Friends: This is ‘gold’….an absolute must-read. And re-read.
What Every Marriage Needs Most
John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
I think the biggest investment that a wife or a husband can make in their spouse is the investment they make in their own souls. Here’s what I mean: If you do get married, all’s rosy and great. You love each other. And time goes by, and you read all kinds of books and you hear a question like that — “How are you investing in your wife?” Investing in my wife? What does that even mean?
“The biggest investment that a wife or a husband can make in their spouse is the investment they make in their own souls.”
I think it is very easy to abstract that from your own soul transformation, so that it becomes a project: “Marriage is a project. Got to read another book. Got to go to another seminar. Got to learn the right love language.” That can be good, but far more important is: Do I go to the Lord and invest in him and say, “God, make me a new person”? That’s not just what you pray at the beginning of your Christian life. Those of us who have lived long enough know we’re sinners today. And I’ve got soul-work to do so that when I open my mouth with my wife, I’m not only investing in her, but I’m a new person who loves better than I did yesterday.
Fight for Your Own Holiness
So, at 73 I’m fighting for my marriage every day by fighting for my holiness. I’m going to the Bible and asking not to be unkind, not to be critical. I’m asking for love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, meekness, faithfulness, self-control. That’s a happy marriage. And the main battle is here, inside me. Even if there’s conflict, that’s where the main battle is.
A text that is just massively important I think is Colossians 3:13: “bearing with one another . . . forgiving each other.” You could translate “bearing with” as endure. Now in the old King James, the words are forbear and forgive. But endure is really quite an unromantic word. And it’s good, right? It’s good.
Forgiveness is an awesome and wonderful thing. Every spouse needs to make a vocation out of asking forgiveness and giving forgiveness. It has to happen almost daily, I would say. But here’s the rub that I learned really quick. She doesn’t think what bothers me is a sin. She’s got nothing to repent of. And therefore, I’ve got nothing to forgive. And I’m ticked off. Now what? I mean it sounds funny, but that’s serious.
Pitch It to the Compost Pile
So the Bible — this is a great book. This is a really good book. This is a great marriage book, the best marriage book there is. It says, “Endure one another.” Now let’s put flesh on that. What does that mean? And I wrote a book on marriage. Probably the most important thing in that book is the compost pile illustration. Every marriage needs a compost pile.
Do you have any idea what a compost pile is? It means you’ve got a really nice green backyard. It’s wonderful. It’s a great place to hang out. And the relationship has pukey, dirty, lousy, no-good stuff in it that neither of you considers to be sin. And you could be wrong on that. You build a compost pile way off in the corner, and you throw that habit of your spouse in the compost pile.
“Every spouse needs to make a vocation out of asking forgiveness and giving forgiveness.”
Now, you can camp out by a compost pile and smell the stinky stuff all night long. Or you can pull a curtain around it and have a picnic at the picnic table on the green grass with the woman you married. While all your junk and all her junk is in the compost pile, you both know they’re there, but the smell is bracketed — it’s just cut off. And you both are looking in each other’s eyes and you know very honestly there’s a compost pile back there. “We’re not going to talk about it right now. We’re going to enjoy these grandkids, and we’re going to do this barbecue.”
Come to Terms with Your Own Sin
Behaviors are late things. Early things are soul things: attitudes, feelings, angers, joys. And that’s where the battle is fought — with Jesus, over your Bible — so that when you get up in the morning and go down to the breakfast table after a half an hour with Jesus, coming to terms with your own sin, confessing, you’re able to speak upbuilding things.
This is my wife’s favorite verse, I think, when it comes to relationships: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). And that’s what she faults me with all the time: “You should do that better.”
As a local church pastor, I spend a lot of time in the community of central Florida, a diverse community that is composed of people from numerous backgrounds, cultures, nations, and religions. As I engage with them, I find that no matter what religion they claim or whatever religions they oppose, they all agree on one thing, namely, that everyone is a child of God.
When I hear people claim the universal fatherhood of God, I immediately want to respond by saying, “Well, yes and no.” Everyone is indeed a child of God in the sense that we are all creatures made in the image of God — we are “God’s offspring,” as Paul declared on Mars Hill (Acts 17:29). However, not everyone is a child of God spiritually, being born again by the Holy Spirit and adopted by God as Father through the imputed righteousness of his Son.
