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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Ultimate Good of the Gospel

God is the GospelJohn Piper:

“The ultimate good of the gospel is seeing and savoring the beauty and value of God. God’s wrath and our sin obstruct that vision and that pleasure. You can’t see and savor God as supremely satisfying while you are full of rebellion against Him and He is full of wrath against you. The removal of this wrath and this rebellion is what the gospel is for. The ultimate aim of the gospel is the display of God’s glory and the removal of every obstacle to our seeing it and savoring it as our highest treasure. “Behold Your God!” is the most gracious command and the best gift of the gospel. If we do not see Him and savor Him as our greatest fortune, we have not obeyed or believed the gospel.” (God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself)

0+0=1?

Quoting R.C. Sproul:

“Nothing could be more irrational than the idea that something comes from nothing.”

Seek And Find God

In the words of John Piper:

Brothers and sisters, we must be more earnest in seeking God in worship. We must be less flippant and less frivolous and thoughtless and casual and disrespectful as we approach the chamber of God in the assembly of the faithful. Have you ever thought through the implications of Jeremiah 29:13 where God says, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me WITH ALL YOUR HEART.” There is only one reason to come to this service – to seek and find GOD! And the Lord God says to you straight from his Word every Sunday, “You will find me when you seek me with ALL YOUR HEART!”

The Banquet Of God’s Glory

In the words of John Piper:

The revolt against hedonism has killed the spirit of worship in many churches. When you have the notion that high moral acts must be free from self-interest, then worship, which is one of the highest moral acts a human can perform, has to be conceived simply as duty. And when worship is reduced to a duty it ceases to exist. One of the great enemies of worship in our church is our own misguided virtue. We have the vague notion that seeking our own pleasure is sin and therefore virtue itself imprisons the longings of our hearts and smothers the spirit of worship. For what is worship if it is not our joyful feasting upon the banquet of God’s glory?

Robert Murray McCheyne: Do Not Doubt His Love

In the words of Robert Murray McCheyne:

God’s children should not doubt His love when He afflicts. Christ loved Lazarus peculiarly, and yet He afflicted Him very sore. A surgeon never bends his eye so tenderly upon his patient, as when he is putting in the lancet, or probing the wound to the very bottom. And so with Christ – He bends His eye most tenderly over His own at the time He is afflicting them… A goldsmith when he casts gold into the furnace looks after it. (“Comfort in Sorrow”)

When Unclothed Is Unfitting: Thoughts on Selling with Sex

From the writings of John Piper:

Jonathan Edwards once said that godly people can, as it were, smell the depravity of an act before they can explain why it evil. There is a spiritual sense that something is amiss. It does not fit in a world permeated with God.

Ephesians 5:3 says that some things “are not fitting” among saints.” “Fitting-ness” is not always easy to justify with arguments. You discern it before you can defend it. That’s good, because we have to make hundreds of choices every day with no time for extended reflection.

But from time to time we need to pause and give rational, biblical expression why something is not fitting. Some years ago I came to that point when, week after week, a local newspaper put scantily clad women on the second page of Section A in order to sell underclothes. I wrote a letter to the paper with nine reasons why they should stop using this kind of advertising.

Perhaps my reflections will help you deal with the hundreds of abuses of God’s good gift of sexuality in our culture. Here is what I wrote.

As a 14-year subscriber and reader of the [name of paper omitted], I am writing to express the persuasion that your sexually explicit ads that often turn up in Section A are increasingly offensive and socially irresponsible. I mean that the effectiveness of catching people’s attention by picturing a woman in her underclothes does not justify the ads. The detrimental effects of such mercenary misuse of the female body are not insignificant. The harm I have in mind is described in the following nine persuasions.

1. This woman could not go out in public dressed like that without being shamed or being mentally aberrant. Yet you thrust her out, even in front of those of us who feel shame for her.

2. This portrayal of a woman sitting in her underclothes at a table with a cup of tea disposes men to think of women not as persons but mainly in terms of their bodies. It stimulates young boys to dwell on unclothed women’s bodies and thus lames their ability to deal with women as dignified persons. I have four sons.

3. The ad stimulates sexual desire which in thousands of men has no legitimate or wholesome outlet through marriage. In other words, it feeds a corporate, community lust that bears no good fruit outside marriage, but in fact many ills.

4. The ad makes sensibilities callous so that fewer and fewer offenses against good taste feel unacceptable, which spells the collapse of precious and delicate aspects of personhood and relationships.

5. The ad makes thousands of women subconsciously measure their attractiveness and worth by the standard of rarefied, unrealistic models, leading to an unhealthy and discouraging preoccupation with outward looks.

6. The ad feeds the prurient fantasies of ordinary men, lodging a sexual image in their minds for the day which can rob them of the ability to think about things greater and nobler than skin.

7. The ad condones the proclivity of males to mentally unclothe women by reminding them what they would see if they did, and by suggesting that there are women who want to be publicly unclothed in this way. This reminder and this suggestion support habits and stereotypes that weaken personal virtue and jeopardize decorous relationships.

