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Oct 14, 2018

Part 2 - Jesus Died For You (I Can't Get No Satisfaction)

Passage: Romans 8:29-30

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Canons of Dort

Category: God Is Sovereign in Salvation

Keywords: atonement, canons of dort, definite, limited, particular redemption

Summary:

We feel the burden of our choices. As if it's our duty to make our own lives the best they can be and our only power is choice. Yet often we're left shouldering the burdens of guilt, shame and regret. This heaviness is meant to have us look elsewhere for salvation. The grand intention of the Lord God was to redeem our lives by Christ's sacrifice on the cross, his unjust death to intentionally and purposefully redeem us from our injustices. Jesus died for you, on purpose. This is part two of our look at the Canons of Dort on the 400th anniversary of the synod of Dort: Part 2, Limited or Definite Atonement.

Detail:

A woman comes home from work

and as her husband greets her

she gives him an envelope.

What’s this?

Open it, she says gladly.

Inside are two tickets to the Blackhawks game.

Wow, thanks, he says, you got these for me?

Yes, she says, if you want them, they’re yours.

I offered these to three other men on my way home,

but you’re the one who accepted them.

Because you took them, they’re just for you!

 

That was weird, wasn’t it?

We were listening to a story of affection

and a loving relationship,

but then the odd ending

that didn’t focus on the gift or the giver

but on the offer and acceptance of it.

We were prepared to laugh, to share some joy,

but then we just didn’t get it.

 

The story was meant to illustrate

what many Christians think

the gospel of Jesus is like.

The focus has somehow shifted to the offer

away from the gift or the Giver.

And in so doing we’ve lost some of the joy.

Is the gospel:
that Jesus died as the sacrifice that saves you and me

from our sin, guilt and shame,

conditioned on our acceptance of it?

Do we want to say, Jesus loves everybody,

but somehow that love doesn’t matter

unless or until you accept it?

 

Most Christians would say that

as far we can determine not everybody is saved.

It is true that

not everybody confesses and acknowledges

Jesus as Lord and Savior.

While heaven is full to bursting at the seams

with the many who are brothers and sisters of Jesus, from all nations, tribes and tongues,

there is a hell, and some stand condemned, correct?

 

But if Jesus died for everyone, why is this the case?

Isn’t the cross of Jesus powerful unto salvation?

Did Jesus actually save you and me by his sacrifice,

or did he just make salvation possible?

That’s what the Canons of Dort address

in the second chapter, or head 2 of the confession.

And this confession puts the focus

back on the gift and the Giver.

 

Last week we began our study of the Canons of Dort,

that 400 year old confession

that we pledge to be formed and governed by

as it helps us understand the revelation

of the mystery and wonder of salvation

by grace alone through faith.

 

Last week we looked at what the Bible says

about God’s electing love.

We noted that over and over the Bible reveals election to be unconditional,

without any depending on human desire or effort,

our Heavenly Father elects, or chooses,

people for salvation.

For God is sovereign in salvation.

And that is our only hope.

If it were up to us to choose Jesus we wouldn’t do it,

no matter how much information or knowledge

or experience we had,

because the sin within us

keeps us from the Lord God.

 

The Triune God is perfect mercy and perfect justice and perfect love,

so the Lord’s electing love

isn’t random or mean or reluctantly done.

This isn’t fatalism.

 

There is peace

in leaving this most important of all decisions

in the gracious hands of the Savior.

In fact, every time you experience within yourself

a joy in the Lord,

a prayerful thought,

a forgiving heart,

a reaching out in kindness or service,

an act of faith or worship,

these are all indications of God’s electing love

alive in you

to make you alive again in Christ Jesus.

That’s what all those Bible verses

inviting us to seek the Lord,

repent and believe,

follow me,

are saying.

As 2 Peter 1 says,

make your calling and election sure,

our faith responses point to that assurance.

Faith is not a personal achievement over doubt,

faith isn’t a choosing against reason or science,

faith is the response of a born again heart and will.

We don’t earn God’s love

or Christ’s saving righteousness

by our belief.

We love because he first loved us.

Our faith is gratitude;

it is beginning to be who Christ redeemed us to be.

 

But no doubt you left last Sunday

doing the very thing the Apostle Paul

tells us not to do in Romans 9.

Our questions got in the way of accepting this:

what about those not chosen?

how can this be fair?

And you lost sight of the good news

preferring your own thoughts

and holding on to your choice.

But what God’s unconditional election teaches us

is that we can’t have God on our own terms.

Yet we have to deal with God,

for justice will be done for the sin of the world.

But because the Lord chooses on the basis of Christ and out of love for the world

we can be assured of our salvation.

 

We don’t find our assurance

by probing into the unanswerable questions

of God’s mystery,

but by using the means of grace,

as the Canons of Dort calls them,

worship, prayer, trust, obedience, sacrifice,

wonder and joy, receiving the sacraments,

taking the Bible to heart, doing justice,

loving kindness, walking humbly with God.

 

Can we trust that our Heavenly Father

has our best at heart?

That God works in all things

for the good of those who love him,

who have been called according to his purpose?

The sacrifice of Jesus reveals this grace.

