The Savior Reconciles

[Moses] supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside…

Acts 7:25-27a

Have you ever known a person who suffered from blindness? If so, you have undoubtedly recognized that the simplest little things can become painfully complicated when a person cannot see.

Many years ago, a pastor and a deacon took a blind parishioner out to lunch. Despite her difficulties, the aged and faithful Mrs. Todd seldom spoke and never complained. When the food arrived at their table, the saintly senior wrapped her sandwich in a napkin and slowly began to eat. Church business so engrossed the men that they lost track of time and what was happening with their lunch guest. After the meal, they were both horrified to see that Mrs. Todd had eaten her whole sandwich—and napkin! Because of her disability, Mrs. Todd could not see her sandwich, but because of their depravity, sinners will not see the Savior.

Moses was misunderstood. The Sanhedrin accused Stephen of blasphemy against Moses, so in his defense-by-sermon, he cited the Law-giver. Moses’ first attempt at public ministry ended in disaster. One day, while watching his people languishing in slavery under Pharaoh’s brutal taskmasters, Moses witnessed an Egyptian mercilessly beating a Hebrew. He intervened and killed the abuser. The next day, Moses was again observing his people when two of his fellow Hebrews began to have an altercation. Moses asserted himself and attempted to reconcile the men and thought that his “brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand”. Because of their envy-driven blindness, the Hebrews couldn’t see Moses. Blinded by their power and tradition, the Sanhedrin wouldn’t see the Savior.

Moses was misjudged. God is sovereign over everything, even the angry misperceptions of unbelievers. “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? (emphasis mine)”, the miffed men asked Moses. The stinging sarcasm of Moses’ “brothers” reminds us of a similar event when Joseph’s brothers asked, “Are you indeed to rule over us?” (Genesis 37:8). In both cases, God’s salvation and the inability of observers to perceive it was at odds. Moses would, in fact, reconcile the people as a ruler and judge over all Israel, but not for another forty years. At the right time, Moses would testify that Yahweh had sent him to lead Israel out of Egypt to worship God at Sinai. Because of misperception, his own brothers couldn’t see Moses.

Moses was a mediator. A mediator is an advocate who stands between two parties in conflict bringing them together in peaceful reconciliation. Because we are sinfully separated from God, we must be forgiven and brought back into fellowship with Him. Moses reconciled the people to each other (Exodus 18:13-27) and he also reconciled the people to God (Exodus 32:7-14, 30-35). There is no salvation without reconciliation and there is no reconciliation without a mediator. Moses was a great mediator, but Christ Jesus is the greater Mediator through whom God reconciles the whole world (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). Moses came as a prince but pointed to Jesus who came as a pauper. Moses reconciled Israel by giving the Law. Jesus reconciled the elect by giving His life (Hebrews 9:15, 12:22-24). In the darkness of Golgotha, the angry mob couldn’t see the Messiah mediating hell.

Mediation is major. How important is the reconciling work of Christ our Mediator? Sometimes Christians erroneously say that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we have direct access to God. It must be observed that our access to God is “through Christ” (Ephesians 2:18) who opened the curtain through His flesh (Hebrews 10:19-22). Jesus taught us to pray in His name emphasizing His role as our Mediator before the Father (John 14:13). Our Savior is at the King’s right hand in continual prayer for His people (Romans 8:33-34). We come boldly to the throne of grace and find help because Christ is waiting there for us (Hebrews 4:16). Because our God is “holy, holy, holy”, we thank Him that we have Christ Jesus as Mediator. By “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” we are made to see our Mediator.

Dr. Ligon Duncan observes, “Hell is eternity in the presence of God. Heaven is eternity in the presence of God, with a Mediator.”

How do you see your eternity—mediated or unmediated?


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Squelching the Spirit

Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’”

Acts 7:48-50

Citizen’s Band (CB) radios were a ubiquitous cultural apparatus in 1970’s America. Every CB radio had two knobs whose purpose seemed self-evident: “Volume”, and “Channel”. But there was a third knob which seemed mysterious to every child playing “Breaker 1-9” in their parents’ cars. The mystery was revealed when my father finally used the word in a sentence. Upon entering a room overflowing with kids’ cacophony, he would often call out “Squelch it!” Adjusting the “Squelch” to a higher position on a CB radio filters out the background noise so that only the strongest signals are audible.

Hearing our Father can be difficult especially when background noise is preferred to the “still, small voice.” Which do you squelch, the din or the divine?

