The Highest, Best, Final, Decisive Good…

…is God:

The gospel of Jesus Christ reveals what that splendor is. Paul calls it the “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Two verses later he calls it “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

When I say that God Is the Gospel I mean that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gifts would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment. The saving love of God is God’s commitment to do everything necessary to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying, namely himself. Since we are sinners and have no right and no desire to be enthralled with God, therefore God’s love enacted a plan of redemption to provide that right and that desire. The supreme demonstration of God’s love was the sending of his Son to die for our sins and to rise again so that sinners might have the right to approach God and might have the pleasure of his presence forever.

In order for the Christian gospel to be good news it must provide an all-satisfying and eternal gift that undeserving sinners can receive and enjoy. For that to be true, the gift must be three things. First, the gift must be purchased by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Our sins must be covered, and the wrath of God against us must be removed, and Christ’s righteousness must be imputed to us. Second, the gift must be free and not earned. There would be no good news if we had to merit the gift of the gospel. Third, the gift must be God himself, above all his other gifts.

It would be a misunderstanding of this book if it were seen as minimizing the battles being fought for a biblical understanding of the ways and means God has used in the accomplishment and application of redemption. The fact that this book is focusing on the infinite value of the ultimate goal of the gospel should increase, rather than decrease, our commitment not to compromise the great gospel means God used to get us there.

The gospel is the good news of our final and full enjoyment of the glory of God in the face of Christ. That this enjoyment had to be purchased for sinners at the cost of Christ’s life makes his glory shine all the more brightly. And that this enjoyment is a free and unmerited gift makes it shine more brightly still. But the price Jesus paid for the gift and the unmerited freedom of the gift are not the gift. The gift is Christ himself as the glorious image of God—seen and savored with everlasting joy.

John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself, pp. 13-14

Around the Interweb (09/26)

More than a view of Scripture

When you encounter a present-day view of Holy Scripture, you encounter more than a view of Scripture.  What you meet is a total view of God and the world, that is, a total theology, which is both an ontology, declaring what there is, and an epistemology, stating how we know what there is.  This is necessarily so, for a theology is a seamless robe, a circle within which everything links up with everything else through its common grounding in God.  Every view of Scripture, in particular, proves on analysis to be bound up with an overall view of God and man.

J. I. Packer, The Foundation of Biblical Authority, p. 61.

HT: Ray Ortlund

In Other News

Theology: Ben Reed offers a list of what God owes you

Books: Enjoy a preview of John Piper’s latest, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. (HT: JT)

Bible: Who’s afraid of Inerrancy?

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Matt Chandler talks about an epic beatdown

A review of Bryant Wright’s Seeds of Turmoil

Always get to the gospel

I didn’t want to go to church anymore (but I was wrong)

Consider the Risk – Then Do It

“Should I consider not doing missions if it means constant danger for my life?”

That’s the question that often comes up surrounding missions—and one that I wonder if doesn’t keep more of us from pursuing short- and long-term missions work.

John Piper offers some pastoral advice for those considering missions and the danger that can come with that calling in the following video:

An edited transcript follows.

Yes, consider it. But after you’ve considered it, probably you should do it.

If your wife says, “No,” you probably shouldn’t.

I’m assuming you mean danger for both of you, not like you’re going to put your wife at risk while you have a nice, secure position. If that’s what you mean then you’re selfish and you shouldn’t be in missions at all.

But if you mean, “Should I consider a calling on my life that brings me, my wife, my children into risk?” I would say, “Yes,” because, if everybody goes that route the Great Commission will never be finished.

Unless you say it should only be finished by single people. “Let’s let the single people suffer. We married people, we won’t suffer. We marry and then escape suffering.” I don’t think that’s the way the New Testament reads.

That’s why Jesus says, “Unless you hate mother, father … wife … you can’t be my disciple.” Now he didn’t mean “hate” in the sense of feeling malice towards them. He meant “hate” in the sense that you take risks so that Grandmama says that you’re acting like you hate her. You know you don’t hate her. You love her and you love all the people who, with her, you’re trying to reach.

I don’t have a final, nice criterion about when to flee and when to stand. That’s the old stress that John Bunyan wrote about in his book Advice for Sufferers.

Bunyan chose to stay in jail for 12 years when he could’ve gotten out of jail. And he had a wife and 4 kids, and one of them was blind. He could’ve gotten out if he had just signed, “I won’t preach anymore.” And he chose to stay there, which put them at tremendous risk with poverty.

