Daily Light – Sept 30, 2020

If You Could See What You Will Be 

Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

Some of the sweetest and deepest promises of God are also some of the most neglected, often because they either feel too great to grasp or because they don’t seem to immediately intersect with life today. For instance, is any promise more staggering and yet forgotten than what God says about our glory? The one worthy of all glory not only commands us to glorify him in whatever we do, but he also vows, almost unthinkably, to one day glorify us. Can you imagine it? 

You probably can’t, and that’s likely why you gravitate to other, more concrete promises: the canceling of sin, the hearing of prayers, the drying of tears, the helping in weakness. And yet all of these precious and very great promises lead to a promise so surprising it sounds scandalous: 

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3–4

Those who believe in God will not only be set free from sinning, healed from sickness, and delivered from death, but will “partake of the divine nature.” We will not only spend eternity with God, but we will genuinely become like God. 

What Will We Be Like? 

Now, we must say that, though we will be like him, we will not be him. We will partake of the divine nature; we will never own a divine nature. “I am the Lord,” God says. “That is my name; my glory I give to no other” (Isaiah 42:8). The qualification is vital — the difference between worship and blasphemy — but don’t let what God has not promised silence what he has: if you are in Christ, then you, yes you, will be glorified. 

When we are finally and fully glorified, the risen and glorified Lord Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). Or, as the apostle John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). 

What will we be like? What do we know about glorified humans? What can we expect in the bodies to come? The apostle Paul anticipates that very question, knowing we would struggle to imagine our current bodies made glorious: “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’” (1 Corinthians 15:35). As part of his answer, he compares the bodies we have to the glory we will be, and in at least four ways. 

Life Without Death 

The first distinction may be the most obvious: “There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. . . . What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:4042). The body we have can and will perish, but the body we will have can never die. Paul goes on: 

The dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:52–54

The dead — those who have already perished — will be raised imperishable. The dead will not only live, but be unable to die. 

How different will life be when death is an impossibility? Because of sin, every minute of life on earth has been laced with brevity, fragility, and futility. The whole creation, including our bodies, have been enslaved to corruption (Romans 8:21). Even after we know we will live forever, we still know we may die tomorrow. Cars may collide, hearts may fail, cancer may emerge, surgeries may backfire, influenza may overpower. Death mercilessly cuts, robs, cheats, and grieves — for now. But God will give us a body that death cannot harm or threaten. 

One day, after centuries of immortality, we may wake up and forget what it felt like to be perishable — to wonder if we or someone we love might die soon. We’ll lie in bed and wonder, instead, that death has been swallowed whole in victory. 

Life Without Sin 

Our new bodies will be imperishable, set free from even the possibility of death, and they will be cleansed of every hint of sin. “It is sown in dishonor,” Paul says; “it is raised in glory” (1 Corinthians 15:43). What does it mean that our bodies are sown in dishonor? It means we all like sheep have gone (and go) astray (Isaiah 53:6). It means none of us — no, not one — is without sin (1 John 1:8). It means we all, without exception, have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But one day, if you belong to Christ, you will be without sin. One day you will not fall short of the glory of God anymore. One day you will never go astray again. 

“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). We will not only be ourselves without the turmoil and consequences of sin, but we will be ourselves soaked in glory (Romans 9:23). Beholding glory, face to face, we will become glorious (2 Corinthians 3:18). We will radiantly reflect the power and loveliness of God like never before, and yet more and more into eternity. Reflecting on this glory, C.S. Lewis writes, 

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship. (The Weight of Glory, 45) 

Our glory, of course, will not ultimately be ours. But we will more than see the glory of God. We will experience his glory, becoming glorious with his glory. 

Life Without Weakness 

The next comparison may be the most immediately personal for many of us: “It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43). The longer we live in the bodies we have, the more acquainted we are with our weakness. That won’t be true forever. 

Weakness has a beautiful, God-designed, God-honoring, and temporary purpose. In a broken and weak world longing for healing, strength, and freedom, our weaknesses highlight the power of God to save and sustain. For now, “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). In glory, though, our power, not our weakness, will magnify his surpassing power. His power will always be greater than ours, but he will trade our frailty for real stability, ability, and strength. We won’t have to be content any longer “with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (2 Corinthians 12:10). We won’t have any to be content with. 

When we look back on our lives with the eyes and strength of redeemed bodies, weakness will likely be a faint and pleasant memory, like sleepless newborn nights. Pleasant, because we will be able to see just how much the pain and inconvenience of our weaknesses exalted his comfort, power, and love. For now, we experience his power through weakness, but then we will experience his power without weakness. 

Life Without Limits 

Lastly, Paul says, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44). This one may be the most difficult to grasp, at least immediately. Thankfully, Paul explains this one more than the others. “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). Adam received the breath of life (Genesis 2:7); Jesus gives life — abundant life, eternal life, glorious life. 

If we are born again, we are sons of both Adams. “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust” — sinful, weak, and subject to death — “so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven” — sinless, powerful, and victorious over death — “so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47–49). As broken, sinful, fragile, and vulnerable as we have been in Adam, we will be just as pure, strong, and invincible in Christ. 

Do not mistake, as many often do, a “spiritual” body to mean a spirit without a body. That would be the opposite of what God, through Paul, is promising. Perhaps the simplest, and most overlooked, blessing of our new bodies will be that they are bodies. We’re not destined to float through clouds and stars forever. We’re destined to live on a real earth like ours, with real bodies like ours, surrounded by blessings and experiences like ours, but all without the weakness, mortality, and sin that plague all we know and enjoy now. 

If You Could See What You Are 

As difficult as it may be to grasp or believe that God will glorify us, it is all the more startling to learn that, in some real sense, he already has. Paul writes, “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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We may have to wait for glory in full, but in Christ we already have glory in degrees. 

Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 15: “There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory” (1 Corinthians 15:40–41). To be sure, this earthly body pales next to the glory of the heavenly body, but God has given our earthly bodies a glory of their own, a glory to be marveled at and stewarded well. Again Paul writes, 

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20

Those who will be glorified know that they have glory living in them now, that their bodies have been bought with precious, sinless, glorious blood, that their jars of clay have been made holy and serve a spectacular purpose. So, we long for the glorified body to come, and we glorify God with the one we have. 

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 two children and live in Minneapolis. 

Daily Light – Sept 29, 2020

Holy Is Who You Are 

A Missing Weapon in the War Against Sin 

Article by Scott Hubbard, Editor, desiringGod.org 

If you are in Christ, the desire for holiness is woven into your spiritual DNA. You have learned to say with the old prayer, “Sin is my greatest evil, but thou art my greatest good.” Your soul has a new hunger: to be holy as Christ is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Patient as he is patient, bold as he is bold, zealous as he is zealous, pure as he is pure. So you “strive for . . . holiness” (Hebrews 12:14), and you know you are not yet as holy as you long to be. 

In the midst of this godly pursuit, however, we can easily miss one startling and wonderful fact: in Christ, we are already holy. We wake up holy, brush our teeth holy, check our email holy, drive through traffic holy. Before we ever began to pursue holiness, holiness pursued us, found us, claimed us, filled us. Whether we feel like it right now or not, holy is who we are. 

And unless we embrace the holiness that is already ours, our pursuit of holiness may leave us more harried and anxious than actually holy. 

