Heavy Burdens and Carrots on Sticks

whenidontdesiregod [A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 3 – The Call to Fight for Joy in God]

It’s chapter 3. Piper has had the Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 to lay out his terms and his goals, and then tell us how to get there on a practical level, but I’m still seeing admonition without application. Whenever you have admonition without application it becomes a burden that’s too heavy to bear, and that’s going to affect how I rate the book from here on out.

At the Beginning…

Johnny Pipe gives us a lot of truth to chew on at the beginning of the chapter. I really appreciate how he points out that when we prefer anything above Christ it is in, and then he illustrates that point by bringing Jeremiah 2:12-13 into the conversation.

“Be astonished, O heavens, at this,
And be horribly afraid;
Be very desolate,” says the Lord.
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
– Jeremiah 2:12-13, NKJV

He then culminates this point with this powerful line:

“Esteeming God less than anything is the essence of evil.” (Page 34)

Then, I think he starts to get off track a little bit….

The Divine Carrot on a Stick

He goes on to tell us that “A person who has no taste for the enjoyment of Christ will not go to heaven.” That is a true statement, but I think the problem is that Piper is using Heaven as a divine carrot on a stick and telling us that there’s something we have to do or we’re not going to go to Heaven. Yes, you must repent of your sin and wickedness, and believe the Gospel, but the problem with what Piper seems to be doing is that he seems to be making Heaven the focus instead of Christ Himself.

I tend to agree with the sentiment of what John Green said:

“I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God.”

Now, before the evangellyfish get all twitchy on me, I want to make it clear that I know that it’s not possible to do such things, and even if it were, I’m not sure that I would want to do such things. I simply agree with the sentiment because I feel like too many evangelical Christians simply participate in social Christianity for what they feel like they can get from God and not simply because of who He is.

I firmly believe that people who love the thought of Heaven more than they love Christ Himself will wind up in Hell. I believe in a literal Heaven, I believe in a literal Hell, I believe that those are eternally conscious places where people will end up based on God’s eternal judgement, but when you spend your life trying to work for a place in Heaven, then you are proving that you love the creation (Heaven) more than the Creator (God.) I don’t believe Piper is doing Christendom any favors by telling us that Heaven is on the line if we don’t fight, especially since he hasn’t even told us how to go about fighting.

Quite honestly, this book so far hasn’t brought me any comfort or solace. On nights when I have stepped over the boundaries of God’s love, or when I feel like I’m not even saved nor have I ever been, if I’m taking the warnings of this book seriously, then I’m left to think “I haven’t fought enough for joy.” I don’t feel like any heart broken Christian should feel that way when they’re faced with doubts and fears of their salvation. They’re supposed to be driven to the cross, and reminded of God’s love. They’re supposed to be reminded of what God has proclaimed over them at their baptism. They’re supposed to hear the voice the Almighty proclaim over them, “They shall be mine.” (Malachi 3:17)

Most people who pick up a book entitled, “When I Don’t Desire God” probably want to know if there’s hope for them. They want to desire God more because genuinely love Him and they’re reading this book with the understanding that this author is going to offer them comfort, but instead they’re being told that the reason they feel all of these doubts is because they’re not fighting hard enough. I see a major problem with that.

Practical Pacifists

If you don’t know how to fight and you’ve got an attacker coming at you, you’re just as screwed as a Quaker. Why? No one has told you what to do or how to defend yourself. This is what we’ve gotten so far in the book. Piper tells us to fight for joy, he tells us what’s on the line, and he doesn’t give us any weapons. So far, I find this depressing because I’ve got the weight of all this admonition on my back, but I’ve got nothing to do with it, but allow my legs to buckle underneath the load and now I’m forced to deal with the implications of everything Piper has said so far on my own.

Concluding Thoughts and Rating

Admittedly, this book is becoming increasingly harder to read simply because I don’t want to burden myself with anymore exhortation unless there’s some kind of practical way I can live that out.

Does the Christian need to fight for joy? Yes, I think so, but I think it would just be easier if Piper would just tell us that the fight looks different for everyone because we’re not dealing with formulas, we’re dealing with individual souls.

Also, for every week that he doesn’t give us application, I’m going to knock .5 beard strokes off the rating.

This chapter gets 1.5 out 5 beard strokes.

Peace out, fam.

A Mental Buffet // 19 Aug 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul. This week’s mental buffet includes a sermon from Ronnie Martin, and articles from Chad Bird, Thomas R. Schreiner, and Kyle G. Jones

Drawing Near to God’s Kingdom – Ronnie Martin

In this sermon, Pastor Ronnie Martin speaks about what it means to draw near to God’s Kingdom.

“God wants to draw near to people that constantly reject Him.”

