Could the reason be that it is what HE wanted us to strive for, fight for and wanted it to be our most favorite blessing?
I mean it is just so fascinating that EVERYTHING we love and want and desire is exactly what GOD has promised us and has even died for that we would have it.
Fascinating and demonstrating.
Showing us proof that we are HIS people, made by HIM, designed in HIS image and also according to HIS ideas about us – we are seeking and yearning for love, for a happy marriage, for a family, good health and happiness – at least if we are in our right mind, which is also a desire we all have and a blessing HE gives us – and what a “conincidence”:
these are the blessings GOD promised to HIS people.
Of course it is not a coincidence.
We are HIS creation.
If the devil had made us, we would be happy and deeply fulfilled every time we destroy or kill or violate others.
Whereas he fooled many people into believing that this is what they are supposed to be doing and what makes them happy, ALL of them know deep within themselves that it is NOT THE TRUTH, that they are not on the right path, that they are rebelling, disobeying and that they WILL be punished for this one day.
This is called a conscience and everybody has it, is born with it, it is given to us by birth.
Regardless where we are born and which circumstances we are born into, we have a natural and instinctive knowing about right and wrong and about justice and goodness.
Many people do not act according to it and do their best to unlearn it over the course of their lives, but when you look at children, they know what a lie is and they do feel guilty when they tell a lie – at least until they learn something else, most likely by their role models which would be us, their parents, their relatives, their teachers…
What I am getting at is that victory is important to everybody and GOD has intended us to seek it, to fight for it and to desire it.
BECAUSE it is what we can have when we are HIS.
And only when we are HIS people can we have victory.
Only through HIM.
We cannot win by not following the principles and rules GOD has layed out for us and we cannot win without HIM.
It is simply not possible.
When we try to do it our way and without GOD, our victory will ALWAYS and only be temporary and superficial and when we even fall for the snare of the enemy, who is telling us that the power is within us and that we can do whatever we want, then, we may seem to be victorious and even seem to have won in this life, but we will never be winners for eternity!
The stronger our egos and will and soul is, the harder it can be to win.
Because then, we are prone to believe that we are the doers, the soldiers, the fighters, that through our power the battle is won.
GOD has many examples in HIS WORD to prove this wrong.
I would like to take a look at the story in 2 Chronicles 20 with you to demonstrate what I mean.
This chapter has been very helpful for me to learn about HOW we can attain victory over the enemy.
It contains divine instructions when you analyze it – and last night, at a late night prayer and spiritual warfare meeting with my beloved sisters, all highly skilled and experienced prayer warriors (they all have many more years of praying and fighting and serving THE LORD under their belt than I do!), we looked at this chapter once again together and it was our basis for the breakthroughs we achieved right there and then, the victories of last night for HIS kingdom.
So the situation was that King Jehosaphat was threatened by 2 tribes, the Ammonites and the Moabites, who outnumbered his people greatly and he was afraid and the first thing he did was to seek THE LORD and proclaim a fast throughout all Judah.
Very important and ESSENTIAL first move!
If you want to win the battle, you MUST ask GOD first about it and also, you need to become receptive for what HE is going to tell you and you need to show HIM that you are submitting yourself (and if you are a leader, also your people) into HIS hands and this is an accepted and proven means of doing so, FASTING.
Here is GOD’s promise for those who fast and pray and for success of this endeavour, and that it will work every time!
2 CHRONICLES 7: 14-15 14 IF MY PEOPLE, WHICH ARE CALLED BY MY NAME, SHALL HUMBLE THEMSELVES, AND PRAY, AND SEEK MY FACE, AND TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS; THEN WILL I HEAR FROM HEAVEN, AND WILL FORGIVE THEIR SIN, AND WILL HEAL THEIR LAND. 15 NOW MINE EYES SHALL BE OPEN, AND MINE EARS ATTEND UNTO THE PRAYER THAT IS MADE IN THIS PLACE.
Verse 15 emphasizes that if this is done in a place, a church building for instance, or your home, it also will sanctify the place and will improve the anointing of this place and will make it more likely that GOD will hear other prayers made there as well in the future!
What a promise!
An instruction for success, for victory and for answered prayer!
I really wonder why so many people don’t do this, me personally, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of fasting and what it has brought me spiritually, I would not have had any breakthrough without fasting I suppose, or let me put it that way, when I discovered fasting for MY FATHER, that’s when HE really started to accept me, to communicate with me, to guide me, to heal me, to deliver me and to give me more and more opportunities to serve HIM.
Ok, so far, so good.
So they started out right.
The next thing is what Jehosaphat did next:
He gathered them all together and they sought the face of THE LORD and were asking for a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom or for a prophecy.
That’s exactly what we need to do as well!
Sometimes, GOD will speak to us personally in a matter that only concerns us.
Sometimes when we don’t hear from HIM and/ or when it is a matter for many, for a group, a congregation for instance or in the story of the bible, for a tribe, the tribe of Judah, it takes a gathering, seeking GOD together, fasting together, praying together, crying out to GOD together for help.
Even the sequence and the order of a successful prayer is given in this story!
Wouldn’t you love to have your prayers answered?
There are certain things a prayer needs to contain in order to get GOD’s attention and approval.
Let’s take a look at verses 6-13 of this chapter:
2 CHRONICLES 20: 6-13: 6 AND SAID, O LORD GOD OF OUR FATHERS, ART NOT THOU GOD IN HEAVEN? AND RULEST NOT THOU OVER ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE HEATHEN? AND IN THINE HAND IS THERE NOT POWER AND MIGHT, SO THAT NONE IS ABLE TO WITHSTAND THEE? 7 ART NOT THOU OUR GOD, WHO DIDST DRIVE OUT THE INHABITANTS OF THIS LAND BEFORE THY PEOPLE ISRAEL, AND GAVEST IT TO THE SEED OF ABRAHAM THY FRIEND FOR EVER? 8 AND THEY DWELT THEREIN, AND HAVE BUILT THEE A SANCTUARY THEREIN FOR THY NAME, SAYING, 9 IF, WHEN EVIL COMETH UPON US, AS THE SWORD, JUDGMENT, OR PESTILENCE, OR FAMINE, WE STAND BEFORE THIS HOUSE, AND IN THY PRESENCE, (FOR THY NAME IS IN THIS HOUSE,) AND CRY UNTO THEE IN OUR AFFLICTION, THEN THOU WILT HEAR AND HELP. 10 AND NOW, BEHOLD, THE CHILDREN OF AMMON AND MOAB AND MOUNT SEIR, WHOM THOU WOULDEST NOT LET ISRAEL INVADE, WHEN THEY CAME OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, BUT THEY TURNED FROM THEM, AND DESTROYED THEM NOT; 11 BEHOLD, I SAY, HOW THEY REWARD US, TO COME TO CAST US OUT OF THY POSSESSION, WHICH THOU HAST GIVEN US TO INHERIT. 12 O OUR GOD, WILT THOU NOT JUDGE THEM? FOR WE HAVE NO MIGHT AGAINST THIS GREAT COMPANY THAT COMETH AGAINST US; NEITHER KNOW WE WHAT TO DO: BUT OUR EYES ARE UPON THEE. 13 AND ALL JUDAH STOOD BEFORE THE LORD, WITH THEIR LITTLE ONES, THEIR WIVES, AND THEIR CHILDREN.
So he started with addressing GOD properly, exalting HIM, acknowledging HIS power and might and then reminds HIM of what HE has done in the past and the promises HE made to HIS people. Also, he reminds GOD of what they had done for HIM and how they had walked in HIM and served HIM.
Then he comes to the center of his prayer, the petition and asks that GOD would defend them.
The end of the prayer is also important, because it says everybody, the entire tribe, including children and wives, stood before HIM and waited on HIM.
This is what will lead to answered prayer and to hearing from GOD.
And they did.
Not through Jehosaphat, but THE LORD spoke through Jahaziel (and Jehosaphat was wise enough to know that THE LORD can speak through anyone!) and told them that HE would fight the battle.
When GOD tells us that, it means it is a done deal.
What it doesn’t mean though is that there will be no more required of us in order to secure, receive and own our victory, but it means that GOD has decided that we WILL be victorious.
What HE will ALWAYS expect from us next (and what they did in the story!) is to give thanks, to worship HIM and to listen for and follow the further instructions.
So what they did – and all they did! – was appoint singers and PRAISED HIM!
And their enemies all died.
Not only that, GOD let them have such a great spoil that they were not able to carry all of the treasures with them.
That’s not only the victory, but also a great increase on top!
We need to remember though that they could have lost the victory GOD had blessed them with, had they not been obedient to HIS instructions and had they not stayed in close contact and in submission to HIM.
I think that’s what happens to us a lot in our daily lives – at least do I remember this from my own past.
I recall situations when THE LORD had given me a victory and I was so glad about it that I forgot to stay close to HIM until the victory was complete and for instance broke my fast or didn’t pray as intensely and often anymore or focused on the next thing – in a way, I can say that I left my humility, because of the “winner mindset” that I went into.
Not a godly winner – mindset, not one that would give GOD all the glory, but one that would let ME appear great and victorious, I may have boasted about it – not necessarily before others, but before myself – and would have believed too much that it was me or my powers or my endurance or my cleverness who got me the victory – instead of what it truly was, instead of seeing the only reason for it: GOD.
Pride can let us loose our victory.
Another thing they also did is they kept praising HIM and also spreading the story of HIS glory and how HE gave them the victory.
GOD wants us to be witnesses, wants us to give HIM thanks, wants us to testify – HE wants HIS goodness to be used in order to bring more souls to HIM, wants us to tell others about HIM and about what HE can do – to share the stories of the miracles GOD did for us will ensure that HE gets the glory, that HE stays pleased with us and that we are still obeying and operating under HIS favour.
Because in the end of the chapter it is also demonstrated that Jehosaphat through an allegiance with Ahaziah, a wicked and ungodly king – lost THE LORD’s favour and GOD destroyed his ships.
