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Response, Request, Reminder

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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November 29, 2023 3:00 am

Response, Request, Reminder

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 29, 2023 3:00 am

Scripture’s clear that salvation isn’t earned by good behavior. Christ alone redeems. Does that mean we’re free to live however we want under God’s grace? Discover the balance between obedience and “walking in love,” on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


The Bible is clear that we can't earn our salvation through our good deeds or through right behavior. It is Jesus alone who redeems us.

So does that mean we're now free to live however we want under the umbrella of God's grace? Today on Truth for Life Alistair Begg looks at how the Apostle John clarified the balance between obedience and love. …the elder to the chosen lady and her children whom I love in the truth, and not only myself but also all who know the truth, because of the truth which lives in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son will be with us in truth and love. It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.

And now, dear lady, I'm not writing you a new command but one we've had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Now, just a prayer. Father, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us.

For Christ's sake. Amen. Well, we began this morning by, first of all, noticing the identity of the writer, namely John, the one who wrote the Gospel, and the recipient of the letter, a congregation in the area of Ephesus, personified under the nomenclature, the chosen lady and her children. We then paid attention to John's emphasis on truth, under the heading The Priority of Truth. And then we ended in verse 3 by paying attention to the security of grace.

All of that is by way of his introductory greeting. If your Bibles open in front of you, you will notice that before he alerts his flock to the threat that they face, which comes in verse 7 and on, John first of all assures them of the thrill that he enjoys as a result of the news that has reached him. So let me summarize his verses here, first of all, by noticing his response. His response. It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth.

Or, I was overjoyed to find that some of your children are diligent in living out the truth. The verb here, to find, is the verb eurika. Eurika.

And some people only know one Greek word, and that's it. And there you are. You've found it, right here in 2 John. It has given me great joy to find eurika, to make the discovery that some of your children are walking in the truth. Every pastor, elder, church leader can surely identify with this. One of the great joys of pastoral ministry, and growing older in pastoral ministry, and enjoying length and tenure in pastoral ministry, is to find oneself in the position where generations are born and grow and go on and marry and have children of their own. And in all of that, it is no surprise that John expresses well the thrill and the joy and the encouragement that falls to all who are involved in pastoral leadership in relationship to their children physically, emotionally, their children by birth, and their children by new birth who are walking on with God.

The pastor's privilege, said Archbishop Colgan some years ago, can be summarized as follows. His responsibility is to give consistent advice to the puzzled, warm encouragement to the promising, and compassion to the perplexed. And when all of that is taking place and the news reaches the person who's enjoyed that privilege, then it is no surprise that the response is as noted here by John. The news has reached him that some of their children are walking in the truth. Whether it means that all of those about whom he has heard are walking in the truth, or whether what he's saying is some of your children but not all of your children, it's impossible, actually, to tell from the syntax here. The fact is that it is the happy-sad element of pastoral ministry that usually it isn't all, but we can be glad when it is at least some—some still on the path, some staying the course, some living the life, some ordering their footsteps in accordance with the gospel.

All of this, says John, gives to him great joy. Now, when you think about the call to stay on the path, to do things properly, you don't have to stay just in the New Testament. You find that on a number of occasions, especially in death and dying scenes in the Old Testament, you have a father urging his physical child in this way. You needn't turn to it, but let me quote to you the beginning of David's charge to Solomon. When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.

"'I am about to go the way of all the earth,' he said. So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires. Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go." And of course, David is the one who writes the entry to all of the wonderful book of Psalms.

The entire Psalter is prefaced by this same notion, isn't it? "'Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He, that man, shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, and whatsoever he does prospers. For the wicked are not so.

They are like the chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.' So surely, given such deep conviction, as he faces his demise, he would bring his son to him and lay that charge upon him, because he longs for his son to walk in the truth." There is, can be, no greater joy. And what a tragedy when you read Solomon's story, and how foreign wives turn his heart away from the very foundations laid by his godly father.

