Posts Tagged ‘John Piper’

Piper on Edwards on the Trinity

The Trinity in Two Minutes from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Piper perfectly summarizes Edwards conception of the Trinity in two minutes here and that is difficult to do! I think Edwards is correct and if so, it explains why we don’t see the Holy Spirit mentioned sometimes (often?) when the Bible speaks of the Father and the Son. The Spirit may be expressed there in other words.

If you’re interested in reading Edward original thoughts on this to see if Piper is accurate, I did some formatting on Edwards unpublished paper on the Trinity in 2002. It is posted here.

New Covenant Fasting

What then is new about the new Christian fasting? What’s new about Christian fasting is that it rests on all this finished work of the Bridegroom. It assumes that. It believes that. It enjoys that. The aching and yearning and longing for Christ and his power that drive us to fasting are not the expression of emptiness. Need, yes. Pain, yes. Hunger for God, yes. But not emptiness. The firstfruits of what we long for have already come. The downpayment of what we yearn for is already paid. The fullness that we are longing for and fasting for has appeared in history, and we have beheld his glory. It is not merely future. We do not fast out of emptiness. Christ is already in us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). We have been “sealed . . . with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given [now!] as a pledge of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14; see also 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). – John Piper, A Hunger for God, 41-41

Looking in the Right Direction

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” – Mark 2:18-22

There are folks who will follow a leader but not listen to him. Perhaps John’s disciples loved his fire and his preaching and how he laid into the Pharisees, but not all of them listened to what he was actually saying. They listened to the preacher but not the message preached.We looked at this passage in small group last night and the group had some really great observations. The contrast here is between the fasting Christians do, or New Covenant fasting, and what came before. The first observation didn’t come from the group but something I caught later. The contrast isn’t just between Christian fasting and the fasting the Pharisees did because John the Baptist is on the other side of this equation. That’s something. The group asked why John still had disciples if Jesus had come and that’s a great question too. I think it might be related to the fact that John’s fasting was different from Jesus’. John the Baptist was the last prophet of the Old Covenant and his job was to point forward to Jesus. When Jesus came to be baptized John said that he should be baptized by Jesus. John announced “Behold! The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” when he saw Jesus. John was there when God spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.” And yet, when John was in prison he sent his disciples to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one or should we wait for another?” John had his doubts, like we do, and that’s probably why he didn’t send his disciples after Jesus immediately. Also, there are folks who will follow a leader but not listen to him. Perhaps John’s disciples loved his fire and his preaching and how he laid into the Pharisees, but not all of them listened to what he was actually saying. They listened to the preacher but not the message preached.

So, how was John’s fasting like the Pharisees’ and not like Jesus’? The Pharisees fasting was probably all kinds of messed up. They prayed loud and long in order to get attention. They wore long robes in order to get seats of honor. They made their faces all downcast when they fasted so people would see how holy they were. But if you asked them why they fast, they’d probably have a very good reason that had nothing to do with why they really fasted. Their fast was one of anticipation. It was looking forward to the Kingdom of God coming. For them, that meant David’s son would show up and boot the dirty Romans, probably behead the compromised scribes and clean out the temple. It would mean that their party would be exalted. Messed up but looking forward. John’s was likewise looking forward, anticipating the coming of the one he was sent to herald. And like I said, John didn’t completely get it so his disciples most likely didn’t either. Christian fasting, on the other hand, looks back to the coming of the real Son of David and it looks forward to his return to take David’s throne also. John Piper put it this way in A Hunger for God:

Years ago I wrote in the margin of my Greek Testament beside Matthew 9:17 [a parallel to Mark 2], “The new fasting is based on the mystery that the bridegroom has come, not just will come. The new wine of his presence calls for new fasting.”

In other words, the yearning and longing and ache of the old fasting was not based on the glorious truth that the Messiah had come. (40)

In Jesus’ explanation talking about patches and wineskins you get the anticipation of his return as well as his passion. So Christian fasting looks back at the crucifixion as well as forward to His return. John only looked forward to his coming and the Pharisees were looking entirely in the wrong direction.

The other thing the group talked about was how Jesus’ talk about patches and wineskins applied to his talk about fasting. That may seem pretty obvious but I’ve engage in too many theological discussions where these ideas have been used and abused so they were kind of twisted in my brain. The group dove in without fear and made the observation that I recounted above. What is new is the kind of fasting. Trying to put Jesus’ fasting in the same category as John’s or the Pharisees’ is like sewing a new patch on an old garment or putting new wine in used skins. It won’t work.

And that brings up the last point, a minor one. If you pour grape juice in old wine skins there is no danger of the skins bursting. Only the fermentation process will produce enough gas to stretch new wineskins and burst old ones. The notion that Jesus only dealt with unfermented wine is nonsense and this text as well as others proves it.

My Desires are Stupid

Lord, I want to be free. I want my desires so changed into accord with reality so that I can do what I want to do and never regret it. That’s what I want. And so I’m going hard after Jesus to change me, because many of my desires are stupid. – John Piper, prayer after preaching on John 8:30-36.

Many of my desires are stupid and I don’t even know it. I’m counting on the Lord to change them or make me aware of how stupid they are.

Old /= Correct

I’m just going to quote this entire Piper post without further comment:

Beware of imputing advantage to antiquity. Seventy years after the death of Jesus the churches had neither the collected New Testament nor a living apostle. It was a precarious and embattled time.

Neither the experiences nor the teachers of the first 300 years of the church are as reliable as the finished New Testament. The church did not rescue the New Testament from neglect and abuse. The New Testament rescued the early church from instability and error.

