The Sovereignty of God

What Do We Mean When We Talk About The Sovereignty Of God?

Ross Sawyers
Feb 5, 2023    1hr 1m
Join us as we explore what it means when we talk about the sovereignty of God and learn what implications this has on us as Christians. We discover that God's sovereignty means that he has rule and control of all creation. And when we know that he's sovereign, we can look at our circumstances and say, I'm going to trust that there's no other God but this God, and I know he's going to use that for my good. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Ross Sawyers: [00:00:00] We went on an outdoor trip, and one of the guys had recommended that we study a book by Jim Akers called Godfidence. And when he suggested it, at first I thought, I'm doing plenty of reading right now for the series that we're doing, I don't know if I can get another one in. And I did, I read it, and it's just a fantastic book and provided great conversation for us to wrap around. And he's running, what I liked about is I got into it, I thought, this is exactly what we're doing in this series. We're talking about lenses, and I've tried to simplify this down a little bit to two major lenses that we see through, and one of those lenses has a lot of variations, one does not. And what he talks about is the confidence that we put in ourselves, self-reliance, and positive thinking, versus a Godfidence, where our confidence is actually in God for those things. He's a CEO, was successful in the corporate world, had big ambitions, succeeded in those, had a career crisis, and it's where God brought him to this point. I would suggest today that if you're in the corporate world, any kind of business, that this would be a fantastic read for you and it would be a fantastic buy for others that you work with to give them. He quotes things that you're familiar with in the corporate world, he's loaded with Scripture, and I think his insights are just really, really rich. So maybe someone that would not be interested in some things might be interested in a book like that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:01:38] I bring it to your attention, one, to give it as a resource for those of you that are looking for ways you can steer the conversation. But he tells a story on page 147 of his book that I thought served as a great segway for us in this Lenses series. And he speaks of a woman named Henrietta Mears, who he describes as probably one of the most impactful women of the 20th century. Now, my hunch is most of us have not heard of Henrietta Mears, and yet this is his descriptor of her, "She owned and ran a Christian retreat center in California and would invite different people to come out as a place to retreat. In 1949, she extended an invitation to Billy Graham." Now, I've come to understand over the last two or three years that I now live in such a way that not everyone knows who Billy Graham is. Billy Graham was one of the foremost and prominent evangelists in the 20th century, the back half of the 20th century. There is no telling how many people know Jesus today because of the Ministry of Billy Graham, it was extensive, it was worldwide, and God used him in amazing ways. The last three weeks, if you pay any attention to the bumper before I come up, you heard Billy Graham preaching to you over the last three weeks, it's actually refreshing to those of us that were able to hear him. But in 1949, Billy Graham showed up at Henrietta Mears's invitation to her retreat center, and he was discouraged and full of questions when he showed up. At his most recent crusade, he had just begun that part of his work, and in that most recent crusade, he described it as a flop. It was at that retreat center, on one night when Billy Graham laid his hand on his Bible, and this is what he said. He said, Father, I'm going to accept this is thy word, by faith. I'm going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be your inspired word. The next night he preached a crusade and 400 people received Jesus on that night. And Henrietta Mears said, what was different on that night is that Billy Graham preached with authority. The authority of God's word that he believed by faith."

Ross Sawyers: [00:04:16] We spent a lot of time the last three weeks talking about God's Word, internally giving evidence, and the 'why' that it matters, and external evidence of why we can trust this book. Now, that doesn't mean that someone will, it's just the evidence is overwhelming that this is God's word. It is his God-breathed word that we can trust for all things. And we've spent time talking about that from a lens side because this is the lens that we believe that is reality. We're not trying to throw out that there are four or five realities and pick a lens for reality. We believe that God has made himself known in his word, and this is reality, this is truth. That's what truth is, it's the way we see things, it's the way things are. And we believe that this is the lens through which we see truth and reality. We anchor ourselves to God's word, and we find strength and stability here. But more than that, we anchor ourselves to the God who has revealed himself in his Word. These are his words, it's God that we anchor ourselves to, that's where we find stability and strength, and meaning in life. And it's in his God-breathed, living, and active, it's a lamp to our feet, a light to our path word that God makes himself known.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:46] There are three ways that God makes Himself known to us. He makes himself known in creation. Psalm 19:1, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." When we get out in God's creation, God is telling us about Himself. The second way we see God make himself known is through his son, Jesus Christ, in Hebrews 1:2, "In these last days has spoken to us in His Son." God makes himself known in Jesus. And the third way He makes himself known is in His word. In his word, we can spend a lifetime, every waking hour and we will never exhaust how God makes himself known in creation through Jesus and in His Word, we have all we need right here. This is his God-breathed word, it's our authority, which we come under, and by which we live as God has made himself known. We've talked about the Bible, we wanted to establish why we trust it, why it matters, and why it's the lens we look through.

