Why Do We Want to Go to Heaven? (Part 2)

Continuing from yesterday….we hear this desire on the very lips of Jesus himself: “this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). God does not merely give us eternal life, he is the life, the very source and essence of eternal life (John 11:25–26). 

Substance, Sun, Ocean 

Few have seen the Heaven of heavens as clearly from Scripture as Jonathan Edwards

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows, but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the ocean. 

This does not devalue the shadows, the scattered beams, the streams of this world. Every good gift comes from God (James 1:17). The gift of himself, however, is what gives every other gift its inestimable value in the first place. They only devalue when separated from the Substance, the Sun, the Ocean. 

And every good and perfect gift we receive from God in the age to come, and whatever else he has prepared for us, will be far better than those we’ve received and experienced in this life (1 Corinthians 2:9). But still, they will never compare with the Joy of joys, the Love of loves, the Light of light, the Life of life, the Heaven of heavens. For God will always be, as Lewis says in Till We Have Faces, the one satisfying “place where all the beauty came from.” 

Taken from an article by John Bloom, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org 

Daily Light – Oct 12, 2020

Nothing Is for Nothing 

Accepting Loss and Finding Peace 

Article by, Vaneetha Rendall Risner, Author, Writer 

I brace myself as I walk into the house and hold the door frame. It’s a tiny step, if you could even call it that, but I can’t do it without help anymore. I almost lose my balance. My husband steadies me. Last month it wasn’t a problem, but now it is. 

When I get into the house, I plop down into a chair in frustration. I sigh heavily. Losses are constant nowadays, and I scarcely remember doing things that were effortless before my post-polio diagnosis. Painting into the night. Making a new gourmet meal that everyone loved. Going for walks and enjoying the outdoors with friends. None of that is part of my life anymore. 

Some days those things don’t bother me, but others, like today, it’s easier to dwell on what I’ve lost. The ‘can’t do anymores’ keep stacking up, and I wonder how I will get used to this life of continual loss. I know some people do, and sometimes with incredible grace. I want to be one of those people who accept everything easily, never seeming to question what’s given or taken away, grateful for everything they have. 

As I grieved the life I used to have, I silently asked, “Lord, show me what to do with this. I don’t want to let this frustration overwhelm me. I want peace.” Immediately, the familiar words came to mind: “in acceptance lies peace.” 

Ways to Forfeit Peace 

The four words are from a poem by Amy Carmichael entitled “In Acceptance Lieth Peace,” which she wrote after a broken leg left her bedridden, and in great pain, for the rest of her life. In the poem, Carmichael detailed the futile ways we often deal with loss. 

The first approach is to avoid any reminders of the past, trying to forget the hurt and move on. The second is to stay so busy that there’s no time to think about anything else. The third is denial, putting up a facade and pretending that there never was any pain. The fourth is to grimly resign ourselves to a life of unceasing misery. I wonder which of those four feels most familiar for you. The fifth and final approach is to accept this new way of living, knowing that God will walk us through. 

Though the first four options sound depressing, I confess I have tried them all. While they promised relief from the pain, they left me numb, strangling any hope for healing and joy. Life was reduced to mere existence as I plodded along from day to day, hoping the dull ache would go away. 

Indispensable Hardships 

But acceptance is different. It stops the turmoil, and leads to peace. This peace can only be found in Christ, in surrendering to his will, in trusting that every experience is part of his plan. He keeps us in perfect peace when we trust him and focus our minds on him (Isaiah 26:3). 

Elisabeth Elliot would agree. In a letter to her parents shortly after her husband Jim was murdered in 1956, she wrote, 

I know you are all wondering how I am getting along. I can only say that the peace I have literally passes all possible understanding. . . . “The Lord Jehovah is my strength and song.” I have learned, I believe, the lesson which Amy Carmichael speaks of in her poem — “In acceptance lieth peace.” How true. I accept, gratefully, from the hand of God, this experience. 

Gratefully accepting everything from God’s hand, including losing your husband, makes no sense apart from Christ. But because of her faith in a sovereign God, Elliot was able to experience God’s peace in tragedy. And almost fifty years later, she wrote, 

God included the hardships of my life in his original plan. Nothing takes him by surprise. Nothing is for nothing. His plan is to make me holy, and hardship is indispensable for that as long as I live in this hard old world. All I have to do is accept it. (Be Still My Soul, 32) 

All I have to do is accept it. It sounds simple. And in many ways, it is. But this acceptance is not fatalistic surrender. The kind of acceptance that leads to peace requires faith and trust in God. It involves looking at life through the eyes of faith, faith in an all-powerful, extravagantly loving, and incomprehensibly wise God who is engineering every detail of my life. 

