The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

A Peculiar Glory (Chapter 14)

I’m summarizing John Piper’s book, A Peculiar Glory.  It answers the questions, “Is the Bible true?  Is it the authoritative source over all other truth claims?”

In this last section of the book, Piper argues that people without rigorous historical study can have well-grounded confidence in the truthfulness of Scripture because God’s glory in Scripture authenticates it as God’s word.

A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by [Piper, John]

https://www.amazon.com/Peculiar-Glory-Christian-Scriptures-
Truthfulness-ebook/dp/B01M99IQ85/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=
1493047788&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Peculiar+Glory

INNUMERABLE DIVINE GLORIES SHINE THROUGH SCRIPTURE

Not only does God’s glory shine through the Scriptures, his specific glories do.  In this chapter Piper shows how God’s glory shines through Scripture’s fulfilled prophecies.

THE SHEER FACT OF FULFILLED PROPHECIES IS GLORIOUS

Isaiah 53 offers a most astonishing prophetic picture of God’s suffering Messiah seven centuries before he came.  Here is a partial list . . .

  • Isaiah 53:1—“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” . . . John 12:37,38—“Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:  ‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’”
  • Isaiah 53:4—“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” . . . Matthew 8:16,17—“That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:  ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’”
  • Isaiah 53:4,5—“Surely he had borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgression; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” . . . 1 Peter 2:24—“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.”
  • Isaiah 53:9—“And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” . . . 1 Peter 2:21,22—“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.”

Old Testament references like this found in the New Testament are intended to magnify God’s glory and show that God rules the history that climaxed in Jesus.  “God,” Piper writes, “does not just predict.  He plans and accomplishes.  The sheer fact of fulfilled prophecy is . . . owing to . . . God’s sovereignty over the world” (Piper, p. 233).

THE FULFILLMENT OF SCRIPTURE DEPICTS THE PECULIAR GLORY OF GOD

This chapter’s main focus is not the fact of fulfilled prophecy, however, but the way God fulfills it.  “This fulfillment serves God’s peculiar glory of majesty in meekness—the peculiar glory of supreme strength in voluntary suffering for others” (Piper, p. 234).

THE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF JESUS AND HIS DIVINE GLORY

The way Jesus connected himself to prophecy is one specific way he spoke of his divine glory.  “For example, he cited the prophecy that he would be betrayed by one of his disciples, and then he added his own specific prophetic application to his immediate situation and drew out an important implication for his divine glory” (Piper, p. 234) . . .

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.  But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me’ [Psalm 41:9].  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he” (John 13:17-19).

There is no “he” in the Greek original.  It says simply, “That you may believe that I am.”  Jesus was identifying himself with God’s name in Exodus 3:14—“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’”.

Therefore, in John 13 Jesus was not only claiming to fulfill Psalm 41:9, but that he was the all-sufficient God of Israel.  “And here is the point:  this illustration of fulfilled prophecy not only validated Jesus’ divine glory, but it also revealed the peculiar nature of that glory because the prophecy tells that Jesus would be betrayed and suffer.  Thus Jesus, even as he declares himself to be God, embraces his mission to die.  This is his glory” (Piper, p. 235).

POINTING TO THE PECULIAR GLORY THAT IS TYPICAL OF PROPHETIC FULFILLMENT

The Scriptures, Piper explains, point to the peculiar glory that the Messiah will show his majesty in suffering.  Jesus confirms with his words to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus . . .

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that THE CHRIST SHOULD SUFFER THESE THINGS AND ENTER INTO HIS GLORY?” (Luke 2425,26).

THE GOLDEN THREAD OF PROPHECY

“In summary, then, Scripture is woven together by prophecy and fulfillment. This, in itself, is a great glory of Scripture . . . But my point here, (Piper writes) . . . is that the Promised One displays the fullness and the uniqueness of his glory by moving through meekness and to splendor through suffering.  He attains the height of his glory through humble service.  This is the golden thread of prophecy . . .

“So when Jesus says that such prophecy is a good ground for our faith (John 13:19), he has in mind not only the sheer transcendent glory required to predict the future and carry it through but also the peculiar glory that is woven through the whole fabric of biblical prophecy:  the ‘glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:4) manifest in the majesty of his meekness, the strength of his weakness, and the supreme power of his voluntary suffering.  This is the glory that called the Scriptures into being.  And when we see it shining through these inspired writings, God confirms to our heart that these are the very words of God” (Piper, p. 237).

* * *

Why blog this long summary of Piper’s book (14 of 16 chapters so far)?  First, because he approaches the truthfulness of the Bible uniquely–that is, through God’s own glory in it  that (according to Piper) authenticates it.  Admittedly, only those whose “heart-eyes” are enlightened by the Spirit can see it.  Therefore, the skeptic on his own won’t be convinced.  But it does give well-grounded confidence in Scripture’s truthfulness to us believers.

That’s important.

Because we are staking our lives on it.

 

Body Building

Okay.  Our “light and momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (4:17).  Got it.  But what about my body?  It’s “wasting away” (4:16), and it’s the only one I’ve got.  Am I just going to turn into a spirit and float on clouds forever singing praise songs to Jesus?

In today’s text Paul explains why he has “good courage” about the future (5:6), even if his body is destroyed . . .

