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In Search of Meaning (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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July 19, 2022 4:00 am

In Search of Meaning (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 19, 2022 4:00 am

Why do wicked people seem to enjoy more success than faithful Christians? Wouldn’t more people follow Jesus if the distribution of rewards and punishments were more distinct? Hear how the Bible addresses these concerns, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Does it seem to you wouldn't more people follow Jesus if the distribution of rewards and punishments were clearly distinct? The Bible addresses these concerns.

You're listening to Truth for Life. And today, Alistair Begg is picking up in our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes in Chapter 7. Now when you get to Chapter 7, instead of arguing his case at all, it's a kind of staccato burst of insights which just hit us from all kinds of angles.

And what I want to do is just run through them with you. First of all, in the opening phrase of the chapter, a good name is better than fine perfume. What does that mean? Well, perfume could only be purchased by the affluent. Therefore, fine perfume was an indication of wealth.

It largely is today, inasmuch as you don't find poverty-stricken people spending $150 on a half ounce or a quarter of an ounce of very expensive perfume. And what he's saying is, a good name is a better legacy than the fragrance that is dispensed in the mall as a result of you being able to scoosh yourself. So whatever you do in your life, remember this. The best legacy you can leave your children is to allow them to walk with confidence down any high street in the country. And if someone meets them and says, Oh, are you X's son?

Are you X's daughter? And then they bless the memory of your parents, and your memory too. A good name is far better than riches. Honor is the issue. Honor. Now, in verses 2–6, he just gives us some pithy common sense.

Essentially, what he's saying is this. Face the facts. Face the facts. The bumper sticker is not all wrong. Life is tough, and then you die. Doesn't sound very happy, does it?

But it's actually fairly accurate. Life is tough, and you are going to die. And what he's saying is, when you face up to that, then you will realize that it's better actually to go and have a coffee in the graveyard in Chagrin Falls than it is to go to some dumb party with a bunch of your high school friends. Now, you can run away and do a party in an affluent neighborhood and kid yourself that life will go on forever. That is time ill spent.

Or you can go sit and park your car in the graveyard and surround yourself in a house of mourning and say, Now we're getting to the issue. Now we're being sensible. Now we're facing facts. That's what he says. Look at it.

You're sensible people. Read your Bibles. Spurgeon in writing says, I'm afraid that all the grace I've gotten out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours might almost lie on a penny.

And affliction, he said, is the best bit of furniture in my house. In other words, life confirms what the Bible conveys—that more spiritual progress will be made through failure, disappointment, hard times, and tears than will be discovered as a result of success, laughter, easy times, and trivialities. In verses 7–10, he says it's important that you exercise self-control. Self-control, as we've seen in the matters of money, verse 7, because extortion turns a wise man into a fool and a bride corrupts the heart. Some of us know that to our pain.

We lost our ability to do business with a clear conscience and a crystal-clear gaze. Be careful. Be careful also in the snare of unguarded talk.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning. Patience is better than proud. Don't be quickly provoked in your spirit. In other words, don't just be bursting out all of the time.

Don't let your mouth run ahead of your mind. Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Self-control in not becoming a crusty old fool that walks around all the time saying, Man, the good old days. We love the good old days, verse 10. Why were the old days better than these? That's a silly question.

It happens in churches more than anywhere I've ever been. We're very fortunate here at Parkside that we don't have a lot of the good old days brigade. There are some of you. You temper it very well, for which I'm very grateful.

If you ever get out of control, we'll have to talk further. Because it really is a waste of time. And the idea of taking a holiday in history to prevent us from putting our shoulder to the plow in the present is something that isn't held out to us as an option. And when we are always harping on the good old days, it's because we've forgotten about the disappointments and the disadvantages that we're part of those same old days. There are good days.

There are bad days. Today's the day. Let's go.

Freeway exit 11 and 12 is marked wisdom, added insurance against the risks of life. We've stopped here before. We will stop here again. For now we move on. Verses 13 and 14 consider what God has done.

