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Ordinary People and Everyday Events

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
April 5, 2022 4:00 am

Ordinary People and Everyday Events

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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April 5, 2022 4:00 am

God isn’t just in charge of the “big stuff” like upholding the universe and ordering world events. Learn how the creator and sustainer of all things is also involved in the everyday routines of ordinary people. That’s on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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God isn't just in charge of the big stuff like upholding the universe or ordering the world events. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg looks at how the creator of everything is also involved in the everyday routines of ordinary people like you and me. We're in the book of Titus.

Alistair is teaching from chapter 3, verses 12 through 15. In 1996, there was a book published. It was written by a fellow called Richard Carlson, who actually died as a young man at the age of forty-five. You will know the book, many of you.

I personally have never read it, but I'm familiar with its title, and it was called Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. And the stated purpose of the book was to encourage the reader to look at things, to look at life, to look at common situations, the kind of things that we all come across in everyday life, and to see them a little differently. So Carlson was holding up the events of life and saying, We don't have to look at them in this way.

We could look at them here. And in many ways, the events of life and the way in which we respond to the events of life reveal something about our personal convictions and also about our character as individuals. Now, the reason that title was in my mind was because as I came to these final verses of Titus 3, I found myself saying, not Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, but Don't Miss the Small Stuff. Don't Miss the Small Stuff. It's entirely unlikely that, were it not for the fact that we are working our way systematically and consecutively through this book, as we do through each of the books of the Bible, if we were not doing that, the chances of me ever teaching a sermon from these verses, or you even hearing one, is unlikely.

And yet it is a challenging exercise, and it is a rewarding exercise. And so as we come to the end, we're trying to say to one another, Don't let's miss the small stuff. And also, as we come to the end of the letter, let's not forget the beginning of the letter. You will notice the final phrase there in verse 15 of chapter 3, All greet those who love us in the faith. It's not just a generic greeting to everyone and anyone, but those who are now members of the family of God. And if your Bible is like mine, you can see the opening verses of the letter, chapter 1, and in verse 4 of chapter 1 it is written, to Titus, my true child, and you'll notice the phrase, in a common faith. In a common faith.

Now, I don't want to go through the entire book, but let me remind you that in chapter 1, before the apostle Paul descended to the practical instruction that was necessary for Titus, he established, if you like, the theological underpinnings which gave rise to his instruction, and particularly to this little triad of faith, knowledge, and hope. And we noted back then that the believers' knowledge of who God is and what God has done for us in the Lord Jesus Christ, that knowledge of who God is, his character and his revealed nature, is the very basis of faith and is at the same time the ground of their hope. And that's why the hymn writer says, It's what I know of you, my Lord and my God, that fills my life with praise and my lips with song. It's what I know of you. It's not what I feel about you this morning. It's not whether I feel good this morning, whether I feel bad this morning, whether I feel spiritual or whether I feel unspiritual.

It is what I know of you. And that is why you see reason and faith are not combatants, but rather they are interwoven in the discovery of genuine Christianity. And that's why we paid attention to it then, and we realized that having begun with grace in verse 4 of chapter 1, Paul will end with grace in verse 15 of chapter 3. The source of that grace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior, the appearing of that grace in verse 11 of chapter 2, but when the grace of God our Savior appeared and the work of grace, the transforming work of grace, when that grace appeared, he saved us. And then again in chapter 3, when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, he did these things as an evidence of his grace. Now, what Paul has been doing, broadly speaking, is ensuring that Titus will work out for those under his care the radical implications of God's design for his people. In chapter 1, within the context of the church, make sure you get the leadership in place. In chapter 2, within the home, make sure that the various age groupings within the family of faith and the nuclear family know who they are and what they are. And then in chapter 3, the implications of God's grace worked out in society. And you will perhaps remember we got to verse 1 of chapter 3 with that great call to Christian citizenship. And as we've gone through chapter 3, we have realized that Paul has instructed Titus to remind those who are under his care, first of all, to be good citizens, verses 1 and 2, then to remember what they were before they came to Christ, verses 3 to 7, and then to recall in that same section towards the end the transformation that grace has brought about in their lives. We then went on to see that this message is a reliable message.

That's why it is described as being trustworthy. That the messenger is to be a resolute messenger who is insisting on these things—this is verse 8 of chapter 3—and that the membership of the congregations in Crete are to be responsive individuals, learning, first of all, the issues that are to be avoided, verse 9, and then the kind of person who is to be confronted in verse 10. Now, after all of that—and it is a substantial amount of material—these concluding sentences may appear to be sort of ho-hum, the sort of final sign-off at the end of a letter, the traditional, normal way for greetings of that time.

And they are the traditional and normal way for the ending of a letter. But that's why I said to myself, You'd better be careful that you don't miss the small stuff. Now, you remember, in the book to which I referred, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, the tagline was, It's all small stuff.

Right? Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff. Here's our thesis. Don't miss the small stuff.

