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Our Glory and Joy

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 21, 2024 4:00 am

Our Glory and Joy

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 21, 2024 4:00 am

Affection between believers isn’t a natural fondness based on shared DNA, mutual attraction, or common interests. It’s supernatural! Investigate the source, the force, and the course of this deep bond. That’s our 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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Our love for one another as believers in Christ isn't simply a natural fondness that's based on shared DNA or mutual attraction or common interests. It's a supernatural affection.

Today on Truth for Life, we'll find out what forges this deep connection as Alistair Begg investigates its source, its force, and its course. He's teaching from 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, focusing on verses 17–20. Paul and Silas and Timothy had enemies. We've noted that their insinuations would appear to be that the Thessalonian believers had been abandoned and that their spiritual parents—namely, these folks, especially Paul—had been too frightened to come back and see them. And the insinuations deep into the lives of these people were such that Paul felt it important to address this as he writes to these Thessalonian believers.

And in verse 17 through here—actually, for a fair section into chapter 3—he rebuts his critics. And it is clear that Paul was not only committed to the Word of God, but he was equally committed to the people of God. And the pattern of his pastoral care clearly, in his mind, is the best of parental care. And that is why he has been using these pictures of children and of being a mother and a father to them. Says John Stott, he felt and acted towards them as if they were his own children, which indeed they were, since he had introduced them to Christ.

Chrysostom, in somewhat prosaic and yet moving language, says, Of what fiery warmth is this? Never could either mother or father, yea, if they even met together and commingled their love, have shown their own affection to be equivalent to that of Paul. Allow your eyes to scan again these few verses that we have read in this wonderful illustration of genuine affection. And then note with me the source, the force, and the course of this affection.

First of all, the source. Wherein lies the foundation for this kind of relationship? Well, the key to it is in one word, and the word there is brothers. He might equally well have said brothers and sisters.

It's this kind of generic statement concerning the nature of the relationship with one another. And it teaches us concerning the nature of genuine Christian faith. If you turn into his second letter and his second chapter and the thirteenth verse, you will find that he uses the same word with an appending phrase to it, but we ought always to thank God for you. He says, Brothers loved by God, they are the loved ones. They are loved by God.

Why? Well, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then—and here comes the term of affection—brothers, or brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. What is the source of affection that exists between Paul as he writes to this group, and the group with he and Silas and Timothy, and indeed the group with each other?

It is grounded in these great truths of the gospel—that these individuals had been chosen by God, that they had been called to faith through the preaching of the gospel, which Paul had been privileged to do, and the love of God for them extended back into eternity and forward into eternity. Now, we take time on this simple little word to note the source of this affection so that we might recognize that genuine affection within the body of Christ is not something superficial. It is not a shared interest in a certain kind of worship. It is not an interest in religious affairs that attaches us.

It is not a matter of a concern for the social well-being of our society. No, affection within the body of Christ is not superficial. It is substantial, because it unites those who were once faced with the dreadful predicament of their lostness. We were, outside of Christ, by nature lost and dead and unable to remedy our circumstances. We were without God and without hope in the world, but now in Christ Jesus we who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, this means a lot of things, but it definitely means this. There is no place for pride and one-upmanship in the affection in the body of Christ. For the ground is flat at the foot of the cross. All the issues that disunite people in various clubs and societies are to have no basis in the family of God. I'm not saying they have no basis.

I'm saying they are to have no basis. The issues of intellect or absence of the same, the issues of substance and financial provision or its absence, the matters of race and prior affections and concerns are all neutralized, recognizing that all of us share the same predicament and all of us have been redeemed by the same precious blood. We're all adopted children tonight. There are none of us here by certain special circumstances, none of us here with a special avenue of access that another has not enjoyed nor come by. We have all come by the same root. We have all come to the same place. We are, in genuine terms, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ—adopted, justified, redeemed, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. Who like thee his praise should sing? An illustration of genuine affection, its source.

What then of its force? Brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time, the people were suggesting that they ran away or they were staying away. No, says Paul, we would never be away from you. Indeed, we are away from you physically as a result of being wrenched away from you. But we're never been away from you in thought. You're never out of our minds. We're always thinking of you, day in and day out.

There's never a day passes that I do not think of you, he says. And if that is true of natural physical affection, as we can understand it, then, says, this is the great wonder of redemption, this is the great wonder of what it means to be placed in the family of God. He said, for us to be away from you, we would have to be torn away from you.

