A.W.Tozer on John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… (a must read!)

Pentru articole in Limba Romana despre si de la A. W. Tozer faceti click aici – https://rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com/a-w-tozer

John 1:1

The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

An intelligent plain man, untaught in the truths of Christianity, coming upon this text, would likely conclude that John meant to teach that it is the nature of God to speak, to communicate His thoughts to others. And he would be right. A word is a medium by which thoughts are expressed, and the application of the term to the Eternal Son leads us to believe that self-expression is inherent in the Godhead, that God is forever seeking to speak Himself out to His creation. The whole Bible supports the idea. God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is by His nature continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking Voice.

One of the great realities with which we have to deal is the Voice of God in His world. The briefest and only satisfying cosmogony is this: “He spake and it was done.” The why of natural law is the living Voice of God immanent in His creation. And this word of God which brought all worlds into being cannot be understood to mean the Bible, for it is not a written or printed word at all, but the expression of the will of God spoken into the structure of all things. This word of God is the breath of God filling the world with living potentiality. The Voice of God is the most powerful force in nature, indeed the only force in nature, for all energy is here only because the power-filled Word is being spoken.

The Bible is the written word of God, and because it is written it is confined and limited by the necessities of ink and paper and leather. The Voice of God, however, is alive and free as the sovereign God is free. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The life is in the speaking words. God’s word in the Bible can have power only because it corresponds to God’s word in the universe. It is the present Voice which makes the written Word all-powerful. Otherwise it would lie locked in slumber within the covers of a book.

We take a low and primitive view of things when we conceive of God at the creation coming into physical contact with things, shaping and fitting and building like a carpenter. The Bible teaches otherwise: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. . . . For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Again we must remember that God is referring here not to His written Word, but to His speaking Voice. His world-filling Voice is meant, that Voice which antedates the Bible by uncounted centuries, that Voice which has not been silent since the dawn of creation, but is sounding still throughout the full far reaches of the universe.

The Word of God is quick and powerful. In the beginning He spoke to nothing, and it became something. Chaos heard it and became order; darkness heard it and became light. “And God said — and it was so.” These twin phrases, as cause and effect, occur throughout the Genesis story of the creation. The said accounts for the so. The so is the said put into the Continuous present.

That God is here and that He is speaking — these truths are back of all other Bible truths; without them there could be no revelation at all. God did not write a book and send it by messenger to be read at a distance by unaided minds. He spoke a Book and lives in His spoken words, constantly speaking His words and causing the power of them to persist across the years. God breathed on clay and it became a man; He breathes on men and they become clay. “Return ye children of men,” was the word spoken at the Fall by which God decreed the death of every man, and no added word has He needed to speak. The sad procession of mankind across the face of the earth from birth to the grave is proof that His original Word was enough.

We have not given sufficient attention to that deep utterance in the Book of John, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Shift the punctuation around as we will and the truth is still there: the Word of God affects the hearts of all men as light in the soul. In the hearts of all men the light shines, the Word sounds, and there is no escaping them. Something like this would of necessity be so if God is alive and in His world. And John says that it is so. Even those persons who have never heard of the Bible have still been preached to with sufficient clarity to remove every excuse from their hearts forever. “Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing Witness, and their thoughts the mean while either accusing or else excusing one another.” “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

This universal Voice of God was by the ancient Hebrews often called Wisdom, and was said to be everywhere sounding and searching throughout the earth, seeking some response from the Sons of men. The eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs begins, “Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?” The writer then pictures wisdom as a beautiful woman standing “in the top of the high places, by the way in the places of the paths.” She sounds her voice from every quarter so that no one may miss hearing it. “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men.” Then she pleads for the simple and the foolish to give ear to her words. It is spiritual response for which this Wisdom of God is pleading, a response which she has always sought and is but rarely able to secure. The tragedy is that our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear.

This universal Voice has ever sounded, and it has often troubled men even when they did not understand the source of their fears. Could it be that this Voice distilling like a living mist upon the hearts of men has been the undiscovered cause of the troubled conscience and the longing for immortality confessed by millions since the dawn of recorded history? We need not fear to face up to this. The speaking Voice is a fact. How men have reacted to it is for any observer to note.

When God spoke out of heaven to our Lord, self-centered men who heard it explained it by natural causes: they said, “It thundered.” This habit of explaining the Voice by appeals to natural law is at the very root of modern science. In the living breathing cosmos there is a mysterious Something, too wonderful, too awful for any mind to understand. The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.” The man of earth kneels also, but not to worship. He kneels to examine, to search, to find the cause and the how of things. Just now we happen to be living in a secular age. Our thought habits are those of the scientist, not those of the worshipper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. “It thundered,” we exclaim, and go our earthly way. But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.

