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Saying No to the Old Life (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 4, 2024 3:00 am

Saying No to the Old Life (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 4, 2024 3:00 am

When surrounded by those who are desensitized to sin, it becomes easy to slip unnoticed into ungodly behavior. So how can we resist the temptation to return to what we once were and what we used to do? 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 tfl.org 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!





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We live in a culture that has become increasingly desensitized to sin, and as a result, it is easy for any of us to slip into ungodly behavior. So how can Christians resist the enticement to return to what we once were and what we used to do? We'll hear the answer today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is teaching from the book of Ephesians in chapter 4.

We're looking at verses 17 through 19. Can I ask you this morning, if you were coming for a membership interview here at Parkside Church and you came to the question on the paper, it says, and, tell me how you became a Christian, what would you actually write down there? Would you say, Well, you know, for the longest time I listened to that stuff, but I had never tasted it. But in such and such a day or in such and such a period of my life, I suddenly got it.

I tasted, and I saw that the Lord was good. Would you be able to write down and say, You know, I was actually… I was in the grip of stuff that I could not get out of. I was in the grip of my ego. I was in the grip of my sinful propensities. I was in the grip of my own security.

Whatever it was. And I was just trapped in it. And then I realized that Jesus came to rescue me. In fact, you might even say… We sang a song one morning, when I was lost, you came and rescued me, reached down into the pit and lifted me.

Oh God! And you might say, That was it. I remember that Sunday morning.

I can't remember which one it was. Would you say that? Would you say that you have received Christ?

You see, don't complicate things. To receive Christ is what John says is the issue. He came to his own, and his own did not receive him. But to as many as received him, he gave the right to become the children of God. Right where you are today, you may receive Christ. Acknowledge who he is, why he came, what he's done. And the very fact that you have an inclination in your heart to accept the gift that he offers is the indication of the fact that God is at work in your heart.

Otherwise, you'd be going, I don't know why this guy says this stuff. Now, that's what had happened to these people, and that's why he's now writing to them. Incidentally, if you want a little story in the gospel records of somebody who received Jesus, you've got the story of Zacchaeus, don't you? In the story of Zacchaeus, it's fantastic, isn't it? You know, he's up the tree, and Jesus comes and stops under his tree and says, Zacchaeus, come down. I gotta come to your house. And Zacchaeus says, Oh no, you can't come to my house.

I don't want you to come to my house. I just want to stay up the tree. No, it doesn't say that. It says, He came down immediately and welcomed him gladly.

He came down immediately and welcomed him gladly. He didn't say, Oh, well, if you're coming back through another time, you know, I mean, I'm up the tree now. I don't want to just be coming down the tree. It's a nice tree.

No. You hear the gospel presented to you. Oh, you… No! Today, when you hear God's voice, welcome him. Get down the tree and welcome him gladly.

Welcome him to your heart. You don't know everything. You won't know everything this side of eternity.

But you know enough. You know with Newton that you're a great sinner, and that God is a great Savior. So you receive him. And he came down the tree and welcomed him gladly.

And the religious establishment grumbled and said, This is ridiculous. He has gone into the house of a sinner. And Jesus says, Of course, the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

I did not come to put together a religious club, he said. I came to call sinners to repentance. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The story of the gospel is not, Clean up, and he might accept you. The glory of the gospel is, Accept him and watch him clean you up.

And the cleanup operation is right here, in this putting off and in the putting on. I testify in the Lord that you aren't to be walking in the way that you used to walk. They had previously just been drifting along on the stream of the ideas of their culture. The things that made Ephesus Ephesus and made them them were part and parcel of their lives. He's reminded them back in chapter 2 that in that situation they were actually without hope and without God in the world. It's, again, I say to you, a quite staggering description of godlessness. And these verses—that's 17, 18, and 19—are really in accord with what Paul writes in his opening chapter of Romans.

And I'm going to read this to you in the Phillips paraphrase, just so you've got it in your mind. Now, the holy anger of God is disclosed from heaven—this is Romans 1—the holy anger of God is disclosed from heaven against the godlessness and evil of those men who render truth dumb and inoperative by their wickedness. Who render truth dumb?

You think about the big preoccupation of our culture now. Is there any kind of truth at all? You know, where is truth? Is there true truth, false truth, middle truth?

No. They render truth dumb by their wickedness. It's not that they do not know the truth about God.

Indeed, he has made it quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the world, the invisible attributes of God—for example, his eternal power and divinity—have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known, like stars and rivers and babies and flowers and eyes and optic nerves and all of the rest, plainly seen, leaving these men without a rag of excuse. They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such or to thank him for what he is or does. Thus they became fatuous in their argumentations, plunged their silly minds still further into the dark. Behind a façade of wisdom, they became just fools—fools who would exchange the glory of the immortal God for an imitation image of a mortal man or of creatures that run or fly or crawl. Now, both there and here, Paul is not addressing the unbeliever.

It's important for us to notice that. He is describing the godless. He is describing the pagan.

