Daily Light – Dec 13, 2019

What’s the deepest longing of the human heart? What’s your deepest desire? What’s the thing you want most? There’s an answer to that question, and it’s the focus of today’s episode.

Here now is Pastor John reading chapter one from his wonderful book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, a chapter that answers the question, What is the deepest longing of my heart?

The heavens declare the glory of God. (Psalm 19:1)

God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Meaning of Heaven and Earth

The created universe is all about glory. The deepest longing of the human heart and the deepest meaning of heaven and earth are summed up in this: the glory of God. The universe was made to show it, and we were made to see it and savor it. Nothing less will do. Which is why the world is as disordered and as dysfunctional as it is. We have exchanged the glory of God for other things (Romans 1:23).

“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). That is why all the universe exists. It’s all about glory. The Hubble Space Telescope sends back infrared images of faint galaxies perhaps twelve billion light-years away (twelve billion times six trillion miles). Even within our Milky Way there are stars so great as to defy description, like Eta Carinae, which is five million times brighter than our sun.

“The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul.”

Sometimes people stumble over this vastness in relation to the apparent insignificance of man. It does seem to make us infinitesimally small. But the meaning of this magnitude is not mainly about us. It’s about God. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” says the Scripture. The reason for “wasting” so much space on a universe to house a speck of humanity is to make a point about our Maker, not us. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these [stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).

God at the Center

The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and enjoy the glory of God. We were made for this. “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth . . . whom I created for my glory,” says the Lord (Isaiah 43:6–7). To see it, to savor it, and to show it — that is why we exist. The untracked, unimaginable stretches of the created universe are a parable about the inexhaustible “riches of his glory” (Romans 9:23). The physical eye is meant to say to the spiritual eye, “Not this, but the Maker of this, is the Desire of your soul.” Saint Paul said, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Or, even more precisely, he said that we were “prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23). This is why we were created — that he might “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy” (Romans 9:23).

The ache in every human heart is an ache for this. But we suppress it and do not see fit to have God in our knowledge (Romans 1:28). Therefore, the entire creation has fallen into disorder. The most prominent example of this in the Bible is the disordering of our sexual lives. Paul says that the exchange of the glory of God for other things is the root cause for the homosexual (and heterosexual) disordering of our relationships. “Their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature . . . the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:26–27). If we exchange God’s glory for lesser things, he gives us up to lived-out parables of depravity — the other exchanges that mirror, in our misery, the ultimate sellout.

“The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and enjoy the glory of God.”

The point is this: We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for images, everything is disordered. The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. And when it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center.

Starved for Glory

We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self. Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of a mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image? It is a great sadness that this is the gospel of the modern world.

But it is not the Christian gospel. Into the darkness of petty self-preoccupation has shone “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Christian gospel is about “the glory of Christ,” not about me. And when it is — in some measure — about me, it is not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of him forever.

Greatest Good of the Gospel

What was the most loving thing Jesus could do for us? What was the endpoint, the highest good, of the gospel? Redemption? Forgiveness? Justification? Reconciliation? Sanctification? Adoption? Are not all of these great wonders simply means to something greater? Something final? Something that Jesus asked his Father to give us? “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” (John 17:24).

The Christian gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” because its final aim is that we would see and savor and show the glory of Christ. For this is none other than the glory of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). When the light of the gospel shines in our hearts, it is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And when we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2), that hope is “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The glory of Christ is the glory of God.

In one sense, Christ laid the glory of God aside when he came: “And now, Father, glorify me together in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). But in another sense, Christ manifested the glory of God in his coming: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Therefore, in the gospel we see and savor “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And this kind of “seeing” is the healing of our disordered lives. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

A Prayer

O Father of glory, this is the cry of our hearts — to be changed from one degree of glory to another, until, in the resurrection, at the last trumpet, we are completely conformed to the image of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Until then, we long to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord, especially the knowledge of his glory. We want to see it as clearly as we see the sun, and to savor it as deeply as our most desired pleasure. O merciful God, incline our hearts to your word and the wonders of your glory. Wean us from our obsession with trivial things. Open the eyes of our hearts to see each day what the created universe is telling about your glory. Enlighten our minds to see the glory of your Son in the gospel. We believe that you are the All-glorious One, and that there is none like you. Help our unbelief. Forgive the wandering of our affections and the undue attention we give to lesser things. Have mercy on us for Christ’s sake, and fulfill in us your great design to display the glory of your grace. In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.

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 12, 2019

2 Samuel 7:8-16  “I Will Establish The Throne”

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.)

