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The Case Against Self-Sufficiency (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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July 21, 2022 4:00 am

The Case Against Self-Sufficiency (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 21, 2022 4:00 am

Death is offensive. We don’t often want to talk or think about it, except at funerals. We do our best to ignore it—yet it’s unavoidable. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg explains why learning how to die actually helps us know how to live.


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Death is offensive. We don't want to talk about it. You'd rather not think about it. It's not a topic you bring up at social gatherings unless it's a funeral.

Even there, it's unnerving. Today on Truth for Life, though, we're going to find out why you don't know how to live until you've learned how to die. Alistair Begg is continuing our study in the book of Ecclesiastes. We're in chapters eight and nine. Now in addressing this in chapters eight and nine, the writer essentially says four things.

He actually says more than that, but four is all that we can handle in the time that is allowable to us. The first is, life is unmanageable. Secondly, people are as unreliable as life is unfair.

Which, of course, is a real burden, because our lives are all about people, aren't they? Thirdly, the future is unpredictable. In the first century BC, a man by the name of Lucretius described life as a fortuitous concourse of atoms. Now what he's saying was simply this, throw the dice of chance long enough and frequently enough, and the primeval slime will spit out a Milton and give us this wonderful paradise lost and regained, and throw the dice again longer and more frequently, and eventually it may spit out for us a Shakespeare and all this wonderful material that can give to his insight into life. And it spits out Hitler, and we have the Holocaust, and it spits out Timothy McVeigh, and we have Oklahoma City.

Is that it? Well, my friends, you are sensible people. Will you think this through with me? Contemporary sophisticated men and women choose in their sophistication to deny the notion of the existence of a personal creator God who has made them for the express purpose of knowing him and before whom they will one day stand and give account of their lives. So at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the people say, No, no, I have no such notion. Well then, what do they fill the vacuum with?

Just go in the bookstores. As I stood in there, I said, Look at how much multicultural religious claptrap there is in this place. But there is every imaginable notion that is right there. So sophisticated man turns his back on God, and he believes in time, he believes in chance, he believes in mother nature, and we live at a time where God is naturalized and nature is deified.

So God is completely dethroned, and nature is enthroned. When is the last time you ever saw a Christian minister on the show from New York City or ABC or NBC or any of the major networks? And they said, And just when we come back after the break, we're going to have Reverend so-and-so on, and he's going to be telling us about how we can prepare for eternity. And as a sidebar they put up on the screen, It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this comes judgment.

Well, of course, you haven't seen it, and you're not about to see it, but when the music fades and they come back on site, what do they have sitting there? They have some strange-looking lady or a funny-looking man with piercing eyes who is an astrologer who is going to answer the riddles for contemporary American society about their future. One thing we don't want to do is allow anybody to come in here with any kind of divine word of authority, supposed or real, that would prepare us for an eventuality that we all know is true. There's not a person who doesn't know they're going to die. So you would think, wouldn't you, that if anybody had an answer for death, that they would just be constantly in demand. Come and tell us how to die.

Come and tell us how to get ready to die. No, no, no, no, we don't want to do that. But we'll have Mr. so-and-so, and he will come and tell us about how to understand our future. The future is unpredictable, and finally. If life is unmanageable and unfair, and if people are unreliable, and if the future is unpredictable, then can it get any worse?

Well, and from one sense, yes. Death is unavoidable. Look at chapter 9, the opening ten verses. I'll leave it for you. Anyone who's among the living, verse 4, has hope.

Even a live dog is better off than a dead lion. There you go. It fits right in. That's the kind of thing people say to me all the time. They don't say that.

I haven't heard that one, but it's the same stuff. Well, hey, I'm vertical, aren't I? Yeah. Ah, well, it mattered in a hundred years. Que sera, sera, whatever. Who knows?

Who cares? It's futility, actually. It's stupidity. It's really quite incredible.

