Prayer As the Pursuit of God’s Glory

What is prayer?

I believe that the glory of God is the most ultimate and supreme and majestic reason behind everything, so I want to begin a series of posts on prayer but feel I must start in seeing prayer in relation to God’s glory. So, my first answer to the question ‘What is Prayer?’ is this: prayer is the pursuit of God’s glory.

In Psalm 50:15 we read, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Similarly in John 14:13 Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in My name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” So, the ultimate reason we’re to call on God in days of trouble, and to come before God in Christ’s name with our requests is so that God would be glorified. When God brings us out of the day of trouble His goal is His glory. When God hears and grants our requests in Christ’s name His goal is His glory. God desires to be glorified in our prayer. One question we may ask at this point is how? God says He wants to be glorified when in prayer, that is clear, but how does He want to be glorified in our prayer? Think of like this.

Suppose you are completely paralyzed and all you can do is talk.[i] Then suppose your brother promised to live with you for the rest of your life to care for you and do for you what you are no longer able to do. Then suppose one day afterwards someone decides to visit you. So they get ready, come to the door and ring the doorbell. Your brother then opens the door, lets them in, and brings them to your room. In that moment how would you make much of your brother’s humble willingness to live with you and care for you? Would you try and get up out of bed, and clean yourself and your room up to make room for your guest? Of course not. No, you would call out to your brother for help. Help to be propped up, help with your glasses to see your visitor, help to clean up your room a bit so your visitor can sit down with you. After seeing your brother help you, your visitor would learn two things from watching this. First, they would learn how needy you are. And second, they would learn how kind and able and strong your brother is.

Prayer is very similar. By coming to God in the day of trouble, and by coming to God with your needs in Christ’s name, you are shown to be needy and weak, unable to do for yourself what you most need to do. But your neediness isn’t the only thing on display here. What else is on display? God’s power and strength to provide the help we need. So how God glorified in prayer? God is glorified in prayer because prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as strong. To not pray is like having the rooms of your house wallpapered in Target gift cards while you keep shopping at Goodwill because you can’t read.[ii] To not pray is like being a bus driver and trying to push your bus out of a ditch on the side of the road unaware that Clark Kent is on board.[iii] Remember what Jesus said to the Woman at the well? In John 4:10, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you ‘Give me a drink’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” If you knew…you would ask! Therefore those who labor in prayer are those who know two things. They know how needy and helpless they are, and they know how willing and able and strong God is in Christ toward those who believe.

Charles Spurgeon once used the famous tale Robinson Crusoe as an illustration in a sermon. He said this, “Robinson Crusoe had been wrecked. He is left on the desert island all alone. His case is a very pitiable one. He goes to his bed, and he is smitten with fever. This fever lasts upon him long, and he has no one to wait upon him – none to even bring him a drink of cold water. He is ready to perish. He had been accustomed to sin, and had all the vices of a sailor; but his hard case made him think. He opens a Bible which he finds in his chest, and he comes upon a passage, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” That night he prayed for the first time in his life, and ever after there was in him a hope in God which marked the birth of the heavenly life.”[iv]

Spurgeon explained his use of Robinson Crusoe’s tale like this, “God and the praying man take shares…First here is your share “Call upon Me in the day of trouble…” Secondly here is God’s share “I will deliver you.” Again, we take a share “You shall be delivered.” And then God takes the final share “You shall glorify Me.” Here is a covenant that God enters into with you who pray to Him, and whom He helps. He says, “You shall have deliverance, but I must have the glory.” Here is a delightful partnership: we obtain that which we so greatly need, and…God gets the glory which is due to His name.”[v]

Church, see this great discovery about the nature of prayer. We do not glorify God in prayer by asking God if we can provide for His needs, but by asking that Him to provide ours and trusting Him to answer in His own wise and gracious time. Prayer is in a very real sense, giving up the effort of doing things in your own strength and hanging a help wanted sign around your neck.[vi] It is sitting back in the doctor’s chair and trusting the Great Physician to do what only the Great Physician can do.[vii] So yes, in all of life, and for our purposes here – in our prayer, if God is to get the glory we are to act as receivers and not givers. This is how God is glorified in the prayer of His people. And more so, this is how we receive great joy. John 16:24, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” So when we come with empty hands, acknowledging our neediness and depending on God to provide in His abundance, God is glorified and our joy is made full.

You’ve probably felt his influence throughout all of this, so I’ll just go ahead and quote him now to end. John Piper concludes his chapter on prayer in Desiring God like this, “Prayer pursues God’s glory by treating Him as the inexhaustible reservoir of hope and help. In prayer we admit our poverty and God’s prosperity, our bankruptcy and His bounty, our misery and His mercy. Therefore prayer highly exalts and glorifies God precisely by pursuing everything we long for in Him, and not in ourselves.”[viii]

Lord willing, we will continue next week discussing more of the nature of prayer.

