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Light in the Darkness (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 15, 2023 3:00 am

Light in the Darkness (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 15, 2023 3:00 am

The daily news is filled with stories of violence, hatred, and war in the world. And if that’s not bad enough, we often battle doubt, fear, and temptation within our own hearts. Is true peace possible? Hear the answer 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!


Every day the news is full of stories about violence and hatred and if that's not bad enough we have to battle doubt and fear and temptation in our own hearts. Leaving us to wonder if true peace is possible in this world. The Bible says it is and points us to the answer. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg takes us to Isaiah chapter 9.

We're looking at verses 2 through 5. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shone, and you have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy, they rejoice.

That's celebration, isn't it? What is he saying here? Well, he's saying that the tiny remnant of believing, folks, would scarcely imagine the way in which God was going to fulfill his promises. Here they are as a little remnant of folks in the midst of all of this darkness, paying attention to the testimony that God has given through the prophet, not going away and inquiring of all these dark and silly ideas. And yet they feel themselves to be so beleaguered, so impoverished, such a minority in the midst of it all, and Isaiah says, Listen, you need to know this, that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and God has multiplied the joy of the nation. The way in which we must surely understand this, again, in light of reading the Bible backwards, is in light of Revelation 7. That the promise of God to Abram was going to be fulfilled insofar as through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That there would be a company in Revelation 7 of people from every tribe and people in language and tongue that would be gathered and would celebrate God. And so, when you read your Bible, you must read it in light of that.

You've got to read the territorial and national pictures that are here in the Old Testament in light of the fact that God has put together a people that are already brought to his holy hill, and that that will eventually be fulfilled in those who are the people of God looking forward to the promises of God in the company here, and Gentile believers who are added into that company, and then the interweaving of this great mass of humanity as nations are added and people from all over the world are finally gathered in this great assembly. You see, the joy that will then be experienced is the joy of those who rejoice in the harvest, and it will be the joy of those who celebrate and divide the spoil or the plunder as a result of victory in battle. The picture of a joy in harvest and a joy in plunder that is so clearly a joy that is brought about as a result of the intervention of God. Victory in battle belonged to the Lord, and a harvest was as a result of his goodness. In the gloom the light shines, in the face of insurmountable odds, the people of God will discover victory. That's the significance of verse 4, for the yoke of his burden and the staff for his shoulder and the rod of his oppressor you have broken as on the day of Midian. What does that mean, as of the day of Midian?

Well, all you need is a concordance. You can go to Midian, look up Midian, it'll take you back into Judges 6. When you get to Judges 6, you will be there in the story of Gideon. If you never read the story of Gideon before, enjoy it this afternoon. It's a fantastic story of how God comes and speaks into the life of this fellow and calls him a mighty warrior. And Gideon is completely bemused by this because he says, I'm not a mighty warrior. I come from a very small family, and I'm the least in my family.

Nobody here was going to be a mighty warrior. He was going to see a mighty battle, and he was going to see it in victory. And it's the story of how God takes the number of 32,000 and reduces it by 22,000. And then God does something even more dramatic, and he says, You've still got too many.

I want you to reduce it significantly from here. And another 9,700 are taken out until there's only three hundred people left. In the day of Midian, there were only three hundred people left to go against an insurmountable fall. And on that day, the people were unmistakably clear. The battle belongs to the Lord. Victory belongs to the Lord.

And that's what the prophet is saying here. Here is the joy in harvest. Here is the joy in plunder. It is a joy that is found in the intervention of God. That brings us to our fourth and to our final word, and it is the word liberation. Liberation. For the yoke of his burden … the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor you have broken, and the tramping boots of the warriors, and the garments that have been stained with blood are going to be burned as fuel for the fire.

What does he say? He's saying that in the Lord Jesus Christ, God sets people free. Now, this would have resonated with these folks. They knew about burdens. At least their forefathers did. Their forefathers had toiled in Egypt. They had lived—their forefathers had lived—with tyrants, with beatings, and with burdens.