8. The ad encourages young girls to put excessive focus on their bodies and how they will be looked at, adding to the epidemic of depression and eating disorders.

9. The ad contributes to dissatisfaction in men whose wives can’t produce that body and thus adds to the instability of marriages and homes.

I realize that the bottom line is big bucks for page two, and lots of attention for [name of department store omitted]. But please know that at least one assessment of your standards of fitness for print is that it is part of a tragic loss of modesty and decency that may, for now, feel like mature liberation, but in generations to come will reap a whirlwind of misery for all of us.

From John Piper, A Godward Life, published by Multnomah Books.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Who Gets The Glory?

John Piper (theologian)

John Piper

Quoting John Piper:

God is not displeased with the strength of a horse and the legs of a man as good things that He has made. He is displeased with those who hope in their horses and in their legs. He is displeased with the people who put their hope, for example, in missiles or in make-up, in tanks or tanning parlors, in bombs or body-building. God takes no pleasure in corporate efficiency or balanced budgets or welfare systems or new vaccines or education or eloquence or artistic excellence or legal processes, when these things are the treasure in which we hope, or the achievement in which we boast. Why? Because when we put our hope in horses and legs, then the horses and legs get the glory, not God. (Piper, The Pleasures of God, 208)

 

A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind

John Piper

Quoting John Piper:

I was reading and meditating on the book of Hebrews recently, when it hit me forcefully that a basic and compelling reason for education — the rigorous training of the mind — is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding.

This sounds too obvious to be useful or compelling. But that’s just because we take the preciousness of reading so for granted; or, even more, because we appreciate so little the kind of thinking that a complex Bible passage requires of us.

The book of Hebrews, for example, is an intellectually challenging argument from Old Testament texts. The points that the author makes hang on biblical observations that come only from rigorous reading, not light skimming. And the understanding of these Old Testament interpretations in the text of Hebrews requires rigorous thought and mental effort. The same could be said for the extended argumentation of Romans and Galatians and the other books of the Bible.

This is an overwhelming argument for giving our children a disciplined and rigorous training in how to think an author’s thoughts after him from a text — especially a biblical text. An alphabet must be learned, as well as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, the rudiments of logic, and the way meaning is imparted through sustained connections of sentences and paragraphs.

The reason Christians have always planted schools where they have planted churches is because we are a people of THE BOOK. It is true that THE BOOK will never have its proper effect without prayer and the Holy Spirit. It is not a textbook to be debated; it is a fountain for spiritual thirst, and food for the soul, and a revelation of God, and a living power, and a two-edged sword. But none of this changes the fact: apart from the discipline of reading, the Bible is as powerless as paper. Someone might have to read it for you; but without reading, the meaning and the power of it are locked up.

Continue reading here. . . .

(By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700)

Where Do You Put Your Hope?

John Piper

From The Pleasures of God by John Piper:

“God is not displeased with the strength of a horse and the legs of a man as good things that He has made. He is displeased with those who hope in their horses and in their legs. He is displeased with the people who put their hope, for example, in missiles or in make-up, in tanks or tanning parlors, in bombs or body-building. God takes no pleasure in corporate efficiency or balanced budgets or welfare systems or new vaccines or education or eloquence or artistic excellence or legal processes, when these things are the treasure in which we hope, or the achievement in which we boast. Why? Because when we put our hope in horses and legs, then the horses and legs get the glory, not God.” (Piper, The Pleasures of God, 208)

Thoughts on Why Everything Exists

John Piper

Quoting John Piper:

One of the main points of the forthcoming book, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ, is that sin and God’s wrath against it were part of God’s plan when he created the world. This is different from saying that God sins or that he approves of sinning.

The main reason for making this point is to exalt the revelation of God’s grace in the crucifixion of Jesus to the highest place. This is the point of the universe—the glorification of the grace of God in the apex of its expression in the death of Jesus.

Jesus died for sin (1 Corinthians 15:3). The death of Jesus for sin was planned before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 1:4-6). Therefore, sin was part of the plan. God carries this plan through in a way that maintains full human accountability, full hatred for sin, full divine justice, and full saving love for all who trust Christ. And we don’t need to know how he does it to believe it and rest in it and worship him for it.

Continue reading here. . . .

Prosperity Preaching: Deceitful and Deadly

John Piper

In the words of John Piper:

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.

Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).

My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.

Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.

The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org.

On Abortion

John Piper

Quoting from John Piper (“Ten Reasons Why it is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children”, Sermon: April 7, 1989, www.DesiringGod.org):

1. God commanded, “Thou shalt not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

2. The destruction of conceived human life – whether embryonic, fetal, or viable – is an assault on the unique person-forming work of God.

3. Aborting unborn humans falls under the repeated biblical ban against “shedding innocent blood.”

4. The Bible frequently expresses the high priority God puts on the protection and provision and vindication of the weakest and most helpless and most victimized members of the community.

