Tag Archives: Truth or life

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – A Distinguished Life

Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.

Daniel 6:3-4

After being seized and taken away into captivity in Babylon, Daniel became part of a select group of outstanding young Israelite men who were chosen to be part of King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Though he was taken into exile, given a different name, and distanced by many miles from familiarity and family, through it all Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food and drink (Daniel 1:12-16). He stood out as a man of integrity amid the moral decay of his time.

Daniel distinguished himself within the structure of the governments he served by the quality of his life. Over many years, his loyalty proved to be unquestionable. He was a man of consistency, which he displayed through a succession of kingdoms. He had an extraordinary capacity for facing and overcoming difficulties, as well as God-given wisdom which enabled him to provide counsel that would alter the course of human history.

While the governmental positions that Daniel occupied were susceptible to corruption, he distinguished himself by saying no to all kinds of dishonesty. He was neither negligent nor unethical, nor was there a gap between his public activities and his private life. He was blameless in the eyes of his fellow man. Even colleagues who were jealous and despised him because of his distinctiveness could find no ground for complaint.

Filled with envy, these officials eventually decided to plot against Daniel. They didn’t like his unswerving commitment to his God or the fact that he occupied a position of power. They couldn’t handle the way that he displayed through his life an unshakable conviction regarding the might and purity of God. Holy living often brings that kind of disdain. Daniel was framed not because he was a bad fellow but because he stood for truth. He loved what God loves, and he lived it out.

Is your life marked by a similar conviction? Do your actions declare the truth about your God? Are you prepared to diligently cultivate a passion for integrity? Are you more concerned with obeying God than with what others think of you? Jesus warned His followers that they would be reviled and would experience persecution for His sake (Matthew 5:11) even as they lived in a way that revealed and commended their Father (v 14-16). Live with the kind of devotion that Daniel had; be unequivocal in your commitment to love what God loves, and then live it out.

GOING DEEPER

1 Peter 2:9-17

Topics: Holiness Obeying God Purity

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – The Doctrine of Scripture

The sacred writings … are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:15-17

The authority, sufficiency, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture are doctrines that are absolutely foundational to the ongoing work of God and His church. We cannot engage a lost and hurting world with the gospel unless we are convinced of its divine origin. As J.C. Ryle wrote, without the Bible as a “divine book to turn to as the basis of their doctrine and practice,” Christians “have no solid ground for present peace or hope, and no right to claim the attention of mankind.”[1]

Paul addressed this very issue when he reminded Timothy that “all Scripture is breathed out by God.” In other words, the Bible is not a human product infused with divinity; it’s a divine gift produced through human instrumentality. Its every book, chapter, sentence, and syllable was originally given by God’s inspiration.

The doctrine of Scripture, like many other Christian doctrines, can be challenging to grapple with. But the fact that something is difficult to understand does not undermine its truthfulness. Furthermore, when it comes to the doctrine of Scripture, there are matters that we can consider objectively. For example, it’s easy to see that the Bible is a completely harmonious work. While it was written by more than thirty authors over a period of about fifteen hundred years, all the writers tell the same story, giving the same account of this world, the character of its Creator, and the problem of the human heart, and pointing to the same wonderful way of salvation through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God—all the way from Genesis to Revelation!

The Bible also transcends time, culture, gender, and intellect. Some books may fit a certain person, a certain era, or a certain place, but there is no other book that perfectly stands up to the challenges of every day and every age and to the questions that confront life itself. The brightest minds cannot exhaust the riches of God’s word, and yet, at the same time, even young girls and boys can read their Bibles and discover its truth transforming their lives.

The authority, sufficiency, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture are the grounds on which we must stand; and we have divine help in order to do so. The same Spirit that inspired the word of God illumines the word of God and convinces us that it is the word of God, given to us so that we may believe in Him who is the Word made flesh. It is as the Spirit does this work in you that your belief in the divine authorship of Scripture is undergirded and moves from only being an intellectual assent to a doctrine to an active hunger for more of the word—and more of the one who is both its author and its subject.

GOING DEEPER

Psalm 12

Topics: The Bible God’s Word Truth

FOOTNOTES

1 Bible Inspiration: Its Reality and Nature(William Hunt, 1877), p 6.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Spirit-Filled Boldness

But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.

Judges 7:10-11

It is always easier to hang back in fear than to move forward in faith: easier, but never better.

