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Article by John Piper

Almighty and merciful Father,

Hallowed be your name in Minneapolis. Revered, admired, honored — above every name, in church, in politics, in sports, in music, in theater, in business, in media, in heaven or in hell. May your name, your absolute reality, be the greatest treasure of our lives. And may your eternal, divine Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord — crucified for sin, risen from the dead, reigning forever — be known and loved as the greatest person in this city.

It was no compliment to the city of Nineveh, but it was a great mercy, when you said to your sulking prophet Jonah, “Should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left?” (Jonah 4:11).

Oh, how kind you are to pity our folly rather than pander to our pride. Jonah could not fathom your mercy. His desire was the fire of judgment. And you stunned him, and angered him, with the shock of forgiveness..

And have we not heard your Son, crying out to the city that would kill him, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)?

Oh, how large is your heart toward cities in their sin and misery.

Yes, we have heard you speak mercy to great cities. Did you not say, to Jerusalem, “This city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth” (Jeremiah 33:9)? They were not worthy — not any more than Nineveh, or Minneapolis. But you are a merciful God, “slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).

And what are we?

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His word is the kind of counsel you want to heed. “He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28.29). “His understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147.5. When he gives counsel about the coronavirus, it is firm, unshakable, lasting. “The counsel of the LORD stands forever (Psalm 33.11). “His way is perfect” (2 Samuel 22.31). Therefore, his words are sweet and precious. “More to be desired are they than gold…sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19.10).

…Therefore, in the best of times and worst of times, God’s words bring unshakable peace and joy.

Dr. John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ21.

More in the coming days!

I just started reading a brand new book: Coronavirus and Christ by Dr. John Piper. In the opening paragraphs, Piper writes: “Do we have a Rock under our feet? A Rock that cannot be shaken–ever?” (8).

More in the coming days!

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Devotional by John Piper

By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.(Hebrews 10:14)

This verse is full of encouragement for imperfect sinners like us, and full of motivation for holiness.

It means that you can have assurance that you stand perfected and completed in the eyes of your heavenly Father not because you are perfect now, but precisely because you are not perfect now but are “being sanctified,” “being made holy” — that, by faith in God’s promises, you are moving away from your lingering imperfection toward more and more holiness. That’s the point of Hebrews 10:14.

Does your faith make you eager to forsake sin and make progress in holiness? That’s the kind of faith that in the midst of imperfection can look to Christ and say, “You have already perfected me in your sight.”

This faith says, “Christ, today I have sinned. But I hate my sin. For you have written the law on my heart, and I long to do it. And you are working in me what is pleasing in your sight (Hebrews 13:21). And so, I hate the sin that I still do; and I hate the sinful thoughts that I contemplate.”

This is the true and realistic faith that saves. This is the faith that can savor the words, “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

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No, I Shall Not Want

An Anthem for Everyday Anxieties

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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

Every one of us wakes up each morning as a bundle of desires. Beneath even the most outwardly apathetic demeanor are loves, needs, and fears — each of them demanding our attention and obedience. Many of us move through our days largely unconscious of these basic emotions, even though they sit at the control panel of our hearts, pulling the levers that decide what we say and do.

A husband and father, for example, leaves work filled with a love for comfort. He obeys that love by coming home, not to his wife and kids, but to his couch and sports.

An employee walks into the office feeling a need for his peers’ approval. So he performs on the stage from nine to five, always listening for applause.

A young man, wounded from past relationships, fears the prospect of future pain. So he withdraws socially, insulating himself from anyone who might harm him.

Such loves, needs, and fears present themselves so persuasively, so forcefully, that we often fail to ask if they are feelings worth following. They can keep us from hearing another voice that has been speaking to us all the while, bidding us to walk a better path.

That Other Voice

God, in his mercy, makes us stop and listen. Behind the clamor of our desires, we hear the voice of a shepherd who invites us to green pastures and still waters. The trouble, however, is that his voice often leads in the opposite direction of our feelings. Our loves, needs, and fears push us toward one path; he calls us to another. To follow him, we must deny them.

