By Charles Spurgeon
By Charles Spurgeon
By Charles Spurgeon
By Alistair Begg
You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
One of Satan’s main schemes for attacking believers is accusation (Revelation 12:10). As the father of lies (John 8:44), he will use anything within his arsenal of demonic devices to cause Christians to feel condemnation—though the truth, of course, is that “there is … now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
So how are we to stand firm in Christ when the Accuser tempts us to despair? When he whispers, “Would a Christian really think that?” or “How could a Christian ever do that?” what will we say? Should we point out that last week was a very good week or that this Bible reading or that prayer time ought to offset our guilt?
Surely, any good thing in our life is an evidence of God’s grace at work. But no list of good works will ever assuage the Accuser. Our best response is to confront the Evil One head-on and tell him that Jesus bore our sins in His death, He rose to victory, and we are now united to Him and all His benefits by grace and through faith. We certainly want to live in a way that demonstrates real, active, vibrant faith; however, the most important thing about us isn’t what we do but who we are in Christ. “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” says Paul. It is “Christ in you” who is “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
In the fight for faith, the issue is always the gospel. We must ask ourselves, “Have I come to entrust myself to Christ? Have I admitted who He is, who I am, and why I need Him? Is my hope in Jesus and what He has done for me, and not in any way in what I do for Him?” If we can answer yes, then we can confront the devil’s lies and insinuations with the gospel. So, when the Accuser comes to you and suggests that you are not really a Christian, not really saved, not really forgiven—and he will!—take refuge in the finished work of your Lord on your behalf. Jesus has already won the victory. Therefore, hidden in Him, His triumph is now yours, and not one of Satan’s schemes can change that glorious truth.
By Alistair Begg
A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Difficulties, disappointments, failure, and weakness are all inevitable in life. But have you ever considered the possibility that these limitations may be the key to usefulness in the service of Christ? We often find ourselves saying or thinking something like “If I wasn’t like this, or if my circumstances were different, or if I was healthier or in better shape, then God could and would better use me.” It is easy to wish we could be someone we’re not, instead of believing what the Bible says: that God formed us purposefully, divinely, and intricately in our mother’s womb and has overseen each of our days since then (Psalm 139:13), making and molding each of us as a unique individual.
When we doubt our worth, Satan is quick to encourage us to question the integrity of God’s character and promises. Indeed, Paul calls his weakness, his thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan. Why? Because Satan had used it to bring about doubt in Paul: Why you, Paul? Why didn’t Peter have this thorn? Wouldn’t your ministry be more effective without it? God’s not coming through for you, is He? But our heavenly Father knows best, and He is painting on a far bigger canvas. His purpose is not to make our journey through life pleasurable or to make all our dreams come true. His purpose for us is far grander: to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
John Berridge, an 18th-century preacher, observed, “A Christian never falls asleep in the fire or in the water, but grows drowsy in the sunshine.” We grow too comfortable, too self-reliant, when life is easy and our strengths are apparent. And so God graciously gives us thorns to wake us up.
When God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” He didn’t change Paul’s pain. He changed his perspective. Paul was able to quit focusing on his weakness and begin appreciating the gift that came through it: Christ’s own strength. The thorn suddenly became a rose: something redemptively given instead of something only unwanted. God makes even Satan’s insinuations work for our good, causing us to turn to Christ in childlike and prayerful dependence upon His promises.
The things about ourselves that we want to run from, hide from, or cover up are the very things that could suddenly open the door to phenomenal ministry. Have you considered this truth? Have you considered the possibility that your limitations, your disappointments, and your weaknesses are not detriments to effectiveness but true assets, as they bring you to lean on His strength? Do not see your weakness as an obstacle to serving God but as an opportunity for it.
By Alistair Begg
… Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
When I was growing up, I watched television programs in the comforting assurance that they would reach a timely and logical conclusion. Whether it was Bonanza, The Dick Van Dyke Show, or Perry Mason, I could be sure that there would be a resolution to the plot. It was a bad show when the plot didn’t resolve and the dreaded phrase appeared at the bottom of the screen: “To be continued…” In a similar way, the plot in Acts is left unresolved, and we are left with the realization that the full story is yet to be completed.
