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!

How Do We Pray?

By Charles Spurgeon

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven…”

Matthew 6:9

This prayer begins where all true prayer must start, with the spirit of adoption: “Our Father.” There is no acceptable prayer until we can say, “I will arise and go to my Father.”1 This childlike spirit soon perceives the grandeur of the Father “in heaven” and ascends to devout adoration, “hallowed be your name.” The child lisping, “Abba, Father” grows into the cherub crying, “Holy, holy, holy.” There is but a step from rapturous worship to the glowing missionary spirit, which is a sure expression of filial love and reverent adoration—“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Next follows the heartfelt expression of dependence upon God—“Give us this day our daily bread.”

Being further illuminated by the Spirit, the one praying discovers that he is not only dependent but sinful; so he cries for mercy, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”; and being pardoned, having the righteousness of Christ imputed, and knowing his acceptance with God, he humbly prays for holy perseverance, “Lead us not into temptation.” The man who is really forgiven is anxious not to offend again; the possession of justification leads to an anxious desire for sanctification. “Forgive us our debts”—that is justification; “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”—that is sanctification in its negative and positive forms.

As the result of all this, there follows a triumphant ascription of praise, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.” We rejoice that our King reigns in providence and shall reign in grace, from the river even to the ends of the earth, and of His dominion there shall be no end. So from a sense of adoption, up to fellowship with our reigning Lord, this short model of prayer conducts the soul. Lord, teach us then to pray.

  1. Luke 15:18


Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Only Faithful One

 By Alistair Begg

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalm 36:5

If you do a little digging, you’ll find plenty of articles that ask the question, “Is anyone faithful anymore?” Usually, they refer to marriage, but the question is applicable to almost any sphere of life. When I talk to members of my congregation who work in business, for example, they often tell me of workers who appear to be very committed to the team and the mission at the beginning, but then, all of a sudden, they’re nowhere to be found. Loyalty to the company or the task at hand frequently dissipates very, very quickly.

It’s rare to find people known for steady devotion and consistency, who let their yes be yes and their no be no (Matthew 5:37). And when we do find someone who makes a promise and keeps it, even when it’s difficult, it’s quite striking.

The only perfect standard of faithfulness that we have—of total loyalty and of complete commitment to keeping a promise—is God. The psalmists continually reflect upon it. As high as you can see, Psalm 36 tells us, that is how far God’s faithfulness stretches. There are no ends to which He will not go to remain loyal to His people; there is nothing that will prevent Him keeping His word. Moses continually reminded the people of Israel of God’s faithfulness: “Know … that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant” (Deuteronomy 7:9). James, too, describes God’s faithfulness by saying that in Him “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God’s faithfulness is one aspect of the absolute perfection of His character. Given that every believer has staked their eternal future on Him keeping His word, this is very good news!

Other people, as well as the gods of your own creation, will inevitably let you down—be it through their flaws or their frailty. The only promise that can utterly be relied upon is that of the eternal, righteous God, who has revealed Himself in creation and who has confirmed His truthfulness in the person of His Son. He is 100-percent reliable all of the time, for all of eternity—including for all that you are facing today.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Four Trustworthy Sayings

By Charles Spurgeon

The saying is trustworthy …

2 Timothy 2:11

Paul has four of these “trustworthy” sayings.

  • The first occurs in 1 Timothy 1:15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

  • The next is in 1 Timothy 4:8–9, “Godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.”

  • The third is in 2 Timothy 2:11, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him.”

  • And the fourth is in Titus 3:8, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to do good works.”

We may trace a connection between these faithful sayings. The first one lays the foundation of our eternal salvation in the free grace of God, as shown to us in the mission of the great Redeemer. The next affirms the double blessedness that we obtain through this salvation—the blessings of time and of eternity. The third shows the nature of the life to which the chosen people are called; we are ordained to die with Christ with the promise that “if we have died with him, we will also live with him.” The last sets out the active form of Christian service, bidding us to diligently maintain good works.

So we have the root of salvation in free grace, then the privileges of that salvation in the life that now is and in that which is to come; and we have also the two great branches of dying with Christ and living with Christ, loaded with the fruit of the Spirit.

Treasure up these faithful sayings. Let them be the guides of your life, your comfort, and your instruction. The apostle of the Gentiles proved them to be trustworthy, and they are still trustworthy; not one word will fall to the ground. They are worthy of all acceptance; let us accept them now and prove their reliability.

Let these four trustworthy sayings be written on the four corners of my house.


Access to God

 By Alistair Begg

Through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of his creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:11-12

The wonder of the Bible’s story is that God—seeing us in our inability to know Him, to love Him, to understand Him, and to serve Him—came to redeem and restore us. God secured our redemption through a series of mighty acts, culminating in the Lord Jesus Christ, whom He sent in order to bring us back into relationship with Himself. In bridging the chasm between God and us, Jesus fulfills His role as our Great High Priest.

As Jewish Christians, the first recipients of the letter to the Hebrews had experienced tremendous changes as a result of following Jesus, particularly in their worship. Their devotion was no longer marked by the grandeur of the temple and all of its accompanying sights, sounds, and fragrances, and they no longer participated in witnessing the high priest coming out on the Day of Atonement.

