UCC 68 The Christian’s Compass Part 4 Irresistible Grace

 

Various Verses. Main Passage John 11:17-43

 

Sunday, February 28th 2021

 

          Here in the coastal region of Tanzania maybe you have heard sailors use the term ‘bearings’. Long ago sailors would get their sense of direction, their bearings from the stars at night, or the sun during the day and they would somehow work out what direction, what bearing, they were heading either North, South, East, or West.

          It is only logical then to think that it would not be possible to know your bearings unless you knew that there was such a thing as N, S, E, or W, first. That’s where a compass proves itself very useful. That’s why I am preaching this series called the Christian’s Compass. Because if you don’t want to lose your way in the Bible you’ve got to know the five points of the Christian’s Compass. If you don’t know them, you will lose your bearings, your sense of direction.

          My whole reason for preaching these sermons is that those of you who don’t have a very clear understanding of the Gospel will come to a clear understanding. If any of you are confused about the Christian faith, you will have your thinking clarified. And those of you who understand the gospel clearly will have your knowledge strengthened. Now the five points of the Christians Compass are known by what mnemonic? Anyone? T.U.L.I.P,

 

          T stands for Total Depravity. Do you remember that we learned in the first message of this series?  Everything about you is infected, contaminated, polluted with sin. Your feelings, your decisions, your thoughts, your doing, it’s all polluted with sin. And that means that if we were left to decide for ourselves, we would never choose God.

 

          U stands for Unconditional Election. This point of the compass taught us that if anyone is going to be saved, then God will have to save them. And because God is God, then He is free to save who he wills. And He does. Through our study of what the Bible taught about this point of the Christian’s compass we learned that, before God created the universe, He was pleased to chose certain people to be saved so that He alone would be glorified. He chose to give them everlasting life. Also, we learned that God would save them by means of a saviour, a redeemer. That was unconditional election and we saw very clearly in our second sermon that this was taught in the Bible.

 

          Last week we looked at L which stands for Limited Atonement. Because God has chosen certain people to be saved then Jesus Christ died for their sins. God established that those people would have everlasting life. And Jesus’ death didn’t just make salvation a possibility, but His sacrifice actually saved them. He actually took away their sins, He actually did something. In the apostle John’s account of the resurrection, he records Jesus as saying, “it is finished”. He actually did turn away God’s anger from those who deserved it and took it upon himself. Something actually happened at the cross, it didn’t just make something possible. And that was the third point of the Christian’s compass.

 

          Now let’s remind ourselves step by step what we have been learning. God has chosen to save certain people who could never save themselves. The Lord Jesus Christ has died to make atonement for their sins (He made the reconciliation between God and humanity a reality). But people haven’t entered into that experience, that enjoyment of being reconciled yet.

          The Father chooses, the Son dies. And now, this morning we are going to speak about the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings all the people, who the father has chosen and for whom the Son died into this new relationship with the Father and the Son. They can now experience salvation. The Holy Spirit calls them into this enjoyment by working through God’s Word in the Bible.

          So, we come to the ‘I’ in our mnemonic. ‘I’ stands for Irresistible Grace. Sometimes we hear it called Effective Calling. It means the same thing. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what name you give to it (don’t worry I won’t quiz you like Pastor Park) what is important is, how accurately this teaching summarizes what the Bible teaches. Can we understand clearly the work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of sinful, spiritually dead men. It really doesn’t matter what name you give to the other points of the Christian’s compass. All that matters, all that we are trying to discover is, are these points accurately taught in the Bible.

          So to repeat, up until this point we have seen that God the Father determined to save some people, The Lord Jesus Christ obtained their salvation, and it follows logically that the Holy Spirit would bring them into the experience of salvation. But this is not just us using our logic. What I am going to say this morning is actually taught in the Pages of the Bible, the Word of God.

           All over the world today, and every day, until Christ returns in glory, the Holy Spirit is at work. He is convincing people that because they are sinful, they are miserable. They are miserable because They realize that they can’t live another day without God, and that things will be even worse if they were to die without Him.

          All over the world, and even here in UCC and UAUT the Holy Spirit is working in the minds of people so that they will realize their need of Christ. He reveals to them that their only hope is Jesus, who died for their sins, and that they need Him. He reveals this through the Word of God in the Bible, that tells them that Jesus freely offered Himself for them. And then the Holy Spirit renews their wills and empowers them so that they can choose Jesus Christ, because we know according to the Bible’s teaching on Total Depravity that they would never do so by themselves. That is all the work of the Holy Spirit and that is the truth we call Irresistible Grace

          Here is something that we need to think about. The power that resurrected the body of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is the very same power which has converted you. At the resurrection, Jesus Christ’s body was given life by the Holy Spirit. You were dead in trespasses and sins and the Holy Spirit gave you spiritual life.

          Now, you shouldn’t be surprised by this truth of Irresistible Grace. Think about it this way. There are three powerful forces at work in this world. Do you know what they are? God, Satan, and you. But there is a conflict. The question everyone is asking is, ‘who is going to win?’ God, Satan, or you? If Satan has his way, then nobody will be saved, and no one will ever be saved. Satan wants to keep everyone in bondage, captive to sin.