2 Samuel. 7:8  “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth… 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 … and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ” 

David was not from any kind of noble or royal family. God called him when he was a kid tending sheep. (1Sam 16:12 He was “ruddy” – he still had pink cheeks and no beard yet). David had many wonderful traits, and plenty of terrible ones, but God chose him to be king, and He chose to establish a descendant of David as the Messiah, the greatest King of all time. Neither David nor his descendants deserved this honor. No human did. It was God’s sovereign and merciful choice. But God chose to work through people with faults – because that is the only kind there is – people with faults.  

Lord, I praise You for Your Sovereign plan and mercy. David was shocked, “flabbergasted” with Your promise. But he didn’t get the benefit of that promise. It happened after he died. Neither David nor I nor anyone else deserves anything good from You, yet You have given us every spiritual blessing in Christ. Your plans and Your mercy are beyond anything we could ever anticipate. You have indeed “lavished” grace on us by choosing us and adopting us into Your family to be co-heirs with this Messiah that You promised to David. (Eph 1:3-10)  So even though we are less deserving than the shepherd boy David, we get ALL the blessings of the Greatest King of all time. 

May my mind and my heart be filled every day with humble gratitude for all You have done for all who are in Christ. Convict me whenever I am selfish and help me give my whole life loving and serving You for all Your Sovereign mercy!  Amen

Daily Light – Dec 11, 2019

The Voice That Made the World

Hearing Our Long-Awaited Prophet

Article by Chris Bruno, Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary

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. (Hebrews 1:1–2)

This Advent, as we await our promised Messiah, we wait for a prophet, for Jesus fulfills the message of the prophets and speaks for God in the greatest possible way.

Throughout Israel’s history, God sent prophets to his people to speak on his behalf, to call them away from the unfaithfulness of idolatry and back to him. They spoke on behalf of God with a message to his people and to the world. Even in the Old Testament, however, the ministry of the prophets pointed beyond themselves to a great prophet yet to come.

God’s Spokesmen

The popular impression of the Old Testament prophets might be something akin to fortune-tellers, but their primary role was more “forth-telling” than “foretelling” the future (How to Read the Bible, 67–90). That is to say, the prophets were focused on pointing out the reality of sin and its consequences in the world now, not so much on predicting what is going to happen at the end of the world. Even when they did speak about future events, they did so to lead to repentance and ongoing faithfulness to the Lord.

Probably the best-known introduction to the prophetic oracles is “Thus says the Lord . . .” This phrase appears over four hundred times in the Old Testament. Virtually every time, a prophet is announcing a message directly from the Lord. The prophets were the mouthpiece of God, announcing both good and bad news, and reminding Israel of God’s will and the consequences of disregarding it.

“All people will ultimately hear the name and voice of Jesus and bow the knee to him.”

God called the prophets from Israel to speak mainly to Israel. They warned of the looming exile that would decimate both northern and southern kingdoms. They lamented the ongoing sin and idolatry of God’s people (for example, Isaiah 1:2–31) and described the Lord’s departure from the temple because of the ongoing sin of his people (Ezekiel 10:1–22). But the prophets also reminded Israel of God’s ongoing commitment to his covenant. A day was coming when the Lord would remove sin and return to dwell among his people again (Isaiah 52:13–53:12Zechariah 8:1–8).

Even though the prophets spoke mostly within Israel, the message of the prophets was not only for Israel. After all, they spoke on behalf of the God who created heaven and earth and everything in them. They spoke of coming judgment not only on Israel, but also on the nations who arrogantly acted as if they were independent of their Creator God (Obadiah 1–21). Yet their message also held out hope for the nations. When God worked to restore Israel, he would include the nations in his people as well (Zechariah 14:9–21).

Prophet Like Moses

In spite of all that the Lord did and said through his prophets, their ministry was ultimately insufficient and incomplete. It was insufficient because Israel continued to rebel against the prophets, which was actually rebellion against God himself. Although there were times of repentance and restoration, the story of Israel in the Old Testament is ultimately a tragic story that ends in judgment and exile. Because of their continued sin, the presence of God departed from the people, and they went into exile in Babylon and Assyria. The Old Testament ends with the nation’s sin still festering and with the presence of the Lord still absent. The prophets’ message was left incomplete and unfulfilled.

Yet this should not have been surprising. Near the beginning of Israel’s history, Moses spoke on behalf of God to the people, giving them the law covenant and calling them to remain faithful. He also spoke on behalf of God to the nations, as he warned Pharaoh and Egypt of the coming plagues. But Moses himself spoke of a greater prophet to come: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers — it is to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

Throughout the Old Testament, this prophet did not emerge. As the Old Testament comes to an end, we are still looking for a greater prophet than Moses, the one who would speak God’s words to the people in a way that results in the lasting forgiveness of sin and the permanent presence of God among his people. They were waiting for the Prophet, and in the coming of the promised Messiah, they would find him.

