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“Without Excuse” (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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February 21, 2024 3:00 am

“Without Excuse” (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 21, 2024 3:00 am

Final judgment is a grim and daunting reality that each of us must face. But Scripture assures us that God’s wrath is surpassed by His amazing provision. Find out how to enjoy God’s grace rather than suffer His wrath, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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The Verdict
John Munro

The reality that a final day of judgment is coming is a grim and daunting prospect that each of us has to face. Scripture, though, makes it clear that God's wrath is more than matched by His amazing grace, His provision.

Today on Truth for Life, we'll find out how to enjoy God's grace rather than suffer His wrath. Alistair Begg is teaching from Romans chapter 1. We're studying verses 19 through 23. Now, Paul is writing this as a letter, but when he goes on the road, he takes the message on the road. Let me just illustrate it from two places, one in Acts chapter 14.

Paul and Barnabas are in Lystra, they are involved with the healing of somebody, and the people there start to bow down to them and worship them as if they were gods. He says, we are bringing you good news that you should turn from these empty things to a living God, a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways, yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good.

And now, look at this. He's teaching them the providence of God by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness. He does the exact same when he has the opportunity in Acts 17, where the religious people, they are in Athens with all of their statues and all of their monuments. And how does he begin? Well, I can see you're very religious, and I want you to know that the God who made the world does not live in temples made by hands, nor is he dependent on any one of you. He is the God who made the world.

You know that, he says. You know that because you are stamped with his divine imprint. None of us are self-made, all created by God. Now, Paul is able, then, to say, Therefore so they are without excuse for our ungodliness, for trying to live without him, for our unrighteousness, by all our misery that we cause the people around us, whether to our wives or work colleagues or whoever it might be. But notice—and this is in keeping with the way we finished last time, talking about general revelation—creation does not provide sufficient knowledge of God to save us.

It provides sufficient knowledge to make us accountable for our ungodliness and for our unrighteousness. You know, Paul is later, when he writes to Timothy again in 2 Timothy, he says to him, you know, and you know from… I want you to continue in the things you have become convinced of, Timothy, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. So Paul is not suggesting for a moment that you can discover all that is to be discovered of God by a walk in the woods, and that if you just walk in the woods and feel a little bit better about yourself, you could call that your conversion. No, you go walk in the woods with a humble heart, and you realize you're saying, Meh, who could ever come up with this? Who could ever create such variety?

How could there be all these leaves? How could there be such intricacy? Oh, your divine power and your majesty is revealed. Calvin says, We are justly deprived of every excuse, seeing that we stumble around like lost souls, while everything around us points to the path we should take.

Is that not a picture of contemporary society? Stumbling around like lost souls, suppressing the truth, living as if God does not exist, denying the things that are before us in order that we might please ourselves. We need to remember this as believers when we're sharing the gospel with our non-Christian friends.

Remember. Remember that we know something about our unbelieving friends, that they may not be prepared to acknowledge themselves—that is, that they were made in the image of God, that they know that God exists. And therefore, we don't have to try and convince them that God exists. The Bible doesn't do that. It just starts, In the beginning, God.

It's good to remember, isn't it? Verse 21, they're without excuse, and he goes on to explain, because although they knew God—they knew God, he says—they refused to acknowledge him as such. They refused to give him his due.

They refused to honor him so that the thoughts of a man turn in on ourselves and our own proud achievements, our affections, our devotion. Any response to the revelation of his power and divinity ought to be to give him honor, to say, You are amazing, God. That's what we were singing. You're amazing!

Amazing! But instead, God is met by silence. Silence. By an absence of gratitude.

They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. When Paul writes in 2 Timothy, and he goes into chapter 3, and he goes on to that run where he says, you know, in the last days, people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, lovers of this, lovers of that. The next thing is a horrible catalogue.

It's so up-to-date. It's scary. And right in the middle of that, you just find one of the words is ungrateful. Ungrateful. Gratitude is a mark of grace, actually. Now he says, for although they knew God, they didn't honor him as God or give thanks to him, and the result of their arrogant defiance is two things. One, they became futile in their thinking, and two, their foolish hearts were darkened. Peterson paraphrases it, refusing to worship God, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.

It's a dreadful thought, isn't it? In essence, it's straightforward. Rejecting what is true, they have to make way for what is false. With no desire to thank God or to honor God, the heart of man then says, Well, what I need to do here is I need to reinterpret the evidence and give it a meaning that fits in with the fact that I deny the existence of God. I'm gonna have to—because there's no doubt there's evidence. And I'm gonna have to reinterpret the evidence.

