A Surprising Punch Line
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A Surprising Punch Line

Ecclesiastes 12:9–14  (ID: 2311)

In the end, the pleasures of this life mock us because they are fleeting. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew this and concluded that our relationship with God is what brings true and eternal meaning. Alistair Begg ends a study in Ecclesiastes by showing us that the most significant decision in life is to fear God by believing in Christ. This enables us to obey His commandments so that we can become useful servants of His kingdom.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Ecclesiastes

Chasing the Wind Ecclesiastes 1:1–12:14 Series ID: 12101

Sermon Transcript: Print

We come to our final study this morning in Ecclesiastes chapter 12. Page 4-7-9. I’ll read from the ninth verse, and then we’ll pray and study together.

“Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.

“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

“Now all has been heard;
 here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
 for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
 including every hidden thing,
 whether it is good or evil.”

Father, come now, and help us to do what we need to do, and that is to pay attention to what the Spirit says to us as we study your Word together. We are entirely dependent upon you. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The conversation began with a very simple request, didn’t it? Jesus said to the woman, “Will you give me a drink?”[1] A fairly straightforward request, especially when you’re sitting by a well. Jesus had gone there and was resting while his disciples went off to get food. The woman was clearly caught off guard. For a woman to be addressed by a man was the first thing; but secondly, she being a Samaritan, to be addressed by a Jew was quite remarkable in itself. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that for her to be addressed by anyone was really quite incredible. It would appear that she came with her water pots in the middle of the day to avoid people, because, as a result of her lifestyle, she was persona non grata in the Sychar area.

And what was this stranger suggesting to her? Where was he going to get this living water?[2] she asked. And if he got it, how could she get ahold of some of it?[3] And as the conversation ensues, Jesus penetrates her defense mechanisms; peels back, if you like, the layers of her life that she has used as a shield; and introduces her to the truth not only about himself but also the truth about herself. That’s what the Bible does, incidentally. It introduces us to the truth about who God is, and it also introduces us to the truth about who and what we are.

Some of us are prepared to find out who God is, but we don’t want to face up to who we are. Until we face up to who we are, the discovery of who God is as Savior is not going to appeal to us particularly. Because if we cherish illusions of who and what we are, we may assume that we’re not in need of anyone to come and help us. But this lady in this conversation discovers that she’d been “lookin[g] for love in all the wrong places.”[4]

You can imagine her, anachronistically, making her journey to the well, with the refrain running through her head, “I can’t get no satisfaction, and I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried.”[5] Perhaps her live-in lover was still in bed when she’d got the water pots and headed out. She’d been down a number of the dead-end streets of Ecclesiastes. She would have been able to stand at the end of these streets and tell the readers, “That’s true. That chapter’s true.” Her search for security, her longing for satisfaction, her hope for permanent pleasure had not been met.

How could it be met? In the end, you see, all the pleasures of life mock us. ’Cause they’re always going away from us—whatever the pleasure is! The safe and happy arrival of children signal the day when those children will depart. The completion of a career move signals the opportunity for advancement and signals the dawning of our retirement. The enjoyment of athletic ability, heralding the prospect of the future but also beckoning us to the demise of it all. Every pleasure in life ultimately mocks us, unless we have found our need of eternal life met in the Lord Jesus and satisfied by God—unless the thirst of our lives has been quenched by this same living water which Christ alone provides.

And what this lady discovered in terms of the realm of human relationships has been made clear all the way through these chapters of Ecclesiastes: lasting pleasure cannot be found in passing fads and fancies. And many of you know that, don’t you? You’ve been facing up to it recently. ’Cause you’ve been down a number of those roads, and you thought that down at the end there was the proverbial pot of gold, down at the end of the rainbow. You got down there, and you couldn’t put your hands on it at all. Some of you have been trying to make sense of the tragedy of life by your own philosophical meanderings. Some of you have concluded that life is not actually tragic; it’s just horribly trivial and futile. And you’ve been trying to find a way to balance all these events, and somewhere along the line, you’ve included church, you’ve included religion, you’ve even included visits to Parkside Church.