Ross Sawyers: [00:07:05] For the next five weeks, we continue to think about lenses, but we want to focus on one attribute of God each week. And by attribute, I mean a characteristic of who God is. And we've chosen five that we believe are direct counters to the way our cultural narrative runs today so that you can see that if we have two primary lenses, a God lens, which will reveal who God is to the Scriptures, and then a human lens that is self-effort, that as we see these contrasts, we see who God is. And I think this is critical for us today to understand who God is because so many people are making up who He is. We tend to make God who we want him to be, to fit our own personal narrative, rather than allowing God to reveal himself in those three ways I just described and that we understand who He is, and then we come under him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:08:05] The first attribute that we'll look at is God's sovereignty. And when we see these attributes or the character of God, it helps us understand why he does what he does and why he says what he says. A person does what their character is, and when we understand the character of God, it makes more sense when we talk about these practical kinds of issues and challenges in our culture today. Some of you are probably thinking, you know, I thought we were going to talk about practicality, and I've got all this struggle going on. We are, this is the way we talk about it. If we don't understand that God's word is true and trustworthy and his character is what it is, it makes no sense the kind of discussions that we have. So we spend our time lingering on the character of God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:04] At the outset of this series, and then for those of you who came to the budget meeting at the end of the year, I showed this slide. And statistically, we could say, just ballpark that if there are 50 houses in a neighborhood, of those 50 houses, 10 of those would say that they are followers of Jesus. And of those 10 households that say they follow Jesus, only one of those households actually has a biblical worldview and is living out life through the God-centered lens we're speaking of. That's why this is so crucial for our day, that for ourselves, that we're settled and we understand what lens we're seeing reality, and that we're living appropriately with that. And then how can we be a help to someone else to help them understand this lens that helps us see what reality is?

Ross Sawyers: [00:10:00] So I'd like us to spend time thinking about, first, the sovereignty of God. A number of theologians write on this topic, and there are really rich writings out there on the attributes of God and the character of God. And by definition, I just like to define sovereignty, if I could, is the rule and control of all creation. When you hear the word sovereign throughout this message, we're talking about the rule and control of all creation.

Ross Sawyers: [00:10:30] I believe it is Abraham Kuyper who said a long time ago, that when God looks at all that is, he said every square inch is mine. That's a good way to think about the sovereignty of God, every square inch of the universe is his. God is the ruler, and he's the controller of all creation.

Ross Sawyers: [00:10:56] Now, sometimes we'll hear the term, especially in the government of sovereignty, there's a human sovereignty. But when we look at the Scriptures, what we know when we look through that lens in Daniel chapter 2, is that there are people that get placed in positions of human sovereignty, they have control and rule over a subset of something. Whether it's a governor, or a president, or it's your position in your job, that you have control and rule over a certain segment of where you work.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:31] But when we think about God's sovereignty in Daniel Chapter 2, God is the one who places people in those positions and gives them a season of sovereign rule, and God is the one who removes them. Anyone that holds positions today, it is under the rule and control of God, and he's accomplishing his purposes in ways that we may or may not understand. He is sovereign, he's the ruler and creator of all, and he's in control of all.

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:09] One thing that we've been trying to do is give you a grid to work through, and today I'm really excited because I've got my laser pointer. I'm dangerous with this thing, and I know not to point it in your eye, that would create a lens problem if I were to do that. And so I want to use this so that we can stay tight to God's story in the way we're talking about with these five circles in this funnel that helps us understand where someone's coming from.

