Tag Archives: John Piper

John Piper Turns 70

12 Jan

Yesterday, John Piper, one of the most influential pastors and theologians of the last 25 years, turned 70. David Gundersen wrote a wonderful tribute to Piper, listing 70 reasons he was thankful for Piper’s ministry. You can read that tribute here: http://davidagundersen.com/2016/01/11/thank-you-john-piper-70-reasons-on-your-70th-birthday/

As I think about Piper, I am mostly filled with thanks for his life and ministry. His preaching at Passion ’99 filled me with a sense of awe for God and showed me the power of deep, emotive and biblical preaching. His books have shaped me in many ways. I believe Piper’s trilogy on Christian living (Desiring God, The Pleasures of God and Future Grace) is must reading for Christians, even if you don’t agree with every conclusion. I have long admired his attitude toward possessions. He could have drawn a huge salary and made loads of money through his books but it seems he has chosen to funnel most of that money back into ministry. He was also a pioneer, through the Desiring God website, of making his content (sermons, e-books and articles) free online.

In our current online environment, Piper is a lightning rod for controversy, simply because he weighs in on so many topics. He should not be treated like an evangelical pope, and I would imagine he does not want to be. Some who disagree with him suggest he be quiet. This I can not imagine him doing, nor would I want it. Even though I have come to weigh Piper’s words more carefully in recent years, and have come to disagree with him more often than I used to, I do not encourage his silence. He is going to get beaten up by all sides. He will be criticized for his associations, for his public statements, and due to his theological convictions by people along the whole theological spectrum. Some will criticize with seething hatred, some with brotherly disappointment, and some to advance their own theological agenda or denigrate his.

As I look at Piper, I realize that anyone who talks as much as he does is bound to say things many will disagree with sometimes. I also realize that anyone who has been in ministry as long as he has will have some friends who will let him down (Mark Driscoll comes to mind).

Piper’s legacy will be sealed by how he runs this final leg of his race. I hope for no great sin, as I would hope for myself. I hope he finishes well. When he goes to be with the Lord, many will give thanks for his life and others will be more skeptical of the value of his ministry. But if he finishes like he has started, I am confident in saying that he will have run his race well and that his life’s purpose of “spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples” will have been accomplished.


Need an Online Devotional?

5 Jan

solid joysYesterday I wrote about Tabletalk magazine and what a valuable resource it has been to me. But I understand that many people today are more likely to use an online or smartphone resource than a magazine. The best online devotional I have found is John Piper’s Solid Joys. It is a simple devotional based on one or two verses that provides food for thought as we meditate on the Word through the day. There is a webpage with the devotion for that day and there is also an app for smartphones which is what I use. Solid Joys consistently encourages me, challenges me, and gets me focused on God each day. Try it out. It’s free and will be a blessing to you.

Here is the link to the webpage . . .

From the webpage you can sign up to have the devotion sent daily to you via email or you can download the app through a link on the webpage.

My Favorite Quotes from the Desiring God Pastor’s Conference

7 Feb

I had the joy this week of attending the Desiring God Pastor’s Conference in Minneapolis this week. I was encouraged by my time there and helped greatly. What a blessing to be with a couple of thousand pastors from all over the country lifting up praises to God.

Here are the favorite things I heard said this week at the conference . . .

Mark Dever — “Jesus is the true Senior Pastor of the Church.”

“Many pastors are called to churches that are orthodox on paper but are dead.”

“The most fundamental aspect of the pastor’s discipleship ministry is the ministry of preaching.”

“Devote so much time in the worship service to prayer that nominal Christians will be bored by the God they don’t serve.”

“Pray for sheep who want shepherds.”

“Build a congregation, not a career.”

“The gospel is a diamond. The church is like the prongs of the ring that uphold and elevate and show off the diamond.”

“A healthy local church is the missing element in the lives of many believers.”

The problem with church membership: “Not all members are believers and not all believers are members.”

“Good leaders don’t shy away from authority. Good leaders don’t abuse authority.”

Kent Hughes

“Nowhere in Scripture are God’s servant required to be successful, just faithful.”

“Success is faithfulness.”

“The two attitudes that characterize failure in ministry are jealousy and negativity.”

Jason Meyer

“Beware of copying strategy.”

“We should not pit strategy against the supernatural. We use horses and chariots but we don’t trust in them.”

“As pastors, we can make the gospel clear but God must make it real.”

Tope Koleoso

“The Holy Spirit wants to free people, not freeze them.”

“If we don’t seek the Spirit’s power we will preach an anemic, diluted, ineffective gospel.”

