Thursday, April 1, 2010

John Piper's Sermons

One of my favorite preachers is John Piper, author of Desiring God, among other great titles, and a terrific website by the same name.. he has allowing the reproduction of his sermons to get these very important words to as many folks as possible.... so following are couple of his very timely sermons as we contemplate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

The Greatest Thing in the World is to be Saved

That title is the abiding legacy of Dr. Widen, a great saint who led the building campaign for the 1955 building where most of our Sunday School classes and church offices are. I visited him in the hospital about 16 years ago as he was dying. He looked up at me from his bed with a smile, and said, "Pastor John, the greatest thing in the world is to be saved."

Do you feel this? If not, you probably never really felt very lost and desperate before the judgment of God, or threatened by an eternity of conscious torment in hell. O, how we love being saved after we have just come close to being killed. Perhaps by a powerful ocean undertow. Or getting a finger caught in the drain at the bottom of a swimming pool (yes, filled with water!). Or almost walking out in front of a car which you did not see that speeds by just three feet from you at 40 miles-an-hour, but your wife's voice caught you in the split second before stepping into death. Or a remission from a long battle with cancer. Or release from a prison camp in the Gulag after 16 years of expecting death. Or after surviving a plane crash inexplicably when others perished.

O how we love life at those moments, and cleave to everything precious. So it is when you taste the preciousness of being saved from sin. Not just the words. Not just a fact learned from the Bible, but really feeling that you are justly damned and hopelessly lost and cut off from God and life and joy. Then to learn that God has made a way. That he will forgive you. That he will accept you and love you and work all things for your good. That ALL your sins can be forgiven and cast into the deepest sea and never brought up against you any more. O, the preciousness of being saved from sin and judgment and hell!

But is it biblical to say that the greatest thing in the word is to be saved? Well, of course, the greatest thing in the world is GOD. But Dr. Widen did not mean to compare our experience with God. He meant to compare it to all other experiences. The reason being saved is the greatest experience in the world is because GOD is the greatest Person in the world, and being saved means being rescued from sin and damnation to know and enjoy God forever. If GOD were not the greatest Reality in the universe, being saved to be with him would not be the greatest thing in the universe.

Yes, yes, but is it biblical to say this? Well, here is the text that I have in my mind as I say it. Jesus said to the seventy disciples in Luke 10:20, "Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." In other words, you have just had great ministerial success. Demons have fallen before you. People have been delivered. This is great. This is wonderful. This is what you have been sent to do. Praise God for this triumph.

BUT, let not this be your first joy, or your root joy, or your indispensable joy. Rather "rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven." That is, rejoice that you are enrolled in the redeemed. Rejoice that you will go to heaven when you die. Rejoice that God has written you among the elect. Rejoice that you are saved. This is the greatest thing. Not ministry. But knowing God, seeing God, enjoying God. The greatest thing in the world is to be saved. Because it is being saved for GOD.

Saved and rejoicing with you as Good Friday and Easter approach,

Pastor John


and yet another:

The Son of Man Must Suffer Many Things



By John Piper March 28, 2010


Mark 8:31-38

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

This is an unusual sermon because its two halves are going to be very different, though not unrelated. In the first half, I will try to open this text from Mark 8 in such a way that the greatness of our self-sacrificing king, Jesus, will be clear for the sake of your admiration and worship, and so that his call on your life to follow him will be, Lord willing, compelling. That’s the first half. In the second half, I am going to explain to you why I have asked the elders for an eight-month leave of absence starting May 1. So you can see how seemingly disconnected they are. But perhaps they will prove to be more connected than you think. Now that I have pricked your curiosity, may the Lord give you grace to listen to this first part for your own soul, and not just for mine.

3 Times in Mark’s Gospel

Three times in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples in detail that he is going to Jerusalem to be killed and to rise from the dead. I want you to feel the force of this. So let’s read all three.

First, Mark 8:31: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

Second, Mark 9:31: “He was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.’”

Third, Mark 10:33-34: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

The Great Central Fact of History

One thing is clear. This is important to Mark and to Jesus. At least four things stand out in each foretelling of Jesus’ suffering. One is that he is going to die. Second, this death is intentional. He intends it. He means for it to happen. He is not running from it, but walking into it. Third, it will not be suicide; it will be murder. And the murderers are mentioned in each text. Fourth, he will rise from the dead. Not at some uncertain time in the future like us, but precisely in three days. His death is appointed and his resurrection is appointed. They will happen on schedule.

What is not mentioned in each of those texts is why. Mark gives us the clearest statement of that after the three predictions. In Mark 10:45, Jesus says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is the great central fact of history and of our lives. Jesus, the Son of Man, the exalted human, divine God-man, came—was sent by God the Father—to give his life as a ransom for many.

