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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

12 Steps to Identifying Your Functional Saviors

12 Steps to Identifying Your Functional Saviors

In The Bookends of the Christian Life, Jerry Bridges offers twelve "questions" to help us identify our functional saviors.

These are great questions to ask yourself to gain insight to the direction our inner attitudes and desires are pointing us.

1. I am preoccupied with ________.

2. If only ________, then I would be happy.

3. I get my sense of significance from ________.

4. I would protect and preserve ________ at any cost.

5. I fear losing ________.

6. The thing that gives me greatest pleasure is ________.

7. When I lose ________, I get angry, resentful, frustrated, anxious, or depressed.

8. For me, life depends on ________.

9. The thing I value more than anything in the world is ________.

10. When I daydream, my mind goes to________.

11. The best thing I can think of is ________.

12. The thing that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning is ________.

Source: http://thinklings.org/posts/12-steps-to-identifying-your-functional-saviors

Monday, October 4, 2010

Broken, Wounded, and Hopeful

Broken, Wounded, and Hopeful

Jeremy B lives in Israel and has a unique opportunity to explore the roots of Christianity while living in the reality of modern Jewish society. I appreciated a recent devotional he wrote. Jeremy has given me permission to reprint it here.

Being in Israel on the Day of Atonement this year for the very first time left a deep impression on me, and caused me to give a lot of thought to the sacrificial system - especially its less appealing aspects. Watching some of the Orthodox slaughter chickens to provide some sort of atonement reminded me that salvation has always been a messy business and that looking deeply into it can be a shock for the faint of heart.

This realization came at a time of interesting findings in the final stages of writing my thesis. Indeed, the sights and sounds of sacrifices took on a new and deeper meaning in light of a discovery I made a couple of weeks ago. This all may sound rather technical, but I will do my best to make it as understandable as possible because I really feel as though I have stumbled upon something.

I was analyzing the very rare Hebrew verb root s-b-r that is usually translated as "hope" or "wait for" in English, such as in the following verse: "Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation..." (Psalm 119:166). We often find that rare words in Hebrew have corresponding companion words in Arabic that can help reveal the original meaning in the Bible. It so happens that there is a related root in Arabic that potentially adds a fascinating shade of meaning to the root s-b-r in Hebrew. The Arabic root is used in the context of looking closely at something to inspect it - particularly to dig to the deepest part of a wound to see what is below its surface. You may wonder what thoroughly inspecting a wound could have to do with waiting and hoping for salvation. There may be more to this than meets the eye...

As I began to consider the implications of this connection between the two languages, I was reminded of the well-known verses about the Messiah’s sacrifice: "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows... he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4-5). It is clear from this passage that the Messiah was not only put to death for our sins, but also suffered prior to his crucifixion and that this included bearing the sorrows of mankind - and not only its sin in the strictest sense of the word. Ultimately, the existence of sorrow and suffering is a result of the presence of sin in the world, yet God is not content with dealing with the root of sin alone but also longs to heal mankind from the resulting wounds.

So what is the connection between this verb s-b-r and this passage in Isaiah, and what relevance does it have to our lives today? Wounds - both physical and emotional - are a part of our reality as human beings even if we prefer to ignore them. Indeed, our instinct is often to recoil at the sight of a wound - whether it is our own or someone else’s. Perhaps this is due to a feeling of helplessness in dealing with the pain and healing the wound, or it could be a self-defense mechanism we activate to avoid confronting the pain directly. Whatever the case may be, we need to be reminded that "by his stripes we are healed." This literally means that every last grief and sorrow of ours was already fully experienced by Jesus so that we might be healed.

The practical implication of this truth is the realization that there is no wound that cannot be faced head-on. If the Messiah has already suffered that same wound, and if there is healing in his pain, then we need not fear examining his sacrifice closely to learn what he has endured for each of us individually. This root s-b-r with its double meaning of hoping for salvation and closely inspecting a wound captures this thought so perfectly. As we long for deliverance, we can look deeply into his suffering without flinching - even when it reflects our own pain. In fact, it is when we see our wound laid upon him that we can find the promised healing.

It took some time for me to accept this aspect of God’s plan of salvation. Indeed, I have tended to see any issue that could not be traced to a specific, confessable sin to be somehow irrelevant to the Messiah’s sacrifice. But I am gradually coming to the realization that the same God who placed my sin on the Messiah's shoulders also wounded him so that he might carry my grief and sorrow. I am beginning to understand that part of my eager expectation for his deliverance includes looking squarely into the wounds that I have suffered and realizing that he has endured that very same pain in order to heal me. I don’t know what all I will see as I intently gaze upon his salvation, but I know that I need not flinch in looking at wounds which have already fallen squarely on his shoulders, and for which he has already provided the healing.

by Jeremy B, reprinted by permission.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Solving the Stepfamily Dilemma

Solving the Stepfamily Dilemma

Biblical Counseling Center

Don Hart writes a short article that is packed with interesting facts and practical advice for blended families.

I want to put a spotlight on the most important parts, but you should read the entire article here:

http://www.biblicalcounselingcenter.org

Divorce Rate

Take a survey of 100 married couples. 75 of the men and 60 of the women want to divorce and marry someone else.

