Joy and Glory

Greetings,

“Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.”

Jonathan Edwards’s twenty second resolution is quite possibly one of the main cornerstones (or perhaps the keystone, but whatever) of John Piper’s book, Don’t Waste Your Life. It is one of the things that led Piper into a new and passionate understanding of meaning.

God is meaning, says the common Christienese proverb. But what does that mean? It means that we take God seriously. Period (or full-stop, for whoever might be Irish here). We take Him seriously in what He says, in what He desires, and in what He is. This means that we need to take life seriously, for God cares about all of life, and not just about handing out tracts, being a bus captain, or leading a small study group (sorry).

Piper’s foundational premise is that our joy is inextricably connected with God’s glory, and that to seek the one truthfully, is to seek the other. We all are to seek joy, and we all do: we cannot help it. That is the way that we are designed. But when we take God seriously, we are able to see the eternal truth and transcendent worth of His glory, and we will dedicate all of our lives to the passionate seeking of Him and His glory.

This is good news! Not only is joy attainable that is transcendent and untouched by circumstances, but it is also infinitely amazing and inexplicable in its pleasure. No other thing on earth can equal the joys that God has to offer us on earth, and they cannot even begin to compare to what He has for us in heaven. And this is to be found by dedicating your life in service to an all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, and eternally loving God. This is the Gospel, and it needs to be lived as much as preached.

Thus: God’s service is total and all-consuming, but it is not hard: it is infinitely joyous!

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser

The Semantics of Risk

Greetings,

I am going to embark on a risky subject: a semantic quagmire. I hate semantic debates, for they always tend to disrupt any effort made towards efficient communication. I have yet to see a semantic delineation that was both elegant and clear, while at the same time as brutally practical as semantics need to be. But many times it is helpful to at least try to clear some of the muddy waters made by well-meaning people who know what they are talking about, but who end up mangling the main intent of language: practical communication.

In ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ John Piper spends an entire chapter discoursing on how he believes Christians should view risk and safety. His premises were sound, and his ambitions lofty and good, but his definitions were skewed. And because of this his views on these two very important subjects became obfuscated and cloaked behind an illusion of contradiction with the rest of his book. I will try to sort out his mistake and also to clarify exactly what the Christian’s view of risk and safety ought truly to be.

Piper begins by defining risk, which, as it is his primary term for that chapter, is a good thing. Unfortunately his definition was given too little thought (in my view) and so creates confusion. He defines risk as “any action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury.” Throughout the rest of the chapter he uses this to mean loss or injury of physical, temporal things. He goes on to prove that risk is right and good.

Security and safety are illusions, according to Piper, and this is true, so far as his definition of risk goes. We are never secure from death, destruction, or danger, and God does not promise this security to us. This is very ably proven by Piper’s admirable study. What he misses is that peace is a result of a belief of your safety. If safety is an illusion, then peace is an illusion (which is what many people affirm). The problem is that God promises peace to those who put their trust in Him. Material safety does not come from this, though: quite the opposite.

Let us then think of it this way: risk is an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury of what is precious to you. That last addition makes all the difference in the world. If God is most precious to you, then you should not make any risks at all. What this also means is that we can have peace through faith in God just like He promised. When our treasure is in heaven, then it is transcendent, and we have transcendent peace, rather than temporal peace. Thus it is best to make carnal risks (risking things that are carnal), and wrong to make heavenly risks.

Piper admits the difficulty that I have noted in his section entitled ‘Risking for the Wrong Reasons.’ He notes very truly that when you say that making carnal risks (my terms, not his) is good, then Christians begin to create persecution for themselves! It becomes very difficult to explain why this is wrong, until you redefine risk.

So it is that we can find safety, security, and peace in making God and His desires our treasure, our highest desire, and our aim. It is then that we can have transcendent peace, and risk all our carnal possessions and interests, while standing utterly risk-free in the center of God’s will.

I hope that I did not mangle that thought too much. I had a terrible time explaining myself. Again, semantics are not my favorite subject. Did I make sense? Can someone help clarify what I am trying to say?