Listen to Him

In Jesus, we encounter the prophet who is greater than Moses and every other prophet. At his transfiguration, when the Father announces that Jesus is his beloved Son, he adds the command, “Listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). This points us back to Deuteronomy 18:15: “It is to him you shall listen.” It is no accident that Moses and Elijah, two key prophets from the beginning and later part of Israel’s history, were present with him (Matthew 17:3). The message is clear: Jesus is the greater prophet — the greatest prophet — the living Word of God. In the Old Testament, the prophets spoke on behalf of God, calling both Israel and the world to submit to him and also warning both of God’s coming judgment and salvation. We see this mission embodied in the greatest possible way in the Messiah Jesus.

Jesus not only speaks on behalf of God; he is the very Word of God. In John 1, the Word dwells with God and is God, yet he also comes to “tabernacle” with us (John 1:114). The author of Hebrews tells us that he is qualitatively different than any previous revelation from God, for he is the very Son of God (Hebrews 1:1–2). He calls the people of God to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14–15). He warns of the coming judgment (Matthew 24:3–51). He calls the world to repentance (Luke 24:46–47) and sends his church into the world to speak on his behalf (Matthew 28:18–20). In short, he does all that the Old Testament prophets were called to do. Unlike the Old Testament prophets, however, his prophetic ministry is neither insufficient nor incomplete. The promised Messiah, Jesus, fulfills all that the prophets were anticipating. And this is good news for us.

“Even in the Old Testament, the ministry of the prophets pointed beyond themselves to a great prophet yet to come.”

Even as he went to the cross, Jesus continued his prophetic ministry, speaking the words of God to the people of God and to the world as he quoted from the Scriptures to the Jews and Romans who had gathered around Golgotha. At the cross, he was the servant who suffered for the people and fulfilled the words of the prophets who spoke of the coming atonement for sin (Isaiah 53:4–5). In his resurrection, he was shown to be the vindicated servant in whom the Lord was well pleased (Isaiah 53:10–12).

All the Earth Will Hear

The voice of the Old Testament prophets was often disregarded and mocked, even by God’s own people. Today, all God’s people hear Jesus’s voice, even as his words are disregarded and mocked in the world. But we can have confidence that all people will ultimately hear the name and voice of Jesus and bow the knee to him (Philippians 2:9–11). Even today, we can hear and submit to the voice of God in the words of Jesus.

During this Advent season, we can look to Jesus, our true prophet, the one who truly reveals God to the church and the world. He did what every other prophet before him could only hint at: he finally dealt with the sin of God’s people and restored his presence to his people. As he dwells with us, Jesus, the true prophet, speaks the very words of God to us. We look to him for hope, even in our darkest moments, with the confidence that in these last days God has spoken to us in his own Son.

Chris Bruno (@chrisbruno1) is assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Bethlehem College & Seminary and author of the book Paul vs. James: What We’ve Been Missing in the Faith and Works Debate. He and his wife, Katie, live in Burnsville with their four sons.

Daily Light – Dec 10, 2019

No Mere God

The Fascinating Tension in Jesus Christ

Article by Marshall Segal, staff writer, desiringGod.org

They feared they were about to drown. Had I been in their shoes, ankle deep and rising in water, feeling their boat give way to an angry storm, I probably would have begun to think of loved ones, of the goodbyes I’d never hear. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). It was perfectly human to fear death, pervasively human even (Hebrews 2:15).

Except for one human, who had been sleeping through the storm. He may have missed the natural disaster altogether, even as the water began to fill the boat and winds threatened to throw them overboard. Had any nap ever displayed more power? Had any sleep ever shined with as much beauty? He could rest, of course, because he trusted God perfectly. Indeed, as his men would soon discover, he was God. What might be lost on us today, though, is that he had to rest, because he was truly human like us. In fact, he was tired enough to sleep not just through a storm, but in a storm. He could put the seas to rest, and yet his friends still had to wake him.

“He could put the seas to rest, and yet his friends still had to wake him.”

With three words, “Peace! Be still!” the waves gave way and the wind retreated. Imagine the disciples, in one moment frantically watching their lives pass before their eyes, and in the next witnessing the heavens suddenly wave their white flag of surrender. Confronted with his unparalleled power and manifest frailty, his Godness and his humanity, they asked what any of us should ask: “Who then is this?”

