January 31, 2016
An inheritance is something of value that is promised to members of a family. Writing to the Ephesians, Paul explained that in Christ, both Jews and gentiles have obtained an inheritance of eternal life in God’s family, fulfilling the Lord’s plan for unity. Alistair Begg helps us understand how being in Christ affects a believer’s daily life as the Holy Spirit leads and strengthens us to live not for ourselves but for the glory of God.
Sermon Transcript: Print
And you won’t be surprised when I invite you to turn to Ephesians chapter 1, and we’ll read once again from the first verse through to the end of verse 14.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
“To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Well, let’s bow and pray together. Let us all pray:
Well, Father, as we turn back to our Bibles, we affirm what we’ve been singing, that we need you. We acknowledge that without the enabling of the Holy Spirit, words are just words, and so we need you to come and help us both to speak, to hear, to understand, to believe, to live in the light of your truth. And it is our expectation that, having assembled us in this way, that you will fulfill your purposes in us and through us. That’s what gives us hope, and that’s what enables us to keep doing what we do, in the awareness that you are the one who, as your Word is sown, brings life out of darkness and death. So accomplish your purposes, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Well, I invite you to turn again to Ephesians 1, to what we’ve been referring to, in a borrowed phrase, as “a great symphony of salvation”—this long sentence that begins, in Greek, at the beginning of verse 3 and goes all the way through to the end of verse 14 without any punctuation at all. And the English translators have done their best to punctuate it in a way that at least makes it readable.
One of the things that we want to make sure we’re understanding is that in this story, Paul is beginning with God. The starting point is God—verse 3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, he doesn’t start with us and proceed to God; he starts with God and then comes towards the readers. It’s important, because, as we have said on a couple of occasions before, any notion of religion in our day, particularly in our culture, is always cast in terms of man’s endeavor to somehow or another engage with divinity—somehow to meet God, to find God, to look for him. And doubtless, there are elements of truth in that, insofar as people are wondering and wandering.
But the story of the Bible, actually, is the reverse of that. The story of the Bible is the story of a God who takes the initiative in seeking out men and women. And that is why it is important, too, that we recognize that we’re talking here about “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We’re not talking here about a cosmic principle. We’re not talking about some kind of pantheistic, New Age notion of spirituality whereby God is somehow interwoven in creation; we are part of creation; therefore, ipso facto, we are part of God; therefore, perhaps if we look inside of ourselves, we might meet God. No. The Bible operates very, very differently. God is presented in the Bible as quite distinct from everything in creation. He is outside of and distinct from. There was no creation before the beginning: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” So when Paul says, “We’re starting here with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he is reminding us that God is the sustainer, the creator, the controller of all things. And, for Paul, this was a fixed point, and understandably, because it is the revelation of God himself.
When Paul addresses the intelligentsia—or those who at least thought of themselves as such—in Athens, and he has opportunity to establish his presentation as he designs, he says, “I know you’re religious,” and then he launches straight in, and he says, “the God who made the world and everything in it.” That’s where he starts: with this declaration of God.
And here in this great chapter, he is describing the fact that it is this God who, in an amazing way, by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone, has chosen and adopted and redeemed and lavished his grace upon those who have come to him. And with all that said, he still isn’t finished. And that, of course, is what he comes to in verse 11; there is still “an inheritance” that awaits us. We’ve “obtained” it in one sense, but if you look down to verse 14, you will see that there is also a sense in which we have yet to “acquire” it.
Now, how is this? Well, he tells us at the end of verse 10 that God is operating according to a plan that he has set forth—“a plan for the fullness of time”—that he has “set forth in Christ.” That little phrase “fullness of time” Paul uses elsewhere; in Galatians he says that it was in “the fullness of time” that “God sent forth his Son,” and now he says he has “a plan for the fullness of time.” So, if you like, “the fullness of time” was begun with the incarnation, and “the fullness of time” will reach its conclusion with the return of Jesus. Therefore, we live within this time frame. And his plan for this time is “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
Well, it’s quite a thought, isn’t it? The thought of unity. The thought of the uniting of families that don’t talk to each other. The thought of uniting husbands and wives that are at enmity with one another. The thought of putting sports teams together in a way where they actually are kind to each other and humble in their dealings with one another. The thought of unity that exists amongst the nations of the world. It’s quite a thought, isn’t it? It’s almost like a forlorn dream. It’s like a notion that, it seems to be absolutely unattainable.
