The Apostle Paul Encourages Us to Be on Guard against the Temptation, to stand firm in our faith, to be strong, to be courageous. So how do we do that? We'll find out today on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg shares the key ingredient that should permeate all of Paul's imperatives.
Alistair is teaching from 1 Corinthians chapter 16 where in verses 13 and 14. Let's make no mistake. The time is coming and has now come when we are being asked to bow down to all kinds of idols and worship at all kinds of shrines. No one's actually concerned that we would have convictions about Christ or about the Bible.
We're allowed to hold to that. Just bow down. And only those who are firm in the faith will know enough to stand against the fall. You see, what do you say when somebody says, The issues of Christian doctrine are divisive. If we would only focus more on Christian love, then we could all unite with one another, and we could put aside all of these extraneous differences, and we would all be fine on the basis of love. Now, if you find yourself responding to that by saying, That sounds like a perfectly good idea to me, and there's no cautionary flag goes up in your mind, then I want you to know that we've still got a lot more work to do with you in teaching you how to stand firm in the faith.
Because the answer to that assertion is this. My dear friend, the basis of our unity is Christian doctrine. We do not set it aside in order to unite.
We unite on the basis of the truth it conveys. And we do so, as we will see, in a spirit of love. When Paul was concerned for Timothy, his young lieutenant in the faith, concerned that he would be able to grasp and hold to these things, he says to him in 1 Timothy chapter 6 and verse 12, Fight the good fight of the faith. Fight the good fight of the faith. Back in 1 Corinthians 15, in the first verse, he says, Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you have received and on which you have taken your stand. And Jude, in his one chapter, verse 3, Dear friends, while I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. There is a great need for us not only to be those who are on guard, but to be those who are standing firm. Now, thirdly, he says, you should be men of courage.
This is a call not now to stability, but to maturity. To Christian maturity. His readers he had previously addressed in chapter 3 as those who were just babies. He says, I wish that I could address you as spiritual, but I can't. I can only address you as infants in Christ. I wish I could give you a proper meal.
I can't. I can only give you bottled milk. The reason I have to give you bottled milk is because you're still immature. You're worldly. He said, I'll show you how you're worldly.
You're always arguing with one another about who Paul is and who Peter is. He said, if you were able to grow up, then you'd be able to get good food. Every parent wants their children to grow up. It'd be a sad and sorry thing to see a seventeen-year-old boy sitting in here sucking on a bottle of milk out of one of those teats. You say, goodness, there's something sadly wrong with that chap, and there would be concern all around on the basis of it. You don't expect a boy to be walking around doing that.
No, no. Those were for the infant days. We want to see him grow to maturity.
We want to see him able to take the good food and to discriminate between that and the bad food and to get a proper diet and to grow healthy and to grow strong and to grow to be mature, to be a man. And that is the picture here. It is a call to Christian manliness. Indeed, the King James Version reads, Quit you like men.
The reason it reads that way is because it is one word in Greek, andedresthe. And there is no feminine equivalent. For those of you who get your feminine antennae going up in these moments, why would it say, Quit you like men?
Very simply, because men are supposed to be courageous. You say, Well, you should meet my husband. Well, I'd be glad to meet your husband.
The last time the burglar alarm went off, he sent me down the stairs first, says the wife. Okay? So you're married to a wimp.
That's fine. That's a problem. We can address that in another case.
Or the last time you couldn't get the top off the marmalade, and he couldn't, he gave it to you, you popped it right off. So, okay, so he's weak and a wimp. That's a problem. We'll deal with that in another context. But the way that God has designed things is that men are supposed to be strong, and women are supposed to be feminine. And that's why he says, Be manly. He's talking about a style. He's talking about a maturity.
And he wants women in spiritual terms and children in spiritual terms to bring this dimension to bear upon their Christian experience. And let's cut through it. We all understand the distinction, we all believe the distinction, and anyone who plays golf and leaves a putt short, whose name begins with A, especially if you have a name like Alistair, you leave a putt short, what does somebody say? Nice putt Alice!
All right? That's what they always say. Nice putt Alice! Now, you ladies may not know this, because you haven't played mixed foursome, but that's what they always say. And I've heard it a lot! And I know what they're saying.
You're too weak to get the ball to the hole, you clown! Now, that may be very unkind to ladies, and I think it probably is, but that's the picture. There is supposed to be a manliness, a bravery, an unflinching courage. Christian manliness is a great virtue. And men as men are supposed to be examples to the church.