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:36] Now, someone has said that by the time we keep teaching something and we're tired of talking about it, that's when people just start to get it. We're going to hang in there with this because when we're done with this series, I'd like you to at least have this framework of God's story, and you'll see as we continue to go, we can run any topic, any issue through this story. And that's how we want to see it through God's lens, how does God see things, and this helps us to do that. I also understand not everybody loves this kind of thing, but however your brain is wired, the substance of the story is the same. And somehow, we need to have a way that we can deeply ingrain it in ourselves, and also be able to communicate it to someone else. So whatever that looks like for you, go for it, but here's the substance of it, and this is at least a way we can speak of it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:13:31] And so I want us to think about, the circle as God, we're thinking about the character of God or the attribute of God, and that attribute is sovereignty. I read from Isaiah 45 just a moment ago, and I want to go to Isaiah 44 in 6 through 8. And again, we're talking about God's breathed-out word, this is how God reveals himself, “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. 7‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, From the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. 8‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none.’” That's what God says, there's not another God, there's not another reality, there's no other, there's no other rock, there's no other God besides God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:49] The psalmist said in chapter 115 verses 1 through 3, "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth." And then they were asking, where is your God, "The nations are saying, where is your God?" And in verse 3, they said," Our God is in the heavens, and he does whatever he pleases." There's no other God, he's sovereign, and he does his own pleasure. In Ephesians 1:11, "He does the work after the counsel of his own will." So he does what he pleases, that could be scary to us if we didn't know the character of God. He does whatever he pleases within who he is, in his character and what flows out of that. He does whatever He pleases.

Ross Sawyers: [00:15:39] Paul is writing to Timothy, he's one of the authors of 13 of the New Testament books that we have. He's writing to a young Timothy, giving him instruction, and it's like he can't help himself after he's given some instruction, he just kind of pauses, and he says, "Now to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be glory and honor forever. Here's some instruction, by the way, let's just pause a minute and talk about God's sovereignty. He's the king eternal, he's overall, he's immortal, invisible, the only God, there's not another God, God alone is God. And then Paul would say in Romans 11, "How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! " "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory." He is a sovereign God, that's what we are talking about, it's one attribute of God that he's in control and the ruler over all.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:45] Now, if we move from here to the next piece of the story, God and his creation. There's a connection there, because, in the first part of Genesis, we see creation and that's in perfect harmony. In Genesis chapter 1, "In the beginning, God created the heavens in the earth." Some people have said, If you can believe Genesis 1:1, you can believe the whole Bible. If you can believe that "In the beginning God." "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." That word created, in the Hebrew, means out of nothing. In the beginning, God, out of nothing, created everything. And in Hebrews chapter 1, verse 3, we know how He did it, he spoke it into existence. He spoke it into existence. In the beginning God created, he's a sovereign God, he's the God of creation, and out of nothing, he spoke it into existence. Jeremiah 32:17, Jeremiah is reflecting, and he says, "Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You." There's nothing too difficult for the God who is sovereignly in control of all that he created. In Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it." Every part of the world is his, it's his creation.

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:05] This morning I was at the gym, and I was trying to leave and a man caught me, this question is probably a little different for me than you because I'm a pastor. And so once they know I'm a pastor, something hits them, and they asked me probably a different question they might ask you. So he's walking in, and he says, hey, he said, I'm reading in Job. What do you think about Job? Do you think that's every man's story? And I'm thinking, I got to be at church in 45 minutes, I'm not sure, and I haven't been home yet to shower. And I said, well, because we've talked about this before, I said, I want to encourage you to read Job a different way. And by the way, you have great questions about it. Read Job, and just read it for who God is, don't read it, inserting yourself into the story yet. We're too busy inserting ourselves into the story, and what does this say about me how do I relate, and how do I identify? First, what does it say about God? This is primarily about God. So just read. Job and look just for things about God. See what it says about God and see what that does to the story. And yes, I do think we can all find ourselves in that story. Man, I tell you what, when we look at the God of that story, it's way more intriguing and increases way more awe of God in it. In Job 37:13 it says, “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen." He is a sovereign God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:19:53] I was listening to Tony Evans preach one time for Oak Cliff Bible, and he talked about this verse, and I thought, wow, I've never just stopped there, but look what God does. He causes everything to happen for his correction, to correct us; or it's just for his world, he does things for his world, it's his world; or it's for lovingkindness towards those in his world. He is the one that has created, and he causes things to happen. And this is what he does, Proverbs 16:4, "The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil." God is sovereign overall.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:34] So if we go back to the funnel, he's the creator, and God is sovereign over that which he's created. When we go to this piece of the story, and you see a broken line right there, we're no longer connected in perfect harmony with God, now there's a separation from God in the fall. And what does that mean, in Genesis 3 we see that happen in this part of the story, and Adam and Eve are given the freedom to choose in that perfect creation. And in that freedom to choose, they give into the deceit, the doubt, and the distraction of Satan. Sin enters into the world, and we call that the fall, now the world is fallen, and it's no longer in a perfect condition. And one result of the fall, is now we have a sin nature, all of us inherit sin, through our first human parents. As a result of that sin in Genesis 3:16, "As to the woman, your desire will be for your husband." That means that the desire will be to control your husband, there's a desire to be sovereign instead of God being sovereign. Lest you fret and think I'm picking on the ladies, "And he will rule over you.” He will try to be sovereign and control you. That all entered in at the fall, that now humans are trying to take the place of God and to be sovereign and control and rule each other. It's devastating consequences from the fall.

