Knowing God
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

Knowing God

Acts 17:24, Isaiah 45:18  (ID: 2655)

Today, many believe that there are multiple ways to get to heaven. In contrast, Paul insisted that God is the one true God and the only hope for our eternity. Noting that substitute gods do not provide fulfillment or freedom, Alistair Begg examines the Bible’s descriptions of God as Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Father, and Judge. Only when we realize that we were made by and for God can the deepest longings of our hearts truly be satisfied.

Series Containing This Sermon

Here Is Your God!

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 26101

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to take your Bibles and turn to Isaiah chapter 45. We’re going to read from the 18th verse of Isaiah 45. And actually after this you’ll want to have a finger in Acts 17, which is on page 785.

“For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to inhabited—he says: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, “Seek me in vain.” I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right. Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it—let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, “In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.”’ All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.” Amen.

Father, we pray that as we turn to the Bible now that you will help us and that the Holy Spirit will come and enable both the one who speaks and each of us as we listen so that we might hear from you, the living God, as we turn to your word, the Bible. And we humbly pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well a little over a week ago now I was taken by a friend—the man who was my host on this recent trip to India—I was taken in the early morning hours to a city called Varanasi, which is on the banks of the Ganges River. We arrived by train at 1:00 in the morning in the city and were picked up at 5:00 a.m. to be taken to the Ganges so that I might be there in time for the rising of the sun. And right around 5:00 or 5:30, I was introduced to sights and sounds and smells for which I found myself wholly unprepared.

Many of you, or some of you at least, may well have been there, and you will know that at that time in the morning there are swelling crowds, and by that I mean thousands of people who are making their way towards the river so that they might worship the river and so that they might worship also the rising sun. Of these many thousands, some were engaged in the cremation of their loved ones, the construction of funeral pyres which were literally around our feet, the gathering up of the ashes and the scattering of them in the river in the hope of eternal bliss being granted to the loved ones who had gone. These crowds were representative of the literally millions of Hindus in India, men and women who believe that god is everything, who are, by definition, pantheists.

And it is important for us to understand pantheism in light of what I’m going to say, and so let me just give it to you as succinctly as I can. Some of you will be aware of this; for others of you this is important new information. Pantheism identifies god with creation. It teaches that the universe is god, earth is god, the sun is god, man is god, animals are god, in fact everything is god. It is only when you realize that these animals are gods in the mind of a Hindu, that you can understand why it is that these monkeys, rabid monkeys, are swinging all around and jumping all over the place. Why would somebody not come and catch them and deal with them? Well you daren’t do that because they are gods. Why are these cows making such a mess in the middle of the street and stopping the traffic and trampling on everyone and everything? Because they are gods.

Now in one sense we are far removed from this, but in another we are a lot closer than we’re prepared to acknowledge, because a superficial form of pantheism is at the very heart and increasing core of American culture. If you doubt that, go to a spa in a nice hotel and read the books that are in the spa and, as you read them, you will be introduced to a superficial form of pantheism, indeed, of Hinduism itself. If you doubt it, attend a yoga class where one of the instructors is not simply an exercise person but is actually someone who is reading and studying and developing sincere and deep convictions concerning Hinduism. And in those contexts you will discover that, in some measure, that which is in its darkest, most demonic form expressed on the banks of the Ganges is actually increasingly in the high streets of America.

It will take probably that sight over there to completely overwhelm you, but when it does you may find yourself, as I did, retreating or advancing to the words of the prophets, hearing Isaiah say from God, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.”[1] As I sat on a boat in the river and watched people go about their ablutions and their ceremonies and their rituals in arguably one of the dirtiest rivers I’ve ever come across in my life, I realized how deep-seated is the hold in the minds of these people. I got a little inkling into why it was that Henry Martyn who, when he went as a missionary as an Anglican minister to India and to Persia in the nineteenth century, how when he saw a painting depicting Jesus bowing down before Mohammed, he wrote in his journal, “I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified. It would be hell to me if he was always to be thus dishonored.”[2] I had a sense of why it was that Paul, when he walked into Athens and was confronted by the idolatry of the city, found that his whole soul revolted at the sight of a city that was given over to idolatry itself. And as we drove away from the river, cars and SUVs coming in the opposite direction, characteristically with their horns blowing, a number of them had dead bodies trapped and strapped to the roof as they rushed to the Ganges to create yet another funeral pyre in the house of death so that the ashes may be scattered on the Ganges in the hope of immediate nirvana and eternal bliss.