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Paul likens our body to a “tent that is our earthly home”.  A tent, of course, is a temporary and rather flimsy  home.  If destroyed, writes Paul, ” . . . we know we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
We wouldn’t choose a building as a metaphor for our body (except as in “body-building” at the gym).  Paul does, though, to contrast our tent-like present body with our eternal body by and from God, which we’ll have “if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed”.
Knowing this gives wasting-away-body Paul confidence.  “So we are always of good courage” . . . “Yes, we are of good courage” (2 Corinthians 5:6,8).
For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,  if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.  For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:2-4).
Paul explains a further reason for confidence that borders on anticipation.  Why does Paul “groan” in this tent-body?  Several reasons.  First he groans with “longing to put on our heavenly dwelling”, like a woman giving birth groans to consummate the (painful) process and finally hold her child.
Second, in this tent-body he’s “burdened”.  The Greek is barumenoi–to be “weighed down”.  His wasting-away body weighs him down.
I relate.  Since developing primary lateral sclerosis, which has left me unable to walk (I can barely lift my foot an inch off the floor) and with other hurtful symptoms, I know what it’s like to be “weighed down” by my body.  Listen closely; you’ll hear me groan.
Third,  Paul explains he groans about the possibility of being “unclothed”.  Instead, he wants to “be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life”.  Greek ekdo-o is translated “unclothed”.  Literally it means to “strip off clothing”.  Figuratively, as Paul uses it here, it refers to death when the body is “stripped away” from our spirit.  It’s an experience Paul prefers not to endure.  He wants to be alive when Christ returns, so he might bypass “stripping”.
So Paul anticipates being “further clothed”.  The Greek is ependo-omy–to put a garment on over existing clothing.  This supports the idea that Paul wants to be alive when Jesus comes again, so that, instead of being without his body (a disembodied spirit), he might have the Lord put a new eternal body over the old–“so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
Thus, Paul implies that death-before-Christ’s-return leaves the believer in a disembodied state.  Though Paul prefers God put his new eternal body on over his old earthly one, he still insists, “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).  He echoes that desire later in Philippians 1:21,23–“to die is gain . . . My desire is to depart and be with Christ which is better by far”.
He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 5:5).
The dying process (climaxed for the believer in a new eternal body) is God’s work.  Therefore, it must be fulfilled.  Furthermore, the gift of the Spirit  is a God-given guarantee.  “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).  The Spirit does far more than give us a feeling of assurance.  As Romans 8:11 indicates, he is a living presence in us and already gives us (new, resurrection) life to be climaxed in “life to our mortal bodies”.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him
(2 Corinthians 5:6-9).
This, then, is Paul’s grounds for constant “good courage”.  The Greek theirapuo refers to having “confidence or firm purpose in the face of danger or testing”.  But Paul adds another reason–his knowledge that life in this body is a faith-walk, not a sight-walk.  That means not yet seeing our new eternal “home” body is God-designed.  Being “away from the Lord” (spatially, not spiritually), so as to live by faith, is God’s plan.  But, for Paul, his longing remains:  “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (even in a disembodied state!).
What gives Paul “good courage” (in the face of danger and bodily “wasting away”) is the promise of a new eternal body presently guaranteed by the indwelling Spirit  But what drives him  is this: “we make it our aim to please him”.  What he passionately seeks after is to bring pleasure to the Lord, whatever his condition.
This, implies Paul, should be the aim of us all . . .

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Why does Paul aim to please the Lord?  In his own words–“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ”.  In other words, the Lord will hold us accountable; a day of reckoning awaits.

Christ’s judgment seat, however, doesn’t determine salvation or damnation.  It determines rewards.  Paul wrote in his first letter to Corinth . . .

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

* * *

I’m struck by how huge is what we’re called here to believe.  Yes, we met it before in 1 Corinthians 15–new imperishable, immortal bodies.   There, however, it was a matter of doctrine, a key part of the gospel.  Here it’s supposed to build our confidence in the face of danger and testing.  ” . . . if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God . . . So we are always of good courage . . . Yes, we are of good courage . . . “

To have the promise of a new by-and-from-God body that creates courage and costly obedience in this life calls for BIG BELIEF.  I can’t work it up.  Can’t demand my self to trust.  The leap from this body to that wider than I can make (even before PLS).

I have only two possible sources.  One (here I go again), God’s Word.  I have to fill my mind with it so I can walk, not by this body that I see, but by faith in the Lord’s promise for the body that will be.  (I’m incomplete–Paul’s word is “naked”–without my body.)

Two, God’s Spirit.  He must create in me an awareness of his presence in me.  And his presence must assure me that he’s got me “in process” toward that Day.  And, he must give me a “holy scare” that I’ll stand before Christ in judgment–a “holy scare” strong enough that I make it my aim to please him in every thing I do in this old body.

Father, through your Word and by your Spirit, please nurture in me that BIG BELIEF.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

A Peculiar Glory (Chapter 13)

John Piper asks this overarching question in his book:  Is the Bible true?  Can ordinary people like us answer “yes” with well-grounded confidence, even if we can’t engage in rigorous, historical study? Again, “yes”.  How?  By  seeing   the Bible’s own self-authenticating glory.

We’ve reached chapter 13–“Majesty in Meekness:  The Peculiar Glory in Jesus Christ”.

A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by [Piper, John]

https://www.amazon.com/Peculiar-Glory-Christian-Scriptures-
Truthfulness-ebook/dp/B01M99IQ85/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=
1493047788&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Peculiar+Glory

THE SELF-ATTESTING GOSPEL, SCRIPTURE AND UNIVERSE

“ . . . the way the gospel wins the self-grounded confidence of its hearers is by shining into the heart with the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” —2 Corinthians 4:6 (Piper, p. 212).  The gospel narrates and interprets the events of Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  “And this verbal narration is the prism through which God causes spiritual glory to shine into the human heart” (Piper, p. 212).

THAT GOD IS GLORIOUS AND HOW GOD IS GLORIOUS

The Larger Catechism says “the scope of” all of Scripture is to “give glory to God.”  This is  correct for two reasons.  One, Scripture  teaches that God does everything for his own glory.  Two, it reveals what it is about God’s ways that makes him glorious.

GOD DISPLAYS HIS GLORY FROM BEGINNING TO END

Piper summarizes redemption history to illustrate that all God does he does to communicate his glory.

Predestination—“He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORIOUS GRACE” (Ephesians 1:5,6).

Creation—“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I CREATED FOR MY GLORY . . . “ (Isaiah 43:6,7).

Incarnation—“Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness . . . and in order THAT THE GENTILES MIGHT GLORIFY GOD FOR HIS MERCY” (Romans 15:8,9).

Propitiation—“ . . . whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, TO DEMONSTRATE AT THE PRESENT TIME HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:25,26).

