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Jesus Calms the Storm

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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January 19, 2024 3:00 am

Jesus Calms the Storm

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 19, 2024 3:00 am

When overwhelmed by circumstances, you may question if God really cares or wonder if He’s abandoned you. Find out why God not only allows trials in your life but also sometimes leads you right into them! Study 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!

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Alistair Begg

It may seem surprising that a religious person who is well versed in Scripture can still be without hope and without God. But today on Truth for Life we'll meet a Jewish leader, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who discreetly came to Jesus asking him questions. We'll hear Jesus' striking response as well. Alistair Begg is teaching from the first 15 verses of John chapter 3. Calvin writes, And when we read the Gospel records we realize, as my good friend Sinclair Ferguson says, the pulse beat of God's heart has an evangelistic rhythm.

Now, my purpose in these studies is largely twofold. One, in order that some who as yet do not believe in Jesus may come actually to believe in Him. And at the same time, to enable those of us who profess to follow Jesus to understand how Jesus dealt with people and how we in turn may be better enabled to live out our Christian lives in the context of our day.

John sets it up. Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. That gives us all the credentials that we need. At the end of chapter 2, John has described some who believed in Jesus. In fact, it says that when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.

So there was a kind of superficial belief that was called out on the strength of the evidence that Jesus had been provided. But, says John, Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. And therefore, when this religious man appears under cover of darkness, Jesus knows what is in him. Now, Nicodemus has presumably seen enough and heard enough of Jesus to recognize that as he describes him, he is a teacher come from God.

That's his opening gambit. Rabbi, we know that you're a teacher come from God, and here's how we know, because no one could be doing these signs that you're doing unless God is with him. Well, that's pretty good, but it's a far cry from proclaiming that Jesus is the promised one.

The signs are sufficient to begin the conversation. We might wonder by what mysterious constraint did Nicodemus find his way to Jesus in the night? What are the factors behind his arrival about which we know nothing? We assume, as most of our Bible teachers have taught us through the years, that he came to Jesus by night for fear of being associated with him, for fear of what his friends and his colleagues might say.

There would be no surprise in that, but we know that he came. And so he came to Jesus by night and said to him, therefore presumably it was dark, but the real darkness was a moral darkness. The real darkness, a spiritual darkness.

His own night was blacker than the night in which he came, and Jesus knew. What this is making perfectly plain is that even upright, sincere religious individuals are, by nature, without hope and without God in the world. That the description in Ephesians 2 is a description of both the religious and the irreligious without God, devoid of spiritual life, born in transgression, unable to rectify their predicament and without hope. In other words, such an individual is not in need of information but is in need of regeneration. Such an individual is not in need of renovation but rather of transformation, a radical change, a spiritual conversion, something so unbelievably transformative that the best analogy that one can come up with is the analogy of physical birth and all that is contained and entertained in that amazing miracle that happens all the time. The opening gambit. Rabbi, it's pretty obvious you're a teacher sent from God.

Nobody would be doing the science that you're doing if God were not with him. Well, we move from an opening gambit to a striking response, a striking response. Whatever expectation Nicodemus shared with his friends and colleagues about the kingdom of God, and as a good Jew, he was very focused on the kingdom of God.

Surely this really knocked him back just a little bit. Jesus answered him, truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. All right. So in the Jewish mind, the kingdom of God was all going to come together at the end of the age. And at the end of the age, entry into the kingdom would be guaranteed to every good Jew. Jesus is not talking now about a kingdom that is out there at the end of the age. He's talking about the present reality of the kingdom. Remember in Mark's gospel, Mark has opened his gospel with the words of Jesus, the time is now fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand or is it near? Repent and believe the good news. John, in a very similar way in this incident, is driving home the same reality, and that this entry into this kingdom is possible only as a result of being born again or born from above.

Well, verse 4 tells us that Nicodemus responds in a quite surprising way, actually. How can a man be born when he's old? It's a strange question for such an intelligent man. He knows you can't be born when you're old. Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?

No, of course he can't. I wonder really why he's asking it in this way. Is he simply saying that he can't see how given his age and stage, it's not possible for him to turn over a new leaf? Was that what Nicodemus is saying here? He's too clever to think for a moment that Jesus is suggesting some form of physical reconfiguration.

Jesus comes back to it verily, verily. Truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh.