 

Citations:

[i] John Piper, Desiring God, page 160-161.

[ii] Ibid., page 162.

[iii] Ibid., page 162.

[iv] Charles Spurgeon, Twelve Sermons on Prayer, page 105. Quoted in Piper, Desiring God, page 161.

[v] Charles Spurgeon, Twelve Sermons on Prayer, page 115. Quoted in Piper, Desiring God, page 162.

[vi] John Piper, Desiring God, page 171.

[vii] Ibid., page 172.

[viii] Ibid., page 182.

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Reader, Don’t Miss This. There’s A Chance You Could.

In the beginning of John 6 Jesus performs a great miracle in taking a young boys lunch and making it into a meal for a multitude. That same multitude than seeks to make Him king, right after the miracle and even into the next day, because He seems (to them) to be someone who can truly take care of their needs. But Jesus didn’t come to meet physical needs or meet materialistic expectations. He came to meet the deepest need of man, the eternal satisfaction of the soul. This is why He worked the wonder of feeding the 5,000, to show that by being able to feed them physically for one evening, He is truly able and willing to feed their souls forever and ever. He even takes time to explain this to the multitude more clearly telling them He was the very manna from God, the true bread of heaven that gives life to the world. The multitude still didn’t quite see what Jesus was saying, so in response to the crowd’s obtuseness Jesus responds with some of the clearest and most powerful language thus far in John’s gospel.

This clear, powerful response is found in John 6:35-40. For us today, notice just v35-36.

After this multitude shows their shallow ability to understand what Jesus is saying He speaks in blazing clarity saying in v35, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to Me shall not hunger and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” They were comparing Jesus’ previous miracle to the manna given by God to Israel in the wilderness, but Jesus contrasts Himself with that manna pointing out that the true bread of heaven isn’t something they can pick up and eat, it is nothing less than Himself. “He Himself is the food, the bread of heaven come down to give life, and it is only from this bread that men truly obtain the satisfaction we desire.” (Leon Morris)

Becoming a Christian can be described in many ways: being born again, becoming a new creation, getting saved, leaving the old behind and pressing into what’s ahead, turning away from sin and turning toward Christ, etc. Notice here in v35 Jesus describes it in terms of coming to Him and believing in Him. When one comes to Him or believes in Him what’s in view here is a move away from a life that is characterized by hunger, thirst, famine, lack, and an inability to satisfy or quench the deepest desires of our soul. v35 says we move away from that kind of life only when we move toward Christ. This means when we move toward Christ we move into an entirely new kind of human experience. We move into a kind of life where hunger and thirst are no longer possible, where famine and lack have no place or room to settle within us, and where the inability to satisfy or quench the soul’s deepest desires is a thing of the past.

For when we come to Christ He saves us, and when Christ saves us, He becomes the very sustenance of our souls. Of course I do not mean that all hungering or thirsting or longing in the soul vanishes when we’re saved, not at all. In a real sense it’s at the moment of salvation where we, for the first time, taste a true hunger and thirst to know God more and more. Thus, a new kind of hungering and thirsting is created by coming to Christ. So what kind of hunger and thirst then has vanished forever, never to return again upon becoming a Christian?

The deep longing of an unsatisfied heart, that is no longer part of our reality.

One of Jesus’s parables puts this on display. In Matthew 13:44 Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.” Here we see what true conversion looks like. John Piper is so helpful here. In the second chapter of Desiring God, Conversion: The Creation of a Christian Hedonist he says we are converted when Christ becomes for us a treasure chest of holy joy. When we see Him, recognize His vast worth, and then, in our joy we let go of all we hold dear so we can have Him! A crucified, risen, and reigning Savior who pardons all our sins, provides all our righteousness, and becomes in His Person our greatest treasure. So saving faith, the kind of faith v35 speaks of that comes to and believes in Jesus, this kind of faith always involves a profound change of heart. It is not mere mental ascent to a certain set of doctrines. It is seeing Christ in those glorious gospel doctrines standing forth as supremely valuable and worthy of all the affection of your heart and soul. It is gaining a God-given new taste for the bread of heaven, and a new captivating sight of the beauty and glory of Christ!

Listen to John Piper describe this later in that same chapter, “Once we had no delight in God, and Christ was just a vague historical figure. What we enjoyed was food and friendships and productivity and investments and vacations and hobbies and games and reading and shopping and sex and sports and art and TV and travel…but not God. He was an idea, maybe even a good idea or topic for discussion, but not a treasure of delight. Then something miraculous happened. It was like the opening of the eyes of the blind during the golden dawn. First, the stunned silence before the unspeakable beauty of holiness. Then the shock and terror that we had actually loved the darkness. Then the settling stillness of joy that this is the soul’s end…And then, faith – the confidence that Christ has made a way for me, a sinner, to live in His glorious fellowship forever, the confidence that if I come to God through Christ, I will share in His holiness and behold His glory.”