Well, before this study ends, I want to issue an invitation to those of you who are still trying to make sense of life on your own. I want to invite you, as the writer invites us, in what is essentially his punch line in verse 13—I want to invite you to “fear God.” I want to invite you to “fear God” and to “keep his commandments.” I simply want to remind you, as I’ve been reminding myself in the days of this week, that here, in this pithy, conclusive statement, there is a word to those who are wise.

Every pleasure in life ultimately mocks us, unless we have found our need of eternal life met in the Lord Jesus and satisfied by God—unless the thirst of our lives has been quenched by the living water which Christ alone provides.

But before we come to the punch line, we need to acknowledge the work that has been done by the Teacher that is described in verse 9 and following: “Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge.” Who’s saying this? What voice speaks this? Well, presumably, the writer is writing in the third person. He doesn’t want to say, “And by the way, I did a remarkably good job, I’m a phenomenally wise person, and my teaching has been superb.” So instead, he says “the Teacher,” referring, in deferential terms, in the third person.

When I thought about that, then I thought, you know, of a teaching situation where at the end of a class, just before graduation, one of the students in the class stands up and says, “I want to say a word of thanks to you, the teacher, on behalf of the rest of the students.” And essentially, what you have in verses 9 and 10 is a thank-you to the Teacher. So the class president stands up, and he gives a vote of thanks.

“I want to thank you,” he says, “Teacher, first of all, for being so wise, communicative, thoughtful, and organized. As you know, we’ve been in a number of classes, and they’re not all as good as this one. Thank you for your wisdom, for your communication skills, for your organization, and for your thoroughness. We want to thank you, too, for the care that you’ve taken in your written notes that you provided for the class. It’s clear to each of us that you weren’t simply throwing material at us in a kind of slapdash, slipshod fashion. We want to thank you for taking time to ponder”—notice verse 9, where I’m getting all this from—“to search out, and to arrange the material. When it comes to writing class notes, Teacher, you are the patron saint of writers. Thank you. And thank you, too, Teacher, for telling us the truth. Thank you that your words weren’t just good words, but they were true words. Thank you for combining felicity with fearlessness. Thank you for not sacrificing accuracy and truth on the altar of approbation. Thank you for not teaching us in such a way that we simply went out saying, ‘Oh, that was very interesting,’ but we went out saying, ‘What are we going to do about how truthful that was, how demanding that is, how staggering it is in its implications?’ We want to thank you for all of that, Teacher.”

Well then, in verse [11], the Teacher responds—wipes a tear from the corner of his eye, because most of the time, teachers have their classes go away, and no one says anything. He says, “You’re very, very kind to speak as you’ve done. It’s been my privilege to have you in the class. I’m glad you’ve understood that wise words such as those that I’ve given to you are actually like goads. They’re like sharp, pointed sticks. They’re like the things that shepherds use or farmers use when they move their cattle around to make sure that they’re going where they need to go.” He says, “I’m glad that you’ve realized that the words that I have spoken to you have been jogging you into action, and I’m delighted to see the way you’ve moved. I’m also pleased to realize that you recognize that they have stabilized your lives like firmly embedded nails—that what I’ve been privileged to do is hammer the truth home to your hearts. And it’s been a great encouragement to me to realize the way in which the nails have taken hold in your lives.”

“But just in case any of you get any misapprehensions concerning me,” says the Teacher, “I want you to know that I owe all of this to someone else. Because all of this wisdom that I’ve been able to convey to you has actually been given to me, and I’ve just passed it on to you. And I want you to know that the person who gave it to me is just simply one Shepherd—namely, the Lord himself—that he is the source of all this wisdom.”

In fact, the Teacher would have been perfectly happy with the statement made by Isaiah when, in 50:4, he says,

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,
 to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
 wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

What a great statement! The people said, “Isaiah, you’re a great speaker! Your prophecies are fantastic!” Isaiah says, “Here’s the deal: the Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue. That’s why I know the word that sustains the weary. And he wakens me every morning, and I listen to him. And hearing from him, I speak to you.” Incidentally, that is the pattern of biblical exposition. That is the responsibility of pastoral teaching. Irrespective of the level of gift, we listen to him, and we speak to you.

