In Christ Alone
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In Christ Alone

Ephesians 4:20–24  (ID: 3236)

Becoming a Christian involves a radical transformation: the ties that bind us to the sin of Adam are broken, and we are made alive in Christ Jesus. Alistair Begg explains that it is incongruous for those who have embraced Christ in His glory to live as though they do not know Him. As we war against the world, the flesh, and the devil, we need a constant reminder that God has united us with Christ and is renewing us day by day.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Ephesians, Volume 7

The New Self Ephesians 4:17–32 Series ID: 14907

Sermon Transcript: Print

Ephesians 4:17:

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard [of] him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”


We turn again to God in prayer:

Father, as we come now to the Bible, we earnestly pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to us, to reveal ourselves—to show us who and what we are outside of Christ and in Christ. Help us, Lord, to think, to believe, to obey. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, you know, when we come to the Bible, not only as we come to it now in this public forum but as we turn to our Bibles on a daily basis, we turn to a book that understands the world in which we live. Indeed, there is a very real sense in which when we open up our Bibles, we’re reading them in a world that has been aptly and strikingly described for us in verses 17, 18, and 19, the verses to which we paid attention last time. And if you recall, you know that we read them in light of Paul’s opening section of his letter to the Romans, and we were suggesting to one another that between them, we really have the locus classicus of humanity outside of Christ. Here is, if you like, a succinct and dreadful but equally clear understanding of humanity turned away from God. And we noted that it is marked by futility, by darkness, by alienation, by ignorance, hardness, a callous nature to sensuality, and a greediness that extends to every kind of impurity. It’s not a very nice description. It’s not the kind of thing that you’re going to find by just reading the average novel or by turning up one of the popular magazines that are available to us on a routine basis. But it is a classic description of the natural state of humanity of which each of us is a part outside of Christ.

And one of the things that should be most striking to us is that when we consider this, and we realize that it had immediate relevance to Ephesus, a long way from here—Ephesus in modern-day Turkey, two thousand years ago—and here we are in the twenty-first century, in Western culture, and we realize that all these weeks and months and years have elapsed since these words were penned, and it is pretty clear—in fact, it is glaringly obvious—that humanity is unable to repair its walls, unable to mend its disappointments, unable to rectify its flaws and its faults, whether we take it on a micro level or on a macro level. Whether you take it in terms of relationships on an interpersonal basis or whether you regard the nations of the world this morning, it’s not difficult to realize that the world in which we live is broken and that the attempts at fixing that broken world have proved at best to be fleeting, momentary, and certainly not lasting.

The attempts remain the same throughout time: “If only we can educate the people a little better, if only they have an understanding of things, then I’m sure they will just clean their act up.” Doesn’t happen. In Europe, you buy cigarettes (one buys cigarettes) in a white box that simply says on it “This stuff will kill you.” And people go in and say, “Could I have two packs of that, please?” So the education is not able to deal with their habitual behavior. In the same way, legislation cannot alter the darkness of humanity, can’t alter the darkness in my own heart. The heart of man is not changed by acts of Parliament in London nor by acts of Congress in Washington, DC. All of those endeavors after all this time still cry out, “Is there any remedy? Is there any possibility? How in the world can this thing be fixed?”

It is glaringly obvious that humanity is unable to repair its walls, unable to mend its disappointments, unable to rectify its flaws and its faults.

And of course, the answer that Paul is providing to these Ephesians is that what man is unable to do in himself, God has done. And into this spiritual blindness, a light has shone. Into the hardness, the grace and mercy of Christ has come. Into an impure and an unclean world, the light of righteousness and purity and clarity stands out in stark relief. And it’s not as if somehow or another we look for this, as it were, in the gutter press. We don’t even need to look for it. It trips us up.