Every one of us has had experiences which we have not been able to explain: a sudden sense of loneliness, or a feeling of wonder or awe in the face of the universal vastness. Or we have had a fleeting visitation of light like an illumination from some other sun, giving us in a quick flash an assurance that we are from another world, that our origins are divine. What we saw there, or felt, or heard, may have been contrary to all that we had been taught in the schools and at wide variance with all our former beliefs and opinions. We were forced to suspend our acquired doubts while, for a moment, the clouds were rolled back and we saw and heard for ourselves. Explain such things as we will, I think we have not been fair to the facts until we allow at least the possibility that such experiences may arise from the Presence of God in the world and His persistent effort to communicate with mankind. Let us not dismiss such a hypothesis too flippantly.

It is my own belief (and here I shall not feel bad if no one follows me) that every good and beautiful thing which man has produced in the world has been the result of his faulty and sin-blocked response to the creative Voice sounding over the earth. The moral philosophers who dreamed their high dreams of virtue, the religious thinkers who speculated about God and immortality, the poets and artists who created out of common stuff pure and lasting beauty: how can we explain them? It is not enough to say simply, “It was genius.” What then is genius? Could it be that a genius is a man haunted by the speaking Voice, laboring and striving like one possessed to achieve ends which he only vaguely understands? That the great man may have missed God in his labors, that he may even have spoken or written against God does not destroy the idea I am advancing. God’s redemptive revelation in the Holy Scriptures is necessary to saving faith and peace with God. Faith in a risen Saviour is necessary if the vague stirrings toward immortality are to bring us to restful and satisfying communion with God. To me this is a plausible explanation of all that is best out of Christ. But you can be a good Christian and not accept my thesis.

The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it. The blood of Jesus has covered not only the human race but all creation as well. “And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” We may safely preach a friendly Heaven. The heavens as well as the earth are filled with the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush. The perfect blood of atonement secures this forever.

Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven. This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion. We are at the opposite end of the pole from there. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God. But we may take heart. To a people caught in the tempest of the last great conflict God says, “Be still, and know that I am God,” and still He says it, as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.

It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will we may draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak to us in our hearts. I think for the average person the progression will be something like this: First a sound as of a Presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible, but still far from clear. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend. Then will come life and light, and best of all, ability to see and rest in and embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and All.

The Bible will never be a living Book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in His universe. To jump from a dead, impersonal world to a dogmatic Bible is too much for most people. They may admit that they should accept the Bible as the Word of God, and they may try to think of it as such, but they find it impossible to believe that the words there on the page are actually for them. A man may say, “These words are addressed to me,” and yet in his heart not feel and know that they are. He is the victim of a divided psychology. He tries to think of God as mute everywhere else and vocal only in a book.

I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong conception of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood. With notions like that in our heads how can we believe? The facts are that God is not silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind for us put into our familiar human words.

I think a new world will arise out of the religious mists when we approach our Bible with the idea that it is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking. The prophets habitually said, “Thus saith the Lord.” They meant their hearers to understand that God’s speaking is in the continuous present. We may use the past tense properly to indicate that at a certain time a certain word of God was spoken, but a word of God once spoken continues to be spoken, as a child once born continues to be alive, or a world once created continues to exist. And those are but imperfect illustrations, for children die and worlds burn out, but the Word of our God endureth forever.

If you would follow on to know the Lord, come at once to the open Bible expecting it to speak to you. Do not come with the notion that it is a thing which you may push around at your convenience. It is more than a thing; it is a voice, a word, the very Word of the living God.

(via)

Daniel Akin – A Life Like No Other: Jesus The Incarnate Word – 1 John 1:1-4

Daniel Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Christianity stands or falls on the person and work of Jesus Christ. It stands or falls on whether or not there’s a true and genuine incarnation. Most of us would be familiar with the doctrine of the incarnation as it is embedded in the prologue of John’s Gospel, where we read, „In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. And then, verse 14: „The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”.

But. many of us would not be familiar equally with the fact that the doctrine of the incarnation is also clearly taught and affirmed in the Epistle of John. So, instead of going to the prologue of John’s Gospel, join me in the prologue of John’s first letter- Chapter 1:1-4, where we’re going to see a life like no other. Jesus, the incarnate Word.

 1 John 1:1-4 The Word Became Flesh

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Preaching from 1 John 1:1-4, Dr.  Akin emphasizes Christianity’s dependence on the doctrine of the incarnation.