Men of courage. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord, says the psalmist. Psalm 31 and verse 24. How, then, are we going to grow to this level of maturity and courage in our Christian lives? Again, we come back to the place and priority of the Word of God. As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, says Peter in 1 Peter 2, that you may grow thereby. That is why God has given pastors and teachers to the church, says Paul in Ephesians 4, so that they may edify the saints by the teaching of the Bible, so that they may grow to maturity, so that in maturity they may not be blown around by every wind of doctrine. We don't want our Christians to be little waifs that can be blown here and there.
We want them to grow strong and courageous. And that is why the Word of God, if it is to have impact in our lives, is not simply the Word understood, but it is the Word applied. 1 Peter 2, the priority of taking in the Word. Ephesians 4, the priority of proclaiming the Word.
James chapter 1, verse 22, the priority of seeing the Word applied. Do not be merely hearers of the Word, he says, but be doers of the Word. Don't simply read the manuals.
Do the exercises. And some of us are in danger of thinking that another manual will do the job, when in point of fact the first manual, if we'd done the exercise, would have already dealt with the situation. People running here and there and everywhere for another manual, as if the manual would make the change. It is our response to the instruction of the manual which makes it possible for progress in our lives. Fourthly, we are to be strong. To be strong.
There's a kind of military metaphor that runs through all of this. I think you can pick up this idea of strength and conviction and courage and guardedness and firmness. Be strong. I don't know about you, but as I read these imperatives, I find myself saying, How? How?
How am I to do this? Be on your guard, okay? Stand firm in the faith. Fine. Be a man of courage.
Fine. Be strong. How am I going to be strong? Where does my strength come from? Isn't that the question of the psalmist in the Psalm 121? I lift my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh mine aid.
My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. You see, it is a chronicle of despair simply to be told to be strong. You can go into a weight room and look at these huge, big things, as we've mentioned before, and you can say to yourself, Now I will be strong.
And you can try and pick the thing up, you can crush your toes with it, you can break the floor, whatever, because just simply endeavoring to be strong doesn't make you strong. Well, what does Paul have in mind? Well, I think the key to it is Philippians 4 and verse 13, where Paul says there to the Philippian believers, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. He's talking there about contentedness, in plenty or in want. He says it is actually possible to live a contented life.
Well, says somebody, I'm not sure how it's possible to do that. Well, he says, I can do all things through Christ who makes me strong. Elsewhere in his Corinthian letters, he says, When I am weak, then I am strong. I delight in my weaknesses, he says, so that God's power and glory may rest upon me.
The same picture that you have in Isaiah chapter 40. They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not be weary, and they will walk and they will not faint. Some of us have come to a morning like this, the very opposite of guardedness, firmness, courage, and strength. We've come to an end of ourselves in relationship to these things. We're buffeted to and fro by the winds that are blowing around us. We're dreadfully susceptible to temptation.
We find that we're easily moved off our course, where as soon as the turbulence gets bad around us, we find it very, very difficult to hold our wings on an even scope. And here is the great promise of God's Word, that they that wait upon him will renew their strength. That's why Paul, when he prays for the Colossians in chapter 1, he says, I pray that you will be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. The influx of the power of God may not reveal itself in dramatic displays of effectiveness, but it would be enough for some of us to discover endurance and patience in a new way. George Matheson captures this very, very well in his great hymn, Make Me a Captive Lord, and in the third verse he puts it like this, My power is faint and low Till I have learned to serve. It wants the needed fire to glow, It wants the breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world until itself be driven. Its flag can only be unfurled When thou shalt breathe from heaven. You can stand underneath your flagpole and look up at it as it hangs limp down the side of the pole and exhort it. Flap, you can say to it.
Hopefully there's no one around watching you or hearing you, because they'll know that you're decidedly weird. Because by simply exhorting the flag, it will not flap in the breeze only when the wind blows. Don't you sense a need in your life for God to come and blow the wind of his Spirit in you and through you, to create that kind of courage, to put you on your guard, to stand firm, to make you strong? And then finally, in verse 14, he says, Now I want you to make sure that you do everything in love. I don't think this is so much a fifth imperative—although it is—as it is the very seasoning in which all of the other ingredients are cooked, if you like, to use a metaphor from the kitchen, which is dangerous. You see, I think Paul understands that it is possible for us to be guarded, firm, courageous, strong, and for all of this to produce itself in a kind of cold and metallic and refrigerated and unapproachable way.