Reader, please don’t miss this. There is a chance you could.

There is a chance you could be in church every week for your whole life and miss this. See v36, “But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.” That v36 comes directly after v35 shows that it is possible to see Christ and hear His teaching and see nothing of value, worth, or anything that amazes your soul. You don’t want to be part of this group. v35 is not a distant, abstract reality that we cannot grab ahold of. It is an offer extended by God through Christ that the human soul can feast on forever! To not embrace this offer is the epitome of folly, and to go through life near to Christ, near His people, near His Word and yet miss seeing the glory of who He is, is a horrific tragedy. You don’t want to be found in v36, but in v35.

The Glory of Water

One of the best analogies to the Christian life that I have ever heard was first written by Paul, came to fruition in Jonathan Edwards, found in the mind of C.S. Lewis, written again by John Piper, and heard by my ears in the summer of 2006.  Here it is below:

“The glory of water is that is quenches thirst. We do not honor the refreshing, self-replenishing, pure water of a mountain spring by lugging buckets of water up the path to make our contributions from the ponds below. We honor the spring by feeling thirsty, getting down on our knee’s, and drinking with joy. Then we say “AHHH” (That’s worship!), and then we go on our journey in the strength of the fountain (That’s service!). The mountain spring is honored and glorified most when we are most satisfied with its water!”  (John Piper)

This hits me so hard because of Psalm 36:8, “God gives us drink from the river of His pleasure.” You see? We drink deeply of God through His Word, and then live in the strength of what we drank. God, as the ‘mountain spring’ is glorified most when we are most satisfied in Him.  Embrace this truth, live by it, your life will change.

Where to Begin When Reading John Piper

I Want to Read a John Piper Book, but Where Should I Start?

From Desiring God:

Around here we love books: reading them, writing them, publishing them, promoting them. John Piper alone has authored over 50 titles. So I asked, in light of the overwhelming number of free books we host on the smorgasbord we call our Book page, which of them would Pastor John recommend first?

What follows is a slightly edited transcript of his answer.


I went to the website and clicked on the “Books” tab at the top of the website, and counted almost 80 available titles. That is overwhelming. What would you do if somebody said, “Yeah, go check out desiringGod.org and read one of those books?” You would stare at those 80 titles and wonder where in the world to start. So this is a good question.

Let me give two answers; one for an ordinary person who knows little about the Bible who wants to grow in his new faith, and a second answer for a non-ordinary person, a deep, critical thinker , who asks a lot of questions and likes a lot of systematization.

Piper Books for Ordinary Readers

So the first answer, which I think is probably the more important one: What about the ordinary new believer who doesn’t have a lot of Bible knowledge, who was recently converted and brought to trust Jesus as his Savior and Lord, and who wants to start reading and going deeper in Christ and the Scriptures?

It would be really wrong and dishonoring to the Lord not to say the Bible is the most important book. Read the Bible every day. Don’t ever let any Piper book replace the Bible. My books are only valuable if they reflect the Bible. Go to the source and get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Read the Bible every day.

All we try to do at desiringGod.org is explain and apply parts of the Bible to life.

So I am going to give you a package of six books, in the order that I would read them:

  1. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ
  2. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
  3. Finally Alive
  4. Battling Unbelief
  5. The Dangerous Duty of Delight
  6. When I Don’t Desire God

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. This is the one book I intentionally wrote for unbelievers to introduce them to who Jesus is and how faith happens. But I think it would be a great starting place for a new believer, too, because everything hangs on Jesus. Who is Jesus? What did he do? What is he like? Who have I hooked my life to? Of all of my own books, this is the one I go to most often for a fresh glimpse of Jesus, whom I love.

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. This is a book of short, two-page chapters on what Christ accomplished for us when he died. The new believer has seen maybe one, two, or three things about the death of Christ that have persuaded them to trust Jesus as their Savior to forgive their sins, and to get them to heaven, and to get them out of hell, and to change their lives. But there are at least 50 things Jesus accomplished for the new believer and, oh, how we need to know these things! So just read two pages a day, and you will better know the glories of what Christ accomplished for you.

Finally Alive. This is a book about what it means to be born again. Fifty Reasonsdescribes the objective, historical accomplishment that Christ performed for you as a new believer, all outside of you. Finally Alive focuses on what he did inside you. And new believers need to know both these things. They need to know what God did in history to save them, and they need to know what God did in their souls to save them. How did I come to believe? Why do I love him now when I didn’t before?

Battling Unbelief. This is a practical set of chapters pulled out of another book, Future Grace. It is intended to teach you how to fight sin practically. Every new believer has remaining sin, and will have it until the day he dies. So the Christian life is a fight. Paul said: “I have fought the good fight. I have been faithful to the end of my life” (2 Timothy 4:7). This book is intended to help you know how to fight, so you don’t become a legalist in the fight, or become lackadaisical in the fight. Everybody needs to know how to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). And that is what this book is intended to do.

