Daddy, Does God Want To Save Me?

Did you hesitate? Even for a second? Then you have a warped Calvinism. And there’s lots of it around.

When our son or daughter asks that question we must be able to look them in the eye and say with all the certainty we can muster and all the passion we can summon, “Yes, my son (daughter), God wants to save you.”

Verse to prove it?

1 Timothy 2v4 which speaks of God our Savior “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Sadly this “simple” statement of profound truth has been both perverted and explained away over the years.

Perversions and Evasions
Some have used it to support universalism, the idea that God will save everyone. However, that view ignores the rest of 1 Timothy which clearly speaks of some being lost (1:13; 3:6; 4:1; 5:24; 6:9-10); it also rejects many other parts of the Bible.

Others have used the verse to deny election. They say, “If God wants to save everyone in general then He did not choose anyone in particular.” But then we have to cut out multiple verses and chapters which do teach particular and individual election (e.g. 1 Cor. 1; Rom. 9).

Then there are those who say that as the previous verses are about civil government, “saved” here means physical preservation. However, Paul goes on immediately to speak of Christ as mediator and redeemer, and in the pastorals “salvation” most commonly means deliverance from sin (1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Tim. 1:9; 3:15; Tit. 2:11).

Well-meant Desire
Some Calvinists, out of a well-meant desire to honor the sovereignty of God, change the meaning of “all” to “all the elect.” They say, “If God wills the salvation of all, then all will be saved as God’s will is never thwarted. But not all are saved, so all here must mean all the elect.

This is very logical; but is it biblical? Is it the meaning that Timothy and the church at Ephesus would have understood when the letter was being read? Would they have made all the steps of logic required to get “all” to mean “all the elect?” Would they not have taken the words in their plain and simple meaning? God desires ALL to be saved

God’s Two Books
But not all are saved, so how do we understand this text without dishonoring God and making Him look defeated in His desire and will? The answer is found in the two books of God we find in Deuteronomy 29:29:

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever that we may do all the words of this law.

God’s Private Book contains the things that He has decreed will happen or not happen from beginning to end of time. They include all the events of tomorrow, when and how we will die, the end of the world, the names of the saved, and so on. As its name suggests, this is a private book for God’s eyes only. He has not revealed the contents, will not reveal them, and we must not enquire into them either. God keeps that book behind the counter and forbids us from trying to look into it.

God’s Public Book is what He has revealed in the Bible, which, as Moses said, is all we need to know, believe, and do. It’s on the counter, open, and available for study.

In God’s Public Book, God often expresses a desire for certain things to happen that do not actually happen because He has not written them in His Private Book. For example, God desires all people keep His moral law which does not actually happen.

God also forbids things in His Public Book which He has decreed to happen in His Private Book. For example, in the Bible God forbids betrayal and murder and expresses His desire that no one be a victim of this. Yet, in His Private Book He ordained that His Son be betrayed and murdered (Acts 2:23).

Biblical but Illogical?
This is sometimes called an antinomy, a logical contradiction that cannot be resolved. Although we cannot square them in our minds, we must hold both because both books exist and are true.

Maybe if we personalize this, it’ll become clearer. Ask yourself, “Does God want me to live a holy life or an unholy life?” His Public Book tells me that He wants me to live a holy life (1 Peter 1:16). But it doesn’t happen. Does that defeat God or take Him by surprise? No, His Private Book contains all my sins and all my successes. His Public will is “thwarted,” but His Private will never is.

Now take the question, “Does God want me to believe the Gospel?” According to God’s Public Book, “Yes” (Isa. 45:22; 55:1; Ezek. 18:23; 32; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). But I never did it at all for 22 years and I still don’t do it perfectly or steadily. Again, no surprise to God, as His Private Book contains all my ups and downs, my faith and unbelief. 

The Kiddie Question Test
Finally, back to our first question. When our child asks, “Daddy, does God want to save me?” the last thing you do is go to God’s Private Book, and say, “Well, I don’t know honey, because I don’t know if you are one of the elect.” Put that book down. That’s God’s Private Book. You have no right to it and there’s no benefit in it for you.

Instead, pick up God’s Public Book and on the basis of 1 Timothy 2v4, say, “God wants to save you with all His heart! He doesn’t want you to perish.” So, repent and believe the Gospel with the assurance that if you call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved (Rom. 10:13).

If you can’t say that, your Calvinism fatally fails the Kiddie Question Test.

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Five Clicks For Hours of Pleasure

How would you like to help me choose my summer reading?

During semester time, my reading is often confined to the subjects I’m teaching – Old Testament Exegesis, Counseling, Leadership, The Minister & His Ministry. In the summer, though, I try to read a bit more outside the box. I do that partly for my own enjoyment, partly to learn about and be inspired by other people’s lives, but also to stimulate fresh thinking and widen my worldview by reading in areas I don’t usually have much time for. It’s also a great way to get up-to-date sermon illustrations.