That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Do not marvel that I said this to you. Look at that. Verse 7, you shouldn't be surprised that I said this. You shouldn't be surprised. But verse 10, Jesus is saying, I actually am surprised.

I'm surprised. Are you the teacher of Israel? And yet you don't understand these things?

You shouldn't be asking questions like this. You shouldn't be marveling. But I'm marveling that you've come here under cover of darkness, knowing all that you know about the Old Testament, and you're here asking me these questions in the darkness of the night? You say, well, this is quite interesting, isn't it? That Jesus would chide this man, Nicodemus, and chide him as he does as the teacher of Israel. And legitimately so, because he hasn't put the pieces of the puzzle together.

What pieces of the puzzle? Well, you can turn here, if you're still with me, to Ezekiel chapter 36, and the verses 25 to 27. God's word through his prophet, I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness and from all your idols. I will cleanse you, and I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Now Nicodemus would have known these words from Ezekiel.

He would have known the words of the psalmist, the psalmist's prayer, in Psalm 51, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. You see, what Jesus is doing is this, that the prophesied cleansing of the Old Testament and the renewing of heart by the spirit is that to which Jesus refers as the basis of entry into the kingdom. So don't stumble over what he's saying here about water and the spirit.

I think it's fairly straightforward. The experience of cleansing from the old life, symbolized by water, and the regenerating power of the spirit, symbolized by wind, are the pictures that Jesus is employing in pointing out to Nicodemus the absolute necessity of being changed by God. This, you see, is at the very heart of this. We're talking actually about conversion. We're talking about being saved. We're talking about a radical, God-ordained, eye-opening, heart-changing encounter with Jesus.

That's what we're on about. And if we have started to become sufficiently satisfied with the vaguest of interests on the part of our friends and our cronies, then we have moved away from what the Gospels teach and have begun to create some kind of gospel of our own. You see, it's not enough for us simply to lay out Jesus on the smorgasbord of religious options. We do not have that option because of who Jesus is and because of what he's done. It's not pride on the part of the Christian to say that Jesus is the only way. It is logic on the part of the Christian.

There's no one else who can save because no one else is qualified to save. Therefore, he has every right to say to a religious Jew like this, I'm surprised that you as a religious leader, you have not put the pieces of the puzzle together. And so he goes on to say to him, listen, if you don't get what I'm telling you about how to enter the kingdom down here, how are you ever going to grasp the ideas that are related to the consummation of the kingdom?

That's the best I can do with it. He says, you know, if I'm telling you the way of entry into the kingdom now, and you don't get the way of entry into the kingdom now, there's really no point in me telling you about what it's going to mean when the kingdom is consummated in the reality of a new heaven and of a new earth. So he makes clear the absolute necessity of the new birth. He makes clear for Nicodemus the supreme tragedy of Jewish unbelief. Still, he says, and still you do not understand these things.

You do not believe. When Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, chapter, he says so poignantly, since we have such a hope, we are very bold, are we? Not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened.

Listen to this. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Do you believe that? That our devoutly committed Jewish religious friends begin and end their day with the Shema, hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one. And they say to their children, and they talk about it when they walk along the road, and when they lie down, and when they get up. And every time they do, there is a veil over their eyes that prevents them. And only in Jesus is the veil taken away. And here is the religious leader confronted by Jesus himself. Rabbi, Rabbi, teacher, teach me the absolute necessity of new birth, the supreme tragedy of Jewish unbelief, and the complete sufficiency of Christ's death. You see, Jesus is actually preaching the gospel to him, isn't he?

That's what he's doing. Jesus is preaching the gospel from the Old Testament. No one is ascended into heaven, he says, except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. Here we go again, the Son of Man. That should ring a bell for him. The Son of Man, you mean Daniel 7, Son of Man?

That's exactly what I mean. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up. There's another bell. Jesus is not choosing things arbitrarily. He's not just chucking big bits of the Bible at him. No, he's ringing his bell for him. He's saying, come on now, you know the Torah.

You're the leader of Israel, for goodness sake. And what is he reminding him of? Well, he's reminding him of the scene that's recorded in Numbers chapter 21. The people said, why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?

There's no food, there's no water. God sent fiery spirits, serpents among the people, and they bit the people so that many of the people of Israel died. God did that. God does things like that, because he cares so much. And the people came to Moses and said, we have sinned.

