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It is HIStory! (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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December 12, 2023 3:00 am

It is HIStory! (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 12, 2023 3:00 am

It’s Advent season—that time of year when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Examine the very heart of the Christmas story so you can celebrate properly and joyfully. Begin a study of Isaiah’s prophecy along with Alistair Begg on Truth For Life.


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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!


Music playing We're going to read this morning from Isaiah, chapter 9, But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.

In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy. They rejoice before you, as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken, as on the day of Midian.

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness, from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Thanks be to God for his Word. Now, gracious God, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us.

For your Son's sake. Amen. Well, today is the first Sunday in Advent, and the purpose of the season is to prepare us for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Looking back to his first coming, when he appears as a baby in humility in the manger in Bethlehem, and looking forward to his second coming, when in majesty and in might and in power he will return. For some of us it will be no surprise that today is the first Sunday in Advent.

For others of us, frankly, it had never occurred to us. Depending on our background, our familiarity with the church calendar, we may make progress through the year paying attention to these things, or, as is more likely, in a congregation such as our own, with very scant attention to these things. And this year, as I have been seeking to make my own personal preparations for our celebration of Christmas—and incidentally, there was no celebration of Christmas embedded in the church in the first three hundred, almost four hundred years after the time of Jesus Christ.

It's about in the fourth century that the celebration of Christmas becomes a fixed part in the church calendar. But as we prepare for that, which we do routinely at this time of year, I found myself niggled by the thought that I was partly responsible for failing the congregation when, routinely, I myself have neglected the church calendar. In other words, I have allowed us to arrive at Christmas, or Christmas Eve as it usually is, largely unprepared for what is taking place. When we pay scant attention to these things, then our arrival at Christmas Eve just almost catches us unawares.

And it occurs to me almost inevitably on Christmas Eve, and so I was trying to make sure I was alert to it this year before I endured the same experience that I've done on so many Christmas Eves. And that is, when I sit up here, and as various people read from the various Scriptures, and I find myself wondering whether anybody is making any sense at all of, for example, the fifth verse of our reading, which is routinely part of our readings on Christmas Eve, for every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. And, once again, on Christmas Eve, old grandmas out there and Auntie Mabel from Minnesota has come into town, and a number of children in their best frocks are all sitting there, and there's a sort of palpable sense in the congregation, why did we have that verse read out? That's a rather ugly, distasteful verse for a lovely evening such as this. We've all come here for a very happy Christmas Eve, and you've got something going about warriors in battles and garments rolled in blood and people being burned in the fire and so on.

What on the world are you doing? Didn't you realize this is Christmas? Now, you see, that's exactly my point.

That's completely upside down. Because we actually need to be rescued from, disentangled from, the materialism and the sentimentalism which clamors for and often captures our attention. Now, we have every reason to be thankful for the fact that in the mall and in the stores at the moment, Christmas carols are being played. It's a wonderful opportunity for the gospel. If you're standing next to somebody in line, you might ask them, say, Did you hear that phrase there? What did that mean? The person said, No, what phrase was that? Of course they didn't hear it, but you could tell them what it was.

And then you can say to them, Well, the song says, Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. What does that mean? The person says, I don't know what it means. Do you know what it means? Then you're off to the races, you see.

You can say, Yes, actually, I do know what it means. It's a wonderful story. It's the story of Christmas, and off we go.

But those are few and far between. Mainly it's grandma got run over by a reindeer, and various sentimental platitudes that just flush over you and flush over you and flush over you, and all of a sudden, suddenly, as if the whole month has collapsed on you, and you appear, and you're at the Christmas Eve service, and suddenly the garments are rolled in blood and burned as fuel for the fire. Well, I'm going to try and help us this year, if I haven't done it properly before, by focusing on the fact that we're going to take on the Sundays this issue of Advent seriously, so that we can prepare properly, so that we might be able to celebrate sensibly and joyfully. That's the program. And the banner heading under which we're going to consider these things, as time allows, is It is History, with the emphasis on the His. It is His story.

It is His story. And when we get that clear in our minds, when we begin to approach the season in that way, then many of the things that we're tempted to allow to preoccupy us will be put in a subservient position, and the things that we are tempted to neglect we will find in the ascendancy, and my assumption is that we will all be the better for it. Now, first of all, we need to say this—that the incarnation, the appearing of the second person of the Trinity as a baby in Bethlehem, the incarnation is not an idea. It is not a concept. It is an event.

