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Jesus—Always, Only

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 31, 2022 3:00 am

Jesus—Always, Only

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 31, 2022 3:00 am

When dancers spin, they establish a focal point so they can maintain their balance. Christians similarly need focus to stay strong in faith in the midst of chaos and confusion. So where do we look? We’ll find out on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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When dancers spin, one of the ways they maintain their balance is by establishing a focal point. In the same way, as Christians, we need to fix our eyes on something in order to remain strong in our faith when everything around us seems to be in chaos and confusion.

So where should we fix our eyes? We'll find out today on Truth for Life Weekend. Alistair Begg is teaching from Hebrews chapter 13. We're looking at verse 8. Well, our text this morning is probably the best-known verse in the book of Hebrews. And I haven't checked, but I would not be at all surprised if this particular verse does not come in the top five of sermon topics for the first Sunday of a new year.

I would imagine that when people are gathering on the first Sunday of a new year, as we do now, there'd be quite a number that would come to this particular verse. What would you say is that it for you? Is that why you're doing this? Have you run out of ideas? Why are you all of a sudden becoming so predictable?

Well, I'm capable for all of that and more besides. But no, I have actually had this verse in my mind for two particular reasons. First of all, on account of a new series that is about to begin, and secondly, because of an old song that I've been unable to get out of my head running through my thinking for a significant part of this last year. The new series is on the book of Hebrews. It's going to be taught by my colleagues over the next thirteen weeks, which is a peculiar challenge for them and a wonderful encouragement for us, allowing us to fix our gaze quite unmistakably upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

That's the series. But the old song is a song that actually was written back in 1973 by a fellow called Alan Price, who at that time was the keyboard player for the animals—think House of the Rising Sun, if you can do anything with that. And in that context, he wrote this very short song.

It goes like this—I'm not going to sing it for you. You can relax. Everyone is facing changes.

No one knows what's going on. And everybody changes places, and still the world keeps moving on. Now love must always turn to sorrow, and everyone must play the game, because it's here today and gone tomorrow, but the world goes on the same. And here, in the eighth verse of Hebrews chapter 13, we have the antidote to that kind of thinking. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The writer to the Hebrews has begun his letter by saying, In the times past God spoke in various ways, but now in these days he has spoken to us by his Son, B.C.

and Odomone. And yet, in the context of the unfolding of his letter, we have these three tenses. Now, it is not my purpose or my prerogative to delve deeply into the letter.

That is for others to do. But we do need to recognize that our verse—that is, verse 8—comes between verse 7 and verse 9. And verse 7 provides an encouragement, and verse 9 provides a warning. The encouragement in verse 7, if your eyes are upon it, is to remember your leaders, those who spoke the Word of God, consider the outcome of the way of life—or in the King James Version, consider their end, consider how it finished, and imitate their life. Now, what I take it is—because he's going to go on down in verse 17 to come back to leaders again, the leaders that are still around—I take it that he's referring to those who have moved on. And what he's saying is, You should remember them. They live on in your memory.

And of course, they do. That's verse 7. And then the warning in verse 9. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it's good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods. Presumably, in the context, they were saying these external things matter far more than they really do, and so he's saying it is grace that ought to ground you in these exhortations, not a form of externalism. But make sure that you don't allow yourselves to be swept off course.

That's what he's saying. So, remember your leaders, and don't get swept off course. The answer to the departure of the leaders, who are no longer available to help, and to the danger of drifting, is verse 8—namely, a steady focus on the one who is always available, who is always the same, who is unchanging from year to year.

So, here we have it. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Let's just go through each of these, and that will be our study for this morning.

First of all, yesterday. In other words, in what the writer refers to as in the days of his flesh. You can see that in chapter 5 and in verse 7.

He says, In the days of his flesh this is how Jesus was. Now, as you know, I have depended all of my life on hymn writers and songwriters who have helped to encapsulate for me often big truths, pressed down into a very simple context so that my capacity to absorb it is… I'm capable of absorbing it. And not least of all in those who wrote hymns for children. One of the great benefits of being brought up in a context where you sing as a child and where you learn as a child is that it never leaves you. And so I found myself inevitably going to my childhood when I thought about yesterday. And a lady who wrote a wonderful hymn, which begins, I think, when I read that sweet story of old, how Jesus was here amongst men, how he called little children as lambs to his fold, I should like to have been with him then. I don't know about you, but it still draws me. Jesus moving amongst the people in the days of his flesh, Jesus being identified in the crowd, Jesus silencing his disciples, who are saying, Could you please get rid of these children? They're causing a dreadful hullabaloo. And Jesus saying, No, no, no, no, we're not going to do that.