Sanctification—“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—TO THE GLORY AND PRAISE OF GOD” (Philippians 1:9-11).

Consummation—“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes TO BE GLORIFIED IN HIS HOLY PEOPLE and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you” (2 Thessalonians 1:9,10).

IS DIVINE SELF-EXALTATION GLORIOUS?

Admittedly, God’s self-exaltation has driven many away from the Bible; they simply don’t like it.  But, suppose our “heart is a template made for God’s glory and we were created to know and be satisfied by God’s glory and we hungered and thirsted for the presence of his glory and suppose God, despite our sin, had made a way to maintain his righteousness while still giving himself to us for our good? . . .  If that were true, then God’s unwavering commitment to uphold and display his glory would not be a mark of selfish pride but a mark of self-giving love” (Piper, p. 216).

HE IS GLORIOUS IN AS MANY WAYS AS THE DIAMOND HAS FACETS

No one could identify all the ways the Scriptures show God making his glory “shine” to different people and to different cultures.  “As the Scriptures are read by countless persons and in thousands of cultures, that diamond is turned in ways that suddenly catch and release a beam of God’s self-authenticating glory that I have never noticed” (Piper, p. 217).

THE HEART OF HIS GLORY:  MAJESTY IN MEEKNESS

What makes God’s glory glorious, Piper explains, “is the way his majesty and meekness combine . . . [T]he majestic heights of God are glorified especially through the way they serve or stoop in lowliness to save the weak” (p. 217).  The majestic God meekly serves sinners to set them free.

THE GLORY OF ISAIAH’S GOD

”From of old no one had heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4).  While other gods demand to be served, God works for us who in faith turn to him and wait for him.

THE GLORY OF GOD IN HISTORY AND PSALMS

Not only the prophets, but the books of history and psalms reveal the same glory.

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9). 

The LORD is looking for people to serve!  Therefore, he actually prosecutes his people who act as if he needed their service and sacrifices . . .

 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God . . .  I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens . . .  If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it . . . Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me”  (Psalm 50:7-15).

JESUS CHRIST, THE EMBODIMENT OF THE PECULIAR GLORY

God’s peculiar glory is seen most brilliantly in Jesus.  God came to earth in Jesus Christ to serve and give his life as a ransom (Mark 10:45), so the nations might “glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:9).  “This,” says Piper, “is the peculiar glory of God and of his Scriptures:  the glory of God is everywhere the aim, and the central means is the self-humbling of God himself in Jesus Christ” (Piper, p. 223).

THE LION AND THE LAMB UNITED

What makes Christ glorious is “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies” (17th century Puritan theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards—Piper, p. 224).

As the Lion, Christ—like a gentle, humble lamb—“woos us in our weariness.”  And this gentleness and humility “become brilliant alongside the limitless and everlasting authority of the lion-like Lamb . . . This is the heart of the glory that shines into our hearts through the Scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit and convinces us that they are the very words of God” (Piper, p. 225).

MAJESTY EXPRESSED THROUGH MEEKNESS

The Scriptures from beginning to end “present God himself as giving all glory to God . . . What gives this portrait a distinct and compelling glory is that God magnifies his greatness by making himself the supreme treasure of our hearts at great cost to himself . . . and so serving us in the very act of exalting his glory” (Piper, p. 225).

* * *

Let me come at this take-away  two ways.  First, as a skeptic might.  He’s read the Gospels.  Sees Jesus’ uniqueness.  But no glory.  Is Piper wrong?  Is no glory there?  No, the skeptic is dead in his transgressions.  No way to see it unless the Spirit enlightens “the eyes of [his] heart” (Ephesians 1:18).

Second, I come at this take-away pastorally; that is, as a fellow believer who needs to be cared for by Christ, the Great Shepherd of the sheep.  I’m grateful that Christ’s glory shines through the gospel, and that, because of the Spirit’s heart-eye-opening work, I can see it.

But life is ordinary.  In fact, in this fallen world it’s often marred by suffering, either mine or those I love.  Easily I get discouraged.  So I need to see glory–not to authenticate the Scriptures but to feed my own soul.  So the lesson for me today is read the gospel.

Astoundingly, God has chosen to reveal his glory in Christ in a Book!  And that by the ordinary act of reading, we can catch glimpses of it.

So:  today I will read.  I will approach prayerfully, because, even after all these years, I’m still absolutely dependent on the Holy Spirit.  And I will read trusting that God in his grace will show me the inspiring, faith-building, hope-infusing, heart-transforming glory of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

Moral Report Card

I usually don’t trust polls.  But this Gallup one, if at all accurate, is concerning.   Here’s the opening paragraph . . .

“Americans continue to express an increasingly liberal outlook on what is morally acceptable, as their views on 10 of 19 moral issues that Gallup measures are the most left-leaning or permissive they have been to date. The percentages of U.S. adults who believe birth control, divorce, sex between unmarried people, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography and polygamy are morally acceptable practices have tied record highs or set new ones this year. At the same time, record lows say the death penalty and medical testing on animals are morally acceptable.”

You can find details at http://www.gallup.com/poll/210542/americans-hold-record-liberal-views-moral-issues.aspx.  It’s worth reading, even if rather discouraging.

For example, 69% of Americans say sex between an unmarried man and woman is acceptable.  An all-time high.  63% say gay or lesbian relations are acceptable–also an all-time high.  Polygamy is acceptable for 17%.

“Some of the largest changes in opinion reflect a transformation in Americans’ views about the institution of marriage and intimate relationships.”  Those changes are toward a moral liberal view.  Of the 19 issues questioned, none reveal a more conservative shift.

Gallup concludes these changes reflect a more “tolerant” view by older Americans and the younger, more liberal generations in our country.

The poll results don’t surprise.  The unbiblical worldview that pervades America (at least among the media, entertainers, and educators) spreads more easily than a biblical one.  Sin is like metastasizing cancer.  And (it seems to me) immorality increases like an uncontrolled truck racing downhill.

Poll results bring to mind Jesus’ words to us disciples . . .

