What does the bible say about the poor? (the believing and the unbelieving poor)

Photo credit soundcloud.com

I had a discussion (in Romanian) with a blog reader about the poor, and in looking up the biblical verses in support of helping the poor, I came across this John Piper article that I believe can be very useful in separating those verses that applied to helping poor fellow Christians and those that apply to helping the unbelieving poor. I hope you find this helpful as well.

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.

Put Strong Pillars Under Your Case for the Unbelieving Poor

I only bring this up because I want the church to care more not less about the suffering that comes from poverty. Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. And “all suffering” includes the miseries of unbelievers who live in extreme poverty.

This is a cause that should have the best biblical pillars under it. When the wrong pillars are put there, the cause is weakened, even if many listeners don’t know they are the wrong pillars, and even if the wrong pillars are emotionally gripping.

It doesn’t help this cause to use biblical pillars that are designed to motivate mercy for suffering believers. Three typically misplaced pillars of this sort are:

  1. Matthew 25:40 — „And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
  2. 1 John 3:17–18 — „If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
  3. James 2:15–16 — „If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “’Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that’?”

These are strong pillars for caring for believers in need. And we should do more of it.

But the wealth of biblical pillars for caring for unbelievers in need is so great, why would we weaken our case by using wrong pillars?

  1. Luke 6:27–31 — Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. . . . Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
  2. Matthew 7:12 — Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
  3. Matthew 5:16 — In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
  4. Luke 10:25-37 (The parable of the Good Samaritan) — “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
  5. Galatians 6:10 — As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
  6. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 — See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

This is a plea for the sake of the unbelieving, suffering poor. They should have better than bad arguments. Don’t defend them with careless exegesis. Don’t support them with pillars that cannot hold. Give them your best defense.

Source DesiringGod.org – http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/put-strong-pillars-under-your-case-for-the-unbelieving-poor

Why does God seek His own glory?

Photo credit www.chemin-neuf.fr

I have heard this question asked many times, and not just by unbelievers, but by Christians as well. John Piper answers it  this way:

When he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:10)

People stumble over the teaching that God exalts his own glory and seeks to be praised by his people because the Bible teaches us not to be like that. For example, the Bible says that love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5, see NASB).

How can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to “seeking his own” glory and praise and joy? How can God be for us if he is so utterly for himself?

The answer I propose is this: Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, he must be for himself if he is to be for us. The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator.

If God should turn away from himself as the Source of infinite joy, he would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of his own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside himself. He would commit idolatry.

This would be no gain for us. For where can we go when our God has become unrighteous? Where will we find a Rock of integrity in the universe when the heart of God has ceased to value supremely the supremely valuable? Where shall we turn with our adoration when God himself has forsaken the claims of infinite worth and beauty?

No, we do not turn God’s self-exaltation into love by demanding that God cease to be God. Instead, we must come to see that God is love precisely because he relentlessly pursues the praises of his name in the hearts of his people.

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This devotional is featured today on Solid Joys, the daily devotional app from the ministry of John Piper. These short but substantive readings aim to feed your joy in Jesus every day of the year. Download the app for free in iTunes for Apple devices, or in Google Play for Android (also available in Korean).

Source: DesiringGod.orgJohn 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.

Desiring God National Conference – Act the Miracle Panel on Sanctification (Video)

The panel videos are always a treasure trove of personal application advice on living life. Here’s just a few examples from this particular panel:

The moment of temptation – James 1:13-15

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

  • Dr. Russell Moore– I think Satan works in two ways. One of them is in deception. So, you have someone who is deceived in thinking ‘I don’t know, I don’t believe this is going to have consequences, you will not surely die…’ or somehow „i’m special, God’s law doesn’t apply to me in this case’. So, they’re deceived. They don’t see what’s actually happening until it’s too late. And/ or through accusation. That way that the devil accuses us because of our sin. So, either one of those areas leads to the same place which is ultimately to death. So I think the moment of temptation, one problem that people have  is not being aware of the darkness around us. The scripture warns us consistently. But, also to be aware of the possibility of despair. One of the ways that Satan can pin us down in temptation is to start to think of ourselves as an animal: „I don’t have any power over this, I don’t have any control over this, I’m just simply determined to walk in this way.”(13:00)
  • John Piper – I just drew attention to the words ‘No temptation has befallen you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful; He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which ye are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.’ (1 Corinthians 10:13)   I’ve always thought that’s a really provocative way to end the verse, after you’ve used the word escape, to use the word endure. A way of escape may be made so that you may endure. If you got to escape, you’re not enduring anymore. So, my conclusion is that the escape is the power to endure. The word for endure means- you’re being pressed about without being crushed. I’m feeling pressed by external or internal something and endurance means I’m not gonna give up here, I’m not gonna squash. And that’s the escape. The Lord gives that. (23:00)