I recommend that you read the entire chapter if and when you need a victory from OUR FATHER
And I will write a separate post about what came out for me from following these principles and which victories THE LORD has granted me recently.
I wouldn’t be surprised – if you looked back on a victory GOD has granted you in the past, if you would discover that you had followed these principles layed out in 2 Chronicles 20.
Can you remember?
Will you share some of your success stories with us?
I hope and pray that this will inspire, bless and heal you and that THE LORD will bless you abundantly in all areas of your life, that HE will keep you, shine HIS face upon you and give you peace. In JESUS’ name I pray. AMEN.
But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by a few great things.
If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on for centuries and into eternity, you don’t have to have a high IQ or EQ; you don’t have to have to have good looks or riches; you don’t have to come from a fine family or a fine school. You have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things, and be set on fire by them.
But I know that not everybody in this crowd wants your life to make a difference. There are hundreds of you — you don’t care whether you make a lasting difference for something great, you just want people to like you. If people would just like you, you’d be satisfied. Or if you could just have good job with a good wife and a couple good kids and a nice car and long weekends and a few good friends, a fun retirement, and quick and easy death and no hell — if you could have that (minus God) — you’d be satisfied. That is a tragedy in the making.
“Don’t coast through life without a passion. Make your life count for something great and for eternity.”
Three weeks ago we got word at our church that Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards had both been killed in Cameroon. Ruby was over eighty. Single all her life, she poured it out for one great thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing eighty years old, and serving at Ruby’s side in Cameroon.
The brakes failed, the car went over the cliff, and they were both killed instantly. And I asked my people: Was that a tragedy? Two lives, driven by one great vision, spent in unheralded service to the perishing poor for the glory of Jesus Christ — two decades after almost all their American counterparts have retired to throw their lives away on trifles in Florida or New Mexico. No. That is not a tragedy. That is a glory.
I tell you what a tragedy is. I’ll read to you from Reader’s Digest (Feb. 2000, 98) what a tragedy is: “Bob and Penny . . . took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”
The American Dream: come to the end of your life — your one and only life — and let the last great work before you give an account to your Creator be, “I collected shells. See my shells.” That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. And I get forty minutes to plead with you: don’t buy it.
Don’t waste your life. It is so short and so precious. I grew up in a home where my father spent himself as an evangelist to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. He had one consuming vision: preach the gospel. There was a plaque in our kitchen for all my growing up years. Now it hangs in our living room. I have looked at it almost daily for about 48 years. It says, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
I am here at One Day in a sense as a father. I am 54 years old. I have four sons and one daughter: Karsten is 27, Benjamin is 24, Abraham is twenty, Barnabas is seventeen. Talitha is four. Few things, if any, fill me with more longing these months and years than the longing that my grown sons not waste their lives on fatal success.
The Plea of a Loving Father
So I look out on you as sons and daughters and I plead with you as a father — perhaps the father you never had. Or the father who never had a vision for you like I have for you, and God has for you. Or the father who has a vision for you, but its all about money and status. I look out on you as sons and daughters and I plead with you: Want your lives to count for something great and for eternity. Want this. Don’t coast through life without a passion.
One of the reasons I have loved the vision of Passion 98 and Passion 99 and One Day is that the 268 declaration is so clearly what my life is about. The declaration is based on Isaiah 26:8: “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” Here is not just a body but a soul. Here is not just a soul, but a soul with a passion and a desire. Here is not just a desire for being liked or for softball and shells, here is a desire for something infinitely great, and infinitely beautiful, and infinitely valuable and infinitely satisfying — the name and the glory of God — “Your name and your renown are the desire of our souls.”
“Don’t waste your life. It is so short and so precious.”
This is what I live to know and long to experience. The mission statement of my life and the church I serve: “We exist — I exist — to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.”
You don’t have to say it like I say it. You don’t have to say it like Louie Giglio says it (or like Beth Moore says it or like Voddie Baucham says it).
Finding and Sharing Your Passion
But whatever you do, find your passion and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will be like the apostle Paul. Nobody had a more single-minded vision for his life than Paul did. He could say it in different ways.
I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)
One thing mattered: Finish my course, run my race.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7–8)
How shall I help you? How can I be used of God in this moment at One Day to waken in you a single passion for a single great reality that will unleash you and will set you free from small dreams and send you to the ends of the earth?
A Key Scripture Text
The answer I think the Lord gave me was: take them to one verse of Scripture that is as close to the center as you can get and show them why Paul says there what he says. The verse is Galatians 6:14:
May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
“I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.”
Or to state it positively: only boast in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is a single idea. A single goal. A single passion. Only boast in the cross. The word can be translated “exult in” or “rejoice in.” Only exult in the cross of Christ. Only rejoice in the cross of Christ. Paul says let this be your single passion, your single boast and joy and exultation. In this great moment called one day let the one thing that you love, the one thing that you cherish, the one thing that you rejoice in and exult over be the cross of Jesus Christ. This is shocking for two reasons.
One is that it’s like saying: Only boast in the electric chair. Only exult in the gas chamber. Only rejoice in the lethal injection. Let your one boast and one joy and one exultation be the lynching rope. “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No manner of execution that has ever been devised was more cruel and agonizing than to be nailed to a cross. It was horrible. You would not have been able to watch it — not without screaming and pulling at your hair and tearing your clothes. Let this be the one passion of your life.
That is one thing that is shocking about Paul’s words. The other is that he says this is to be the only boast of your life. The only joy. The only exultation. “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What does he mean by this? Really? No other boast? No other exultation? No other joy except the cross of Jesus — the death of Jesus?
But Doesn’t Paul Boast In Other Things?
What about the places where Paul himself uses the same word for “boast” or “exult” for other things? For example:
We exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)
We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that they produce patience and approvedness and hope. (Romans 5:3)
So, if Paul can boast and exult in all these things, what does Paul mean — that he would not “boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”?
But what does that mean? Is that just double-talk? You exult in one thing and just say that you are exulting in another thing? No. There is a very profound reason for saying this — that all exultation, all rejoicing, all boasting in anything should be a rejoicing in the cross of Jesus Christ.
He means that, for the Christian, all other boasting should also be a boasting in the cross. All exultation in anything else should be exultation in the cross. If you exult in the hope of glory you, should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in tribulation because tribulation works hope, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in your weaknesses, or in the people of God, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ.
Why Boasting Only in the Cross Is Central
Why is this the case? For this reason: for redeemed sinners, every good thing — indeed every bad thing that God turns for good — was obtained for us by the cross of Christ. Apart from the death of Christ, sinners get nothing but judgment. Apart from the cross of Christ, there is only condemnation. Therefore everything that you enjoy in Christ — as a Christian, as a person who trusts Christ — is owing to the death of Christ. And all your rejoicing in all things should, therefore, be a rejoicing in the cross where all your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of the death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
One of the reasons we are not as Christ-centered and cross-saturated as we should be is that we have not realized that everything — everything good and everything bad that God turns for the good of his redeemed children was purchased by the death of Christ for us. We simply take life and breath and health and friends and everything for granted. We think it is ours by right. But the fact is that it is not ours by right. We are doubly undeserving of it.
We are creatures and our Creator was not bound or obligated to give us anything — not life or health and anything. He gives, he takes, and he does us no injustice.
And besides being creatures with no claim on our Creator, we are sinners. We have fallen short of his glory. We have ignored him and disobeyed him and failed to love him and trust him. The wrath of his justice is kindled against us. All we deserve from him is judgment. Therefore every breath we take, every time our heart beats, every day that the sun rises, every moment we see with our eyes or hear with our ears or speak with our mouths or walk with our legs is free and undeserved gift to sinners who deserve only judgment.
And who bought these gifts for us? Jesus Christ. And how did he purchase them? By his blood.
Why God Gives Us Gifts
Every blessing in life is designed to magnify the cross of Christ, or to say it another way, every good thing in life is meant to magnify Christ and him crucified. So, for example, we totaled our 1991 Dodge Spirit last week, but nobody was hurt. And in that safety I exult. I glory in that. But why was nobody hurt? That was a gift to me and my family that none of us deserves. We are sinners and by nature children of wrath, apart from Christ. So how did we come to have such a gift for our good? Answer: Christ died for our sins on the cross, and took away the wrath of God from us, and secured for us, even though we don’t deserve it, God’s omnipotent grace that works everything together for our good. So when I exult in our safety, I am exulting in the cross of Christ.
“Find your passion and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. ”
And the insurance paid us $2,800 for the car and Noël took that money and went to Iowa and bought a ’92 Chevy Lumina and drove it home in the snow. And now we have a car again. And I exult in the amazing grace of so much bounty. Just like that. You wreck your car. You come out unhurt. Insurance pays up. You get another one. And move on almost as if nothing happened. And in thanks, I bow my head and exult in the untold mercies even of these little material things. Where do all these mercies come from?
If you are a saved sinner, a believer in Jesus, they come through the cross. Apart from the cross, there is only judgment — patience and mercy for a season, but then, if spurned, all that mercy only serves to intensify judgment. Therefore every gift is a blood-bought gift. And all boasting — all exultation — is boasting in the cross. Woe to me if I exult in any blessing unless my exulting is an exulting in the cross of Christ.
Another way to say this is that the design of the cross is the glory of Christ. The aim of God in the cross is that Christ would be honored. When Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he is saying that God’s will is that the cross be always magnified — that Christ crucified always be our boast and exultation and our joy and our praise — that Christ get glory and thanks and honor for every good thing in our lives — and every bad thing that God causes to turn for good.
Education for Exultation
But now here’s a question: If that is the aim of God in the death of Christ — namely, that “Christ crucified” be honored and glorified for all things, then how is Christ to get the glory he deserves? The answer is that children and youth and adults have to be taught that these things are so. Or to say it another way: the source of exultation in the cross of Christ is education about the cross of Christ.
