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T4G Session Five - John Piper

The conference is now already more than half finished. We have only three general sessions and two panel sessions remaining. We will still hear from John Piper, C.J. Mahaney and John MacArthur.

I just shared a nice dinner with Josh Harris at that same restaurant I went to at lunch that most other people have not yet discovered. This is not to say that he and I shared a plate of food, but that he and I (and my buddy Paul) sat in an establishment that dispenses food and eventually at least some of us ate the food served by that establishment. I enjoyed meeting Josh, with whom I had only had a relationship via email and web sites (and, of course, I’ve read one or two of his books). He is clearly a humble, godly, teachable guy. Having sat with him and talked to him, even if only for a while, I can see that C.J. was obviously correct in his assessment of Josh and that he has left the church he began in very good hands.

This evening we will hear John Piper speak on “Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God.” First, though, C.J. introduced the books we received tonight. They include a paperback copy of the ESV, God Is The Gospel by John Piper and Counted Righteous in Christ, also by John Piper.

Tonight’s message will be, to the best of Piper’s ability, a portrayal of the glory of God. It will be composed of four sections. He longs for this conference to summon into being a particular kind of preacher.

Section 1 - Reflections on the kind of preaching he prays God will raise up in these days - preaching that is aware of the glory of God

He quoted Whitefield at length as he reflected on his longing for men to preach the Word. Here is what Whitefield wanted of those who would become preachers of the Word: They were to be mighty in the scriputures; aglow with the truths of the doctrines of grace; dead to self; willing to labor and suffer; indifferent to the accolades of man; broken to sin; dominated by a sense of the greatness and majesty and the holiness of God. He believed that preaching was heralding the Word of God from that kind of heart. Preaching is not talk, teaching, discussion, but the heralding of a message permeated by a sense of God’s holiness and majesty. It can be any topic, but that topic must be taken into the blazing center of the holiness of God in the Word of God. In the last century, the man who embodied this best was Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Where will the weight of God’s glory be felt if not in the preaching of the Word? If not from the man in the pulpit, where? God planned for His Son to be crucified and for hell to be terrible so we would have the clearest witnesses possible to what is at stake when the pastor preaches. What makes preaching seriousness is that the mantle of preaching is soaked in the blood of Jesus and singed in the fire of hell.

What is tragic is that many evangelical voices today diminish the horror the cross and the horror of hell. The cross is stripped of its power to bear punishment that is coming. Oh, that God would raise a generation that would see that the world is not overrun with a sense of God’s seriousness! Earnestness is rare these days. Today, the joy of millions of Christians is paper-thin. By the millions, people, including pastors, are amusing themselves to death with what our culture calls entertainment while leaders of world religion write letters to the West condemning it and all Christian influence. Yet even in this age, people are telling pastors to lighten up, to get funny, to be amusing. To this John Piper wants to say, “where is the Spirit of Jesus?” How are people denying themselves and taking up Christ’s cross? How are they losing their lives for Him? How are they rencouncing possessions and hating family for the sake of being His disciple? How are they leaving their dead and following Him?

Section 2 - What you believe about the glory of God?

What you believe about the necessity and nature of preaching is governed by your sense of the glory of God and how you believe people awaken to it. From the beginning to end of the Bible, nothing is more ultimate in the mind and heart of God than the glory of God, the beauty of God, the radiance of his perfections. That is the ultimate allegience and commitment in the mind and heart of God. Everywhere you look, without exception, every place God makes explicit the ultimate reason for what He is doing what He is doing is for His glory. We are predestined for His glory, created for His glory, elected for His glory, saved from Egypt for His glory, rescued from the exile for His glory, He sent Christ so the gentiles would praise Him for His glory, we are to eat and drink and do everything to His glory, Christ will return so the redeemed will marvel at His glory. The mission of the church, therefore, is to declare His glory to the nations.

Nothing affects preaching more deeply than to be struck almost speechless (almost!) by the passion of God for the glory of God. What is clear from the range of biblical revelation is that God’s ultimate allegiance is to know Himself perfectly and love Himself infinitely and then to share that with His people.

From all eternity the always-perfect God has known and loved Himself perfectly. He has eternally seen His beauty reflected back to Him in His Son and has savored His beauty. He has no needs for He has no imperfections. He has no inclinations to evil because He has no tendencies to do wrong. He is the holiest and happiest being that is or can be conceived. Knowing and enjoying His glory is the reason He created the world. He would bring us to know and enjoy Him the way He knows and enjoys Himself. This knowledge and joy can become our knowledge and our joy (see John 17:26). God’s love is displayed in allowing us to know and enjoy Him in this way. It is God’s very nature to share the knowledge He has of Himself and the joy He has in Himself, though it cost Him His Son. God’s aim to display His glory and my delight in that glory are in perfect harmony. God is glorified by being known and so enjoyed that our lives are transformed into the kind of lives that display His infinite worth.