Our powerful, loving, and wise God doesn’t make mistakes. So if he has allowed something into my life, it is the very best thing for me, all things considered. It will maximize my joy and deepen my faith. One day in heaven I will see how everything that God brought into my life was love. 

Dailiness of Loss 

While I am convinced of God’s love and purpose in my pain, I must repeatedly remind myself of these truths. Doubt and discouragement creep in as I struggle with the dailiness of loss and pain, with no apparent reprieve. 

At the beginning of any trial, I often feel buoyed by God’s Spirit, able to face the struggle ahead courageously. But after a while, I grow weary and impatient. I forget that the Lord is in my suffering and will walk with me through it. I must deliberately turn to God and ask him to help me — to accept the situation, to know his presence in it, and to have strength to endure it. In essence, to trust him. 

Only then can I truly find peace — a peace beyond understanding that guards my heart and mind in Christ (Philippians 4:7), that keeps me from fear (John 14:27), that transcends the troubles of the world (John 16:33). That is a lasting peace. 

In All My Circumstances 

Like many others, I have felt weary during this pandemic, wondering how long it will last. I am anxious for it to end and have this all-encompassing cloud lifted, so that I can resume life as it was before. I must constantly remind myself of the beauty and peace in joyful acceptance. These circumstances are not random or out of God’s control, but are all part of a loving Savior’s design. He is in all my circumstances and is using them to change me into the likeness of Christ. 

My husband and I went out to the front porch to talk and watch the sunset. As I walked through the doorway again, I was grateful. Looking around, I asked God to give me eyes of faith. I was reminded of all that God has done through my pain. Although I may always miss what I have lost, I do not long to have that life back. God is in my present life, and it is only here, in today’s circumstances, that I can meet him. 

I am embracing this life God has given me, deeply aware that in acceptance lies peace. In this joyful acceptance I find the Savior himself, who will one day transform my enduring suffering into my eternal joy. 

Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Desiring God, who blogs at danceintherain.com. She is married to Joel and has two daughters, Katie and Kristi. She and Joel live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Vaneetha is the author of the book The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering

Daily Light – Sept 21, 2020

A God of ‘Hope’ 

2 Part Study by David Niednagel, Pastor and Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning study and devotional time: study, observe, apply, pray). 

Part 1 

Christians have always been people of hope in dark and difficult times. But what do we mean when we say we have hope? We say God is in control, and that everything will turn out OK. But does that mean that our economy will improve? That people will get back to work and to school? That racial and political tensions will resolve? Is “hope” the same as optimism? 

Is optimism a Biblical quality? Was it for Jeremiah and the prophets? Sometimes, yes. But they had far more words of coming judgment than of blessing. And their words were often linked to the choices of the people of Israel. If they repented of their sin, there were promises of forgiveness and hope. If they persisted in their greed, oppression of the poor and idolatry they were assured of national abandonment by God and defeat at the hands of the surrounding nations. So what does it mean to have hope – whether now or any time in the past, or the future? 

Romans 15:13 says “ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” If we trust in Him we can overflow with hope no matter the circumstances, but only because of the nature of God. He IS a God of hope! But what does that mean? 

The word “hope” is both a noun and a verb. We use the verb to say “I hope it doesn’t rain today”. It is almost a synonym for “wish” but with some degree of optimism. We aren’t sure if the rain will pass us by, but we think maybe it will. The noun is stronger than merely a wish. It expresses a confident expectation that something will happen. It is not identical to faith, but similar.  

Note how it is used in some passages that have nothing to do with spiritual issues: 

1Cor 9:10 “whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.”  When a workman is hired to do a job he/she has a confident expectation that they will be paid.  

1Tim 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Wealthy people try to store up enough to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. But economies can crash, thieves can steal, etc, and we cannot have a confident expectation that our money will be our security. However, if God is our Father, and has provided our salvation, we can have confidence that He will supply enough for eternity. 

Note that Paul commanded them the consciously put their hope in God. By an act of their will they could declare that they were no longer going to trust in their wealth, but trust God for their future. And they were to show it by using their wealth to meet the needs of people as God’s agents. 

