Why Everything Exists

john-piperFrom the archives at desiringGod.org, John Piper writes:

One of the main points of the forthcoming book, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ, is that sin and God’s wrath against it were part of God’s plan when he created the world. This is different from saying that God sins or that he approves of sinning.

The main reason for making this point is to exalt the revelation of God’s grace in the crucifixion of Jesus to the highest place. This is the point of the universe—the glorification of the grace of God in the apex of its expression in the death of Jesus.

Jesus died for sin (1 Corinthians 15:3). The death of Jesus for sin was planned before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 1:4-6). Therefore, sin was part of the plan. God carries this plan through in a way that maintains full human accountability, full hatred for sin, full divine justice, and full saving love for all who trust Christ. And we don’t need to know how he does it to believe it and rest in it and worship him for it.

This morning I was meditating for my devotions on Ezra 8 and Ezra 9. I saw there another pointer to the truth of God’s planning for human sin and divine wrath.

In Ezra 8:22, Ezra says, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him.” This text leads me to ask: Did God know before creation that his creatures would “forsake him.” Yes, he did. The plan for their redemption was in place before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Was Ezra 8:22 true before the foundation of the world? Yes, it was. God did not become holy and just after creation. He has always been holy and just. “His power and his wrath are against all who forsake him” because this is, and always has been, the holy and just thing for God to do.

Therefore, since God knew that his creatures would forsake him, he also knew that his power and wrath would be against them. Therefore, this was part of his plan. He created the world knowing that sin would happen and that he would respond as Ezra 8:22 says he does.

This planning is what Paul means in Romans 9:22 when he says that God was “desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power. . .” And if you ask Paul why God would go forward with this plan, his most ultimate answer is in the next verse: “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy” (Romans 9:23).

God knew that the revelation of his wrath and power against sin would make the riches of his glory shine all the brighter and taste all the sweeter for the vessels of mercy.

“The riches of his glory” are the riches we inherit when we see his glory in all the fullness that we can bear (Ephesians 1:18) and are transformed by it (Romans 8:30; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2). These riches of glory reach their supreme height of wonder and beauty in the death of Jesus as he bore the condemnation of God’s wrath and power in our place (Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:13).

In other words, God’s plan that there be sin and wrath in the universe was ultimately to bring about “the praise of the glory of his grace” in the death of Christ (Ephesians 1:6). What is at stake in the sovereignty of God over sin is the ultimate aim of the universe, namely, the exaltation of the Son of God in the greatest act of wrath-removing, sin-forgiving, justice-vindicating grace that ever was or ever could be. The praise of the glory of God’s grace in the death of Christ for sinners is the ultimate end of all things.

Christ is the aim of all things. When Paul says, “All things were created . . . for him” (Colossians 1:16), he means that the entire universe and all the events in it serve to glorify Jesus Christ. May the meditations of our hearts take us ever deeper into this mystery. And may the words of our mouths and the actions of our hands serve to magnify the infinite worth of Jesus and his death. This is why we exist.

Decapitated Snake Still Kills

A chef died after a cobra he had decapitated 20 minutes before bit his hand. Full story here.

I wonder if there is a spiritual lesson we can learn from this. Any ideas?

When a Feeble Man Speaks in the Name of God

Calvin08“God might have acted, in this respect, by himself, without any aid or instrument, or might even have done it by angels; but there are several reasons why he rather chooses to employ men. First, in this way he declares his condescension towards us, employing men to perform the function of his ambassadors in the world, to be the interpreters of his secret will; in short, to represent his own person. Thus he shows by experience that it is not to no purpose he calls us his temples, since by man’s mouth he gives responses to men as from a sanctuary. Secondly, it forms a most excellent and useful training to humility, when he accustoms us to obey his word though preached by men like ourselves, or, it may be, our inferiors in worth. Did he himself speak from heaven, it were no wonder if his sacred oracles were received by all ears and minds reverently and without delay. For who would not dread his present power? who would not fall prostrate at the first view of his great majesty? who would not be overpowered by that immeasurable splendour? But when a feeble man, sprung from the dust, speaks in the name of God, we give the best proof of our piety and obedience, by listening with docility to his servant, though not in any respect our superior. Accordingly, he hides the treasure of his heavenly wisdom in frail earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7), that he may have a more certain proof of the estimation in which it is held by us.”