We left with great reluctance. The word which is used here is sort of one of these stuck-together Greek words, aporphonitsomai, and in the middle of that you get orphan. Aporphonitsomai. That's where we get our word orphan from. It speaks not only of those who have been deprived of their parents, but in Greek parlance it spoke of parents who had been deprived of their children.

And Paul says, this is how I feel. I feel as though I've been deprived of my children. The way in which we were torn apart was forcible, and it was painful. It has involved physical separation. Says Philip, since we have been physically separated from you, my brothers, though never for a moment separated in our hearts. You know, it takes being a parent to understand this, doesn't it?

Children can never understand this. If I may share with you a personal illustration of this, never did this come home clearer to me in terms of the nature of parental affection for children than on the day that Susan and I left the United States after our wedding and honeymoon and got on a ship in the docks in New York to sail for London. And we were accompanied there by her parents. And it was, as many of you have known in those times of impending departure, very awkward, and the small talk was painful. And we were, of course, leading up to that inevitable moment when we would have to turn and hug them and say goodbye and walk up the gang plank and be gone. It didn't help her father that we were flying on a Russian ship and that when we arrived at New York, the hammer and sickle were flying from the flagstaff. For a true blue American, that was a little hard to take.

Not that I found it easy, but it was cheap, you know. And I wanted Sue to start off correctly, and so we went on a Russian ship. And we were full, we understood, it was painful to part, we thought we understood what it was like, we wept, we left, we went out past the Statue of Liberty and out into the Atlantic Ocean and gone. A few hours, and we were over it, and now the new world and the new life, or the old world and the new life. About a year and a half later, when we came back to the States for our first visit, we sat down and watched the movies that my father-in-law had shot of that day of departure. And as we sat and watched these films, there came a point in the movie where it just went to pot, where it was all jumbled and went all over the place, and the camera moved. And I was about to say, What in the world were you doing there?

And, mercifully, I stopped myself, because I realized he'd had the camera on his shoulder. And as he began to weep at the parting, he could no longer keep it in focus. Well, says Paul, our affection is way deeper than that. Missing them dreadfully, profoundly anxious on their account, longing to know that they're going on.

Look at his language. Out of our intense longing, he says—an intense longing—we made every effort to see you. Verse 18, we wanted to come to you.

I certainly did, he says. Again and again I wanted to come to you. When will I see you again?

He must have been singing. When will our hearts be together? Now, the reason for their absence, we're told, is the activity of the evil one. Satan stopped us, 18. He was about the business of putting obstacles in their path. Just what this involves, we don't know.

You read the commentaries, and they have four or five suggestions for you. Where they got them from is interesting, but certainly not from 1 Thessalonians 2. Again, I found John Stott to be so helpful when he said, Since we lack this information, it is better for us to confess our ignorance than to express an unwarranted confidence. The details we'll get in heaven, but for now we realize that Satan was involved in this. Well, says somebody, does that suggest for a moment that Satan somehow or another was stronger than God?

No. God still retains supreme authority. In even the activities of the evil one, as the book of Job makes clear, God remains supreme in all of his overruling. He overrules all evil for good.

And even in the prevention which was a real prevention here, God's hidden plan was never once thwarted. This display of genuine affection has its source in the grace of God, has a force that just pulsates from these verses, and runs a course which looks forward into heaven. Look at verse 19. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of the Lord Jesus when he comes?

Isn't it you? Indeed, you are our glory and our joy. He anticipates the return of Jesus Christ. And anticipating the course of events, he affirms the fact that when he thinks of these dear ones who have been brought to Christ under the ministry that God has given him, that they represent his hope insofar as he anticipates the Spirit of God bringing them to maturity. They are his joy as he is able to observe the evident genuineness of their faith. And they are the basis of his exaltation, symbolized here in this crown, as he anticipates on the day of the Lord pointing to such converts as these and being able to reveal them as the fruit of his service. This is, interestingly, not any kind of random phrase on Paul's part.

He mentioned this idea in his letters with frequency. In Philippians 2, he speaks of the Philippians, and he says, As you hold out the word of life in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain. When I stand before the Lord, he says, and I review my life and the ministry that God has given me, your presence will reveal the fact that I did not labor in vain. Philippians 4, 1 My brothers whom I long for, he says, my joy and my crown. 1 Corinthians 9, he says to them, You are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. Ah, but, says somebody, I thought I read in Galatians that Paul had said that he would never boast save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that's exactly right. Well, then, if he would never boast in anything other than the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, does it not seem that he's skirting a little with things by suggesting that these dear ones who have come to faith under his ministry are something of a basis, at least for his encouragement?

