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Do Not Give the Devil a Foothold (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 9, 2024 3:00 am

Do Not Give the Devil a Foothold (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 9, 2024 3:00 am

The apostle Paul often reminded his readers that their behavior needed to be consistent with their new identity in Christ. Find out how it’s possible to reflect your faith by your lifestyle—and to do so joyfully. Listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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The Apostle Paul often reminded his readers that their behavior as believers needed to be consistent with their new identity as children of God.

Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg teaches us how it's possible to reflect our faith through our lifestyle and to do it joyfully. Ephesians 4 and verse 25. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.

Let the thief steal no longer, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Amen. I want us today to study these concluding verses of the chapter under two headings. First of all, this morning, coming from verse 27, do not give the devil a foothold, as it is in the NIV. Do not give the devil a foothold. And then in the evening, in verse 30, do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

So we'll think along the lines of Paul's instruction with that as, if you like, our guiding framework. They found each other on Facebook. If I had a dollar for every time that sentence has become the occasion of a bad story, we could all almost go out to lunch together. You say, Well, you've never been a fan of Facebook, but you don't have to be so mean. Well, it's not to do with Facebook at all. There are clearly benefits to social networking. But those benefits do not come on their own, and there are peculiar dangers that attach to them. The one to which I allude is the opportunity that it creates for happily married couples to search the internet for and to find and to re-engage with friends and lovers from their past. Well, says somebody, it's clearly possible to do that without it being an occasion of disruption.

Agreed. But it is a potential emotional loophole. It is, and has proved to be—at least from my experience in responding to people—an occasion for giving the devil a foothold. Therefore, wisdom says, as in the book of Proverbs, you don't go down that road, you don't walk by that place, you don't approach those areas.

And if that is true in terms of physical activity, then surely it applies in the realm of scanning and scrolling social media. Why is it so important? Well, because marriage, you see, has changed everything.

And I'm speaking expressly using this analogy. Marriage has changed everything. When a man and a woman become husband and wife, they sever once and for all the ties and associations and affections which were part of their single state, even to the extent of parental ties. For this reason, a man will leave his father and his mother. So, as much as I love my mom, she needs to cut the apron strings that attach me to her, because I have new apron strings to pay attention to, because I am now married.

Keep yourself only unto her, says the marriage service, and do so as long as you both shall live. Therefore, anything that would violate that or would impinge upon that is to be guarded against. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and he will be united to his wife. And that union is the closest union that exists in humanity. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother, he'll be united to his wife, they will become one flesh. And in that one flesh union, no longer are they two, but they are now one.

Now, once that has been established, that covenant in marriage has to be ratified sixty seconds a minute, sixty minutes an hour, twenty-four hours a day, for the rest of our lives. And indeed, it is our new identity within the framework of that covenant that constrains, controls, directs all of our activity as it relates to interpersonal relationships. So, to create an emotional loophole is, as I say, to give the devil a foothold. Now, Paul is warning here about giving the devil a foothold. And I think the analogy is fair.

No analogy is perfect. But insofar as we have been united to Christ—bride and bridegroom, and we a part of that in Jesus—we have been united to Christ, and in being united with Christ, as we saw last time, we have put off the old self, and we have put on the new. We were previously in Adam, but now we are in Christ. It is now because we are in Christ that certain aspects of that relationship are worked out in the same way as in marriage on a daily basis. Paul has been saying to these Ephesian believers and to all who are believers through them, no longer will they live as they once did, because in Christ they are no longer what they once were.

Previously you could go out and around and do whatever you want and see your friends and different things, but that has all changed now—gloriously changed, but changed. And in the case of these individuals, formerly they lived in a kingdom that was marked by darkness. Now he says they live in a kingdom that is all light. Previously, they had lived within the framework of deceit and deceitful desires, but now they have been created—according to the verse with which we concluded last time, verse 24—they have been created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. It's quite a phrase, isn't it?

Leading one almost inevitably to ask the question, So what does that look like? What does it mean to be created after the likeness of God? After all, Adam was created in the image of God.

That image was marred as a result of sin. The implications of that run through the totality of humanity, and only in Christ is a man or a woman made new. And when we are made new, we are made new recreated after the new Adam—namely, Jesus—who, in being raised from the dead, is the first fruit of all who have fallen asleep. And as he, as it were, leads us forward in the charge, we have been made absolutely new. Well, the answer to that question actually comes now in these imperatives that conclude the chapter, in fact, go on into the remaining chapters. And what Paul is saying is simple and yet important. The behavior of the Ephesian believers must be entirely consistent with the new person they have become.

It is incongruous, he says, to have been brought into Christ, to have put off the old, put on the new, and then immediately gone back to where you were before. Staying with the analogy of marriage just for a moment, Paul Overstreet, who was here with us years ago, has written a number of really good songs. Most people don't know the songs that he wrote.

And most of you don't listen to country music anyway, because you're very intelligent. But those of you who do may know—I say it with the greatest respect to the country Western contingency among us, but I listen. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to quote this song. You may know it. The title of the song is On the Other Hand. On the Other Hand. It's classic country Western play on words.