Gideon knew a lot about fear and the hesitation it birthed. He hesitated when God’s angel called him to lead Israel (Judges 6:13, 15). He hesitated when Israel’s enemies gathered to oppose him (v 36-40). And, it seems, he hesitated again the night before the battle in which God had promised victory (7:9-10). And into this fear and hesitancy, God spoke. Notice God’s grace and patience with Gideon as He says, “But if you are afraid…” and encourages him to take his servant down to the camp with him. This is a sensitive way to address Gideon’s fear. It recognizes that, humanly speaking, there was great reason to be afraid! He was about to go into battle against an opponent whose soldiers outnumbered his by tens of thousands. God didn’t rebuke him for his fear; instead, He gave him a reason to be confident.

Like Gideon, we need such kind words from our Lord. We are often slow to remember that we can cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). We can lay down all of our burdens and fears at His feet. We’re permitted to come to Him and say that we don’t know what to do. And His response is always filled with grace and sensitivity towards us.

What makes this story even more beautiful is Gideon’s response to God’s gentle suggestion. During his discreet visit to the enemy camp, he overhears two men discussing a dream, which one soldier interprets as meaning that they will fall under “the sword of Gideon” because “God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp” (Judges 7:14). When Gideon hears that and realizes that God has indeed gone before him to do what is impossible for him to do alone, what does he do? “He worshiped” (v 15). There’s such wealth contained in that response. Facing impossible odds but assured of God’s promise, this fearful, fragile, unlikely leader poured out his heart in praise, and then utilized his God-given courage to rally his troops. His boldness came from a private, secret moment between him and the Lord.

There’s a difference between personality-driven schemes for manipulating people and genuine, Spirit-filled boldness. One is produced on a purely human plane and is apt to crumble; the other can be discovered only as we humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our inadequacy, and remember His sufficiency. That is a firm place on which to take our stand. The antidote to fear isn’t to think more highly of yourself, as so many claim. It’s to think more highly of God. It’s to trust in God’s enablement, which can grant you a holy, humble boldness beyond compare.

What are you fearful of right now? In what way are you tempted to hang back even though God is calling you to walk forward in obedience? Bring your fears to God. Ask Him to show you His ability to do what you cannot. Then trust Him, worship Him, and obey Him.

GOING DEEPER

Joshua 1:1-11

Topics: Faith Fear Humility Promises of God

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – The Shaky Rock

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

John 21:15

Jesus’ appearance on the beach in John 21 occurred after His resurrection and therefore after His crucifixion and all the events surrounding it—including Peter’s cowardly denial of even knowing Christ. We can safely assume that Peter felt shame at his failure of loyalty and faith. We can just imagine him confiding to the other disciples, I had my chance, and I blew it. I betrayed Him. Here I am, the one who thought he would play the hero, standing as a testimony of the worst cowardice. So, as Jesus spoke to him, surely Peter wondered, What will He say? What part do I have in His people now?

Jesus didn’t write off Peter’s failure; He acknowledged it. After their meal together, Jesus addressed Peter by his old name, Simon, which means “listen.” At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had changed Simon’s name to Peter, which means “rock” (John 1:42). This change symbolized a shift that would occur in Simon Peter’s character and calling: he was shaky, but he would become firm like a rock. There on the shore, however, Jesus wanted to remind Peter of his shakiness. Before Peter could become steady, he needed to understand that his behavior had displayed neither a firm faith nor any measurable boldness rooted in Christ’s love.

Like Peter, you and I will sometimes feel sidelined by our failures, our backsliding, our unbelief. We will feel the ache of a dislocated faith; we will need the Master Surgeon to reach out and put our love back in place, sometimes painfully but always restoratively. Notice that it is indeed Peter’s heart, his love and devotion, that Jesus is most concerned about. Other qualities are desirable and necessary, yes, but it is our love for Christ that is indispensable. Where is our love? Is it built on shaky sand or on a firm rock?

Yet even as Christ puts our love back in alignment, He entrusts us with kingdom work. Jesus still chose to use Peter to build His church. How surprising that Jesus entrusted His “lambs” to the disciple who (with the exception of Judas) had most let him down and in whom was the greatest gap between profession and action. But how encouraging for us that Jesus would do so: for if He was willing to use someone like Peter, He will be willing to use someone like me and you. Jesus still chose to give Peter great responsibility, but that responsibility was meant to test Peter as well. The test of love for Jesus is whether a life displays obedience and action. The book of Acts shows how Peter, with the enabling of God’s Spirit, responded to the test.

The story of Peter, the shaky rock, stands as a reminder to us that God is a God of grace and second chances. Our weaknesses reveal our need for a strength that is not our own, a measure of might that is found only in our great Rock of Ages. Therefore, knowing that such strength is available to us from the Savior who died for us and commissions us in His service, you can walk into your day and do His bidding out of love for Him.