So he wrote this essay called Advice for Sufferers, and in it he gives biblical examples of people who fled, like Paul escaping from Damascus through a hole in the wall instead of being brave. It’s like, “Come on Paul! Why are you sitting in a basket, being let down and running away from trouble?” And then there are examples where Paul throws himself, as it were, to the lions in Ephesus or in Philippi, going to jail and being willing to be beaten.

When do you stand and when do you flee? Bunyan says, “God will show you.”

So, no, I don’t think it’s automatic that you keep yourself, your wife, or your children out of risk, out of danger, and out of suffering. But there will be times when you sense, “Yes, it is time, for the sake of the kingdom and for the sake of all concerned, that I will move to another place and another ministry.”

It’s not a simple answer. I don’t have a simple answer to when those decisions are made.

By John Piper. © Desiring God.

Around the Interweb (08/29)

Martin Lloyd-Jones on Family Worship

If you love your children; if you would bring down the blessing of heaven upon your families; if you would have your children make their houses the receptacles of religion when they set up in life for themselves; if you would have religion survive in this place, and be conveyed from age to age; if you would deliver your own souls—I beseech, I entreat, I charge you to begin and continue the worship of God in your families from this day to the close of your lives… Consider family religion not merely as a duty imposed by authority, but as your greatest privilege granted by divine grace.

From Donald Whitney’s book Family Worship

HT: The Resurgence

In Other News

Parenting: My wife was interviewed on the How to Be Awesome podcast. The subject? How to be an awesome mom.

Writing: Tim Challies shares about latest writing projects, including The Next Story (coming in 2011 from Zondervan)

Pastors: Piper’s desire for his church during his sabbatical:

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Anne Bradstreet by D. B. Kellogg

A Precise God

Sermon audio: Be Heavenly-minded

The Bible’s Not About You

Spurgeon encourages us to see Jesus as our greatest object of astonishment

Where and How Piper Learned to Preach

Preaching is incredibly difficult; it’s something far different than simply speaking or communicating… and learning how to do it has been challenging.

Seasoned preachers, including John Piper, understand. In the following video, Piper shares where and how he learned not only to preach, but how he developed a passion for communicating God’s Word:

The edited transcript follows:

Where and how did you learn to preach?

I don’t know. Watching my dad when I was six, eight, ten, twelve. Watching how not to do it in lots of places. Being unable to speak in front of a group from grade five to my sophomore year in college. I think I was learning to preach during that time because I was so hurt, so wounded, so discouraged, and so desperate that I had to go way down into God, and way into Scripture, and way into pain, and God was making a preacher by shutting my mouth.

You don’t become an effective preacher by becoming a loquacious and effective communicator at age sixteen. You become a clever communicator, but you don’t become a preacher of the holy things of God. So that was a piece.

I don’t know. The courses that I took on preaching were marginally helpful. I got the lowest grade in seminary in my preaching class. I think I got a C minus in James Daane’s preaching class at Fuller Seminary. We never agreed on anything except the principle that every sermon should have one point, he said that over and over again. So I made a terrible grade there. But there were other teachers that…

I think the way that I became a preacher was by being passionately thrilled by what I was seeing in the Bible in seminary. Passionately thrilled! When Philippians began to open to me, Galatians open to me, Romans open to me, the Sermon on the Mount open to me in classes on exegesis (not homiletics, but exegesis), everything in me was feeling, “I want to say this to somebody. I want to find a way to say this because this is awesome, this is incredible!”

So for preachers today that go everywhere but the Bible to find something interesting or something scintillating and passionate, I say, “I don’t get it. I don’t get that at all!” Because I have to work hard to leave the Bible to go somewhere to find an illustration, because everything in the Bible is just blowing me away. And it is that sense of being blown away by what’s here—by the God that’s here, and the Christ that’s here, and the gospel that’s here, and the Spirit that’s here, and the life that is here—being blown away by this, I just say, “That’s got to get out.”

And then I suppose how it gets out. What is that? I don’t know what that is. That’s just the way I’m wired that I would say it a certain a way. It’s owing in part to me being a lit major, you know, I studied language a little bit. Goodness, a thousand things go into your life and nobody can copy anybody else. I don’t know. God makes us who we are. I don’t think there is much you can do to become a preacher except know your Bible and be unbelievably excited about what’s there. And love people a lot, that is, you want to make the connection with people and what’s in the Bible.

By John Piper. © Desiring God.

Should Christians Read the Writings of Other Religions? It Depends…

Have you ever been asked to read the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon or the Bhagavad Gita after encouraging a non-Christian to read the Bible?

If so, should you?

John Piper provides some interesting insights into why one should our should not read the “holy” books of other religions.

The edited transcript follows:

If I want people of other religions to consider the message of the Bible, should I be willing return the favor and read their holy books as well?