“If you don’t do ministry by the Spirit you will do it by pragmatics.”

John Piper

“Preachers are secretaries of God’s praise.”

“The effort to say something freshly is a way to see something freshly.”

“Don’t try to always be spontaneous. The effect of most spontaneity is a rut.”

Darren Patrick

“Do the work of an evangelist but realize that only Jesus can save.”

Mack Stiles

“Anthropology never trumps theology”

“Most of the world fears the raised fist while we in America fear the raised eyebrow.”

“Don’t send people into overseas service who are not serving here. The 747 principle does not work. Getting on a 747 is not going to make you a different person. There is no transformation through aviation.”

Now these quotes are just pieces of what was said. I thought Darren Patrick’s talk, for example, was one of the best of the conference but he didn’t say many things that were easily quotable. So I encourage you to go to desiringgod.org to listen to all these conference messages. You will be blessed.

Sermon Saturday: John Piper — “Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing”

12 Jan

Today is the first installment of what I am calling Sermon Saturday. Each Saturday I am planning to post a sermon which has blessed me during the last week or a classic from the past.

Today’s sermon is John Piper’s “Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing.” This sermon was given on December 30, 2012 at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is Piper’s last sermon as pastor for preaching at Bethlehem (he will stay on staff until March as the church transitions to new pastor Jason Meyer). Piper’s message is important because we are hearing what a pastor who has been at a church for 32 years wants his people to remember.

Here is the link for the message . . .

Picard and the Podcast

2 Jan

I must admit, I am a Star Trek fan. I am not dressing up like a Klingon and going to conventions, but I have liked most of the movies and various spin-off series of the show. One movie most true fans do not like is the movie Generations. This movie was an attempt in the mid 1990’s to merge some of the cast from the original series with the cast of the Next Generation series. Of course, such an attempt made for a convoluted story line and the various plot holes were what drew most of the ire from devoted fans. Nevertheless, there are many excellent individual scenes and one of those is the one I link below.

If you haven’t seen this movie (spoiler alert) an energy ribbon called the Nexus destroys everything in its path while transporting people into a kind of problem free alternate reality. This ribbon is threatening two ships and Captain Kirk attempts to save the ships. He saves many people but is lost in an accident and presumed dead. One of those saved, a man named Soran, desperately wanted to stay in the Nexus and after being saved devoted himself to returning to the Nexus. The movie flashes forward to the time of Picard, where Soran is still working on getting back into the Nexus. Picard tries to stop him, only to be drawn into the Nexus himself. This clip is what Picard experiences in the Nexus.

Now what does this have to do with anything? Well, in recent years we have experienced the phenomenon of the podcast. You can listen to any great preacher in the world at any time of the day. You can listen to a 1978 John MacArthur message one day and to the best of the Passion conference another day. You can hear John Piper’s voice change from the early 80’s to today. You can hear such great teaching all the time, great worship music, just a click away. Great books are everywhere, many free to read online.

It’s like the Nexus, a problem-free alternate reality. A rich reality but not real. You can put in your earbuds listen and, as Guinan says, “It’s as real as you want it to be.” None of the effort of really reading your Bible with a meditative heart. None of the messiness of listening to a flesh and blood preacher with all his flaws and being in a church with all its flaws. None of the struggle of walking with a people of God through the years in the joys and trials of life together. “Time has no meaning here.” You can listen to MacArthur and Piper and others without regard to the struggles their own church fellowships have endured.

It is not wrong to listen to podcasts and take advantage of the great resources online. Like Picard marveling at his children, we can be blessed by the truths we hear and read online. But we can’t live in the Nexus. There comes a time when we, like Captain Picard, have to say, “This isn’t real. This can’t be right.” Every day, we have to say to the online world, at least for a good portion of our day, “Go on without me.” We have to leave the Nexus and live in the real world. It will be more complicated and difficult but there are real battles to be fought and real lives to be influenced and real joys to be found.

In the new year, will you and I live with people in church and out with all the uncomfortable unpredictability of life in God’s hands, or will we live with headphones on and screens in hand, ignoring all but the Nexus of our own creation, helpful to no one but oh so assured of our spirituality?

Earthly Influences

13 Dec

In each of our lives, God uses other people to shape us. Our immediate relations probably shape us most profoundly but others, sometimes people we don’t even know, also shape us because of their example or their teaching or some quality of their life. In life and ministry, I am thankful for the many influences in my life. Those outside of family and friends and teachers and pastors who have most profoundly influenced me are listed below. I don’t agree with everything each of them has written, but each one has marked me deeply by their writings and by their lives.

