Remembering That Rivers Run with Water

G. K. Chesterton:

When we are very young children we don’t need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough.

A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is exicted by being told that Tommy opened a door.

Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales — because they find them romantic. . . . This proves that even nursery tales only echo an almost pre-natal leap of interest and amazement.

These tales say that apples are golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.

Orthodoxy quoted in John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, (Crossway, 2004), 196, paragraphing added.

7 Reasons from the Bible on Why We Should Hold Fast to the Bible

Excerpted from John Piper’s annual sermon on Scripture a couple years ago:

  1. Hold fast to it for the sake of faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).
  2. Hold fast to it for the sake of your joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
  3. Hold fast to it for the sake of your freedom. “If you abide in my word . . . and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).
  4. Hold fast to it for the sake of your holiness. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
  5. Hold fast to it for the sake of the Holy Spirit. “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:5)?
  6. Hold fast to it for the sake of life. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
  7. Hold fast to it for the sake of strength and stability and fruitfulness. Your delight will be “in the law of the Lord, and on his law you will meditate day and night. You will be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that you do you will prosper” (Psalms 1:2–3).

Read the entire sermon, or check out the original post at Fighterverses.com.

Excerpts from Sinclair Ferguson on Union with Christ

There are some sermons we’re shy to recommend, not because they’re bad, but because they’ve been so helpful we fear we cannot do them justice. And we fear that their deep helpfulness to us can’t be replicated for others. Well, this sermon from Sinclair Ferguson is like that. It is on Paul’s understanding of union with Christ.

My friend, Gary, took a vacation day to transcribe the whole thing, and then he recommended it to me. I hope you find it helpful. Watch the sermon or download the transcript (PDF).

The whole sermon is worth reading. Here’s a handful of outstanding excerpts:

On preaching…

Remember how Paul says it in Ephesians 2, that once Christ had finished his work he came and he preached peace to those who were near and to those who were afar off. This is part of the reason why in giving sermons, when we are 15–20 minutes into the sermon, we have forgotten that the brothers speaking are actually speaking with a different accent from the accent we have ourselves. We are caught up in the fact that Jesus Christ is preaching his word to us himself, through servants to whom he has united himself to by the Holy Spirit, and whom he has made servants of his work. And that’s why we are able to say we don’t preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. How can we dare to say that? It is because in gospel ministry we minster out of the reality of our union with Christ and the way in which it impacts the dynamics of being a servant of the Lord Jesus.

On gospel ministry…

Union with Christ is central to living the Christian life and therefore, by necessity, union with Christ is that driving principle that transforms our gospel ministry.

The grammar of the gospel…

We need to be soaked in all that Christ has done so that it oozes from us. So that preaching Christ is not something we learn as a technique because we understand that it’s the right thing to do, but we speak the grammar of the gospel because by God’s grace — through the word and by the Spirit — that grammar has become instinctive to us. And it oozes from us.

Legalism and antinomianism…

And it is fascinating that in Romans Paul deals with legalism on one hand, and antinomianism on the other hand. The way you and I would deal with it is to say, “Antinomian, let me just give you a little dose of legalism.” Or to the Legalist, “Let me just give you a little dose of Antinomianism.” That’s the way most Legalists and Antinomians try to right themselves. But the way Paul rights the ship is saying, “Don’t you understand how the gospel works for those who are united to Jesus Christ?” So that what the law can never do because it’s weak through the flesh, God does by sending his son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, to condemn sin in the flesh.” Christ dies for us in order that the righteous commands of the law might be fulfilled in us who by the Spirit are united to Jesus Christ and walk by the Spirit.

On sharing in Jesus’ sufferings…

You are ordained into sharing in the sufferings of Christ and in the triumph of Christ. You do not have the former without experiencing also the latter, even though that triumph and glory and fruitfulness may be invisible to you, and even invisible during the course of your ministry. And you do not ever have the genuine triumph and fruitfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the power of resurrection grace, without being willing to share in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Because the Jesus Christ we all long to know — how hard it is to dawn upon our distempered souls! — the only Jesus Christ who ever was upon the earth and who now is in heaven is the one who entered into glory through suffering. The one who was crucified in order that he might be fruitful. He became a grain of wheat who fell into the ground and died in order that it might bring forth much fruit.

Closing prayer…

Heavenly Father, thank you that you have not only united us by your Spirit to our Lord Jesus Christ, but in your word, you have began to teach us, as we have studied these things, how marvelous not only our identity as Christians is, but how amazing is the pattern that you have set for us as gospel ministers.