 


Grace is Karma’s Worst Nightmare – Chad Bird

“Grace is lacking in taste and propriety. The same loving lips that kiss away the tears of a repentant whore will turn right around and kiss the lips of a humble queen. The same hands that scrub the vomit out off the clothes of a drunk will shake hands with the teetotaler. It’s never learned the difference between a shack and a mansion. Grace doesn’t know why the color of skin makes one sinner more or less in need of forgiveness than any other.”

 

Sermon: A Building from God – Thomas R. Schreiner

“The gift of the Spirit functions as the guarantee, the downpayment, of our future resurrection. So, Paul concludes in verse 5 where he started in verse 1. We know that we will have a resurrection body in the future. We are assured of this because we have the Holy Spirit. No matter how happy your life is now, you still long for something better. We all naturally think how life could be better. There is a longing in us for perfection. There is a sense of incompleteness and an ache in our lives. We are not fully satisfied or fulfilled. We sense that there is more to life. Those desires are not a bad thing. They remind us that we were made for another world. They remind us that this world is not our home. They point us forward to the resurrection.”

 

Go and Be Dead – Kyle G. Jones

“We sinners share a common problem when it comes to Jesus’ parables. We read them with an eye to our own righteousness. That is, we read them with our eyes peeled for what they might tell us to do. We read them with Law tinted lenses.

While it is true that Jesus’ parables contain Law (commands and demands from God), if we’re to understand them rightly our eyes need to hunt tirelessly for where Christ and his Gospel reside within them. Though not always easy, we must avoid the temptation to make the Law our primary prize while reading or listening to Jesus’ parables.”

 

Redneck Buddhism

redneckbuddhism

I’ve been reading “Evil and the Justice of God” by N.T. Wright, and as N.T. Wright’s books usually go, so far I’ve not been disappointed. Once or twice I’ve raised my eyebrows in hesitation, but so far he’s not said anything that I just overtly disagree with. However, he did make a statement that has inspired this post.

Wright is talking about the end of the book of Job and he brings up how it is easy for us to dismiss the trouble that Job is going through because eventually Job is going to Heaven and joys of Heaven will be so tremendous that it will practically (if not literally) make Job forget that he ever went through anything bad.

“It might have been easy for the author… to say that after Job’s death the angels carried him to a paradise where everything was so wonderful that he forgot what a terrible time he’d had one earth. But that is emphatically not the point. The question is about God’s moral government of this world, not about the way in which we should leave this world behind and find consolation in a different one. That is the high road to Buddhism, not biblical theology.”
– N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God, pg. 70

This statement struck a chord with me because I come from a culture where the idea of Heaven and escaping from the world was practically worshiped right alongside the Triune God Himself. We would fervently sing lyrics like ” Laying up my treasures in that home above/Trusting, fully trusting in the Savior’s love;/Doing what I can for heaven’s Holy Dove/I’m a getting ready to leave this world.” and I still remember pecking out the chorus on the piano and singing, “I’m getting ready to leave this world,/Getting ready for gates of pearl;/Keeping my record bright/Watching, both day and night/I’m getting ready to leave this world.”

There was no concern for the world and the culture in which we lived only about escaping it. This seemed to fly in the face of Jesus’ high priestly prayer to His Father in John 17.

“I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world… As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” – John 17:15-16, 18, NRSV

So, you have a group of people who understand that they belong to Jesus so you would think that they would want what Jesus wants as far as the mission of God is concerned, but all they cared about escaping and if they were evangelistic at all, they wanted to proselytize people into their escapist ideology. For them, there was no living in the world to make it a better place for the glory of God. There was either living for the sake of the world or living for the sake of their idea of God. And their idea of God involved a God who would take them out of the world so He could completely do away with it.

As I contemplated the words of N.T. Wright, I thought about how this unhealthy obsession with escapism has affected so much of Christianity and a lot of it comes from fundamentalist ideology. You don’t really see a lot of progressives that want to hurry up and get to Heaven so they can escape the conservatives, but you have a lot of conservative fundamentalist Christians who want to hurry up and go to Heaven not because they want to be with Jesus, but because they think they can finally get away from ‘those damn liberals.’ I think they’re going to be surprised. I think the 30 minutes of silence we see in Heaven (Revelation 8:1) is going to be everyone dropping their jaws at the sight of everyone that they thought for sure wouldn’t be there.

So, how do I know that there’s an unhealthy obsession with escapism in fundamental Christianity? Look at the sale of books about people that have allegedly been to Heaven and back. Christians are buying into this crap and they’re celebrating it as if it’s these works should be added to the Bible as canon.

Let me just preface what about to say with this: I believe people can have dreams and visions about the afterlife, but I don’t believe we should treat these dreams and visions as applicable to all of us. Maybe these dreams and visions are meant to bring personal comfort to the particular person that received them no so they can make millions of dollars off of them, and that’s assuming that the dreams and/or someone might have are true depictions that reflect what we already learn in Scripture, but if you read these books, then you have got to understand that the dreams and/or visions given these best-selling books do not in any way reflect Scripture, if anything they contradict it.

