Daily Light – August 31, 2018

God Wants You to Ask Again 

(article by Marshall Seagal)

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What prayer have you given up praying?

We all have deep prayers, sensitive prayers that we have prayed over and over, but that feel a little heavier with each passing week, month, and year. For physical relief or healing or strength. For a new position or opportunity in our work. For the fighting to finally stop. For purity. For the salvation of someone we desperately love.

As the years go by, miles may begin to emerge between our head and our knees — between our desire for God to move in some dramatic way and our enthusiasm to pray and ask again.

He has told us to call him “Father,” but at times it can seem like he’s too busy with more important pursuits. He’s out saving the whole world, while we’re here in our own little room, worrying about tomorrow’s little trials. He’s out covering the globe with his glory, while we’re kneeling at home asking for something smaller and less significant.

But in Christ our trials are not trivial in his eyes. Our burdens are not small or irrelevant to him. His global purposes do not draw him away from us. Our prayers are not peripheral in his priorities, because our trials and prayers are deeply and intimately connected to his greatest burden as a good Father: his own glory.

Greatest Motive to Pray

John Piper says, “The great ground of hope, the great motive to pray, is God’s awesome commitment to his name. The pleasure that he has in his fame is the pledge and passion of his readiness to forgive and save those who lift his banner and cast themselves on his promise and mercy” (Pleasures of God, 107).

We will only start believing that God doesn’t have time for our prayers when we begin to divorce our prayers from his glory — when we disconnect his moving in our lives from his being lifted up in our lives. God will not stop doing good for his children, even in the most minute and mundane details, because his name is on the line even in the most minute and mundane details. If he ignored our pleas, he would be an unreliable God and a negligent Father. He would be less glorious.

Our God and Father ties his tender mercy and loving care toward us to his fame in the world:

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
     for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
     that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
     I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
     for how should my name be profaned?
     My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9–11)

Good earthly fathers don’t talk like that: “For my own sake, for my own sake . . . ” But our unique, extraordinarily good, heavenly Father — the first and best father — does love his children that way, and it is good news. His pleasure in his own name perfects his love for us, and inclines his ears to our prayers. The prophet Daniel knew this and prayed, “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God” (Daniel 9:19). Hear me, O Lord, for your sake — a strange and yet deeply promising and emboldening prayer.

Hallowed Be Your Name

For us to persist in prayer over months and years will mean we tune our hearts to the mysterious beauty of the first line in the Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9)

The most surprising aspect is not that God is so unashamedly committed to his own glory, but that he would love us, and not just love us, but adopt us — and be our Father. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Tim Keller marvels that in Christ, “We have the most intimate and unbreakable relationship possible with the God of the universe” (Prayer, 69), and R.C. Sproul says to call God “Father” affirms “the very uniqueness of Christianity” (Prayer of the Lord, 23).

Jesus teaches us to call God “our Father.” Those two words are loaded with more hope and wonder and security than we can adequately feel. But then Jesus anchors the whole prayer in the hallowing of our Father’s name. How can God be a good father and be so focused on himself? Because the goodness of God’s fatherhood is intimately tied to his love for his own fame.

His desire for his own glory doesn’t limit how much he loves us but unleashes his love in greater depths and in even more ways.

He Wants You to Ask

God wants you to ask again — for healing, for reconciliation, for salvation — because God loves to reveal his strength and wisdom and worth again. And because he loves you. And because he loves you, he wants you to see and experience more of his glory. In prayer — in what we ask by faith — we ask to see more of him. The details of our specific prayers are real and important, but the thread through them all — the prayer of prayers — remains the same: “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18).

His glory does not distract him from our pleas — from our cries for daily bread, for forgiveness of our sins, and for protection from temptation. His glory drives him into our true needs. Because he takes pleasure in his name, he will love us with fatherly ferocity — not indifference, reluctance, or impatience.

If we picture God taking a break from more important pursuits to address our little needs and desires, we’ll soon suspect that he doesn’t have time for us, or that we’re not a priority. But if addressing our little needs and desires actually plays a part in his most important purpose, we can have confidence that he’ll never stop hearing our prayers. He wants us to ask again, not simply because he told us to pray, but because when we pray, we open another window for his glory to stream through.

One Thing Have I Asked

But is his glory good news for us? It is, if we pray like King David,

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
     that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
     all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
     and to inquire in his temple. (Psalms 27:4).

We can fall into ruts in which we ask for just about everything but that — for bread, forgiveness, protection, healing, guidance, reconciliation, but not for glory. When we pray, are we consistently longing and asking to see and spread the beauty of God?

If we can say that David’s one thing is our one thing, we will not begrudge God making our prayers occasions for his glory. His glory will be music to the ears of our soul. As we pray and ask again, we’ll gaze again. And we’ll want others to gaze with us. His glory in and through us will be beautiful to us, because we will want his glory more than anything. We will want his glory more than whatever else we pray for ourselves.

The next time your patience and passion flag in prayer, remember what Jesus prayed for you, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Press in and ask him again. Your Father loves to answer your prayers with his glory. And because he loves his glory, he will love you in every circumstance and trial with more of himself.

Daily Light – August 30, 2018

Grace Arrives When You Need It!      (message excerpt, by John Piper)

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Grace in the New Testament is not only God’s disposition to do good to us when we don’t deserve it, often defined as unmerited favor — totally right definition — but it’s more. The grace of God is not just God’s disposition to do good to the undeserving. It is that, but now we’ve seen it’s power. Grace is power. Grace moves in and enables me to fulfill a resolve.

If you want to see this confirmed, look at 1 Corinthians 15:10: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked . . .” Many of Paul’s resolves to suffer for Christ, and plant the church, and get imprisoned and endure beatings, they came to reality by grace. Grace did that. “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

“Grace is power. Grace moves in and enables me to fulfill a resolve.”

