Fighting Words

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10)

When I am anxious about some risky new venture or meeting, I battle unbelief with one of my most often-used promises: Isaiah 41:10.

The day I left for three years in Germany, my father called me long distance and gave me this promise on the telephone. For three years, I must have quoted it to myself five hundred times to get me through periods of tremendous stress.

When the motor of my mind is in neutral, the hum of the gears is the sound of Isaiah 41:10.

When I am anxious about my ministry being useless and empty, I fight unbelief with the promise of Isaiah 55:11. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

When I am anxious about being too weak to do my work, I battle unbelief with the promise of Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When I am anxious about decisions I have to make about the future, I battle unbelief with the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

When I am anxious about facing opponents, I battle unbelief with the promise, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

When I am anxious about the welfare of those I love, I battle unbelief with the promise that if I, being evil, know how to give good things to my children, how much more will the “Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

~ John Piper ~


The Marvel of Creation


God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

(1 Corinthians 15:38)

I have been picking up little things in Scripture that show God’s intimate involvement in creation.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:38, Paul is comparing how a seed is planted in one form and comes forth in another form with a “body” different from all other bodies. He says, “God gives it a body just as he wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.”

This is a remarkable statement of God’s involvement in the way God designed each seed to bring forth its own unique plant (not just species but each individual seed!).

Paul is not teaching about evolution here, but he is showing how he takes God’s intimate involvement with creation for granted. He cannot imagine, evidently, that any natural process should be conceived without God’s doing it.

Again in Psalm 94:9, it says, “He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?” The psalmist assumes that God was the designer of the eye and that he designed the way the ear is planted in the head to do its hearing work.

So when we marvel at the wonders of the human eye and the remarkable structure of the ear, we are not to marvel at the processes of chance but at the mind and the creativity of God.

Similarly in Psalm 95:5, “The sea is his for he made it; and his hands formed the dry land.” The involvement of God in making land and sea is such that the present sea is his.

It is not as though he in some impersonal way set it all in motion a billion years ago. Rather he is the one who owns it because he made it. It is today his handiwork and bears the marks of his creator claim on it, like a piece of artwork belongs to the one who painted it until he sells it or gives it away.

I point out these things not to solve all the problems surrounding the issues of origins, but to call you to be God-centered in your admiration of the wonders of the world.

~ John Piper ~

The End of History

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)

Paul describes the second coming of Christ as hope and terror.

Jesus Christ is coming back not only to effect the final salvation of his people, but through his salvation “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.”

A final comment concerns history’s climax in the book of Revelation: John pictures the new Jerusalem, the glorified church, in 21:23: “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.”

God the Father and God the Son are the light in which Christians will live their eternity.

This is the consummation of God’s goal in all of history — to display his glory for all to see and praise. The prayer of the Son confirms the final purpose of the Father: “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).

We may conclude 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.

~ John Piper ~

The Mystery of Marriage

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.(Genesis 2:24)

When God engaged to create man and woman and to ordain the union of marriage, he didn’t roll the dice or draw straws or flip a coin as to how they might be related to each other. He patterned marriage very purposefully after the relationship between his Son and the church, which he had planned from all eternity.

Therefore, marriage is a mystery — it contains and conceals a meaning far greater than what we see on the outside. God created man male and female and ordained marriage so that the eternal covenant relationship between Christ and his church would be imaged forth in the marriage union.

The inference Paul draws from this mystery is that the roles of husband and wife in marriage are not arbitrarily assigned, but are rooted in the distinctive roles of Christ and his church.

Those of us who are married need to ponder again and again how mysterious and wonderful it is that God grants us in marriage the privilege to image forth stupendous divine realities infinitely bigger and greater than ourselves.

This is the foundation of the pattern of love that Paul describes for marriage. It is not enough to say that each spouse should pursue his or her own joy in the joy of the other. It is also important to say that husbands and wives should consciously copy the relationship God intended for Christ and the church.

I hope you will take this seriously whether you are single or married, old or young. The revelation of the covenant-keeping Christ and his covenant-keeping church hangs on it.

~ John Piper ~

He Does All That He Pleases

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

(Psalm 115:3)

This verse teaches that whenever God acts, he acts in a way that pleases him.

God is never constrained to do a thing that he despises. He is never backed into a corner where his only recourse is to do something he hates to do.

He does whatever he pleases. And therefore, in some sense, he has pleasure in all that he does.

This should lead us to bow before God and praise his sovereign freedom — that in some sense at least he always acts in freedom, according to his own “good pleasure,” following the dictates of his own delights.

God never becomes the victim of circumstance. He is never forced into a situation where he must do something in which he cannot rejoice. He is not mocked. He is not trapped or cornered or coerced.

Even at the one point in history where he did what in one sense was the hardest thing for God to do, “not spare his own Son” (Romans 8:32), God was free and doing what pleased him. Paul says that the self-sacrifice of Jesus in death was “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). The greatest sin and the greatest death and the hardest act of God was pleasing to the Father.

