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Submitting to God (Part 2 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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August 31, 2023 4:00 am

Submitting to God (Part 2 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 31, 2023 4:00 am

Breaking a bad habit isn't a simple decision to stop the behavior; it's a continual battle. Similarly, following God requires sustained resistance to Satan's lies, deceits, and temptations. Find out how to do that on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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Anyone who has ever tried to simply decided to stop the behavior. It's an ongoing battle. Well in the same way, when we determine to turn from sin and follow God, that requires continual resistance to the devil's lies, his deceit and his temptation.

So how do we do that? We'll find out today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is teaching from James chapter 4. We're studying verses 7 through 10. How do we resist the devil so that he might flee from us?

Well, we could say many things in response to this, but let's just say three, and briefly. Number one, we resist him humbly—humbly!—in the awareness of the fact that we can't resist him apart from the strength that God provides. That's the significance of verse 6. He gives more grace. Submit to God, resist the devil.

How am I going to do that? He gives more grace. The hymn writer says, I have no strength but thine to lean upon. When Paul attacks the issue of the Christian warfare in Ephesians chapter 6, he starts in exactly the same way, when he says, Finally, be strong and put on the full armor of God.

What's missing? Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. To say, Come on now, be strong, is an invitation to disappointment and despair. Because we're not strong.

And we collapse with relative ease. So the exhortation is aligned with the encouragement. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Now go ahead and do this. But we need to be humble enough to say, I have no strength except the strength that you provide. Which is hard for most of us who feel that we can handle most things. The starting point is, I can't. And until we say, I can't, we'll never really be able to say, I can. And it seems so obvious, doesn't it? So if we come to resist him humbly, we may do so also confidently. Confidently, how can we say that?

Because of the promise. Resist the devil—that's what we're supposed to do—and he will flee from you. The two great dangers in relationship to the devil and Satan and so on are either to become totally preoccupied with him, so that everything we see and experience, oh, that must be the devil that did that. And there were books for a period of time about ten years ago that had demons everywhere. The demons were all over the place. And the people were reading the books, and it drove me nuts, because they would come and tell me, you know, I saw a demon, and I was up in your office, and he was on the ledge, and all this kind of thing. They said, Okay, thank you.

I'll get back to you. So the one hand is to be completely preoccupied with demonic activity, and the other hand is to deny its existence entirely. And in both instances, the devil wins a great victory. Because over here, he gets us thinking about him constantly, which is a wrong and foolish thing to do, and over here he gets us denying his existence altogether, and he says, Well, this is terrific. He doesn't even believe in me.

I'll be able to sneak in on him quietly and catch him while he's unawares. That's why Peter says, Stay awake and be alert, for the devil is a-roaring Ryan, going around looking for somebody to devour. So in other words, the clarity of Scripture helps us. Humbly—incidentally, in saying what I'm saying, I'm not denying the existence of demonic activity. I'm not saying that at all.

I'm just pointing it out at the extreme. Humbly, confidently, and biblically, insofar as the only way to beat him is to use the weapons we've been provided. And what are the weapons that are provided?

Two. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer. They are the two weapons which Jesus employed, aren't they? We read for homework in Matthew chapter 4, Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by Satan, and Satan comes to him and says to him, You know, if you throw yourself down from this point, all the kingdoms of the world will be yours. And every occasion, with every temptation, it reads, Jesus replied, It is written. Then the devil comes back the second time, and he quotes the Bible to Jesus. Because he's a clever rascal.

That's why you have to be discerning, folks. The fact that somebody quotes the Bible or holds the Bible or says something about the Bible is not the issue. The issue is, what are they doing with the Bible? The devil was happy to quote the Bible. The devil understands the Bible. That's why he even quoted it to Jesus. Now, we mustn't be unaware of his schemes, but it is by the sword of the Spirit that we might defeat him. Because it is in the clarity of the instruction of God's Word that the temptations that come our way are addressed and may be resisted. And by prayer.

By prayer. We're going to come to the notion of communion with God in just a moment, but it is interesting, when you read the Gospels, to discover the occasions in which it says, very briefly and almost parenthetically, And Jesus went away into a quiet place, and he prayed. Or Jesus went into a mountain, and he prayed.

You have it, for example, in John chapter 6, when after the feeding of the five thousand, and the people are in a great enthusiastic throng, they want to come and make Jesus king, they've decided that he must be the prophet that comes into the world, and then John just says, And at that point Jesus went away by himself into a mountain. He had to resist the temptation that came at him as a result of the enthusiastic response of the people, back in the quietness of his own place, in communion with the Father. Father, help me here. I pray to you, I must resist these temptations. Now, I hope you find this helpful, and I believe it to be right to say to you that we really go wrong if we pay too much attention to people that we see apparently resisting the devil. And Christian television introduces me to some of this. It takes me into a realm that I've never really dealt with very much.

I have seen deep spiritual darkness in London and in other places and dealt in trying situations with people whose lives were overwhelmed. But the kind of stuff that I see on television is alarming and distasteful to me, where the people do things to folks and try and knock them on the floor, and they say, Rebukim! or, you know, Karibunga! or something like that, and just, Get out of here!

