Matthew 28:1-20 // With Fear and Great Joy

Fear and Great Joy

Text: Matthew 28:1-20, CSB

Prayer for Illumination

O God, who made this most holy [day] to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. [1]

Introduction

He was guilty and everyone knew it, but more than that. He knew it. His lawyers were urging him to ‘not guilty’ or at the very least plead the fifth because they thought they could pull some strings, or maybe come up with something that could convince everyone that he wasn’t involved even if it wasn’t true, but his conscious wouldn’t allow him to do that now.

 

From the time that he committed the crime to the time of his hearing he was a different man.

 

He plead guilty, was given a 1-3 year sentence. Charles Colson was finally brought to justice for his involvement with the Watergate scandal.

 

But, what happened? What was different? What changed?

 

As he was facing the prospect of arrest, one of his friends, gave him a copy of “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis and in reading that book, Colson was faced with the arguments for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Colson said that as he was reading the book, got out a yellow legal pad and pretended that he was in a courtroom, and he was trying to find holes in Lewis’ arguments, and he couldn’t.

 

I’m sure Colson read the part in that book where Lewis says that given all the evidence we have, Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or He is Lord, and if He is Lord, and then it changes everything.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ CANNOT BE of little importance. It is either of no importance or it is of great importance, but it cannot be of little importance.

 

  • How important is it to you personally that Jesus actually rose from the dead? Does it affect the way you live your life? Would your life be different if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead? If he was just a good guy who taught some nice things, and then he died, and we never heard a word about Christianity, how would that affect your life?
    • If it wouldn’t affect your life at all if Jesus had never risen, then you don’t know the power of His resurrection.

 

Charles Colson would go on to say later that, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a reality, and it affects the way live, think, and make decisions. How we respond to the resurrection matters and that’s what I want us to here in this passage.

 

First of all, as we look at this chapter, I want us to see who communicated the message of the resurrection.

Who Communicated the Message?

The Angel (v. 5-7)

The first person to communicate the message of the resurrection was the angel.

 

“The angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see him there.’ Listen, I have told you.” – Matthew 28:5-7, CSB

 

In verse 6, we see three ideas:

 

  • “He has risen” – The Message of the Resurrection
    • 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Paul’s argument for the resurrection
    • 1 Corinthians 15:20-58, Paul explains that Christ’s resurrection informs and guarantees our own resurrection.
  • “Just as He said” – The Basis of the Message
    • Up to this point in the Gospels, Jesus has told the disciples over and over and over again, that He was going to go to Jerusalem, and be beaten and killed at the hands of the chief priests and Pharisees and then He would die, but then He would rise again.
    • The most clear picture of this is Mark 8:31-10:45 where Jesus tells, in detail, of His death and resurrection three times almost back to back, and if you were last Sunday night when we covered Mark 10, you realize that the disciples just don’t seem to get it, and yet, this angel basically said, “He told you so!” So, the basis of the resurrection is rooted in what Jesus has said about Himself. Everything that Jesus has spoken has been fulfilled and will be fulfilled.
  • “Come, and see the place where He lay” – The Evidence of the Message
    • Not only does the angel give us the message of the resurrection, and the basis for the claim of the resurrection, but he also gives us the evidence because he invited the women to come and see the place where He lay.
    • The empty tomb in Jerusalem is one of the only tourist attractions where people travel thousands of miles and pay lots of money just to go and see nothing.

The Women (v. 8)

“So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell his disciples the news.” – Matthew 28:8, CSB

The women told the disciples about the risen Lord, but Matthew says that they’re going with “fear and great joy.” Why are they afraid? Jesus is alive. They should have no reason to fear, right?

 

    • The problem was that they were women and the testimony of women was considered untrustworthy. The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible even tells us, “Both Jewish and Roman law normally regarded a woman’s testimony as of limited value, treating women as unstable. [2] It is to the women, however, that God’s agents first entrust the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection.”
    • They have every reason to be afraid. There’s a big “what if” in their minds. There’s joy because they know the truth, but there’s fear because what if the disciples don’t believe what they have to say? And the truth is that they weren’t believed at first.
    • “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women.”- Luke 24:10-11, CSB

 

 

 

So, what happened when the disciples didn’t believe the women? The women took them to the tomb.