Daniel Akin – A Life Like No Other: Jesus The Incarnate Word – 1 John 1:1-4 from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

De la Conferinta Bisericilor lui Dumnezeu Iulie 2012

Voi posta o predica transcrisa din Limba Engleza recomandata de Pastorul Cornel Ilioi. Daca doriti sa ascultati/vizionati predica in video faceti click pe acest link – http://www.churchofgod.org/ga2012/stream-archive-thursday-7pm/

De notat: La minutul 82 Superintendentul Church of God, Dr. Culpepper declara ca singurul mod in care vom implini marea trimitere a lui Hristos e daca ne unim si lucram impreuna. Ne anunta ca statisticile dovedesc ca se intampla o mare trezire pe glob, in fiecare 25 de minute se intorc la Dumnezeu 3000 de suflete. Apoi face introducere la mai multi vizitatori speciali printre care este si George O. Wood, Superintendentul de la Assemblies of God impreuna cu Dl Arledge (Chief Operating Officer Assemblies of God) Dr Garrison Executive Director of US Missions, impreuna cu Niki Pop si Alex Sangeorzan (tot de la Assemblies of God)la minutul 86:00 (1 ora 26 min).

Bishop Ishmael Prince Charles este Pastorul Bisericii New Testament Church of God International Worship Center,  in Baughers Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, o biserica cu 800 de membrii.

PREDICA lui ISHMAEL PRINCE CHARLES incepe la minutul 90 (1 ora 30 min):

I was preaching once in Leicester England, there were probably 3,000 to 4,000 young people at that youth convention and I looked and I got so scared that the only thing I remembered was ‘hallelujah’. And, I thought I remembered, maybe it was at Lee University, „Every time you say the word ‘hallelujah’ you are bringing down one kingdom and you’re lifting up another kingdom.” If you catch that, it’s not a hype. Tonight, there are kingdoms in this house that will try to elevate themselves over the kingdom of God. But, tonight we are here to lift up the name of Jesus, above every other name. His name is power, His name is glorious. His name is excellent. The Lord, our God is in this place.

The Church of God is going through what we are calling ‘one of the toughest times in history’, but I declare to you that we are going to rise again. Thank God for yesterday, but our brightest days are ahead of us. There is a reason why we’re going through something, there is a reason we see theologians and philosophical people doing all this stuff. There’s a reason for doom and gloom. There’s a reason for why we pray the way we pray. There’s a reason for the hysterical bombardment and all the boredom that we see and the reason is this: We are about to go through a perfect storm. Because our God is perfect. So tonight here is the key statement you must catch in this message. Get it: There’s a powerful spiritual force that is about to be released on the earth, over the church. It will shake the very foundations of the kingdom of darkness and the church will rise again. Get ready to receive this power! Get ready to stand up and declare again, „Jesus Christ is Lord of all!”

We know the story in Joshua 1, where God Himself spoke to the servant Joshua Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. The missionaries that are here tonight, God has positioned. God has positioned the Church of God to take back territories all over the world. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. How many of you know tonight that God is with us?

I want to say to the people of God tonight, „God’s word is saying to somebody: ‘Be strong in these hard, turbulent times'”. Why? Because God is with us! I want to give you a word tonight and it is simple, „It’s time to rise again!” In spite of what the enemy is saying. We have seen it tonight with our missionaries.

(1) It’s time to rise again, but in the power of the pure Word

The problem that I have found out is this: We have deviated from the Bible.

We have deviated from the power of the purity of this book. That’s why we have so many problems. There is no money shortage or power shortage in the kingdom. We are diverted. We have moved away from the power of the Word. The Bible says, „In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God.” And the Word is God Himself!

God told Joshua to meditate. The problem we have… Can I just be myself here? … A bunch of preachers are preaching ‘donkey heads’ instead of the Word. Preaching people’s business, instead of the Word. Preaching gossip and all sorts of modern day mess instead of the Word. Preach the Word! It’s time for the Word again. Let’s get back to the Word.

WHat I have found in this word is the very character of God, the essence of the qualities of God that tells me how to live. How many know that we are pentecostals? I was a little baptist boy, 14 1/2 years old on the island of St. Vincent. One night I heard a Church of God of prophecy preacher and he spoke in tongues on the roadside. I said, „God, if that thing is right, I need it”. I went home, knelt at my mother’s bedside and my lips started trembling. My tongue was stuck in my mouth. I couldn’t talk properly. What came out of my mouth, I couldn’t understand it, but it was so sweet. God understood what I was saying. He baptized me in the Holy Ghost. We are pentecostals. Something more than what ought to be seen must happen. If we have the power of this book, something must be wrong.

I love the missionaries of the field, because when they go in the field they have to stand on the word. The miracle we heard and saw from Zambia tonight is because the pure power of the Word. There is power in this Word. There;s life in this world. There’s glory in this Word.

(2) It’s time to rise again out of our competitive jealousy

Competitive jealousy is causing us not to live in the Word. The devil is the instigator of competitive jealousy. He empowers agencies to destroy and blocks the anointing. But the power of the Word is by the Holy Spirit outpouring, it’s what empowers us. There’s a problem in the church. One of the major pitfalls that blocks the missionary operation,  that block the local church from arriving at its destiny of greatness is competitive jealousy.