Because, think about it this morning: the fact that I mention husbands, wives, families, sports teams, office departments, or nations—there’s not one of us who’s prepared to say that we live in such a sphere of tranquility and unanimity that nothing ever goes wrong or no one ever has their nose out of joint and everybody’s just having a wonderful time. You go into your office in the morning and all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya,” and then it’s just a wonderful day from there, isn’t it? No, you’ve had about forty-three emails before you even got in the place. Two of them have annoyed you, the other one wants to make you quit, and so you just get on with your day from there. And if you happen to tune in on the way to listen to a little bit of news about the world, there’ll be another reason for you to think, “Well, I don’t think anything will ever be fixed at all.” Well, here’s the promise: he has a plan set forth in the fullness of time, in Jesus, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on [the] earth.”
Well, it’s a very laudable and an understandable agenda, isn’t it? To bring the nations of the world together. Yeah, the folk songs of the ’60s and early ’70s had a great sense of that: “This land is your land, this land is my land.” The fact of the matter is that somehow or another, yeah, we gotta share this thing. This is ours. But we can’t share it, because we’re selfish. And some people want it all, and some people want the rest, and so it goes on.
This morning, when I clicked on the BBC News, as a group of Syrian diplomats were assembling in Geneva for tentative peace talks concerning the nation, there were two suicide bombers and a car bomb at a Shia shrine south of Damascus in Syria. Forty-five people were instantaneously killed, and many more are seriously wounded. Well, this is at the very heart of everything that’s going on, isn’t it? And the Shia shrine, it was there, it’s where one of Muhammad’s granddaughters is buried—a sacred place for Islam, for the Shia Muslims, and so on. And as those questions were presented in the debate the other evening to potential presidential candidates, no matter how good an attempt they might make at it, if you have any sense at all, you know: there is not one of those guys can fix this. And all of them put together can’t fix it.
Well, you say, “Well, this is a horrible experience. It’s a relatively nice Sunday morning. We’ve come in here, and you’re explaining all these dreadful things.” No, no, that’s not the story. The story is that God has a plan for the fullness of time in Christ to fix this stuff. And what you have in verses 11–14 is Paul giving a hint of what he’s going to come back to about the way in which both Jew and gentile are united in the economy of God as a result of the work of the Son of God. I’m gonna show that to you in just a moment. The promise that has been given to the Jew is being fulfilled in the person of Jesus, and his redemptive power is going to unite these people. That’s why the end of the story in Revelation 7 is of a company that no one can number from every tribe and nation and language and people and tongue. And we find ourselves saying with the hymnwriter, “I cannot tell how he will win the nations, how he will [achieve] his earthly heritage.” That’s just straightforward. That’s just obvious, isn’t it? All you need is a newspaper or the internet and say, “I cannot tell how he will do this.” But the promise is that he will do it.
Now, you will notice that there is this little hint here in verses 11–14. And as I say, it will be developed as we go into chapter 2 and then into chapter 3. But if you notice three pronouns, I think you’ll be helped. First of all, in verse 11, “In him we…” That is the first pronoun: “In him we…” Then in verse 13, “In him you…” And then in verse 14, “who is the guarantee of our…” All right? We, you, our.
Now, what’s the significance of this? Well, I take it that what Paul is referencing here in 11–12 is the description of the believing Jew, of the Jewish person who has come to trust in Christ as their Messiah and as their Savior. You remember when Paul wrote to the church at Rome, he says to them that the gospel is “to the Jew first.” It’s to the Jew first. Now, I wonder how much time we spend praying for our Jewish friends and neighbors, and our work colleagues, the people who are performing surgery on us at University Hospital, or are doing different things. The gospel is for the Jew first, and then on from there.