Holier Than Thou Thinketh 

Pause for a moment over the first verses of 1 Corinthians, perhaps the most surprising start of the apostle Paul’s letters. How might you address a church divided by cliques, blemished by sexual immorality, puffed up with spiritual pride? Likely not how Paul begins: 

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints . . . (1 Corinthians 1:2

Paul will call the Corinthians some other names before he’s through — “infants in Christ” and “foolish” (1 Corinthians 3:115:36) — but not here at the beginning. To Paul, the Corinthians were not first and foremost immature disciples, but “sanctified . . . saints” — holy holy ones. 

If we hear words like sanctified or holy and think of those Christians who are especially Christlike, Paul’s words will make no sense. Whatever the Corinthians were, they were not that, at least not yet. What then is Paul doing? Seeing the bright side? Boosting the Corinthians’ self-esteem? Indulging in a bit of apostolic flattery? No, he is putting his finger on the truest truth about the Corinthians: in Christ, they are holy. For, as John Murray writes, “It is a fact too frequently overlooked that in the New Testament the most characteristic terms that refer to sanctification are used, not of a process, but of a once-for-all definitive act.” 

Before sanctification is a process, it is an event — a once-for-all event that happens at our conversion. As Paul will tell the Corinthians later on, “You were sanctified” (1 Corinthians 6:11). And they “were sanctified” the moment they were united to Christ by faith alone, “who became to us” not only righteousness and redemption, but “sanctification” (1 Corinthians 1:30). In other words, holiness is not first and foremost a matter of becoming Christlike, but of being in Christ. If we are in him, then we are holier than we think we are. 

Saint Normal 

Sanctification, then, is both definitive and progressive; Christ becomes our holiness, and then we gradually grow to reflect his holiness. If that distinction feels like splitting theological hairs, consider three implications of definitive sanctification, beginning here: our holiness in Christ gives us a new identity. And that identity is wrapped up in one of the all-time most misunderstood words in the Bible: saint. 

Paul would have been disturbed, to say the least, to hear that many today reserve the word saint for those few Christians who have reached the highest echelons of holiness. For the apostle, saint was simply another word for Christian — the well-known and the normal, the Mother Teresas and the mothers in the next pew. No miracles needed; no heroic virtue required — just faith in Christ alone: a fact Paul impresses upon us immediately in six of his thirteen letters (Romans 1:71 Corinthians 1:22 Corinthians 1:1Ephesians 1:1Philippians 1:1Colossians 1:2). 

We may not always feel like saints, of course. But that misses the point. Have we repented and believed? Has sin become hateful to us, and Christ precious? Then we are not what we feel at any given moment; we are what God calls us in Christ. We are light, not darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5); clean, not dirty (John 15:3); saints, not sinners. And our duty as his people is not to say, “But I feel . . .” — rather, “Thank you.” 

Charles Spurgeon observes that when God created day and night, he called the two of them together “day” (Genesis 1:5). Every Christian is likewise a mixture of night and day, of sin and holiness. Yet, Spurgeon writes, “You, like the day, take not your name from the evening, but from the morning; and you are spoken of in the word of God as if you were even now perfectly holy as you will be soon.” 

The light in us may be small, and mixed with much darkness still. But in Christ, the sun is rising, not setting. So, God names us by the morning. 

Before the Race Begins 

Along with a new identity comes a new security. For some, the pursuit of holiness is marked more by insecurity and anxiety than security and peace. We know that without holiness “no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), and we can’t help but wonder if we’re becoming holy enough fast enough. 

To be sure, our practical, lived-out holiness in this life confirms our calling as saints (2 Peter 1:10). But for the introspective and scrupulous among us, this one truth about holiness can slowly become the only truth about holiness. Many of these saints are filled with the Spirit’s fruit, yet they have eyes only for their remaining sin. Holiness is always above their heads and beyond their reach. Maybe in a decade they’ll feel holy enough for heaven. 

If this is how we feel, we have turned the emphasis of the New Testament upon its head. For holiness is not primarily the prize at the finish line of the Christian race; it is the gift at the starting line (1 Corinthians 1:2). Before we run for more holiness, God wants us to rejoice in the holiness that is already ours in Christ. Our deepest confidence and highest boast before God lie not in our personal holiness, but in the Holy One to whom we are united by faith (1 Corinthians 1:30–31). 

In his classic work on the pursuit of holiness, John Owen writes, 

There is not anything that, in our communion with him, the Lord is more troubled with us for, if I may so say, than our unbelieving fears, that keep us off from receiving that strong consolation which he is so willing to give to us. (Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, 77) 

If we refuse the strong consolation that comes to us as saints in Christ, then our pursuit of holiness will likely become instead an insane pursuit of self-consolation, a way to purify ourselves so that we can finally feel confident without Christ. But if, morning by morning, we breathe in the consolation that comes from being called a saint, then we will run our race with security and joy. 

At Home with Holiness 

Some, no doubt, hear of definitive sanctification and become only more comfortable in sin. “Already holy in Christ? No need to fight so hard, then.” To which we can only respond with Paul, “By no means!” (Romans 6:2). Our new identity, together with our new security, also gives us a new destiny. If the Spirit called Holy has claimed us as his own, then holy we must be, and we can never rest content until all our sin is gone. 

Imagine yourself in the midst of temptation. Some crude joke is about to cross your lips, some fantasy has offered to entertain you, or some website has reminded you of its presence. Now imagine yourself transplanted in an instant to the temple of the living God. Incense rises before you; candles slowly burn. In the holy silence of that holy place, the presence of God settles upon your shoulders with a weight that brings you to your knees. Suddenly, the joke dies upon your lips; the fantasy vanishes; the very thought of the website makes you flush with shame. 

Such is our situation, if only we have eyes to see. Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul asks men tempted toward sexual immorality, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The question sobers us and challenges us. We are not as alone as we thought we were; the Holy One is with us wherever we go. 

But the question also fills us with hope. For unlike the imagined scenario above, holiness not only surrounds us, but indwells us. If the Holy Spirit has made his home in our souls, then not only must we be holy — we can be. No matter how long we have struggled, or how many times we have fallen, the Spirit is able to make us stand (1 Corinthians 1:8–910:12–13). 

For now, of course, we are not yet as holy as we long to be. But holiness is our destiny: whole-souled contentment, expansive love, brilliant joy, perfect peace. And until then, the more holy we become, the more at home we will feel. Because in Christ, holy is who we are. 

Scott Hubbard is a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and an editor for desiringGod.org. He and his wife, Bethany, live with their son in Minneapolis. 

Daily Light – Sept 28, 2020

Why Is the Bible So Violent? 

Questions and Answers:  John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org 

Why is the Bible so violent? It is very violent — so violent it’s gotten the attention of a listener named Scott, who writes us this: “Hello, Pastor John! I walk my dog early each morning while I listen to various audiobooks and to this podcast. This year I set myself the goal of listening to the Bible from start to finish. I am on Judges at the moment and came across a passage that I’d not read before: Judges 19. I was shocked! Why are passages like this in the Bible — passages that are so violent? And what can they teach us? I have young teens, and I would never let them read or watch media that describe this level of violence. And yet, here it is in God’s holy Scripture!” 

Maybe I should make matters worse before I offer any answer. 

If you were shocked, Scott, by Judges 19 — that is, a concubine killed by sexual molestation and then cut into twelve pieces and sent throughout the tribes to muster revenge — you probably are a newcomer to the Bible, and maybe a newcomer to the faith. I am very glad that you are reading or listening to the whole Bible. I would encourage everybody who can read to read all of the Bible over and over again because the apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). That’s what he said. All of it is profitable and God-inspired — and that includes the most violent parts. 