It is an event in space and time. That what we're dealing with when we're dealing with a Christian worldview is history, and we're affirming the fact that as we read our Bibles, we're immediately aware that these things actually happened. It's not my purpose this morning to substantiate that notion, but you will understand that it is true within the framework of secular history of Roman and Jewish historians who confirm the existence of Jesus and the various aspects of what was going on in his lifetime.

But when we read the Bible, we discover that this is made perfectly clear to us. And I want to start with a statement made by Paul in Galatians chapter 4 so that this might be anchored in our thinking. Galatians chapter 4 and verse 4, and Paul writes to the people in Galatia, and he says this, When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son. God sent forth his Son. In other words, if we might say so reverently, Jesus did not simply appear from nowhere. Jesus did not suddenly emerge out of the ether. No. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

Why? To redeem those who were under the law. It was by a woman that sin had entered into the world. And it was by a woman that the Savior was to enter into the world. And when we think in terms of history, we need always to think in terms of Genesis 3 and the promise that is given there that the seed of the woman shall break the serpent's head. When you read that in Genesis 3, if it's the first time you've ever read it, you will find yourself saying, I wonder what this really means.

What does this possibly mean? And it is a picture of that which is going to come when the one born of woman is the one who's going to triumph, as we just sang in our song, over sin, over death, and over hell. That we need somebody who is able to come from the outside into our brokenness, into our fallenness, into our predicament, to fix what we cannot fix. And Paul writes to the Galatians, and he says, Here it is, at the perfect moment in history, despite what the authors of Godspell have to say. If you remember the old musical Godspell, one of the lines is asking the question about, Why did you come at such a strange time to such a strange place?

Okay? Why didn't you come if you'd come at another time? I remember the line is, When there was mass communication, you know. If you'd come when there was… Why would you come to an obscure province in a backwater place in the Middle East? Why this obscurity? Well, the Bible tells us that when the time was fulfilled, at the exact purposeful proper moment in history, God sent forth his Son. The second person of the Trinity is dispatched to fulfill the role entrusted to him that has been determined from all of eternity—that the ultimate purpose of God in history is not Adam and Eve in the garden, but it is actually Jesus on the cross.

That the story of history finds its apex and its fulfillment in this person. And that, you see, is what immediately takes Christmas out of the realm of, you know, whether we have a nativity scene or whether we don't have a nativity scene. I'm not actually a great fan of nativity scenes as it happens. Because they tend to trivialize the thing. They tend to sentimentalize the thing.

They tend to make it possible for people to look in and go, Oh, look at that, look at that. But there's nothing that arrests you in it. There's nothing that stands you up on your heels. There's nothing that says, Listen!

You will do whatever you want with nativity scenes. But the fact of the matter is that here Jesus Christ is revealed as taking on our flesh so that he might take upon himself our sins. Augustine put it like this, for those of you who did Latin, non merita nostra, sed misera nostra. In other words, it's not because of our merits that he came, it's because of our miseries that he came.

Not merit, but misery. His Lamb says that Allah will grant forgiveness to those who deserve it. Christianity says that God will grant forgiveness to those who don't deserve it. It is a radically different story. It is his story. And what you have summarized and capsulated in the epistles, you have worked out in the gospels.

You must do the homework for yourself. You can check and see if what I'm telling you is actually in the Bible. John puts it very clearly. He begins his gospel by locating Jesus in eternity. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And then further down to verse 14, and this Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. It's immense, isn't it? He takes this principle of the Greek way of thinking, the logos, the divine principle, and he says, I know you like to think of it in those terms.

Well, let me tell you, here is it in all of its fullness. It is in Christ. Matthew approaches it in the same way and yet differently, as you would expect. Remember, the wise men in Herod are involved in an interchange? Now, where is he that is born King of the Jews?

They're asking. Then he's asking, and they say to him, They told him, Matthew says, in Bethlehem of Judea. For so it is written by the prophet.

He didn't just emerge out of nowhere. Have you read the Bible, Herod? Have you been reading?

Don't you know what the prophet said? How do you think we showed up? I know we followed a star, but where do you think we got that from? We were reading the prophecy of Daniel.

Wow. Remember how Mark begins his gospel? The exact same way. The beginning of the gospel, Jesus comes into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God and saying—here we go again—the time is fulfilled, fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel. And Luke records Jesus' statement to his startled and frightened followers after the encounter on the road to Emmaus, and, remember, on that occasion, Jesus reveals himself to them, and they are quite amazed. He said to them, You're kind of slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken.

You see what he's saying? Didn't you read your Bible? Haven't you been reading the Bible? It was necessary that the Christ—that's the Messiah—should suffer these things and enter his glory. And he said, Well, why don't I just give you a little Bible study while you're here?