And against that backdrop, the words of Paul as read for us earlier: and you O God have given Jesus a name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[3]

Pluralism only finds a place for pluralists. Hinduism is happy to absorb a corrupted, diluted, diminished form of Christian expression. Hinduism has no place for an avowed, straightforward declaration of the exclusive claims of Jesus of Nazareth as second person of the Trinity, as creator of the universe, as resurrected Lord, as ascended King, and as returning Christ. And as I will share with you this evening, some of those with whom I had the privilege of spending time are on the receiving end of beatings and imprisonment as a result of their willingness to declare avowedly that Jesus Christ is Lord.

And I found myself reflecting on the diminishing impact of world evangelization here in America, the shift into the southern hemisphere in terms of resources, financial and of manpower. The fact that out of Korea and Indonesia, as many missionaries as have ever been sent from North America are now reaching out around the world. And I found myself wondering whether the concerns of poverty and social justice which are now so much a part of evangelicalism—and a necessary part, let me say, the neglect of which surely has always been wrong—but I found myself wondering whether the preoccupation on poverty and social justice, a preoccupation that allows those who claim themselves to be in the mainstream of historic orthodoxy in evangelical Christianity to join hands with the strangest people throughout the entire universe, whether that preoccupation is actually subtly taking the place of, dulling the impact of, the message of the gospel itself.

There is no offense whatsoever in going to India, into the heart of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, and declaring that we are there to talk about social justice and public policy and the concerns of poverty. There is no shame in that. All of the shame lies in going there to declare that Jesus is sovereign Lord, he is the Savior, and he is the only way. And it is that message which is foolishness in India and foolishness in America, which is the message that we have been called to proclaim and to live, and the implications of which put the foot down in the realm of justice and in the concerns of poverty and so on.

But I have a sneaking suspicion and an increasingly deep-seated concern that there is here in North America a growing loss of confidence in the Bible itself as the unerring word of God and an increasing willingness to play fast and loose with the uniqueness of the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. And to the extent that that is true, the cutting edge of world evangelization is radically affected.

Now what I want to suggest to us this morning is this: that if we are going to tell people, as we must, that Jesus has come and will live in their hearts, as we may put it, we must first tell them that Jesus has come and died on the cross and that it is because he has come and died upon the cross, and the reasons for his death upon the cross, that he will come and invade our lives and make us brand new.

We cannot declare the gospel of Jesus without declaring the doctrine of God

In short we cannot, if you like, declare the gospel of Jesus without declaring the doctrine of God. The danger for us is that our story is trivial; that it is trivial in the way it is presented, that it sounds trivial to men and women, and they do not reject it because it is false, nor even because it purports to be true, but they may well reject it because it just doesn’t seem to be comprehensive enough to make sense of their existence. J. B. Phillips, in his book Your God Is Too Small, writes as follows: “Many men and women today are living with an inner dissatisfaction, without any faith in God at all. They have not found a God big enough to account for life.”[4] They have not found a God big enough to account for life.

And therefore it is imperative that when we speak to men and women concerning the story of the gospel, that we speak concerning the grandeur of God as he has made himself known in our world. And it is for that reason that I want to take a leaf out of Paul’s sermon in Acts chapter 17, and that is where you should turn right now if you want to follow along in the Bible, page 785, Acts chapter 17. And here you will remember from your own study that Paul has arrived in Athens, a magnificent place. He has approached the opportunities that are his on three fronts. First of all he’s gone to the synagogue, to the religious people. Then he’s gone into the marketplace to, if you like, the everyday people, just carrying on the affairs of life. And as a result, having been in both of those places, he has created quite a stir, and he’s been invited to come to join the intelligentsia of Athens, to the kind of Monday philosophical society, and to enjoy the opportunity of presenting the case for Christ in the academy. It is a reminder to us that the gospel reaches all of these dimensions, doesn’t it?

Some people are here this morning and you are religious people by background. You have been brought up in a religious framework. Some of it you may have embraced; some of it you may have rejected. And the very reason you are perhaps here is because, at this point in your life, you’re trying to decide whether there is any future at all down this pathway, whether there is anything in the Bible worth fastening onto, whether there is anything in the claims of Jesus that actually makes any basic difference in your life. And so it is that here within this framework you have an opportunity to consider what Paul says.