Soaked with Scripture 

I would not withhold any of it from teenagers. And I say that while totally agreeing with you that most worldly presentations of violence are not profitable and should be avoided. But God’s presentation of these things in writing in the inspired Scripture is no mistake. He presents the world in divine, context-laden, interpretive words — not lurid videos of blood and gore that preempt and replace the God-intended movement from reading written words to having word-built images in the mind. Verbal descriptions with divine explanations are not the same as worldly depictions for entertainment or education with no ultimate divine meaning. 

We live in a very soft, easily offended, emotionally fragile culture that unfits us to grasp what most of history has been like, and what most of the world is still like. I think God gave us the Bible the way it is, with all the horrors, partly because he knew the day would come when we would be so spoiled, so cocooned, so overprotected, so coddled that we would not have the emotional and mental capacities to grasp utterly crucial realities in the Bible and in the world. 

In other words, I think that saturating ourselves in the whole Bible, year after year, shapes our minds and our emotions and our expectations, so that we have the mental and emotional wherewithal to come to terms with central biblical realities, which otherwise we would reject as simply outrageous. There are truths about God and about his ways in this world, and there are truths about sin and judgment, that, unless we have been made resilient in the face of horrors, we will not be able to grasp. We won’t be able to grasp them with any sense of proportion and truth. 

All of that, Scott, just to say that I hope you will press on in immersing yourself in the whole Bible year after year. Those horrors are there for a reason. 

Unrestrained Rebellion 

So, let me cut to the chase and give three answers to the question, Why is there so much violence in the Bible? Let’s start with the context of the book of Judges. Four times in the book of Judges, we read this sentence: “In those days there was no king in Israel” (Judges 17:618:119:121:25). And in two of those instances, that sentence is followed by: “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:621:25). 

One of those sentences, Judges 19:1, stands at the very gateway of the chapter Scott is asking about, as if to tell us up front what this violence signifies: it signifies what happens to a society when the river of evil flowing from the human heart runs wild without a dam of civil authority to keep it from spilling out over the whole earth and corrupting with violent effects. That’s the point: There was no king. Everybody did what was right in his own eyes. This is what happens when human beings run rampant without any restraints. That’s the most immediate, contextual explanation for the violence in the book of Judges. The book of Judges is written to demonstrate what happens when human beings, in all our sinful rebellion against God, have no restraints. 

This is a very, very valuable lesson for us to learn from the Bible, lest we have some naïve, romantic notions about the essential goodness of the human heart, and lest we think it would be a very good idea to dispense with civil authority. But that’s not an answer to the most ultimate question of why there is so much violence in the Bible. 

Trespasses Against God 

The reason there is such an abundance of violence in the Bible is because there is so much violence in the world. And so, we must ask the ultimate question, Why is that? The Bible is documenting what is. It’s not creating what is; it’s just telling us what is the reality. 

And the biblical answer is that when sin entered the world, described in Genesis 3 — that is, when God-opposing, God-rejecting, God-disparaging, God-demeaning treason against God entered the world — God responded not simply by judging man’s emotions and thinking and willing and relationships, but also he responded by subjecting the human body and the entire material and physical creation to his judgment. And we see that in Genesis 3, and we hear it explicitly in Romans 8:20: “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it [God], in hope.” 

Now, why did God do that? Why did he ordain that the effect of moral evil would be displayed in the horrors of physical evil — earthquakes, floods, famines, pandemics, wars, and every manner of horrible mistreatment of man on man? Oh my. He did it because he knew that people who are dead in their trespasses and sins would never comprehend the moral outrage of treason against God unless they saw it reflected in the physical outrage of violence against men. 

Nobody loses sleep over their treason against God. But let their physical body be touched with cancer or their house be touched with rioting, and then their emotions really rise up with moral indignation. Violence and suffering exist in this world as a divine witness to the meaning and the seriousness and the outrage of sin against God. 

Saved Through Violence 

There’s one more answer to why there is so much violence in the world and in the Bible. Revelation 13:8 says that there was a book in God’s presence before the foundation of the world. And the name of the book is “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” All thoughtful Christians know that at the center of our faith and at the foundation of our salvation is one of the grossest, most violent and gory events in the history of the world — namely, the crucifixion of the Son of God. There is no salvation without this violence. 

And what Revelation 13:8 shows is that this was God’s plan before the foundation of the world. And not only was it God’s plan before the foundation of the world, but Revelation also tells us that we will sing about this violence forever. 

And they sang a new song, saying, 

     “Worthy are you to take the scroll
          and to open its seals,
     for you were slaughtered [slaughtered is the right word; slain is a lessening of the feel], and by your blood [spilled, shed, gore] you ransomed people for God
          from every tribe and language and people and nation,
     and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
          and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10

Now, we might plan a different kind of world and a different kind of salvation from eternity to eternity if we were God, but that isn’t our choice. God planned to save us through violence — the gruesome death of his infinitely precious Son. And he said that this is how we know his love. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And we know how he died. Christ died for us. There is no softening the death of Christ, as though it were a little gold symbol hung around our pretty necks. 

So, those are my three answers. 

The violence of Judges exists to show what happens when the river of human evil is not dammed up by civic authority. 

The futility and corruption of creation exists to give us some idea of the horror of sin against God. 

The most egregiously violent act in history exists to save us and to show us the love of God. 

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 Coronavirus and Christ

Daily Light – Sept 25, 2020

Why Does It Matter That Christ Was ‘Begotten, Not Made’? 

Interview with John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org 

Pastor John joins us today over Skype remotely, even though today’s question comes in from a pastor not far from you. “Pastor John, hello! I pastor a small congregation in Minneapolis. As we endured the inability to gather in person as a congregation in the midst of the virus, I emailed the church weekly, slowly working through the questions in the New City Catechism. It raised again a question that has been gnawing at me for a number of years. What does it mean that the Son was ‘begotten’ by the Father, and ‘not made’? Why this distinction? And why does it matter so much?” 

Well, hello brother, fellow lover of Minneapolis — our sad city, our sinful city. The early church had to settle certain really crucial disputes over the nature of Christ. And one of those disputes came to a head in the fourth century, when a group called the Arians argued that Jesus Christ was created, made, and was not God. The summary and the end of that dispute was the Council of Nicaea. I’ll just read a little section of it. 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, only begotten [that is, of the substance] of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made [clearly in the face of the Arians], of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made. 

Now, that has been, and is today, the historic, biblical, orthodox position of the church throughout history. I believe that what that says is true. The phrase “begotten, not made” comes from that Council of Nicaea, the Nicene Creed. 

Never Not the Son 

So, we now should ask, Since the Bible and not creeds is our final authority that we really esteem — I esteem highly and love to ponder the wisdom of the creeds — is it biblical, and why does it matter? 

I think a compelling case can be made biblically from the first fourteen verses of the Gospel of John that the phrase “begotten, not made” is biblical. John begins like this: 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [this Word is a person] was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1–3

And then he adds in John 1:14

And the Word became flesh [we’re talking about Jesus Christ] and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only [the KJV reads begotten] Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

So, what I’m focusing on here is that sonship is introduced: what he called Word in verse 1 he calls Son in verse 14. Now, there’s a good deal of dispute over whether the Greek term monogenous means “only Son” or “only begotten Son.” And here’s the catch — and I want all ordinary, run-of-the-mill, faithful pastors and teachers to take heart: I don’t think the truth of the doctrine of “begotten, not made” depends on the translation of that verb. If it did, we would be in the middle of a dispute that continues. 

