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Good News in a Bad News World (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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June 1, 2024 4:00 am

Good News in a Bad News World (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 1, 2024 4:00 am

Naaman, the king’s commander, quickly realized how meaningless wealth and power are against leprosy. Follow his search for healing, and discover where to find the cure for “spiritual leprosy.” That’s the focus 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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Here's a man in the Old Testament named Naaman. He was the king's commander and he quickly discovered that his wealth and power were meaningless in the face of his diagnosis of leprosy. On Truth for Life weekend, we'll follow his search for healing and discover how sin is like spiritual leprosy. Where do we go to find the cure?

Alistair Begg shows us as he teaches from the opening verses of 2 Kings chapter 5. Why are men and women today so unhappy in our world? Why so many gloomy faces? Why in this land of great opportunity are men and women the way they are? Why is it that on university campuses there is so much deadness and futility and failure?

What is the reason? Well, psychologists and sociologists are at all kinds of extremes to provide an answer, and the Bible is very, very clear. And sin is ugly as sure as leprosy was ugly. No matter how we may try and dress it up, sin is downright ugly. Sin is not an intellectual problem. It's a moral problem. That's why, you see, no matter how good your SAT scores were, they weren't good enough for you to deal with guilt. That's why financial status can never take us high enough to get beyond the cloud level that lingers as a result of this terminal human condition. And when, loved ones, this morning we pare it all away, the fact of the matter is that just like Naaman, we're in deep trouble.

Ultimately, we're just miserable sinners. Oh, you say, but I didn't come here to hear that. That's downright offensive. I know it is. And I would never think to say it to you unless, of course, I was only trying to tell you what is in this book.

Easy as a concoction of the late twentieth century to encourage men and women to come to church so that you can tell them how good they are, parade their successes, and tell them what a wonderful job they're doing and everything, because they go home and they say, I don't know why that fellow says that, because I'm not as good as that. My wife knows I'm not. My children know I'm not. My boss and my employees know I'm not. I've got a problem here. There is a plaintive melody in the back of my mind.

What in the world is the problem? Well, I've got to tell you. You're a miserable sinner. Our lives are full of jealousy and envy and lust and passion. And without exception, we are suffering from the leprosy of our souls. And there is nothing that in our success will be able to cure it.

Well, let's go then to cure. His context was that he was in a very desirable place, and he enjoyed a very enviable position, much as many of us do. His condition was that he had leprosy. That was true about him in such a way that it made everything else just not as distinct. His condition detracted from his happiness. His condition made him unhappy, and his condition was downright ugly. And that, says the Bible, is exactly what is the state of affairs with sin.

It detracts from our happiness, it makes us unhappy, and it's downright ugly. Well then, what of a cure? Well, the amazing thing in this chapter is clearly this, that Naaman obviously had the resources to kind of get any kind of cure that he wanted. He would have had access to the best physicians of his day.

He was aware of his condition that he would have been prepared, presumably, to go to any lens to effect a cure. Because after all, he didn't want people talking behind their hands and saying, you know, the one thing that strikes me about Naaman is that he has leprosy. But he continues to suffer, the disease gets worse, there's nothing that can be done. Even the kings themselves are somewhat baffled by the whole problem.

Indeed, they're helpless to do anything to correct the problem. He goes to his master, the king, and his master the king puts his best foot forward, and he says, well, if you're going to go, that makes perfect sense. I will send a letter to the king of Israel.

Very good, and thank you so much. Now all he's doing is he's doing what he can do. After all, kings write letters, and they're used to people pronouncing them. The king of Aram says this, and the king of Israel says that. And when the king of Aram and the king of Israel have said what they have to say, Naaman still has leprosy. And when the president says what he has to say, and when the Congress says what it has to say, and when we pronounce legislation on this and legislation on that, the fact of the matter is that we still live with a terminal condition the Bible calls sin. And look at Naaman, and you look at our culture this morning.

