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The Impact of the Gospel (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 12, 2024 4:00 am

The Impact of the Gospel (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 12, 2024 4:00 am

Scripture makes it clear that we don’t choose God; we’re chosen by Him. Learn how to determine if a person is truly chosen by God, and discover how all three members of the Trinity are involved in the process. 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 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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The Bible makes it clear we don't choose God, we are chosen by Him. Today on Truth for Life, we'll learn how we can determine if we have truly been chosen by God, and we'll discover how all three members of the Trinity are involved in the process of saving us. Alistair Begg is teaching from 1 Thessalonians chapter 1. We're looking at verses 4 through 10. Having begun with this word of encouragement, he proceeds throughout the rest of the chapter to speak to these dear ones in Thessalonica in terms of great compassion and of love. Look at the lovely designation with which the fourth verse begins, brothers loved by God.

Now, what makes this so amazing? If you cast your eyes down to the very final phrase in the chapter in verse 10, Jesus has rescued us from the coming wrath, that by nature we are under God's wrath. We are under his judgment.

We are without hope in the world. We're without any awareness of God. And so it is an amazing thing that as a result of his intervention in our lives, somebody could refer to the company of people who have been gathered up into Christ as those who have been loved by God. It is one thing for us to say, I love God, but it is quite another thing to be able to ensure ourselves of the fact that God loves us.

And the tense which is used here is an important tense, a present continuous tense, which stresses the fact that God's love for us is a continuing love, and in Christ it is an irrevocable love. Now, in using this phrase, he introduces this notion, this biblical truth of the choosing of God. Now, there is no question that the believers in Thessalonica had to themselves hear the gospel, they had been called to respond to the gospel. And their response to the gospel, as we will see at the end of this, was that they had turned away from idols, and they had turned to serve the living God.

All of that they had been called to do. And when you think about your own experience in Christ, you can perhaps recount it in similar fashion—that as the gospel was explained to you, somebody said, The claims of Jesus Christ are these, and I want you to hear them. And you may have been in that context many times before, but suddenly on that day or in that coffee shop or across that kitchen table or in that pew, you heard in a way that you had never heard before. And the claims of Jesus Christ calling for a response in your life were such that they stirred within you the very means whereby you might reach out and take hold of this. And if you've walked the path of faith for a number of years, you have begun to understand that behind all of the call to our human responsibility, predating all of that, predating all of it in the lives of these Thessalonian believers, was the electing love of God. The reminder is clear that salvation rests on the divine choice, not upon human effort.

I say to you again, if it were a product of human effort, then we might congratulate ourselves. And indeed, some of us who are tempted to believe that our salvation has its origins in our ability to reply have at the same time very little assurance that we're ever going to continue. Because a salvation that begins with human initiative may as quickly end with human initiative. But a salvation that begins in eternity with the electing love of God the Father will proceed through all of time and bring us, persevering as saints, into his forever family. Leon Morris, the most helpful New Testament commentator, says of this, Left to ourselves, we do not wish to leave our state of untroubled sinfulness. It is only because God first convicts us and enables us that we can make even the motion of wanting to turn from our sins. Isn't that a very helpful statement? And doesn't it help go a long way to explain how it is with some of our friends and neighbors and loved ones, despite the fact that we would invite them to this, and we would speak to them about that, and we would give them this tape, and we would encourage them to that event, as so we should and so we must, believing that God would use these things in their lives, and yet they're able to come and to listen and to go, and they're just quite happy as they are by their own testimony.

Because they have nothing in themselves that says, I must leave this untroubled state of sinfulness in which I live. I must be done with this. I must run away from this. I must find a Savior. I must find an answer to my life. I must find fulfillment and purpose. Men and women are not running after these things.

Have you noticed that? They're not battering down the doors of churches. Oh, could you give me an answer for my life? Could you give me an answer to the troubled state of my own sinful soul? No, they're saying, I'm not a sinner. I have no need of a Savior. You may even choose to spend some time in religion.

But none of that for me. They may even come along and be pleasant. They may sit and even sing. They may even turn up the hymnal.

They may look at the Bible. But they walk out, content to live in their state of untroubled sinfulness. And then one day something happens, and they come as they came the previous time.

They sit where they sat the previous occasion. They listen to the same kind of message, they sing the same kind of songs, and suddenly it's all different. What has happened? The Spirit of God, at work within their hearts, has begun to convict them of their need of a Savior and to stir within them the ability to reach out and lay hold on Jesus Christ. And that is why, loved ones—and if I may say it to you, in all sincerity and awesomeness—it is a very, very serious thing to hear the Word of God proclaimed and to find within your heart the stirring of God's Spirit, and then to walk right out the door on the assumption that the way that you feel in that moment you may feel again in another moment. For you may never feel that way again. You may never hear God's voice in that way again.