That’s my job: to get glory for Jesus by teaching you these things. And then your job is to get more glory for Jesus by acting on them and teaching them to more people. Education about Jesus is for exultation in Jesus. And if we want there to be no exultation except in the cross, then we must pursue education about the cross — and under the cross.
“All your blessings were purchased for you at the cost of the death of the Son of God.”
Or maybe we should say, “on the cross.” Education on the cross will lead to exultation of the cross. What do I mean? Look at the rest of verse 14: “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Boasting in the cross happens when you are on the cross. Is that not what verse 14 says? The world has been crucified to me, and I have been crucified to the world. The world is dead to me, and I am dead to the world. Why? Because I have been crucified. We learn to boast in the cross and exult in the cross when we are on the cross.
When You Were Crucified With Christ
Now what does that mean? When did that happen? When were you crucified? The answer is in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” When Christ died, we died. The glorious meaning of the death of Christ is that when he died, all his own died in him. That death, that he died for us all, becomes our death when we are united to Christ by faith.
But you say, “Aren’t I alive? I feel alive.” Well, here is a need for education. We must learn what happened to us. We must be taught these things. That is why Galatians 2:20 and 6:14 are in the Bible. God is teaching us what happened to us, so that we can know ourselves and know his way of working with us and exult in him and in his Son and in the cross as we ought.
So we read Galatians 2:20 again to see that. Yes, we are dead and yes, we are alive. “I have been crucified with Christ [so I am dead, and he goes on]; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me [why? Because I died, that is, my old rebellious, unbelieving self died, and he goes on]; and the life which I now live in the flesh [so, yes, I am alive, but it isn’t the same “I” as the “I” who died] I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” In other words the “I” who lives is the new “I” of faith. The new creation lives. The believer lives. The old self died on the cross with Jesus.
And if you ask, “What’s the key for linking up with this reality? How can this be mine? The answer is implied in the words about faith in Galatians 2:20. “The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God.” That is the link. God links you to his Son by faith. And when he does there is a union with the Son of God so that his death becomes your death and his life becomes your life.
Now take all that over to Galatians 6:14, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Don’t boast in anything except in the cross.
Becoming Radically Centered on Christ’s Cross
And how can I become that radically cross-centered — so that all my exultation is traced back to the cross? Answer: realize that when Christ died on the cross, you died; and when you trusted him, that death took effect in your life. Paul says it’s your death to the world and the world’s death to you.
Meaning: when you put your trust in Christ, your bondage to the world is broken, and the overpowering lure of the world is broken. You are a corpse to the world, and the world is a corpse to you. Or to put it positively, according to verse 15, you are a “new creation.” The old you is dead. A new you is alive. And the new you is the you of faith. And what faith exults in is not the world, but Christ, and especially, Christ crucified.
This is how you become so cross-centered that you say with Paul, “I will not boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The world is no longer my treasure. It’s not the source of my life and my satisfaction and my joy. Christ is.
But what about safety in the car accident? What about the insurance payment? Didn’t you say you were happy about that? Isn’t that the world? So are you dead to the world?
I could be. I hope so. Because being dead to the world doesn’t mean going out of the world. And it doesn’t mean not feeling things about the world — some negative and some positive (1 John 2:15; 1 Timothy 4:3). It means that every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love, and an occasion of boasting in the cross. We are dead to insurance payments when the money is not what satisfies, but Christ crucified, the Giver, satisfies. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.
That is the goal of education for exultation — in the cross. Oh, may God grant us to dream and plan and work and give and teach and live for the glory of Christ and him crucified!
One day, about a decade ago, a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director saw something at her own clinic—and it made her instantly pro-life.
Her name is Abby Johnson, and she was the director of the Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood clinic, which was affiliated with the greater Houston area Planned Parenthood—one of the largest markets for America’s largest abortion-provider. In 2008, Abby had been voted as Planned Parenthood’s Employee of the Year. She was on a fast-track for further promotion within Planned Parenthood.
I interviewed Abby Johnson on the radio a few years ago. She told me about something that happened that made her question how good Planned Parenthood really was:
“I had been instructed to increase the abortion quota at our facility, which was strange to me because I really got involved with Planned Parenthood, believing that abortion was something we were trying to eradicate, [to] make unnecessary through various education programs.”
I said, “Safe, legal, and rare?” She said, “Sure, that’s what we said to the media, and that’s what I believed.” She naively thought abortion (as a last resort) was helpful to women.
Abby said in a television interview for D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM):
“Planned Parenthood says that they offer options counseling, but that’s not true….they don’t really know how to effectively counsel on anything but abortion. I was great at selling abortion. I was a very, very good salesperson. I could sell an abortion to anybody. It’s so easy when you get a woman into your office, and she is vulnerable and she’s unsure.”
But on September 26, 2009, at the request of a visiting doctor who insisted on sonogram-assisted abortions, Abby ran the sonogram machine and saw from a different perspective what her life’s work (up to that time) was really all about.
In her book, The Walls Are Talking (with Kristin Detrow, 2016), Abby writes:
“As I stood watching, a thirteen-week-old unborn child struggled and lost its life within its mother’s womb, finally crumpling and disappearing into the cannula, a hollow plastic tube attached to the suction machine by a flexible hose.”
She described it this way in the DJKM television interview:
“I was just in shock. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. And the baby was actually making some progress. It was moving further and further away from the instrument, so much so the doctor had to reposition the cannula. And he finally got everything in place, and he asked the technician to turn on the suction, and she did.”
“In just, a few moments, I saw the child’s body begin to go through that tube.
For those few moments I was watching this child fight hard for its life. It didn’t have a chance. We had all those instruments and all that technology, and that little baby didn’t have a fighting change, and it did fight.”
“I walked out of the room that day just realizing, ‘I’ve got to make a change. Never again. I’m never going to participate in this again.’”
Today, Abby’s story can be seen on the big screen. Unplanned, based on her best-selling book of the same title (with Cindy Lambert, 2010), opened this past weekend and was a surprise hit. It came in number five at the box office, which is quite an accomplishment for an independent pro-life movie that virtually all of Hollywood does not want you to see. I saw it on its opening weekend and highly recommend it.
Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, told me:
“The depiction of abortion in Unplanned is something that every pro-life person should see—and every pro-choice person.”
Today, one of Abby Johnson’s central goals is to assist abortion clinic workers who want to leave the abortion industry. Her organization, And Then There Were None, is directly geared toward this.
In an online video for that outreach, Abby says, “Our vision statement for And Then There Were None is ‘No abortion clinic workers, no abortion clinics, no abortions’—it starts with the workers. We see ourselves as being part of a pro-love movement…we want to love these workers out of the clinics. We want to love them to a path of healing, and we want to love them…into a relationship with Jesus Christ.” So far, they have been able to help 500 people leave the abortion clinics.
In her book, The Walls Are Talking, Abby says she relates to Mary Magdalene:
“I have also done my fair share of sinning. And I have also been forgiven much more than I deserve. I abused and betrayed women in the worst possible way. I convinced them to kill their children….It was Christ who changed me.”
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, make your plans to go see Unplanned.
Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written/co-written 31 books, e.g., The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, American Amnesia: Is American Paying the Price for Forgetting God?,What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback) djkm.org @newcombejerry www.jerrynewcombe.com
The disease has been spreading across the country with the latest outbreak being found in the San Antonio Airport area. The symptoms include HIGHsteria over false impressions and false reports of certain beliefs attributed to Chick-fil-a owners and workers.
In today’s society there is a noisy group that has lost or never learned the art of debate, instead they bully those who disagree with them. For some unknown illogical reason the noisy group mistakenly believes noise, assaults, and violence will change someone’s point of view, this is known as Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome.
If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome we would not have our Constitution and we would be subjects of the Queen. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome there would not have been a War of 1812. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome members of the military could commandeer any housing it wished without recourse by or compensation to the property owner. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome police would not need a warrant to search your property. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome cruel and unusual punishment would be legal. If the Founding Fathers had Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome there would be no civil rights acts or equal rights.
Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome was on display in the Decline and Fall of the SPLC Empire (One Conservative Group Fought Back).
Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome was on display in the Jussie Smollett case.
Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome was on display after the Pennsylvania State Rep opened the House in Prayer: “At The Name of Jesus Every Knee Will Bow”
I think you get the idea.
Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome is not helpful to enjoying our Rights “endowed by [our] Creator … certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It is good to keep Chick-fil-A.
It is time to eradicate the Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome.
It is time to practice the age old art of debate where we discuss a question by considering opposing arguments.
Here is one example of a popular debate format called “traditional” in an academic debate setting:
Stock Issues Case:
• Demonstrate that there are serious problems with the status quo
• Show that these problems are inherent to the system
• Present a specific plan (implementing the resolution)
• Show that this plan will help solve the problems without creating serious new ones
Longtime readers may remember I served on a Charter Commission for a town. The voter registration for the town was 3 to 1 Democrat. The Charter Commission make up was five Democrats and four Republicans The membership age range was from the early twenties to late sixties. The GOP Party town chairman and Democrat Party town vice chair were members of the Commission. All members ran town wide. The Chairman of the Charter Commission sold caskets, the rest of us worked in various fields.
The Charter Commission was authorized by voters and the membership was elected at the same election. We had one year to work together to write a Charter which is akin to a Constitution. The charter needed to resolve conflicts in town laws, bylaws and state laws as they affected the town specifically, as well as provide for town boards and commissions structure and function.
The Charter Commission held weekly open meeting and several public hearings where sections of the proposed new charter were debated by the voters and commission members.
One year after the Charter was authorized and the members elected the finished product of the printed new proposed town charter was in hands of every voter to be voted up or down as a whole. The voters approved and accepted the new charter by a comfortable margin.
The point is we volunteered to serve one year on the town Charter Commission to write from scratch the document which outlined the operation of the town and we succeeded. We succeeded because we worked together, debated, and came to agreement in full view of the public and press.
The Charter Commission is but one example of how this country of ours became great. We can do it again.
Let’s keep Chick-fil-A.
