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Confessional Christianity

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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December 1, 2023 3:00 am

Confessional Christianity

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 1, 2023 3:00 am

When it comes to faith, does your walk match your talk? Does the way you live affirm the beliefs you profess, or do you say one thing and do another? Find out what it means to model Christianity with integrity, 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!


When it comes to your faith, does your walk match your talk? Does the way you live affirm the beliefs you profess?

Or do you say one thing and then do something else? Today on Truth for Life we'll find out what it looks like to model Christianity with integrity. Alistair Begg is teaching from 2 John. We're looking at verses 7 through 13. We last time noted the challenge of David Wells's words when he said, If the evangelical church doesn't want to lose its voice, then at this point in history it must remember two points in particular. Number one, that Christianity is about truth, and number two, that those who say they are Christians must model this truth by their integrity. And of course, this is the very essence of this little letter, because John is interweaving truth and love—a truth that prevents our love from becoming sentimentalism and a love which prevents our truth from becoming brittle and unkind in its presentation of itself. Now what John has done, first of all, is issue, if you like, an indictment on what we refer to as counterfeit Christianity. And in verse 7 he makes it quite clear that deceivers have gone out into these communities.

So there are deceptive people abroad in the time, in the first century, to which John is writing—in which he is writing—and amongst the communities to which he is writing. Now, it is in direct contrast to that counterfeit stuff that the disciples of Jesus make an honest confession. And the earliest Christian creed is simply three words, Jesus is Lord.

Jesus is Lord. And in the saying of that, the early Christians were not making a statement concerning their personal devotional life. They were actually making a statement concerning the identity of Jesus, so that the word in the Old Testament for God, Yahweh, when translated into a Greek version of the Old Testament, was, almost without exception, over six thousand times translated as curious, so that when you have a Greek version of the Old Testament and you come to Yahweh, you come almost exclusively to curios, thereby identifying God himself with curios, with Lord.

And so, when Paul classically in Philippians 2 gives us that great hymn of praise, he says, And one day at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And what Paul was affirming there was not the strength of his devotion but the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. These deceivers, these interlopers, both then and now, deny that.

Do not tell us they're denying it, but they deny it. Hence the deceitfulness. So the true Christian is the one who confesses properly and is the one who continues routinely in the faith. Now, in light of that, let us move to what we might refer to as confessional Christianity.

If what he is indicting is a form of consumerism—that is, counterfeit—then what he is affirming is what we might refer to as a Christianity that confesses. In other words, there is a body of truth that is understood. There are credo statements that are both defined and explicable and lived by, so that it is not whatever you want it to be. First of all, we need to know, as I've told you before, what the Bible means. And once we know what it means, then we can talk about what it means to us.

But not until. Otherwise, the Bible may mean whatever we want it to mean. And that, of course, is the great challenge of postmodern thought that says you can only know meaning as a result of your ability to process it in light of who you are. There is no objective meaning to the text outside of yourself and your experience.

No, the Bible says absolutely bogus. The revelation of God is a revelation that comes from without, it comes from above, it is as a result of its self-disclosure. He distinguishes here very clearly between what he has pointed out by way of warning and what he now affirms by way of encouragement. And he says to these confessional Christians—and I take it that that is some of us here this morning, although I recognize that some will be here who are examining the Bible, who are thinking about things—but what we're doing is looking at this in light of the fact that he is writing to those who are truly confessing Jesus as Lord. And notice what he says. Number one, watch out so that you don't lose out. That's verse 8, isn't it?

Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for. He's now addressing those who are the followers of Jesus, he's warned them about the counterfeit, he now is affirming them in their confession, and he immediately issues a warning. Now, he is not suggesting that they may lose their salvation, for that is a free gift of God.

They didn't earn it in the first place. It was as a result of God's grace and goodness to them. But what he's urging them concerning is that they might continue faithful to the end. We find this through the whole Bible, don't we? You find it in Peter's exhortation. He says, you know, I want you to add to your faith goodness and to goodness self-control and so on, so that you might make your calling and election sure and so that you might receive an abundant welcome into heaven. He says, I want you to make sure that you are not sidetracked. And the danger that is faced is the danger of being deceived.