And there you go. For we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord that he take away the serpents from us. So Moses prayed for the people.

And what did the Lord say? The Lord said to Moses, make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole. And everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live. So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. They had grumbled and they complained. A plague of poisonous snakes are sent to bring death to many of them as a judgment upon their sin.

The bronze snake on the pole was the means God used to give new physical life to those who believed God's promise and look to the serpent. That's the old song, look and live. Look and live. It's what our friends say to us all the time, but it can't be like that, can it? You're not possibly telling me that all I have to do is believe.

Yes, that's exactly right. Believe. The people who were cleansed believed. The other sat around saying, it can't be that straightforward.

And they died. And so in a similar fashion, Jesus knows that he is going to be lifted up and that all who look to him will become the recipients of spiritual life. That's what we're saying to our friends. Look to Christ. Look to him. He's the savior. Look and you'll live.

Let me finish there. Because if Jesus is driving home, as I suggest to you, the absolute necessity of new birth and the supreme tragedy of Jewish unbelief and all our unbelief and the complete sufficiency of his death for sin, then he is also driving home the personal responsibility of each one to believe in Jesus so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. People were not saved back in Numbers 21 on account of their being in proximity of the pole, but only when they rested all their hopes upon that which was promised to those who looked. That's why Calvin is so good when he says in his institutes around Book 3, all that Christ has done for us is of no value to us so long as we remain outside of Christ. A mere knowledge of these things is of no value at all. Because you see, intellectual ascent needs to be combined with volition.

It needs to be combined with action. And that's again what we need to be saying to our friends. That's what Jesus is saying to this religious man.

You know all this stuff and yet you're missing it. Wouldn't you believe so that whoever believes will have eternal life? Let's make it clear for us as we stop that the message is for everyone who believes. Salvation is not given until the Gospel. The message of Christ dying in the place of the sinner is believed. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.

God loves men and women so much that he will pursue them with his love in order to bring them to repentance and faith. We began by quoting Sinclair, that the heart of God beats with an evangelistic rhythm. We then end with the question, does my heart pulse with an evangelistic rhythm? The work of conversion, said Richard Baxter in his day, is the first and greatest thing we must drive at.

After this, we must work with all our might. This misery of the unconverted is so great that it calleth loudest for our compassion. I confess I am frequently forced to neglect that which would lead to the further increase of knowledge in the godly because of the lamentable necessity of the unconverted. Who is able to talk of controversies or of nice, unnecessary points while he sees a company of ignorant, miserable sinners before his eyes?

Who is able to talk like that? Loved ones, it's not unkind to say evangelical Christianity in contemporary America is well able to talk like that. So our response should be in part, redirect us to go back to our friends whether they are religious people coming under the cover of darkness or as tomorrow morning if anybody shows up, irreligious people stuck in the noonday sun. Will you commit yourself to that?

How much time do you have left on earth? Do you remember when you used to sing as a teenager, lead me to some soul today, teach me God just what to say, friends of mine are lost in sin and cannot find their way. Are you just concerned?

Are we just concerned to make America the way we really would like it to be for our grandchildren and we'll worry about the unconverted once we get all the important things fixed? I don't think so. I don't think you would be here if you felt that way. Spiritual darkness is not something that's overcome by simply acquiring more Bible knowledge.

We need a complete radical transformation. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. We're in a series entitled An Extraordinary Encounter and we're learning about how people with different backgrounds and different needs experienced Jesus. If you'd like to dig deeper into this subject, we want to encourage you to request Nancy Guthrie's book titled Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus. In this book, Nancy explores 10 people or groups of people who met Jesus. She gives us a more three-dimensional profile of each of them, including the Apostle Peter, the high priest Caiaphas, the criminals who encountered Jesus, even members of Jesus' own family. Her purpose in the book is to help us see them as real people who share our human frailties. And then she points us to Jesus to show how His grace extends so generously to all of them and to us as well. Be sure to request your copy of Saints and Scoundrels when you make a donation of any amount online at slash donate or you can call us at 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us. Tomorrow we'll learn why Jesus was interested not only in devoted religious people like Nicodemus, but also immoral outcasts. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-19 05:17:04 / 2024-01-19 05:25:01 / 8

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