Most second marriages involve children.

Out of every 100 divorces, 90 of the mothers will be the primary custodian.

Survey 100 second-marriages. 67 of those marriages will also end in divorce.

Don asks a good question: What can stepfamilies do to be one of the 33% of those whose second marriage succeeds?

Problem 1: Time to Build the Marital Relationship

It seems even more important for second-marriage relationships to spend as much time together as just husband and wife...yet it's even harder to do. The blended family tends to expend all energy and emotion on the children. Don recommends that couples must put time into the family schedule for a regular date night.

Problem 2: The Parent-Child Relationship

The new step-parent is an outsider. The children, whether his or hers, may respect the new parent (or not), but they definitely will be slow to trust and depend upon them. Don lists four examples that will work, but he also lists four things that will NOT work:

1. Authority that is demanding and threatening, contradicting established household standards or Scripture.

2. Expecting love, obedience and respect from the children, yet failing to provide sacrificial love in return.

3. Squashing individual dignity of the chilren, putting down the child who fails or is uncooperative.

4. Selfishness. Pride. Anger. Manipulation.

Problem 3: Finances

Often, second-marriages bring unsupported debt into the blend. It's worth considering delaying a marriage until the debt can be paid. Child support from the ex-parent is rarely adequate to cover everything. Whether in debt or not, the couple should not keep separate accounts. Not "my money versus her money," but "it's our money, regardless of who earns it."

Again, this is a good article, a quick read, and I recommend it for all who might be involved in a second marriage:

http://www.biblicalcounselingcenter.org

Friday, September 17, 2010

f(x) = x (Line Equation of Suffering and Joy)

f(x) = x

Line Equation of Suffering and Joy

As x increases, so increases y.

Let x = suffering

Let y = joy

This is true only as the suffering, and the joy, are in Christ.

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place - the Most High, who is my refuge - no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

"Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.

When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."

Psalms 91:1-16 (ESV)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 5

Conversion, The Creation of a Christian Hedonist

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 5

By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books

A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: The Happiness of God

Part 3: The Goal of God in Redemptive History

Part 4: God Delights in His Glory

Part 5: Conversion, The Creation of a Christian Hedonist (page 53)

What do you think? Jay E. Adams writes that counseling others should emphasize the "what" of behavior, rather than the "why" of behavior. Do you think it's important to know why a person is caught in a habitual sin, before trying to help them out of it? Is the "why" of sin insignificant? (Competent to Counsel, Jay E. Adams, 1970 Zondervan, pages 48-49)

God's quest to be glorified and our quest to be satisfied both reach their goal in one experience: our delight in God, which overflows in praise.

This foundational truth implies that the very thing that can make us happiest is what God delights in with all His heart and soul:

I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them...I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. Jeremiah 32:40-41 (ESV)

Omnipotent Joy pursues the good of all who cast themselves on God:

The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalms 147:11 (ESV)

But this is not everyone.

No one is a Christian who does not embrace Jesus gladly as his most valued treasure, and then pursue the fullness of that joy in Christ that honors him.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (ESV)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25:31-32 (ESV)

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Matthew 25:1-2 (ESV)

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Cor 1:18 (ESV)

There are sheep and there are goats. There are wise and foolish. There are those being saved and those who are perishing. The difference is that one group has been converted and the other hasn't.

Why Not Just Say, "Believe"? (page 54)

If conversion is necessary, why not use the straight-forward, biblical command, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31)? Why bring in the new terminology of "Christian Hedonism"?

Two answers:

1. The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus. It does no good to tell these people to believe in the Lord. The phrase is empty. The key is: Do you treasure Him more than everything?

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8 (ESV)

2. The phrase, "Christian Hedonism" forces people to pay attention to all the straight-forward biblical commands besides "Believe in the Lord Jesus".

It could be that the most straight-forward biblical command for conversion is "Delight yourself in the Lord". Many slumbering hearts might be stabbed awake by the words, "Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God!"

What do you think? Many people stumble over the term "Christian Hedonism." Do you have any reservations about or objections to the term "Christian Hedonism"? If so, what are they?

Six Crucial Truths: Our Need and God's Provision (page 55)

How Have We Failed? (page 56)

1. God created us for His glory.

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. Isaiah 43:6-7 (ESV)

God created us in His image so that we would image forth His glory in the world.

2. Therefore, it is the duty of every person to live for the glory of God.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

Glorify means to value God's glory above all things and to make it known. It implies heartfelt gratitude and trust:

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me. Psalms 50:23 (ESV)

No distrust made him [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God. Romans 4:20 (ESV)

Glorifying God is the duty of everyone, including those who have only the witness of nature and their own conscience:

His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him Romans 1:20-21 (ESV)

Deep within us we all know that it is our duty to glorify our Maker by thanking Him for all we have, trusting Him for all we need, and obeying all His revealed will.

How Desperate is Our Condition? (page 57)

3. Yet all of us have failed to glorify God as we ought.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:22-23 (ESV)

"Fall short" means to exchange something of great value for someone of lesser value. All sin comes from not putting supreme value on the glory of God.