The songwriter says, I met this girl, I'm a married man, I met the girl, I'm sitting talking with her, and we realize that there's something going on here. And so he says, On the one hand, I could stay, but on the other hand, there's a golden band that reminds me of someone who wouldn't understand. On the one hand, but on the other hand. In other words, the symbol of the identity is there to remind the individual. It may not prevent approaches from the outside. But it sure is there to say, Hey, do you know who you are?

You better get out of here! You don't want to give the devil a foothold, do you? And I'm not gonna ask you to put up your hands, but I want to know how many men actually wear wedding pants. And for those of you who don't, start.

And next, why does your wife have to wear one, if you don't? Okay? Now, you're tracking with me, right?

Okay. We're married to Christ. Let's just make the analogy that way. We have been united with Christ. Once that was not true of us, and there were things that marked our lives that were inevitably part and parcel of that. But now we have been placed in Christ. We have been redeemed, he says in chapter 1. He goes into chapter 2, and he says we have been raised with Christ. He says we have been seated with him in the heavenly places.

It's all very wonderful. And it's very, very important that we understand that Paul does not begin his letter to the Ephesians with a series of imperatives. He doesn't say, Dear Ephesians, put off falsehood. Dear Ephesians, have nothing to do with this, have nothing to do with that.

No. He says, Dear Ephesians, isn't it amazing that God, from all of eternity, has a plan to include you in his family, to adopt you, to redeem you, to make you new, to seat you with him in the heavenly places, and so on? In other words, he essentially spends three chapters saying, What a wonder it is to have a new identity in Christ!

And then on the strength of that, he says, Now let's think about what the activity is of those who enjoy that identity. So, perhaps three things by way of clarification to note. One, he is clearly not providing a how-to-become-a-Christian manual.

Okay? So if you read these verses, or when I read these verses, you said, Oh, I get it. These are the things you're supposed to try and do. And if you try and do these things and you get it on the right side, then presumably God will be happy with you, and then you could call yourself a Christian.

No. He's not providing a how-to manual. He is actually explaining the nature of progress in Christian discipleship. And he's making it clear to the Ephesian believers that there is a principle that is involved in this, which we might refer to as displacement and replacement. And these things happen simultaneously.

We have put off the old, we have put on the new. One does not exist without the other. And so we will see that that principle continues throughout all of these imperatives. It is not simply enough to have embraced the negative side of it without the positive, or to try and be positive without taking care of the negative. And he's making it clear that this kind of progress in Christian discipleship does not happen in a vacuum.

Doesn't happen in a vacuum. You see, church history reveals those who have suggested the idea that to be created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, the only way to achieve that probably is just to go away and live in a box or somewhere, or live in a monastery or in a convent or in a cave. Because after all, there is so much around us that just will infect us and tempt us and move us and change us, and so there's no possibility of it. Well, we might understand their motivation or their desire, but it doesn't work.

And the reason it doesn't work is because the number-one problem is not the environment. My number-one problem is me. You see, you can put me in a monastery, but it's still me in the monastery—still me with my own perverse heart, still me with my own inordinate desires, still me wrestling with what it means to be a new person in Christ and ratifying that on a daily basis, because on the other hand… I could, but on the other hand… Now, when you think about this, you realize what a wonder it is that God has provided for us his law— namely, the Ten Commandments summarizing the law of God—in order to show us our sin. People say, Well, I'm not a sinner. Well, just take out the Ten Commandments and read them. And ask yourself, how many of them have you kept? Don't even go through the whole of your life.

Just go since yesterday. That'll be enough. Then you'll know immediately that you're a lawbreaker. Okay, now you've discovered that you're a lawbreaker. How are you gonna put yourself right with God, since you've broken his law?

Well, says somebody, I'll just try and do much better tomorrow, and I'll try and get to at least six out of ten. But no, the law of God, you see, is not a ladder up which we climb to acceptance with God, but the law of God serves, first of all, as a mirror that shows us how dirty we are and how we are needing a Savior who has kept the law in its entirety and who has paid the penalty of the law in the shedding of his own blood. Oh, so that's how it works.

Then, says somebody, oh, that's perfect. Once we get to there, then we're done with all of the law stuff and the imperative stuff and so on. We just can get on our own now. No!

No, we can't. No, the Puritans help us in this, reminding us that the place, the third place of the law in our lives—which is really what we're dealing with here when we come to these imperatives—rather, if we put it like this, the law of God, honeyed with the love of Christ, has a majesty and power to keep from sin. So you take the law of God and pour in a little honey in the love of Christ, and so now God's love shed abroad in my heart. He loved me, and out of love for him, I don't do one thing that would violate his covenant. And how would I know whether I'm violating the covenant? Well, by paying attention to the rules of the covenant.

John Owen put it like this. A universal respect for the commandments of God is the only preservation from shame. A universal respect for the commandments of God is the only preservation from shame.

You think about the shameful things that you and I have done in our lives. I guarantee you, every one of them has violated the commands of God. If we kept the commands of God, then there wouldn't be the shame. That's why our culture is so concerned to say there are no commands of God. There is no God. Or if there is a God, he exists within you. But there's not a God who stands outside of time. There's not a lawgiver, and therefore there is a law that demands.