1. John Piper. I first heard him at a conference in Texas in 1999. I began after that time to read many of his books. His influence on me is hard to overestimate. His passion for God is so evident and makes me want to pursue God all the more. His concern for God’s glory has influenced a life-altering shift in my thinking and living. John Piper has taught me the most about God and my relationship with Him.

2. Mark Dever. A relatively recent influence, I became familiar with Dever first through online articles and blog posts but then in 2008 I visited Capitol Hill Baptist Church, where Dever pastors. The service was so solid, so joyfully reverent that I was deeply moved. The thing was, on this particular Sunday, Dever wasn’t even preaching. He was sitting in the back in a button down shirt just being part of the fellowship of believers. After returning home I began to devour everything I could find from Dever on the church and his writings have been deeply influential. Mark Dever has taught me the most about the church and its incredible importance to God and its inestimable value to the believer.

3. John MacArthur. Let me be frank. In my early years as a Christian, I thought John MacArthur was somewhat arrogant and legalistic. I, of course, was judging him without knowing much about him but that was my first reaction. When I began to listen to his sermons and hear him on secular TV interviews and actually observe him in action, I realized it wasn’t mainly arrogance, but courage. It wasn’t legalism, but commitment to God’s Word. What has influenced me most of all about MacArthur is his preaching. He taught me to stick to the text. To dig deep. To give the church a rich diet of spiritual meat, the result of real study and meditation over the Word. He taught me that you don’t have to have gimmicks or funny stories or great outlines to be an effective preacher. John MacArthur has taught me the most about preaching and the power of the preached Word.

Those are surely my top three earthly influences in my Christian life, apart from the deeper, more subtle influence of family, friends, fellow church leaders, teachers and others.

Honorable mentions would have to be made for C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, N.T. Wright and Millard Erickson. Though I wouldn’t agree with everything they say, each of these men has shaped me in deep ways.

Those are my earthly influences, who are yours? Who has impacted your life deeply through their teaching or preaching or writing or example?

The Pleasures of God, Answers to Study Guide Chapter Nine

17 Nov

This is the last post about the book The Pleasures of God by John Piper. It has been great to read this book over the past few months with a group of men from our church and community. I highly recommend it as a resource that will really get you thinking about important truths. Here are the answers to the last chapter of the Study Guide.

The Pleasures of God
Chapter Nine Study Guide Answers

1. What does obedience to God add to hope in God and prayer in fulfilling God’s purpose to make known His glory (p. 222)?
Obedience makes God-glorifying hope visible and proves that it is real in our lives.

2. Why is disobeying God out of fear of what man can do so dishonoring to God (pp. 224-226)?
Fear of man dishonors God because by being afraid of man over God we show that we are more concerned about the power of man than believing in the power of God.

3. On pages 226-227, what two desires lure Saul (and many others) into disobedience?
The desire for pleasure and the desire for praise.

4. Why are rebellion and disobedience like the sin of divination, as it says in 1 Samuel 15:22-23 (pp. 227-228)?
Divination is seeking to know what to do in a way that ignores the Word and counsel of God. Disobedience is similar in that it is a conscious ignoring of God’s Word to choose our own way.

5. In describing rebellion as a kind of divination and stubbornness as a kind of idolatry, what is the difference? How does idolatry involve more evil than divination (p. 228)?
It’s not only that we choose our own direction over God’s, we value that choice more highly than God.

6. Why would God be unreliable if he did not take pleasure in obedience (p229)?
If God did not delight in obedience he would be a living contradiction because to love his glory supremely yet not delight in the acts that make his glory known is non-sensical. If God receives praise at the same time he is approving of sin, he has become unreliable.

7. If the commands of God are like a doctor’s prescription to help cure us from the disease of sin, and not like a job description to show us how to earn wages, why is it good news that God delights in obedience (pp. 229-230)?
Obedience will lead us to what is good, because the commands of God are for our good, not requirements for us to render to God.

8. What are some texts from the Old and New Testaments to show that the command for obedience was never meant by God to be an onerous burden (pp. 230-231)?
Exodus 34:6-7; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 John 5:3; Isaiah 64:4.

9. Why would it be bad news if true saving faith were a mere believing in the facts of the gospel that leaves the heart of the “believer” unchanged (p. 232)?
It would be bad for us, in that we would be powerless to change and it would be bad for God in that those he saved would not be able to glorify him through lives of obedience.