Jesus said two things to emphasis His role in giving us the knowledge and joy of God (see Matthew 11:27 and John 15:11). We know the Father with the knowledge of the Son. We know and enjoy the Father with the joy of the Son. Jesus has made us partakers of His own knowledge of God and His own enjoyment of God. That has got to become visible. Knowledge and joy are invisible—only God sees and know them. They will be invisible to the world until they change you. This is why Jesus said “let your light so shine that men may see your [sacrifical, radical] good deeds and give glory [not to you but] to your Father.” The challenge is so to live that men don’t glorify you for living that way.

When the glory of God is the treasure of our lives we will not lay up treasure on earth but spend them for the spread of His glory. We will not crave the praise of men. Every sin flows from a failure to treasure the glory of God above all things. Therefore, one crucial, visible way to display the truth and value of God is humble, sacrificial service of other people.

Section 3 - How do people awaken to the glory of God?

This is the goal of a pastor. He should want to so live, lead, preach, suffer that his people will rejoice at a message like this. The answer is in 2 Corinthians 3:18 - 4:6. God is the Gospel is Piper’s overflow of meditation on these verses. These verses show that people are changed the way and at the speed that God wants them to change. Far too many people abandon these verses for a new technique. They may produce change, but it may not be the change that God wants in His people. The job of the pastor is to make the glory of God seen so that people are changed.

How does this happen? See verses 3-6. In verse three we see that there are people who will never see. A pastor cannot allow failure with these people to change his method! The gospel is a gospel of the glory of Christ. We behold the glory of the Lord most clearly and most crucially in the gospel. This is so much so that Paul calls it the gospel of the glory of Christ. Here is why this is so important for preaching: the gospel is a message. It is words, sentences, proclamation. Here is the paradox: we must see glory by hearing what comes from the mouth of the preacher. You see with your ears! Your people see with their ears!

In Samuel’s day there was a famine of seeing and savoring the glory of God. God raised up Samuel. But in 1 Samuel 3:21 God revealed Himself through the Word. He appeared by the Word of the Lord.

The way you see glory today in this dispensation between the first and second coming is by hearing the gospel. Faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of Christ because through the Word of Christ, Christ appears. And what appears is glory—the glory of the cross. The glory of the incarnation. That is the job of the pastor.

Section 4 - How does this relate to “expository exultation” (Piper’s definition of preaching)?

If it is the purpose of God to display His glory in the world, and if come to know and enjoy it by beholding it, and if we behold it best in the gospel, and if the gospel is proclamation, then preaching is absolutely essential. It is heralding the gospel and the glory of Christ in the gospel. This is our central job.

Expository - This is necessary because the gospel comes in word. Here are five essential components of the gospel. 1) The gospel is a message about historical events—the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 2) The gospel is a message about what those events achieved. For example, the payment for our sins, the completion of perfect obedience, the removal of the wrath of God, the installation of King Jesus, the destruction of death. These all beg for exposition. 3) The gospel is a message about the transfer of the achievements to particular persons. How this happens is the gospel. If this happens through works, there is no gospel. Only by faith are we grafted into Christ. 4) The gospel is the message about the good things that are now true about us because the achievement has been applied to us. For example, God is now only merciful to you and not wrathful (propitiation), you are now counted righteous in Christ (justification), etc. 5) The gospel is a message about the glorious God Himself as our final, eternal, all-satisfying treasure. Even gospel-loving pastors tend to stop at number four and this is why Piper wrote God is the Gospel.

Woe to the preacher who does this without exultation.

Exultation - The face and tone and life and demeanor, if dull or downcast, betrays the value of the gospel. If you do not value the gospel, you perish, no matter how many right thoughts you think. When he defines preaching as expository exultation, he means two wings on a plane. When one wing falls off, the plane crashes.

His prayer is that God may be pleased to raise up, here, preachers whose exposition of Bible texts is worthy of the truth of the Bible and whose exultation over it is worthy of the glory of God revealed in the texts of the Scripture.

Piper than led in prayer and, after singing “I Will Glory in My Redeemer,” we were dismissed until the evening’s final session, a panel session.