Go on! Hee! And the people are like, Whoa, son of … They're going back like that, because the pastor scares the dickens out of them half the time.

And so they should. I dive on the floor with most of those jokers. How do you get to that? Well, it says, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. I understand. Where does verse 7b come? Right behind verse 6 and right in front of verse 8. So do you think that verse 6 and 8 and 9 and 10 and the chapter and the context might be the way that we could discover what it means to resist the devil and what somebody looks like when they resist the devil and while they're resisting the devil? Answer?

Yes, that would make sense. So what do you discover? That the characteristics of those who are involved in this resistance movement are submission to God, verse 7, moral purity, verse 8b, wash your hands, internal devotion, make sure that your affections are single-minded, guarding your hearts, and, verse 9, daily repenting. How do I resist the devil? By submitting to God, by keeping clean, by guarding my heart, and by repenting daily.

I suggest to you that you will be far better off there than going to a religious professional who is going to try and take care of it for you with one quick caravanga. And the devil is a master at appealing to our wounded pride. I think that's the reason why Paul, when he introduces the subject of leadership in the local church, says, Make sure that you do not appoint to leadership in the local church somebody who is a novice in the Christian faith, because that may lead them to conceit, and they will fall under the same condemnation as the devil.

You see? Because pride goes before a fall. And when we're in the infancy of our Christian faith, we may think that we're capable of just about everything and anything. It's going to take time for us to realize that there are many ribs that are going to be bruised by elbows, there are going to be many scars on our shins, there are going to be many things along the journey of our life that confront us with the fact that we're desperately in need of God.

And until we get fashioned by those things, then it is actually a dangerous thing for us and everybody else to be put in a position of authority. D. E. Hose said, who was the successor to Hudson Taylor as the general director of the China Inland Mission, he said, I would not—and I've told you this before—I would not appoint a man to the mission field unless he had learned to wrestle with the devil, because if he has not learned to wrestle with the devil, he will wrestle with his fellow missionaries. And, you know, when you find a person who's constantly argumentative and disruptive and undermining everything, you can be dead sure they do not submit to God, and two, they are not resisting the advances of the evil one. So, if you're with me, we have said, first of all, that this submission to God is the outworking of a truly humble heart, that active allegiance to God involves sustained resistance to the devil, and now, thirdly, intimacy with God does not happen by chance, but it must be deliberately cultivated. Intimacy with God doesn't happen by chance, but it must be deliberately cultivated. Look at verse 8, Come near to God, and he will come near to you. There's a real Old Testament element to this, and of course, we would expect that, because that was James's Bible. And one of the great features of the people of God, as it became apparent in their moving under the direction of Moses, was this notion of being near to God. And I'll just quote to you from Deuteronomy chapter 4, and it says—God is speaking through his servant—he says, See, I have taught you decrees and laws, as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you're entering, to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them, the way the LORD our God is near us, whenever we pray to him? Do you remember that song in the sixties? It's amazing how many sixties songs are gone now, forever.

Even in Christian terms, it's understandable, I think, because they've been superseded. But we used to sing it in Yorkshire. In the stars his hand he work, I see.

Remember that one? On the wind he speaks with majesty. Though he ruleth over land and sea, what is that to me? And then—I can't remember—and then it goes to, Then one day I met him face to face, and I felt the wonder of his grace. Then I knew that he was more than just a God who didn't care, who lived a way up there.

And now he walks beside me every day. You see, that is the distinguishing feature of the Christian. That is the distinguishing feature of the church in every generation, from Genesis all the way to Revelation. That is the great and glorious consummation in the book of Revelation. And I will be their God, and they will be my people, and I will dwell with them, and I will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and so on.

What is it? It's this amazing intimacy with God, which distinguishes the people of God. But such intimacy with God is a cultivated intimacy. And we better beware of seeking the promise without obeying the command. Because there is both command and promise in verse 8, isn't there? Come near to God.

That's the command. And he will come near to you. That's the promise.

Do you find yourself tempted to invert it? People come to me all the time and say, Well, you know, I would come near to God if he came near to me. I'm waiting for him. I'm waiting to have the right kind of feeling. And when I have the right kind of feeling, then I'll be praying. When I have the right kind of feeling, then I'll be attending. When I feel right about it, you know, then I'll be doing these different things. And I have to say, My dear brother or sister, you've got the thing back to front.

You've got it upside down. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Drawing near to God in the privacy of my own heart, in the exercise of personal Christian discipline, in the experience of heartfelt devotion, if you like, in the realm that is unseen by anyone else. Because what we really are before God is what we are before God when no one's looking.

Neither our spouse, nor our children, nor the people who may have most access to us. Andrew Murray says, When a man is on his knees before God, that is what he is and nothing else. So do I draw near to God. The exercises of personal and private devotion are exercises. It's hard for us, because we're the readers of The One-Minute Manager.

We're the readers of Seven Minutes a Day to the Flattest Abs in the Entire World. We are constantly bombarded by the fact that you can get it now and without effort. Take the waiting out of wanting. Zee! Visa card or whatever it is.