4. Therefore, all of us are subject to eternal condemnation by God. (page 58)

The wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23 (ESV)

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. 2 Thess 1:9 (ESV)

Hell is a place of torment, not merely the absence of pleasure. It is not anihilation. Jesus repeatedly described it as an experience of fire.

Whoever says, "You fool!" will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:22 (ESV)

It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. Matthew 18:9 (ESV)

It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Mark 9:47-48 (ESV)

Hell is a place of torment and it is everlasting. "Punishment" for sin is eternal the same way "life" is eternal.

"Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matthew 25:41-46 (ESV)

Hell is not remedial. There is sin that will not be forgiven in the age to come:

whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32 (ESV)

Those in hell will have endless torment:

The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night. Rev 14:11 (ESV)

Only three questions would be required for God to show us our guilt:

Was it not plain in nature that everything you had was a gift and that you were dependent on your Maker for life and breath and everything?

Did not your own heart always hold other people guilty when they lacked the gratitude they should have had in response to a kindness you performed?

Has your life been filled with gratitude and trust toward Me in proportion to My generosity and authority?

Case closed.

What Has God Done to Save Us from His Wrath? (page 61)

5. Nevertheless, in His great mercy, God sent forth His Son, Jesus Christ, to save sinners by dying in their place on the cross and rising bodily from the dead.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 1 Tim 1:15 (ESV)

Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:24-25 (ESV)

The Gospel: the Good News that God Himself has decreed a way to satisfy the demands of His justice without condemining the whole human race.

But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Cor 1:23-24 (ESV)

The death of Christ is the wisdom of God by which the love of God saves sinners from the wrath of God, all the while upholding and demonstrating the righteousness of God in Christ.

Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26 (ESV)

God is wholly just, and He justifies the ungodly. He acquits the guilty, but is not guilty in doing so. This is the greatest news in the world!

There is no other word besides "propitiation" to best describe what Christ did by dying on the cross. Many translations replace it with more common words: expiation, sacrifice or atonement.

Propitiation means to appease (to make peace), from a Latin word, propitius, meaning favorable. It is used to translate a Greek word meaning expiation (to make good), from a word meaning to take for oneself, to lift away.

For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. Romans 8:3 (ESV)

He [Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. 1 Peter 2:24 (ESV)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. 1 Peter 3:18 (ESV)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:5 (ESV)

The most terrifying news in the world:

We have fallen under our Creator's condemnation and wrath.

The most wonderful news in the world:

He has given His Son to die for sinners and conquer their death by His own resurrection!

What Must We Do to Be Saved? (page 63)

6. The benefits purchased by Christ's death belong to those who repent and trust in Him.

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out. Acts 3:19 (ESV)

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. Acts 16:31 (ESV)

The condition that must be met for salvation is repentance and faith, which can be described as conversion, and conversion is nothing less than the creation of a Christian Hedonist.

What is Conversion? (page 63)

So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. Acts 15:3 (ESV)

"Conversion" is used in the Bible to translate a Greek word, "epistroph", meaning a reversion, a turning back. It comes from "trop" a word meaning to turn. We use a similar word in English to describe the turning of the sun from season to season: tropical.

When Peter brought the news that Gentiles had received (taken hold of) the Word of God and been baptized with the Holy Spirit, the apostles saw the change as being the result of repentence:

Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life. Acts 11:18 (ESV)

Later, when Paul and Barnabas report to the church, they connect the conversion of the Gentiles with their faith:

And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27 (ESV)

Conversion is both repentance (turning from sin and unbelief) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).

Imagine the two sides of a coin. One side is tails: turn tail on the fruits of unbelief. The other side is heads: head straight for Jesus and trust His promises. You can't have the one without the other.

Saving faith in Christ always involves a profound change of heart...it is not merely agreement with a doctrine. Even Satan agrees with doctrine:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder! James 2:19 (ESV)

Conversion Is a Gift of God (page 64)

God has granted repentance that leads to life. Acts 11:18 (ESV)

God exalted him [Christ] at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31 (ESV)

[God] had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27 (ESV)

The Lord opened her [Lydia's] heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. Acts 16:14 (ESV)

Repentance and faith are our work, but we will not repent and believe unless God does His work to overcome our hard and rebellious hearts. This work of God is called regeneration. Our work is called conversion.

First comes regeneration:

The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV)

I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7 (ESV)

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. Ezekiel 11:19-20 (ESV)

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27 (ESV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. 1 John 5:1 (ESV)

The verb tenses make John's intention unmistakable:

"Everyone who goes on believing (present, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (perfect, completed action with abiding effects) of God."

Faith is the evidence of regeneration, not the cause of it.

Since faith and repentance are possible only because of the regenerating work of God, both are called the gift of God:

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— by grace you have been saved— For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:4-5, 8 (ESV)

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV)

What do you think? Why is the raising of Lazarus in John 11 a good picture of God's work of regeneration?

Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility (page 65)

Jonathan Edwards distinguished between moral necessity and natural necessity.