I was mentioning the physicist last week, Hawking, and now, this week, Dawkins—Dawkins, most famous (notorious, really) for his book The God Delusion. He’s a very brilliant man. There’s no doubt about that. Commenting on the atonement—commenting on the death of Jesus—on page 253 in his book, he describes the death of Jesus as a “vicious,” sick, “masochistic … repellant” action to be dismissed as “barking mad.”[1] Why does he say that? Because he is spiritually blind. Because his eyes have not been opened to the truth, because of the hardness of his heart.

You contrast that with some pretty intelligent people who are here today. They could probably take him on. I couldn’t, but you could. And yet you’re prepared to stand up and sing,

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That he [would] give his only Son
To make a wretch his treasure.[2]

Now, why is it that you’re singing that and he’s saying that? Is it because you’re cleverer than him, and it’s about IQ, and if you’re smart enough, that you can get in? No, it’s because the eyes of your understanding have been opened, because the grace of God in his mercy has been revealed to you.

The answer to this, as Paul has made clear, is “in him”—that is, in Jesus. In him you are now completely different. He’s begun in that way in Ephesians 1:7: “In him we have redemption through his blood.” He says the same thing: “In him …, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, [you] believed in him, [you] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”[3]

Now, we understand this—some of us do, at least—because we sing these things: “Once I was blind but believed I saw everything, proud and yet foolish at the same time.”[4] Or in another line from one of our songs: “I was a stranger chasing selfish dreams; now I’m made one through grace alone.”[5] Now, why is this? Paul is explaining it. He’s coming to it here, and he does it elsewhere: “You were at one time carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. You were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”[6] That’s 2:3. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—[and] by grace you have been saved.”[7] So this is the underpinning of all that he is now speaking to them about—about the nature of the church, what it means to be the church, how gifts have been given to the church in order the church might function and then in order that the church might be marked not only by unity but also by purity. And this is because God has intervened in deliverance.

In other words, what he’s making clear is the vast contrast between life outside of Christ, (17–19) and life in Christ (20 and following). He’s not unique in this; Peter does the same thing. He reminds his scattered readers that the Lord Jesus has “called you out of darkness” and “into his marvelous light,”[8] and so, he says, “as aliens and strangers, live in such a way as to make this clear.”[9] In other words, to come back to our passage: we are to “walk in a manner” that is “worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called.”[10]

Let’s be clear about this: the business of Christianity is not to improve the world. There are all kinds of people out there trying to improve the world. That is not what Jesus came to do. No, actually, Jesus came to take men and women out of the world to save them from the world and to bring in an entirely new humanity. You see, that’s the significance of “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, Scythian, bond or free.”[11] He’s not saying these things don’t exist. Of course they exist! But they are totally subservient. They’re actually ultimately irrelevant in relationship to what God has chosen to do in making a whole new humanity.

That’s what we were learning when he talked about breaking down the wall of separation between the Jew and the gentile, and he says, “You came from here, and you came from here, and he has made one new man out of the two.”[12] What does he mean, “one new man out of the two”? As Jesus rose from the dead, he is, if you like, the prototype of the first new man. And when we are included in Christ then we are included in a new humanity. That doesn’t mean that we drop out of the world. Jesus made that clear as well: “[Father,] I … ask that you [don’t] take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”[13] But he also said of his followers, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”[14]

So, the Christian is different from the non-Christian. And if a person is a Christian, then he or she knows that he is different. And furthermore, the non-Christians know that we’re different, too—unless we’ve decided to go with Boy George on a “Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon” kind of Christianity where we’re playing one side against the other. Read 1 Peter. Remember, he says, “They will think you are weird because you do not run with them in the same profligacy that marks their lifestyle.”[15] You once were perfectly fine in that realm—but not anymore. Why? Because you’re not in that realm anymore.