Let’s eradicate the Chick-fil-A Derangement Syndrome.
The Constitution is the GREATEST political document ever written
But students at @ASU are being taught the Constitution is racist due to the sins of some of our founders. This is all part of the left’s anti-America agenda at our schools & universities. It MUST be stopped
In the first message, I said that Christian Hedonism is a life devoted to experiencing Christ himself as our supreme treasure with as much satisfaction as possible in this life and the next. And I argued that such a life is essential — necessary — for the human heart to glorify Christ as he deserves. Because Christ is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
The entire emphasis in that message was on vertical Christian Hedonism, not horizontal Christian Hedonism. That is, the focus was on the fact that experiencing joy in Christ is key to glorifying him (vertically) as we ought. The focus was not on the fact that experiencing joy in Christ is the key to loving people as we ought. I call that horizontal Christian Hedonism.
So, putting the two together, I would say that Christian Hedonism — a life devoted to maximizing our joy in Christ — is the key to glorifying God the way we should, and the key to loving people the way we should. Experiencing joy in Christ as our supreme treasure is essential for true worship and for true virtue. If you cultivate a way of life that ignores or opposes the pursuit of joy in Christ as your supreme treasure, you will not worship him or love people as you ought.
Seven Decades of Joy
Now, the reason I bring up horizontal Christian Hedonism in this message is that it relates so closely to the topic that I was assigned, namely, “Reflections on the Fight for Joy Throughout Seven Decades.” I don’t have time to talk about all seven decades. The third decade was the all-important decade of discovery. That’s the decade (my twenties) when the sprouts of Christian Hedonism sprang up in my mind and heart. And for the last fifty years, I have been trying to see and savor and show the supremacy of God in Christ. Everything I have written relates to this quest, more or less.
So, instead of trying to walk you through the developments of all those years, what I think will be most helpful, and manageable, is to bring you into some clarifying discoveries about horizontal Christian Hedonism, and the way it relates to my fight for joy, and the way it relates to the gospel, and to gospel-centered preaching in our day.
Two Levels of Love
So, let’s begin by stating the relationship between the joy of vertical Christian Hedonism and the biblical command that we love each other and love our enemies. The way I usually describe it is like this: genuine love for people — Christ-exalting love for people — is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. Or, sometimes, I get more precise and I say: Christ-exalting love for people is the effort to expand our joy in Christ by including others in it.
“Experiencing joy in Christ as our supreme treasure is essential for true worship.”
The difference between those two definitions of horizontal love is that, while both of them are rooted in the new-birth miracle of experiencing joy in Christ as our supreme treasure, one of them is stated more passively as the overflow of that joy that meets the needs of others, and the other is stated more actively as the effort to increase that joy by including others in it, which would also involve meeting their needs.
If that second definition of love is true, is biblical, namely, that love involves active effort to do the things that help people share my joy, so that my joy increases in their joy — if that is what love involves — then my fight for joy happens at two significantly different levels.
The first level is the foundational experience of fighting for joy in Christ — the fight to see him as he really is, and savor the greatness and beauty and worth of Christ, so that I treasure Christ above all, so that there is, in fact, a joy in me that can now overflow, or be extended to others.
That’s the first level of the fight for joy. I call it an ongoing fight, because even though that foundational experience of seeing and savoring Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit — a miracle of new birth — nevertheless that experience is not static. It must be preserved. Sustained. Intensified decade after decade. It is a fight to the end. That preservation and intensification is the first level of the fight for joy.
The second level of fighting for joy is the conscious effort (battle!) to do the practical acts of love which the Bible says will, in fact, increase our joy in Christ. Now at this point, things have gotten muddy in recent years.
There is, even in the gospel-centered movement — which I am happy to be a part of — significant confusion about how to respond to the hundreds of New Testament commandments that we should do certain things, and not do certain things, as we seek to increase our joy in Christ by loving people. Commandments like:
Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal.
Be patient in tribulation.
Be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints.
Bless those who persecute you.
Live in harmony with one another.
Repay no one evil for evil.
Never avenge yourselves.
Put away falsehood.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
Let the thief no longer steal.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.
Put away all bitterness and wrath.
Be kind to one another.
Sexual immorality must not even be named among you.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking.
Don’t get drunk with wine.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord.
How do these commandments (from Romans and Ephesians, and hundreds more) relate to the gospel? How do they relate to love? How do they relate to joy? And commandments is what they are called, not suggestions or guidelines.
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments [entolas]. (1 John 2:3)
Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 3:24)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. (1 John 5:2)
Neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God [entolōn]. (1 Corinthians 7:19)
Are We Asking the Wrong Question?
So mainly, what I want to do this message is take you into my struggle, my fight for joy, at this second level — the fight, or the effort, to increase my joy in Christ through doing the acts of obedience to God’s commandments, which the New Testament calls me to do.
And I can see some gospel-centered people cringing as they hear me describe the fight for increased joy in Christ as a fight for obedience to commandments. To them, the only proper strategy for fighting for joy is to send people back to rehearse the gospel — that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are loved, accepted, and forgiven, but that we should never say, “Pursue obedience to the apostolic commandments in order to find fullest joy in Christ.” That sounds too much like legalism — like you are earning something from God by your obedience.
So, is that even a right way to pose the question about how to fight for joy? Isn’t striving just the opposite of resting in the gospel so that love can be a fruit of the Spirit, not a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:22)? Isn’t that obvious, Piper, that you are posing the question all wrong? Isn’t it obvious that joy is a gift that precedes and enables acts of love, not the other way around, as if doing good deeds produced joy? If that were true, then how could those good deeds be a fruit of the Spirit? Isn’t it obvious that you’re setting this up all wrong?
No, it’s not obvious. As you will see. That’s where we are going.
Intensify Your God-Given Joy
So, there are two levels at which I fight for joy, and I want to talk mainly about the second one. But let me throw some light just briefly on the first level and establish it as something I’m not calling into question by the second one.
Blinded by the Darkness
The first level is the fight to preserve, sustain, and intensify the initial, God-given joy in Christ that comes with the new birth and with our first faith in the justifying work of Christ. Before we were born again, we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:5). Our experience of that deadness was that we were blind to the all-satisfying brightness and beauty of Christ in the gospel.
The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Then the Spirit blew where he willed and a miracle happened in our souls (John 3:8). We were made alive (Ephesians 2:5). God opened the eyes of our hearts to see Christ for who he really is (Ephesians 1:17–18).
God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Made Alive in the Light
What we could not see as bright and beautiful and satisfying to our souls, we now see. This is the treasure that we have found and will not trade for anything (Matthew 13:44). That’s what Paul calls it in the next verse: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
“Christ-exalting love for people is the effort to expand our joy in Christ by including others in it.”
This treasure — the all-satisfying greatness and beauty and worth of Christ — is now our heart’s satisfaction. This is the foundational joy that overflows in love to meet the needs of others, as Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 8:1–2.
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia [so, things start with an outpouring of God’s grace. This is the ultimate source of God-exalting human joy], for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
There it is: abundance of joy, by grace, overflowing in generosity. The joy is not in the removal of poverty. It is not in the removal of affliction. It is in the God of grace seen in Jesus. Our sins are forgiven. Our guilt is removed. God is no longer against us, but one hundred percent for us.
Everything will work for our good. He will keep us for himself forever. Leap for joy! This is what the grace of God in Christ does — before we have kept any commandment, except receive Christ for who he is. In the midst of affliction and poverty they experienced an “abundance of joy.”
And that joy overflowed in generosity to the poor. This foundational joy in Christ severs the nerve of greed. It severs the nerve of fear. It severs the nerve of insecurity. It severs the nerve of pride that needs applause. It is a mighty power! And it is rightly described not as pulled up with a bucket of obedience, but as gushing up like a spring. It overflowed in a wealth of generosity. And so, I define love in this text as the overflow of joy that meets the needs of others. And it is rightly called a fruit of the Holy Spirit, not a work of the flesh.
That is the way I have most often spoken of horizontal Christian Hedonism and how joy in Christ relates to loving people. And I don’t take any of it back. And the fight for joy at this level is the fight to preserve and sustain and intensify that “abundance of joy” mainly by fixing our eyes on Jesus again and again in his word, and reminding ourselves of the greatness of our inheritance that he purchased with his blood, and praying that God would open our eyes to see the wonders of Christ and his work.
That foundational fight for joy in Christ is never-ending to the last conscious moment of life — “I have fought the good fight” (2 Timothy 4:7). Next stop: heaven. No more fight.
Striving Against Sin — and for Joy
Now the question is, are we only going to revel in that constellation of glorious truths, and sing that song for the rest of our lives? Or are we going to revel in the whole counsel of God revealed in his infallible word, and be open to more glory? Are we going to stay on continual quest for all that the Bible has to reveal for our joy, or are we going to be content with the magnificence we have seen?
I don’t say that smugly. Discovering the joys of level one is like discovering an endless range of mountains in the Himalayas that you had never seen. And it really is endless. There are wonders and glories to be seen in the foundations of joy in the work of Christ that we will never exhaust. But my plea is that you not let your ever-so-proper ecstasy over the joys of this range of joy-awakening mountains keep you from seeing another range of joy-awakening mountains, from which you may see even greater wonders than the first range.
We don’t have a lot of time, but let me at least point you to the mountains I am referring to. This is the second level of our fight for joy: namely, the conscious effort — even striving — not to do sinful acts that grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), wound the conscience (1 Corinthians 8:12), displease God (1 Thessalonians 4:1), and diminish joy (Acts 20:35); but to do acts of love which in fact bring us more joy in Christ himself — indeed bring us safely home to glory.
Can I Obey My Way to Joy?
If it is true that the sinning of a Christian diminishes joy in Christ, and Christian acts of love increase joy in Christ, then the fight for joy is the fight to kill sin and pursue obedience to the commands of love. So the question is this: Does the New Testament teach that there is not only joy in Christ before and underneath obedience causing an overflow that we call love — joy as the rootproducing the fruit of love — but also that there is more joy in Christ himself in and after acts of love because we obeyed?