Unsearchable Riches

That terrible night at sea, while unmistakably magnificent, is eclipsed in our collective memory by another night, more than thirty years earlier. In Bethlehem a child was born, as millions of babies had been before him, and yet utterly and gloriously different. The Son of God, who held the universe in his hands (Hebrews 1:3Colossians 1:17), laid in the arms of another — now fragile, vulnerable, needy. He never stopped ruling every molecule in every galaxy, yet he had to learn his letters, colors, and animals.

Before he made the world, he was already the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), but now he added a new title: newborn. We regularly stop to reflect and sing below the wondrous cross and before the empty tomb, but was the mystery of Christ’s majesty ever more poignant than in his infancy? How could God himself emerge from an ordinary womb without ceasing to be God? No one had ever seen God (John 1:18), and yet now we could hold him?

Beware of giving up too quickly before the mysteries of christology, of assuming these waters are too deep and choppy for you, and heading back to shore. None of us will fully grasp the depth and weight of his wonder — “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8) — but that means all of us have more to see. And I believe harder-to-understand facets of who he is actually are fitted to the needs, wounds, and longings we all feel.

Hypostatic Union

While the phrase may sound like something out of aerospace engineering, the hypostatic union is surprisingly, even intimately, personal: the Son of God, Jesus Christ, has a fully divine nature, and a fully human nature, wholly joined in one undivided person.

In early church discussions, the Greek word hypostasis came to refer to persons of the Godhead, in distinction from the natures (physis) of divinity and humanity. The hypostatic union, then, is the union in one person of two natures, human and divine. That any of us is just one person inspires very little, if any, controversy or confusion at all. Such is not the case with Christ. The Scriptures plainly attribute unmistakable facets of both the divine and human natures to him. We need a phrase like hypostatic union because of the fascinating tension we meet in Jesus of Nazareth: Was he truly God? Was he really man? We need some way of resolving, or at least labeling, what we thought we knew about God and humanity with what the Bible clearly says about the Jesus of history.

The tension, of course, is really no tension at all, but a mysterious, beautiful, and perfect harmony of two distinct natures in one person. Jesus is the Son of God, and he was never not God. And Jesus is human like us, and he, like us, will never not be human again. The hypostatic union is simply (and inexplicably) the union of Jesus’s two natures — his Godness and his manness — mysteriously, inseparably, arrestingly in one spectacular person.

“If we stay in the shallows of Christ, we should not be surprised if the truth has only shallow effects on our souls.”

Jesus did not become a person the day he was conceived, but he did add to his eternal person (or take on) a true and complete human nature. The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, became human, making himself vulnerable to heartache, sickness, temptation, and death. He did not lay aside his divinity — as if such a thing were even conceivable — and he did not borrow someone else’s body. He was truly God, and then became truly man as well. If he were not truly God, then whoever died on the cross, God did not die for our sins, and no other blood would suffice (Hebrews 10:4). And if Jesus were not truly man, “in every respect,” then he could not be the sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 2:17).

Chalcedon

In October of 451, church bishops came together to address serious controversies that had arisen over the person and work of Christ. The 521 participants wrote the Chalcedonian Creed, which has served as ground zero for the church’s understanding of the God-man ever since. The creed clarifies how Jesus’s two full and complete natures relate to one another in this singular person (and, in particular, how they do not relate to each other):

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man . . . to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably. . . .

The creed confesses the two natures of Jesus Christ in one whole person — what we call “the hypostatic union” — and then rules out four prevalent misunderstandings about the relationship between the natures in four carefully selected adverbs: inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably.

First, the two natures of Christ come together in one person without confusion. His divinity and humanity did not produce a third nature, but remain distinct. His divine nature is truly, thoroughly divine — God in every way — and his human nature is truly, thoroughly human — man in every way.

Second, his natures also never change. By fully taking on the human experience — body and soul — he in no way stopped being divine. The Son of God never stopped being and acting as God. The incarnation was not an interruption but a new manifestation of one and the same Son — not a subtraction but an addition.

“Was the mystery of Christ’s majesty ever more poignant than in his infancy?”

Third, while the natures are distinct, they do not divide Jesus. Perhaps this is the hardest tension for us to hold together with our finite minds. We do not know how he continued upholding the universe in his divine mind while he was learning to build furniture out of wood in his human mind, but we know the Son of God did both simultaneously — no division — in a way that surpasses our experience and imaginations as mere humans. As Stephen Wellum writes,

Whenever we look at the life of Christ and ask, Who did this? Who said this? Who suffered death for us? the answer is always the same: God the Son. Why? Because it is not the divine or human nature which acts and thus does things; rather it is the person of the Son acting in and through the divine and human natures. It is the Son who was born, baptized, tempted, transfigured, betrayed, arrested, condemned, and who died. It was the Son who shed his blood for us to secure our salvation. It is in the Son that all of God’s righteous demands are met so that our salvation is ultimately of God. It is the Son who also rose from the dead and who now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. (God the Son Incarnate, 306–7)

Last, the divinity and humanity have not been and cannot be separated — not since he was conceived, not when he was crucified, and not now as he sits, fully human, on the throne of heaven. Jesus will always be God, always be human, and always be one person.

