Wednesday, November 8, 2023

he Heart That God Accepts

By Alistair Begg


Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.

2 Samuel 12:20

When David’s child, born as a result of his adultery with Bathsheba, was afflicted with sickness, it awakened within the king a spiritual zeal that had been dormant. David began to seek God, and he prayed desperately that God might spare his little boy. He refused to eat, and he no longer lived his life as usual while his child’s life hung in the balance.

David had previously attempted to cover over his sin by trying to pawn off his child on the unsuspecting Uriah, whose wife he had slept with. But when God, in His mercy, confronted David with his sin, the king’s posture completely changed. David sought God because God had first sought David and softened his heart. Such a change could only be brought about by the work of God.

Then came the dreadful news: the child had died. The late theologian Alec Motyer compared repentance to gathering back a stone that has been thrown into a pool: you can get the stone back, but the ripples upon the water will continue to spread. David repented of his abuse and adultery, and God, in His mercy, accepted David’s repentance. But God did not stop the ripples.

Yet God was still able to use this tragedy to form David into the man that he needed to be. David responded in a strange and unexpected way: he arose, cleaned himself up, and went into the house of the Lord. The one who had been hiding from God now went to meet with God. The tragic death of David’s son did not lead David to stay at arm’s length from God. No, it led him into an even deeper relationship with Him.

When he entered the house of the Lord, David would have needed to bring a lamb without blemish as a sacrifice. But that was not the only sacrifice he brought. He also offered the only damaged sacrifice that is acceptable to bring into God’s house: as David later wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

God did not leave David to cover up his sin, and He did not leave him alone in dealing with the consequences of his sin. God’s treatment of David reveals that He cares deeply about the state of His children’s hearts. He will go to great lengths to bring you back when you wander away from Him. More than anything else, God wants you to have a broken and contrite heart before Him. When He makes you confront your sin, or afflicts you, or doesn’t give you what you desire, don’t assume that it is because He doesn’t love you. It is because He is graciously drawing you closer to Himself.


Sunday, November 5, 2023

His Hands Raised High

By Alistair Begg

He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Luke 24:50-51

Jesus’ earthly pilgrimage can be thought of as a journey towards His departure; having left heaven and come to earth to be born as a baby, He lived as a man, taught, performed miracles, called His people to follow Him, died as their Savior, rose to life—and then, at the appointed time, He went back to the Father and to glory. In a sense, this moment was what everything else had been leading up to.

Scripture clearly teaches that the moment of Jesus’ departure was fixed in eternity past (1 Peter 1:19-20). Luke, for instance, records for us that when Jesus “went up on the mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28), two men, Moses and Elijah, “appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (v 31). Later in the same chapter, we read that “when the days drew near for him to be taken up,” Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (v 51). Both the time and manner of Jesus’ departure were determined by God, for our good and for His glory.

The fact that Jesus left decisively should encourage us. If His post-resurrection appearances had just grown fewer and fewer and then petered out, nobody would have really known what was going on. Confusion, chaos, and discord would have reigned. But instead, as we read, Jesus visibly ascended to heaven in front of His disciples, leaving no one in any doubt that He had accomplished His purpose.

As He departed, Jesus lifted His hands in blessing. These early believers would have understood this gesture in a way that most of us do not today. At that time, it was customary for people of stature and significance not simply to walk out the door and leave but to bestow a blessing upon those who were under their care. Jesus’ disciples must surely have found it meaningful and deeply reassuring, then, that their final view of their beloved Master was the sight of Him making this familiar gesture. He would no longer be with them; but His blessing would be. They were His people, under His care, even as He returned to reign from heaven.

What a wonderful Lord we have, who lifted up His hands to be nailed to the cross and who now loves to lift His hands up in blessing His own. Jesus is far more willing to bless us than we are even to take the time to ask Him to bless us. He loves to do this. Is that the picture you have of Christ, with His hands raised in blessing on your life? You can. You should!


Saturday, November 4, 2023

A Great Lie About the Christian Life

By Alistair Begg

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

1 Timothy 6:17

There is a great lie about the gospel that is common in our culture and that sometimes we, as churches and individual believers, help to promote. The fatal fabrication is this: Coming to Jesus and believing the gospel means no more fun. The Christian life is a dull life, a lesser life—a disappointing life, even. Thank God, nothing could be further from the truth!