You see, what Paul is actually saying in this section is this, to these readers: We are no longer to live as we once did, as the old man—which is his terminology. Why? Because we are no longer the old man. But we are to become, in practical expression, the new man that we have been made in Jesus. So there is an immediate contrast, isn’t there? “You used to live in this way, in the hardness of your heart, callous, engaged in these things.” Listen, to one degree or another, it’s true of us all. Murray M’Cheyne died at twenty-nine. He was a very good Presbyterian minister, a twenty-nine-year-old man. He wrote in his journal: “I know that the seed of every sin known to man dwells in my heart.”[16] All right? He may not have given expression to it all. He probably hadn’t. But he knew that he was only one step away from every one of them. And that’s true of every one of us. True of every one of us. That’s why there’s no place for the Christian snob. There’s no place for looking down at people and saying, “Can you believe that?” You should believe it, because you’re looking at yourself outside of Christ.

Now, the contrast is both challenging, and it is at the same time encouraging. What a picture, all these 17, 18, 19, and then he says, “But that is not the way you learned Christ.” It’s a bit like in Hebrews, where he describes the apostasy situation, and he says, “However, when I think of you, I’m thinking differently. That is not the way you learned Christ.”

So, when you were in Christ’s classroom, if we might put it that way, what did you learn? It’s interesting he says, “You learned Christ.” He doesn’t say, “You learned about Christ,” but “You learned Christ.” To learn Christ surely is more than simply knowing about Christ. You could take a survey around the building even later on today and ask people if they know about Christ, and many of them will say, “Yes, we do.” They’ll have all kinds of ideas about him as well; some will be true, and some will be spurious. But they haven’t learned Christ. You could say you know somebody. I could say I knew Susan. But I’ve learned Susan for a long time. I’ve embraced everything that Susan is. My life cannot be explained apart from that embrace.

There’s something of that when he says, “You have learned Christ.” There’s something of him in Philippians 3, where he says, “that I [might] know him.” What do you mean you might know him? Of course you know him, you’re the apostle Paul! “That I might know him and the power of his resurrection and share in the fellowship of his suffering.”[17] So in other words, to learn Christ is to embrace him in all that makes him Christ. Jesus is the Lord and the King and the Savior and the Prophet and the Priest and so on, and when that begins to permeate a life and an understanding of things, unlike the dark understanding of outside of Christ, then it flavors everything.

We mentioned Newton last week. I mention him again now for the very same reason. Newton’s life was a shambles by his own testimony. In fact, “shambles” is to be kind to him. He was profligate. He was disgraceful. He was horrible. And yet he writes the hymn “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear!”[18] Can you imagine when his friends who’d been on those ships with him heard that Newton was a vicar and was writing hymns? They said, “We’ve got a whole new take on Jesus Christ now. ’Cause you’ve been saying that for a long time, but this is different.” Yes. “Jesus, my Shepherd, Savior, Friend, my Prophet, Priest, my King; my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End.”[19] What happened to Newton? He learned Christ.

When the Word of God is taught, the voice of Jesus is heard.

Look at your text: “That is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you[’ve] heard about him and were taught in him.” He’s not suggesting that they haven’t, but it’s just his way of calling them to verify the fact, and to do so by going on to act in keeping with the Word that they’ve “heard” and “were taught in him.” “Heard.” Actually, our version there says, “heard about him,” but there’s no preposition in Greek. There’s no “about.” It actually just reads, “And you have heard him.” As the gospels had come to them, they had heard Christ’s voice. The apostles had preached, and they had heard the voice of Christ.

Remember when we were in chapter 2 a hundred years ago, he says something along those lines. He says, “And [Jesus] came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”[20] And people would say, “Well, I wasn’t here when Jesus came and preached. Jesus came and preached in Ephesus?” No, what does he mean, “And he came and preached”? Well, you see, it’s what we’ve begun to remind ourselves of: that when the Word of God is taught, that the voice of Jesus is heard. The mouth of God is in the Word of God, so that far beyond the voice of a mere man, at the level in which you process my sentences and syntax, there is a dynamic that takes place, there is a dialogue that takes place in the midst of the monologue, which is a dialogue between the Spirit of God who wrote the Word of God on the heart of man, who listens to the Word of God being conveyed. Without that, the whole thing’s a useless exercise. Without that, I should simply be giving inspirational talks for Fortune 500 companies, if they would have me, or doing something else where communication skills matter.