And so that's exactly what happens. Every true scientist knows that they're there could be no science without the intricacy of the work of a creator God. All of that research is posited on the fact, the discovery of the anomaly, because of the routine reality of A, B, and C—mathematics itself.

All of these things. But now, you see, you say to yourself, Why are so many clever people so foolish? Why do clever people not get this? You remember when Paul writes to the Corinthians, he says, You know, I'm writing to you, and I recognize the fact that not many among you are particularly bright. Not many of you are particularly noble. I mean, the gospel is not something for certain people that got really high scores on their SAT, that the threshold of entry has to do with our capacity to analyze and frame things and understand it.

No, it has to do with our willingness to bow down and admit that we're a royal mess left to ourselves, that we are wandering from Hill and Dale. We cannot make sense of the universe. Take the one-woman play that was done by the crazy lady on Laugh-In, Lily Tomlin.

What was it called? The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The Search for Signs of—why are we looking for signs of intelligent life in the universe? Well, because we've decided that there isn't.

There aren't any. So we seek to unravel the mystery of the universe without the key. We refuse the light, and we descend into darkness. You know, the way in which university education has gone in the last hundred years is just right down this line, isn't it? I mean, if you take all that genius wisdom that came from Scotland here to America to get you started at Dartmouth and Princeton and Harvard, these were by and large men who were at least theists. The educational system started from in the beginning God. You traced the line from there. What happened? Did God change?

No. We now decided that we don't like the evidence because it holds us accountable. Therefore, we must now reinterpret the evidence so that the evidence will fit with our denial of the existence of God. Error for truth, darkness for light, and people find themselves saying, I don't know what's going on. I don't know how many times in the course of a month somebody says to me, Does anyone have any idea what the world is happening? I always keep this piece from the Wall Street from years ago, because Henry Allen, the commentator, wrote the piece just exactly that.

It begins, For the first time in my seventy-two years, I have no idea what's going on. The nineteenth century was the age of production, the twentieth century the age of consumption. Now the line is, If you get things for free on the internet, you aren't the consumer, you're the product, you're a statistic, a demographic entity that can be sold to advertisers. We have individualism, but we have no privacy. We're all outsiders with no inside to be outside of. There is no arc.

There is no through line. There is no destiny. It's not surprising that the thing eventually descends, not simply to the deconstruction of language, not to the deconstruction of history, but to the deconstruction of personhood. Language means what I want it to mean. History may be redefined according to my particular persuasion. And as we will see before we end—not today, before we end—it applies right to the very core of human existence.

Why is this? It's all in the Bible, loved ones. Look, claiming to be wise, verse 22, they became fools. The Enlightenment. That's the key to it all. The key to all what? The great need is not philosophical enlightenment. The great need is spiritual illumination. Phillips paraphrases 22–23, behind a facade 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.

It's interesting, isn't it? Why don't they just not worship at all? Claiming to be wise, they became fools, they exchanged the glory of the immortal God. Why not just stop worshipping? But sociologists, anthropologists tell us there's nowhere anyone's ever gone in the entire history of humanity where they haven't found people worshipping some kind of big thing or other thing that is worthy of their adoration. They don't stop worshipping. People don't stop worshipping.

They just change what they worship. They traded the glory of God, who holds the whole world in his hands, writes Peterson, for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. It's wonderful the way this happens, but this is 11922, an article in the Times, By the Gods, Ancient Bronze Statues Rise from Mud in Italy.

I said, How good of you to give me such an illustration! This is this week, in Tuscany. A trove of more than twenty bronze statutes discovered buried in thermal mud at a Tuscan spa town is the biggest find of its kind in Italy and will rewrite ancient Roman and Etruscan history, experts claimed. And it's got wonderful pictures of these statues, most of them about three meters. The statutes, which include Apollo and Aegea, the ancient Greek god and goddess of health, were offerings to the deities by wealthy families at the site where thermal water gushed from the earth. One states, This statue and six others were given for the health of my wife. As well as the statues, bronze likenesses of body parts, including feet, arms, and even lungs, were offered to ask divine assistance for specific ailments. Who are you gonna go to if God is not real?

You've gotta go somewhere! This statue is offered for my wife. Offered to whom? All right, say, Well, we don't have that. We don't do these things. That's Italy. No wonder. Look at those people.

That's a long time ago. But listen, Paul now writes to Rome. He's writing to people. They know about this stuff. That's what their grandpa and their grandpa were doing.

