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Favoritism (Part 2 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
August 30, 2022 4:00 am

Favoritism (Part 2 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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August 30, 2022 4:00 am

Wealthy individuals are often given preferential treatment in the hopes that they will in turn share their riches and influence. But that’s not what Jesus taught! Find out how to prevent favoritism in your church, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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In many settings, wealthy people are given preferential treatment with the hope that they might, in turn, share some of their riches or their influence. But that kind of favoritism is not to be practiced in local churches. That's not what Jesus taught.

So how do we prevent it? We're going to find out today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is teaching from chapter two in the book of James. We're in verses one through four. It is impossible to embrace in a believing way Jesus until we understand the historicity and reality of who he is and what he's done. But it is possible for us to have an intellectual grasp of these things without ourselves ever having become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. So a believer in Jesus is able to look back to a precious moment or precious moments or a period of time in his or her life where consciously and personally they moved from a state of unbelief to a state of belief.

They realized that Jesus is a Savior and that they were sinners and that they needed a Savior and that they needed to ask Jesus to be their Savior and to be their friend. This is what it means to believe. That's why Lydia in Acts 16—prosperous businesswoman with a prayer meeting, a ladies' Bible study, if you like, down by the river—anybody would have said, Oh, Lydia, she's in tune. There's a believer, Lydia. She has prayer meetings! Such a nice lady, Lydia. And Paul the apostle shows up at the prayer meeting, and the Lord, says Luke, opened her heart, and she who was a religious worshiper of God became a believer.

A believer. In the same passage in Acts 16, the Philippian jailer makes the same shift, doesn't he? The earthquake happens, the chains are loosed, he thinks that the prisoners are all going to escape, he's about ready to kill himself because he knows that will be his destiny if the word gets out that they're all gone. Paul shouts, Don't do yourself any harm! He says, I heard you singing all night there and I couldn't believe you were singing, most people are cursing, and you keep singing about this risen Jesus, how he is a Savior and a Lord and a King. Can I just ask you guys, what must I do to be saved? And Paul says, Well, if you'll believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. And if your family believe as well, they'll be saved. So down by the riverside, and then in the context of the jail, we have these baptismal voices.

Why? Because they were making public expression of their private, personal belief in Jesus. Do you believe? Do you believe? You see, when you get to verse 5—and you needn't worry about that, because we won't really get there this morning—but when you look at verse 5, and he says, Listen, my dear brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith? You need to realize that the fact of God's choosing doesn't deny the necessity and reality of our believing. The fact of God's choosing does not deny the necessity and reality of our believing. People ask me this question just about every single Sunday. Well, if God chooses us, I suppose we don't have anything to do with it at all.

No, absolutely wrong. We have everything to do with it. God does not believe for us. We must believe. That's why today we are either believing or we're unbelieving.

John Murray, the late professor John Murray, in a wonderful passage in one of his books, uses this illustration, and I share it for your help. He says, We must never ignore the necessity of personal acceptance and trust. The lifeboat is no good unless the drowning man gets into it. And no one can get in for him.

He must do it for himself. Yet surely he would never say that the hand which seized the lifeboat was his salvation. He could only view it as the means by which he apprehended the proffered safety. See, the only thing we bring to our salvation is the sin for which we need forgiveness. And when we reach out the hand of faith, we are simply taking the safety that is proffered to us in the provision that Jesus has made. And it is in that divine transaction, in that moment, in that experiential moment in time, that all of the secret dimensions of the purposes of God become ours in their fullness and in their focus. Alec Mathieu puts it as follows, New life in Christ may trace its conscious and public history back to the moment of decision, of commitment, of accepting the Lord Jesus as one's personal Savior. Is there in your life a moment of decision, of commitment, of accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? That's the question.

That's the question. Because if there isn't, how in the world do you believe that you believe? If you don't know that you were married on a certain day, prior to that day you were unmarried, and after that day you were married, then you're clueless, or you're unmarried. But, he goes on, every conversion has a secret history which the Bible reveals and which owes its origin to God's choice. So you say to me, when did you believe in Jesus and trust in him? I believed and trusted in him, as far as I can understand it, on a Sunday afternoon, having come home from a Sunday school where I had been probably the worst boy in the class, but had figured out something of what was being said about the necessity of being a dreadful little sinner and needing a Savior. I didn't have any problem with the first part.

