Gospel Joy Panel Discussion

Piper, Charles, Meyer, Onwuchekwa, Rigney & Stiles

Before we begin, I’d just like to introduce the panelists again to familiarize ourselves with their names. I’m Johnathon Bowers. This is Joe Rigney, Jason Meyer, John Onwuchekwa, Mack Stiles, HB Charles Jr., and John Piper.

I’ll begin with a question that someone raised coming out of Pastor Jason’s talk about Edwards. I would like to hear first from you, John and HB, regarding Edwards and what we should do with his legacy regarding slavery. And the question particularly concerned some of the discussion within the past year or so about whether we should cancel Edwards or not. I mean, what do we do? And I think we could extend the question more broadly even to the Puritans. So to put a point on the question, I’m thinking of Propaganda’s 2012 song about the Puritans asking why didn’t the things the Holy Spirit showed them in the Valley of Vision compel them to knock on their neighbor’s door and say, “You can’t own people.”

So how do you personally handle Edwards and the Puritans? How would you shepherd your people regarding that legacy? Just help us with that.

John Onwuchekwa: A year ago when we knew that the conference was going to take place and the invite came and we talked and I saw Edwards was a topic, me and Jason had quite a few talks about it. I first want to say, man, I appreciate the way that you started the talk and you didn’t gloss over it but you went in. I thought that that was fantastic. So I’m grateful for that.

One of the things that I’ve wrestled with, or gone back and forth with — or at least will just say I don’t like — is that I don’t know if I like referring to it as a blind spot, frankly. I think it’s possible for two people to live blind and one person actually be blind, and it’s unfortunate. The other person can turn a blind eye. And that’s not unfortunate, that’s reprehensible.

So I think Paul rebukes Peter, not just because he didn’t know, but because he turned a blind eye. That is reprehensible. I don’t know which one it was for Edwards, but I think we do a disservice to just refer to it as a blind spot and then move on. There were people there that were saying, “This is wrong.” It’s confusing and it’s very, very, very tough for me just to know exactly what to do with it or how to think about his legacy. I’m grateful for the stuff he contributed, but if I were doing a conference, I don’t know if I would include him. I mean, in a room full of people that look like me, I don’t know if I would do that. Not saying I’m not grateful for what we did. I’ve gotten a lot of good stuff from him. But it’s just for where I’m at. It’s tough.

I’ll say this as well. I think that a lot of times when we talk about the legacy of guys like this, what we don’t take into account is that there are two streams. There’s the good that he produced, but then, when you have a guy that intelligent and thoughtful, as much as we want people to be Bereans and test the things that we say with God’s word, if people find a hero, then when it comes to really hard and complex things, they’ll say things like, “I don’t have to think for myself. I’m just going to go to Desiring God and see what John Piper says, and that’s what I believe.”

I think maybe the same was true for Edwards, and I wonder just how much of his legacy has spilled over into the other things that we’ve seen. So that’s what makes it personally tough for me and just even a little conflicted.

Jonathan Bowers: HB, how about you?

H.B. Charles: I appreciate Jason’s introductory remarks as well, and I think it’s a model in some regards that some things you just got to address head on. I think that’s a starting place where you do not deny or ignore where these contributions, blind spots, errors, and sins exist.

And then I think as well that you have to exalt the truth. In my own pulpit and in my own ministry, I’m trying to focus on the truth and help my people remember that everybody God uses in a great way is a sinner and a jerk. I’m preaching through Mark’s gospel, and it’s not a nice portrayal of the disciples of Jesus. At points they just seem clueless. And I feel like just over the last chapter of my study in Mark I am seeing that’s an intentional thing and it’s a good thing and it’s a wonderful thing because these are men that God used, but they are not meant to be the hero; Jesus is. And I feel like that needs to be expanded out in how we think through figures in church history and even contemporary figures that God uses, but all of us miss it.