He is uncontainable. God’s Spirit does not live in hand-made boxes, even when they are as opulent as that ancient wonder of the world known as “Solomon’s Temple”. When he dedicated the temple, King Solomon prayerfully confessed: “heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). God doesn’t need us to build Him a house; we need Him to build us a house (2 Samuel 7:1-11). God doesn’t need a house, in fact, He doesn’t need anything. He’s not a man; He’s God and He’s uncontainable.

He is unrestrainable. Perhaps the reason we humans have tried to build houses for God throughout history is that we’d really like to “get a handle” on the Holy Spirit. Well, He can’t be handled! He’s the irreducible God whose throne is heaven, the height of which is as unimaginable as it is inaccessible. But the Sanhedrin tried. If God’s Spirit was going to be anywhere, so they reasoned, He would reside in their temple, not rest on a Nazareth-born rabbi-carpenter (Acts 6:8-15). But the God of the universe doesn’t live for our reasons or play by our rules, even when those reasons and rules find their nexus in our religion. No matter how much effort our religious hands exert, we simply cannot “wag the dog”.

Canis Marjoris is the Big Dog in our neck of the celestial woods. At two billion eight hundred thousand kilometers in diameter, the red hypergiant is thought to be the largest star in our galaxy and one of the most luminous. If our sun was replaced by Canis Majoris, it would extend past the orbit of Jupiter. To put it in terms we may better grasp, if a person could continuously fly in a jet airplane at five hundred fifty miles per hour, it would take one thousand one hundred years to circle the hypergiant once. Just think of it, Canis Majoris is one star of billions in the Milky Way which is one galaxy among one hundred billion galaxies. As we mere mortals exercise our tiny minds to comprehend the vast expanse which is the known universe, we have done nothing more than begun to imagine the chair on which the King of Kings sits. But God created it all with the words, “let there be light”.

Christ Jesus, the God-Man, through whom all things were made (John 1:3), created something of infinitely greater value than stars when with His dying breath, He shouted: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He created the Church, “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit and the Bride speak with one voice “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

Are you listening to His voice, or have you squelched the Spirit?

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The Savior Repents

Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. But God turned away.

Acts 7:39-42a

Personal rejection is surely one of the most painful human experiences. Why is it so difficult? Those who suffer rejection report feeling a loss of acceptance and often describe it as a failure to be accurately perceived. In other words, we are sometimes rejected because people fail to truly see us. The spiritually blind reject God for the same reason.

They turned. Like a stampeding herd of bulls, Israel’s heart ran home to Egypt. The visible manifestations of the invisible God dissolved from their memory soon after Moses disappeared on Mt. Sinai. In a sense, the congregation demanded of Aaron, “We can’t see God and we can’t see Moses—make us gods we can see!” When we fail to turn our hearts in faith, we turn our eyes to the false.

In what direction is your heart turned?

God turned. He could not stand the sight of His own people. When His people turn away, God turns them over. Romans 1 tells us that when people suppress the truth about God, He gives “them over to debased desires.” If repentance is turning from sin and to God, what happens when people turn from God and to sin. God repents! He turns from the sinful and to the holy; He turns to Himself. Lest we should suppress the truth, we must recognize that our righteousness does not exceed that of the Exodus generation.

What hope is there for us with a God who turns from sin?

Jesus turned. Stephan’s sermon to the Sanhedrin may be summarized as, “Like your forefathers, your hearts are turned the wrong way! Your hearts are turned toward tradition and temple to the exclusion of God’s Savior.” They could not see Jesus, so they made Judaism into a Golden Calf. When His people were similarly unfaithful in the Old Testament, God would either destroy their idols or exile the people. When the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, He did both. God turned and left the building.

The people turned to idols. God turned away. Jesus turned to the cross.

To what or to whom are the eyes of your heart turned? Do you see the Savior?

Sometimes we don’t see heroes even when they’re directly in our line of sight. Ms. Taylor was an elderly saint in the church at which I was a member many years ago. She was blind and lived alone, but she never missed worship. When she was in her early sixties, a man broke into her home and brutally assaulted her. That she survived and even forgave her attacker would be cause enough to sing her praises, but Ms. Taylor went so much further than the second mile. She began to regularly visit her assailant in prison, read the Bible to him, and eventually led him to faith in Christ. He could not see Jesus, but Ms. Taylor could, so she turned others to her Savior.

Do you see the Savior? If not, turn your heart toward home.