There may never come that occasion again. And that is why the Scriptures say so often, today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. You see, because by our very nature we have hard hearts. And in this great mystery of God's electing love, we discover the confidence of Paul as he speaks of these whom he loves so very much. Now, he explains why it is that he can speak with such assurance concerning the fact of their election.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you. Question, how do you know? How may we ever know? Well, you don't know in prospect.

You only know in retrospect. That's why we are urged to go out and proclaim the gospel. Because God has not only ordained people to salvation, but he has ordained the means whereby they will come to salvation. That it is as we go and as we proclaim, that in the great mystery of his purposes, in a moment of time, he uses our mere words and our encouragements and our friendships as a bridge into the lives of others. And, says Paul, we know that he has chosen you, because when our gospel came to you, it came in a certain way. Now, he says there were three things that were true of the gospel coming to these people in Thessalonica. First of all, he says, our gospel came to you not simply with words. Now, he doesn't say that our gospel came to you without words. He says our gospel came to you not simply with words. There were a lot of words. Read in Acts chapter 17.

He was there for three Sabbath days at least, and he reasoned with them, and he taught them concerning the Christ. There were many words. But he says, as I reflect upon it, when the gospel came to you, it didn't just come with words. Now, it's very, very important.

Let me tell you why. Because when true preaching takes place, it is not just words. Anybody can talk.

Syntax is relatively easy. Theological truth may be formulated. Cohesive statements may be made. People may follow a line of reasoning, and yet it's all just words. But when the Spirit of God comes, it's not just words.

Now, until men and women understand this, they tend to say things like this. Why would I want to come and just listen to somebody talk? After all, people don't talk like this anymore.

Sermons are out of date, their old hat. Why would somebody stand up and talk for thirty-five or forty minutes? This is the age of communications. This is the age of video screens. This is the age of interactive networks and all these different things. Why would I want to come and just listen to somebody talk?

The answer is, absolutely no reason at all. I couldn't agree with you more. There is nothing I would like less to do than to come and merely listen to somebody talk. But, we may say, when the Spirit of God takes up the lips of the preacher, you are not just listening to somebody talk. Now, the flip side of it is, when people don't understand this, they also say this. You want to come and hear him talk. That's the other side of it. And it's equally wrong. It reveals the fact that people don't understand at all.

Oh, you should come and listen to him talk! Why? Why? No reason. No reason. No reason to talk. No reason to listen.

Unless this is true. When our gospel came to you, it did not merely come with words. You see, Paul is convinced that the power of God is present in the preaching of the gospel. First Corinthians 1 and verse 18, he says, for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. So when we proclaim the message of the cross—whether it's across a coffee table tomorrow morning at the twenty-minute break that you get—and you proclaim the message of the cross, it's not just talk. It's not just words.

It's power! The power is inherent in the message! That is why the message is so significant, and the messenger is ultimately insignificant.

Now, this was apparent to the Thessalonians. This gospel of God, he says, is actually referred to as our gospel. What does he mean, our gospel? You mean that Paul and his friends had a gospel all of their own? And there's somebody down the street, they had a gospel, and there was another gospel over here, but he was just referring to our gospel?

No. Paul understood that the gospel had its origin in God, that it was the very Word of God spoken out and breathed by the Holy Spirit. What he's saying here is this. This gospel is our gospel. You see, he couldn't forget the fact that he hated Jesus for most of his life. He hated Christians.

His whole purpose in life was to shut the operation down. It was our gospel in the sense that it was the work of the cross of Jesus Christ, the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, that had transformed the life of the apostle Paul himself. And so what he was proclaiming was his personal experience of the life-transforming power of Jesus.

Now, let me just point out something to you in passing. If you go to a church where the pastor or the minister or whatever you want to call the chap has never been changed by the gospel himself, I don't care who he is. I don't care whether he wears his collar back to front. It's irrelevant whether he's involved in religious affairs or theological jargon. He is absolutely, totally useless in the issues of redemption.

He may be a good social worker, he may be a nice man, he may be very kind to different people, and he may be able to carry a group along with him. But he is absolutely useless when it comes to the issues of salvation. Because it is only a gospel which may be communicated out of the heart of those who have been changed and transformed by it. And when a man stands in the pulpit to talk of that about which he himself knows personally nothing, or may even worse still want to deny the necessity of the life-changing power of Jesus in the lives of his congregation, then all that you will ever get from that man is words. And the people will say, Why would we ever listen to this?

And the answer is, No reason at all. Now, in direct contrast to such emptiness, the gospel came, he says, not simply with words but with dynamite—enough to shatter the gods of the idols whom they'd been serving, according to verse 9. It's not, you see, that the gospel tells of power. The gospel is power. It is inherently powerful in and of itself. It's not merely a matter of standing behind a box and providing information, or declamation, or exhortation.

