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The Way We Were (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
September 22, 2022 4:00 am

The Way We Were (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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September 22, 2022 4:00 am

The grace of God shouldn’t only be a doctrine we cling to, but displayed in how we relate to governments, family and one another. Alistair Begg examines the actions of a grace-filled Christian as defined in the letter to Titus. Be listening on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Some people think if they try really hard to be kind and moral, law-abiding citizens, they can somehow earn their way to heaven. As we'll hear from Alistair Begg today, while they may be highly respected and well-liked, they're actually in serious spiritual danger. Today on Truth for Life, we'll learn how it's possible to be lost in all of our niceness.

Alistair is teaching in Ephesians chapter 2, where in verses 1 through 3— Well, the verses are fairly tightly packed. I've tried to summarize them. This is my first attempt at it. We may have to come back and do them again, having heard myself in the first hour. But anyway, let's just give you five words that begin with the letter D. The first one is obvious.

We've already mentioned it. Dead. And you were, past tense, dead. If this does not describe you, I say to you again, just so we understand one another, if there is no past tense, if it is present tense, then you're logical enough to recognize that the Bible diagnosis says you're a dead man. You're a dead woman. You're either where or you are. You're either dead or you're alive.

Unless a man or a woman comes to believe in Jesus, accepts all that God has done in Jesus, then they remain in the condition in which they are created—namely, dead men walking. Oh, of course, we were at the same time physically alive. We were able to get up and go out in the morning, engage in sport, in commerce, in academics, in politics. We enjoy friendship.

We enjoy family and so on. But the Bible says that as we went through all of that, we did so as dead men. We were able to argue about religion, but we had no relationship with Jesus. We were blind to the beauty of Jesus. People would talk about what a wonderful Savior Jesus is. We said, I don't get that at all. We were deaf to his voice when the Bible was taught. It just was like one ear and out the other, or maybe not even in an ear at all. Attendance at church was at best a kind of religious ceremony. Get it over as fast as you can.

Hopefully, it won't take too long. Or it was a chore, something to endure. The songs were an embarrassment. How strange these people singing these songs. Why are they getting themselves so worked up? What is that fellow doing raising his hands in the air? I can't believe these people.

What a strange group they are. Let's get out of fear as quickly as we can. And hopefully, we won't have to come back very often.

That's the way we were. Come on now, Alistair. You're going to go to Sunday school. I don't want to go to Sunday school. And you've got the Bible class. I'm not going to the Bible class.

But you love the Bible class. No, I don't. I hate it. Don't say that.

Okay, I won't, but I do. What's up with the kid? He's dead. She's dead. She's unresponsive. She doesn't hear God. And you can't make her. And neither can I. Only God can. Only God raises the dead. You see, that's our evangelism.

It's impossible. When I go to the graveyard for my lunch, every so often here in Chagrin, I might as well stand there and call people out of their tombs. I see the names. Come on out. Nothing happens. I eat my lunch. I go away again. It's the same here. Come out, I say.

Believe, I say. You look at me like a cow looking over a wall. What's he on about?

What's he getting upset about? I just don't understand it. That's the way we were.

Dead. You see, the diagnosis of humanity is either that we're sick and we just really need a doctor or that we're well and we just need a few more vitamins. We can fix this. We can work it out. Think of what I'm saying.

Do I have to keep on speaking until I can't go on? You know, we can work it out. And then you say to yourself, I can work it out.

Why can't you work it out? Dead. Secondly, drifting. Drifting. We walked on a path that was the course of this world. Verse two.

You once walked down this path. Remember, the Bible says that there is a broad road that leads to destruction and there is a narrow way that leads to life. And what Paul is saying here is before we come to trust in Christ, we just go down the same path as everybody else. We convince ourselves that there's safety in numbers.

Everybody believes this or everybody disbelieves this or everybody does this or everybody wants this or I'm just doing what everybody does. That's before we came to Christ. I use the word drifted because it starts with D and also because J.B. Phillips uses it in his paraphrase. You drifted along on the stream of this world's ideas of living.

That helps me. So what am I like before I trust in Christ? I'm a drifter. I'm a drifter. Any dead fish can go with the current of the river.

Takes a live fish to swim against the current. And before I was made alive, I inevitably went with the current. I'm not being as ostensibly bad, as engaged as everybody else, but a condition of my life before God, my soul before God, was that the deadness of my life meant that I was a drifter. That's what the Bible says. We were swimming with the stream that was secular. What is described here is it's society organized without reference towards God.

Society organized without reference towards God. Doing its best, trying its hardest, turning over new leafs, hoping to fix itself, easing its disappointments, licking its wounds, and so on. And yet in our heart of hearts, we say to ourselves, I don't know if I'm going to be able to make this.

I don't seem to be able to affect anything at all. Why? The Bible tells us here that we were following the prince of the power of the air, the devil. You ever read Screwtape letters?

I commend it to you, C.S. Lewis. Screwtape and his nephew, Wormwood. By the time Paul is closing out the letter in chapter six, he's telling the believers that we're not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places. What is he talking about? He's talking about the activity of evil in our world, that there is a spiritual world that we cannot see, that is representative of all kinds of manifestations of darkness and of death and deadness.