Although most people, even many professing Christians, believe that everyone is a child of God in a spiritual way, the word of God is undeniably clear that only those who are united to the Son by faith are the adopted children of God. These, and these alone, are those with whom Paul includes himself when he says, “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6; see John 1:12; Romans 8:14–21; 9:8; Galatians 3:26).
Adopted into a Family
When Jesus taught us to pray with the words “our Father” (Matthew 6:9), he was not employing universal language to be inclusive of all human beings. He was teaching us something profound about God and our relationship to him — namely, that God is not merely a Father or the Father; he is our Father. When God adopts, he adopts us into a family. When we pray “our Father,” we are reminded that we’re not alone and that we’re part of a family.
God created us as human beings for community, and by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, he created us anew for the community of his family. For that reason, God calls us as his people to gather together, face-to-face, to worship him. When we come together in gathered worship every Lord’s Day, we are reminded that we are not alone, that we are a vital part of a living body, a covenant community of believers and our children.
That the only begotten Son of God would tell us to call his Father “our Father” is humbling. But for many Jews in the first century, it seemed arrogant. For them, it was extraordinary that Jesus called God his Father, as it implied that he is the Son of the Father (John 1:14; 8:19; 14:7). Some scholars have argued that for Jesus to teach his followers to call God “our” Father would have been regarded by Jewish rabbis of the day as presumptuously conceited at best and blasphemous at worst.
Consequently, when Jesus rebuked certain Jews who rejected him, he made it abundantly clear not only that God was not their Father but that they were of their father the devil (John 8:39–47). They did not understand how God was not their Father because they did not believe that Jesus came from the Father. In their natural state before God, they could not believe because the Spirit had not given them ears to hear, eyes to see, or hearts to perceive that Jesus is the long-awaited seed of the woman, the long-expected Son of God (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 9:6). Moreover, in our natural state before God, we were enemies until God conquered us and made us his friends and adopted us as sons in Christ.
Welcomed and Blessed
God is our Father only by virtue of our being united to Jesus Christ, the Son, by faith. Through his resurrection, our brother Jesus demonstrated that he is the first fruits of our resurrection, that he is the firstborn among many brethren, and that, united to him, we are heirs with him. It is fitting, then, that our Father has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness through Jesus Christ our Lord (2 Peter 1:3–4).
“God is not merely a Father or the Father; he is our Father.”
Our Father is a gracious and generous Father who cares for us in ways that our fathers on earth cannot, and who thus disciplines us in ways our earthly fathers cannot, because he loves us in a way they cannot (Hebrews 12:9–10; Romans 5:8). Knowing the innermost desires and sins of our hearts, he is able to conform us to the image of Christ in the precise ways that we uniquely need to be conformed.
Too often, we presume what our Father will not do for us or what our Father will not give us, and thus we never ask. We treat ourselves like orphans although God has made us sons. For when God adopts us into his family, he doesn’t merely call us “adopted”; he calls us sons. Mephibosheth was crippled and at enmity with his king; we were not only crippled but dead in sin and at enmity with our King and his kingdom. However, as David welcomed and blessed Mephibosheth, God has welcomed us and blessed us; he has brought us in and has made us able to recline and rest at his table to be washed by him, to dine with him, and to dwell with him forever (2 Samuel 9; John 13:1–20).
Hallowed in Heaven
Jesus also taught us that God is our Father who is in heaven, reminding us that our Father is perfect in his glory, that he is transcendent, and that because he is in the spiritual realm of heaven he is not far away but is near to us, ever present, and always ready to listen to us and commune with us (Psalm 145:18; Jeremiah 23:23; Acts 17:28; James 4:8). Therefore, we are not to regard him as some sort of distant authority figure who doesn’t listen to us, who is never around, who is too busy for us. Rather, we can always, at any time, day or night, cry out to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the sovereign, triune, and almighty God, humbly and confidently praying, “Our Father.”
When Jesus taught us to call on God as our Father, he also taught us to call on our Father whose name is hallowed. The self-disclosed covenantal name of God is Yahweh (Exodus 3:14). Recognizing that the name of God is hallowed, or praying to him as one whose name is hallowed, does not make his name hallowed. On the contrary, his name is, in itself, apart from us, by his own declaration, hallowed.