Let them come to me. I wonder what he would have been like. Well, the fact is, we know. And how do we know? Well, because he has given to us the record of what he was. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John provide for us an insight into Jesus, as it were, yesterday. Last Sunday, we considered Jesus as a twelve-year-old boy. But Luke very quickly zooms on from there, fast-forward immediately—what, eighteen years?—and Jesus is introduced to us in the synagogue where he grew up in Nazareth. And when he is there—as you will find it when you read Luke 4 at your own leisure—when he's there, he is reading from the scroll of the prophet. Remember, in the past God spoke of old by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us in his Son. And Jesus the Son takes up the scroll of Isaiah, and he reads the section which says, He sent me to preach good news to the poor and to set the captives free and to grant sight to those who were blind.

And the people listen to this. They're familiar with the prophet. But what they were not ready for is what he then went on to say, Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Well, then, we would expect that if that is the case, we would read on in the gospel records and find Jesus doing exactly that. What? Setting captives free, granting sight to the blind, transforming people's lives.

And of course, that's exactly what we do find. We see him touching the untouchables. We see him putting his finger on the man's greatest need, the man who couldn't walk. And he thought, if he only had his legs, that would fix everything. The way some people are here today, they're saying, If only I got a degree, that would fix everything.

If only I got a raise, that would fix everything. And Jesus says, Now, let me tell you what the real need is. The real need is that you need salvation. He puts his finger on his life. He hangs with an unlikely crowd of people. He ticks off the religious authorities by going to the wrong parties.

I didn't come to start a religious club. He said, I came to call sinners, and also I am gentle and lowly in heart, and those who come to me will find rest for their souls. No, we don't need to be in any doubt at all about what Jesus was like yesterday. Secondly, what about today? Because the real question is, is he still like that? You know, what are you like on a Monday? And are you the same on a Wednesday? What were you like when you were seventeen now that you're forty-eight? Were you funny then? Were you sad then? Were you morose then?

What are you like now? Chances are that there are all kinds of ebbs and flows. But not in Jesus. He's the same. And what we learn from yesterday applies to today because he is the same. Now, obviously, we could affirm that on multiple fronts. But let me just say two things, again, that you will find these will unfold in our studies.

I'm absolutely confident. First of all, we know that he is able to save completely, because he always lives to intercede for us as we come to God in prayer. So when we read the Gospels and we see him yesterday, reaching into the lives of people and transforming them, and we come to that today, we not only look back to yesterday, but we discover that today he is the same. He appears in the presence of God on behalf of his children.

That's why we sing, Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea. He is the one who is able today to save completely. All those who draw near to God through him, through him, that he is the door, that he is the gate, that he is the shepherd of the sheep.

There are others who came before him who are thieves and robbers—again, from the Gospel records. But I am the door, he says. He who enters in through me will be saved, and he will go in and out, and he will find pasture. So he's able to save completely, and also, he is able to sympathize with us entirely. This is chapter 4.

You can find it there. He's able to sympathize with our weaknesses. This, again, flows from last Sunday, doesn't it? Because we said, quoting the Westminster Confession, that when the fullness of time had come, Jesus took upon himself man's nature—and I hope you remember this phrase—with all its essential properties and common frailties, yet without sin. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ became part of what he created. He who is the creator of the universe becomes part of that created order. That he is, today, a flesh-and-blood reality.

He's not a phantom, he's not a concept, he is a reality. And I'm gonna quote my favorite carol for the last time this Christmas, but probably not the last time ever—at least, I hope not—but it's absolutely apropos. Jesus is our childhood's pattern, day by day, like us he grew. He was little, weak and helpless, tears and smiles like us he knew. So he shareth in our gladness, and he feeleth for our sadness. How can God feel for your sadness? How can God share in your gladness? Unless God steps down into time. Unless God takes upon himself in the form of the second person of the Trinity.

All that is represented in humanity, yet without sin. Thereby enabling him to do what he did. So as you read on through the letters, we'll discover that he offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. He offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears. If it were no other place, then we see him in the Garden of Gethsemane, don't we? That he sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. And in many ways, what that is doing is authenticating the fact that we face these things, that we are fearful, that we cry, that we wonder, that we hope, that we long. He's the same.

He's the same today. If you come back to my children's hymn, it goes on. I wish that his hands had been placed on my head and that his arm had been thrown around me. I used to think about this when I was laying in my bed. I used to think about this, and I used to think about all his jewels—precious jewels, his something-something jewels. It's that little song. I used to think, I wonder how you become one of those. I wish that his hand had been placed on my head, and his arm had been thrown around me. Like, just like that.