It’s quite remarkable, isn’t it? When we looked at this the other Sunday evening, we said, “How is it that God chose the Jew? Why did he choose Israel? Why did he choose Abraham?” And the answer in Deuteronomy 7 is that he chose them not because they were significant, not because they were large, he says, “but you were smaller than any other group of the people, but I chose you because I loved you.” And if you ask, “Why did he love them?” the answer is, “Because he loved them.” How far is this getting you? All right?
Now, think about your own faith. And you’re a believer this morning: unless you’ve got a really, really fat head—which I can identify with—unless you do, you find yourself saying, as you lie in your bed, “Why did you choose me?”
Answer: “Because I loved you!”
“Why did you love me?”
“Because I loved you!”
In other words, we bow down before the imponderable nature of God’s amazing grace. And that’s what he’s driving home here. He’s saying to these people, “Isn’t this an amazing thing!” All that God had planned for his people is now theirs. It is “in Christ” that “we have obtained an inheritance.” Not separately from Christ, but in Christ. That’s why that is such an important phrase for Paul. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” It is in him that we have this inheritance, not in isolation from him. It is in him that we have been adopted into his family. It is in him that we have been united with Jesus—Jesus, who is the heir of all things. So, if he is the heir of all things and I am in him, then guess what: I have an heirloom that’s coming my way as well, in Jesus. In fact, when he writes to the church at Corinth, he says of Jesus that “all things are [ours]” in him—that’s 1 Corinthians 3:21 and following, if you’re looking for it. All things are ours in him.
The hymnwriter says, “Thou, O Christ, art all I want, [and] more than all in Thee I find.” You see, when we begin to fasten on the fact of all that is ours in Jesus—the wonder of it—then it changes the way in which we’re able to look at everything else that is ours or the things that we wish were ours.
Now, you will notice that this has happened not haphazardly, it has not emerged contingently, but rather purposefully: “having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” What is going on?
This is what’s going on. We were reading Habakkuk the other morning at our team meeting for prayer, just briefly reading from it. And you might want to read that later on today; it’s very brief. And Habakkuk starts out, he says, “How long are we gonna to have to have this going on? And why do you even allow it to go on? Are you going to do something?” And then the answer comes back, “Yes, I am going to do something, and you’re not going to like what I’m going to do. You’re going to be surprised by the way in which I do it and the people that I use to do it. I’m going to raise up the enemies against you in order to do this.” And eventually, by the time Habakkuk gets to the end of it, he says, “Well, listen, if the whole thing collapses, if the fig tree doesn’t blossom, if there’s no fruit on the vine, if the whole economy hits the ground with a big, calamitous crash,” he says, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will trust in the God of my salvation.”
Now, you see, that is a dimension of belief and of faith that is not contingent upon how well it’s going for me, how well it’s going for us. You see how we get it so upside down when we start with us rather than with God. God’s plan and purpose is not to make our lives tranquil, to answer all our questions, but in order that we might be “to the praise of his glory.” He says, “so … we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
So, what are you supposed to do with your life? Well, whatever you do, do it to the praise of his glory. What are you? A banker? A carpenter? A homemaker? A nonstop studier student? Put a little sign somewhere. Just put up on the dashboard of your car: “To the praise of his glory.” To drive long distance across the nation? “Oh, here we go, another mile.” “Oh, another day.” “Oh, another patient.” “Oh, another blood test.” “Oh, another spreadsheet.” “Oh, another…”
“To the praise of his glory.” It changes everything, doesn’t it? I find it quite daunting. I’m not sure I’ve got it right.