The role of commandments in sanctification and obedience

  • John Piper: To tell you what you ought to do. (25:00)
  • Kevin Deyoung: Theologians talk about the law being used in different ways. (26:00)
  1. One way is a restraint of wickedness. You get these commandments in some kind of common grace it restrains you from everything you might want to do
  2. Second, what we think of most in the law-gospel distinction. The commands come at us and we say, „I don’t live up to that, I don’t love my neighbor as myself, I don’t love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, I don’t obey the 10 commandments. I need a Savior.” It shows you a need for a Savior. You run to Christ.
  3. And then, the third use which is in the various historically reformed confessions and also in the Lutheran ones (which is sometimes overlooked) is that the law is also given to us as the perfect rule of righteousness. And, there’s a lot of difficult, theological layers. Because, what do we mean by the law, for example?  The law can mean the Torah- the first five books of the Bible, it can mean the Mosaic Covenant, it can mean just commands, and what do we mean as an instrument of our sanctification? The law’s not giving us the power to obey, but, it is giving us the blueprint. It is pointing us along the path. It is telling us how we ought to live. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul can do this back and forth, „I’m not under the law, but I’m under the law of Christ.” There’s a sense in which he’s saying the Mosaic covenant is not our covenant. I’m not under law, but I don’t want to do away with commandments. I’m still under the law of Christ. And he wants to hold out for us. So, when he gets to Romans 13 he talks about love, he says, „Love is fulfilled in these commandments and these commandments, he lists half of the decalogue is fulfilled in love.” So, if people want to know what it’s like to love your neighbor, you have to go to some of the commandments and if you really want to obey the commandments, you have to talk about loving your neighbor. I wouldn’t quite say they’re interchangeable, but you have to talk about both if you’re gonna talk about either in a biblical way. And I would say, that is the heart of the third use of the law.
  4. So, commands- the New Testament is full of them. God still gives them to us. We just need to obey them, as one hoping to live out all that we are in Christ, and not as one hoping to prove or hoping to earn some sort of status in Christ. So, the law leads to Gospel. But, if you look at the exodus, the Gospel also leads to law because He set them free from Egypt, He didn’t tell them, „Clean up your act, obey the 10 commandments for 400 years and I’ll set you free.” He set them free and then He led them to Sinai and then He said, „Now, you’re to worship Me and here’s what it looks like”.