I just wrote one word against this, the word trust. Because these verses are a reminder to us that life is not blind fate, it's not random chance occurrences. Rather, God is over all, and he's in control of all. This God whom the writer meets intermittently is able to turn our difficulties and our problems and our bad choices and our foolish wanderings, all of them into good, sweeping them all into his plan and purpose for us.

And so his advice is straightforward in verse 14. When the times are good, be happy, and when the times are bad, be thoughtful. Think about the fact that God has made the one as well as the other. Don't be so silly as to go out on a sunny day and say, Oh, well, God has done a wonderful job today, and then you go out the next day, and the clouds are at 400 feet, and visibility in landing is about 450 yards, and say to yourself, Well, God must have taken a vacation today. No, God is as much in control of the rain and the clouds as he is of the sun and the beauty. He actually is in control of the good days and the bad days in our lives.

It's hard to work out that our secondary causes, we are the causes of so much of our discomfort, bad choices. People come to me all the time and say, Could you put these eggs back in the shell for me? The answer is, No, I couldn't. I couldn't.

And no one can. You smashed the eggs. You drove the car of your life foolishly. You made foolish choices. God is able to restore you to usefulness, his forgiveness is unmitigated, and so on. But I'm sorry, you're gonna live with the implications of this.

That's why it's important to think these things out while you're still young. His perspective in verses 15–22 is tremendously helpful. Look at what he says. In this meaningless life of mine—I've seen both of these—I've seen a righteous man perishing in his righteousness and a wicked man living long in his wickedness. Well, there's an honest man, isn't it? This won't play well on Christian TV, I can tell you right now. You daren't get on Christian television late in the night and hold this out. I have seen a righteous man take it in the head, and I've seen a wicked man live a long time. It tears the carpeting and the substructure out from underneath their notions. Health, wealth, happiness, trust, and it's all fine.

Come here, and everything falls into line. It's not true to life. It's not true to the Bible. The idea that the righteous automatically prosper and the wicked automatically suffer isn't true. Ultimately, in the light of eternity, God will right all wrongs, and justice will all be settled. He has dealt with this at the cross, but the experience of life is straightforward. I have seen a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and the idea that if you're righteous, you don't suffer. Of course, the person with that story to tell is gonna have to do some unbelievable theological gymnastics to get themselves out of that equation. Perspective needs to be there in relationship to righteousness and wickedness, and also in verse 16, in relationship to overrighteousness.

It's interesting, isn't it? Do not be overrighteous, he says, and don't be overwise. He's describing here a kind of spiritual intensity which is pushed so far that it gets to the realm of unreality. When I looked at this phrase, do not be overrighteous, it made me think of the Pharisees, who had come up with all these kind of rules and regulations. They came down on Jesus and his disciples like a ton of lead, not because Jesus and his disciples were disobeying the law, but because they were breaking all of the Pharisaical exactitudes that they had loaded onto the law, all of the little additions that they had made. And there are people like that everywhere. In the course of my life, I've had people come and tell me that they don't think it's right for a Christian to go on vacation, because life is too hard and too tough, and it would be wrong to squander money on a vacation. They've come to me and they've suggested that it wouldn't be right for a Christian to go to a doctor or to take a blood transfusion, because after all, we trust God. This is a very sort of righteous posture. The same people have the view that if you have a Christmas tree in your house—and you may not have met these people, I'm not fabricating them—if you have a Christmas tree in your house, you're endorsing a pagan celebration, and therefore it is a violation of everything the Bible teaches, and therefore you've got to get that dreadful Christmas tree out of your house.

They are overrighteous. They're the same people who lambasted me because I'm going around the neighborhood getting as much candy as I possibly can on Halloween night, wearing whatever I jolly well choose to wear within the bounds of propriety, so that I can come back and eat like a pig along with my kids in front of the fireplace. Oh, no, no, no, no, no! No, you can't do that!

