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

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

A Question to Consider

 By Charles Spurgeon

The church in your house.

Philemon 1:2

Is there a church in this house? Are parents, children, and friends all members of it, or are some still unconverted? Let us pause here and let the question go round: Am I a member of the church in this house?

The father’s heart would leap for joy, and the mother’s eyes would fill with holy tears if from the eldest to the youngest all were saved! Let us pray for this great mercy until the Lord shall grant it to us.

Probably it had been the dearest object of Philemon’s desires to have all his household saved; but it was not at first fully granted to him. He had a wicked servant, Onesimus, who, having wronged him, ran away from his service.

His master’s prayers followed him, and at last, as God would have it, Onesimus was led to hear Paul preach; his heart was touched, and he returned to Philemon not only to be a faithful servant, but a beloved brother, adding another member to the church in Philemon’s house.

Is there an unconverted family member absent this morning? Make special supplication that they may, upon returning to their home, gladden every heart with good news of what grace has done! Is there an unconverted family member still at home? Ask God to save him also.

If there is such a church in our house, let us order it well, and let everyone conduct themselves as in the sight of God. Let us go about our daily routines with studied holiness, diligence, kindness, and integrity. More is expected of a church than of an ordinary household.

Family worship must, in such a case, be more devout and hearty; internal love must be warmer and unbroken, and external conduct must be more sanctified and Christlike. We need not fear that the smallness of our number will put us out of the list of churches, for the Holy Spirit has enrolled a family-church here in the inspired book of remembrance.

As a church let us now draw near to the great Head of the one Church universal, and let us beseech Him to give us grace to shine before men to the glory of His name.

The Law of Love

By Alistair Begg

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

James 2:8

The last time you said you loved someone or something, what did you mean?

In our age, we often equate love with a certain emotional experience. People declare “love” based on how they feel. It’s no surprise, then, that the idea of acting lovingly out of a sense of duty sounds strange to our ears. Surely if an action is dutiful, it cannot be done out of love?

The book of James offers quite a different view of the relationship between love and duty. When James wants to summarize the law of God, he does so with the words “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The law, in other words, is fulfilled by love. We must therefore make it a priority to understand what love is and what it is not.

James does not mean that the law is fulfilled when we feel a certain way about our neighbors. Anyone who has read James—or much of the Bible at all, for that matter—knows this cannot be the case. For one thing, the Ten Commandments, which are the heart of the Old Testament law, say very little about how we ought to feel but quite a lot about what we ought to do. The commands against murder, adultery, lying, and stealing are aimed at our actions. And laws like these, says James, can be summarized as “Love your neighbor.” How do we love our neighbor, then? By doing the right thing.

Consider also the significance of James’ phrase “as yourself.” How often do any of us feel really great about ourselves and find ourselves truly and wholly lovely? Rarely, I would guess. And yet, despite how we feel about ourselves, we most likely see to it that we are cared for. Our love for others ought to be in this way as well. The absence of emotional intensity does not excuse us from obedience.

This does not mean that the right response is to be content with a cold heart as long as we are gritting our teeth and doing the right thing. We should want our affections toward others to match our actions, and we ought to pray toward that end. But we should also understand the role our emotions play in our love. Emotions make a great servant but a poor master. They can serve us in doing the right things, but they cannot be our guide for what we should and shouldn’t do. Indeed, sometimes it is only once we have decided to act in love that our feelings catch up. Pray today, then, for your affections to be pleasing to God, and for you to fulfill His royal law as you act in love toward your neighbors by obeying Him.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Purpose of the Cross

 By Alistair Begg

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:33

The Gospel writers, without exception, do not dwell on the manner in which Jesus was crucified. Indeed, if you search the Gospels, you will discover that there are very few details concerning Christ’s physical suffering. Given the exceptionally brutal manner in which He was executed and the fact that all of Scripture moves us toward the cross, this absence of detail should give us pause, causing us to wonder why the Savior’s death is captured only in that simple phrase “There they crucified him.”

Presumably, the Gospel writers understood that if they focused on the physical sufferings of Jesus, then we could very easily stop at that. We might mistakenly think that once we have been gripped, stirred, and moved by this dreadful scene, we have come to terms with it. In point of fact, though, to focus on the outward aspects—the physicality—of this terrible event is to miss the purpose of the cross altogether.

For this reason, the Gospel writers did not explain much of what Jesus’ physical suffering was like but rather point to what was happening to Him spiritually as He hung there. Their focus is more on the purpose of the cross than on the cross itself.