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

Doesn’t Jesus mean we’re to have a “salty”, enlightening influence for morality in our country?  One would think.  And maybe we are.  Maybe the morally liberal (not a political statement) permissive view is so pervasive we are holding back the tide from sweeping higher.

On the other hand, a December 2015 Gallup poll reveals 75% of Americans “identify with a Christian religion.”  I know that doesn’t mean that many are what the Bible calls Christian.  Still, I can’t shake this sobering thought:  how many Christians were among the leftward, morally permissible respondents?   Instead of being “salt” and “light” to counter the moral decay and darkness, are some Christians being morally decayed and dark in their moral worldview?  Are we allowing “the world” into the church more than we’re taking the church into the world?  Is our younger generation “moving left” too?

Another poll (!) might give answers.  It’s not necessary.  We should assume that our children are being morally misled.  And we must keep them (or get them back) on track.  That means parents and church teaching them what Jesus taught is morally right.  And that teaching shouldn’t be a one-way lecture.  What do they see and hear?  What do they think–and why?  What “moral sense” lies behind biblical morality?

And, of course, we must hedge our children around with prayer.  The battle is spiritual and demands spiritual weapons.

I hope I’m not fear-mongering.  But I think the most dangerous reaction to the nation’s increasing immorality is this:  “My child could never think that way.”

 

Clay Pots

As a young preacher, I determined not to become a fat one.  I’d seen too many.  So, I jogged, played racquetball, biked, swam, lifted some weights.  Not until my late 60’s did I realize now fragile my body really is.

Odd, then, that our Lord chose to make these frail bodies the “chest” to hold his treasure.

What treasure?   Paul explained earlier . . .

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

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

That’s the treasure.  The Creator’s light shining in our hearts “to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in Christ’s face.”  Not only so: this glory inwardly transforms us into his likeness by the Spirit.

Plutarch ( late 1st & early 2nd century Roman biographer) tells of the 167 B.C. Roman victory when 3,000 men celebrated by carting spoil of silver coins in 750 earthen vessels (The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Philip Hughes).

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay . . . ” (2 Corinthians 4:7a).

So the Lord put the treasure of his glory in the fragile human bodies.  Why?  “  . . . to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7b).

What “all-surpassing power”?  “ . . . the life of Jesus . . . “ (4:10,11).  The Lord’s glory (4:6,18). The power to remain uncrushed by hard pressure, to not despair when perplexed, to not feel abandoned when persecuted, to get up undestroyed when struck down (4:8).  All this is the power.   So Paul boldly declares . . .

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

“Hard pressed” as by a violent mob.  “Perplexed” as to be completely overwhelmed by some hardship.  “Persecuted” as being pursued with hostility.  “Struck down” as to be beaten down.  In every case God’s  power protects Paul from being crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed.

“We” refers to Paul and his team.  Paul is commending himself and his gospel to the Corinthians, who, fueled by the “super apostles” out to discredit Paul, mutter, “In person Paul is unimpressive and on a 1-10 scale in speaking gets a zero” (10:10).  On the contrary, Paul says,  “You don’t understand God’s gospel ways.  He intentionally chooses unimpressive apostles so Jesus is seen in them. “For we . . . are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (4:11).

Who is being revealed is key.  Tell me.  Who is revealed in the following short video?  Jesus or the preacher?

The genuine apostle, then, suffers for Jesus’ sake.  He’s “crushed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down”.  And it’s all “for Jesus’ sake”–that is, so unbelievers and believers alike may see Jesus’ power in the non-crushed, non-despairing, non-abandoned, non-destroyed  apostle.

So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.  It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak,  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (4:12-15).

Paul describes his sufferings as “death . . . at work”, so that “life [may be) . . . at work [in the Corinthians].” The Corinthians receive “life . . . at work in [themselves]” as a result of the “death . . . at work in [the apostles]”. 

Quoting from Psalm 116, a thanksgiving hymn for deliverance from death, Paul echoes David’s words.  He speaks because he believes that God “who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.”  The end of the apostle’s bodily suffering, isn’t death, but bodily resurrection.

And here for the first time we see that what the apostle writes of himself in all of chapter 4 pertains, not just to himself, but to the Corinthians (“and present us with you in his presence”).  Paul takes his “It is written” quote from Psalm 116, a hymn of thanksgiving for deliverance from death . . .

Yet the apostle’s suffering lies beyond that of the Corinthians.   It’s “for your benefit” and has a sweeping purpose to include increasing numbers of people and ultimately glorify God:  “so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”  As John Piper has written, “The purpose of missions is worship.”

All this provokes Paul to keep pushing on . . .

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (4:16-18).

In 4:1 having this ministry “through God’s mercy” kept Paul from losing heart.  Here it’s ” . . . an eternal glory that far outweighs [our light and momentary troubles]”.

Paul writes graphically of what’s happening to him: “ . . . wasting away”.  It translates the Greek diaphtheiro, used of moth-consumed clothing.  Just as powerful his inward condition:  ” . . . yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  This daily renewing is the Spirit’s work, who is transforming us “from one degree of glory to another” (3:18).

Remarkably, Paul calls his troubles “light and momentary”–not because he’s being stoical, but because he’s seeing troubles from eternity’s view.  John Piper has wonderfully said, “Eighty years of pain, then–glory!” 

Just as remarkable, Paul claims our troubles “are achieving for us” an eternal weight of glory.  The Greek is katergazomai–“accomplish, produce, bring about.”  He counters his critics who claim troubles disqualify him as an apostle, by claiming, “Sure, I’ve got earthly troubles in a wasting away body.  But not only am I being inwardly renewed day by day, these troubles are actually producing an eternal weight of glory for me.”  In other words,  the more troubles now the weightier glory then.

Therefore, what does Paul fix his eyes on?  ” . . . not on what is seen (temporary troubles, his wasting-away body) “but on what is unseen” (daily inward renewal and eternal glory).

* * *

Our take-away here covers the entire passage, because what Paul applied to himself in some measure applies also to us.  So a suggestion:  reread my comments and substitute your name where you find Paul’s.