And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. No wonder they were startled. No wonder they were amazed. And when he appeared to them, remember, when they were hidden away, he said to them, Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your heart? Don't you see my hands and my feet?

You can touch me. That's why when John writes in his letter, remember, he says, That which we have seen and heard, that which our hands have touched, we declare to you. This is not a concept. This is a flesh-and-blood reality. This is the story.

This is his story. And then he said to them, These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. In other words, the entire New Testament testifies to its understanding of Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Without the New Testament, the Old Testament's going nowhere. Unless you have the New Testament, the Old Testament leads you up a side street.

And without the Old Testament, the New Testament demands all kinds of explanations that aren't there in the New Testament. So that's why I say to you routinely, it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian. And that's why I'm saying to you that the neglect of the advent season, the sensible preparation so that there might be sensible participation, is a serious neglect. I own up to that. I own up to it in my own life. Maybe you do too. Maybe that's why the Christmas carols have so little ring to them.

Because we have failed to prepare adequately by thinking the issues out, by actually thinking, being transformed by the renewing of our minds, actually saying, I'm gonna have to think about this. This is immense. And it's not simply that the New Testament fulfills certain Old Testament predictions.

It does. So, for example, Isaiah 7, and you will give his name Immanuel, which means God with us, and you can go from there to the arrival of Jesus. You can do the same in 9, as we're about to do, concerning the child who is to be born. And so we're familiar with doing that, but most of us only have about three or four of them. And when we tell our friends and neighbors, Oh, no, but you don't understand, you see, this equals this.

Let me tell you how the skeptic feels about that. They feel that we just mugged it up, and that we really don't have much of a clue about the entire story of the Old Testament, and we just found three or four verses that we could draw a line between and say X equals Y. But if they push us and shove us and ask us, Well, what's the story about the book of kings, and what in the world was going on with the sacrifices in the book of Leviticus, and what do you think you're doing with these minor prophets and so on?

We're like, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. And they say, Well, how come this is something that is establishing your life and directing your future and is the key to your existence, and you don't even know what you're talking about? No, you see, it's not enough simply to say that Micah 5 is over here in Matthew, or Isaiah 7 is over here in Luke, or whatever it might be. No, what it actually tells us is that Jesus doesn't simply fulfill certain Old Testament expectations or predictions. Jesus fulfills the entire Old Testament. The only way to understand the entire Old Testament is in the person and work of Jesus.

Now, if you think that out, it is immense. What it means is that Jesus has no peers. Jesus has no rivals. Jesus has no successors. There is no one—no one—in the entire universe who comes close to Jesus of Nazareth. Either he is a megalomaniac declaring, The entire Bible is about me! Or, The entire Bible is about him! Remember, I always tell you, Archbishop of Canterbury to Jane Fonda, and the Archbishop says to Jane Fonda, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, you know. Jane Fonda says, Well, he may be the Son of God for you, but he's not the Son of God for me. The Archbishop of Canterbury says, Jane, he either is or he isn't.

There's no for me about it. It's his story. It is indeed your listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. It is our hope and prayer that as you listen to this program each day, you are growing in your understanding of God's Word and in your relationship with the Lord Jesus.

And we're grateful to many of you who helped make this program possible. Truth for Life is 100% funded by listeners like you. And today, we're particularly excited to share with you a glimpse of all that God is doing through this ministry by way of your financial partnership. When you take a minute and go online to slash stories, you can check out many wonderfully encouraging comments.

There are photos as well. These are sent from people all around the world who have written to tell us about how important Alistair's teaching is to them, and how this ministry is helping them grow in their faith. For example, we heard from Jean who lives in Victoria, Australia, who wrote to say Truth for Life is a daily part of my routine. I've attended the same church and worshiped with dear friends for more than 25 years, but it distresses me to see my church changing the gospel to suit the masses.

I'm nearly 80 years old, and I'm a lone voice. Truth for Life is important to keep me grounded in the gospel. When you go to our website, you'll read more from Jean and from so many others. Again, visit slash stories, and I know all of the folks who are pictured there would be grateful if you would join with them in giving a donation today. When you do, we'd like to say thank you by inviting you to request a book bundle, three short classics that we think every Christian should have in his or her library and should read. You can ask for this book bundle when you donate at slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. Not only is the whole Bible about Jesus, but tomorrow we'll learn why he's the focus of all of history. I hope you can join us. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-12 07:16:54 / 2023-12-12 07:25:28 / 9

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