistent.
Unlike the IRS, whose rules change capriciously every year, God requires us to conform our lives to only one standard: moral perfection. His principles and precepts never change—what is right one day is right the next and remains so throughout eternity. His standards always reflect the purity of His character and His government is always devoid of graft and corruption.
God is Omnipresent (Infinitely Unlimited as to Location)
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. — Psalm 139:7-10
‘Am I a God near at hand,’ says the LORD, ‘And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?’ says the LORD; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the LORD. — Jeremiah 23:23-24
…Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! — 1 Kings 8:27b
…lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. — Matthew 28:20b (Jesus speaking)
So aside from God’s continual special presence in the heart of all born-again believers by the Holy Spirit, He is present EVERYwhere else, as well! No matter where we go on this earth from the highest heavens to the lowest depths, He is there and sees everything that is going on.
God is Omniscient (All-Knowing)
O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all. — Psalm 139:1-4
God knows all possible outcomes of all possible combinations of all possible choices prior to them being made and carried out down through eternity. This means that at any given point in time, He is the Sole Possessor of Knowledge about which choice is the best among many choices.
To give you just a small taste of what I’m talking about here, please examine the chart at right.
In the first column, we have the dependency level. The number of choices available in Level 3, are dependent upon the number of choices made in Level 2, which in turn are dependent upon those in Level 1, etc.
In the second column, we have a binary tree (or B-tree in computerese). This means that for each point of decision, there are two possible courses of action — yes or no, left or right, true or false, etc. This means that at our starting point in Level 1, we have two possible choices. Since at Level 2 there are two possible choices for each of Level 1’s choices, we now have 4 possible combinations . At Level 3, we have two possible choices for each of Level 2’s, thus we now have 8 possible combinations. The principle is this: every time you go up a level, you multiply the previous number of possible choices by the number of new choices presented.
As you can see, the number of possible choice combinations quickly gets into some big numbers. By the time you have hit only Level 5, we have 32 possible combinations; at Level 10, we’re at just over 1,000; at Level 15, we’re pushing close to 33,000 possible choices!
Of course, life is not all that simple. Many of our decision points have three, four, even six or seven possible choices. To give you just a taste of reality, I added three more columns which examine what would happen if there were 3, 4 and 5 possible choices per decision point. It is obvious that the numbers get astronomical in short order. Even with the varied number of choice combinations we face at each of our decision points in our daily lives, you can imagine how the numbers can rack up quickly.
As I’ve stated earlier, God knows the best choices, both for each of us individually and for all whose lives we will touch during the course of our existence. Everything is planned out to the nth degree and nothing is done by chance. As Albert Einstein so accurately and succinctly put it, “God doesn’t throw dice!”
It is crucial here to distinguish between choices and outcomes. Choices are the options available to us at a given decision point. Outcomes are the results or consequences of those choices, for better or for worse. And the Law of Unintended Consequences is ever-ready to bite us in the butt when we least expect it! The old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” drives home this point quite nicely. We often make choices with what we think are well-thought-out reasoning and pure motives only to have unforeseen results of those choices smack us in the face when we least expect them.
As we approach a given point of decision, we perceive, in a very flawed, limited, and immediate way, the possible choices and their outcomes. Usually though, our sin-corrupted frame-of-reference — which produces both conscious and unconscious prejudices as well as erroneous assumptions — keeps us from seeing many of the options available to us and/or the best one of those perceived. The business world calls this “failing to think outside the box.”
But God knows the ultimate eternal outcome of each of those choices before a decision is made and the choice to which He directs us will always accomplish His desired outcome and our best welfare, regardless of how it looks to us beforehand.
This may sound difficult, but it really isn’t. Many of the choices we face daily are no-brainers to discern because they have been covered in detail by the written Word of God. When we come to a decision point where we have to choose whether we should lie, cheat, steal, commit murder, engage in adultery, indulge our selfish anger, abuse our families, etc. we already have specific revelation indicating God’s desired course of action. The remaining choices for which there is no clear-cut direction from the Word fall into the category of “walking by the Spirit.” In either case, though, all that is needed for success is a choice to obey Him on our part and His infinite grace provided without measure on His part.
God also sees every scheme, deception, and snare of the enemy before they occur and knows when, where, and how we can and will be attacked. It is a time-honored adage that wars are won or lost by the quality of the military intelligence (knowledge of the enemy’s capabilities, intentions, and plans) being acted upon. Here we have the ultimate Spy, the HIA (Heavenly Intelligence Agency) who has perfect foreknowledge of how the enemy intends to attack us and how to prevent much of it!
By letting God choose our path, we can avoid many of the snares of the devil and God has guaranteed us complete victory over those we can’t either avoid for whatever reason or miss due to our human frailty!
God is Omnipotent (All-Powerful)
For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back? — Isaiah 14:27
It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, and I ordained all their host. — Isaiah 45:12
Ah Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee — Jeremiah 32:17
And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast thou done?’ — Daniel 4:35
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed for the sower and bread for the eater; so shall My Word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. — Isaiah 55:10-11
Only God has the infinite power and creativity necessary to empower us to follow that best path He has chosen. He freely makes His grace —the same power that spun the worlds into existence and raised Jesus Christ from the dead —available to those who are choosing His path, rather than their own.