The role of striving in a christian life

  • Dr. Russell Moore: There is a tendency and there is a danger, because we tend as christians to ping back and forth between extremes and we tend to react to the last bad thing that I encountered. And so, people that grew up in churches in which the Gospel was for unbelievers, and then everybody else was living according to rules or principles, or however this was laid out in that congregation, tend to want to move away form that and say, „We have the Gospel, we are received and accepted in Christ,  we believe the Gospel and so everything else comes almost organically, reflexively and so there’s a tendency to not want to talk about pleasing God or about the commandments of God and then, those people’s children react to that with, „We need to have holiness. Let’s have rules and regulations,” and eclipse the Gospel. Instead, you have both of those things. You have a Gospel that frees us and it tells us who we are in Christ. It tells us what has been done for us. But, that grace that has freed us, has freed us to live out a life in Christ that is defined by the word of Christ. By what it is that He tells us to do.And so, we believe and because we believe, we’re obedient. Pastor Piper’s book ‘Future Grace’ is one of the most helpful things in print about the fact that, because we believe God, who has spoken to us about how we can be freed from condemnation, and how we’re made right, we also then believe Him when He tells us what is best for us, as we move toward the future that He has for us. (29:00)
  • John Piper: As I’ve thought about this most recently, what’s been helpful is to notice that the phrase ‘by faith’ is a definer of the verb ‘live’. For example, Galatians 2:20 the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. The ‘living’ and the ‘faith’ are not the same. The Bible says, „Strive to enter by the narrow gate.” You just take that word ‘strive’ and say ‘believe harder’. Well, it doesn’t work that way because you have descriptions of the christian life that use verbs of ‘doing’ or ‘living’ by faith. So ‘faith’ becomes the instrument or the empowerment for living or doing. We walk by faith and not by sight. So, the walking is not the same as the believing. I’m walking by believing. That means then practically, that the way the will is engaged in obedience is not simply by believing. For example, you’ve decided that the command of ‘visit this person in prison’ or ‘welcome this refugee’ into your home’, os something else. And it involves the motion of your body. The legs have to flex and you must get up, open the door, get in the car, turn the key, take some time… These are all physical actions that have in and of themselves no moral significance whatsoever. But, they are what you are called upon to do. They’re getting you towards doing something. Now, the question is not merely believing. I must do that by faith. That’s why I wrote the book (Future Grace). What does it mean to turn the key by faith, to open the door by faith, to drive a car by faith, go to a prison by faith or a sick person by faith? It also, your will is telling your muscles to do things. And, you’re doing them. And that takes some exertion. It’s painful. It’s hard to deny yourself a comfortable evening at home when you think you should go to the hospital, or something. Here’s where the rubber meets the road for me: The alarm goes off. I’ve had the grace to set it early for meeting God in the morning. It goes off and I am absolutely dead tired. My mind and body make an absolutely compelling case for why sleep is more needful than the Bible. Now, what do you do at that moment? You, by faith get out of bed. Well, for me that would mean believing the promise that it is more blessed to be with my Bible than to be in bed. Believe it. Having believed that, now what? Believing that will get you out of bed. But not before you say to your legs, „Flop over the edge of the bed legs! Flop! Do it now! Do it! ” That really is what it comes down to when you’re getting up in the morning. After you believe, your will tells your body to do things, or NOT. And, that’s why I think it’s over simplistic, it’s flattening, it’s reductionistic to say that that battle is only fought in terms of ‘believe the Gospel more’ or ‘believe the promise more’. It is believe the promise, convince yourself it is more blessed. That’s gonna produce the motivation to get you out of bed, but, then the will says to your legs- who are saying back to you ‘NO, I’m not’- ‘Yes you are.’You sit there and you watch yourself talk to yourself and watch your muscles act in obedience.  (32:00)
  • Kevin DeYoung – I don’t think any of us are in danger of ‘we’re working too hard’.  That may sound, not quite right theologically, but here’s what I mean. We can be in danger of striving, of working, of of being diligent and we can get it wrong in a couple of ways. One, is to do it without faith- legalism or we can not be working at all the things that we ought to be working at. (devotions, family, etc) (38:00)

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  • John Piper: The principle that I think we should keep in mind that the warfare against sin, for holiness is a warfare to be fought in the moment with the Bible, and in the background with the Bible. In other words, daily meditation on Scripture is tilling the garden in which the flowers of holiness grows. And if a rabbit, at 3 o clock in the afternoon comes along to try and chew down this beautiful flower, you kill it. And you kill it with a verse that you remember from the morning. So its the ‘both’ ‘and’. Sometimes we can only do one. We need the Bible when challenged in some way of impatience or unkindness and I need a verse to kill that sin. Yes, you do and I do. I also need to be stocking that arsenal and just sweetening my sour heart every morning. So, just those 2 things, by way of principle- we’re pursuing a sweetening, humbling, nourishing, strengthening, and those are just adjectives of which there are 1000 of things that God is doing in our hearts when we read the Bible, and we don’t know He’s doing. And then, through the day, we need particular daggers that we stick Satan with when he’s trying to make us do something we shouldn’t do. (2:00)
  • John Piper: Someone may have mentioned the inspiration of other people’s holiness. And I’m thinking right now of histories and biographies. So, a means of grace for me, few things outside the Bible inspire me to want to be something that I’m not, as biographies of people who in all their sinfulness have conquered some sin, or conquered some weakness and have glorified Christ more because of it. So, I’m stirred and want to press on and fight the fight by stories of people I read in history who have done that.  (11:10)
  • Kevin DeYoung: Don’t pass up those promptings to pray. Sometimes I get it at night, this feeling, ” I need to go pray, I need to think through this” and the thought comes, „I’ll do that in the morning.”  Second thing, very practically, we’re all different, but the practical thing that has helped my prayer life the most  has been not sitting down while I’m doing it. I walk… I wish that I could wake up and have great times in prayer, but I get great times of sleepiness that come and so I walk, and you go out and walk 25 minutes and you’ve got 25 minutes to come back… walking has helped me immensely. (5:00)
  • Dr. Russell Moore: Hymns- I find often that the power of hymns and songs comes not in the moment in which I’m singing them, but, later when they sort of just show up in some primal place inside of me, often very, very convicting. Just a few weeks ago, I was driving along and I was having a really hard time in terms of self pity and anxiety about something and I had my iPod just set to random music and all of a sudden an old hymn from my tradition ‘Just as I am’ came on, which I had heard every single Sunday, 50 verses of it at the end of every service as a child. But, it just pierced through to me because I thought, „I don’t believe that right now,” that I am standing here, just as I am, without one plea, except that your blood was shed for me. It moved to this point of repentance and conviction that I’m not sure simply thinking about it would have gotten to me so quickly.  (12:00)

