Friday, September 24, 2010

Pushing Your Spiritual Button

This morning I was playing action figures with Luke (after he had worn me out wrestling). It's my day off and I love it. I had a couple of good guys and two bad guys - some weird robot looking thing and Two Face. Luke said, "when the robot dies, he can just push his button and he'll come back to life." I asked, "if he's dead, how can he push the his button to come back to life?" Luke's answer, "he just pushes it and then he's alive."

When it comes to the order of salvation a lot of our talk ends up following the same path the Luke did. We often try to put faith before regeneration (being born again). How is this faith possible? I don't think it is. The clear testimony of Scripture is that before rebirth we are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 5). How can spiritually dead people push the faith button?

From a slightly different angle, we could ask, "does faith please God?" or, "is faith a good?" The answer on both counts is yes. Faith pleases God - it is foundational to all acts that please Him. It is good. But, can the one who is of the flesh, who hasn't been born again, do anything that pleases God? The simple answer, according to Paul, is 'No'. Romans 8:5-8: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 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." Or also Romans 3:10-12:
"None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."

When considering the order of salvation (ordo salutis), conversion (repentance & faith) and justification come after being born again (regeneration). Certainly, regeneration ensures faith, repentance, justification, as well as sanctification and glorification will follow, but getting the order mixed up lays glory at the feet of man who chooses God independently of his quickening grace instead of at the feet of the all deserving God.

Soli Deo Gloria

2 comments:

MBK said...

Hey Dan,

As I was reading this, my mind kinda went back to that "can you be good without God?" debate you were involved in last year. Then, I think you came to the conclusion that yeah, sure philanthropists all over the world do good things without acknowledging God, but instead you made the argument that God *IS* all that is good. (correct me if I'm wrong here)

So when you say that apart from the Spirit we can't do anything that pleases God, I'm wondering if you think he is pleased by "good acts" done by others who don't have the Holy Spirit in them? I guess you could argue that although they look like good and selfless acts, the heart is not in the right place and therefore doesn't please God, but I think that there are many people doing good things who genuinely care about people and believe in their causes for non-selfish reasons. Thoughts?

Dan Waugh said...

Megan,
Good thoughts. Yeah, in the debate I adopted a more 'man centered' understanding of good - at least initially. My argument in the debate is that things are good when the align with God's standard of goodness.Without that standard, there is no standard and we're left to do whatever is right in our own eyes.
Things my neighbors do are good in one sense, but, in the ultimate evaluation nothing done apart from the Spirit is really good. I say it that way because it includes the works of nonbelievers as well as many works of believers. Ultimately, to be good, I think a deed needs to be in keeping with the goal for which we were created - glorifying God. If it's not done for the purpose, it's not ultimately good. Also, Hebrews tells that "without faith it is impossible to please him" (11:6). So an act done without faith, though it may serve our neighbor, in the ultimate evaluation will be called good only to the degree it was done in faith and motivated by a desire to see God glorified.
All the good deeds we do apart from the Spirit (without faith, without the goal of glorifying God) amount to, according to Isaiah, "filthy rags" (Is. 64:6).
That is, at least, how I understand it.