So I would base my whole sermon and life on that verse insofar as life is a dependence on the power of grace to be what we ought to be and do what we ought to do. By the grace of God, I am what I am. His grace toward me was not in vain, but I worked. But when I worked, it wasn’t I; it was grace with me. That’s pretty clear, I think.

Grace is the key: the power of grace, moving into our lives, turning our resolves into hard work that’s free and joyful and satisfying and far from legalistic. Grace doesn’t produce legalism. It’s grace; it produces hard work. Christians aren’t lazy, because grace is powerful.

Here’s another thing we need to know about grace: not only is it a power, but it is past and future. Grace has been in this room since you got here; otherwise, you would be in hell — sustaining your faith, sustaining your breath. I’m talking about both unbelievers and believers when I say that. No bomb blew up, no poisonous gas has come, nobody has yet, to my knowledge, had a heart attack, and on and on and on the blessings would go. We have been in an ocean of grace in this room for the last hour or so. I call that past grace. That already happened.

And we have a little time to go yet in the service. And my guess is that most of us will live to the end. Maybe not, but we will probably live to the end of the service and maybe some more good will be done. So grace is coming to us in the next five minutes and all the rest of today. All morning long grace is coming.

So I have in my head a picture of a river. So there’s this river of promises, and the water that’s flowing to me with such power is the grace of God. It’s coming from the future, flowing into my life. It falls over the waterfall of the present into a reservoir called past grace. And therefore, the past grace reservoir is getting bigger every day. It’s getting bigger every minute, which means you’ve got more to thank God for every minute of your life than you did before, because the right response of the heart towards past grace is thankfulness, and the right response toward future grace is faith.

This is really fundamental and so simple. As grace is coming to you by promises from the future, what should you do with that? Trust them. Trust it’s going to come. He’s going to help you. He’s saying, “Believe me. Trust me. Every hour of your life, trust me. I will help you. I will strengthen you. I’ll hold you up. I’ve got an avalanche of promises for you. Trust me.”

And as those promises turn resolves into work, and flow into the history of your life, and the history of the church, you look back with an ever-increasing sense of, “You are amazing. I’m so thankful for 33 years of faithfulness at this church.” You would see that as amazing too if you knew how many sins are in my life. How did I survive 33 years? Grace. Total grace.

So the reservoir just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and this is inexhaustible. This fountain, this spring where the river of grace flows to us from the future, it will never ever run dry because Jesus bought infinite grace for us.

Now, let me clarify: it is not wrong to say we trust in past grace. That’s not a meaningless sentence. But I’ll tell you what I mean by that sentence. And when I say past grace, I mean truths like, Jesus died for me. There’s never been a greater demonstration of free grace toward John Piper than when the Son of God died on my behalf. And then about sixty years ago now, I was born again. That’s another stunning grace that’s way back there sixty years, and way back there two thousand years

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

I said gratitude is the main response to that, but if I say, “I trust that Jesus died for me,” what do I mean by that? What does it mean to use faith language backward? Everybody knows what faith language is for the future: “I promise you I’ll be there.” “I trust you.” And you build your whole day around it. But you would never say to somebody, “I trust that you would be on time yesterday.” But you can say, “I trust that Jesus, when he died, he died for me.” But what do I mean when I say that? I mean that when he died for me, he secured for me infallibly that there will be a river of grace flowing into me forever. I cannot fail.

Power is going to keep arriving in my life forever. His death guarantees my everlasting life, and my moment-by-moment perseverance to get there was also bought back there. So when I say I trust him back there doing that, I mean all of that was perfectly sufficient to secure this where I’ll live my life moment by moment. That’s what I mean.

It’s no abstract historical thing just to affirm that Jesus did something. If he didn’t do what I’m trusting him to have done, I have nothing in the future but trouble on my way eternally. But if he did what he promised he did, namely, die in my place, then maybe somebody in the next ten minutes will be saved in this service, and other wonderful things might happen — and all of it for our good.

One more clarification on what we mean by faith in future grace. It’s power. It’s past and future — faith toward the future, gratitude toward the past, but also a kind of faith in the past because of what it purchased for the future. And now one more clarification: when we say we trust God or believe his promise that he will work for us in the next five minutes or five decades, we mean we are satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus through those promises.

When Paul said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8), he meant, “I embrace Christ as a treasure that is so satisfying by comparison, everything else is loss.” That’s what faith is when it receives Jesus as a treasure.

“You’ve got more to thank God for every minute of your life than you did before.”

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). And he means soul thirst, heart thirst. Which means that believing is an eating or drinking of the beauties and glories and truth and wisdom and love and goodness and justice of Christ so that the soul is satisfied. Whoever believes in me will not thirst. Believing means coming to him and drinking so that our soul thirst is satisfied. So, faith in future grace means trusting in all that God promises to be for us in Jesus Christ in any one of his promises.

Here’s what Paul said: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Would you accept that content is another word for satisfied? I’m using them that way.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13).

And those all things include hungering and being brought low. And so, what’s the secret he’s learned? The secret he’s learned is to trust the ever-arriving, strengthening power of Jesus because he says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul is saying the secret of contentment, the secret of satisfaction, is trusting the promises, “I’m going to strengthen you. You’re mine. I love you.”

And we believe that truth moment by moment as we walk through life and form our resolves and then trust that promise to come in and empower us to do them. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Daily Light – August 29, 2018

God Died To Give You God       (article by John Piper)

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Romans 5:6: “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” If you feel ungodly, that’s really good news for you. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God . . .” (Romans 5:7–8). God is different. His love is different. His love is different than dying for the good and dying for the righteous. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners” — ungodly, weak. Those three adjectives at least are all true of you. But “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“The price of the gospel is the death of the most glorious person that has ever and will ever exist.”