I think it depends on how serious they are and how serious you are. It also depends on what kind of person you are. Not everybody is gifted or called to be an analyzer of other people’s religious literature. I think it could be dangerous—especially if the other person is just provoking you. [Read more...]

A Caution to the Young, Restless and Reformed

John Piper offers the following caution to the New Reformed/New Calvinist Movement:

The edited transcript follows:

Would there be any cautions that you would have for the New Reformed/New Calvinist Movement you referenced earlier?

Yes. [Read more...]

A Word for the Next Generation of Church Leaders

John Piper was asked the question, “If at the end of your life you could say one thing to the next generation of church leaders, what might it be?

The edited transcript follows:

This is risky, because I know how it could be misused by people who don’t like me anyway. But I think I’m going to say to them on my death bed, “Make the Bible the supreme intellectual and emotional authority in your life, for the sake of magnifying Christ in the fullness of his person and his work, so that generation after generation preserves the foundation and the capstone of the glory of God in Christ, and the grace that is the apex of that glory.”

I’m a Calvinist, and I’m not going to go there, because I believe I got my Calvinism from the Bible. If I didn’t get it from the Bible, then I don’t want people to be Calvinists. So it seems better to say, “Hold fast to the Bible. Base everything on the Bible. If you are going to criticize somebody, criticize them from the Bible. If you are going to affirm somebody, affirm them from the Bible. If you are going to do a strategy, do it from the Bible. Be a Bible saturated people.” That’s what will make for long term staying power for the gospel.

I know this is going to be called bibliolatry, and people will say, “You worship the Bible, not God.” Bologna on that. People who reject the Bible for God become idolaters. The only God worthy of knowing and loving is the one we meet in and discover through the Bible. I do want him to be everything, and the Bible is secondary compared to him; but if we try to say him or something about him without stressing the foundation of the Bible, then we will lose what we are trying to preserve after a generation.

HT: Desiring God

Does God Get More Glory if Man Has Free Will?

John Piper offers a thoughtful response to this question. The edited transcript follows:

A friend thinks allowing men free will, and yet still achieving his purposes, shows a greater view of God’s sovereignty. What are your thoughts on this?

Let me define the term first, and then I’ll respond. I’m going to assume that by “free will” he means something really controversial, not something obvious. What I’m going to assume the term means is “real, ultimate self-determination,” because that’s the only kind of free will that is controversial. [Read more...]

Is Bad Theology More Grievous Than Division?

Piper’s response to this question gave me a fair bit to think about. In the video, Piper says:

Here’s the way I answer questions like that (and I ask them to myself all the time): It depends on the degree and nature of the division compared with the degree of seriousness to the theology mistaken.

I’m sad that we’re not all on the same page eschatologically. I wish Sam Storms and I were on the same page. I wish Doug Wilson and I were on the same page. And we’re not, and that’s sad.

It doesn’t cause me too many tears at that level. But when I see somebody I love going to a hurtful view of God, then I can be really grieved, and that hurts.

So that’s the theology side. There are some theological moves that are so destructive and so dishonoring to God and so close to the center that we should be deeply grieved and angered by them.

On the other hand, there are all kinds of divisions. If two of my elders hated each other—I mean, if they were saying ugly things about each other and doing wicked things, that would emotionally probably take me down deeper than most of these theological things.

I love our elder fellowship. I was meeting with the elders last night until 11 o’clock, and I came home just saying, “I love these guys!” Thirty guys sitting around a table, one heart, one mind, pulling together for the good of the church is the joy of my life. It has been for 30 years. If that broke at Bethlehem and the thing became war and anger and hurtful speech, probably emotionally I would be way more undone than by theological issues.

So what can you say? There are some kinds of disunity that are small and don’t move me. Other kinds that are deep, immediate, personal, and heart-wrenching. So in any given case I would have to ask, “What is the theological issue? and What is the kind of division? And then I’ll tell you which bothers or hurts or grieves me more.”

By John Piper © Desiring God

When we look at issues of theology and the things we divide over, do we always consider the degree of the offense or the root of the theological divide?

Sometimes, although not always, what we consider bad theology is due to preference. For example, I think the Arminian view of salvation is bad theology. But I still believe those who holds to this theological position are brothers & sisters in Christ. However, if one considers the crucifixion to be an act of “divine child abuse,” that is a grievous error worthy of separation. If someone denies the sufficiency of Scripture, again, there are grounds for division.

Similarly the things we divide over often come down to preference. Style of music. Dress. Bible translation (e.g. KJV only)… These are not things that need to cause division.

Thoughts?

What issues are points of division for you?

What positions are you willing to agree to disagree upon?