Lord, we are often sore and crushed and perplexed, but we thank you that out of the darkness you bring life, and out of the death you bring resurrection. We know that nothing that refuses to die can ever be raised again from the dead.

And we pray that in this Spirit we may yield more and more to our crucified Savior, and more and more enter into our share in the triumph of his resurrection, so that anything that is lacking in us of our fellowship in the sufferings of Christ may be filled up in order that anything that is lacking in your ordination of our fruitfulness may come to pass in our ministries. And to this we commit one another with thankfulness in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Logic of God’s Love

John Piper says it’s almost too good to believe. Hear Zephaniah’s words:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 is an absolutely magnificent promise that is meant to make us feel God’s joy. Like when the father ran to embrace his prodigal son, some scenes in Scripture are especially meant to astonish us with mercy.

But not everyone can bring themselves to believe God’s love for us is that powerful. Though, as Pastor John writes, Zephaniah wants to help us get it:

[Zephaniah] labors under the wonderful inspiration of God to overcome every obstacle that would keep a person from believing — really feeling and enjoying — the unspeakable news that God exults over us with singing. (178)

But there are many who struggle, and you might be one. In chapter seven of The Pleasures of God John Piper sketches a hypothetical dialogue between a one who struggles and the rationale of Zephaniah. He speaks for Zephaniah and interacts with the potential inhibitions that keep us from believing in God’s love. It goes like this:

A Dialogue with the Logic of Zephaniah1

“Can you feel the wonder of this today — that God is rejoicing over you with loud singing?”

“No, I can’t, because I am too guilty. I am unworthy. My sin is too great, and the judgments against me are too many. God could never rejoice over me.”

“But consider Zephaniah 3:15. God foresees your hesitancy. He understands. So his prophet says, ‘The Lord has taken away the judgments against you!’ Can you not feel the wonder that the Lord exults over you with loud singing today, even though you have sinned? Can you not feel that the condemnation has been lifted because he bruised his own Son in your place, if you will only believe?”

“No, I can’t, because I am surrounded by enemies. Obstacles press me in on every side. There are people who never let me believe this. There are people at work who would make my life miserable if God were my treasure. There are people in my family who would ostracize me. I have friends who would do everything to drag me down. I could never go on believing. I would have too many enemies. The oppression would be too much to bear, I could never do it.”

“But consider Zephaniah 3:17, ‘The Lord is a warrior who gives victory’; and verse 19, ‘Behold, at that time I will deal with your oppressors [says the Lord]’; and verse 15, ‘He has cast out your enemies.’ Can you feel the wonder that God is doing everything that needs to be done for you to enjoy his own enjoyment of you? Can you see that the enemies and the oppressors are not too strong for God? Nothing can stop him, when he exults over you with loud singing. Can you feel the wonder of it now? Can you believe that he rejoices over you?”

“No, still I can’t, because he is a great and holy God and I feel like he is far away from me. I am very small. I am a nobody. The world is a huge place with many important people. There are major movements and institutions that he is concerned with and happy about. I am too small. God is like the president. He is far away in Washington, busy with big things.”

“But consider Zephaniah 3:15, ‘The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst’; and verse 17: ‘The Lord, your God, is in your midst.’ He is not far from you. Yes, I admit that this staggers the imagination and stretches credibility almost to the breaking point — that God can be present personally to everyone who comes to him and believes on him. But say to yourself, again and again, He is God! He is God! What shall stop God from being close to me if he wants to be close to me? He is God! He is God! The very greatness that makes him seem too far to be near, is the greatness that enables him to do whatever he pleases, including being near to me. Has he not said, for this very reason, ‘I dwell in a high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit’ (Isaiah 57:15)? Can you not then feel the marvel that God makes merry over you — even with loud singing — when you come to him and believe him?”

“But no, you just don’t understand. I am the victim and the slave of shame. I have been endlessly belittled by my parents (see Zephaniah 2:810). I have been scoffed at and threatened and manipulated and slandered. Inside this cocoon of shame even the singing of God sounds faint and far away and indecipherable. It is as though my shame has made me deaf to anyone’s happiness with me, especially God’s. I cannot feel it.”