10. There are those who develop a two-stage Christianity, with a faith stage that gets you saved and secure for heaven and then an optional obedience stage that gets you more rewards in heaven, but has no bearing on whether you get there. They do this in the name of grace, because it seems gracious to make obedience optional. Why is this not gracious (p. 232)?
This is not gracious because in the two-stage view, something must be added to faith to make obedience possible. This removes faith as the source of power and makes for a defeated life.

11. What fundamental mistake is made about grace in this seemingly “gracious” removal of the necessity of obedience (p. 233)?
The mistake is that grace is not simple leniency but it is positive power to change. It is power, not just pardon.

12. What is the link between grace and obedience in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (p. 233)?
Our acts of goodness are “works of faith” according to grace. So obedience that pleases God is by the power of his grace through faith. We are justified and sanctified by the same means.

13. What verse shows that “sanctification” (the process of becoming holy) is a necessary part of salvation and comes about through faith (pp. 233-234)?
1 Thessalonians 2:13-14.

14. In a nutshell, why is it that saving faith produces obedience (p. 234)?
Because real saving faith has not only brought pardon, but power, so that God’s grace justifies and sanctifies and this, along with glorification, is biblical salvation.

15. To see clearly how faith has the power to produce obedience, we need to see something that lies right at the core of faith. What is that, and why does it break the power of sin and produce obedience (p. 235)?
The essence of faith is to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ. This breaks the power of sin and produces obedience because in being satisfied with God we pursue his things, honor him and are not satisfied with things outside his will.

16. The definition of faith as “being satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ” could be taken from what words of Jesus (pp. 235-236)?
John 6:35.

17. Show from Hebrews 10:32-36; 11:24-26 and 11:1-2 how faith as “the assurance of things hoped for” (that is, the satisfaction of all that God is and will be for us) produces the obedience of love (pp. 237-238).
First, faith looks at what Christ offers as superior to the fleeting pleasures of sin. Also, faith looks at the future God offers as far superior to what I could work out on my own or could find by departing from God’s ways.

18. Explain why it is right to say that the command to obey God is basically the command to be happy in God (p. 238).
When we are happy in God we will want to please him so our obedience and happiness are linked. So be happy in God and you will seek to obey him. Similar to Augustine’s “Love God and do what you want.”

The Pleasures of God, Study Guide Answers to chapter seven

12 Oct

The Pleasures of God

Answers to Chapter Seven Study Guide

1. Jeremiah 32:39-41 is a foundational text for showing that God takes pleasure in doing good to His people. But it is addressed directly to Jews, not directly to Gentiles or to Christians. How does Piper argue that Gentile Christians can legitimately say that this text applies to them (p. 169)?

When Jeremiah speaks of the everlasting covenant, he is referring to the new covenant, inaugurated with the coming of Jesus. The death of Jesus brings about the fulfilling of the new covenant, so that the promise of Jeremiah reaches as far as the blood of Jesus, through time and to the Gentiles.

2. From Jeremiah 32:39-41 Piper highlights three increasingly amazing promises. The first one is verse 40: “I will not turn away from them, to do them good.” In view of all the painful things that happen to God’s people, what can this possibly mean (pp. 170-172)? What are some other texts that shed light on this?

God is working in and through even bad things for good. Romans 8:28; Psalm 84:11; Isaiah 38:17; Psalm 119:71 all point to this truth.

3. What is the second, even more amazing promise highlighted in Jeremiah 32:41?

God takes great delight in doing good to His people.

4. Cite three or four other passages that describe the joy God has in doing good to His people (172-176)?

Deuteronomy 30:9; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 23:6; Psalm 35:27; Isaiah 65:19.

5. Where does the Old Testament teach that the emotional energy behind God’s anger is not equivalent to the emotional energy behind His mercy (p.173)?

Exodus 34:6

6. Piper says that “God loves to show off His greatness.” Why then is God not like an insecure schoolyard bully (p. 174)?

God doesn’t show off His strength to put people down, He gives us mercy to lift us up.

7. Continuing from question 3 above, what is the third, most amazing promise highlighted in Jeremiah 32:41?

God promises that He will do good to His people with all His heart and with all His soul.

8. What two images does Piper dwell on to help us feel the force of the phrase “with all My heart and with all My soul” in Jeremiah 32:41 (pp. 175-178)?

The honeymoon of a marriage (the intensity of God’s love does not wane) and the image of the father running to the prodigal son.

9. On pages 178-181, Piper gives biblical answers to the five objections that people raise when they are called to enjoy the awesome face that God exults over us with loud singing. Each objection finds an answer in Zephaniah. State each of the five objections in a sentence, and then give the text and a sentence or two that expresses Zephaniah’s and Piper’s answer to it.