His name is set apart and sanctified by no greater authority or power than God himself (Hebrews 6:13). His name is holy because he is holy. His name is not like our names, his name is not simply what we call him, and his name doesn’t just describe him. His name is who he is: Yahweh. Thus, when we confess that his name is hallowed, we are not asking him to become something he isn’t; we are acknowledging who he is, we are affirming our reverence of his holy name, and we are praying that God would make his name known and revered as hallowed to others throughout the world.
So, whenever we pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” we can rest assured that he is our Father and that once he has adopted us, he will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org
Amidst the swirling tides of truth and heresy, heaven and hell, God and Satan, this world and the next, many — it must be lamented — do not rise above the shallowness of sports, sex, and careers. They are as spiritually deaf, mute, and useless as the idols they worship (Psalm 115:8). Their story is Pinocchio in reverse: devolving from a real boy to a wooden puppet. Their name might as well be Ichabod, because the glory has departed (1 Samuel 4:21).
The full tragedy is seen best when compared to what God made man to be in the first place: a reflection of himself. He was made to take and exercise noble dominion, to multiply, to work, to laugh, to provide, protect, sacrifice — to know his God and advance his Master’s kingdom in the world. Instead, modern men take neither themselves, nor this world, nor their God seriously. They drift carelessly downstream as a leaf on the surface of their instincts.
Satan is left with easy work. He need not conjure up great delusions or ancient heresies to capture such men. He simply hands them chocolates. Men should not be flies to be caught by so thin a web. And yet our lands are cursed with weightless men.
Thick Pews, Thin Men
In the church, as well, our share of frothy masculinity has crossed our threshold. What an even stranger and more awful sight to see a man, who claims to be remade in the image of Christ, pass his brief existence as little more than a sermon-hearer, note-taker, small group-attender. He too lives with little passion, little mission, little seriousness — just religious habits tucked neatly within a saltless life. How can we explain this?
Is nothing ever at stake? Has the devil tired of prowling for souls? Has he ceased blinding unbelievers to the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Should not an ever-filling hell and an ever-beckoning heaven forbid such a breezy manner?
God remakes a man (if indeed he has remade him) to make demons tremble, to shake the gates of hell. God sent his Almighty Spirit to dwell in him, and give his promises and his grace to empower every effort. But what do the demons say when they encounter such a respectably lukewarm churchman? “Jesus we know, Paul we recognize, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).
Their enemies will never say, “These men have turned the world upside” (Acts 17:6). Such men never reason with anyone about “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment,” nor do they ever receive the response Paul did: “Felix was alarmed.” Their religion is too shallow to make them happy, holy, or heavy.
Three Resolves for Men of God
I have need, like others who may read these words, to resolve to gain, not lose, weight this year. To gain substance, gain gravitas, move from indifference to zeal, superficiality to depth, milk to solid food — and be the heavier for it. In this, I have been helped by considering the ballast of a man in the boat of all boats: Noah.
Whatever Noah was before God found him with grace, he became a heavy man afterwards. At least three realities conspired to build his mass: the world he lived in, the Giant he walked with, and the family he sought to protect.
Warn the Dying World with Love
Noah lived in an evil generation, on the verge of cascading judgment. The tides of wretchedness upon the earth had risen. Cain’s violence was spreading throughout the earth, and “every intention of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). But God showed Noah grace and told him to construct an ark for deliverance, for he purposed to bring a flood through which “everything that is on the earth shall die” (Genesis 6:17).
God told Noah that all would perish outside the ark — family, foes, and friends — even while their lives continued on as normal. God’s flood will be no respecter of person. The poor will perish with the rich; the young with the old.
Noah’s world is not very different from our own. We slaughter our children at staggering rates. Sexual immorality and perversion are sport. We too await coming judgment at the return of Christ, who says,
As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:36–39)
Noah responded by believing God and becoming “a herald of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). He lived counterculturally in obedience to God’s will and spoke forth his hope, even when he was surely asked what in the world he was doing. It would have betrayed his manhood not to declare the truth. Before his generation would drown in the waters, they first would drown out his life, his warnings, and his pleadings. In his world, as in ours, the masses stood already condemned (John 3:18), and Noah, being the righteous man that he was, still spoke. Will we?
The weight of his message gave him substance. He sought to be taken seriously because he had something critical to say: “Enter the ark or be lost!” It betrayed that message to be dismissed as the town jester. So with us, we have something to say: “Enter the ark who is Christ or be lost!” Billions today eat, drink, and make merry at the foot of an active volcano. Men of substance will point them constantly, audibly to our only hope.