Election takes the form of Christ’s cross.

 

That’s the second main point of the Canons of Dort,

and the one that tends to get the most argument.

It’s known by the unfortunate phrase

‘limited atonement.’

The phrase this refers to is this one:

. . . it was God’s will that Christ

through the blood of the cross

(by which he confirmed the new covenant)

should effectively redeem

from every people, tribe, nation, and language

all those and only those

who were chosen from eternity to salvation

and given to him by the Father . . .

 

Look at that a moment:

through the blood of the cross,

okay, so that refers to the atoning work

of the cross of Jesus:
separated from God by sin,

the cross of Jesus reconciles us to the Lord.

Atonement is about how

the guilt, shame, and sin of the world

is both mercifully and justly addressed.

Jesus takes that on himself,

as God who became one of us

only he can shoulder every injustice and

make satisfaction:

his unjust death pays the penalty

that we can never pay.

Right, we get that,

that cross ‘effectively redeems.’

This is key:

Jesus didn’t just make salvation possible,

he actually saved,

redeemed, bought us back –

the cross forgives you completely.

and we remember echoes of those words

to the thief on the cross next to Jesus,

today you will be with me in paradise,

Jesus saved him by the blood of the cross.

Instead of thinking limited atonement,

think intentional or definite atonement.

 

The cross declares God intentionally,

purposefully saved certain, chosen definite

persons from their sin.

When Jesus cries form the cross,

it is finished,

he declares salvation completed.

I am saved by the blood of the Lamb.

The cross doesn’t just make salvation possible,

the cross of Jesus saves you, Amen?

 

But who does Jesus save?

People from all the world,

from every people, tribe, nation and language,

but not everybody, not a universal salvation,

the canons say . . .

‘all those and only those

who were chosen from eternity to salvation

and given to him by the Father . . .’

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was for the elect,

for those whom God chose,

and only those.

 

That’s what it is saying, so what do you think of that?

Let me say that most everyone believes

in some sort of limited atonement.

Unless you believe that everyone is granted salvation

you would confess that not everybody is saved, right?

Many base those limits

on the need to have the right religion, for instance,

or you need to be good enough,

or you need to know enough,

or be religious enough,

or you need to make the right choice,

to be saved.

But all these are based on human limits,

our choices,

our behavior,

our knowledge of God.

 

The canons say otherwise:

not human limits,

but the Lord’s pleasure.

The saving grace of Christ’s cross

is not limited by human choices and will,

but based on the grace, mercy and justice

of God’s perfect love.

 

In the wonder and mystery of God,

as much as we can determine,

it looks like there are some who are not saved.

The reason for that is God’s electing love,

based on the Father’s perfect mercy and justice.

If NOT,

then it is based on human will,

and that means some people are not saved

because they are

too ignorant,

or too sinful,

or too stubborn,

or living in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So again, this is for our assurance.

This reflects the grace of God,

powerful over even the most severe

of human limitations

to save you from your sin

and for life with the Lord Jesus.

 

This doctrine makes plain what the Bible reveals.

In John 10 Jesus describes his loving presence

and saving mission

using the word picture of a shepherd.

I am the good shepherd, he reveals,

the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

 

He’s describing his journey to the cross.

He will sacrifice his life to save sinners

just as a good shepherd would sacrifice his life

for his sheep.

He’s teaching that his death on the cross

actually saves.

 

He saves the sheep.

But who are the sheep?

Obviously Jesus is talking about people,

but is he talking about everybody?

We read further in John 10 - I know my sheep

and my sheep know me . . .

and I lay down my life for the sheep.

So Jesus is not talking about everybody.

I lay down my life for the sheep, he declares.

 

And just so the crowd doesn’t assume

Jesus is just talking about his own race,

the Jewish people, Jesus adds,

16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.

I must bring them also.

They too will listen to my voice,

and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

He is talking about Gentiles, people like you and me,

the cross is not limited by geography

or time or race or lifestyle or any human limit.

 

Hear the emphasis of Jesus’ words:

he will accomplish salvation

by his death on the cross.

The shedding of his blood is not merely

an invitation that people can take or leave,

it’s not merely an opportunity

among many opportunities people have

to better their lives,

he is the good shepherd

he saves his sheep by sacrifice his life for them:

I lay down my life—only to take it up again.

18 No one takes it from me,

but I lay it down of my own accord.

I have authority to lay it down

and authority to take it up again.

 

Do you hear the certainty in his words?

Jesus took up the cross on purpose,

in order to accomplish salvation.

The reason some believe and some don’t

depends on this power of the cross.

Jesus will say later in John 10:

26 but you do not believe

because you are not my sheep.

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them,

and they follow me.

28 I give them eternal life,

and they shall never perish;

no one will snatch them out of my hand.

He doesn’t say,

you don’t believe so you’re not one of my sheep.

He says you do not believe

because you are not one of my sheep.

 

Romans 8 helps deepen this understanding:

29 For those God foreknew 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.

 

Not everybody,

but those God foreknew,

meaning those God chose for his own

before the creation of the world, as Ephesians 1 says,

those he predestined to be redeemed,

saved in the image of Jesus,

those predestined were called,

were justified, and were and will be glorified.