In moments such as these, we encounter what C.S. Lewis calls “the real problem of the Christian life.” The decisions that define us as Christians often do not come with a flash and a bang. They come softly, almost noiselessly. They come, Lewis tells us,

the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. (Mere Christianity, 198)

And what does that other voice — that larger, stronger, quieter life — teach us to say to our rebel feelings? Four words: “I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).

‘I Shall Not Want’

Imagine you wake up with an instinctive love for comfort. You just want to move from bed to office to couch to bed without interruptions. You can’t be bothered by other people today, especially the needy ones. You need more rest, more me time. That hard conversation can wait until tomorrow. But then you stop and listen to that other voice, which teaches you to say, “When I walk into discomfort, I shall not want.”

Or perhaps you wake up feeling a deep need for approval. You just want others to appreciate you, listen to you, love you. You wish you were better looking, less awkward. You’re ready to laugh at jokes that aren’t funny and say things you don’t believe. But then that other point of view wraps its arm around your shoulder, and helps you say, “I have one Master to please today. When others reject or ignore me, I shall not want.”

Or maybe you wake up with a vague fear of coming trials. You just want to hold what’s precious in your life out of God’s reach. A crowd of what ifs runs through your mind, and you answer by searching for something to distract you. But then that larger, stronger, quieter life comes flowing in, and you find yourself saying, “When trouble comes, I shall not want.”

The wild pack of loves, needs, and fears has rushed at you, but you have beaten them back with this four-word shove: I shall not want. You are ready to follow your shepherd wherever he leads. They may come back in the afternoon, or even ten minutes from now, but you know what to do. You plug your ears to their persuasions and remember, again and again, I shall not want.

And so on, all day.

‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’

Of course, the four words I shall not want possess no magical qualities. We cannot charm away temptation simply by saying them. Rather, they are powerful only insofar as we believe the words that come before them: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). How do we know with confidence that we shall not want, even when our loves, needs, and fears say just the opposite? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is our shepherd.

Jesus spilled his blood in Golgotha’s dust so we could lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23:2).

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“The key to joy in God is God’s omnipotent, transforming grace, bought by his Son, applied by His Spirit, wakened by the Word, and laid hold of by faith through prayer”

~ John PiperWhen I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy138

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He Died Early in the Smile of God

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813–1843)

Article by John Piper

Robert Murray McCheyne was a local pastor in Dundee, Scotland, who died in 1843 at the age of 29. No extraordinary events in his life made him likely to be remembered. But he had a very precious friend, Andrew Bonar, a nearby pastor. And within two years Andrew had published Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray McCheyne. It is still in print, and here we are 176 years after McCheyne’s death, encouraged and inspired by his life.

What was it about McCheyne’s short, and in many ways ordinary, life that gave it the force that created the book (and now books) that preserves his legacy to our day?

The Rose and the Thorn

I suggest that there was a double key to the force of McCheyne’s life: the preciousness of Jesus and the pain of a thorn.

In McCheyne’s description of his teenage years, he said, “I kissed the Rose nor thought about the thorn” — meaning, “I indulged in all the amusing and beautiful pleasures of the world, and didn’t give a thought to sickness and suffering and death.” But after his conversion, he spoke often of Jesus as his Rose of Sharon, and he lived in almost constant awareness of the thorn of his sickness and that his time might be short. He said in one of his sermons,

Set not your heart on the flowers of this world; for they have all a canker in them. Prize the Rose of Sharon . . . more than all; for he changeth not. Live nearer to Christ than to the saints, so that when they are taken from you, you may have him to lean on still. (Sermons of Robert Murray McCheyne)

McCheyne lived only the morning of his life: he died before he was 30. His effectiveness, however, was not frustrated by this fact but empowered by it. Because of his tuberculosis, he lived with the strong sense that he would die early. So the double key to his life is the preciousness of Jesus, the Rose, intensified by the pain of the thorn, the sickness and the shortness of his life.