Make sure that you are not deceived. You say, well, is this just a hobby horse of John? No, it's in keeping with Jesus. Mark records for us how Jesus on one occasion, in the company of Peter and James and John and Andrew, says to them, Watch out so that no one deceives you.

What? They are in the presence of Jesus? They are able to ask questions of Jesus?

They are in the company of Christ for a period of three years? And yet he turns to them and he says, Despite all that you know of me, despite all that I have told you face to face, here is my warning to you. Watch out so that you don't lose out. Watch out so that you are not deceived. Now, loved ones, let me say to you this morning, this is a warning that we must heed in the twenty-first century.

If it was realistic in the first, it is vital now. It is surely the height of folly to think that we can listen consistently to those who tamper with the truth without finding that we are impacted by their message. That we can read books that constantly chip away at biblical orthodoxy without ourselves being caused to doubt and to embrace a disfigured form of Christianity. That is why we urge upon you the reading of good books.

There is only so much time left in life. We can only read so much material. Therefore, why not read the best? Why not seize the opportunity to make sure that we have a solid grasp of the rudiments of our Christian convictions? Know the Truth, Concise Theology, by Packer, Know the Truth, by Bruce Milne.

There are many, many books in there that will be of terrific help to the one who wants, over a period of time, to make sure that they are watching out so that they're not deceived. For you see, one of the saddest aspects of pastoral ministry is to observe those who are losing out or who have lost out. I remember the first time I heard the phrase I was driving in the car with Derek Prime. He was my boss, and we were going to visit somebody, and I said, Now, what's going to happen when we go to this particular house? And he said, Well, the sad thing about this is that the husband in this house has basically lost out. And I said, Well, what do you mean, lost out? He said, Well, he's a believing man, but he has made no progress in years. He has lost out. And it is one of the sad features of pastoral life to observe those who are losing out.

And I'll tell you how you'll know if you are. It has to do with the early enthusiasm waning, with convictions no longer strong and stirring, with influences for good upon us and from us being extinguished, with the companionship that we begin to keep, the kind of companionship that veers us off the pathway of righteousness for his name's sake and veers us very easily into by-path meadow. That in pilgrims' progress terms, we find ourselves more interested in spending time with timorous and mistrust than we do in walking with faithful. That we are more interested in listening to talkative and to his well-spun theories and notions than we are in paying attention to keep that shining light before our gaze and that wicked gait before our eyes. To those who are confessing to follow Jesus, he issues this vital warning, Watch out that you do not lose out. And on a much broader canvas, the fact is that denominationalism and evangelicalism over the twentieth century has in many instances wavered and faltered.

That's not a blanket indictment on everything. It is simply to recognize that the warning of the Bible is a realistic warning, and if it attaches to individuals, so it attaches to local congregations, so it attaches to clusters of local congregations, so it attaches to denominations, and so it attaches to the whole broad sweep of those who believe themselves to be following after Christ. Historic evangelicalism was classically confessional. It is ironic, and sadly so, that many have jettisoned in the name of tolerance the very foundations of the faith, so much so that confessional Christians—those who are creedal in their views, those who want to be submissive to Scripture in its definitive statements—confessional Christians are often portrayed as ill-advised and bigoted. So for example, I just came from England, and the Anglican church is embroiled in this huge issue concerning the nature of authority within the Anglican Communion. Most of it brought on, sadly, we have to acknowledge, as a result of the American bishop who decided that it was fine to do what he did in relationship to the ordination of homosexuals. As a result of that, it creates absolute chaos in Canterbury. As a result of that, a group of people concerned for the truth then convene in Jerusalem prior to the gathering in Canterbury. How does the press portray the people who are in Jerusalem? As those who are schismatic and bigoted and desirous to disrupt the fellowship of Anglican Communion. Sorry, I thought that these people that went to Jerusalem went to Jerusalem because they were trying to say the foundations of the faith matter, the authority of Scripture matters, our submission to orthodox truth matters, and this is historic Anglicanism at its best. You are the deviant ones! But no, they are represented as the deviant, as the bigoted, as the destroyers of communion.