 

Those opposed to the doctrine

of unconditional election

say a verse like this tells us

that God chose for salvation

those he knew would choose Jesus.

They say God’s foreknowledge

is that he knew ahead of time

who would respond to the gospel invitation,

who would be faithful,

who would be repentant,

and on that basis God chose them.

The word foreknowledge is never used

in terms of knowing about future events,

times or actions (God’s omniscience).

What it does describe

is a predetermined relationship:

the Lord knows in the sense of a saving relationship:

I will make those who are not my people

to be my people;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Verse 30 describes God seeing to one’s restored relationship with the Lord:

. . . those he predestined, he also called;

those he called, he also justified;

those he justified, he also glorified.

 

The description here is God overseeing and sovereignly directing every step of salvation

all along the way.

Those predestined were called.

That doesn’t mean merely invited,

it means to appoint.

Those appointed are justified,

which means made right with God,

this is the Lord’s doing, by grace alone,

not by our achievements.

Those made right with God by Christ’s cross

are glorified,

there is a home in heaven for you.

And this is God’s gracious work

from beginning to end.

 

Instead of using the simplistic bumper sticker phrase ‘limited atonement,’

a better phrase is particular redemption,

or definite or personal atonement.

The gospel is personal.

The power of the cross is personal.

Jesus died for you.

 

You don’t have to work so hard

You can rest easy

You don’t have to prove yourself

You’re already mine

You don’t have to hide your heart

I already love you

I hold it in mine

So you can rest easy

  • Andrew Peterson, Rest Easy

 

But wait a minute, you say.

How can I say, Jesus died for you,

because I don’t know by appearances

who Jesus died for,

and the Bible is saying Jesus didn’t die for everybody,

because not everybody is saved.

So how can I say that?

How can I say for myself,

Jesus died for you, for me?

 

Because of who God is, not who we are.

Because God is perfect love, and mercy, and justice.

 

Our confessions don’t say a lot about evangelism.

And the biggest reason for that

is in that time after the Reformation

and through the 16th and 17th centuries,

those on the European Continent,

where these confessions originate,

all people were  connected with church in some way.

The issue wasn’t about connecting with Jesus,

but doing so in a way

that brought the assurance of salvation.

 

But there is one place in our confessions

where the duty and desire to share the gospel

is spoken,

and that is right here

in this chapter of the canons of Dort

on particular redemption

or definite atonement.

‘This promise of the gospel . . .

ought to be announced and declared

without differentiation or discrimination

to all nations and people . . .’

 

Those are big words,

but they are inclusive words, aren’t they?

. . . share the gospel

without ‘differentiation or discrimination’ . . .

And here is the freedom and joy of this doctrine.

Because Jesus saves,

because God so loved the world he gave his Son,

because salvation is by God’s grace,

and because God is sovereign in salvation

so the Heavenly Father will get heaven just right,

perfect – a perfect joy and fellowship for you . . .

 

because of the cross and its saving power,

we can bring the gospel to anyone and everyone.

More, we can say to anyone

in all the confidence and hope of grace,

Jesus died for you to save you.

We don’t have to judge first:

is this person good enough,

does this person know enough,

can she learn enough,

is it the right time,

is he ready for this,

or will this be too hard for him to understand,

or is she too bad a person . . .

instead, we can be confident

in the power of the cross

and the perfect mercy of the Lord to say,

Jesus died for you.

Even for ourselves.

I don’t have to judge myself,

but let his cross be my judge.

When I’m not confident in my faith

or I am easily tempted to despair,

when I face the shadow of my own cross.

I can rest in Jesus’ intention to personally

give his life for me.

 

In the novel

News of The World by Paulette Jiles,

Captain Kidd travels the sometimes dangerous

post civil war Texas

reading the news to townspeople

who have no access to world news

and many unable to read.

He reflects while on his journeys:

Maybe life is just carrying news.

Surviving to carry the news.

Maybe we have just one message,

and it is delivered to us when we are born . . .

it must be carried by hand through life,

all the way, and at the end handed over . . .

 

The news we carry is of a big God.

The sovereign Lord.

Not a Jesus who just makes salvation possible

and it’s up to you to take it.

But a Lord so determined to save

he took the cross for you.

 

Oh I know,

we’d rather hear that we have to choose,

This is the gospel of our day,

let me decide on my own life

and let me prove my worth by my choices.

 

But the grace of being chosen,

the mercy that rescues you,

the love that makes life worth living,

this is what we are made for,

and the cross of Christ says

this is for you.

 

Why is not everyone saved?

We don’t know.

It has something to do

with God suffering sin and perfecting his justice,

but we don’t know.

What we do know

is that it’s not because people are

too sinful

or don’t know enough

or do enough.

Because then that would be all of us.

And we know the reality of heaven

is because of the cross of Jesus.

His atonement was definite, personal,

he died for me on purpose.

It is God’s will to save you.

So why are your doubts based on human limitations:

either your own faults or the faults of others?

The cross took the worst

and the result was the best.

That’s how strong and loving.

And nothing can then separate us

from the love of God.