Pierced Awake

McCheyne was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 21, 1813. He grew up in an atmosphere with high moral standards, but was, by his own testimony, “devoid of God.” When he went to the University of Edinburgh at the age of 14, he studied classics. He was kissing the rose of classical learning, and ignoring the thorn of suffering and death.

But all that changed in 1831 when he was 18 years old. David, Robert’s oldest brother, was neither spiritually nor physically well. In the summer of that year, he sank into a deep depression and died on July 8. Suddenly, the thorn of the rose stabbed McCheyne through the heart. All the beauty of the rose he was living for wilted. And by God’s grace, he saw another Rose in what happened to David.

In the days leading up to his death, David found a profound peace through the blood of Jesus. Bonar said that “joy from the face of a fully reconciled Father above lighted up [David’s dying] face” (Memoir). McCheyne saw it, and everything began to change. He had seen a rose other than classical learning. And he saw it as beautiful, not in spite of the thorn, but because of it. The thorn pierced him awake.

A Passion for Holiness and Evangelism

Four months after the death of his brother, McCheyne enrolled in the Divinity Hall of Edinburgh University, November 1831. There he met the man who would have the greatest influence on his life and ministry, Thomas Chalmers.

Chalmers pressed all of his great learning into the service of holiness and evangelism. He warned McCheyne and the other students of “the white devil” and “the black devil” — the black devil leading to “fleshly sins” of the world, and the white devil to “spiritual sins” of self-righteousness. And he made the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners the central power for this holiness.

Chalmers was also deeply burdened about the poverty in the slums of Edinburgh and how little gospel witness there was. He established the Visiting Society and recruited McCheyne and his friends to join. This threw McCheyne into a world he had never seen as an upper-middle-class university student. It awakened in him a sense of urgency for those cut off from the gospel. On March 3, 1834, two and a half years into his divinity studies, he wrote,

Such scenes I never before dreamed of. . . . “No man careth for our souls” is written over every forehead. Awake, my soul! Why should I give the hours and days any longer to the vain world, when there is such a world of misery at the very door? Lord, put thine own strength in me; confirm every good resolution; forgive my past long life of uselessness and folly. (Memoir)

So McCheyne would take away from his time in divinity school a passion for holiness and a passion for evangelism. These would never leave him and would become defining impulses of his life — all of it motivated by the beauty of the Rose, and all of it intensified by the thorn of suffering.

Uneventful, Useful Life

The last day of McCheyne’s divinity lectures was March 29, 1835. He was just shy of being 22 years old. And that fall he was called to be the assistant minister in the double parish of Larbert and Dunipace. He served there as an assistant until the call came from St. Peter’s Church in Dundee in August 1836. There McCheyne served as the pastor until his death six and a half years later.

That’s the simple sum of his professional life: a student till he was 22, an assistant pastor for a year, and a senior pastor for six years. As I have tried to think through what makes such an uneventful life so useful even 176 years after his death, it isn’t any extraordinary event in his life. Rather, it is his extraordinary passion for Christ — for the Rose — and for holiness and for lost people, all intensified by the shortness of life — the thorn. And all this passion preserved in powerful, picturesque language. He is still influencing us because of the words that came out of his mouth, not the events of his life.

So let’s listen to him concerning the pursuit of holiness and concerning his communion with God through the word and prayer.

Take Ten Looks at Christ

God had given McCheyne the gospel key to pursuing personal holiness. He received it through the teaching of Chalmers. Chalmers was very concerned about excessive introspection in the pursuit of holiness. He knew that a believer cannot make progress in holiness without basing it on the assurance of salvation, and yet the effort to look into our sinful hearts for some evidences of grace usually backfires.

Chalmers said that glimpses into the dark room of the heart alone give no good prospect. Instead, he said we should

take help from the windows. Open the shutters and admit the sun. So if you wish to look well inwardly, look well out. . . . This is the very way to quicken it. Throw widely open the portals of faith and in this, every light will be admitted into the chambers of experience. The true way to facilitate self-examination is to look believingly outwardly. (Introduction to The Christian’s Great Interest, 6)

McCheyne had written that down in a class and underlined the last sentence. So it is not surprising to hear him give his own counsel in similar terms: “Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. . . . Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love. And repose in his almighty arms” (Memoir).