Others of us have come out of an irreligious background, and here we are, just in the thoroughfares of life; we’re in the marketplace. And for whatever reason, we’ve decided to come along and open up our minds to the story of the Bible, and we are actually looking to see if there is something here that makes sense of our existence.

And a few of us, perhaps, a few of you, have been endowed with a specific amount of gray matter that takes you beyond the realm of the ordinary and you’re actually looking to see if there is that which is significant enough to stir your mind, to stimulate your thought, and to answer some of the deepest questions of your life.

Well Paul addresses all three, and as a result there are those who believe, a few, there are some who sneer, and there’s a great crowd that say, “Well we could perhaps come on another occasion.” But what I want you to notice is the fact that, as he introduces his listeners to God, he does so by identifying five factors or five aspects of God. Now please don’t be put off by the fact that I just told you there are five. I’m not going to belabor the point at all; I want you to notice it. In many ways I’m giving you a sketch, I’m giving you an outline. You can do your homework and your follow-up by yourselves.


God is the Creator of the World

First of all, in verse 24 he introduces his readers to God who is the creator of the world. Who is God, according to the Bible? God is the creator of the world. Now in other words, God stands separate from, distinct from, his creation. In other words, this is not pantheism; this challenges the notions of pantheism. God is not part of the basic material of human existence, of the universe. God is not a force or even the great force of all the forces that exist within our world. No. God made the world. He stands outside of time. He himself is uncreated, and he is the creator of the universe. And when he looked upon that which he had made, he pronounced that it was very good.[5] Very good.

In pantheism, interestingly, material—that is, stuff, humanity, that which is nonspiritual if you like, the antithesis of soul—material is not good; and therefore one of the things that one is constantly trying to do is to escape from this material universe. And again some of you who read these New Age books will identify immediately the strains that are involved in saying that.

In pantheism, since god is everything, that means logically that god is not only moral good, but god is also moral evil. Because god is everything, therefore good and evil are god; and as a result of that there is no hope, then, of evil being overcome. And I think, and I would want to be very guarded in saying this, that this is one of the reasons that so many of the faces of the people that I saw are as gloomy as they are, are as unresponsive as they appear to be. I’m not talking about Christian believers now, where the joy of the Lord is their strength;[6] I’m talking just about moving amongst the masses of humanity. And apart from one individual who caught my gaze in Delhi last Sunday afternoon and said to me, “Come here, you have lucky eyes,” from whom I ran away as fast as I could, but apart from that man, by and large, there was a sort of dullness, a sort of sadness, a sort of emptiness. I may be completely wrong, but I’m not sure that I am, and I think it lies in this: that when you believe that all of the sin that you have accrued, you cannot be relieved of; that your only hope is in reincarnation; that when you are reincarnated, you sin inevitably again so you’re stuck all over again, so you know you’re going to have to be reincarnated again; and all of that dreadful emptiness and all of that dreadful pessimism and all of that dreadful horribleness, you see, speaks volumes in a culture. So that ... Let’s take a disabled child; let’s take a man who limps down the street. Why does he limp down the street, according to Hinduism? Because of sin in his past, that’s why he has been incarnated in this way. Now what he needs to do is do a better job in the hope that, in his next incarnation, he may somehow or another be able to be freed from all of these things.

God the creator cannot be contained, cannot be brought down to a manageable size, cannot be manipulated into a form expressive of our own designs.

In direct contrast, God the creator cannot be contained, cannot be brought down to a manageable size, cannot be manipulated into a form expressive of our own designs. And surely one of the most striking features of that particular culture is the very ugliness of the idols that are created: most of them black; if they have eyes at all, they are slanted and unsmiling. And when the Hindu goes to temple, he goes to look at god and goes to stare into the idol’s eyes and become transfixed in that experience.

