Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Excellent John Piper Book I Read Recently

A couple of weeks ago, I finished reading Jesus: The Only Way to God--Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? by John Piper on my Kindle app (have I said I love reading on my tablet?).

This book was an enjoyable read, and at only 123 pages isn't very lengthy. Piper gets to his points backing them up with scripture. Below are jsut some of the 29 passages I highlighted in the book. Here's a link to them all (if you have an Amazon account, you can login and see my highlights).

Though this quote is at the end of the book, I will put it first so that you will have an idea of what Piper's argument is in this book:
I have tried to answer three questions with arguments and illustrations from the Bible: Is there an eternal hell of conscious torment to be rescued from? Answer: Yes (Chapter 2). Is the death and resurrection of Christ essential for that rescue? Answer: Yes (Chapter 3). And do people need to hear this good news and believe it in order to be rescued? Answer: Yes (Chapters 4-7).
Many believe that the Bible is something that enslaves us and that without it we may be free. Piper asserts, correctly, just the opposite:
If we are cut loose from the anchor of God’s Word, we will not be free. We will be slaves of personal passions and popular trends.
Here, Piper is showing us the positive aspects of being rescued from hell as well as pointing out those blessed things which the lost will not have.
Implicit in the rescue from hell is the experience of praising God forever, and loving people forever, and enjoying creation forever, and creating beauty forever. All of this will be lost by everyone that the good news of Jesus does not reach. So what is at stake in diminishing the universal necessity of the gospel is the everlasting pleasures of people personally praising God, loving others, enjoying God’s creation, and creating beauty. This is what people lose by not hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus.
Perhaps one of the best brief explanations of Romans 5:
As the sin of Adam leads to condemnation for all humanity that are united to him as their head, so the obedience of Christ leads to righteousness for all humanity that are united to him as their head—“those who receive the abundance of grace” (Romans 5:17).
The following quotes are related to the question of whether people can be Christians by either (1) ignorantly worshiping God, (2) never hearing the gospel, or (3) believing in Jesus but never knowing His name:
(1) And we will see that even when there is some knowledge of the true God (as in the case of Cornelius in Acts 10), the worship of the true God “ignorantly” is not a saving act.

(2) N
otice that the message itself is essential. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

If one is saved by Jesus incognito, one does not speak of being saved by his name.
In response to devoutly following one's own convictions but not having saving faith, Piper relates to us when and with whom the gospel began:
The gospel got its start among the most devout people in the world at that time—the Jews. They had more advantages in knowing God than any of the other peoples of the earth. Yet they were told again and again: Devoutness and works of righteousness and religious sincerity do not solve the problem of sin. The only hope is to believe on Jesus
And there is hope because God still has a people to call His own!
And he will now gather in all those among the nations who are called by his name! It is his new work! All those who are predestined will be called (Rom. 8:30). All those who are foreordained to eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48). All those who are ransomed will be gathered from every people under heaven (Rev. 5:9). God himself is the chief agent in this new movement, and he will take out a people for his name among the nations (Acts 15:14).  
Finally, we as believers must take this to heart and be convicted to reach the lost for Christ!
Charles Hodge is right that “the solemn question, implied in the language of the apostle, HOW CAN THEY BELIEVE WITHOUT A PREACHER? should sound day and night in the ears of the churches.” 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some thoughts on how we read the Bible

While chapter and verse numbers are wonderful, I have to wonder if perhaps we turn them into stopping points when they shouldn't be?

For instance, let's look at Isaiah 5 and 6 starting with that wonderful passage in chapter 6.

Isaiah 6:4-8 ESV

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."

So we have an idea here that Isaiah feels unclean, especially now that he has seen The Lord. Specifically he knows that his lips are unclean and an angel cleanses him. Then that great question is asked "who will go for us?" and Isaiah answers the call.

Overall that isn't a bad interpretation of the passage and it conveys a sufficient meaning for us. But what if we take just a broader look at the context? What just happened?

In chapter 5, the Lord states to Isaiah that He will destroy his vineyard, which is Israel. Then God calls down "woes" upon 6 groups of wicked people. These are those who hoard property, who seek drunkenness, who call evil good. These are people that the Lord says he will strike down and against whom he will show his anger. (Isaiah 5:24-25)

It is against this backdrop that Isaiah had his heavenly vision in chapter 6. After seeing the importance of the preceding woes it is all the more obvious that Isaiah feels completely undone after he brings another woe upon himself. It isn't just some light feeling of sorrow as we now understand.

You can read more around these chapters to get a better idea as to what else may be happening, but this is a good start.

As I began with in this post, I do think that we sometimes miss out on details that are important when we may isolate our reading to chapter breaks. It all really boils down to the importance of context when reading our Bible. This is just something I've been thinking about some recently and may have to integrate into my daily reading. I would encourage you to also take some extra time to do the same.

God bless you!