That's what he's referencing here. God had raised up his servant Moses to go to Pharaoh and say, Let my people go, so that they might be relieved of their burden, so that they may no longer be under the stick and the rod of those who beat their miserable backs, bringing the worst and the best out of them as they saw fit, so that they would no longer be under the oppressive influence of the tyrant. Why, it's hard not to preach this, isn't it? That God is the God who relieves our burdens, who takes our beatings and vanquishes our tyrants. A God who in Jesus deals with our burdens by making them his own. A God who in Jesus deals with our beatings by being beaten himself and nailed to a cross.

And a God who in Jesus sets us free from our tyrants by putting his neck to the tyranny of all hell let loose against him. And the prophecy of Isaiah rings down through all these years, saying, Listen, listen, there is liberation in the Lord Jesus Christ. He frees us from our burdens, relieves us of our beatings, and vanquishes our tyrants. That's why when Jesus goes to the synagogue in Nazareth, where he was brought up, you will remember. Brought up, and in the synagogue that was his routine place of worship, he finds the place in the scroll where it is written, He sent me. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. And when he had finished reading, he sat down, and Luke says, And all the eyes of the people of the synagogue were fastened on him, wondering what he will say by way of the explanation for the reading from the Bible for that day. And what does he say? Can they believe it?

Is there a person in the room that doesn't just grab themselves and hold on for dear life? Today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. In other words, I am the one who sets you free from oppression. I am the one who sets the captives free.

I liberate. I bring illumination into your oppression, into your darkness. And that's why all of our longings for peace and unity among the nations will finally be met. Don't let's forget the fact, irrespective of where you were in the Vietnam era, that the longings for peace are understandable longings.

They are longings, if you like, that are placed in the heart of a man or a woman as a man or a woman. That the peace songs had more than a smattering of the Bible in them. Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways, and that we may walk in his paths. He'll deal with the disputes of the peoples. They'll beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. And nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

That's Isaiah chapter 2. We ain't gonna study war no more! We ain't gonna study war no more! We ain't gonna study war no more! No, we're not!

We're not! The war in your heart is because you're a sinner—the same reason there's a war in my heart. The war between a father and his son, between a husband and his wife, between a family and their neighbors, between a nation and a nation is on account of the great war that exists at the very heart of the alienation of man, alienated from God on account of our rebellion and alienated from God on account of his wrath. And every alienation is founded in the reality of that alienation. And it is only when that is dealt with in Christ that all the others may then be settled, and every attempt to go at it the other way around will eventually end in failure.

No, this is a wonderful promise. Every boot of a tramping warrior in battle, tumult, and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire, said a commentator that I found from Indonesia. We shall see not just the destruction of the weapons of war but of our human desire to use them. It's not that we're just gonna put all those guns away.

It is that we will never have any desire to use them, even if we had them, because we ain't gonna fight. I started with Paul Simon. I might as well get towards the finish with Paul Simon. But in the Paul Simon songbook, he has that song that was written by another fellow who only had a few good songs, I think. His name might have been, like, McCurdy or something like that.

Doesn't matter. But he wrote the song that Simon then sang. Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before. I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war.

I dreamed I saw a mighty room, and the room was filled with men. And the people there were singing that they'd never fight again. And when the papers all were signed, and a million copies made, they all joined hands and bowed their heads, and grateful prayers were prayed.

And the people in the street below were dancing round and round, and guns and swords and uniforms were scattered on the ground. Loved ones, do you understand that the only way that that honest longing is found is when the zeal of the Lord of hosts accomplishes it? And when you go down verse 5, if you didn't know verse 6, wouldn't you regard it almost as an anticlimax? If you've got oppression and darkness and gloom and illumination and celebration and liberation and the tramping warrior's boots and the bows and the thing, and then, for unto us a child is born. So you have oppression, illumination, celebration, liberation, incarnation.

Incarnation. You see, it's only in Jesus that the hopes and fears of all the years are met. Because we were made for God. As Augustine says, we were made for God, and our hearts are restless until they find a rest in God. How do I find rest in God? How do I find freedom from oppression?