We are in a better position today to know Jesus Christ than anyone who lived from AD 100 to 300. They had only parts of the New Testament rather than the collected whole. That’s how valuable the fullness of revelation is in the finished Bible. Beware of idealizing the early church. She did not have your advantages!

Almost no comment.


Job and Jonah: Studies in Grace

I’ve just finished, with tear streaked eyes, listening to John Piper read his poem “The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God”. All the time my mind kept going back to Jonah, a book I’m translating in Hebrew Exegesis. The two men couldn’t be more different but the message is similar in and to both.

Job did not share Jonah’s small view of God in the end. God sent to Job boils and loss and accusation and Job put his hand over his mouth and blessed God. God sent Jonah deliverance from drowning, and afflicted with a scorching socorro and the burning sunshine. And Jonah wouldn’t back down.

To explain, I need to reinterpret Jonah for you. I know many have grown up with flannelgraphs of Jonah, the reluctant prophet and the message that God is the God of second chances. That isn’t the case with Jonah. Jonah’s problem wasn’t with Nineveh, it was with Yahweh, his God. This kind of reading of the book is the best way to make chapter 4 make sense and fit in. The way many of us grew up reading Jonah, that he resisted and then eagerly obeyed, makes chapter 4 an anomaly. If you go back and read Jonah carefully, you’ll see that he resisted God constantly. Even in chapter 2, where Jonah cites Psalm after Psalm from the belly of the fish, (you have to read those Psalms and bring their context with you into Jonah), he isn’t praising God for sparing his life and showing himself to be a changed man. The context of each Psalm he quotes indicates that he really believes that he is on his way back to Jerusalem and that God will destroy Nineveh. Jonah interprets his miraculous deliverance from death as God agreeing with his desire not to preach to Nineveh. He believes God has come around to his way of thinking! When he finally does what God told him to do, “Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey” (Jonah 3:4, emphasis mine) though Nineveh was a great city, a three-day’s journey. Jonah is dragging his feet as he enters the city.

The sailor repent, Nineveh repents, the fish obeys God, the plant obeys God, the worm obeys God, the wind obeys God and in the end Jonah stands with his finger in God’s face. Even when he recites God’s attributes (Jonah 4:2) he does it in an accusing manner. “I knew you were like this!” Jonah seems to say. The book ends with God’s question to Jonah, “And should not I pity Nineveh?” and no answer. Jonah stands alone on center stage, scowl on his face, finger pointing into the white light of an overhead spot. A voice over asks the question while no music rises from the orchestra pit and, with Jonah unmoving, the curtain descends and the play is over.

Job on the other hand is different. Piper does a wonderful job of bringing out Job’s innocence and God’s work in his life. Piper uses the color of the sky over Uz to indicate what Job could not have known was going on in heaven. We see things only from Job’s perspective. We see a man suffering horrible affliction and facing the unfair accusations from his friends.

After Eliphaz accuses Job of sin:

Job didn’t move or speak. The winds
Of such incriminations crashed
Against his stagg’ring soul and smashed
The fingers barely grasping to
The goodness of his God.

This was after Job had already said:

O, God I cling
With feeble fingers to the ledge
Of your great grace, yet feel the wedge
Of this calamity struck hard
Between my chest and this deep-scarred
And granite precipice of love.

Job, struck head to toe with boils, deprived of wealth and children, sits on an ash heep with friends It is interesting that the sky that seems to depict Satanic activity in the story appears when Job’s three friends open their mouths to speak to him. Piper seems to think that their “advice” to Job is part of Satan’s attack against him. While it is not explicitly stated so in the text, I don’t think it is too far a stretch to assume it. who have know him for years telling him that he is a sinner clings to God’s goodness through it all. He will not accuse God of injustice and he will not falsely confess sin he is not guilty of. He does demand and answer from God and when the answer comes, he humbly accepts it.

Jonah on the other hand, is spared death, watches the king of Nineveh repent and sit in ashes, misuses God’s written word, most likely delivers only part of the message God has given himWe are never given the message that God gave Jonah to preach to Nineveh, but Jonah’s message, half-heartedly delivered, is a mere 5 Hebrew words. It lacks God’s characteristic prophetic call to repentance and pronounces only doom on Nineveh. Given Jonah’s attitude toward the pagans I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he omitted part of God’s message. , jabs his finger in God’s face and in the end is left only with a question.

Job learned the message of God’s great grace in the midst of his suffering. Piper again:

“Do you think God made you sick?” She drew
Her breath, and swallowed hard. “I know
You’d like to think that there’s a foe
That hurts and God that heals. And that
Would not be wrong; but I have sat
And pondered months in pain to see
If that is true–if misery
Is Satan’s work and happiness
Is God’s. Jemimah we must bless
The Lord for all that’s good and bad…

I have some friends who thought they knew
The mind of God, and that their view
Of tenderness exhausted God’s,
And that severity and rods
Could only be explained with blame,
To vindicate his holy name.”

Job did not share Jonah’s small view of God in the end. God sent to Job boils and loss and accusation and Job put his hand over his mouth and blessed God. God sent Jonah deliverance from drowning, and afflicted with a scorching socorro and the burning sunshine. And Jonah wouldn’t back down.

Our God does not domesticate. He does not operate according to vision. Bertrand Russell can say that it is impossible that God be good and all powerful and that he allow evil to exist. And I think Jonah might say that God cannot be good if he allows good to exist outside of His covenant people. Job however, would have none of that. Job learned the lesson of the tender kiss of God’s painful rod. God loves his children too much to let them love and hope in anything other than Him. Logic or hope in nationality are not the ends for which God created man. He himself is.