What is essential is that in the first three verses of this Gospel, the Word of God is said to be God and to be with God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” — meaning, you have two persons, God and the Word of God (John 1:1). And the second person, the Word of God, is God and with God. 

And then it says that through the Word everything was “made that was made,” and that precise wording rules out the possibility that the Word of God itself was made. Because everything that is in the category of made or coming into being was in fact brought into being, was made, by the Word, which means he’s not in that category; he was not made. 

Eternal Generation 

Then verse 14 uses sonship language (quite apart from whether you say “only Son” or “only begotten Son”) to describe the relationship between God and the Word. Not only is the Word God; the Word is also Son of God, which means that what is said about the Word applies to the Son, and what was said about the Word was that he was not made. 

How, then, does the Son exist as Son — not as Father, but as Son? If we just stay with the language of Son and Father, the answer would be: not made, but begotten. That’s what sons are: sons are begotten; that’s what it means to be the son of a father. But this begetting of the Son clearly is very unique — I mean, it’s really different because this Son, this Word, had no beginning. In the beginning was God. The Word of God was there, and God was there — and the two of them were eternally there. God was the Word. The Word was God. They had no beginning. He was always there with God as God. 

The text itself pushes us to the conclusion that the peculiar kind of begetting that we’re talking about is an eternal begetting. There never was a time when the Son did not exist, and yet he is Son and not Father. They’re not reversible ever in the New Testament. And the Christian church is right to argue that it is fitting to speak of this eternally existent Son who is God, and yet who is not the Father. He has been eternally begotten by the Father, not coming into being but eternally begotten. 

So, the point stressed, both biblically and confessionally, is that the eternal begetting of the Son secures the Son’s very same, exact nature with the Father. That’s the point of Hebrews 1:3: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Or Philippians 2:6: “Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” 

Help from Heroes 

Now, C.S. Lewis was really criticized for trying to make things understandable for ordinary people, but most of us bless him for it, right? And here’s what he wrote: 

When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers, and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set [he’s writing eighty years ago or so]. (Mere Christianity, 157) 

That’s an essential part of what the doctrine intends to preserve: the Son is not a creature; he’s not made; he’s not different from the very essence and nature of God. 

Or if you want to move from Lewis and jump into the deep end of the pool with Jonathan Edwards, let me read you what Edwards says in his attempt, not to explain to ordinary people — although I guess he was, and yet he pushes the limits of our mental capacities. But I think it’s valuable to hear what Edwards has to say about this. Here’s what he says: 

As God with perfect clearness, fullness, and strength, understands Himself, views His own essence, . . . that idea which God hath of Himself is absolutely Himself. This representation of the Divine nature and essence is the Divine nature and essence again: so that by God’s thinking of the Deity, [the Deity] must certainly be generated. Hereby there is another person begotten, there is another infinite, eternal, Almighty and most holy and the same God, the very same Divine nature. And this Person is the second person in the Trinity, the only begotten and dearly beloved Son of God. (Works of Jonathan Edwards, 21:116–17) 

I think it is faithful and true to speak of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as eternally begotten but not made, and yet never having a beginning and being the very nature of God. 

No Redemption Without Divinity 

Now, does it matter? That’s the question at the end that he asks: Can you help me understand what it means, and why would we devote a summer to it? It does matter, yes. I will mention only one of many reasons that it matters. 

Paul and the writer to the Hebrews show how the full deity of Christ — begotten, not made — is interwoven with his work of redemption. There wouldn’t be redemption without this truth: 

In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19–20

Those go together; you can’t have the one without the other: if the fullness of deity isn’t there, reconciliation by the blood of this being isn’t there. 

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3

In other words, there is no salvation without the deity of Christ. If the Son of God was made instead of being eternally begotten in the very nature of God, we are still in our sins, and biblical salvation does not exist. 

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 Coronavirus and Christ

Daily Light – Sept 24, 2020

In Him We Live and Move 

Stewarding a Body in Sedentary Times 

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org 

When’s the last time you paused to ponder the wonder of feet? Not just their oddness and elegance, but the fact that humans have them at all. Unlike plants and trees, we are not tethered in place by roots. We are not left to wait for the world to come to us. Rather, we can go into the world — indeed we have been commissioned to do so — to step, to walk, to run, to dance, to move. 

What about the wonder of human hands? Not only do we move about the world, but as we do, we can reach, extend, grasp, touch. We put our hands to work, lifting, tearing, cutting, building, pushing, pulling. 

No material entity in God’s created world is more complex, more fascinating, more marvelous, more valuable than human life — which God designed to specially image himself in his world. And alongside breathing and eating and thinking and feeling and speaking, one of the great basics of human life is movement. Bodily activity is so basic, so obvious, often so assumed, that we easily overlook what a superpower it is. 

And yet, movement is one vital aspect of our enduring human nature that our present age threatens to undermine. 

Our Sedentary World 

Few today would disagree that we are living in a sedentary age — and perhaps shockingly so when compared to generations and centuries before. One great downside of the exponential burst of modern technologies is that our bodies, and their movement and activity, seem to matter less and less. 

Citing Andy Crouch, Steven Wedgeworth notes

Much of what we call “technology” does not actually help us to become more productive at our work but rather does our work for us. While claiming to help us become more efficient, this sort of technology actually trains us to do little or nothing at all. 

We have cars, and walk much less. We have machines and other “labor-saving” devices, and use our hands far less. We have screens, and move less. And added to that, in our prosperity and decadence, food and (sugar) drinks are available to us like never before. Unless we break the cycle, we consume more and more, work our hands and feet less and less, and then find it harder and harder to lift our own weight off the couch when some physical activity beckons. Walking up a stairway becomes a mental barrier. Taking out the trash can feel difficult. 

We still move, of course — we must. But many of us have been conditioned by society and our own lazy impulses to move as little as possible. Economy of bodily movement has become a trend of modern life, and (excepting the fitness-as-god industry) many of us have bought in without giving it much thought. And to the degree that our default has become to move as little as possible (previous generations would have called us lazy), rather than move freely, we are undermining or eroding several essential dynamics in the Christian life. Our sedentary age is of not just human concern, but Christian concern. 

Move = Live 

The very first chapter of the Bible notes how basic movement is to life: living creatures move (Genesis 1:21287:218:19Leviticus 11:46Ecclesiastes 4:15), and moving creatures live (Genesis 9:3). So also in the Psalms, movement and life go together (Psalm 50:1169:3480:13). For King David, it was a burden, not a blessing, that “he could not move about freely” as he hid from Saul (1 Chronicles 12:1). And across Israel’s history, it was a mark of the emptiness and vanity of idols that they “will not move” (Isaiah 40:2041:746:7Jeremiah 10:4). 

At Mars Hill, the apostle Paul approvingly quotes Epimenides of Crete, who said, “In him we live and move” — and we should take live and move here as synonyms rather than as two distinct verbs. There is a telling third verb in the sequence: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). For humans, in typical circumstances, to live and have our being is to move. 

God made us to move. Even an act so basic as breathing requires movement, as does eating. But beyond that, as we’ve seen, God gave us hands to work and feet to move, in order that we might do far more than breathe and eat. 

Consider, then, three reasons why bodily movement is critical for Christians who have been spared the tragedy of disability, and find themselves able to move and live less sedentary lives. 

1. To Image God 

First, God made us to move for his glory. He created us “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). We were made to be monuments to God’s strength and beauty, but not stationary statues. Instead, we are living, breathing, speaking, working, moving images of God himself, representing him, going out in his created world to display his glory here and there, and there, and there. He thought it best that his images not be fixed to the ground, but to move around. 