          If you had your way nobody would be saved either, because the sinful nature of people will always resist the gospel. God’s Word says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, but considers them foolishness and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit”.

          So, if Satan had his way nobody would be saved, and if you had your way nobody would be saved. So, who will prevail? Will the human heart be like a strong fortress against God? Will Satan win? In fact, if there is a struggle between Satan and sinful people then Satan would always win because he is much stronger than we are.

          The teaching of Irresistible Grace is, that God has His way. And that is the plain meaning and teaching of irresistible Grace, God has His way! God is the winner. I love telling people that. He absolutely and gladly brings everyone, He has chosen, to eternal life. Everyone for whom Christ died are brought into eternal life and they will experience all the rewards that God has prepared for them. And the Holy Spirit is the one who makes this all happen.

          We can also think about it this way. Let’s say that a person who God had chosen for salvation decided not to be saved. That would mean God couldn’t be considered as the almighty, sovereign God, right? Or let’s also imagine that Christ did take upon Himself the sins of everyone, but then a person decides not to come to Christ and therefore would suffer eternally in Hell for their own sins. Wouldn’t that mean that God’s purpose in salvation would be defeated? It would mean that Christ not only died but that He died for nothing. Again, we could not consider God to be God if that were the case.

          But just so there is no mistake in our thinking about God’s sovereign power, let’s listen to these Bible verses that confirm what I am saying. Psalm 135:6, “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths”. Isaiah 46:10, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please”. Daniel 4:35, “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Here’s another found in Ephesians 1:11, one that speaks of, “the plan of him who works out everything in conformity (in agreement) with the purpose of his will”.

          Imagine this in your mind, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all working together towards the same goal. That goal is God’s will. And He works out everything in agreement with His own will. What this means then is that everyone who the Father has chosen and everyone for whom the Son has died, will definitely experience salvation.

          Of course, there are a couple of common misunderstandings with regards to this teaching about Irresistible Grace.  Some suggest that this teaching means people are forced to accept Christ and are carried against their wills into heaven. But these scenarios do not accurately describe this teaching as we find it in the Bible. At the centre of this teaching on Irresistible Grace is the fact that a person can experience salvation. This is precisely because the Holy Spirit takes this person who is dead in their trespasses and sins and gives them spiritual life. Then they willingly come to Christ because they have been set free from the slavery to sin.

Some even suggest that this doctrine teaches that people cannot even resist the Holy Spirit. That thinking also does not agree with what the Bible teaches. God’s grace can be resisted and even one of God’s chosen can resist the Holy Spirit’s influence. What the Bible does teach is that the Holy Spirit can breakdown all this resistance and with an irresistible grace. He attracts those who are chosen so that they want to come to God, and He helps them to understand the gospel so that they can and will believe it. 
          Even though all our natural preferences will take us to hell, because we prefer the easy wide road. When we come to understand the Gospel all thanks to the grace of God which intervenes in our lives. Our understanding, our emotions, and all our decisions, are changed and we freely embrace the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is only possible because God overcame all our resistance and if He didn’t then no one would be saved.

           Let’s take a closer look at what the Bible says. Only then can we be sure that we are being taught the truth. Let me point you towards some selected texts. Of course, as with our other sermons in this series, these passages are only a small sample of the many in the Bible which teach the truth that we are talking about.

John 6:37-40, this is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Now that passage teaches us this: certain people have been given to the Son, by the Father. And every one of those people will come to the Son. Those are the people who will see the Son and believe in Him. And every one of them without exception will be raised up at the last day. That is what Jesus Himself taught.

          Now let’s stay in the same chapter, verses 44-45, we often ask the question, can anyone come to God apart from His effective call? Or we can ask it this way, would anyone come to God if there was no irresistible Grace? The answer to both questions is found here in verses 44 and 45 of John chapter 6, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me”. As the gospel is explained and preached some people hear the voice of God and they learn from the Father and they come to Him. But they couldn’t come unless God Himself brought them. Jesus also taught this.

          We have already heard about how in chapter 10 of this same gospel of John, Jesus talks about His sheep. They were His sheep before they believed, and He says that every one of His sheep will hear His voice.

There are strange things happening in UCC today and wherever the gospel is preached. As I am preaching, all of you are hearing me, some of you, as I am preaching, are hearing Christ. That is what irresistible grace is. And when you hear Him for the first time that is when you become a Christian. And then you continue to hear Him every day after that.

          Go to Acts 16:14. I want to show you that the Bible comes to this truth in many ways. In the gospel of John we saw that Jesus teaches it by principle. Here, in the book of Acts, we have an actual example of irresistible grace. The context of this verse is that Paul and Silas go to a prayer meeting beside the river in Philippi. They explain the word of God. Then we read in Acts 16:14, “One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God (she was a convert to Judaism). The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

          Let me ask you a content question about this verse. Who opened Lydia’s heart? The Lord. She could have never opened it herself, could she? Of course not, because being a sinner, sin has polluted her thinking, her feelings, and her decisions.