You know, when Wesley was asked, “If Jesus Christ was going to come back within twenty-four hours, what would you do?” he said, “Well, I’d just do what I was going to do. I was supposed to go over to Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So’s for my dinner, and I’ll go over for my dinner, and then I will go to sleep around ten o’clock, and I’ll waken up, and I guess I’ll be in glory by the time I wake up. But I’ll just go on, business as usual.”
You see, what does it mean to live to the praise of his glory? It doesn’t mean to go off by yourself and climb up a tree and contemplate your navel, or start reading the book of Revelation as fast as you can for as long as you can, or sing praise choruses all by yourself, you know, in a cupboard. No! No, I’ll tell you what it means. It means making your bed. It means finishing your homework. It means completing the sale. It just means that. It’s just extraordinarily ordinary. And he says, “We who were the first to hope in Christ,” who have been redeemed in this way, have been brought into this position “to the praise of his glory.”
He goes on in verse 13 to the second “in him,” and he says, “In him”—now including the gentiles—“In him you also”—“you also”—“when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation…” You see, what Paul is reminding us of, and reminding his readers of, is the fact that the gentiles have been admitted into the spiritual property of Israel—that the wonder of God’s electing love was not unique to the Jew, but the gentiles were also included in God’s plan.
I think, often, we get this so wrong, don’t we, when we think about ourselves and go back to some of our Jewish friends and talk to them as if we’ve got an entirely new thing here that’s going. If you go in that way to your Jewish friends, you go wrongly. You must go to them and say, “You know what’s an amazing thing? The promises that God made to Abraham, fulfilled in the Messiah, we’ve been allowed to get in on. We got in on this!” He chose that we also might be included, so that the church—that is, church with a big C; with a big C—is made up of spiritual Israel—that is, Christian Jews or converted Jews—plus converted gentiles who are privileged to share in the blessings of Israel. That’s what the church is. There’s not two separate lines running forward towards the return of Jesus, the Israel line and the church line. No, it’s just one line.
That’s why when Peter writes in 1 Peter, he is able to take Old Testament language and apply it to his readers who are scattered throughout the then-known world and are a mixture of Jew and gentile. And how does he address them? He says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people [belonging to God],” or “a people for his own possession.” The Jewish person says, “No, no, no, no, wait a minute! No you’re not. No, you are absolutely not! That’s us!” Peter says, “No, it is you, but it’s not just you. Because God, in the amazing wonder of his love, has included others.” So it ought to change the way we approach Jewish friends and neighbors. Instead of a kind of smug talk-down thing about our deal, rather we should be going to them saying, “Isn’t it amazing that we got in on your deal? The fact that you don’t know you’ve got such a deal is something I’d love to talk to you about, but we’re in on your deal.”
You say, “I think you lost your mind.” No. I think you lost your Bible. Galatians 3:11: “It is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Okay? Or “The one who by faith is righteous shall live.” “But the law”—Galatians 3:12—“is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for [it’s] written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’”—here we go—“so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
Now, what he does is, he says, “And this hasn’t happened in a vacuum,” but rather, he describes the process or the pattern—I think pattern is a better word—the pattern of grace. How has this come about? Verse 13: “In him you also”—here we go—“when you heard the word of truth…” Something happened. Somebody preached to them. Somebody told them about Jesus. What is this “word of truth”? It is truth as opposed to error; it is reality as opposed to unreality. And John’s Gospel is full of truth, isn’t it?
“You heard this,” and this “word of truth” is “the gospel.” What is this gospel? Well, it is, as we said last time, not good advice about what you’re supposed to do if you’d like to try and make yourself a Christian, but rather good news about what God has done in Jesus so that you might be placed in a right relationship with him. So it’s not good advice; it’s good news. And he says, “You heard this.” “You heard this.”
It’s so straightforward that we’re in danger of missing it. God speaks, and we listen. God is a speaking God. He sends Jesus, and Jesus stands forward in time, and all of his miraculous works are to reinforce the word that he speaks: “The time has come, it’s fulfilled. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” And people say, “Well, what do you mean, ‘The kingdom of God is near’?” And Jesus takes up water and turns it into wine. He takes the sea, which is the picture of strife and chaos and disorder, and he walks on it, and so on. He’s not doing magic shows; he’s declaring in a miraculous way the truth that comes from his lips. And so he says, “You heard this.”