It was reinforced regularly for me. And I went home and I asked my father, how old you have to be to become a Christian to believe in Jesus? And he said, it's not about how old you are, it's about whether you understand this and this and this, and he led me through the gospel. And then we knelt down by a chair in a room in suburban Glasgow, and I asked Jesus to forgive my sin, to come and live in my life and make me the kind of boy he wanted me to be. That's the moment, the conscious, experiential moment in time that I base my understanding of faith upon. But I recognize that behind that is a secret history of God, whereby he ordered all the steps of my life, leading me into that very home and into that Sunday school class and into that moment in time, and the faithfulness of the teacher who said what she said in order that I, hearing what she said, might come to believe in Jesus. My dear brothers, he writes, as believers. You see, until we believe, we don't have the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, living in our lives, enabling us to please God. Until we believe, all we can do is try our jolly best. Try as best we can. We come to a section that says, Don't show favorites. So we make a note of that, we put it in our day timer.

Try this week, week of the fifteenth of April, try not to show favoritism this week. It's like hanging ornaments on. But the work of God in our lives is so to put his Spirit within us that what he calls for he enables. That's why he says there is a religion that is absolutely worthless. It is externalism. The religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this.

Controlled tongue, compassionate heart, uncompromised testimony, and under compassionate heart, I don't want you showing favoritism. Do you realize how uncomfortable this is? I mean, we'll come back to it. We must proceed to the end. But our whole culture—and when I say our, let's just say Western culture, because Britain has led the charge on this stuff. You can't meet snobs like you can meet in Britain. We have snobbery down to a fine art. We have made an art form of snobbery on the basis of accent, on the basis of schooling, on the basis of money, on the basis of status.

And at least a little of it has bled across the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, we live in a culture that is driven by all these things. We come out of that culture in which we live Monday through Saturday, and it is very difficult for us not to bring that culture right into our gatherings of God's people.

That's what makes this so challenging. So the description is first of those who are his readers. They are believers. Believers in whom? Believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

You say, Well, let's just get on. That doesn't really matter, does it? Yes, I think it actually does. Because this little verse here is one of the most notoriously difficult verses to translate from the Greek. And if you doubt that, you should avail yourself of the King James Version. And if you read the King James Version, and you may have it in front of you, verse 1 reads as follows, My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of glory with respect of persons.

Crystal clear, isn't it? And that's one of the best arguments for a modern translation in English that you can find in the whole Bible. Let me read it to you again. My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of glory with respect of persons.

The literal translation from the Greek is brothers of me, not in respect of persons have ye the faith of the Lord of us, Jesus Christ of the glory. Now, what is significant is Jesus Christ tastes doxy. And more ink has been spilled in the commentaries over why it is that James puts it in this order.

And I'm not about to weary you with the stuff that I've wearied myself with in the week that it's gone by. But what it causes us to do is to say, since James is a very articulate and clear communicator, since James is masterful in his use of language, he clearly hasn't slipped up at the first fence, as it were. He didn't trip over the first hurdle he came to, and in trying to express himself here in the first—what is now the first verse of chapter 2—he just couldn't really get it out, couldn't get it down the way he wanted it.

We can't possibly believe that. So we have to then assume that the reason that it is as it is is because he wanted us to think about Jesus in relationship to glory. Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ of the glory.

Those of you who are in the honors course—which is a significant group of you, in fact, I'm putting you all in the honors course as of now—but those of you who are in the honors course, your mind will be immediately jumping ahead, and it should be. Because you'll be thinking, Glory? Rich man. Poor man. Rich Jesus? Poor Jesus. Jesus in heaven? Jesus on earth? Jesus on a throne? Jesus on a donkey? Jesus embraced in heaven? Jesus in a smelly stable?

So now, there must be some reason that he describes Jesus in this way, in terms of glory. And we'll spend the final part of our time there, and I invite you to turn just to three passages of the Bible, first in the Old Testament, in Exodus chapter 33. Exodus 33.

I think we need to do this. Otherwise, when we come to the imperative, don't show favoritism. We'll just be completely discombobulated. Exodus 33. And Moses is asking God to make sure that his presence goes with him as he seeks to lead the people. Because it will be the presence, he says of God, that will distinguish him from all the other people on the face of the earth.

And in verse 18, Moses makes a request. "'Now show me your glory,' he says. And the Lord said, I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.

I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion, but you won't be able to see my face, because no one can see me and live." And then the chapter closes out with a description of the manifestation of God and his glory passing by in a way that is anthropomorphic to try that our finite minds might be able to capture something of this historic and incredible encounter. But when Moses asked to see his glory, the Lord speaks in terms of his goodness and his name. You know, our church verses from Psalm 132 or wherever, I think, you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

What is so significant about that? Because the name of God doesn't simply tell us who he is. It tells us what he is. The name of God is expressive of his attributes and of his character. If you like, the glory is shorthand for the personal presence of the Lord. Show me your glory.

Right? May I live in your presence, may I encounter you, may I meet you. That's what he asks. Now, we fast-forward all the way through the Bible. You get to 2 Corinthians and chapter 4, which is the second passage, which is our penultimate passage, 2 Corinthians 4 and verse 6. For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. How do we meet God? How do we see God's glory revealed? Well, we see it revealed in Jesus. How could we possibly meet God's glory in Jesus?