I think that tension is a good thing to acknowledge and to confront as we teach and shepherd our people. I think the bad thing is to deny it and to sweep it under the rug and say, “This was great,” and use that to kind of clear away things that just really need to be addressed.

Jonathan Bowers: Thank you. And to continue on one aspect of the question, I think in the Propaganda song, he talks about the effect that hearing people quote from the Puritans has on him as an African-American, and he says things like, “Would you quote Cortez to the Aztecs?”

So for ministry leaders, pastors out here, do you have advice for them about should they even quote Edwards in their sermon or should they refer to the Puritans, given the effect that it has on many that are listening? Love to hear your advice on that.

John Onwuchekwa: I think Jonathan Edwards is absolutely brilliant and I’ve been helped by so much of the stuff that he’s written and these concepts and themes that I pull from and I quote. This is just me personally. It could be right or wrong. When I quote Edwards in my church, I almost never use his name. I’ll say, “A pastor said . . .” It’s the same way that you would say something as you preach and you vaguely remember what somebody says and you just let them know this is not yours, this is a pastor. I just refrain from using his name from the stage because from the stage I don’t get a chance to go into the nuance about why I use this name and what we do and things like that. So it seems like just for me where I am, it could present more complications that I wouldn’t get a chance to address. So that’s just me. That could be right or wrong, but that’s how I do it.

Jonathan Bowers: HB, anything you would add to that?

H.B. Charles: I think I would not have a problem referencing Jonathan Edwards. How I introduce a quote varies, but I don’t have a problem with that. For me, I can simply say, whatever the quote is, “Charles Spurgeon said . . .” Because to me, if Charles Spurgeon said it, it’s right. So I don’t need to nuance it. But there are other ways I introduce or set up a quotation and I’m factoring that in. I think it is helpful to give direct attribution in some of those regards when you are wrestling with ideas and you’re trying to help your people to understand where this train of thought flows from. And there are times I will make some qualifying statement about a quote.

Sometimes in the heat of preaching, I may simply say, “I agree with him here when he said . . .” And it involves something that contributes to the argument that I am making there. So I would handle it differently. But there are times I do think it is a place to qualify a quote.

John Onwuchekwa: Let me set a little bit of context and a backstory, because I appreciate that and I think that’s a helpful way to think through it. Lest it come off like I’m saying that I’m scared and I just try to avoid these things, let me share something. A few years ago we met a couple that we hired to start to clean our church. It was an African-American couple. They cleaned our church. They would come on Sundays one time and then they just kind of stayed and they came through and we found out struggles in their marriage, things were hard, they got plugged in and involved really close into the life of the church. They came to a new member’s class one day and then they left. We didn’t see them again. They would clean the church and leave.

So we tracked them down and called them and said, “Hey, what’s wrong?” They said, “Well, we went to the class and somebody asked what denomination y’all were, and y’all said Southern Baptist. And we know that in 1845, the Southern Baptists were okay with sending racists out, but if you were a rapist then you couldn’t go. And we just don’t want any part of a church that would do things like that.” And they left over a passing comment. They were gone and we didn’t have a chance to sit down and explain ourselves and nuance the situation. So things like that that have gone on more than once have made me a little more sensitive, especially in the climate that we are in right now.

And when everybody has Wikipedia and they don’t really do the hard work and search people out. They hear things and they see things that are tweeted and they form these big thoughts and they put these stakes in the ground that shouldn’t be there. It just makes me, as a pastor in this climate with folks that have that mindset, very cautious about things that I may say from upfront that would cause somebody to make a decision that I feel like may be unhelpful. So that’s a little bit of the context about why I do that, but I appreciate your words H.B.

Jonathan Bowers: Great, thank you. Some themes that have arisen throughout the past few days could be in some tension. I think, Joe, you’ve acknowledged this in some of your talks, but I’d love to hear Pastor John and you weigh in this, and of course anyone else that feels led to. But what is the line in your mind between enjoying the things of earth and prosperity teaching? Where does it go off the rails in terms of idolizing the creation versus enjoying the creation?

