Posts Tagged ‘John Piper’

I am showing this today in our service. It reminds us that even though creation screams out His majesty and wisdom, Ephesians 3:10 tells us that it is the church that is His megaphone to the spiritual realms.

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Today is a bit of a Reformed doctrine day. I do this from time to time if I find some interesting articles. Church planting requires some theological thought and reflection, as well as an appreciation for church history (even if we don’t agree with some of it). I felt like it was predestined for me to write this for you today, but you have the free will to read these articles or not 🙂

The resurgence website have produced a helpful, albeit brief, article on the histories of the Scottish & Dutch Reformed theologies. As regular readers of this blog know, I hold to a Reformed theology but, unlike many under 40’s today (still 7 weeks or so left in my 30’s), mine is not based on the writings of Mark Driscoll or other so-called, ‘new Calvinists’. There is a little bit more weight of history behind these issues than that! To be fair to Driscoll, his blog highlights it here. I recommend it as a bit of light reading!

Piper has a good discussion here on the two wills of God. This requires a little more brain power!

There is a great resource on Justin Taylor’s blog which includes an article by Mark Dever. In it he asks the question,  ‘Where all these Calvinists have come from.’ Read it here. This will require some real thinking!

Happy reading (or not)!

John Piper answers this question here. Enjoy your Sunday.

A video here showing a talk on this subject by John Piper.

By Andy Constable

One of the words that is dirty among the newer generation of Christians is the word ‘doctrine’. Christians of my generation think that doctrine hinders our ‘worship’ of God rather than helps. Doctrine is something that we don’t have to think about because worship is more about our experience of God with our emotions than what we think about with our minds. However, the Bible is very clear that doctrine is very important. Here are some reasons why.

Firstly, God cares about the truth. God calls us to love the truth about him in 2 Thessalonians 2:10. Jesus says that the truth will set us free in John 14:6.  God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth in 1 Timothy 2:4. God reveals his wrath against those who suppress the truth in Romans 1:18. And Jesus says that he will send the spirit of truth to us in John 16:13. Therefore, God deeply cares how we view him and how we worship him. This is where doctrine helps us out. It helps us get a grasp on biblical truth and how God wants us to see him. Without doctrine we would simply create a God that matches the idols of our hearts and not the truth about him.

Further, everyone has a doctrine whether they consciously think about it or not. The word doctrine literally means ‘what is taught’. It is the set of beliefs that a person (or a church) holds on who God is and what he is like. Every person is forming a view of God as they understand it and by necessity teach others because people are constantly sharing their views about God with people around them. Everyone has a doctrine and so it’s deeply important that we think about how we are portraying God to those around us.

Secondly, if everyone has a doctrine then surely it’s important to have good doctrine. Paul writes to Titus: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Paul encourages Timothy to be very careful what he teaches others about God. He says refute false teachers and encourage others by sound doctrine. How can we have good doctrine? We need to study God’s perfect and infallible Word. This brings in another word that is dirty these days and that is ‘study’. It takes disciplined and patient study to grasp the truths about God. The problem is that we live in the ‘McDonalds generation’. We want a life changing devotion in 15 minutes everyday. We open our Bibles and get bored when nothing grips us after 2 paragraphs. But, disciplined study is good and helps us build good doctrine that honours the Lord.

Thirdly, our emotional experiences are wasted unless they are based on biblical truth. Regardless of what we think or feel, there is not authentic worship of God without a right knowledge of God. As John Piper writes: “The apex of glorifying God is enjoying him with the heart. But this is an empty emotionalism where that joy is not awakened and sustained by true views of God for who he really is.” God is to be honoured as he is revealed to us in scripture. If the truth of God from his word isn’t driving your worship then you are worshipping another god with your emotions. It is wasted energy and doesn’t bring glory to the Lord.

Then there are those who love doctrine more than God. They use it to boost their intellect and don’t allow it to impact their hearts. What I mean by that is that the knowledge of God doesn’t move their souls towards a greater love of Christ. This is very dangerous because those who love doctrine as an end in itself become self-righteous and disconnected from God emotionally. We are to worship God with our hearts and minds. Anything that we learn about God should fuel us to love God more and glorify him with our lives. When you look at the Apostles in Acts they were men who knew God’s Word very well. They taught the people the Old Testament and the truth that it points people to Christ. They knew their theology and doctrine and that set them on fire to share the gospel and glorify God with their lives.