GOING DEEPER

Acts 5:17-42

Topics: Faith Grace of God Restoration

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Devoted to the Word of God

 “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering.

Acts 6:4-5

While the Spirit-filled events of Pentecost and the resulting ministry were extraordinary, the apostles and their followers did not begin saying afterward, Well, now the Spirit of God teaches me; therefore, I don’t need to listen to anybody else. Instead, when filled with the Holy Spirit, they were all ears for the authoritative preaching and teaching of God’s word. This teaches us an important lesson: the Spirit of God always leads the people of God to devote themselves to the word of God.

This is why the book of Acts is full of the centrality of preaching. The apostles recognized that God’s supreme instrument for renewing His people in the image of His Son was and is through His word, as His Spirit works through it. Here in Acts 6 we see an example of the priority and protection the apostles gave to those called and equipped to teach. The apostles recognized the sobering importance of being entrusted as servants to bring before the people the very words of God Himself.

The Old Testament books refer to the “oracles” of the prophets; this word can also be translated as “burden” (see, for instance, Isaiah 13:1, KJV). It describes a weight upon the heart and mind that comes about because of the awesome responsibility of speaking God’s truth to people. Back in the nineteenth century C.H. Spurgeon acknowledged this burden by declaring his pulpit to be more influential than the throne of the king of England, for he brought a message from the throne of God to that pulpit and delivered the truth of Christian doctrine.

We must pray for and protect those called to teach the truths of Scripture, whether to a congregation, or to little children, or in any other context. It is no small thing to stand regularly between a holy God and His people, declaring His word. It is a heavy burden as well as a wonderful privilege.

In addition to praying for our teachers and preachers, we must also be humble and eager to sit and learn under the authoritative teaching of God’s word. Such an example of devotion was set by the early church in their dedication to the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42). Contemporary devotion ought to look the same; we must be committed to teaching that is based on the New Testament truths revealed to the apostles and built upon the foundations of Old Testament doctrine. We must not be spending all our time snacking on the fast food of box sets that soak up our time, TV networks that confirm what we already think, and books or video games that offer escape from the real world. Instead, we need to feast on the word of God. Let that be your spiritual food and you will find each day that the Spirit of God leads you deeper into the truths and the joys within it.

GOING DEEPER

Psalm 119:81-96

Topics: God’s Word Preaching

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – One Mind, One Purpose, One Spirit

Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Philippians 2:2-3

While it is of course beneficial for church members to take initiative in ministry, a healthy body of believers will not be driven by individual ideas and agendas. Our minds must first be united in the gospel if the church is truly going to be under Christ’s headship. Without that unity, we will instead be driven by our own selfish and competing desires and agendas.

The Bible has so much to say about our minds because as we think, so we are. When we train our minds to think correctly, we will then learn to love properly and serve together in one spirit and purpose. Part of our mental battle is rooted in our old, selfish, human nature. One of our greatest stumbling blocks is not so much hate as self-love: we are inclined toward an attitude of conceit, which runs completely counter to the character of our Lord, and our lack of humility becomes an obstacle that prevents us from experiencing harmony with those around us. Even our good deeds often have tainted motives.

If we are to be unified in Christ, we cannot insist on our own way. Instead, we need to “count others more significant than ourselves.” This means that we remind ourselves of the best in others before thinking of ourselves, that we are quicker to ask what would be best for others than what would be most convenient for ourselves, and that we are willing to enter into the lives and struggles of others rather than standing aloof. Genuine humility doesn’t take the front seat or begin with “me” all the time. It is instead “the nothingness that makes room for God to prove his power.”[1] It is a trait, Paul tells us, that Jesus Himself exhibited: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself” (Romans 15:2-3).

When we think of ourselves first, it is difficult—impossible, in fact—to put God’s word into action. But when we learn to put others first, we will be far more ready to care for their concerns before our own. In so doing, we can truly be unified within the body of Christ. You likely know people who exhibit this kind of godly humility. Praise God for them now, and pray that you will see how you can follow their example—and, supremely, follow the example of Christ Himself. He counted what you needed as of greater significance than His own comfort—even than His own life. Paul’s challenge to each of us is this: “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5, NIV).

GOING DEEPER

John 3:22-36

Topics: Christian Living Christian Thinking Unity

FOOTNOTES

1 Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, 2nd ed. (1896), p 50.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Our Compassionate Shepherd

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”   Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”

Luke 7:13-14

The coming of the kingdom of God was not heralded by spectacular and dramatic victories over the powers and authorities of the world but through something much more transformative: the great compassion of its King.