Very subtle, isn't it? Prothera, who is a professor at Boston College and who wrote a book recently, Religious Literacy—What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't, makes the comment in passing as he talks about the nature of illiteracy in twenty-first century America, and he's talking about how various aspects of religion and Protestantism and Catholicism and so on are represented in different ways. And he says, but there are some people left who are confessional Christians. He says, the voices of confessional Christians have not been entirely drowned out, however. A group named the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals issued a manifesto in 1990s calling for evangelicals to confess their unfaithfulness to the historic teachings of the church. He says, historic evangelicalism was confessional, but today the essential truths of Christianity have faded from Christian consciousness. Confessional Christians seem to be a voice crying in the wilderness, as the nation—listen to this—he's not writing here as a professing Christian. He's writing here as a sociologist and a professor of religion. As the nation has migrated from understanding itself as Protestant to understanding itself as Christian, then Judeo-Christian, and then Abrahamic, many have jettisoned, in the name of tolerance, the great teachings and stories of the Christian tradition. He's absolutely right.

You only need to listen, you only need to read the newspapers and magazines, and find that is the case. And here you come right back to what he says concerning the confessional Christian. You better watch out so that you don't lose out. Secondly, continue in the teaching of Christ. Continue in the teaching of Christ. If it is a mark of their counterfeit notions not to continue in the teaching of Christ, then it is a mark of orthodoxy to continue in the teaching.

Again, this is nothing other than Jesus. You remember he says, If you hold to my teaching, you will be really my disciples. And the New Testament is replete with those calls, not least of all the writer of the Hebrews.

Again and again, he's calling people to make sure that they don't lose out, that they don't quit. See to it, brothers, for example, Hebrews 11 and 12. See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God, but encourage one another daily as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. You see, that's why we're supposed to encourage one another in our songs, in our participation, in our involvement, in our relationships—so that we might actually help one another not to end up in Bipath-Meadow. That the teaching of the Bible is part of it, but it's not all of it.

That it is in our relationships with each other that like coals in a fire, if you put the coals together, they burn one another up, and they keep each other warm. But if you take one coal out and put it off on the hearth by itself, it extinguishes itself. It goes out.

It goes cold. I think oftentimes when people are sitting in the pews, they think that exhortations to attend worship, to be involved in praise, to join a small group, to engage in discipleship and so on, is all some kind of mechanism that is generated from the front, somehow or another, to keep us all in a job. No, it's not that at all! It's actually so as to provide the means of grace whereby what is being called for here actually takes place. It comes again and again. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who's gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. Right?

That's number one. And then he says, let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence. Let me tell you who doesn't pray in their churches, where there are no prayer meetings, where people don't pray. They don't pray in non-confessional churches, or they say things like … but they don't actually pray.

They don't seek God. Prayer is a form of self-expression. It's a therapy. It's a mechanism. It's like spiritual breathing. It's trying to help you get through your life. But the idea of actually calling on a God who is objective and the creator of time and eternity and stands outside of us, that doesn't happen.

Why don't they do that? Because unless you hold firmly to the faith you confess, you have no basis to draw near confidently to the place of provision. So you see how the two things go together. People give up on the authority of the Bible, they give up on orthodoxy, they give up on the strength of their convictions, and then they're clever enough to know. There's no reason to pray, there's no one there. God is within you. God is everything. No, God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He created the universe, and he made your DNA. He has revealed himself in the beauty of his world and given to us the Bible, which is a revelation of his truth. He has provided in the person of himself, in Jesus of Nazareth, this amazing declaration that he stands outside of time, having been part of time, and he will come back to end it all. See how vastly different that is?