Objection 1 – I am too guilty, unworthy. Zephaniah 3:15, God has taken away the judgments against you.

Objection 2 – Obstacles surround me, too many enemies. Zephaniah 3:15,17, 19,  God will give victory, He is stronger than your enemies.

Objection 3 – God is distant from me and I am small. Zephaniah 3:15, God is in your midst.

Objection 4 – I am a victim and slave of shame. Zephaniah 3:19, I will change their shame into praise.

Objection 5 – How can God so rejoice over me when His own glory is His chief aim? Zephaniah 3:12, When you take refuge in Him, He rejoices over you because you are honoring Him by taking refuge in Him.

10. What does “seeking refuge in the name of the Lord” mean for Christians today (pp. 181-183)?

It means to take refuge in Jesus, appealing for salvation not on the basis of our track record, which has fallen so far short of God’s glory, but on the basis of Jesus’ vindication of the Father’s glory.

11. How can John say in 1 John 1:9 that God is just (not merely merciful) to forgive our sins when we confess them? Doesn’t justice require punishment for sins and only mercy grant pardon (p. 182)?

Justice is in view because Jesus has gone to the cross. The death of Jesus is honored by the Father so He is bound by His justice, not just His mercy, to pardon all those who take refuge in Jesus.

12. Piper points out on page 183 that the teaching of unconditional election (chapter 5) does not nullify the biblical teaching that only those are finally saved who respond to the invitations and commands of the gospel. In other words, God’s pleasure in choosing us unconditionally does not mean that He takes pleasure in finally saving us unconditionally. Rather he takes pleasure in our becoming a certain kind of people after we are elect. How can our election guarantee our final salvation if our final salvation depends on responding a certain way to the gospel?

God will see to it that His people will hear and respond to the message, but they are still responsible to hear and respond. The Bible is a both/and, not an either/or proposition.

13. Describe how this chapter is a turning point and why it is so important to Piper that this order be preserved and understood (p. 184).

The focus has turned from God’s pleasure in Himself and not in what kind of human attitudes please God. The order is important because if we don’t have it, when the gospel comes to us, we will put ourselves at the center rather than God.

14. What is the test Piper proposes that we should use to know if we have the heart of a child of God (p. 185)?

True children of God love to say that God is the heart of the gospel. They love to give glory to God for saving them.

15. How can the gospel be good news if it puts demands on sinners? Aren’t demands burdens that make us hopeless instead of hopeful (p. 185)?

Not if the demand is for us to hope in God and trust in His strength.

16. What is the paradoxical double demand to us implied in Psalm 147:11 (p. 185-186)?

That we would fear God and hope in Him.

17. How does Piper explain how these two demands can really fit together in one heart at the same time (p. 186)?

We come to the place where hope comes in and transforms fear. It is fear of God for His majesty but it is held by a deep hope in His mercy.

18. How does the illustration of the Greenland Glacier bring out the way hope and fear fit together in our experience of God (pp. 186-187)?

On a cliff on the glacier a terrible storm comes up. You are fearful. But you find a cleft in the ice where you can hide. There you feel secure even as you watch the storm pass by with trembling.

19. Why does God take pleasure in people who respond to Him with fear and hope (p. 187)?

Our fear reflects a deep reverence for His power and our hope reflects a deep faith in His goodness.

20. What other illustration does Piper use to show which command of God is good news to helpless people? And why it is good news (p. 188)?

We are all on the ice face, clinging for life. God comes to us and says I will save you on one condition; that you hope in me. This is good news because hoping in God is easier than trying to preserve or save ourselves.

21. But this command is not only good news for helpless sinners; it is also a glory to God when we hear and respond to this command. Why (p. 188)?

When we hope in God we show that He is strong and we are weak, we are the patient, He is the doctor.

22. Why does God not take pleasure in the strength of the horse or in the legs of a man as it says in Psalm 147:10 (pp. 189-190)?

God doesn’t fail to take pleasure in these things because they are not good, but because they are not places to put our ultimate hope. When we trust in the strength of a horse the horse gets the glory, not God.

It’s Not How You Feel, It’s Where You Go

11 Oct

File:Sadness.jpg I believe what separates the person of true faith from the person of unbelief is not how they feel, but where they go. The person of faith acknowledges how they feel (this is one reason why there are psalms of lament in the Bible) but in the end they go to God with their struggles and entrust themselves to Him and believe in His promises. The person living in unbelief has all the same feelings, but they either try to pretend they aren’t there or they medicate them with life’s pleasures. Sometimes both denial and escape into pleasure are present in a person’s heart.