God has his spectacular ways of glorifying himself through disability. But in general, movement in some form becomes the occasion of imaging him in the world. To draw honor to him, we present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Like King David, and Christ himself, we receive the body he has prepared for us as our vessel for doing his will (Hebrews 10:5–7Psalm 40:6–8). And Christ “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” in our bodies (1 Peter 2:24). As the apostle Paul rehearses, “The body is . . . for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13); therefore, “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20), as Paul himself eagerly expected and hoped that “Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). 

As one example of human movement in a Bible chock full of it, consider the life of Christ, the very “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:152 Corinthians 4:4), who lived perfectly to the glory of his Father (John 17:4626). Even a cursory reading of the Gospels makes it plain that he did not live anything close to the sedentary life that tempts us today. 

Even apart from the obvious — no cars, no trains, no planes, no screens, no phones, no clocks, along with no modern medicine or processed foods — Jesus walked everywhere he went. He moved around a lot, as did all able, working-class humans in the ancient world. When traveling, a day’s journey would have been 20–25 miles (essentially walking a marathon), and when not traveling, he would have easily walked 5 miles (10,000 steps) or more doing his daily work, on his feet most of the day. 

And he didn’t just move his feet but his hands. Jesus worked construction for decades as a common tradesman. And even when he came to suffer and die, after almost being whipped to death, he carried his own crossbeam some distance before collapsing. And yet, though he was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, we get the impression again and again that he was deeply happy and emotionally stable — happy enough to show compassion, and control his sorrow and anger. At least such normal, daily movement meant his emotional health wasn’t encumbered by a sedentary lifestyle. Which leads to a second reason. 

2. To Jumpstart Joy 

Going back to Aristotle and to Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” in the fourth and fifth centuries before Christ, humans have long observed that we are happier when we’re moving, or have moved. Hippocrates not only said, “Eating alone will not keep a man well; he also must take exercise,” but he also treated depression with a long walk. And if that didn’t seem to help right away, he advised taking another. “Walking is the best medicine.” 

God made our bodies to be healthier and happier when they move. Moving limbs increases heart rate and helps to circulate blood, moving hormones and nutrients through the body to where they need to be — including the brain — for optimal physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Even in the nineteenth century, prior to the great explosion of sedentary inventions in the twentieth, the famous English preacher Charles Spurgeon commented on the power of movement to help human spirits: “A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best” (Lectures to My Students, 160). Movement alone will not create spiritual joy, but many Christians have found that it can help. In the mysterious connection between body and spirit, food and sleep and exercise (or lack thereof) have the ability to buoy or drag down our spiritual affections. Rightly does pastor Mark Jones write for fellow pastors, and for all of us, 

Physical exertion is an important part of normal human life. . . . Overeating, as the fruit of a generally indulgent lifestyle, has become a tragically acceptable sin among many Christians in North America. I’m also equally persuaded that a lot of pastors should jump on a bike, go for a run, walk, or build some modest muscle, and they’d likely get more work done. A lack of discipline in areas such as food, exercise, and drink typically reflects a lack of discipline in other areas of the Christian life. . . . Exercise is a friend of the Christian, and one that, unless prohibited by health reasons, should be part of the ordinary Christian life. 

And getting “more work done” leads, for now, to a third and final reason. 

3. To Do Others Good 

Christians can appreciate the modern term fitness. To call an active, able, healthy human body fit implies that the body is not an end in itself. The goal of fitness is not to look good in the mirror or on Instagram. True fitness means our bodily ability serves other purposes. The body is fit to do something. The question is, Fit for what? 

In Christ, we have far better answers to that question than secular workout culture. Twice Paul uses a phrase that could be our rallying cry for genuine fitness in Christ: “ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). In Christ, we want to cleanse our bodies “from what is dishonorable” (sin) and “be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). We want to be ready. Ready with hands and arms, not too bulky and not too flabby, that can reach and lift and pull and push. Ready with feet and legs that feel life and energy in every step. Ready with minds and hearts and wills that would rather move than lounge, rather get up and go than just sit there at a screen, rather move into the world and work to help people than calculate how we might move as little as humanly possible. 

In Christ, in the service of love, we want to get (and keep) our bodies, in their various seasons of life, in good enough shape that they serve God’s callings on our lives to love others. We want to be the kind of people that want to do good for others, knowing that such good often requires exerting our bodies in ways that are uncomfortable to lazy people. Which leads to a final question and challenge. 

Move the Needle 

What is your default posture on life? Is your mindset mainly passive and sedentary, or active and moving? Do you think of yourself as mainly stationary, unless moved by some great force into action? Or do you think of yourself as active, moving, working, sometimes beckoned to stop or sit to address some particular task? 

And might some movement of your default somehow serve your spiritual joy, the glory of God, and the good of others? What if, over time, you sought to cultivate a different mindset and reorient your life from passive to active, from sedentary to moving? 

If you’re in a passive and sedentary state right now, such a change may seem imponderable. Your energy feels low, and you may think that means you need to do less, not more. But God made these bodies to move, and for expending energy to produce more energy. Perhaps your energy is low because you have been moving so little. It may be that you need to first expend what little energy you have in some good work, and then rest later, and learn to increase your capacity over time. And with it, cultivate a new (and countercultural) mindset that movement, activity, work, exertion is not the devil, but rather, in the power of the Spirit, it is God’s call on us for defeating the devil. 

In a world of sin and tragedy, it is a wonder to have able hands and feet and bodies. Let’s steward what God has given us — the most remarkable material object in all of creation. 

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 – Sept 23, 2020

3 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 3 

Col 1:5  “faith and love … spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel”  Our faith to trust and obey, and our love for one another come from the confident expectation that the gospel is true – that He died for us, was raised for us and is coming again for us. If we don’t have confidence that He is coming again, we will give up in the hard times. We will think it is not worth it. So we need to keep reminding ourselves of the truth – or we will give up! 

Col 1:23 “Continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Paul knew some believers gave in to peer pressure or fear of rejection and drifted away from the Lord Jesus. Don’t do that! How do we resist those pressures? 

Rom 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” When we re-read what God said and did in the Scriptures (and Paul was referring to the OT), we will have confidence that we can trust Him now. We are transformed by renewing our minds with God’s word (Rom 12:1-2; 2 Tim 3:16-17) 

So this is how Paul prayed for the churches “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.” (Eph 1:18-20)   

He has called us to hope! Not fear. But we don’t automatically realize that, so he prays for our hearts to be able to see what our eyes cannot. And he prays for us to live in and with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. A Living Hope! That power assures us that our hope/confidence in Him is justified. 

Titus 1:2 Paul wrote to strengthen their “hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,”  

1Tim 1:1 Christ Jesus is our hope 

Col 1:27 “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Note well, it is not Christ our there somewhere, or even up in heaven that is our confidence that we will share His glory, it is only if He is IN US. Have you cried out to Him to be your Savior and been born again? If so, then He lives in you. (Rom 8:9-11) 

1Tim 4:10 We have put our hope in the living God 

Rom 5:2 “We boast in hope of the glory of God.”  We know we will share in His glory when He returns. 

Heb 6:18 Because “it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  

Hope is an anchor to our soul that keeps us steady and safe when others are being blown around by circumstances and fear. 

Heb 10:23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” 

Heb. 11:1  “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for…” 

Rom 8:24 “We were given this hope when we were saved. If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.”   

Our faith to endure comes from the confidence of His promises. 

