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“Refresh My Heart” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
July 29, 2021 4:00 am

“Refresh My Heart” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 29, 2021 4:00 am

Holding grudges while minimizing our own wrongs is a struggle we all face. So how can we overcome it? Join us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg teaches us how God’s grace can bring about reconciliation even when it seems humanly impossible.



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Have you ever found yourself trying to find a way to justify holding a grudge against someone else while at the same time freely accepting God's forgiveness for you?

This is a struggle every believer faces, and today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains how God's grace enables reconciliation even when that seems humanly impossible. I invite you to turn to Philemon, the tiny letter in between Titus and Hebrews. We come this morning to our third and final study in what is this tiny letter, a very important letter, right here towards the end of the New Testament.

Verse 17. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him, that is, Onesimus, as you would welcome me. If he's done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back, not to mention that you owe me your very self. I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask. And one thing more, prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.

And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Well, I think if we were summarizing the message of this letter, as we've said before, we would employ just one word, and the word would be reconciliation. Calvin says that the gospel is the embassy of reconciliation between God and man.

If you think of the embassies of the world, and you go down Embassy Row, you find that the flags are flying outside of all of the embassies, identifying themselves with the nation from which they've come, and identifying themselves with the characteristics of all that that flag represents. And the notion is that flying, as it were, from the portals of the church of Jesus Christ is this flag which speaks of reconciliation—bringing God to man, and man to God, and men to one another, all in the wonderful evidences of God's goodness. And the more I've read this little letter, the more I wondered whether Paul had something of 2 Corinthians 5 in his mind, where in the second half of 2 Corinthians 5 he speaks about the message of reconciliation that has been entrusted to him and to his colleagues, reminding his readers that God has not only reconciled us to himself but has then committed to as a ministry of reconciliation. So that in the same way that John writes, Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Here, in emblematic form, in this letter, it becomes clear that we daren't claim to love God whom we cannot see if we're failing to love our brother who stands before as plain as day. And in the case of Philemon, of course, this was concrete in the life of Onesimus. Let me just reinforce this, and you can turn to 2 Corinthians 5 if you choose.

I want just to point this out to you. In verse 16 of 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says, From now on, since we've been reconciled to God, it not only changes our relationship with God, but it changes the way in which we view the world, the way in which we view everything and everyone. So, verse 16. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, and the new has come. If you put that in terms of this little letter that we have before us, what it means is, so from now on we don't look at Onesimus the way we used to.

We used to look at him simply as someone who was a general nuisance and who had broken the law and had run away and stolen his master's possessions. But we no longer look at Onesimus that way, nor does Onesimus look at Philemon the way he used to look at him. And the reason for the transformation is that both Onesimus the slave and Philemon the wealthy owner of the slave and the prosperous homeowner, both of them have been made new in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And it is on account of that, and on the basis of that, that Paul is able to make his appeal in the writing of this letter. In the interests of clarity and brevity, I want to gather our thoughts simply around four imperatives which make up Paul's appeal. And the first of these is, Welcome Onesimus.

Welcome Onesimus. If your eyes are open at your text, you will see in verse 17, he says, So … building on what he's already written … so if you consider me a partner, welcome him, as you would welcome me. The word there for partner is koinonon, and it is directly tied to verse 6, where you will remember in that difficult verse, we noted that this idea of sharing in the faith—the word there for sharing is koinonia—and in keeping with that, Paul now addresses Philemon on those same terms.

And he says, Our partnership is something that is very deep, it is very significant, we share in the faith, it is the faith that has been given to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. And so if you consider me as one sharing in that faith with you, then I want you to welcome Onesimus. Back in verse 13, Onesimus is said to have fulfilled the role of Philemon to Paul, and here he is now fulfilling the role of Paul to Philemon.

I know I can't get there. To receive the welcome you would give me, so give it instead to Onesimus. If I were to show up, Philemon, I know you would give me a big welcome, and I'm not able to show up at the moment, but Onesimus is going to, and therefore I want you to give the hug that you would give to me to him.

Now, this all may seem very straightforward and almost sort of easy, so let me put it in far more concrete terms for us. Since none of us are able to identify with Philemon as a wealthy slave owner, nor with Onesimus as a slave, what has happened here is that there has been a breakdown in their relationship—a significant and deep breakdown in their relationship. Onesimus has offended gravely and significantly against his master. He has run away from his master. His master has every reason to be offended by his actions and to show him no encouragement upon his return. And yet, this letter calls for Philemon to do something which is, frankly, supernatural.

And indeed, asks of Onesimus an action which he would not naturally have been interested in performing. Have you ever been deeply offended by someone? Has anyone dreadfully wronged you—emotionally, physically, financially? Have you forgiven them from your heart? Are you reconciled to them?

