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Good News for Lawbreakers (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 1, 2021 3:00 am

Good News for Lawbreakers (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 1, 2021 3:00 am

Studying the Ten Commandments can be quite convicting. Discover the true purpose of God’s law, and find out why it’s reassuring for some but fearful for others. Join us as we consider God’s pathway to freedom, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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In our continuing study of the Ten Commandments, have you found yourself experiencing conviction? Well, today on Truth for Life, we'll find out the true purpose of God's Law. It's intended to be reassuring for some of us and a source of fear for others. We continue our series titled Pathway to Freedom.

Here is Alistair Begg. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law. Rather, through the law, we become conscious of sin. We've been studying together the Ten Commandments, and as a result of that, none of us, I believe, have gone away believing that this has been an exercise in feeling good about ourselves. Not that we wanted by some strange punitive dimension just to feel bad, but we have been made painfully aware of the fact that confronted by God's perfect standard in the law, the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, none of us is able this morning to say anything other than that we are lawbreakers. We have broken God's law. The question is, what are we then to make of this message as it has come so clearly to us? The message has not been, if only everyone would get on with seeking to embrace the Ten Commandments, then we'd all be a lot better off. If that has appeared to be the message, then I have failed you.

You certainly have misunderstood I must have miscommunicated. If the reaction has been to say, well, I think what I've been learning is that I need to try a lot harder if I'm going to make a go of this Christian life business, then again, something has gone sadly wrong. However, if the studies have brought us to verse 20 of chapter 3 of Romans, then the Spirit of God has done his work. "'For through the law,' says Paul, we become conscious of our sin." I'd like this morning to address this, to wrap up, as it were, this series under three headings, the first of which is the condition to be faced.

The condition to be faced. We've been discovering—and we need to reaffirm it today—that the law of God was never given to save us. The Ten Commandments were not given as a stepladder up which we were to climb into heaven. Rather, what we've discovered is that the law of God has been given to pinpoint sin, to define it, to bring it out of its hiding place, as it were, and to show us the immensity of our problem. To show some of us who never believed that we had a problem that in actual fact we do. To show us that the wonderful good news can only be understood against the background of the bad news. To understand that the provision which God has made is only relevant in the heart and life of the individual who understands the awfulness of the condition that we face. So if you turn back a page to Romans chapter 1 and notice Paul's great declaration of the gospel, which begins in verse 16, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew and then for the Gentile. And Paul sets out this glorious theme, this tremendous declaration of good news, this word of mercy, this word of grace, this call to faith, this call to belief, this call to trust, this call to be saved. And he does so like setting a sparkling diamond on the black velvet, as it were, of the condition of men and women outside of Christ. Indeed, the gospel's significance may only be understood and adopted and discovered when first we have been made to see by the Spirit of God the context of our own sorry state. And the reason as to why many of us are ineffective in proclaiming the gospel, and the very reason that some of us remain in our sins, is because we have only had half a gospel to proclaim, or it is only half a gospel that we have received, and only half a gospel makes half a Christian, which is no Christian at all, which is an explanation as to why some who are engaging in religious activity have no assurance that the wonderful good news of the gospel has been made applicable to my life or to yours. So we must always start where the Bible starts, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, no matter how unappetizing it may be to the spiritual diet of modern man.

We must start where the Bible starts. Having said, I am delighted to proclaim the good news, what does he then immediately say in verse 18 of chapter 1? The reason he says, I'm so glad to have this message of good news is because the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress their truth by their wickedness. Now, the wrath of God is not some uncontrollable emotional outburst. That's how we understand wrath or anger from a human perspective, and we have great difficulty in conceiving of it in any other way.

But we must understand this. God is absolutely pure. God is absolutely holy. Therefore, God cannot tolerate that which is impure and unholy. That is why the prophet says that God cannot even look upon sin. But as a compass turns to the north, so God's settled reaction to sin is the outpouring of his wrath, so that God's wrath is revealed as the antithesis to the godlessness and the wickedness which ascends from the earth to his throne in heaven. He doesn't wink at sin. He doesn't excuse sin.

He doesn't play with sin. His settled reaction to sin is the unfolding, the outpouring of his wrath. Now, this is directly related to the condition of man, which Paul describes in these two key words. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all the, number one, godlessness, and then, number two, wickedness of men who suppress the truth. Now, I wonder, is the order important here?

I believe it is. Because wickedness is the byproduct of godlessness. When men and women are godless, they will then be wicked. And the reason for the wickedness of our culture this morning is it's godlessness. That modern man has rejected God, wholesally rejected God. Even those who say they believe in God, so many of them reject the God of the Bible, reject the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We've said many, many times that men and women today, when you use the word G-O-D, do not know what we're saying. God for them is a cosmic principle. God is the earth. God is this. God is that. God is whatever you want it to be. And so, with an embracing of the name God, they are nevertheless godless. And it is godlessness which gives rise to wickedness.

Now, let me work this out in your mind for a moment, if I may. Modern man is not prepared to face that. Modern man is prepared to accept the notion of wickedness, albeit under other terms, the fact that things are not the way they ought to be, the fact that we have some problems here and there and everywhere, actually. However, it's not that man is wicked. Modern man doesn't like a word like wicked. It's like a dagger.

