Tuesday, October 3, 2023

He Knows

By Alistair Begg 

Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

1 Samuel 2:3

Contemporary society is full of examples of what it looks like to celebrate self-assertiveness, human achievement, and a preoccupation with the “I/me/my” focus of our age that pays scant, if any, attention to God. He does not see, is the assumption; and if He does see, He does not mind. As believers we are not immune from any of this, for by nature our hearts love to assume that we ourselves are the fount of all knowledge—that we know best how we should think.

An inclination toward self-sufficiency and pride leads to some downplaying or even denying elements of biblical truth in their teaching and thinking. In the church today, God’s judgment and justice are surely such elements. They’re not easy to hear about or to proclaim, but they are central to the truth of the Bible. Paul writes that God will judge “the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16). We cannot hide anything from Him, though we are tempted to believe we can. He knows our hearts, and by this Lord of knowledge “actions are weighed.”

In Daniel 5, we see how the Babylonian king Belshazzar discovered the folly of an arrogance that caused him to exalt himself above the God of knowledge. In the middle of a great feast celebrating himself, using drinking vessels that had been stolen from the Lord’s temple, a hand was sent from the presence of God, appearing on a wall and writing words of judgment—and Belshazzar was reduced to a shaking mass. Daniel interpreted the message for him, saying, “The Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven … And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Daniel 5:21-23). In the end, Belshazzar had “been weighed in the balances and found wanting” (v 27), and “that very night” he “was killed” (v 30). He thought he knew best. He did not.

It is folly to imagine that God does not see, does not know, and will not act. He knows everything about us, and He weighs our actions. As Hannah knew and Belshazzar discovered too late, self-exaltation leads to judgment; but humility before the Lord is the way to life. So, be careful not to pridefully declare that you want things your own way in one area or another and therefore refuse Jesus’ kingship over that aspect of your life. Be careful not to live as though God does not know, and therefore refrain from humble repentance. Instead, humble yourself before the Lord, confessing to Him what He already knows and asking forgiveness for proud thoughts or selfish actions—and “he will exalt you” (James 4:10).

Monday, October 2, 2023

Fuel for Cheerful Giving

 By Alistair Begg

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver … You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 2 Corinthians 9:11

God loves a cheerful giver. One reason for this is that He is a cheerful giver, gladly and generously giving Himself and every good gift to His people. And one of the good gifts that God has given us is a series of promises and proverbs to fuel our cheer as we give. 2 Corinthians 9provides an abundance of such fuel.

Paul teaches that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” This is essentially a proverb, like those we read in the Old Testament: “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want” (Proverbs 11:24). The thing about proverbs, though, is that they should be read for what they are—general truths—rather than what they are not: categorical promises. Paul is not giving us a formula: If you put in a certain amount, you will receive a larger amount.Instead, he is encouraging his readers to sow gladly and liberally because there are benefits to be had when we do so. Generous giving brings its own rewards, which the stingy will never know. If you scatter only a few seeds of your favorite flower and expect a beautiful display in a few weeks, you will be disappointed. If you sow handful after handful, the result will be glorious to behold.

More fuel for our giving comes a few verses later, where Paul says that those who are generous “will be enriched in every way.” Sadly, it is common for people to stop right there, concluding that God will make them wealthy once they’ve given away some money. He may do just that, but it comes with the purpose revealed in the rest of the verse: “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” God may indeed enrich you, but the enrichment is intended for greater generosity, which in turn will “produce thanksgiving to God.” What a promise this is, that God will repay our generosity so that we might continue to be generous! As we give away, God gives us more to give away. Who could ever be tight-fisted in the face of such lavish promises?

It is a tragedy that so many have abused these promises and proverbs, using them to bait well-intentioned people into giving for the wrong reasons. There is no need or excuse for false assurances of prosperity or manipulative calls that tug at our heart strings; we have so many good, God-honoring reasons to be generous! The truths and promises of God’s word are rich enough, and they alone will fuel genuine Christian cheer as we give. Dwell on these truths, and on our Savior, who “though he was rich, yet for your sake … became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). That is the only way to give in a way that truly honors God: to give both sacrificially and cheerfully.