The explanation I'm going to give you in just a moment, but it is phenomenal when you think about it from one perspective, that here you can have these human beings walking inexorably towards their death and being prepared to simply blow it off, just say, well, you know, it doesn't really matter. There's no concern here, despite the fact that when their insurance guy comes around and sends the big, kindly, portly nurse who takes all that blood and squeezes it all into the things, oh, they're signed up for that. Of course they are. Yes.

Give me as much as you can for the least premium as you can, and make it last as long as you can. Why? Because I'm going to punch out. Yeah, well, let me talk about punching out. Oh, no, I don't want to talk about punching out. I'm not really going to punch out. I'm just doing the, you know, everybody has those things, but I'm not. No.

No. What, are you crazy? You don't know how to live until you've learned how to die. If you don't understand how to get checkmate, what are you doing shoving all these pawns around on the chessboard?

What do you think this is? I met a family one time that played You Could Take the King. They would take the king sometimes in the first five moves of the game. You don't take the king. Checkmate finishes this. Oh, no, we've always played You Could Take the King.

I don't care what you've always played. You can't take the king. It's not the game. And people going through their life just in the exact same way. Oh, just push the pawn here, push the pawn.

Pawn to king, pawn to, you know, bishop on the left, three over, and so on, all that jazz. You see, death makes nonsense of all of life's distinctions. Without God, this is all there is, therefore all we can do is make the best of it.

That's what he's saying. You might as well eat your food with gladness, drink your wine with a joyful heart, hang out with your wife, clothed in white, put the perfume on, because frankly, you're going to die. You say, well, I don't like this.

You should love it. You should embrace this. You say this is the most sensible, helpful thing I've heard in the longest time, because all of the rest of it suggests to me, oh, no, we'll be fine, we'll be fine.

No, no. No, just don't think about it, and it won't be. Think warm, and you'll be warm, bogus. Think life, and you'll be alive.

Think not true. Sure, we can influence our mentality in the way we conceive of circumstances, but we do not change the reality of life. We may change our perception of its reality, but we do not change it. Well, is that it?

Is he just going to leave us there? Death is unavoidable. Life is unmanageable. People are unreliable, and the future is unpredictable. Well, have a nice day.

And I'm sure glad you dropped by. Well, no, I just have a word to get you out of your potential doldrums. He's about to turn a corner here into 10, 11, and 12.

He's already given an indication of it at the end of chapter 7. This only have I found that God made man upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes. It sounds a little bit like Isaiah 53, all we like sheep have gone astray. We've turned everyone to his own way.

We're all off from the main track. God has made man upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes. Verse 3 of chapter 9, this is the evil in everything that happens under the sun. The same destiny overtakes all.

Now notice his little insight here. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil, and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterwards they join the dead. So what have you been thinking about lately? Well, I was just thinking about how the hearts of men are full of evil, and they're really mad while they live, and then afterwards they die.

Hmm. What he's saying is this, that we have developed deep-seated flaws, and therefore we cannot think clearly about God or about our relationship with God. Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century wrote a very famous book called Curtis Homo, Why God Became Man, or Why Did God Become Man. He wrote it in a dialogue form with a student whose name was Bozo, an interesting name, I'm sure you would agree.

He's a rather slow character in the book. And at one point, in asking a question about the meaning of life, Anselm says to this character, you have not yet considered the greatness and the might of sin. And the reason why some of us are in the predicament in which we find ourselves this morning, unable to unscramble the riddle of life, aware of the fact that we are an enigma wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, is because we have never, ever considered the weight and the significance of sin. We have never fashioned on the fact that our minds do not operate in a spiritual and a moral vacuum. You this morning, sir, madam, boy, girl, you do not operate from a position of neutrality. You're not in some neutral zone whereby you then decide either to enter into this way of conceiving of things or of that way of conceiving of things.

No, what the Bible says is that we have gone astray, that our hearts are flawed, that sin pervades how we think and how we feel about everything. And that is why we can never understand why the world is the way it is. Why is it that men and women can look at the exact same thing and say, I can't believe you're even saying that? Where did you get that from?

Well, it's in the Bible. I never heard such nonsense in all of my life. Why would somebody say that kind of thing?

