“Revival and Electing Love” February 10, 2013
Please open your Bibles to Malachi. The very last book of the Old Testament.
We’re beginning a study that will take us right up to Holy Week and Easter.
Steve Nyquist told me that one of his seminary professors—Dr. Walt Kaiser—
always referred the author of this book as the Italian prophet—
the Italian prophet Malachi. Who was this Malachi?
Actually he was Hebrew—the name Malachi means “My Messenger.”
And he had a powerful message for God’s people that is just as relevant today,
as it was when he first spoke it 2,500 years ago.
What’s Malachi about? What was his message?
If we reduced his message to one word, that word would have to be “revival.”
Every denomination has its favorite emphases, particular truths of the faith that
have a historical weight, a resonance. Revival is a favorite of Baptist brothers.
My parents sent me to a Baptist school 4th through 8th grade, and I still remember,
little Presbyterian that I was, how revival was a favorite theme of chapel speakers.
There was a hymn we sang very often, last stanza went like this:
Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love,
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
Hallelujah, thine the glory! Hallelujah, amen!
Hallelujah, thine the glory! Revive us again.
Here’s the truth—Revival is not just a Baptist thing.
Malachi reminds us that there is a constant, regular need for spiritual renewal in the
church of God. Very often God’s people must be called back to faithfulness.
Faith in Christ wanes, and it must be re-animated by the Sprit of God.
We all know this is the way it is in our individual lives.
We wax and wane in our devotion to the Lord, our communion with him in Word
and payer, our service and commitment to his kingdom.
We know the joy of the Lord comes and goes, our sense of his nearness fades.
It’s true of individuals and it’s true of the church as a whole.
It’s true of congregations. Times we thrive spiritually, times we grow dull.
Malachi is about revival. Our need for it. How we seek it.
And the blessings of God’s Spirit when he brings it.
INTRO: I want you to imagine a family scene.
There is a teenager—a boy or a girl—it doesn’t matter. You can imagine either.
And this teenager has become more and more withdrawn from parents and family.
Whenever he can, he deliberately chooses to distance himself.
Earbuds always in, iPod is always on. Rarely speaks, often texting.
He has a small circle of friends who seem to be just as negative and unhappy.
Whenever he is forced by circumstances to be with the family,
he projects a wall of coldness and isolation that even his younger siblings
can’t break through with their happy chatter.
There always seems to always be a low-level conflict with his parents
over friends, spending, clothes, school, work, driving—just about everything.
His parents are distressed, not for themselves, but because they can see that he
is hurting himself—separating himself from the blessings of family life.
So the two of them, mom and dad, finally sit down and really talk it over.
They make a list of their five biggest concerns.
These are the things that their parental wisdom tells them are most damaging.
These are the self-harming attitudes and habits that are robbing their child
of his joy, keeping him, by his own choice, out of the blessing of family circle.
Then they look at each other and say: How should we communicate this to him?
Dad says: I’m so burdened by this. I want talk to him by myself.
There was once a time when he was a little boy that we had such a great rapport.
Do you remember how I would come home from work and he would hug me?
Let me talk to him, I think can communicate our concerns to him.
So the dad goes to his teenager’s room. Knocks on the door. Can I come in?
I’d like to talk. Will you please take off your ear phones?
Your mom and I have been talking, and there are several things we need to say—
But let me tell you the most important thing first—I love you.
Dad knows, that if son really believes he loves him, might get somewhere.
And the son responds: Yeah, right.
That is the opening of the book of Malachi.
The Lord was deeply concerned for his people.
These were the Jews whose grandparents returned from the Babylonian captivity.
Their grandparents had rebuilt the Temple and restored the worship of Lord.
Their parents had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
Malachi’s generation knew the Lord and had walked with him as parents had,
but they had faced some hard times and had allowed themselves to be pulled into
attitudes and habits that had built a wall between them and God’s blessings.
The Lord was burdened by this. He wanted the best for them.
So he sent the prophet Malachi with five concerns.
Five important matters that the Lord in his wisdom knew that they must address
in order to return to the family circle and the blessings of the covenant.
But before he spells them out he says:
First things first, before I say anything, I want you to know—I have loved you.
And Israel’s response was: Yeah, right. How have you loved us?
If God really loved us, then how can we account for life’s circumstances.
This very week someone showed me an email written by a Christian women.
She was blaming God, questioning his love, for the financial turmoil in her life.