All of this had changed when Jesus, by His death on the cross, became both the sacrifice and the scapegoat for sins. In the same way that the high priest had previously emerged from behind the temple curtain as an indication that God had accepted the people’s sacrifice for sin, the Lord Jesus had come forth from the tomb to declare His sacrifice accepted by the Father. The curtain had been torn (Matthew 27:51Mark 15:38Luke 23:45). The door of heavenly access was now open.

By fulfilling the priestly role, Jesus has secured our access to God once and for all. There is no need for repetition—no need for another sacrifice. In contrast to the Old Testament high priests, who stood daily, “offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins,” Christ “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins,” and then “he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:11-12).

The wonder in this, of course, is that Jesus did what no one else could do. He was the priest who made the offering and at the same time He was the offering. He voluntarily bore the punishment that was due to us on account of our sin, in order that we might enjoy full pardon from and reconciliation with God.

What difference does this make to us? First, it inspires constancy in our hearts. The first readers of the letter to the Hebrews seem to have been tempted to turn back to their Jewish rites. But Jesus is the ultimate and final High Priest and sacrifice. There is no need to go anywhere else, and there is nowhere else to go. Second, it brings confidence to our prayers. For as we approach God on His throne through Christ, we do so without fear, knowing we are forgiven and are speaking to our heavenly Father. Do you struggle with constancy or with confidence? See Jesus, your High Priest, who has entered into the presence of God, in the heavenly tent—and know that in Him, and Him alone, you have all you need.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

He Has Mercy for You

By Alistair Begg

The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Luke 18:13

One of our world’s great tragedies is that churches sometimes perpetrate falsehoods about God. This happens whenever a person or an institution confuses the gospel of grace with religious routine.

Perhaps you’ve heard before, or have been given the impression, that what you need to do is get yourself as fit as you possibly can in order to approach God: that God will not accept you unless you come acceptably to Him, unless you have something good you can show for yourself. Nothing could be further from the truth! All the fitness that God requires is that you see and confess your need of Him.

By our very nature, we do not see our need for God. Instead, we resist Him: “No one seeks for God … No one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11-12). It is therefore a great and glorious experience when suddenly, perhaps taking even ourselves by surprise, we find ourselves saying, You know, this wonderful offer of salvation in Jesus is exactly the thing that I need. To see, to know, to feel, and to experience the depth of our insufficiency and then begin to see the light of God’s mercy is nothing short of a miracle.

When Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who came to the temple, He had exactly this sort of humble self-recognition in mind. The Pharisee pleads his righteousness and is proud that he is “not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). The tax collector, however, takes an utterly different approach. He has no confidence in himself and no sense that he deserves an audience with a holy God. All he can muster are these precious words: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” And yet it is this man, the tax collector, who Jesus says “went down to his house justified, rather than the other” (v 14).

This parable is a wonderful invitation to those of us who know we have messed up in life. It is also a great challenge to those of us who have been Christians for years—for the devil loves to point us to our good works and suggest that we now deserve acceptance from God. As the religious expert, the Pharisee should have known better, but his religious uprightness blinded him to grace. Don’t be fooled as he was. In the end, all that you ever bring to God is an empty cup for Him to fill. You are never anything other than a sinner in need of mercy—but you need never be anything other than that, for God loves to be merciful to sinners. Come freely. Come with empty hands. Come without worry. He has mercy for you.


Giving Generously

By Charles Spurgeon


You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.

Haggai 1:9

Grudging souls limit their contributions to the ministry and missionary operations and call such saving good economy; little do they dream that in doing so they are impoverishing themselves. Their excuse is that they must care for their own families, and they forget that to neglect the house of God is a sure way to bring ruin upon their own houses. Our God has a method in providence by which He can cause our endeavors to succeed beyond our expectation, or He can defeat our plans to our confusion and dismay; by a turn of His hand He can steer our vessel in a profitable channel or run it aground in poverty and bankruptcy. It is the teaching of Scripture that the Lord enriches the generous and leaves the miserly to discover that withholding leads to poverty.

In a very wide sphere of observation, I have noticed that the most generous Christians of my acquaintance have always been the happiest, and almost invariably the most prosperous. I have seen the generous giver rise to financial levels of which he never dreamed; and I have as often seen the mean, ungenerous soul descend to poverty by the very stinginess by which he thought to rise. Men trust good stewards with larger and larger sums, and so it frequently is with the Lord; He gives by cartloads to those who give by bushels. Where wealth is not bestowed, the Lord makes a little much by the contentment that the sanctified heart feels in his portion from which a tithe has been dedicated to the Lord.

Selfishness looks first at home, but godliness seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; yet in the long run selfishness is loss, and godliness is great gain. It requires faith to act toward our God with an open hand, but surely He deserves it from us; and all that we can do is a very poor acknowledgment of our amazing indebtedness to His goodness.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Truth of God

By Charles Sturgeon


Because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.