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 3

Calvin’s View of the Lord’s Supper

communion03In an article entitled, “Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper,” Keith Mathison writes:

John Calvin is widely considered to be one of the greatest theologians of the Reformation era. Many associate his name with doctrines such as the sovereignty of God, election, and predestination, but fewer are aware that he wrote extensively on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. The topic occupied many of his sermons, tracts, and theological treatises throughout his career. Calvin’s emphasis was not unusual. Among the many doctrines debated during the Reformation, the Lord’s Supper was discussed more than any other.

By the time Calvin became a prominent voice in the late 1530s, the Reformers had been debating the Lord’s Supper with Roman Catholics and with each other for years. In order to understand Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, it is necessary to understand the views he opposed. Throughout the later Middle Ages and up until the sixteenth century, the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass was the received view in the Western church. Two aspects of the Roman Catholic doctrine require comment: Rome’s view of the Eucharistic presence and Rome’s view of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

According to Rome, Christ’s presence in the sacrament is to be explained in terms of the doctrine of transubstantiation. The doctrine of transubstantiation asserts that when the priest says the words of consecration, the substance of the bread and wine is transformed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. The accidens (that is, the incidental properties) of the bread and wine remain the same. Rome also teaches that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice; in fact, the same sacrifice Christ offered on the cross. The Eucharistic sacrifice is offered for the sins of the living and the dead.

The Reformers were united in their rejection of both aspects of Rome’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. They rejected transubstantiation, and they rejected the idea that the Lord’s Supper is a propitiatory sacrifice. In his book The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), Martin Luther attacked both of these doctrines. Also opposed to Rome’s doctrine was the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli. However, although Luther and Zwingli agreed in their rejection of Rome’s doctrine, they were not able to come to agreement on the true nature of the Lord’s Supper.

Zwingli argued that Christ’s words “This is my body” should be read, “This signifies my body.” He claimed that the Lord’s Supper is a symbolic memorial, an initiatory ceremony in which the believer pledges that he is a Christian and proclaims that he has been reconciled to God through Christ’s shed blood. Martin Luther adamantly rejected Zwingli’s doctrine, insisting that Christ’s words “This is my body” must be taken in their plain, literal sense. Continue reading

Making The Case Against Abortion

by Tim Challies

…because the pre-born child is a human being, elective abortion is always a moral wrong.

A Testimony from the Bat Cave

batman_robin_late_for_church (1)Eric Keel from Bat Cave wrote this to me today. Yes, Bat Cave, North Carolina is a real place, with a real zip code of 28710. It is about 20 minutes from Asheville, NC and 2 hours west of Charlotte, NC.

Eric writes: I heard you on The Dividing Line recently and your 5 shows on the doctrines of Grace were life-changing for my wife and myself. I would like to personally thank you for your obedience to speak on these topics and give so much Scripture that I can no longer consider myself an Arminian…lol.

My Response: Hi Eric, Thank you for your most encouraging words. May I ask what exactly was “life changing” for you and your wife?

Eric writes: I’ve been saved since I was 12. (30 now) I’ve always enjoyed teaching God’s Word and leading God’s people in worship (I’m the worship pastor at Bat Cave Baptist Church in the mountains of NC). I have believed and taught since I began teaching that Jesus died for the WHOLE WORLD and therefore salvation was placed in our hands. All the while I would say that salvation is 100% of God, and yet would continue to teach that He has done everything that He CAN do… now it’s up to us.

It’s funny, I started working for UPS in November of ’13 and have about 5 hours a day that I can listen to sermons/podcasts, etc. So I started listening to the Reformed Pubcast just for the entertainment value but couldn’t run from or argue against the theology that was presented. James White was mentioned multiple times in each podcast so I decided to head over to the Dividing Line and started listening to that as well. This was probably around Feb of this year. I went all the way back to November and binge listened….lol. I got to February (I think) where Dr. White was gone to the Ukraine and you filled in for him for 5 sessions. The first (I believe) was on the Law and the Gospel and how witnessing cannot be just what Christ has done for me nor can it be SOLELY, “Here is your Savior.” I remember the point very clearly that the Law is needed in conjunction with the Gospel, first to show sin and separation, and then the Gospel and Christ enter the picture to fix the problem presented to us in the Old Testament.