The goal of revelation from God’s word is to change our lives. Religion through doctrine won’t change your life. It can command us to love God but only the truth of the gospel of grace set on fire by the spirit of God can change our hearts to love righteousness. We are to have doctrinal depth but revival happens as people are set on fire by these truths. We need to feel them in the very core of our souls and this causes us to love Christ more than anything else in our worship. Don’t reduce doctrine to just your minds but allow it to affect your hearts! Tim Keller writes this:

If we don’t find that our affections have been moved away from earthly idols toward God, we haven’t worshipped….if I leave Sunday mornings having had no emotional connection whatsoever, I haven’t worshipped. I must allow my heart to be touched to worship.”

In conclusion, doctrine is very important to God because he cares about the truth, and commands us to care about it also. Every person has a belief about God and the Bible is clear that we need to have good doctrine in order to worship God with mind, heart and soul. Our emotional experiences will be empty unless they are sustained by true views of God. Therefore, let doctrine fuel your worship AND let the truth about God set you on fire to treasure God more than anything else!

So went the question this past Sunday from my 10-year-old daughter who recently made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. My initial response was to advise her to let the elements pass her by this time and we would have a talk about it after the service. The problem is that I am not sure what my position is on this subject. We had a similar discussion on baptism recently and, as yet, we have not come to a satisfactory conclusion (I will post more on this in the coming days).

Back to the issue at hand. For some churches this is a non issue because they operate what is known as a “closed communion” table. In other words, only baptised members of the congregation may participate in this act of remembrance. If the child is not a baptised member then case closed.

Other churches (our falls into this category) operate an “open communion” table. This mean that anybody who has confessed Jesus as Lord and Saviour and is in good standing with their local church (how often do we follow this practice?) can take communion with us as a local body of believers. If we take this point at its most liberal, we must then include children in this act of remembrance.

However, there are some issues here. Paul, speaking to the church in 1 Corinthians 11:28-29 reminded believers to “examine themselves” before coming to communion. Are they really walking with Christ as they ought? Are they really in a fit state to engage in this act? Are there sins they need to be repenting of? The question then becomes: “are children really able to appreciate the enormity of this responsibility?” If so, at what age? Can we realistically “set” an age? Besides, how definitive an “understanding” do they need? We work in a context where people confess Christ and yet, due to drug related mental health issues, are not really able to give a comprehensive answer to many of these questions. As confessing adults, we allow them to participate in communion. Therefore, should it be any different for our children?

The Westminster Catechism (part 177) follows the line that children should have some form of “spiritual sentience” or, in other words, an ability to examine their own hearts sufficiently before deciding whether to partake. Can a child really understand what it means not to partake in an unworthy manner? If they can, then my advice would be to encourage them to partake with a thankful, reverent spirit. Obviously, some children mature quicker than others. Some parents teach their children better than others. Some children, my children included in this, are very able to explain their faith in a simple, child like manner. However, the difference between understanding and gospel awareness in my 9 year old and my 10-year-old is marked. I believe both are saved but I believe my 10-year-old is far more able to examine herself and explain how God is working in her life and challenging underlying sin issues. The problem is as a parent I am biased. Who amongst us doesn’t think our own child is particularly gifted in some way? Maybe I should be looking for outside counsel. So, in this instance I took the matter to my fellow elders for their opinion.

 

The general consensus was that I should allow my children to take communion if I feel that they are exhibiting fruit of genuine repentance. That being so, then surely I would want to recommend them for baptism (a discussion for another time as I have indicated). So then, should I not wait for them to be baptised? The problem here is that we allow unbaptised, confessing believers access to the Lord’s table, so why should I make a special case for children? (I find it hard to swallow the line of a strong biblical argument for baptism preceding communion given the fact that communion was shared among the disciples before Christ gave the mandate to baptise. Regardless, there are no direct biblical commands for things to be done in this order).

 

In large churches with lots of peer pressure I can understand the argument that says that children could just be following the crowd. My girls are pretty much on their own in our church planting context and so the fact that they would ask the question in the first pace shows a degree of thought (I freely admit I may be biased here). So, what will I say? I have come to the following conclusions:

1. Does she understand the significance of the Lord’s supper as an act of remembrance of the life and death of the Lord Jesus on behalf of sinners?

2. Is she able to give a credible profession of faith in Christ? In this is she showing fruit of the Spirit and a growing love for walking with the Lord in obedience? (An example of this yesterday evening for example: I was going out the door to visit a member and I passed my eldest on the stairs. She enquired where I was going and when I replied she said: “tell x that I am praying for them daddy and I hope they get well soon.” In my hurry – and to my shame – I pretty much blanked the conversation until it dawned on me afterward how lovely that was coming from a 10-year-old child).