And he says, back in Ecclesiastes 12, “That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Because these words have been given to me by the Shepherd.” He began chapter 12, remember, by saying, “Remember your Creator.” “You mustn’t forget your Creator.” Now he says, “Make sure that you listen to your Shepherd. For he is not simply a God who is far away; he’s a God who’s nearby. He’s a God who knows, a God who can be known, a God who speaks in an understandable fashion—a God who speaks with authority and a God who speaks with finality.”

The Bible’s not a big jigsaw, you know. Don’t ever buy one of these books at the mall about numbers and things, and multiplying the numbers and lining them up and turning them around like a crossword puzzle. The only reason you should buy one of those books is to prevent somebody else from buying one. They’re absolute nonsense from start to finish. The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things. You don’t have to be an academic. You don’t have to go to theology school. You just need to understand, in this context, the English language, a little bit of grammar, and you will be able to find the clear message of the Bible sitting on the very top of the pages. It is obvious, and it is clear. And the stuff that is not so clear is not to be the preoccupation of our minds.

And so he says, “Since the Shepherd has spoken with such authority and with such finality…” And incidentally, is there not here just some indication of the doctrine of inspiration? That men moved by God, as Peter says, were ushered along by the Holy Spirit?[6] That the writer wrote within the context of his day—the historical context, the circumstantial context—within the framework of the genre of his capability, and yet you have this amazing, inseparable continuum that involves the moving of the power of the Spirit of God and the actual reality and life of the writer of the book? It is a great and wonderful truth. I don’t want to camp on it. But it is important. We’re not just reading a book which you could say, “Well, if this was written all these centuries before Christ, so many centuries have elapsed since then. Everybody knows so much more now. Therefore, what we know now must replace what we knew then.” No! Because what is written in here is “the words of the wise … given by one Shepherd”—timeless in its impact, undeniable in its contacts, powerful in its life-changing capacity.

Hence the warning in verse 12 and the little observation that follows it. He says, “I want to warn you, incidentally, as you go off out of my class now, I just want to warn you about anything in addition to these wise words that have come from the Shepherd.” There are lots of books. You have books from about 3500 BC, first of all written on clay, then onto papyrus, then onto leather, and so on. So libraries were on the go. He says, “You can go out, and you’ll find a lot of books.” I’m aware of the fact that you go out from here and find a lot of books. There are many books through there. I think most of them are safe. I hope they all are. But once you get into some other stores, they’re not all so safe; they’re not all so useful. And I want to warn you about those that you read in addition to your Bible. And make sure that you pour everything you read through the sieve of the Bible. Every other word of wisdom, every other wise acknowledgement, every other insight must bow to the truth of Scripture.

And so he observes, in the statement employed by most teenagers when they’re trying to get out of their homework—Ecclesiastes 12:12. Make a note of it, 12b: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” What’s he talking about here?

Every other word of wisdom, every other wise acknowledgement, every other insight must bow to the truth of Scripture.

I think what he’s talking about here is the person who is always inquiring and never finding answers—the person whose life is just one long search but never discovering truth. I’m not talking now about the journey of life, whereby the Christian experience is, if you like, faith seeking understanding. We’re to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.[7] I’m talking now about the kind of person who’s referred to in 2 Timothy 3, where it says of these women that they were always searching, they were “always learning,” but they were “never able to acknowledge the truth.”[8]

So, they weren’t really asking questions to get answers; they were simply asking questions because it had become a way of life. They were not asking directions, as it were, on the journey, saying, “Could you please tell me where the post office is?” in order that they could go to the post office, because as soon as you said, “It’s down there just on the left,” they said, “Oh, I didn’t really want to go the post office. Could you please tell me where the police station is?” And you say, “Well, the police station, of course, it’s just…” “Well, I didn’t want to go there either. I was wondering, do you know where the museum is?” And so you say, “What is your problem? You spend your whole life just asking questions.” There are tons of books in Borders. You can go down there and stand in front of them. You can pull them off the shelf. You can study them. They will weary your soul, and they will weary your body.