Frankly, I loathe the “wasting away” part.  If I were God, I would have done things differently.  But I try to content myself that God is far wiser and loving than I.  So I have to trustingly accept these “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  Clay pots glorified!  Meanwhile, I have to pray that Jesus’ life will be revealed in my fragile, mortal body.

One question remains:  How can we fix our eyes on what we can’t see?

Answer:  By prayerfully, worshipfully filling our minds with the words of those who saw the unseen glory revealed . . .

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1) . . . “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched– this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

 

 

The Hurt and the Healer

Can you bear reading about me again?  I write about me because writing helps crystallize my thinking about what I’m suffering.  So it’s for me.  I do it, too, because I pray it encourages you in your painful place, whether now or some tomorrow.  So it’s for you.

For months I’ve struggled drawing near to God.  Not that I’ve disbelieved; I just kind of kept my distance.  Like a master-hurt puppy who shies away.  After all, God is sovereign.  So he sent or at least allowed this primary lateral sclerosis.  Shying-away may be sin, or at least foolishness.  But, that’s how I felt.

I’ve asked, “Why this, Lord?”  Of course, he answered long before I asked . . .   So I would learn better to rely, not on myself, but on him who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9).  So I could comfort others with the comfort I receive (2 Corinthians 1:8).  So I would grow in endurance and character and hope in God (Romans 5:3-5).  So I might know Christ in the fellowship of suffering (Philippians 3:10).

I didn’t like his answers.  I wanted (and still want) healing.  I want to walk.  I want all my broken parts to work right.  And I pray that way.  My brother-in-law, through his weekly phone calls (and at many other times), prays that way for me.  (Excuse him.  He’s a Pentecostal and believes God still heals.  So do I.)

I know what I’m asking.  PLS has no cure; it just progressively worsens.  But nothing is impossible with God, right (Luke 1:37)?  So in my shy-puppy position, I’ve prayed.  And I’ve stubbornly thought, “If this is supposed to teach me better reliance on the Lord, if it’s aimed at improving my endurance and character and hope, if this is geared at drawing me into closer fellowship with Christ, it ain’t working.  (Well, so far as I can tell.)

Recently, through my study of John Piper’s A Peculiar Glory (which I’m summarizing on my blog posts),  I’ve been reminded of what I’ve believed for a lifetime–the Scriptures are the very words of God.  They’re truth.  Reality.  The only sure objective ground on which I stand.  Everything that doesn’t measure up to them totters and falls.  So lately I’ve grasped Reality more tightly again.

And I’ve started again to encounter the Healer.  With open arms.  With a welcoming heart.  I’m learning to accept that, until he heals me (in the land of the living or in the resurrection), this is his chosen path for me.  (Though not my choice.)  With my mind I’m standing on his word.  With my heart I’m hungry for his presence.

I’m not saying (to follow the shy-puppy theme) I’m racing excitedly for the door when I hear Jesus come home.  But I am kinda nudging at his hand.

Shocking that a pastor for 44 years has such struggles?  Well, I’ve learned (as I’ve written before) there’s a Grand-Canyon-wide difference between trusting God when one is young and healthy and busy in significant ministry and trusting him when one is old and weak and largely “on the shelf”.  How easily (and naively) I preached from Philippians 3:8-11 . . .

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

“I want to know Christ . . . and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.”  My sufferings are world’s apart from his.  Yet in mine, I’ve been at times a spiritual wimp.  So much more maturing needed!

But, as I wrote above, I’m a puppy nudging at his hand.  A skeptic might argue, “If you believe the Lord sent or allowed your suffering, you’re an idiot for cozying up to him for comfort!  Typical Christian craziness.”

No, my skeptic friend.  God means it for good.  I admit I can’t see the good.  And I know it sounds foolish. He can see better than I can!  Besides,  to whom else can I go?  Curse God and die means only death (the eternal kind).  No!  The day will come (call me crazy) when this suffering will seem “light and momentary”–because I’ll be dancing (something I never could do!)

So while I pray and wait for healing, I’m learning to be happy with the Healer . . .

 

A Peculiar Glory (Chapter 12)

From John Piper’s book, we are answering these questions: “Is the Bible true?  And can all other truth-claims rightly be judged against it?”  Piper contends we can answer those questions without rigorously studying historical research.

A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by [Piper, John]

https://www.amazon.com/Peculiar-Glory-Christian-Scriptures-
Truthfulness-ebook/dp/B01M99IQ85/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=
1493047788&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Peculiar+Glory

Why does God’s glory play a central role in confirming the truth of God’s word?  That’s this chapter’s aim.

“By comparing the sight of glory in nature with the sight of glory in Scripture, we will see how central the glory of God is in the process of knowing God; we will see that the supernatural is known through the natural; and we will see that we are responsible to have this knowledge . . . “ (Piper, p. 196).

WELL-GROUNDED KNOWLEDGE OF TRUTH FOR EVERYONE

Though there are compelling, scholarly arguments for the Bible’s authenticity, most people have little or no access to them.  Piper wants us all to come to “a well-grounded confidence in the truth of the gospel . . . “ that extends to the whole Bible (Piper, p. 196).

WE WILL BE JUDGED FOR WHAT WE HAVE ACCESS TO KNOWING

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:18-21).

Paul assumes people, who see God’s glory, are responsible to believe and liable to judgment if they don’t.

THIS WELL-GROUNDED FAITH IS POSSIBLE THROUGH THE GOSPEL

The gospel contains self-authenticating glory that makes well-grounded faith possible.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

WHAT CAN BE KNOWN ABOUT GOD IS PLAIN TO THEM

In Romans 1:18-21 (above) Paul declares God is making himself (his glory and goodness which call us to glorify and thank him) known.  Piper identifies three steps in this process . . .

