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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Using Tools

Have you heard of the AED? It is a cool device that saves lives. It is an Automated External Defibrillator. When used properly, the device detects cardiac arrhythmias and defibrillates the patient to reestablish heart rythm. I mean, really cool. It is designed to be so easy that even a caveman could do it, in the modern vernacular.

So, meet Bob. Bob is a fictional coworker who suffers a ventricular tachycardia. Bob is dying right there on the spot. Ted, a thoughtful and trained CPR-type individual, grabs the AED off the wall, hooks the device up to Bob, follows the prompts from the device, and shocks Bob back to life. Presto! Bob's life is saved. After returning from the hospital, Bob shows his deep gratitude. He makes friends with the AED, takes it to dinner, offers it gifts, and praises it to everyone he meets. What a wonderful device! What a life-saver!

This, of course, is silly. The one getting the gratitude would not be the AED, but the one who used the device to save Bob's life. The AED, absolutely necessary to save him in this case, was simply the tool that Ted used to give Bob his life back.

It has been argued that if God is absolutely Sovereign, then evangelism is pointless. It has been argued that if God chooses whom He will save, there is no reason to share the Gospel. William Carey is considered by most to be the father of modern missions. He argued for overseas missions in a Calvinist setting and was told, "Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He'll do it without consulting you or me." That's the problem, right? If God is Sovereign and God chooses whom He will save, why bother spreading the Gospel?

The problem, of course, is the same problem as with Bob and his great appreciation of the AED. He confused means and ends. He confused the tool and the one who used it. God is a God of means. He has ordained a variety of means for His ends. So He uses humans to glorify Him and He commands His people to use certain methods to achieve what He wants. He uses imperfect preachers and teachers to edify the Body. He uses the Word to renew your mind. He uses our prayer to accomplish His will. And He uses "what is foolish in the world to shame the wise" (1 Cor 1:26). We, as evangelists spreading the Gospel, do not make converts. He does that. We, then, are the tools He uses like that AED Ted used.

God is a God of means. He establishes various routes, methods, commands, and procedures to accomplish what He wants to accomplish. Does He have to? Perhaps not. But the fact that He wishes to involve His people in His work isn't a bad thing. Nor does it deny the basic running theme of all of Scripture that God is Sovereign. We just need to be sure to keep in mind Who is using the life-giving tools.

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