Here’s my “cheerful” reading list from last summer, and I’d love it if you could help me put together one for this summer. Below are the books (with their Amazon descriptions) that are topping my list right now. You can help me by choosing the books you think I should read first (you get five votes), and by suggesting other books you think should be on that list. They can be old books or new books, politics, fiction, non-fiction (if you must), biography, theology, history (not too much blood and guts please!).

Once the votes and suggestions are in, I’ll read and review as many as I can over the next couple of months.

And what do you get out of it? Well, apart from the reviews I’ll be posting, hopefully my thinking and writing will be refreshed for your benefit too.

So here’s the list I’ve put together so far – in no particular order. You don’t need to have read the book to vote for it or suggest it. Go on, challenge me. You don’t need to enter your email or anything like that. Just five quick clicks to give me hours of reading pleasure. And hopefully some reading ideas for yourself too!

The Tides of Life: Learning to Lead and Serve as You Navigate the Currents of Life

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Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places

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How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

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An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

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The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs

“Find God’s vision for your job. Reclaim God’s vision for your life. Many Christians fall victim to one of two main problems when it comes to work: either they are idle in their work, or they have made an idol of it. Both of these mindsets are deadly misunderstandings of how God intends for us to think about our employment. In The Gospel at Work, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert unpack the powerful ways in which the gospel can transform how we do what we do, releasing us from the cultural pressures of both an all-consuming devotion and a punch-in, punch-out mentality—in order to find the freedom of a work ethic rooted in serving Christ.”

Growing Up Duggar: It’s All About Relationships

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The Poll

And now for the big vote. You can enter suggestions anonymously by clicking on “Other” in the poll. Or simply leave the titles in the comments. Anyone can see the results – you don’t have to vote – by clicking on results. Thanks for your help!

Reader Suggestions

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Scottish or American Graduation?

There are few places where the contrast between Scotland and America is more pronounced than High School graduations.

My American friends will be appalled to hear that when I finished High School, the bell went and I simply walked home never to return. No speeches, no farewells, no party, no banquet, no graduation ceremony, no diploma, no nothing. Teachers said nothing. Principal said nothing. Even my parents said nothing. It was just like any other day at school – except you didn’t go back again.

I remember the great joy of taking my school uniform off for the last time. But that was about the limit of the “celebration.” I think the feeling was, “You’ve finished High School? So what! You’ve done nothing yet. Now you start to prove yourself.” You wouldn’t dare call it a “graduation.” That was reserved for finishing university.

Shocked Scots
My Scottish friends will probably be appalled to hear the American contrast. Two of my sons just “graduated,” one from a Christian school, and one from an online school.

The one who finished High School seems to have been graduating for weeks. There was a one-week trip to Washington D.C., a banquet, a school awards ceremony, a public graduation ceremony, a limo trip to a graduation meal (yes, another meal), a graduates’ day at an adventure camp, and then the uniquely American “Open House.” (More of that in a moment).

The graduation ceremony was quite a grand occasion: full gowns and caps, diplomas, stage presentation, three gifts, a choir, a commencement speech, a valedictorian speech, and numerous other speeches too.

Graduation 1

Open House
I’d never heard of an “Open House” before coming to America. For the benefit of my Scottish readers here’s a summary. Basically, you open your house for a specified 2-3 hours and invite all your school friends, family friends, neighbors, and anyone who’s special to you. (In our case, it was on Saturday and probably about 250 people turned up between 4-7pm).

The family puts together a couple of presentation boards with lots of pictures of the graduate from earliest years up to the present. Guests have a good laugh at the evident changes in both the kids and the parents! There’s a box for cards and gifts, which often produces a welcome cache of dollars for upcoming college tuition and expenses. Guests are then fed, watered, and cream-caked, and hang around chatting for anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours.

Life photos

We were blessed with a beautiful day and used a marquee to provide a bit of shelter in the 80 degree heat. It’s quite an operation; Shona’s probably been preparing for it for two solid weeks. Don’t know where I’ll get the energy for my last son’s graduation in 17 years time!

Open House

Proud Kids?
At this point, my Scottish friends have probably stopped breathing. Some will be shaking their heads: “They’re mad. Murray’s turned his back on Scottish common sense. He’s betrayed his culture. Celebrating High School graduation? With all that razzmatazz? Kids will think they actually achieved something. It will go to their heads…”

Honestly, I would have said that myself a few years ago. And yes, there are excesses; although Dutch Reformed people keep it pretty sane and sensible compared to some Americans.

However, I’m now a convert (or apostate, depending on your accent). I’ve been to a good number of “Open Houses” over the last few years: friends’ kids, kids in my congregation, etc., and I love them. There’s a wonderful community spirit as the church family gets together to rejoice in another child getting to a significant milestone in their lives, to encourage them to remember the Lord in their youth, and to serve Him with the rest of their lives.

Can it inflate their egos? Make them proud? Tempt them to think they’re something when they’ve still got a lot to prove? Yes, yes, and yes. But given the choice between being overly cynical or overly celebratory, being too Scottish or too American, I’m going to spend the rest of my days risking too much happiness.

Family Photo

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