From Desiring God:
From John Piper, talking about the two paradoxes in the death of Christ:
The death of Christ was the curse of God and the wrath of God; and yet, at the same time, it was pleasing to God and a sweet fragrance. While turning from his Son and giving him up to die laden with our sin, he delighted in the obedience and love and perfection of the Son.
Therefore, let us stand in awe and look with trembling joy on the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There is no greater event in history. There is no greater thing for our minds to ponder or our hearts to admire. Stay close to this. Everything important and good gathers here. It is a wise and weighty and happy place to be.
Everyone believes in a heaven.
The next time you are standing in line at a store, take a moment to look at the covers of the magazines on the rack. Each cover presents a picture of some sort of heavenly life. There is vacation heaven, fishing heaven, hunting heaven, pet heaven, entertainment heaven, sex heaven, bridal heaven, nicely organized home heaven, baby heaven, and so on. The articles in the magazines speak of life in hellish terms but offer functional saviors to take us from our hellish life to our heavenly one if we just obey the steps and buy the products.
The question persists, however, why? Why do we live for the endless pursuit of heavenly perfection on earth, and spend our hard-earned money relentlessly pursuing that perfect place, perfect thing, perfect person, or that perfect day? Perhaps all of our toys, hobbies, home improvement projects, festivals, parties, toys, joys, and vacations are simply our way of looking for paradise and practicing for heaven.
But practice does not make perfect because we are not able to reach that ideal, no matter how hard we try.
According to the Bible, God kicked us out of paradise because of our rebellion, much like we would do to a roommate who declared war on us in our own home. Subsequently, ever since then we have all been booking airline flights, gassing up our cars, hiking in the woods, buying junk, logging on, and walking on the beach searching for paradise. Deep down we all feel homeless and restless.
Our pernicious problem is that paradise is lost. No matter how close we get to that perfect day in that perfect place, we are continually disappointed because sin is there too and things are not as perfect as we had hoped. Subsequently, we get sunburned, food poisoning, seasick, or bumped off our flight home from the search for paradise and are left to wander through the airport, which is perhaps the best illustration of hell that earth has to offer.
As we progress toward Easter, we should think about what heaven is and how we may be trying to recreate it here on earth. Whatever we think is good about this life, heaven is much better. Of course we are eager to leave behind the pains and disappointments of this world, but we need to look into our hearts and ask if we are treasuring the things we love more than heaven.
Thabiti Anyabwile, who grew up in a nominal Christian family in North Carolina, converted to Islam while in college. While there, he became — in his own words — “something of the campus Saul, opposing the gospel and anything having to do with the biblical Jesus.” But, God didn’t allow him to stay there and he returned to Christianity. Today, he serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands.
He has written a new book called “The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement To Share Christ With Confidence” in which he shares ways to stir confidence in the gospel, equipping the reader with the basics necessary to communicate clearly, boldly, and winsomely. It is not an exhaustive apologetic to compare Christianity with Islam, but is meant for the average reader as a helpful guide.
Recently, Anyabwile did an interview with Trevin Wax at Kingdom People. Wax asked Anyabwile why it is that Christians feel nervous about sharing their faith with Muslims and why they should be instead be confident. This is what Anyabwile said:
Many Christians seem to accept two myths when it comes to sharing the gospel with Muslims. First, many Christians tend to think every Muslim has memorized the Qur’an and is likely a radical. That’s the “super Muslim” myth.
Second, many Christians think they need to be world class apologists, able to answer ever Muslim question or critique of Christianity. That’s the “I’m so inadequate” myth.
The result of these two assumptions is that many Christians harbor a lot of fear when it comes to speaking with Muslims. And that fear causes a crisis in confidence—they doubt that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. They shrink back, telling themselves that they don’t know enough, that their Muslim neighbor is more confident, and that it’s probably no use.
The truth, however, is exactly the opposite. If we are Gospel-believing Christians, with even a basic understanding of the “good news,” then we know all that we need to know in order to effectively reach our Muslim neighbors and friends. The power of God is not in our wisdom or in our techniques; those things threaten to empty the cross of its power (1 Cor. 1:17).
But the gospel itself, that is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. In the message of Jesus’ perfect righteousness, sacrificial death for our sins, glorious resurrection, and second coming in glory, God has placed His power to make sinners new, to raise spiritually dead men to life, to change the hardest human heart into a heart that loves God, to justify us and satisfies His righteous wrath. What we need is confidence in the gospel, for God makes the gospel to triumph in every nation.
It is a very good interview. Go here to read the rest as you can see answers about how he came to faith, how the Trinity is important in Christian evangelism of Muslims and how hospitality is important. You can find his book here.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. — I John 5:1
I came across this video of former Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach today and it just struck me as amazing. For those of you who don’t know, Mike Leach was a very successful coach at Texas Tech for several years before he was fired just before the team’s bowl game in December. He is not a conventional person and has been viewed as a loose cannon. His firing came in the wake of allegations he locked one of his players in a closet after that player had suffered a concussion. He is a man who has his own methods and has been portrayed as someone who speaks freely, whether it is seen as correct or not. There are many who admire him for his candor and boldness.
Because he felt unfairly treated by the university in being fired, his story has not gone away quietly. Thus, the video is something that has come to light recently, showing how he addressed his players during this past season as a way of showing what kind of character he has. What I found interesting about the video was that in it he addresses those on the team who were Christians, the ones he referred to as “the God Squad.” On one hand, he acknowledges the way the publicly show their faith, yet he is derisive as well. I found it revealing in the way he told them they need to be focused on playing football and not let their prayers distract them from that goal. He even misapplies scripture from Revelations about Jesus “spewing out” the lukewarm believers of Laodicea as a way of saying he doesn’t want half-hearted players.