5. By judging difficult and even tragic human life as a worse evil than taking life, abortionists contradict the widespread biblical teaching that God loves to show His gracious power through suffering and not just by helping people avoid suffering.

6. It is a sin of presumption to justify abortion by taking comfort in the fact that all these little children will go to heaven or even be given full adult life in the resurrection.

7. The Bible commands us to rescue our neighbor who is being unjustly led away to death.

8. Aborting unborn children falls under Jesus’ rebuke of those who spurned children as inconvenient and unworthy of the Savior’s attention.

9. It is the right of God the Maker to give and to take human life. It is not our individual right to make this choice.

10. Finally, saving faith in Jesus Christ brings forgiveness of sins and cleansing of conscience and help through life and hope for eternity. Surrounded by such omnipotent love, every follower of Jesus is free from the greed and fear that might lure a person to forsake these truths in order to gain money or avoid reproach.

God’s Glory and the Deepest Joy of Human Souls Are One Thing

John Piper

From the desk of Pastor John Piper:

Jonathan Edwards writes:

God in seeking his glory seeks the good of his creatures, because the emanation of his glory . . . implies the . . . happiness of his creatures. And in communicating his fullness for them, he does it for himself, because their good, which he seeks, is so much in union and communion with himself. God is their good. Their excellency and happiness is nothing but the emanation and expression of God’s glory. God, in seeking their glory and happiness, seeks himself, and in seeking himself, i.e. himself diffused . . . he seeks their glory and happiness.

Thus it is easy to conceive how God should seek the good of the creature . . . even his happiness, from a supreme regard to himself; as his happiness arises from . . . the creature’s exercising a supreme regard to God . . . in beholding God’s glory, in esteeming and loving it, and rejoicing in it.

God’s respect to the creature’s good, and his respect to himself, is not a divided respect; but both are united in one, as the happiness of the creature aimed at is happiness in union with himself.

Jonathan Edwards

In his book, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (with the complete text of The End for Which God Created the World (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), John Piper offers fifteen implications for the truths cited above.

1. God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in him are not at odds.

2. Therefore, God is as committed to my eternal and ever-increasing joy in him as he is to his own glory.

3.The love of God for sinners is not his making much of them, but his graciously freeing and empowering them to enjoy making much of him.

4.All true virtue among human beings must aim at bringing people to rejoice in the glory of God.

5.It also follows that sin is the suicidal exchange of the glory of God for the broken cisterns of created things.

6.Heaven will be a never-ending, ever-increasing discovery of more and more of God’s glory with greater and ever-greater joy in him.

7.Hell is unspeakably real, conscious, horrible and eternal – the experience in which God vindicates the worth of his glory in holy wrath on those who would not delight in what is infinitely glorious.

8.Evangelism means depicting the beauty of Christ and his saving work with a heartfelt urgency of love that labors to help people find their satisfaction in him.

9.Similarly Christian preaching, as part of the corporate worship of Christ’s church, is an expository exultation over the glories of God in his word, designed to lure God’s people from the fleeting pleasures of sin into the sacrificial path of obedient satisfaction in him.

10.The essence of authentic, corporate worship is the collective experience of heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, or a trembling that we do not have it and a great longing for it.

11.World missions is a declaration of the glories of God among all the unreached peoples, with a view to gathering worshippers who magnify God through the gladness of radically obedient lives.

12.Prayer is calling on God for help so it is plain that he is gloriously resourceful and we are humbly and happily in need of grace.

13.The task of Christian scholarship is to study reality as a manifestation of God’s glory, to speak about it with accuracy, and to savor the beauty of God in it.

14.The way to magnify God in death is by meeting death as gain.

15.”It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.” (C. S. Lewis)

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Do You Really Understand The Bible?

John Piper preaches (excerpt) on a classic issue of our times:

John Piper On The Indifferent Minister

John Piper

Quoting John Piper:

Gladness and gravity should be woven together in the life and preaching of a pastor in such a way as to sober the careless soul and sweeten the burdens of the saints. I say “sweeten” because it connotes some of the poignancy of the gladness I have in mind, and sets it off from the glib and petty attempts to stir up lightheartedness in a congregation. Love for the people does not take precious realities lightly (hence the call for gravity), and love for people does not load people with the burden of obedience without providing the strength of joy to help them carry it (hence the call for the gladness).

Gladness in preaching is an act of love. It continually amazes people when I say that if a pastor is to truly love his people he must diligently pursue his happiness in the ministry of the Word. People have been taught consistently that to be a loving person you must abandon the pursuit of your own joy. It’s all right to get it as an unexpected and unpursued result of love (as if that were psychologically possible), but it is not all right to pursue your happiness.

I assert the opposite: If you are indifferent to your joy in ministry you are indifferent to an essential element of love. And if you try to abandon your joy in the ministry of the Word you strive against God and your people. (The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Baker, 1990), 52-53)

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