“Now I am sure I do not feel all that you feel. I have not been through what you have been through. But God is no stranger to shame. Unbelievable shame was heaped on his Son (Hebrews 12:2), terrible slander, repeated belittling, even from his own townsfolk (Matthew 13:55–58). Therefore, ‘We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses’ (Hebrews 4–15). I know I have never walked in your shoes. I did not have to live with the family you lived with. But Jesus knows. He feels it with you. And best of all, his Father says right here in Zephaniah 3:19, ‘I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.’ Is it not amazing how well God knows you? Can you not feel the warmth of his heart as he makes provision for every question you have? Do you not yet hear the singing of God as you draw near?”

________

1This is adapted from The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God, 1991, (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2012), 179–180.

Read the original post at the DG blog: How Zephaniah Helps Us Feel the Glad Love of God

Russell Moore on Fake Love and Fake War

Russ Moore:

Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core. . . .

The answer to both addictions is to fight arousal with arousal. Set forth the gospel vision of a Christ who loves his bride and who fights to save her. And then let’s train our young men to follow Christ by learning to love a real woman, sometimes by fighting his own desires and the spirit beings who would eat him up. Let’s teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.

Read the entire article.

Talking Darwin and Morals

Richard Weikart has written a salty article about Ben Carson’s recent commencement address at Emory University. I saw the link in one of John Piper’s tweets earlier today.

Here’s the climax of the piece:

Ben Carson, then, should hardly be pilloried for arguing that evolution has ethical implications and that it undermines morality.  If Emory University professors want to argue that evolution has no ethical implications, they are free to make that argument (I wonder how many of them actually believe this).  However, if they do, they need to recognize that they are not just arguing against “benighted” anti-evolutionists, but they are arguing against many of their cherished colleagues in evolutionary biology, including Darwin himself.

Read the whole thing.

Theology in Baseball and Blockbusters

My colleagues (and friends), Tony Reinke and David Mathis, have authored two posts this week I absolutely love. Now, I think it’s excellent content. But even more than that, it’s what’s under the hood that encourages me most. It’s the way these posts give us a model for seeing the world. Tony is drawing deep truths about God’s wrath from a movie about superheros. David connects John Frame on the Christian life to Major League Baseball’s league-leading homerun hitter.

Check them out: Tony’s The Avenger and David’s Josh Hamilton, Relapse, and the Means of Grace.

Living Grounded Amid the Compulsion of Perpetual Mobility

We love to be on the move. Movement, activity, journey — Western society is a society on the go. Anthony Esolen calls it the “compulsion of perpetual mobility” in his recent Touchstone article, “God’s Place and Ours: On Mutability and the Lost Virtue of Steadfastness.” Pilgrimage has deep roots in the soul of Western humanity, he explains. But the problem now is that it’s a pilgrimage detached from an end. A journey without a destination. . . .

Read the entire post.

For a quick outline: 1) perpetual mobility is the new cultural plight; 2) but this is contrary to the nature of the church; 3) yet looking forward steadies us here, because God is the same.

________

On the Ground

One practical step towards steadfastness amid mobility is to not play the radio while driving your vehicle. Or said positively, drive in silence and prayer. Try it out.

This sort of happened to me by accident. I was having some car issues a couple months ago. There was about a week of time when my radio would not play. I was forced to drive my 15-minute commute in silence. And it was wonderful.

After my radio was fixed and I played it a couple times, I decided to go back to nothing. That’s half an hour a day, to work and back home, that I get to spend in silence. I’ve been picking one thing to pray about during the drive, or sometimes I just stay quiet and bounce around in my thoughts. It’s only been a couple months, but so far I like it. It’s exploiting a means of mobility to be a session of silence. And it’s had a steadying effect, especially as it comes in that transition zone from work to the real start of my day (that is, when I get home).

So I recommend it. Try it out and see how it goes.

Jesus Crucified, Barrabas Released, and Luke’s Picture for Us

From Barrabas and Me, by David Mathis —

So Luke, it appears, means for us to identify both with Jesus and Barabbas. Jesus in that by identifying with him, through being united with him by faith, his death is our death. His condemning of sin is our condemning of sin. And Barabbas in that we are sinners, criminals who have broken God’s law, guilty as charged, deserving death for our rebellion against our creator and the ruler of the universe. And Jesus, through the grace of giving himself for us at the cross, takes our place and we are released.

As we more greatly understand the depths of our sin, we see with Luke, “I am Barabbas.” I am the one so clearly guilty and deserving of condemnation but set free because of the willing substitution of the Son of God in my place.

Read the whole thing.