Archive for May, 2012

May 31, 2012

On Delight over Duty

by Bethany

Highlighted Verse: Revelation 2:4-5
Full Reading: Isaiah 32; Revelation 2

Danger | It is dangerous to obey God without delight. Although the church in Ephesus was “enduring patiently and bearing up for [his] name’s sake,” Jesus lamented their lost delight in God: “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” [1].

Duty | In his 25th anniversary poem to his wife Noel, John Piper shows how delight honors God more than duty [2]. Piper pictures himself giving 25 roses to Noel and her asking, “Why so much?” With hand upheld, he replies, “You know it is my duty that I go each year and buy what husbands ought.” Of course, Piper knows this is ridiculous, but he asks his readers, “What’s wrong with duty? I admire this virtue very much. Do you not think that she was given due esteem …?”

Delight | He returns to the scene and offers Noel a different reason for bringing the roses: “It makes me glad to bring you things. In fact, Noel, I think it brings me more delight to spend this night with you than anyone I might.” Then he asks his readers, “Does anyone believe that my good wife would angrily reply, ‘You [are] selfish … It makes YOU glad to bring me things … Well, I suggest that you should see what duty, discipline and strain might make you do for me through pain.” Why isn’t she offended? Piper continues, “The pleasure that I take in her is but the measure I infer that all her excellence conveys. Delight does not indict but praise. It fills the longing of my life and glorifies my worthy wife … if I kissed my wife simply because it’s right and not because it’s my delight, it would not honor her so well.”

Desire | He then turns to God: “I hope that now it is not odd when I say, so it is with God. His goodness shines with brightest rays when we delight in all his ways. His glory overflows its rim when we are satisfied in him. His radiance will fill the earth when people revel in his worth. The beauty of God’s holy fire burns brightest in the heart’s desire.”

Prayer | Lord, Let us obey you in delight, not duty. Let us go often to you to cultivate our holy affections. Teach us to take great care to live in the practice of righteousness so that we do not lose our first love [3]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Revelation 2:4-5 ESV  |  [2] John Piper. “For Noel on our 25th Wedding Anniversary.” 19 December 1993.  |  [3] Jonathan Edwards has recommended, “Live in the practice of these inclinations. If you long after God and Jesus Christ, then often go to God and Christ and converse with them. If you long to be near God, then draw near to Him. If you hunger and thirst after righteousness, then take great care to live in the practice of righteousness, to live a more holy and heavenly life. If you long to be more like Christ, then act like Him and walk as He walked. This is the way to have your holy inclinations increased, and hereby they will in some measure be satisfied.” (Jonathan Edwards. Spiritual Appetites Need No Bounds.)

May 30, 2012

On Looking to the Future to Live Today

by Bethany

Highlighted Verse: Revelation 1:17-18
Full Reading: Isaiah 31; Revelation 1

Future | Imagine two rooms, Tim Keller says, and put two people in those two rooms. Give them identical tasks that are extraordinarily boring. Tell them to work 80 hours a week without vacation for 12 months. Tell the first person that he’ll get an annual salary of $15,000 and the second that he’ll get $150 million. Those two people will have identical experiences with two totally different perspectives. The first will go crazy and quit. The second will whistle while he works because his anticipated riches overshadow the tediousness of his work.

Revelation | Revelation gives us a foretaste of the glory that is to come so that we can endure to the end. The book, however, is famously confusing. Mark Dever writes, “When you read Revelation, you will find dragons, angels, beasts, locusts with human faces, scenes set in heaven, and all sorts of images you cannot imagine. Some of these things will be difficult to understand. Other things, however, are not that hard to understand; and these are the most important things in the book” [1].

Authority | Perhaps the most important and easily understood thing is that the future centers on Jesus. When John received the vision from the Lord, he recounted, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” [2]. Jesus can speak with authority about the future because he is the center of history – everything prior to and since him points to him. When we look at Jesus, we see a future glory that includes resurrection, joy, selflessness, love, peace, hopes fulfilled, and complete healing. In light of these eternal treasures, we can endure whatever life brings. As Paul wrote, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” [3].

Prayer | Lord, You are far more valuable than $150 million. Your worth is infinite because it was purchased with blood, not money. As we consider Revelation in the upcoming weeks, give us living images of our future glory so that we can endure today. Cause us to exhort one another to persevere as we remind each other about what is to come. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Dever, Mark; John MacArthur (2005-11-30). The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept (p. 531). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.  |  [2] Revelation 1:17-18 ESV  |  [3] Romans 8:18 ESV
May 29, 2012

On Simple Pleasures in Contending for the Faith

by Perryn Pettus

Highlighted Verse: Jude 1:3
Full Reading: Isaiah 30; Jude

Guest Author: Perryn Pettus

Stumble | I often stumble with the small, seemingly innocuous things. Preoccupation with my outfit for a friend’s upcoming wedding. Dreaming of places I’d most like to travel. Reading blogs of “friends” I’ve never met. These things seem simple enough until I realize how much of my devotion and attention they’ve swallowed. On a good day, all I have to show for it is a heart that is captured by what I’m wearing, places I’ve never been, and people on blogs I don’t know.

Contend | Why should I be concerned about taking joy in the simple pleasures? Is it because they are inherently sinful and should not be enjoyed? Not at all! It is because of the perpetual state of mind in which they can keep me. They can become a constant distraction of passive worldly joy rather than an eternal joy that will endure. Jude exhorts us, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” [1].