In writing the book we know as Acts, its author, Luke, wasn’t composing a biography of the apostle Paul. Rather, he was demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit to spread God’s word in the world through a variety of individuals in the unfolding story of human history. He wasn’t encouraging readers to create their own endings but inviting them to be a part of the continuing story.
The final word in the Greek text of the book of Acts is akolytos, which means “unhindered.” This is in step with what Paul wrote during his second imprisonment: “I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:9). In other words, Acts concludes but the action continues. Acts is the beginning of the story, a story of the work of God’s Spirit, through His church, that sweeps into our world and up to our time.
In fact, the unfolding story of redemption, in which we find ourselves, actually begins much earlier than Acts 1. We catch one of our first glimpses when God promised Adam and Eve that one of their family would crush Satan and undo the effects of their sin (Genesis 3:15); we see another when the Lord told Abraham, “In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (22:18). The Father’s plan was always that He would give to His Son the nations as an inheritance (Psalm 2:8). This is an all-encompassing promise worthy of our life, and even our death.
Your life is wrapped up in this amazing story. The same Spirit that powerfully worked in the book of Acts is still at work today. The extension of the gospel message—that Jesus is the long-promised King and the much-needed Savior—did not conclude with Paul in Rome, nor when it arrived at your doorstep. God is still telling it, and His people are still called to share it, unhindered. Whether you give your life to doing that as a missionary overseas or you seek each day to make Christ known among your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors, God wants you to be involved in the greatest story of the ages, which will be told throughout eternity. What would you rather spend your life doing than writing a line in this great, unfinished story?
By Charles Spurgeon
Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
While we may understand the importance of God’s word for our lives, we might also wonder, deep down, why we should study Old Testament stories. What can modern people gain from such a study? Why not focus on the New Testament and the stories of what Jesus and His apostles did and said?
Here is the answer: these ancient segments of history are significant not just for the biblical characters or for Israel but also for you and me—and, indeed, for the entire world! Such a sweeping claim may sound like hyperbole. But if we approach our study of the Bible with certain convictions in mind, we will begin to understand and be convinced, as the apostle Paul was clearly convinced, that the Old Testament was written for us, that it was written to instruct, and that it gives us hope.
The first conviction is that there is unity to the Bible, from creation in Genesis to the new creation in Revelation. In between is the record of humanity’s fall and the chaos and brokenness of the universe that flowed from it. Through it all, we discover the story of redemption and the plan and purpose of God to put together a people of His very own. We need to read the whole of that story, from start to finish.
The second conviction guiding our study of God’s word is that this biblical unity exists not because it is a collection of religious documents but because it is the word of God, written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). We need to read all of what God has chosen to tell us.
Thirdly, there is the conviction that we need our Bibles to understand human history, our own little histories, and our place within history. Much of what is happening within us and around us does not make sense apart from an understanding of human nature and God’s sovereignty at work as revealed in Scripture.
Finally, we hold the conviction that the Bible, including the Old Testament, is a book about Jesus. If we take our eyes from Jesus, then we don’t just lose our way around the universe; we also lose our way around the Bible. The Old Testament points us to Christ, prepares us for Christ, and shows us pictures of Christ. One of the questions we ought always to be asking is “How does this record of things show me good news about Jesus Christ?”
With these convictions in mind, we can have confidence as we study the Old Testament that it is instructive. But not only that: it is full of hope, for it shows us our Savior. The more we read the parts of the Old Testament as books written by God, through His Spirit, about His Son, the more we grow in hope, in understanding, and into the likeness of our Savior.
By Alistair Begg
By Alistair Begg
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished … But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.
Questions surrounding death and dying have faced mankind ever since the fall: “What will happen when I die? Will I go somewhere when I die, or is this it? Is there any significance to my life? What does it all mean?”