Hope for the Future and Joy for Today

 By Charles Spurgeon

The hope laid up for you in heaven.

Colossians 1:5

Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainspring and the mainstay of our joy down here today. Our hearts will be stirred by thinking often of heaven, for all that we can desire is promised there.

Here we are tired and weary, but over there is the land of restwhere the sweat of toil will no longer soak our shirts, and fatigue will be banished forever. To those who are weary and worn, the word rest is full of heaven. We are always in the field of battle; we are so tempted and so molested by foes that we have little or no peace; but in heaven we will enjoy the victory, when the banner shall be unfurled in triumph, and the sword will be sheathed, and we will hear our Captain say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”1

We have suffered bereavement after bereavement, but we are going to the land of the immortal where graves do not exist. Here sin is a constant grief to us, but there we will be perfectly holy, for there will be nothing in heaven to defile it. There are no needs in the furrows of celestial fields. It is a source of deep joy to realize that the wilderness journey of our earthly pilgrimage will end and we will inherit heaven.

But let us make sure that we are not just dreaming about the future and thus forgetting the present. Let all thoughts of the future serve to make us useful in the present. Through the Spirit of God the hope of heaven is the most powerful force for producing virtue; it is a fountain of joyful endeavor; it is the cornerstone of cheerful holiness. Those who have this hope in them go about their work with vigor, for the joy of the Lord is their strength. They fight hard against temptation, for the hope of the next world repels the fiery darts of the adversary. They can work without immediate reward, for they anticipate a reward in the world to come.

  1. Matthew 25:23

Prayer of an Old Man for Rescue.

 By Joshua Stone

Prayer of an Old Man for Rescue.

Psalm 71  

In You, Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be put to shame.
In Your righteousness rescue me and save me;
Extend Your ear to me and help me.
Be to me a rock of dwelling to which I may continually come;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.
Save me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
From the grasp of the wrongdoer and the ruthless,
For You are my hope;
Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.
I have leaned on you since my birth;
You are He who took me from my mother’s womb;
My praise is continually of You.

I have become a marvel to many,
For You are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long.
Do not cast me away at the time of my old age;
Do not abandon me when my strength fails.
10 For my enemies have spoken against me;
And those who watch for my life have consulted together,
11 Saying, “God has abandoned him;
Pursue and seize him, for there is no one to save him.”

12 God, do not be far from me;
My God, hurry to my aid!
13 May those who are enemies of my soul be put to shame and consumed;
May they be covered with disgrace and dishonor, who seek to injure me.
14 But as for me, I will wait continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
15 My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And of Your salvation all day long;
For I do not know the art of writing.
16 I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.

17 God, You have taught me from my youth,
And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
18 And even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to all who are to come.
19 For Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
You who have done great things;
God, who is like You?
20 You who have shown me many troubles and distresses
Will revive me again,
And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
21 May You increase my greatness
And turn to comfort me.

22 I will also praise You with a harp,
And Your truth, my God;
I will sing praises to You with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You;
And my soul, which You have redeemed.
24 My tongue also will tell of Your righteousness all day long;
For they are put to shame, for they are humiliated who seek my harm

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Father, Forgive Them

By Alistair Begg

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Luke 23:34

Of all the cries that have been uttered by victims of unjust execution, surely none has ever been more amazing than this: “Father, forgive them.”

The soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross probably felt that they had experienced everything a man could experience in the carrying out of their duties. Surely they had grown accustomed to threats and vile abuse coming from those condemned and had listened to curses galore. They must have found themselves looking at one another in puzzlement; we can imagine one of them saying, Did he really say, “Forgive them”? and the other replying, Yes… I think he really did.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had instructed His disciples to “love your enemies” and “pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). In His prayer on the cross, Jesus practiced what He preached. Surely this is an example for us—and surely it is also a challenge, for if Jesus could do this as He was hoisted on His cross, is there any situation in which we cannot do the same?