Very military-like, you know, very strong, very guarded. We are the contenders of the faith. We know it. We've got it. We're right.
Everyone else is wrong. Stand up here and listen. Paul, recognizing that, says, By the way, just in case any of you were tempted to go down that road, here's the little important part. Do everything in love. In love.
In love. One of the phrases I've learned in living in this country is, May I have it on the side, please? Remember the first time I heard that, I didn't know what in the world the person was talking about. Said with the salad dressing, you know, there's only one kind of salad dressing in Britain anyway, so that's the first thing.
You've got, well, what kind you have? Well, we have the thing and the thing and the thing, and then ding, ding, ding, ding. It takes about twenty minutes, and then the person says after all that, Oh, could I have it on the side? The person said, Yes, certainly, on the side. Fine.
Here's the deal. You can't have love on the side. It's supposed to permeate everything. So when I'm courageous in love, when I'm firm in love, when I'm strong in love, when I'm on guard in love, it's got to be through the whole mixture. And sometimes when we ask the question, Is it possible to have that on the side?
the answer is, No, it is prepared in that. That's the problem with that garlic bread stuff. I mean, if you could pick it off or something, that'd be one thing, but it's pervasive. The thing is everywhere.
You can't even touch the stuff. It gets you. We had a great illustration of it ten days ago when my wife and I and our children were invited to the home of an African friend who made us an Indian curry. It was a very interesting event. The guy speaking with a Zimbabwean accent making an Indian curry.
And he made a great curry. I wasn't far into it when I realized that whatever this powder is, this is powerful stuff. I mean, this wasn't on the side. This was everywhere.
It didn't just flavor the ingredients. It permeated the room. And within a very short period of time, it was coming out of me. Literally coming out of me.
I used to laugh at my father for this with his little baldy head, and he used to wipe it with a hankie like this. I used to say to myself, Why does he do that? It's because it was coming out of him. When it started to come out of me, I could see my father and me.
I guess that's how it's meant to be. Okay. And so I'm rubbing my head and it's coming out of my wrists and everywhere. And later in the day, I was waiting on people coming up to me and going, Have you been over at Andrew's house?
He said, Yeah, how do you know? I said, The curry. The curry. The curry.
This is it. Love is the curry powder of Christian experience. You're not supposed to have to go looking for it amongst the people of God with a thundering great magnifying glass. Excuse me, looking for love in the Christian family.
Oh, there's some. No, it's supposed to be you come in the door and the whole place is just pervaded with it. It's a challenge, isn't it? Do everything in love. And that is so important when you think about the idea of standing for the faith, being courageous, being strong in love. You see, if it is truth which prevents our love from degenerating into some kind of soppy sentimentalism, it is love which prevents our truth from sliding into a rigid dogmatism. And again, the Scriptures are perfectly clear and perfectly balanced. 1 Corinthians 16, 13, and 14, Paul calls the church in Corinth and calls the church here in Cleveland to stability, to maturity, and to charity. And I say in conclusion, along with the apostle Peter, I intend always to remind you of these things, so that after my departure, you will be able to bring them to mind. It is clear from Scripture that love and truth are essential for effective Christian living. That's Alistair Begg. You're listening to Truth for Life.
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Extra copies of the book are available to purchase in our online store for our cost of four dollars. This is a deep dive into Jesus' final hours. It's also a great topic for your Bible study group to explore. Now here's Alistair with prayer. Our gracious God and loving Father, we thank you that we have the Bible to turn to in a day of confusion, in a day of instability, in a day of great change. We ask that you will write your word in the life of our church and in our individual lives and homes today, that you will replace our sleepiness and dreaminess with being guarded, that, Lord, you will take our weakness and replace it with your strength, our fear and replace it with your courage, our immaturity, and replace it with your maturity. And when we're tempted, Lord, to exalt ourselves, to become proud, self-seeking, the very opposite of what it means to love, we pray that you would bring us down to where we need to be and then fill us afresh with the love of the Lord Jesus, so that we may be able to say to one another, I love you with the love of the Lord.
Yes, I love you with the love of the Lord, for I can see in you Jesus, and I love you with the love of the Lord. Grant that our church may increasingly become that biblically balanced place between holding fast to the truth and doing everything in love to the glory of your name. And now, may the Lord bless us and keep us. May the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us his peace today and forevermore.
Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. What does your lifestyle reveal about you? What would others identify as the defining characteristics of your family? Join us tomorrow to find out what attributes should mark a Christian family. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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