But no, you see, you heard him! You heard him. That’s why the hymn writer can say, “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto me and rest.’”[21] Well, you never heard the voice of Jesus. There was no audible voice. What did he mean? He heard him. In the Word you heard him, and you “were taught in him.” We’re only here in verse 21, aren’t we? “Assuming that you have heard him and were taught in him.” In other words, Christ wasn’t only the subject matter or the teacher; he was actually the sphere or, if you like, the context in which all of this was taking place. And you “were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.”

Interestingly, he uses “Jesus” here. This is the only time in the letter where he uses the word “Jesus” on its own. Why doesn’t he say, “as the truth is in the Messiah,” or “as the truth is in God”? He says, “as the truth is in Jesus.” I think he must do it purposefully, to remind the people that they have believed in Jesus. They have not believed in a philosophy. They have not embraced a religion. They have not simply exchanged one set of external circumstances for another. No, they’ve had a direct encounter with the living God in the person of Jesus. You have come to Jesus. You have found the truth in Jesus, the one, the historical Jesus, the one who was born of the virgin Mary, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, who was dead and was buried, who was raised from the dead, who will return in power and great glory.[22] That’s who you’ve come to trust in—he who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. [And] no one comes to the Father except through me.”[23] Why do we go to all the world, why are they going to Bolivia, why are we supporting people in the lostness of Asia if this is not the case?

You see, nobody will be interested in seeing the gospel going out to the world unless you have learned Christ, you have heard him, you have been taught in him. Then you find yourself saying, “Everybody needs to hear this! Everybody needs to know this!”

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled;
No other name has power to save
[Save] Jesus Christ, the Lord.[24]

The need for the secular person on that London Bridge is the same need as exists in the life of the Muslim terrorist: it is the need for Jesus as a Savior and a Friend. And we dare not allow the world to shut us down and to become just another little story on the addendum of Western culture. No, no, not for a moment. “You did not learn Christ in that way. You heard him. You were taught in him.” Taught what? The truth that is in Jesus. In Jesus.

You see, if you do not have this conviction in your heart, you’ll never stand for this. If all you want to stand for is a nice way of life—a kind of, you know, suburban-valley nice deal—that’s fine. Nobody cares about that. You might get criticized by somebody, but by and large, it’s fairly acceptable. But if you’re going to go in that party and say, “Yeah, I’ll tell you something: if you want to know about me, I had a hard heart. I was ignorant. I was a snob, man. I was so scientific I told everybody, ‘You couldn’t believe that jazz.’”

And the person says, “And what happened to you?”

“Well, I learned Christ.”


“Yes, I heard him.”

“You heard him?”

“Yeah. I was taught in him.”

People say, “Well…” You know, if you were on a train, they would move their seat. They’d move away from you.

Now, our time is hastening on. What, then, does he mean that “you were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus”? What is this truth in Jesus that you were taught? Because this is the development of his argument.

Now, we have said, and it is important to keep saying, that when we read Paul, as we’re doing now, it is important to understand Paul’s usual argument or Paul’s logical flow, so that when we come, for example, to Ephesians 4, we can read it in light of Romans chapter 5 and 6. We can read it in light of 1 Corinthians 15. We focus on it here, but we don’t abstract it from the overall context of its instruction. And what is Paul’s great thing? Paul’s great thing is constantly making clear to people that as a believer, we are no longer in Adam. In Adam. Right?

Adam is the founder of the race. Adam is the beginning of it all. Adam is the one who was made in the image of God. Adam is the one who sinned and brought all in Adam down into the destructive dimension of his sin. That’s why we exist in the realm of futility and darkness and so on. However, says Paul, when a man or a woman hears the gospel and comes to trust in Christ, then the ties that bind us to Adam in our old man are then broken, and we are adopted into a whole new family. So we are then, he says, no longer in Adam, but now we are in Christ, and all that is in Christ is now ours by dint of our union with him. United with Adam, we live in the realm of sin and rebellion and hardness and alienation and so on. United with Christ, we are brought into the realm of righteousness and holiness and truth and so on. If you want it in a sentence, 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, so … in Christ [will] all be made alive.”

