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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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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The Savior Reveals

Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’

Acts 7:33-34

Do you remember those three-dimensional posters which were featured in shopping malls several years ago? As a ubiquitous part of the shopping mall landscape, patrons would patiently peer into display windows while enlightened companions asked, “Do you see it yet? Can you see the rocket? Did you see the dolphin?” Suddenly and magically, the furrowed brows of mesmerized mall rats would soften and rise like silken blue skies illuminated with the warm light of dawn: “Now I see it—you have to look through the poster to see the images!” When the eternal Word became flesh, God was revealed in three dimensions. Have you seen Him or are you still looking through a dark glass?

Moses saw. While he was tending Jethro’s sheep in the Midianite wilderness near Mount Sinai, Moses’ eighty-year-old eyes witnessed an amazing revelation of God. Theologians refer to the burning bush as a theophany, a visible manifestation of God’s glorious presence. When God spoke, He identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Out of fear and reverence, the shepherd hid his eyes and removed his sandals because he was standing in a holy place, before a holy God. In many Eastern cultures, it was customary to remove the sandals before entering a sanctuary to worship one’s god. Even idol-worshipping pagans understood that a threshold between the secular and sacred was being crossed and proper respect must be demonstrated. How can we, as worshippers of the living God, know when we’ve truly been in His holy presence? The experience strips us of our filth and makes us holy. But there’s more to the experience than our seeing. Moses saw God in a burning bush and worshiped Him; the Sanhedrin saw God in a man and crucified Him. Both saw God, but only one responded in faith. How have you responded to the revelation of holy God in Jesus Christ?

God saw. Moses saw God, but what did God see? He saw “the affliction of my people”, He “heard their groaning”, and He came “down to deliver them”. God is never blind or indifferent to the suffering of His people, not in the Old Testament nor in our time. However, it wasn’t affliction alone which caused God to act. Certainly, many other peoples in human history besides the Hebrews have been painfully subjugated. Why did God take special notice of the events in Egypt? Because they were God’s people (“my people”), the children of Abraham with whom He had a covenant (Genesis 12:1-3, 15, 17). God established a unique relationship with a particular people and set His loyal love (hesed, Lamentations 3:22-23) on them. In the New Testament, God promises the Church that those who believe in Jesus Christ have had the same loyal love of God set upon them (Galatians 3:4-9, Romans 8:31-35). Because God loves us loyally, He sees our afflictions, He hears our groaning, and He will come to deliver us.

The Sanhedrin didn’t see. Despite all that God revealed in His Word and through His Son, the leaders of Israel saw none of it. They refused to believe Jesus was the Son of and Messiah of God. Nevertheless, Stephen preached a very nuanced Gospel. His subtle suggestion was that just as Israel had suffered under the harsh hand of Pharaoh, so also Israel was suffering under hard hearts of the Sanhedrin. Through his Spirit-inspired sermon, Stephen revealed Jesus, like Moses before Him, as God’s rejected rescuer. But the Sanhedrin didn’t see it that way (Acts 4:1-22).

What do you see when you look at Jesus?

A few years ago, I read a book titled One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. The author/pastor was an acquaintance of mine while we were in seminary. About a year after the publication of his book, he had a moral failure and was removed from his church. In the years following, he’s had a few more setbacks and the impact on Christendom has been multiplied by his celebrity status among Evangelicals. Perhaps it may be considered unwise to quote such a person in a devotional article like this one. However, within the context of “failure to see”—by the Sanhedrin and by my fallen friend—his words shine more vividly: “The Bible isn’t a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad…The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people…The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin with His salvation, our guilt with His grace, our badness with His goodness” (emphasis mine). Friends, that’s not just the Bible; that’s the Gospel! The same good news revealed to Moses long ago has been revealed, in these last days, through the Son of God.

Do you receive or reject Christ Jesus as He has been revealed in the Gospel?

 

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In Memoriam 2017

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;

Psalm 144:1

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

Tomorrow begins Memorial Day Weekend 2017. In honor of those who served, I will be celebrating, in part, by remembering two American soldiers and heroes of World War II: Pfc. Wayne Alderson and Pfc. Charles “Red” Preston.

Alderson and Preston were scouts for the US Army’s Company B, 7th Infantry during the Rhineland Campaign into Nazi-occupied Germany in 1945. During the four-day campaign and according to US Congressional records, Alderson “singlehandedly killed 43 enemy soldiers”. As First Scout, Pfc. Alderson was the first US soldier to cross into Germany and on 18 March 1945, he led a frontal assault on the Siegfried Line near Zweibrucken but was the only soldier from his five-man group to survive. During the offensive, he received severe wounds to his face when a German grenade exploded at his feet causing him to fall unconscious face-down into thick mud. Alderson would have drowned but was saved by his friend Pfc. Charles “Red” Preston. Preston was killed by an enemy sniper as he turned the unconscious Alderson onto his back to prevent his suffocation in the mud. Pfc. Charles “Red” Preston laid down his life for his friend.

For his exemplary service, Pfc. Wayne Alderson was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Silver Star. But his remarkable story only began at the end of the war. In 1980, Dr. R.C. Sproul wrote a biography titled Stronger Than Steel: The Wayne Alderson Story, in which he states, “I am writing about a common man with uncommon courage, a man whom I honestly believe to be one of the most courageous human beings I’ve ever encountered.” Below is a short devotional Dr. Sproul wrote in which he mentions some of Alderson’s post-war accomplishments surrounding the “The Miracle of Pittron”. Sometimes soldiers have a tough time making the transition to civilian life. By his faith in Christ, Pfc. Alderson became a civilian but never stopped fighting or being a hero.

Dr. Sproul writes:

Taking Your Faith to the Marketplace

I have seen extraordinary examples of laypeople who have taken their faith to the marketplace in the form of ministry.

Charles Colson went from the White House to prison. When he was released from prison, he was not released from ministry. Indeed, from his experience grew a vision to minister to prison inmates in the name of Christ, a ministry that now reaches tens of thousands of people in virtually every country.

Wayne Alderson, a layman, put his faith to work in the violent arena of labor-management relations. He has taken that ministry around this nation ministering to people in corporate boardrooms, coal mines, and labor union halls.

The list could easily include a multitude of ministries that involve the laity. Without the laity, the church would not have conquered the ancient world. The Reformers understood that for real reformation to happen, the laity had to be educated, trained, and mobilized. Martin Luther took a leave of absence from the university in order to translate the Bible into German—so that every believer could personally read the Scriptures.

John Calvin’s Institutes was originally penned as an instruction manual for the laity. Many of the works of Jonathan Edwards were originally composed for the benefit of his congregation, many of whom were known to be studying their Greek New Testaments while they were plowing their fields.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Reflect on some ways you can take Christ into the marketplace of your occupation or profession.

Copyright © Ligonier Ministries.

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