Ross Sawyers: [00:22:32] In Romans chapter 5 verse 12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." Sin has entered into the story now and is a part of the human experience. The Bible does the best job of explaining things as they are. Why is there chaos in the world? Why is there brokenness in the world? It all started right here in Genesis chapter 3 when sin entered into the world. The human heart is the core problem, Jeremiah identifies that in 17:9, he said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?". How can we understand why we sin? You just kind of are baffled, and you think, how did I do that again? Who can understand, it's deceitful. Romans 3:23, that's the case for all of us, we're picking on no one. We're all, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." so that's all of our human condition.

Ross Sawyers: [00:23:32] One of the things we wanted to do in this Lenes series is to spur on real conversations in your life groups, and in your marriages, and with your friends, and with your kids. And when we talk about the sovereignty of God, there are several questions that can come into play when we talk about God's sovereignty, and one of those is free will. I don't think I've ever started or been in a life group where free will is not something that seems to come up almost at the outset of a new group. And this is where, if I could just say this, I went to a seminary where I did my doctoral work, and the dean of the school had one view called reform theology. And then another professor who was the systematic theology professor who actually taught about the study of God was, if you know the terms, more Arminian, meaning it's more human chooses than God chooses. And yet this man hired someone who had a totally different theological view than him on free will and the sovereignty of God. So I learned in a place where people could have respectful dialog over hard conversations, and I believe we can do that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:04] And we want to, on a number of topics, be able to continue to stir the questions that you can dialog in your groups. And then here's my thing I want to cheer you on, die to your emotion, your feelings, and your past experience, and only speak from the Scriptures to talk about the topic. We want to know from God Himself in his Word, what it says about these things, not what makes sense to us. Is that fair? Is that okay?

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:41] So is it possible, I'm just kind of throwing some things out here? Is it possible that free will is not a thing? Is it possible that Adam and Eve had free will? And once sin entered the world, their free will was now bound up and they were no longer able to make decisions freely about God because sin had taken over. Is it a possibility that in salvation, that we're not capable of choosing God ourselves, apart from God himself reaching down and drawing us to Him because our sin condition is such, we would never make that choice? So is it possible?

Ross Sawyers: [00:26:33] Well, there are several debates for those of you who have any interest in history. I know everybody won't love this part, but it gives you an idea of how this dialog is done in church history. Augustine and Pelagius were the first two that are kind of noted where this conversation goes on. Pelagius actually believed that we do not have a sin nature, that we were all neutral, so therefore, you could easily choose God on your own if you wanted to choose God for your Savior. Augustine had lived a life, he would have been right in the middle of the sexual overthrow that we're in the midst of and would have been loving every minute of it until he didn't, and then he couldn't control his urges, and God reached down and saved and rescued him. And for him, he just came to that conclusion from Scripture and his own life that free will wasn't a thing, because he could never tame those urges of sin in himself, he needed God to do that, and God reached down and rescued him and did. Now that was a conversation because Pelagius was considered a heretic. The Catholic Church took on a semi-apologian position, that we're born with a sin nature, but it's still man who chooses God or not.