God's promises remain, and we hold on to them, don't we, with both of our hands? We long to have this kind of joy. I recently read a series of—really, it was a fetch script—written in adulation of the actress Judi Dench. And a number of her friends had written a chapter concerning their admiration and affection for her, and none struck me more forcibly than the one written by a Scotsman by the name of Billy Connolly.

And I can't quote exactly his final sentence, but it went something like this. Whenever I think of you now, Judi, it feels like I'm having a wee party in my heart. And I thought, what a strange and tender and endearing thing to say. When I think of you, my heart is in celebration. John writes to these people under his care, and that's his response.

It has given me great joy to discover that some of your children are walking in the truth. Then in verse 5, from his response to his request, And now, dear lady, I'm not writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. You'll notice, if you're paying attention, that command comes again and again now, and set within the context of a call to love.

It ought to jog our attention and cause us to sit up and think. The command has come from a higher authority. The command has come from the Lord Jesus Christ himself. It had once been a new command. John had recorded it himself in John chapter 13, where Jesus had said to his disciples, A new commandment I give to you, that you'll love one another. But now John, as an elderly man, writing this letter, no longer sees it as a new command. It's as old as the gospel itself. Many who were the recipients of this letter would be able to identify the same. They had known this command from the beginning of their Christian lives.

And I think you will notice how carefully he puts this. I'm not writing a new command, but one we have had from the beginning. I ask, notice that we love one another. He could justifiably have said, And I ask that you love one another.

That would be a legitimate call, an exhortation on behalf of the elderly pastor for his flock. Come on now. I want you all to love one another. Let me see how wise and how humble and how right is his approach. This is my polite request. I'm requesting that we all love each other.

Brooks, as the elder who has the right to command, merely grounds a personal request as between equals on the old command laid on both alike by the master. Let me remind you, in the words of John himself in his first letter concerning the nature of this love to which he refers, when he writes in 1 John 4 7, Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world, that we might live through him. And this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

His response is one of joy. His request is for love. And finally, in verse 6, he gives to them a reminder. And this is love, colon in English, and this is love, that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you've heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Let me say to you again, you will notice commanded in verse 4, a new command, verse 5a, command 6a, command 6b. Now, they start to help us and guide us, especially in relationship to the silly idea that to walk in love is about warm feelings and hugs. There may be warm feelings and hugs, but that's not what he's talking about here. This love may be experienced and engendered without those expressions. Not that one would argue necessarily for it, but I need you to notice that when he speaks in terms of love and when he defines it, he defines it in terms of our wills, not in terms of our emotions.

He defines it in terms of our obedience and our obedience to God's command. And this is the command that we've had from the beginning. In other words, he says, This is old news, but it's good news, and it's necessary news. He's setting his stage for what he's about to say in 7 and following concerning the advanced teaching, or the call to advance on the part of these false teachers. They were going to come amongst the people and say, You know, you've got that material, but what you really need is the advanced course. And let us tell you some new material.

Let us take you on from here. And John, recognizing that he's going to tackle that, says, I want you to know that, if you like, the oldies are the goodies. Don't think for a moment, he says, that love may be said in contrast to obedience. And of course, in his Gospel, he's made this perfectly clear, recording the words of Jesus again in John 14, which is a key chapter that we need our finger in when we're studying the Johannine epistles. John 14, 15, Jesus said, If you love me, you will obey what I command. Verse 21, Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he's the one who loves me.

15, 10, If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. So let's just note this, and this can be the last point that we note, that walking in love is directly tied to obeying God's commands—the commands of God that are given to us in the Decalogue, the commands of God that are reinforced for us in the Scriptures when we read them. So, for example, when Paul writes in Romans 13, concerning submission to authorities, he says, Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.

And then he enumerates this, the commandments. Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be are summed up in this one rule, Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. It is a mistake to see Christian freedom, Christian liberty, disengaged from God's law.

Many of us have a difficult time with this because of where we've been brought up, and because of the kind of phraseology that we have bandied around without fully understanding what we're saying—or, if we understand what we're saying, not realizing the implications of what we're saying. The Christian believer is not under law in that their salvation doesn't depend upon their obedience to the law. But that does not relieve the Christian believer from the obligation of keeping the law. The law of God shows us our sin and sends us to Jesus as the only solution to our sin. Jesus returns us to God's law not as the dynamic of our sanctification, not as the means of our justification, but as the framework for the work of God within our lives. So when people say, for example, well, of course, there's nothing we need to obey, there's nothing now we need to do, because we're not under law, we're under grace.

