Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Delight Yourself in the Lord

John Piper post:  What Will You Do When the End Comes?

An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes? (Jeremiah 5:30–31)
This is a plea that pastors, evangelists, teachers, parents, and friends warn those they love that, if they do not repent, they will be speechless, helpless, and hopeless when the end comes.
I say this as a Christian Hedonist — as one who believes, down to his toenails, that joyless compliance with God’s commands is useless in the last day — that without satisfaction in God himself, all repentance is vain. 
For there is no such thing as repentance without satisfaction in God. This is the essence of sin — being more satisfied with anything above God (Romans 1:23). Joyless repentance is an oxymoron, because the sin we must repent from is finding little joy in God.
What was this “appalling and horrible thing” that Jeremiah said had happened in the land? “Prophets prophesy falsely.” Priests fall in line with the falsehood. And the people “love to have it so.” They love it — love it.
That’s bad enough — prophesying falsehood and enticing the whole nation to love it. But what was the “appalling and horrible” falsehood? Jeremiah had already named it.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12–13
So there is a double sense of being appalled. First, that falsehood is preached and loved. Second, that dust is more desirable than the fountain of God. God is not to be out-preferred. This is the essence of the “appalling and horrible thing.” This is what must be forsaken. Or judged “when the end comes.”
Repentance is turning from the slow suicide of a diet of dust to the banquet of God’s bounty. This is why Christian Hedonists totally embrace the pervasive biblical warnings to repent before it is too late.
Jeremiah asks, “What will you do when the end comes?” — you who have loved falsehood. Loved it. Loved it. 
Jeremiah doesn’t answer. This is a question that carries its own answer. Everyone knows the answer. “What will you do when the end comes?” You will be able to do nothing. Nothing to save yourself. From what?

Speechless, Helpless, Hopeless

Jeremiah had just told them what in the previous verse: “Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?” (Jeremiah 5:29). If you will not have God as your treasure, you will have him as your enemy.
“Joyless compliance with God’s commands is useless. Without satisfaction in God himself, all repentance is vain.”
And “what will you do” when you stand before God as your omnipotent, infinitely just, and all-knowing enemy? What will you do when you face the one you have belittled all your life by finding him boring, and unworthy your greatest affections? 
You will be speechless, helpless, and hopeless. 
“What will you do when the end comes?” What will your mouth do? Will you begin with protests that you are not being treated fairly? You know what he will say, if you try that. 
He will say, “I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight” (Jeremiah 9:24). Do you think you will be able to make a case that your marginalizing of God in this life was a small thing?
Or will you make your claim that you were weak and helpless? Really? Too weak to trust in the strength of another? Too weak to trust in the wealth and beauty of God? 
You know you were not too weak to trust. You know it, because “you trusted in your works and your treasures” (Jeremiah 48:7). You “trusted in deceptive words” (Jeremiah 7:8). “You trusted in lies” (Jeremiah 13:25). You trusted in the arm of the flesh, though I warned you repeatedly, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).
“If you will not have God as your treasure, you will have him as your enemy.”
And I didn’t just warn you. I promised you. I wooed you, and allured you. I promised, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:7). I told you that “because you put your trust in me . . . you shall have your life” (Jeremiah 39:18). You “shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord . . . and satisfied with my goodness” (Jeremiah 31:14).

Too Late for Mercy

Or will you, then, plead for mercy “when the end comes”? Perhaps you may. But it will be too late. Oh how often I offered you mercy! How often did I call to you, “Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:12). But I warned you that there would be a too late. Now there is none to intercede, as there once was. I will not hear (Jeremiah 7:16).
Nor should you think that “when the end comes” you will be able to repent and cry for mercy. You will cry. And you will want mercy. But not the mercy of repentance. But only the mercy of relief. You will not delight in me at that moment of judgment. You will delight in freedom from suffering. For that you will cry. But I will not suddenly become your sweetest treasure. Beneath your crying is a heart that grieves the loss of pleasure, not the loss of God.
“The Bible is replete with warnings about the failure to rejoice in God as our greatest Treasure.”
“When the end comes,” you will be speechless and helpless. No words, and no deeds of penance, and no acts of virtue will reverse your love of sin. “The prophets prophesied falsely, and you loved to have it so.” You loved it. And you love it still. Judgment, you hate — it is bitter to your taste. But not because God is sweet.
You forsook the fountain of living water. You preferred dust to delight in God. Therefore, “the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath” (Jeremiah 7:29). This will be your portion forever. 