My memory fails me at the moment to the 2nd sermon, but I do remember that sermons 3-5 were on the the Doctrines of Grace. 1-Total Depravity (TD), 2-Unconditional Election, 3-Limited Atonement. I listened to the TD sermon probably 3 times before I took it to my wife and said, “You have to listen to this.” In the same way that ‘it doesn’t matter how bright a flashlight you have, if a man is blind, he can’t see it’, God had miraculously open my (and my wife’s) eyes to His Amazing Grace. I was saved before by His grace, but it’s so much more obvious and glorious now just how He did it.

I have to admit that I was quite disappointed that there were still 2 sermons left to go and no way to hear you teach through them. Then, in God’s sovereignty and perfect timing, you come back, months later, and continued what you started.

ericI have listened to each of these messages multiple times still trying to soak in all of God’s Word. He has given a fire and passion for His Word that I’ve never had. At one point, I just sat down and read straight through John with new eyes. His Word means so much more, is so much more rich, knowing that I was elected, not because of any of my deeds or my personality, but because of Him who calls. All for His glory, both now and forever Amen!

So you ask how has it changed my life. God has used what you taught to open my eyes to His glorious grace and given a passion, not only for His Word (like I’ve mentioned), but also for reaching a lost world with the Message of the Gospel.

So for that, my wife and I cannot thank you enough.

Oh, and my wife and I are considering moving to Phoenix/Tempe since all this has transpired to submit ourselves to the teaching of the Gospel under the 3 pastors that means so much to us right now (Durbin, White and you). I was blown away when I found out that you were all within a few miles of each other. I want to learn and grow in God’s Word to be better equipped to teach the gospel.

Sorry for this being so long, but God is good!

The video teachings Eric refers to can be found at this link.

Calling Out False Teachers

John Piper on the so called “Prosperity Gospel”:

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.
Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.

Jesus said, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” His disciples were astonished, as many in the “prosperity” movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” They respond in disbelief: “Then who can be saved?” Jesus says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:23-27).

My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.

Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.

Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away.

Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.

The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.

Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: “They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.

What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:11-14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

Pastor John Piper

Rick Henderson has written an article denouncing influential TV preachers Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen as false teachers. Its important to know the issues involved.

No More Sea

seaDr. R. C. Sproul writes:

Scripture often speaks of the entire creation awaiting the final act of redemption. To destroy something completely and to replace it with something utterly new is not an act of redemption. To redeem something is to save that which is in imminent danger of being lost. The renovation may be radical. It may involve a violent conflagration of purging, but the purifying act ultimately redeems rather than annihilates. The new heaven and the new earth will be purified. There will be no room for evil in the new order.

A hint of the quality of the new heaven and new earth is found in the somewhat cryptic words, “Also there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). For people who have a love for the seashore and all that it represents in terms of beauty and recreation, it may seem strange to contemplate a new earth without any sea. But to the ancient Jew, it was a different matter. In Jewish literature, the sea was often used as a symbol for that which was ominous, sinister, and threatening. Earlier in the Revelation of John, we see the Beast emerging from the sea (Rev. 13). Likewise, in ancient Semitic mythology, there is frequent reference to the primordial sea monster that represents the shadowy chaos. The Babylonian goddess Tiamat is a case in point.

In Jewish thought, the river, the stream, or the spring functioned as the positive symbol of goodness. This was natural in a desert habitat where a stream was life itself. If we look at a relief map of Palestine, we see how crucial to the life of the land is the Jordan River. It cuts like a ribbon through the heart of an arid and parched land, connecting the Sea of Galilee in the north with the Dead Sea in the south.

The Mediterranean coast of western Palestine is marked by rocky shoals and jutting mountains. The ancient Hebrews did not develop a sea trade because the terrain was not suitable for much shipping. The sea represented trouble to them. It was from the Mediterranean that violent storms arose.

We see this contrasting imagery in Psalm 46. The psalmist writes: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (vv. 1–3). Then he adds, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4).

I live in central Florida. Our area is sometimes described as “the lightning capital of America.” The summer months bring severe electrical storms. My grandchildren are frequently frightened by what they call the “booming.” The loud thunderclaps are not a part of what they would envision heaven to include.

But the Jews feared other problems from the sea besides turbulent storms. Their traditional archrivals, marauders who beset them countless times, were a seacoast nation. The Philistines came from the direction of the sea.

The Jew looked to a new world where all the evils symbolized by the sea would be absent. The new earth will have water. It will have a river. It will have life-giving streams. But there will be no sea there.