Ross Sawyers: [00:27:52] And then we fast forward to Martin Luther, if anybody has a Lutheran background, you would not come from a background that says you have free will. You would come from a background of a book that Luther wrote called The Bondage of the Will. And what Luther argued is, he was in the Catholic Church doing everything he was supposed to do religiously, and yet he was under this tremendous weight of guilt and condemnation constantly. And he finally encountered in Romans 1, the grace of God. And for him, it was an affront if you said there was any way on your own that you could choose God because that would be an affront to the grace of God and God's choosing of you. So they had this big debate, Erasmus, countered Luther, they were good friends and lost their friendship. This is not worth losing a friendship over, it's worth the conversation because it has all kinds of implications for the way we think about practical things, so it's worth the dialog.

Ross Sawyers: [00:29:04] And then later John Calvin and Jacob Arminius, Calvin more systematized it, and Arminius countered it. And then George Whitfield and John Wesley, Whitfield was more in line with Augustine and Luther; Wesley in the line, that's Methodism, so if you're in a methodist church, then you'd be more in that line, and what you would have heard is that it's all up to you and your good works to take care of things before God, some version of that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:29:32] So it's a good question to wrestle with. A.W. Tozer, who many lean on today to think about who God is. He took what he described as a mediating position and said God is sovereign, he's given humans free will to choose, and God is still sovereign because he's the one that gave them the free will to choose. And no matter what they choose, God will still work everything out to his end, because nothing will thwart the purposes of God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:05] A number of ways to think about it, let's see if we can have those conversations in healthy ways. If it's not interesting to you, then bypass it, but we did talk about are we willing to study. Are we willing to dig in? And you want to know from Scripture, not an opinion, or not what feels right. Remember, God does what he pleases, according to the counsel of His will. We want to know what God says and come out of it from there. If you're interested in a book on it, The Doctrines That Divide by Erwin Lutzer. He does a great job, I think, of presenting both sides of multiple views on different issues.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:42] All right, so if that's the case and the fall has happened, so whatever's happened now we're in the fall, and there's a shift that's happened when we fall, and now humans are the ones at the center of the story. That was a little uncomfortable for me when I saw this for the first time. God's not at the center, humans are at the center. And when humans are at the center, then that's the lens through which we see what we think is reality, when humans are the center. This could look like science, it could look like emotions, and the current cultural narrative, it could look like a number of things. But let's walk it through because what I wanted you to see is, how do we work through this with different lenses.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:28] So if humans are at the center, what would be a human take on creation? When I talk to people, at least a possibility is there's a God out there, there's a higher power, and it's the origin of the species, that's what I learned in school, so it's evolution, this is how all creation happened. I think at the human center, that would be at least some answers someone would give.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:00] Now the difference in when God is the center and we see God as the creator, then we have someone we are accountable to. This is what I've been saying over the last bit, that I think it's not a wrong question, but I don't think it's the best question. If you ask somebody if they believe in God, I don't think that's really a helpful question because people are glad to keep God out here and kind of unknown. The question would be, do you believe in a God that is on the throne of your life, as Spurgeon would say? Charles Spurgeon, said, "Everybody loves the idea of God, of God out here, they don't love the idea of God on the throne of their own lives." So if I keep it out here, then I don't really have to be accountable to anything.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:55] The fall, what would someone that's looking through a human lens say about the fall? There's not one, people are basically good. I think Alisa Childers does some great work on this; I love listening to her. And in a recent thing I listened to, she just taught three phrases that are in our culture right now. One of them is, you're enough. And if you believe that, what you're actually believing is that you basically have a good nature and that you're enough. And because you're good, inherently good, then you can live your authentic self. And that authentic self is I just look inside, I find all that good that's within me, and now I can live my truth. All of that is completely counter to God, that's a whole different lens, it's not even in the same eyesight, and so we want to make sure we can draw those distinctions. So we believe that we're inherently sinful and bad as Christians, we don't believe we're inherently good. That is completely counter to what's going on in our cultural narrative.

Ross Sawyers: [00:34:07] So what about redemption, how does that fit? There's no need for a redeemer because there's nothing wrong, so no need for redemption. First Corinthians 1:18 says that "The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." We're going to take the Lord's Supper in a few minutes, so you'll see people kind of dispersing, I don't think they're mad at me. But if you are, it's a good time to go because we think you're serving the Lord's Supper in just a moment. So whatever would be helpful for you, it's a free pass. So redemption, people would think of it as foolishness, and that's mostly what our culture thinks, they think we're foolish for what we believe about Christ and the cross.