Ocean of Mercy

I am pleading with that pastors, evangelists, teachers, parents, and friends to warn those they love that, if they do not repent, they will be speechless, helpless, and hopeless when the end comes. You don’t have to use the words of Jeremiah. You can use the words of the risen Jesus if you prefer. 
  • “Repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5).
  • “Repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:16).
  • “Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works” (Revelation 2:22).
  • “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you” (Revelation 3:3).
This risen Christ is the one “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (Revelation 1:5). If Jeremiah offered a fountain mercy in this life, Jesus offers an ocean. All the more urgent, then, are the warnings — “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).
To be sure, the prevailing message of biblical Christian Hedonism is a summons to superior joy. 
Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)
But Christian Hedonists do not presume to be wiser, or more loving, or more gracious than the Bible. And the Bible is replete with warnings about the failure to rejoice in God as our greatest Treasure.
“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart . . . therefore you shall serve your enemies.” (Deuteronomy 28:47–48
Therefore, say to those you love — your children, your friends, your flock — “Delight yourself in the Lord!” (Psalm 37:4). “At his right hand is fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore!” (Psalm 16:11). And say to them, “If you love the world more than God, what will you do when the end comes?”

Friday, August 26, 2016

Lord's Great Love

Don Carson post:  1 Samuel 18; Romans 16; Lamentations 3; Psalm 34 is a post from: For the Love of God

IT IS DIFFICULT TO DECIDE whether the first part of Lamentations 3 describes the experience of an individual (perhaps Jeremiah), or if the individual is a figure representing the entire nation as it has been forced into catastrophic defeat, poverty, and exile. Several lines favor the former view (e.g., Lam. 3:14, where the individual has become the laughingstock “of all my people” rather than of the surrounding peoples). The book as a whole, and the plural “we” that dominates most of the second half of this chapter, slightly favor the second view.

But more important than deciding this issue is the striking way in which hope or confidence twice break out in the midst of the most appalling distress. The first instance is in Lamentations 3:22-27. Despite the horrible devastation, the writer says, “Because of the LORD ‘s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (Lam. 3:22). Their sins merit more judgment than they are facing. They might have been wiped out. Only the Lord’s mercy prevented that from happening. However great their sufferings, the fact that they still exist testifies to the Lord’s graciousness toward them. God’s mercies renew themselves in our experience every day (Lam. 3:23). Besides, the faithful will surely insist that what they want the most is not the Lord’s blessings but the Lord himself: “I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’ ” (Lam. 3:24). This is a moral stance: it signals the end of the self-sufficiency and self-focus that thought it could thumb its nose at God. For this writer, the chastening is having its desired effect: it is driving people back to God.


Mind and Heart

David Mathis post: Singing Helps Us Feel the Gospel

You were made to sing. God created music, and designed humans to sing along. 
Mere naturalistic theories cannot adequately account for this global phenomenon, present among every people group on the planet. The fingerprints of the creator mark the sound of music.
And what nature makes plain, God’s own word makes even clearer. The Psalms alone issue nearly thirty commands to sing. Another thirty passages include promises that we will sing praise. The Bible celebrates song from the very beginning, as Adam sings for the woman God made for him (Genesis 2:23), through to the very end, as the bride of heaven sings for the groom God gave her — with choruses old (Revelation 15:3) and new (Revelation 5:914:3).
“You were made to sing. God created music, and designed humans to sing along.”
Jesus himself — fully God in full humanity — sang on earth (Matthew 26:30Mark 14:26), and he sings even now among the happy congregation of heaven (Romans 15:9Hebrews 2:12). One day soon his Church will be fully gathered with him, and she will enjoy endless music with him.

