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A Bible Teacher’s Backstory (Interview) (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 30, 2021 3:00 am

A Bible Teacher’s Backstory (Interview) (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 30, 2021 3:00 am

Bob Lepine recently had the opportunity to talk with Alistair Begg about his life growing up. Listen in to hear Alistair share stories about people and events that influenced his faith and his call to pastoral ministry. Join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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We have a very special program today on Truth for Life.

Suddenly I have the opportunity to sit down with Alistair Begg and spend time talking about his life growing up in Scotland today were to share this conversation with you as you listen you will get a chance to find out more about Alister personally but some of the people and events that influenced his faith and to hear about his call to pastoral ministry the spiritual legacy of the big family goes back a long way.

Well, it goes on my father's side. Yes, it goes back up into the highlands and end up then into Scottish Presbyterianism, which was not my background in growing up, but the legacy that lingers. You know those statements that find themselves embedded with every family, like my father would say what's 40 will not go by you is while that's not that's not just your average sentiment so you beneficially affect and I've heard you describe the church environment in which you grew up as being pretty proper, pretty strict. What was a combo actually it depends on who I was talking to and exactly what era they were referencing when I'm answering that question because an interesting thing happened that when my grandparents moved from the Highlands down to client scores have said a man who was a Highlands score as well and I don't know the details of it, but he came to become the superintendent of a mission that was established by Moody and Sankey at the at the turn-of-the-century and it was there that my father was converted as a 13-year-old boy so that was one piece of the puzzle.

Then school would be at the local Church of Scotland church and in various other forms introduced to a set of all manners of evangelicalism so as to George's strong parish church that is probably the environment that people have reflected on because of described sitting in there is a boy and watching the beetle come up and opened the door and open the Bible and then go down the stairs again me that that riveted me that was drama you know and he created this great sense of expectation very different from the set of low-level average beginning of some of our contemporary efforts. So you had exposure to the town hall to the high church right simultaneously. So there. Now you've got now you've got the Highlands Scott you've got the Presbyterian Church and I've got you got the Baptist Church as well and when we went to England in the small town that we lived in we went to the Baptist Church. There and the minister there was a kindly man but he was pretty hopeless and so my life then I say came alive spiritually went in search of our phone good material and this is my driver's license at 17, which is when you get it in the UK. The man that was highly influential at that time was a follicle, David Watson, who was an Anglican cleric in York, we would I would load up a few my friends in the car and we would drive to York on Sunday evenings are in order that we could listen to this fellow preach while I'm fascinated that 17 you get your drivers license and your loading up friends to drive 40 miles on Sunday to hear somebody preach. There are many 17-year-olds, then or now who are doing that. How did that happen. Well, we could mix a little Billy Graham into it as well. How at 16 Billy Graham was back in Britain in the Elves Ct. in London that material was then relayed to centers throughout the country and one of the centers was Leeds which is about 20 miles roughly from Italy where I live.

So I to my friends to hear Billy Graham. I don't know what happened to them but I know what happened to me. The analogy they used was some of you. Your lives are like a radio that you're actually tuned into the signal but your volume control is way down low and the reason it's down low is because of the state of your own spiritual pilgrimage and and and I want to encourage you tonight to resolve to be done with that and so in the midst of all that great embarrassment to my friends, you know, I'm the guy that goes. I go up to the front so I get a counselor who is who only knows how to deal with the sort of regular gas is you right so the first person they said you know well you do this and in admittance that is not done all I says no I am here. I can remember, the person was, but he went away to get like this is like every other top 20 or so.

I can remember her finish, but I went home and my father would was was up I don't. My mother was up but I he said I was so that I don't know what happened on I said and I told him what happened.

He said well because my father led me to the Lord as a young boy, he said well I think what is happened is simply this, that is somebody like you and Kristin environment like this has to get to a point where you make this all your own and where without the divine the description of the flatus of your parents or whoever else it is you get to decide you enter your and he says sounds to me like tonight it's been at least a point on that journey which important a fight it was. And so it was catalytic coming. I've never tried to do things together until now that you mention them to me.

But there was created in me then it a genuine interest in and hunger for the Bible and for and new heroes became people who love the Bible love Jesus and were really good at teaching it.

As you look back on your Billy Graham experience and and try to put a theological grid over the second work of grace. Was this your actual conversion what what you think you know I think it wasn't just a step on the journey. Definitely not a second work of grace and what it wasn't because I was clear you know when the counselor tried to secure my conversion. I said no, no, no, I got I got that part, but it wasn't that Jesus is Lord thing either.

It wasn't moving from His aides yellow book to the book. I then got into CHRIS anything after that we could add to the mixture by that. No, I think you I think it was that what he said made sense that you're not really you're not, you might have brought a few your friends to the thing, but you're a bit you're a walking contradiction. You know your are partly through third-party fiction taken every variation on your lonely way back home to yeah I think I just like I see the people there's lots of the steps along the way. I think that the sea who said that you know that the that the Christian life is a series of new beginnings. Yeah what what was the spiritual environment in your home other than churchgoing was was the Bible red was there family time.

