Laboring in the Hills of Tennessee (Ask Pastor John)
Much has happened in the past two weeks. The Ask Pastor John podcast recently reached the 1 millionth play milestone. Pastor John and his family moved temporarily from the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Tennessee (see episodes 111 and 112 for the details). And over the past two weeks, we have released 10 new episodes of the podcast. What follows are transcribed excerpts from these new episodes (click the hyperlinked titles to listen).
It seems to me there’s a profound inauthenticity about preaching past your people in front of you. And that inauthenticity may get a crowd in the short run, but will not be blessed by God in the wider Church in the long run. This is what I would say to anybody who is being tempted this way: Serve your people with your best energy. Serve your people with full affection. Serve your people with focused attention. Feed your flock with the food they need. Don’t give them generic messages for a generic audience. And if God means for you to have a wider impact because of what you are saying to your sheep, let others draw that out. You just be so faithful. Love your people. Serve your people. Feed your people. Beware of the addicting dangers of being widely known. Don’t pursue that. Pursue truth. Pursue edification and worship. Pursue your flock and let the ripples take care of themselves.
We need a category in our minds that goes something like this: God can will that sin be without sinning. It is not a sin for God to choose that sin should exist. And I say that because the Bible pictures God giving us grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began, which means that he was planning for the fall which would then need to be redeemed by the crucified Christ through grace. And that was all being planned before sin happened.
The truth of God’s sovereignty over sin — my sin, the world’s sin, and over all the evil in the world — creates a problem for some people. In the end, for those who rest in it, see it in the Bible, believe that God is their Father through Jesus Christ, for them, for me, we find this doctrine to be of enormous comfort in the face of the worst things in the world.
If he [God] is not there, and [evil] things are happening randomly, then we are victims of meaninglessness to the core of all things. And I know there are people who would rather live with that than live with a God of purposefulness. But I wouldn’t. I believe far deeper hope is given to those who have lost loved ones, and to those who are struck down with some terrible calamity. Far deeper hope is given to say, “This was not meaningless. This will prove to do something beyond all your imagination for your good if you will trust the living God and receive his Son as your Lord and Savior (Romans 8:28).”
This same gospel that builds people up, saves people. And the unbeliever who is sitting there while feeling out of place at first — which is inevitable — might come to have his heart opened, his eyes made keen to see the beauty of Christ, fall down on his face and love and trust Jesus. And then these become my people. I am not a foreigner anymore here. I think that happens while evangelism is in a secondary position, and vertical, radical, hard pursuit of God is in first position.
Right at the top I am going to put Bill and Ruth Piper — Mom and Dad — because of tens of thousands of influences that are incalculable and unremembered by little boy John Piper. I mean, who of us could begin to estimate the impact of Christian parents on us?
The affections are the lively inclinations of the will. In other words, if the will, like a magnet, really snaps to something, those are affections. Or if the will really recoils from something with hatred, those are affections.
I don’t want to twist the arm of a loner and say, “You ought to do this, or it is your duty to do this.” I want to say, “You are missing something. Really missing something.” There is more of Christ to be known. There is more of God to be known. God said to a happy man, “It is not good for you to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). And Paul said to a church, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). They can’t. And if you are an eye or a hand or a finger or a pinky or big toe standing off by yourself saying, “I don’t need them,” you’re wrong.
I have often said that eternal security is a community project, rather than something individualistic merely and automatic. God uses means to keep us eternally for himself. It is not like a vaccination against hell, it’s more like a committed therapist (God) who unfailingly sees to it that we hold to the health regimen that brings us to everlasting glory.
We should always plan for life, but never presume upon life.
I have no desire to spend the last 10 years of my life sitting on a front porch staring at God’s beauty. The world is fallen, and I think God is going to give me a billion years sitting on a front porch staring at his beauty. His call on me now is to get retooled in a sweet place of peace and quiet as I write, and to fit me to be thrown back into the fray of where most people in the world live with all of their sorrows.
Ask Pastor John is a daily podcast series of 3–8 minute conversations released each weekday at 10:30am (EST) through the DG Facebook and Twitter feeds. You can tune in to the new episodes through the free Ask Pastor John mobile app for iPhone and Android. We’re currently hosting all the recordings on SoundCloud, a website making it easy to listen to several of the podcasts in one sitting. They’re also archived on the DG website and syndicated in iTunes.
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