Sing to Stir the Soul

Something mystical and seemingly supernatural works in us when we sing. Music cultivates the happiness and wholeness of the human soul. Singing stirs and engages the heart, celebrating our greatest joys and consoling us in our deepest sorrows.

Ask songwriter and beloved worship-leader Bob Kauflin about the place of song in the church’s corporate worship, and he’ll direct you to two times the apostle Paul explicitly mentions singing. Ephesians 5:19 speaks of our “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Colossians 3:16 instructs us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Colossians 3:16–17 comes in the context of Paul describing what it looks like to live a gospel-fueled life as a community in the midst of a pagan society,” says Kauflin. That picture is increasingly relevant in our day. 
“Right in the middle of it, he talks about singing. It’s similar to Ephesians 5where he goes right from singing to household relationships. Why does he do that? Why is singing so important?”

Connect Mind and Heart

Kauflin’s answer is penetrating, and it is instructive for why God would have music and song occupy such a prominent place not only in worship, but in all of life.
“There’s something about singing that both enables and encourages the rich indwelling of the word of Christ in our hearts. The ‘word of Christ’ is the gospel. It’s who Jesus is, what he’s done, and why it matters. That gospel is to dwell in us richly through singing. Singing is what helps us do that and express that.”

Paraphrasing musicologist Harold Best, Kauflin says, “God has taken the most precise way of communicating truth, which is words, and combined it with the vaguest way of communicating truth, which is music — and he’s put them together to make singing. The purpose is that what we know with our minds gets connected in our hearts.”
God designed singing “to help us feel the truth. More specifically, it’s meant to help us feel the gospel.”

Affect the Affections

How, then, does singing help us feel the gospel? One way, among many, is “singing helps us meditate and reflect on the words we’re singing by drawing them out. We slow it down, we repeat it” — and in doing so, the weight and significance has longer to ring in our souls and penetrate to our depths. This slowing down and repeating sets song apart as markedly different than mere speech.

“If we spoke like that, it would be odd. People would wonder what your problem is. But when we sing, it makes perfect sense. It allows time for those truths to seep down into our souls and impact us and affect us and change not only our emotional state but the choices we make, the things we do, because we do the things we love.
“God gave us singing to affect the things we love, to remind us of the things that are most important about what Jesus Christ has done to save us, to redeem us — those things are most important in life. We want to be amazed by those truths.”

God Gave You a Song

Singing serves our true happiness and wholeness as humans, but that doesn’t mean we all incline toward music with the same intensity, or have the same skill in song.
“Music cultivates the happiness and wholeness of the human soul. Singing stirs and engages the heart.”
Some of us simply don’t like to sing; others, as the expression goes, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Yet that shouldn’t keep any human — and especially any Christian — from the power and pleasure of music and song.
“The question isn’t, ‘Has God given you a voice?’ but, ‘Has God given you a song?’ I’ve worked with guys who are tone deaf, literally tone deaf . . . . I would rather have them sing and express what God has done in their lives, in their hearts, than just remain silent.
“God has given you a song. You just need to find out the ways you can sing it, and use every opportunity you can to sing it — because God means for song not only to express what’s in your heart, but to encouragewhat’s in your heart, or what should be in your heart.”

What should we do in corporate worship when we don’t feel like singing? Kauflin has a hopeful remedy. 
“Confess your weakness, confess your inability, ask God to reveal his glory to you in Jesus Christ, and start singing the truths of God’s word. Most likely, it won’t be too long before your perspective changes, and you’re not thinking about whether you feel like singing anymore. You’ll be thinking about how worthy Jesus is to receive the praises of his people.”