It stands behind the pulpit. It sings in the choir. It sits in the bands, on the usher boards, it sits on the pastor’s counsel board. The power of the enemy comes down, it’s a secret killer. It’s a spirit that says, „Why do they prefer him over me?” When bitterness overtakes a christian, it leads to nothing else but an empty self that depends only on the devil’s agencies. Competitive jealousy has a root in the preference over one another.

And we have leaders who lead by intimidation, manipulation, victimization and discrimination. Tonight the church of God is going to rise out of this spirit. The leaders must be raised up again to lead with love, to lead with joy. Come out of this spirit of competitive jealousy, there’s too much of it in the church. Let’s rise up out of competitive jealousy, the same spirit that overcame Cain and Saul.

Our present position is not an indication of our future potential in God.

(3) It’s time to rise again and come to grips with ourselves 

We must begin to understand that we must not lead by the enemy’s plan.It is time to return to true biblical, pentecostal spirituality. I want to read something to you: „The church today wants to be everything, rather than the people of God. That’s why we have an identity crisis. The church needs to constantly have the Gospel afresh in this culturally driven society. The church has an anemic epistemology today, hermeneutics of suspicion; we are prone to doubt what God is doing. We need to get back to the power of Pentecost. Peter and John did not doubt the power of Pentecostal spirituality.

Peter and John said, „Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” What they had, the apostles gave. The problem is that most of the people today have nothing to give, because they’re full of themselves… Empty vessels standing behind the pulpits. Grudge, hatred, envy, malice, preaching every Sunday…

The Bible said, when the lame man got healed he  started leaping, shouting and jumping when Peter healed him. Arise and leap and jump. When was the last time in your church that you’ve seen arising? When a church possesses pentecostal spirituality there’s nothing that can stop you from rising. Why is it that we are not seeing the recovery? Because the church has become a consumer item. The church has become what is called in theology a tithing unit. We see the church now, instead of walking with God, the church becomes an emblem of consumer mentality, where sometimes, we just consume in the church instead of having power.

The problem with Pentecostals is that they have compartmentalized their lives. They don’t see their whole lives under the leadership of Christ. This is why so many preachers, great leaders are falling. Because we separate Scripture from its ethics. We separate facts by values. We separate personal faith and say it should be a private matter. But, in this western culture, I’m calling you back. They say the neutrality of all knowledge is a deception of the devil. The essential biblical spirituality is that ‘Now is the time to rise again!’ The church is not just a tithing unit for a consumer relationship. The church is a place of divine capability. The church is a place where the power of God resides, where the sick must be healed, the lost must be saved!

Pastor Ishmael Prince Charles concludes with a poignant story he heard of a young woman, who had a dream when she was 12 years old that she would have a child and the Lord told her what to name him. Something strange happened. A man came to her village and this young girl, who was now 15 told the man, „Pastor, I was already a christian the night I got pregnant in a one night stand. She said I was studying to be a school teacher and now my life is a mess. I am just about to have an abortion”. The holy spirit, speaking through the pastor, said, „Don’t touch the child. I need him”. She brought the child into the world and she said her grandmother kicked her out. She lived by the roadside, in a shack. The child was born in a shack and he contracted pneumonia and asthma. At the point of his last breath, close to death she put him down and arranged his hands to his side. She was so poor she lay him in the street. She said she sat there, a lonely teenager, crying and the same voice spoke and said, „Pick up the dying child, take him to the river and dip him 3 times and the boy shall live”. She said she was so frightened, there was such a bright light. The voice said again, „Pick up the child”. She looked and picked him up and slung the boy over her shoulder. She walked about a mile to the cold, running river and dipped the child in the water 3 times. And the little boy got up and breathed again. That little boy is me.

It is time for you to rise out of your story.

You can watch the message, which starts at the 1 hr 30 min mark here- http://www.churchofgod.org/ga2012/stream-archive-thursday-7pm/

The Modernist Preacher – Entering Hell By Oscar C. Eliason, c1960

Read another poem and Eliason’s life story in a previous post here

The Modernist Preacher-Entering Hell

by Oscar C. Eliason

He was an ordained minister, but modern in his views.
He preached his twisted doctrines to people in the pews.
He would not hurt their feelings, whate’er the cost would be,
But for their smiles and friendship and compliments sought he.
His church was filled with wicked souls that should be saved from sin,
But never once he showed the way or tried a soul to win.
He preached about the lovely birds that twitter in the trees,
The babl’ing of the running brooks, the murm’ring of the seas.