Moral necessity means choices we make that are driven by the strongest motive. We do only what we want most to do, and we are morally unable to act contrary to what we want most to do.

Natural necessity means events that occur only because of natural causes, rather than moral causes. Being chained to a chair is a "natural necessity". My strongest motive may be to stand up (say, if the room is on fire) but I would be unable.

This distinction is crucial in understanding the relationship between God's sovereignty and human responsibility. Moral ability is not a prerequisite to accountability. Natural ability is.

Moral inabilility to do a good thing does not excuse our failure to do it. Though we love darkness rather than light and therefore can't (because of moral inability) come to the light, nevertheless we are responsible for not coming, that is, we can be justly punished for not coming.

We see this distinction even in our secular governments. The stronger a man's desire to to evil, the more unable he is to do good, yet the more wicked he is judged to be by men. If men really believed that moral inability excused a man from guilt, then our judgement of his wickedness would decrease in proportion to the intensity of his love of evil. But this is almost universally contrary to all humans.

(Source: "A Response to J.I. Packer on the So-Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility", by John Piper, March 1, 1976, © Desiring God. Website: DesiringGod.org

What do you think? What Scriptures tell us of our moral inability?

Conversion is a Condition of Salvation and a Miracle of God (page 67)

To avoid confusion, salvation must be precisely defined.

If salvation refers to new birth, conversion is NOT a condition of it. New birth comes first and enables the repentance and faith of conversion. Before new birth we are dead, and dead men don't meet conditions. Regeneration depends completely upon the free grace of God.

It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16 (ESV)

But if salvation refers to justification, there is one clear condition that must be met: faith in Jesus Christ.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Romans 3:28 (ESV)

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. Romans 4:4-5 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1 (ESV)

If salvation refers to eternal life, we must believe and obey. There must be faith and the fruit of faith.

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:17 (ESV)

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:26 (ESV)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 (ESV)

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 (ESV)

The answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" depends upon what we are asking:

  • how to be born again
  • how to be justified
  • how to be finally welcomed into heaven.

The answer "Become a Christian Hedonist" means God's work in new birth, our faith in Christ, and the the work of God in our lives to help us obey Christ. This is the fullest meaning of conversion.

Saving Faith (page 69)

Saving faith, powerful faith that produces changes in our lives, includes many different elements:

  • Acts 16:31 - Believe in the Lord Jesus
  • John 1:12 - Receive Christ
  • Acts 3:19 - Repent
  • Hebrews 5:9 - Obey Christ
  • Matthew 18:3 - Become like children
  • Mark 8:34-35 - Self-denial
  • Matthew 10:37 - Love Christ
  • Luke 14:33 - Renounce all possessions

These are just some of the conditions that must be met in order to be saved in the fullest and final sense. This is saving faith.

We are converted by saving faith when Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44 (ESV)

What do you think? How does a lack of clarity in the definition of “salvation” lead to confusion?

Which comes first: faith or joy? (page 71)

The usual answer is that joy is the fruit of faith:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing. Romans 15:13 (ESV)

But there is a different way to look at faith and joy:

Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

Faith that pleases God is a confidence that God will reward us when we come to Him. But surely this reward is not material things. Surely it is the glory of God Himself and the companionship of Christ.

So, saving faith believes that in God is the all-satisfying Treasure, our heart's eternal delight. This implies that before faith a new taste has been created...a taste for the glory of God and the beauty of Christ.

Once we had no delight in God, and Christ was just a vague historical figure.

Then something miraculous happened. A recognition of the excellence and joy found in Christ. Then faith came, the decision to trust God through Christ.

Before confidence comes the craving. Before the decision comes the delight. Before trust comes the discovery of Treasure.

We Come to Christ When We Love the Light (page 72)

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. John 3:18-20 (ESV)

Love for the light must be present before someone leaves the darkness and comes to the light. Faith grows only in the heart that craves the supreme gift that Christ died to give: not health, not wealth, not prestige, but God!

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. 1 Peter 3:18 (ESV)

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:18 (ESV)

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2 (ESV)

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:11 (ESV)

Saving faith is the confidence that Christ will come through with His promises and that what He promises is more to be desired than all the world.

The "joy of faith" may be seen at three different levels:

First, the seed and root of joy is the new spiritual taste created by the Spirit of God for the glory of God.

Second, joy pushes upward in the form of faith, reaching out for all that God is for us in Christ.

Third, joy is the fruit of daily gladness, resulting from faith, flowing into the whole of life.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)

The root of conversion is a new passion for the pleasure of God's presence. This moves a person to repentance that turns away from sin, and drives the faith that embraces Christ. This is the creation of a Christian Hedonist.

What do you think? What things, besides love for the light, might motivate a person to “come to the light”? Why would any such motives be dishonoring to the light?

At this point it would be good to read Appendix 5, “Why Call It Christian Hedonism” (pp. 365–369). Write down any remaining questions or concerns you have after reading this appendix and discuss them with the group.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely

Anne Jackson’s Permission to Speak Freely

What is one thing you feel you can't say in church?

Anne Jackson asked that question on her blog and received hundreds of responses. Out of that question she's written Permission to Speak Freely – Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace.