So what is the price of the good news? And the answer is: Christ died for the ungodly — or, as it says in Romans 5:8, “Christ died for us.” That’s what it cost God. He did not spare his own Son, but gave him for us all. So the price of the gospel is the death of the most glorious person that has ever and will ever exist. I just read in my devotions this morning Hebrews 1:1–3:  Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

The radiance of the glory of God died. The imprint of God died. The upholder of the universe died for you. That’s why Paul calls this the power of the gospel. This reality must move you. But I’m not going to consign you anywhere, except to hope. What’s the prize of that price in this text, this snapshot? Romans 5:9–11: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified . . .” There’s part of it: “by his blood.” Justification comes from this price. “Much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” — which is coming upon the world someday in an act of great judgment. So, we’re justified now and saved from wrath later, “for if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God . . .” There’s another way to say the prize is by the death of his Son. “Much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God.” And that’s the end. The rest of the verse just describes again where it came from: “through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

What’s the prize of the price of the gospel? Well, the first thing is justification (Romans 5:9). He declares us just, even though we’re ungodly, because of Jesus through faith. What else? We’re saved by him from wrath (Romans 5:10). What do we need to be saved from? Wrath. We’re not playing around here with human psychological categories. We need to be saved from wrath. God is angry at sinners — and he loves them.

“The highest good of the good news is joy in God.”

Have you ever been angry at somebody you love? Of course you have: dad, mom, brother, sister. Of course you have. And God has that, and he found a way to do both — and thus be totally just in his wrath and totally loving in his mercy. It’s called gospel. It’s called Christ died to absorb that wrath. Freed from wrath — that’s a second prize of the price.

But in this text — and there isn’t any text to contradict it or take it further — the highest, best, fullest, most satisfying prize of the gospel is not justification and not freedom from wrath; it’s verse 11, which starts with “much more.” More than what? More than salvation from wrath, more than justification, much more we rejoice in God. The highest good of the good news is joy in God. Period. Nothing beyond it. You will never, ever in the Bible hear God say, “Much more then God himself being your totally satisfying portion forever.” Much more — like golf or something. No offense to golfers, but I just find it so boring.

There isn’t anything higher than knowing and delighting in and enjoying the personal God with you forever. The end of the gospel is we rejoice in God. That’s the prize of the gospel. God in Christ: the price and the prize of the gospel. God in Christ became the price (Romans 5:6–8); God in Christ becomes the prize (Romans 5:9–11). That’s what I mean when I say things like God is the gospel.

 

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Daily Light – August 28, 2018

For Now We Rejoice In Part

Happiness Here..And Not Yet

morning light

Article by Scott Swain     (President, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando)

God has promised his people supreme, unending, unshakeable happiness. Contrary to the claims of popular prosperity preachers, however, the supreme happiness God promises his people will not be realized in this life. Ours is a life characterized by sorrow in many ways. For now, we rejoice only in part.

There are two reasons for this. First, though the Father’s will to make us happy does not change, and though the Son’s work of securing our happiness is complete, the Spirit’s work of showing and bestowing happiness to us and upon us has only begun. By God’s triune mercy, we have been reconciled to the order of beatitude, what Augustine calls “the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God.” However, as Augustine goes on to tell us, ours is a happiness “we enjoy now with God by faith, and shall hereafter enjoy eternally with him by sight.”

“The Son’s work of securing our happiness is complete, but the Spirit’s work of bestowing it to us has only begun.”

 Second, having been reconciled to God’s order of beatitude, we have been brought into a state of conflict with the order of sin and misery, which wars against the happy God and the people who find their happiness in him. As William Perkins observes, “True happiness with God is ever joined, yea covered many times, with the cross in this world.” Our happiness has not yet fully arrived. Our happiness is not yet without opposition. For these two reasons, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) characterizes the happiness of the people whose God is the Lord as they make their pilgrimage to the happy land of the Trinity.

Happy Now and Not Yet

In his Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ instructs pilgrims on the path to God’s eternal kingdom regarding the way of happiness. In contrast to “the error of all philosophers,” who locate happiness in “pleasure,” “wealth,” and “civil virtue,” God’s Wisdom incarnate sets out the “the nature and estate of true felicity.”

Jesus addresses his “Beatitudes” to his disciples, to those who have heard his announcement of the good news and have responded in faith and repentance (Matthew 4:17Mark 1:15). Jesus assures his disciples that, having been “justified by his grace” through faith apart from works, they have “become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5). The kingdom of heaven belongs to them by right: “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:310).

Jesus also teaches his disciples that, although the kingdom of heaven belongs to them by right, they do not yet possess the kingdom of heaven in all its glorious fullness. Their possession of the kingdom is certain, but it lies ahead of them in the future: “they shall be comforted,” “they shall inherit the earth,” “they shall be satisfied,” “they shall receive mercy,” “they shall see God” (Matthew 5:4–8).

The disciples of Jesus are thus happy “now and not yet.” Their circumstances are truly happy. Therefore, they can “rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12). But their happy circumstances, for the time being, are also mixed with sorrow and suffering. Therefore, they will mourn, they will hunger and thirst, they will be reviled and persecuted (Matthew 5:4610–12). They are happy now by virtue of their right to the kingdom of heaven through faith; they are not yet happy by virtue of their possession of the kingdom through sight.

Reversals and Fulfillments

“The happiness that is ours in the midst of sorrow and suffering will one day displace all sorrow and suffering.”

As they await the consummation of the kingdom, Jesus pronounces blessings — “beatitudes” — that indicate either reversals or fulfillments of the disciples’ present circumstances. In their present circumstances, Jesus’s followers are characterized by poverty of spirit and meekness before the Lord. They hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness to be revealed. They have many occasions to mourn due to the verbal scorn and physical persecution they endure, even while the proud and insolent seem to flourish without consequence (Psalm 37:773:3–13). To these, Jesus promises reversals of their present circumstances. The happiness that is theirs now in the midst of sorrow and suffering will one day replace and displace all sorrow and suffering. Those who mourn shall be comforted, the meek shall inherit the earth, those who hunger and thirst shall be satisfied (Matthew 5:4–6).