Now, I think this is why he says in verse 23 that part of what is going on is the renewal “in the spirit of [our] minds.” Because we need our minds renewed in this, don’t we? So that we can learn to think about ourselves in the right way. I had a hard time creating an outline for this talk, as is pretty obvious by now. But I just did write three words down to try and keep me somewhere on track. I wrote one word down, which was futility—the futility which is represented outside of Christ. Then I wrote down the word identity—that the key to grappling with this is understanding our identity in Christ. And then I wrote a final word down, which is the word destiny, which is the guaranteed assurance of the end of the line for those who have been removed from the realm of futility, have a new identity in Jesus, and have a destiny that is involved with righteousness and holiness and so on, so that we would be really clear that in coming to the Lord Jesus Christ a radical change has taken place. A radical change has taken place. The old is gone, and the new has come.[25]

When a man or a woman hears the gospel and comes to trust in Christ, then the ties that bind us to Adam in our old man are then broken, and we are adopted into a whole new family.

Well, if the old has gone, and the new has come, then there ought to be an indication of that in some way. And what we must understand is that these verbs here are not in the imperative. “But that is not the way you learned Christ,” past tense, “assuming … you[’ve] heard about him and were taught in him,” past tense, “as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former … to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self.” So we’ve got to “put off,” we’ve got a renewed spirit of the mind, and we’ve got to “put on.”

I was helped by reminding myself that Paul does the same thing, essentially, in Colossians chapter 3. And I think you’ll be helped by this if you turn to it for just a moment—Colossians chapter 3, where the whole emphasis of the chapter is putting on the new self. And Paul has urged these readers to put to death the things that were part and parcel of their preconverted state. He says, “You really ought to take it seriously, because on account of these the wrath of God is coming.”[26] Now, here we go, verse 7: “In these you too once walked.” “Once walked. This was the framework of your life. You may not have done all these bad things, but this was world in which you lived.” Because, you see, it’s the world in Adam. In Adam. If we don’t understand this “in Adam,” “in Christ” thing, we go immediately wrong, because we start saying, “Well, I wasn’t really that bad, so it doesn’t apply to me.” Listen: in Adam, you’re about as bad as you can get. That’s the doctrine of total depravity. It doesn’t mean that you’re as bad as possible, but it means that there is no part of your existence that is not infected and affected by sin.

So, he says, “In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, … malice, slander, … obscene talk from your mouth. Do[n’t] [tell lies] to one another”—here we go—“seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” What’s the point? These verbs, to “put off” and “put on,” are not fresh commands. They are simply the old commands which he gave them when he was with them and of which he now reminds them.

In other words, what he’s saying is, “When I came and preached the gospel to you and you understood the gospel, when I explained to you that you’re a dead man in Adam and that there is life in the Lord Jesus Christ, when you trusted in Jesus, you put off your old man, and you put on the new man. You were removed from one realm and placed in another realm. Your part was repentance. God’s part was regeneration. He made you alive when you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” You see how vastly different this is from a kind of conversion story that says, “Well, you know, I’m very interested in Christianity. I like it ’cause it makes me feel good about things.” Say, “Oh, really? That’s fascinating.” That’s not remotely what Paul is talking about here. No. It’s a radical transformation.

I think probably the symbol of baptism is as helpful as any, isn’t it? You remember when Paul, writing now to the Galatians, he says, “As many of you [who] were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”[27] “You’ve put on Christ.” The picture there is a clear picture. People would come down into the baptismal waters in their regular clothes. They would disrobe themselves—just down to their skivvies—they would go into the water, they would be baptized, they would come out, and they would be given a brand-spanking-new, fresh, white robe, and they would walk out. And the people would say, “Look at that! Look at that! Why did he do that?” Well, because he’s put off the old man, and he wants people to know.