Yeah my dad was my dad was a very disciplined man. You know, he'd been in the Army and and keep in life you find his Bible. He read his Bible heat and in the market was in the place so you could pretty well set your clock by it. He was 60, soldiered on, you know and use the use you see is the daily light. You know from Richard W Gahanna or whatever it was just for those times so it was very brief and you have the little thing in word of prayer and then and then were on our way.

Our home was also populated by other Christian people.

My parents were were given to hospitality. If someone was a visiting preacher or something. It would be in the hall and so II can remember listening upstairs are sometimes of an evening, the discussions about points of biblical theology, where it began to be debated and so it was ice there. It was a very happy environment that was was then broken in upon. Of course, by the premature death of my mother if we hadn't had a framework we would really have nowhere to go and nothing to say nothing to turn to tell me about your mother's faith. Yeah, my mother's faith was genuine simple, quiet my mother would never have intruded in a conversation in any kind of conversation except invited and therefore it would be strange for me to hear her pray in that kind of public environment, but it wasn't because she couldn't or didn't because I do have recollections of hearing. Both my parents praying for us as children when they thought I was asleep. My mom was was very funny lady.

She loved laughing. I mean she found humor in in some of his strangest places as much to the chagrin of my father and me when we would go on vacation.

We would almost inevitably find ourselves quotes in the funniest church you've ever been in an my mother's foresee keeping us under control and getting some of the dirtier salutes from my dad to know what she was a doer, she was kindly see was very good. The domestic duties of motherhood and and wife them and I really got the great benefit of that when four a.

Of my life for one year I was at home and it turned out to be the last year my mother's life, which neither of us knew and saw an and by that time I was probably 19 and you know you've moved into that realm where you start to become friends with your parents and I would've said that I would've picked it is a really good friend to knowing the context. And even though my dad didn't have the jokes that was was this to see genuine faith in the life of your parents and know there's not a disconnect there not just churchgoing people. These are people this is real for them.

A lot of people who have some spiritual awakening in their late teens also have a lapse in their early 20s did you go through rebellion.

Did you ever have a two I really believe this kind of check out for a while know I think the biggest challenge for me was at the age of 22 loose my mother and to standard an open grave site for actually the first time in my life because she preceded the death of her own parents and and for me then to say okay do I really believe in the resurrection. Do I really believe that the promises of Jesus will be fulfilled and you know I in the goodness of God.

As I struggled through that I said yes I do believe I will believe you know know I'm a bit I as you know I'm a pretty simple so following that, I trust that the Bible is the Bible that I trust what the Bible says about itself, and if you cut me open. I believe this this is the grace of God. The circumstances of your mother's death, dramatic heart attack out of nowhere, just sitting in our house and lying with her know my sisters were I was going.

How did you get the news I was a student at LPC gloriously known as the London school of Divinity is and I roomed with the boy from Rhodesia who had been a geography teacher older than me, and early in the morning of November 2 early in the morning. Something came knocking on the door and it was the principal. The Rev. Gilbert Kirby said I just need to come in and talk to Alister. I felt Cali only been here three months and I'm about, especially because he said to Peter. He said Peter could you just leave us for a moment I had no idea what was coming and he sat down on the edge of my bed because I was still in my bed said Alister.

I can only tell you this one way last night your mother died and it was just unbelievable as it was. Nothing could prepare you for it and and I was it that was it.

Gilbert was a key part of my journey from that point on I mean I ended up with Terry prime in Edinburgh as a result of a letter written by Gilbert Kirby to Derek trying to say you are to consider this boy I hadn't seen him in a long time and I was speaking at the Keswick convention, which is kindly in our wars, then in those states that the Super Bowl you know you get to play and there was a minister house party that Gilbert Kirby now was a man, probably this deep into his 70s was.

He was caring for those ministers. I was staying in the speaker's house party which was a separate hotel, but I I remember as I came up the hill, he came out of this property and he saw me in and he just came towards me and he just enveloped me and I don't and we hardly said anything. We didn't need to say nothing it was just that bonding that happens that we've seen in pastoral ministry where we deal with people at the extremities of their life's. We may not say much, but we are privileged to be there. That privilege was given to him there couldn't be in a better person to have essentially had that responsibility.

Then Gilbert he was a wonderful man.

How did your father do after your mom passed his wife see my dad. My dad was very good at stuff my dad because of his involvement in the second world war as a Batman to a general new how to cook, but what he did. He had to do.

He had two children at school. He would come home and I was going to CRR was standing college and then from college I was in Edinburgh and he did really really well, but he lasted for seven years and then remarried and to my shame. It never really occurred to me to think about what went what it meant for my father because my mother was only 46 so then my dad was probably 48 when your dad remarried was that a challenge for you and your sisters.

I think a big challenge for my sisters challenge for me only in absentia. Ironically, he married my best friends mother.