He quoted fancy poetry that tickled list’ning ears
When sorrow came to some, he tried to laugh away their tears.
His smooth and slipp’ry sermons made the people slide to hell.
The harm he did by preaching goes beyond what we can tell.
He took our Holy Bible, and preached it full of holes,
The Virgin Birth, said he can’t be believed by honest souls,
The miracles of Jesus and the resurrection tale
For educated ones like us, today, cannot avail.
We’re living in an age, said he, when wisdom rules and reigns,
When man’s intelligence is great and superstition wanes.

He said, we’re all God’s children who live upon this earth,
No message of salvation, no need of second birth.
His coat was bought with money that he had wrongly gained,
For through his twisted sermons his wealth he had obtained.
He was just like the Roman soldiers that watched at Jesus’ grave,
For money in abundance, to them, the people gave;
It all was theirs by telling what was a sinful lie –
A resurrected Savior, they, too, were to deny.

The day at last had come for the minister to die,
When to his congregation, he had to say good-bye.
His form lay cold and lifeless, his ministry was past,
His tongue with all its poison was hushed and stilled at last.
His funeral was grand; he was lauded to the skies-
They preached him into heaven where there are no good-byes.
Upon the lonely hill, underneath the shady trees,
His form was laid to rest in the whisp’ring of the breeze.

A tombstone was erected with words: „He is at rest,
He’s gone to heaven’s glories to live among the blest.”
His body now is lifeless, but Ah! His soul lives on,
He failed to enter in where they thought that he had gone.
The letters on the tombstone or that sermon some had heard,
Could not decide his destiny, ‘twas not the final word.
He still had God to deal with, the one who knows the heart;
While others entered heaven, he heard the word, „Depart.”

He pauses for a moment upon the brink of hell;
He stares into a depth where he evermore will dwell.
He hears the cries and groanings of souls he had misled,
He recognizes faces among the screaming dead.
He sees departed deacons which he had highly praised.
Their fingers pointing at him as they their voices raised:
„You stood behind the pulpit, and lived in awful sin,
We took you for a saint, but a liar you have been.”
Accusing cries! He hears them, „Ah! You have been to blame,
You led us into darkness when you were seeking fame.”

„You preached your deadly doctrine, we thought you knew the way.
We fed you and we clothed you, we even raised your pay.
You’ve robbed us of a home where no tear-drops ever flow,
Where days are always fair and the heav’nly breezes blow.
Where living streams are flowing, and saints and Angels sing,
Where every one is happy, and Hallelujahs ring.
We’re in this place of torment, from which no soul returns;
We hear the cry of lost ones, we feel the sizzling burns;
Give us a drop of water, we’re tortured in this flame;
You failed to preach salvation to us through Jesus’ Name.”

The preacher turns in horror, he tries to leave the scene,
He knows the awful future for every soul unclean,
But there he meets the devil, whom he has served so well,
He feels the demon powers as they drag him into hell.
Throughout eternal ages, his groans, too, must be heard-
He, too, must suffer torment-he failed to heed God’s Word.
He feels God’s wrath upon him, he hears the hot flames roar,
His doctrine now is different, he ridicules no more.

By Oscar C. Eliason, c1960

The Anatomy of Backsliding

by John Piper. Read post at www.desiringGod.org

PSALMS 119:176

I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek thy servant,
for I do not forget thy commandments.

Introduction

The truth about our experience is that we fail to live at the level of holiness that we know is fitting for a follower of Christ. We need to see how this same reality of imperfection turns up in the saints of Scripture and how they handled it.

The Structure of Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is the most sustained act of praise and commitment to the Word of God in all the Bible.

It is composed of 22 stanzas of 8 verses each. Each of the 22 stanzas is built on a different Hebrew letter, of which there are 22 in the Hebrew alphabet. In each of the stanzas, each of the eight verses begins with the letter of that stanza.

Why This Structure?

It is the sort of thing you do when you „delight in the law of the Lord” (PSALM 1:2) and when you believe (with PSALM 19:7–10) that:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.

It is a way of passing the time of night or day rolling the Word over in your mind, seeing how many different angles you can see.

It is a reveling in the riches of the Word. Like when we wanted to honor Elsie, we took the letters of her name and thought up words to describe her.

The Background for the Shocking Last Verse

That is the background for the last verse of the psalm, a verse that comes as a shock, because there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the psalm—a confession that, in spite of all that has gone before, he has now backslidden and gone astray. Verse 176:

I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek thy servant,
for I do not forget thy commandments.

Three Parts to the Anatomy of Backsliding

1. „I have gone astray like a lost sheep . . .

The saints sometimes go astray.

  • He was a saint:
    • his love for the law—v. 97
    • his life of prayer—vv. 145, 147 (whole psalm!)
    • his persistent praise of the Word—v. 164
    • his track record of obedience—vv. 22, 100f., 110, 121
  • He went astray:
    • he admits it openly in this verse—v. 176
    • it is not the first time—v. 67
    • the battle will not be over to the end of life; perhaps this is why he puts it last: after all his success the battle for holiness goes on!
  • Like a lost sheep:
    • „lost” in Hebrew also means perishing
    • sheep will die if not found

2. ” . . . seek your servant . . . ”

True saints cry out to be found when straying.