And he says, You need to realize you're fools. You're exchanging the glory of a mortal god for things that creep and call and fly. But again, we're the twentieth century. We don't do that. We don't do Etruscan things. We don't do golden calves.

No. But we're surrounded by idols. Whatever captures your allegiance is your idol.

And mine, too. The person, or the substance, or the income, or the adulation. That thing that I cannot live without is the focus of my worship. And that's why the rampant materialism and self-sufficiency of the world in which we have grown, because we have baptized it into part and parcel of our story, we're in grave danger of staring our idols on the face and denying their existence. An idol is when I turn something good into God himself, when I deify something, and it's folly. It's folly. That's why Psalm 14.1 begins, The fool says in his heart, There is no God. That's not a statement of intellectual incapacity. It's an illustration of the misguided defiance of the heart of man. It's essentially intellectual and moral suicide.

That's what it is. Now, we'll pick it up in verse 24. But let me just finish in this way. See how I did that?

You thought we were done, and I got you again, so… They teach you that at school, don't they? Let's be really clear about something. The condition of man as a sinner before God, number one, there are no exceptions. No exceptions. All of us have sinned. All of us, by nature, want to run our lives without God. Also, none of us has an excuse that can be offered.

No excuses. Verse 20, we are without excuse. Thirdly, there is no way to escape from this predicament save through the door that is opened up for us in Jesus.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and he will go in and out, and he will find pasture. Only when we are prepared to face up to verse 18 and to admit our predicament will we ever then rejoice in the story of verses 16 and 17. I think we would probably agree that men and women, we stay away from Jesus either because we do not believe we need him or because we are unwilling to admit that we need him. First of all, we think we don't need him. The Bible says, Yes, you do.

Well, I don't want to admit that. The reason we're confronted by the predicament is because of the wonder of the provision. The essential cure is directly related to a sufficient diagnosis. You don't want to go to a doctor who tells you you're fine if you're not. You don't want to go to a doctor who treats you for things that don't need treated. You want a doctor to kindly, purposefully, graciously tell you the truth.

And on the basis of that, then explain what can be done. I speak to a diverse group. Now, I don't know where you are in these things. Maybe you're actually searching for signs of life in the universe. Maybe you're here, and you've been longing for peace, longing for freedom, believing the lie that it's outside this framework, that it's over there, that it's that tree, that it's up that street, that it's in him, that it's in her. It's there.

If only I can get it. Are you there? Are you hungering for love, for the reality of what it means to be brought into a family? Well, I say to you, come to the shepherd. Come to the shepherd. He's the one seeking you. You're not seeking him. How gracious of him to come and tap you on the shoulder.

Say, come to me. I'll give you rest. I'll give you peace. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life.

Alistair will be back in just a minute to close today's program. Here at Truth for Life, we often invite you to open your Bible, and it's because our mission is straightforward. It's to teach God's word without adding to it or taking away from it. It's teaching you can trust to be true because it's grounded in Scripture.

All of Alistair's teaching is available to watch or listen to or download for free. So if you're benefiting from this study in the book of Romans, if you'd like to re-listen or share a message with a friend, you'll find the complete study on our website at The series is titled God's Power for Salvation. It is our great desire to make clear, relevant Bible teaching available to everyone without cost being a barrier, and we're able to do this because of the generous support we receive from listeners like you. If you're able to give a gift today, we'd love to say thank you for your investment in this ministry by inviting you to request a book titled Death in the City. This is a book that looks at how our culture is increasingly moving away from Christian values, and in the book the author shows us that rather than responding with hostility or a sense of futility, we're to respond with compassion for a world that is lost and dying without the gospel. Request your copy of the book Death in the City when you donate today. To give, simply tap the book image in the mobile app or visit us online at slash donate.

And if you'd prefer, you can call us at 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair to close today with prayer. Father, we realize when Jesus turned to his followers and many people were leaving, the numbers were dwindling dramatically, and he said to them, Do you fellows want to go away as well? And they said, Lord, to whom could we go? For you alone have the words of eternal life. Father, grant that our ongoing consideration of these things, our study of the Bible, may show us who we are in light of who you are. And grant that we may be uncovered by the wonder of your love that pursues us despite our ungodliness and our unrighteousness. Come to us, Lord, in our chaos and save us. For Jesus' sake, we pray. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. The Bible is clear that God is patient. He's a God of second chances. But does he ever give up on people? We'll have the answer tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-21 07:09:04 / 2024-02-21 07:17:12 / 8

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