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“The First Service One Owes To Others In The Fellowship Consists In Listening To Them. Just As Love Of God Begins In Listening To His Word, So The Beginning Of Love For The Brethren Is Learning To Listen To Them. It Is God’s Love For Us That He Not Only Gives Us His Word But Lends Us His Ear. So It Is His Work That We Do For Our Brother When We Learn To Listen To Him.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By Megan Briggs

eternal securityWhile at the Sing! Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, John Piper addressed a subject heavy on the minds of many Christians who identify with the reformed part of the evangelical church. Piper spoke to Josh Harris’ announcement that he has “fallen away” from faith. The theologian and pastor, who knows Harris personally, said it’s foolish to think that only some of us are capable of committing apostasy, but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t sovereign and that the doctrine of eternal security isn’t true.

“At 73, I go to my knees almost every single day and say ‘Hold on to me!’” Piper exclaimed during a Q+A session at the conference. “If God doesn’t keep me, if he takes his hand off of me this afternoon, I will commit apostasy,” he said.

What About the Doctrine of Eternal Security, Though?

The doctrine of eternal security essentially says that once a person comes to know and accept the saving grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they cannot become “unsaved.” This doctrine is also known as “once saved, always saved,” and Piper says he believes in it. However, he admits saying “I believe in the doctrine of eternal security” and “I could go to hell this afternoon” presents a very troubling juxtaposition. One wonders how both statements could be uttered in the same sentence.

Piper argues the answer lies in another doctrine, one he sees “on every page of the Bible.”  Piper articulates the sovereignty of God this way:

Nothing you do originates the decisive act or impulse that saves you. Nothing you think, nothing you will, nothing you do originates the act of the soul or the act of the body that causes God to elect you, predestine you, call you, keep you, or glorify you. All of it is a free gift.

While this doctrine teaches us there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, it also implies we are ultimately not in control of whether we fall away. When considering whether or not one could commit apostasy, Piper argues that nobody should have the mindset “I could keep this from happening.” The sovereignty of God teaches us that only God can keep us from falling. If this thought is hard to wrap your mind around or shifts your thinking, Piper admits the thought can throw you “really off balance.”

Self-Stability vs. God-Stability

Since we cannot simply will ourselves not to commit apostasy, this is where we need to shift from being self-stable to being God-stable, Piper says. To replace one’s sense of self-stability with God-stability requires some Bible knowledge, prayer, and “some deep soul work.”

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It’s quite strange to expect people to conform to your morals because you quoted a book they don’t read

“Time is lost when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering.”

 

I am currently reading, The Compelling Community” by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop. The authors quote D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones to illustrate that our great salvation through Jesus should amaze us:

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of the most influential preachers of the twentieth century, pastoring at Westminster Chapel in London from 1939 to 1968. I remember asking his daughter what the key to her father’s long ministry was. And in typical, pointed clarity, she answered: “I don’t think he ever got over his salvation. He never stopped being surprised by it” (182).

“The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayer become.”  

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together50.

“But every common devotion should include the word of Scripture, the hymns of the Church, and the prayer of the fellowship. 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together44.

crying woman's eye, black and white image, low key, selective focus Richard Baxter, in A Christian Directory (Ligonier, 1990), page 140, lists seven benefits of looking by faith to the Lord, as to no other, for our deepest delight.  Updating the language a little:

1.  Delight in God will prove that we know him and love him and that we are prepared for his kingdom, for all who delight in him shall enjoy him.

2.  Prosperity, that is, the small addition of earthly things, will not easily corrupt us or transport us.

3.  Adversity, that is, the withholding of earthly delights, will not excessively grieve us or easily deject us.

4.  We will receive more profit from a sermon or book or conversation that we delight in than other people, who don’t delight in them, will receive from many such opportunities.

5.  All our service will be sweet to ourselves and acceptable to God; if we delight in him, he certainly delights in us.

6.  We will have a continual feast within, to sweeten all the crosses of our lives and to provide us with joy greater than our sorrow in our saddest condition.

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“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship   

Pain: A Secret Garden of Pride | Desiring God

August 19, 2015

Pain: A Secret Garden of Pride

Pain can be a secret garden of pride.

We don’t talk about it often because it’s so sensitive, so vulnerable — so painful. As touchy as the topic of pain is, though, it’s equally dangerous to tiptoe around it. John Piper writes this about our pain,

Satan uses pleasure and pain to try and destroy our faith. He wields pleasure to make us doubt God’s satisfying greatness, and pain to make us doubt God’s sovereign goodness.

Pain can be a powerful weapon for good in the heart of faith. It can produce deeper, heartfelt humility and greater dependence on God. And pain can inflict wounds far worse and more lasting than any physical agony. At its worst, it can cause us to doubt God’s goodness, to wallow in self-pity, and to isolate ourselves from him, as well as from others.

Pain becomes proud because it believes no one else understands. No one feels what I feel. And so pain distances itself from anyone who might try and speak into its suffering. But pain afflicts itself even more the farther it separates itself from others. God has given us himself, his word, and each other to produce faith, and even joy, in the midst of pain, even the most severe and unique pain.

One test to determine whether our pain is producing pride is to ask how we respond to encouragement from others, maybe especially from other believers who don’t understand our pain. Are we willing to hear the word and hope of God from someone who has not experienced or cannot comprehend our current suffering? If we’re unwilling, then pain has driven us into isolation, and Satan’s succeeding in his purpose for your suffering.

Case Study: The Pain of Unwanted Singleness

I’m learning this lesson about myself from my own experience with suffering. From far too young, I longed for the affection, safety, and intimacy I anticipated with a wife.

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