I always tell you this, but it was so striking to me. In Yorkshire, a man who’d been a very successful business guy, very proud of his deal—he had it buttoned down—when he got baptized, he insisted on being baptized in his business suit. A really expensive suit! And I said, “No.” He said, “No, no, definite.” So he went in, man, in his business suit, and he came out. And he said, “I’m going to baptize all of my life, my business and everything—get it all down in here. I’m putting off the old.” It wasn’t that he stopped being a businessman, but his motivation had changed entirely.

Now, it would be strange to do that and then say, “Hey, hang on a minute. I want to go back over here and get my old stuff and put it all back on and put it on, on top, over this lovely new robe that you’ve given me.” That’s what Paul’s saying here. He said, “Are you kidding me? Are you going to go back and start that same stuff that marked your life before you put off and put on?” It’s not impossible. We do it, because the pull is so strong.

The environment in which we live says, “Hey, what do you care about marriage? Don’t let anybody do that marriage stuff. What do you care about purity? What do you care about a little dishonesty? Come on! Enjoy the good stuff! Don’t get wrapped up in that.”

“Oh, no!”


“I put it off; I put it on.”

“What, has your mind gone wrong?”

“Well, I’m being renewed in my mind. I’m being renewed in my mind.”

You see, that’s where the Bible comes in, loved ones. Oh, I know you can read your Bible at home. You can read it on your iPhone if you want. You can go sit up on a hill and do it if you want. But the purpose of God in bringing you into the community of God’s people is in order, first of all, priority number one, that you might hear from God. Because you and I both know that we wage war on a threefold front: against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And it is “a continual and irreconcilable war.”[28] It never quits, all the way from here till, finally, we close our eyes in death and open up to realize who Christ is in all his fullness. “And in the meantime,” Paul says, “in light of that, what has happened?” Aorist tense: “You put off; you put on.” Aorist, aorist. In other words, a tense that describes something that happened in the past that has abiding significance for all of life. He says, “And in the meantime, you are being renewed in your minds.” Things are different now.

Let me go to Sunday school. I can always get it by going to Sunday school. “Things are different now; something happened to me”—this is the testimony—

Since I gave my heart to Jesus.
Things are different now;
There’s a change, it must be,
Since I gave my heart to him.

Things I loved before have passed away;
Things I love far more have come to stay.

’Cause things are different now;
Something happened to me
When I gave my heart to Christ.[29]

And Paul says, “Are you going to go back and start that stuff again? You put off; you put on. Have your mind renewed in the Scriptures. Don’t buy the lie.” Let’s not try and kid ourselves—you know, “Well, Jesus mixed with sinners. That’s why, you know…” Listen: when Jesus mixed with sinners, he was never mistaken for one of them. Our inclination to mix with sinners is to obscure the radical difference that is represented in the change brought about by Jesus. That’s why, you see, the Bible says if there’s no evidence of change, then there’s no reason to believe in conversion. God does not justify those whom he doesn’t sanctify. He makes us alive with Christ in order that as we walk through this world, we might be seen to be different.

Final observation, from Pilgrim’s Progress. You remember in Pilgrim’s Progress when they reach Vanity Fair, and Vanity Fair was a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity. That makes sense. And so here there were “at all times … jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves … rogues, and that of every kind.” And “here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red color. … Now, [the] pilgrims … must needs go through this fair.” And when they went through the fair, “all the people in the fair were moved and the town itself, as it were, in a hubbub about them, and that for several reasons.” Why? Because he said, “Aw, it was so nice of you to come to our fair. We’re glad that you like all this stuff—all this adultery and all this murdering and all this foolishness and all this vanity. We’re glad to see that Christians are starting to really enter into things. Makes us feel a lot better about ourselves.” You’re dead right it does! No. No, no, no, no. They were abuzz—and I can’t read it all, ’cause our time is gone. You can read it for yourself. Depending on the version, it may be around page 100, 101.