Ross Sawyers: [00:34:48] And then as far as the new heavens and the new Earth, the way things end, they don't know, they just live for now and just kind of let it roll. So what happens when humans are at the center? It's when humans believe they're sovereign, that they're in control. And that's really an illusion because I think if we're honest with ourselves today, we know we're not in control, we can't control the economy, we can't control what happens in life, we can't control another person, we can't control it, it's an illusion that gets blown up at the cross, God is the one who's in control.

Ross Sawyers: [00:35:32] In Job 42:2, so regardless of if people see a different kind of reality, there is no plan that's impossible for God, nothing thwarts his purposes. So again, God uses what Satan does, he uses what sinful people do, he uses what people who are following him do, and he weaves all that together in a way that we can't comprehend. And we just keep the big picture knowing God's sovereign, he's in control, he's got it, and he's going to work this out, even if I can't see how he's going to do it. So just because most of humanity is rejecting God, looking through another lens, doesn't mean that's reality, and it doesn't mean that God's plans are thwarted. God is sovereign over all, there's a great confidence and comfort that comes with that reality.

Ross Sawyers: [00:36:19] So then we move down in the story to redemption, and it's the cross that connects us to God. That's how we reconnect from being broken, is through what Jesus did on the cross. In Colossians 1:13-14 it says that "He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." God is the rescuer in his sovereign plan, in Acts chapter 2 it says, that God, who predetermined, and in his for knowledge, predetermined that there would be ungodly men who would put Jesus to death. But God raised him up again, and he put to rest the agony of death because it was impossible for death to hold him. God, sovereignly from all eternity, knew how he was going to redeem humanity, and it's through Jesus Christ, he's the rescuer. It is incredibly humbling to come to Jesus because we have to lay down our sovereignty. We lay down what we believe we're controlling, what we believe we're ruling in our own lives, and we surrender to the rule and control of God himself. He rescues from something, the dark, to something, into the light. He's the rescuer. And forgiveness is a major piece of that rescue, it's just a relief to know that the condemnation, shame, the guilt, the judgment, and the sin has been taken off, that Jesus is the scapegoat and takes it for us.

Ross Sawyers: [00:38:20] I want to draw a distinction in salvation that I think is important. When I talk with people about their story, oftentimes they'll describe a season of life where there was an illness. They hadn't been followed after God, but God carries them through this time of really hard illness, and the person gets healed, and they'll talk about that as their salvation kind of time. That's not salvation, God in his grace and goodness does bring healing in those scenarios, but that doesn't mean that's when a person comes to know Jesus.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:06] Or it could be there's a conflictual relationship for a while, and somehow God works you through that. And you prayed during that season, you had no idea how you'd get through it and God brings you through it, and that kind of brings you to God. Yes, God does that, but that's not salvation. Salvation, pure and simple, is the recognition that I am inherently sinful and bad, and I can't do anything to rescue myself. I need God through the work of Jesus on the cross, who took my sins on himself to rescue me from my sin, and when I believe that, that's when I become his child.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:53] If your story has all kinds of other pieces to it, you're adding to it, Salvation is just what I said right there, that's it. It's not plus something, or you got me out of something, that's what salvation is, that's what Jesus came to do, and he rescued us at the cross. When did that salvation begin? Well, if we look at this story right here, we know from Ephesians chapter 1, "God blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." So right here, in eternity, God is the eternal sovereign God. He chose us then, in him, he chose us before the foundation of the world, that is what the Scripture says. And he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus, according to the praise and the glory of His grace, according to his will. He's the one that before the foundation of the world chooses us. In Jeremiah 1:5 it says, "Before I formed you in the womb, Jeremiah, I knew you." I had a preference for you. And in Deuteronomy, the children of Israel, the people of God, God says, I didn't choose you because you were more in number, you are actually least in number, nothing impressive about you, I just set my love on you. His sovereign love, he set on them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:41:46] And then God has appointed, in Acts 17, he's appointed a time and a boundary that we would live, and in Psalm 139, we've been given a certain number of days to live, this is all God doing that. So we have these days he's appointed the time and the boundaries for where we live, so he's put us in this cultural moment. And then in his grace, for those who've received it, and the gift of faith that he's given, salvation comes when we believe that. And we're grateful that in First Timothy 2:4, God desires for all to be saved.