There's no small stuff. And that comes across very clearly in what we might regard as a surprising section at the very end of the letter. Now, these events, as they're described here, the direction for the arrival of the substitute for Titus so that he might leave and be with Paul, the instructions concerning hospitality and generosity towards Zenas and Apollos, they remind it again to the people to make sure that they are energized in the realm of good works and so on. All of these things—life back then in a geographical place far from us, and at a time removed from us—all of those events then, with all of our events now, everyday events in the lives of ordinary people, need to be understood from a Christian perspective in light of the doctrine of God's providence.

And it is this which I have tried to bring to bear upon my own mind as I've thought about these things. The doctrine of God's providence, as summarized by Berkov, is the continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator preserves all his creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end. So the God who has created the world, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is providentially overseeing everything according to the purpose of his will. That's the doctrine of providence, that the God who has created and who orders all things according to the appointment of his will will make provision will make provision as necessary. And Jesus taught this with regularity all the way through, memorably on one occasion as he described the life cycle of the sparrows, and as he spoke to the people that were listening, and he says to them, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?

And they must have said yes. And then he went on to say how God is interested in the sparrows. And then he said, And you should know this, that you are worth more than many sparrows. In other words, if God who created the universe is interested in the life cycle of a sparrow, don't you realize, says Jesus, how absolutely totally committed he is to overseeing, providing for, caring for the lives of his children? He sustains all things, he watches over all things, he appoints all things.

Now, let me give to you just three headings to summarize this. This God of providence, who is involved in the events that are described at the end of Titus, is, first of all, the God of the ordinary. The God of the ordinary.

What do I mean by that? Well, you'll notice that he is the God, first of all, here of the ordinary language. Ordinary language.

When I send Artemis or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me. Verse 13, Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer. Doesn't that sound just like a routine and ordinary phrase? Well, of course it is.

There's nothing peculiarly dramatic about it. He's saying, Make sure that you employ your energies in such a way that this objective may be achieved. One of the great accommodations of the Creator of the universe is that he speaks to us in language that is understandable. He comes down to us and speaks in ordinary terms, extraordinary things, but conveyed in ordinary terms. No one was in any doubt about what Jesus was saying when he taught. His illustrations were perfect.

His stories were masterful. His instruction was clear. His language was ordinary.

The God of ordinary language. Notice also the phrase, I have decided. I have decided to spend the winter there. Not, God has told me to go to Nicopolis.

No, the language is strikingly ordinary, isn't it? Why are you going to Nicopolis? I've decided. Oh, you just decided, did you? Didn't you pray about it? Well, yes, I did pray about it, but I finally made the decision to go to Nicopolis.

I could have gone somewhere else. Beware those who are more spiritual than the apostle. And look at the phraseology, Let our people learn.

Let our people learn. There's nothing mystical about this. That's all I want you to understand.

There's nothing here where they're sort of sitting around waiting for it to come through. What am I supposed to do now? No. Do your best.

I've decided. Make sure the people learn. In other words, what they're to do is learned behavior. The root of their behavior is grace.

The fruit is good works. It is learned behavior. In other words, it is not behavior that emerges as a result of a guilt trip being placed on them.

Come on now, you should be doing this. So they do it out of a sense of guilt. Nor is it out of a sense of a sort of emotional resurgence within them.

No. It is learned behavior. It is profitable behavior, so that these cases of urgency might be dealt with. And it is purposeful in the sense that it means that their lives will not, in the end, show for nothing. Well, I'll leave you to work that out for yourselves, but I think it's fairly straightforward. He's the God of the ordinary, the ordinary language, and ordinary events.

Ordinary events. What Paul is concerned about here is that Titus, his friend and colleague, will be able to come to him at Nicopolis. If he's going to be able to come to him at Nicopolis, somebody is going to have to take his place.

That's going to either be Artemis or Tychicus. He hasn't decided yet. And the reason is that the people of God are not to be left without a leader. He doesn't want them left in this fledgling state just casting about on their own. Clearly, he doesn't. And there is a lesson here, which we won't tease out now, about the way in which transitions take place in local congregations in relationship to leadership and the changes in leadership.

Many churches flounder as a result of making no plans for the kind of transition that is necessary. Paul is very clear. I want you to come to me. If you're going to come to me, Artemis or Tychicus has to go to them. And God is interested in this, because he is the God who speaks an ordinary language, and he is the God who oversees ordinary events. Well, if he's the God of the ordinary, he is also, secondly, the God of the nobody. The God of the nobody.

Now, I don't want you to misunderstand me on this, and I'll try and make myself clear. Of the four individuals that are mentioned here, two of them are known. If this was a quiz, if I had teenage boys in the class, I'd ask them, and which are the two that are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament? And if I had a couple of bright boys in there, they would say, Well, Tychicus is mentioned somewhere else, and they might even know that he was mentioned in Colossians chapter 4 and verse 7, described by Paul as a beloved brother, as a faithful minister, and as a fellow servant. Someone else might also have said, I think Apollos is probably the man who's mentioned in Acts chapter 18, and they would probably be right, a very able and eloquent teacher from Alexandria with a peculiar gift from God, the one who is mentioned as the waterer in 1 Corinthians chapter 3 and in verse 6.