How do I find illumination? How can I enter into this kind of celebration and joy? The answer is in the Lord Jesus. The whole Bible points to him. The whole message brings us to him. I think I do have time to read this letter to you. Sit back, you'll enjoy this letter, and we're finished now. We'll have a song, we'll do a little town of Bethlehem, but I want so desperately to read this letter to you because of the way in which it expresses, in a nutshell, from a testimony of a listener, exactly what is being described here on a personal front.

Some of it you'll just have to swallow over, but listen carefully. Dear Pastor Begg and Truth for Life staff, I'm writing this letter to you as a way to thank you for your impact on my life. It's nearly fourteen years ago now that God involved you in his story for my salvation. In the summer of 1998, I was living with my grandparents in northern Wisconsin. I had just graduated from college and was preparing to move to New Hampshire.

I had plans to live with a friend from high school and go to culinary school. In the weeks leading up to my departure, my friend Jody was unreachable. She'd become homeless after a series of bad choices and a dark, sinful life, but the Lord was getting a hold of her. She'd been raised in the faith, had walked away from God.

He was in the process of wooing her back to him through his loving spirit. I knew none of this at the time, nor was I a believer in Christ. In fact, I was the exact opposite. By virtually every count, I was a depraved humanist. I lived a godless existence, doubting, no, disbelieving his existence. And in actuality, it was not a godless life that I lived. I was a slave to many things. I lived a very hedonistic lifestyle, full of drugs and sexual sin. I lacked any sort of solid morals or values. I lived from my own pleasure.

I attended a liberal arts college. I was a true disciple of evolutionary thought and socialist ideals. This lifestyle was easy to come to, since I had no moorings in the faith. My childhood was marred with separation and divorce, foster care, transience, and abuse.

There was only empty religion. I had no relationship with my father, felt a great deal of anger towards him for the ways he'd been absent in my life. In the seventh grade, he gave my brother and me the choice to stop attending Lutheran Church on Sunday mornings. Looking back, it was at that time that Satan took on greater influence in my life. Years later, when I got saved after stepping back into a church, I understood how I had walked out from under the protective covering of his wing at that young age. Of course, what else would a thirteen-year-old boy with no faith and no example do?

The beauty of what God has done is that he has used my father as an integral part of my redemption. You see, beginning at the age of twelve or thirteen, when I left church, I became more consciously aware of my same-sex attraction. I struggled with all this through high school and left for college determined to live in the freedom of I was born. The years from eighteen to twenty-four are of a darkness that is indescribable. A darkness that is indescribable. I immediately descended into daily drug use, rampant sexual promiscuity, and a totally self-centered life. The idolatry and vanity and narcissism in the gay community is both intoxicating and suffocating. During this time, God's grace was abundant.

His Word says that where sin increases, grace abounds. I should be dead today, but I'm not. I don't deserve this life.

I should have a host of sexually transmitted diseases because of the level of indiscriminate sexual behavior. The extent of my drug use should have had a more profound effect on my health and my mind. The circumstances I put myself in could have threatened my well-being. But his grace was sufficient, and his grace continues to be sufficient. God met me exactly how I needed every step of the way.

At the end of the summer of 1998, as I was preparing to move to New Hampshire, I spent two days with my father. He was by now a born-again Christian who knew of my decision to live as a homosexual. He was also well aware of my drug use.

On the day I left his home, he gave me two audio tapes. One contained his testimony, the other was a sermon by Pastor Alistair Begg on how the church should properly respond to those who struggle with same-sex attraction. By God's providence, I listened to my father's testimony first. I wept as I heard for the first time him speak with a broken and contrite heart about all his failings and his need for a Savior. This was perfect because God was softening my heart, preparing me to hear his loving truth in Pastor Begg's sermon. While these truths didn't immediately feel good to me, the truth of God's Word spoken in love stirred up my longing for fullness in Christ. What I heard in that sermon was that God's love was also for me. I had not heard that from many Christians.

What I had overwhelmingly heard was that God hates homosexuals, that AIDS kills them. Now hearing these words of God's love, mercy, and grace was a very stark contrast. Bless you for reflecting God's love.

