Category: Faith

“Must I ?”

piper

You may be familiar with the teaching and writing of John Piper. I last saw him in person 10 years ago at the Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago.  Recently  I caught him on a live stream from  the Gospel Coalition conference in Indianapolis.

Well, after 10 years, Pastor Piper, now 73, has not lost any of his zeal.

He spoke of passion week and what must happen to Jesus at the end. Here’s a scripture that was central in his talk.

And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”( Luke 9:22)

Hearing Piper’s talk I was struck by all the musts, and how all the events that happened to Jesus during  passion week were foreordained as part of God’s plan. So even though  Jesus’ executioners meant it for evil, God used the crucifixion for the good purpose of saving a people who benefit from Christ’s death  and resurrection by getting eternal life.

Piper’s talk inspired me to reflect on our own lives and whether things must happen.

We know that God is totally in control of everything, so that in our lives there is nothing that “just happens” to occur. That really means that God says everything in our lives had to happen.  Stunningly, this even applies to the most negative stuff that has ever happened to us,  including nasty ways of being mistreated, beaten up, slandered, and unjustly accused.

If we don’t see God’s hand in it, reflecting on the negative things that have happened to us leads to a whining, bitter or fearful attitude. But just think : if we believe that God is really sovereign Lord, then we must accept that he could have stopped any of it — but somehow, for his own good purposes, not always clear to us, he allowed all of it.

The events of passion week, of course, had to happen because they were part of God’s plan for bringing salvation and showing his glory throughout the earth on a grand scale.

But the things that happen in our own lives help execute God’s will on a smaller scale…our “little” lives are meant to show his glory, too …so whatever misfortunes that happen  are fully  under God’s control. I know this isn’t always easy to see and accept but it’s a wonderful antidote to bitterness.

Jumping Through the Window

sneaking-out

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.  Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5)

When I was a student at Rutgers, Muhammad Ali once came to give a talk in Records Hall. The Hall quickly filled; then the entrances were guarded, and no one more could enter. However, one enterprising young man slithered through an open side window, jumped in and landed on the floor. Unfortunately for him, he was grabbed by a dean, who asked him, “Is that how you usually enter a building?” and promptly escorted him back outside….

Now, the usual moral of this kind of story would be something like “If someone was that excited about just seeing Ali, you should be at least that excited about Jesus!” But I think that kind of exhortation is counter-productive. It might pump someone up for a little while, filling them with an excitement for “All that I will do for Jesus” — but that would peter out and would not lead to lasting change.

Let’s consider what Jesus says in today’s passage. See what he compliments the men for: not for what these guys did, but for their faith. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus did not say, “Since you guys worked so hard—sure I’ll heal the guy! You guys earned it! You have my approval—big time!”  No, it was their faith that led the friends to do the hard work of lowering the guy down.

We do know that Faith without works is dead (James 2:17)
But don’t forget:  the works themselves earn you squat.

So, today, we do not  think that our being pumped up and doing extra stuff will get us extra points from Jesus. Instead, we ask God to give us greater faith. Then, our good deeds will be based on our trust in a Savior who already fully accepts us.