John Piper – God’s passion for His glory

chart from http://www.pewforum.org/christian/global-christianity-exec.aspx

John Piper preaches to college students at the Radiate Conference 2009. Before he delves into the message, Piper cites some interesting statistics from Philip Jenkins (Professor of Christian studies at Penn State U.)Mark Noll as to the shift of the spread of christianity to the ‘global south’. The global south refers to the astonishing growth of the christian church in Africa, Latin America and Asia while the formerly dominant christian lands like Europe are fading in their significance. I don’t think God’s done with the old christian lands and I pray some of you will be part of that renewal. Some of the statistics cited:

At the beginning of the 20th century Europeans dominated the world church with approx. 70.6% of the world’s christian population. Yet, by the end of the 20th century, the european percentage of world christianity shrunk to 28%. Latin America and Africa combined provide 43% of the world’s christians.

Statistic from Jenkins:

  • In 1900 Africa had 10 million christians representing about 10% of the population. By 2000, this figure had grown to 360 million, representing about half the population. Quantitatively, this may be the largest shift in religious affiliation that had ever occurred anywhere.

Statistics from Mark Noll’s book ‘The new shape of world christianity’:

  • The number of practicing christians in China may be approaching the number of those in the United States.
  • Live bodies in church are far more numerous in Kenya than in Canada.
  • More believers worship together in church Sunday by Sunday in Nagaland than in Norway.
  • More Christian workers from Brazil are active in cross cultural ministry (outside their homeland) than  from Britain or from Canada.
  • Last Sunday, more christian believers attended church in China than in all the so called christian Europe.
  • Last Sunday, more presbyterians were in church in Ghana than in Scotland.
  • This past week, in Great Britain, at least 15,000 christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing locals. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia.
  • In a word, the christian church has experienced a larger geographical redistribution in the last 50 years than in any comparable period in its history, with the exception of the very earliest years of church history.

Piper: Now, that is a cause for rejoicing in our great, sovereign God. However, how many believes around the world, especially in the west are drawing mistaken inferences from that truth. They are concluding that the day of western missions- „So, you, leaving here to go there is over”.- And it not only is over, it should be over. You begin to pick this up and you listen around the world that „We don’t need America, we don’t need Canada, we don’t need Europe, because every group is touched and it’s better for the locals to do the evangelizing anyway, because it’s cheaper and culturally more effective. And besides, the west is fading”.

Here’s some counterpoints Piper cites:

The United States is sending out more missionaries than it ever has before. And this does not take into account the explosion American short term mission volunteers, whose number may approach 2 million a year.

But, worse than the approach that the day of western missions is over is the mistake that it should be. That there is some new development, that because of some incredible global presence of christians, that going a long way, like 5 or 10 or 15,000 miles and having to spend 60, 70, or 80,000 dollars to get you and your family there, then learn a different language, then learn a different culture is somehow over is based on a misapprehension of the dynamic of the situation.

When you talk about unreached peoples being evangelized by the locals, there aren’t any locals! That’s the meaning of unreached. There are cultural, linguistic, historic  identities to this people group  and those who live 50 or 100 miles away don’t share those languages, they don’t share those cultures, and in fact, there may be historic animosity between these 2 local people groups that would make it way better in Africa for a Filipino to come, or a Canadian, or an American or a Scot to come than from somebody 50 miles away. It isn’t that simple. So, don’t you make that mistake, don’t you listen to those statistics and say, „Oh, it’s very expensive to send somebody. They (locals) could do it for $25 a month”. No they can’t, not necessarily. Now, I’m not ruling out that we should partner all over the world with every evangelical effort to reach the unreached peoples of the world and if someone can do it more inexpensive from a local place, and more effectively, God bless them, let’s help them.