Despite their present circumstances, moreover, Jesus’s followers are merciful. They have compassion upon those in need and seek to restore them to a state of fullness and flourishing before God (Luke 10:29–37). Jesus’s followers are pure in heart. They do not lift up their souls to what is false, and they do not swear deceitfully (Psalm 24:4). Instead, they set the Lord alone before them as their heart’s holy appetite (Isaiah 8:131 Peter 3:15). Jesus’s followers are peacemakers. Rather than extending the disorder of sin and misery, Jesus’s disciples extend the order of beatitude by seeking to reconcile sinners to God and neighbor and by seeking to preserve “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

To these, Jesus promises crowning fulfillments of their present practices and aspirations. The happiness that is theirs now in seed will one day reach its full fruition. The merciful shall receive mercy, the pure in heart shall behold the object of their holy desire, the peacemakers shall be called sons of God, the supreme peacemaker (Matthew 5:7–9).

Sorrowful and Rejoicing

In all these circumstances, the disciples are disciples of their Lord, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Having found in him the treasure hidden in a field and the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44–46), Jesus’s followers are willing to suffer the loss of all things for his sake (Matthew 5:1111:6) in order to gain what is already theirs in him by the righteousness of faith: the happiness of the kingdom upon whose throne the King of happiness rests (Philippians 3:7–21).

“Our happiness has not yet fully arrived. Our happiness is not yet without opposition.”

Those who have been granted citizenship in the happy land of the Trinity thus walk on the path laid down by Jesus in the Beatitudes, suffering the hostility of sinners (Hebrews 12:3), struggling against sin (Hebrews 12:4), enduring God’s fatherly hand of discipline with patience (Hebrews 12:5–14James 1:3–4), all the while assured that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:310), that they will see his face (Matthew 5:8), and therefore all the while encouraged to “rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12Romans 5:3–4James 1:2).9

Daily Light – August 27, 2018

ANTHEM: Strategies for Fighting Lust  (article by John Piper)
 
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These are six tested and proven strategies for fighting lust. I have in mind men and women. For men it’s obvious. The need for warfare against the bombardment of visual temptation to fixate on sexual images is urgent. For women it is less obvious, but just as great if we broaden the scope of temptation to food or figure or relational fantasies. When I say “lust” I mean the realm of thought, imagination, and desire that leads to sexual misconduct. So here is one set of strategies in the war against wrong desires. I put it in the form of an acronym, A N T H E M.
A – Avoid as much as is possible and reasonable the sights and situations that arouse unfitting desire.
You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart — more than you treasure sex or sugar or anything else.
I say “possible and reasonable” because some exposure to temptation is inevitable. And I say “unfitting desire” because not all desires for sex, food, and family are bad. We know when they are unfitting and unhelpful and on their way to becoming enslaving. We know our weaknesses and what triggers them. “Avoiding” is a biblical strategy. “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22). “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
N – Say “No” to every lustful thought within five seconds.
And say it with the authority of Jesus Christ. “In the name of Jesus, NO!” You don’t have much more than five seconds. Give it more unopposed time than that, and it will lodge itself with such force as to be almost immovable. Say it out loud if you dare. Be tough and warlike. As John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Strike fast and strike hard. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
T – Turn the mind forcefully toward Christ as a superior satisfaction.
Saying “no” will not suffice. You must move from defense to offense. Fight fire with fire. Attack the promises of sin with the promises of Christ. The Bible calls lusts “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). They lie. They promise more than they can deliver. The Bible calls them “passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). Only fools yield. “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter” (Proverbs 7:22). Deceit is defeated by truth. Ignorance is defeated by knowledge. It must be glorious truth and beautiful knowledge. This is why I wrote Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. We must stock our minds with the superior promises and pleasures of Jesus. Then we must turn to them immediately after saying, “NO!”
H – Hold the promise and the pleasure of Christ firmly in your mind until it pushes the other images out.
Fix your eyes on Jesus (see Hebrews 12:2). Here is where many fail. They give in too soon. They say, “I tried to push it out, and it didn’t work.” I ask, “How long did you try? How hard did you exert your mind?” The mind is a muscle. You can flex it with vehemence. Take the kingdom violently (Matthew 11:12). Be brutal. Hold the promise of Christ before your eyes. Hold it. Hold it! Don’t let it go! Keep holding it! How long? As long as it takes. Fight! For Christ’s sake, fight till you win! If an electric garage door were about to crush your child, you would hold it up with all your might and holler for help, and hold it and hold it and hold it and hold it.
E – Enjoy a superior satisfaction.
If you want to kill lust, you must fight fire with fire. Attack the promises of sin with the promises of Christ.
Cultivate the capacities for pleasure in Christ. One reason lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal. We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ. Don’t say, “That’s just not me.” What steps have you taken to waken affection for Jesus? Have you fought for joy? Don’t be fatalistic. You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart — more than you treasure sex or sugar. If you have little taste for Jesus, competing pleasures will triumph. Plead with God for the satisfaction you don’t have: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). Then look, look, and look at the most magnificent Person in the universe until you see him the way he is.
M – Move into a useful activity away from idleness and other vulnerable behaviors.
Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure. Find a good work to do, and do it with all your might. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11). “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Abound in work. Get up and do something. Sweep a room. Hammer a nail. Write a letter. Fix a faucet. And do it for Jesus’s sake. You were made to manage and create. Christ died to make you “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). Displace deceitful lusts with a passion for good deeds.

Daily Light – August 24, 2018

Just a Little More’  …How to Quiet Your Cravings          (article by Scott Hubbard)

 “Just a little more” is a longtime friend of mine.

He takes a seat next to me after dinner. My stomach may be full to the point of protest, but no matter. He points at my empty plate and asks, “How about just a little more?”