It is important that we don’t try to cover over our emotional life or pretend all is well when it is not. The temptation for Christians is to think that walking in victory means we never hurt, we are never sad, and we are never discouraged. Jesus’ own experience in this life puts the lie to that notion. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, the One who never sinned, said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” So it is a mistake to label all discouragement or sadness at unbelief. Just as being physically struck causes pain, so being emotionally wounded causes hurt as well.

There are three important factors to remember about the way Jesus dealt with this discouragement. First, Jesus knew the cross was coming all along yet we don’t see Him living with a perpetual dread of its coming. Jesus’ life before Gethsemane was filled with activity and relationships and fellowship with God. It is not a sin of unbelief to feel sad or discouraged but we are living in unbelief if our lives are perpetually marked by sadness and never by love for God or hope in Him. Second, Jesus shared His emotional challenges with His closest friends. Jesus spoke His emotional words to His inner circle disciples; Peter, James and John. He was not hiding who He really was or denying the reality of what He was about to face. He didn’t go to Calvary wearing a “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” t-shirt. This is where I think the word of faith movement and its secular cousin, positive thinking, fall so short. These ways of thinking make too little of our trials and too much of our own ability or resources. At the same time, we must say that the broader evangelical church is also often guilty of papering over the struggles of others. We don’t want to acknowledge emotional struggle because that’s a downer and we think that if our services are not always upbeat that people won’t show up on Sunday morning.

Finally, we see that in His trials Jesus turned to God. He expressed both honesty toward God and submission to the Father’s will. What a great combination. A perfect expression of the life of faith.

I want to be a person who does not deny the reality of my emotional life. I want to hold it fully, in joy and pain. I don’t want to pretend I’m living some kind of higher life or life of victory when I’m not. I also don’t want to medicate my emotional life with food or tv or the internet or sports or relationships. I don’t want to run to things for escape. I want to be like Jesus. I want to acknowledge what I am feeling and turn to God. I have to say a hypocrite is writing this post, because I am often guilty of denial or escape rather than turning to God. I also have to say as a pastor that of all the people in the world who may have the most difficulty living this way, pastors may be near the top of the list. The reason is that our lives are arranged in ways that naturally lead to denial and/or escapism. Pastors are bearing not only their own hurts but also the hurts of many others, so they are more challenged emotionally than most. Pastors also are often isolated by their position from others and forming good and deep friendships with others can be a challenge. Finally, there is an expectation that a pastor’s emotional life will always be in check and that any real struggles are a sign of unbelief and weakness. The pastor, then, is especially tempted to put on  a happy face for a variety of reasons.

One of the resources I have found most helpful in addressing the nuts and bolts of turning to God in discouragement is John Piper’s excellent teaching series called “Battling Unbelief.” I recommend it strongly (even if you don’t agree with Piper on everything theologically) and have furnished a link at the close of this post.

I hope my emotional life will be marked more and more in the days ahead not by denial and escapism but by running to God in my trials.

For Piper’s messages go to www.desiringgod.org. Click on the “sermons” tab, choose the year “1988” and scroll down to September. The messages begin in September and run through the end of the year.



Answers to Study Guide Questions for The Pleasures of God, Chapter 5

28 Aug

The Pleasures of God Study Guide

Chapter 5, The Pleasure of God in Election

1. How does Piper draw the conclusion that we can, indeed, nurture Christlikeness from doctrinal teachings that are controversial (105-106)?

He says that no truly nourishing doctrine has ever been without controversy. Therefore to grow in theological understanding is to wade into the waters of controversy.

2. What image does Piper use to show that it is not really in an atmosphere of controversy that nourishment usually comes, even though all nourishing truth is controversial (105)?

Seeking food in a market of controversy. If we study well, we can go home and enjoy our feast, but the feast must be purchased in the midst of the market of controversy.

3. What privilege does Piper not want to give to the devil in this matter of which doctrines we study in order to find nourishment in Christlikeness (106)?

The devil does not have the right to determine which doctrines might nourish us by creating controversies which we feel we must avoid.

4. The first evidence that Piper gives for why he believes the doctrine of election is precious and nourishing for Christlikeness is the life of George Mueller. What did Mueller say he found when he read the New Testament in search of the doctrines of election and several other so-called Calvinistic teachings; namely, particular redemption and persevering grace (106-107)?

Mueller found these teaching all over the Scriptures. He found them about four times more than he found texts supporting general redemption and even these texts, when he looked at them more closely, supported the truth of election.