Fight | Christians are called to contend daily for the faith. Jude reminds us in his letter that the gift of salvation has already been given to the saints, once for all. He begins and ends his letter with the good news of a God who is willing and able to keep us from stumbling. Yet John Piper warns that, even though the ultimate victory has already been won, we should remain diligent. Piper says, “The promise of victory assumes valor in battle. When God promises that his church will be kept from defeat, his purpose is not that we lay down our sword and go to lunch, but that we pick up the sword of the Spirit and look confidently to God for the strength to fight and win” [2]. Contending for the faith isn’t necessarily banning simple pleasures from our lives. Instead, it urges us to actively train our minds to think on God’s eternal promises for our lasting joy.

Prayer | Lord, We marvel at your provision of a faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Forgive us for not being diligent in our daily fight in order to contend for the faith. Thank you for being willing and able to keep us from stumbling. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1]  Jude 1:3 ESV  |  [2]  John Piper. “Contend for the Faith.” 25 November 1984 (sermon).

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May 25, 2012

On Holding a Torch to a Glacier

by Bethany

Highlighted Verse: Isaiah 26:8
Full Reading: Isaiah 26; 1 John 4

Ultimate | There are many important things in this life, but there’s only one ultimate thing – the name of the Lord. His glory is the reason for which we were created [1], Israel was redeemed [2], and we will be glorified at the end of the age [3]. Our only appropriate response, therefore, is: “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” [4].

Same | There’s no conflict between God’s passion for His glory and our passion for our happiness. As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” In other words, since He’s the ultimate treasure of the universe, the only place where we can find true happiness is in Him. If we find it in anything else, we won’t be satisfied.

Glacier | Piper has said, “I’m here to torch a glacier. I have in mind a picture … In Matthew 24:12, looking at the end of the age, Jesus says: ‘Lawlessness will be multiplied and the love of many will grow cold’ … I hate the thought that my love for God or my love for people would one day dry up or freeze up. Yet Jesus says, ‘It’s coming!’ It’s coming like a glacier across the world” [5]. Yet Jesus continues, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” [6].

Fire | Piper explains, “It’s not cold people who are going to get it to the unreached peoples of the world … It’s white-hot worshippers of King Jesus who will get that done. Therefore, what I see … is that, as the end of the age draws near, there are going to be people who are getting ice cold and there are going to be people who are white-hot enough to lay down their lives for Jesus among all the peoples of the world … If there are enough people with torches lit white-hot for God, torching the glacier, a big hole can be opened up over … your city. And that’s why I’m here. I want to lift my torch.”

Prayer | Lord, Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. Let our love for you not grow cold. Make us white-hot worshippers of your name, lifting up our torches to melt frozen hearts. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Isaiah 43:6  |  [2] Psalm 106:7  |  [3] 2 Thessalonians 1:9  |  [4] Isaiah 26:8  NIV  |  [5] John Piper. “Passion for the Supremacy of God, Part 1.” Passion 1997. 2 January 1997.  |  [6] Matthew 24:12-14 ESV

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May 24, 2012

On God’s Love for Cities

by Bethany

Highlighted Verse: Isaiah 25:6-8
Full Reading: Isaiah 25; 1 John 3

Urbanization | The nations are coming to the cities. According to the UN, about half of the world’s population lives in cities and, by 2050, that number will rise to 70 percent [1]. Kofi Annan has said, “We have entered the urban millennium. At their best, cities are engines of growth and incubators of civilization. They are crossroads of ideas, places of great intellectual ferment and innovation” [2]. Yet he also warns, “The very same cities can also be places of exploitation, disease, violent crime, unemployment, underemployment and extreme poverty.”

Judgment | Isaiah began his prophecy by bringing charges against cities, warning them of the Lord’s pending punishment. For example, he said, “Behold, Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins” [3]. Concerning Tyre, he prophesied, “They will be in anguish over the report about Tyre … Is this your exultant city … ?” [4]. What did they do that was so wrong? They didn’t trust God; instead, they trusted other kings, other gods, themselves and ungodly leaders [5]. Ultimately, Isaiah said, “The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered” [6].

Mercy | Yet God loves cities because, as Tim Keller has said, “in cities, you have more Image of God per square inch than anywhere else in the world” [7]. Therefore, the Lord longs to pour out His great mercy and love on cities [8]. As Isaiah continued, “The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine … and he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth” [9].

Prayer | Lord, We don’t love your infinite grace because it gives us license to sin. No! We love your grace because, when we fear your reproach, we are not afraid to come to you for salvation. For you have “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places … to the praise of your glorious grace, with which you have blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” [10]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See United Nations. “World Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision.” Economic & Social Affairs. Highlights. March 2012; Martin Roemers. “Living in the New Metropolis.” The New York Times. 4 May 2012. (Also note: The UN predicts that, by 2025, there will be 37 megacities – that is, cities with populations that exceed 10 million.)  |  [2] United Nations. Press Release for Kofi Annan’s inaugural address to Urban 21: “Secretary-General Calls for Practical, Achievable Programme to Make Globalization a Positive Force for All World’s People.” SG/SM/7479. 5 July 2000. Berlin.  |  [3] Isaiah 17:1 ESV  |  [4] Isaiah 23:5, 7 ESV  |  [5] See Dever, Mark (2006-04-10). The Message of The Old Testament (p. 571-574). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.  |  [6] Isaiah 24:3 ESV  |  [7] See Redeemer City to City (rotating image).  |  [8] Exodus 34:6-7 ESV  |  [9] Isaiah 25:6-8 ESV  |  [10] Ephesians 1:3, 6-8 ESV (changed “he” to “you” to accommodate the prayer).

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