Verse 7, the king of Israel reads the letter, and he tears his robes, and he says, Oh my God, can I kill and bring back to life? Surely there must be that within the heart of any leader of our modern world. As they travel the globe and as they seek to do what they can do in public service, surely in the watches of the night they must almost physically tear their clothes and say, How can I deal with this? How can I make an impact here? How can we bring peace? How can we bring a cure? How can we deal with these teenagers? Let's have a curfew law. Let's try and get them home at night. Let's try and keep them away from this and that. And eventually they're cast down to say, Am I God?

Can I kill and bring back to life? You see, you only need a cursory reading of history, say, in terms of sociology to realize the inability of humanity to fix things. It is not that people are unaware of the fact that they need answers. It is that they just won't look where they ought to look. We're going to look over here and we'll look over there. We'll find the answer in a council or in a psychological therapy group or in something else.

But oh, for goodness sake, take all that church business away out of the road. We know we have a problem, but we for sure won't be looking for it there. The thing about Naaman is it wasn't that there was no solution, but it was that he was ignorant of where the solution could be found.

He was looking for something grand, something that would fit his status, something that would leave him with a bolstered sense of self-esteem. And we're no more ready for such a cure than was Naaman. I'm going to say two things about this cure, and then I'm finished. First of all, that the cure came from an unexpected source. It came from an unexpected source.

Verse 2, Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. What was her name? We don't know. How old was she? We haven't a clue. Was she prominent?

Absolutely not. She was, if you like, the lady that came over on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and did two or three hours for his wife. He was usually gone at business, never saw her, came home, knew that someone had cleaned the bathroom up, was thankful for it, but she was irrelevant to him.

She had no place in his existence. So if you have a pressing problem and you need a cure, and you're used to being able to go to kings and senators and congressmen, and you're used to being able to find the answer at the level of high society, and you anticipate that it will come from the boardroom or from academia, then the last place in the world you're going to look is in a broom closet, right? I don't want to be unkind to you this morning, but some of you remain outside of the kingdom of God because you like Naaman, want somebody to do some great religious thing for you that fits your status. Don't you realize who I am? I'm Naaman. I mean, can't you see the limousines that I've got parked outside your house here, Elisha?

I mean, this isn't just some flea bit general from anywhere. I am directly under the command of the king of Aram. I have power.

I have prestige. I have possessions. Indeed, I'm prepared to give you the possessions, and I expected that the least that you would do, Elisha, is just come out of your house, for goodness sake, stand beside me, wave your hand over the spot, and cleanse me of my problem. Do you know how many people believe that that's the way you deal with a problem of sin? You go find a religious man. You park your car outside his house or outside his church.

You put your money in the bucket, and you ask him to come out and wave his hand over the spot and fix you up. It will never, ever happen. Never. No one was ever cured of spiritual leprosy as a result of a religious ceremony performed by a presumably religious individual. And so, there is no expectation to look in this lowly place for a cure. Now you see, this is the glory of the gospel, is it not? If you think about it and just follow the line through, here you've got these great empires of Assyria, and the empires of the Chaldeans, and Babylon, and Egypt. And these are the great building blocks of secular history. And then you've got this funny little insignificant strip of real estate called Palestine. And then people look at this and say, Palestine?

It's nothing. What would ever come out of Palestine? And the answer is that right out of Palestine came the solution for the condition of mammon. Isn't it the same thing as the humanity scans the horizon looking for a Messiah?

Now we know that there's presumably someone who will come, someone who will triumph and reign, and someone that we can look to who will be a leader. We might look for him in this place, or that place, or the other, but not in Bethlehem. Not in Bethlehem Ephrat, or the least of all the tribes of Israel. Not the least. And if in Bethlehem, at least in a semi-reasonable establishment, and if in Bethlehem, at least maybe in a nice room, but not for goodness' sake, in a stable, you're not telling me, Alistair, that the answer to my condition ultimately takes me to that cradle there in Bethlehem?

Yes! When he grew, didn't they say the same thing? Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? You know, we don't mind somebody coming from Jerusalem.

We don't mind someone even coming over from Damascus. But why would we listen to this character? He spends all of his time with a rabble of poor people.

He's always hanging around in pubs, and he's with all these unsavory characters. We thought that if he was the Messiah, he'd get up with us where we like to be. And when he goes up to Jerusalem, we expect him to come up with dignity on a large white charger, but not on a donkey.