5. What effect did George Mueller say that his belief in the doctrine of election had on his life (106-107)?

Believing these controversial doctrines which he had seen in the Scriptures gave Mueller a closer walk with God and a greater victory over sin than he had previously experienced.

6. Even though Piper says that the ordinary Christian must not limit their spiritual, biblical nourishment to what the scholars can agree on, he does have a high regard for the role of Christian scholarship. Why (107)?

Scholarship gives us English Bible translations and a defense against the onslaught of secular culture.

7. What sequence of thoughts led Charles Spurgeon to his first confidence in the doctrine of election that ascribes wholly to God all our change from unbelief to belief (108)?

He started with a chain of questions, beginning with “How did you become a Christian?” and tracing it back to the events that led to his conversion. Spurgeon realized that in back of it all, working it all out, was God.

8. From whom did Charles Spurgeon learn more about the doctrine of election than he might have learned from six doctors of divinity (108-109)? Why is this important?

Spurgeon learned spiritual truth from woman who was a cook in the school (like a lunch lady). This is important because it shows us that these precious truths don’t just belong to the clergy or to the scholars.

9. Abraham was the father of the nation Israel. We will see that god views this nation as his “chosen” people. This means first, that God chose Abraham out of all the possible people of the earth to receive promises and become the head of a new people of God. What three texts refer to this specific election of Abraham (109-110)?

Joshua 24:2-3; Nehemiah 9:7; Genesis 18:17-19.

10. Why did Ezekiel (quoting God) refer to the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt as “the day when I chose Israel,” if in fact he had chosen Abraham and the other patriarchs long before that? This is not answered directly on pages 110-111. But what do you think?

It was the formalization and fulfillment of the promise God had made to Abraham.

11. What three images does the Bible use to affirm the freedom or the unconditionality of Israel’s election (111)?

Creating, begetting, forming as a potter.

12. In Deuteronomy 10:14-15, why does Moses describe the election of Israel against the backdrop of God’s ownership of the whole universe? Why does he say, “To the Lord your God belong heaven and . . . the earth” and then say, “He chose . . . you above all peoples” (113)?

To get rid of any notion that God was somehow hedged in to choose this people. The point is to explode the myth that each people has its own god and this god has a right to his own people but no more. The truth is that this is the only true God. He owns everything in the universe and can take any people he wants for his own special possession.

13. What seems to be the deepest root for the election of Israel in Deuteronomy 10:14-15 (113)?

God’s delight.

14. How is the birth of Isaac as the heir of the promise and the one through whom the chosen people would be continued (as opposed to Ishmael) a demonstration of God’s sovereign freedom in election (114)?

Because Abraham had already fathered a son, Ishmael, who could have received the promise but instead, in God’s sovereign freedom, Isaac received the promise.

15. How do the words of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:9 show the freedom of God in election (114)?

God can raise up children of the promise from anywhere, even from the stones. He is not limited by you. Grace is free, not based on human will or pre-qualifications.

16. The election of Jacob, and not Esau, to be the heir of the promise and to carry on the line of the people of Israel dramatically illustrates the freedom of God in election. How does Paul in Romans 9:10-12 bring this out in three ways?

Jacob and Esau had the same parents, the choice was made before they were born, the chouce was made before they had done anything good or evil.

17. In Deuteronomy 7:7 Moses says it was not “because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” What then was the reason the Lord set his love upon Israel and chose them (116)?

Because he loved them and exercised his divine freedom in choosing them.

18. From the Old Testament what is the ultimate purpose of election (116-117)?

The ultimate purpose of election is for God to make a name for himself in showing himself as the true redeeming God.

19. What does Jesus mean by “times of the Gentiles” (117)?

Jesus is referring to the time, inaugurated by his coming, when God no longer focuses on Israel as the center of his work in the world but turns to the Gentiles to assemble a people for himself called the church.

20. Luke 10:21 says Jesus rejoices that his Father revealed something to infants and hid it from the wise and understanding. Jesus said the Father did this because it was his pleasure. What was it that the Father revealed with pleasure to the infants?

That “No one knows who the Son is except the Father.” So what the Father must reveal is the true spiritual identity of the Son.

21. What is being opposed and what is being promoted in the election described in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (119-120)?

The wisdom of man is put down and the freedom of God’s grace is exalted.

22. Sometimes people argue that election is not God’s choice of individual people to be saved, but God’s choice of Christ as the Savior or God’s choice of the church corporately. This view is meant to remove from election the idea of God’s unconditional choice of individuals. For example, one writer says, “The prime point is that the election of the church is a corporate rather than an individual thing. It is not that individuals are in the church because they are elect, it is rather that they are elect because they are in the church which is the body of the elect One.” What New Testament text is cited most often in support of this view (120, note 13)?