Jesus’ words here should make us ask this, though: Was His prayer a blanket expression of forgiveness, unrelated to the response of the hearts of men and women? Clearly not. Consider the context in which these words were said. Jesus was about to give His life expressly to pay the price for sin and to open the gateway into heaven. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” God did not choose to ignore sin, to overlook it altogether. He did not count men’s sins against them because He was counting their sins against Him—namely, Jesus. God does not overlook injustice even as He offers forgiveness. Nor does He call us to do so.

So as Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, asking that those involved in this atrocity—including those who stood by idly and watched—would be forgiven, He was praying that they would see their need of a Savior, would see that He is that Savior, and would turn from their sin and discover that their transgressions could be fully pardoned. In other words, Jesus asked that the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21—that God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”—might take hold of their hearts and lives.

Here in the death of Jesus of Nazareth is the forgiveness of all your sin—sin that is no longer counted against you because it was counted against Him. When the reality and truth of Jesus’ death and Jesus’ prayer dawns on your mind and stirs your heart, then you shift from a generic awareness of the potential for forgiveness to a personal experience. And so you pray that God would seek out those around you with such forgiveness even as you seek to hold out such forgiveness in your own life.


Saturday, September 30, 2023

Not an Option

 By Charles Spurgeon

Sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!

Psalm 66:2

It is not left to our own option whether or not we will praise God. Praise is God’s most righteous due, and every Christian, as the recipient of His grace, is bound to praise God from day to day.

It is true that we have no authoritative text for daily praise; we have no commandment prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving: But the law written upon the heart teaches us that it is right to praise God; and the unwritten mandate comes to us with as much force as if it had been recorded on the tables of stone or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai.

Yes, it is the Christian’s duty to praise God. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute obligation of his life. Those of you who are always mourning should not think that you are guiltless in this respect or imagine that you can discharge your duty to God without songs of praise. You are bound by the bonds of His love to bless His name as long as you live, and His praise should continually be in your mouth, for you are blessed in order that you may bless Him—“the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise”;1 and if you do not praise God, you are not bringing forth the fruit that He has a right to expect from you.

Do not let your harp hang on the willows, but take it down and strum with a grateful heart, bringing out its loudest music. Arise and declare His praise. With every morning’s dawn, lift up your notes of thanksgiving, and let every setting sun be followed with your song. Surround the earth with your praises; circle it with an atmosphere of melody, and God Himself will listen from heaven and accept your music.

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Because Thou art my loving God,
And my redeeming King.

  1. Isaiah 43:21 

The Pathway to Holiness

By Alistair Begg

If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:13

Your holiness matters.

In the Old Testament, the word “holy” doesn’t always refer to a moral state; often, it refers to a relationship. Cities are described as holy cities, vessels as holy vessels, and buildings as holy places. This means that they stood in a special relationship to God. And so it is in redemption: we have been placed in a special relationship to God. We have been set apart for a holy use.

If you are married, perhaps you had other relationships before the one you enjoy with your spouse. I was married in the summer of 1975. That day, whatever romantic relationships I had had in my past were all over and done with—finished—because I was united to my wife. I was made new. I came to our wedding as an individual; I left married. My wife and I were set apart for one another through the vows, the covenant commitment, that we made to one another.

We cannot make vows to the Lord Jesus Christ and then just treat Him anyway we want. We simply cannot fool around with holiness. Why not? Because without holiness “no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). The apostle Paul goes so far as to say that we must “put to death the deeds of the body.” The Puritans called this “the mortification of the flesh.” And this mortification doesn’t happen automatically. It doesn’t happen unconsciously. It’s not a process of osmosis. Rather, what we need is the painstaking, day-by-day working out of our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). We need the Spirit’s prompting and enabling to remind us that we have to weep deliberately and consciously over our own sins, repent of them, turn from them, and seek to obey our Lord—and not only with those sins that are clear and obvious but also with inward sins such as envy, pride, malice, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. It’s a wonderful day when God shows us the ugliness of a sin that has been indwelling us and prompts us to tackle it. Here’s the way to deal with sin: ruthlessly, immediately, consistently.