Well, think it out. What he's declaring is simply this—that his joy in this world and his glory in the next world is tied up with the salvation of the Thessalonians, whom Christ, through Paul's ministry, has signally performed. As an athlete anticipates a crown for victory, Paul looks forward to seeing them in eternity. And he says, after Jesus himself, you, my dear ones, are the only prize worth having. You see, that is why we labored hard in 1 Corinthians 9 to notice this little driving phrase in Paul's life.

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible. Tomorrow morning, loved ones, as you go back into the routine of your life, here is your objective. As a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, to see unbelieving people become committed followers of Jesus Christ so that on the day of his return you may be able to look across and see those who are your glory and your joy.

And some of you, as mothers, harried by all the affairs of life and busied by the routine of all of those baskets of laundry and various other things, I'm sure sometimes feel the pressure that comes from all kinds of sources in a word like this. But I do say to you again, if you're able to look across at your children in heaven and see them there around the throne, then should there be no others, let them be your glory and your joy. Do you sense the supernatural affection in these verses? Chrysostom again, in a great, overflowing statement of affection for those who were in his care, the kind of affection that I hope to learn to have if I grow to be gray and old. Or, he says, there is nothing I love more than you, writing to his church.

Not even light itself I would gladly have my eyes put out, ten thousand times over, if it were possible by this means to convert your souls. So much is your salvation dearer to me than light itself. This one thing is the burden of my prayers, that I long for your advancement. But that in which I strive with all is this, that I love you, that I am wrapped up in you, that you are my all—father, mother, brethren, children. Anne Ross Cusson, hearing of the statements of the godly Samuel Rutherford as he lay close to the end of his life and in prison in the town of Aberdeen, took some of those statements which came from his prison cell. And as he nears the end of his life, she pictures him, thinking of the congregation which he will now no longer ever serve again, for the events of his life have torn him away from them. And as he stands, as it were, prior to death and on the very verge of heaven, she pictures him looking back to this little congregation on the Solway Firth. And here comes this great display of affection. I've quoted it to you before, but it's so wonderful, it's worthy of repetition. And she gives him the words, Fair Anwith.

That's the location on the Solway. To me, thou still art dear. Even from the verge of heaven I drop for thee a tear.

And if one soul from Anwith meets me at God's right hand, my heaven will be two heavens in Immanuel's land. What is the source of this genuine affection? It is found in the very blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is the force of such affection? It is the power of the Holy Spirit quickening and renewing and changing.

What is the course of this affection? It is a course that began in eternity, walks through time, and looks forward to the day when we will be gathered around God's throne. Not all of us will have the privilege of seeing many come to Christ.

But all of us may ask of God the opportunity to reproduce ourselves just once. And if to that end you are prepared to commit yourself in daily prayer, then we can with justification anticipate that those whom we welcome with regularity around this table will not be those who have relocated but those who have been brought to living faith in Jesus Christ through your witness and through mine. And so if one soul from Cleveland should meet me at God's right hand, then our heaven will be two heavens in Immanuel's land. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life as he encourages each of us to be intentionally praying for one particular person in our lives to be saved. Along those lines our passion at Truth for Life is to share the gospel with as many people as we can reach and many of our gospel touch points are made possible because of the far-reaching impact of the truth partners who give to Truth for Life. Of course you hear this daily program because of truth partners who help care for the cost of producing and distributing Alistair's teaching, but truth partner giving also opens the door for many other gospel opportunities. Back in January we were able to give the Truth for Life devotional to 10,000 college students who attended a Christian conference. In May we were able to hand out free devotionals to about 1,500 pastors who attended the basics conference at Parkside Church. We're also able to routinely send biblically sound books to missionaries, churches, even prisoners all at no charge because the cost is covered by your donations.

In fact we recently heard from a couple of people who are incarcerated. Gary wrote and said the books you've sent have been greatly beneficial to everyone here and Marco shared over the past couple years I've used the Truth for Life devotional as part of my daily morning scripture reading, prayers, and devotional time. We are so thrilled to hear how God is using Truth for Life to reach so many people and a sincere thank you belongs to you our truth partner team that helps make this gospel outreach possible. If you're not yet a part of this amazing team today is a great day to join. You can sign up online at truthforlife.org slash truth partner or call us at 888-588-7884. We hope you have a great weekend and can join us on Monday. We'll discover why the Apostle Paul sent Timothy as a human love letter to the church in Thessalonica. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-21 05:23:28 / 2024-06-21 05:31:33 / 8

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