God Loved You By Calling You

The above is a powerful excerpt from John Piper’s final sermon before beginning his eight-month sabbatical, Consider Your Calling from 1 Cor. 1: 26-31:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I would highly recommend you listen to the whole thing as it’s quite moving and encouraging.

The following text is from the sermon’s transcript:

“For consider your calling, brothers.” What is Paul referring to? Their job? Being a carpenter? Homemaker? Teacher? No. He is referring to the work of God in calling them to himself out of darkness into light, out of death into life. You can see the meaning pretty clearly in verses 22-24:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 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. [Read more...]

Does Every Sermon Have to be About Jesus?

Recently, John Piper addressed the question of whether or not he believes every sermon needs to be about Jesus.

The edited transcript follows:

How important is it for a preacher to preach Christ from every text of Scripture?

It’s an ambiguous question. Let’s see if I can give the two ways I’m hearing it.

It’s important that every sermon from a Christian preacher be a Christian sermon, that is, a sermon that, if a Jewish or Muslim person heard it, they wouldn’t like. If they like it, something is wrong with it, because they reject Christ as Messiah and crucified and risen as the forgiver of the sins of the world.

And since they reject it, if they hear a sermon that they’re totally OK with, then something is missing. The sermon should somehow communicate that this is all based on and aiming toward the work of Christ and the glory of Christ. [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (04/18)

The Bible is its Own Evangelist

From Max McLean’s Unleashing the Word: Rediscovering the Public Reading of Scripture:

The Bible is its own evangelist. I came to faith because I was deeply affected by the words of the Bible. The famous British preacher Charles Spurgeon was once asked how he responded to criticisms of the Bible. “Very easy,” he responded. “I defend the Bible the same way I defend a lion. I simply let it out of its cage.” That quote captures our vision for this book and for the growth of ministries that are committed to the passionate, articulate, and powerful reading of Scripture. Isn’t it time to let the Bible out of the cage, or (to borrow from the title of this book) to unleash God’s Word?

When I tell a Bible story, I have a quiet confidence that God is going to do a mighty work by the very act of reading his Word. Therefore, my objective is to engage hearers and draw them into the Word of God. My role is to use my skills and abilities, as best I can, to draw them into an experience with the Word.

HT: Challies

In Other News

Tim Challies, Kevin Meath and Bob Bevington have teamed up to form Cruciform Press

The New ESV Online is ready for public beta-testing. Sign up to try it out at ESVOnline.org.

The first-ever Gospel Coalition Canadian Regional Conference is this Saturday, April 24. Who’s going?

Christianity’s Surge in Indonesia

Mars Hill Church has released a free five-song EP of music from their Good Friday services. Enjoy!

In Case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Dave Roberts’ book, The Twilight Gospel

A review of Steve Chalke & Alan Mann’s new book, Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully

Covetousness, blogging and… Gollum?

Spurgeon on the kind of faith that produces obedience

Two messages from this week’s Together for the Gospel conference: The first from John Piper, the second from Matt Chandler

"Did Jesus Preach the Gospel of Evangelicalism?" – John Piper at Together for the Gospel

The aim of my title is not to criticize the gospel of evangelicalism but to assume that it is biblical and true, and then to ask whether Jesus preached it. If I had it to do over again, I would use the title “Did Jesus Preach Paul’s Gospel?”—the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ’s blood and righteousness alone, for the glory of God alone.

This week at Together for the Gospel, John Piper shared a message that many considered the highlight of the conference: 

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more about “Video from Together for the Gospel ::…“, posted with vodpod

The full manuscript is available at Desiring God, but here are a couple of highlights: 

Did Paul Get Jesus Right?

So the problem I am wrestling with is not whether evangelicalism gets Paul’s gospel right, but whether Paul got Jesus’ gospel right. Because I have a sense that among the reasons that some are losing a grip on the gospel today is not only the suspicion that we are forcing it into traditional doctrinal categories rather than biblical ones, but also that in our default to Pauline categories we are selling Jesus short. In other words, for some—perhaps many—there is the suspicion (or even conviction) that justification by faith alone is part of Paul’s gospel, but not part of Jesus’ gospel. And in feeling that way, our commitment to the doctrine is weakened, and we are thus less passionate to preach it and defend it as essential to the gospel. And we may even think that Jesus’ call to sacrificial kingdom obedience is more radical and more transforming than the gospel of justification by faith alone. 

Only One Thing Missing

[W]hen it comes to justification, it doesn’t matter whether the rich ruler is right when he says, “All these I have kept from my youth.” What matters is what he is depending on. What he is trusting in. So Jesus says to him in Luke 18:22, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” [. . .] [Read more...]