1Thes 5:8 “put on the hope of salvation as a helmet” Our confidence in Christ’s salvation is necessary to face the challenges and resist the temptations we will face day by day. Notice: 

1Thes 1:3 Paul commended them for their “work of faith, labor of love, endurance inspired by hope” As noted before, if we don’t think something is worth it, we will give up – in physical exercise, healthy eating, managing our money, sexual purity, etc. And the same is true in following the Lord Jesus. You can tell how much hope/confidence a believer has in Christ by the way they handle the daily stress of life – Do we “lose it” ? or trust that He is with us and His grace is enough for whatever the challenge? 

Rom 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”   

In affliction and troubles, we can actually have joy knowing His grace is more than enough. But we have to keep coming back to Him in prayer. 

1Thes 4:13 “Do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”   

What a difference it makes in the way we handle the loss of our loved ones! We do grieve. Tears flow.  But we have hope – that if they trusted Christ they will be raised up with Him and we will be with Him too! 

2Th 2:16 “God loved us and gave us eternal encouragement and good hope.”  Aren’t you thankful for that? Is there any other place that gives eternal encouragement and good hope? 

1 Pet 3:15  “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 

If we live with hope/confidence that Jesus is coming again, people will see the stability, purity  and love in our lives, and will want to know how we do it. 

Lord Jesus, Thank You that You are living in us and empowering us with Your life. Help us consciously choose to keep putting our hope in You, and may others notice and ask about You! Amen 

Daily Light – Sept 22, 2020

Please go slowly over these passages, or you will miss the power of them. 


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 2 

Even in the OT the Jews had confidence in a future resurrection. 

In Acts 2:26-28 Peter quoted David in Ps 16: 

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.  

David had a confident expectation of resurrection. 

Acts 23:6 Paul, speaking as a Pharisee said  “I am on trial because of the hope of the Resurrection”  See also Acts 24:15; 26:6, 7; 28:20.  

The Pharisees had confidence in the Resurrection, but the Sadducees did not. 

Rom 4:18 “Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”   

Amazing. He knew he and Sarah were past child-bearing years. He had no confidence that he and Sarah could have a baby, but he chose to believe that they would because of God’s promise. This is the basis for all our hope.  

But Paul said that hope is not available to everyone, but only to those who understand who Christ is and what He has accomplished. Speaking to the Gentiles in the church he said: 

Eph 2:12 “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, … without hope and without God in the world.”  

Humans cannot live without hope – of some kind. The Gentiles had the same hope as everyone else of food, shelter, love, etc, but they did not have the hope, the confident expectation of eternal life. They had their many religions, but they did not have God – Yahweh – the Creator and Savior. Only through Him is there hope of eternal life. Why do I say that? There are two key verses: 

1Pet 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power …”   

Christians believe the basis for our hope of eternal life is 100% because of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus for us – that He paid the penalty of our sin and guilt, and that the Father raised Him to prove that He accepted Jesus’ death on our behalf. We have a living hope! 

Titus 2:13 “we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”  

Our hope is not only based on Jesus’ resurrection, but that He is coming back to raise us too. Our blessed hope is that because Jesus died for us, and was raised to prove all that He promised, that He is our Great God and Savior! We can have confidence that He will keep the remainder of His promises and return for us. He will bring judgment on wickedness, and deliverance for all who have trusted in HIm. That assurance/hope could not come from keeping the Law so Heb 7:19 says “the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. 

Peter says the same thing in 1Pet 1:13 “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  

His coming again is the fulfillment of our hope. Our hope is not in our health, our economy, our politics or government. It is that Jesus conquered death and will come again to take us to be with Himself. 

Paul demonstrated this in 2Cor 1:8-10 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”  

Their hope was not that God would protect them from death, but that He would raise them from the dead. And that is our hope as well – not the improvement of our circumstances on earth, but that He is Lord of time and eternity. Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble/tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world!” (Jn 16:33) 

Lord Jesus, You understand that we wish our world would get better – that there would be peace, that we would enjoy health, families – but we understand the consequences of sin from Adam and Eve, from millions of others, and our own sin too. Our world is broken and pain is everywhere, but I praise You that we can take heart that You have overcome the world. When You return there will be no more pain, crying, mourning or death. (Rev 21:3-5) Our hope is for longer than short term improvement of circumstances. Our hope is for all eternity, because You live forever and will raise us to be with You forever! We praise You!  Amen!   

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 – Sept 18, 2020

We Are Mists and Marvels 

Weighing the Beauty and Brevity of Life 

Article by Jon Bloom, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

It’s been ten years since my father died. A decade. Already? Nearly 20 percent of my lifetime has passed since I last saw him. Where did the time go? 

My oldest child recently turned 24. To me it seems that almost yesterday I was holding that precious newborn, singing softly to him while slowly pacing in the hospital room. But in reality, I’ve since lived 44 percent of my lifetime. Where did the time go? 

Thirty-six years ago, I began dating a beautiful 16-year-old girl whom I had the extraordinary privilege of marrying four years later. Scenes from that hot, sunny, summer day when it all began are still vivid to me, and have a hue of new about them. Yet 65 percent of my life has managed to slip by since that monumental moment became a memory. Where did the time go? 

Where did the time go? Why do we all ask some form of that question — and ask it over and over as the years pass? It’s not like we don’t know. Each of the approximately 3,700 days since my father died, the 8,800 days since my son was born, and the 13,200 days since my wife and I began dating passed just like the ones before it. The days accumulated over time. It’s simple math. 

But of course, it’s not the math that bewilders us. We’re bewildered by something far more profound — that this life we’ve been given, this significant existence with all its sweet and bitter dimensions, passes so quickly and then is gone. 

We Are Marvels 

We all intuitively discern that our lives have profound significance. Even when we’re told they don’t, we don’t really believe it — or if we really do, we no longer want to live. We also intuitively discern that there is profound significance to the great human story-arc, with all of its collective triumphs and tragedies. This isn’t mere human hubris, because most of us, including the greatest among us, have always been cognizant of our smallness in the cosmos. Truly did David pray, 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
     the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, 

But even in view of our smallness, it’s undeniable that there is something awesome about humanity. Just a brief glance around us shouts this. From where I’m writing (on a laptop computer wirelessly connected to the world!), I see automobiles driving by, a commercial jet flying overhead, an educational institution devoted to helping underprivileged children succeed in school, and a talented gardener carefully cultivating her organic artwork. These phenomena are just part of “normal” daily life for me, yet each represents staggering layers of human ingenuity. And to top it off, my (also wirelessly world-connected) mobile phone has just informed me that NASA has successfully launched its latest rover mission to the planet Mars. 

Without denying our great and grievous capacities for evil, every single one of us is simply a marvel in our various ranges of intellect, capacities for language and communication, aptitudes for innovation, abilities to impose order upon chaos, and contributions to collective human achievements. Truly did David pray, 

You have made [man] a little lower than the heavenly beings
     and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
     you have put all things under his feet. (Psalm 8:5–6

God has endowed human beings with the glory and honor of being made in his image (Genesis 1:26–27). This is the profound significance we all intuit, even those who deny it. Our lives are imbued with tremendous meaning. 

We Are Mists 

Yet each of our profoundly significant earthly lives, no matter how short or long it lasts, is so brief. We look up to find 10, 24, 36 years have suddenly passed. Repeatedly we’re hit with the realization that our lives “are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). Truly did David pray, 

Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
     and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! (Psalm 39:5

And truly did James say, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). 