  • He is not content to stray.
  • He admits his need of help: „Seek me!”
  • How does he anticipate God’s intervention?
    • be gracious—v. 58
    • revive me—v. 25
    • open my eyes—v. 18 (cf. 129!)
    • incline my heart—vv. 36f., 112 (cf. 165!)
    • teach me—vv. 12, 26f., 29, etc.
    • strengthen me—vv. 28, 133
    • afflict me—vv. 67, 71

Note: though he gives God the tribute of having power to rescue him, he does not fault God for his straying. God is not guilty that I am prone to wander. He is not bound to rescue me in any time but his own, if at all.

What is the saint’s assurance of God’s willingness to seek him?

3. ” . . . for I do not forget your commandments.”

True saints cannot erase the law that has been written on their heart by the Spirit of God. They remain there beckoning and enticing.

  • The spiritual taste for God cannot be wholly obliterated in the heart of the saints.
  • Saints not only call on God to seek them, they seek God through his Word. „Not forgetting” is a litotes for „really remember and call to mind.”
  • Connection to Communion:
    • ISAIAH 53:6—”All we like sheep . . . „
    • JOHN 10:11—”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
© Desiring God

Get Wisdom (4) Life Is Not Trivial

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

by John Piper. You can read the original post here at www.desiringGod.org

Isn’t it the extremely high and the extremely low occasions of life that trigger in us a hunger that life not be so trivial most of the time? Every human being now and then feels a longing that life not dribble away like a leaky faucet. You’ve all tasted the desire that day-to-day life be more than a series of trifles. It can happen when you are reading a poem, when you are kneeling in your closet, when you are standing at the lakeside at sunset. It very often happens at birth and death.

When my mother died in December, 1974, I had to go home and help tend my dad’s injury. I didn’t know what, besides grief, I might feel. But one thing that happened was this: I wrote to Dr. Glenn, chairman of my department at Bethel College and said: „I know you want me to teach an overload in the spring but unless my job depends on it I’d rather not.” The reason I gave was: „When I stand beside my mother’s coffin and then look at my wife and son, the $1,000 extra which I would make teaching the overload simply loses all its attraction because it would rob me of some of the quality time with my family.” In other words, the crisis time of my mother’s death awakened in me a longing that my family life not be trivial.

Why does this happen? I think it’s because at these moments of intense emotion we see life for what it really is. The non-essentials get stripped off and life essential shines for what it really is—and it is not trivial. We see things in the light of eternity, we see the way God sees, and triviality has no place in God’s life.

The world is hungry for people for whom nothing is trivial, people who ooze with life because in everything they see a reflection of eternity—even in a fish and a blade of grass.

Last Thursday Noël and I got away to a lake for the day. Before we went Karsten picked out and read for us Psalm 104 at breakfast. This was a great preparation for a day out of doors. It is a nature psalm and says, for example, „O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom thou hast made them all; the earth is full of thy creatures. Yonder is the sea great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathans which thou didst form to sport in it.”

Well, one of the things I did at this small lake was put bread balls on a little gold hook and pull up a dozen or so fish that were swimming under the dock. They all looked about the same—ordinary little panfish with yellow bellies. Then I pulled up one that really took me by surprise and awakened me. I held it there in my hand after I took the hook out and just looked at it. It had olive-green stripes wiggling backwards from head to tail. Then sprinkled all over were light blue luminous spots. On the back of the gill there was a black protrusion about the size of a fingernail, and right on the tip of this was a deep red dot. I held it there in the sun and turned it back and forth and said: „You know what, little fishy? God thought you up. He thought up the olive stripes and blue dots and the deep red spot on black.” How manifold are his works, in wisdom he has made them all. By the grace of God that little fish that day was not trivial, because Psalm 104 had opened my eyes to see the way God sees.

Another example of seeing reflections of eternity in something commonplace happened to me a few years ago. A student of mine asked me one day with a gleam in her eye, „Have you seen the grass growing up through the new asphalt walkway?” My answer was a sort of yes and no. Yes, I had seen it but, no, it hadn’t struck me as noteworthy. But it had struck her and as we talked I came to feel that it should have struck me. Is it not astonishing that a soft blade of grass can push straight up through solid asphalt? What an amazing thing. When you see things with the eyes of God nothing is trivial.