Lord, I praise You that You are a God of Hope and that I can overflow with hope no matter the circumstances if I consciously decide to trust You when conditions are scary. Help me trust you for my future, and live in a way that shows You are dependable. Amen 

(Part 2 tomorrow)

Daily Light – July 13, 2020

When Every Other Word Fails

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! (Revelation 4:8)

What, if anything, might you say when you stand for the first time before the throne of God?

In that moment, you might say, “Woe is me!” as the prophet did when he saw a vision of God on his throne (Isaiah 6:5). It wouldn’t be inappropriate for us to sense our utter unworthiness and inadequacy, to freshly perceive the chasm between us, as creatures, and our Creator — and not just as creatures, but as sinners. We have rebelled against the one who made us, the one to whom we owe all honor and allegiance. We cannot stand before him, on our own two feet, as deserving of anything more than his righteous wrath and judgment.

When Words Fail

Yet, in that moment, before God himself, however much woe we might own, it would not be right to focus much on ourselves. Surely, in the immediate presence of God Almighty, we would lift our eyes beyond our inadequacy and failings, and behold his glory, and declare his praise. And as we open our mouths to speak, to try to ascribe to our Lord the glory due his name, what might we say?

Would not human language fail us? What do you say, in finite human words, when standing before the infinite God? Can any word or statement match such a moment? Will not any language we reach for prove trivial and inadequate? Perhaps we won’t even be able to muster a word, but just stand in awe and silence.

But if, here, in the presence of God, we are able to utter one word of praise, we do have something to say. And say again, and again.

Holy, holy, holy.

Cry Out, Sing Holy

When the prophet Isaiah caught a glimpse of God in heaven, seated on his throne, he saw in God’s presence the six-winged celestial creatures, called seraphim, crying out to one another in praise of God, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). Before the prophet felt the weight and tarnish of his own sin, and declared woe on himself, he first heard, and was caught up into, the angelic praise of heaven — not just holy, but holy, holy, holy.

So also the apostle John, centuries later, when he peeked into heaven, saw “four living creatures, each of them with six wings . . . and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8).

God has given us a word that is especially fit for declaring his praise when all other language fails us. We often praise him in ways we can understand, borrowed from our finite and limited human experience. We praise his strength, his love, his justice, his mercy. But we also grow to realize, in fits and bursts, that God’s value and worth not only fill up our human categories but far surpass them. He is even more strong than we know. Even more loving. Even more just. Even more merciful.

In those moments, when we sense we have exhausted the comparisons to our world and experience, we have a word to reach for: holy. When we’re aware of his uniqueness, that he is in a class by himself, utterly set apart from us, higher than us and gloriously other, we cry holy. When we catch but a glimpse of his infinite intrinsic value — and wonder in worship, Who else is like this? — we bow and cry holy, holy, holy.

Who Else? What Other?

No one else wields the authority of our God. No one else commands the hosts of heaven. No one else makes kings — not just some kings, but one day soon all kings — bow down. No one else can make darkness itself tremble with a whisper.

No other glory is like his. No other deserves such praise. No other splendor outshines the sun. No other beauty, no other power, no other name is like his, consuming like fire, raising the dead, unshakably triumphant — and all the more after those brief moments when it has looked to human eyes like defeat.

What more can we possibly say? Holy, holy, holy.

Come and Call Him Father

How, then, in the face of such authority, such glory, such power, do we not cower? How can we hear his summons and come with anything but dread? Why do we not flee, futile as it would be, from such majesty when we, in ourselves, are deserving of no more than woe?

Because the holy God is not only awesome in authority and power, but also in grace and mercy. Who else is like him? Who else is holy? Who else, as the capstone of his glory, rescues sinners like us from our failings? Who demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us?

This holy God sent his own Son. He offered him up for our sins. And he raised him from the dead, seated him at his right hand, and now, through faith in him, extends to us all the rights and privileges of divine sonship. Only the holy God.David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines

Daily Light – Feb 26, 2020

Live for Your Greatest Desire

Jesus

2 Part Article by John Piper

Part 2:

Pursue Real Pleasure

God offers himself to us as the infinitely valuable, infinitely beautiful, all-satisfying treasure of the universe for our full and everlasting enjoyment. That’s what it says in Psalm 16:11.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Full and forever. That cannot be improved on. There is nothing fuller than full, or longer than forever. And if we turn away from that offer — away from the everlasting pleasures in the presence of God as the fulfilment of our lifelong desire, by saying: I must deny myself that full and everlasting enjoyment of God — we are blasphemers and idolaters, and have rejected the word of Jesus. Listen to Jesus again:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

So, make no mistake about it. There is real self-denial. There is a real cross. Real suffering to endure for Jesus. A real death to die. The old John Piper must be crucified. I must daily count myself dead with Christ. There is real self-denial. Christianity is costly. It will cost many of you your lives — literally.