  1. “God made the universe.”
  2. “Our minds grasp something of God by the things made.”
  3. “By that mental grasp, we see clearly the unseen” (Piper, p. 199).
ADMIT IT OR NOT, THE GLORY OF GOD IS PLAIN

“The Hubble Space Telescope sends back infrared images of faint galaxies perhaps twelve billion light-years away (twelve billion times six trillion miles).  Even within our Milky Way, there are stars so great as to defy description, like Eta Carinae, which is five million times brighter than our sun.  If you stumble over this vastness, thinking it seems disproportionately large compared to the infinitesimally small man and his habitation, remember that the meaning of this magnitude is not mainly about us.  It’s about God” (Piper, p. 200).

Besides revealing God’s greatness, the world reveals God’s goodness.  Therefore, God expects us both to glorify him and thank him.

WHAT DO I KNOW FROM THE NATURAL WORLD?

“When I come to Romans 1, I am confronted with the stunning truths that what can be known about God is plain to John Piper; and that God has manifested himself to John Piper; and that John Piper has clearly perceived, by the workings of his mind and by the things that are made, the power and deity of God; and that therefore, at the root of his being, John Piper knows God but has failed to glorify God and thank him in anything like the measure God deserves” (Piper, p. 201).

STUNNING, SELF-EVIDENT THINGS THAT I CANNOT KNOW

We can’t escape this realization:  God made the world to communicate his glory.  He made us to experience his glory–and thus to glorify and thank him.

“It is also intuitively obvious to me that if God’s self-revelation obliges me to thank him, then the revelation of God’s glory is . . . for my enjoyment . . . I know intuitively that the revelation of his glory is for my ultimate joy, and that by finding this joy in him, he will be glorified” (Piper, p. 204).

“BY THE SCOPE OF THE WHOLE”

We come, then, to this important question:  What’s the connection between knowing through nature as we’ve just discussed and the self-authenticating nature of the Scriptures?

The Westminster Catechism (1647) answers:  “The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God, by . . . the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God” (Piper, p. 205).  That is, just as the whole of God’s world is to declare God’s glory, the whole of the Bible is to communicate God’s glory.

Johnathan Edwards (17th century theologian-pastor) said it like this . . .

“All that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God’s works is included in that one phrase, the glory of God . . . The refulgence (radiance, brilliance) shines upon and into the creature, and is reflected back to the luminary.  The beams of glory come from God, and are something of God and refunded back again to their original.  So that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God, and God is the beginning, middle and end in this affair” (Piper, p. 206).

WE ARE MADE TO KNOW GOD’S GLORY THROUGH THE WORLD AND THE WORD

According to Paul, all humans know the glory of God (” . . . what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them”–Romans 1:19).

Piper explains:  “I take him to mean that because we are all created in God’s image, with the original destiny of imaging forth God’s glory, there are traces of this design in our souls” (Piper, p. 206).

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KNOWING GOD BY THE WORLD AND BY THE WORD

In the Word, God’s glory is revealed by the meaning of the words, not the original parchment, ink and letters.  The sun (as representative of the created world) is “solar writing” at which God expects us to say, “What a glorious and good God writes with such fire!” (p. 208).

GOD’S WORLD AND WORD REVEAL HIS GLORY

As God’s glory shines through his created world, so it shines through the Scriptures he inspired.  “In this way, God confirms that these writing are his” (Piper, p. 209).

* * *

We shouldn’t take away from Piper’s argument for the “self-authenticating” glory of God’s word that an unregenerate person can read the Bible and “see” God’s glory there.  Romans 1 is clear:  by what he’s created God has made his “eternal power and divine nature” known.  And he holds us accountable to respond by glorifying and giving thanks to him.  But any inference that we (humans) can know God’s glory in Scripture apart from the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit is just that–an inference, and one without foundation.  After all, unless God in his mercy makes us alive in Christ, we are dead in transgressions (Ephesians 2:4,5).

John Owen (17th century Puritan theologian)  wrote, “Those who are under the power of their natural darkness and blindness . . . cannot see or discern that divine excellency in the Scripture without an apprehension whereof no man can believe it aright to be the word of God.”

Piper agrees: ” . . . the only hope for seeing the glory of God in Scripture is that God might cut away the diamond-hard, idolatrous substitutes for the glory of God that are packed into the template of our heart” (Reading the Bible Supernaturally).

Nor should we presume that every time we believers read the Bible we’re captivated by God’s glory in its meaning.  A headache, marriage problems, text message distractions and a dozen other things can “dull” the glory of God in his word to us.

So can a rushed reading of our devotions or listening to Sunday’s sermon while worrying about Monday’s work.

I’ve no space left for detailed suggestions about how to read or listen to God’s word.  Suffice it to say time, undistracted attention, careful thinking and a seeking to “see” God’s glory in what you’re reading or hearing are all important..

And one more most important instruction:  pray for the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart to “see” the glory of God that’s truly there.

 

 

Heart-Light

Are you aware that a miracle’s been worked in us who believe?  Paul will picture it, but in the context of commending his ministry to the doubting Corinthians . . .

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart” (4:1).

What’s “therefore” there for?  It explains Paul’s attitude based on what he’s just written—“And we all (all who have “turned to the Lord”—3:16) with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

For that reason, writes Paul, and “since through God’s mercy we have this ministry” (of this Spirit-transforming, glory-of-the-Lord-beholding) we do not lose heart.”

Did Paul have reason to lose heart?  Listen to 4:16a—“ . . . outwardly we are wasting away”.  Persecution from unbelievers, travel-dangers, even aging all took its toll on Paul’s body.  Outwardly he was “wasting away”.  But perhaps the most formidable cause of  losing heart is unbelievers who hear his gospel, then reject it.  That, however, doesn’t change his teaching or tactics . . .

“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (4:2,3).

An apostle discouraged by poor ministry results might resort to shady techniques.  Not Paul.

“ . . . secret and shameful ways . . . deception . . . distort God’s word”—those are the ways of the “false apostles” troubling the church and belittling Paul.  (“Deception” here–Greek, panourgia–means “ready to do anything” or “will stop at nothing.”  “Distort”–Greek, dolo-o–means to change something to cause it to be false, “adulterate, falsify”).   Paul refuses to go there. Instead, he is “setting forth the truth plainly”.  Thereby, “we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  And he will free every person to judge “the truth” according to his own conscience.