In other words, does the New Testament teach that we should approach acts of love motivated not just by joy in Christ that we already have because of the gospel, but also motivated by the expanded joy in Christ that we could have if we killed a particular sin, or did a particular act of love?
Enjoy the Narrow Path
Here’s my answer, and then we will look at texts from the New Testament. Yes, there is more joy in Christ in and after acts of love than we had experienced before that obedience. Yes, there is expanded joy in Christ himself that comes from killing sin in our lives (Romans 8:13), and from walking in obedience to the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2).
And the reason for this is that when Christ shed the blood of the new covenant (Luke 22:20) he secured, at infinite cost, not only the forgiveness of our sins (Jeremiah 31:34), but also God’s writing of the law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). He secured infallibly for all the elect the new covenant promise “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27).
And he did this not by giving us his Spirit and removing all commandments from the New Testament and replacing them with the Holy Spirit. He did it by giving us hundreds of commandments that describe the narrow path of love that leads to life, and then giving us his Spirit so that we would love these commandments, and they would not be burdensome (1 John 5:3), but his yoke would be easy (Matthew 11:30), indeed, more joyful than if there were no commandments at all.
Approved Through Testing
Look with me at several texts that show us why it is that there is more joy in Christ in and through obedience than there was before. Start with Romans 5:2–5:
We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
First, there is rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God (verse 2). That is a gift from the very first breath of the Christian life. To be born again, to be justified is to have the hope of the glory of God. That joy is first and foundational.
Then Paul says we also rejoice in suffering in the Christian life. This is a subsequent joy. And the explanation of why we rejoice in suffering is all-important. There are three steps in Paul’s explanation.
Because suffering produces patience — patient endurance (hupomenēn), endurance without bitterness or rebellion.
This endurance through suffering with patience and without bitterness produces “character” (dokimē) — the quality of passing a test and being found true, approved, real.
That sense of passing the test of suffering and being found real produces hope. It reinforces the hope of glory.
So where does the added joy in suffering come from? It comes from seeing the keeping power of Christ preserve and confirm that we are real. We lived through a test of our faith and we passed. In real, undeniable experience of pain, we went from patient endurance, to approvedness, to hope.
Happiness in Holiness
And this he says is why we are experiencing this added joy. This is a joy that comes from tasting — in real experience — the power of the blood-bought grace of God killing the sin of impatience and bitterness, and creating the obedience of patience and trust. This is a joy that is more than the joy of seeing Christ justify us. This is the added joy of seeing Christ sanctify us.
“God opened the eyes of our hearts to see Christ for who he really is.”
This is not only the joy of tasting the sweetness of the blood-bought sovereign imputation of Christ’s obedience, but also the joy of tasting the sweetness of the blood-bought sovereign creation of our obedience.
Christ intends to be enjoyed and thus magnified not only in his justifying work, but also in his sanctifying work. Not only by imputing his obedience, but by empowering ours. The imputation of his obedience is the foundation of our acceptance, and the empowering of our obedience is the confirmation of our acceptance — and oh, the sweetness of these repeated confirmations of his presence. This is more joy.
A New Dimension of Contentment
Or consider 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 where Paul argues in the same way with an even clearer focus on the centrality of Christ in the joy of our obedient sufferings. Christ said to Paul as he submitted to his thorn in the flesh:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
Then Paul says, “therefore” — that is, because I can see your grace and your power in action in my life — “I will boast all the more gladly.” This is an added joy, an expanded joy — there was already joy in the grace and power of Christ to justify and forgive, but now there is more of Christ to see, moregrace, more power.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (episkēnoō ep eme).
Oh, how precious are such tastes of the power of Jesus touching us, tenting with us, living in us.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content [a new dimension of contentment, a new joy] with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Worthy to Suffer
Here’s a glimpse of this joy in the lives of Peter and the apostles. They were commanded in Acts 5 not to teach in the name of Jesus.
They responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). For this obedience they were beaten and released. Then Acts 5:41 says,
Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
This is a new joy — an added joy, an expanded joy in Christ. Who are we that Christ would set his favor on us as suitable objects of such a privilege — to be shamed for the name of Christ? To share with him in his sufferings. To know him in terrible and wonderful ways.
Give to Receive
One more illustration that does not relate to suffering. Jesus is quoted in Acts 20:35. Paul says to the Ephesian elders,
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed [makarion] to give than to receive.”
So, the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:2 were so “blessed” — so joyful — in the grace of God that they “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.” Joy preceded and enabled giving. But now we learn that is not the whole story of motivation for generosity. Paul says, not only is there blessedness beforegiving that overflows, but there is more blessedness in and after giving. “It is more blessed to give.”
This is why I defined love in two ways from 2 Corinthians 8:2. Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. And: Love is the effort to expand our joy in Christ by including others in it.
Two Weaknesses in Gospel Preaching
What all of this shows is that there is a twofold weakness in some gospel preaching today.
1. Forgiveness Without Obedience
First, there is a preaching that almost never highlights the truth that Christ died not only to secure our forgiveness but to secure our sin-killing obedience to the commandments of the New Testament.
[Christ] bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24).
The beauty and power of the cross of Christ is seen and enjoyed in the blood-bought experience of obedience to Christ’s commands. Experiencing this is a dimension of joy that can be had no other way. A Christian Hedonist won’t be satisfied without it.
2. Trust and Obey
Therefore, second, these preachers tend to shrink back from the apostolic intention of “the law of Christ” unfolded in hundreds of New Testament commands that define the path of love that leads to life (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2). And instead of calling for obedience like the apostles do (1 Thessalonians 4:1), they only use the commandments to say, “You can’t do that. Christ did it for you. Trust in the imputation of his obedience. End of sermon. Celebrate grace.”
“Jesus secured, at infinite cost, not only the forgiveness of our sins, but also God’s writing of the law on our hearts.”
That’s a half-gospel based on a half-grace, offering a half-joy. By all means say, “You can’t obey these commands in your own strength. Christ obeyed them perfectly on your behalf. Trust in the imputation of that perfect obedience as the ground of your happy acceptance.” Yes!
And then look to the rest of what he purchased for you at the cost of his life. He purchased the Holy Spirit and gave him to you. He purchased the writing of the law on your heart so that you love his commandments. He purchased the sovereign promise, “I will . . . cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27).
This is the grand achievement of the blood of the new covenant. And the commandments of the New Testament are not given merely to expose our sin. They are given to show us the kind of life Christ died to create in his church. They are given to us so that by doing them by faith in Christ’s blood-bought power — gospel power! — we might have more joy as his power is perfected in our weakness — that we might have more joy in Christ himself.
Snapshot of the Fight
Let me close with a snapshot of what this second-level fight for joy looked like for me recently. A homeless couple was living in their car for weeks on the street outside our house. This situation caused me a deep struggle with how to be a Christian Hedonist — and how to fight for joy.
Do I struggle only for level-one joy — joy over my forgiveness and my acceptance with God, waiting for it to overflow within a spontaneous inclination to do more for this couple? Or do I look at the commandments to love my neighbor as I love myself, and to practice hospitality (the love of strangers), and do I then ponder the added joy that would come through practical, obedient helpfulness, and then make a specific effort to expand my joy by including them in it and seeing Christ’s sin-killing grace active in my obedience?
During those weeks, those two motives combined to move me to take the husband to connect them with Jericho Road for transitional housing, to help get their car fixed, to provide them with two nights in a hotel with special means over Christmas. To share the gospel with them and give them a Bible. But all to no avail. They turned down the housing and last week were there again in the bitter cold, fifty feet from our door living in their car.
It was six degrees outside. I had work to do. And this couple was probably touched with some measure of mental illness. At that point, my joy in Christ was not overflowing in some wise and caring next step. But I had the commandments, and I had a promise of greater joy through obedience (and I had a gracious wife).
I put on my coat and went and tapped on their window. “It’s really cold tonight. Would you want to come in and spend the night with us?” He talked it over with his wife, and turned and said, “No thanks.” I said, “There are places for you.” He said, “We’re still looking.” I said, “If you change your mind, knock on the door.”
As I came back into the house, there was sadness at these broken lives and this broken world. And there was a surge of joy. The crucified and risen Christ had conquered some of my selfishness and fear. His reality was near. He was precious. Joy went deeper. I hope you will join me in this fight for joy.
David’s first big battle was against a Philistine “terminator” named Goliath. Ironically, his last recorded battles were against four more Philistine giants. As you recall, David picked up five smooth stones on his way to fight Goliath. Why five stones? Was it merely extra ammunition in case he missed his first shot or two? Or was it, as some suggest, because Goliath had four super-sized siblings or sons? Grabbing five stones may have been an act of faith. Perhaps David thought:
“God will not only help me defeat this giant, but every giant I have to face!”
In case you haven’t noticed, life is a series of battles. You’re either in a battle, fresh out of a battle, or about to face another one! Wouldn’t it be nice if we only had to face ONE battle or just ONE giant? That’s not reality. News flash—just because you defeat one enemy, demon or temptation doesn’t mean the war is over. The enemy doesn’t give up and neither should we. Let’s make five observations about David’s final conflicts:
. David Kept Fighting.“When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines” (2 Sam. 21:15). This was late in David’s forty-year reign when he was around sixty years old. Notice David personally went down and fought (he was no armchair general). He wasn’t just living in the lap of luxury or being pampered in his cedar palace. No, he kept fighting. That’s what we must do—keep fighting the good fight of faith. There is no victory without a battle. Billy Sunday, the 20th century evangelist known for his bold rhetoric said, “Listen, I’m against sin. I’ll kick it as long as I’ve got a foot, I’ll fight it as long as I’ve got a fist, I’ll butt it as long as I’ve got a head, and I’ll bite it as long as I’ve got a tooth. And when I’m old, fistless, footless, and toothless, I’ll gum it till I go home to glory and it goes home to perdition.” As soldiers of the cross, we keep fighting realizing we are in a spiritual war between God and Satan, angels and demons, good and evil, right and wrong, truth and error. The good news is we’re on the winning side—“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
. David Nearly Fainted. 2 Samuel 21:15 (KJV) says, “And David waxed faint.” The Living Bible reads, “David became weak and exhausted.” We’d like to think we’re invincible, that we never get weary or worn out, but that’s not realistic. There will be times of great strength and triumph along with times of weakness and defeat. Here we have King David, a champion, a giant killer, a national hero of Israel, nearly passing out in total exhaustion on the battlefield. The old saying is true, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” When you are physically, emotionally and spiritually drained, remind yourself of Paul’s words, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). Don’t lose heart, don’t give up or quit. David almost did, but he bounced back and won the battle.