And we expect that when he is lifted up, he will be lifted up on a throne, but not lifted up on a cross. And like Naaman, we say, Naah, there are better places that I can go. There are better solutions that I can find. Solutions which leave me with my esteem, leave me with my ego, meet me where I am.

There will be none of this dumping down in the dirty waters of the Jordan for me. Because, you see, not only did the cure come from an unexpected source, but the cure was, frankly, an unusual solution. And Elisha sent a messenger which said, Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan. He didn't like it.

Why? Because it hurt his pride and it humbled him. He thinks he knows everything, and he knows nothing. He was angry. Nothing had happened the way he expected it. And yet, he sticks with his strategy, and he remains a leper.

Isn't this amazing? I mean, here is a guy who, for all that he has, has got one pressing problem. He knows that more than any other thing in the world, he wants to be rid of that problem. But he wants to be rid of it on his own terms, in his own way, and by his own say-so. So, when someone comes to him and says, Listen, this is what you have to do.

He is prepared to keep his problem, to retain his self-esteem, rather than give up his pride and be relieved of the scabs on his hands. Naaman was absolutely insulted by the solution. He regarded it as humiliating and as ridiculous. And so do men and women this morning. When Paul writes to the Corinthians, he says, in the preaching of the cross, this news of the death of the Lord Jesus, he says, We preach Christ crucified, which is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. In chapter 2, he says, The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, because they are foolishness to him. So I'm not surprised when I'm out, and perhaps on the golf course, and I'm talking with one of my partners, and I say, You know, I believe that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Oh, they say, That's rather profound. They say, Well, it's not really.

I just got it somewhere, and I like to say it, and they laugh. And we talk some more, and I eventually say, You know, I believe that in the death of Jesus of Nazareth is the answer to your problem and mine, and is the issue, is the pivotal event of all of human history. And at that point, by and large, people say, politely, Listen, I never heard anything as foolish in all my life. So if you feel that way, you're already in the book.

It's no surprise. You're supposed to feel that way. You see, you feel that way first.

People this morning say, You know, this America is a great nation, and I was brought up in a very nice mom and dad, and I'm grateful for that, and I've always tried to put my best foot forward, and really, the rivers in which I can go and wash are a lot better than this crummy stream, and I wish I'd never got myself in here in the first place. And furthermore, I think that I know what the Christian life is. I think the Christian life is simply this, that you imitate Jesus Christ. And so you say to me, That's exactly what I've begun to do. I am now trying to put his teaching into practice. I am trying to come to church at least once a week, and I am hoping that as a result of having spruced up my act, got a little religion and tried to imitate Jesus Christ, tried to live by the Sermon on the Mount, tried to put in place the golden rule that eventually God will reward me for doing all those things. So I imitate Jesus.

He scores me, and then depending on how I score, He includes me in heaven or He leaves me out. That is not good news. That is bad news. Indeed, that is lousy news. You only need to think about that for a couple of minutes, because what you're saying is going to heaven, being cured of spiritual leprosy, is on the basis of how good you can be.

Well, the question is, How good do you have to be? And the answer is perfect. So that cuts out a significant number of us to begin with, does it not? So that is bad news. And yet that is the news which is offered from pulpit after pulpit after pulpit.

And it is a chronicle of despair. Now I want you this week to go out and imitate Jesus Christ. And the average businessman says, I can't do it.

Of course you can't do it. No more than you can imitate Shakespeare, for goodness sake. You can't write Shakespeare's sonnets unless the genius of Shakespeare came to live in you. You can't imitate Jesus Christ unless the life of Christ came to live in you. So the good news is not the imitation of Christ. The good news is transformation by Christ.

See? What did Naaman bring? What did he bring to the Jordan?

His condition. But he brought gold and silver and stuff. Yeah, uh-huh. And what good was all of that? No good at all, right? Oh, you say to me, are you telling me that my morality and that my position in life and my giving to the United Way, this isn't in the equation?

Yeah, it is in the equation. You know what the Bible calls it? Filthy rags.