One review of ‘Heaven is For Real’ says the following, Heaven Is for Real… insists that the fantasy elements of this story are “true” — that this is a story that really happened and that this is “for real,” what “Heaven” is all about.

That means we can’t simply respond to this story as a story. It means we have to respond to this lie as a lie — as a mawkish, melodramatic, manipulative, sappy, shallow, schmaltzy, anti-biblical, anti-rational lie.

Christians who care about Christianity ought to be upset about a lie like that. But they won’t be, because this lie is embedded in a movie festooned with all the tribal signifiers that delight white evangelicals — praying firefighters, miracles that prove scientists are stupid, talking embryos in Heaven, etc. Include enough of the totems and talismans of their tribe, and white evangelicals will embrace this movie as their own.”

Pay attention to the last part of that review – “Include enough of the totems and talismans of their tribe, and white evangelicals will embrace this movie as their own.” WHERE IS THE LIE? All anyone has to do to attract Christians to their movie is have an Atheist antagonist that whitewashes all atheists as angry people who want to make the lives of Christians miserable. Oh wait! They’ve done that – it’s called ‘God’s Not Dead’! I’ve seen God’s Not Dead, and I refuse to watch God’s Not Dead 2, God’s Not Dead 3, and God’s Not Dead 76.
Christians, I mean this out of love and great frustration, embracing things like “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “Heaven is For Real,” and “To Heaven and Back” as real events that add to our theology of Heaven is exactly the reason why no one takes us seriously as intellectuals. We used to have geniuses in our camp that the whole world respected as intellectuals like Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Francis Bacon. Now who is the most well known name in science that represents Christianity now? Ken Ham. A pseudo-scientist that can’t admit when he’s wrong. Is this is the best we can do?
Back to my original thought, this escapist ideology that has infected our religion like an annoying boil on our backside is nothing more than a redneck form of Buddhism because it leaves it’s adherents obsessed with “the other side” while ignoring our goal here on this side. Here’s the thing, it is apparent that we were not made to permanently reside here on earth. Ultimately, at the end of our Christian life we go to Heaven and we get to see Jesus and rejoice in His presence, but the Bible (intentionally, I believe) doesn’t give us that much detail about Heaven. Here’s what we know: Jesus is there, and sin and Satan are not there. That’s good enough for me.  The Bible has a lot more say about who are becoming and what we should be doing here.
So, until God calls us home and we see Jesus, we should follow Wesley’s words of wisdom and “Do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as ever we can.”

This world, as it stands, may not be our home, but are not just passin’ through. There will come a day when Jesus will make all things new including the earth and what we do here until then matters.

Also, I highly recommend this video by David Platt (just watch it, it’s less than 5 minutes) taken from his Secret Church seminar where he covered Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World. He brings up the notion that a lot of these best-selling books about Heaven are being devoured by people who would describe themselves as being born again which tells nothing more than that the discernment within the Body of Christ concerning this topic is embarrassingly low.

Neither Shall They Learn War Anymore

“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” – Isaiah 2:4-5 (ESV)

There’s a fighter in all of us. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes that can be a bad thing.

Sometimes we want to fight against cancer, oppression, or injustice. Other times we want to fight against God, the Church, those that want to help, and we end up biting the hand that feeds us.

What’s interesting is that the passage tells us they (referring to the people of God) shall not learn war anymore.

Let’s think about what war is. War, at it’s simplest, is fighting. As humans, we don’t need to learn how to fight, it comes naturally with our depravity. The desire to fight is always there. We may be taught how to strategize in our fighting like how to throw a punch or where we should kick a predator if he traps us in an alley, but our fighting is natural.

But, Isaiah 2 points to a time when there will be no more war, no more conflict, nor more fighting.

Our days on earth are filled with constant fighting. From personal spats with family members or spouses all the way up to global conflict between nations, but all this conflict will be no more when the weapons once used for war are used for mutual good.

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” That’s the goal. That goal will only be achieved when Jesus returns and fully establishes His Kingdom. Until then, we cry with John the Revelator, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen.Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20 (ESV)

Another World

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” – [2 Timothy 4:10 KJV]

About a year ago, I was youth pastoring at a small church in a small town and I spent four weeks preaching through the book of 2nd Timothy because I wanted to bring my youth group to the reality that even in this modern day the beloved church of God is persecuted. In my preparation for this sermon series I studied as much I could, trying to get every bit of information I could about this book and through all my studying, I never noticed this simple phrase, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world….” It made me think that if there is a present world then there must be a world that is not yet present, Heaven. Demas had not just fallen in love with the world, but in the process, he fell out of love with the thought of being with our savior in Heaven.

I urge you, don’t lose focus. Keep your eyes upon the goal. Continually fall in love with Jesus! Review the words of Paul the Apostle:

 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus…For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” – [Philippians 3:13-14, 20-21 KJV]

Remember that you are loved today by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!