Let me just say in passing that the current mythology abroad in America which says that the great religions of the world agree on the essentials and disagree on the nonessentials is exactly a mythology: it is not true. The idea of the wheel, which is again part of Hinduism and which pops up in New Age literature all the time, the idea of a wheel whereby all of the different points of religion on the wheel find themselves in the same center can only be true in relationship to the notion that every religion is interested in peace, every religion is interested in love, and so on. But when you allow the religion to say what it is, then the disagreement is vast. So Judaism says that Jesus Christ is not the Messiah; Christianity says Jesus is the Messiah. We cannot both be right. Hinduism says that god has been incarnated many, many times and in multiple forms; Christianity says that the incarnation was a unique, unrepeatable event. We cannot both be right. Islam says that the only possibility of heaven is by making sure that the scales weigh in our direction; Christianity says you can never make the scales weigh in your direction and that is why the story of Christianity is the story that is emblazoned in a cross with someone doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Pantheism says god is everything; Christianity says God is the creator, distinct from his creation.

Now characteristically I spent too long on that, so I will now catch up.

God sustains your life

Secondly, God is introduced as sustainer. Sustainer, verse 25. He’s not served by human hands as if he needed anything, because he’s the one who gives all men life and breath and everything else. He’s the one who gives all men life and breath and everything else. The sustainer of life, is in no need of sustenance. That’s why Jesus was able to say to the disciples, Look at the birds, your heavenly Father feeds them; or, If God clothes the grass of field which is here today and tomorrow is cast into the oven, won’t he look after you?[7] Why? Because he’s the sustainer of life.

The synovial fluid that is necessary for us to keep our joints going so that we don’t become horrible arthritics is the provision of God. It drains away, you get arthritis. And were it not for God, in his mercy, either our eyes would have been stuck open and we could never blink again, or in the night, they would have been stuck shut and we could never open them again. Why did they open this morning? Because God is the sustainer of life. Why can you hear me as I speak? Because God has sustained your eardrums. Why am I able to put sentences together? Because God has sustained my mental faculties thus far.

You see how vastly different this is from an approach to Christianity that just says, “You know, I met Jesus and I think it would be really nice if you met him as well.” The people are saying, “Well, that’s a very interesting concept, but how does it fit in the big scheme of things? What do you know about God?” Well, I’ll tell you. He’s the creator; he’s the sustainer of life.

God rules the nations

Thirdly, he’s the ruler of the nations, verse 26. “From one man he made every nation of men.” There’s something to take back to your anthropology professor: history and geography are under the control of God. The Indian mutiny came about as a result of mutinous Indians. Every bloodshed in the history of humanity is as a result of man’s warped sinfulness. But man’s warped sinfulness does not take a sovereign God by surprise, because he even sweeps into his purposes the sinful nature of man, thereby assuming and creating his prerogative over all the affairs of the nations. It’s a wonderful thought.

What a merciful God! He has put you in a certain place, at a certain time, in a moment in history, in the hope that you might seek him and that you might reach out for him, that you might find him.

God, as the ruler of the nations, desires that men and women would seek for him and would reach out for him. You’ll see that in the text, verse 27. He’s put everybody in these places where they should live, and he’s done that so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him. What a merciful God! He has put you in a certain place, at a certain time, in a moment in history, in the hope that you might seek him and that you might reach out for him, that you might find him. He’s not playing hide and seek with you. He’s not far from every one of us, as one of the poets has said. So why is it that he feels so far away? Is it because he has taken the phone off the hook? No. It is because our sin separates us from God. So instead of worshipping God as the creator and sustainer of life, as the ruler of the nations, we worship gods of our own creation. Idols. Substitutes for God.

God is the Father of humanity

Fourthly, he is introduced to his readers as Father. We are his offspring, he says in verse 29. The point that he’s making here is that we are all made in the image of God. We share that in humanity, no matter whether we’re in the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere, no matter whether we speak Spanish or Urdu or Hindi or English or whatever it might be. We’re all made in the image of God. He’s not talking here about that transaction by grace whereby we become God’s children through faith in God’s Son; he’s talking here simply in terms of humanity, and his point is straightforward. So look in the mirror, he says. Think about things. Think about the sense of oughtness that you have where you say, “You shouldn’t do that,” or “There’ll be punishment for that.” Think about that, he says, and you will realize that the reason you say those things is because you are a moral being, because you were made with a sense of right and wrong. And when you think about that, it is absurd, then, to create many gods, substitute gods, whereby we endeavor to localize God or to dethrone God.