Like yesterday. Then she goes on. She says to the children for whom she's writing, Yet still to his footstool in prayer I may go And ask for a share in his love. There you have it. What is prayer?

A long list of things? No! It's like cozying in. It's like saying, Jesus, all that I discovered about you yesterday is true and relevant today. I may not have your hand on my head physically. I do not have your arm around me.

But I have your Word, and I have your promises. And I want to be a bit like that lady who said, If I could just touch the hem of his garment. And Jesus says, Who touched me? And the speller said, What do you mean, who touched you?

Have you seen the crowd? How did he know? How does he know you? How does he know your weeping heart? How does he know your longings? How does he know? Because he is the same today as he was yesterday. I should ask you, before we come to tomorrow and all our tomorrows to our forever, I should ask you, as we enter this new year, are you trusting him in this way?

Do you know Jesus in this way, as a Savior, as a shepherd, as a friend? You know, I cannot escape my curse—I freely admit it—but as I was sitting pondering this in the middle of the week, a song came to my mind by a Scandinavian lady from, like, the sixties. Her name was Evie, and she sang a bunch of songs. I don't know where she is now, but one of the songs was, What kind of friend is there on a clear day and leaves at the first sign of rain?

Not this kind of friend. She's singing about Jesus. And then in another of them, she says, Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows? Are you tired of spinning round and round? Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life, and at the feet of Jesus lay them down. Oh, you see, the reason that you wouldn't do that, the reason that you're afraid to do that, is because somehow or another you've decided that the loss will be so great. But let me tell you this.

Do you not think that he will give you greater in place of the things that you set down? I wonder, have you tasted that the Lord is good today? And then, finally, forever. Forever.

What a transformation this brings about, doesn't it? Forever. Who's in charge of forever? He who is the same yesterday and today and forever. It's quite interesting that in the context in which he gives this word of assurance, he actually says, Keep your life free from love of money. There's a number of ways to love money. One is to love it because you've got a lot of it, and you want to hold onto it.

And the other way to love it is because you desperately want it, and you don't have any of it. So whether the love affair is with it or without it, the writer says, Let me tell you what the answer to that is—the contentedness which comes from knowing that he provides for us, so that we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper. I won't fear.

What can man do to me? Because he has said, I will never leave you, we can confidently say, I will not fear. He said, I won't leave you. We say, I won't fear. Now, he said, I will never leave you, and we said, Well, I'm not really feeling that very much. No, no.

No, no. He said, I will never leave you. We said, I will not fear.

It's a declaration. It's volitional before it is emotional. Everything will change. Everything will change. The heavens and the earth will pass away. Yet you will remain. Yet you will remain. Always. In other words, don't be alarmed. We've got it under control. That's why we read from Psalm 102.

That's why the writer begins in that way. You lay the foundations of the earth. They will perish. You remain. They'll wear out like a garment. Here's another thing you can do at the end of the year.

Get rid of old stuff. That's how God is going to treat the present universe. That's what it actually says. He rolls them up like an old bathrobe—something that you got for your Christmas in 1943.

You're not still wearing that, at least I hope you're not. No! You can gladly roll that up and dispense with it. That's what he says.

That's what he's going to do. Now, you see how that challenges the song with which we began? Everyone is facing changes, and no one knows what's going on. First line true, second line false.

Everyone is facing changes. But there is one who knows what's going on. He who laid the foundations of the earth. He who appeared to suffer in the sinner's place. He who bore the wrath that I deserve as a sinner. He who leads the company in praise. He who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Who else can fulfill that category, the forever category?

The hymn writers will help us. One there is above all others well deserves the name of friend. His is love beyond a brother's—costly, free, and knows no end. They who once his kindness prove.

Find it everlasting love. We can trust the promises of God because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend with Alistair Begg. Along with Alistair's daily messages, we carefully select books to help you grow in your faith. And this is the final weekend we're offering a book called Every Moment Holy. It's a book of prayers to help you become more aware of God's presence, not just in the big events of life, but throughout the day, in the everyday moments of life.

You can learn more about the book Every Moment Holy when you visit our website at truthforlife.org. Now before we close today's program, here is Alistair. Thanks Bob. On behalf of all of us here at Truth for Life, I wish you a very happy and blessed New Year. I'm Bob Lapine and we're glad you could join us as the old year passes away and the new year begins. Are you hoping to be better about sharing your faith in 2023?

I know I am. So why don't you join us next weekend as we begin a series that is focused on evangelism. We'll find out how a simple daily task can have eternal significance. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-31 04:34:30 / 2022-12-31 04:42:46 / 8

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