Throughout their accounts of Jesus, the Gospel writers present us with encounter after encounter demonstrating Christ’s unparalleled compassion. In these incidents, Christ’s power is revealed as His compassion is extended. In chapter 7 of his Gospel, for instance, Luke highlights Jesus’ compassionate response to a sorrowful widow—a response which clears any doubts about His greatness.

The woman in this part of Luke’s narrative was in true need. Her husband was already gone, and now her son had just died. In an ancient Middle-Eastern society, this meant that she had no means of protection or provision. She faced a life of sadness, loneliness, and precariousness—and then the end of the family line.

But then Jesus entered into the extremity of this woman’s life, and “when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

All it took to arouse the compassion of our tender Shepherd was seeing this grieving woman. Literally, that word “compassion” means “His bowels moved”—our equivalent would be “His stomach churned.” When Jesus, through whom and for whom all things were created, sees sadness and grief in this broken world, He feels it. Here is a King who cares deeply.

Even more beautiful is that Jesus had the power to meet this widow’s need, and so He chose to do something only He could do: to bring the dead back to life. He didn’t just restore a deceased son alive again to a mourning mother and thereby meet her need and obliterate her grief, though. More importantly, Jesus revealed Himself to the crowd (and to us!) in all of His power, kindness, and authority—even authority over death.

Scenes such as this show us that Jesus doesn’t simply comment on or cry over sickness and death, those great enemies of mankind. He overcomes them. He hears the cries of the sorrowful, and He comforts them, not only in an earthly, temporal sense but also in a final, perfect, and eternal way, by offering Himself as the means of salvation to all who believe.

Your King is not merely infinitely powerful; He is infinitely compassionate. And the combination of those two qualities in Him is sufficient to bring you through every sadness and grief of this world, until you stand in His presence and He wipes every tear from your eye.

GOING DEEPER

Luke 7:1-17

Topics: Grace of God Jesus Christ Mercy Suffering

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Evidence of Genuine Faith

Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.

Luke 6:46-48

Jesus wants to see our lips and our lives align. Hence he ends His Sermon on the Plain with this most searching of rhetorical questions: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” He saw a contrast between what people were saying and how they were behaving, and He wanted to call them to perform a serious spiritual self-examination. He wanted them, just as He wants us, to see that a verbal profession of faith in Him must be accompanied by moral obedience to Him.

Jesus did not teach that entry into the kingdom of heaven is through the good works of obedience. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, plus nothing (see Ephesians 2:8). All that we bring to Christ is the sin from which we need to be forgiven. What, then, is He teaching? Simply this: that only those who obey Him—those who express their faith by their works—have truly heard and have been transformed by the gospel. As the Reformers observed, it is faith alone that saves, but the faith that saves is not alone. The apostle John, picking up on Jesus’ words, says in his first letter, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). Scripture makes it clear that the manner in which we hear and obey Jesus’ words has significance for all of eternity because it reveals the true state and reality of our faith.

No accumulation of visible religious works and no number of religious words will be able to disguise our private behavior from God. The real test of those who name the name of the Lord, says Paul—and let’s not evade for one instant the chilling demand of this—is that they “depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). Therein lies the evidence of genuine faith.

While none of us will live a perfect life, we are all called to live changed lives. We live under the lordship of Christ; His Spirit is now within us. Will we have complete success? No. But we will be different, and our lives will increasingly demonstrate that we have “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). So consider your own life. Do you call Jesus Lord? Good! But, crucially, can you point to evidence in your life—in what you do not do and in what you do, in the temptations you fight and the virtues you strive for and the forgiveness your repentantly ask for—that He is truly your Lord?

GOING DEEPER

James 2:14-26

Topics: Faith Morality Obedience

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Known by Their Fruit

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit.

Luke 6:43-44

Students will always reflect the instruction of their teachers. No matter how far a student may excel beyond his or her teacher’s abilities, they will always be indebted to the guidance that was given.

When Jesus spoke of trees and their fruit, it was with an eye to the spiritual leaders of His day. In making His point, He gave us a warning: namely, not to choose the wrong teacher. And how are we to discern between good and bad teachers? Jesus says it’s by their fruit—the results that follow their teachings and actions.

We must think of fruit in relation to the teacher’s character—and character can’t be tested by measuring eloquence or giftedness. Rather, when Jesus gave instruction concerning the vine and the branches, He implied that fruitfulness equals Christlikeness (John 15:1-8). Each tree is recognized by its own fruit; therefore, the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)—will be evident in a good teacher’s life.