God is the judge of all the earth

Well, it’s far more attractive, isn’t it, to have a little god represented by a little thing, a little elephant or whatever it is. You can carry it around with you. You can set it up. You can move it from room to room. Take your god with you as you go, localized, dethroned, and entirely made in the image that you designed. But it’s not the God who created the universe. It’s not the God who sustains your life. It’s not the God who rules the nations. It’s not the God who’s the Father of humanity. And it is not, finally, the God who is the judge of all the earth, because you will notice he’s introduced as judge.

“For he has set a day,” verse 31, “when he will judge the world with justice.” In other words, all the wrongs will be put right. All of the injustice will be dealt with. That sense of outrage that we feel when we look at something that is unresolved—when you see a court case that has so clearly gone wrong, anyone in their right mind knows that justice wasn’t served—and the injustices that are represented in humanity, that cry out from the fields of the workers and cry out from behind bedroom doors and so on, will one day be put to rights. God has already intervened in the person of his Son Jesus, and he now announces that there is a judgment day that is fixed, that will be fair, and that is absolutely final.

“Oh,” says somebody, “but you shouldn’t mention that. People don’t like the thought of judgment. Why can’t you make it a nicer sort of thing where we don’t have a judgment?” Loved ones, we’ve got to have a judgment. Think about it. You know there has to be a judgment. You know somebody has to deal with Hitler. You know somebody has to deal with the Pol Pot regime. You know that these things have to be addressed. And if God were to address evil now, tonight, twenty-third of November, midnight, all evil gone in North America, how many of us would be alive in the morning? None of us. Because in banishing evil, he would banish every single one of us. It is his kindness and his forbearance that announces judgment.

“You’re going to have to face me,” he says. “And I’m telling you now, and I’m commanding you, all men everywhere, to repent, to turn from your own silly little idols and to worship me, the creator, the sustainer, the ruler, the Father, the judge.”[8] And ultimately a congregation like this divides itself not in terms of economics, not in terms of the routine demographics of suburban American cities, but ultimately divides itself in relationship to this question: Have I then bowed down before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do I worship him in this way?

It is only when we realize that we were made by God and that we were made for God that we find anything big enough to live for. Anything big enough to satisfy our intellectual quests. Anything significant enough to reach in and deal with our emotional longings. Anything comprehensive enough to tackle the best of our human endeavors.

Now let me finish. It is this large picture, it is this big view which helps us with our quest for fulfillment. For fulfillment. I want to suggest to you that it is only when we realize that we were made by God and that we were made for God that we find anything big enough to live for. Anything big enough to satisfy our intellectual quests. Anything significant enough to reach in and deal with our emotional longings. Anything comprehensive enough to tackle the best of our human endeavors.

Substitute gods cannot provide fulfillment or freedom

Substitute gods cannot provide fulfillment, do not provide fulfillment, nor do substitute gods provide freedom. [MOU1] Freedom. And yet that’s the myth, isn’t it? “If you will worship one of these little substitute gods, you will be free.” No, you won’t. If you’ve tried it, you know. You will be demeaned, and you will be enslaved. “Oh,” you say, “well, this is terrific. Did you preach this to the Hindu people? It sounds wonderful for them. I mean, you’ve told me that they have hundreds of gods. It must be terrific. What a super message. I see what you’re doing now. You didn’t have a message for us, so you just decided to use one of your Hindu messages.” No. No, not for a moment. This is entirely for us. They never breathed a word of this over there. No, because my friend said to me, he said, “You see, we have hundreds of gods, we have thousands of gods in Hinduism.” I said, “Hey, welcome to the universe. Come to America. We have hundreds of gods as well.”

We have hundreds of substitute gods. We have hundreds of idols. And those idols in America demean and they enslave. Worship sex, and it will destroy you. Worship alcohol, and it will enslave you. Worship stuff, and it will eat you. Worship your family, and you will collapse under the burden of unfulfilled expectations. Worship any substitute god, and you will find that it cannot satisfy. There’s not a vacation that can deal with it. There’s not a piece of music that can do it. There is nothing that can handle it. That’s why C. S. Lewis talks about the dream of a place I’ve never been, the scent of a flower I’ve never smelled, the melody line of a piece of music that I have never heard. And he says when you go back to something that meant so much to you, when you get there, it isn’t there.[9] And that’s because it wasn’t there when it was there, it was what that represented to you, and what that represented to you had to do with intellectual and emotional and endeavoring longings of the heart which can only finally find their answer in the God who is creator, sustainer, ruler, Father, and judge.