He rests on the edge of my bed in the morning as my alarm clock beeps. I may need to be at work in an hour, but he tucks the sheets under my chin and assures me, “Just a little more.”

He follows behind me as I walk my fiancée home. Sure, we’ve established physical boundaries, and we may have already reached the edge of them. But he promises me, “Just a little more won’t hurt.”

Kind, Foolish Friend

Every day, we find some pleasure, enjoy it to the full, and then itch for just a little more: a little more chocolate, a little more wine, a little more sleep, a little more shower time, a little more YouTube, a little more Netflix. We take in some delight that gives our senses a standing ovation, and they won’t sit back down again until they get an encore.

In the moment of gratification, “just a little more” sounds like the voice of a kind friend — so pleasing, so innocent, so reasonable.

And often so foolish. The voice of this pleasant companion frequently keeps us from hearing the words of the wise man: “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it” (Proverbs 25:16)

Land of Nausea

“Every time I break through God’s fences, and think I’m headed toward ecstasy, I am entering the Land of Nausea.”

Solomon’s proverb reminds us that God has put fences around our bodies — boundaries to keep us from crossing the line between innocent pleasure and excess, between enjoying God’s gifts and abusing them.

Although the fence line between enough and too much might not always be obvious, we often know when we’ve begun to wander outside the bounds.

Sometimes, our bodies themselves revolt: if not with literal vomit, then perhaps with a sickly lethargy, as if someone just added two pounds to each limb.

Other times, our bodies may be begging for more, but our Spirit-trained conscience tells us that we have just exchanged self-control for self-indulgence. We have gratified our flesh’s yearning for comfort and silenced the voice of reason. We have found honey, and then we’ve eaten enough for two.

In the moment, of course, the promise of immediate pleasure can make self-control seem silly, stiff, and against all reason. I have often brushed up against the fence line, fully aware that “just a little more” is about to lead me outside God’s yard, and I have kept on walking anyway. I gazed over God’s fences and saw an amusement park. Only afterward did I notice all the sick people lying beside the roller coaster.

“Since Eden,” Derek Kidner writes, “man has wanted the last ounce out of life, as though beyond God’s ‘enough’ lay ecstasy, not nausea” (Proverbs, 159). Every time I break through God’s fences, and think I’m headed toward ecstasy, I am entering the Land of Nausea.

Sluggard Within

But nausea — whether physical or spiritual — is just the short-term consequence of breaking God’s boundaries. If we make a habit of heeding “just a little more”; if we regularly follow our bodies’ urges, not because we have carefully chosen to do so, but because we have fallen under their sway; if we constantly find ourselves flirting with the fence line, and crossing over anyway, Proverbs paints a picture of our future self: the sluggard.

“Satan robs God’s children one indulgence at a time.”

The sluggard’s course begins quite harmlessly. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,” he says (Proverbs 6:10). But over time, he finds himself increasingly shackled to his own cravings: increasingly unable to rise from bed (Proverbs 6:9), increasingly dissatisfied (Proverbs 13:4), increasingly numb to the pleasures he once enjoyed (Proverbs 19:2426:15), and increasingly reluctant to tame his bodily impulses with hard work (Proverbs 21:25).

When we habitually give in to “just a little more,” we feed the sluggard within: We dull our senses. We refine our selfishness. We wring and squeeze God’s gifts until they break. And we train our bodies to find self-denial offensive.

Ironically, giving in to “just a little more” leaves us with a whole lot less: less pleasure, less dignity, less self-control. Satan robs God’s children one indulgence at a time.

God’s “Enough”

How, then, do we silence the smooth suggestion of “just a little more”? We begin where wisdom always begins: the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).

And how does the fear of the Lord fill us with self-control? It inclines us to listen to our Father’s voice (Proverbs 1:8). The fear of the Lord inclines us to hear our Father’s “just enough” as stronger, sounder, and altogether sweeter than “just a little more.”

We hear our Father remind us that the boundaries around our senses are not obstacles to ecstasy, but his infinitely wise engineering applied on a bodily scale (Psalm 139:13–14).

“Our Father’s ‘just enough’ is stronger, sounder, and altogether sweeter than ‘just a little more.’”

 We hear our Father warn us that our bodies are not our own but have been bought with the blood of Jesus and indwelt by the Spirit of God, who yearns for our holiness (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

We hear our Father promise us that he keeps his best pleasures in his own backyard, and that he will withhold no good thing from those who prize self-control over self-indulgence (Psalm 84:11).

If we would stop at the fence line long enough to hear our Father’s voice instead of rushing heedlessly forward, we would find ourselves turning around more often. We would put down the glass, rise from bed, clean the dishes, shut down the computer, and gladly refuse even a little more.

Where Good Things Run Wild

G.K. Chesterton writes, “The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild” (Orthodoxy, 9).

Our Father’s backyard is not stiff and solemn, filled with pursed-lipped saints who have scraped up enough self-control to stay within God’s fences. Our Father’s backyard is where good things run wild. Here, our Father delights us with a feast of rich food (Isaiah 55:1–2). Here, the Spirit trains God’s people to walk in self-control and godliness — to enjoy God’s gifts instead of abusethem (Titus 2:11–12).

And here, Jesus walks. Here walks the man who always heard his Father’s voice, who walked in flawless self-control, and who never indulged a sluggish moment. And this same Jesus promises that, if we will abide with him within his Father’s fences, he will fill us with more joy than “just a little more” can ever give (John 15:11).

Daily Light – August 23, 2018

Freedom from the Self-Focused Life   (excerpt from message by John Piper)

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1. Do you love the thought that you exist to make God look what he really is — glorious? Do you love the thought that you exist to reflect and display the glory of God? Does that bring joy to your heart and make you tingle with awesome historical destiny? I am on planet earth to make God look glorious, because he is.

“Do you love the thought that all creation exists to display the glory of God?”