We must also examine the content of the teacher’s instruction. Paul addressed this issue when he wrote to his pastoral protégé Timothy, telling him to “keep a close watch on yourself”—that is, his character—“and on the teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16). Not everybody who shows up with a Bible has the listener’s best interests at heart. Not everybody who names the name of Christ is a true teacher of God’s word. False prophets abound. It is imperative, then, that as believers, we learn from the Bible not only to grow in holiness but also to be able to recognize sound doctrine, which is a mark of a godly teacher. Furthermore, we can take comfort from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who teaches us about everything and enables us to distinguish between truth and falsehood (see 1 John 2:27).

There is a direct correlation between the character of a teacher and the content of his teaching, and the impact he makes upon those who are taught. So choose your spiritual teachers and mentors wisely. Look not at their speaking gifts or their cultural connectedness or their confidence or their humor but at character and content. Without question, you will show the world the fruit of the teaching you receive. When people come around you, what will they discover? Will they see judgmentalism or bitterness or haughtiness or self-righteousness? Will they sense passivity and a lack of conviction? Or will they taste the sweet fruit of joy, peace, love, and righteousness?

GOING DEEPER

2 Timothy 2:15-26

Topics: False Teachers Fruit of the Spirit

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – The Speck and the Log

How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Luke 6:42

Irecall a time when, sitting at a desk in an exam, I turned the paper over and immediately began to look around to see if everybody else felt as bad about the first question as I did. Then I was startled by the teacher’s exhortation: “Never mind looking at others. Just concentrate on yourself!”

Jesus makes a similar point in these verses, using a striking metaphor to instruct His listeners to deal with their own sin before they attempt to point out the sins of others. The word Jesus uses for “speck” often describes very small bits and pieces of straw or wood. In contrast, the word for “log” refers to a load-bearing beam in a house or structure. If I have a log in my eye, it clearly requires my attention more than a speck in someone else’s does.

As fallen creatures, we’re prone to think it’s our responsibility to deal with everybody else’s spiritual condition before dealing with our own. Yet Christ hasn’t called us to be preoccupied primarily and initially with the specks of others. No, He says we must be diligent in examining ourselves in light of Scripture and the standard that He has set.

Jesus’ instruction poses a great challenge. Sometimes we may point out the faults of others under the guise of caring about their spiritual condition. But if we have not first been honest about and ruthless with our own sins, that is hypocrisy! We often fall prey to the mistaken notion that if I can find your flaw and deal with you, then I won’t have to deal with my own issues. It’s far more pleasant to tell someone else about their dreadful condition than it is to face our own.

If we truly want to help others, then we must first be prepared to face the dreadfulness of our own hearts—to acknowledge with Robert Murray M’Cheyne that “the seeds of all sins are in my heart.”[1] When we understand and believe that, then when we go to approach others we will stand on the low ground of genuine love and humility rather than the high ground of presumption. Between those two perspectives there’s all the difference in the world.

GOING DEEPER

Jude 1:20-25

Topics: Christian Life Hypocrisy Judgmentalism

FOOTNOTES

1 Quoted in Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Banner of Truth, 1995), p 153.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Imitating the Father’s Mercy

Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” is a summary statement of Jesus’ famous teaching in the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-23) and indeed would be a good motto for every believer’s life. These words underscore all that Jesus has previously said concerning how we are to treat others—especially those who hate us on account of our faithfulness to Him (v 22).

This should, however, prompt us to ask: what does being merciful actually look like? As our wise and tender Shepherd, Jesus does not leave us to figure out this principle for ourselves. Rather, He gives us specific instructions on what it means to imitate our merciful heavenly Father.

God “is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” As His children, we must realize that we are called to demonstrate this same kindness by loving our enemies, returning good for evil, and giving to others without expecting anything in return. Notice Jesus lists no exemptions or get-out clauses here.

Having called us to be vessels of God’s kindness, Jesus then immediately says that we are not to judge others (Luke 6:37). He is not asking us to suspend our critical faculties in our relationships; we have to use our minds to discern between truth and error or good and evil. Likewise Jesus is not teaching that we are to turn a blind eye to sin or refuse to point out errors. Rather, when Jesus commands us not to judge, He is condemning a spirit of self-righteous, self-exalting, hypocritical, harsh judgmentalism—an approach which seeks to highlight the faults of others and always brings with it the flavor of bitterness.

An unkind spirit completely violates Jesus’ exhortation to overflow with mercy towards both friend and enemy. Each of us needs to identify any spirit of judgment we may be harboring, to root it out, and to replace cruelty with kindness and harshness with understanding.

This is how we show to others the kind of mercy that God has shown to us. A (possibly apocryphal) story is told of how, when Queen Elizabeth II was a girl, she and her sister, Margaret, would be told by their mother before they went to a party, “Remember: royal children, royal manners.” Their behavior would not make them members of the royal family, but it would demonstrate their membership in that family.