She's shared seven essays from her book on seven different blogs. Each essay ends with a link to the next essay.

Her seven essays form an emotional, convicting, heart-breaking yet encouraging story of faith lost and gained...relationships betrayed and restored.

To read all the essays, you can follow the route below:

Donald Miller (Essay #1 – The First Brick)
Jon Acuff (Essay #2 – The Final Brick)
Carlos Whittaker (Essay #3 – Losing Faith)
Pete Wilson (Essay #4 – Finding Love in All the Wrong Places)
XXXChurch.com (Essay #5 – Shattered Pixels)
Catalyst Conference (Essay #6 – Ghosts of Churches Past)
FlowerDust.net (Essay #7 – Listening)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 4

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 4

By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books

A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds

Part 1: Introduction...How I became a Christian Hedonist (page 7)

Part 2: The Happiness of God

Part 3: The Goal of God in Redemptive History (page 308)

Part 4: God Delights in His Glory (page 41)

What do you think? Cite an event from the Bible that obviously shows God acting for the sake of His own glory, or His Name's sake.

A brief survey of the high points of redemptive history supports the conclusion that God's own glory is uppermost in His own affections. He puts a greater value on His own glory than on anything else. He delights in His glory above all things.

God's glory is His infinite greatness and worth. It could be a bright and awesome radiance sometimes seen, or the infinite moral excellence of His character.

God loves His glory infinitely. He loves Himself infinitely. He Himself is uppermost in His own affections.

God would be unrighteous (just as we would) if He valued anything more than what is supremely valuable. But He Himself is supremely valuable. If He did not take infinite delight in the worth of His own glory, He would be unrighteous.

God Delights in the Glory of His Son (page 43)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (ESV)

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily... Colossians 2:9 (ESV)

If God loves His glory infinitely, the Son of God is Himself God, so God delights in the Glory of Jesus.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature... Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

When the Father looks at Jesus, He sees the exact representation of Himself. Jesus is the perfect reflection of God's glory.

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24-26 (ESV)

God delights in His Son's glory.

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Matthew 3:17 (ESV)

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights...Isaiah 42:1 (ESV)

Is God for Us or for Himself? (page 44)

If God is so utterly enamored of His own glory, how can He be a God of love? How can we have any hope that He will do anything for our sake? Doesn't Paul say that love "does not seek its own"?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way... (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (ESV)

The answer to this question forms the great foundation for Christian Hedonism.

Is God Vain or Loving to Command our Praise? (page 45)

God commands us to praise Him because this is the ultimate goal of all He does:

...to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed." 2 Thessalonians 1:10 (ESV)

Three times in his letter to the Ephesians Paul proclaims God's glory or glorious grace:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV)

The climax of God's happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of the saints.

But many people stumble over this truth. People do not like to hear that God is uppermost in His own affections, or that He does all things for His own glory or that He exalts Himself and seeks our praise. Why?

We don't like people who exalt themselves - the Bible teaches us not to exalt ourselves

Is God a Second-Hander? (page 46)

Inauthentic people are called "second-handers". They live for the compliments of others. It seems they need to shore up their weaknesses and compensate for their deficiencies by trying to get compliments.

We know, however, that God is not weak.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. Romans 11:36 (ESV)

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25 (ESV)

But how can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to seeking His own glory? The Bible teaches that we are not to seek our own (1 Corinthians 13:5).

The answer is that the rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator. If God should turn away fro Himself as the Source of infinite joy, He would deny the infinite worth of His own glory...He would imply that there is something more valuable outside Himself...He would commit idolatry.

Consider this question: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself!

A Great Discovery: "Reflections on the Psalms", by C. S. Lewis

But the most obvious fact about praise---whether of God or any thing---strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it.

The world rings with praise---lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game---praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least...

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.

Source: "Relections on the Psalms", C. S. Lewis (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1958), 93-5.

There is the solution! We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise.

God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking His own praise is the ultimately loving act. When He does all things for the praise of His glory, He offers to us the only thing in all the world that can satisfy our longings.

What do you think? Piper writes, Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, He must be for Himself if He is to be for us. Restate each part of this sentence in your own words in a way that both makes sense to you and genuinely reflects Piper's intended meaning. (pp. 48–49)

Summary (page 49)

God is absolutely sovereign.

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." Psalms 115:3 (ESV)

God is not frustrated. He rejoices in all His works. He is an unshakeably happy God.

His delight is the delight He has in Himself. He does everything He does to preserve and display His glory and in this His soul rejoices.

The climax of His happiness is the delight He takes in the praises of the saints, and this praise completes our own joy in Him.

God's pursuit of praise from us and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are the same pursuit. This is the great gospel! This is the foundation of Christian Hedonism.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 3

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 3

By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books

A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds

Part 1: Introduction...How I became a Christian Hedonist (page 7)

Part 2: The Happiness of God

Part 3: The Goal of God in Redemptive History (page 308)

In Chapter One, the author asserts that God's own glory is uppermost in His own affections. In everything He does, His purpose is to preserve and display that glory...He puts a greater value on His glory than on anything else...He delights in His glory above all things (page 41)

Appendix 1 presents the biblical evidence for this assertion.