There are so many things to think about in this. Even though Mike Leach comes across as harsh, I think he fairly represents the way a lot of people view Christianity. It is something that is all right to have, as long as it doesn’t interfere with “real life.” Many people who actually consider themselves Christians may share this view. Is that what God is saying in I Corinthians 10:31 when he says “so whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God”? That verse is not pointing to a compartmentalized Christianity but rather a faith that seeps out of every area in your life. Certainly, it means to strive for excellence in everything you do (which someone like Mike Leach could appreciate). But it doesn’t mean that are areas where it must take a back seat. We are citizens of heaven first and foremost.
Now, I understand a football coach trying to motivate his players to strive for excellence. The point to remember is that if we call ourselves Christians, it does not mean that we set aside the tasks in life that we are faced with in order to serve God. Half-hearted, mediocre football players don’t bring glory to God as neither do half-hearted coaches, teachers, parents, students or whatever. We work hard, not because that is our goal, but because it shows that we are humbly looking to God as our all in all.
who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. — 2 Timothy 1:9
A truly amazing part of the death of Jesus Christ was that it was done willingly, out of perfect obedience to His Father. Returning once again to Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, we see John Piper put it this way (my emphasis):
Jesus did not wrestle his angry Father to the floor of heaven and take the whip out of his hand. He did not force him to be mer- ciful to humanity. His death was not the begrudging consent of God to be lenient to sinners. No, what Jesus did when he suffered and died was the Father’s idea. It was a breathtaking strategy, conceived even before creation, as God saw and planned the history of the world. That is why the Bible speaks of God’s “purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
The idea that God had planned for the death of Jesus to satisfy justice before any history took place is astounding and shows God’s great love. As we have talked about, it is a high standard that God sets, but it is an equally great love He shows in providing a way for us who fall way short of that standard. The fact that it says in Ephesians 5:2 that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” shows that not only was the death of Jesus a willing act of love, but that it pleased His Father at the same time.
We have been saved not by some begrudging arm twisting, but by a beautiful act of obedience. It is well worth our time to consider this and worship the one who has not only planned this by done it for us out of love.
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. — the words of Jesus in John 10:17-18
I think about this a lot because I think there a lot of people who look at Christianity as living daily to deny yourself some pleasure without going any further. C.S. Lewis addresses this kind of thinking in The Weight of Glory when he says that we are far too easily pleased, settling for the temporal joys of this world instead of striving for the eternal pleasures that we are offered through Jesus Christ. Because we don’t understand the magnitude of pleasure in Jesus, we don’t understand why we need to hate our sin. Timothy Keller, in Counterfeit Gods, does a great job explaining why this matters:
“In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose it’s attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake. But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us – seeing what it cost him to save us fom sin – we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God. What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.”
Anything that keeps me from achieving the greatest amount of joy (in Christ) — my sin — is not something I want to protect but instead should be hated and left behind.
On this date in 1805 in Kroppenstaedt, Germany, George Mueller was born. Mueller would die 92 years later and would be best remembered for his orphan ministry he founded in Bristol, England. From the biographical message delivered by John Piper, we are given these facts:
He built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. When he started in 1834 there were accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England and twice that many children under eight were in prison. One of the great effects of Mueller’s ministry was to inspire others so that “fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.”
George Mueller pastored for 66 years at his church in Bristol and is said to have delivered at least 10,000 messages. He was a giant in the faith not likely to be seen any time soon. Mueller was a man of consistent prayer who lived daily from God’s word. The way he supported his ministry to orphans was to ask from God and watch and trust God to provide — and he did. Here is more from the Piper message about this:
The reason he is so adamant about this is that his whole life—especially in the way he supported the orphans by faith and prayer without asking anyone but God for money—was consciously planned to encourage Christians that God could really be trusted to meet their needs. We will never understand George Mueller’s passion for the orphan ministry if we don’t see that the good of the orphans was second to this.
The three chief reasons for establishing an Orphan-House are: 1. That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. 2. The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. 3. Their temporal welfare.
And make no mistake about it: the order of those three goals is intentional. He makes that explicit over and over in his Narrative.The orphan houses exist to display that God can be trusted and to encourage believers to take him at his word. This was a deep sense of calling with Mueller. He said that God had given him the mercy in “being able to take God by His word and to rely upon it.” He was grieved that “so many believers . . . were harassed and distressed in mind, or brought guilt on their consciences, on account of not trusting in the Lord.” This grace that he had to trust God’s promises, and this grief that so many believers didn’t trust his promises, shaped Mueller’s entire life. This was his supreme passion: to display with open proofs that God could be trusted with the practical affairs of life. This was the higher aim of building the orphan houses and supporting them by asking God, not people, for money. … Mueller’s faith that his prayers for money would be answered was rooted in the sovereignty of God. When faced with a crisis in having the means to pay a bill he would say, “How the means are to come, I know not; but I know that God is almighty, that the hearts of all are in His hands, and that, if He pleaseth to influence persons, they will send help.” That is the root of his confidence:God is almighty, the hearts of all men are in his hands, and when God chooses to influence their hearts they will give.
So, today we celebrate not only the life of faithful servant George Mueller, but also the God who provides and holds the hearts of men in His hands.