God Can Ransom What Man Can’t

Our sin had, as it were, kidnapped us and put us in a prison of our own making, far from God, in the chains of iniquity, under God’s holy wrath, and powerless to free ourselves. One of the images the Bible uses for our liberation is ransom. A ransom had to be paid.

But listen to Psalm 49:7-8, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice.” In other words, no mere man can ransom another man’s soul. And you can’t ransom your own. Then listen to verse 15 of that psalm: “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol.” Man can’t. God will.

God’s Loving Plan

That’s what is happening as Jesus plots his death on the way to Jerusalem. The Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many. And this is all God’s idea. It’s not Jesus against God. It’s God through Jesus. What God wants us to see in this plan is his love for us. Watch how Mark brings that out in Mark 8:32-33.

And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

“Peter, if you resist my plan to die, you resist God. You side with Satan against God. Satan doesn’t want me dead, because he wants you in hell. Satan wants me to bow down and worship him and jump off temples for fame and turn stones into bread for self-preservation. The last thing he wants is for a ransom to be paid for his captives. But that’s what God wants, Peter, because, he loves you. My coming to die as your ransom is the love of God.”

Are You Among the “Many”?

Now here is the key question of application to you: Are you among the “many”? Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man came . . . to give his life as a ransom for many.” Are you ransomed? Have you been set free from the bondage of sin and guilt and condemnation and wrath? That’s what the rest of verses 34-38 are about. Who are the ransomed? Are you one of them? You can be.

Verse 34: “And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” The ransomed follow Jesus, even though it means self-denial and cross-bearing. If you trust and treasure Jesus enough to follow him even when it is costly, you are ransomed.

Four Fors

Now notice something striking. The next four verses (verse 35-38) all begin with the word “for”—at least in the ESV, and that is accurate. And “for” usually means “because.” So in each of these four statements, Jesus is giving reason or a basis or a foundation for what goes before. Verses 35-38:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Reading in Reverse

One way shed light on a sequence of logical steps like this is to read it in reverse order and change the “fors” to “therefores.” For example, if I say,

I am eating my lunch voraciously.
For I was really hungry.
For I skipped breakfast this morning.
For I got up late and had to hurry to work.

You can say this same sequence in reverse order by using “therefores,” and it has the same meaning.

I got up late this morning and had to hurry to work.
Therefore, I skipped breakfast.
Therefore, I was really hungry by lunch time.
Therefore I am eating my lunch voraciously.

So let’s read the sequence in Mark 8:34-38 in reverse order this way.

Verse 38

Verse 38: “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Let’s get the meaning clear before we make the connection. What’s the opposite of being ashamed of somebody? Being proud of them. Admiring them. Not being embarrassed to be seen with them. Loving to be identified with them.

So Jesus is saying, “If you are embarrassed by me and the price I paid for you (and he’s not referring to lapses of courage when you don’t share your faith, but a settled state of your heart toward him)—if you’re not proud of me and you don’t cherish me and what I did for you—if you want to put yourself with the goats that value their reputation in the goat herd more than they value me, then that’s the way I will view you when I come. I will be ashamed of you, and you will perish with the people who consider me an embarrassment.”

Verses 35-37

Therefore, verse 37, “What can a man give in return for his soul?” That’s a statement concealed in a question. What’s the statement? Therefore, there’s no nothing you can give in return for your soul. If you’re not proud of the ransom I paid for your soul, then there is no ransom for your soul.

Therefore, verse 36, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” That’s another question that’s making a statement, namely, If you gain the whole world by valuing it above me—by being more proud of it than me—it won’t be able to save you in the end. There is nothing you can pay for your soul when you have scorned my ransom (verse 37). Therefore (verse 36), gaining the whole world will be of no use to you. None.

Therefore, verse 35, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” In other words, since being ashamed of the ransom I paid for you cuts you off from me (verse 38), so that there is no ransom that can be paid for your soul (verse 37), not even if you gained the whole world (verse 36), therefore, you will have your life forever if you treasure me enough to lose it for my sake.

Verse 34

One last step. Therefore, verse 34, “If you would come after me, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me.” In other words, treasure me more than your own comfort and your own safety. The opposite of self-denial is the idol of self-gratification, and the opposite of cross-bearing is the idol of self-preservation. Rather, be like Paul 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.”

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn,
    We love John Piper's ministry, and that of his wife, Noel. Thank you for spreading his sermons around! Wouldn't it be marvellous to attend his church sometime? We are kindred spirits in our respect for John Piper and his ministry!

    Sorrowing at this time, but anticipating joy on Sunday!

    ReplyDelete

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