Now on the front of the bulletin, it says, “What am I thankful for?” This is what I’m thankful for this year. I’m glad I got it over with because I can never think of what I’m thankful for when you get ’round the table. Horribly embarrassing it is, and everybody trying to think of, “Well, I’m thankful for better things than you’re thankful for”; a horrible sense, a horrible sense of one-upmanship that’s absolutely, absolutely useless. So here’s what you can say. Well I’m thankful; I am thankful for God. For God. And God means something.

I’m thankful that he is my creator, that I am not the product of plankton soup, that I am not junk, ’cause God, he don’t make no junk. I am thankful that he is creator.

I am thankful that he is sustainer, that I have lived for fifty-six years in relatively good health, that God has provided food for me to eat and clothes for me to wear and friends with whom to enjoy the journey of life.

I am thankful thirdly that he is ruler over the nations of the world, including the United States of America; that he is sovereign over all of the political affairs, therefore I need not stay awake at night, I need not agitate, I need not worry. I may as safely go to sleep on a 777 Boeing going across Afghanistan, in the awareness that the pilot has got it under control, as I may sleep in my bed at night knowing that God who rules the nations has everything under his care. I am thankful for that.

Fourthly, I’m thankful that he is the Father of humanity, that he has made us as human beings that can enjoy one another in all kinds of cultures and all kinds of places. And more distinctly, I am thankful that he is the Father of all who have come to trust in his Son Jesus by his grace and by his favor.

And finally I am glad that he is the judge of all the earth, and he will do absolutely right. That I don’t have the responsibility of fixing everything, because I don’t know enough to fix, but I know that this God who is absolutely fair, who is wonderfully compassionate, who is fearful and who is awesome as judge like a lion, is also like a lamb when we come and embrace him.

C. S. Lewis in—is it The Silver Chair?—has this wonderful encounter between Jill and the lion. Of course, the lion represents Jesus. Jill is thirsty. She spies a stream. It’s not far away, but she doesn’t run into it and throw her face into the refreshment that it provides. Instead she freezes because she sees right there at the stream there is a lion resting in the sun and it is impossible for her to get to the stream without dealing with the lion. And then the dialog that C. S. Lewis gave us is as follows:

“Are you not thirsty,” said the Lion? “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill. “Then drink,” said the lion. “May I? Could I? Would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. “Will you, will you promise not to, not to do anything to me if I come?” said Jill. “I make no promise,” said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she’d come a step nearer. “Do you, do you eat girls?” she said. “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it. “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh dear,” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” said the Lion.[10]


And the myth of our syncretistic culture this morning is that you’ve stepped in here to an environment that, if you’re wondering about things, is suspect to you immediately because contemporary thought says the only person you have to really be afraid of, the only view you have to really step back from, is the view that purports to be true. Because after all we’ve already concluded, haven’t we, that there is no one stream from which people need to drink?

See what a great lie it is? See how dark and demonic it is? See how stupid it is for Americans to float around with cameras, taking pictures of all of that? See how unbelievable it is for sensible men and women to expose their minds to that darkness in spas and books and gyms all across our country? You’re sensible people; I’m sure you’ll think this out.

God our Father, we thank you for the Bible. We thank you that it speaks to us, religious, irreligious, intelligent, or not so bright; and we thank you that ultimately it brings us to this wonderful stream, a life-giving stream. Help us, Lord, to stoop down and drink and live. Help us to understand that we cannot get what we want without at the same time getting what we don’t want but what we need. So hear our prayers. May your grace and mercy and peace be the portion of all who trust and believe in Jesus. For his name’s sake we ask it. Amen.

[1] Isaiah 42:8 (NIV 1984).

[2] John Sargent, ed., Memoir of Rev. Henry Martyn, B.D. (London: J. Hatchard and Son, 1819), 420 (paraphrased).

[3] Philippians 2:9–11 (paraphrased).

[4] J. B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small (New York: Touchstone, 2004), 8 (paraphrased).

[5] Genesis 1:31 (paraphrased).

[6] Nehemiah 8:10 (paraphrased).

[7] Matthew 6:26–30 (paraphrased).

[8] Acts 17:30 (paraphrased).

[9] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 30–31 (paraphrased).

[10] C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (Harmondsworth: Puffin Books, 1974), 26–27 (paraphrased).

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.