You see, in order to become a Christian, you need a preacher. You need somebody to speak to you. Doesn’t have to be a preacher like this kind of preacher, but you hear the word of truth. And if you’ve been thinking about how you might become a Christian, if you’re trying to do it minus the word of truth, it is not going to happen, because God has ordained that it is by this means.
When Jesus gives instruction to his disciples, he tells them, “I don’t want you to go out into the world until you receive the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of promise—and then go.” They receive the Spirit, and what’s the first thing they do? Preach! They preach. Peter stands up on the day of Pentecost, and he preaches a big long sermon. And as you follow through the Acts of the Apostles, you discover that as the Word of God grows, so the church grows; and when the Word of God doesn’t grow, the church doesn’t grow. That’s why there are lots of churches that are going through their routine, but there’s hardly any Bible in them at all. I don’t say it in any spirit of judgment; it makes me sad. But there’s no Bible. There’s no growth. Why not? Because it is “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel,” that you then “believed.” You can’t believe without the something in which to believe.
When Peter preaches on that day and he finishes his sermon, it says that “they were cut to the heart, and [they] said … ‘What shall we do?’” In other words, there was conviction. And he said, “Repent and believe the good news,” and they did, and there was conversion. And they then got together and listened to the apostles’ doctrine and to the teaching and to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. There was community. He preached. Conviction, conversion, community.
And when you think about it in relationship to church history, the same is true. You read any part of history and you realize that the period of the Dark Ages was a period where the Bible wasn’t taught. There was darkness! The darkness was actually the absence of the light of God’s Word shining into the place. There was sacrament. There was sacrament ad nauseum! But the people did not have the Bible. They never heard the Bible. And God lights a flame in the heart of Martin Luther—we’re going to celebrate five hundred years of the Reformation next year, all being well—and he lights a flame, and Luther becomes a preacher.
I say to you: I wonder, have you been listening to the Bible as it has been taught to you or read to you? You see, becoming a Christian is not some kind of funny thing. It involves the use of your brain; it involves your mind. Later on, in chapter 4, speaking about something else, Paul says to them, he says, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!” “You learned Christ!” The people come to Parkside Church, they’re waiting for an existential experience—something to hit them or jazz them or zap them, or whatever else it is. And it hasn’t happened. It’s unlikely, unless you sit on a pin or something—I don’t know what’s going to happen to you!
No, but you could learn, couldn’t you? You could apply your faculty of thinking, the mind that God has given you as an engineer or as a scientist or as someone who can understand verbs and adjectives, and you learn of Christ. You learn of who he is, of why he has come, of what he has done. “You heard the word of truth, the gospel”—and then what happened to them? They actually believed it! They believed it! Not just in terms of intellectual assent: “Well, I believe there is,” or “I believe there was.” But believing into Christ. Believing with a kind of “sitting down” kind of belief.
You see, I can believe that this is suitable for my increasingly large frame—but I have done no investigation of it at all; therefore, it will be definitely an act of faith, now in front of you to take my seat. Well, there we are, it’s worked. That’s just as well. Some of you were hoping that it wouldn’t work, and that I would just be spread-eagled all across the platform here; it would be a wonderful morning for you. You’d say, “We’ve never had a service like it.” But you see, I can believe everything about this and never sit down upon it, and you can believe everything about Jesus and never believe into him. Give up yourself into him. Trust yourself into him. Fall into him. Rely on him entirely. “You heard this message that he is the Savior, and then your hearts were humbled, and you believed in him. You believed in him.”
Paul is clear about this. In Romans, again, in what is really a classic passage for those of us who have any idea of it at all, in Romans 10, he says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?” Well, they won’t. “And how are they to believe in him of whom they[’ve] never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” See the pattern? There is the proclamation of the word of truth which is the gospel, there is the hearing of it, and then there’s the believing in it.