Throughout Scripture—indeed, from the very beginning of it all, in the book of Genesis—the greatest need of humanity is atonement. As soon as the first man and woman turned their backs on God in the Garden of Eden, they were alienated from Him on account of their disobedience. Ever since, humanity has followed in our first ancestors’ steps: we, too, turn our backs on God and live in His world in rebellion against Him. This sin, this alienation, must be atoned for, and no amount or doing or trying on our part can reconcile us to God.

But in Jesus, “the righteousness of God has been manifested” to us (Romans 3:21), and we are reconciled to the Father through faith in the Son, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25). This is atonement. This is the place where the Father’s wrath over sin was turned away from sinners and onto another—onto His own Son. This is the purpose, the great and wondrous achievement, of the cross.

There is all the difference in the world between sympathy for Jesus as the perfect sufferer and faith in Christ as our personal Savior. Stop and consider what He hung on the cross to do. Reflect on His spiritual suffering—the agony of bearing the judgment of His Father. Do not gaze on Him so that you feel sorry for Him, but until you are worshiping Him.

The Power and Mystery of Obedience

 By Alistair Begg

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons” … Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem.

1 Samuel 16:1, 1 Samuel 16:4

Samuel stands out in the pages of biblical history but neither on account of the originality of his ideas nor because he was an initiative-taker. No, his distinction is that he was a man who simply did what God told him. After Saul’s rebellion against God, the Lord rejected Saul as king—and Samuel was the one who was told to inform the king of this. So he did (1 Samuel 15:1026-29). God then told Samuel that the season of grieving was over and that it was time for him to move on to his next assignment: anointing the next king of Israel. So he did. God said it, and Samuel did it.

The instruction given to the prophet to prepare some oil, go to the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem, and meet with a man called Jesse probably didn’t seem incredibly spectacular to Samuel. But he could never have understood the extent to which his obedience would bring him into the heart of a climactic moment in the ongoing story of God’s salvation of His people.

It was in the town of Bethlehem that, decades earlier, God had provided a husband for the young widow Ruth. Her grandson Jesse was the man that God sent Samuel to meet, and her great-grandson, David, was the boy whom God would tell Samuel to anoint as king. A thousand years later, in Bethlehem, God would bring forth His Anointed One, Jesus—a descendant of David (Matthew 1:15-6), whom Samuel anointed that day—to be ruler and shepherd over all His people (2:6). Samuel’s obedience to all that God told him to do put him on the stage as this next scene of God’s sovereign plan unfolded. But Samuel did not know any of that as he filled his horn with oil and began his journey to Bethlehem.

Most of the commands of God don’t involve any impressive deeds or great drama. Many of us will not understand the significance of our obedience. Often we will obey not because we can see what God is doing but simply because we have committed ourselves to obeying Him. We may live our lives never knowing what a particular act of obedience has meant in His plans. Be careful, then, to faithfully obey even the seemingly inconsequential instructions of God, for obedience to His command is always right, and you never know beforehand how He will use it.


Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Devil Defanged

 By Alistair Begg

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:8

By grace, every believer in Christ has been transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We live in the world now as children of light and endeavor to bear the fruit of that light (Ephesians 5:8-9). Yet as glorious as this may be, we know that darkness is not yet fully eradicated from our lives.

The truth is that everyone who becomes a citizen of Christ’s kingdom is caught up in a cosmic conflict of eternal significance. Praise the Lord, the Evil One has been powerless to prevent God’s adopted children from knowing salvation—but having tasted that measure of defeat, he now seeks to do everything in his power to prevent us from living as true heirs of our Father’s eternal kingdom. He is totally committed to disrupting and destroying what it means for us to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1) and to “walk as children of light” (v 8). His one great aim is to stop you trusting in Christ—to knock you off the narrow road before you reach the gates of glory.

We should not ignore the alarming terms which Scripture uses to describe the devil and the urgent terms in which we are urged to withstand him. Peter urges us to “be sober-minded” and “watchful” because our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is a real and a vicious enemy. He trades in doubt, division, and destruction. He comes at us both morally and intellectually. With the ferocity of a supernaturally empowered beast, he seeks to maul us and shred our faith to pieces.

What is a Christian to do when faced with such a vicious enemy? The good news for us is this: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Though he may still prowl, his defanging has already begun, and ultimately, he will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Defeat is certain for the devil and his minions—and, through Christ, victory over him is yours, Christian. In Christ, God has given you the spiritual power to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). He offers you indestructible armor in the gospel and His very word as your sword (v 11-17). When you fall, you are forgiven. The devil has no power over you. James puts our charge succinctly: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

So, where is the battle for you? Is it against a particular sin or in a certain trial? Take up the means of grace God offers you in Christ—including your company of fellow soldiers—and, by simply believing the gospel of God, force the prowling lion to retreat!