First, glory of God in the Bible refers to the visible splendor, or moral beauty, of God: His unveiled magnificence and excellence.

The name of God signifies much the same. In Scripture, something done for God's name sake means the same as for His glory. The name of God is not merely a label, but a reference to His character.

What follows is an overview of some high points of redemptive history, God's acts toward man described in Scripture. The goal is to discover the one goal of God in all that He does.

Creation (page 309)

Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

  • Man is created last, as the highest creature
  • Only man is described as created in the image of God
  • Creation is described as very good after man is created
  • Man is given dominion, told to subdue and fill the earth.

The world is a display, an image, of God. God's purpose in creation was to fill the earth with His own glory.

All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. (Numbers 14:21)

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. (Isaiah 43:6-7)

The Tower of Babel (page 309)

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-4)

This passage describes a goal completely opposite to that of God: man sought fulfillment through human genious, not by trusting God.

God's purpose was that man would depend upon Him, exalting the glory of God.

The Call of Abram (page 310)

Now the LORD said to Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2)

In contrast to those building the tower of Babel, seeking to make their own name great, here God is the one making Abram's name great.

When God makes a person great, the only proper response is trust and gratitude, giving glory back to God.

Abram, and his children, were chosen by God to be a people who trust Him and give Him glory.

No distrust made him [Abram] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21

You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified. (Isaiah 49:3)

The Exodus (page 311)

God's purpose in choosing the people of Israel and bringing them into a glorious land is seen in Ezekiel:

On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob, making myself known to them in the land of Egypt; I swore to them, saying, I am the Lord your God. On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. Ezekiel 20:5-9)

Psalm 106 records the confession of the people of Israel, recognizing God's purpose:

Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. (Psalms 106:6-8)

Both passages describe God's purpose as being for His name's sake.

Deliverance from Egypt was not due to the worth or work of the Israelites, but to the worth of God's name:

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord...And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Ex 14:4,18)

God's purpose is to act in a way that causes people to own up to His glory and confess that He is the only Lord of the universe.

The Giving of the Law (page 312)

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me. Exodus 20:3-5 (ESV)

God's first aim in giving the law is for us to accord Him the honor He alone is due.

To love God does not mean to meet His needs, but rather to delight in Him and to be captivated by His glorious power and grace and to value Him above all other things on earth.

The Wilderness Wandering (page 313)

But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. Ezekiel 20:21-22 (ESV)

Again, the Lord treats the nation of Israel graciously for His own name's sake.

Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, lest the land from which you brought us say, 'Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.' For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm. Deuteronomy 9:27-29 (ESV)

Moses appealed to God's promise and argues that God surely did not want scorn to come upon His name. In allowing Moses to pray this way, it's plain that God's decision to spare Israel His wrath is for His own name's sake.

The Conquest of Canaan (page 314)

And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant. Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Joshua 24:12-14 (ESV)

God's purpose in giving Israel the land of Canaan was that they would fear and honor Him alone. This purpose is confirmed in David's prayer:

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? 2 Samuel 7:23 (ESV)

The Beginnings of Monarchy (page 315)

And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 1 Samuel 12:19-23 (ESV)

Despite the people's sin in asking for a king, God preserved the nation in order to display the honor of His name. This is His supreme goal.

The Temple of God (page 316)

Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name. If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. 1 Kings 8:41-45 (ESV)

Notice the emphasis placed here on God's name. Solomon's purpose in building the temple was in accord with God's own purpose: that God's name should be exalted and all the nations should know and fear God.

The Life and Death of Jesus (page 319)

Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. John 4:34 (ESV)

The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. John 7:18 (ESV)

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. John 17:4 (ESV)

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again. John 12:27-28 (ESV)

The purpose of Jesus in His life and death was to glorify the Father. At the center of salvation is not God's love for us, but the infinitely valuable glory of God.

God put forward His Son on the cross to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:25 (ESV)

By forgiving sin in the Old Testament and tolerating many sinners, God had given the impression that His honor and glory were not of infinite worth. To vindicate the honor of His name and the worth of His glory and to satisfy the just demands of the law, He required the death of His own Son. This demonstrates the righteousness of God because God's righteousness is His unswerving allegiance to uphold the value of His glory.

The Christian Life (page 320)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11 (ESV)

God's purpose for His new redeemed people, the church, is that our life goal should be to glorify God in Christ.

The Second Coming of Christ and Consummation (page 321)

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24 (ESV)

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 (ESV)

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. Revelation 21:23 (ESV)

The return of Christ and the final salvation of His people will glorify Himself, causing all who believe to marvel.

The consummation of God's goal in all of history will be His glory for all to see and praise.

Conclusion (page 321)

This survey of redemptive history shows that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever. He stands supreme at the center of His own affections. For that very reason, He is a self-sufficient and inexhaustible fountain of grace.

Part 4: God Delights in His Glory

What do you think? Can you think of other examples in biblical history where God tells us he was acting for the sake of his name?