Walk Closely with Your God
How ridiculous was the message that the “windows of the heavens would open” and for the first time pour fourth rain, and so intensely that mountains would disappear and birds would drown (Genesis 7:17–24)? How absurd to see a man labor for a century on a stadium-sized boat, nested a six-day’s journey from the sea. And then to watch him fetch thousands of animals.
Noah’s message of salvation, like ours, was foolishness to the perishing, but the power of God for those being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18–19). And we, like Noah, smell like our message: the fragrance of death to many, but the smell of life to some (2 Corinthians 2:15–16).
Will we too be faithful in our day? Will we conquer the ever-pervasive fear of man that risks honor, to protect reputation and threatens to deflate manhood in the process? Will we too be described in these four words: “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9)? Open Bibles and bended knees will make lions of lambs. Even common, uneducated men can blaze with boldness because we too have “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Over and over in Noah’s narrative, we find the secret to this man’s strength: he knew God. He feared God. He loved God. He “did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22; 7:5). His God was a giant hovering over the anthills of men. What did he have to fear?
Care First, and Most, at Home
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7)
It betrays a man to worry about the refugee status of distant peoples in far off provinces but not consider the health of those under his immediate care. We face a great temptation to care in theory about other people’s homes, while neglecting our own.
Righteous Noah did not make this fatal mistake. When he heard about the impending flood, he began building with a trembling reverence towards God for the saving of his household. He sought to bring his own family into the ark before other families. Other sons and daughters, wives and grandchildren were welcome (if they heeded his preaching), but he began with what God had first assigned him: his own household.
He did not outsource their welfare to the local pastor or youth leader, or to the government. In the fear of the Lord, he labored intentionally for the saving of his family.
Before All Becomes Dark
Soon after the boat landed, Noah would fall into the same drunkenness that God had just sent the flood to drown. Noah proved to be Adam’s son, not the second Adam. Sin survived the flood, and mankind, like Noah, would need someone to cover his nakedness.
And the one who came to do so is the one we proclaim today. We do not preach ourselves, bringing a hopeless message of mere death and judgment. We bring good news of great joy: the gospel of Jesus Christ. We bring news of one who submerged to the bottom of the flood to become an ark for all who will find refuge in him.
We speak seriously of the world’s separation from God in order to tell gladly of this King. We have the privilege of laboring for our families, laboring among our neighbors, laboring in our Lord. We are shooting stars across the expanse of history, should we not burn audibly for God’s glory in the ears of an unbelieving world before it fades to black?
Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org
As the sun rises on another year, where do you want to be found more faithful twelve months from now — in your diet and exercise, or in the patterns of your marriage and relationships, or in personal evangelism, or in productivity at work, or in communion with God? The beginning of a year is as good a time as any to audit our hearts for our hidden places of faithlessness. What sinful impulses have we neglected, excused, or even harbored? What might God finally prune away — or bring to life?
The apostle Paul warns us with a promise, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). A farmer who sows a few seeds will reap a small crop, but one who sows much will have a great harvest. How we sow (and for whom) will determine — in real, significant, meaningful ways — what we reap. If last year left us emotionally unstable, financially distressed, physically weak and unhealthy, relationally disconnected, and feeling farther away from God, we are likely reaping what we have sown. And if we sow the same this year, we will likely feel similarly a year from now. Or worse.
But if we sow bountifully, we will reap differently. And our God loves to fill (and refill) the cups of those who eagerly pursue him, and gladly pour themselves out for others.
How Will You Sow?
When Paul wrote about sowing and reaping, he was writing about financial generosity (2 Corinthians 9:7), but not only that — “in every good work,” he says (2 Corinthians 9:8). So, as we turn the page to another year, we would do well to consider how well we will sow — our money, yes, but also our time, our energy, our attention. We can determine now, with our hands open before God, who or what will get the most and best of what God has given us. Most of us sow sparingly because we sow thoughtlessly and prayerlessly. No farmer sows bountifully by accident, and few Christians sow sparingly with serious intentionality.
Why do we sow sparingly? We sow sparingly because we forget or ignore what we will reap (or not). We settle for the comfort and convenience of drifting despite how much it might cost us. We trade fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore for fractions of joy and moments of pleasure.