Turmoil mostly cause by her own discontentment and uncontrolled spending.
See, the Lord was trying to get her attention through the pain, to show her that his
way of contentment and self-control is the pathway to blessing.
I love you, he was saying. But her response was: Yeah, right.
A few months ago a pastor in our Presbytery told us how there was a family
he was ministering to who had a child with a fatal illness.
He prayed with them, wrestled with God together, prepared for the coming loss.
The child died on Mother’s Day. He felt it as a deliberate slap.
This pastor’s comment was: I’m very perplexed at the Lord for doing that.
Theresa of Avila, the famous Catholic mystic, once said:
“Lord, you would have fewer enemies, if you were nicer to your friends.”
How can we know God loves us when the life he has given us,
or the things he has put us through, seem to be so hard and unloving?
The way Malachi answers Israel’s doubts is fascinating. How have you loved us?
You expect him to say: God brought you out of Egypt. Parted Red Sea.
He gave you the Promised Land. He brought you back from captivity.
The way we would say: Here’s how you know God loves you—
he sent his Son Jesus to be crucified, to rise from dead for you—good answers. .
But the way Malachi answers the question—How has he loved us?—is
He has chosen you. He has chosen you and passed by others.
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the Lord says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated”
Do you know what we’re talking about here? O my goodness.
We’re talking about the “P” word. Predestination.
How do you know God loves you when circumstances tell you otherwise?
Because he chose you before the foundation of the world.
He loved you in his Son before time.
He has ordered your life and arranged your destiny.
When the grandeur and awe of that electing love sinks in—
when your heart is filled with his love, your soul will begin to be revived,
and you will be able to hear anything from him.
Let’s look at this passage
and this great doctrine of God’s electing love under two points:
1. The evidence of electing love
2. The benefits of electing love
MP#2 The evidence of electing love
When did God choose you? What does the Bible say? It says:
“From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit
and through belief in the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his
pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” Ephesians 1
From the beginning. Before the creation of the world. Before you were born.
That’s the doctrine of election. God chose you for salvation before you chose him.
That’s what these opening verse of Malachi are about.
God’s electing love of Jacob, and by extension, all his chosen people.
What did the Lord tell Rebecca when she was pregnant with the twins?
That he had chosen one to be the carrier of his covenant blessings.
Paul elaborates on this in Romans 9.
“Before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose
in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will
serve the younger.’ Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”
Election means that God has been pleased, from all eternity, to choose particular
men and women, boys and girls, out of the fallen and damned human race.
In love, he determined to save these chosen ones through his Son.
So Jesus Christ came into the world and laid down his life for his sheep.
And at just the right time, God comes to these people he has chosen,
he calls them by his Spirit, he gives them faith in Christ, so that they choose him.
He sanctifies them and he keeps them from falling away from the faith,
until he brings them at last to glory in heaven.
No one ever repents and believes in Christ except the elect.
No one ever chooses God except those who God chose first.
That is the biblical doctrine of election.
Is it really a matter of God choosing us? Some Christians resist this.
In Romans 9 Paul anticipates that there would be two objections.
First, it’s unfair for God to choose some and not others.
Second, it takes away people’s free will and destroys human responsibility.
If you’ve wrestled with election, you know the force of those objections.
But Paul made it clear that neither of these objects will stand.
Because Scripture is saturated with God’s electing love.
Malachi mentions God’s love for Jacob and hatred of Esau,
and by connection his choice of the nation of Israel over the nation of Edom.
Look, there are two nations descended from these men, Israel and Edom.
You are Israel, you are loved and chosen by God.
Will he treat you differently than the way he treated your father Jacob?
No, he’s going to sometimes let you suffer consequences,
sometimes even cripple you so that you will ultimately be blessed.
Your destiny is in my hands—and I have great things planned because love you.
But look at Edom—a nation without God.
They approach life just like forefather Esau did—a life without God.
We’re going to do this. We’re going to do that. We’re going to rebuild.
We’re going to make a name for ourselves.
But what is their final destiny? Wrath and ruin in the end.
God left many nations and the people in them in the darkness of idolatry.
But out of all the peoples of the earth, he chose the Israelites to be the recipients
of salvation. Not because of what they had done, not because of how great
they were, but because of his grace.
And before God chose Israel, he chose Abraham out of all of the unbelievers in Ur.
“For I have chosen Abraham, so that he may direct his children to keep the way of the Lord.”