They're just talking out of the top of their hats. They are declaring the fact that they have never understood the Bible. Now, let me just give you a couple of quotes, and then we're through. Let me read to you what has been said concerning this. There are those who reject the permanent validity of the law, often basing their objection on the idea that love replaces law in the living of the Christian life.

Listen carefully, because this may be what you actually have been saying. The Christian, they say, is ruled by the Spirit of love and so is free from the law as a rule of life. They reject the idea of the believer being guided and taught by the Spirit to display his love for God by keeping the commandments. Instead, they say, he lives not by rules but according to the judgments of his own heart as constrained by love alone. Thomas Taylor challenges those who say we must not live by any rules but simply in response to the spiritual promptings of the moment. Quotes, To say we obey God by the Spirit without a law or a commandment is a mere pretense. For is there any obedience without a law?

What can be more ridiculous than for a subject to profess obedience to his prince but yet will not be under any law? To substitute the judgments of our own hearts for the law was wrote Anthony Burgess in 1646 to have the sun follow the clock. The Puritans spoke about the believer keeping the law from an evangelical ability, understanding that it's possible to keep the law externally and fastidiously in a form of moralism. In direct contrast, they realize that God has, if you like, fashioned the believer's heart in the shape of the law so that he keeps the law not by natural endeavor but as a result of the energizing power of the Holy Spirit. He is working out his own salvation with fear and trembling, not in order that but because it is God who works in them according to his will and his own good purpose.

The Westminster Confession puts it in this way. The Spirit of Christ subdues and enables the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God revealed in the law requires to be done. This is not to be bound and restricted but to live in the freedom that the psalmist declared, "'I will always obey your law forever and ever.

I will walk about in freedom, for I have obeyed your precepts.'" So when John writes as he writes here, tying the expressions of Christian love to obedience to God's command, he sets himself apart from the tyranny of legalism on the one hand, which seeks to make obedience the key to acceptance, and antinomianism on the other hand, which seeks to negate the demands and the commands of the instruction of the Bible, instead determining that all we need to do is just follow the dictates of our loving hearts. Do you know how many people I have had to counsel who have come to me to tell me that they are just following the dictates of love, and what they're actually doing is violating the very commands of Scripture, thereby proving that what they're doing has nothing to do with Christian love at all?

It may have something to do with physical and earthly lust, but it cannot be the love of which John writes, for this is love, that we live in obedience to God's commands. Well, may God help us to this so that we might learn to walk in his truth. You're listening to Truth for Life.

That is Alistair Begg with a message he has titled, Response, Request, Reminder. As Alistair mentioned in today's message, it's thrilling when we see younger generations walking in the truth. Today, we want to recommend a book to you that you can use to encourage your children or your grandchildren to follow Jesus, even from a very young age. The book is called, The Big Book of Questions and Answers About Jesus, and this is an excellent family resource that will help point school-aged children to the truth and joy that is found in Christ. As the title suggests, the book follows a question-and-answer format.

There are more than 30 questions that you and a child can talk about, discuss together. Questions like, what was Jesus like when he was young? What is Jesus doing now?

What will Jesus be doing in the future? Ask for your copy of The Big Book of Questions and Answers about Jesus today when you donate to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. You can donate through our mobile app or online at slash donate, or if you'd prefer, you can call us at 888-588-7884. By the way, the book is an excellent Christmas gift for young families. It's also perfect to use in your church's children's ministry or a Christian grade school. If you request a book with your donation and you'd like to purchase additional copies, you'll find them in our online store. They're available at our cost of just $7 while supplies last. Visit slash store. I'm Bob Lapine. Tomorrow we're going to find out how we can discern the difference between a genuine preacher and a crafty deceiver. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-29 07:06:52 / 2023-11-29 07:14:59 / 8

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