And on his way to Calvary, Jesus himself had legions at his disposal. “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord” — of his own good pleasure, for the joy that is set before him. At the one point in the history of the universe where Jesus looked trapped, he was totally in charge doing precisely what he pleased — dying to justify the ungodly like you and me.

So let us stand in awe and wonder. And let us tremble that not only our praises of God’s sovereignty but also our salvation through the death of Christ for us, hang on this: “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases.”

~ John Piper ~

 

Why You Give in to Sexual Sin

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

~ Psalm 51:8, 12 ~

Why isn’t he crying out for sexual restraint? Why isn’t he praying for men to hold him accountable? Why isn’t he praying for protected eyes and sex-free thoughts? In this psalm of confession and repentance after essentially raping Bathsheba, you would expect David to ask for something like that.

The reason is that he knows that sexual sin is a symptom, not the disease.

People give way to sexual sin because they don’t have the fullness of joy and gladness in Christ. Their spirits are not steadfast and firm and established. They waver. They are enticed, and they give way because God does not have the place in our feelings and thoughts that he should.

David knew this about himself. It’s true about us too. David is showing us, by the way he prays, what the real need is for those who sin sexually — joy in God.

This is profound wisdom for us.

~ John Piper ~

 

Ten Things “Yahweh” Means

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 3:15)

God’s name is almost always translated LORD (all caps) in the English Bible. But the Hebrew would be pronounced something like “Yahweh,” and is built on the word for “I am.”

So every time we hear the word Yahweh, or every time you see LORD in the English Bible, you should think: this is a proper name (like Peter or John) built out of the word for “I am” and reminding us each time that God absolutely is.

There are at least 10 things the name Yahweh, “I AM,” says about God:

1. He never had a beginning. Every child asks, “Who made God?” And every wise parent says, “Nobody made God. God simply is. And always was. No beginning.”

2. God will never end. If he did not come into being he cannot go out of being, because he is being.

3. God is absolute reality. There is no reality before him. There is no reality outside of him unless he wills it and makes it. He is all that was eternally. No space, no universe, no emptiness. Only God.

4. God is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring him into being or support him or counsel him or make him what he is.

5. Everything that is not God depends totally on God. The entire universe is utterly secondary. It came into being by God and stays in being moment by moment on God's decision to keep it in being.

6. All the universe is by comparison to God as nothing. Contingent, dependent reality is to absolute, independent reality as a shadow to substance. As an echo to a thunderclap. All that we are amazed by in the world and in the galaxies, is, compared to God, as nothing.

7. God is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He cannot be improved. He is not becoming anything. He is who he is.

8. God is the absolute standard of truth and goodness and beauty. There is no law-book to which he looks to know what is right. No almanac to establish facts. No guild to determine what is excellent or beautiful. He himself is the standard of what is right, what is true, what is beautiful.

9. God does whatever he pleases and it is always right and always beautiful and always in accord with truth. All reality that is outside of him he created and designed and governs as the absolute reality. So he is utterly free from any constraints that don't originate from the counsel of his own will.

10. God is the most important and most valuable reality and person in the universe. He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe.

~ John Piper ~

 

Jesus Keeps His Sheep

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

(Luke 22:31–32)

Though Peter failed miserably, the prayer of Jesus preserved him from utter ruin. He was brought to bitter weeping and restored to the joy and boldness of Pentecost. So Jesus is interceding for us today that our faith might not fail (Romans 8:34).

Jesus promised that his sheep would be preserved and never perish. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27–28).

The reason for this is that God will work to preserve the faith of the sheep. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

We are not left to ourselves to fight the fight of faith. “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

You have the assurance of God’s Word that, if you are his child, he will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21).

Our endurance in faith and joy is finally and decisively in the hands of God. Yes, we must fight. But this very fight is what God “works in us.” And he most certainly will do it, for “whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

He will lose none of those he has brought to faith and justified.

~ John Piper ~

We Work by Grace

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

— (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Paul realized that the first part of this verse might be misunderstood. So he goes on to say, “Though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

This text does not say that Paul is obeying Christ out of gratitude for grace he had given in the past. It says that, at every moment, the future grace of God enabled Paul’s work.

Does it really say that? Doesn’t it just say that the grace of God worked with Paul? No, it says more. We have to come to terms with the words, “Though it was not I.” Paul wants to exalt the moment-by-moment grace of God in such a way that it is clear that he himself is not the decisive doer of this work.

Nevertheless, he is a doer of this work: “I worked harder than any of them.” He worked. But he said it was the grace of God “toward me.”

If we let all the parts of this verse stand, the end result is this: grace is the decisive doer in Paul’s work. Since Paul is also a doer of his work, the way grace becomes the decisive doer is by becoming the enabling power of Paul’s work.

I take this to mean that, as Paul faced each day’s ministry burden, he bowed his head and confessed that unless future grace was given for that day’s work, he would not be able to do it.

He recalled the words of Jesus, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). So he prayed for future grace for the day, and he trusted in the promise that it would come with power. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Then he acted with all his might.

~ John Piper ~