The Dangerous Duty of Delight. This book gets at the heart of what makes DesiringGod.org all about desiring God. What is this website about? We are about helping new believers simply be Christian by pushing on a few special Bible truths to help them be happy in God, because God gets so much glory when his people are happy in him. The Dangerous Duty of Delight is the lightweight version of the main book Desiring God. So I am putting it here instead of Desiring God because a lot of people tell me even Desiring God, which I thought was pretty easy to read, is heavy sledding for some.

When I Don’t Desire God. I add this book to the package of six because every believer struggles with discouragement. Reading Desiring God or The Dangerous Duty of Delightand knowing that being happy in God gives him glory, leads to the question: What if I am not happy in God? If I get up in the morning and I am not happy in God, what do I do? I have to work so hard to be happy in God. This book is all about that battle.

Piper Books for Advanced Readers

So that was my answer for the normal person. Here’s a brief answer to the non-normal person, to someone who likes to go deeper.

For them, here’s the modified list:

  1. Seeing and Savoring
  2. Fifty Reasons
  3. Finally Alive
  4. Desiring God
  5. Pleasures of God
  6. Future Grace
  7. When I Don’t Desire God

The top three stay the same. Then I add a quadrivium, a collection of four books that, in my mind, form one big package for the reader ready to take a challenge: Desiring GodPleasures of GodFuture Grace and When I Don’t Desire God.

Desiring God replaces The Dangerous Duty of Delight.

Pleasures of God adds a deeper foundation for Desiring God.

Future Grace replaces Battling Unbelief, because Battling Unbelief is in Future Grace.

But both lists end with When I Don’t Desire God, because we all struggle and we all need help. But everyone is different. Read what works for you.

Excellent starter lists, Pastor John. Thank you. Did I hear you say Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ is your book you most often return to?

Yes. Because when I am looking for a fresh sight of the glory of Christ, I just need to see him. Sometimes I simply read the chapter titles to be reminded of what I saw and wrote. The way Christian life works is that we are changed from one degree of glory to the next, beholding the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18). When I feel like my vision is dim, it helps me.

Wonderful. Yes, and amen! It’s a gem — maybe a great book to launch your new year of reading. Download Seeing and Savoring at desiringGod.org free of charge and begin reading it immediately. For that title and for all the other books, check out the desiringGod.org Books page. You’ll see every other title we have there, too — a lot of books for all sorts of needs.

Some people ask, “How can you make all these books available online for free — you can’t do that!?” Well we do, and we can, because we work with some great publishers, and because we’re supported by generous financial donors behind the scenes – people like you. Thank you!

The Superior Good News of All of Romans 8

From the Desiring God Blog:

John Piper says that good news is so dense and so constant in Romans 8 — and so vastly superior to all earthly good news — that we scarcely feel the force of it until we take every verse of Romans 8 and restate it as the miracle it means for our lives.

So that is what he did.

As the apostle Paul described gospel ministry to be “God making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20), Pastor John speaks the truth of Romans 8 to us as if God himself were speaking them. They are God’s words to us, and in his final message of the 2014 National Conference, Piper encourages us to just listen. He encourages us to bring our minds and hearts into a “hungry readiness to hear the Lord himself speak kindly and deeply and powerfully to our souls.” In this excerpt, he mentions sixteen, which takes about four minutes.

  • In Christ, you are free from eternal condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
  • My Spirit in you will one day give life to your mortal bodies in the resurrection. (Romans 8:10–11)
  • I executed the penalty for your sin in the crucified flesh of my Son. (Romans 8:3)
  • My Holy Spirit is fulfilling in you the demands of my law summed up in love. (Romans 8:4)
  • My Spirit’s power is the only means by which you can kill your sin. (Romans 8:13)
  • My indwelling Spirit is the spirit of adoption, wakening the cry from your heart, “Abba Father.” (Romans 8:15)
  • As my children, you are my heirs and will share my glory after a life of groaning with me in this fallen world. But children, that groaning is not worth comparing to the glory that you will one day see and share. (Romans 8:17–18)
  • One day, this entire creation will attain its own freedom and glory after and from and for my glorious children. (Romans 8:21)
  • When you don’t know how to pray in your sufferings, my Spirit prays for you through your very groanings. (Romans 8:26)
  • But one thing you do know: I work everything for the good of those who love me and are called according to my purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  • From eternity I took note of you, acknowledged you, chose you, and destined you infallibly to magnify my Son by becoming like him as the great firstborn. (Romans 8:29)
  • I forged in eternity the unbreakable links of the chain: predestined, called, justified, glorified so that at no point is any of my elect ever lost. (Romans 8:30)
  • Do you see, then? I, the Almighty, am for you! No one can successfully be against you. (Romans 8:31)
  • I gave my own Son to save you. And so, with the hardest act behind me, nothing can stop me from giving you everything you need to enjoy me forever. (Romans 8:32)
  • No charge can stick against you. I, the judge of the universe, count you righteous in my Son, Christ Jesus, who died, and rose, and reigns, and intercedes for you before me. (Romans 8:33–34)
  • Therefore, everyone and everything that attempts to block my love for you will not only be removed but it will be swept into the river of my omnipotent love, and it will serve you for your good and my glory forever. (Romans 8:38–39)

My Largest Living Influence is No Surprise

“The ministry of preaching is the central labor of my life. My prayer is that through that ministry and everything else I do the great glory of our God and Savior Jesus Christ would be magnified as more and more people come to live out the obedience of faith more and more deeply.”

