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“His Name Is John” (Part 4 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 14, 2022 3:00 am

“His Name Is John” (Part 4 of 4)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 14, 2022 3:00 am

Does John the Baptist’s message of repentance and salvation still speak to a culture where futility and pessimism prevail? How do we move from mere knowledge of salvation to a genuine experience? Hear the answers on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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In an age when futility and pessimism are so pervasive, does John the Baptist's message of hope still have anything to say to us today? We'll find out on Truth for Life as Alistair Begg teaches us from the first chapter in the book of Luke. We began to look at this section in Zechariah's song, and we said that there were essentially two verses in the song that he's singing—the first verse, which goes from 68 to 75, and then the second verse, which goes from 76 to 80. And in the first verse, Zechariah is magnifying God for his grace in the plan and purpose of redemption.

And then, in this second segment, he turns to describe the part which his son, John the Baptist, was to have in the unfolding purpose of God. So then, designation, a prophet of the Most High, you will go on before the Lord, preparation, verse 77, to give his people the knowledge of salvation. Now, this knowledge is not a formal, academic kind of knowledge.

Like, whatever pi r-squared it is, it is, you know. When he talks about a knowledge of salvation, he is not talking about mere mental perception, as when we know of something that we do not have. But he is talking of a knowledge of actual possession and experience. I'd like to issue a word of challenge at this point to some who are here, and all that you know of salvation is up here in your head. You may be creedily orthodox. If I ask you if you can say the creeds, you may be able to trot them out. I believe in God the Father, the make of heaven and earth, and of Jesus Christ his only Son, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was dead and buried and all that kind of stuff.

It's all good stuff. And I meet people from time to time, and they say to me, Well, I just believe the same as you believe. I just don't believe it in the same way that you believe it. Because after all, I know the creeds, I believe the creeds, I say the creeds.

Okay, fine, thank you for sharing that. But the question is this. Do you have a knowledge of salvation, an experiential grasp of what God has done in Christ?

Something that is not merely at arm's length or written out in a book, but something which has been translated into a revolution within your own heart and mind, so that you could never, ever be the same again? Well, you say, I don't know. I mean, how does this knowledge of salvation come about?

Well, you needn't be in any doubt. We're told in the second half of verse 77, he gives his people the knowledge of salvation how? Through the forgiveness of their sins.

Through the forgiveness of their sins. This forgiveness, or remission of sin, is an objective act of God. And from that objective act of God, there results a subjective knowledge in the life of the child of God, a knowledge of having been redeemed. So in order to have the knowledge, we have to have the remission.

Now, you only need to understand English to understand what I'm telling you. He gives his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Therefore, no man whose sins are not remitted can possibly know what salvation is. That's why we have hosts and hosts of religious people. But they don't know the knowledge of salvation. Nice people, sincere people, concerned individuals about humanity and about the Sermon on the Mount and about attending church and about doing their best and even about telling others of the importance of these things.

But since they have no experience of their sins being forgiven, they have no knowledge of salvation. Now, you see, this is what the prophet was on about in Jeremiah chapter 31 and verse 33. I can read it for you. If you don't want to scramble to it, I'll gladly do that. If you want to turn and make sure it's there, that's fine as well.

It's always good to do. Jeremiah chapter 31 and verse 33. This is the covenant, says God, that I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds, and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And no longer will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. Now, how will they know me?

How? The fore, the conjunction, gives the explanation there. And they will all know me from the least of the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. Now, this phrase here, for the forgiveness of sins, is a fantastic phrase. It is one of the most glorious phrases in all of Scripture.

It is two words alone in the Greek. A knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins, and the phrase is used to describe the setting away or the sending away of sin. For example, in Psalm 103 verse 12, the psalmist speaks of it being put as far as the east is from the west.

That's infinity. Micah chapter 7 verse 19 speaks about our sins being buried in the deepest ocean, no possibility of them ever emerging again and start bouncing around that we might meet them someday when we're out sailing on the sea of life. Isaiah 43 speaks of them being blotted out, as we noted, and remembered no more. Now, that is the experience of the forgiveness of sins. Do you know that? Have you ever had your sins forgiven?

I'm not talking about going to a man and running through the list from last week and having him tell you, put so much in the box and say this fifteen times and do a novena to St. Jude. I'm not talking about that for a moment. I know for a fact that many have done that. But such individuals, when I speak with them, never have an assurance of the forgiveness of their sins. And I'll tell you why I know, because they go back again. And they go back with the same sins. But a knowledge of salvation is through the forgiveness of our sins. And when God is no longer able to find our sins, we should indeed be very happy.