It calls it the worst kind of dry cleaning. It is only when, like Naaman, you and I are prepared to say, just as I am, without one plea in my defense, save for the fact that this Jesus, when he died upon the cross, bore my punishment, took my pain, took all of my badness in his own body so that I might be cured as a result of his taking my condition. Can you imagine a physician who healed like that? You went to the doctor, and he diagnosed the condition. And he said, you know, you have a tumor here under your arm. And then he said, here, give me that.

And the tumor appeared on his arm, and your arm was immediately clean. He said, this is a mystery. Could never be.

No, of course it couldn't be, but that is exactly the mystery of the Gospels. And let me conclude by saying this to you. Naaman came very close to dying as a leper, because he was angry. The way I would imagine some are angry this morning. You're angry with the people you're sitting next to, because you're saying, goodness gracious, if they had only told me what this was like, I would never have shown up here.

And you're already trying to work out a diplomatic way to get as far from them as you possibly can, as quickly as you might. And Naaman was angry, absolutely steaming. Can you not imagine? I mean, you've got to imagine the guy. And yet his servant said to him, hey, Naaman, Naaman, if the guy had asked you to do some unbelievable thing, wouldn't you have done it?

The answer is yes. He had $750,000 worth of gold he was ready to dump. A similar amount in silver, and an unbelievable wardrobe.

If the guy had come out and said, you know what, I wanted a million and a half in gold, two million in silver, I wanted 50 outfits rather than 12, Naaman would have said, go back and get the stuff. In the same way that if I said to you this morning, let me tell you the way into the kingdom of heaven, give X amount to this, go on a pilgrimage to there, run three times around the block, and when you come back, I'm going to give you a little button, and that button will be your security. The people will be lining up for that button so fast, because it leaves us with our ego. We can do it.

I gave, I performed, I ran, I got the pin. Uh-uh. Here's the deal.

Here's the deal. Get down on your knees and admit that you are suffering from spiritual leprosy. Admit the fact that your desirable place of residence and your enviable position in society does nothing to deal with the issue. Acknowledge that sin detracts from your happiness. It makes you unhappy.

It's dreadfully ugly. And believe that when Jesus died upon the cross, he bore your sin so that you need not fear death. You can reject what I'm saying to you, and if you do, you will remain in your sin. The Bible says you will die in your sin, and for all of eternity you will be without hope, and you will have nothing to cheer you. But if you would, as name indebt, turn around and stoop down, then you may embrace the good news in a bad news world. Listening to Truth for Life weekend, that is Alistair Begg with the conclusion of a message he's titled Good News in a Bad News World.

Alistair returns in just a minute to close today's program. When we come across books that do a great job of teaching young teens the vital truth of scripture, we're always eager to recommend them to you. The book available from Truth for Life today is one that we think you will love sharing with a middle school-aged child or grandchild. It's a 52-week devotional titled The Faith Builder Catechism. Each weekly reading is a single page, and this book addresses important questions about God, the Gospel, and church. Just to give you an idea of the topics that are discussed in the book, there are questions like what is God like? Does God have a beginning?

Why does God say we should keep the Sabbath day holy? And why is the Gospel about hope? Find out more about the Faith Builder Catechism by visiting our website at truthforlife.org. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Just where we're seated this morning, let us be very, very clear that the good news is not an invitation to imitate Jesus Christ.

The good news is a call to be transformed by Christ. What do we have to do? Believe His promise. Surely you say, There's something more than that. Don't I have to attend courses, read books, attend church, get this done and that done?

No. Believe His promise. And then the lifestyle will emerge from the transformation of your life. Just where you're seated today, tell God what's on your heart.

If you've spoken into your life, admit that you know yourself to be in this condition. Become like a little child entrusting in his provision for your need. And then stand to your feet to declare your commitment to follow Him. Lord, hear our prayers and let our cry come unto you. For Jesus' sake, we ask it. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for taking time out of your weekend to study God's Word with us. If you've ever felt like everyone was against you because you love Jesus, you want to make sure you join us next weekend. We're going to hear how evil schemes backfired when a godly man was targeted by his enemies. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-01 04:09:18 / 2024-06-01 04:18:32 / 9

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