Scripture describes God as a Father who gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11), and as the one who “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” and who will refuse “no good thing” to “those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). We must be clear: the testimony of Scripture does not suggest that we can do whatever we want, nor does it imply that God will give us whatever we want. It does, however, repeatedly tell us that we have a generous Father who wants His children to enjoy His many blessings.

Paul’s first letter to his protégé Timothy declares that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5). So the Christian standard is not one of austerity or asceticism, nor consumption or consumerism. No, we are guided by God’s word to set our hopes on God and to enjoy all He gives us as good gifts from Him. This approach to life leads us to a wellspring of unending joy.

Inevitably, this revelation of our Father’s character as the great Giver and our greatest treasure will lead us to a different kind of lifestyle than those of many of our neighbors. As we learn that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), we don’t quite keep as much to ourselves. As we realize that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), we don’t require the latest gadget or shiniest car to temporarily boost our happiness.

The Christian life is not drab, nor dull, nor ever pale. While our faith may lead us to forgo certain creature comforts in this life, untold riches await all who give their lives to Jesus. And what’s more, those riches in heaven stretch back from heaven to bless us now with supernatural peace and sturdy joy as we delight in good gifts from our heavenly Father’s hand. Be sure not to believe the lie that a life following Jesus gives you less than you would otherwise have enjoyed. Be sure not to promote that falsehood to those around you, either.


Made Perfect in Weakness

 By Charles Spurgeon

“For my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches out to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, “I know that I will overcome—my own ability and my self-confidence will be enough for victory,” defeat is staring him in the face.

God will not enable the man who marches in his own strength. He who reckons on victory by such means has reckoned wrongly, for “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”1

Those who go out to fight, boasting of their ability, will return with their banners trailing in the dust and their armor stained with disgrace. Those who serve God must serve Him in His own way and in His strength, or He will never accept their service.

Whatever a man does, unaided by divine strength, God can never own. The mere fruits of the earth He casts away; He will only reap corn the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love.

God will empty out all that you have before He will put His own into you; He will first clean out your granaries before He will fill them with the finest of wheat.

The river of God is full of water; but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in His battles but the strength that He Himself imparts.

Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and you are being humbled to prepare you for being lifted up.

When I am weak then am I strong,
Grace is my shield and Christ my song.

  1. Zechariah 4:6

Friday, November 3, 2023

Should Christians Tithe?

By Alistair Begg

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.

Psalm 24:1

When the topic of biblical stewardship and finances comes up, what is one guiding principle that quickly comes to mind? The most common answer is almost certainly “tithing.” And yet, for a word that historically has been used so often in the language of church life, there’s a good deal of misunderstanding about what it actually means to tithe. So what does the Bible teach about tithing and the Christian’s relationship to it?

First, the tithe (the word simply means “a tenth”) was the basic principle of giving in the Old Testament. From the beginning, the Jewish people were to bring tithes of their crops and livestock to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30). These tithes were brought to the Levites (temple workers), who would then give a tenth of the tithe to the priests. This pattern was established firmly and fairly in the law of Moses, but as spiritual indifference set in among the people, the practice fell into disuse. For example, we read of Nehemiah’s dismay when he “found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them … So I confronted the officials and said, ‘Why is the house of God forsaken?’” (Nehemiah 13:10-11).

Second, while tithing is the pattern of giving in the Old Testament, it is not stated as an obligation in the New Testament. There we are confronted by an eloquent silence on this subject. This must be significant. We would expect that someone like Paul, with his intimate knowledge of the law, would have affirmed the Old Testament pattern, or at least alluded to it as a principle to be applied in the church. But he does not.

How, then, is a Christian to respond to these two observations? Should we tithe in the way the Israelites were commanded to do, or do we ignore that principle in the way the New Testament seems to? Well, it is true that the tithe is not explicitly commanded in the New Testament—but neither is it explicitly rejected. So while we are not to offer tithes as a matter of obedience to the Old Testament law, neither should we simply ignore the principle. The idea of giving ten percent could be a good starting point for Christians, but it is a starting point and no more. For if we are not careful, the principle of the tithe can be used to alleviate our conscience as we give the bare minimum and try to keep God out of our business. The problem with that kind of approach is that, as the psalmist writes, the earth and all its fullness is the Lord’s—including every last cent and possession we claim as ours! We think of ourselves as “giving” to God, but, in truth, He owns it all.