C. S. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, has an amazing section where, in a dialogue with a lifelong searcher on the borders of heaven, this seeker is being invited in. He wants to come in on his own agenda. He wants to be able still to do this, still to do that, and do the next thing. And so the person on the borders of heaven who’s addressing him says to this lifelong searcher,

I can promise you none of those things. No sphere of usefulness: you are not needed there at all. No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them. No atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God.

“Ah,” says the guy, “but we must all interpret those beautiful words in our own way! For me there is no such thing as a final answer. The free wind of inquiry must always continue to blow through the mind, must it not?”[9]

This is amazing, isn’t it? See how contemporary this is? “There[’s] nothing new under the sun.”[10] Silly ideas are silly ideas, whether in the 1940s or in the 2001s.

“Listen!” said the White Spirit, “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now.”

“Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things.”[11]

Now, you see, no argument, no appeal can avail against that kind of infinite elasticity. And the encounter as C. S. Lewis writes it ends with the searcher saying, “Oh, by the way, I forgot an appointment that I had.” He makes his apologies. And as C. S. Lewis describes it, he hurries off to his discussion group in hell. Hell will be full of people saying, “There is no one answer.”

“Therefore,” says the Teacher, “you’d better be warned about running around with everything that is additional to its truth. Let it supplement, let it help, let it encourage, but let it not divert and destroy. There are tons of books. There’s no end to the books. And if you continue on that journey of inquiry without resolution, then, of course, it will be absolute futility.”

Well, having said all that, let’s get back to the punch line, ’cause our time is almost over. Back to the punch line:

Now all has been heard;

 here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

 … this is the whole duty of man.

Notice verse 14. This exhortation is given in the light of a final appointment that is to be faced: “God will bring every deed into judgment.” We daren’t succumb to complacency. Nothing goes unnoticed, nothing goes unassessed—not even things that we disguise from ourselves. But there is an encouragement in it, inasmuch as we needn’t embrace futility either. Because if God cares as much as this, then nothing can be pointless. And the details of life are known to God. So he says, “Fear God.” “Fear God.” It’s a call that puts us in our place. It’s a call that puts all of our hopes and fears and admirations in their place too. “Fear God and keep his commandments.”

“Here is the conclusion of the matter. Here is the punch line. Let me give it to you in just a phrase: fear God and keep his commandments.” “Oh,” says someone, “this sounds very Old-Testament-y to me. Is this really the conclusion?” Well, it’s the conclusion that’s written there in front of you, isn’t it? “Couldn’t we,” says someone, “get into the New Testament, past Malachi, into the sort of Sermon on the Mount material, where it gets a little more acceptable, a little more amenable, a little more gentle, a little more encouraging?”

Well, I don’t want to be unkind to you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. You haven’t been reading your Bible. You’ve already forgotten our studies in Luke, when Jesus gathers a vast crowd around him—so vast, says Luke in 12:1, that the people were stumbling over one another. They were “trampling … one another” in their desire to get a glimpse of Jesus and to hear what it was he was saying. It’s a wonderful scene. If your Bible is open, you’ll notice it. If it isn’t, you will have to take my word for it.

Luke 12:1: “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples.” And he said to them, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There[’s] nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, … what you[’ve] whispered in the ear [of] the inner [room] will be proclaimed [on] the roofs.” Sounds a lot like Ecclesiastes 12, doesn’t it? Everything hidden will be brought to judgment. Nothing goes unnoticed. “God will bring every deed into judgment.” Jesus is saying the same thing. And then he says, in Luke 12:4, “I tell you, my friends…” “My friends.” This is the most loving man. “I tell you, my friends, do[n’t] be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.”