That is bizarre and ridiculous. And you say to yourself, well, it seems so obvious to me. Why are they reacting in that way? They're reacting in that way because of the weight and the seriousness of sin, which enfolds our minds. From our birth, we think wrongly. And that's what happens when the Bible is taught. The Bible comes and shines into that darkness and gives to us, by God's grace, a moment where we all of a sudden go, ah, ah, that makes sense!

That makes sense! Now, the only reason you'll ever say that is because God in his grace brings his Word, shines it into your darkened mind, and cracks open a little bit of a window, and all of a sudden you say, this is amazing! For forty years of my life, I have thought this way, lived this way, ignored God in this way. But in the strangest of circumstances, I find that the window of my mind has now opened to this truth. Well, the reason that we're in the position in which we find ourselves is because we have suppressed the truth of God.

We have repressed truth that we know. There are no genuine atheists. Every atheist knows that there is a God. Every atheist knows that there is eternity. Anybody who professes that does so by choice and goes against themselves. Huxley said, I had a reason for not wanting to believe in God, because to disbelieve in God was for me the basis for sexual and political freedom.

I don't want to have to give a count to anybody, so I will disbelieve him out of existence. But you can't do it, and that's why here you are this morning. Some of you are frustrated, and the reason you're frustrated is because you'll never be fully satisfied with anything that the world has to offer.

There isn't a Thanksgiving celebration that can answer the deep longings of our hearts. We were made for his pleasure, not for our own pleasure. Therefore, we remain forever dissatisfied until we find the ultimate pleasure in knowing that we were created by God, for God, and for his glory. Are you prepared to admit to that frustration today? Are you prepared to face up to the frustration? You're prepared even to admit the frustration.

Then we can talk about whether you're prepared to acknowledge the source of the frustration. And if you're prepared to admit to the frustration, will you admit also that you're a fugitive to your own destiny? You're a fugitive to your own destiny. You're not what you were supposed to be. God made you for himself, and you're living for yourself. God made you for a grand purpose, and you're just simply whittling away your days. God made you to experience all of his fullness and all of his blessing and all of the wonder of his love, and you don't understand it. And furthermore, you're angry about it, and you're determined to disbelieve in this God. But still you'll read those funny books.

Still you'll talk about Jesus as if he was some galactic superstar and believe all kinds of things. Can I ask you, do you understand why it is you feel homesick? Like at home? Do you understand why it is you feel the way you feel when you look on your children, and you feel the time passes through your fingers? When you see your aging parents, and not only do you see all that is in them, but you see that all that is in yourself that is in them, and you know that you're moving inexorably towards that end? Why is that? Why don't we just feel like, hey, hey, you know, can't wait. I'm gonna die soon. Can't wait. My turn next. Me next. Me next. I'll go next.

No, let me go next. Now, you're running from it, aren't you? You got the blankets over your head.

You are scared to death you might die. But still, in your sophistication, turn your back on God. Ignore Christ.

You pulse his Word, close the door of your car, and drive off into emptiness. Augustine put it well, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find they arrested you. There's nowhere else we can go. There's no other fountain from which we can drink. When Jesus said to the woman at the well, he said, you know, you come here every day for water. I'll give you water. You drink the water that I give you, you'll never be thirsty again. She said, oh, I'd love that, because I'm sick of coming here. No, no, Jesus says, I'm not talking about physical water you can put in a pot.

I'm talking about spiritual water, which you drink that will be like a well in you, and it'll overflow from you. Well, she tried satisfaction. She had five husbands and a live-in lover.

She was looking for love in all the wrong places. And here, from the lips of a Galilean carpenter, she hears about a drink that she can take that will change her life forever. Why could Jesus offer her the cup of life? Because he was about to taste the cup of death.

He was going to the cross in order to die as the substitute for that woman, in order to bear her guilt, in order to take her shame, in order to bear all of the burden of God's wrath and judgment upon her life. And because of her trust and acceptance in this Christ, she experiences life and Christ experiences death. There is nothing as wonderful in all the world. There is nothing as strange in all the world.