Paul appeals to a person’s capacity to judge between right and wrong.  ” . . . in the sight of God” tells us Paul knows God is always watching and weighing how he delivers the gospel.

But not all believe.  Paul admits that.  Still, he’ll not use any deceptive method that distorts God’s word, even to gain “believers.”  The gospel-veiled ones are “ . . .those who are perishing” have minds “veiled” to the gospel.  Therefore, on their way to the darkness of hell’s death, they don’t perceive the light of truth as truth.

Does unbelievers’  gospel-rejection invalidate its truth claim?  Does it dull some of the gospel “shine”?  John Calvin answered:  “The blindness of unbelievers in no way detracts from the clearness of the gospel, for the sun is no less resplendent because the blind do not perceive its light.”   Unbelievers are victims of evil spiritual powers . . .

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ(4:4-6).

“The god of this age”–Satan.  Jesus calls him “the prince of this world” (John 12:31).  The apostle John calls him “the evil one” under whose power the whole world lies (1 John 5:19).  Because he has blinded unbelievers’ minds “they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” 4:4). 

The Corinthian “super-apostles” might but Paul declares, ” . . . we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord . . . ”   

To the Jewish believer, “Lord” recalls “Yahweh” of the Old Testament.  Jesus is Yahweh—“I Am That I Am”, the covenant-keeping Sovereign.  To the Gentile believer, “Lord” is Caesar’s self-proclaimed title–“Lord” of the Roman Empire,  man to be honored above all, the one who embodies deity, the absolute ruler to be humbly obeyed and served. To claim “Jesus is Lord”  is political treason, and invites retribution.

Since Paul preaches “Jesus Christ as Lord”, he preaches “ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”  The great apostle sees himself as a servant of the Corinthians, many of whom disdain him.  And his servanthood has a holy purpose:  “for Jesus’ sake”.  He serves them on behalf of Jesus.  He lives among them as Jesus would.  So Jesus might be trusted and praised.

What  transformed that proud Pharisee Paul, the once-rising-star rabbi, into a servant of coarse Gentiles?  Paul takes us back to the beginning.  There, in pre-creation darkness, God said, “Let light shine out of darkness.”

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light” (Genesis 1:2,3).

Related image

The photo doesn’t do justice to God’s creative act.  How can we even imagine God-spoken light suddenly penetrating absolute darkness?  How breathtaking, then, Paul’s statement!  That Creator-God who said, “‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  To our mind and heart blinded by the god of this age, God said, “Let there be light.”  In that instant “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” burst forth.  And, captured by God’s glory in Christ, we believed. 

This is why Paul doesn’t use deception, but sets forth the truth plainly.  This is why he proclaims, “Jesus is Lord”.  This is why he doesn’t lose heart despite suffering.  He’s seen the glory.

* * *

This is the miracle that’s been worked in us.

We were born blind to “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Whatever our pre-Christ life, however long it was, we could hear a sermon or read a Bible verse, and we didn’t see it.  But, then, the same God who, in the beginning, caused light to shine out of darkness shined his light in our heart.  He opened our “eyes” to catch glimpses of his glory in Christ.

As Paul writes later, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (5:17).  Something to be grateful for when we’re about to lose heart.

 

A Peculiar Glory (Chapter 11)

In John Pollock’s biography of Billy Graham, Graham asks . . .

“Must an intellectually honest man know everything about the Bible’s origins before he could use it?  Were theological professors the only ones qualified to speak of religion, or might a simple American, or an ignorant jungle villager, or even a child, lead another to Christ?” (Piper, p. 181).

SHARING BILLY GRAHAM’S BURDEN

Piper has argued that “God is not honored, and the soul is not saved, by so-called faith that has no good evidence or solid ground” (p. 182).

How can the average Christian, without scholarly training, have that good evidence and solid ground?  “We can know the Bible is the word of God by ‘the internal testimony of the Spirit’” (p. 182).

CALVIN’S CONVERSION

Two key things brought John Calvin to faith.  “I at length perceived, as if light had broken in upon me, in what a sty of error I had wallowed.”  The other key was humility.  “God, by a sudden conversion, subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame” (Piper, p. 184).  So his conversion introduced him to the Spirit’s work, which, of course, transcends the work of humans.

THE INTERNAL TESTIMONY OF THE SPIRIT, NOT THE TESTIMONY OF THE CHURCH

The Roman Catholic Church claimed Christians were dependent on the church.  Calvin called that a “most pernicious error” and explained, “Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color or sweet and bitter things do of their taste” (Piper, p, 184).

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Scripture itself gave Calvin a saving knowledge of God.  And the Spirit awakens the sinner, as if from the dead, to see God’s reality in Scripture, which confirms Scripture as God’s word.

Digging deeper, Calvin writes . . .

“Therefore illumined by [the Spirit’s] power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men” (Piper, p. 186).

THE WITNESS IS NOT ADDED TO SCRIPTURE

The testimony of the Spirit doesn’t provide additional information, but opens the human heart to see God’s majesty in the Scriptures.

The Westminster Confession puts it this way . . .

“The . . . incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection [of the Scriptures], are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts” (Piper, p.188).

THE TESTIMONY IS THAT GOD GAVE US LIFE

“This is the one who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify:  the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.  We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son . . . And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:6-11).

Piper explains the apostle’s last sentence: “I take this to mean that God testifies to us of his reality and the reality of his Son and his word by giving us life from the dead so that we come alive to his majesty and see him for who he is in his word.  In that instant of coming to life, we do not reason from premises to conclusions; we see light because we are awake—alive from the dead—and there is no prior human judgment that persuades us we are alive and awake and seeing.  God’s testimony to his word is life from the dead that immediately sees” (p. 189).

Lazarus, called from the tomb by Christ’s word, didn’t need reasoning to convince him.  He knew he was alive!