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 2

The Happiness of God

By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books

A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds

Part 1: Introduction...How I became a Christian Hedonist (page 7)

Part 2: The Happiness of God (page 31)

God is uppermost in His own affections. The Westminster catechism could well be written from the viewpoint of God:

The chief end of God is to glorify God AND enjoy Himself forever.

Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God's ultimate goal. These he performs for the sake of something greater: the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself.

What do you think? What are some reasons why we might be more accustomed to think about our duty rather than God’s glory?

The Sovereignty of God (page 32)

The foundation of God's happiness and ours, is His sovereignty. God has the right and power to do whatever makes Him happy:

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." Psalm 115:3

If God is sovereign and can do anything He pleases, then none of His purposes can be frustrated and He must be the happiest of all beings.

God's purposes cannot be thwarted: (page 33)

"I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'" Isaiah 46:9-10

His sovereignty covers calamities (page 34)

"Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" Lamentations 3:37-38

This was Jeremiah the prophet's confession after seeing the destruction of his people, laid in ruins, babies fainting in the streets from hunger and young women and men slaughtered without pity (Lamentations 2)

The murder of Christ (page 35). The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act, yet it was part of God's ordained plan:

"This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." Acts 2:23

What do you think? How much of what occurs in the universe is owing ultimately to God’s sovereign purpose? What are some examples in history that even the morally wicked decisions and actions of human beings are part of God’s sovereign design? (pages 33–36)

There is no such things a mere coincidence: (page 37)

"For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. Psalm 135:5-7

The struggle with God's sovereignty (page 37). How can we say that God is sovereign over all things, and so completely unfrustrated and happy, yet He permists much that is contrary to His own commands in Scripture? How can we say God is happy when there is so much sin and misery in the world?

Jonathan Edwards was full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty, seeming a horrible doctrine to him. But he experienced a "wonderful alteration" in his mind, answering all objections and finding the doctrine "exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet." (page 38)

Edwards suggested that God is able to look at the world through two "lenses": narrow and wide-angle.

Looking at a painful or wicked event through His narrow lens, God sees the tragedy of the sin for what it is in itself, and He is angered and grieved:

"I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 18:32).

But when God looks at the painful or wicked even through His wide-angle lens, He sees the tragedy of the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees all the connections and effects forming a pattern or mosaic, stretching into eternity. This mosaic in all its parts, good and bad, brings Him delight.

This is related to distinguishing two kinds of willing in God. God's will of command is what He commands in Scripture, His revealed will. God's will of decree is what He infallibly brings to pass in the world, His sovereign will. (page 39)

God's will of command can be seen in biblical commands to love or obey or learn.

God's will of decree can be seen in His permitting sin, although hating it, for the greater purpose of holiness and mercy.

The death of Christ (page 40). The death of Christ was the will and work of God the Father:

"We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God... It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief" (Isaiah 53: 4, 10).

Yet surely God did not delight in the agony of His beloved Son and the wickedness that brought Him to the cross. Sin in itself, and the suffering of the innocent, is abhorrent to God.

With a narrow lens, God hates evil, but with a wide-angle lens, God is filled with joy in creating an eternal mosaic of redemption and righteousness.

What do you think? What other instances in Scripture describe wicked events that God uses to bring to pass a greater good?

God's Happiness is in Himself (page 41). God is absolutely sovereign over the world:

  • He can do anything He pleases
  • He is not a frustrated God, but a deeply happy God
  • He considers all His works in relation to redemption
  • He rejoices in all His works

What does make God happy? What one thing does God pursue in everything He does? What is uppermost in His affections? At this point is would be well to study Appendix 1: The Goal of God in Redemptive History. (page 308)

Part 3: The Goal of God in Redemptive History (page 308)

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 1

Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Part 4

By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books

A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds

Part 1: Introduction...How I became a Christian Hedonist (page 7)

Part 2: The Happiness of God

Part 3: The Goal of God in Redemptive History (page 308)

Part 4: God Delights in His Glory (page 41)

What do you think? Cite an event from the Bible that obviously shows God acting for the sake of His own glory, or His Name's sake.

A brief survey of the high points of redemptive history supports the conclusion that God's own glory is uppermost in His own affections. He puts a greater value on His own glory than on anything else. He delights in His glory above all things.

God's glory is His infinite greatness and worth. It could be a bright and awesome radiance sometimes seen, or the infinite moral excellence of His character.

God loves His glory infinitely. He loves Himself infinitely. He Himself is uppermost in His own affections.

God would be unrighteous (just as we would) if He valued anything more than what is supremely valuable. But He Himself is supremely valuable. If He did not take infinite delight in the worth of His own glory, He would be unrighteous.

God Delights in the Glory of His Son (page 43)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (ESV)

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily... Colossians 2:9 (ESV)

If God loves His glory infinitely, the Son of God is Himself God, so God delights in the Glory of Jesus.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature... Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

When the Father looks at Jesus, He sees the exact representation of Himself. Jesus is the perfect reflection of God's glory.

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24-26 (ESV)

God delights in His Son's glory.

