Tag Archives: John Piper

A New Perspective on Wasting Our Lives

In the opening chapter of John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life, he talks about his father who was an evangelist. He says that he recalls times traveling with him and hearing him preach, and how his father’s message, in his own words, “struck me as absolutely blood-earnest.” He then goes on to tell of a man who came to Christ at one of these times:

For me as a boy, one of the most gripping illustrations my fiery father used was the story of a man converted in old age. The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone’s amazement he came and took my father’s hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face — and what an impact it made on me to hear my father say this through his own tears — “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!”

The remainder of the book talks about the wasted life, what it looks like, and how to avoid it. I haven’t finished it yet (I’m close!), but it’s had a definite impact on me already.

I’ve laid in bed several nights thinking about that man lamenting over the fact that he had wasted his entire life. He had spent all those years living for the glory of himself, which amounted to absolutely nothing. Of all the tragedies that afflict humankind, few are as awful as the thought of your entire life amounting to nothing. This man’s tears were completely understandable, at least to me.

But then, as I was doing my morning Bible study today, I had a revelation that perhaps puts a twist on this whole idea. My study right now is in Galatians, and I’m still working through the first couple of chapters. In Galatians 1, Paul spends a significant amount of time building his own credentials, probably to defend against that which had been said about him by false teachers who were ravaging the Galatian churches. As a part of those credentials, Paul gives his testimony in Galatians 1:13-16:

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But…God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles… (emphasis added)

My devotional bought up an excellent point that I had never considered. Paul was most likely around when Jesus was active in His ministry. He undoubtedly could have been called as an apostle by Jesus before His crucifixion. So why wasn’t he? Why did God choose to wait to call Paul until later, and until after he had done some of what he considers his worst sins (persecuting the church)?

The answer is that God did it when He “was pleased” to do it. It all falls back to God’s plan and His own timing. My devotional put it this way:

Have you wept over your past and been, in a sense, tormented in your thoughts because you didn’t come to know Jesus earlier? Rest, beloved child of God, for God saved you when it pleased Him. His promise is there to comfort and assure you that the Sovereign God — the God of all flesh — is able to cause all things, even your “before Christ” days, to work together for good. He will use them to make you like Jesus.

So while in that moment when one comes to Christ it is right to express grief over the fact that we were wretched before we did so, as it points to the repentance in our hearts, it is not necessary to continue in that sorrow. As we grow into a fuller understanding of the nature of our God, and how even Paul’s life was foreordained by Him who knows all, past, present, and future, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God was pleased for it to happen just as it did.

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From Plea To Praise

I’m the kind of person who gets a little emotional or sentimental sometimes.  I’m not always that way, but when I do fall into a sentimental state of mind, I fall pretty hard.  One of the things that tends to be a catalyst for me falling into it is music.  Whenever I hear a particular song, and it just happens to move me at that particular time, I fall into that sentimental mind frame, and I can stay there for hours.  And quite honestly, I like it!  I feel more in touch with myself, and more importantly, more in touch with God, when my thoughts and my emotions all come together and agree on how I’m feeling.

This morning, I started listening to some praise and worship music at work, and I listened to a song called Hosanna, by Hillsong.  Watch the video below (or if that doesn’t work, click on the word Hosanna to be taken to YouTube, where you can watch the video and hear the song yourself).

I’m not sure what it was about the song that got me.  Maybe it was the melodic tune in minor keys, or maybe it was the pure voice of the singer, or maybe it was the God-inspired lyrics. I don’t know, but whatever it was, I couldn’t get enough. I listened to it over and over – at least 10 or 12 times.  And I’m still listening to it this afternoon.  I’m worshiping in my office!!!

I got to thinking, though, that it may not be a good thing that I am singing along with a song whose title and main lyric is a word whose meaning I don’t fully understand.  I mean, I have no doubt that it is a song of praise, based on the other lyrics in the song, but how satisfying do I think it must be to God, who knows my every thought, to know that I’m singing words to Him that I don’t even know the definition of.  Sure, He knows my motives are pure, but how much more pleasing it must be to hear me sing words that I know and understand, and therefore, fully mean when I say them!  My daughter could tell me she loves me in French, and although I might know what she is saying, if I know that she doesn’t know what she’s saying, I’m not going to take her words to heart. How could she mean words whose meaning she didn’t even know?  I’m not saying that she shouldn’t use those words, or that she shouldn’t speak in other languages. I only mean that perhaps it would be best if she learned what they meant prior to saying them.  The same goes for me in this situation – I need a little help understanding what Hosanna means before I keep singing it to God.

So I did a quick word study on hosanna.  I knew that it was a term shouted by the crowds as Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, a week before His resurrection (see Matthew 21:9,15; Mark 11:9-10; John 12:13). And by the context, I can tell it was a term of praise.  After some study, it turns out that hosanna is a very unique word.  I like how John Piper explains it:

You all know that the New Testament was first written in Greek, and the Old Testament was first written in Hebrew. Wherever the word “hosanna” occurs in the New Testament, do you know what the Greek word is? Right! It’s “hosanna.” All the English translators did was use English letters (h-o-s-a-n-n-a) to make the sound of a Greek word.