3. Is she consciously following the Lord in obedience and seeking to deal with ongoing sin issues in her life?

Personally, I think the answer to these questions is a resounding, “yes”. The real issue will come when I have to deal with her younger sister who doesn’t quite exhibit the same fruit in the same way. Will she want to participate out of envy or sibling rivalry? Will she just be following her big sister? Again, the same principles must apply.

Ultimately, I think it boil down to how well we know our children and the state of their souls. If we put the time in during the early years it will be clear to us. So, then, why my hesitation? Well, firstly, I don’t want them to eat and drink judgement upon themselves and, secondly, I want them to have a healthy fear of the Lord and the sacraments. I would rather they enter into these things, cautiously and biblically rather than rush in without due thought and consideration. Lastly, we are an example to a watching and growing Christian community. Others will follow our lead and so we want a clarity of though and practice, particularly in should a heavily influenced Catholic community like ours in which “child communion” is invested with an altogether different meaning.

(John Piper offers his own personal opinion on the issue here).

Pray for us as a family. Any helpful suggestions will be acknowledged.

Very often I am asked what my ‘position’ is on social justice and the gospel. Usually, I will feign a quizzical look before asking said person, ‘what do you mean by that?’ Generally, what they mean is how do I balance ‘loving people and providing for their needs over and against preaching the gospel to people?’

Therein lies the problem (for me anyway). I have absolutely no problem whatsoever in balancing the gospel with social justice/action and here is my big secret. Wait for it…..drum roll please. I DON’T SEPARATE THEM. I know. Aren’t I clever (no, not at all)? Here’s what I mean.

1. I simply preach the gospel. In fact, I resent the fact that I have to choose between preaching Christ and ‘loving’ people through my deeds. That is not a legitimate separation and stacks the cards heavily against the cross as THE supreme act of love in the history of the world.

2. I simply preach the gospel knowing that the God that I proclaim is the God of Micah 6:8 (look it up for yourself). So that means if I see a person in need I am not having a theological argument in my head over whether I ought to slam them with the gospel or give them a hand up. I do both, regardless of how they respond.

3. I simply preach the gospel as Christ’s ambassador because that’s what I am commanded to do first and foremost. People are going to hell and it doesn’t matter whether they go there hungry or not. What matters is that I hold out the beauty of Jesus and the great hope found in the cross. Oh, and if they’d like a bacon roll, I am happy to oblige with that too!

4. I simply preach the gospel because Jesus is the only name under heaven and earth by which men, women and children can be saved.

5. I simply preach the gospel by serving my fellow human beings in whatever way I can. I go the extra mile in loving them, easing their discomfort, trying to help them solve their issues, feed them and clothe them, earnestly pleading with them to ‘repent or perish’ because that is their greatest need.

6. I simply preach the gospel by living with people right where they are in the midst of their suffering, seeking to live a Godly and consistent life in their midst. I don’t go to conferences that talk about how to reach them, how to evangelise them and how to love them. I don’t write books on what it means to engage in a biblical, gospel led ministry to them. I just try to be salt and light right where I am.

I simply preach the gospel because I have no other answers to the many needs of my fellow man/woman. I do it out of a sense of overwhelming gratitude for where God has taken me in my life. He rescued me from the slime, He cleaned me up and He placed me right back in the mixer as a prime example of the power of the gospel and of the glory of God as found in Jesus Christ. Along the way people fed me, clothed me and put a roof over my head. They loved me and counselled me and rebuked me and even listened to me! But if they had never challenged me with the sinfulness of my sin, my hopeless condition under the judgement of a righteous, loving, just and holy God; if they hadn’t pleaded with me to repent of my sins and put my faith and trust solely in the finished work of Jesus at Calvary, then I don’t know where I would be. Well, actually, I do know exactly where I would be. Either still in prison, thinking back on the kindness of some ‘Christian types’ who gave me something to eat once but never quite plucked up the courage to share Christ with me in a way that was understandable and to the point. Or worse, and more probable, dead along with many of my friends. Dead and facing eternity in a place I can barely think about….

Social justice/action doesn’t have to lead us away from the gospel anymore than the gospel leading us away from social action/justice. We serve a God of ‘Zedek’ & ‘Mishpat’ (righteousness & justice – a little Hebrew to impress my etymological peeps out there!). All that being said, here is a little discussion from some men with much bigger brains than mine.

Three great preacher/theologians debate this.

1. Interesting stuff here from Challies assessing Al Mohler’s presentation of why he is a literal, 6 day creationist.

2. Should Christians embrace evolution? Book review here, again from Challies.

3. Here is John Sailhamer’s position, held by John Piper amongst others.

Have fun!