Why was the town so stirred up? First, because “the pilgrims were clothed with such kind of raiment as was diverse from the raiment of any that traded in that fair. The people, therefore, of the fair made a great gazing upon them: [and] some said they were fools; [and] some [said], they were bedlams; and some, they were outlandish men.” (“Why don’t you just wear all the dirty stuff? You going to show up here with that robe of righteousness thing?”) “And as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise [in] their speech.” We’re coming to that—verse 25. Are you a flat-out liar? Don’t tell me you’re a Christian. “But that which did not a little amuse the merchandisers was that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares. They cared not so much as to look on them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,’ and look upward, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven.” And one guy, grabbing hold of their carriage, says, “What will [you] buy?” and they said out of the carriage, “We [will] buy the truth.”[30] The truth.

The futility of life outside of Christ, the identity that is represented in Christ, and the ultimate destiny of all who are placed into Christ, into a realm of righteousness and holiness.

I don’t know everybody here today. I don’t know where you are in relationship to these things. But I do know this: that a lot of people are tied up. They’re tied up outside of Christ by failing to understand the breadth, the wonder, the simplicity of Christ’s invitation. And it is an invitation to come to him. To come to him. “You did not learn Christ in this way. You heard him, you were taught in him the truth that is in Jesus.” And it’s as simple as that. I hear the voice of Jesus. I respond to his voice. I become his child. The old goes; the new comes. You say, “Is it all perfect then?” Uh-uh. No. This is a lifetime journey.

Well, Lord, we just need so much the help of the Holy Spirit to assure us of these truths and apply them to our hearts. We thank you that the call of the gospel is not to a philosophy, to an idea, to a religious experience but to a person—that it is the truth that is in Jesus, the Jesus who met the lady at the well, the Jesus who called Zacchaeus down out of the tree, the Jesus who healed the man let down through the roof, the Jesus who was gracious to Peter when he fouled up, the Jesus who has reached out to us.

Lord, I pray for any who have never, ever come to Christ, that even today they may do so, just in the simplicity of the response of their hearts hearing Christ’s voice and calling out to him to save them and befriend them. May it be so, for your glory’s sake. Amen.

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 253.

[2] Stuart Townend, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” (1995).

[3] Ephesians 1:13 (ESV).

[4] Stuart Townend, “I Will Sing of the Lamb” (1997). Lyrics lightly altered.

[5] Keith Getty and Kristyn Getty, “Beneath the Cross” (2006). Lyrics lightly altered.

[6] Ephesians 2:3 (paraphrased).

[7] Ephesians 2:4–5 (ESV).

[8] 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV).

[9] 1 Peter 2:11 (paraphrased).

[10] Ephesians 4:1 (ESV).

[11] Colossians 3:11 (paraphrased).

[12] Ephesians 2:14–16 (paraphrased).

[13] John 17:15 (ESV).

[14] John 17:16 (KJV).

[15] 1 Peter 4:4 (paraphrased).

[16] Robert Murray M’Cheyne, quoted in Andrew A. Bonar, Memoirs and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1844), 201. Paraphrased.

[17] Philippians 3:10 (paraphrased).

[18] John Newton, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” (1779).

[19] Newton. Lyrics lightly altered.

[20] Ephesians 2:17 (ESV).

[21] Horatius Bonar, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” (1846).

[22] The Nicene Creed.

[23] John 14:6 (ESV).

[24] Keith Getty and Kristyn Getty, “Facing a Task Unfinished” (2015).

[25] See 2 Corinthians 5:17.

[26] Colossians 3:6 (paraphrased).

[27] Galatians 3:27 (ESV).

[28] The Westminster Confession of Faith 13.2.

[29] Stanton W. Gavitt, “Things are Different Now” (1941). Lyrics lightly altered.

[30] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678).

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.