I planted, says Paul, and Apollos watered, and God made things grow. So those two characters are there in the rest of the New Testament. But the thing that struck me was the other two aren't.

I can find no reference to either Artemis or Zenas anywhere else in the New Testament. But they get a mention. And the fact that they are mentioned at least helps us to realize that this same God, who is the God of the ordinary, is also the God of the no name. I'm referring to the individual here as the nobody.

It's really not a precise use of language, but it just works in terms of the headings. The point is simple, and I hope it's clear. Namely, that much of the work in the kingdom of God—no, let's say the majority of the work in the kingdom of God—is actually carried out by people whose names are unknown.

Oh, they may be known to us in limited circle around them, but by and large, no one knows. It's illustrative of what Paul says, isn't it, about the nature of the body? He says when we think about our bodies, we give a tremendous amount of undue appreciation and attention to the parts that can be seen. But he says it's not really the parts that can be seen that are the issue, it's the parts that can be seen that are the issue. It's only when something goes wrong that we start to think about the bits and pieces to which we pay so little attention.

What's the point? Well, the point is that nobody is a nobody in the family of God. Nobody's a nobody in the family of God.

Don't ever feel that you are. That's just a lie of the devil. When we read these things, we realize that Artemis and Zenas, the lawyer—incidentally, Paul likes doing that, doesn't he? He does Zenas, the lawyer, Luke, the physician. He does that a number of times. That's all he tells us. He tells us what his job was, but we don't know anything about him beyond that.

But Zenas had a part to play, and he had played his part. He wasn't there by chance, he was there by choice, God's choice. You're not here by chance, you're here by choosing. You are the person that God has made you to be. You are the person that you are, according to the plan and purpose of God. And there's a work for Jesus that nobody other than you can do.

The fact that nobody really knows your name doesn't matter. God is the God of the ordinary, he's the God of the nobody, and thirdly and finally, he's the God of the everyday. He's the God of the everyday. He's the God of the when. Whenever the when is, verse 12. When I send Artemis. He's the God of the summer and the winter and the autumn and the spring.

I've decided to spend the winter there. Every day. You see, one of the ways in which our worldview, our Christian worldview, impinges upon the culture in which we live is in this whole area of time. In the whole area of time. Again, remember, Jesus had a lot to say concerning time. Which of you, he said, by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

The answer is, of course, no one can. Don't be anxious about tomorrow, said Jesus. Tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. Every day has enough trouble of its own. The real issue of anxiety is not the issues that I face today but is the issues that I'm worried about that are apparently waiting for me tomorrow, which I am poured into today. And I have to realize that the God of Paul and Titus and Artemis and Zenas and Tychicus and so on is the God who oversees and overrules all of the events of time every day, all day.

He's never off. I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip.

The Lord who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. Do not listen to the voice in your head that says to you, There's really no hope for you. The inference being, you've missed the last bus when it comes to the discovery of all that Jesus has provided in terms of salvation. So there's no hope for you.

You missed it. Too much of your life has gone by. Don't listen to that voice in your head. And don't listen to the voice in your head that says, Not there's no hope, but there's no hurry.

The voice that says to you, You don't have to listen to what Begg says. He says it all the time. He'll be saying it for weeks and months to come.

You don't need to do anything about it today. Let me tell you, there will be a last time for every journey. There will be a last opportunity for the response to the message of glorious good news that this God who has revealed himself in the person of Jesus is the God of the ordinary. He's the God of the nobody. He's the God of the everyday. And today is the day of salvation. So, now, now, now, if you hear God's voice, do not harden your heart.

It is amazing for us to consider that the creator and sustainer of the entire universe is also the Lord of the ordinary. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Easter is weeks away now. This is a season when many of us wonder what it would be like to go back in time and to experience the final days of Jesus' earthly life. Well, Sinclair Ferguson has a new book where he takes us into the upper room the night before Jesus' death. The book is called Lessons from the Upper Room, and in it Sinclair gives us a unique glimpse into the events that took place at a private Passover meal shared by Jesus with his disciples on the evening before his death on the cross. He draws from chapters 13 through 17 of John's Gospel to take us figuratively back in time to a gathering that took place in the upper room. He describes the emotions that were stirred and the important teaching from Jesus during his final hours. The book Lessons from the Upper Room not only invites us to envision all that took place with tremendous clarity, but also to fully embrace the saving power of Jesus. You can request your copy of Lessons from the Upper Room when you donate at truthforlife.org slash donate or you can call us at 888-588-7884.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. What's the key ingredient to saving faith? What is it that causes someone to go from politely listening in the pews to a wholehearted commitment to following Jesus? You'll find out when you join us tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-11 16:02:17 / 2023-05-11 16:11:01 / 9

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