The relationship of the Christian to the principle of tithing, then, is not a neat and clean one. Ten percent may be far too much for you at the moment—or it may be far too comfortable! So perhaps the best way forward is to use that number as your starting point and then to ask God for wisdom and integrity as you look at your finances and at your heart. Let Him reveal how you can most faithfully use your finances—which, in truth, are His finances—for His glory.

Gospel ABC

By Alistair Begg

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

Has your church ever done a community outreach event? Perhaps you’ve been part of one of these that has offered people free food, along with games for children and a chance to bounce around on inflatables. That’s all wonderful. We certainly want people in our neighborhoods to know we are friendly, perhaps even likable. But, quite frankly, any group of people—believers or not—can put on an event like that.

We must want more for our friends and neighbors than that. We must long for them to have an encounter with the risen Jesus and to find life in Him.

The best reason for a church to convene a community day, then, is the same reason for it to convene any gathering: so that men, women, and children might have a direct encounter with the living God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, we want unbelieving people around us to become committed followers of Jesus.

One way to conceive of sharing the good news is by reciting the ABCs of the gospel:

A – Admit: We all have something to admit. We have sinned, every last one of us. We have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And though “the wages of sin is death, … the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (6:23). Unless we admit our need, we will never know the remedy.

B – Believe: There is something to believe. Jesus Christ died in the place of sinners like us. The good news of the gospel is not about what we’re able to do in order to make ourselves acceptable to God; it is the wonder of what God has already done in Jesus. The message is that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We must believe it.

C – Come: We must come to Jesus. We can have a sense of our sinfulness and even know that Christ died in our place, but unless we entrust ourselves to Him, we remain lost. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, emphasis added).

Sometimes people get stuck between B and C and, despite knowing they’re sinners and understanding the gospel, have never actually come to the Lord Jesus. It is worth checking that this does not describe you. If it does, it’s appropriate to ask, What are you waiting for? The Lord Jesus Himself said, “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” When you sense pangs and longings in your soul that nothing else seems to satisfy, then come to Jesus. Full and everlasting satisfaction awaits.

If you have come to Jesus and found life in Him, then do not keep quiet about Him. The “bread of life” is for offering around! So by all means let us and our churches show gospel kindness in our acts of love. But we are called to do more, too: to share gospel truth in what we say. To whom will you offer the “bread of life” this week?

Unaffected by Change

 By Charles Spurgeon


For I the Lord do not change.

Malachi 3:6

It is just as well for us that in all the variableness of life there is One whom change cannot affect, One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow inconsistency can make no furrows.

All other things have changed—all things are changing. The sun grows dim with age; the world is growing old; the final chapter of the worn-out vesture has begun; the heavens and earth must soon pass away; they will perish—they shall grow old like a garment. But there is One who only has immortality, of whose years there is no end, and in whose person there is no change.

The delight that the sailor feels when, having been tossed about on the waves, he steps again upon the solid shore is the satisfaction of a Christian when, in all the changes of this distressing life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth—“I the LORD do not change.”

The stability that the anchor gives the ship when it has at last obtained a solid hold is like that which the Christian’s hope provides him when it fixes itself upon this glorious truth. With God “there is no variation or shadow due to change.”1

Whatever His attributes were in the past, they are now; His power, His wisdom, His justice, His truth are unchanged. He has forever been the refuge of His people, their stronghold in the day of trouble, and He is still their sure Helper.

He is unchanged in His love. He has loved His people with “an everlasting love”;2 He loves them now as much as ever He did, and when the creation itself is set free from its bondage to decay, His love will still endure.

Precious is the assurance that He does not change! The wheel of providence revolves, but its axle is eternal love.

Death and change are busy ever,
Man decays, and ages move;
But His mercy waneth never;
God is wisdom, God is love.

  1. James 1:17 
  2. Jeremiah 31:3