Alistair Begg – Jeremiah 9 – Westmont College, Oct. 20, 2014

Alistair Begg at Westmont Chapel, preaching on the Three Things You Dare Not Trust: Wisdom, Strength, and Money.

TEXT – Jeremiah 8:18  –  9:1-5; 23-24

18 My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
    my heart is sick within me.
19 Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
    from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
    Is her King not in her?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
    and with their foreign idols?”
20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
    and we are not saved.”
21 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
    I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me.

22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
    Is there no physician there?
Why then has the health of the daughter of my people
    not been restored?

Chapter 9 – Oh that my head were waters,
    and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
    for the slain of the daughter of my people!
 Oh that I had in the desert
    a travelers’ lodging place,
that I might leave my people
    and go away from them!
For they are all adulterers,
    a company of treacherous men.
They bend their tongue like a bow;
    falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land;
for they proceed from evil to evil,
    and they do not know me, declares the Lord.

Let everyone beware of his neighbor,
    and put no trust in any brother,
for every brother is a deceiver,
    and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
Everyone deceives his neighbor,
    and no one speaks the truth;
they have taught their tongue to speak lies;

When you read these words form Jeremiah, it’s no surprise that he’s referred to as the wailing prophet. It’s almost as if he has been reading our contemporary newspapers. It’s one of the striking things about the Bible. that here we are, some 600 years before the incarnation, before the appearing of Jesus and the circumstances that are being confronted by the prophet of God are not dissimilar to the environment in which we find ourselves. And that’s why he is saying, „I wish I could get out of here. I wish I had a place in the desert.” It’s not an unusual notion, except when you’re living in a beautiful place like this, why would you ever want to go into the desert? But, anyway, the whole idea was isolation- „if I could get away from these people”. He says we live in an adulterous world, we live in a world full of lies, we live in a world of serial sins. They precede from evil to evil. We live in an environment where there is a loss of mutual trust. And he says that God is actually saying through the prophet, „You live in the middle of deception.” You find it so bad that you will discover that God says we actually need more mourners in this environment: ‘Death has climbed into our windows, corpses are lying in the open field.’And in the extremity of those circumstances, the response of humanity, in its proud affirmations, then, and I would suggest to you[also] now, is essentially „Leave it to us, we can fix it. We know how to get out of this predicament. We are only in need of a little more health, a little more money, a little more education.” And confronted by the great questions of life, they are prepared then to trust in themselves and in their own judgment. Humanity is proud by nature and we’re tempted to believe these things.

And so, God in His kindness, sends to His people a prophet. A prophet who will speak to them, sympathizing with their suffering, and yet at the same time providing for them a solution for their sins.  And because he’s alert to the circumstances of their environment, He addresses their three foundational notions. He puts His finger on the pulse of the society. The great questions of life being addressed:

  1. How do I live with the uncertainties of my life?
  2. How am I going to face my death?

and men and women prepared to gut it out on their own. And so, He says, „Let me tell you three area that you dare not trust:

  1. Wisdom – Now, you say: you don’t wanna come to a wonderful college like this and devalue wisdom. Well, Jeremiah is not devaluing wisdom. He is simply pointing out that wisdom or intellectualism, or our capacity to think cannot be an end in itself. It cannot take the place of God, Himself. And if you think about it, when you consider the place of intelligence, which is valued at an institution like this, and when you move around this campus, you would have to be honest enough, I think, to say that it is not necessarily even on its best day marked by tranquility and by peculiar sense of peace, shalom, but an actual fight. When you lie on your bed in your room, you’re faced by your own anxietyYou are faced with a fight that it is easy to become a slanderer. That it is easy to tell a lie, often to cover our butts, than it is to tell the truth and face the consequences. And so, it goes on.. And if it was simply the fact that depending on your grade point average or your SAT scores, the higher up on the grading curve you would find yourself, then the more beautiful and wonderful it would appear to be. And yet, it was Einstein who said, „I’ve discovered that the people who know the most, are themselves the most gloomy.” I’ve always congratulated myself for the fact that I’m not smart enough  to really deal with many of these problems. I feel sorry for clever people, because then  you can think thoughts that I have never ever considered. And they trouble you and they keep you awake. And some of the worst graffiti you can ever find is found in the best echelons of american society, whether it’s at the Naval Academy or at West Point or in the Ivy League Colleges, because the graffiti artists are really smart as well. So they don’t just write dumb stuff on the lavatory walls, they write really clever stuff, expressing their angst, perhaps in one way or another wisdom holds the key. Jeremiah  says, God says, „You better not try and do it on the basis of wisdom.”
  2. Strength – Nor should you try and do it on the basis of strength. The mighty man, or the mighty woman for that matter, because ladies play rugby now. We are all tempted to rely on our might, whatever it might be. So the strength that is found, essentially, in not only our brains, but also in our bodies. Our bodies, which testify to us every morning that the further you go down the road, they testify to you that you are fading away.
  3. Riches – Don’t boast in your brains, don’t boast in your bodies, and don’t boast in your riches either. There’s two problems with wealth. Riches may actually desert us while we’re living, and we will desert our riches when we die. There is no doubt about this. Money is regarded as the universal passport to everywhere, except to happiness. And the prophet speaks about this and he challenges the people of his day. He says, „Don’t try and make sense of your life. Don’t try and secure significance ultimately by means of these things. Because neither an agile mind or a healthy body or a significant portfolio  can answer your deepest questions.