Notice, when he speaks to the pagan—for example, in Acts 17, when he has the opportunity face-on to address the intelligentsia—he doesn't give them Romans chapter 1. Nor does he actually give them, you know, you guys are futile in your understanding. You know, you're darkened. I mean, you're a bunch of deadbeats. I mean, I can't believe that I'm even speaking to you. No, he doesn't do that at all.

No, no, no, no. He's not changing his tune. On the strength of what is true concerning the predicament of man outside of Christ, he says, the God who made the world and everything in it doesn't live in buildings made with hands. He starts exactly where they are. He quotes their own poets. He says, you know, God is not far away from you, as many of your own poets have said.

He's a masterful piece of work, leading them along and along and along until he says, And God has set a day when he will judge the world, and he has given proof of this, by appointing his Son and by raising him from the dead. And at that point, the people said, Okay, we heard enough of this. When the crunch came.

But he didn't go directly to the crunch. I say that because some of us are tempted to go right back out into the community with verse 17 of Ephesians and feel that it is our duty to let everybody know that you're futile, you're dark, you're ignorant, you've got a hard heart, you're callous, you're sensual, you're greedy, and so on, and p.s., have a nice day. No! This is describing what you were or what you and I would be were it not for the grace of God. Exactly this. Not in every detail.

Not every nice person fulfills this in all the detail. This is the trajectory of humanity when it rejects the truth of God, when it says, No, there is no God. Atheism is a choice. It is a choice.

It is a decision. I refuse to believe in God. I took the baby in my arms, and I refuse to accept the creative handiwork of God. I looked at these things. I reject it wholesale. It's a choice! And the inevitability that flows from that is described in the second part of Romans 1, and also here.

And you'll notice without… I don't need to belabor it, but you will notice the elements that are involved in it—the trajectory. Look at… If your Bible is open, look there where it says, "…because of the ignorance that is in them, due"—or do, as you say—"to their hardness of heart." Due to their hardness of heart. So, if you start with hardness of heart, which is actually where it starts, you'll see that the progression is a downward path which begins with an obstinate rejection of the truth of God. An obstinate rejection of the truth of God. It's an expression of the folly and futility of man. When the psalmist says, The fool has said in his heart, There is no God, he is not describing somebody who got two hundred on their SATs. He's not describing somebody that doesn't have intellectual capacity. It is a statement concerning not the absence of intellectual acumen but an expression of ethical or moral revulsion to the truth of God.

It is a foolish thing to do. That's why Paul, when he writes to the Corinthians, he says, In the wisdom of God, God has planned it in such a way that man through his wisdom will not know God. That there is no intellectual road to God. That you can't think yourself through to God. You can think every apologetic thought you like, but you will never bow your stubborn will down before Almighty God until he shows you who you are, who Jesus is, why he came, and why it matters.

It's absolutely there. Hardness of heart, ignorance, alienation, darkened in the understanding, callous, hardened, given up to sensuality, and greedy to practice every kind of impurity. As I say to you, just as there is a general description of the Christian life, which is to follow—where you were taught, you were trusting, you were renewed, you were putting on a new self—so this is a general description of life outside of Christ.

Outside of Christ. This is the way it goes. Don't walk like this, he says. You're living in the culture out of which you've come. Don't get sucked back into it. Don't start a thing the way you used to think in the futility of your minds. It's fifty years in another few days to the anniversary of Sgt.

Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I'm sure you're very interested in that. But fifty years on, you know, the cries of that generation have become the strangulated cries of the contemporary generation.

Why? Because, you see, once we turn our back on the reality of a God who loved us so much that he gave his only begotten Son to die for us, there is an inevitability about what follows. We can mask it in all kinds of ways.

We can be really kind of nice, bourgeois, respectable, car-driving, mortgage-paying people on the east side of Cleveland. But if the thoughts of our minds were put up on this screen right now, this morning—greed, sensuality, hard heart, alienated from friends, not speaking to my family—Paul says, I'm warning you, you don't go back down that road. Because you have been made alive in Christ. And this is what you were. This is what it would be like if God had not intervened in your life.

You'd be down here somewhere. That's why, you see, none of us—if we understand anything of the grace of God, we should never be up on our high horse. We should never be going, Can you believe him? Look at that mess! You're looking at yourself outside of Christ. What made you…?

What? Did God know you were a really special person, and he just included you in a group, because he liked you, because he saw how good you were? No!

There was nothing in us to commend ourselves to him. Amazing grace! Not like grace.

Amazing grace! This saved me. I had to write my testimony this week for a newspaper piece in England for later on in the year. And they said I had four hundred words to tell somebody how it was that I came to trust in Christ.

And it was a salutary and wonderful exercise for me. And it made me wonder that God in his mercy reached into my life when I was young and small and stupid and sinful and argumentative and jealous and spiteful, and all the seeds of sin were all embedded in my little heart. But God saved me. He saved me. And he'll save you too, if you ask him. See, the futility of life, you don't have to go looking for it, do you?

You don't have to try hard. I read the Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Times of London every day. And if I didn't have a Bible, I don't know what I would do. Because it doesn't really matter where you go. You can go to the business section, the sports section, the Scottish section, you can go to any section you want, and as you work your way through it, what do you find?