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:33] So the question we continue to ask is which part of the story are we in? We are somewhere between here and here, that's where we reside. This has already taken place, the fall has happened, so we're either living in our brokenness and our sin, or we've been restored and rescued in Jesus. Has God written you into that redemption side of the story, or are you still hanging out in the broken side of the story?

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:08] Now, this is what can happen, so I want to be careful here. I don't like wearing my glasses, I've said that more than once. So whenever I can, I take them off, you're blurry to me now, I can't see clearly. As Christians, I think this is what we do, I think we're looking through a God lens, and then we kind of maybe not like what we're seeing through the God lens, so we take our glasses off and we're looking through the human lens on what feels better to us. So we want to continue to look through that God lens that he's given us through Jesus Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:49] Now a couple more things as we look at it, if we're redeemed to know Jesus then that fourth question on the funnel is purpose. So now, in here, we're living out our purpose, what is that? In First Corinthians 8:6, if God is sovereign and he's the center, then our purpose is to live for Him. "For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him." So it doesn't matter what's going on in our life, our purpose never changes, the overall purpose is that we live for God, for His glory, we exist for him. And when we know that he's sovereign, we can look at our circumstances and say, okay, I don't get this, I don't want this, I didn't ask for this, but I'm going to trust that there's no other God but this God, he's a guy who's made himself known in Scripture, and I know somehow he's going to work in and through this thing that's a mess, and he's going to use that in his overall purposes, in his big story. And I don't get to see how everything works out in the detail, God has not said that to me, but I'm confident that he's sovereign and he's the ruler and in control and nothing is outside of his sovereign love and care and control; that is a safe place to be in a culture that's run amuck.

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:17] Well, when we're living out our purpose, things start to happen, and we wonder, how does this fit? So here are some more questions for you to wrestle with your life group, with family, or with whoever you're willing to do it with, and we just want to ask some hard questions. So why is there evil in the world if God is sovereign and good and powerful? Why is there evil in this world? And what about suffering, there's so much innocent suffering, how does that fit in the purposes of God and under a God who is in control and rules all? If God is sovereign and he's already working all things out to the way he intends them to be, why do I pray? Why does that even matter? God, you tell us all the time we should be talking about Jesus to other people. Why would we evangelize and share our faith with other people when God's already got this thing all figured out anyway? Why would I go put myself in that uncomfortable spot? I already barely do it, but why would I? If there's free will, and we actually really believe that people need Jesus, why would we not be the most aggressive, urgent, get after it, and tell anybody we saw about Jesus people that we could imagine? Because if it's up to us to decide on Jesus, it seems that would spark a different evangelistic fervor.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:16] On the other side, if you don't believe there's free will in salvation, and that God is the one who presses and works on the heart and draws a person to himself, and that faith itself is a gift, then why would you evangelize it all? And yet, the command is to go and make disciples and evangelize. One verse of comfort is Romans 8:28, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Notice what it says that we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him. Not everybody, those who love him and are called according to his purpose. As Christians, we can sit safely under the sovereignty of God, and it gives confidence and increases our awe and our praise of him. I hope it'll do the same for you.

Ross Sawyers: [00:48:21] I hope we'll be willing to dig into hard questions. These are not questions, by the way, that we've never tackled before, it's not like we've never done this. But I don't know that we always feel the freedom in our life groups, and that's what we're trying to open up, that we can be for real and say, hey, you know what, great question about prayer, that's actually why I don't pray. I've never been willing to admit that in here, but I don't because I can't see why it matters. And remember, we want to go to the Scripture for the way we respond. I've told our live group staff that this should be the busiest time of your life right now. I don't know is fair and come ask me and we'll walk it out together as we wrestle through it and see what God does.

Ross Sawyers: [00:49:04] What we want to do now is a remembrance of what Jesus did for us through the Lord's Supper. And one of the things that we try to do is have different people in our church, not just staff that read Scripture, pray, lead us in the Lord's Supper, and lead us in baptism. And Connor Harris is one of our young single guys, and he's going to lead us this morning and what we're going to do.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051