Because he came down to where we are. He who was rich beyond all splendor, all for our sakes, became poor. And in coming down to where we are, Jesus was no respecter of persons. It's impossible to read the Gospels without recognizing that.

Now, again, don't make a mistake here. Jesus obviously had a particular relationship with Peter, James, and John. That's not what we're talking about.

We're not talking about friendships within the framework of friendships. In relationship to humanity, Jesus was just as prepared to call a rich man down from a tree, Zacchaeus, take him home to his house and sort him out, as he was prepared to allow a woman of ill-repute to come in and weep over him and for her tears to wash his feet and for her hair to dry it. Because he was no respecter of persons.

Why? Because he was prepared to set aside the glory which was his due—which is our third passage, Philippians 2—to set aside the glory which was his due in order to come down into our existence. And it is only when we grasp and are grasped by the wonder and reality of that we will then begin to face up to the ugliness and the inconsistency of judging other people on the basis of what is external and superficial.

Because, you see, the point that James is going to make is this. If God had operated on that basis with you, what kind of seat do you think you would have had? Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians.

He says, consider your calling, brethren. Not many of you were mighty. Not many of you were noble. Not many of you were significant.

Don't lose sight of the consonant. It's important. He doesn't say, Not any.

He says, Not many. And the history of the church is the history of God's moving amongst the masses, not God's moving amongst the intelligentsia or his moving amongst the rich and the famous. It isn't. It absolutely isn't. Therefore, when a church family gets it completely upside down, when an organization gets it completely the wrong way around, and affords peculiar benefits, blessings, inroads, affections, opportunities, on the basis of the label inside the jacket, or the particular design on the outside of the plastic purse made to look so much like leather, or the watch on the wrist, or the number played on the car, then that church, our church, needs a solid dose of James chapter 2. My dear brothers and sisters, he says, you who are the believers in Jesus, the Lord of glory, don't, whatever you do, show favoritism. It's very uncomfortable, isn't it?

I find it very, very uncomfortable. Well, we've only started. Therefore, there is much, much more of an uncomfortable nature that awaits us next time. The blessing of God is not reserved for a select few. Jesus offers the gift of salvation to all who will believe. We're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg with a warning against favoritism.

Alistair returns in just a minute. It is tempting to skip over some of the uncomfortable parts of scripture, like today's message. We open the Bible each day, aiming to help all who listen to come to a better understanding of God's word, and to better apply it in their daily lives. Every time you pray for this ministry, or you donate, that's the mission you're supporting.

So thank you. Truth for Life has enjoyed a remarkable season of growth over the last couple of years. More and more people are accessing Alistair's teaching through our mobile app, online, and through the many other ways this program can be heard. We are humbled and grateful for the way God is using this ministry to proclaim the truth of his word to an ever-growing worldwide audience. That growth would not be possible if it weren't for the financial support we received from Truth Partners, listeners who give monthly to this ministry. As we continue to press on, we are praying God will continue to use Truth for Life to reach even more people. And a continually expanding Truth Partner team is essential for making that possible. So if you've been listening to Truth for Life and have not yet stepped forward to join us, will you do that today? When you become a Truth Partner, you choose the amount you want to give each month.

Signing up is quick and easy. Go to truthforlife.org slash truthpartner or call us at 888-588-7884. Once you become a Truth Partner, we will say thank you by inviting you to request two books we select each month. We're currently recommending a book titled God Is, a devotional guide to the attributes of God. This is a perfect guide to help you grow in your understanding of God and your relationship with Him no matter how long you've been a believer. Request your copy of the book God Is when you sign up to become a Truth Partner today. Or you can request the book with a one-time donation to Truth for Life.

Just visit truthforlife.org slash donate. Now here's Alistair to close today with prayer. Father, thank you for the Bible.

Thank you that we're not here to listen to the conjecture of a man's mind. We're not here to offer up our own ideas and notions of what needs to be. And when we work our way through the Bible, we're stuck with the passages that we would perhaps sometimes want just to dance around, because they absolutely pin us back on our heels. We've all been in churches where people became elders and leaders not because they were godly but because they were wealthy, who were given positions of influence because they had a good business brain but they didn't have a heart for God. We want you to help us with this so that we might, out of reverence and love for the Lord of glory, treat each person with respect and dignity that owes nothing to finance, education, social standing, racial profile. Lord, we don't want our religion to be worthless here at Parkside. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. We are finding out how and why favoritism is unbiblical. How then did Jesus teach so many different people, rich and poor, young and old, without ever showing partiality? Join us tomorrow as we take a closer look at the example He set for us. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-04 12:35:27 / 2023-03-04 12:43:49 / 8

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