2. Do you love the thought that all creation exists to display the glory of God? “The heavens are telling the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Are you glad about it? When you see spring just trying to come in Minnesota — soon the branches will get little bulges and you’ll say, “Come on; come on.” When they come in, the heads that you chop back so far, you wonder if it’ll ever come back, it gets the little green things on it and you say, “God is real and living.” Are you glad that it’s about God? Or does it burden you that God has to be in everything? Test yourself.

3. Do you love the truth that all history is designed by God to be a completed canvas that displays the greatness and beauty of God? Are you glad that history, from Adam to the consummation, is an emerging, God-painted canvas that, when it is finished, will be the best display possible of the full range of the excellencies of God? Are you glad that God is writing history as only he can write it for his glory?

4. Do you love the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to vindicate the righteousness of God and repair the injury that we have done to the reputation of his glory? When you think of Jesus, are you glad to think of him as coming to make his Father just in the justification of the ungodly — to vindicate the righteousness of his Father, and to repair all the injury that you and I have done to the reputation of the infinitely valuable glory of God by our daily sinning against him? Are you glad Jesus is all about magnifying and rectifying the glory of God on earth?

Does that make you glad, or is it all about you getting out of hell and having some psychological relief from your guilt feelings and having a mended marriage because God is good and Christ is merciful? Is that all it’s about, or is it about God’s glory — glory in being vindicated in the justification of the ungodly, and glory in the repair of all the injury that I continue to do to the glory of God through my half-hearted love to him day in and day out? If Christ did not mend my reproach upon God, I would be utterly undone, and God would be belittled on this earth indefinitely.

“Are you glad that your salvation is meant to put the glory of God’s grace on display?”

5. Are you glad that your salvation is meant to put the glory of God’s grace on display? Ephesians 1:6: “To the praise of his glorious grace.” Are you glad that the point of being saved is to put the display of grace out for people to see it in your life? It’s all about the beauty of grace. Are you glad about that?

6. Do you love seeing and showing the glory of God? Is the glory of God in Christ your treasure? Is the glory of Christ — who is the image of God — your treasure, what you love above all things? Do you love the glory of God above all things?

This is why he created the universe. This is why he ordained history. This is why he sent his Son. This is why he created you. This is why he saved you: to see, savor, and show the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. So the question at the end of Romans 1–11 is: Do you embrace that as your treasure, as your highest value? Do you embrace God working in all things for the glory of God as your life?

Daily Light – August 22, 2018

Today’s Daily Light

Friends…may this message permeate down into your soul 😊

Fully Known and Truly Loved  (Excerpt from message by John Piper)

If you’ve ever been impressed with someone’s knowledge about people or wisdom about discerning motives; if you’ve known somebody that just seemed to get it, meaning they were so good at discerning that it was like they saw right through people; if you’ve ever known anybody like that, or anybody who could explain actions well, or anybody who seemed to be pretty good at looking at somebody and then predicting their next behavior; if you’ve ever been impressed with a person in history that you’ve read about, who seemed to be remarkably knowledgeable, or any living counselor you’ve ever been to who seemed to just break right through and help you get at the nub of the issue where you seemed so stuck, or any scholar that impressed you with what he wrote or whatever; if you’ve ever been impressed, then you should be impressed with Jesus — and the difference should be something like the difference between being impressed with first grade math and quantum mechanics.

I have been impressed with human beings. It’s not wrong to be impressed with what humans can do. Psalm 8:4–5 says,

What is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet.

We can go to the moon. Human beings are quite amazing creatures, and it’s right to know that and give God praise for it. But it’s not an accident that Psalm 8 begins and ends with, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name,” and then celebrates man in the middle, and then it comes back and ends, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name!”

“There is always one person you must relate to who knows everything about you.”

That’s not an accident. That’s the message. So if you’ve ever been impressed — and I have — with some human beings who seem to have knowing, then let that impression just exponentially explode over Jesus Christ in worship, because the way Jesus Christ knows the world, what’s inside the mind of the Son of God by way of understanding human beings — all of them, all six billion — is infinitely worthy of your worship.

The glory of his omniscience, perhaps, will come to us more fully if we ponder it’s personal implications for us. It means there are no secrets in your life — none. You may have succeeded in hiding something all your life from everyone that you know. I suspect that’s true of every person. It’s certainly is for me. I know things about my life that nobody knows. I’m 63. I know a thousand things about my life that nobody else knows, probably Noël and I haven’t debriefed for twelve hours a day for the last forty years, you know.

If you have succeeded, as I have, in not telling everybody or anybody about everything, you haven’t succeeded with Jesus. He knows absolutely everything about you. There are no secrets. You are totally, completely known by Jesus. That’s amazing. The person who matters most, knows most. The person whose judgment is all important, knows all. Let that sink in. You are totally known — totally. You’ve never had a feeling, you’ve never had a thought, you’ve never done a deed, there’s not been a twitch in your brain or in your heart or in your body, that he hasn’t known fully and completely — vastly more fully than you know.

Therefore, there is always one person you must relate to who knows everything about you. Think about it. There’s always one person you must relate to who knows everything about you. You may be able to look others right in the face and know that they don’t know certain things about you, and that will govern the relationship. It will affect the relationship. I’m looking you in the face and I’m relating to you as a pastor, and you don’t know thousands of things about me. That shapes the relationship. With Jesus, when I look him in the face, he knows absolutely everything, and that shapes the relationship. Everything.

There can be no mask. He simply and absolutely knows. This relationship is like no other relationship. It’s breathtaking. If you relate to him at all, you relate to him as utterly laid bare, utterly known. What an amazing relationship. There is one, and only one, who actually and totally knows you — only one. Your spouse’s knowledge of you, your best friend’s knowledge of you is nothing compared to this.