Not One of Us Is Simple

Maybe the hypostatic union would not feel so overwhelming if we wrestled more with how mysteriously complex we ourselves are. We are, after all, each of us made in the image of an infinite God who is one essence and yet three persons. John Piper writes,

We mere mortals are not simple either. We are pitiful, yet we have mighty passions. We are weak, yet we dream of doing wonders. We are transient, but eternity is written on our hearts. The glory of Christ shines all the brighter because the conjunction of his diverse excellencies corresponds perfectly to our complexity. (Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, 32)

If we mistake ourselves for simple humans, the supremely fascinating tensions in Christ may scare us away from deeper wonder and worship. We’ll stay near the shore of Jesus’s glory, rather than wading further out into all that he is. And we will inevitably miss or even avoid aspects of him, aspects that might heal or satisfy the deeper, more complicated places in us. If we stay in the shallows of Christ, we should not be surprised if the truth about him has only shallow effects on our souls.

We all subtly (or overtly) gravitate to his mercy or his justice, his sovereignty or his humility, his boldness or his compassion, his Godness or his humanness. If we see Jesus as more God than man, however, he will often feel too far away and impersonal. If we are prone to focus on his humanity, and are not regularly awed by his transcendence, he may feel close and relatable, but his holiness and majesty will slowly and tragically begin to feel like obstacles to our relationship with him.

While we will never fully understand all of the complexities and fascinating tensions in Christ, we need all of him — merciful and just, sovereign and humble, bold and compassionate, patient and full of wrath, true God and true man.

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis.

Daily Light – Dec 9, 2019

God Uses Everything

Why Our Suffering Is Never Wasted

Article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Recently I was hurt by a friend over an insensitive comment she made. My first response was to get upset, and then I began mentally cataloging a list of grievances — remembering all the other times I’d been hurt by her.

It might have ended there, but when I came across these words from A.W. Tozer, I started thinking differently about the situation:

When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.

Everything that is happening to me is to make me more Christlike. Nothing is excluded. Joy and pain. Peace and turmoil. Fullness and emptiness. Suffering and ease. People who love and care for me. And people who hurt or ignore me.

God Governs Every Detail

Being aware that God is using everything to make me more Christlike does make me less anxious. My struggles, in Christ, are not God’s condemnation (Romans 8:1). God is always for me (Romans 8:32). He designs all my circumstances for my everlasting good (Romans 8:28). Everything in my life can direct me to Christ. Indeed, it should.

Suddenly, I stopped fretting about my friend’s comment and pondered why God might have brought this situation into my life. It was a simple question, but the answers revealed more about my heart than hers. My friend’s actions were an avenue for God to reveal a layer of sin in my life that I otherwise would have glossed over. As I saw the sin in my response, I was able to confess it to God and repent.

Whenever I feel annoyed or frustrated or angry, perhaps God is inviting me to examine my own heart instead of focusing my attention outward. Perhaps my irritation is an invitation from the Lord to go deeper with him. God may be doing something far more important and more lasting in me than what is happening to me.

“When we lose what is most dear to us on earth, we value our heavenly Father’s embrace even more.”

And because God governs everything that comes across my path, no experience is ever wasted. It can all be used to turn me to Christ because ultimately he works all things for good. My difficult circumstances can cultivate a dependence on Christ. Teach me to pray more fervently. Give me the opportunity for ministry. My successes can lead me to praise and thank God. To give him glory. To see my sin of pride and confess it. To learn humility by taking the low seat even in the limelight. Everything can be a stepping-stone to holiness.

Blessed at the End of Your Rope

Being hurt by a friend’s thoughtlessness is a world apart from being betrayed by a spouse or suffering from a debilitating disease, but the invitation from God is the same. I have experienced all three trials, and I can testify that God has used each of them, though it’s often through tears, to draw me closer to him. And as I draw closer, and I’m embraced by my Lord, I become more like his Son.

Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of the Beatitudes echoes this idea beautifully. In his Message paraphrase, Matthew 5:3–4 reads, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

Blessed at the end of your rope. Blessed when you’ve lost what’s most dear. In the eyes of the world, that sounds insane. It is the opposite of the world’s definition of “blessed.” To the world, being blessed is having everything you want and more. It is having your dreams come true. It is not being at the end of your rope and not losing everything that is dear to you.