All of Scripture is timelessly relevant, and it provides answers to these questions. Paul, for example, addresses the issues of resurrection and eternal life in 1 Corinthians 15. Without the resurrection, he says, our faith would be in vain. Our salvation would be false, for we would still be living in sin. Death would prove to be stronger than God. Jesus’ claims would be untrue: He would not be Lord, and He would not be returning. History would have no goal or purpose, and the human race would be going nowhere.
Since that’s the “reality” in which unbelievers live, it’s no wonder there is so much angst in our world! But the Christian can say, “Hey, not so fast! Don’t say that history is going nowhere and all is meaningless! Consider the resurrection.” We believe Christ rose from the dead and promises each of His followers full resurrection—not a resurrection only of soul but one of body and soul (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).
John Locke, the 18th-century British philosopher, wrote of Christ’s resurrection that it is “truly of great importance in Christianity; so great, that his being, or not being the Messiah, stands or falls with it.” It is the resurrection that proves that Jesus is who Scripture claims He is, the resurrection that seals our salvation, and the resurrection that transforms our lives. You can visit the burial sites of Buddha’s ashes, Muhammad’s body, and Gandhi’s urn, but the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is an empty one. Belief in the resurrection is the narrow gate through which we enter, and it’s the only one that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). All our hope hangs on this fact: Jesus is alive!
Because of this hope, we can say that this life is not all there is; it is simply the appetizer, the first course. Shadows fall on our greatest successes on this earth. We lose loved ones. We’re confronted by sin. Even our best days leave us longing for something more. But the fact is that we are only preparing for a day yet to come, when these former things will pass away and the new, resurrected kingdom will come. The resurrection of Jesus is what gives purpose to all you do today, and comfort in all your trials, and hope for all your tomorrows.
By Alistair Begg
The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
The book of Proverbs is an intensely practical book. It reminds us that a godly life is lived out in the everyday events of our journey. As Derek Kidner writes, “Its function in Scripture is to put godliness into working clothes.” In many ways, Solomon’s writings are both immensely profitable and distinctly uncomfortable.
One lesson that Proverbs teaches us is the consequences of laziness. The biblical text uses the word “sluggard” to refer to a lazy person. It’s not a contemporary word, but it isa suitable word—one that describes a habitually inactive person whose lifestyle is framed by indolence and dormancy.
The sluggard, we learn, is hinged to his bed (Proverbs 26:14). This could mean that the person rises from bed after lunchtime or simply that they make little or no progress in their daily work. They don’t like to be approached directly or to be held accountable. When asked, “Will you do this?” they resent the follow-up question: “When are you planning to do it?”—or, in the words of Proverbs 6:9, “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” They never actually refuse to do anything, but they put off tasks bit by bit. They deceive themselves into thinking that they’ll “get around to it,” but minute by minute, they allow opportunity to quietly slip away.
In Proverbs 12:27, Solomon also tells us that “whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” In other words, a lazy person does not finish what they start. But we, as followers of Christ, are called to a kind of perseverance that, as we work unto the Lord, will reap a harvest in due season if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9). As we remain accountable in Christian community, we can help each other see our blind spots so that the excuses we make for our lazy behaviors don’t become larger issues of self-indulgence.
The real tragedy of the sluggard’s life is that laziness is not an infirmity but a sin. Contemporary culture drives many on a quest for an overabundance of so-called leisure. But believers can set a radically different example. God created us to work with a purpose: that we may let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works and give glory to our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16). The best adventure you can have is found along the pathway of goodness and duty. The greatest reward is not in leisure and ease and ducking out but in giving and giving and not holding back. How will that shape your approach to your day, and your tasks, today?
True Christian faith begins with the humility of heart to come as the royal official did and to ask Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
We ought to be skeptical of any approach to Christianity and proclamation of the Gospel that does not first confront men and women with the necessity of seeing their sin and their need of Christ.
By Alistair Begg
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
The law of God is a masterpiece, revealing our deep guilt and, at the same time, graciously teaching unholy people how to approach a holy God in worship. Its instructions form a carefully assembled tapestry; if one thread is pulled, the entire thing unravels.
