Feeling fragile?

John Piper
But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power
belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV

Some days we wake up feeling fragile, aware of all our weaknesses, when we would prefer instead to wake up feeling strong, and fit, and full of energy to face the day ahead of us. But, even on those days, and whether we feel it or not, at any given moment, in Christ, by grace through faith alone, we may discover again that He is with us, in us, in all his strength, to work through us; the power is His, and the glory must be His as well. This first of three brief posts on the theme of treasure in clay pots comes from John Piper…

John Piper says…. The third reason you should use your gift for the good of others and the glory of God is that your ordinariness is no reason not to. Too many people say, ‘I’m so ordinary, so average and undistinguished. I can’t do anything significant.’ 2 Corinthians 4:7 shows that this argument is wrong and why. It says, ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels (or clay pots!) to show us that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.’ God’s concept of ministry is so different from the world’s concept. The world stresses the classy container, not the glory of God in human weakness.

“If there is one thing that we are coming to learn together in this church, it is that God’s purpose to get the glory in all things determines how we do all things. Here God’s purpose is to make sure that we see that the surpassing power belongs to him and not to us. How does he do it? He puts the treasure of his gifts and his gospel in clay pots like you and me. Your ordinariness is not a liability; it is an asset, if you really want God to get the glory.

“No one is too common, too weak, too shy, too inarticulate, too disabled to do what God wants you to do with your gift. … No matter what your condition, you have a gift, and the humble use of it in reliance on the Spirit will bring glory to God.

“It is no liability to be a clay pot in the kingdom of God.”

From John Piper in a sermon entitled ‘Calling All Clay Pots’ in Desiring God Resources

What? Me (not) worry?

John Piper

I worried less when I was a child. Partly, my bliss was due to my ignorance; mostly it was due to my parents. Jesus, knowing my tendency to worry more now, says to me, “Rob… Do not be anxious, saying, “What shall (I) eat?” or “What shall (I) drink?” or “What shall (I) wear?” For… your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”  Matthew 6:31-32.
This third brief post on the theme of worry comes from John Piper…

John Piper writes….

“Jesus wants his followers to be free from worry. In Matthew 6:25-34, he gives at least seven arguments designed to take away our anxiety. One of them lists food and drink and clothing, and then says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” Matthew 6:32. Jesus must mean that God’s knowing is accompanied by his desiring to meet our need. He is emphasizing we have a Father. And this Father is better than an earthly father. I have five children. I love to meet their needs. But my knowing falls short of God’s in at least three ways…

“First, right now I don’t know where any of them is. I could guess. They’re in their homes or at work or school, healthy and safe. But they might be lying on a sidewalk with a heart attack.

“Second, I don’t know what is in their heart at any given moment. I can guess from time to time. But they may be feeling some fear or hurt or anger or lust or greed or joy or hope. I can’t see their hearts.

“Third, I don’t know their future. Right now they may seem well and steady. But tomorrow some great sorrow may befall them.

“This means I can’t be for them a very strong reason for not worrying. There are things that may be happening to them now or may happen tomorrow that I do not even know about. But it is totally different with their Father in heaven. He knows everything about them now and tomorrow, inside and out. He sees every need.

“Add to that, his huge eagerness to meet their needs (the “much more” of Matthew 6:30).

“Add to that his complete ability to do what he is eager to do (he feeds billions of birds hourly, Matthew 6:26).

“So join me in trusting the promise of Jesus to meet our needs. That’s what Jesus is calling for when he says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.””

This devotional is written by John Piper. For more information about Piper’s ministry, writing, and books, visit DesiringGod.org.

Clean?

John Piper

A good conscience may be a guilty conscience; a bad conscience may certainly  feel clear. But only a good conscience, guilty, but with the guilt washed away, can become a clean conscience. This third of three brief posts on the theme of conscience comes from John Piper…

John Piper writes…

“So here we are in the modern age — the age of the Internet, smart phones, space travel, and heart transplants — and our problem is fundamentally the same as always: our consciences condemn us and make us feel unacceptable to God. We are alienated from God.

We can cut ourselves, or throw our children in the sacred river, or give a million dollars to charity, or serve in a soup kitchen, or a hundred forms of penance and self-injury, and the result will be the same: the stain remains and death terrifies.

We know that our conscience is defiled — not with external things like touching a corpse, a dirty diaper, or a piece of pork. Jesus said it is what comes out of a man that defiles, not what goes in (Mark 7:15-23). We are defiled by attitudes like pride and self-pity and bitterness and lust and envy and jealousy and covetousness and apathy and fear.

The only answer in this modern age, as in every other age is the blood of Christ. When your conscience rises up and condemns you, where will you turn? Hebrews 9:14 gives you the answer: turn to Christ. (14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Hebrews 9:14 ESV)

Turn to the blood of Christ. Turn to the only cleansing agent in the universe that can give you relief in life and peace in death.”

Copyright Information: This devotional is written by John Piper. For more information about Piper’s ministry, writing, and books, visit DesiringGod.org.

Decreasing myself?

John Piper

Of course, if I am to really become more like Christ, it’s not enough for me to think that I can put on Christ, at worst, like a mask, or, at best, like my very own super-hero suit. “He must increase, but I must decrease“, said John the Baptist and so it is with any disciple. This second brief post on the theme of Christlikeness comes from John Piper.