The same individuals who will not allow me to read my children fiction stories—because fiction stories are fiction, and fiction is not nonfiction, and nonfiction is true, and fiction is untrue, and imagination, and so on. Hey! Hey, hey! Hey! You're about to blow the lid off your pressure cooker.

It will blow off, and it will make a dreadful mess all over your kitchen. Listen to the Word of God. Do not adopt this strange, unreal, overrighteous nonsense.

Well, you say, what are you endorsing? Overwickedness? No. Verse 17, don't be overwicked. You'd be a fool to do that. You want to die before your time? So what's the answer? Is it to walk the tightrope in between them? No.

It's the answer we discovered last week. The man, verse 18, who fears God, will avoid all extremes. You want to know how to operate? Ask the question, will Father approve—will Father approve—of the time I'm going to spend with this girl, of the decision that I'm about to make in business, of the plans that I'm about to endorse in terms of investments? One question and one question only.

Will Father approve? Now, it's that kind of insight that then closes out the chapter, verses 23–29. Look at verse 29.

This only have I found. God made man upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes. Men have gone in search of many schemes. I had a letter in recent days from far away from here, a young man, well educated, both in American and British universities—indeed, at the highest level. And in the course of the letter he said this to me. I must say, all the education in the world has made me the most stupid and unenlightened man.

All the education in the world has made me the most stupid and unenlightened man. How can he possibly say that? Because foolishness, when the Bible speaks about it, it does not have to do with mental faculty.

It has to do with moral rebellion. He's lost his wife. He's lost his children.

He's lost his self-respect. He is the man described in an earlier chapter who is all alone with neither brother nor sister nor family member, and he knows it. And his letter finishes, In faith that you may say something to me that would help in my time of need, I am cordially yours. Help me if you can, I'm feeling down, and I do appreciate you being round. Help me if you can, get my feet back on the ground.

Won't you please, please help me? He's your neighbor. He's your traveling companion on a 757.

He's your professor. And in that insight, it points us ultimately to the fact—and with this I finish—that all of our folly is found in our sinfulness. Sin is foolishness, because it is disobedience to and rebellion against the will of the one who made us, who loves us, who sustains us, and who one day will assess us. What the Bible says is that all of these journeys, all of these dead-end streets, all of this consideration is moving, pointing forward to ultimately the way in which God has made wisdom known to men and women, if they will only find it. And we're not only foolish, says the Bible, but we're also alienated, and we're also condemned. Oh, you say to yourself, as you finally move in your seat for the last time, hoping that the wheels are down on this sermon for a fast landing, you say, Did I really come out here this morning to hear that I am foolish, that I am alienated, and that I am condemned? I mean, Alistair, can we possibly finish on a slightly higher note than this? Well, you see, I can't go to the good news without we're confronted with the bad news.

Because the good news makes no sense without the bad news. Like me saying to all one of you just now, I'll rescue you! Let me rescue you!

You go. He's now finally taken leave of his senses. We do not need rescued. But if you're on the upper building, and the thing is on fire, and I bring a ladder and I set it against your window and I say, I have come to rescue you, suddenly the awareness of your condition makes the rescue seem so amazing, so wonderful, and so necessary. So first I need to understand that the foolishness of which the writer speaks is a foolishness that exists because of sin—disobedience against God's law. That brings alienation from God, from others, from myself.

That brings condemnation, because God must punish sin. So what in the world are we supposed to do with this? Well, listen. Listen!

Here is the good stuff. God has provided the way of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, all of his love and all of his justice is expressed, and in that he meets all of our needs precisely. You see, there's nobody in this room this morning that knows your needs. Nobody. Even the person that loves you most, lives with you most, understands everything about you.