When we cannot see beyond the horizon of our short life, we learn to live day to day as if there’s nothing there. We neglect the profound and invincible wisdom in Jesus’s counsel,
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19–20)
We sow sparingly because we forget what we will reap, or we sow sparingly because we fear that God will provide sparingly. We hoard whatever seed he gives — time, money, energy — because we’re afraid we won’t have enough for ourselves. But Paul has a word to speak to all our new year’s fears: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6–8).
All You Need
You may not feel sufficient for what God has called you to do. Likely, as you look back over the last year, you feel freshly insufficient for your marriage, family, ministry, and other callings. That’s good. God does not call us to feel or be sufficient. We should feel insufficient for the Christian life (2 Corinthians 2:16). If we are genuinely able, it is because God is able. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency . . . ” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Ability and sufficiency that matter come, in every way, from above.
Apart from grace, we do not have the energy we need in parenting, or the wisdom we need for our schedule, or the faith to give beyond what’s comfortable, or the perseverance to steward our bodies well, or the patience for trials, or the love we need in marriage. But God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and wields the strength of a thousand armies, and knows billions and billions of stars by name — and he lives in us, and for us, by his Spirit.
In All Things
God, and God alone, will be your sufficiency — in everything. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things. . . .” (2 Corinthians 9:8). God will not overlook or forsake any area in your life — not your marriage, not your work, not your home, not your health. Wherever he provides, he provides in full, according to his wise plan. His grace covers every dark and needy corner in our hearts.
None of us sows well everywhere all the time. In God’s wise, sovereign, and loving plan, we can’t. All of us need to sow better somewhere. And we are probably prone to presume on God’s provision in areas where we are stronger, and to subtly assume he won’t provide more in areas where we are weaker. By faith, we resolve against both. We will ask God to provide in every area — where we are stronger or more gifted and where we are still weak — because God promises to provide in all things.
We live, work, love, and grow under the banner “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
At All Times
God will give you everything you need in every area of life at every moment over the next year (and for endless years). “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Our God is an always God. He will be there providing on the mountaintops of success or progress; he will be there providing in the valleys of disappointment and failure; and he will be there providing on the rough and often punishing roads of our ministry to others.
If we are his, no hour will be overlooked. Over every minute of every day, he says to us in Christ,
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
At all times. No interruptions, mistakes, or oversights. Just relentless, continuous, providing, fatherly love. Fear not, for the one who rules the universe and writes all of history will strengthen you, guide you, and protect you as you walk through this life. If we could see and feel the extent and constancy of his care, we would laugh at how fearful we can be. The clouds of uncertainty hanging over our future would begin to look less like devastating storms and more like much needed rain.
For All Good Work
The last all is the most subtle, at least in our English Bibles, but it is just as important and relevant for a new year: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every [literally, all] good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Every ounce of God’s provision to you will come laced with opportunity for you — to serve yourself or to turn, in love, and serve others. God always means for the grace he gives us to work through us for someone else’s good.
While many of us need to hear that God will provide again — all sufficiency, in all things, at all times — just as many need to be reminded that he has laid good works before each of us. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). God himself has prepared work for us to do this year, places for us, in particular, to sow, sowing that will often cost us more than we planned to give.
Will we walk in the love he has prepared for us? Let’s pray now, at the end of another year, for the sufficiency — all we need, in all things, at all times — to sow faithfully in the next.
Friends: 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.
Article by Jon Bloom, Staff writer, desiringGod.org
“No one ever spoke like this man.” There is a brief, tense conversation recorded in John’s Gospel that encapsulates, in certain ways, the last two thousand years of Jesus’s confounding impact on world history.
Given Jesus’s troubling and growing influence on the Jewish public, the chief priests and Pharisees decided to send officers to arrest Jesus (John 7:32). The officers, however, returned empty-handed. When the furious Pharisees asked why, the officers responded, “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46). This dumbfounded them. Even the officers were infatuated with Jesus! You can hear the religious leaders’ exasperation:
Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed. (John 7:47–49)
This pattern has recurred over and over, throughout history, with what Jesus of Nazareth said and did.
His Confounding Words
Leaders and scholars have repeatedly and relentlessly tried to bring charges against Jesus, to expose him as a heretic, or a lunatic, or a fraud, or a misunderstood political revolutionary, or an opiate of the masses, or a vassal of imperialism, or as his disconsolate disciples’ legendary wish-projection upon the cosmos. But despite all their best efforts, Jesus repeatedly resists arrest, confounding crowd after crowd, and generation after generation: No one ever spoke like this man.