John Piper was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee to Bill and Ruth Piper January 11, 1946. When John and his older sister were still young, the Pipers moved to Greenville, South Carolina where John spent the rest of his youth years. His father was an itinerant evangelist who ministered through international radio and Bible courses.

At Wheaton College (1964-68), John majored in Literature and minored in Philosophy. Studying Romantic Literature with Clyde Kilby stimulated the poetic side of his nature and today he regularly writes poems to celebrate special family occasions as well as composing story-poems (based on the life of a Biblical character) for his congregation during the four weeks of Advent each year. At Wheaton, John also met Noël Henry whom he married 1968. Following college he completed a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (1968-71). While at Fuller, John took as many courses as he could from Dr. Daniel Fuller, the most influential “living” teacher in his life. Through Dr. Fuller he discovered the writings of Jonathan Edwards, his most influential “dead” teacher.

John did his doctoral work in New Testament Studies at the University of Munich, Munich, West Germany (1971-74). His dissertation, Love Your Enemies, was published by Cambridge University Press and Baker Book House. Upon completion of his doctorate he went on to teach Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota for six years (1974-80).

In 1980, after what he described as an irresistible call of the Lord to preach, John became the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota where he faithfully pastored until 2012 when stepped down from to focus all of his attention to the various and robust ministries of Desiring God.

Why is he my number one living influence?

Simple.  His book Desiring God changed my life in two very big ways. First God used the book to dramatically change my idea of joy, delight, pleasure, and happiness.  I formally had thought of them in a side dish manner, and now I think of them as main dish entrees in the Christian life.  Meaning this: God is most glorified in me, when I am most satisfied in Him.  This truth has changed my life, and has shown me that my pursuit of joy in Jesus is the God-commanded number one pursuit of my entire life.  This shapes everything I do, from preaching to praying to parenting.

Second, Piper’s book Desiring God opened my eyes to the wonders of Reformed Theology.  Surprising that a book not on reformed theology would do such a thing, but it did because after I read it I began reading Piper’s other stuff, and my life took on a new worldview in a matter of a few years study.  It was amazing, I am thankful, eternally happy and grateful to God for His mighty work through this sinner.

To look into John Piper for yourself, all one must do is go to Desiring God.

I dare you.

Missions & Masturbation – How John Piper Almost Got Fired

In September of 1984 John Piper almost got fired from his church for writing an article in the churches magazine entitled, “Missions & Masturbation.”  He did not get fired, but he did almost get fired.  You can see why when you read the article below.  So read carefully what follows – it can be graphic.   But nonetheless it is necessary to teach on these things because issues of sexuality affect every single person who has ever existed.

John Piper:

Masturbation is the experience of sexual orgasm produced by self-stimulation. Virtually every man and almost as many women have tried it. It is a regular practice of most single men.

One of the major forces preventing young people from obeying the call of God into vocational Christian service is defeat in the area of lust. A teenager hears a challenging call to throw himself into the cause of world evangelization. He feels the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He tastes the thrill of following the King of kings into battle. But he does not obey because he is masturbating regularly. He feels guilty. He can hardly imagine witnessing to a pretty girl about the eternal plight of her soul, because he has so habitually looked at girls naked in his imagination. So he feels unworthy and unable to obey the call of God. Masturbation becomes the enemy of missions.

Is masturbation wrong? Let me address the issue mainly for men. I cannot imagine sexual orgasm in the loins without sexual image in the mind. I know there are nocturnal emissions, which I regard as innocent and helpful, but I doubt that they are ever orgasmic apart from a sexual dream that supplies the necessary image in the mind. Evidently God has constituted the connection between sexual orgasm and sexual thought in such a way that the force and pleasure of orgasm is dependent on the thought or images in our minds.

Therefore in order to masturbate, it is necessary to get vivid and exciting thoughts or images into the mind. This can be done by pure imagination or by pictures or movies or stories or real persons. These images always involve women as sexual objects. I use the word “object” because in order for a woman to be a true sexual “subject” in our imagination she must in reality be one with whom we are experiencing what we are imagining. This is not the case with masturbation.