Christian, you and I are members of the royal family of the universe, with the King of creation as our Father. Be sure that your manners reflect who you are and whose you are. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

GOING DEEPER

Ephesians 4:25-32, Ephesians 5:1-2

Topics: Loving Others Mercy

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – The Law of Love

I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

Luke 6:27

When you read the Bible and it describes Christianity, and then you look at yourself, do you ever wonder whether you’re a Christian at all? I know I do.

Neither our assurance as believers nor God’s love for us hinges on our ability to live out certain Christian principles; rather, both depend on what Christ has achieved for us on the cross. Even so, the Bible teaches us to look for evidences of our salvation in the present. If we truly are the Father’s children, we are bound to display a love for others that resembles Jesus’ love for us.

Jesus calls for us to love people in a way that is not related to their attractiveness, merit, or lovability. We know that this is exactly how God loves us—His love is not based on us cleaning up our act, deserving His attention, or demonstrating that we’re predisposed towards or useful to Him. None of these things contribute to God’s love for us. No—“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emphasis added).

The greatest measure of our faith, then, is love—love that reflects the love that we have received in such abundance. We engage in agape love—unconditional, sacrificial love—because it is an expression of the character of God and all He’s done for us. We don’t exercise this kind of love for our enemies because we are blind to who they really are but because we have gazed at God’s love for us. Jesus says that when we see others as they are—in all of their ugliness and spitefulness, all of their cursing, all of their hatred, and all of their unwillingness to pay us what they owe us—we are to be realistic about all of it, and then love them. Seeing all of that enmity, says Jesus, I want you to love your enemies.

By nature, we are incapable of displaying such love. But consider the kind of difference we would make to our culture if we were prepared to live out, in both everyday and extraordinary ways, a Christlike love which seeks to do what’s best for those who have acted in enmity towards us. That would be revolutionary—without any question at all.

GOING DEEPER

Acts 9:10-28

Topics: Forgiveness Loving Others

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Holy Anxiety

Do not sweep my soul away with sinners.

Psalm 26:9

Fear made David pray like this, for something whispered, “Perhaps, after all, you may be swept away with sinners.” That fear springs mainly from holy anxiety, arising from the recollection of past sin. Even the pardoned man will inquire, “What if at the end my sins should be remembered, and I should be left out of the company of the saved?” He thinks about his present condition—so little grace, so little love, so little holiness; and looking forward to the future, he considers his weakness and the many temptations that surround him, and he fears that he may fall and become a prey to the enemy. A sense of sin and present evil and his prevailing corruptions compel him to pray, in fear and trembling, “Do not sweep my soul away with sinners.”

Reader, if you have prayed this prayer, and if your character is correctly described in the Psalm from which it is taken, you need not be afraid that you will be swept away with sinners. Do you have the two virtues that David had—the outward walking in integrity and the inward trusting in the Lord? Are you resting upon Christ’s sacrifice, and can you approach the altar of God with humble hope? If so, rest assured, you will never be swept away with sinners, for that calamity is impossible. At the judgment the command will be given, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”1

If, then, you are like God’s people, you will be with God’s people. You cannot be swept away with sinners, for you have been purchased at too high a price. Redeemed by the blood of Christ, you are His forever, and where He is, there His people must be. You are loved too much to be swept away with reprobates. Will one who is dear to Christ perish? Impossible! Hell cannot hold you! Heaven claims you! Trust in Christ, and do not fear!

1) Matthew 13:30

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Reflections on the Evening

At evening withhold not your hand.

Ecclesiastes 11:6

In the evening of the day opportunities are plentiful: Men return from their work, and the zealous soul-winner finds time to share widely the love of Jesus. Do I have no evening work for Jesus? If I have not, let me no longer withhold my hand from a service that requires wholehearted endeavor. Sinners are perishing for lack of knowledge; he who loiters may find his shoes red with the blood of souls. Jesus gave both His hands to the nails. How can I keep back one of mine from His blessed work? Night and day He toiled and prayed for me. How can I give a single hour to the pampering of my body with luxurious ease? Up, lazy heart; stretch out your hand to work, or lift it up to pray. Heaven and hell are serious; so must I be, and this evening I should sow good seed for the Lord my God.

The evening of life also has its calls. Life is so short that a morning of manhood’s strength and an evening of decay make up the whole of it. To some it seems long, but a dollar is a great sum of money to a poor man. Life is so brief that no man can afford to lose a day. It has been well said that if a great king were to bring us a great heap of gold and bid us take as much as we could count in a day, we would make a long day of it; we would begin early in the morning, and in the evening we would not withhold our hand.