But! How does Jesus argue in the very next verse to motivate us to live this way — this sacrificial way? Here’s what he says:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:35)

Do you see how he is arguing for self-denial? Why should we not try to save our lives in the service of Jesus? Because if we do, we will lose our lives — forever. Why should we be willing to lose our lives in the service of Jesus in this world? Because if we do, we save them — forever.

Joy at Any Cost

So, what does the argument assume? It assumes that no true disciple will throw away eternal joy in God for a mere eighty years of comfortable, worldly self-indulgence. Disciples of Jesus are not idiots. Jesus is assuming that a true disciple desires joy in God forever more than we want all that this world can give. That’s the assumption. That’s the basic premise. That’s how the argument works.

If pursuing our desire — eternal joy in God — costs us everything here, then we will deny ourselves everything here. That’s how the argument works! This is how bold Christians are born. This is where risk-taking missionaries come from. This is where your world turns upside down.

No. No. No. We are not making a god out of our desires. Our desires make clear what our god is: this world, or God; our name, or his name; our fame, or his fame. Our desires are not what we worship. They are our worship. And what we desire most is our God. If you belong to Jesus, you say from the heart,

Your name and your renown are the desire of our souls. (Isaiah 26:8)

What Sustains Real Love

But someone else objects: “I can see where this is going. You are leading us from saying that we should desire the name and fame of Jesus above all things to saying that this desire should be the motive, the sustaining force, of all we do. Correct?” Yes. “Which means that every act of love becomes a pathway to the satisfaction of your desire for God. Is that right?” Yes. “And the satisfaction that you are hoping for in God enables you to bear the painful costs of love now. Right?” Right.

“How does that not contaminate love for others by turning it into self-seeking? You are going to get your desires satisfied supposedly in doing good for me. So, you ruin the moral beauty of love, by turning it into self-seeking. It’s all about you and your desires.” 

No Greater Sacrifice

So, again, let’s measure the force of this objection by looking at Jesus. Let’s look at Hebrews 12:1–2.

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, 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.

The writer pictures your life as a marathon. You see that in the first seven words: “Let us run with endurance the race.” You don’t need endurance for a 100-meter dash. You need strength. But for a marathon you need endurance. And the Christian life is a lifelong marathon of costly love. Paul said, “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). Life is one long race of love.

Jesus’s marathon lasted 33 years. And he ran the final hours of the race with a crown of thorns on his head and nails in his hands and his feet. And he finished. And, O God, I could wish that even in a group this large (believers and unbelievers) that we would all agree that there was not, nor ever will be, a greater act of love than the Son of God’s willing sacrifice of himself to save his enemies.

All for Joy

So, the question is: What was the sustaining force that enabled Jesus to keep running in love to the end, even with nails in his feet? The answer of the text is clear. You see it in the middle of the text.

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, 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.

“For the joy that was set before him” on the other side of suffering and death and resurrection. Which he could taste (see Hebrews 11:1). So, he considered the shame. (Criminals were crucified naked and reviled.) And he despised the shame. What does that mean?

He pictured shame as a kind of tempter. And he said, “Shame, I know what you are trying to do. I know the power you have to turn people away from the path of obedience and love. I know how you create in the human soul an almost irresistible desire not to be embarrassed or shamed. But listen to me, shame. I taste, right now, a joy ten thousand times greater than I would have by fearing you. Shame, I despise what you are trying to do — to create a desire in me stronger than my desire for the joy awaiting me on the path of this obedience. Be gone, shame. This joy, set before me, is too great. And my desire for it is absolutely invincible.”

And with that he endured the cross, and threw shame to the wind, and died for sin, and rose from the dead, and reached the joy that was set before him in the presence of his Father (John 17:524). So, mark this! The greatest act of love that was ever performed was sustained by the desire for joy in the presence of God.

Look to Jesus

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus . . . 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.