If that is true of a little fish and blade of grass, how much more true must it be of Jesus and his Word and the worship of his name! Doesn’t it make your heart ache when suddenly you wake up and realize that for some time past you have been going through the motions of devotion and worship as if it were all a very trivial affair? I have an emerging vision for Bethlehem Baptist Church—which I will be sharing along the way, but I can say now that an essential of that vision is that we become a church of people who see with the eyes of God and who see nothing as trivial, especially the Word and worship of God.

Moses said to Israel in DEUTERONOMY 32:46FF.: „Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no trifle for you but it is your life.” It is no trifle for you, it is your life! O that we might be such a people that when strangers come they will say, „The Word of God and worship is certainly no trifle to that group.” For it is not a trivial thing to hear God speak, it is not trivial to pray to our creator. It is not trivial to sing his praises. My prayer is that God will awaken us ever anew to see life the way he sees it. To see in every little fish and blade of grass and every human face a reflection of eternity. And above all to see in God the source and sum and satisfaction of all our longings, so that we say with the psalmist: Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart may fail. But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Amen.

© Desiring God

The Word Was God and Became Flesh by John Piper

You can listen to the John Piper sermon audio here.

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. 9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, „This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION

We began the last decade of the 20th century by putting up a building for exultation; God willing, we will begin the first decade of the 21st century by putting up a building for education. That is the order of priority, but it is not the order of life. Exultation in God is first in the order of importance. But it doesn’t come first in life. In life, true education precedes true exultation. Learning truth precedes loving truth. Right reflection on God precedes right affection for God. Seeing the glory of Christ precedes savoring the glory of Christ. Good theology is the foundation of great doxology. That’s the order of life.

So we call the vision behind and beneath this new building, EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. The word „for” means that what we know and believe and teach about God is foundational for all our worship – not just the corporate worship in this building, but the exultation in God that overflows in lives of love, where others will see the glory of God (Matthew 5:16). Our education of children and youth and adults aims at exultation. Or, which is the same thing, it aims at „spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.”

God Is Alone and God Is Sovereign

I said last week that my task in these next ten weeks is to relate this vision of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION to the larger picture of what we are about here at Bethlehem. What do we as a church exist for, and how does this vision – this plan and this building – fit in to that larger picture? We began with the foundation of the foundation. We began with God. And in particular with the deity of God – the God-ness of God – or the sovereignty of God. „You are My witnesses, declares the LORD (Yahweh), and I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:12b-13). „I am God . . . I am He” – that’s the deity of God. „I act and no one can turn it” – that’s the sovereignty of God (see also Isaiah 14:27; 45:5-7; 46:9-10). And of this, God says, „You are my witnesses.”

This is the foundation of our EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. We will teach that Yahweh is God and that God is sovereign, and that this is wonderful news because it is the foundation of all his grace and all his promises. Therefore, it is the foundation of true and high and passionate exultation. We will say to our children and to our youth and to each other and to anyone who will listen the words of Deuteronomy 4:39, „Know [!] therefore today, and take it to your heart [!], that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” That is the foundation of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION: God is God alone, and God is sovereign.

Jesus Is God

Today, I add one thing to this, one huge thing: Jesus is God. When we say EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION – IN GOD, we mean EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION – IN JESUS. When we say „We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples,” we mean, „We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things for the joy of all peoples.”

To see the basis of this from the Bible, look with me at our text and let’s make three observations.

1. Jesus Christ, who is called „the Word,” is the eternal God.

John 1:1-3, „In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

The main thing to see here is the statement at the end of verse 1: „The Word was God.” Here Jesus Christ is called „the Word.” We will see that in just a moment from verses 14 and 17. Verse 3 clarifies what it means for „the Word” to be God. „All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” In other words, he did not come into being. All that did come into being came into being through him. He has always existed.

This clarifies what is meant by „in the beginning.” Not just „at the time of creation,” but at the time before anything came into being. The Word was with God and the Word was God because the Word never had a beginning. The Word is co-eternal with God the Father. He is not the Father, because he was „with God” the Father. But he is equally God with God the Father because „the Word was God.”

That is the first observation.

2. The Word became flesh; that is, God was united with a human nature in one Person, and was truly man and truly God who lived in history as Jesus Christ.

Verse 14: „And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Then in verse 17 this Person called „the Word” is named: „For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” So Jesus Christ is „the Word” who was in the beginning with God and who was God.

3. If you receive him, you become a child of God and enjoy everlasting waves of grace.

Combine verses 12 and 16: „But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. . .. For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” If you receive him for who he really is, you are granted to be a child of God and that means receiving „grace upon grace” that corresponds to his fullness -which is an infinite fullness. And so the waves never cease. And so our exultation in Jesus Christ will never cease. His fullness is inexhaustible and it will overflow with waves of grace forever and ever and never run dry or become stagnant.