Think about so many of the contemporary movies, the preoccupation with darkness and with death and with devils and chaos. Why is this? And why does nobody really care? Well, because he's the prince of the power of the air. He's in charge of this stuff under God, but nevertheless. Thirdly, disobedient. Disobedient.

Following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Why do I do what I do? Why do I go where I go? Why am I in a position of my own?

Why was I that way? Well, because I was part of a band, a bad band. I mean, a group, a band. I was listening to a thing from the BBC yesterday on ska music. I think it's called ska, and it was pretty good. But they had bands from Japan and bands from Australia, bands from everywhere.

It lasted about an hour. And I thought, you know, everybody's in a band one way or another. And by nature, I'm in a bad band. The band is called the Sons of Disobedience. You see, you've got teenage kids. They're members of a band.

Apart from Jesus, they're playing in a band called the Sons of Disobedience. That's why they are the way they are. That's why you can't fix them.

You can't. You can pray for them. You can influence them. You can encourage them, but you can't make them alive.

Dylan was right. You're going to have to serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're going to serve somebody. Disobedient. Fourthly, debased. This gets more uncomfortable by the D, doesn't it?

You're like, could you encourage us just a little more before we finish? You're saying to yourself in the back of your mind, well, at least it's sunny outside. No, I get that. I get it entirely. I've been living under the burden of this for the last two weeks.

This is either true or this is the biggest load of rubbish you ever came across in your entire life. If it's true, then it affects everything, not least of all our evangelism. We're not going to people to say, would you like to meet Jesus?

He'll add to the sum of your total happiness. We're not going to people and say, would you like to get a little direction in your life? It doesn't really matter to us if you do or you don't. That's not what we're doing. We're going to people and saying, you know what?

We've got good news for you. The voice of Jesus will call you out of your deadness. You say, well, I'm not dead.

Well, first he'll have to show you that you are, and then he'll call you. Debased is an accurate description of, we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of our body and our mind. Just that's the way it is. Now, flesh—what does that word flesh mean? Well, let's think of it in terms of the human condition weakened and distorted by sin. The human condition weakened and distorted by sin. And notice that it is both physical and it is intellectual, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.

You remember in Screwtape that he's encouraging Wormwood to encourage the enemies, that is the servants of God, to take the good things that God has given either at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or in the wrong quantities. And our internal mechanism is drawn to that. That's why you have to argue for heterosexual monogamy in a world that is so messed up sexually. That is why you have to argue to convince a young person that the only safe and enjoyable place for sex is within marriage, and that outside of marriage it is fearful, it is destructive. You have to argue for that. You don't have to argue for the rest.

Why? Because by nature we all once lived in the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of our bodies instinctually, both in terms of physicality and intellectually. So somebody says, well, you know, I'm not an immoral person.

Okay, well, we can have that conversation. But maybe you're an arrogant person. Maybe you're an arrogant unbeliever.

Maybe you say to yourself when you get in the car, I'll never descend to that kind of level of thinking and accept that strange concoction of biblical or anti-biblical or unbiblical wisdom. Why is that? Because of the diagnosis.

You're only doing what comes naturally. Both mind and body manifesting itself in outrageous acts, manifesting itself in respectable forms. Again, C.S. Lewis, remember, he talks about the businessman who is very well respected in the community, has a lovely corner office, has his initials stamped into his cuff. His monogram is on his cuff.

And C.S. Lewis says, in a well-lit office, there he sits, a nice man, lost in his niceness. Lost in his niceness. You see, because it is only the grace of God that comes and speaks to somebody who says, you know, actually, I'm buying this diagnosis. I am a horrible, dead mess. And I am so horrible, so dead, so messed up that there's no way I'm getting fixed. And the gospel says, oh, yes, there is. Let me tell you about Jesus. The other person says, I'm actually not really quite messy at all. I'm a very fine fellow.

And I really don't see any need whatsoever. And the gospel comes and says, you're a dead man, sir. In fact, the very reaction of your mind is indicative of it. Debased. Dead.

Drifting. Disobedient. Debased. And finally, destined. Destined for what? Destined to experience the wrath of God. We were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.

What does that mean? Well, what he's saying is that we are both enslaved and we are at the same time condemned. Condemned to suffer the just judgment of God upon sin. You see, the wrath of God is the reaction of God to evil.

It is the reaction of absolute holiness to that which is opposed to holiness. The wrath of God is not arbitrary. It's not like a fiery outburst of some old grandpa who lost his temper when he was driving in Solon or whatever it is. No, the wrath of God isn't arbitrary. It is predictable. The wrath of God is not an impersonal force.

It is distinctly personal. It is the wrath of God. It is his settled reaction to evil in the world.

Now, don't stumble over this. Don't go down the road that says, Well, actually, I believe in the love of God, but I don't believe in the wrath of God. Think about it. His love is the occasion of his wrath. It is because he loves that he is opposed to all that is evil, in the same way that your cancer doctor loves you and is so opposed to the tumor that is in you that he will do everything in his capacity to remove it for your well-being. The worst thing he could do was say, Who cares?