. David was Saved by a Friend.“Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant . . . who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. But Abishai . . . came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him” (2 Sam. 21:16-17). Certainly, all of Goliath’s relatives had a vendetta against David (they wanted revenge). Goliath’s son, Ishbi-Benob, had David in a vulnerable position and was closing in for the kill. It was a close call, but Abishai, David’s nephew, saved his life and slew the giant instead. Abishai’s name means “possessor of all that is desirable.” He reminds me of another “friend” who has saved us from our enemy time and time again—Jesus. Some giants we may be able to slay on our own with God’s help (Goliath was a one-man job). To conquer other giants, we’ll need the help of spiritual friends—prayer partners, brothers or sisters in Christ to agree with us. There is power in agreement. With God on their side, one person can put 1,000 to flight, but two in unity can put 10,000 to flight (Dt. 32:30). That’s one reason Jesus sent His disciples out in pairs. God teams people together to help each other overcome. None of us are lone rangers (even the Lone Ranger had Tonto). We need a network of spiritual friends.
. David Knew His Source. When God delivered David from all his enemies, he wrote, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; the God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence” (2 Sam. 22:2-3). As long as we are connected to our source, we will prevail. If you separate a fish from water, a plant from soil or a branch from a tree, they will die. The same will happen to us if we are detached from God, our spiritual source. Jesus made it clear, “I am the vine, you are the branches . . . for without Me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). We must stay connected to our source to ensure victory.
. David and His Men Slew Five Giants: Goliath, Ishbi-benob (2 Sam. 21:16), Saph (2 Sam. 21:18), Lahmi, (Goliath’s brother—1 Chr. 20:5), and another unnamed giant (2 Sam. 21:20). Three of these behemoths were “born to the giant of Gath” (perhaps Goliath’s sons) and one was his brother, but all were killed by David and his men. The point is we will face multiple giants in our lifetimes, but the same God who helped David defeat Goliath, gave him victory over every giant he faced!
All the giants mentioned in the Bible were enemies of God’s people. Giants intimidate people with their abnormal strength and size. One Hebrew word for “giants” is nephil (plural nephilim) which means “a bully or tyrant,” a fitting description of demons. Goliath was a big bully—defying God and terrorizing Israel until David decapitated him. Likewise, Satan is a bully. He tries to intimidate us with fear, but he is a defeated foe. You may have a giant towering over you today (depression, doubt, debt, fear, sickness, addiction, temptation, etc.). Remember, the God who conquered Goliath whipped all of his overgrown kin too. Take courage, my friend, your giants are coming down in Jesus’ name!
Ben Godwin is the author of four books and pastors the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church. To read more articles, visit his website at bengodwin.org and take advantage of his 4-book bundle for $25.00.
An award-winning scientist recently told the world that science and religion are not incompatible.
The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports (3/19/19):
“The annual Templeton Prize, which recognizes outstanding contributions to ‘affirming life’s spiritual dimension,’ was awarded Tuesday to Brazilian Marcelo Gleiser—a theoretical physicist dedicated to demonstrating science and religion are not enemies.”
Gleiser, a professor at Dartmouth College since 1991, said:
“Science does not kill God.”
Although he is described as an agnostic, the AFP reports that Gleiser:
“refuses to write off the possibility of God’s existence completely.”
“Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method…Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against…I’ll keep an open mind because I understand that human knowledge is limited.”
I agree with this man’s sentiments. How is it that science and God are somehow viewed as enemies?
The great British jurist, Sir William Blackstone, whose four-volume set of Commentaries on the Laws of England were of great value to our founding fathers, put it this way:
“Thus, when the Supreme Being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, He impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be. When He put that matter into motion, He established certain laws of motion, to which all moveable bodies must conform.”
I think it is fascinating that virtually all the early scientists historically were professing Christians. They were, in the words of Johannes Kepler, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” in their scientific explorations. Modern science arose near the end of the medieval period. The early scientists believed that a rational God had made a rational universe, and it was their job—using the words of Kepler, “as priests of the highest God”—to try and catalogue what laws of the universe He had created.
Consider some of the thoughts of scientists who were Christians through the ages.
Blaise Pascal was a brilliant mathematician in 17th century France. He is credited with discovering principles that would ultimately lead to the creation of the computer.
“Faith tells us what senses cannot, but it is not contrary to their findings. It simply transcends, without contradicting them.”
Pascal also said:
“Jesus Christ is the only proof of the living God. We only know God through Jesus Christ.”
Isaac Newton, the discoverer of gravity and one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, wrote more about the Bible and about Christian theology than he did science. Said the great Newton:
“I have a foundational belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.”
The father of modern chemistry was Oxford professor Robert Boyle, born in 1627. Boyle was not only a diligent student of chemistry, but a diligent student of the Bible. In his will he left a large sum of money to found the “Boyle lectures” for proving the Christian religion.
19th century American Matthew Fontaine Maury is credited as the father of oceanography. He got his idea that the sea has “lanes” and currents from a verse in the Bible. Psalm 8:8 speaks of:
“the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.”
One time Maury gave a speech at the inauguration for a college in which he said:
“I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible in confirmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, and is therefore of no authority in matters of science. I beg your pardon: the Bible is authority for everything it touches.”
That includes, he said:
“physical geography, the earth, the sea and the air.”
“[W]hen, after patient research, I am led to the discovery of any one of [the physical laws the Creator has built into His creation], I feel with the astronomer of old [i.e., Kepler], as though I had ‘thought one of God’s thoughts,’— and tremble. Thus as we progress with our science we are permitted now and then to point out here and there in the physical machinery of the earth a design of the Great Architect when He planned it all.”
Indeed, as science professor Marcelo Gleiser points out, “science does not kill God.” Far from it.
The late Dr. Robert Jastrow was an astronomer and a planetary physicist with NASA, and he wrote a book called, God and the Astronomers.
“The scientist has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; and as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is an on-air host/senior producer for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written/co-written 31 books, e.g., The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, American Amnesia: Is American Paying the Price for Forgetting God?, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback) djkm.org @newcombejerry http://www.jerrynewcombe.com
During the 33 years that I was preaching regularly in the worship services of Bethlehem Baptist Church, I resisted with all my might any reference to the one half of the service as worship, and the other half as preaching or teaching.
No! I insisted that the way we talk about it be the way it is. In the one part of the service, we worship through song and prayer and confession and affirmation; and in the other part of the service, we worship through preaching and hearing preaching. It is all worship.
Which meant that the aim of my exposition in the sermon for those 33 years of preaching was in that moment of preaching to fuel in myself worship — to awaken worship, to experience worship — and at the same time draw my people into the experience of worship over the word — in response to the reality shining out of the word.
Preaching’s Highest Priority
The aim of preaching was only secondarily that marriages might hold together, or that our people might be honest and just in all their business dealings, or that they might witness with boldness to unbelievers, or that they might pray with fervor, or that they might give themselves to the cause of global missions, or that they might be generous so that the church budget can be met, and all the ministries carried out. If any of those things ever became the primary goal of my preaching, I believed I had ceased to preach biblically.
“My primary task, week in and week out, was to handle the Scriptures in such a way that I laid open the reality of God.”
And, of course, I longed for and prayed for the health of their marriages and their honesty in business, and their boldness in witness, and their fervor in prayer, and their zeal for missions, and their radical wartime lifestyles and sacrificial generosity. All of that is essential to the Christian life. But many pastors are so burdened by the urgency of these precious, practical things, that they subtly — or blatantly — make those things the primary aim of their preaching. And I think that is deadly.
I think all of those things — and the thousand other beautiful, practical fruit of biblical truth — flourish in the soil of worship. So, my primary task, week in and week out, was to handle the Scriptures in such a way that I laid open the reality of God and his work in Christ and in the human soul and in the world, so that hearts — first mine and then the people’s — might be enflamed with worship. Heart’s aflame with worship of God, kindled by a sight of the glory of God through the word of God — that’s the soil in which all God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-dependent fruit of righteousness grows. And if it doesn’t grow there, it’s probably not Christian fruit at all.
Reality Demands a Response
So, what I want to persuade you of is that biblical preaching — the kind that Paul commands in 2 Timothy 4:2 — is worship. Or to say it more fully: preaching is expository worship. Or the phrase that I like to use for biblical preaching: expository exultation.
The text is opened so that the true meaning — the author’s intention in these words and clauses — and the reality communicated through that meaning, can be seen for what it is; that’s exposition.
And as it is opened, the preacher is responding to it — with his mind and his heart and his body — in a way that signals its proportionate worth and beauty; that’s exultation.
What I mean by the preacher’s signaling the proportionate worth and beauty of the reality behind the text is that the preacher’s response — with his heart and mind and body — should be fitting, suitable, proportional to the kind of reality seen through the text. So, for example, if the reality in the text is heavythe preacher is not lighthearted. If the reality in the text is sweet he’s not sour or dull. If the reality in the text is tender, he’s not harsh. If the reality is harsh, he is not tender. If the reality in the text is glorious the preacher is in awe.
And believe me, brothers, this can’t be faked. Spiritual people can tell if you are an actor playing an emotional role. Unspiritual people — you can fool them. But not real Christians, who have the Holy Spirit.