Ephesians 1:3-5.

23. What are three or four reasons that the words “he chose us in him [Christ]” probably do not mean that Christ is chosen and that the individuals are not chosen to be in Christ (120, note 13)?

Numerous texts argue against the corporate view (Mt. 22:14; 1 Co. 1:27-28; Jas. 2:5; Jn. 6:37-39, etc.)

The corporate view does not square well with Eph. 1:11 were Paul says ALL things are worked according to the counsel of his will. This seems to rule out the idea of self-determination.

The ordinary meaning of choose is to select or pick out of a group. So the most natural reading is that God has selected people before the foundation world in Christ, viewing them in relationship to Christ their redeemer.

24. How does 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 show that the idea of “corporate election” mentioned in question 22 is not correct (119-120)?

The repetition of the word “chose” shows us that God did not corporately provide Christ and then leave people to believe or reject Him.

25. Three times in Epehsians 1:3-12 Paul tells us what God’s goal is in electing, predestining, and securing his people. What is this goal and what are the verses where it is expressed (122)?

For the praise of his glory, seen in verse 4-6, verses 11 and 12 and verse 14.

26. What is Jesus’ way of talking about election in the gospel of John? Use 17:6; 6:37-39; 10:25-29 (122-123).

God has chosen a people. They are his sheep. He gives them to his Son so that they can be saved through faith in him.

27. Often Romans 8:29 is used to argue that God’s predestination is based not on his unconditional election, but on his ability to foresee who will use their supposed power of self-determination to believe. This would mean that God does not have the final say on who or how many will go to heaven, but is dependent on the finally-autonomous human will. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brethren.” What is Piper’s argument from the context (especially verse 30) that this interpretation of verse 29 is incorrect (124-125)?

Verse 30 tells us that those who are predestined are also called and that those who are called are also justified. Since we know that not all are justified, it must be that neither are all called or predestined. So the call here is not a general call but an effectual call of God based on predestination and leading to justification.

28. Describe six steps of our great salvation in Romans 8:28-30. Put them in the order in which they happen. You may see only five, but consider carefully (127).

Electing love of God, foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies, glorifies

29. We turn now to consider the reasons Piper gives for why the doctrine of election is relevant to our lives and why it gives pleasure to God. How does Piper connect the pleasure of God with the fact that the doctrine of election is biblical (127-129)?

God has pleasure in election because he exalts his word and his word teaches that these things are so.

30. What two goals of God in salvation is the doctrine of election meant to accomplish, according to 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (128)?

To debase man and exalt God.

31. What does history teach us about the larger truth-preserving effect of embracing God-centered doctrines like unconditional election (128-129)?

Some North American churches in the late 1700’s moved away from these truths and drifted toward theological liberalism.

32. Why is it good news to hear that the salvation of the elect is not just offered, but effected (129)?

If God undertakes it, it will be done. So we can have confidence that people will really be saved by the power of God.

33. If God not only offers salvation to all, but effects salvation for some, is his offer of salvation to all genuine? Does it have heart in it? Is it backed by true that all come to salvation? Does God really feel compassion for those whom he does not save? If so, how can this be, in view of God’s sovereign ability to save all if he would (130-131)?

On one level, God does not delight in the death of the wicked, yet, at another level, he does delight in the justice that ordains the judgment of unbelievers.

34. In view of the Bible’s teaching that there is a practical holiness without which we will not see the Lord (that is, will not inherit eternal life), how are we to be encouraged that we will endure “to the end” and so be saved (Mark 13:13)? That is, how can the necessity of persevering holiness and the assurance of salvation both be sustained (133)?

Election is the guarantee that what God has started, he will finish.

35. What famous sentence of St. Augustine sums up how the believer prays concerning the demand for holiness and the commitment of God to make us holy (134)?

Grant what thou commandest and command what thou wilt.

36. Explain how the truth of election preserves both the urgency and the freedom of biblical obedience (135).

Election guards us from the thought that we can earn our way into God’s favor by our own works while also showing us that obedience is not optional, but God empowered.

37. It is sad that so many believers enjoy a love from God that is an offer of help and salvation, but not more. What is the “more” that Piper has in mind, and what are some texts that demonstrate it (135-136)?

God’s electing love is the love of embrace, of acceptance and of empowerment to live a life that is good for us and brings glory to God.

38. Why is the doctrine of election good news for evangelism and missions (137-139)?

The mission will not fail because God has purposed to save a people and he will save them.

%d bloggers like this: