Let’s talk about election.
DECEMBER 16, 2021
Let’s talk about election, on this edition of Key Life.
The deepest message of Jesus and the Bible is the radical grace of God to sinners and sufferers. That’s what Key Life is all about. So, if you’re hungry for the hopeful truth that God isn’t mad at you, keep listening. Steve Brown is a professor and our teacher on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. I’m going to take a little bit of time because of the issue that I brought up yesterday, if you were listening. And you never listen to me, but yesterday we saw that the conversion and that’s what we’re talking about in the eighth chapter of Acts. The conversion of the Ethiopian involved two choices. One was the choice of the Ethiopian. When he said to Philip, is there any reason I can’t be baptized right now? The other choice was the fact that Philip was there and God sent him. So, God had made up his mind about the Ethiopian before his conversion. And we talked about how that can be a contradiction. And, I figured that I ought to say something about that. Let me suggest a great book that you could read. And it’s still in print. And it’s a very old book. It’s by a J.I. Packer. And Dr. Packer was a friend of mine. Well, I should say an acquaintance of mine. I loved him a lot, but he wrote a book a number of years ago, that deals with this particular issue. And you can tell it then the title, the title is Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. And so, in this book, he deals with freedom and with sovereignty, which according to us, and by the way, we’re Greeks. Greeks seek wisdom and the Jews demand signs, Paul said to the Corinthians, but we preach Christ crucified and it confuses everybody. And I want to say, duh, it really does, those things don’t go together. And the reason they don’t go together is cause most of you are not Jewish. If you were Jewish, you wouldn’t care. The rabbis says God is God and he is sovereign and I’m free. What else is there to say? But people who are Aristotelian in their thinking, that would be Greeks, got to have everything fit into a system. And there is the principle of non-contradiction. You can’t have two plus two equal four and three and five at the same time. It’s, you just can’t do that. And God says, what do you mean, I can’t do that? I’m God. I can do whatever I want to do. So, most all of my life, I remember my dear friend, Sam Rowen, and we were in Asia and I said, Sam, explain election to me. He said, read the book of Acts over the next two or three days, and then come back to me and we’ll talk about it. So, I remember coming back to Sam Rowen and saying to him, alright, the Bible teaches election. I don’t think it’s fair. It’s not right. And if I were God, that wouldn’t be true, but I’m not God. And the Bible teaches it, so I accept it. It was kind of a kicking and screaming thing and to the truth. And I, then I began to see that the family secret of an election, is God’s gift to his people. Listen, if God chose me before I was ever born and he knew everything about me, there’s nothing that I can do that’s going to surprise him and change his mind about me now. That is a great comfort. And I, and I don’t know how you work the freedom thing in, Dr. Packer calls that an antimony, that is two truths that are both true. But they can’t both be true, but they are. Yes, you are free and responsible and your decisions make a difference. Yes, God is sovereign. He’s in charge of everything, every molecule and those two truths are clearly taught in Scripture. My mentor, Fred Smith, used to say that the essence of Christian maturity was to have a high tolerance for ambiguity. And I’ve found out that is an understatement. It does require that, sometimes you just say, I, Father, don’t understand you, but I do trust you. Now, and let me say one more word, and then I’ve got all, that’s all I know about this particular subject. In my mind, I believe that the doctrine of election is true, but when God made his choice, he had tears in his eyes because it is not his will that any should perish. So, at the moment of creation, he could have created in a hundred thousand different ways, but when he decided to create the way he created, it had implications to it. And the implication is that you would know Christ and somebody else wouldn’t. And I think the day will come when God will say child, if I could have done it any other way, I would have. Okay. But there’s one more thing as we talk about evangelism that you’ve got to include when you do it. And that is, it was not only a process, it was not only an event, it not only involved two choices, it involved a connection with God’s people. How do you think we know this story? I would suggest there’s only one way we know this story and that is because the Ethiopian told it in church. And he became known throughout the church as the man who was rich and powerful and influential and came to know Christ because the Ethiopian would meet people and say, let me tell you my story. It is such a good story. It is, what was going on, he was connected to the people of God. And that’s important too. I’ve told you before, I’m a loner. And I’ve said a thousand times that I’d be a monk if they’d let me bring my wife, but they won’t. But I’ve learned over the years and sometimes I’ve learned the hard way and sometimes the easy way, sometimes I was in the middle of pain and sometimes I was just laughing and needed somebody to tell the joke to. But I found out that I needed people. When I was a young pastor, I didn’t think that. Somebody talked about another man on our staff in a church that I served, mentioned to him and said, he loves us and Steve teaches us. And at first I thought that was a compliment and then I thought about it and thought, you know, that’s not a compliment. That’s a very big negative. And then I prayed, God, could you fix me? Could you let me, could you get the people of God on my heart? Would you connect me? I’m connected to you, but it needs more than that. I need to be connected to other people. And God began to do that in my life. And frankly, there were times when, when I said, Lord, could I retract that prayer? I mean, this church is driving me nuts. If I could have a few well-placed funerals, I could fix everything wrong with this church. And then I would hear the laughter of the angels because I was connected to God’s people. I needed to be connected to God’s people. And, that became a significant and important place in my life. And so, when you talk about evangelism, you’ve got to have a final story, and that is the connection with God’s people. You hear people say all the time, I’m not a Christian and I’m not into institutionalized religion, but me and Jesus have a thing. No, you don’t. I mean, well, maybe you do, but it’s not enough of a thing. When, when the doctor tells you you’ve got cancer, who are you going to go to? I’ve said often, and I’ve told you this in places where I’m speaking, if you’re new to this church, or if you’ve come to this conference and you don’t know what you’ve gotten into, listen to the old guy, leave. For God’s sake, leave before you get hurt because we’re not nice. I mean, this is the only club where the requirement is that you not be qualified. And so, this is not a very safe place. And if you’re a snowflake, go somewhere, go to the Rotary Club or something, don’t go to the church. But I always say, but if you can get over that, and you can get through the messiness and the sin and the pain and the division, you will find a family here. And it’ll be the most important family of your life. And you’ll rise up and call your brothers and sisters blessed because of the love and the truth and the grace, that is a part of being a part of the family of God. And so, your conversion was a process and an event and a choice, but don’t forget that it’s a connection too. You think about that. Amen.
And thus ends another enjoyable week of exploring God’s truth found in the book of Acts. If you missed anything, remember that you can listen to any episode anytime you want for free at www.keylife.org And of course, tomorrow is Friday and that can only mean one thing, Friday Q&A. Join us, as Steve and Pete tackle the challenging questions you’ve sent in. I’ve mentioned Horatio Spafford to you recently, that he wrote the hymn It is Well With My Soul after his four daughters died in a shipwreck. Well, there’s actually more to his suffering. Prior to that tragedy, he had lost his four-year-old son in the great Chicago fire of 1871. And yet Spafford still affirmed, it is well with my soul. If during this Christmas season, you’re also suffering. There’s a sermon from Steve that you’re going to want to hear it’s named after that famous hymn. Get it now by calling 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail Steve@keylife.org to ask for that CD. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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