And when the text says “looking to Jesus,” it does not mean: “Don’t act like Jesus. Don’t be motivated the way Jesus was. Don’t let your love be sustained by the desire for joy in God’s presence.” No. “Looking to Jesus” does not mean: “Watch out! If you’re motivated the way Jesus was, you’re going to turn love into self-seeking. You’re going to ruin the moral beauty of sacrifice by making it the path to satisfaction of your own desire. Don’t be like that. Jesus is not a good model here.” That’s not what “looking to Jesus” means.

It means: Don’t try to be motivated in a more noble, more virtuous way than Jesus was. For the joy set before him he loved at the cost of his life. Trying to be better than Jesus is blasphemy.

True Christian Love

So, if every act of truly Christian love is, in fact, sustained by our desire for the joy of God set before us — the experience of hearing Jesus say, “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21); join me in my enjoyment of God, forever — if every act of truly Christian love is sustained by our desire and hope for that joy, then, why doesn’t that ruin every act of love, by turning it into self-seeking?

Or to put it crassly, since Jesus loved this way, why isn’t the cross of Christ mere selfishness? He died to have his own joy!

The answer is this: Selfishness is using or ignoring others to get your own happiness at their expense. But that’s not what is happening at the cross. Nor in any Christian act of love. Jesus is not using or ignoring others to get his own happiness. Jesus is suffering and dying precisely to include others in the very happiness he desires and hopes for — the joy set before him. It’s not called selfishness when you aim to increase your happiness in God by including others in it, especially when it costs you your life. This is not selfishness. It is love.

Desire of Our Souls

So, we circle back to the beginning. The flag waving over Passion 2020 is summoning you to experience a miracle in your life. The miracle of desire. A miracle because you can’t make it happen. It’s a gift. The flag of Isaiah 26:8 is waving. And the very Spirit that makes it wave is the Spirit that wakens your desire. God is calling you to embrace the miracle of saying from your heart,

Your name and renown [O Lord] are the desire of our souls. (Isaiah 26:8)

Nothing is more important in your life than the triumph of this desire over all other desires. If the name and fame of Jesus, the Savior, the Son of God, the King of kings, does not become your greatest desire, you will not only waste your life; you will lose it. But if Jesus becomes your greatest desire — though it may cost you your life — you will finish the race, take many with you, and together you will enter the joy of your master, forever.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.

Daily Light – Dec 24, 2019

Meditation and Devotional from David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  (David uses the S.O.A.P. method for his morning devotional:  study, observe, apply, pray.  (Friends: David’s recent morning study has been to focus on passages in the Bible that proclaimed that God would establish His King and Kingdom in the earth.  That God would send a Messiah.  Jesus is that promised Messiah.)

Celebration or Worship?

Luke 2; Matthew 2:1; Hebrews 1:6

Luke 2:8  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14    “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” … “20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, …  28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: …

30 … my eyes have seen your salvation, … 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” … 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, … She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Matt. 2:1  After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Heb. 1:6 “… when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 

When we think of Christmas, we primarily think of celebration – decorations, gifts, feasting. All good! And it is great to celebrate Jesus and His birth at Christmas. But these passages have a different emphasis – Angels, shepherds, Simeon, Anna, Magi all worshiped Him. They bowed, they praised, they gave God glory, they gave Him gifts (not each other). Why? Because the long promised and long awaited Messiah/Savior finally came. It was great joy for all the people! The announcement of His coming was good news for everyone! Everyone needs forgiveness and salvation! It is the most important gift anyone could receive because it determines our whole eternity, and it is better than any gift of health, wealth, comfort, etc. Whoever would give such a costly gift deserves WORSHIP.  And no one else could give it. So it is easy to conclude that grateful worship, whether words, songs, service or love, is 100% appropriate from 100% of those who hear about it.

And it is not just a good idea to worship Jesus, but God commanded the angels to worship Him – and they don’t receive the benefits of salvation like we do. Jehovah’s Witnesses make a major command not to celebrate Christmas or worship Jesus, because that is reserved for God alone. But this Hebrews passage shows clearly that God commanded the angels to worship Jesus, and we know from Jn 1, and Col 1 that Jesus is the true Creator God.

BTW – We do “worship” what impresses us most. We stand and cheer wildly for sports teams, entertainers and celebrities. We devote time and money to hobbies and causes we desire. It is natural! So if we don’t worship Jesus, it is because we haven’t reflected on Who He is and what He actually did. At least not recently. When we first get married we express praise and devotion to our beloved, but as time goes on we tend to take them for granted. But if we continue to think about their character and life, we will continue to express thanks, praise and devotion to them, even though they are not perfect.