It's referred to as the wisdom of God. Wouldn't you love to write a Shakespeare play? Wouldn't you love to be able to write to die, to sleep no more, and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and a thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to?

It is a consummation devoutly to be wished, you know. How are you going to write that? We can write that if you're Shakespeare, but you're not Shakespeare. But imagine that the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in you, and then you could write that. To sleep, perchance to dream, aye, there's the rub.

Oh, you say, this is going well. Do you like to paint? Imagine painting like Turner, one of those great English landscapes. Wouldn't you love to do that?

You can't do that, neither can I. But if the genius of Turner could come and live in you, you could paint like Turner. Wouldn't you love to know the fullness and the forgiveness and the purpose and the reality and the joy that is found in the life of the Lord Jesus? But you can't live a life like that, and neither can I. But if the life of the Lord Jesus can come and live in my life, then I can live a life like that. Or to turn it all around, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. Here is Christ.

Here is me. By nature, I'm outside of Christ. To live in Christ is not something that you catch in the wind.

It's not something that is done as a result of a religious professional coming along. This little guy here comes along, and he says, okay, holam, scholam, nickum, tickum, you are now in Christ, or whatever it is, okay? Or I now baptize you, therefore you're in Christ. Or say three of these and run around the block five times, and you're in Christ. None of that.

Nobody can do that for you. But the Lord Jesus comes, and in his pursuing love and in his wonderful, amazing grace, he comes and he gathers to himself, he says, Believe in me, trust in me. Come and live in me, and I will live in you. And then you see your thanksgiving totally changes.

Then the verses with which we began, verse 7 of chapter 8, make sense. Go ahead and have a lovely meal. Go ahead and put on your perfume. Go ahead and love your wife. Go ahead and cuddle your kids. Go ahead and welcome your neighbors.

Do all of that. Because now that I've understood the overarching purpose for my existence, I can make sense of my days. Now until I've understood the overarching purpose of my existence, my days are ultimately meaningless.

My life is flat. It's a sterile promontory. And eventually, they will say of us, as they said of others before us, What was his name? Let me tell you where that never happens. It never happens in heaven. Because God never, ever, ever forgets the name of his children.

And he writes them down in a book, and he seals them for all of eternity. So I can walk through the whole of America, and nobody knows me. I can go to a party, and no one knows me. I can go to a new school, and nobody knows, and nobody cares. I can take a new job, I can fly on a plane, I can do all those things.

And no one knows me. But what a difference it is to know that Christ, he knows my name, he knows my anxious thoughts, and he loves me with an everlasting love. Listen, my dear friends, this is good news. Embrace it and live in the light of it.

And if you do embrace it, will you please tell some people about it this week? But our Father, come now and write your Word in our hearts, and may grace and mercy and peace from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be our abiding portion, now and forevermore. Amen. If our life is without God, all we can do is make the most of this life until we die.

But with God in our lives, life has meaning, and we have a greater hope, and that's good news. We're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Alistair ended today's message by challenging all of us to share the good news with others. If you'd like to do that, but you're not comfortable talking to others about the Gospel, or you don't know how to start a Gospel conversation, visit the Learn More page on our website. You'll find a couple of brief videos that are perfect to download and share with friends, or you can watch them yourself to get some tips for how to talk to others.

You can watch or share both of these videos as often as you'd like. They're completely free online at slash learn more. Being God's Word is challenging. You don't have to look far to observe that our society is becoming less and less tolerant of biblical beliefs. In fact, Christian views about things like human sexuality or gender are increasingly considered infringements on someone else's personal freedom. Holding firm to our faith can sometimes make us out to be the bad guy. So how do we navigate this changing tide? We want to recommend to you a book called Being the Bad Guys. It explores what it looks like to live for Jesus in a world that says we shouldn't. Request your copy of the book Being the Bad Guys when you give a donation at slash donate.

I'm Bob Lapine. An unguarded moment of foolishness can completely destroy someone's reputation or a marriage or so much more. We'll learn how to resist folly and embrace wisdom tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the learning is for a living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-21 11:17:37 / 2023-03-21 11:27:23 / 10

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