But if you look in a Greek dictionary to find what it means, you know what you find? You find that it is really not originally a Greek word after all. The men who wrote the New Testament in Greek did the same thing to a Hebrew word that our English translators did to the Greek word: they just used Greek letters to make the sound of a Hebrew phrase. I know this sounds sort of complicated. But it’s really not. Our English word “hosanna” comes from a Greek word “hosanna” which comes from a Hebrew phrase hoshiya na.**

This Hebrew phrase, hoshiya na, is only found in one place in the Old Testament – Psalm 118:25:

LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success!

The first part is translated from the phrase hoshiya na – it is a plea for help, like someone yelling “save me!!”  Piper goes on to explain:

But something happened to that phrase, hoshiya na. The meaning changed over the years. In the psalm [118:25] it was immediately followed by the exclamation: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The cry for help, hoshiya na, was answered almost before it came out of the psalmist’s mouth. And over the centuries the phrase hoshiya na stopped being a cry for help in the ordinary language of the Jews. Instead it became a shout of hope and exultation. It used to mean, “Save, please!” But gradually, it came to mean, “Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!”**

The term hosanna, then, has moved from a plea for help to a term of praise.  Instead of saying “save me!!” you are saying “I’m saved!”  And when you look at the context of the crowds shouting hosanna on the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem, you can see what they meant. When they said “Hosanna to the Son of David!,” they were saying “The Son of David (a messianic phrase, by the way) is our salvation!”  And in the song Hosanna that started this whole topic of study for me, you can see what she means when she sings “I see the King of Glory, coming on the clouds with fire!  Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest!”  What else can we say when we imagine Jesus arriving, coming in all His glory, triumphant and powerful?  We can say Hosanna!  We are saved!

 

**Quoted from John Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/hosanna

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Grace and Truth: Entitled to Nothing…

Entitlement. I think that one word describes why we do a lot of the things we do. We think we deserve more. We think we deserve better. We deserve higher pay, better treatment, faster service. We push others to do these things for us, because we truly believe we deserve it. And even worse, we push God for blessings that can only come from Him, and we honestly believe we deserve them. We have the gall to think that God owes us more. We may not actually say this to God, but we say other things like “why do I have to suffer with this illness?” or “why can’t I have a higher paying job?” Sure, we might not direct those questions at God, but who else are we asking? Our fairy godmother? We could only ask things like this of someone who has the power to change them, right? So when we have dissatisfaction about our circumstances, it is God who we are dissatisfied with. We are saying that He hasn’t done enough to make our lives better, and that we’re entitled to something better. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Paul pointed out in Romans 11:35-36: “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things.” And if anyone knew something about this subject, it was Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul tells about a “thorn in [his] flesh”, which he pleaded with God 3 times to take away from Him. God’s reply? “My grace is sufficient for you…” (v. 9, emphasis added).

The truth of the matter is that God owes us nothing and He is indebted to no one. In fact, we owe God everything, yet as the passage from Romans above points out, we have nothing to give Him. So if I have nothing else to give to Him, I will give Him my gratitude. If I have nothing with which I can repay Him, I will live in a way that glorifies Him. As I wrote about recently, one of my favorite John Piper quotes is “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” So in the light of this, I will try to live being content in my circumstances, satisfied by nothing more than His grace.

Keeping the Right Perspective

I’ve also recently written about the fact that the one lesson I am learning the most lately is that the Christian faith is very much about perspective. Entitlement is all about having the wrong perspective. Gratitude is about having the right one. The perspective that my study pointed out today that people often miss is how much gratitude we should have about the fact that we aren’t bound for hell. Randy Alcorn used this analogy to point out how amazingly out-of-focus our perspective is:

“Imagine a great and generous king who, in spite of his benevolent reign, hears that his subjects have revolted. He sends messengers to investigate, and the rebels kill them. So the king sends his own dear son, the prince. But the people viciously murder him, hanging his body on the city wall. The king has both the power and the right to [take revenge on these rebels]. But instead, he offers these criminals a full pardon: ‘I will accept my son – whom you murdered – as the payment for all your rebellion,’ he declares. ‘You may go free. All I require is for you to admit your transgressions…I invite any of you to come live in my palace, eat at my table, and enjoy all the pleasures of my kingdom. And I will adopt you as my own children and make you my heirs; everything that’s mine will be yours forever….I won’t force you to accept my offer, but the only alternative is spending the rest of your life in prison. The choice is yours.’ “

This story seems a little far-fetched in our minds, doesn’t it? Would God, the righteous ruler of the universe, fully pardon, take in, and eternally bless the very same people who rebelled against Him, killing his son?  This is exactly what God has done. He accepted His son’s death as a replacement for our own deserved death, and as if that wasn’t enough, he piled one eternal blessing on top of another. Alcorn asks “Can you imagine anyone responding, ‘How dare the king send anyone to prison? What a cruel tyrant?’ ” Yet people deny the existence of hell simply because they don’t see how God could send someone there. But in this perspective, it seems a little silly to think that God sends people to hell. No, God has made the most undeserved offer we could ever receive – it’s our pride that sends us to hell if we refuse His grace.

Grace is a funny thing. We have a hard time grasping it, and I know why. Our minds are so bent toward equality and justice that it just doesn’t make sense that God would completely drop the charges against us, only to turn around and adopt us as His own children. He loves us that much. Yet, we often live as though He owes us more. In the light of grace, I think we should quickly realize that He owes us nothing, and we owe Him everything. We don’t really have anything to give Him, but we can at least be grateful.

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