Therefore, you always have someone to go to for help in knowing who you are. You know one of the great longings of the human soul is to understand ourselves. Who are we? What is our nature? What sort of being am I? What is my deepest thought and feeling? What are my true and deepest motives? What are the relationships, deep inside of me, between my knowing and my feeling and my willing and my doing? If you think you know yourself, you are really deluded. You are so complex. You are so multilayered.

“He knows absolutely everything about you. There are no secrets.”

Why do you think the psalmist in Psalm 19:12 prays, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults”? It’s because his brain just is so convoluted and so layered, that there are things tucked down in there. No matter how he claws with introspection at himself, he never knows himself completely, But we long to know ourselves.

But there is one who does, which means the only way to complete self-knowledge is to go to Jesus. And over time, in proportion to what is good for you, he will begin to lay you bare, and you will begin to gain some measure of self-understanding. And in heaven it will be complete, and you will be completely purified so you won’t be as devastated as you would be if you knew yourself completely here. He knows what we can handle, and it is glorious to know that we are known by one who can help us know ourselves.

It also implies that there is one person who, knowing everything about us, loves us. This may be the sweetest of all. Let me give you just a little snapshot into Peter. Do you think it mattered to Peter that Jesus knew him? Peter denied the Lord three times. This devastated Peter. He wept bitterly. I don’t think he ever quite recovered from this. And you can see Jesus trying to help him recover, just like Jesus is willing to help you recover from horrible things that you’ve done. They’re not easy, but he’s willing.

So it was after the resurrection. They were sitting by the fire in John 21:15–17, and Jesus looks at him and he says, “Peter, do you love me?” And Peter doesn’t just say yes. He says, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” And then Jesus, because he denied him three times, is going to give him a chance to affirm it three times. He asked him again, “Peter, do you love me? And Peter says, the second time, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” The third time the Lord asked him, “Do you love me,” Peter ups the ante. He says, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus knows your heart, whether there’s love there, faith there, or not. And so we move to this last implication of being loved by one who knows everything about us. He is willing to love you, knowing everything about you. Now, the reason I say he’s willing to love you — that may sound like an odd way to say — is because Jesus doesn’t love everybody the same way. The way he loves his sheep, and his disciples, and his children, is different from the way he loves those who reject him.

This is the way Jesus prays for his own, his own people in John 17:9: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” So that’s who he’s praying for. That’s a love that he doesn’t have for the world. You could call it intercessory love. Jesus today is in heaven, interceding for you. He intercedes for you. He bought this intercession on the cross, and he applies his own blood, before the Father, interceding for you, to see to it that you will make it to the end — which is what he said he did for Peter, just as Peter denied him. “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned [not if, but when you have turned], strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). I know you’re going down, but I know you’re coming up, because I’ve prayed for you that you’re going down would not be a staying down.

“Jesus is willing to love you, knowing everything about you.”

That’s the authority of the prayer of Jesus for his own. He did not pray that for Judas. If he had, Judas would be in heaven — and he isn’t. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). If you receive him, you are a child of God, and he loves you as one of his brothers and sisters, and he knows everything about you — if you will have it.

If in this moment of reading this message, God would open your eyes and grant you to fly to Jesus for the renouncing of all your self-reliance, and all you’re sin, and all your relativistic efforts to be everything to everybody, and claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and Treasure of your life, there would be one who forever knows everything about you and loves you infinitely. And that’s good news to be known to the bottom of your being.

Isn’t it scary to you that all your relationships are contingent on whether people don’t know certain things about you? So you tremblingly walk through life, hiding yourself from one relationship to the other, because if you do or say certain things, it might ruin the relationship. But isn’t it sweet to know that if that happened to everybody in your life, it wouldn’t happen to Jesus? That’s a rock I live on. If my wife unthinkably turned on me, and the church turned on me, and everybody said, “If we knew that you never would have been the pastor of this church.”  Where would I go? I would go to him. Where would you go?

Daily Light – August 21, 2018

If I Could Start All Over Again
..Lessons For Your Twenties

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(This excerpt is taken from a message by John Piper with his premise being if he could start over at age 22)

I would resolve to read my Bible every day for the rest of my life.

“If you have time for breakfast, you have time for your Bible.”

I would make it more important than eating or getting exercise or kissing my wife. There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days than I have watched television or videos. And I am also certain that I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have kissed my wife because she doesn’t go with me on the road, usually. And my Bible does — always does. I never leave my Bible. I might leave my wife, but not my Bible.

I have learned a few things about reading the Bible that I didn’t know when I was 22, but if I were, I would resolve

every day to read my Bible, and not to settle for hazy, vague awareness of it, but push through the haze to the wording itself;

and I would push into and through the wording of the text itself to the intention of the authors — human and divine;

and I would push through the intention to the reality behind the words and the grammar and the logic;

and I would push into that reality until it was an emotionally experienced reality;

and I’d push into and through that emotionally proportional reality until it became a word and a deed on my life;

and I’d push through that deed and that word until other people saw the reality and join me in my encounter with God in the Bible.

That’s how I would formulate my resolution to read the Bible every day. Nothing is revealed more quickly on the mission field than a superficial encounter with the living God and the glorious realities he has revealed in Scripture. Superficial Bible reading that does not penetrate through the wordsand intentions and reality and experience to deed and life and an encounterwith the living God will be of little use on the mission field in the face of massive demonic forces among unreached peoples. You won’t survive.

The lesson for you: Read your Bible every day. Every day of your life — no exceptions. Never say, “I’ll read it if I have time.” If you have time for breakfast, you have time for your Bible. Skip breakfast. Don’t get your Bible-reading pleasure from the fact that your conscience is clear because you checked the Bible box. Get your pleasure from reading the Bible because of an encounter — a meeting, a fellowship — with the living, supernatural reality that you meet in the Scriptures.

I would become a Christian Hedonist.