But, it’s a huge mistake to think that what’s left to be done in the world  doesn’t need you.

If you would like to study statistics more and also look at some maps and charts, the Pew Forum has an in depth study of christian global patterns here – http://www.pewforum.org/christian/global-christianity-exec.aspx

Preaching with elevated vagueness

According to an article on Patheos SPURGEON liked to quote this about vague preachers:

The classic evangelical take-down of Robertson’s overblown reputation is the line: “Robertson believed that Christ did something or other, which, somehow or other, had some connexion or other with salvation.” Spurgeon didn’t coin that one, but he loved to quote it.

JOHN PIPER exhorting preachers to be crystal clear in their preaching:

It was in a tweet by Fred Sanders linking to his article about F. W. Robertson, a 19th century British preacher. Even before I read the article I could smell the rot. Robertson, it has been discovered, was covering his sexual affair in private while covering the truth in the pulpit.

That is not surprising. There is a connection between skilled vagueness and concealed immorality. Why else would a man use great gifts to make things unclear unless he was afraid of clarity? And fear of clarity in preaching is a good sign that something besides doctrine is being concealed.

This is not new. And the reason I call attention to Sanders’ article is because I want to plead with pastors to be crystal clear in their preaching, and surgically clean in their private lives. Read the entire John Piper article here-

Fred Sanders in his article- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scriptorium/2010/08/f-w-robertsons-life-and-death/

In the last few years, new light has been shed on Robertson’s personal life. Investigators have discovered Robertson’s private journal from the year 1849. He made his entries in a code that protected its contents from those who shared his household, but is no barrier to later scholars. What’s in the journal? No surprise: extramarital sex. The entry for October 1, 1849: “Four hours in bed with Augusta.” Mrs. Robertson’s name was Ellen, and the name of Augusta’s husband (she had one) is not recorded.

Sanders also quotes Doug Wilson:

Doug Wilson once described the connection between pastoral sin and vague preaching, in a blog post titled “Porn as Liturgical Corruption:”

when men preach wiggle room they often find that other men will frequently like the look of that wiggle room…. This creates a cycle — the minister is being pushed to compromise from within, and once he begins preaching more tolerant (and therefore more tolerable) sermons, he begins to be pulled. He has presented handles to those who would pull him. And so the lie about Jesus that he has allowed to take root in his heart is a lie that works its way into his manuscript. And from there into other hearts.

Read the entire Fred Sanders article here-  http://www.patheos.com

Read the Doug Wilson article here – http://www.dougwils.com/Sex-and-Culture/Porn-as-Liturgical-Corruption.html

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper and Justin Taylor

You can download the pdf (free) here

About the Book

In the last few years, 9/11, a tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and many other tragedies have shown us that the vision of God in today’s churches in relation to evil and suffering is often frivolous. Against the overwhelming weight and seriousness of the Bible, many Christians are choosing to become more shallow, more entertainment-oriented, and therefore irrelevant in the face of massive suffering.

In Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, contributors John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Steve Saint, Carl Ellis, David Powlison, Dustin Shramek, and Mark Talbot explore the many categories of God’s sovereignty as evidenced in his Word. They urge readers to look to Christ, even in suffering, to find the greatest confidence, deepest comfort, and sweetest fellowship they have ever known.

Free ebook from John Piper: Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God

Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God is a free ebook to help you answer the very hard questions about the goodness and sovereignty of God. It includes four John Piper sermons and an interview with the father of a disabled son.

About the Book

Disabilities break into life in various forms: as the product of genetic misalignments in the womb, as the result of tragic and regrettable accidents, as the byproducts of infectious disease, and from the degenerative effects of old age. They affect joints, bones, nervous systems, lungs, hearts, and brains. And even in the United States — a country that leads the world in medical innovation and technology — roughly 20% of its citizens live with a disability.

No church is immune. This means every church leader must be prepared to answer very hard questions about the goodness and sovereignty of God.

Does God have a good design in my disability?

To this hard question God is not silent. But if we’re to hear his answer, we must submit our hearts to his word. Looking at what the Bible says is the aim of this collection of resources from pastor John Piper.

This ebook — including four sermons and an interview with a man of a disabled son — focuses on John 5:1–18 andJohn 9:1–38 and is designed to serve pastors who will be called on to minister God’s Word to God’s people at decisive points in their lives. The question is not if disabilities will surface in your church, the question is how you will respond when they do? At that decisive moment, what will you say?

via www.DesiringGod.org

 

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