Worthy LORD, I gladly worship You as my Creator and Savior! There is no other person or God who could create or save us. You deserve all my loyalty, gratitude, love, and service, and I want to be faithful to give it to You always. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight – may they be appropriate to Your greatness and bring You pleasure –  O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Ps 19:14) Amen.

Daily Light – Nov 5, 2019

Silhouette Photo of Tree

We Dare Not Ignore the Devil

Article by Jon Bloom, Staff writer, desiringGod.org

A.W. Tozer once memorably said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Though I agree with C.S. Lewis’s response to this line of thinking — that “how God thinks of us is . . . infinitely more important” than how we think of him — Tozer’s point is still crucial: “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (The Knowledge of the Holy, 1). How we think about God determines how we live.

Now, what comes into your mind when you think about Satan and his demons? Certainly, it is not the most important thing about you. And what God thinks about Satan and demons is infinitely more important than what we think of them. But what we think about the demonic realm is certainly not unimportant.

“We must be more willing to be considered fools than to cruelly leave people the victims of enslaving evil.”

What do we think of what God has to say about the existence and activity of devils in Scripture? How seriously do we take what he says — not just in creed but in deed? How much does a conscious awareness of spiritual warfare functionally factor into our daily life? How does it affect how we pray? How does it inform the ways we see our areas of chronic temptation, fears, family dynamics, church conflicts, physical and mental illnesses, inhibited gospel fruitfulness, geopolitical events? What kinds of strategic spiritual action do we take in response to these things?

These are important questions. Because how we think about satanic forces also determines in significant ways how we live.

Are We Ignorant of His Designs?

The New Testament authors wrote with a profound awareness of the cosmic war they were involved in. They determined to “not be outwitted by Satan; for [they were] not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

“The devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) factored prominently in Jesus’s life, teaching, and miracles. From his temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 4:1–11) to the events surrounding his crucifixion (John 13:27), Satan and his forces were an ever-present reality. Jesus taught that demons actively enslave people (Luke 13:16), actively seek to gain influence over religious leaders and institutions (John 8:44), and actively oppose and seek to undermine and corrupt gospel work (Luke 8:12). He also taught that Satan understands his massive influence in the world as his “kingdom” (Luke 11:17–18). When Jesus’s closest disciples described his miraculous ministry, they said, “he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).

When Jesus commissioned his early apostolic leaders, he sent them into a world of unbelievers “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). They understood that they — and all Christians — are involved in a war in which “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

“What comes into your mind when you think about Satan and his demons?”

And they repeatedly warned Christians to “be sober-minded [and] watchful” because “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). They did not want us to be ignorant of Satan’s designs.

The question we need to ask ourselves, especially we Christians in the West, is this: Are we ignorant of Satan’s designs?

Test Case

Here’s a test case. How did you emotionally respond to my earlier mention of “physical and mental illnesses” as possibly being caused or exacerbated by demonic beings? Did it provoke some level of cultural embarrassment because the idea sounds so unscientific, even superstitious? Or did it provoke some defensive anger because, especially when it comes to mental illness, you want to emphatically state that no one should assume the affliction is demonic?

Now, before any qualification, let’s take a moment to assess our emotional reactions. If we feel some embarrassment, why? If we feel some defensive anger, why? What’s fueling our responses? How much are they fueled by an accurate biblical understanding of demonic involvement, and how much are they fueled by our personal experiences and/or our culture’s naturalistic assumptions about everything?

It’s important that we query our responses and not accept them too easily. They might expose an unbiblical imbalance or blind spot. Every era has its spiritual blind spots, and demonic forces will, by all means, capitalize on them. The first century had its blind spots, and we have ours. We are naïve to think they don’t significantly affect us. That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired the New Testament writers to instruct Christians of all eras to be sober-minded and watchful, and not be ignorant of satanic schemes.

No, certainly not all physical and mental illness is caused or exacerbated by demonic beings. The Bible doesn’t teach this, nor have the vast majority of Christians throughout history believed this. This is why at Desiring God, along with many resources on spiritual warfare, we also have many resources on mental illness, disease, and disability.

Cost of Supernaturalism

But Western evangelicals in general are not in danger of an overapplication of demonization. We are far more in danger of under-application — of a functional, unbiblical naturalism. This is partly due to cultural blind-spot assumptions. But increasingly, it is also a result of the growing cultural cost of supernaturalism.

“Every era has its spiritual blind spots, and demonic forces will, by all means, capitalize on them.”