No, we have to remove that. And we live with the implications of it. The Westminster Confession of Faith—just to belabor this purposefully—the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it like this. The Spirit of Christ subdues and enables the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God revealed in the law requires to be done. So what is the work of the Spirit of God within our hearts?

To subdue and enable us to do freely and joyfully what the law says we are to do. The psalmist in Psalm 119 says, I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought your precepts. It's not uncommon to move around church circles where people say, I will walk about in freedom, because I'm completely free to make my own choices. I just decide inside of myself what I think should be done.

I imagine that this could be the case and so on. If you read Pilgrim's Progress, it will disavow you of that kind of thing. You find that in formalist and hypocrisy in Pilgrim's Progress, where that's exactly their little speech to Pilgrim. And Pilgrim says to them, I walk by the rule of my master, and you walk by the rude working of your fancies.

You're walking on the basis of the imagination of your own hearts. Well, I think it would be okay. Well, I don't suppose it's a problem.

Well, I said, duh-duh, duh-duh, duh-duh. So how did you meet this woman that you tell me now should have been the person that you married, despite the fact you've been married for fifteen years to somebody else? How did you meet her?

I met her on the internet. Tell me how you feel about that. Well, I feel—I don't give a rat's tail how you feel right now. This is what you're gonna have to deal with. Unless, of course, you want to proceed on the basis of your vain imagination.

Loved ones, this is of crucial significance. And an understanding of this will be the difference between, in many cases, success and failure, restoration and obliteration, progress, digress, regress—in simple, straightforward terms, simply saying, I will walk about in freedom, because I have obeyed your precepts in obedience. How will I be obeyed? Because the work of the Spirit of God is to subdue and to enable.

How does he do that? He brings the Bible to me, and then as the Bible comes to me, he says to me, Come on now, Beck, let's get this sorted out. William Cowper, who gave us God Moves in a Mysterious Way, his Wonders to Perform, has a wonderful hymn, part of which goes like this.

To see the law by Christ fulfilled and hear his pardoning voice changes a slave into a child and duty into choice. That's the mystery of it. That's the wonder of it. That's the nature of it. And you see, if we get this wrong—if you get it wrong, if I get it wrong—it changes everything.

It changes the flavor of everything. It turns a congregation into a congregation full of legalists or liars or loonies. It's imperative that we understand it. The indicatives of all that is ours in Christ provide the foundation for the imperatives. And in the instruction that follows, as I say to you again, he's not giving a guide to becoming a Christian but an outline of the lifestyle of those who by grace through faith have been placed in Christ. You see, that's a long introduction. I admit that freely.

But it's important. You're listening to Truth for Life, that is, Alistair Begg, highlighting the vital work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian's life. Today's message is titled, Do Not Give the Devil a Foothold.

We'll hear more tomorrow. One way we can better resist temptation is by spending time studying God's Word. And today we want to recommend a book to you, a one-year devotional titled, Refreshment for the Soul. This is a new collection of reflections drawn from the writing of Puritan author Richard Sibbes, a pastor who is often described as a man on fire with a passion for the Gospel. As you read each of these rich daily entries, you'll reflect on a verse from Scripture followed by a few straightforward and compelling insights from Sibbes. You'll find these daily readings to be, well, exactly what the title of the book says, Refreshment for Your Soul. Here's one excerpt from one of the devotionals. Sibbes writes, Is it not a comfort for Christians to know that Christ has the Spirit to give, the Spirit of wisdom in all difficulties, the Spirit of truth to keep us from all errors, the Spirit of strength for all services, the Spirit of comfort for all afflictions.

Our Lord Jesus has abundance of Spirit in him and for us. Ask for your copy of the book, Refreshment for the Soul, when you donate today. Your financial support helps distribute Bible teaching throughout the world through radio, online, satellite, various streaming channels. You can give a one-time gift at slash donate, or you can arrange to set up an automatic monthly donation when you visit slash truthpartner. And keep in mind, every time you give a gift to Truth for Life, you're helping to bring Bible teaching to the far reaches of the world. While you may listen to Truth for Life alone in your home or your car, there are countless others all around the globe listening right alongside you. So as a Truth Partner, your giving truly will help bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. There are people listening in places like India, South Africa, New Zealand, people who write to us to express their gratitude for Truth Partner support. And if you're not a Truth Partner already, why don't you join this significant team?

Again, the link to sign up is at slash truthpartner. Now next week, we'll begin a series titled Dangers, Toils, and Snares. It's a study that will help you navigate the worries of life by turning your attention to God's Word and His promises. To accompany the series, there's a brand new study guide available from Truth for Life that you may want to order before the series gets started. You'll find a total of 14 sessions in this study guide. Each lesson includes a brief commentary on the corresponding sermon by Alistair, reflection questions, and the hymn, so you can sing praise to God.

Search for the Dangers, Toils, and Snares study guide at slash dangers, where you can purchase it as a booklet or download it for free. We are so glad you've joined us today. Tomorrow, we'll find out how anger, even righteous anger, can become a conduit for sin. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-09 05:19:08 / 2024-01-09 05:28:15 / 9

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