 

“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went away, amazed at what had happened.”
– Luke 24:12, CSB

 

Now, if you go and read John’s account in John 20:7, they were able to identify the linen cloths as those belonging to Jesus so this wasn’t a case of them showing up at the wrong tomb. This also wasn’t a case of a grave robbery because grave robbers don’t neatly fold grave clothes. This was something entirely different.

 

  • Jesus of Nazareth, who had been dead, actually got up out of a tomb that had been sealed with a stone and kept guarded by soldiers, and the women were not only able to relay this message, but they were also able to show them the evidence, and I think this is important because we have to ask the question, “How do we show people the evidence of the resurrection now?”
    • I think it’s one thing to make a cognitive surface level argument for the resurrection. As a matter of fact, I think when you consider all the historical evidence involved, it’s a fairly easy argument to make, but what happens when we make all the arguments and present all the evidence, and yet still live as if it’s not true?
    • I asked the question a few months ago, and I’ll ask it again now: how would your life be different if Jesus had never risen from the dead?
      • If your life wouldn’t be different, then the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t mean all that much to you, and if Jesus’s resurrection doesn’t mean all that much to you, then you have every reason in the world to question the validity of your faith.

The disciples, after hearing the news from Mary, had to go to the tomb and see it empty because that would affect everything they did with the rest of their lives from that moment going forward.

 

  • And in that same way, the truth of the resurrection should affect our lives from the time that know the truth of it.

 

The next group of people who carry the message is the guards that were at the tomb.

The Guards

“After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards were so shaken by fear of him that they became like dead men.”
– Matthew 28:1-4, CSB

 

“As they were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 After the priests had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money 13 and told them, “Say this, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him while we were sleeping.’ 14 If this reaches the governor’s ears, we will deal with him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 They took the money and did as they were instructed, and this story has been spread among Jewish people to this day.” – Matthew 28:11-15, CSB

 

I think it’s interesting that the first instinct of the guards is to tell the truth, and then the first instinct of the chief priests is to cover up the truth.

 

  • No one involved assumes that the resurrection won’t be believed. Think about how remarkable that is. The Chief Priests (who hated Jesus, who hated His followers) would never believe that there would come a day when those who claimed to believe in Jesus didn’t believe in His resurrection, and yet, here we are.
  • There are many people who claim to be Christians, they want the fellowship, they want the comradery, they want heaven even, they want all the benefits of Christianity without believing in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus because, “after all, dead people don’t come back. That’s just one of those superstitious things for those people who aren’t as advanced as we are, right?”
    • That’s precisely the problem. We think we have the world figured out, and then God does something like raise His Son from dead and it just messes with everything we think we know.

 

The guards, without realizing what they’re doing, actually carry the information that makes Christianity what it is. “Jesus, this guy who said that He was the Son of God, who said that He would die and then rise again in three days, actually did it.”

 

Think about why the guards are there in first place. Look at the end of Matthew 27.

 

“The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come, steal him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” – Matthew 27:62-64, CSB

 

Some of you were here last Sunday night when we looked at the tail end of Mark 10, and we talked about how leading up to that point, Jesus has just told the disciples about how his death and resurrection three times, and they still didn’t seem to understand what Jesus was talking about because they wanted to know if they could sit at His right or His left hand in the kingdom.

 

  • It’s ironic that the chief priests seem to understand more about what Jesus was saying than the disciples.
    • And if that weren’t enough irony, it’s not even Jesus’ own disciples who first witness what happens, it’s the guards. They saw the angel come down and they knew what was going on because they were able to report what happened to the chief priests.

 

And the chief priests, instead of believing in Jesus at that point, they do whatever they can to cover it up.