BY THE TESTIMONY WE SEE WHAT IS REALLY THERE

We’re all blinded to Christ’s glory in the gospel.  To see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4), we need 2 Corinthians 4:6—“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

THE SPIRIT GIVES LIFE

Piper writes, “ . . . the testimony of the Spirit is the work of the Spirit to give us new life and, with this life, eyes to see what is really there in the self-attesting divine glories of Scripture . . . “ (p. 191).

* * *

This means every time we see God’s glory in Christ in the Scripture, we participate in a supernatural event!  Our coming to faith and “seeing” God in the Bible is but the first time.

But what of those days when Scripture is dull and dry to us?  When it feels as if we’re just “putting in time” to check off today’s reading?  Sometimes the text’s difficulty makes it “dry”.  Sometimes (like reading Leviticus) no application leaps to mind.

Maybe, though, there’s a lesson here.  Maybe, instead of assuming the Holy Spirit will show us God’s glory in his Word, we should pause first to pray that he will.

O Father, thank you for awakening me to your glories in the gospel.  Remind me that’s what your Book contains–your glories.  Keep me from presuming to be able to see them on my own.  Remind me that I still don’t see as clearly as I one day will.  So when I open your Word, move me to humbly pray for the Spirit to open the eyes of my heart, that I might see there your glories and be transformed.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by [Piper, John]

https://www.amazon.com/Peculiar-Glory-Christian-Scriptures-
Truthfulness-ebook/dp/B01M99IQ85/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=
1493047788&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Peculiar+Glory

 

Stormy

That’s what my daughter named her.  Missy called her Stormy.  Or maybe it was our granddaughter, Moriah, who did the naming.  We had given her the 20-year-old grayish-white quarter horse-Arabian-cross as a gift.  She and her mom then rode together, each on her own horse.

That was 16 years ago.  Stormy’s back eventually couldn’t bear riders.  She ended up in our “back pasture” where she spent her last two years.  She grazed and nosed around, but mostly waited for her next meal:  feed for breakfast, apple at lunch, feed for supper and “horse peppermint” mashed up and mixed with water as “bedtime snack”.  After pushing her mouth in the peppermint bucket, Stormy had pinkish lipstick.  She loved it.

Stormy was a gentle, contented old girl—except when her stomach-clock told her supper was a little late.  Then she’d start whinnying.  Not the excited whinnying when she knew somebody was coming with food.  Impatient whinnying like, “Hey!  Don’t forget me!”  Then if no one came, she’d run, just to be sure we knew she was still there.  Around and around the pasture.  Back and forth along the front fence.  A 36-year-old horse running so fast we were afraid she’d fall and break a leg.  She never did.

Then, last Sunday night, she was in distress.  The vet could do nothing.  Tearfully, with grieving hearts, we put her down, surrounded by people who loved her.

Now our back pasture stands empty.  Lois and I look out still expecting to see her.  We were greatly blessed to have her and to help give her those good two years.  But we miss her.  Our hearts are sad.  Especially since death is so final.

So comes the question:  will there be animals in heaven?

To some, it’s a sentimental question on the lips of children.  But Scripture suggests there’s more to it.

First, remember heaven isn’t our final destination.  When believers die we go to be with the Lord in heaven.  But after Jesus comes, he will bring into being the new heavens and new earth.

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).  “His promise” comes from Isaiah 65:17–“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

Forget about floating forever on white clouds.  The new earth will be as solid (but not sinful) as this one.  Seeing our destiny that way, it’s reasonable to expect animals to be there, since God created animals on this earth . . .

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

Not only did he create them, he preserved them through the flood.  “Bring two of every kind of animal into the ark.”  They would replenish the after-flood renewed earth.  Why should we not expect animals to fill the new earth?

That raises the “soul” question.  That is, does an animal have one?  Certainly not a human soul.  But at least the higher animals (dogs not tadpoles) have a sense of self-consciousness.  Furthermore, when God created Adam he breathed the breath of life into him.

“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

The same Hebrew word for “breathed” (nephesh) is used for both animals and people.  Animals and people have “the breath of life” in them (Genesis 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; etc.).

J.P. Moreland (philosopher, theologian, Christian apologist) observes, “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment, that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”

Animals and humans are different.  But, since God created animals and breathed into them the breath of life, is it too much to think that his new earth will include life-breathed-into animals?

See what Paul wrote . . .

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:20-23).

Does “creation” mean just vegetation?  Or, as animals were included in Eden where “creation was subjected to frustration”, might animals be included in “the creation [that] will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”?  I think we have good ground for saying YES.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Very few animals indeed, in their wild state, attain to a “self” or ego.   But if any do, and if it is agreeable to the goodness of God that they should live again, their immortality would also be related to man . . . “

In a poem about the world to come, John Piper wrote . . .

And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life.  I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog old Blackie, fast
As she could come.  She leaped the stream–
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye.  I knelt to drink
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy.  And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.

And John Wesley commented on the animal kingdom’s restoration:  “And with their beauty, their happiness will return . . . In the new earth, as well as in the new heavens, there will be nothing to give pain, but everything that the wisdom and goodness of God can give to give happiness.  As a recompense for what [animals] once suffered . . . they shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end.”

Oh, by the way, in his prophecy of the new creation, Isaiah saw a wolf, a lamb and a lion.  It’s in the Bible.

“The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox .  . . They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).

Maybe they’ll even talk!  Strawberry had pulled a London carriage on Earth.  In C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, he watches as Aslan declares the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve to be his kings and queens in Narnia.  Strawberry had labored under his master’s whip.  Now in the new Narnia, Strawberry says, “My old master’s been changed nearly as much as I have!  Why he’s a real master now.”

All the people celebrate.
All the animals rejoice.
Aslan, Lord of all, is pleased.

So, Stormy, we’ll see you again one day.  You’ll be young.  But not only young;  you’ll be new!  If you’d like, we’ll ride you again.  Maybe we’ll talk along the trail.  And, don’t worry:  we’ll bring the peppermint.

*All quotes from Heaven, by Randy Alcorn.

 

 

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