Joe Rigney: I had a fresh thought sitting down here about making a distinction maybe. This is getting at your question I think. It would be between something like indulgence and enjoyment. Because I was thinking about this fact that I’ll say things to the effect that when I experience a deep joy in a created thing, I take the governor off. I was thinking of this when you brought up the spiritual appetites that need no bounds. If I’m really having a great time with my kids, I resist that little voice that comes into my head and says, “Hey, be careful. Be careful. This might be idolatry. Don’t let it be idolatry.” I’ve tried to do that and he still talks. I tell him to shut up because I want that joy to shoot through the roof because I believe it’s carrying my joy in God with it.

So I was thinking about how earthly appetites need boundaries. I said that last night. And spiritual appetites don’t. So why, when I’m enjoying certain good things like lemonade or my kids, do I let it shoot through the roof? And it’s the difference between indulgence and enjoyment. What I mean is that you can have a sip of lemonade, and I’d say, “Let your joy go as high as it wants because it’s carrying your joy in God with it.” But that’s different than saying, “I am just going to guzzle this until I vomit.” Does that make sense? There’s a difference, and it’s getting at some of what John was getting at with the accumulation — that greed that says, “More, more, more.” The experience of joy can be as intense as it possibly can because you know it’s just a taste of the goodness of God, but if that intensity of the experience leads you to the false conclusion that, therefore, if you can just have more of the stuff quantitatively — more money, more lemonade, or more whatever — it will be better. That’s false. That’s a lie. And you’ll find out soon enough that it’s false.

As I thought about it, maybe that would be one way to get at your question of what differentiates this from the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel says, “If I could just have the more stuff (quantity) I would be happy,” as opposed to having a deep, rich, let-it-go kind of joy in whatever I have, plenty or want. That would be a big difference.

Jason Meyer: Wouldn’t you add that another way to say it would be when that created thing that you’re enjoying is indulged in to the extent that it hurts you or others, it’s destructive. It starts to become something that, rather than leading to enjoyment in God and growth in holiness, it actually has a destructive impact on you or someone else, or even your faith.

Joe Rigney: I agree with that.

Jonathan Bowers: Pastor John, anything you would add to that?

John Piper: Two or three things. First, there probably is an instinctual difference between Joe and myself. I don’t think there’s any theoretical differences, at least I’ve never read any sentences that you’ve written that make me say that’s the wrong way to do it. So everything he said the other night and last night was right.

The instinctual difference is that do listen to that voice more attentively than you do, the voice that says, “Be careful, this is about to become an idol.” And you would say, “That’s why you’re not as happy as you should be.” And that may be right. You guys got to decide. But frankly, at 73 I feel more endangered by comforts than ever. I feel more endangered by things than ever, and more endangered by warmth and air conditioning and food and leisure. I feel more imperiled in my soul than I ever have.

So is that just a stage in life? I don’t think so. I just think life experiences really do affect how you think about things. Joe has a whole group of people that he’s attentive to whose needs matter to him a lot, and they do to me too. They’re not the same. And this is just good for you to know in ministry. Your instincts and emphases will be forged in the furnace of relationships in your church. That’s the way it’s going to be. So that’s the first observation.

The second observation is that one helpful way to approach the problem with the prosperity gospel is not what they get, not their excess, but their deficiency. That is, they don’t have a theology of suffering. If you develop in your church a very healthy theology of suffering and let all the New Testament passages have their say, that will be the best antidote against prosperity. Preach it. Because they’ll hear it and they’ll say, “That is just so different from what I hear on Sundays. My pastor is happy, but he’s helping me be happy in my dying. He’s helping me be happy in the loss of my child. He’s helping me be happy in the loss of my job. He’s got a whole theology that makes joy free me. My enemies can’t touch it.” It’s a theology of suffering, and that’s missing with the prosperity gospel.