So I vote no on masturbation. There may be other reasons why it is wrong. For now I rest my vote on the inevitable sexual images which accompany masturbation and which turn women into sexual objects. The sexual thoughts that enable masturbation do not help any man to treat women with greater respect. Therefore masturbation produces real and legitimate guilt and stands in the way of obedience.

Three encouragements to single men:

  1. You are not alone in the battle.
  2. Periodic failure in this area no more disqualifies you from ministry than periodic failures of impatience (which is also a sin).
  3. Pursue the expulsive power of a new affection. I walked by a whole section of “photography” books at the Walker Art Center last Thursday empowered by the better pleasure of feeling Christ conquer the temptation to look.

For the sake of your power,

Pastor John

So Heavenly Minded You’re No Earthly Good?

From Justin Taylor’s blog, Between two Worlds:

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity:

A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.

It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.

The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.

It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

John Piper:

Yes, I know. It is possible to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use. My problem is: I’ve never met one of those people. And I suspect, if I met one, the problem would not be that his mind is full of the glories of heaven, but that his mind is empty and his mouth is full of platitudes.

I suspect that for every professing believer who is useless in this world because of other-worldliness, there are a hundred who are useless because of this-worldliness.

What’s It Like to be John Piper’s Son? “The Pastor’s Kid” is Here

Out today on Justin Taylor’s blog:

Barnabas Piper’s new book is on being The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity (David C. Cook, 2014)

You can find out more about the book here.

Barnabas’s father, John Piper, wrote the foreword to the book, and with permission I’ve reprinted it below:

* * *

PK-Cover-flatYou will ask, “Was it painful for me to read this book?”

The answer is yes. For at least three reasons.

First, it exposes sins and weaknesses and imperfections in me.

Second, it is not always clear which of its criticisms attach to me and the church I love.

Third, this is my son, and he is writing out of his own sorrows.

Writing this book has been hard. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that a lot of hardship went into writing this book, some of it in my own family and some of it through the pain of other PKs I connected with along the way. So many PKs carry so much pain and anger and sorrow with them. Some of them have fallen into bitterness, and others are rightly doing the hard work of trust in Jesus to help them through.

I am overwhelmingly thankful that Barnabas is in that last category. It took trust and courage to write this book. The road has been hard. And sometimes, as he says, “We need to pour out what is boiling in us.” When that happens, pressure is relieved and people get burned.

But Barnabas is not out to burn. Not me or any pastor. His aim is healing. “That is part of why I wrote this book,” he says, “to help PKs make sense of, sort through, and express those bottled-up frustrations and pains.” Frustrations built up from carrying an “anvil-like weight,” of being the most “watched”—”the best known and the least known people in the church.”

But the boiling over does burn. “I have been hard on pastors throughout this book. I have pointed out weaknesses and tendencies and failures. I have prodded and demanded and pushed them to be different, to change, to become aware.” My suggestion for the reader is that, if it gets too hot in the boiler room, you take a break from the heat and jump in the pool of chapter eight.

There is a stream of grace that runs through this book. You taste it along the way. But it becomes a pool at the end. A soothing. Barnabas is honest about his own struggles and failures. He has drunk deeply at the fountain of grace. He knows from experience the ultimate solution for all of us:

I desire to point to Jesus as the turner of hearts and the lifter of all burdens. . . . Grace, the undeserved favor of God, through Jesus, is the source of life and personhood and identity. . . . It is in the freedom of Jesus’ overwhelming love that the PK can break out of false expectations and see what it is that makes Jesus happy.

As it turns out, when the boiling is over, and the burns begin to heal, there is hope for PKs and pastors and churches.

“It’s not all bad news for PKs.” Through it all they have been unwitting, and sometimes unwilling, apprentices. They have seen—and many have benefited from—the bad and the good.

We have seen the pleasures of ministry. . . . Helping mend a broken marriage, praying with a heartbroken widow, serving the destitute man who knocks at the door . . . the close fellowship of a united church staff or . . . the deep, humbling satisfaction of seeing God use faithful ministry over time to right a sinking ship of a church.

Boiling over because of painful experiences may be unavoidable at some point, but Barnabas beckons his fellow PKs not to “wallow and bemoan them. Rather we must own what responsibilities are ours: to honor Jesus, to honor our fathers and mothers, to love and support the church, and to go about our lives not as victims but as the redeemed. Grace is here for all of us.”

And that includes the sinful and wounded pastors. “No man is adequate to be a pastor . . . That is a job no person is up for, not alone, not without profound grace. And that is the key to all this: grace.” And, of course, it is true for the wife and mother, watching, with tears, the drama play out between her son and husband, or bearing the weight of her daughter’s rejection.

And finally there is grace for the church. “The church is our family, it’s the family that God gave us, so don’t give up on it. There isn’t a better place out there to be restored.”