When true holiness begins to take root in our lives, it does not make us judgmental or unbending. That is legalism, where we set ourselves apart for rule-keeping pride; it is not holiness, where we are set apart for pleasing God. Instead, holiness manifests itself in graciousness, pleasantness, and goodness. So holiness is attractive. When we see it in others, whether or not we call it holiness, we warm to it and long for it. And holiness is possible, because the Lord Jesus died for the failings of our flesh and sent His Spirit to dwell in us so that we can fight sin and walk toward eternal life.

The pathway to that holiness emerges from thinking upon the wonder of all that Jesus has done for us. Ponder that path. Ask Jesus to make it real to you in a way that it’s never been before. And as you walk, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).


Friday, September 29, 2023

Between Faith and Fear

By Alistair Begg

“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”

Luke 24:39-41

The disciples were real people—and they found believing in the resurrection difficult.

News of Jesus’ resurrection produced a roller coaster of emotions within His disciples. One minute they seemed to be up on the crest, and the next minute they were hurtling toward the ground. Reports of an empty tomb were met with mixed emotions of awe and unbelief. Indeed, they thought the words of the women who had discovered it were “an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).

Even when Jesus appeared suddenly and stood among His disciples, their sorrows were not soothed and their fears were not calmed. Instead, we discover that they were still in panic mode. Face-to-face with the resurrected Christ, they “were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit” (Luke 24:37). Even after Jesus showed them His hands and feet, they still battled disbelief as it jostled against the dawning joy.

This is a wonderfully honest picture, isn’t it? Here we find the group of people who were to be the pillars of the church, all essentially hiding behind couches and coming out of closets, saying, We thought we saw a ghost!

The disciples’ battle against fear and disbelief is a great encouragement for those who flip between hope and despair. It’s one thing to affirm our belief in the resurrection on a fine Sunday morning, surrounded by a crowd of fellow Christians. It is quite another to affirm it on a difficult Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by people who are convinced it is an idle tale, or when we are waiting on test results in the doctor’s office or fending off loneliness.

A real Christian is not someone who does not doubt; it is someone who brings their doubts to the fact of the empty tomb and reminds themselves that our faith rests on historical events, and that those historical events are ones which cause us to feel joy and marvel at God. If you find yourself today in a battle against fear and unbelief, cry out to God, praying the prayer of the man in Mark 9: “I believe, help my unbelief!” (v 24). The disciples’ doubts and fears did not exclude them from the kingdom; neither did they preclude them from kingdom work. So today, ask God to guard your faith, and walk forwards remembering that Jesus really has risen and really does have work for you to do.


Lessons from Leprosy

 By Charles Spurgeon

And if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease.

Leviticus 13:13

This regulation appears to be very strange, but there was wisdom in it, for the throwing out of the disease proved that the constitution was sound. This morning it may be well for us to see the typical teaching of this singular principle. We, too, are lepers and may read the law of the leper as applicable to ourselves. When a man sees himself to be completely lost and ruined, covered all over with the defilement of sin, and with no part free from pollution, when he disclaims all righteousness of his own and pleads guilty before the Lord, then is he clean through the blood of Jesus and the grace of God.

Hidden, unfelt, unconfessed iniquity is the true leprosy, but when sin is seen and felt it has received its death blow, and the Lord looks with eyes of mercy upon the soul afflicted with it. Nothing is more deadly than self-righteousness or more hopeful than contrition. We must confess that we are nothing else but sin, for no confession short of this will be the whole truth. And if the Holy Spirit is at work within us, convincing us of sin, there will be no difficulty in making such an acknowledgment—it will spring spontaneously from our lips.

What comfort this text provides to those under a deep sense of sin! Sin mourned and confessed, however deep and foul, will never shut a man out from the Lord Jesus. “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”1 Though dishonest as the thief, though immoral as the woman who was a sinner, though fierce as Saul of Tarsus, though cruel as Manasseh, though rebellious as the prodigal, the great heart of love will look upon the man who feels himself to have no health in him and will pronounce him clean when he trusts in Jesus crucified. Come to Him, then, poor heavy-laden sinner.

Come needy, come guilty, come loathsome and bare;
You can’t come too filthy—come just as you are.

  1. John 6:37