But in God’s economy, being blessed takes on new meaning. We are blessed when we have no human resources. When we have nothing of our own to turn to. No human to rely on. When nothing seems to be going well. That is when God and his rule increases in our life. There is less of us. And more of God. When we lose what is most dear to us on earth, we value our heavenly Father’s embrace even more. His embrace is more dear, more precious, more spectacular than anything we could possibly have lost.

See His Loving Hand

Madame Guyon, a French Catholic writer from the 1600s, had a difficult life, marked by illness, neglect, and humiliation. At age 16, her father tricked her into marrying a man who was 22 years older and afflicted with gout. She became his nurse and cared for him tirelessly, living in her mother-in-law’s home, even after she spread vicious lies about her daughter-in-law.

Guyon’s prayers reflected her deep faith and trust in God’s character. She wrote, “O my God, you had my father deceive me when I wanted to be a nun so I would turn to you and let you love me.” She also penned, “O my God, you allowed my mother-in-law to spread those lies about me so that I would turn to you in humility and see how much you love me.”

Rather than growing bitter at the pain she’d endured, questioning the goodness of God, she chose to see God’s loving hand in it. She saw all her life as in God’s hands and all her circumstances as opportunities to draw closer to him. She was willing to trust God completely and surrender everything to him.

All Things His Servants

Psalm 119:90–91 says, “You have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.” All things are God’s servants. All things can, and will, be used by God to accomplish his good purposes for the everlasting joy and glory of his people.

“Everything that is hard and seems wrong in our lives is a divine invitation to turn to God.”

Everything that we face can make us more holy. Our annoyances can reveal our sin. People who hurt us give us opportunities to forgive. Our physical ailments teach us to depend on God. Our rebellious children train us to pray without ceasing. Everything that is hard and seems wrong in our lives is a divine invitation to turn to God.

To fully live out that perspective, we need to be present to each moment. To actively seek out and ask God what he is trying to show us. To be aware that God is always at work in our lives and to trust that every circumstance can draw us closer to him.

For everything that happens to us can make us more like Christ.

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 – Dec 6, 2019

Friends:   Yes this is a repeat article.   This article’s content has been tremendously helpful to me personally and to many others that have read it.   I have received a lot of feedback from readers about how this article has provided illumination of truth that is fostering growth and change.   I will repeat this article in our daily devotionals from time to time because of the great benefit we can all derive from absorbing the truth therein.  Please read this article as often as it is posted.  Work to absorb and digest. 

From an interview with John Piper

Let me give a short description of what the Bible teaches about what has already happened to you as a born-again believer in Jesus, and what has not yet happened to you. And this will give you some biblical ways of thinking about what you are actually experiencing. Let’s put this description of the already of your life and the not-yet of your life into the larger biblical description of what Christ has already done in the world, and what he has not yet done in the world.

Thy Kingdom Came

When Christ came into the world (you know this), he preached the kingdom of God. And in that preaching, he said two things:

1. The kingdom is here. It’s here right now: “Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21). “I am the King. My rule has arrived. In my miracles, in my teaching, in my perfections, in my love, in my death for sinners, in my resurrection, I am showing that my kingdom, my rule, my saving reign is here. The long-hoped-for, waited-for kingdom has come.” That’s the first crucial thing — essential thing — for Christianity to say.

2. “My kingdom is coming and is not yet here.” Luke 22:18: “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” What? I thought you said it had come. Why are you saying it’s coming? It’s coming, but not yet. So, in the big picture of history, the kingdom of God has already come in the person and work of Jesus. And yet, it has not yet fully come, completely come — not yet come with the fullest consummation.

I remember reading George Ladd one time, one of my New Testament professors years ago. He said, “The mystery of the kingdom is fulfillment without consummation.” Fulfillment without consummation — that captures the tension. Yes, the kingdom has come. The time is fulfilled. It is here. Repent. The King has come. But the consummation — there are so many things left that are not yet done that the kingdom promised to do. And that tension, affects virtually every part of the Christian life, including your struggle with past sins.

New and Old in Five Pictures

So, how does this work itself out in the life of individual Christians? Here are just a few biblical descriptions of the already–not yet reality in the Christian life.

1. Colossians 1:13–14: “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Wow, that’s already done — already transferred out of darkness into the kingdom of the Son. Glorious. That’s awesome. And then Colossians 3:3 says, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” It’s over. You’ve already passed beyond death. You are secure and hidden with Christ in God.