We used to sing, I remember, at closing of services sometimes, when I was tiny in Scotland, a song, just—and it came to mind when I was thinking of that verb call: “How can they call on him of whom they have not heard?” The idea of calling on him, like blind Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And the hymnwriter had that refrain:
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
You see, that’s the entry into an experience of the reality of Christ. Christ does not come to cater to our intellectual arrogance, but he does come to deal with our intellectual integrity. There’s a difference.
You will never believe in Christ from a position of passive objectivity. It is when the Word of God is preached and it is understood and it is believed and it comes across that you will be, as they were, thirdly and finally, “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” The work of the Father to plan this, the work of the Son to procure this, the work of the Spirit to apply it—the sealing of the Holy Spirit. He’s promised that this would be the case. It’s simply a mark of ownership, whether it is the signet ring of the king or whether it is a brand on a beast in the field to identify it as belonging to. And he says, “And when you heard this truth and you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit.” This is not some strange and esoteric postconversion experience. This is directly tied to what it means to be in Christ. In Romans and in chapter 8, Paul addresses this, and he says “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. [And] anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” “Anyone who doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” In other words, there is no spiritual life absence the indwelling power of God by the Holy Spirit.
You say, “Well what about it?”
Well, let’s go back down the line: “You heard, you believed, you were sealed.”
“Well, how will I know?”
Well, you’ll have to do Romans 8 on your own; we don’t have time. But there are two ways in which it is obvious and immediately apparent, and that is that when you are indwelled by the Spirit of God, revealing that you belong to God, you’ll be led by the Spirit of God. You’ll be led by the Spirit of God.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are you doing with your life?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are your dreams and hopes and longings?”
“I don’t know.”
The Christian says, “Well, I’m actually seriously thinking about what God has for me, what it means, now that I am in Christ, to be a mom to my children. In fact, I’ve been surprised at the thoughts that I’ve had and the way the Bible has started to impinge upon me in a way that I had never known before.” What is happening there? It is the Spirit of God leading—leading you.
Further down he says, “And you didn’t receive a spirit of slavery so that you would fall into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption as sons, so that you would cry, ‘Abba Father.’” So when the Spirit of God seals the life of a child of God, there is the leading of God’s Spirit, and there is also the praying. There is the communing, if you like. God is no longer the God “who didn’t care,” who “lived away [up] there, as we used to sing in the ’60s, but now he’s a Father to me. And again, my experience of “Abba, Father”—my “Abba, Fathers” are few and far between. And actually, they’re not in moments of great bursts of enthusiasm and joy. My “Abbas” have been when, like, there’s no way out of this box, when there is no answer to this prayer, when it appears as though I have deviated so badly from course that there is no possibility of getting back on track. And it is then, you see, that it is “Abba.” It’s “Abba.” “Fatherlike he tends and spares us; well our feeble frame he knows.”
He leads us. Do I slip? Yes. Do I stumble? Yes. Do I deviate? Yes. But the work which his grace begins, he completes. And it’s often painful, but it’s always purposeful. Don’t miss it.
And you will notice—and with this we will stop—that the Holy Spirit is actually “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it”—that there’s always more to come. Peter says we have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” and it’s “kept in heaven for you.” Well, there’s a portfolio, isn’t it? I mean, you ride the stock market through the month of January—we’re almost finished now: Wheee! Boom! Boom! Wheee! Boom! You know. Your Great-Aunt Mabel promised you a wonderful painting, but before she could get it to you, some child stood on the glass and smashed it and tore it up, and it’s just—it’s worthless. There’s no chance of it yielding you any cash at all. It’s defiled. It’s perished. It’s faded. Not this. Not this.