Here is this prophetic word from 600 years before Christ speaks to the issues of our day, because it addresses the deepest longings of our hearts. I was born in the ’50’s, I grew up in the ’60’s. If you’ve read the history of the ’60’s, you will know that we were told in the ’60’s that we were about to outgrow God completely. Like, God was pretty well finished and He would not be around much longer, so we could all relax. There were various things we were going to take over, and so we grew in the ’60’s, whole jumbo dreams and hopes and aspirations and contradictions. We found ourselves failing and resolving again, being disappointed with ourselves and ashamed of ourselves and resolving that we would be different people tomorrow. But nevertheless, we kept repeating the pattern. And Jeremiah says, „I can tell you why that is: Because you are worshipping at the wrong shrine.”

Just this past weekend, somebody introduced me, not to David Foster Wallace, but to the commencement speech that David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005. It gave rise to his book ‘What is water‘. In that commencement speech, at the beginning of it, he testifies  and he says,

everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth.”

Now, he’s not about to give moralistic platitudes, he’s not about to give a theological analysis. He’s just being gut wrenching honest, the same kind of brilliant gut wrenching honesty  which tragically led to his own demise at the age of 46, when as you know, he hanged himself. Tragically, because he was clever enough to cut through the garbage of contemporary 20th century fascination  with ourselves, with our ability to amass money, with our ability to look great, with our ability to triumph over the minds of others by our fascination with ourselves. And it was his very honesty in that speech that gave rise to all that flow from it.

Now, says the prophet, „This is what you need to be thinking about. If you want something or someone to boast about, then boast in this, that you understand and that you know Me.” You wanna go out and talk to somebody about something that is mind blowing, tell them that you know the Creator God. Tell them that you have encountered him in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Tell them that He has invaded your life and that He’s turned you inside out and has made you a new person. You want something to boast about? He says, „Boast about this.” And that when you speak of this God, you can tell people that Yahweh is the one who practices steadfast love-hesed,  the covenant love of God, a pursuing love of God, a wooing love of God, a transforming love. And this God is committed to that love, and to justice, and to righteousness.

Because this God is just, He didn’t overlook sin. Because He is love, He provides a substitute to die in our place.

I was fascinated by the end of David Foster Wallace’s speech- He’s moving towards a close now, and he says,

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious.

Well, that’s where, of course, a Christian view would have to differ from him. He says, „I’m gonna be honest enough to let you know they’re hardwired into my psyche and that I’m at the center of the universe. That’s what Luther said. Luther said that we’re curved in upon ourselves, that we are by nature stuck on ourselves. And our humanity at this point , we could ask people if they had a major problem. If they were willing to admit to a major problem, we would ask what is the source of their problem. Almost without exception, they would have reasoned  to externalize the source of their problem: because of this or because of that, or because of that. When we would then ask them: well, how are you planning to solve the problem? Then, they would say that the problem that was outside of them would be answered by their ability to look inside of them and they were fairly convinced that they could find the God within themselves, if they only searched hard. And what would we say? We would say, ‘Have you ever considered  that it might be the very antithesis of that? That the problem is on the inside of ourselves and that the answer is outside of ourselves. Outside the walls of Jerusalem, where a Galilean died bearing our sins  of all my selfish preoccupation with my mind and my body, and my resources. He granted to me a forgiveness that I don’t deserve, because He bears the punishment that I so clearly do deserve.

VIDEO by WestmontTV

Reclame

Alistair Begg – Esther (1) God is providentially at work in the ordinary things – October 2, 4, 2013

Alistair Begg:

We read this book (Esther), and we’re forced to consider the possibility that nothing happens, except by God, and according to God’s will. Allow that to settle in your mind, as you consider the things of this morning, the newspaper, and the internet. Nothing happens except through Him, and by His will… Think about it in relationship to your personal life. Think about it in relationship to sadnesses and disappointments. To joys and to encouragements.

So… you come to certain places in the book, where you would expect God’s name to be present, you would expect God’s name to be represented, but, He’s not there. The reason He’s not there is that by that narrative style. that genre, that the author in this particular book is teaching us lessons about the way which God is at work when His name is not forefront, and when He is apparently unseen. Because the dramas of other parts of the Old Testament, vis a vis, the crossing of the Red Sea, and all of these other things are dramatic. And yet, for most of us, we haven’t had a crossing of the Red Sea. And most of us have not seen a burning bush. Most of us are just going to class. Most of us are just phoning home. Most of us are just sending emails. Most of us are just trying to stay alive.