But now comes Colossians 3:5, with this imperative that suggests something is very much not complete. It says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”  It needs to be done. You are in heaven with Christ; now fight the sins of earth. You have died; therefore, put to death the old habits. And notice the therefore. The battle with sins that are not yet destroyed is because of the already being dead with Christ and being seated at his right hand.“You are in heaven with Christ; now fight the sins of earth.”

2. Here’s another picture of it in Romans 6:6: “We know that our old self was crucified with [Christ].” We’re done. It’s over. We’ve died. Romans 6:11: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Because something is not yet complete. You’ve got something to do with this. So again, the command to complete this, finish this, to bring your life into accord with your deadness, is based on the fact that you’re already dead.

3. Romans 6:12 says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body.” That’s the not-yet. And now the already of Romans 6:14, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Don’t let sin reign because it won’t reign. There’s the Christian way of life.

“Your new self has been created. It’s the work of God. You’re not forging a new self in Christ.”

4. First Corinthians 5:7 talks about getting sexual sin out of the church and out of our lives. It says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump.” So it’s picturing the church and the Christian life as a lump of dough, and leaven as sin penetrating the lump. It says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened.” So again, the command about getting out the leaven is based on the fact that there’s not any leaven. There’s the glorious already–not yet mystery as it applies to the Christian life. We are becoming what we are.

5. Ephesians 4:24: “Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” So put on what already has been created. Your new self has been created. It’s the work of God. You’re not forging a new self in Christ. You’re not. You’re not forging a new self in Christ. God made that. He created that. It’s already created, but you must put it on. Own it. Wear it. Become in practice what you are in Christ.

Become Who You Are

So, your ongoing struggle with sin is nothing new.

You already are new in Christ, and you are not yet perfected.

You are dead, and must put sin to death.

You are raised with Christ, and you must seek the things that are above.

You are a new self, and you must put on the new self.

You are unleavened, and you must cleanse out the old leaven.

Sin will not be king in your life, and you must not let sin have dominion.

And so here’s the key: every imperative, every command, every exhortation, every admonition given to a Christian should be passionately pursued and obeyed on the basis of what’s already true about us in Christ. We are commanded to become what we are in Christ.

So, what you are experiencing is the reality of what Paul calls in Romans 7:20 indwelling sin — the not-yet of sanctification. And you are now to put that sin to death because you have already died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. So, may God take this biblical picture of salvation deep into your life, and give you a great freedom.

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 5, 2019

Today’s Daily Light 

(Friends:  I have always been a reluctant ‘sufferer’.  There is nothing about pain and suffering, grief or sorrow, that I find myself easily embracing.  Thus I confess to you that I do not post today’s article as ‘if’ I am a mature ‘sufferer’.  I am not.  I do wish to be all He desires me to be, by His will, mercy, and grace.  Amen).

Someone Needs to See You Suffer Well

Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org

Few things fortify the soul against Satan’s deception like watching another Christian suffer with persevering faith. When we watch others walk through the valley of the shadow of death with purpose and joy in God, through ups and downs, their faithfulness and endurance inspire fresh hopefulness and vigilance. Elisabeth Elliot has been that kind of person for me (and countless others).

She and her husband, Jim, married on the mission field in Ecuador in 1953. Just three years later, Jim was speared to death, along with four other men, by the Huaorani tribe he was trying to reach with the gospel. Elisabeth received the news while caring for their 10-month-old daughter, Valerie. She writes,

God’s presence with me was not Jim’s presence. That was a terrible fact. God’s presence did not change the terrible fact that I was a widow. . . . Jim’s absence thrust me, forced me, hurried me to God, my hope and my only refuge. And I learned in that experience who God is. Who he is in a way I could never have known otherwise. (Suffering Is Never for Nothing, 15)

She married again after sixteen years, only to lose her second husband, Addison, less than four years later, to cancer. Some have suffered more, to be sure, but not most of us. And few have championed the precious good God can do through the terrible facts in our lives like Elisabeth did. Her testimony reminds me of another sufferer, the apostle Paul, who endured sorrow after sorrow with great joy and enduring faith.

Suffering Is Not a Detour

Prison was no detour for Paul. While anyone, even Christians, might have been prone to pity him, he saw the startling potential in his imprisonment. The worst hardships, he knew, were often the greatest highways for the gospel. He writes, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me” — wrongfully arrested, incarcerated, and left for dead (Philippians 1:20) — “has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). The gospel did not survive his imprisonment, but prospered while he suffered — no, because he suffered.

None of us naturally responds this way to suffering. Unexpected turbulence in life does not naturally overflow in bright hope and selfless love. Apart from grace, suffering makes us impatient, selfish, and despairing. We withdraw, turn inward, and are less concerned with (or even aware of) the needs of others. We often cannot see beyond the darkness we feel.