I don’t know what that’ll be like; I can’t imagine. But I remember when I came here in the early days—and I’ve told you this before—I’d never heard the phrase will call. I didn’t know if it was one word or two words or whatever it really was. I didn’t even know what it was. I had no idea what somebody told me when they said, “If you go to will call.” I said it to myself, I said, “Will call? Wonder what that means. Will call.” So I just said it, you know; I went in the place, and I said, “I’m supposed to go to will call.” Even now when I say it, it doesn’t sound right. But anyway, so you go to will call. “What do you do?” “You go to will call; you say ‘Alistair Begg.’” And unless the person’s been spoofing you, what they promised you is there.
You’re gonna stand up on that day. You go to will call, give them your name. The inheritance is being kept for you. Why? Because you’re so good? No, because Jesus is so good. Why? Because you have perfectly obeyed? No, because Jesus perfectly obeyed. Why? Because you’ve made atonement for your sins? No, ’cause he made atonement for your sins. You see, this is “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation,” which, as you believed, you “were sealed with the … Holy Spirit.” And as a result of this, it is in the purposes of God, so that everybody will know how great God is.
Starts with God, and it ends with God. And he doesn’t share it with anybody. Doesn’t share it with good preachers, doesn’t share it with good congregations. One of the great risks for us as a congregation is we talk about ourselves too much. It’s always a harrowing thing, but it’s a helpful thing, when somebody said to me just yesterday, “And so what do you do?”
I said, “Well, I’m part of a pastoral team.”
“Oh, really? What church is that?”
“That’s Parkside Church.”
Blank stare. “Never heard of it.”
Oh, okay. Now I feel a little offended. I want to explain, “Oh, have you heard of the radio?”
“Oh! Yeah, it’s… it’s …”
“Have you ever heard of Jesus?” That’s really the question, isn’t it? You see, you get to this stage, and I’m scared to go back in this auditorium. It’s so nice through there. But who really cares? I mean, this is okay as well, isn’t it? It’s fine. You say, “Don’t say that, we just spent a fortune through there!” But the fact of the matter is, we can get really good about telling people about Parkside Church and not telling people about Jesus.
It’s “to the praise of his glory” that he’s done this, so that we might make much of him. Well, we must stop now.
Father, thank you for the Bible. Thank you that the more we study it, the more we realize the wonder of it, and how much we need to come back again and again and learn Christ. Help us, Lord, especially those who are wondering, who are sitting out here, and they’re trying to process all of this stuff. Some of it is like double Dutch to them. And I pray, Lord, that you will enable them to continue to seek and to knock and to find. For we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
 Genesis 1:1 (ESV).
 Acts 17:22 (paraphrased).
 Acts 17:24 (ESV).
 Galatians 4:4 (ESV).
 Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land” (1940).
 See Revelation 7:9.
 W. Y. Fullerton, “I Cannot Tell” (1929).
 Romans 1:16 (ESV).
 Deuteronomy 7:7–8 (paraphrased).
 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV, emphasis added).
 Charles Wesley, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” (1740).
 Habakkuk 1:2–6 (paraphrased).
 Habakkuk 3:17–18 (paraphrased).
 John Wesley, The Journals of John Wesley, vol. 3 (London: Wesley Conference Office, 1903), 123. Paraphrased.
 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV).
 Galatians 3:11 (ESV, alternative reading).
 Galatians 3:12–14 (ESV).
 Mark 1:15 (paraphrased).
 See John 2:1–11.
 See Matthew 14:22–26.
 See Acts 1:4.
 See Acts 2.
 Acts 2:37 (ESV).
 Acts 2:38–39 (paraphrased).
 See Acts 2:42.
 Ephesians 4:20 (ESV).
 Romans 10:14 (ESV).
 Luke 18:38 (ESV). See also Mark 10:47.
 Fanny Crosby, “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” (1868).
 Romans 8:9 (ESV).
 Romans 8:15 (paraphrased).
 Ralph Carmichael, “He’s Everything to Me” (1964).
 Henry Francis Lyte, “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” (1834).
 See Philippians 1:6.
 1 Peter 1:4 (ESV).
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.