 

  • And again, people haven’t changed that much. The information is there. They can’t deny it. They either have to believe it or cover it up.
  • In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul said that people try to cover up the truth about God all the time except he’s uses different language to describe it, he says that they “suppress the truth with their unrighteousness.” And that’s exactly what the chief priests are trying to do. They’re trying to suppress the truth of the resurrection with falsehood and deceit because they knew that if the news ever got out, it would change everything.
    • If even these godless chief priests knew what kind implications the resurrection would have, why don’t we?

How the Disciples Respond to the Resurrection

Now, look at how the disciples respond to the resurrection. Look at Matthew 28:9-10. Remember in verse 8, our passage said that Mary Magdalene and Mary were filled with fear and great joy and then they ran to tell the disciples.

 

“Just then Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” They came up, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” – Matthew 28:9-10, CSB

 

  • Jesus commissions the women with a specific message for the disciples.

 

“The eleven disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted.”
– Matthew 28:16-17, CSB

 

Think about the people that are here. These are the disciples who have been following Jesus around for 3 ½ years. They are His friends, His followers, even His students (they saw Him as a rabbi). Now, they’re worshipping Him because it all makes sense now. They finally realize that He is who He said He is, but not all are worshipping. Some are doubting.

 

  • Now, before we start casting stones at the doubters, I want us to think about what a doubter is. A doubter isn’t simply an unbeliever. An unbeliever says, “Nah, I’m good. I don’t believe that Jesus is who He said He is, He’s just some guy that said some cool stuff.” Doubters, however, are different. Doubters don’t completely dismiss everything. They want truth, they want assurance. They need to know that they can have some solid ground to stand on.

 

We have to be clear, we don’t know why they’re doubting.

 

  • John’s account may shed some light on it in John 21:4, when he says that when daybreak came, Jesus was standing on the shore, but some of the disciples didn’t realize that it was Him, but the point remains: they were confused, they were doubting, and Jesus, instead of addressing their doubts goes ahead and sends them on mission.

 

“Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20, CSB

 

When John Wesley was in the process of trying to figure out his faith, he was visiting with a group of Christians called The Moravians and he records in his journal that he after spending time with them he was convinced that he wasn’t saved because they preached a faith alone that saved and led to good works, and after observing how they lived he was convinced that he wasn’t saved, and he went to one of the Moravian ministers named Peter Boehler and he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You guys are the real deal, and I don’t think I am. After seeing you guys I think maybe I’ve been faking it. Maybe I should stop preaching.”

 

In the March 4th entry, Wesley writes, “I asked Boehler, whether he thought I should [stop preaching]. He answered “By no means.” I asked, “But what can I preach?” He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.[3]

 

Most of us probably wouldn’t have said that, and most of us probably would have told the disciples to get their act together before they go out preaching, and yet, Jesus tells everyone present, including the disciples, “Go out there, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them everything that I’ve taught you.”

 

One commentator says, “We are tempted to criticize the disciples for doubting, but we should not imagine that we would have done better.  Jesus does not rebuke the disciples. He understands their doubt, but speaks to their faith. He understands their frailty, but calls them to carry on his work.[4]

 

  • God grants us faith as a gift, and His word causes our faith to increase.

 

Two months after Peter Boehler told John Wesley to preach faith until he had it, Wesley was trying to seek the assurance of his faith through prayer and the reading of the Scriptures, and he records:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.[5]

Conclusion

You may be here this morning and you see the evidence for the resurrection, and maybe you want to believe, maybe you want to trust in Christ. If that desire is in you, then that’s God working in your life, drawing you to Himself.

 

When you trust in Christ, the voice of doubt may come and try to creep in, but the voice of Jesus is always louder because He promises never to leave us or forsake us.

 

The resurrection is proof that everything Jesus said and did is true, and He can be trusted.

 

The Apostle Paul prays for us in Ephesians 1:18-20 when he says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.

 

20 He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens.”

 

Let’s pray.

