Habukkuk Chapter 1 [ESV]
Saturday, December 30, 2017
Outfitted and Empowered
By John Piper
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews–21)
Christ shed the blood of the eternal covenant. By this successful redemption, he obtained the blessing of his own resurrection from the dead. That is even clearer in Greek than it is in English, and here it’s clear enough: “God . . . brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus . . . by the blood of the eternal covenant.” This Jesus — raised by the blood of the covenant — is now our living Lord and Shepherd.
And because of all that, God does two things:
- he equips us with everything good that we may do his will, and
- he works in us that which is pleasing in his sight.
The “eternal covenant,” secured by the blood of Christ, is the new covenant. And the new covenant promise is this: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). Therefore, the blood of this covenant not only secures God’s equipping us to do his will, but also secures God working in us to make that equipping successful.
The will of God is not just written on stone or paper as a means of grace. It is worked in us. And the effect is: We feel and think and act in ways more pleasing to God.
We are still commanded to use the equipment he gives: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” But more importantly we are told why: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians–13).
If we are able to please God — if we do his good pleasure — it is because the blood-bought grace of God has moved from mere equipping to omnipotent transforming.
Posted by Jim Grayson at 7:53 AM
Friday, December 22, 2017
That You May Believe
By John Piper
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John–31)
I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep, and yet who can yawn through the Apostles’ Creed — that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.
You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.
How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to your glory and your story, O God! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”
Perhaps the galactic movie thrillers of our day can do at least this good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic glory of Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth.
When Jesus said, “For this purpose I have come into the world” (John), he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read.
Oh, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you; for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.
One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds the Son of Man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ.
These things are written — the whole Bible is written — that we might believe — that we might be stunned and awakened to the wonder — that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
By Steven Dilla
“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people,” observes Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, God is in the Manger.
God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety.True to this, the Christmas story is full of unlikely characters. At the center we have a single mother, in a culture that scorned those in such circumstances, and a father who was thinking about bailing. Together they form a subsistence-level family carrying enormous amounts of stress.
The next groups to arrive are the shepherds, outcasts of society, and the wisemen, who were likely both superstitious and pluralistic. In the midst of this we find the Son of God—first in a barn, laying in a feeding trough, then in the arms of political refugees fleeing across international borders.
If earthly comforts and riches are “blessings,” Christ lived a radically unblessed life. He was found far from the palaces of men. He spent much of his adult life homeless, detached from even the slightest of luxuries, and, upon his death, possessed only the clothes on his back.
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” asks the carol, of the same name, by Noël Regney. ''I am amazed that people can think they know the song—and not know it is a prayer for peace,’' Regney told the New York Times in 2002.
Rome brought peace through the sword. God offered peace freely, though it was bought with the humbling and destruction of his own son. Grace confounds power and pride. Bonhoeffer concludes;
Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly.Listen: Do You Hear What I Hear? by Mary J. Blige
The Small Verse
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. — Isaiah 9.1
- From Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.
Posted by Jim Grayson at 6:35 AM
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Reflection: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus :: Advent’s Joy
By Steven Dilla
“It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror,” Charles Dickens wrote of Scrooge’s meeting with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand.The future of Christmas came as a warning to Scrooge—change your ways, or this is what will become of you. The miser pleads, “Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!” As a tool in Dickens’ narrative, this transition serves Scrooge well. As a motto to live by, it would lead readers to misery.
Our hearts and flesh fail us too regularly for this to work—go try harder is a recipe for disaster. Perhaps it’s best to contrast Dickens vision with the words of another literary giant, John Wesley. The pastor and theologian composed dozens of books, wrote thousands sermons, and published over 6,500 hymns during his lifetime. In one of his most famous hymns he wrote:
Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.In this, Wesley captures the fulfillment of the first Advent while directing our attention on the brilliance of the second advent. What a miracle that the long expected Messiah was born into our world! How we long to be released from this brokenness. How we long for rest.
The message to Scrooge never led him beyond himself (which was his problem in the first place). The message of Wesley is for those who have met the end of self. For those who haven’t found true joy in success, those who can’t live past their failures, those who cannot find satisfaction in the messiness of this world; Christ is the “Joy of every longing heart.”
Listen: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus by Christy Nockels ( )
Posted by Jim Grayson at 6:59 AM
Monday, December 11, 2017
Why Jesus Came
By John Piper
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews–15)
This, I think, is my favorite Advent text because I don’t know any other that expresses so clearly the connection between the beginning and the end of Jesus’s earthly life — between the incarnation and crucifixion. These two verses make clear why Jesus came; namely, to die. They would be great to use with an unbelieving friend or family member to walk them step-by-step through your Christian view of Christmas. It might go something like this, a phrase at a time:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood . . . ”
The term “children” is taken from the previous verse and refers to the spiritual offspring of Christ, the Messiah (see Isaiah; 53:10). These are also the “children of God” (John ). In other words, in sending Christ, God has the salvation of his “children” especially in view.
It is true that “God so loved the world, that he gave [Jesus]” (John). But it is also true that God was especially gathering “the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John ). God’s design was to offer Christ to the world, and to effect the salvation of his “children” (see 1 Timothy ). You may experience adoption by receiving Christ (John ).
“ . . . he himself likewise partook of the same things [flesh and blood] . . . ”
This means that Christ existed before the incarnation. He was spirit. He was the eternal Word. He was with God and was God (John 1:1; Colossians 2:9). But he took on flesh and blood and clothed his deity with humanity. He became fully man and remained fully God. It is a great mystery in many ways. But it is at the heart of our faith — and what the Bible teaches.
“ . . . that through death . . . ”
The reason he became man was to die. As God pure and simple, he could not die for sinners. But as man he could. His aim was to die. Therefore he had to be born human. He was born to die. Goodis the purpose of Christmas. This is what most people today need to hear about the meaning of Christmas.
“ . . . he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil . . . ”
In dying, Christ de-fanged the devil. How? By covering all our sin. This means that Satan has no legitimate grounds to accuse us before God. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans) — on what grounds does he justify? Through the blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9).
Satan’s ultimate weapon against us is our own sin. If the death of Jesus takes it away, the chief weapon of the devil — the one mortal weapon that he has — is taken out of his hand. He cannot make a case for our death penalty, because the Judge has acquitted us by the death of his Son!
“ . . . and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
So, we are free from the fear of death. God has justified us. Satan cannot overturn that decree. And God means for our ultimate safety to have an immediate effect on our lives. He means for the happy ending to take away the slavery and fear of the Now.
If we do not need to fear our last and greatest enemy, death, then we do not need to fear anything. We can be free. Free for joy. Free for others.
What a great Christmas present from God to us! And from us to the world!
Monday, December 4, 2017
Mary’s Magnificent God
By John Piper
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke–55)
Mary sees clearly a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history; the most important three decades in all of time are about to begin.
And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women — one old and barren (Elizabeth), one young and a virgin (Mary). And Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks out in song — a song that has come to be known as “The Magnificat.”
Mary and Elizabeth are wonderful heroines in Luke’s account. He loves the faith of these women. The thing that impresses him most, it appears, and the thing he wants to impress on Theophilus, his noble reader of his Gospel, is the lowliness and cheerful humility of Elizabeth and Mary as they submit to their magnificent God.
Elizabeth says (Luke), “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” And Mary says (Luke ), “He has looked on the humble estate of his servant.”
The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary — people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.