          It’s the same for you. You are a thinking creature, but you think sinfully. Even your best thoughts are tainted with Sin. You are a feeling creature, but you feel sinfully. Even your best feelings are tainted with sin. You are a creature who makes decisions, but they also, are affected by sin. But the Lord opened her heart.

          Now let’s turn to Romans 8:29-30 and read that classic passage which teaches this great truth. We’ve already learned that this word ‘foreknow’ in this passage means to know intimately beforehand. So, reading from verse 29, “For those God foreknew, (for those He knew intimately beforehand), he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”. So, God loves them, He calls them, He makes them right with Himself, and he takes them to heaven.

This word ‘Call’ and all its various forms ‘Called’ and ‘Calling’ is a main Word in the New Testament. Let’s listen to Paul as he explains his own experience of God’s calling. In Galatians 1:15 Paul said, “when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me” That’s how calling operates. God called me even though I still didn’t know Him. But He chose me. I still didn’t know Christ and I didn’t have anything in my heart for Him. But when God called me I did, instantly.

          Turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, here Paul is describing the experience of a whole church. The church of Thessalonica. He’s already talked about their conversion in a couple of His letters and here he does it again, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Here we can see that the Spirit sets you apart, He brings you to the truth, you were called. I was called when I was 24, just when I didn’t want to be. I was called through His Word. The Holy Spirit convicted me, and His Gospel spoke to me.

          Just one more. There are many more in the Bible but this one is very helpful. 2 Timothy 1:9, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” Why was I called? Was I better than my friends? No, it’s not according to anything that we have done it is according to God’s grace and kindness. But, when did God decide to love us? The day before, the minute before? No, in Christ Jesus before time began.

 

          We now see, even though we just looked at a few select verses just how thoroughly the Bible teaches the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. Sometimes by principle, sometimes by example, sometimes through doctrine, and even through personal testimony. There is one last way that this doctrine is taught. That is through resurrection. Let’s look at that now.

In previous weeks we’ve come to understand that the Bible teaches that we are dead in our sins. Let’s go to Lazarus’ tomb in John chapter 11:38-44. How long has Lazarus been dead and in the tomb. It has been four days since he was wrapped in the strips of linen, his face was covered, and he was placed in the tomb. He’s starting to decompose to smell. Jesus calls out to him.

          Now what is the point of calling out to the dead? The point is that Christ’s Word is life giving. If you and I were to call out to Lazarus, no matter what we said, or how loud we said it, or even with how much faith we said it with, he would not move even a fraction of an inch. But the Lord Jesus Christ comes. Speaks his name. speaks to him personally, and the Word gives Him life.

          People will ask me are you a Calvinist. The answer is simple, ‘yes’, if you know what that word means and ‘no’, if you don’t know what it means. Then what’s the point of you evangelizing they ask. The point is I am announcing Christ’s Word. I proclaim the Word because only the Word can give life. When I, or anyone else for that matter, proclaims Christ’s Word, it is empowered by the Spirit and that is how people come to salvation.

 

          The last thing I want to talk about this morning are the effects that this doctrine will have upon our Christian lives. If you believe in this teaching of Irresistible Grace two things will happen to you. The first thing is we will begin to, “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” as Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:1 and then again in Colossians 1:10.

          This is also part of our worship of the One true God. It is contained in the life I live. How can I live like others, Christ died for me, that means I have worth. If He died for me, I died with Him. I can’t live like the others I’ve been redeemed, bought with a price. I can’t live like other people my life must be different. I must live like a Christian. That’s the first effect. You become a true worshipper of God with your whole life.

          The second effect is that we become evangelists, we proclaim His Word. We don’t have to think of ways to raise the dead. We know that Christ, by His word alone, raises the dead. We don’t have to search and search for some new method that will raise the dead quicker or raise them in larger numbers. No, because there is only one thing in all the universe that will raise the dead. It’s the word of Christ.

          So, all you have to do is speak the word of God. And the word of God will do the work. As soon as Christ’s sheep here His voice they will follow Him. We need to believe that the Bible does God’s work. And in the end their salvation does not depend upon you, or me, or them, it depends upon God. That is why there is hope.

 

          Let me encourage you before we end today. In Acts 18 we find the apostle Paul in Corinth and he is having a difficult time. There are problems, there is opposition, there is discouragement, he is tired and weary, and he is tempted to give up. He has seen some progress but not much and he asks himself is it worth it to keep going forward with this gospel work, is it worth it to keep on proclaiming the gospel, can I go on?

          Then in verse 9 of that chapter we read, “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” And Paul stayed in Corinth for another year and six months teaching the Word of God.      One final thought. God said, I have many people in this city. But he didn’t there was only a handful of Christians with Paul. But God shows him that there are many people who have been chosen since the beginning and Jesus died for them. Now go out and bring them in!

 

Let’s Pray, Father You have not only given us the Words of Life but you have sent the Holy Spirit to help us to understand and follow them. May these great truths known as the doctrines of Grace that we find in your Word not only be the anchor for our faith but also the compass that will guide us through the new life you have given us. Give us the strength, the courage, and the confidence to share Your good news with everyone in our lives. We know the end result has already been determine by You since before creation. Now prepare us to go out and bring in the harvest. Through the mighty name of Jesus we pray.