My best friend's father had died some years previously, and although we had no there was no relationship between the families. Despite the fact that we as children were friends in school chums, and so on. I guess in the sense of shared loss. They find comfort and affection in one another and so were married. Your call to pastoral ministry that happened in your teen years know I wouldn't say so I I wanted to do law. I thought I could be Perry Mason. I didn't realize that nobody can be Perry Mason. There is no such thing as right as you but I love those I love those shows. I think it was in black and white.

When I was watching them. But yet without delving into all of that. When I stepped away from where I was and this year out to to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up I came to another one of these points along the race where I had a strong conviction that although I had written the script for my life which was going to get a law degree. BMW 2002 I was going to marry this American girl called Susan Jones if I could just manage to keep her on the wire for long enough, as I was writing letters across the ocean.

I faxed out to God as one would say, and asked for his signature. He sent it back just for the blank sheet said if you sign the bottom of the blank sheet.

I'll fill in the stuff for you and Samantha for.

Of course, but I came to a strong conviction that I had my thing upside down that I was simply asking God to bless my plan and I and had all these things, you know that we will and I'm taking my school chums to the thing I'm loading the car up. I we had a singing group you know in the singing group in the coffee bars of the 60s. I was the one that did the tall because I was any good, but because the other two guys wouldn't do it. So all of that is in their also remember I told you that the ministers used to come and stay in our house when they were the visiting preachers and they would say things to me like and maybe you will be a minister one day sunny you know it's it was nothing could be further from my mind and not but I now remember, I told her about the campus Crusade. I had been introduced will lease crazy American campus Crusade people who had come to London to try and advance the cause and so those people are in all hey sign up let's go so I wasn't ready to do that but I was fascinated by these young intelligent mute, often athletic, zealous people and I thought you know that I admire that they haven't adopted this because they've got nothing else to do so then I said what what I'll do is I'll go somewhere that I can do a theology degree and prepare myself for whatever God has for me. But the one thing I know he hasn't for me pastoral ministry really. I will not do that because I could never tell my friends because there's nothing cool about. I could tell them I'm involved with Christians in sport.

I can tell him that I'm involved in a student ministry or I could tell my involved in the music ministry, but I couldn't tell him I'm up pastoral charge of me think that cannot happen and so the definitive moment that just took the rug out from underneath me was in the spring of 75 and I was doing things with an English evangelist of the time for sort of work exposure and we would go and do youth weekends and we would meet the people and sing to them and do whatever he doing in turn encourage them lead them to faith and so one Monday I have returned from one of these ventures down in the south coast of England and I'm sitting at lunch with some of my friends at college, and a couple of the faculty member. One of them.

The Rev. John Bolton and so nobody say much. I said you know I don't like these things anymore. What things these weekends.

Why don't you like the weekends. What Joe might. I said no and I can tell you I don't like because the end so we meet so I go down there on a Friday night and I'm introduced a whole group of people that I've never met before and come Sunday night I get in the car and I driveway and I'll never see them again. I don't like auction legions, forward, squeeze his eyes together nexus and I can tell you why that is said that is because God has given you pastors heart.

If you are in evangelist you could come and go as a pastor you can't, and I remember even as I tell it to you now. I remember it was like the deathknell in the opening up of the future. I remember I went back to my room and I went. I wept because I said no you know this is this is ridiculous and plus I'm 23 years old. How you become a passionate and what what is devotional he didn't know anything in order to go through all of this, then you get Gilbert Kirby I noticed comes in from very prime it screwed up on the board and is said very prime dear Gilbert, my assistant is moving to take the church on his own. I wonder if you have anybody down there that you may care to recommend Gilbert writes a letter to him. I go meet him at the King's Cross railway station coffee bar. You know the rest is history. I never have never applied for a job in ministry. I have never, it was the call of God when I was ordained and I were a clerical garb.

I think you've heard me say this before. I might just as well. It stood out with no clothes on from the congregation.

That's how vulnerable and just I don't know that that I said if I'm if I'm going to do that I'll never quit on us on the ground and so that's that. That was that was it and then when you know when I was ordained and I trusted the elders that they said yeah we we believe that that will you know your subjective sense of being drawn to this reluctantly is a realistic sense and so I trusted them. We been listing to a recent conversation with Alistair Begg. Hearing about how God worked providentially in his life. Be sure to listen for the second half of this interview tomorrow. Now the year 2021 is quickly winding down and we been hearing from people from around the world who have gotten in touch with us to express to us their gratitude for this daily program and if you have donated to Truth for Life this year. You have helped make that possible. I want to pass their gratitude along to you. Your giving is what makes Alister's messages available to a global audience. If you haven't given you, there's still time to make a urine donation right now, right up until night on Friday online Truth for call us right now at 888588788 when you do make sure to request a copy of the book were recommending today called piercing heaven prayers of the Puritans is a collection of more than 200 Puritan prayers and it's our way of saying thank you for your partnership with us request the book when you make a one-time donation of Truth for, but please do it today because tomorrow is the last day were offering piercing Bob Lapine thanks for listing tomorrow will hear about how Alister met his wife Susan courtship that spans seven years and thousands of miles a love story that has endured Bible teaching of Alister Beck is furnished by Truth for Life with the Learning is for Living

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