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, give us a sense of the immeasurable power of Your greatness, this morning. Let us look to Christ and see Your power exhibited in raising Him from the dead and open our eyes to see that You have raised those of us who believe to new life in Him. If there is anyone here now who lacks faith, I pray that You would grant them the gift of faith so that they can see You, Lord, high and lifted up, and that they could experience life with You. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

______________________________

  1. Book of Common Prayer, pg. 285
  2. (see, e.g., Justinian, Institutes 2.10.6; Josephus, Antiquities 4.219; in the Mishnah see Yebamot 15:1, 8 – 10; 16:7; ketubbot 1:6 – 9; in the Tosefta see Yebamot 14:10)
  3. Person. “The Moravians and John Wesley.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christian History, 16 Mar. 2016, www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-1/moravians-and-john-wesley.html.
  4. “Matthew 28:16-20 Commentary, Bible Study.” Sermon Writer, www.sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/matthew-2816-20/.
  5. Person. “The Moravians and John Wesley.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christian History, 16 Mar. 2016, http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-1/moravians-and-john-wesley.html.

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.

The Chief End of Joy

whenidontdesiregod[A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 2 – What is the Difference Between Desire and Delight?]

We come to the second chapter in what I referred to in the last post as John Piper’s “tome of Christ-centered joy.” In this chapter, Piper defines for us desire and delight. He goes on to tell us what is the difference between the two and how the end of both of those things is Christ Himself, not the experience of desire or delight.

We see more imperative without indicative, more admonition to fight for joy without any real application, but the book is still early, and I’m still hopeful. There’s 10 chapters left to go so we’ll see what’s left.

Words, Wordy Words, The Kind of Words That Are… Wordy

Words and their definitions are important so he starts off by telling us that he’ll be interchangeably using words like happiness, delight, pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, desire, longing, thirsting, passion,etc. At first, I was worried because I really like distinctions, but then Piper reminded the reader that the Bible also uses these terms without distinctions.

“I am aware that all of these words carry different connotations for different readers. Some people think of happiness as superficial and joy as deep. Some think of pleasure as physical and delight as aesthetic. Some think of passion as sexual and longing as personal. So I signal from the outset that the Bible does not divide its emotional language that way. The same words (desire, pleasure, happiness, joy, etc.) can be positive sometimes and negative sometimes, physical sometimes and spiritual sometimes. That is the approach I take. Any of these words can be a godly experience of the heart, and any of them can be a worldly experience of the heart. I will try to make plain what way the words should be taken in any given context.”

In layman’s terms “Pay attention, and you shouldn’t get lost.” I’m fine with this.

A Barrage of Scripture and Some Working Definitions

Piper briefly reminds us to desire God and to take delight in God, and then he hits us with about two pages worth of Scriptures that support both ideas. Using Scripture to build your case is never a bad idea, but I think, in this case, a list would’ve been more helpful instead of just a wall. It’s almost as if he was looking for some filler.

After the wall of Scripture we get to where Piper is tells us the difference between delight and desire.

“The first thought that comes to most of our minds (I tried this on my eight-year-old daughter) is that delight (with its synonyms) is what we experience when the thing we enjoy is present, not just future. But desire (with its synonyms) is what we experience when the thing we enjoy is not present but, we hope, coming to us in the future.”

He goes on to say

“Desire is awakened by tastes of pleasure. The taste may be ever so small. But if there is no taste at all of the desirability of something, then there will be no desire for it. In other words, desire is a form of the very pleasure that is anticipated with the arrival of the thing desired. It is, you might say, the pleasure itself experienced in the form of anticipation.”

Again, this is a place where I think doing something different would’ve been more helpful. I think it probably would’ve been better to define our terms and then work from Scripture, but that’s just me. But to Piper’s credit, I think he accurately lays out what the difference desire and delight is and gives us some good working definition. Also to his credit, he admit that there are some scenarios where these definitions may fail because, in some cases, the desire is the delight. But, if you’re one of those people that takes notes when they read a book, then this is where you’ll want to pause write down these definitions so you can keep them in the back of your mind as you trek through the rest of the book.