What is it about Jesus that makes him speak like no other? Of course, there isn’t a single answer to this question. Countless volumes have been written, and Jesus’s uniqueness still hasn’t been exhausted. But in John 7, Jesus himself clues us in on one crucial truth that governed all he said (and didn’t say):
The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. (John 7:18)
Key to understanding the unique power of Jesus’s words is understanding why he spoke them.
Why He Said Everything He Said
In a previous discussion with Jewish leaders, Jesus told them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). In other words, one can look long in the right place and still miss the most important truths.
It is possible to spend a lifetime theorizing and debating why Jesus said what he did and miss what he actually said about what made his words unique and unforgettable. Here’s a sampling:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19).
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30).
“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:43–44).
“My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (John 7:16).
“The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18).
“I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28).
All of these statements (and more) reveal what motivated everything Jesus said and did. His one great goal in life, his one all-consuming passion, was to glorify his Father by speaking only what the Father told him to speak and doing only what the Father directed him to do. We hear this clearly in his priestly prayer just hours before his trial and crucifixion:
I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:4–5)
“The glory we seek has a great deal to do with what we choose to say or not say.”
Jesus was more concerned for the glory of God his Father than anything else. Jesus did not fear people — he “did not entrust himself to them” (John 2:24) and he did “not receive glory from [them]” (John 5:41). He loved and feared his Father. And this overriding pursuit of God’s glory freed him to say only what needed to be said when it needed to be said — and it made what he said so powerful and frequently unpredictable.
What Would You Have Said?
One way to see the radical freedom with which Jesus spoke is to put yourself in Jesus’s place in certain instances in the Gospel narratives and imagine what you honestly would have said, given all that was at stake. The courage and faith of Jesus to say certain things (and not say others) is remarkable.
If you had been Jesus that night Nicodemus, a sympathetic Pharisee who could be a powerful and needed ally, visited him with questions, would you have responded with confusing answers like, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3)?
If you had been Jesus that day near Sychar, sitting by Jacob’s well, when (1) an unescorted woman, (2) who was a Samaritan, and (3) a discredited moral outcast even among her own outcast people, showed up, would you have trusted her to be among first people to whom you explicitly disclosed your Messiahship (John 4:26)?
If you had been Jesus that day a paralyzed man was brought to him, knowing full well how blasphemous it would sound to the religious leaders present, would you have had the courage to say, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2)?
If you had been Jesus on that Sabbath day when the Pharisees rebuked him for allowing his disciples to pick and eat grain, would you have responded, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. . . . For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:6, 8)?
If you had been Jesus in tense discussions with religious leaders, would you have uttered such incendiary truths like, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), or “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)?
“Jesus spoke like no one else because he pursued his Father’s glory like no one else.”
Would you have told Simon the Pharisee that the immoral woman inappropriately touching your feet had a greater love for God than he did (Luke 7:36–49)? Would you have told the spiritually sincere rich young man that he needed to give all his riches away to the poor to be saved (Mark 10:17–22)? Would you have called your most devoted disciple “Satan” (Mark 8:33)? Would you have sealed your own brutal death by making it impossible for Pilate, who was trying to prevent your crucifixion, to prevent it (John 18:28–40)?
Unexpectedly Tender and Tough
No one ever spoke like this man. Jesus was stunningly and unexpectedly tender toward people condemned under the law, like a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11). And he was stunningly and unexpectedly tough on those who appeared to keep the law most rigorously, like calling Jewish leaders children of the devil (John 8:44). He delivered Gentile girls from demons (Matthew 15:21–28), kindly blessed “bothersome” children (Luke 18:15–17), and called scribes and Pharisees hell-bound “serpents” (Matthew 23:33).
Why did Jesus say these things? Because he was pursuing his Father’s glory by faithfully saying only what his Father’s honor led him to say. His goal was to reveal the Father to those given eyes to see (Luke 10:22). Seeking his Father’s glory, and not his own, freed him to say what needed to be said (John 8:28) and constrained him from saying what didn’t need to be said — at least not yet (John 16:12). And with regard to his own glory, he trusted his Father to glorify him (John 17:5). Jesus humbled himself under his Father’s mighty hand and trusted his Father to glorify him at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6).
Jesus spoke like no one else because he pursued his Father’s glory like no one else.