If every truth in the text elicits from the preacher the same pitch, the same tone, the same spiritual intensity, or if majestic realties find him in the same casual, chatty mode he uses for the illustration about his dog, or if the tender embrace of the prodigal by the Father finds him in a hard, condemning tone, the preacher is just not in touch with reality — and his people know it. Many of them are so used to that kind of preaching, they have lost a sense of how tragic it is and assume it’s normal.
So, here’s where we’re going. First, I will try to define what the inner essence of worship is. Then I will make try to show why biblical preaching not only aims at this worship in every message, but also is this worship in every message.
The Inner Essence of Worship
Let’s define the inner essence of what worship is. The reason I focus on the “inner essence of worship” is that the New Testament, unlike the Old Testament, is stunningly silent on the external specifics of what corporate worship should look like.
To Every Culture
I think the reason for this is so that the New Testament will be a relevant book of faith and life for all the cultures of the world. Old Testament Judaism was mainly a come-and-see religion. And New Testament Christianity is mainly a go-and-tell religion. And that means we are to take God’s word and incarnate it in every culture. So, there are hundreds of cultural outworkings of the inner essence of worship that are not prescribed in the New Testament.
It doesn’t tell us whether to worship in a building or under a tree, with two songs or ten songs, with or without worship leaders, with or without instruments — let alone which ones — with singing before or after or in the middle of preaching, in a thirty-minute service or a five-hour service, sitting or standing, with babies present or not, with pulpits or not, with banners or not, with men and women on the same side or separate, with casual clothes or formal, with a set order and flow or a different one each time, with congregational prayer or only from leaders, and on and on.
Worship by the Book
Worship in the New Testament is radically oriented on the experience of the heart, and is freed from specified forms and places. Jesus set the trajectory when he said to the woman at the well in John 4:21–23:
Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
You see the shift in categories: worship will not take place only in this mountain or in Jerusalem, but (shift in categories) in spirit and in truth. Spirit and truth replace mountains and cities. So, the external, formal, geographical dimension of worship diminishes and the inner essence of worship is foregrounded. To many people’s surprise John Calvin put it like this:
[The Master] did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do (because he foresaw that this depended on the state of the times, and he did not deem one form suitable for all ages) . . . Because he has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accommodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones. Indeed, I admit that we ought not to charge into innovation rashly, suddenly, for insufficient cause. But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe. (Institutes, 4.10.30)
And Martin Luther, as you might expect, put it like this:
The worship of God . . . should be free at table, in private rooms, downstairs, upstairs, at home, abroad, in all places, by all people, at all times. Whoever tells you anything else is lying as badly as the pope and the devil himself. (What Luther Says, 1546)
What Happens in the Heart?
In my effort to define worship biblically for Christians, I am not focusing on the external, but asking: What is the inner essence of it? What happens in the heart when the heart is worshiping? Of course, God intends for there to be outward acts of worship — spoken prayers and songs and affirmations of faith and so on. And of course, Paul says in Romans 12:1 that our entire bodily life of obedience is to be “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
“Worship in the New Testament is radically oriented on the experience of the heart.”
So, I’m not discounting or minimizing the necessity of external expressions of the worth of Christ. What I want to know is this: What must happen in the heart so that any of those external things are not just muscular movements, but real expressions of something authentic in the heart?
The Pharisees did many external acts of worship, but Jesus said that inside there were dead men’s bones and hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27–28).
Whether by Life or Death
The text that has crystalized the inner essence of worship for me most helpfully is Philippians 1:20–23. I’m going to streamline the argument here so we can get to preaching, but I hope it will be compelling. Paul says,
It is my eager expectation and hope that . . . Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
CHRIST BE WORSHIPED
Now I am assuming that worshipping Christ is virtually the same as magnifying Christ. So, this is really a text about Paul’s eager expectation and hope that Christ be worshiped in or through his body in life and death. Then he gives the basis for how his death would magnify Christ — or be an act of worship.
For to me . . . to die is gain.
And then he explains in verse 23 that the reason death would be gain for him is that death means departing and being with Christ, which he says is far better.
MAGNIFIED IN DEATH
So here’s his argument: My dying will be a magnifying — an honoring of Christ, a worshiping of Christ — if in my dying I experience Christ as a treasure that is more satisfying than everything I am leaving behind. That’s what “gain” means. Death is gain because I get Christ.
But that’s only true if I experience Christ as a treasure that is more valuable, more satisfying to my soul, than everything I am losing in death. That is what turns my death into an act of worship — because the inner experience of my heart is to value him, treasure him, cherish him as more satisfying than everything I lose in death. That is what makes death worship.
And this is confirmed if we see how Paul later unpacked the other half of verse 21, “to live is Christ.” He said in Philippians 3:8,
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
So, death is “gain” because it brings us closer to Christ who is a more satisfying treasure than everything we lose in death. And life is Christ because, even before death, Paul had already resolved to count everything as loss compared already to the surpassing value of knowing Christ.
EXPERIENCE THE TREASURE
So here’s my conclusion about worship: Experiencing Christ as a more satisfying treasure than everything we lose in death, and everything we have in life, is the inner essence of worship. That heart-experience of being satisfied with Christ — and all that God is for us in him — is the inner reality and essence of what Paul called magnifying Christ in life and death.
Let me clarify again: I’m not saying this inner essence is the totality of worship. Worship includes the outward expressions of that essence: We sing, we pray, we confess our sins, we affirm our faith, we sit, we stand, we kneel, we bow in silence, we lift our hands, we may even leap for joy — all that is worship, if it comes from this inner essence. And none is worship if it doesn’t. As Jesus said,
This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me. (Matthew 15:8–9)
So to say it again, the inner essence of worship is the heart’s experience of Christ — and all that God is for us in him — as a more satisfying treasure than everything the world can give or death can take.
CAN YOU GET SATISFACTION?
You may ask: Why do you use the word “satisfying”? Why don’t you just say, “The inner essence of worship is having Christ as a greater treasure than everything in the world”? Why do you have to insert this word, “satisfying”?
First, being satisfied with Christ really is implied in saying Christ is your greatest treasure, and I want to push it into people’s consciences that that’s what they’re saying when they claim to be Christian: to have Christ as their treasure. Because I fear that many people say he’s their treasure when in fact he doesn’t satisfy their souls. Money satisfies their souls. Earthly security and comfort satisfy their souls. Being married satisfies the soul. Or success or sex or sports or movies.
“I fear that many people say Jesus is their treasure when in fact he doesn’t satisfy their souls.”
I want to slam the door shut on the assumption that you can have Jesus as your greatest treasure, and yet have all your heart and emotions and affections cleaving to another reality for satisfaction. That’s not true. To have Jesus as your supreme treasure is to have him as your supreme satisfaction. And I think more preachers need to make this explicit, so that we help people not deceive themselves that they are Christians when they’re not.
Here’s the second reason I define the inner essence of worship as experiencing Christ as a “satisfying” treasure, not just a treasure. Jesus said in Matthew 13:44,
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
I use the word “satisfy” because of that little phrase “from his joy” (apō tēs charas autou) he sells all that he has. This man did not just sell all that he had to get the treasure in the field. You can imagine doing that, oddly as it seems, with a dour disposition and under some kind of external coercion where he has no real delight in that treasure, but is driven by some ulterior motive. But Jesus utterly rules that out with the words, “in his joy” he sells all that he has.
The most essential inner mark of reality in closing with the treasure of the kingdom is that we don’t just sell everything else as less valuable, we feeleverything else is less valuable. We sell it all in joyful abandon in order to have the all-satisfying Christ.
Where Righteousness Grows
So I’ll say it again: the inner essence of worship is experiencing Christ — and all that God is for us in him — as a more satisfying treasure than everything the world can give or death can take.
To be a Christian is to be born again into that. That experience of the inner essence of worship is the mark of the new creature in Christ. To live the Christian life in all of its practicalities is to continually act out of that. That experience of worship in the heart — the treasuring of Christ — is the soil where all the fruits of righteousness grow.
The Ultimate Aim of Preaching
And, therefore, the inner essence of worship must be the ultimate aim of preaching in every message, no matter the text, no matter the topic.
And my argument is that preaching that would awaken such worship in the hearts of the people, must strive, by the Spirit, to experience such worship inpreaching. Preaching that would awaken worship by the Spirit, must seek to be worship by the Spirit. Preachers that aim for the people to be awed by the glory of Christ in the word of God, must stand in awe of what they have seen of Christ in the word of God.
Therefore, as we preach the treasure, we are treasuring. As we hold up the pearl for all to see in exposition, we are prizing the pearl. As we invite people to the banquet, we are savoring the feast. If, week in and week out, we are not awed, not treasuring, not prizing, not savoring, not worshiping over the word — we are hypocrites, and unfit for this great calling of expository exultation.
The Devil Can Do Exposition
Remember, the devil can do exposition of Scripture. He can take it and explain. And up to a point, he can even explain it accurately. And empty-headed, irrational people can exult over a biblical text when they have no idea what it means or what the reality is behind it. But neither the devil nor empty-headed, irrational people can exult over the glory of God revealed in a true exposition of Scripture.
“If you have some years left in the sacred privilege, don’t waste your pulpit.”
In other words, the devil cannot preach. Irrational, emotional people cannot preach. That is, they cannot do expository exultation. They cannot see the glories of Scripture for what they are, and love them, and exult over them for their true spiritual beauty.
But that is what preachers do. Preaching is a peculiar kind of worshiping speech designed by God for bringing the glories of his word to the people of his favor for the awakening of worship. And that peculiar kind of speech is captured in the New Testament by the two Greek words that “preaching” translates. It translates euangelizō and kērussō.
Heralds of Good News
Euangelizō is the speaking of one who brings good news of great joy. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news (euangelizōmai) of great joy (Luke 2:10). Kērussō is the speech of one who heralds the weighty message of a great authority — like a town crier representing his king. Which is why Paul says in Romans 10:15, “How are they to preach (kēruxōsin) unless they are sent” — that is, unless they have some great authority behind them?