Desire and Delight Are Not the End Goals

For me, the climax of this chapter is on page 29 under the subheading, “Neither Desire nor Delight Is Finally What We Want.” This is where I perk my ears up. I’ve heard critics of Piper’s idea of Christian Hedonism complain that what Piper is teaching is that joy is the end instead of Jesus, but if you really paid attention to anything that Piper has said or taught over the course of his ministry then you would know that that’s simply not true. John Piper explicitly wants us to see that our desire points us to Jesus as the ultimate source of our delight.

Piper warns us that pursuing joy in and of itself is a ditch that can find ourselves in if we’re not careful.

“Jonathan Edwards warned against [this] by observing that “there are many affections which do not arise from any light in the understanding. And when it is thus, it is a sure evidence that these affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high.” Our goal is not high affections per se. Our goal is to see and savor “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The affections that arise from that light are spiritual. By this Christ-revealing light, we avoid the mistake of simply pursuing joy, not Christ.”

Another Reminder to Fight for Joy

He closes the chapter by reminding us yet again to fight for joy, but this time he’s giving us three reasons we should do so (this is my condensed version):

  1. God has commanded us to do so. (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)
  2. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. (A famous Piper quote)
  3. In his own words: “The third reason we should make much of joy and the pursuit of joy in God is that people do not awaken to how desperate their condition is until they measure their hearts by Christian Hedonism…” (I’m still not sure what this one means.)

Again, if you take notes while you read, write these down.

In conclusion, I think was beneficial and it really did enlighten my understanding of desire and delight. On the rating scale, I give this chapter another 3.5 out of 5 beard strokes.

Piper’s Hyphenated Words, Christian Hedonism, and the Constant Reminders of Missions and Martyrdom

whenidontdesiregod [A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 1 – Why I Wrote the Book]

My cohort and partner in crime on the Late Night Theology podcast, Tom, has accused John Piper many times of simply telling us to desire God without giving us real applicable steps to do so. Let me just say that I love John Piper and that his ministry has been a real influence on my ministry for the last 7 years, but (and this is a big ‘but’ *gigglesnort*) if I’m being honest, I feel that those accusations are a little more than justified. So, for the new few weeks (months, maybe? A year if I get lazy or busy), I’ll be reading a chapter at a time of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper and I hope to either confirm these accusations against Piper or deny them.

This is my review of Chapter 1.

This chapter is mostly information about the concept of Christian Hedonism and why it’s important. Like the beginning of most books, Piper is just giving us some introductory information to work with and keep in the back of our minds as we trek through the rest of this tome of Christ-centered joy.

There are two things I really appreciated in this chapter and I want to take the time to address each of them individually. First, I think, and I could be wrong, but I think John Piper acknowledges that there are Christians who do not desire God, and secondly he supports that the doctrine of Christian Hedonism is not something that he just came up with out of thin air, but rather is something that has been taught all through Church History.

The Christians That Don’t Desire God

Here’s a lengthy quote from the top of page 15 under a section titled, ‘The Most Common Question I’ve Received.’

“This is why the most common and desperate question I have received over the last three decades is: What can I do? How can I become the kind of person the Bible is calling me to be? … Many are persuaded. They see that the truth and beauty and worth of God shine best from the lives of saints who are so satisfied in God they can suffer in the cause of love without murmuring. But then they say, “That’s not who I am. I don’t have that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God. I desire comfort and security more than God.” Many say it with tears and trembling.”

Even though Piper does not come right out and say that these people are not Christians, I believe that he’s under the impression that those who say that they don’t desire God with tears in their eyes and say that they don’t have “that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God” are not saved. However, I believe the whole reason those people have tears in their eyes is because they are believers, and it hurts them that they don’t desire God more. The unregenerate man either believes that he desires God adequately or doesn’t care that he doesn’t desire God on this level. I don’t believe any regenerate person looks at how their living out their religion and says, “what I’m doing is good enough.”