Now, let’s just think about that scene for a moment, can we? Here a vast crowd of people has come to listen to Jesus. And in that crowd there would be all the various shades of the society—lovers and friends, and teenagers hanging with their buddies, and parents with their toddlers, and traders would be there, and soldiers would be present. And intermingled in it, although not with a sign on their hats, for sure, there would be plenty common criminals. There would be the pickpockets and those who, in the opportunity that was represented in a vast crowd like that, would be ready to seize the moment for their evil deeds. And those who got closest would be able to hear what Jesus was saying.

Now, with this phrase “Fear God and keep his commandments” in my mind, I went to Luke chapter 12, because it occurred to me. And when I got to Luke chapter 12 and I thought about the vast crowd, and when I thought about the fact that in the diversity of the humanity that would be represented there doubtless would be those who were criminals, I then said to myself, “I wonder if one particular criminal was present in this crowd.” I wonder, can you follow my line of thought? Do you know which criminal I’m think of and referring to?

Well, one of the criminals who was crucified beside Jesus. You need to go forward in your Bible to Luke chapter 23, is it? And if you go forward to Luke chapter 23 and the description there of the scene at the cross: the people were “watching”; the rulers “sneered,” shouting their abusive comments; the soldiers “mocked.”[12] They put a sign up above him—verse 38. Verse 39: “[And] one of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God[?]’ he said.”

Now, isn’t that interesting? He doesn’t say to the other chap, “Don’t you fear dying?” They’re both going to die. Maybe he was present in the crowd when he heard Jesus say, “Let me tell you, you shouldn’t be afraid of those who can kill the body. But you should be afraid of him who, after the killing of the body, can cast you down into hell.” And suddenly, the lights went on, and the man said, “I have an appointment to keep. I have a God to face. I have a soul that needs redeemed. Don’t you fear God?”

And then, out of an awareness of the immensity of what was happening next to him, in the love of this Christ, who was a sinless Savior, dying for sinners like him, he says, “You know, is there any possibility that you would remember me when you come into your kingdom?”[13] And oh, the wonder of it as it settled on his heart and mind: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”[14] What brought it about? “Fear God.”

Do you fear God? You see, most people will say, “No, I think I don’t think I fear God.” Well, let me tell you that to fear God, and trust God, and to love God, and to know God are all the same thing. It’s all the same! The fear that is referred to in Ecclesiastes 12 arises from the discovery of the immensity of God’s love. It is the fear of a child for a father—the awareness of the fact that even though I’m such a rotten little kid, even though I do so many bad things, even though I’ve told so many lies and hung around with the bad people and been a disappointment to my parents, still my father loves me. It fills me with awe. It makes me want to bow down before him. If he cast me out forever, he would be justified. But still he loves me! That’s the kind of fear.

It’s John Newton’s fear. He didn’t fear anybody—slave trader, abusive character, curser par excellence. “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relived.”[15] What a punch line! What a surprising punch line! “Fear God and keep his commandments.” You will never know what it is to fear God this way until you become God’s child. “Oh,” you say, “but I am God’s child. He created me.” You are God’s child by creation, but you are not God’s child by redemption. None of us became a child of God as a result of a religious professional doing something for us or to us. The gateway into the family of God is by faith in the Lord Jesus and repentance from sin.

Therefore, let me finish our series by encouraging those of you who as yet are not the child of God to become his child. What should you do? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the only Savior. John says, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave [them] the [power] to become [the] children of God.”[16] Jesus issues his wonderful invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and [heavy laden], and I will give you rest. [And] take my yoke upon you and learn [of] me, for I am gentle and [lowly] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”[17] What a word to a lady at the well! Five husbands and a live-in lover. Is she messed up? Jesus came seeking to save the lost. The Pharisees? “See you around, Charlie.” The woman with the live-in lover? “You know what? I can give you living water.” “You can? Why would you even talk to me?”