At the deepest level of your life. Or is it simply that you have allowed the passage of time to, as it were, cover over a multitude of sins, and so you think that because you've managed not to bring it up or not to mention it over a period of years that it is dealt with, but inside you know that it isn't? And at your core, you remain unreconciled to that individual. At the very heart level of life, forgiveness is not the marker. And the Bible calls for each of us who are in Christ to welcome one another with the same level of welcome that we have received from Jesus. It's not easy.

In fact, it's impossible, apart from the empowering grace of God. When our children were small, we used to urge them always to be reconciled to one another, especially before they went to bed. And we would force them to hug each other whether they wanted to or not. I want you to say sorry, or I want you to say forgive me, and then I want you to hug your sister, or I want you to hug your brother. I'm sure that you do the same thing.

If you don't, you should institute it. And one of the three who was never particularly keen on the moment of reconciliation, when it came time for the hug, this tiny little person that she was and is, she would stick out her stomach like this. She'd make herself as big as she possibly could, thereby preventing any kind of closure with her sister. They could touch belly buttons maybe, but that would be all that would happen. And we would say, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not like that. A proper hug. A proper hug.

Because that will mean that she needs to become more concave than convex if she is to welcome to herself the one with whom she is in need of reconciliation. In the early seventies, when we were in Scotland and working in Edinburgh, we worked in a church planned out from the central church in a housing area of government housing, where many young people over a period of just a few years were radically and wonderfully converted. And the church grew very, very quickly.

And many of these young men had been particularly tough characters in gangs in the suburbs of Edinburgh, many of them bearing in the scars on their faces and hands the evidences of their fights with one another. And therefore, it was all the more compelling to be amongst them as a group and to have them singing songs that we weren't singing in the larger and older building. And I still have a strong sense of wonder when they would sing to each other, I love you with the love of the Lord, and I love you with the love of the Lord. And many of these really hard-bitten guys would turn and face each other, people who had been their enemies, and tangibly convey that to be reconciled to the living God against whom they had offended so incredibly. It was imperative that they lived in reconciliation with one another. Is there anyone that you are unprepared to welcome? You profess faith in Jesus. You remain unreconciled to your brother or to your sister.

You refuse to forgive them from your heart. I guarantee you, to the extent that we're willing to do so, it reveals that we have minimized our offense against God, and we have maximized their offenses against us. Secondly, not only welcome Onesimus, but I want you to charge it to me. Charge it to me. If you consider me a partner, and he does, and if he's done anything wrong, verse 18, and he has, then charge it to me.

Charge it to my account. It makes you think, if you know your New Testament at all, of the parable of the good Samaritan. How the good Samaritan, when he came to the man who had been beaten on the roadway, poured in oil and wine and bound up his wounds and set him on his donkey and took him to an inn and took care of him there. And then in the King James Version, it says, And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, Take care of him, and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again I will repay thee.

Take care of him, and I will make sure that all the charges are covered. You see, there is a sense in which it was for Paul a great challenge to send Onesimus back. He wanted to keep him for himself. He's letting him go, because it's the right thing to do. But he doesn't simply say that. He says, And when you welcome him back, any wrong that he's done, any charge that he has accrued, you can charge it to me, to my account. In other words, what's he being like? He's being like Jesus.

He's being like Jesus. Because that is exactly what Jesus says when he sends the sinner, as it were, back to his father. He says, Father, charge all of their indebtedness to my account.

Charge it all to me. 2 Corinthians 5 again, that he wasn't counting men's sins against them, because he was counting men's sins against his son. And Christ bears all of the punishment that sinners deserve. This, my friends, is the gospel. This is the gospel. The gospel is not Do you have issues in your life? Jesus takes care of issues. The gospel is not Do you need to know how to fix your finances?

We can do that. The gospel is not How to deal with relationships interpersonally. The gospel is none of that. Those things are all fruits of the gospel. But let me tell you what the gospel is. The gospel is the story of what God has done historically in a moment in time for those who had turned their backs on God—namely, all of us in our sin. It is the reminder to us that we have been alienated from God by our sins, and he from us by his wrath.

So there is a double alienation. We alienated from God who made us on account of our sins, walking off in our own way, and God alienated from us on account of his wrath, which is meted out against sin and which must punish sin. So if reconciliation between the sinner and God is going to happen, God must be able to look on the sinner without displeasure, and the sinner must be able to look at God without fear. Question.