Continue in the teaching. See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful and unbelieving heart. And for those of you who are brought up on this one-saved-always-saved dogma, I really… I get frustrated with people who always want to come and find out if I believe in one-saved-always-saved, as if it was a mantra, as if somehow or another, as long as you said yes to that, you were okay.

Or as long as you said you believed that, you were okay. I believe the Bible. And I believe that the missing emphasis in those who want quickly to affirm that they are one-saved and always saved is that they miss the fact that a person is saved through perseverance, not apart from it. It is as we persevere that we are saved. The ground of our salvation is the work of Jesus on the cross. The evidence that we are in Christ is the fact that we continue to the end. And how do we continue to the end?

As a result of God's persevering grace, which he has given to us in Christ by the Scriptures—the means of grace, prayer, the fellowship of God's people, the engagement and witnessing and so on—all of those things are part and parcel. So the person who says, Well, I don't have to pay attention to the warnings of the Bible, because I believe in one-saved, always saved. Isn't it what he's saying there, that they can do anything they want, and it doesn't matter? That's called presumption. That's not called Christian assurance.

That's actually called stupidity. Finally, number one, watch out so you don't lose out. Number two, you better continue, because those who don't continue don't have God. And finally, make sure you don't facilitate falsehood. Make sure you don't facilitate falsehood. That's the implication of all this stuff about if anyone comes to you and doesn't bring this teaching, don't take him into your house or welcome him. John is concerned that the influence of these false teachers will be curbed. We recognize that the hospitality of God's people was vital to the work of the traveling evangelists and teachers.

And by offering hospitality to someone, we were engaging with them, we were affirming what they were doing, and so on. We were at least giving tacit approval to what they were teaching, if not actually encouraging the propagation of what they were on about. And in light of that, John says, I don't want you to bring these false teachers into your home and thereby create the impression for people that you're involved in this counterfeit Christianity or that you are yourself a proponent of it. Now, I recognize that in the past these verses have been pressed into a form of misguided service that is probably unhelpful. But the present danger is a different danger. The present danger is a kind of wooly-headed ambiguity that ignores this altogether. And the point that John is making here needs to be reiterated in his day because of the possibility of the toleration of deviation and heresy. And it needs, therefore, to be reiterated in every generation where there is vagueness concerning the truth. It will be one thing for us to entertain angels unawares. Quite another thing to entertain deceivers unapologetically. John is not advising his readers to fail to show common courtesy to doctrinal opponents. He's warning them pointedly about providing a platform for their spurious ideas and for their counterfeit message. And then he says, Well, I could go on, but I'm not going to.

I could write for quite a while, but I don't want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you, talk with you face to face, so that we might just have a wonderful time together. And by the way, the children of this congregation send their greetings as well. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. In his message today, Alistair mentioned how important it is for you to be reading good books, books that help you understand and hold fast to the fundamental truths of our Christian convictions. We get excited about introducing you to theologians from throughout church history, people with whom you might not be familiar. So our team sat down recently and we tried to think about books we could recommend to you as this year draws to a close.

And I think you're going to like what we've come up with. It's actually a bundle of three books we want to recommend to you, classic works from three different authors who have influenced believers for decades, even centuries. We're calling the bundle Short Classics. It's a set of three pocket-sized soft cover books that feature the works of two Scottish ministers, Henry Schoogle, who lived in the 1600s, and Thomas Chalmers, a professor at St. Andrews in the 1800s. There's also a contemporary writer, theologian J.I.

Packer. You'll benefit greatly from the insights each of these men offers, and you'll enjoy the accessible way these historic writings are presented. These are books that will leave you with a lasting impact. Find out more, request your bundle of short classics today when you donate to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. You can give your gift at slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us this week. We hope you have a great weekend and are able to worship with your local church. On Monday we're going to learn how the simple act of opening your door can be a testimony to the work of Christ in your life. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-01 06:42:18 / 2023-12-01 06:51:19 / 9

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