We live in post-Enlightenment cultures that consider the biblical, supernatural worldview to be a foolish religious hangover from the Dark Ages. The very idea of a demon-haunted world is ridiculed. But not only is it considered foolish; it is quickly being considered abusive to insinuate that a person might be afflicted by a demon. From a naturalistic perspective, such an assertion only heaps shame on someone already suffering — all because people like us aren’t willing to let go of an archaic worldview whose time is long past.

This packs an emotional punch, often landing on our spiritual solar plexus. Suddenly, the issue is binary: either demons exist and the denial of them (explicitly or functionally) is cruel, or demons don’t exist and the diagnosis of them is cruel. None of us wants to be cruel; we want to help, not harm, the afflicted. But one side of the binary is cruel. One might accurately call it demonic.

Stand Firm

For Western Christians, this means if we want to seriously engage in the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and see many people “turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18), we must be willing to endure the cultural shaming (perhaps eventually worse) that will come from taking demons seriously. We must be more willing to be considered fools than cruelly leave people the victims of enslaving evil.

How we think about satanic forces, and how seriously we take God’s instruction to us about them, determines how we live. The more aligned we are with the Bible’s view of reality, the more faithfully we will follow Jesus, the more spiritually helpful we will be to people, and the more damage we will wreak on the domain of darkness. But we also will bear the reproach Jesus endured (Hebrews 13:13).

The Bible is a robustly supernatural book. The spiritual war between God and his angels and the devil and his angels, and human beings on both sides of the conflict, fills its pages from cover to cover. And here’s the way it instructs us to live:

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10–13)

Let’s take this seriously. Let’s not leave people captives to demonic schemes. And let’s stand firm in the assault.

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by SightThings Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and make their home in the Twin Cities.

Daily Light – December 31, 2018

You Need Not Worry About Next Year

(article by Sam Allberry, Guest Contributor)

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

Whenever I read those familiar words, I find myself asking myself, Do I know this? Do I live from it? The new year gives each of us an opportunity to test the anchor of our souls, especially inside the waves of fear and anxiety about the future.

“Becoming a Christian does not mean that we are now immune from awful things happening to us.”

It’s important to see that Paul says, “All things work together for good.” Not, “all things are good.” Becoming a Christian does not mean that we are now immune from awful things happening to us. That may be the teaching of some leaders in the world today, but you will not hear it from God himself in Scripture. We suffer the same illnesses, financial challenges, bereavements, work stresses, relational heartaches, accidents, and challenges as anyone else in this damaged world we live in. We suffer like anyone else. In some places in the world, we even suffer more because of our faith in Jesus. As we faithfully follow Christ, something awful may happen in the next twelve months.

Paul is not saying nothing bad will come our way in the Christian life; he is saying that God can take whatever comes and make it serve our good. He is not responsible for evil, but even evil and suffering cannot escape his perfect purposes for us.

All Things in 2019

This verse has been given to us because it is going to be exactly what we need to hear. Paul has already outlined the basic shape of the Christian life — sufferings now, glory to come (Romans 8:17) — a shape derived from the ministry of Christ himself. In a world full of painful waiting, this verse is an indispensable resource for us to take into this new year. We’re going to need to know that God is able to take everything that happens to us and use it for our ultimate good.

“All things” means everything that happens to us, including the very worst things that might happen. Even those things are not outside the scope of God’s loving purpose for our lives. In the Old Testament, Joseph could look back on the unspeakable evil his brothers did to him and say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Worry tells us they meant it for evil — that it happened while God was distracted. Faith reassures us that God means it for good.

This “working all for good” is most clearly seen in the death of Jesus (Acts 4:27–28). It was the very worst thing ever to happen on earth. Yet through it God was able to bring about incalculable and eternal good.

The Good All Things Will Serve

“This next year will be one moment after another of God working things out for your ultimate good.”

So what does this mean in practice? However the last year has been for you, God could not have been more good to you than he has been. It may have been a very painful year for you (it was one of the hardest I’ve had). That may be so. But this is God’s word to us about this past year. It will be no less true of the year to come. This next year will be one moment after another of God working things out for your ultimate good.

Perhaps aware that it will be hard for some of us to believe, Paul shows how this truth is backed up by the verse that follows it: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).

This is the good to which all things in your life are working — that you become like Jesus. We struggle with seeing the goodness of God because we struggle to understand what ultimate goodness looks like. Our view of what is good falls so far short of God’s. Verses like this remind us that God knows far, far more about what is ultimately best for us than we do. God is not working all things so that this life will be one of financial riches, good health, or popularity. God is working all things so that we will become more and more like his Son.