God is Just (Infinitely Unbiased & Fair)
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. — Deuteronomy 10:17-18
As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. — Job 37:23
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne. — Psalm 89:14a
The LORD executes righteousness And justice for all who are oppressed. — Psalm 103:6
For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. — Isaiah 30:18b
For there is no partiality with God. — Romans 2:11
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work… — 1 Peter 1:17
While many accuse God of being unfair by their own human standards, God operates on a different level. You see, He knows the hearts and minds of men as we discussed earlier in this post and He is the only Person in the universe that can do that.
God is Holy & Righteous (Perfectly Sinless & Infinitely Good)
For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. — Leviticus 11:45
He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He. — Deuteronomy 32:4
No one is holy like the LORD, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. — 1 Samuel 2:2
Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes. — 2 Chronicles 19:7
Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice, and lifted up your eyes on high? Against the Holy One of Israel. — 2 Kings 19:22
For our shield belongs to the LORD, and our king to the Holy One of Israel. — Psalm 89:18
And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” — Isaiah 6:3
…for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. — James 1:13
And throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is referred to as “the Holy One.”
Holiness is what, more than any other attribute, sets God apart from us. God is pure goodness and sinlessness Personified — the complete antithesis of evil — as was His Son Jesus during His sojourn on this earth.
God is Merciful
Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; — Deuteronomy 7:9
LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. — 1 Kings 8:23
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. — 1 Chronicles 16:34
…and he said: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. — 2 Chronicles 6:14
Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; For You are God, gracious and merciful. — Nehemiah 9:31
But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. — Psalm 86:15
Mercy and truth go before Your face. — Psalm 89:14b
Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. — Isaiah 30:18a
I could go on and on for page after page of verses that recount God’s mercy towards His creation.
Mercy means “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” It means that, though we deserve nothing but God’s wrath and damnation to hell, He has compassion on us and goes out of His way to not visit punishment on us until we have gone our own way to the extent that He can no longer overlook it.
God is Love (Infinitely Unselfish)
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love…And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him. — 1 John 4:8,16
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning! Great is Thy faithfulness! — Lamentations 3:22-23
God not only knows everything about the end results of every one of our choices, He is also motivated by perfect unselfishness. He always chooses to tell us the best possible choice for every decision down through eternity. We will enjoy the tremendous benefits of these choices if we will but hear and obey.
We also know that He will carefully guide us around those snares and pitfalls of Satan that we cannot handle, and that He will never allow us to be challenged beyond what we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).
God is Redemptive
I, even I, am the One Who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. — Isaiah 43:25
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening of our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. — Isaiah 53:4-6
Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. — Isaiah 55:6-7
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. — John 3:16
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly…for while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. — Romans 5:8,10
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us —for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” — in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. — Galatians 3:13-14
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:23-24
…for by grace have you been saved through faith — and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God — not by works, lest any man should boast. — Ephesians 2:8-9
Are you ready to have your mind boggled further? If we get off of His perfect path and later repent, at that moment of repentance, He gives us His grace without measure — His infinite power and creativity — to move us from where we currently are on the decision tree to where He originally wanted us to be.
I recently heard a beautiful story about a fellow minister and a conversation he had one day with the Lord. He asked God where he would be in his life and ministry if he had gotten saved as a child, rather than spending quite a few of his adult years living in sin before committing his life to Christ. God answered him with, “Exactly where you are today!”
God’s redemption is total! He not only saves our souls, but our lives as well. No matter how badly you mess up, God will give you the grace to turn it around and restore you to a life of fulfillment, abundance, and fruitfulness. It will not be the same as it would have been if we had chosen correctly, but He will ensure that we fulfill His destiny for us!
The Answer to the Question
So where are we with our original question of: “What right does God have to demand to be Lord over your life as a condition for salvation?”
If, after reading all these Scriptures, you came up with “Because He is the only Person qualified for the job” as the answer, then you get the prize!
God is truly the only Being qualified to run our lives — no one else even comes close! And since His love always motivates Him to give us the best, it would be completely contrary to His character to allow us to have anyone else in charge of our lives! No one else has the knowledge, the ability, or the proper motivations to qualify for the job! That is what gives Him the right to demand lordship over our lives as the condition for salvation.
In light of this, for us to insist on remaining at the helm of our lives — even in the smallest area — is just plain foolishness, the same type of foolishness that would put a blind and deaf man at the wheel of a 18-wheeler on a freeway during rush-hour traffic in Los Angeles.
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:5 (emphasis mine)
The Greek word for “resists” in this verse literally means “to range in battle against” in the Greek. That means that God doesn’t passively stand by and watch us fumble around in our efforts at self-lordship. It means that God actively fights us to ensure our failure at it.
Why? Because the whole universe is held together by the Word of His power. As I quoted from Colossians 1:17 earlier: “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” His Word is Truth. If He were ever to allow The Lie to become The Truth — even for a nanosecond — the universe as we know it would cease to exist. So He can never, never, EVER allow The Lie to ever come true and He takes active measures to ensure that it doesn’t!
Thanks for reading!