Now, that's what he's describing here. That's what the writer of the Hebrews picks up in Hebrews 10, and he quotes it again. God says, Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. That's forgiveness. You know that in your family life, don't you? When you came and you confessed to your mom or your dad, and you were honest and you were contrite and you were sorry, and you gave it up and you admitted it, and they said they forgave you, and then the first time you didn't clean your bedroom, bam!

It came right back out again. And furthermore, that thing we were talking about last Tuesday, let's just talk about that again while you're here. And we recognized in that moment, she never forgave me my sins.

Well, maybe she did the best she could. For we do not have the capacity of forgetfulness that God has. But here's the deal. God forgives and wipes the record clean. The person who returns again and again, not in repentance over the experience of the ongoing dirtiness of life. For all of us sin all the time, and repentance is a continual expression of genuine believing faith. I'm not referring to that ongoing relationship with God. I am referring to the fact that there came a time in the individual's life where they recognized that everything was stacked in the wrong direction. They were bereft, they were stuck, they were guilty, they were caught with a dagger in their hands, and they came before Christ and they said, Oh God, take all of this filthy, wretched, selfish mess and put it at the bottom of the ocean. And I never want to see it again.

Put it as far as the east is from the west. Press the delete button on my file in your computer." And in the strength of Christ, that's exactly what he did. Listen to this immense quote concerning the nature of forgiveness and justification. Poor sinful man is justified before God—that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins, and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and adopted into sonship and heirship of eternal life—without any merit or worth of our own. Also without any preceding, present, or subsequent works, out of pure grace because of the sole merit, complete achievement, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose obedience is reckoned to us for our righteousness. Now, that quote simply makes clear what verse 78 underpins, that the ground of this salvation, the ground of this forgiveness, is in the tender mercy of our God.

And how has the tender mercy of our God been made known? Look at the second half of the verse, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven. Read that in light of the Old Testament prophets. For example, what we considered in Malachi when we were opening these studies—Malachi chapter 4 and verse 2—"But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings." The Old Testament ends with the thought of the sun of righteousness appearing. You go back into the prophecy of Isaiah, and you find it with frequency—for example, Isaiah chapter 9 and in the opening verses.

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles by way of the sea and along the Jordan. And how their spirits must have risen within them, I wonder what this will mean. And then verse 2, the people walking in darkness have seen a great light on those living in the land of the shadow of death. A light has dawned. Fifty-one chapters later, in the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah, you have the exact same sentiment being reinforced. Arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples. But the Lord rises upon you, and his glory appears over you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. It's a great book, the Bible, you know.

It's a great and wonderful and awesome book. What is the prophet saying six hundred years before Christ? He's saying that Christ will come. And Zechariah prophesies of his child, and he says, This wee boy John, he's going to be designated the prophet of the Most High. He is going to be the preparer of the way.

He is going to be the one who sets forward the salvation which Christ himself will bring. And the purpose of the visitation of this rising sun, as verse 79 tells us—and with this we finish—the purpose of this visitation of Christ is to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet unto the path of peace. It's a wonderful metaphor here. The original metaphor is a picture of a party of travelers. The travelers are making their journey at a time when there is no electricity, there is no light, and they find themselves overtaken by the deepest darkness. It is pitch dark, they haven't reached their destination.

They're stuck. And as they sit in that experience of the nether darkness, they are overwhelmed by it with a sense of foreboding. And they are feeling in themselves that at any moment a wild beast may come and ravish them, or enemies may come and overtake them. And as they sit in that experience of darkness, all of a sudden, piercing the darkness, comes a shaft of light, and someone from without comes to them and says, Here, let me guide you in the way back to your destination. Let me take you on the path of peace. And the light leads them into safety.

Well, you don't need to be brilliant to understand the metaphor, do you? These words are pointing to the awful darkness and misery that prevailed among mankind before the coming of Christ—powerless and panic-stricken and threatened and in deep darkness. And in the coming of Christ, a light was to shine. And he was to walk onto the stage of human history, and he was to say to those who were living in the shadow of death, to those who were living in the darkness of religious experience, to those who were so consumed with who they were and where they'd come from and what they'd been doing. In all of their darkness, Jesus said, I am the light of the world, and he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life. And the wise men came out of the darkness, and they said, We have seen a star in the east, and we are searching for him, and we have come to worship him. And tonight wise men still search for him. The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.

If that's what you're saying, then the Bible says not that you are mentally deficient but that you are morally stupid. Wise men seek him. And today, tonight, is there a better description of our contemporary culture, those living in darkness and in the shadow of death?