To believe in the Lord Jesus is to entrust yourself to him. Jesus is able to save you. Trust him, and he will be your Savior. And with that, with Christ’s help, give up and turn away from your old lifestyle to a new way of living under the authority of Jesus. Recognize that your old way of life is empty and that the new way of life that is held out to you in Jesus is not down any of these dead-end streets but is on a narrow road that leads to life.[18]

The gateway into the family of God is by faith in the Lord Jesus and repentance from sin.

When Jesus uses the word repent, this is what he means: he’s talking about changing my heart, changing my mind, changing my direction. And faith involves coming to Jesus in my sinfulness, acknowledging my emptiness, receiving his forgiveness and his fullness. Indeed, repentance then is born in me, when I come to realize that in coming to the Lord Jesus, he will accept me just as I am in my sinfulness. He accepts me as I am in my sinfulness! And then he takes and changes me by his grace and his power. And one of the mechanisms that he employs to make me more and more like him and more and more useful to him are the very commandments of his Word. So I fear God, believing in Christ, turning from my empty way of life, turning to a whole new way of life, and I keep his commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.”[19]

Now, I’ve quoted a number of songs and songwriters throughout the months of Ecclesiastes. But I’m not sure I quoted Johnny Cash, and I want to finish on a country note. When I read this, “Fear God and keep his commands,” my mind went very, very quickly to a Johnny Cash song. You say, “You are weirder than we even realized.”

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine;

[And] I keep my eyes wide open all the time;

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds;

Because you’re mine, I walk the line.[20]

Get it? Doesn’t say, “To make you mine, I walk the line.”

See, many of you have come out of a background where you hear “Fear God and keep his command,” you say, “I’m back where I started. That’s what life used to be like for me. I would go in these churches, it scared the bejabbers out of me, and all I heard somebody say was ‘Keep the Ten Commandments.’ Now I’ve come here, I listen to the whole series, you get to the end of it, and you’ve given me the same…” No, no, no, no, no! There you were introduced to the idea that by means of your endeavor and by your effort and your ability to provide your evidences of your designs and your desires, eventually you would gain approval. You would mix whatever little bit of grace God gave you with all of your own abilities, and synergistically you would eventually get there.

No, I’m telling you, you’ve got nothing to mix, nothing to give. There’s no reason why Christ should marry you. There’s no reason why he should die for you. There’s not a reason in the world save his amazing grace and love. And then, when I realize he loves me as I am,

I find it very, very easy to be true;

I find myself alone when … day is through;

[And oh] yes, I’ll admit [that] I’m a fool for you;

Because you’re mine, I walk the line.[21]

You walking the line?

Let us pray together:

Some of you are here this morning, and you’ve never actually come to nail this matter for once and for all. You don’t really know where you stand in relationship to these things. You’re a mixture of belief and unbelief. Well, let me read a little prayer that I keep in my notes: “Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed. But through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment, and offering me forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as my Savior.”

And the promise of God’s Word is that when we cry out to him in that way, that he that comes to him, she who comes to him, he will never turn away.[22] Come to him just as you are.

[1] John 4:7 (NIV 1984).

[2] See John 4:11.

[3] See John 4:15.

[4] Wanda Mallette, Bob Morrison, Patti Ryan, “Lookin’ for Love” (1980).

[5] Mick Jagger, “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction),” 1965. Lyrics lightly altered.

[6] See 2 Peter 1:21.

[7] See 2 Peter 3:18.

[8] 2 Timothy 3:7 (NIV 1984).

[9] C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: HarperOne, 2000), 40.

[10] Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV 1984).

[11] Lewis, Great Divorce, 14.

[12] Luke 23:35–36 (NIV 1984).

[13] Luke 23:42 (paraphrased).

[14] Luke 23:43 (NIV 1984).

[15] John Newton, “Amazing Grace” (1779).

[16] John 1:12 (NIV 1984).

[17] Matthew 11:28–29 (NIV 1984).

[18] See Matthew 7:14.

[19] John 14:15 (paraphrased).

[20] Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line” (1956).

[21] Cash.

[22] See John 6:37.

Copyright © 2024, 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.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.