But the grace of God goes to work to create the opposite impulses, especially in suffering. Suffering was not a distraction, inconvenience, or detour for Paul, but a breakthrough for what he cared most about: the spread of the gospel and the glory of Jesus.

“Your suffering is not a detour.” 

Suffering Reveals What We Treasure

How did the gospel run while Paul sat alone in a cell? He tells us in the next verse:

It has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:13–14)

Suffering faithfully catalyzes the gospel in at least two great ways. First, suffering reveals our purpose and treasure like comfort and security do not. Everyone knew Paul was in prison for Christ (Philippians 1:13). Many were only exposed to his love for Jesus because he was mistreated and confined. If he did not suffer, they would not have been so powerfully confronted with his joy and message.

“Many will not be curious about the hope within us unless we suffer something that requires hope.”

Many in the imperial guard, for instance, may have never heard the gospel at all if Paul had not been locked away there. Many will not be curious about the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15) unless we suffer something that requires hope (1 Peter 3:13). Satan may still believe that a thick fog of suffering will obscure the faithfulness of God (Job 1:9–11), but faithful suffering brings his glory into greater, more compelling clarity. When you suffer, think about the people watching you suffer, and what they’re learning about Jesus.

Nothing Advances the Gospel Like Suffering

Suffering also catalyzes the gospel by encouraging and emboldening other sufferers. Again, Paul says,

Most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:14)

His enemies, in Jerusalem and in the spiritual realm, conspired to silence him in prison, but they could not stop, or even slow, the gospel. Their failed attempts to crush Paul’s spirit and testimony only threw gas on the fire of his ministry. As he suffered well, others said more, and more boldly. Who might finally speak up for Jesus because they saw you joyfully suffer for Jesus?

Nothing advances the gospel like suffering. For those who love God, all things not only “work together for good” (Romans 8:28), but work together to perfectly display the wisdom, power, and love of God. Against all our worst fears and assumptions, suffering well actually proves the gospel’s power over and over again, and spurs the spread of the gospel further and faster by inspiring boldness in others.

Don’t assume your suffering is a detour. Suffering may hinder or even halt a hundred things in our lives, but God loves to use our griefs to magnify our small visions of him. And suffering makes the gospel run with a pace unknown in prosperity.

Someone Needs to See You Suffer Well

As is often the case in God’s word, the words we may easily overlook in Philippians 1:12–14 might be the most instructive: “I want you to know . . . ” Even while Paul suffered in extraordinary and horrible ways, he was more concerned for others’ faith and joy in Jesus than he was for his circumstances.

“Suffering reveals our purpose and treasure like comfort and security do not.”

Paul wanted others to know that God can be trusted, no matter what comes, that the gospel cannot and will not be suppressed, that Jesus really is worth everything we might suffer. He is not writing, even from prison, to garner their pity or sympathy, but to rouse and fortify their devotion. What if we suffered with eyes like his, seeing the remarkable opportunity to encourage and inspire other believers, especially those who are suffering?

Paul writes elsewhere,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)

We don’t know all of God’s good purposes in suffering, but we do know that he uses our suffering to prepare us to comfort others. That means we often suffer, sometimes severely, in ways we don’t understand now, because we haven’t met the person who will one day be comforted by our story. Greater suffering requires greater comfort from God, which makes us greater comforters for others.

Deepest Waters and Hottest Fires

After all Elisabeth Elliot lost and endured, she could say,

The deepest things that I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God. (Suffering Is Never for Nothing, 9)

When deep waters and hot fires come, I want to know God like she did — and I want to help others suffer great pain and loss with as much spiritual fruit and hope in God.

Elliot lost a husband to murder and another to cancer. Paul suffered imprisonment, slander, beatings, and worse. The severity of their suffering, however, does not make their suffering irrelevant to ours. Whatever suffering God brings — whatever pain, whatever disappointment, whatever trial, however big or small — we should want to be able to say with Paul, “It has become known to all that my suffering is for Christ.”

We want others to finally meet Jesus because they saw him in how patiently we responded to unexpected delays at work. We want a brother or sister in the Lord to press on because we kept praising the Lord when the car broke down again or the basement flooded. We want another believer to speak up about Jesus because we shared with, and were rejected by, another neighbor. We want whatever we suffer, however big or small, to make God look more trustworthy and satisfying for anyone who might see how we suffer.

Someone needs to see you suffer well with Jesus. People need to see you clinging to his promises, treasuring his friendship, and praising his name when life is falling in on you. Some may not know how much they need to see you endure because their suffering hasn’t come yet. But it will. And when it comes, they will remember the saints who they have seen suffer well.

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis.