Hard pressed?

John Piper31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;  we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’
Luke 7:31-34 ESV

Jesus wasn’t shocked by the opposition that his gospel aroused (John 2). Our perversity towards Him, our stubborn rejection of the truth about ourselves, came as no surprise to Him, and it never for a moment diminished His love for us. Our opposition was powerless to prevent His purpose being fulfilled. This final brief post on the theme of opposition also comes from John Piper.

John Piper wrote: “And if there is enough conflict and hostility that those who speak the gospel are even imprisoned, that very moment of bad press may be the occasion of gospel triumph. Why? Because, Paul said, ‘I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal [for the gospel]. But the word of God is not bound!’(2 Timothy 2:9). In fact, it may be that when God and truth are loved enough that we are willing to take stands that incur slander and hostility, the Spirit may move more powerfully than in times of peace and popularity.

“Sometimes Christians have favor with society and sometimes we ‘are spoken against everywhere.’ In either case, God can, and often does, pour out His power for effective witness. Both peace and slander can be the occasion of blessing.

“Therefore let us not embrace the assumption that times of social ridicule must be times of weakness and fruitlessness for Christianity. They may be a sign of faithfulness and occasions of great harvest. The church was ‘spoken against everywhere,’ and ‘the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.’ (Acts 19:20).

From John Piper in Pierced by the Word.

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Anything for a quiet life?

John Piper

We need not be discouraged that either controversy inside the Church, or persecution from outside, will prevent the Body of Christ in the Twenty-first century from experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit, and the (perhaps stunning) growth that He intends to bring about. This second of three brief posts on the theme of opposition also comes from John Piper.

 

John Piper writes: “This seems to be Luke’s view, because, even though he portrayed Christianity as ‘spoken against everywhere,’ he also portrayed relentless growth throughout the book of Acts.

‘The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:47).

‘The disciples were increasing in number’ (Acts 6:1).

‘The word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly’ (Acts 6:7).

‘The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord’ (Acts 11:21).

‘The word of God increased and multiplied’ (Acts 12:24).

‘The churches…increased in number daily’ (Acts 16:5).

‘All the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord’ (Acts 19:10).

‘The word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily’ (Acts 19:20).

“Therefore, we must not think that controversy and conflict keep the church from experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit and dramatic growth. We are taught in Romans12:18, ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.’ But we are not taught to sacrifice truth for peace. So Paul said, ‘Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1:8).”

From John Piper in Pierced by the Word.

Hated for His name’s sake?

John Piper

When you suffer, writes Peter (1 Peter 3) better to suffer ‘for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.’ The Church is more and more spoken against, sometimes deservedly, but often not so. How does this affect our role as witnesses to Christ? This first of three brief posts on the theme of opposition comes from John Piper.

 

John Piper writes: “Can the gospel spread and thousands be converted, and churches grow, and love abound where Christianity is continually spoken against? Yes. It not only can; it has.

“… How do we know this? Consider the way Luke reports the state of the church in the book of Acts. When Paul finally gets to Rome near the end of his life, he invites the ‘local leaders of the Jews’ to come and hear his gospel. What these leaders say about the ‘sect’ of Christians is very significant. They say, “With regard to this sect we know that it is spoken against everywhere.” (Acts 28:22).

“This is not surprising to disciples who knew that Jesus said, You will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake’ (Matthew 24:9). And: ‘Woe to you, when all men speak well of you’ (Luke 6:26). And: ‘If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!’ (Matthew 10:25).

“The early church was an embattled church. Yes, there were seasons of calm (Acts 9:31); but that was the exception. Most of the time there were slanders and misunderstandings and accusations and persecutions, not to mention internal disputes about ethics and doctrine. Virtually all of Paul’s letters reflect controversy in the church as well as affliction from outside. The point is not that this is desirable, but that it need not hinder great power and growth. In fact, it may be the occasion and reason for great power and growth.”

From John Piper in Pierced by the Word.

16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 1Peter3:16-17 ESV

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.