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8 ESV

“This verse means that there is a precious experience of peace and assurance and harmony and intimacy that is not unconditional. It depends on our not grieving the Spirit. It depends on our putting away bad habits. It depends on forsaking the petty inconsistencies of our Christian lives. It depends on our walking closely with God and aiming at the highest degree of holiness. If this is true, I fear that the unguarded reassurances today that God’s love is unconditional may stop people from doing the very things the Bible says they need to do in order to have the peace that they so desperately crave. In trying to give peace through “unconditionality” we may be cutting people off from the very remedy the Bible prescribes. Let us declare untiringly the good news that our justification is based on the worth of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, not ours (Romans 5:19, “as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”). But let us also declare the biblical truth that the enjoyment of that justification in its effect on our joy and confidence and power to grow in likeness to Jesus is conditioned on our actively forsaking sins and forsaking bad habits and mortifying lusts and pursuing intimacy with Christ, and not grieving the Spirit.” 

This devotional is written by John Piper.
For more information about Piper’s ministry, writing, and books, visit DesiringGod.org.

Comfort worthy of the name?

 

John Piper
A comfortable life may deny 
us the experience of comfort.

In this third brief post on the theme of comfort, John Piper comments ….

 

 

‘Pilate’s authority to crucify Jesus did not intimidate Jesus. Why not? Not because Pilate was lying. Not because he didn’t have authority to crucify Jesus. He did. Rather, this authority did not intimidate Jesus because it was derivative. Jesus said, “It was given to you from above.” Which means it is really authoritative. Not less. But more.

So how is this not intimidating? Pilate not only has authority to kill Jesus. But he has God-given authority to kill him. This does not intimidate Jesus because Pilate’s authority over Jesus is subordinate to God’s authority over Pilate. Jesus gets his comfort at this moment not because Pilate’s will is powerless, but because Pilate’s will is guided. Not because Jesus isn’t in the hands of Pilate’s fear, but because Pilate is in the hands of Jesus’ Father. Which means that our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7

Pilate has authority. Herod has authority. Soldiers have authority. Satan has authority. But none is independent. All their authority is derivative. All of it is subordinate to God’s will. Fear not. You are precious to your sovereign Father. Far more precious than the unforgotten birds.’

For more about John Piper’s ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.

victory at all costs…(6)

“Whoever does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33

possessions
Do we possess our possessions?

Or do our possessions
and our desire for more
possess us?

 

We understand (we say) that Jesus would want us to give up all that we have that is sinful; like those Ephesians who, when they believed in Jesus, came confessing and divulging their practices…and a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.’ Acts 19:18-19

Sermon
But can it really be that God, in Christ, calls us to renounce even the good things that he himself has given us and that we have received with humility and thankfulness?
Yes, Jesus calls us to ‘renounce’ all that we have.

The word Jesus used ‘renounce’ is the same word one ‘maybe’ disciple used when he asked Jesus if he could not be allowed first to go home and say goodbye to his family before setting out with Jesus.

 

Jesus wants his disciples to say goodbye to all that we have (or might ever have); if not yet in fact, then certainly already in our hearts so that we are freed from things and to him.

Jesus wants us to hold so loosely to our possessions that we may be free, as he requires us, to live as those first disciples did, who ‘…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’  Acts 2: 42 so that we might, as he blesses us, share their experience of discipleship.

giving‘And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’ Acts 2:44-47


Dr. Jphn Piper comments
, ‘God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. The evidence that many professing Christians have been deceived by this doctrine is how little they give and how much they own. God has prospered them. And by an almost irresistable law of consumer culture (baptized by a doctrine of health, wealth, and prosperity) they have bought bigger (and more) houses, newer (and more) cars, fancier (and more) clothes, better (and more) meat, and all manner of trinkets and gadgets and containers and devices and equipment to make life more fun. They will object: does not the Old Testament promise that God will prosper his people? Indeed! God increases our yield, so that by giving we can prove our yield is not our God. God does not prosper a man’s business so that he can move from a Ford to a Cadillac. God prospers a man’s business so that 17000 unreached people can be reached with the gospel. He prospers the business so that 12 percent of the world’s population can move a step back from the precipice of starvation.’
John Piper ‘Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist’

 

transformers?

John Piper
‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.’

Romans 12:2 

 

Dr. John Piper, in a series of sermons preached in 1990, asks, in relation to this verse from Romans, ‘How shall we get this new mind?’ You can listen to his entire sermon here but I was particularly challenged by his suggestion, that, if we are serious about this ‘transformation’, we should, ‘focus our attention on the Glory of God’.

  • He mentions three verses from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth;

‘And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’
2 Corinthians 3:18

‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’
2Corinthians 4:16

‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’
2 Corinthians 4:18

Then he says, ‘Do we want to be made new? Then stop watching the world!’

Family TV‘Why (do) we want to be entertained by the unbelieving so much?
Why are we so hooked on television, video, movies and radio?
We say, ‘World; tell me, show me, feed me, shape me, make me.’

‘That’s what we are doing…but,
‘You become what you behold!’’

He says, ‘Might there not be some insight here as to why we live in weakness and failures in the temptations of our lives? Why we don’t have the effect in the world that we would like to have? …Is there perhaps some correlation (with) the fact that we focus so much on the world, we live in the world, we ooze world, we watch world, we read world…’

‘You become what you behold!’

Jesus poster
He asks, ‘Do you want to become holy? Do you want to become new; so that you see like Jesus, think like Jesus, feel like Jesus, love like Jesus, care like Jesus, and judge like Jesus?’ If you do, there is an agenda to follow: Watch Jesus; a lot!’