Throughout Scripture, Old and New Testament, God’s people are distinguished
from the rest of mankind by being called his chosen people.
Jesus and the Apostles referred to believers as the elect. Jesus said:
If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect,
whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive
the elect—if that were possible.
And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds.
Paul says to the Colossians:
“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion.”
When Paul writes to Titus he says he is:
“An apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect.”
Peter addresses his letter
“To God’s elect, strangers in the world who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge
of God the Father.” And calls them “a chosen people . . .belonging to God.”
John writes: “To the elect lady” and speak of our “elect sister.”
And you can get out concordance yourself and look up the many other passages
where the word “elect” or “chosen” or “foreordained” or “appointed” or
“predestined” is used in reference to believers to show that God’s people are
distinguished from the rest of mankind by a prior choosing of God.
If we are the elect, then obviously there was an election.
In addition there are the numerous passages where this doctrine is explicitly taught.
John 15. Jesus says:
“You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will
last.” “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”
John 17, Jesus again:
“I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”
Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas:
“When the Gentiles heard (the Gospel), they were glad and honored the word of the Lord,
and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
There it is, plain as day, those who believed did so because they were appointed.
Honestly, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Romans 8-11, Ephesians 1.
The Bible is filled with the wonderful teaching that God chose you for everlasting
life by his grace. He gets the glory. Because salvation is all of grace.
And not only is there the Bible, there is the instinct of the Christian heart.
No matter what your denomination, no matter what your theological stance,
the instinct of the Christian heart is that God chooses us first.
There are plenty of Christians who don’t believe in election. They don’t believe
that God has chosen particular people for salvation and not others.
Instead, they believe that God has just made salvation possible for everybody
but he leaves it up to your free will to make it happen.
That means the ultimate decision for your salvation rests with who? With you.
It also means that God hasn’t done anything more for you
than he has done for those people who are eventually lost and go to hell.
He made salvation possible for them, he made salvation possible for you,
and it’s your good decision that makes the final difference.
But how do Christians who believe that pray for a loved one who is lost?
How do Christians who believe that the thing that makes the final difference
is your choice of God, how do they pray for a loved one to be saved?
They pray as if it’s all up to God.
They say: Lord, please, save my son. Draw him to yourself. Give him faith.
What is that but the true instinct of the Christian heart affirming that
salvation ultimately lies in the choice of God, not in the choice of men?
And how do Christians who deny election give their own personal testimony?
Do they say: I sure am glad I was wise enough to chose God?
Do they pat themselves on the back and say: God made salvation possible
for everybody and I’m one of the smart ones who said yes?
No. Their testimony is, I was running from God. But God didn’t let me go.
He brought the right people into my life. He arranged the circumstances.
He stepped in. He had his eye on me. He did it all. I owe it all to him.
It’s almost as if he . . . chose me beforehand.
Whatever the Christian head might be foolishly thinking,
the Christian heart knows by instinct that we are saved by grace alone,
Election is a glorious doctrine that gives God all the glory.
And it’s incredibly sweet.
In eternity past, God loved me, chose me by name, personally, in Christ.
And he has saved me so that I can live for him.
Do you believe it?
There are mysteries. There are difficult questions.
But do you believe it? You must—it’s true, and it’s great.
That leads us to the next point. Let’s consider . . .
MP#2 The benefits of electing love
Let’s go back to the room of that teenage boy.
His father has some hard things to tell him to bring him back into the circle
of the family blessing. He’s told him: I love you.
The son, thinking about the conflict and the slights and ways he feels like his
parents have been hard and unreasonable says: Yeah, right.
His dad sits down on his bed, and he begins to tell him about that great day
when he found out that they were expecting a baby.
He tells how excited he was and how in that moment when his wife told him
that she was pregnant he felt a great love well up in his heart for this child.
Son, before you were even born I loved you.
Before you even took a breath I began to pray for you that God would
pour out his blessings on your head. Your mother and I began to rearrange our
lives for your arrival. She was dead set on having a perfect baby room for you.
She made me repaint your room twice because the color wasn’t just right.
And when you came, it was one of the happiest days of my life.
You’ve always been my child and always will—and in all I do, all I put you
through, all I say to you, I want nothing but the very best.
What happens if that teenage boy opens his heart just a crack to that?