I would seek to find more joy in God than anything else in the world for the sake of personal holiness, perseverance through pain, and promotion of the glory of God. That’s why I would become a Christian Hedonist. That is, I would get clarity and certainty around the sentence: God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. I would nail that sentence, and I would either believe it or not believe it. And if I believed it, I would go for broke in being as satisfied in God as I could possibly be, 24/7, over everything else.

“Aim at all-satisfying joy in God, which will empower you for humility, chastity, simplicity, and risk-taking, sacrificial love.”

By means of savoring the sweetness of the promises of God in this precious Book, I would put to death every rising quiver of pride, and self-reliance, and lust, and greed, and fear, and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, seek to kill all those sins by the superior pleasure that we have in God. Because unless those sins die, I will be dogged by fruitlessness of life, and damned in the next. I would recognize at age 22 that the fight for joy in God, through the bright and dismal circumstances of life, is the essential key in my mission in life for authenticating holiness, fruitful perseverance, so that God gets the glory. Being happy in God more than you are happy in anything else is the key to holiness and fruitfulness to the glory of God.

The lesson for you: Become a Christian Hedonist. Whether you call it that or not doesn’t matter. Don’t aim at the pleasures of fame. Don’t aim at the pleasures of sexual gratification. Don’t aim at the pleasures of wealth. Don’t aim at the pleasure and contentment and comfort of safety. Aim at all-satisfying joy in God, which will empower you for humility, and chastity, and simplicity, and risk-taking, sacrificial love for other people.

I would recognize that I am not my own, that I have been bought with a price, and that I belong, body and soul, to Jesus Christ for his use and his glory.

I would offer myself up to God at age 22 and tell him that he may do with me anything he pleases. He may kill me. He may torture me. He may send me anywhere. He can do me no wrong. He owes me nothing. And I would tell him that any time he pleases, anywhere he pleases, I am his — at his disposal.

And I would memorize Psalm 25, which had a very crucial role for me in seminary. I would memorize Psalm 25 and trust the amazing promises of guidance that are in those precious verses:

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way. (Psalm 25:8–9)

You don’t have to be left to your own wisdom as to what you spend your life doing. If you believe those verses in Psalm 25, he’s going to teach you his way for you.

The lesson for you: Memorize Psalm 25. Pray it as your own, and give yourself wholly up to God and his mission. Trust him.

I would do a lot more things at age 22, but these are some of the most important things I would do if I only had a few minutes to tell you.

Daily Light – August 20, 2018

Even When The Worst Happens (article by Marshall Segal)sad-background_102804326_262

To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. –Philippians 1:21

If police officers arrested you tomorrow and threw you in prison because you went to church last Sunday, what would your first letter to your friends and family sound like? Sitting on a concrete bench, staring at thick steel bars, wondering how long you will be held, you’ve been given a piece of paper and a pencil. How would you tell your family what happened? What would you say about the law, and your rights, and the officers who arrested you? How would you describe what you were feeling?

What you or I would write in that letter — from the bottom of our hearts — reveals something about how much (or little) we really trust Jesus. In one sense, we would have every right to protest and complain — it would be wrong for them to throw us in jail. But if Jesus is real, we never have a good reason to grumble or despair. If being falsely accused and wrongly incarcerated ruins our hope and joy and confidence, we have not yet discovered real hope and joy and confidence.

Never settle for a God who cannot satisfy you in a prison cell.

Paul’s Storm: Prison

When the apostle Paul said, “To me to live is Christ,” he was sitting in jail. Many of us sing and recite lines like that from the comfort and security of freedom — freedom to believe, freedom to worship, freedom even to share our faith with others. We could walk our neighborhoods rehearsing our hope in Jesus at the top of our lungs, and perhaps never receive worse than a curious stare or awkward conversation. Not Paul — and not Christians in many places around the world today.

When Paul said, “To me to live is Christ,” he wrote it from incarceration. He didn’t harm anyone or commit any crime. He simply refused to remain quiet about his greatest love. And sitting there lonely, uncomfortable, abandoned, and humiliated, he still refused to remain quiet about his greatest love. He worshiped. He didn’t write to the other believers to complain about how he had been treated, or to plead with them to petition for his release, or to wallow in self-pity as a prisoner. No, he wrote to tell them to rejoice in Jesus — to remember and proclaim his name.

He says later in his letter, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4) — from prison. Do not waste your heart worrying about me or pitying me. Enjoy Jesus with me.

To Live Is Christ

What does it mean when Paul says, “To live is Christ”? When we look at the verses before and after, we see that it means at least two things. In the verse before, he says, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). “To live is Christ” means to live for Christ — to honor him with the life he has given us.

In the following verses, he says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:23–25). “To live is Christ” means to spend yourself for others’ faith in Christ — to work and sacrifice and plead for them to believe and enjoy him.

As we live, and rejoice in Christ even when the worst happens, striving to honor him in what he has called us to do while we are here, we are doing whatever we can to bring others to him.

To Die Is Gain

But up until now we’ve only sung half of Philippians 1:21: “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Christ will never be truly sweet to us while we’re alive here on earth unless we believe that life will get better with him after we die. Again, Paul says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” If we try to live for Christ now without wanting to be with Christ, we’re probably not really living for Christ. We’re probably living for ourselves.

The key to living for Jesus, even alone behind bars, is to anchor our brief life here in our joy in him. If we can begin now, by faith, to taste the better waiting for us in eternity, we will be better equipped and motivated to make the most of our circumstances today — whether they are good or bad, hard or happy, expected or unexpected, whether we are free or in prison.

Abandoned or Acclaimed

Some of you don’t need to be told to run to Jesus if you get thrown in prison. In fact, you only cry out to him when you’re in trouble. But this is a name for trials and victories, for abandonment and acclaim, for the lowest moments and the highest ones. Paul says in the same letter from prison, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:12).

What is the secret of joy and contentment in the face of whatever life brings? It’s centering and anchoring our joy and contentment in Christ, rather than in our circumstances.

John Piper says   “When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.”