This was the basic strategy in the pursuit of holiness. So when McCheyne spoke what are probably his most famous words, “The greatest need of my people is my own holiness,” he meant not only that they need a pastor who is morally upright, but that they need a pastor who is walking in constant communion with Christ, and being changed into Christ’s likeness by that constant fellowship. Which brings us now finally to the way he cultivated that constant communion with Christ.

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November 16, 2018

Article by John Piper

Fifty years ago today was one of the most important days of my life.

Nothing is more important in all the universe than that God be glorified, and Christ be magnified, and the hearts of God’s people be satisfied in him. The implications of this biblical truth are all-encompassing. And a particular day and event began to bring it all together for me.

Since I was 22, Christian Hedonism has been my goal and guide and strength. Now at 72, it is my final preparation for meeting Jesus face to face. There is little reason you should care what I think. But you should care infinitely (I use the word carefully) whether God has revealed that Christian Hedonism is true. I would like to persuade you that he has.

To that end, I will tell you what happened to me fifty years ago today, on November 16, 1968, and why it has made all the difference. Experience is not authority. But it may be a helpful pointer.

An Unresolved Tension

During my four years at Wheaton College in Illinois, from 1964 to 1968, I became conscious of an unresolved tension in my Christian experience. On the one hand, I knew from my father’s instruction and from the New Testament that I should live for the glory of God. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). On the other hand, I knew from experience that I was motivated continually by a desire for deep satisfaction.

These felt like competing motives. I could aim to make God look great, or I could aim at my own satisfaction. I did not have a framework of thought where these two motives fit together. They seemed like alternatives.

In fact, as a teenager, that’s how I often heard the call to Christian service. “Will you surrender to God’s will for your life, or will you keep pursuing your own will?” It was a mark of my own immaturity that this felt like a frustrating dilemma: “Either follow God’s will and live with the frustration that your own desires will be forever unsatisfied, or follow your own will and be forever out of step with God.”

The Air I Breathed

But it wasn’t just preachers who fed the fires of my frustration. Jesus himself said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). What could be clearer? Following the will of Jesus meant not following my own will, but denying it. Disobey and be ruined, or obey and be frustrated.

It was the air I breathed. Pursue God’s glory, or pursue my own satisfaction. Either-or. Seek God’s will and God’s glory, or seek my will and my happiness. And something seemed defective about pursuing my happiness. You cannot serve God’s glory and your gladness.

I wasn’t the only one who breathed this air. C.S. Lewis said,

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics. (The Weight of Glory, 27)

“I had never heard that God lives for the glory of God.”

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher whose views of Christian motivation, whether intended or not, had this kind of effect. Indeed, the atheist Ayn Rand rejected Christianity largely because she smelled this “Kantian” air, and thought it undercut true virtue.

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Devotional by John Piper

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

There is a practical holiness without which we will not see the Lord. Many live as if this were not so.

There are professing Christians who live such unholy lives that they will hear Jesus’s dreadful words, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). Paul says to professing believers, “If you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:13).

So, there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord. And learning to fight for holiness by faith in future grace is supremely important.

There is another way to pursue holiness that backfires and leads to death. Paul warns us against serving God any other way than by faith in his enabling grace. God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Any effort to serve God that does not, in that very act, depend on him as the reward of our hearts and the power of our service, will dishonor him as a needy pagan god.

Peter describes the alternative to such self-reliant service of God, “Whoever serves, [let him do so] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11).

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“Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger or a homesickness
for God. It tells only half the story of Christian fasting. Half of
Christian fasting is that our physical appetite is lost because our
homesickness for God is so intense. The other half is that our
homesickness for God is threatened because our physical appetites
are so intense. In the first half, appetite is lost. In the second half,
appetite is resisted. In the first, we yield to the higher hunger that
is. In the second, we fight for the higher hunger that isn’t. Christian
fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of a superior satisfaction in
God; it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that
would take that satisfaction away.”

~ John Piper

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July 2020
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