How can that possibly happen? How may we stand before God without fear, and how may a perfectly holy God look on us as sinners without displeasure? The answer is that that transaction has taken place in Christ. As in his death, God's wrath is turned away from us, and our sin is canceled as it is imputed to Christ. And it is this great exchange that lies at the very heart of this doctrine of reconciliation. And it is when the wonder of this great exchange truly grips and changes a life that such an appeal as this may be responded to on account of the difference that this grace makes in a life. So, he says, here is my IOU.

That's what he's saying. Verse 19, I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. The legalities of Rome demanded that an IOU be written in the hand of the one who was covering the promissory note. So Paul, as it were, takes the pen from the hand of his secretary, and he says, Let me write this part.

It is important. I, Paul, am covering this charge. This is my IOU to you. You will see that it is written in my own hand. I have signed it in my own name.

Any debt that has been incurred I will cover. And then, almost humorously, at the end of that verse, he says, Now, I'm not going to mention the fact that you owe me your very self. And by not mentioning it, of course, he mentions it.

I don't want to mention this, he says, thereby mentioning it. He knows what he's doing. He never expects to have to pay the charge, because Philemon understands that that which he owes to Paul is his very life. And this is the verse that makes clear to us that Paul was used not only to see Onesimus become a follower of Jesus but also to see Philemon become a follower of Jesus. And what Paul is saying is, I'm sure that I can appeal to you on this basis, and I want you to know that I will cover everything, but I'm not going to mention the fact that, really, when push comes to shove, you owe your entire existence to me. Your eternal destiny under God is tied to my account. And so, in a sense, what he's saying is, I led you to Christ, and here's your chance to repay me.

Welcome him, charge it to me. Thirdly, refresh my heart. Verse 20, I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord. Yes, brother, is how the Greek begins. Yes, brother.

It's almost as if he is thinking as he goes along, and he says what he said, and then he says, Yes, brother, gathering up all that is gone before. I'd like some benefit from you. Interestingly, the word here for benefit, oniamen, is derived from the same root as the word Onesimus.

Okay? If you think about it, Onesimus means useful, oniamen means benefit, and so he is continuing his pun. He's already said, Onesimus, whose name means useful, was useless, Christ has made him useful again, and he's coming back to you. And by the way, I would like you to give me some benefit, and I'm appealing to you as my brother. As my brother. As a partner, verse 17. As a brother. This is the Christian family, loved ones. This is what it actually means to be in Christ. It's not a private matter to be in Christ. It is a personal matter, but it isn't private. When we are brought into Christ, we're brought into a whole family of people, and they are our brothers and sisters. Funny ones, weird ones, nice ones, ugly ones, distasteful ones—all kinds.

You know, whatever cap fits, put it on at whatever hour of the day. We are family in Christ. There are some profound implications that accompany being a part of God's family, as we'll see tomorrow as we listen to part two of this message on Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. As many of you know, this letter to Philemon that we are studying is one of many letters written by the Apostle Paul during years that he was in prison.

He wrote to local churches and also wrote to other individuals. It was in his letter to Timothy that Paul explained that all of Scripture is God-breathed, it's inspired, and it's profitable for teaching. That's the reason we teach directly from the Bible on Truth for Life. In fact, it's our mission to open the Scriptures every day so that those who listen might come to understand exactly what God's word says and means. We trust that God will use the Bible teaching on this program to help unbelievers become followers of Jesus, that he will further establish believers in their faith, and that as a result pastors and local churches will be encouraged and strengthened.

That's the mission you're supporting when you partner with us at Truth for Life financially. And to show our thanks for your giving today, we'd like to send you a book by Alistair Begg called Pray Big, Learn to Pray Like an Apostle. I'm sure that by now you've heard me mention that this wonderful little book by Alistair looks at the Apostle Paul's prayers for the believers in Ephesus. This book highlights five key qualities that we find in Paul's bold prayers. But it's one thing to study the pattern for prayer, it's another thing to put that into practice. That's why we're including along with the book a study guide to help you or your small group apply the teaching from this book one step at a time. There's also a brief prayer at the end of each chapter in this book. You can pray the prayer exactly as it's written or use it as a model to inspire you as you put your own words to prayer, asking God to work in big, bold ways. Don't wait to request your copy of the book Pray Big.

It's only available a couple of more days. You can make a generous one-time donation by tapping the image you see on the mobile app or you can visit truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Again that's 888-588-7884. If you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at P.O. Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. By the way, you can also purchase a copy of the audiobook version of the book Pray Big. It's read by Alistair.

You can download it or we'll send it to you on a USB drive. Simply visit truthforlife.org slash store for more details. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. Join us again tomorrow as we learn why it's important to be intentional about the words we choose to use around our Christian brothers and sisters. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-19 04:23:27 / 2023-09-19 04:32:02 / 9

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