When I received the manuscript of this book and read it, I gave a copy to our seventeen year-old daughter. “Would you read this, and then talk to me about how I can be a better dad?” She did. It was a good talk. It’s not over. I suspect she will have ideas about that when she is 30 and I am 80. I hope she will be spared some sorrows because of her big brother’s book. Of course, most of that hangs on me. And, as we have seen, on grace. Which is why I appreciated Barnabas’s encouraging conclusion:

But now I want to express thanks. I want to say that PKs are blessed to have parents who devote their lives to serving Jesus. . . . So thank you, pastors (and spouses). You have given your lives to serving Jesus and His church , and that is a blessing.

No Book Like the Bible

This September, John Piper will be launching an initiative inspired by the legacy he wants to leave. Look at the Book is a new online method of teaching the Bible. It’s an ongoing series of 5–10 minute videos in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear John’s voice and watch his pen underline, circle, make connections, and scribble notes — all to help you learn to read God’s word for yourself. His goal is to help you not only see what he sees, but where he sees it and how he found it.

HT: Desiring God

Seeing Beauty & Saying Beautifully

Did you know John Piper has loads of free books on the Desiring God website?  Did you know he just released a new one, that is, again, FREE?  Gotta love it.  The new book is called Seeing Beauty & Saying Beautifully.  It’s in the series The Swans are Not Silent, and in this next offering Piper gives us a look into the hearts of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis.  Click here to get it for FREE.

Desiring God:

full_1400523950Read John Piper’s article on why he thinks this particular book of his is “the one most different from all the others.”

Herbert. Whitefield. Lewis.

In the sixth volume of The Swans Are Not Silent series, John Piper celebrates the importance of poetic effort by looking at three influential Christians whose words magnificently display a commitment to truth and a love of beauty.

Examining the lives of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C. S. Lewis, Piper helps us appreciate the importance of carefully crafted words by exploring how Christians can use them to testify to God’s glory, wonder at his grace, and rejoice in his salvation.

Whether exploring Herbert’s moving poetry, Whitefield’s dramatic preaching, or Lewis’s imaginative writing, this book highlights the importance of Christ-exalting eloquence in our praise of God and proclamation of his gospel.

First Edition 2014
Crossway Books (Wheaton, Illinois)

Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace

9781781912522mOn my shelf Monday, today, has become “wish it was on my shelf Monday.”  I do not yet have this recent John Piper book, and though I have listened to his 9 part series on TULIP (the five points of Calvinism) I am eager to get and read this one.  Here is some info for you:

Grace is the heart of God to do you good when you deserve it least.  But do we really know how deeply we don’t deserve it? Only God can reveal that to us. He does it through the Bible. And when he does, the wonders of his grace explode with brightness as never before.

These Five Points are about how Christians come into being, and how we are kept forever by his grace.

  • It reaches back into times past where we were freely chosen.
  • It reaches forward into the future when we will be safe and happy forever.
  • It reaches down into the mysteries of the work of Christ, purchasing the gift of faith for all God’s children.
  • And it reaches into the human soul, glimpsing the mysteries of the Spirit’s work as he conquers all our rebellion and makes us willing captives of King Jesus.

Piper believes that our experience of grace grows with our grasp of God’s gracious work. He invites us to come with him in this quest.

Listen to a 9-part seminar by John Piper entitled TULIP.
Source: Desiring God

About the Author:

John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis Minnesota. For 33 years, he served as pastor of vision and preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church. He is the author of more than 50 books.

Endorsements:

“I love this new book by John Piper. I don’t know of any other brief book on this subject that so manifestly takes us down into the Scriptures and then so wonderfully lifts us up to see the glory of God. Many people will be encouraged, and not a few will have their faith jolted in the best way possible.”
– Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church. East Lansing, MI

“Nothing has changed my perspective and made more sense of God, life, and the world than the doctrines of grace. John Piper makes a complex theology understandable. Five Points will assist you to see how big and good our gracious God actually is.”
– Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor, The Journey, St. Louis, MO

“Imagine being able to chat over a meal with John Piper about the five points of Calvinism. That’s pretty much what you get in this book: a clear statement of these life-changing truths delivered with warm pastoral sensitivity in a conversational style. You won’t find yourself being browbeaten. Instead, you’ll find yourself invited to marvel at God’s wonderful grace. The only thing missing is the meal.”
– Tim Chester, Co-Director of the Porterbrook Network; Pastor, The Crowded House, Sheffield

Do Not Believe “Heaven is for Real”

This past week a movie came out called “Heaven is for Real.”  What are we to think about such things?  Thank you to Justin Taylor for putting together a nice blog post on his Gospel Coalition blog, here it is below:

David Platt on the movie “Heaven is for Real”

Here is the MacArthur book that Platt is quoting from: The Glory of Heaven: The Truth about Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life (2nd edition, Crossway, 2013).

In this podcast, John Piper argues against such books from Isaiah 8:19 (And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?)