Piper will go on to imply that the answer is conversion as stated under a heading in the chapter that he has titled, “Conversion is the Creation of New Desires.” In this theologian’s opinion, conversion might be needed, but not in every situation. What is most definitely needed is a revival of the soul. If we reach this place where we don’t desire God as we once did, then we need a baptism of joy. We need to cry out with the Psalmist, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12a, NKJV)

A Historical Legacy of Christian Hedonism

One of things that I really appreciate about this chapter is that Piper isn’t just pulling this Christian Hedonism thing out of the air. He feels that this is something that Puritans, Reformers and Patristics all taught and he goes out of his way to prove that by giving us quotes from Saint Augustine, John Calvin, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, and others.

Concluding Remarks

In the final paragraphs of the chapter, Piper tells us that the fight for joy is not easy, but if we stay in the fight Christ will be glorified. Now, to tell us how Christ will be glorified he brings up missions and martyrdom… because it’s not a John Piper book if he doesn’t bring up missions and martyrdom… Don’t misunderstand me, I think missions and martyrdoms can and should be talked about, but as someone who has read many a John Piper book and livestreamed many a CROSS conference, I can tell you that a lot of these Reformed guys use missions and martyrdoms as a battering ram on the conscience, and quite frankly, it’s annoying.

Missions are important; martyrdoms are bad, but I don’t have to be reminded about it every five minutes to have a healthy relationship with God. As long as Piper keeps these references to minimum, I think the rest of the book will be okay.

On the rating scale, I’ll give this chapter a 3.5 out of 5 beard strokes.

John’s Love Letters, Part 1: For Your Joy

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17). And so in the first place the apostles heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.” – F.B. Hole

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. -1 John 1:1-4 ESV

 As we read the beginning of this letter we learn something about John. John is after our joy. That’s what he wants. He wants to complete our joy. He’s not just focused on his joy, and he’s not just focused on our joy, but he’s focused on our joy and his joy corporately. His joy is found in writing us this letter, and it is implied that our joy will be found in reading it.

Now, there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness fluctuates like a fair weather friend. Joy is a constant rock in times of sorrow that aids us and comforts us through the fiercest of storms. John desires that we know this kind of joy and he’s persistent that the thing he’s writing about cannot only bring us joy, but can make our joy complete.

So, what’s he writing about? In verse 1, John says, “…we have heard…we have seen with our eyes…we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”

A Plymouth Brethren theologian from the 19th Century offers these words concerning this particular passage.

“By the fact of His becoming flesh He placed Himself within the reach of three out of the five senses or faculties with which man is endowed. He could be heard, seen and felt. Hearing comes first, for in our fallen condition it is to that faculty that God specially addresses Himself. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17). And so in the first place the apostles heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.

But then they also saw Him with their eyes, and even “looked upon,” or “contemplated” Him. There had been in earlier days fleeting manifestations of this great Person as “the Angel of the Lord,” only then it was impossible to contemplate Him for He was seen but for a moment. Now, come in flesh, all was different. The apostles spent years with Him, and could scrutinize Him with attention. They gazed at Him long and earnestly, even though they did not properly understand all that they observed until they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Also they came into physical contact with Him. Their hands actually handled Him. This guaranteed that He was no mere Spirit manifestation. He was amongst them in a real human body of flesh and blood. After His resurrection He sojourned among them in His risen body of flesh and bones, and we may remember how He specifically enjoined them to handle Him and see He was not a Spirit after His resurrection.

All this establishes then beyond a doubt that there had been this real manifestation of eternal life before them.” – F.B. Hole

John is describing to us his testimony of the risen savior, Jesus. John had an intimate knowledge of who Jesus is. Matthew and Luke start their gospels with the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, and Mark starts his gospel with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s interesting to note that John makes shows us that Jesus has no origin, but always been.

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 anything made that was made. -John 1:1-3 ESV

 John shows us in his Gospel that God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). This holy, untouchable, unseeable, magnificent God became lowly flesh because He was on a mission to bring us the ultimate joy, Himself. He knew that only He could fill the vacancy in our souls. Jesus is the only one that can fill the God-sized hole in our hearts.