Winning souls is far nobler work; so how is it that we quit so soon? Some are spared to a long evening of green old age; if such is my case, let me use any talents I still retain and serve my blessed and faithful Lord to the final hour. By His grace I will die with my boots on and lay down my commission only when I lay down my body. Age may instruct the young, cheer the faint, and encourage the despondent. If evening has less stifling heat, it should have more calm wisdom; therefore in the evening I will not withhold my hand.

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Your Heartbeat or Your Weariness?

For this child I prayed.

1 Samuel 1:27

Devout souls delight to reflect upon those mercies that they have obtained in answer to prayer, for they can see God’s special love in them. When we can name our blessings Samuel—that is, “asked of God”—they will be as dear to us as this child was to Hannah. Peninnah had many children, but they came as common blessings unsought in prayer. Hannah’s one heaven-given child was far more precious, because he was the fruit of sincere pleadings. How sweet was the water that Samson found at “the spring of him who called.”1

Did we pray for the conversion of our children? How doubly sweet, when they are saved, to see in them our own petitions answered! Better to rejoice over them as the fruit of our pleadings than as the fruit of our bodies. Have we asked the Lord for some choice spiritual gift? When it comes to us, it will be wrapped up in the golden cloth of God’s faithfulness and truth and will be doubly precious. Have we sought success in the Lord’s work? How joyful is the prosperity that comes flying on the wings of prayer!

It is always best to get blessings into our house in the legitimate way, by the door of prayer; then they are blessings indeed, and not temptations. Even when prayer is not speedy, the blessings grow all the richer on account of the delay; the child Jesus was all the more lovely in the eyes of Mary when she found Him after having searched for Him. What we gain by prayer we should dedicate to God, as Hannah dedicated Samuel. The gift came from heaven; let it go to heaven. Prayer brought it, gratitude sang over it—let devotion consecrate it. Here will be a special occasion for saying, “Of Your own I have given to You.” Reader, is prayer your heartbeat or your weariness? Which?

1) Judges 15:19, margin

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – More Rebellious than the Sea

Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that you set a guard over me?

Job 7:12

This was a strange question for Job to ask the Lord. He felt himself to be too insignificant to be so strictly watched and chastened, and he hoped that he was not so unruly as to need to be restrained. The inquiry was natural from one surrounded by such miseries, but after all, it is capable of a very humbling answer.

It is true that man is not the sea, but he is even more troublesome and unruly. The sea obediently respects its boundary, and it does not overleap the limit, even though it is just a belt of sand. Mighty as it is, it hears the divine “thus far,” and when raging with tempest it still respects the word. Self-willed man, however, defies heaven and oppresses earth, and there is no end to his rebellious rage. The sea, obedient to the moon, ebbs and flows with ceaseless regularity and so renders an active as well as a passive obedience; but man, restless beyond his sphere, sleeps within the lines of duty, lazy where he should be active. He neither comes nor goes at the divine command but sullenly prefers to do what he should not and to leave undone what is required of him. Every drop in the ocean, every beaded bubble, and every yeasty foam-flake, every shell and pebble, feel the power of law and yield or move at once.

If only our nature were but one thousandth as much conformed to the will of God! We call the sea fickle and false, but how constant it is! Since our fathers’ days, and even before, the sea is where it was, beating on the same cliffs to the same tune. We know where to find it; it never hides, and its ceaseless pounding never fades; but where is man, fickle man? Can the wise man guess by what folly he will next be seduced from his obedience? We need more watching than the billowy sea and are far more rebellious. Lord, rule us for Your own glory. Amen.

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Proximity to God

… For the people of Israel who are near to him.

Psalm 148:14

Distance and separation were marks of the old covenant. When God appeared even to His servant Moses, He said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet”;1 and when He revealed Himself on Mount Sinai to His own chosen and separated people, one of the first commands was, “You shall set limits for the people all around.”2 In the sacred worship of the tabernacle and the temple, the thought of distance was always prominent. The majority of the people did not even enter the outer court. Into the inner court none but the priests might dare to intrude, while into the innermost place, or the holy of holies, the high priest entered but only once in the year. It was as if the Lord in those early ages was teaching man that sin was so utterly loathsome to Him that He must treat men as lepers put outside the camp; and when He came closest to them, He still made them feel the extent of the separation between a holy God and an impure sinner.

When the Gospel came, we were placed on quite another footing. The word “Go” was replaced with “Come”; distance was replaced with nearness, and we who previously were far away were brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Incarnate Deity has no fire wall around it. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”3 is the joyful proclamation of God as He appears in human flesh. He no longer teaches the leper his leprosy by setting him at a distance, but by Himself suffering the penalty of the leper’s defilement.