You can do all of that and nothing happens. The gospel is the power of God. And that, you see, is the reason that I have such problems with the idea of trying to entertain people into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Because you are not proclaiming the very message which is absolutely foundational for people to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

So you can make them feel good, you can entertain them, you can encourage them, you can send them away with a spring on their steps. But it's all words, it's all rhetoric, it's all slick, it's all methodology, it's all pragmatism, and only in the gospel itself is there spiritual dynamite. Not only did it come with power, he said, but it came with the Holy Spirit. When our gospel came to you, there weren't just words, but power. And power came by the Holy Spirit. You will always find power in the Holy Spirit interwoven when you read your Bible. That's what Jesus had to say to his disciples in Acts chapter 1 and verse 8.

He said, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Spiritual dynamite. Power. That which is not inherent in ourselves. Not that people are powerful by means of their personality.

This is not something that can be explained in terms of extroverts. But it is that God brings with him this inherent power by his Spirit. This is what happens, you see, when the gospel comes. The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to a person's life.

Here it is in a trilogy. This is salvation. God the Father planned it, God the Son procured it, and the Holy Spirit then applies it. So those are three things that are true of every Christian. Their life has been changed as a result of God the Father's plan, God the Son's work, and God the Spirit's application. Now, you see, this is something very different from merely deciding to be religious, something very different from merely making a decision to attend church, to turn over a new leaf, albeit a religious one.

That hadn't happened to these Thessalonians. The gospel came not merely with words but with dynamite, with the Holy Spirit. And thirdly, he says, with deep conviction. Or if you have a different translation—perhaps the King James version—it may well read, And it came with full assurance, or with much assurance. When I read this at first, I assumed that the issue that was being referred to here was that the Spirit of God brought the truth of the Word of God home in such a way that it brought deep conviction in the lives of those who as yet had not turned from idols to serve the living God. But the more I studied it, the more I realized that the deep conviction, or the full assurance, is referring to those who preached, that this is why he is able to say he has chosen you. He says, because when the Word of God came, it didn't come merely in words, it came with power, it came with the Holy Spirit, and it came with the accompanying conviction on our part that in the proclaiming of the message, a work of grace was taking place in your lives. Now, loved ones, for this we need to pray. Father, I ask today that whoever is in that pulpit, that we won't just have words, but that the gospel may come with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.

Full assurance. The gospel, says Paul, is the very Word of God. God is at work in the hearts of people stirring them to respond. He has ordained that through the preaching of the Word, not simply from a pulpit, but as you proclaim it in your daily routine—as you proclaim the Lord's message, verse 8, the message, verse 6, the gospel, verse 5—you're proclaiming the very Word of God itself. You see, I think God needs to bring us to a renewed conviction concerning this, because we're being worn down in our day.

The way we are referred to by our culture is just a sort of little group of people who have embraced a philosophy, just another philosophy. And to the degree that we are sucked into that kind of notion, believing that, well, you know, our friends are nice people, and they're… I know they don't believe what we believe, but as soon as you start to find yourself going down that line, you'll never be an evangelist. You'll never gossip the gospel. You'll never know the zeal, and neither will I, of the first-century preachers who went through the country proclaiming what God had done for man. Therefore, we need to ask that God would bring us as his people, first of all, to a deep conviction that the gospel is the Word of the Lord.

And because it is, we can and we must present it without apology and without amendment. May God bring us to those kinds of convictions. The gospel is powerful as we're learning from Scripture.

We're listening to Alistair beg on Truth for Life, and he will continue this topic tomorrow. As we learn from Alistair today, the gospel message is spiritual dynamite. It has the power to completely transform lives, and that's why we're passionate about teaching the Bible with clarity and relevance every day at Truth for Life.

We believe Scripture is true, that it teaches us all we need to know about life, about God, and about his plan of salvation. Every time you pray for the ministry or you donate to Truth for Life, that's the mission you're supporting. Your prayers and gifts help bring the gospel message to listeners all around the globe through Truth for Life. If you're able to come alongside us today with a donation, you can give a one-time gift at truthforlife.org slash donate, or you can arrange to set up an automatic monthly donation when you visit truthforlife.org slash truthpartner. And if you'd prefer, you can call us at 888-588-7884. By the way, be sure to ask for your copy of the Faith Builder Catechism when you make a donation today.

It's our way of saying thanks for your support. This book offers a full year of weekly questions and answers. It's tailored for your preteen children or grandchildren. It's also a great book to use if you're in youth ministry. The book features a video game theme that provides a fun approach for learning about what the Bible teaches. Once again, you can give a donation and request the book at truthforlife.org slash donate. Thanks for listening today. Tomorrow we will explore the radical changes that occur when the spiritual dynamite of the gospel explodes in a person's life. I hope you can join us. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-12 05:20:42 / 2024-06-12 05:29:04 / 8

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