Do you find hard hearts, darkened minds, sensuality, greedy? I mean, even the newspapers are full of stuff that a generation ago nobody would have even printed in a newspaper. But why are we able to handle this now? Because we've become callous. The culture is calloused. The culture is marbleized. The culture is desensitized.

So you've got lifestyle, you've got language, you've got all kinds of stuff that our children and our grandchildren are confronted with that we never faced when we were their age, fifty, sixty years ago. What has happened? It's the trajectory of Romans 1! How do you get out of it? Only by the grace of God. I charge you, he says, that you do not get caught up now again in the futility of your minds. Don't be sidelined by all the brilliant people. People come to me all the time and say, Well, you know, there's a lot of people that are much more clever than you, beg, and they don't believe one bit of what you're on about.

I say, Well, that's not a hard exercise to find people cleverer than me. I get that part. That's true. But I understand that.

I understand that. Stephen Hawking, who is arguably, as a physicist, is apparently one of the greatest brains in the Western world, investigating black holes and things that I don't even understand. I'm more concerned about holes on the road when I'm driving home than black holes in the universe, but that just shows what an ignoramus I really am.

Some of you are able to go down that line. I was very interested to discover that his doomsday report—'cause he said, We're a thousand years away from having to inhabit another planet and get out of here, because this one is over. He announced that from his research. But in the last little while, he slashed it by nine hundred years. And it's now down to a hundred.

So the pressure is on that, according to Stephen—and he is a brilliant physicist—according to his most recent analysis, humanity has a century left to evacuate the planet and become multi-planetary species. Oh, the futility of a genius! Oh, the folly of a man intellectually vast! A testimony to what Paul writes. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe?

Where is the debater of the age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach, to save those who… What's the last word? Through the folly of what we preach, to save those who… Do what?

No. See, I've been so long with you, and still you can't finish the sentence. It's through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. You remember when the Philippian jailor is going to kill himself? When the shackles come off, Paul and Silas, and Paul says, Hey, don't worry about it, we're all still here. And he comes running up, and he says, What must I do to be saved?

And what did Paul say? Believe! Believe! People tell me it can't be that simple. It is that simple. And it is that profound. Because, listen, you can't come to God on your own terms. You can't come to God on your own time. You'll only come on his time and on his terms. That's why I always say to you, Today, if you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts. Because if you hear his voice, you may be sure it's his time. And now is the time.

And now is the day of salvation. You see, Stephen Hawking is a genius, but he's marked by the futility that is here. Do you remember Horace, the Latin dramatist? He instructed his students, when they were writing, they were writing dramatic plays and dramatic art. He says, he told them, A God must not be introduced into the action unless the plot has got into such a tangle that only a God can unravel it.

Well, what the Bible says is that the plot has got into such a tangle that it's not a God, but it is the God, the living God, the only God, in the person of his Son, who has come to untangle the knotted rigmarole of life lived outside of him. Well, Jesus came and stopped underneath Zacchaeus' tree. I can't wait to ask him about that. Jesus comes and stops at your seat and says, Will you do what Zacchaeus did? Will you get out of your seat and welcome me gladly? Will you receive me? Do you believe in me? Well, we'll come back to this. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life with some important questions for each of us to consider.

Alistair returns in just a minute to close today's program. Part of our ministry here at Truth for Life, along with the daily Bible teaching you here, is to carefully select high quality books to recommend to you to help you grow in your faith, regardless of your surroundings or your circumstances. If you feel like the world around you is getting more and more chaotic, the book we're recommending today will offer you a few minutes of peace each day throughout the year. It's a devotional titled Refreshment for the Soul. The subtitle is a year of daily devotional readings from the Heavenly Doctor. That's Richard Sibbes. And if you've never heard of Richard Sibbes, whose writings are the source for this newly published devotional, he was a Puritan pastor. He was known for the great care that he applied to teaching God's Word. Each daily reading in this devotional includes a Bible verse, along with a brief excerpt from some of Sibbes' most profound works. Ask for your copy of the devotional Refreshment for the Soul today when you give a donation through the Truth for Life mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate, or you can call us at 888-588-7884. By the way, if your small group or your Bible study group is looking for a study to go through in the new year, we want to encourage you to check out the collection of study guides available from Truth for Life. You'll find a number of studies that correspond with both audio series and books written by Alistair.

Visit truthforlife.org slash studyguides. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. God our Father, thank you that you are the God who seeks and saves, that you are the God who calls out through the night and reaches into our rebellious, futile, self-preoccupied souls, and turns on the lights, and suddenly we realize that we'd been in the dark for so long. We were in the dark so much we never even realized how dark it was. We didn't even realize we were dead until you made us alive. What a mystery. Fulfill your purposes, gracious God, in us and through us this day. For Christ's sake. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening today.

Tomorrow we'll find out when and why it's perfectly okay to be considered weird. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-04 07:26:02 / 2024-01-04 07:34:51 / 9

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