A tumor here, a tumor there. Indifference? An expression of love? Indifference on the part of God to our evil? Who would believe in a God that was indifferent? It is his very justice that is the indication of the extent of his love.

You know this. Doesn't it make you angry when someone you love harms themselves? Don't you get angry for what they're doing, for their foolishness? Oh, that just fries me. When you see injustice, do you just go, Hey, injustice? Big deal.

It's a big world. I hope you don't. I hope you react in anger. That shouldn't happen like that. That shouldn't happen to that lady. That should not have taken place in that way. We understand that.

I say to you again, in light of that, can you really believe in and trust a God who is indifferent to our sin, who doesn't care enough about us to be angry about our rebellion? I couldn't. I couldn't.

It doesn't work. There is no explanation for the cross of Jesus Christ, apart from the wrath of God. Why a cross? Well, because God loved.

Yeah, but you still haven't explained why a cross. As I've said to you many times before, I mean, if I tell my wife it's Sue, I'm going to throw myself in Lake Erie, because I love you so much. She'd say, You lost your mind. But if she fell out of a boat and I went in after her in order to save her, there would be some significance in that. The love of God is expressed in the wrath of God. And the wonder of the gospel is this, that he has brought forward into time the punishment that we deserve and placed it on his son in order that we might then enjoy the benefits that accrue to us. My one defense, my righteousness, we sang it this morning, Lord, I need you.

I always need you. Every hour I need you, because my standing before you is not on the basis of how well I'm doing or how I've patched things up, but I am dependent entirely upon the fact that bearing shame and scoffing rude in my place condemned he stood and sealed my pardon with his blood, bearing wrath. If my child, says Finley, does willful wrong, if by some act of greed or passion he imperils his moral future and destroys the peace and the well-being of the house, shall I not be grieved with him with an anger proportioned to the love I bear him? You see, the Father who says, You can just go and do what you want.

What do I care? Who wants such a father? And in God we do not have that kind of father. The difficulty that many of us will face with this is because we have such a superficial view of what has happened to us when we came to trust in Christ, until we get some kind of modicum of an understanding of the fact that the way we were was dead, drifting, disobedient, debased, and destined for the wrath of God.

Until that begins to dawn upon our hearts, then we will neither praise him as we should, nor will we explain to our friends and neighbors why it is so important for them to know the love of God in Jesus. Because in the back of our minds, we'll be saying of them what we're tempted to say about ourselves. Well, you know what? I'm not a bad guy after all. My boss is not such a bad guy either. He's a nice guy. He's very good with his wife. I see him with his children.

He goes on vacation. All of that is true. But the divine diagnosis is, your boss is a dead man walking. And the only way to do evangelism, ultimately, is to do it under the shadow of the wrath of God, thereby reminding us of the wonder of the love of God. The Bible describes us as dead, drifting, disobedient, debased, and ultimately destined to face God's wrath. That's the way we were, or the way we are, before salvation. We're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life.

Alistair returns shortly to close today's program. As we just heard from Alistair, our standing before God isn't based on our performance. It's based on the finished work of Jesus on our behalf. If you'd like to know more about God's plan of salvation, take a few minutes to watch a couple of brief helpful videos.

You'll find them online at the Learn More page at The more we understand about God's holiness, His grace, His love for His people, the easier it becomes to trust Him, and at the same time to grasp the seriousness of His wrath. And yet so many people continue to strive in their own effort. That's why it's our passion at Truth for Life to teach the Bible every single day. We trust God to work through the teaching of His word on this program to help unbelievers come to a saving knowledge of Christ, to further establish believers in their faith, and to build up and strengthen local churches.

Along with Alistair's messages, we choose books each month to recommend to you, books that we choose with our mission in mind. You may have heard me mention the book Seven Reasons to Reconsider Christianity. This is a book that gives straightforward answers to skeptical questions about Christianity.

For example, there are people who dismiss scripture as being an unintelligent source. There are others who question Jesus' death and resurrection. In the book, the author gives compelling, informative reasons for why the Bible is an intelligent and trustworthy source, and why Jesus is worth following. This is a great gift to give to someone who isn't sure about Jesus or to give to someone having doubts about things they may have previously believed.

Request your copy of Seven Reasons to Reconsider Christianity when you give a donation at slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair. Now here's Alistair with a prayer. Oh God, help us, we pray, to be students of your word, to bow down under its dictates, to trust its promises, to heed its warnings, and to tell its story. Lord, thank you that we can actually say this is the way we were. We're not all that we need to be, but we're definitely not what we once were. When we were lost, you came and rescued us, reached into the pit and lifted us up. Otherwise, why would we even be here? Why would we even care?

Why would we even sing these songs? The very breath that we breathe is an indication of your grace and your mercy. We thank you. In Christ's name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Today's message confronted us with a divine diagnosis that outside of Jesus, all of us are dead in our sins. So how do we fix this? Tomorrow we'll hear the divine remedy to this grave diagnosis. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-16 01:36:32 / 2023-01-16 01:45:22 / 9

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