Photo credit http://en.wikipedia.org-Rembrandt-Ahasuerus, Haman and Esther

Esther 4:4

When Esther’s young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate, and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him,and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, 11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”

12 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law,and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

If there’s only one phrase in the Book of Esther that people know, it is that final sentence in verse 14 – who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? And that phrase has been in mind for friday, in particular, with homecoming and people celebrating here (Westmont College). If anyone were to walk in, off the street, they would regard it as incredibly strange to think that a group such as this, on the very forefront of things in America today, with largely all of your lives before you, would take any time at all, to pay any attention at all to events that had taken place  in Persia, 5 centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. And if we were to suggest to such individuals that these events, that took place in Persia all this time ago, and the lessons in them actually help us to love life in 21st century America.

Underlying that conviction would be what Paul says, when he writes to the church at Rome, and makes reference to Old Testament events, and he refers to them as follows. He says, „Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance, and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope”. It is through the Scriptures that we discover endurance and encouragement. And that is why we look as we do, even today, at this. King Xerxes is not a nice person. If you want to do your research, read Herodotus, or read Josephus and you will discover just how bad a character he was. The book begins with him, having a feast, enjoying his friends, and when they had been drinking together for a while, he decides that it would be a nice thing for him to bring in his wife Vashti, in order that he might parade her before his friends. He was obviously proud of his wife, the way she looked, and so on. So, he doesn’t say, „Why don’t you come in and join us, so we can have a conversation?” He essentially says, „Why don’t you come in, so that all my friends can check you out?”

So she, as any sensible wife would, said, „Not on your life”. I am not coming at all. And, as a result of deciding not to show up when she’s asked, she gets completely banished. She’s out, she’s off her throne, and she’s gone. In a fit he banishes Vashti forever.  And then, he suddenly realizes, „That wasn’t a smart thing to do”. And so, he looks to some of his friends and they say, „You just need to get another one? And, why don’t we get together and have a beauty pageant, and you can just pick the cream of the crop. That’s essentially what they do. They have a Miss Persia contest. And this girl, Esther, who is actually Jewish, but, she doesn’t tell anybody about it, she comes out tops. She is welcomed, not only into the palace, but, into the bed of the king. She has a cousin, Mordecai, who is Jewish, and older than her. She was an orphan and Mordecai adopts her, to look after her, and he had been the one who had positioned her, in order that she might present herself for this pageant. And she eventually finds herself on the inside track.

The King, meanwhile, appoints another character who is a bad act, called Haman, and Haman becomes the prime minister.He likes to walk around making sure everybody is paying attention to him, giving him the due that he deserves, or thinks he does. That’s enough for me to get your started…

What you will discover, when you read Esther is that God does not show up. At least, not ostensibly. His name is never mentioned in the entire book. The entire narrative is filled with what we might refer to as God shaped holes. So that you come to certain places in the book, where you would expect God’s name to be present, you would expect God’s name to be represented, but, He’s not there. The reason He’s not there is that by that narrative style. that genre, that the author in this particular book is teaching us lessons about the way which God is at work when His name is not forefront, and when He is apparently unseen. Because the dramas of other parts of the Old Testament, vis a vis, the crossing of the Red Sea, and all of these other things are dramatic. And yet, for most of us, we haven’t had a crossing of the Red Sea. And most of us have not seen a burning bush. Most of us are just going to class. Most of us are just phoning home. Most of us are just sending emails. Most of us are just trying to stay alive.

And in that hum drum activity of our lives, in those God shaped vacuums, if you like, we are forced to do what the Book of Esther asks us to do. And that is, to consider what’s going on in what’s going on. So when you read it, you ask: What’s going on? We read this book, and we’re forced to consider the possibility that nothing happens, except by God, and according to God’s will. Allow that to settle in your mind, as you consider the things of this morning, the newspaper, and the internet. Nothing happens except through Him, and by His will. Think about it in relationship to your personal life. Think about it in relationship to sadnesses and disappointments. To joys and to encouragements.  And, say to your self: Now, how does that fit in a contemporary perspective, in our society today?

Let me suggest to you, that when you read contemporary philosophy, contemporary observations, you realize that this kind of core conviction is challenged, not only in the things that are written, but in a way that life is lived. (16:00 there are 13 min remaining)

VIDEO by WestmontTV

God is providentially at work in the ordinary things

Part 2

John Piper – Seven great acts of love: God loves us for the glory of God – at Westmont College (Essential sermon)

Pastor John Piper at Westmont College: Why does God perform  all His acts of love for us in a way that reveals He is loving us for His glory?

Why is God so jealous to reveal His love in that way? Let me ask it another way: Why does God make much of us in a way that is designed to make much of Him ultimately.
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John Piper at Westmont College
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There are many people that feel they are not loved. John Piper walks us through the seven greatest historic acts of love from eternity to eternity and he asks us to notice the angle God puts on this as He reveals His love to us.

1) Predestination – Ephesians 1:5-6 

5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved

2) Creation – Isaiah 43:6

6I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth

3) Incarnation – Luke 2:11,13-14

11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

4) Salvation (the cross) – 2 Corinthians 5:14

4For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

5) Sanctification – Phillipians 1:9

9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,

6) Propagation – Romans 1:5

through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

7) Consummation – 2 Thessalonians 1:9

9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

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