They don't really know your needs. There is only one person who knows them and can meet them precisely. And the wisdom of God is expressed in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that wisdom and that reality may become yours when you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, your only Savior. And when in believing that Jesus came to be the answer to that dilemma, then with Christ's help, you're enabled to give up an old way of life and by the help of the Lord Jesus to begin a wonderful new way of life. The Bible calls that repentance, a reversal of our old ways, and making amends and restoration where possible, and a starting out on a brand-new journey. Salvation is a gift. And faith comes as we hear the Word of God and as we turn to Christ in our sinfulness and in our emptiness and as we receive his fullness and his forgiveness.

Repentance, the desire to turn away from sin, is born in the heart of a boy or a girl, a man or a woman, only when we realize that in coming to Christ he will receive us in forgiveness, he will accept us even in our sinfulness, and then by his power he will take and change us by his grace. This is God's wisdom. You can't find it in Chopra or Chakra or whoever that character is. You can't find it in Seven Helpful Steps in the New Age section of your bookstore.

Those are dead-end streets, my dear friends. They're amalgamation of moral philosophy, Eastern mysticism, a scattering of biblical notions, and all stirred together like a gigantic pot of distasteful stew. You cannot find it there. You cannot find it in religion. You can find it in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has become our wisdom and our righteousness. That's what he says in Corinthians. The person who has discovered this has prayed a prayer like this. I'm going to tell you the kind of prayer—not the actual prayer. God's not interested in our words. But listen carefully, and have one question in your mind as I read this.

And here's the question. Have I ever come to God like this? Lord Jesus Christ, I am so foolish.

Give me your wisdom to see and follow your truth. Lord Jesus Christ, I am so full of guilt and have no peace. But you have died to bring forgiveness and the assurance of pardon. I trust you to be my Savior, and by your grace I turn away from my sin. Lord Jesus Christ, I am weak and ruled by sin.

Give me your power and rule in my heart and take charge of my whole life. Have you ever come to God like that? Have you ever prayed like that? Are you a Christian?

Are you? And what prevents you? Pride? Pride?

Ignorance? Today, if you hear God's voice, don't harden your hearts. God is sovereign over the bad days, as well as the good.

We can trust Him to know what is best for us. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Alistair will be back in just a minute to close today's program. We just learned from Alistair that we can't go to the good news of salvation without first confronting the bad news of our sinfulness. If you still have questions and would like to know more about the gospel, let me encourage you to take a few minutes to watch a couple of short videos on our website.

You'll find them at slash learn more. There's a book we want to recommend to you today. We think of it as a must read if you are struggling to understand all that's taking place in the world around us. One of the most jarring realizations for Christians is our new lack of status. We are increasingly in the minority and our views about things like sexuality and gender often leave us being viewed as the bad guys. And that's the title of the book we're recommending, Being the Bad Guys. It explores the dramatic shift in lifestyle norms and the increasingly unpopular views of those who follow Jesus.

So how do we remain faithful to Him in a world that says we shouldn't? Request your copy of the book Being the Bad Guys. It provides encouragement to not only persevere but to do so with peace and joy. The book is yours when you give a donation to support the teaching you hear on Truth for Life. You can tap the image you see in the mobile app or visit slash donate or you can give us a call.

Our number is 888-588-7884. And if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at post office box 398000 Cleveland, Ohio 44139. Now here is Alistair to close with prayer. O God our Father, we thank you that in the Lord Jesus Christ all of your loving wisdom has been expressed, that in the death of your Son all of your justice is exercised and all of your love displayed.

It is an amazing thing when we think about it that we're actually more sinful than we ever care to acknowledge and yet that we are more loved in the Lord Jesus Christ than we ever dared to imagine. So then help us Lord to move by your grace from an interest in religion to a relationship with your Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to believe. Enable us to turn. Grant us the gift of faith we pray. And may grace and mercy and peace from Father, Son and Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one of us today and forevermore. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Why do bad things happen to good people? It's an often asked question and it's not unique to our current culture. Tomorrow we'll explore Ecclesiastes for the answer. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-22 15:00:35 / 2023-03-22 15:09:36 / 9

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