That's where we live. Notwithstanding all the external show and all the dynamic power that has been represented in the advances of the twentieth century, modern mankind manifests a deep weariness of life, an almost pathological pessimism, when you gaze beyond their eyes and into their souls, an all-embracing sense of futility which is pervasive in the lives of the teenage and early twenties population in our nation tonight. They are not only fed up with politics, they are fed up with relationships, they are fed up with science, they are fed up with church, they are, frankly, fed up with family, and they're fed up with everything. And they are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. Now, what is the answer there? Some new political initiative?

No, it is the power of the message of which John the Baptist came to be the forerunner. As you know, I read the New York Times, and some of you do as well. And I noticed just on Friday that they finally sentenced a couple of kids for that dreadful murder, where a learning disabled child who had stumbled on a group of apparent friends who were planning a getaway to Florida had given the impression that she might spill the beans. And they took a rope and put it round her neck, and they hanged it over a tree, and they pulled it till it was tight, and a sixteen-year-old girl took a large rock and bashed the fifteen-year-old disabled child's face till it was beyond recognition.

And then they went to McDonald's, the crowd of them. And indeed, seven days elapsed before the fifteen-year-old girl was found hanging in the forest. We're living in the shadow of death.

We're living in the deepest darkness. What a sorry, sorry story of the fifteen-year-old basketball player, bright student, wanting to be a pilot, one of a hundred boys making plans in a group of nine hundred. A good student. A Sunday school boy. I wept when I read his mother's comment. She said, and every night he came to me and took my face in his hands and said, I love you, Mama. I love you. And as a result of his being the highest scorer in the basketball game, and the animosity and the emptiness and the pain and the aggravation that was represented in what should have been simply another basketball game, they chased the crowd down the street and someone hit him with a baseball bat on the head, and another youth dived on top of him and drove a knife into his chest twice.

And before the ambulance reached the hospital, this wee boy was gone. Now please, surely we're not going to buy all this claptrap about we can educate our way out of it, you know? Or we're just coming up with something. It's in the wings, and we'll be bringing it in. No, let us say tonight, I want to be like John the Baptist.

I want to get out here on the streets. I want to go and prepare the way of the Lord. I want to say to the people walking in darkness and in the shadow of death, a light has come, and I want to say finally to some of you tonight for whom that designation fits far too perfectly than you ever want to admit, because you are just like Noel Coward.

You say, In what way? He writes in his diary, My past depresses me, my present bores me, and my future scares me to death. And a light has come.

So what would you do? You would say, Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind, sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea, all I need in thee to find, Lord Jesus Christ, I come. You're listening to Truth for Life. That is Alistair Begg challenging each one of us to be more like John the Baptist, to prepare the way and to point others to Jesus.

Alistair is back in just a moment. To prepare for the Lord's return and to be able to talk to others about Jesus, it's important for us to understand the Bible. And if you're looking for some foundational resources to help keep you rooted in God's word throughout the coming year, we have three recommendations for you today. First, Alistair's newly released book, Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions, Volume Two. This is a one-year devotional book that presents a passage from Scripture each day, followed by a commentary from Alistair. If you've not yet obtained a copy, you'll find it on our website at truthforlife.org slash gifts. Also, if you're looking to start 2023 with a new Bible, we're making available an exceptional edition. It's a genuine leather, large print reference Bible.

It uses the English standard version text. This is the same version Alistair teaches from week by week on Sundays. And because of the generous giving that comes from so many who listen to this program, we're able to offer this Bible at more than 80% off the retail price today.

It's available for just $35. Visit truthforlife.org slash gifts to purchase a copy. And if you're a regular donor who helps make these low prices possible, we want to say a very warm thank you. Finally, tomorrow is the last day for you to request the book, Be Thou My Vision, when you support Truth for Life with the donation. You can jumpstart your daily worship time with this collection of prayers, catechisms, and creeds from throughout the centuries. The book features writings from Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, the Book of Common Prayer, Martin Luther, John Wesley, and many more.

You'll find these three books on our website. Again, the link is truthforlife.org slash gifts, or call us at 888-588-7884 to place your order. And when you add a donation at checkout, remember to request the devotional, Be Thou My Vision.

Now here is Alistair to close our program. Father, will you write your word into our hearts tonight? At whatever point we find ourselves on the continuum of doubt or faith. I pray for some who have come, for whom these words cut, and they wonder that you will be gracious to them. Lord, I pray that you would speak into their hearts as they live in darkness, shine your light, teach us how sweet it is to trust in you, Lord Jesus, and to take you at your word. For we pray in your powerful name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. The birth of Jesus was an extraordinary, dramatic event. So why is Luke's description of it so ordinary? Join us tomorrow as we hear the answer. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-14 12:44:07 / 2022-12-14 12:52:35 / 8

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