In the words to ‘O Holy Night,’ the hymn writer says, “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth!” Only Jesus can bring that feeling, the feeling of joy made complete.

Joy To The World: A Christmas Homily

This post was inspired by a Christmas post I read from John Piper entitled, “World, Get With the Program: Joy! Joy! Joy!”

Issac Watts was a theologian, a logician, and a writer. On his headstone it will read “July 17, 1674 – November 25, 1748”. Within the dash between his birthdate and his death date, he penned a book about logic and over 750 hymns, many of which we still use today.

“That’s my kind of person! Lucid logic for seeing truth, and a living soul for feeling it and singing it. This is what we were created to be.” – John Piper’s Description of Issac Watts

One of the hymns that Watts wrote was “Joy To The World”. It was based off of his own personal meditation of Psalm 98 and most agree that the psalm and the hymn are vivid descriptions of Christ’s Second Coming. Pay attention to the very last verse.

“O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. 2The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”
– [Psalm 98:1-9 NRSV]

This psalm gives us two clear reasons for us to have joy this Christmas season: Christ loves the world (verse 3) and Christ will judge the world (verse 9).

CHRIST LOVES THE WORLD

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. – [John 3:16-17 KJV]

“The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands”
― Martin Luther

Satan wants to make us blind to any evidence of God’s love toward us. If he can convince us that we’re not loved by Almighty God then we’ll believe that God left us with no way out of our sin and no where to turn in times of temptation, but that’s not the truth. God has provided a way of escape from our sin.

A little over 2,000 years ago, a baby was born into this world that would forever shake history, and change the course of humanity. That baby’s name was Jesus. He was the Son of God. He grew up like you and I did, had to eat, drink, and breathe just like the rest of us, but He was entirely sinless. He lived a perfect life that couldn’t have lived and died the death that we deserved to die, but the story doesn’t end there, he rose again to proclaim victory over sin.

Now that sounds like a happy ending, right?
It gets even better…

CHRIST WILL JUDGE THE WORLD

“Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy 9at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” – [Psalm 98:8-9 NRSV]

One day Jesus will come back to judge the world. Everyone that has received the grace and forgiveness of the Lord will be taken to live with Him for eternity. All those that rejected the love of the savior will be thrown into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. In judgement all things will be made right. Things will once again be complete peace and rest, just as they were before the Fall.

As you celebrate your Christmas with your friends and loved ones this holiday season, be thankful for every moment you have and keep in mind that it’s only a foreshadow of the wonderful fellowship we’ll experience in Heaven together.

Jesus Is After Your Joy

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you…I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
– John 15:1-7, 11 (NRSV)

Jesus is after your joy. Think about that. He always wants us to have joy. But, how can we take joy in being pruned? Hoe can we take joy in knowing that we must always depend on Him? As human beings, we are so independently minded that we often forget that we need Jesus just to breathe.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” – Acts 17:24, 25 (NRSV)

Personally, I’m glad to know that I don’t have depend on myself. It’s comforting for me to know that I am not the culmination of my human experience. In John 17, Jesus shows us that we must be connected to him if we are ever going to bear fruit for His kingdom. He first shows us that if we are not bearing adequate fruit then God prunes us that we will bear more fruit. Sometimes God has to take away things from our lives to show us that He is more precious than anything else. He has to show that we must enjoy Him above everything else. Enjoying God above everything else is what caused David to exclaim

“Because your steadfast love is better than life,  my lips will praise you.” – Psalm 63:3 (ESV)

Understanding that God is be valued more than life itself should motivate us in such a way that bears fruit. When we consider all this we must ask ourselves, “Are we bearing fruit for the kingdom?”, “Do we really value God more than life itself?” As I finish up this post, consider the words of Paul:

 “If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else in the world.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:19 (NCV)

We have a hope beyond this meager human experience, let’s pursue that hope together!