This is because, as Colossians 2:9 says, „In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” His fullness is the fullness of „deity”. Therefore, it is an infinite fullness, and the grace that flows from infinite fullness is infinite grace. Therefore, we will exult in Jesus Christ with ever-new and ever-increasing joy forever and ever. This is the aim of all our education – namely, exultation in Jesus Christ, who is God – forever and ever.

The Price We must Pay

We will talk next week about why the Word was made flesh – why Jesus Christ came: the central act of history, the death of the Son of God for sin. But this morning I want to draw attention to a price we must pay if we are going to pursue EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION in Jesus as God. The price is going to be controversy. On the way to exultation in Jesus, education inevitably leads to disputation. Why is this?

We live in a world of sin and futility and finitude. 2 Timothy 4:3 makes it clear that „the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” In Acts 20:30 Paul warns the elders of Ephesus, „From among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” And 1 John 4:1-2 says specifically, „Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. . . . By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

If you believe in Truth and make it the foundation of your education, you will have adversaries. I say this because I want you to have a realistic view, and not a romantic one, about what it will mean in the coming years to be a part of Bethlehem Baptist Church and a part of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. Most of us love exultation. But we don’t love disputation. We would love to move straight from education to exultation all the time. From learning the truth to leaping with joy. From meditation to celebration without any disputation. That would be wonderful. But it would be cheap and short-lived, perhaps a generation or so. And then true celebration would collapse.

An Illustration of the Cost

Let me give you just one illustration so that you can count the cost, whether you want to be a part of a fellowship that will have to pay the price of controversy. Last September I wrote an editorial that was printed in the Minneapolis StarTribune. It had to do with the deity and supremacy of Jesus Christ, and specifically, it had to do with whether Christians should try to win Jewish people to Christ. In it I said,

According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the hopes of Israel. He is the yes to all God’s promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). He is the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62; Matthew 16:16; John 20:31; Acts 9:22; 1 John 2:22; 5:1). To reject him is to reject God the Father, and to confess him as Lord of your life is to be reconciled to God. „Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). . . . Even though it is perceived as offensive by many Jewish people, the . . . call for prayer that Israel would believe on her Messiah is a profoundly loving act. For „he who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:12).

In other words, if you don’t worship Jesus, you don’t worship God. „He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). This is what it means to educate on the basis of the radical truth that Jesus is God. And if we do this, we will bring out strong opposition.

Four pastors of major, influential churches in Minneapolis (three Protestant and one Catholic) signed a letter to the editor that said this:

The Rev. Piper . . . claims that the . . . appeal [to pray that Jewish people accept Jesus as their Messiah] is a „profoundly loving” act. But genuine love does not harbor the kind of aggressive agenda that is implicit in visions of „Christianizing” the world. Love, including the agape that lies at the heart of the Christian gospel, is more respectful and less intrusive, more open and less controlling than that. Unfortunately, „arrogant” is the right word to describe any attempts at proselytizing – in this case the effort of Christians to „win over” their Jewish brothers and sisters. Thoughtful Christians will disassociate themselves from any such effort. (Letter submitted to the Editor of the StarTribune, Oct. 12, 1999, and faxed to me. Part of it was published in the paper.)

The saddest thing about this letter is not that it puts you and me in the category of arrogant, unthinking, and unloving people (which it does), but that the shepherds of major Christian churches do not believe faith in Christ is essential for salvation.

True Education Is Founded on Biblical Truth

So let’s be very clear as we move forward in the vision of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. We love exultation. That is the goal of all things: joyful, loving, humble, soul-satisfying exultation in Jesus Christ, „who is over all, God blessed for ever” (Romans 9:5). We don’t love disputation and confrontation. We long for the day when controversy will no longer be necessary for „the defense and confirmation of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:7). But until then, true education will be founded on Biblical truth. And Biblical truth will include the glorious realities that Yahweh is God and God is sovereign and Jesus is God. And „he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). And „he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:12).

So in the coming weeks, as you ponder whether you want to be a part this vision of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION, weigh seriously whether you believe it is loving or arrogant to say that Jesus is God and to call all people who don’t believe in him to be reconciled to God through him. Don’t be naive. Christianity is a life and death issue. It is not a therapy to make things go better. It is a conviction about reality and a faith that in some places can get you killed, and in other places will get you criticized. We are not playing games.

At stake in EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION are the lives of our children and our own lives and the lives of many others. But we have learned as a church from hard experience and from Romans 5:3 to „exult in tribulation” because it produces hope. And so, even the tribulation of controversy can lead to deeper and sweeter exultation in God. John Owen put it like this, over three hundred years ago: „When we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for – then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men.”* Communion with God. There’s the key. We will not just argue about Christ or discuss him or analyze him. But we will know him and trust him and commune with him and exult in him. That’s the goal of EDUCATION FOR EXULTATION. And not for us only, but for the whole world. Pray earnestly as we move toward it, and ask God to show you where you fit.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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