Nothing to Worry About

As Christians, we are those who love God and who have been called according to his purpose. It is not that we first loved God and, in response, he called us to be blessed by him; it is precisely the other way around. The call of God is how we have come to know him and are able to love him. Not perfectly, but truly. We have a new heart and affection for God. We do love him. However deep your sinful impulses go, a Spirit-given love for God is found deeper still. And this promise is for you: God is working all things for your good — for your conformity to his Son.

“However the last year has been for you, God could not have been more good to you than he has been.”

That is what God wants most for me. That is what I ought to want most for myself. Nothing in my life could be greater than this. There is not a single thing in all of creation, history, and reality that God will allow to get in the way of it.

Which must mean, there is not a single thing I need to worry about. If all things are being worked by God for my good, then God has ordered all things in my reality in the way I most need them to be. Worry on my part will only indicate that there are greater depths in my heart to which I need to apply this truth. I know what it means to struggle with anxiety. But if we are in Christ, we need not worry about next year. There is not one moment we need to fear. Every second of it, God will be working to make us more like Christ. What could be better than that?

(Sam Allberry is an apologist and writer for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and a consulting editor for The Gospel Coalition, and is based in Maidenhead, UK. He is the author of Is God Anti-Gay? He is also a founding editor of Living Out, a resource to help the church faithfully navigate issues of human sexuality.)

Daily Light – December 27, 2018

Three Christmas Presents 

(devotional by John Piper)

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. . . . My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 3:7–82:1–2)

Ponder this remarkable situation with me. If the Son of God came to help you stop sinning — to destroy the works of the devil — and if he also came to die so that, when you do sin, there is a propitiation, a removal of God’s wrath, then what does this imply for living your life?

Three things. And they are wonderful to have. I give them to you briefly as Christmas presents.

Gift #1. A Clear Purpose for Living

It implies that you have a clear purpose for living. Negatively, it is simply this: don’t sin — don’t do what dishonors God. “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

If you ask, “Can you give us that positively, instead of negatively?” the answer is: Yes, it’s all summed up in 1 John 3:23. It’s a great summary of what John’s whole letter requires. Notice the singular “commandment” — “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” These two things are so closely connected for John he calls them one commandment: believe Jesus and love others. That is your purpose. That is the sum of the Christian life. Trusting Jesus, loving people the way Jesus and his apostles taught us to love. Trust Jesus, love people. There’s the first gift: a purpose to live.

Gift #2. Hope That Our Failures Will Be Forgiven

The second implication of the twofold truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins is this: We make progress in overcoming our sin when we have hope that our failures will be forgiven. If you don’t have hope that God will forgive your failures, when you start fighting sin, you give up.

Many of you are pondering some changes in the new year, because you have fallen into sinful patterns and want out. You want some new patterns of eating. New patterns for entertainment. New patterns of giving. New patterns of relating to your spouse. New patterns of family devotions. New patterns of sleep and exercise. New patterns of courage in witness. But you are struggling, wondering whether it’s any use. Well, here’s your second Christmas present: Christ not only came to destroy the works of the devil — our sinning — he also came to be an advocate for us because of experiences of failure in our fight.

So, I plead with you, let the fact that failure will not have the last word give you the hope to fight. But beware! If you turn the grace of God into license, and say, “Well, if I can fail, and it doesn’t matter, then why bother fighting sin?” — if you say that, and mean it, and go on acting on it, you are probably not born again and should tremble.

But that is not where most of you are. Most of you want to fight sinful patterns in your life. And what God is saying to you is this: Let Christ’s covering of your failure give hope to fight. “I write this to you that you might not sin, but if you sin you have an advocate, Jesus Christ.”

Gift #3. Christ Will Help Us

Finally, the third implication of the double truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins is this: Christ will really help us in our fight. He really will help you. He is on your side. He didn’t come to destroy sin because sin is fun. He came to destroy sin because sin is fatal. It is a deceptive work of the devil, and it will destroy us if we don’t fight it. He came to help us, not hurt us.

So here’s your third Christmas present: Christ will help overcome sin in you. First John 4:4 says, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Jesus is alive, Jesus is almighty, Jesus lives in us by faith. And Jesus is for us, not against us. He will help you in your fight with sin in the new year. Trust him.