On the following months, I began wrestling with my fleshly desires and the growing awareness of God's reality and his pull on my heart. My friend Jody, who was coming back to the Lord, witnessed God's love to me in a gentle way. Her Christian friends prayed for me and demonstrated Christ's love in real, tangible ways. My father and stepmother later reported that they became prayer warriors for me on the day I had left their home.

I found myself praying on my way home during my forty-five-minute commute late at night. I journaled one day, asking God to show himself to me and saying that I loved him. One night, as I was listening to a Christian radio broadcast of J. Vernon McGee, an invitation was given, and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I remember going to church just before that time, having not made a decision for Christ, and coming face to face with the living God. It was a time of worship, and I simultaneously felt completely known and loved. I knew I was a sinner but that I was loved by God and could be forgiven because of Christ.

What a joy! That was an amazing spring for me. I remember having a new understanding of being alive, remade in Christ. That was the most beautiful spring I had ever seen. I was baptized that June and have since become married to that friend Jody from high school, who showed me his love.

We have been married for eleven years and now have two beautiful children. There are still struggles in my mind, but I continue to fight and press on to the goal empowered by his Holy Spirit. Thank you for your role in my story. Thank you for having courage to stand for and speak God's truth in love.

And then here's the paragraph. I'm sure that the days now seem darker than even thirteen years ago. I know that if his light could penetrate my darkness, your work can continue to shine ever brighter in the growing darkness of these times. Know that your work goes on. Seeds have been planted beyond myself in and for others who struggle in similar ways. I wish I had written sooner to express my gratitude, but God's timing is perfect.

Be encouraged in your efforts. God will bless the work of our hands, a very grateful brother in Christ. You see, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Jesus. In this dark world, he still shines—shines through the gospel, shines through the testimony of your children, your grandchildren, through the love of your spouse, through the book that you're reading by C. S. Lewis or somebody else, and shining and seeking and pursuing you and saying, Come on now. You don't want to live in the darkness, do you?

You don't want to go and inquire among the dead for matters of life? Turn to me. Turn to me and be saved, all ye ends of the earth. You're listening to Truth for Life and that is Alistair Begg with the message he's titled Light in the Darkness.

Alistair returns in just a minute. Now as you listen to this daily program, you have other listeners to thank for making all of this possible. It's their giving that brings Alistair's teaching to each of us each day through a variety of channels. And when you make a donation to Truth for Life, you're not only helping bring God's Word to you, however you're listening, you're helping to bring sound Bible teaching to a global audience. I know this isn't easy to picture, so I want to encourage you to get a sense for just how many people learn from Truth for Life in places all around the world.

Take a few minutes and go online to Truth for Life dot org slash stories. When you do, you'll see pictures of some of your fellow listeners, followers of Jesus who rely on this teaching just like you do. You'll not only see their pictures, but you'll read how Truth for Life has helped them grow in their faith. You'll enjoy the connection you will immediately experience with people you've never met, but people who are part of that great multitude of worshipers from every tongue, tribe, and nation described in the book of Revelation.

Check it out. You can go to Truth for Life dot org slash stories. Your giving is what makes all of this possible, so before you leave the website, consider giving a generous year-end donation to enable Truth for Life to finish the year with the resources we'll need to continue teaching the Bible throughout 2024. And when you do, we want to say thank you by offering you a bundle of three small books. We've titled this bundle Short Classics. These are powerful pieces that you will be reflecting on long after you've finished reading them.

Ask for the Short Classics series today when you give a year-end donation at slash donate. There may be somebody today for whom this study is actually the final link in a chain, the chain that leads you to say, from your heart, Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I'm weaker and more sinful than I could ever believe, but that in you I am more loved than I ever could dare to hope. I thank you for paying my debt, for bearing my punishment, for offering me forgiveness. And I turn now for my sin, to receive you as my Savior. Lord, look upon us in your mercy, we pray, accomplish your purposes by the Holy Spirit through your Word, so that we might be as lights in a dark place, for we humbly pray in Christ's name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapeen, hope you have a great weekend, and I hope you're able to spend time worshiping with your local church. On Monday, we'll trace a line all the way from the manger to the throne. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-15 06:56:17 / 2023-12-15 07:05:27 / 9

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