This means that there are no small matters in the law. When we break a single command, we become guilty of violating the entire thing. James tells us this frankly: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). The law is not like a pile of stones, from which you can take one stone away and still have a heap. Rather, it is like a sheet of glass: a single crack compromises the whole thing. Why? Because God’s law is no arbitrary set of rules and regulations; it is an expression of the character and nature of our perfect and pure God of glory.
When you add this all together, it amounts to a terrifying reality. How can we ever hope to measure up to such a high standard? And yet, for those who know Christ Jesus by faith, the law no longer condemns us. The Son of God fulfilled God’s law Himself so that His people no longer have to face His wrath. We have escaped God’s just penalty on our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Now the law does not remain outside of us; it is written upon our hearts. Now the Spirit of God who wrote it there goes to work to transform us so that we gladly accept its duties and obligations. In Christ we are not only saved from the penalty for not keeping the law; we also have the resources to keep the law as never before.
Imagine a thief who walks into a church on Sunday, sees a list of the Ten Commandments, and trembles in fear at the words “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). He or she repents of that sin and receives the offer of new life in Christ. From then on, when they read that command, it means something different. The prohibition, “You mustnot steal,” has become a promise: “You will not steal.”
This is the case for everyone who calls on Jesus as Lord. What sins are you particularly struggling against or giving in to? By the Spirit, you have all the resources to obey your Father, looking to the law neither as a ladder to heaven nor as a source of condemnation but as a guide to life. Armed with this hope, you can battle against your sin with the confidence that comes from Christ’s great victory.
By Alistair Begg
The Prophetic Word
A great prophet has arisen among us!
By nature, we do not see any beauty in Jesus. Of our own accord we do not declare that Jesus is wonderful, that Jesus is beautiful, that Jesus is incomparable. Left to ourselves, we are in utter darkness, having rejected what God has made obvious to us.
Spiritual darkness, noted the 17th-century Puritan Thomas Watson, is worse than natural darkness, yet “natural darkness affrights,” whereas “spiritual darkness is not accompanied with horror” and “men tremble not at their condition; nay, they like their condition well enough.” We love darkness rather than light because the inclination of our hearts, and of our deeds, is actually evil (John 3:19-20).
Is there any light for our darkness? Is there any freedom from our bondage to self? The answer, of course, is an emphatic yes—namely, in the person of Jesus Christ! And as we consider how it is that Christ brings light and life, by God’s grace we are moved all over again to praise Him as wonderful, as beautiful, and as incomparable.
Consider, for example, how Jesus is the greatest and final prophet (Hebrews 1:1-3). God’s sending of His prophets, and finally His Son, represents an implicit judgment on us, since it is our shortcomings that make prophets necessary. We are by nature ignorant of God. We need divine help in order to grasp life’s most important truths.
Old Testament prophets were anointed and sent by God to speak into the people’s ignorance and blindness. These prophets, however, only spoke the word of God. When God came to us in the person of Jesus, He came as the Word of God, to speak into our ignorance, to unstop our deaf ears, and to open our blind eyes. Here is the greatest of the prophets.
We find in the Gospels that as Jesus began His ministry, He was almost immediately viewed as a prophet. So it was that following the raising of the widow of Nain’s son, the people responded, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” Similarly, in John 6, when the 5,000 were fed, the response was “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14). Indeed, Jesus Himself acknowledged this role when, in Luke 4, He pointed out in Nazareth that “no prophet is acceptable in his hometown” (Luke 4:24).
Jesus came as the very Word of God. And so, in Him, the prophetic word has found its fulfillment, and in Him we discover the ultimate expression of truth—the truth contained not only in His teaching but also in His person. We need Jesus to teach our hearts, to dispel our darkness, to reach us in a way that no one else can. Until He teaches us, we will never learn about Him. Until we see Him as the Word of God, we will never be wise for salvation. But when this greatest of the prophets speaks truth to our hearts, we say, “This is truth”—and we praise the one who is all truth as our wonderful, beautiful, incomparable Teacher and Savior.