It’s this existential experience of being marvels and mists that we find bewildering. We find it a strange phenomenon to watch our lives move relentlessly along a continuum, leaving experiences that are massively important to us in an increasingly distant past, while our earthly end — the end of the only reality we’ve ever known — approaches with unnerving speed. It recurrently catches us by surprise. 

With Eternity in Our Hearts 

But why do we find this experience strange and surprising? Many experts from various branches of the cognitive and biological sciences venture answers. But just as recounting the math of passing days doesn’t address the strangeness and surprise we feel when we ask, “Where did the time go?” neither do the chemical mechanics of consciousness. And there’s more to the deep longings this whole experience awakens than just the awareness and anticipation of our mortality. Truly did the writer of Ecclesiastes say, 

[God] has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11

God has given us the ability to conceive of eternity, yet in spite of conferring upon us many marvelous capacities, he has not granted us to peer into eternity past or eternity future, no matter how hard we try. And due to our efforts to seize forbidden knowledge, God has withdrawn our once-free access to simply eat of the tree of life and live forever (Genesis 3:22–24). 

We are marvels of creation, whose lives are imbued with great meaning, who long for eternity, yet whose lifespans here are like a mist. No wonder we find time mystifying. 

Teach Us to Number Our Days 

Our strange experience of the passing of time is more than a by-product of consciousness, more than mere existential angst over mortality. It is a reminder and a pointer. 

It is a reminder that we are contingent creatures and that the profound significance we intuitively know our lives possess is derived significance, not self-conferred significance. Though created in the likeness of God and given marvelous capacities, we are not self-existent or self-determining like God. Rather, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), receiving from him our “allotted periods” of life and “the boundaries of [our] dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). And the brevity of those allotted periods of life are meant to make us cry out, “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” (Psalm 39:4). 

And our experience of deep heart longing for eternity in the face of such brevity is a pointer that we are actually designed for such a thing as eternal life. For those who have eyes to see, this is a gospel pointer. For God has reopened for us the way to the tree of life, to eternal life, and that way is through his Son, Jesus (John 3:1614:6Romans 6:23Revelation 2:7). 

Those moments when we ask, “Where did the time go?” are reminders that “all flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it” (Isaiah 40:6–7). And they are pointers to the reality that though our “days are like grass,” yet “the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:15–17). Those moments come to us in order to “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). 

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 – Sept 17, 2020

Joy Comes Through the Mourning 

Why Sorrow Must Give Way to Gladness 

Message by David Mathis 

Here we are, in mid-July, in what has amounted, for many of us, to be the strangest and most unnerving year of our lives. Think back to just February. How much has seemed to change in so short a span? 

Psalm 30 has a word that we need to hear in 2020 as a prosperous and prideful generation that is being humbled. Verses 6–7: 

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
     “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
     you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
     I was dismayed. 

As for us, how many of us would have thought (or assumed) in our prosperity, just a few months ago, “We shall never be moved”? The global economy will never tank with such little notice. March Madness will never be canceled. Or the NBA season, or MLB (for sure, not the NFL and college football). We shall never be moved. 

A policeman would never put his knee on a man’s neck for eight minutes, while bystanders captured it on video. Riots would never erupt in such a peaceful and tolerant city as Minneapolis and damage a thousand buildings, and cause more destruction than any other riots since 1992 in Los Angeles. We shall never be moved. 

Surely, our healthcare system and our law enforcement and our economy are the best in the world and will not be challenged to the very core in a matter of weeks. We shall never we moved. 

Yet we have been moved. By God’s favor, our mountain may stand strong. But when he chooses to hide his face, it crumbles overnight. 

One question that Psalm 30 raises for us in 2020 is: How should we as Christians think about earthly prosperity? How many of us now, looking back just a few months, would say life seemed better then, easier then, more comfortable then, more prosperous then? How many of us have felt health and financial and civic anxieties and full-blown fears we have never felt so acutely? Perhaps some of us sail carelessly on with few changes. But many of us here in July of 2020 are not living in the same felt sense of prosperity we took for granted as recently as March. 

From Prosperity, to the Pit, to Praise 

Psalm 30 is what many have called a psalm of thanks. David, the psalmist, stands on the other side of some great distress and thanks God for rescuing him from a close encounter with death. Perhaps not unlike what many are experiencing right now in ICUs and elsewhere around the world, with or without ventilators to keep them breathing. David almost died, and he cried out to God for help, and God rescued him, and now David writes the psalm to thank God and to draw others into thanks with him. 

Last summer when we turned to Psalm 6, we talked about three major types of psalms: (1) psalms of praise (orientation) when all seems well with the world; (2) psalms of lament (disorientation) when some danger threatens, and the psalmist cries out for mercy or justice; and (3) psalms of thanks (reorientation) that renew praise to God on the other side of the threat and his deliverance. 

Psalm 30 may thank God for a specific rescue in a particular instance in David’s life, but it also may reflect back on a whole life, or season of life. We don’t know how literal or figurative it is when David says in verse 2, “You have healed me” — and that’s by design. The psalm is meant to draw others into worship, for all sorts of healings and rescues, not just David’s. 

This psalm also has an interesting “flashback” (we might call it) in verses 6–10. It begins in the present (verses 1–3), then draws others in to worship (verse 4), and grounds the praise in the timeless nature of God (verse 5), then flashes back to David’s time of trouble, when he was in the pit and how he prayed for help (verses 6–10), and then ends with enhanced praise in verses 11–12. 

One way we might summarize the coherence or flow of the psalm is to say it moves in David’s life from prosperity, to the pit, to praise. So, let’s follow that arc and see what the psalm has to teach us about each stage. 

1. Earthly prosperity is a gift, and a test (verses 6–7). 

Now we come back to the question about how Christians should think about our seasons of seeming prosperity in this age. The answer is not simple, but it is accessible. Verses 6–7 give us two truths here for how we should think about earthly prosperity: 

On the one hand, earthly prosperity is “from God.” Verse 7: “You made my mountain stand strong.” God made David prosperous. It was a gift — not the ultimate gift, but a real, tangible blessing, fragile as earthly prosperity can be. Which means David should not have grown prideful about his seeming strength, but humble. And what would humility in his prosperity have looked like? Gratitude. He should have thanked God for what he had (as should we), rather than slowly swelling to being prideful about it. 

On the other hand, God’s temporal favor in this age is not an expression of his enduring favor. Verse 7: “You hid your face.” David was God’s anointed, and yet God’s making David prosperous for a season was not a final word about God’s favor on David. In fact, because God did favor David, he tested him; he humbled him. David almost lost everything, on the brink of death itself. 

Prosperity in this world is both a gift (for which to thank God) and also a test (in which to renew trust in God, not self). Both prosperity and poverty serve his eternal designs for his people. 

And David now confesses in this flashback that he mishandled prosperity. Verse 6: “As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’” That is pride talking. Prosperity gave space for David’s pride to swell. He came to think his strength showed he was strong, of his own doing, that he would not be moved. He grew numb to the truth that it was God who made him strong (like a mountain), and that God is able to make mountains crumble at his word, and for our eternal good. 

What Psalm 30 shows us is that in this life neither mountain-strength nor God’s hidden face are the final word. The wicked can seem mountain-strong and be prideful; or the righteous can be mountain-strong and be humble; so also the wicked, in the end, will be humbled, and the righteous not only might but will go through seasons where God’s face and favor seem hidden and withdrawn. Earthly prosperity is not a sign of God’s eternal favor; nor is poverty a sign of his disfavor. 