What Frees Your Tongue
How do you define Christlikeness? Do you know how Jesus defined it? Listen to how he prayed for his disciples, and for us:
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:17–21)
To be like Jesus is to be sanctified — set apart for God’s holy use — in the truth of God’s word (John 17:17), which becomes our word (John 17:20). The most Christlike people have “the word of Christ” dwelling in them richly (Colossians 3:16), and they speak what should be said, and refrain from speaking what should not be said (Ephesians 4:29). The most Christlike people seek God’s glory more than anything else, and this pursuit is what governs what they say.
“The courage and faith of Jesus to say certain things (and not say others) is remarkable.”
The glory we seek has a great deal to do with what we choose to say or not say. When our primary pursuit is our own glory, we will hardly ever say anything that might endanger it. What others think of us will dictate our words (John 5:44). We will speak like everyone else speaks for the reasons everyone else speaks. What frees our tongues for God is what freed Jesus’s tongue for God. He sought the Father’s glory and trusted the Father to glorify him. If our tongue is tied, it very well could be that we value our glory above God’s.
One of the great freedoms for which “Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1) is the freedom from the tyranny of pursuing our own glory. True freedom is pursuing God’s glory and trusting the Father, like Jesus did, to glorify us in the most satisfying ways at the proper time.
Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org
You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13–14)
Nothing could be weaker than hanging from the cross. His hands and feet sewn with nails to agony. His bare and broken body put on display for all to see. His lungs slowly, inescapably collapsing — one excruciating breath at a time. His enemies laugh, delighting in his dying. His friends withdraw and hide. He died between two hostile offenders: affliction and humiliation.
The way the rulers and authorities tortured Jesus was meant to magnify and degrade his weakness. “The chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself.’ . . . And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way” (Matthew 27:41–44). They could have killed him quietly, but they wanted the whole world to see what he could not do. They wanted everyone to see just how weak he really was.
“For now, we wrestle against forces much greater than ourselves.”
What looked like weakness, however, could not have been any stronger. By attempting to prey on a seemingly defenseless man, his murderers unleashed the full intensity and brilliance of divine power. In the weakest moment imaginable, Jesus defeated the two most intimidating enemies you have ever known: your sin and the armies of Satan against you.
Weakness Bore Your Condemnation
The apostle Paul writes, “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh . . .” (Colossians 2:13). We won’t appreciate the power of Christ if we don’t recognize just how helpless we were (and are) without him. We were dead in our sin — not sick, not broken, not misguided, not flawed, but dead. From the day we were born, we laid in a grave of our own making, with hearts spiritually and emotionally incapable of loving Jesus. Sin swallowed every ounce of our hope, and yet we still loved our sin (John 3:19).
But God did not leave our lifeless souls in the grave. Paul continues, “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). God sent his Son, who swallowed every ounce of our sin, bearing it on the cross, absorbing the wrath we deserved, and canceling a debt we could never pay. In the richness of his mercy, God loved us with a great love (Ephesians 2:4), even when we had mocked and rejected that love.
Reflecting on this mercy, Paul prays that we might know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19–20). If we really knew the kind of power God used to revive our once-dead hearts, we would not take our faith, or his power, for granted. We would never mistake the cross for weakness.
Weakness Won the War Against You
But God not only defeated our sin at the cross. With those same nails, he won his ages-long war with evil, a war that began before the first child was born. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:14–15). In Christ’s weakest moment, he disarmed the most powerful forces of evil the world has ever known. He not only disarmed them, but he triumphed over them. And he not only triumphed over them, but he humiliated them.
We have little idea what power lies beneath the surface of what we can see — the rulers and authorities of darkness that prowl, and tempt, and deceive, and corrupt. The sin crouching at your door is only one small part of a hostile and global mutiny against the Maker of heaven and earth. Do you live with an awareness of the massive spiritual forces lining up, every single day, against your faith in Jesus?
“The power of Christ’s cross has crushed everything that might threaten us.”
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” Paul writes, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). For now, we wrestle against forces much greater than ourselves. But we wrestle knowing that our Savior disarmed them with the nails in his hands and defeated them with his last breath. We fight knowing that “he who is in [us] is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Even while we wait for our King to return, and finish off evil once and for all, we know we have the final victory in Christ. His strength, in weakness, has borne everything that once condemned us. The power of his cross has crushed everything that might threaten us.