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My “Post Tenebras Lux” Moment

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30

Dear Readers,

Over the years, one of the questions I have been repeatedly asked is, “How did you become convinced about Reformed Theology?” There are really two answers to that question.

The groundwork was laid by my father who is a pastor and taught the “Doctrines of Grace.” Even before I was aware of it, I was under the influence of A.W. Pink and Dr. John MacArthur in the exegetical preaching of my dad. I did not grasp enough of what was going on to apply the label “Reformed” to myself nor do I remember being aware of it. However, when I was eighteen years old Reformed Theology came to me through a scriptural and theological crisis.

I was a student at Liberty University and thought of my theological home as “Baptist” without any more qualification than “Independent”. One day in chapel, a professor spoke to the student body from the text of Romans 8:28-30. When the speaker explained the word “predestined”, he expended great effort to make the word mean something other than what the context indicated. There was very little or perhaps no textual evidence from the rest of scripture offered to us. In the end, the speaker said, “God looked down through the corridors of time and knew who would choose Him and those He predestined.” That statement caused a lot of dissonance within my soul.

Later that day, I was in a class where the professor openly attacked the doctrines of election and predestination by saying those that believed in them denied free will but offered not much more than John 3:16 as support. The dissonance grew louder.

By the end of the day, I found myself alone in my dormitory, pacing around the room with my NASB Study Bible open to Romans 8. I read the chapter a few times, looked up all the cross references, and read through every footnote. The longer I meditated and prayed over the text, the more troubled I became by what was said in chapel and class earlier that day. In addition to Romans 8, there are an abundance of scriptures which indicate God chooses His people, even before the foundation of the world (Deuteronomy 7:6-7, Psalm 78:70-72, Isaiah 44:1-2, Jeremiah 1:5, Matthew 22:1424:31, John 15:1917:2-6, Acts 2:2313:48, Romans 1:69:7-3311:1-36, Ephesians 1:4-511-122:8-10, 1 Peter 1:1-5, 2 Timothy 1:9).

The door to my room was open and Bruce, one of my neighbors, stopped in to ask what I was doing. I wondered what he thought about the chapel sermon and explained my struggle. He smiled and almost whispered as if he were letting me in on a big secret, “My dad is an Orthodox Presbyterian Pastor.” I failed to see the connection, but Bruce patiently explained the Biblical doctrine of predestination as “the historic position of the Church.” While Bruce was flipping through my Bible and talking about “the Doctrines of Grace”, another student named Scott came in the room and seconded everything Bruce was saying. Thinking aloud I said, “I wish I had a sermon series by someone I trusted to lay this all out for me.” Scott responded by telling me that he had just returned from his mailbox where he had received a yet unopened six-part sermon series by John MacArthur titled, “Predestination: The Most Hated Doctrine of the Church”. Over the next few days, I devoured those sermons unlike anything before. The scripture came alive in a way which is difficult to explain and Christ himself was more glorious to my eyes.

Not all my fellow students were as excited by my “new revelation” as I was. In fact, I remember one evening when Bruce, Scott, and I were discussing these matters in my room, and within minutes our happy little theology fest was filled with angry voices defending “free will” against our “heresy”. Accusations were made by our detractors who said that believing in predestination instead of free will would cause a whole host of problems, not the least of which was destroy our motivation to fulfill the Great Commission. During a phone call from my father the next morning, he explained that our motivation for the Great Commission is obedience to and love for the Great Commander. Additionally, he pointed out that Church History abounds with men and women who believed in the Biblical doctrine of predestination who were also given to evangelism and world missions. My personal theological crisis was over.

The events at Liberty University occurred almost thirty years ago and while the doctrine of predestination is a settled matter for me, I know many for whom it is not. Debate still rages throughout Christendom over free will and I am by no means an expert in these matters. However, a recent video release from Ligonier Ministries features Dr. R.C. Sproul speaking with great authority to these questions I first encountered as a university student so many years ago. A link to the video “Why We Can’t Choose God” is provided HERE.

Meditate on Romans 8:28-30. Pray for illumination. Read some or all the verses hyperlinked above. What does scripture say about election and predestination? What do you believe about salvation? Do we choose God or does God choose us?

As a final thought, let me express why I love the Reformed Doctrines of Election and Predestination. To put it simply, believing God chooses us destroys human pride. We can boast in nothing–not our works, faith, religion, and certainly not in our choosing Him! In God’s own words, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Our boast is in Christ alone.

For Christ and His Kingdom,

Pastor Toby

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