If you are in a season of seeming strength and prosperity, the word for you from Psalm 30 is: humble yourself before God now; thank him; realize the fragility of your prosperity; acknowledge his kindness and your unworthiness. Do not say in your prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” Have you seen all the mountains God has crumbled since February? 

And if you are in a season where his face seems hidden, don’t take that as God’s final word to you. In Christ, it is not his final word (as we’ll see). We are fragile. Our world is fragile. Our economy is fragile. Our health is fragile. Our peace is fragile. When we are prosperous, God is the giver. And we should humbly thank him and not presume we shall not be moved. And when our mountain does crumble, God has taken it away, and he has eternal purposes for us in it. This is his test to reveal who we really are and purify us for his final favor. 

2. The pit is fearsome, and purposeful (verses 3, 8–10). 

Now, let’s finish David’s flashback with verses 8–10: 

To you, O Lord, I cry,
     and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
     if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
     Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
     O Lord, be my helper!” 

David tells us how he pled with God when he was desperate and near death. 

First, he reasoned with God in verse 9: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?” In other words, “God, what good is it to you if I die? I cannot praise you if I lose my body, and mouth, and tongue.” 

Verse 9 mentions “the pit,” as does verse 3. Another name for this “pit” is “Sheol.” Look at verse 3: “O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.” 

What is this Sheol he mentions? We’ve seen this before in other psalms (6, 9, 16, 18). In Old Testament times, God had not yet revealed as much about the afterlife as he has now. And in particular, he had not yet altered the landscape of the afterlife by raising Jesus from the dead, and bringing righteous souls with him to heaven. 

Sheol — or the pit or Hades — was the dark and shadowy place of the dead where the human soul would go once body and soul were torn apart in death. The body dies, and goes into the ground, and the soul/spirit then would wait in Sheol, where a chasm was fixed between the righteous and wicked (Luke 16:26). So, Sheol was a holding place for the souls of the dead, waiting for the final judgment — no bodies to move, or hands to works, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, or mouths to speak. 

And David appeals to this. He knows that God made the world for his glory and that he rightly means to be praised (Ephesians 1:61214), and David begs that God spare his life to preserve his praise. He reasons with God on the basis of God’s glory. Which is a good way to pray. 

That’s David’s argument in verse 9, but then in verse 10, no more reasoning — he just pleads for mercy: “Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” And God does show him mercy. He heals him, rescues him, preserves his life and body and mouth and tongue. And David writes Psalm 30 to sing praise and thanks, and to draw others in to sing with him — and more than just sing. 

3. Praise is audible, and bodily (verses 5, 11–12). 

In verses 11–12, we come back to the present from the flashback of verses 6–10. David has been rescued, he still has his mouth, and he is using it to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. And his praise, on the other side of the pit, is not only audible. It is also bodily — and part of what we might call enhanced praise. Verses 11–12: 

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
     you have loosed my sackcloth
     and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
     O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! 

Here are two things to see in these important, climactic verses. First, sorrow and joy are not equals. In God, and for his people, the sackcloth of sorrow and the garment of gladness are not equal and opposite sides of the coin. Sorrow and joy are asymmetrical for God’s people. Sackcloth always serves gladness. God takes our mourning, and turns it into dancing. That’s the final word. Not the other way around, not in the end. God removes the garment of our weeping and clothes us with joy. 

In God, mourning does not have the final say, but morning — joy comes with the morning (verse 5). Mourning gives way to morning. The reason we know this is true for God’s people, and verse 11 celebrates it, is because this is rooted in who God is. Which is what David says in verse 5, at the bottom of Psalm 30 (note the all-important for). God’s people praise him, 

For his anger is but for a moment,
     and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
     but joy comes with the morning. 

God is not only full of favor. He is not only gracious. He also gets righteously angry. But grace and anger are not equal in revealing who he is. Anger serves favor. Weeping does not have the last word for those who are his, but joy sounds the final note. 

How can we say that? Because God is God. This is who God is. Because he has revealed himself as the God of verse 5, we can know that verse 11 will come true: that morning will come, rescue will come, relief will come, joy will sound the final note, no matter our present trouble or distress, if we are his people. 

Joy Sounds the Final Note 

When we sink the roots of our joy into the very nature and character of God (as verse 5 does), our roots of joy go down as deep as possible. Our joy, come what may, is grounded in who God is as the God of joy, who is infinitely happy. There is no greater foundation, no greater source, no greater reason for stability and security and genuine joy, when our joy is hidden in God himself — that his anger (though real and painful) is but for a moment, and his favor for a lifetime. Weeping may indeed tarry for the night. And it does. Oh, how often it does, for many long nights. But in God, morning is always coming — just a little while longer — and joy comes with the morning, and gets us through the night knowing that more is coming. 

And as sure as David could be of this, as we see in verses 5 and 11, we now, in Christ, are even more sure. Even more secure. Even more enduringly stable. Because in a way David could not yet see we have the cross and the resurrection — which is not only another example of joy sounding the last note, but it is the once-and-for-all, objective accomplishment in history that joy will win. Joy will have the last laugh, the final say, sound the last note. As sure as Jesus conquered the grave, so will we. 

Which is no promise about earthly prosperity — whether how soon the pandemic ends or whether any fresh and lasting peace is achieved in our city. The present pandemic might turn out far worse than current assessments. The previous riots might prove to be just the beginning of unrest to come. The nature and person of God doesn’t give us earthly assurances that we will have no nights of weeping. But in Christ, God does give us final assurance. The night will end. Morning will come. Joy will be the final note. 

Sing with Your Whole Body 

Let’s finish, then, with verse 12, which closes the envelope on “extol” from verse 1, and “praise” and “give thanks” from verse 4. This is the second thing to see in verses 11–12. God turns mourning into dancing, David says, “that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.” 

“My glory” — what is that? This phrase “my glory” might be one of the most significant in the psalm. Literally, it is poetic for the whole being (Psalm 16:9108:1): “that my whole being may sing your praise and not be silent.” In other words, now, on the other side of the pit, David’s praise has been enhanced. He is not just praising with his mouth, but with his whole being. And what did verse 11 mention? Dancing. He doesn’t just say you turned my mourning into joy. Or my mourning into singing. He says dancing. This is whole-being joy. 

In other words, the whole person matters for praising God. The mind matters, and the heart matters. The voice matters. Singing matters. Dancing matters. The whole self matters. 

Remember David’s argument in verse 9 for not dying was that his voice would not be able to praise. And now his climactic declaration is that he will praise God with his glory, with his whole being: his heart and voice and whole body. He will dance to praise God with his whole being, clothed with gladness. Which, interestingly enough, is what it means to “image” God in the world: not just to think about him, and love him and praise and thank him inwardly and invisibly, but to speak, to tell, to praise, to extol, and to dance, clothed with good works, to project him into the world for others to see and hear the joy we have in him. 

Which brings us to the Table. 

Joy at the Table 

For David, the bringing up of his soul from Sheol, from the pit, was figurative. He was as good as dead. He despaired of life itself. He thought he was a goner. And God brought him up from a near-death experience. 

But for David’s greater Son, it was literally true. He died on the cross. His body and soul were torn apart, and his human soul went all the way to the pit. For Friday evening, and all day Saturday, and into Sunday morning, his spirit waited in the pit. And then God drew him up, and spoiled the joy of his enemies, and brought him up all the way, not just from the brink of death, but from death itself. 

Because God hid his face on Friday, Joy came with Easter Sunday morning. And because of Jesus, we experience joy — not wrath — as our final note. Clothed with gladness. And so we are as we’re conformed to his image. 

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