God’s beef with necromancy is that it belittles the sufficiency of his communication. Why would you inquire of the dead to find out what you want to know instead of inquiring of me? And if they say: Well, I have inquired of you and you didn’t tell me what I want to know. He would say: Well, that is your problem. I have told you what you need to know. You don’t need to know about such and such if I haven’t told you. And, in fact, if you go trying to inquire about such and such that I haven’t told you, you are dishonoring me. So that is the nature of the argument. And, therefore, I think the prohibition of séances and necromancy applies to this kind of thing and people ought to stop writing those books.

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals

Many people define pastoral leadership in terms of business liking the pastor to the CEO and the elders as the executive team.  Is this right to do so?  Yes and no but mainly no.  What do I mean?

Yes, there are certain similarities in a CEO and a pastor.  They lead the whole thing and are paid to do so.  Yes, there are certain similarities in elders and the lead executive committee in a fortune 500 company.  They lead alongside the CEO and pastor, and while the executives are paid to do so, elders are not usually.  The similarities end here, and to go further is to go into dangerous waters.

No, we should not make correlations between these parties at all.  Why?  As pastors, as elders, brothers we are not professionals.  Hear me say what I am saying here.  We are not to be the “professional Christians” among our churches, as if we are the only ones who are given the time and money to do our Christian living.  We are paid to pray, study, live godly lives, share the gospel at home and abroad, etc.  John Piper says this best in his devotional, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.”  Here is the main summary:

We are fools for Christ’s sake.  But professionals are wise.  We are weak.  But professionals are strong.  Professionals are held in honor.  We are in disrepute.  We do not try to secure a professional lifestyle, but we are ready to hunger and thirst and be ill-clad and homeless.  When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.  Or have we?

CEO’s and their leadership teams rule and govern with much pride, we pastors and elders lead by serving.  How many CEO’s serve those around them?  I’m sure there are some who do, but it is not the norm.  Who showed us the difference here between these two types of leadership?  Jesus.  Remember He came “to serve and not to be served.”

Brothers, imitate your Lord.  We are not professionals.

15 Prayers for God’s Power

John Piper:

I love strength. I love the word “mighty,” as in “Mighty Woman of God,” and “Mighty Man of God.” I love to hear that “Moses was mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts7:22), and that Apollos was “mighty in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24).

I love it when Paul says, “Act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13), or, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10), or, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1).

But make no mistake, the pursuit of this might is not the path to human power and pride. It is the path of ceaseless warfare with your own self. The greatest power in the world among human beings is the power not to sin. The power of holiness and love.

So if you are up for it, would you join me in these 15 prayers that you would be a mighty man of God or a mighty woman of God?

  1. Lord, make me so mighty in wisdom that I know and taste that the height of might is childlikeness (Matthew 18:4).
  2. Lord, make me so mighty in war that I defeat every impulse in my soul that destroys peace (Hebrews 12:14; Romans 14:19; Matthew 5:9).
  3. Lord, make me so mighty in my hardness against bitterness that tenderness of heart is not destroyed by wounds (Hosea 11:8; Ephesians4:32; 1 Peter 3:8).
  4. Lord, make me mightily unbending and inflexible in my Christ-exalting resolve to bend and become all things to all people that I might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).
  5. Lord, make my trunk and branches so mightily tough and impervious to wind and drought that I never cease to bear the fruit of gentleness (Galatians 5:23; James 3:17; 1 Peter 3:4).
  6. Lord, make me so mighty in serpentine discernment that I see every opening for dove-like love (Matthew 10:16).
  7. Lord, make me so mightily unmoved by the sting and deceits of injustice against me that I may feel and show the miracle of undeserved compassion (Luke 10:23; 15:20; Hebrews 10:34; 1 Peter 3:8).
  8. Lord, make me so mightily unyielding to the enticements of selfishness that from my heart kindness forever flows (2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12).
  9. Lord, make me so mightily unresponsive to the honeyed lure of self-pity that I may have ever-replenished resources to return good for evil (Romans12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9).
  10. Lord, make me mighty with ruthless courage to cut off my hand at every trace of greed that I may be content with what I have (Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5).
  11. Lord, make me mighty with happy thoughts of child and wife and King to tear out my eye lest I betray their trust and lose the purity that sees my God (Matthew 5:8).
  12. Lord, make me so mighty against the powers of self-justification that I never lose the humility to repent and weep for my sin (James 4:9; 5:16).
  13. Lord, make me so mighty in resisting the bait of frenzied productivity that I never cease to enjoy the still waters of prayer and your sweet presence (Psalm 23:2; Isaiah 46:10; Luke 10:42).
  14. Lord, make me so mighty against the deadly undertow of self-reliance that I am never ashamed to trust your arm, like a child with his father, in every breaking wave (Psalm 37:3, 5; Proverbs 3:5; Galatians 2:20).
  15. Lord, make me so mighty in seeing and mighty in savoring the promises of your sovereign grace that in all my sorrows I might never cease to sing your praise (Matthew 5:11-12; Acts 16:25; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Peter 4:13).