It sticks in him, and he senses it may be true, so he pulls it out and throws it away. Oh, it's not that I'm wicked. It may be that I'm uneducated. It may be that I'm a little lost.

It may be that I'm a little wayward. But I'm not wicked. And even if I am wicked, I'm surely not godless. But there is a direct correlation between a godless culture and a wicked culture. There is a direct correlation between a godless man or woman and a wicked man or woman. And because our society refuses to accept the link between godlessness and wickedness, billions and billions of dollars are thrown after the symptoms while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the disease. So myriad programs—political programs, social programs, educational programs, financial programs—are conceived of from Washington into the highest realms of the land, and they stand up and display their total unwillingness to recognize that the state of affairs is on account of godlessness. And they think that a little trip to church here and a little holding of the Bible there and a little bit of religion on this side and a little bit of good works on that side will somehow placate whatever deity it is with whom we have to deal. But since we cannot say to people, you're not allowed to sleep with your girlfriend, since we cannot say to people homosexuality is wrong, is deviant behavior, we are left not addressing the disease but addressing the symptoms, and we are going to be subjected to the wholesale development of this for our children's children, because man's wickedness is due to godlessness and a godlessness that man refuses to accept. So while men and women will acknowledge that there is trouble in the street, there is lawlessness in the homes, there are guns in the schools, there is pain in the office, there is tragedy in the lives of developing teenagers, there are pains to explain it.

They shake their heads and say, I don't know how in the world we got here. Well, the Bible tells us how we got here. It says not only has God's wrath been revealed from heaven, but one of the indications and expressions of God's wrath is that when a culture continues to turn its back on him, God may choose to give that culture over to its own desires. Romans chapter 1 verse 24, therefore God gave them over. Verse 26, because of their reaction to him, the God, the Creator, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. And let the world say what it will, and let pomelaticians mumble in their beards, but let God be heard, let his word be sounded, and it is his word which is powerful for the salvation of men and women. And loved ones this morning, you better learn your Bible, and you better know your Bible, and you better say to your friends and to your neighbors, I can explain to you why we're in the predicament we're in.

Because God's wrath has been revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of man. How do you get a godless, wicked culture? You get godless, wicked individuals.

Isn't that right? You can't have a culture that isn't made of individuals, and individuals bring their own dimension to the culture. So that means that the problem is a personal problem. It's not ultimately a societal problem. You cannot change society by external means, top down. The only way a society or a culture is changed is by changed lives. That's why Paul narrows it down.

In chapter 3 again, and in verse 10, he says, there's no one righteous, not even one. You see, we don't have a problem this morning talking about our culture, do we? We're happy to talk about our culture. Oh, we're not abortionists. We're not feminists. We're not these bad people.

Oh, man, what a culture we have. We've got the Bible. We're evangelicals. We hang close to God. We come on Sundays. We're okay.

No, we're not. That's what the Jews were doing in Romans chapter 2. They said, the Gentiles?

What a bunch of scum. Man, do we hate those Gentiles, messing up the culture, all those godless people. But us, the Jews, we're the holy ones. We have the law. We wear it here. We wear it here.

We wear it here. And when we walk around, we're sure that God's going to accept us, because we have the law. We have the Ten Commandments. And what does Paul say to them?

You'll need to read it this afternoon. Paul says to them, listen, you're in an even worse position. At least these characters don't even have the Ten Commandments, and they stand condemned. You've got the very things that condemn you, and you're walking around holding them.

And the thing you're holding in your hand, he said, and the thing you're strapping to your forehead and tying to your wrist condemns you. Who are you to judge somebody else, he says? Who are we to judge other people? Who are we to condemn the culture in which we live? We are the culture. We are the people. We are the sinners.

That's the condition. Now, you answer me this. Is this the kind of message that contemporary bourgeois Americans want to hear?

Not in your jolly life, it isn't. Only a madman, a fool, would stand before a congregation and proclaim the Word of God in this way. I listen to the radio Sunday mornings, I listen to all these different sermons. Again, I heard the same old junk this morning, and he's telling the congregation, and what are we supposed to do?

We're supposed to do this kind of thing, and that kind of thing, and the next kind of thing. Never once did he say, we're supposed to proclaim the good news of the gospel. Why not? Because they don't believe it is necessary. Because they do not believe that God's wrath has been revealed from heaven against wickedness. Because they do not believe that man is wicked, they do not believe he is godless, and they don't believe in a God who would exercise wrath on the sins of men and women. So, ipso facto, you have no gospel.

You have got nothing to proclaim. The reason why some of us this morning sit in this congregation still in our sins is because we have never been brought by the Spirit of God to face our true condition before God's righteous standard. Some of us who are wondering about where we are in relationship to spiritual things are nowhere, because we have never been truly converted by the Spirit of God. We have exchanged one set of external circumstances for another. We once didn't go to church, and now we go. We once weren't interested in religious things, and now we are. We once didn't really care, and we didn't have a conscience, and now we do.

