Today I’m going to get into trouble. Nothing new.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2022
Today I’m going to get into trouble. Nothing new. On this edition of Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He’s an author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life, a program, all about God’s radical grace. We’re committed to bringing you Bible teaching that’s honest, straight-forward, and street-smart. Keep listening to hear truth that’ll make you free.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible, open to the 16th chapter of Acts. And we’re looking at Lydia, who’s an old friend of mine. For those of you who believe in women’s rights, she’s kind of an icon. She was the first convert to Christianity ahead of all the men and all the leaders and all the religious folks in all of Europe. And in fact, the first church in Europe met in her house. And she has a lot of good things about her. And the first thing, and we talked about it yesterday, is that God opened her heart. She didn’t sit around and think about it a long time. She didn’t say to herself, I’m gonna make a decision about this because this is important. God opened her heart. And that brought up the subject of election and that brought up some discussion on the subject of election. Now, I’m going to get into trouble and I can’t help it. Listen, if you study Scripture and everything fits into your theological suitcase, you missed something. The Scripture, I mean, we’re talking about an infinite God communicating to finite human beings. We’re talking about a God who created the universe, talking to nobody’s like us who know nothing, and can hardly know enough to even pray to Him. And so, God’s problem was pretty something else. And, one of the things that he does communicate over and over and over again. And that is that He is sovereign. I’ve got your back. I’m God, the sovereign Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of all that is, and the sovereign Ruler, Creator, and Sustainer of your life and your salvation. And in the Book of Acts, and yesterday I quoted a lot of different Scripture, talked about my own experience and struggle with a doctrine of election, but the Bible clearly teaches, and this is a family secret. And if you get it, it’s a wonderful one. And hold on cause I’m going to offend the other side in just a minute, but stay with me, some wonderful family secret. Before you were ever born, God knew your name and called you to himself and he holds you and he found you and he chased you and he, and he called you his own. And he’ll never let you go. In other words, my salvation is assured, not because I’m smart or bright or obedient or spiritual, but because God assured it. If my little girls, granddaughters, thought that remaining my granddaughters depended on what they did, what kind of grandfather would I be? The poet has said, home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in. Well, that’s what the doctor of election says, that he’s our Father, and fathers take in his children. And he had made up his mind about us, before we were ever born. The old Campus Crusade for Christ, now CRU had a definition for witnessing.
Witnessing is sharing your faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.
Well, listen, those results were God’s anyway. And the results were his before you shared your faith. And the results are assured and I’m one of the results. And I don’t know about you, but that gives me comfort at night. And the question that immediately comes is this, well, does that mean that my decisions have no value whatsoever? I mean, if I’m not the one responsible for salvation, how can I be responsible if I’m lost? If God is sovereign, why is anything I do of any relevance at all? And here it comes, the Bible teaches both. And I don’t know how it fits. And I’ve told you this before, but it comes from our Aristotelian Greek thought forms. I mean, we have a thing called the Principle of Non-Contradiction, two plus two can’t be four and three and five at the same time. And just as our thoughts, can’t contradict each other, when they do one of those thoughts isn’t true. Now, if you’re Jewish, you don’t have this problem. This is what Paul talked about in I Corinthians. And the thing he talked about, the Jews demand signs and the Greeks seek wisdom. And we preach Christ crucified foolishness to all of them. What he was saying is, that God doesn’t fit into our nice little system. I think I’ve recommended it to you before, but let me do it again. If you haven’t read J.I. Packer’s book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, you ought to get it and read it. He refers to a concept called an antinomy, that means two truths that you can’t put together. And this is it, Lydia was elect and she had been elect from the foundation of the earth, before God laid out the universe, He knew Lydia’s name and called her to Himself. And Lydia obviously is free. And as Luke records this in the Book of Acts, it’s clear that she’s making a decision on her own and had made some previous decisions on her own and that they counted, they were important, and they made a difference. And immediately the Greeks say, that would be most of you and certainly me, with our Aristotelian thought forms, we say, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t be free and God be sovereign at the same time. It just doesn’t work that way. Yes, it does. And it does because God is God and he is infinite. If you thought in Hebraic thought forms, you wouldn’t have any trouble with that, you go to an Orthodox Rabbi and say, God is sovereign, and the Rabbi will say, but of course. And then you say to that Rabbi, and I am free. And the Rabbi will say, but of course, that’s because the Rabbi is not thinking in a Greek way. But bottom line is this, that the Bible clearly teaches that we are responsible and free human beings and you can’t get around it, it’s everywhere. And the Bible also teaches that God is sovereign, absolutely over everything, including our own salvation. And that’s taught everywhere and you can’t get around it. And I said, If you don’t have something sticking out of your theological suitcase, then you’re not studying Scripture because God is infinite and we are not. So, how do you deal with something like this? Well, the first thing you do, is you say, God is God and I’m not. My late mentor, Fred Smith used to say.
The essence of Christian maturity is to have a high tolerance for ambiguity.
And I believe that, we’re dealing with God here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think about it. So, I’m going to tell you quickly what I think, and we’ll get back to Lydia. I believe that at the moment of Creation, God knew the implications of his Creation. He could have created in a million different ways. He was God, his choices were multitudinal. He could have chosen in ways that you never would’ve heard the name of Christ and people in a third world country who now have never heard the name of Christ, would’ve been the Christians. Everything he created was the beginning of a cause and effect system. And he, including Jesus, and he knew the implications of every bit of it. And when he created, he knew who would be his because of his Creation and the way he created. And he knew who would not be his. And I think that at the moment of Creation because it is not his will, the Scripture says, that any should be lost. I believe at the moment of Creation, God wept. And I think when we get home, we’re going to say, explain this to us. Never understood it. And God is gonna say child, if I could have done it a different way, I would’ve done it a different way. You lived in the best of all possible worlds. You lived in a world where the most people would know me and love me and freely choose me. You lived in the world, I decided to create. And in that decision, he made a decision about me. And about you too. And it was a good decision and that means that he never changes his mind. He is immutable, the same yesterday and today and forever. That means, well, it means you are safe. You think about that. Amen.
Steve, your teaching is always good, but sometimes it really is a meal. And I think we’ll be digesting that one for a good while. Thank you. More to discover here in Acts chapter 16 tomorrow, please, don’t miss that. So, here’s a question for you. Is grace really as good as we think it is? Answer, no, it’s actually better. Recently on Steve Brown Etc, we hung out with our friend Andrew Farley and reflected on just how good the good news really is. It was a refreshing reminder of why we call it amazing grace. We put that whole conversation on a CD, and if it’s okay with you, we’d love to send it to you, for free. Just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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