What a state of safety and privilege is this proximity to God through Jesus! Do you know it by experience? If you know it, are you living in the power of it? This closeness is wonderful, and yet it is to be followed by a greater nearness still, when it shall be said, “The dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people.”4 Lord, haste the day!

1) Exodus 3:5
2) Exodus 19:12
3) Matthew 11:28
4) Revelation 21:3

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. 

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Grieving Sin

I acknowledged my sin unto you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Psalm 32:5

David’s grief for sin was bitter. Its effects were visible on his outward frame: His bones wasted away; his strength dried up like the drought of summer. He was unable to find a remedy until he made a full confession before the throne of heavenly grace. He tells us that for a time he kept silent, and his heart was filled with grief and his lips with groaning: Like a mountain stream that is blocked, his soul was swollen with torrents of sorrow. He created excuses, he tried to divert his thoughts, but it was all to no purpose; like a festering sore his anguish gathered, and, unwilling to use the scalpel of confession, his spirit was tormented and knew no peace.

At last it came to this, that he must return to God in humble penitence or die outright; so he hurried to the mercy-seat and there unrolled the volume of his iniquities before the all-seeing God, acknowledging all the evil of his ways in the terms of the Fifty-first and other penitential Psalms. Having confessed, a task so simple and yet so hard for the proud, he immediately received the token of divine forgiveness; the bones that had been wasted were made to rejoice, and he emerged from his prayers to sing the joyful songs of the one whose transgression is forgiven.

Do you see the value of this grace-led confession of sin? It is to be prized above everything, for in every case where there is a genuine, gracious confession, mercy is freely given—not because the repentance and confession deserve mercy, but for Christ’s sake. May God be praised, there is always healing for the broken heart; the fountain is ever flowing to cleanse us from our sins. Truly, O Lord, You are a God “ready to forgive.”1 Therefore will we humbly acknowledge our iniquities.

1) Nehemiah 9:17

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – This Man

This man receives sinners.

Luke 15:2

Observe the condescension of this fact. Jesus, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, who towers above all other men—this Man receives sinners. This Man, who is no other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces—this Man receives sinners. It requires an angel’s tongue to describe such a mighty stoop of love. That any of us would be willing to reach the lost is nothing wonderful—they are, after all, our own race; but that He, the offended God, against whom the transgression has been committed, should take upon Himself the form of a servant and bear the sin of many and be willing to receive the worst of sinners—this is marvelous.

“This man receives sinners”; not in order for them to remain sinners, but He receives them in order that He may pardon their sins, justify their persons, cleanse their hearts by His purifying word, preserve their souls by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and enable them to serve Him, show forth His praise, and have communion with Him. Into His heart’s love He receives sinners; He takes them from the refuse pile and wears them as jewels in His crown; He snatches them like branches from the fire and preserves them as costly monuments to His mercy. None are so precious in Jesus’ sight as the sinners for whom He died.

When Jesus receives sinners, He does not have an outdoor reception, no public square where He charitably entertains them in the way men treat passing beggars, but He opens the golden gates of His royal heart and receives the sinner right into Himself. He admits the humble penitent into personal union and makes him a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. There was never such a reception as this! This fact is certain. Even this evening, He is still receiving sinners: It is our prayer that sinners will receive Him.

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

http://www.truthforlife.org

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Big with Mercy

I will sing of steadfast love and justice.

Psalm 101:1

Faith is triumphant in trial. When reason has her feet fastened in the stocks of the inner prison, faith makes the dungeon walls ring with her happy notes as she cries, “I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music.” Faith pulls the dark mask from the face of trouble and discovers the angel beneath. Faith looks up at the cloud and sees that

“It is big with mercy and will break
In blessings on her head.”

There is a subject for song even in the judgments of God toward us. For, first, the trial is not as difficult as it might have been; next, the trouble is not as severe as we deserved; and our affliction is not as crushing as the burden that others have to carry. Faith sees that in her deepest sorrow there is no punishment. There is not a drop of God’s wrath in it; it is all sent in love. Faith finds love gleaming like a jewel on the breast of an angry God. Faith wears her grief “like a badge of honor” and sings of the sweet result of her sorrows, because they work for her spiritual good. Faith says, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”1 So faith rides out in victory, trampling down earthly wisdom and carnal knowledge, and singing songs of triumph where the battle rages.

All I meet I find assists me
In my path to heavenly joy:
Where, though trials now attend me,
Trials never more annoy.

Blest there with a weight of glory,
Still the path I’ll not forget,
But, exulting, cry, it led me
To my blessed Savior’s seat.

1) 2 Corinthians 4:17

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. 

http://www.truthforlife.org