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Matthew 3:17 (ESV)

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights...Isaiah 42:1 (ESV)

Is God for Us or for Himself? (page 44)

If God is so utterly enamored of His own glory, how can He be a God of love? How can we have any hope that He will do anything for our sake? Doesn't Paul say that love "does not seek its own"?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way... (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (ESV)

The answer to this question forms the great foundation for Christian Hedonism.

Is God Vain or Loving to Command our Praise? (page 45)

God commands us to praise Him because this is the ultimate goal of all He does:

...to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed." 2 Thessalonians 1:10 (ESV)

Three times in his letter to the Ephesians Paul proclaims God's glory or glorious grace:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV)

The climax of God's happiness is the delight He takes in the echoes of His excellence in the praises of the saints.

But many people stumble over this truth. People do not like to hear that God is uppermost in His own affections, or that He does all things for His own glory or that He exalts Himself and seeks our praise. Why?

We don't like people who exalt themselves - the Bible teaches us not to exalt ourselves

Is God a Second-Hander? (page 46)

Inauthentic people are called "second-handers". They live for the compliments of others. It seems they need to shore up their weaknesses and compensate for their deficiencies by trying to get compliments.

We know, however, that God is not weak.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. Romans 11:36 (ESV)

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25 (ESV)

But how can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to seeking His own glory? The Bible teaches that we are not to seek our own (1 Corinthians 13:5).

The answer is that the rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator. If God should turn away fro Himself as the Source of infinite joy, He would deny the infinite worth of His own glory...He would imply that there is something more valuable outside Himself...He would commit idolatry.

Consider this question: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself!

A Great Discovery: "Reflections on the Psalms", by C. S. Lewis

But the most obvious fact about praise---whether of God or any thing---strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it.

The world rings with praise---lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game---praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least...

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.

Source: "Relections on the Psalms", C. S. Lewis (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1958), 93-5.

There is the solution! We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise.

God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking His own praise is the ultimately loving act. When He does all things for the praise of His glory, He offers to us the only thing in all the world that can satisfy our longings.

What do you think? Piper writes, Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, He must be for Himself if He is to be for us. Restate each part of this sentence in your own words in a way that both makes sense to you and genuinely reflects Piper's intended meaning. (pp. 48–49)

Summary (page 49)

God is absolutely sovereign.

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." Psalms 115:3 (ESV)

God is not frustrated. He rejoices in all His works. He is an unshakeably happy God.

His delight is the delight He has in Himself. He does everything He does to preserve and display His glory and in this His soul rejoices.

The climax of His happiness is the delight He takes in the praises of the saints, and this praise completes our own joy in Him.

God's pursuit of praise from us and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are the same pursuit. This is the great gospel! This is the foundation of Christian Hedonism.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paul Tripp: Learn to Accept Reality

Paul Tripp: Learn to Accept Reality


From an article posted by Paul Trip: http://www.paultrippministries.org/survivalskill2

Have you ever been reading the Bible and suddenly you are shocked, embarrassed, or confused by something that you're reading? What shocks you as you read God's Word? I want to look with you at the most shocking place in the entire Bible.

Paul Tripp writes about the most shocking place in the entire Bible.

I needed this...I think YOU need to read this, so here are some extracts and teasers:

God's Grace

God's grace is bigger and more powerful than anything that we could ever face, than any of our brokenness and our failures.

Modern Christianity tends to deal with brokeness and failure by blurring the memory or comparing ourselves with others. Affirmation without honest self-criticism is like aspirin for cancer. Building self-esteem without recognizing, and exulting in, the depths from which God has rescued us is like reupholstering a chair with broken legs. Failing to look at reality actually diminishes our dependence upon and exaltation of God. His grace becomes less necessary as we try to minimize the desperate straits our sin has placed us.

This dark and shocking passage that I want to look at with you is shocking because it forces you to face reality. It's Psalm 88.

Paul quotes all of Psalm 88 and he's right: it's shocking. It's so despairing and depressing, that it actually becomes hugely encouraging!

My soul is full of trouble...You have put me in the lowest pit...Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

I have suffered your terrors and am in despair...Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.

Darkness is my closest friend.

One radical facet of this depressing, dark psalm, is that it reveals the involvement of God in terrible troubles, even in what is rightfully labeled evil.

I spoke yesterday with a friend at work, and I told him that God is sovereign, even to the point that nothing is out of His control or design, including evil. I went so far as to say that God just doesn't merely allow evil, He creates it!

My friend's response was adamant: God doesn't create evil, but He did create Satan who IS the the author of evil, so in that sense, perhaps, God creates evil.

But Psalm 88 graphically describes God's involvement in distress, as does Isaiah 45:7,

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Honesty and Hope

If there's a powerful message, if there's an encouraging message in the Word of God, it is this: that honesty and hope can exist together; that dishonesty is never a pathway to hope.

Hope in God, trust in His providence, and glorying in His sovereignty, all depend upon an honest, self-critical awareness of my sin, my weakness, my anger, my depression...placing it all in stark contrast against God's greatness.

Reference Link:

http://www.paultrippministries.org/survivalskill2

How Can We Hate What is Evil if God has Ordained it to Happen? (John Piper)