He’s immature, he’s selfish, he’s driven by hormones, he doesn’t have a clue
about a parental love—but what if the thought gets into his mind, that his father’s
love is older and deeper and higher and more unshakable than he ever thought?
What if it starts to sink in that it’s not dependent on his behavior, not fluctuating
like his own emotions? What could happen to that teenage boy?
He could start to trust again, like he did when he was little.
He could start to trust that all the conflicts and criticisms that he has taken
as intrusive, unnecessary, and just plain stupid are in fact part of the bigger
loving plan of his parents.
He might start to realize that his father wants nothing but good for him.
And he might be open and receptive to his father’s concerns and instruction.
And his connection to the family and his joy might be revived.
There’s a sermon by John Piper on 2 Peter 1:10,
“Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure,
for if you do these things, you will never fall.”
In that sermon he says that when you come to a point in your Christian life
in which you truly believe that you are one of the elect,
that the Lord has chosen you, and called you away from a sin and death
into life and sonship—then you will experience divine power.
He uses an interesting illustration that I shared a few months ago when in 2 Peter.
Imagine you are a soldier, taken prisoner, and put in a terrible POW camp.
Conditions there are brutal and cruel, death is all around, your body wastes
away and you lose your will to live.
Then one day the commander of the camp walks in at roll call and starts pointing.
You, you, you, you, YOU. Prisoner exchange. You’re leaving.
Piper asks: Would that knowledge that you had been chosen be a bare and
worthless piece information to you? Would you compartmentalize it and go
on with your usual life?
No! When you realized that you had been chosen, you would feel hope
surging through your body and mind. Home! Family!
I can make it. I’m not going to die. I’m going to hold on.
Your despair at the terrible conditions would fade with that knowledge.
God’s election is even more wonderful.
And when a Christian really knows that the Lord has said YOU!
I’ve chosen you before the creation of the world. I’ve set my affections on you.
Come out of sin and death. I’m going to show you my glory, give eternal life.
Because of my choice and my call, you are going to see and experience
things in my eternal kingdom that are so wonderful they cannot be described.
So I want you to start getting ready. Calling you to a life of godliness.
When a Christian comes to the point of knowing, really knowing,
that he has been chosen and called by God for great things—he’s revived.
And the things in life that he may have once seen as evidences of God’s
indifference or lack of love, he sees now as part of the great, loving plan.
Part of the glorious destiny God has for him, to make him like Christ.
Brings that electing love of God to bear on these problems.
Let me just give you one example.
If you know God has chosen you before the creation of the world,
you’ll be able to handle criticism. How do you handle criticism?
Calmly? Confidently? Objectively?
Nobody like to be criticized. It not only hurts, it can be consuming.
You can get 10 compliments and one criticism and you’ll dwell on that one
criticism for hours and either get despondent or mad depending on personality.
It can become spiritually crippling.
But what are the criticisms of people, even the people who matter, if you know
that you’ve been chosen and loved from all eternity by God?
Even if their criticisms are right on target, and hit a very sensitive place,
and reveal the worst failures—Your eternal God and Father, who knows
everything about you, chose you anyway, to be the object of his love.
So you can face those criticisms openly and not be devastated.
Listen to the way Charles Spurgeon put it:
“What worry do you have about the words of man, if you are chosen by your Maker?
What do you care for the pitiful chirpings of some tiny sparrow when you know you are an eagle of the royal race? Will you care when the beggar makes fun of you , when the royal blood of heaven runs in your veins? Will you fear if all the world stands against you?”
“I am one of His elect. I am chosen of God and precious. And though the world throw me out, I am not afraid. Ah! you weak professing Christians, some of you bend like willows. There are few oaken Christians now-a-days, that can stand the storm; and I will tell you the reason. It is because you do not believe you are elect.”
So how do you know you are elect? And how grow in your assurance of it?
It’s no secret. The Bible makes very clear who the elect are.
Paul puts it best in 1 Thessalonians 1
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
(How?) because our gospel came to you not simply with words,
but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.”
There’s the answer. You know you have been chosen by God if you’ve
believed the Gospel with conviction and if it’s changed your life.
Faith and holiness.
If you believe in Jesus Christ and are doing your best to live for him every day
then you are one of God’s elect, his chosen people—
not because of anything you’ve done, not because of anything in you,
not because you’re better than any other person, you aren’t!
—but because of God’s grace. So he gets the glory.
Believe it. Embrace it. Live it. Be revived by it.