So, preaching, in bringing those two kinds of speech together, is unique. It’s not just teaching, it’s not conversation, it’s not discussion. Preaching is a unique kind of speech: It is heralding of the best news in all the world, from an infinitely powerful and glorious authority. It makes clear the meaning of biblical texts, and opens them so all can see the beauties and the glories of Christ in the good news; and it manifestly loves the goodness of that good news; and it feels the weight of God’s authority in it all. The King did not send his messengers to get the words right while the heart is wrong.
There is no speaking in the world like Christian preaching. It is utterly unique. And if the herald of this King, and the proclaimer of this news does not exult in this King and in this news, he is an unworthy herald. And he is not preaching.
A Constellation of Glory
The Christian preacher is never dealing with a mere body of facts to be clarified. He is dealing with a constellation of glories to be treasured. Paul calls them “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). And the preacher’s aim is that the people would experience these riches as a more satisfying treasure than everything the world can give or death can take.
And he knows — you know — that the pathway to their worship throughpreaching, is his own experience of worship in preaching. And I bear witness from decades of preaching that God in his mercy loves to show up behind the pulpit and turn exposition into exultation. And when he does, the joy is unsurpassed.
If death did not mean a closer, deeper, sweeter communion with Christ, I could wish to be young again. And if I were, I would preach. There is nothing like it in all the world. The weight of God’s authority. The unsearchable riches of Christ. The privilege of showing them to God’s people. The pleasure of seeing them yourself. And, by the Spirit, the awakening of worship in the hearts of God’s elect. O brothers, there is no greater calling. If you have some years left in the sacred privilege, don’t waste your pulpit.
Exult over the glorious realities of biblical truth, make them plain, and draw your people into your worship over the word.
There’s a lot of end-time speculation that is simply that: speculation. What year will Jesus return? Will the antichrist be a European atheist? A Middle Eastern Muslim? An Israeli Jew? And what about the Temple in Jerusalem? Will it be rebuilt? If so, how and when?
These are all interesting questions. But for the most part, they don’t affect the way we live today (unless you happen to believe Jesus is coming today – in which case, why are you even reading this article?).
But there are larger, end-time scenarios that do affect how we live today, including those that set dates for Christ’s return.
Before getting into specifics, though, let me paint a picture for you.
Let’s say your family is not religious, so you’re not inclined to believe in (or, look for) miracles.
Your mother, now 80, has been diagnosed with cancer, and you’re told that it is in an advanced stage and there’s nothing that can be done.
How do you respond?
Probably, you get another serious medical opinion, looking for some ray of hope. But once you’re convinced that there’s nothing that can be done – no surgery, therapy, or alternative treatment – you maximize the time you have together and try to make your mom as comfortable as possible in her last days.
You’ve been told there is no hope for the future, and that affects how you live today.
In the same way, if you were convinced that the world was getting worse and that there was nothing you could do to change that, would you be involved in the culture wars? Would you invest time and energy and income in fighting against abortion? Would you seek to restore marriage as God intended it? Or would you simply tell as many people as you could about Jesus, knowing that everything around you was collapsing?
To be sure, we should all our do best to be faithful witnesses and share the gospel with everyone we can. And we should live with a sense of urgency since we only have one life to live for the Lord, and every day, other lives hang in the balance.
But if you truly believe that we are living in the last generation and that things will only go downhill from here, why bother to bring about change? Why bother to combat the darkness if things will only get darker?
To compound the problem, what if you believed that, before things hit rock bottom, Jesus would rapture us out of here? What if you believed that things, indeed, were getting dark, but before they got really dark, we would be rescued?
What, then, would your attitude be to declining morals? To spiritual backsliding? To cultural collapse?
Perhaps something like this:
“These are the signs of the times Jesus spoke of! Everything is about to collapse! We’ll be out of here any moment!”
I remember hearing these very things as a new believer in Jesus in the early 1970s. Not only were the major prophecies lining up – especially when it pertained to Israel – but the final apostasy was here, the great falling way.
And it was easy to think like this.
First, the events surrounding the restoration of the State of Israel were of great spiritual and prophetic importance. There’s no denying that.
Second, America went through a sudden and dramatic cultural shift in the 1960s, and it was easy for many to think we were in the very last of the last days.
I’m talking about the difference between Leave It to Beaver and the Beatles singing “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road.” Or the difference between Father Knows Best and Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire – as if engaging in a sexual act – at Monterrey Pop. Or the difference between Ozzie and Harriet and the Stonewall Riots.
“Yes, these are the prophesied last days, and we’ll be out of here any moment. It’s all going down from here!”
Unfortunately, those who had different expectations than many of us – such as radical feminists and homosexual activists and sexual revolutionaries and anti-Christian educators and Eastern religionists – were working hard at changing the culture in a lasting way. In the words of one gay activist, they wanted to write the revolution into law. And they did. Dramatically and spectacularly.
As for many Christians looking for the any-minute-rapture, it never happened, and here we are today, grieving over our culture’s demise. Worse still, it is our children and grandchildren who have inherited the mess.
Personally, based on my study of Scripture, I believe that the end of the age will be marked by great light and great darkness. By a great harvest of souls and by great rebellion. By an outpouring of the Spirit from above and a wave of deception from below.
I also believe that light ultimately triumphs over darkness and that, from a New Testament perspective, the light is shining brighter while the darkness is losing its grip (see John 1:5; Romans 13:12; 1 John 2:8).
I also believe that we, as God’s people, are destined to overcome whatever opposition comes our way, especially in terrible times (see John 16:33, and read all of Revelation!).
And, on a totally pragmatic level, regardless of what we believe about the final generation, we will not know for sure that we are part of it unless Jesus comes. That means that we should stand up and do what’s right in every generation, simply because it’s right. And we should relieve suffering whenever we can, because that’s always a good thing to do.
Otherwise, we can easily become paralyzed and fearful, looking for a way of escape rather than looking to be agents of change. (Can you imagine what the world would look like today if the generations of Christians before us believed theirs was the last generation and everything was getting worse? Why combat evils in the Roman empire in the 300s or slavery in America in the 1800s? “It’s all coming down and we’re out of here any second!”)
Regardless of your end-time beliefs, I believe the book will stir your faith and give you courage. After all, in Jesus, you are an overcomer (1 John 5:4) called to make disciples of the nations, under the total authority of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). Isn’t that more than enough to keep us strong and full of faith?
To the surprise (and consternation) of Hollywood, Unplannedopened to more than $6 million in box office receipts, finishing number 5 in the nation. And it did this while opening in less than 1,100 theaters nationwide.
More importantly, this powerful, pro-life movie that exposes the evil of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry is making a powerful impact on its viewers. This could truly be a major game-changer in the days ahead.
Not that the left didn’t try hard to stop the film from getting out of the gate, let alone succeeding.
Lead actress Ashley Bratcher was warned that she was “probably gonna be blacklisted” by Hollywood if she took the role.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that, “Lifetime, Hallmark Channel, HGTV and several other cable networks” rejected advertising for the movie.
I’ve heard of theaters that dropped the movie before its release, only to reinstate it after protests.
Then there was the ridiculous R-rating the movie was saddled with, without possible justification.
And over the weekend, Twitter temporarily suspended the movie’s account, only to restore it a few hours later after a storm of protests. (Can anyone tell me any possible rationale, other than sheer, anti-life bigotry, for shutting down this account?) Then, once the account was restored, more than 100,000 followers realized they were no longer listed on the account. This is beyond suspicious.
And still, despite all this opposition (and more) the movie brought in more than $6 million in the first weekend, more than doubling prior estimates.
It’s also quite revealing that, on Rotten Tomatoes, critics (15 so far) have given Unplanned a rating of 53, while viewers (1,996 at present) have given it a score of 94. Right now, that makes Unplanned the highest viewer-rated movie of all new releases, way ahead of Dumbo and Captain Marvel, both of which have viewer ratings of 60. It’s even doing better than How to Train Your Dragon, at 88.
But these ratings only tell you so much. It’s the testimonies of the viewers which are so powerful.
“I had tears throughout the movie. Got to my car and really broke down. Thank you God that you are allowing people to see your side of this issue.”
A woman wrote:
“I cried through so much of this movie. I don’t understand how people can continue to justify the killing of the unborn. I walked out of this movie with the conviction to get involved in crisis pregnancy assistance ASAP.”
Another said this:
“I couldn’t stop crying and at one point wanted to wail and pray. I had to force myself to get it together.”
“Within the first ten minutes I was sobbing as was the lady sitting beside me. I know what happens with an abortion but seeing it was powerful. If I weren’t already pro-life I would be after watching this movie.”
A mother posted this:
“I took my 16 year old and she was greatly impacted. She had no strong opinion on abortion until she saw this movie. I’m taking my 11 year old to see it next.”
And one viewer commented:
“I was overcome by the strong message of grace and forgiveness.”
One viewer after another described the powerful impact of Unplanned, with many feeling the need to get involved in the pro-life movement now.
But the comment that moved me most was this one, from another mother who went with her daughter. Her own story is compelling as well. Read this and weep:
“Wow what a movie! I went to see it with my 11yrs old daughter Bella. I was reluctant at first to take her, I prayed about it and got the green light from The Holy Spirit. Yet there were scenes where she covered her eyes, she was glad she saw it too. At the end she hugged me so tight, started crying uncontrollably and said ‘So much evil mommy, those poor babies. Everyone needs to see this movie.’
“She is also one of those babies who got saved by prayer. I was one of those women who had an appointment to murder my baby when I was 12weeks with her, but cancel the appointment hours prior doing ‘the procedure’ at a clinic here in Houston…”
May God have mercy on our nation. May He turn the tide in our country. May He act on behalf of more than 60 million slain in the womb.
And so we pray:
“So much evil, Lord! These poor babies! Help us to do our part to awaken the conscience of the nation. We beseech You, Father, to change hearts and minds. It’s time!”