Take the waiting out of wanting. I'll have that right now. ATN. Boom!

Drive-through dry cleaning. Hurry up! So the idea of drawing near to God in a way that is deliberately cultivated is actually counterintuitive. And we may laugh at some of our friends, although I hope we don't, because we must admire their devotion and their interest. We may smile, we may wonder, when we see people from different cultures and different backgrounds going about the business of their own personal devotional life.

But some of us would do well to take a leaf out of their book in at least making a stab at it. The psalmist says in Psalm 40, doesn't he, I waited for the LORD. I waited for the LORD. And in the metrical psalms of Scotland, that notion of waiting is teased out in the melody line that is employed, and as a small boy, the singing of Psalm 40 seemed to take the entire service, but it burned it into me. And if you know that psalm tune—I won't disgrace myself or embarrass you by singing it all—but this is the length of the meter in the singing of this unaccompanied in a Highland church in Scotland.

It goes like this. I waited for the LORD my God. Now, at that point, I'm looking at my sister going, Holy smoke, we're gonna be in here forever!

This is unbelievable! We've only done one line! And I'm looking ahead in the psalm, I'm going, Oh goodness gracious! That's the kind of thing that has boys running out, just like, Let's go do something naughty here!

This is amazing! Or, by God's grace, it burns into a boy's heart, you see. And in the mercy and providence of God, that's actually what it's done for me in the long run. As bizarre as it may seem, I think nostalgically of that place. I can smell the cushion on the wooden seat in that tiny church, in Fern and Rosher, hanging off the end of the country. Because when I come out of there, I said, Why are all these farmers and these fishermen and these folks with narrowed fingers and fabulous blue eyes and striking countenances—why are they doing this? And then I discovered, you see, they are developing, they are cultivating intimacy with God.

And what they are working out in public is simply the out and overflow of what they are doing in private. That is why it is an undeniable fact—and I lay it to your consideration—that a disinterest in the gathering of God's people to sing God's praise and to hear God's Word in the public arena is somehow bearing illness, bearing acts of mercy, bearing considerations of godliness. It is somehow related to an absence of personal delight and joy in cultivating the nearness of God in the privacy of my own heart and in my own home. And people who do not sing in private will not sing in public.

People who do not pray in private will be bored with prayer in public. People who do not read their Bibles for themselves to discover the truth of God's Word will regard the exercise as prolonged and a nuisance and so on, and something to be dealt with as quickly as possible. And so James so wonderfully says, If you're going to understand God's grace which is given to you, then submit to God. Resist the devil.

Cultivate this intimacy with him. And remember what a wonderful thing it is that in Jesus you've been made kings and priests to God. Because in the Old Testament, the only people who could draw near to God were the priests, weren't they?

They had to go with sacrifices on behalf of the people who couldn't enter. And then Jesus dies on the cross, and the sacrifice for sin is made, and the curtain in the temple is torn in two, declaring access so that all may come confidently and boldly to the throne of grace, where they might find mercy and grace to help in their time of need. If you're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg, keep listening.

Alistair will return to close today's program. In addition to the daily Bible teaching you hear on Truth for Life, we also carefully select books that we can recommend to you to help you better understand scripture. Today's book is titled Radically Whole. It's a terrific supplement to our current series in the book of James. This book examines the entire book of James, going chapter by chapter. The book Radically Whole will help you put all of James' instruction into real life practice. As you read through the book, you'll learn how to overcome your natural will so you can serve God as he has instructed.

There are questions at the end of each chapter that provide a great framework for applying what you've learned. Now, today is the last day we're offering Radically Whole, so request your copy when you give a donation to support the ministry of Truth for Life. Go to truthforlife.org slash donate, or call us at 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. And today is the last day for you to download Alistair's audiobook, Brave by Faith Free of Charge. This is a book that looks at Daniel's experience living in the pagan culture of ancient Babylon, and it compares what he went through to our experience of living as Christians in today's world, a world that is increasingly dismissing God's authority. As you listen to this book, you'll be encouraged to remain faithful, to trust in God's promises, and to rest assured that God is in control even when he doesn't seem like it.

You can download your free copy of the Brave by Faith audiobook at truthforlife.org slash brave. By the way, if you listen to or watch Alistair online, we want to ask you to take a couple of minutes and answer a few questions about your online experience. Your feedback makes all the differences.

We seek to make the website and the mobile app as user-friendly and as helpful as possible. We have posted a brief survey at truthforlife.org slash survey. I hope you'll log on and take the survey. Thank you. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Father, we bless and praise you for your holy word, the Bible. We thank you for the gathering of your people and the encouragement that it gives to us to sit not alone, as happens during the week, but in the framework of others who love Jesus and want to follow him and know more about him and live in intimacy with him. So we pray that as we go, we might know your grace and your mercy and your peace, that which comes from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Is submission to God a call to abandon all effort and simply yield to God? We'll hear the answer tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-31 04:54:51 / 2023-08-31 05:03:46 / 9

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