With joy and peace in Christ,
Jay Lauser

Hermeneutics 2

Greetings,

In the Rebelution Cafe, we ended up discussing Piper’s views that he stated regarding hermeneutics and subjective interpretation of the Bible. Because of some of the comments made, I thought that it might help to clarify in a little way what I think he might have been trying to get across (albeit in a condensed way).

Let us take 2 Tim. 4:13 first, then I will apply this method to Jeremiah 29:10-13, as was requested by one person.

2 Timothy 4:13 The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring [with thee,] and the books, [but] especially the parchments.

This is very obviously a specific request for a specific person, and neither of these specific attributes apply to us: we are not Timothy, and there is no longer a cloak in Troas, no longer a Carpus, and Paul definitely does not need it anymore. But that does not mean that we can glean nothing from this verse! It just means that, as I said above in my article, we need to broaden the principle until the relevant context matches with ours. Here is an entire sermon by Spurgeon on this passage that is a great example of how to do this.

Now for Jeremiah 29:10-13.

Jeremiah 29:10-13 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find [me,] when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Now, obviously, we are not the kingdom of Israel, we are not in Babylon or even being prepared to be sent there, we are not in physical captivity, and we are not even in the Old Testament covenant. So, you might think that it has no application to us, but it does, and it has a marvelous lesson.

Deuteronomy 30:2-5 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
4 If [any] of thine be driven out unto the outmost [parts] of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.

That is a snippet of God’s promise to the nation of Israel. It is actually a prophecy of what Jeremiah was talking about. It is a promise for God to not forget His chosen nation, even during their rebellion, and will still hear and help them if they repent and turn to Him. Even in the midst of their punishments, He would hearken to them and save them. This is what God was reiterating in Jeremiah.

But how to apply it to ourselves? We have the same promise, made by God to us as His adopted children, that even in our chastening, He heareth us, and He will lead us to liberty and victory. Even when we fail Him, He still loves and cares, and He will lead us out as we repent.

But that might have more or less to do with us depending on our situation. But if we do not fit into that category, we can broaden the principle: God cares for His children, and He will do so no matter what they or anybody else does. He will guide and protect them from harm that is outside of His plan for them, and He will not forsake them. I think that would apply to all of us.

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ:

With joy and peace in Christ,
Jay Lauser

Affliction

Greetings,

In our study on the Rebelution Forums of John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life, the following question came up:

Is it obvious that all men seek happiness (even those who commit suicide)? Is the pursuit of happiness inevitable? How do you think the Bible regards the pursuit of Happiness? Cite Scripture verses in your answer.

The following is my answer.

In each man there is the deep requirement to seek his own happiness, or what appears to him to be happiness. This last qualifier is important because we are very often wrong. We are in fact very rarely right, and even then it is only because we relinquished our understanding in favor of God’s wisdom. Understanding what true happiness is and where its source is one of the most important things that we can do in life (of you look at it right, it is the most important thing). To put a definition of happiness that is different from God’s, and then to seek after that happiness is to commit idolatry: for the true definition of true happiness is God’s presence and the source of true happiness is God.

But God’s definition of happiness (or joy, as some people have distinguished it as) is very different from our definitions, and may seem to be the exact opposite from what we want. But God’s definition is always true and best, for God always knows best.

Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you,] and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

God considers pain, affliction, and suffering to be in His plans for our joy! This is all across the Bible. There is deprivation of immediate pleasures (Hebrews 11:25), pain and torture (Hebrews 11:36-39). but God sees all these things as blessings, and desires that we should also (Acts 5:40-41).

Mark 13:13 And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

This is because God’s blessings include joy, peace, and great love in the midst of our circumstances. These are not dependent upon our material and physical well-being, but transcends them. And by us being tormented and attacked by the world, we are being assured that we are on Christ’s side! The problem is when you are not being persecuted! This does not mean that God will never give us success and safety on earth, nor that it is never in God’s will for us to own a Cadillac, but that we ought not to be surprised, worried, confused, or downhearted when hard times come because of our faith. Rejoice instead that God saw fit to bless you in that way.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
1 Peter 4:14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye;] for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

With joy and peace in Christ,
Jay Lauser