2 John 1:2

Once the truth of God has obtained an entrance into the human heart and subdued the whole man to itself, no power, human or infernal, can dislodge it. We entertain it not as a guest but as the master of the house. This is a Christian necessity, and whoever does not believe this is not a Christian.

Those who feel the vital power of the Gospel and know the strength of the Holy Spirit as He opens, applies, and seals the Lord’s Word would rather be torn to pieces than be torn away from the Gospel of their salvation. A thousand mercies are wrapped up in the assurance that the truth will be with us forever, will be our living support, our dying comfort, our rising song, our eternal glory. This is Christian privilege, and without it our faith is worth little. Some truths we outgrow and leave behind, for they are but rudiments and lessons for beginners, but this is not so with divine truth, for though it is sweet food for babies, it is in the highest sense strong meat for men. The painful truth that we are sinners is with us to humble us and make us watchful; the more blessed truth that whoever believes on the Lord Jesus will be saved remains with us as our hope and joy. Experience, far from loosening our hold on the doctrines of grace, has tied us to them more and more firmly; our grounds and motives for believing are now stronger and more numerous than ever, and we have reason to expect that it will remain this way until in death we clasp the Savior in our arms.

Wherever this abiding love of truth can be discovered, we are bound to share in fellowship and to exercise our love. No narrow circle can contain our gracious sympathies; our communion of heart must be as wide as the ocean of grace. Error may be found mingled with truth received; let us go to war with the error but still love the brother for the measure of truth that we see in him. Above all let us love and spread the truth ourselves.


Truth Transforms

 By Alistair Begg

You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

Psalm 3:3-5

There is a direct correlation between thinking properly and doing wisely. It is as true in living the Christian life as it is anywhere else.

Take David in Psalm 3, for example. First, he calls to mind truths about God: “You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Then, out of that truth, he “crie[s] aloud to the LORD.” There’s a lesson in the order of those verses: we have to know and believe the truth about God before we can call out to Him and confidently expect His help.

Sometimes, as we hear God’s word being read and taught, we might think to ourselves, “I don’t need to know more stuff about God! Just tell me how to work in my office. Just tell me how to be a good wife. Just tell me how to get through my schooling.” But the reality is that you must know truth about God first. Then, and only then, what you know about God will empower you to press on, no matter your circumstances. It is truth that transforms us.

Truth also offers us rest. We know from the inscription of Psalm 3 (“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son”) and from verse 1 (“O LORD, how many are my foes!”) that David was writing at a time when he faced great trouble. His son had rebelled against him and was threatening to take the kingdom from him. Yet, in this moment when all seemed lost and the temptation to despair must have been strong, David was able to say, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.” Sleep in itself is a gift—God “gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2, emphasis added). But to sleep when you are faced with an insurrection led by a member of your own family—that is a phenomenal testament to God’s comforting grace.

David probably felt like doing a million things in an attempt to remedy his trouble. Nevertheless, he found rest because he knew God would watch over him. He knew the truth that ultimately, regardless of how dire his circumstances seemed, “salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8). Likewise, whatever your circumstances, the very same truth that transformed David and gave him rest is yours today. Will you believe it? For it is in knowing that the Lord saves and sustains you that you will find peace in the midst of life’s storms, and that you will find yourself able to rest even on the hardest of days. We can sleep because He does not.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

A Solid Conviction

 By Alistair Begg

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

The way we respond to life’s circumstances reveals a lot about us. Some look at life and think, “I’m stuck in a dead-end job. I eat the same lunch almost every day. My relationships usually bring me down more than they build me up. And I’m supposed to believe this is good—that this is the gift of God? I don’t see it.”

Yet if we are in Christ, then we are assured that God’s perfect plan is unfolding exactly as He intends. And we are taught that we exist for a purpose far greater than “just” driving a bus, being a teacher, or being a parent. An occupation is never meant just to pay the bills. A hobby is never meant just to entertain or pass the time. The content we consume with our eyes and ears is never meant just to distract our minds from life’s stresses. Everything we do is an opportunity to honor God, to become more like His Son, and to point others to Him. It is when we lose sight of this that even the most satisfying moments of life will eventually leave us feeling empty, and the worst times in life will cause us to question His presence or goodness.

When we look at life with a Romans 8:28-shaped perspective, everything changes. Sure, many of our circumstances stay the same. We face many of the challenges that we’ve always had—but we face them with a new heart and with the great hope of eternal life. God may see fit to leave you in the same situation you’ve been in for years, but He will never leave you alone in it. He has promised a Helper (John 14:16-17), and He has no abandoned projects. He has no forsaken children. You live within the framework of His unfailing providential care.

When God’s word reminds you that “for those who love God all things work together for good,” it points you away from your own view of things, away from the world’s view of things, and toward God’s unseen hand stitching together all the events of your life—including those you would never have chosen—to work for good. And what is that good? “To be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). In everything, God is shaping you to be more like Jesus, ready for the day when you have the joy of seeing Jesus.

Remember, then, that all of your circumstances, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, are instruments of divine mercy that God is using to accomplish His eternal purpose. What a comfort to trust Him every day! What a motivation to serve Him today!