And so we add all of that together, and we say, Well, therefore, I must be in. I wanted to have a friend, and somebody told me Jesus is a friend. I wanted to have purpose, and somebody told me Jesus give me purpose. I wanted to be free from anxiety, and somebody told me Jesus give me freedom from anxiety.

But did you ever once hear Jesus say, I have come in order that you might have purpose? He said, I have come in order that you might have life. Now, why would he want to give life to people who have life? Because the life we have is not life. It's actually death. We are spiritually dead. But nobody's gonna put up their hand and say, Jesus, give me some of that life! Until first the Spirit of God says, You're a dead man.

You're a dead woman. Ninety-three years of American culture in the realm of conservative evangelicalism has bolstered up our notions of ourself and our own supposed goodness, thus preventing many of us from actually ever coming to genuine faith in Jesus Christ. I say to you again this morning, as I've said to you so many times, if there really are that many conservative evangelical born-again believers in the United States of America, what in the world is going on here? Are there really 30, 40, 50 million truly converted people in America? No. There are many who are living with an illusion, having never faced the condition.

You may be one of them. It doesn't matter how moral we appear. It doesn't matter how philanthropic we are. It doesn't matter how idealistic we may be or how apparent our righteousness is. None of that stuff transfers in the currency of God's kingdom. The purpose of the law, the purpose of the Ten Commandments, is to close our mouths. That's what he says in verse 19 of chapter 3.

The law speaks so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be accountable before God. The whole object of the Ten Commandments, then, is to show us that we must be saved, and secondly, to show us that we cannot save ourselves. So we do the Ten Commandments, and we go, This is a message that says we need somebody to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Now, if we have truly come to faith in Christ, this is a reassuring thing.

If we never have, then it is a nerve-jangling thing. Because what Paul has said is that irrespective of our background, whether we're a clueless pagan or whether we are a religious person, all of us has missed the mark. You'll notice there in verse 22, there's no difference. Verse 23, For all have sinned, and all fall short of the glory of God. We all flunked. We all flunked. The test papers came back, and nobody got anything other than an F. So he says, Oh, I got a high F. I was very close to a D. I mean, I got a better F than you got. Yeah, but you got an F. It's all Fs. Everyone got an F. The only person who ever got an A was Jesus. And he got an A so that our F may go down the tubes, and he may put his A in our place, and that God may accept us because of his A irrespective of our F. But do you know how many people in this church, Sunday by Sunday, go out of here assuming that the message is, I've got to bring my grade up? I've got to bring my grade up. I'm sure I'm getting an F, and I need to get it at least to a D or a C or a good B. I've got to get my grade up. Hear me this morning if you've never heard me before. If you work from now to the day you die, you cannot do one thing to get anything else other than an F. There is not one religious thing I can do, not one philanthropic thing I can do.

There is not a thing I can do to alter my grade. Now, until I understand that, I am in the most perilous condition. Because I will then be living with the potential for considering that all these things that I am able to do or all these things that I trust in will somehow or another change my condition before God. And it's okay for the pagan, and it's okay for somebody else, but this isn't a message for me. We've got a dreadful problem in our culture. Yeah, look in the mirror. Okay?

You got it? Is that a good enough expression of the bad news? That is Alistair Begg reminding us that we are all lawbreakers, all in need of a Savior. You're listening to Truth for Life, part one of a message titled Good News for Lawbreakers. Here at Truth for Life, we believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God. This is a foundational element of our faith, and that's one of the reasons we're excited to tell you about today's book recommendation. It's titled Spurgeon on the Power of Scripture. Charles Spurgeon was a well-known preacher in the 19th century. His powerful sermons and his passion to preach God's Word have influenced pastors ever since, including Alistair. The book Spurgeon on the Power of Scripture contains seven compelling sermons from Charles Spurgeon that help drive home the idea that when we read the Bible, we are reading the Word of God. Spurgeon believed, and he preached, that Scripture is God speaking to us, that his promises can be trusted. All seven of these sermons have been edited for easier reading.

They've been purposefully selected to increase your confidence and your certainty in the Bible. Discover how Scripture directs our daily lives, how it can help us endure the trials we experience in life, and even face death with comfort and peace. Request a copy when you make a donation to Truth for Life today. Just click the image of the book Spurgeon on the Power of Scripture on our app, or visit our website at truthforlife.org slash donate. By the way, if you're shopping online at Amazon this holiday season, did you know you can support Truth for Life at the same time? Simply access Amazon's full store by going to the website AmazonSmile.com, and then designate Truth for Life as your preferred nonprofit partner. When you do, Amazon will donate a percentage of your total purchase price directly to Truth for Life. Not just today, but every time you shop. It's a wonderful way to invest in the gospel this holiday season.

So again, go to AmazonSmile.com. I'm Bob Lapeen. Thanks for listening. Today we heard the bad news. We are helpless sinners unable to save ourselves from God's righteous wrath. So now what? Well, be sure to listen tomorrow as we'll hear the good news about the provision God has made that gives us hope. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-15 18:55:44 / 2023-07-15 19:04:23 / 9

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