And the third thing is that jets and hotel rooms that cost $20,000 a night are not examples of glutting yourself on God through your enjoyments. There does come a line that can’t be crossed. I mean Joe set up his four guardians, whatever he called them — suffering, self-denial, and the two others. Those are so important. You need to get those right. Where is self-denial in the prosperity gospel? Where are there governors? Where do you see evidence that this car, this ring that he’s wearing, this hotel that he’s staying in, and this use of people to get that money is such a clear and beautiful picture of his delight in God as his treasure, not stuff? God has given us stuff so that we use it in a way that it can be clear that stuff is not our treasure. That’s why we have stuff.

Jason Meyer: I think the other thing to add would be that in the prosperity gospel, if you listen to these preachers, they’ll try to deal with a few texts and ignore the rest of the whole counsel of God. And they’ll be like the people that Peter warned about. There’s things in Paul’s letters that are difficult to understand, and the ignorant and unstable twist them to their destruction as they do the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16).

So the Bible can be twisted to make it say what you want it to say. And I think what you just said about a theology of suffering is important because all of those texts and all of those themes are just ignored.

John Piper: Here’s a 15 second advertisement. There’s a new documentary that’s just been released called The American Gospel. It’s excellent on clarifying what the prosperity gospel is and how it’s different from the gospel. I recommend it. It’s called The American Gospel. Just go get it. You can rent it for like 2.99 Amazon.

Jonathan Bowers: Mack, I’ll direct this question to you. Someone asked this, and others can chime in. Do you have any advice for pastors shepherding their kids in helping to bring their children from just a familiarity with the gospel and the church to a real living and vibrant relationship with Jesus? Obviously that’s only a work God can do, but what means that God uses have you seen that could be helpful?

Mack Stiles: One thing perhaps that was unique for us was that we weren’t under the glare of the pastor position in a church. We were always with university students who were cool to our kids. So we were with students who loved Jesus, and my kids looked up to them in ways that are maybe somewhat unique. So in terms of means, it was helpful to get us around people older than them, but younger than us who were vibrant in the faith.

But I think for us the most important thing was living out a marriage-centered family so that the focus was on our love for each other — Leanne and I loving each other — and loving God in such a way that our children saw that that was the first order in the family. Because ultimately what your children really long to have in life is a loving home. They don’t care how much you give them, or what education you’ve got, or if they’re going to go to an Ivy League school or all that stuff. What they care about is having the security of a loving home, parents that love each other. And that’s something everyone can give their kids. That’s something we can all do. We work at it. We make sure that we have it. So I would encourage people to go to a marriage-centered understanding of the home, where Christ is honored and the marriage relationship is honored in that context.

I think for us, we were very aware that there were a number of things in our ears about our children when we went overseas. We left for the Middle East when our kids were 14, 12, and 10. Our 14-year-old had come to faith on a short-term mission trip in Guatemala. Our 12-year-old was not a believer. And our 10-year-old was angry about going. We didn’t find this out until an interview at a Campus Outreach gathering where they asked the kids what they thought about us going overseas. And our son was 10, and he said, “I thought my parents were the stupidest people in the world to do that.” He was giving up some friends and things like that.

But we continued to pursue Christ. And they watched that, and they recognized that as we took risks for Christ, that was a part of their calling too. So on a short-term youth trip to India, our son was asked to give a testimony. He realized he didn’t have one. This was our youngest son. He was convicted. He fell under conviction in India and he came to faith. Our oldest son came to Christ on a short-term mission trip in Guatemala where we took him with some risk. Our middle son came to Christ in Dubai. We did not know that for a number of years later given his autism. And our youngest son came to Christ on a short-term mission trip in India.

So I think it’s good to take risks with your kids and allow God’s call on your life to continue on and not say silly things like, “I don’t want to go into missions because I’m worried about the kids.” One of the most dangerous places to raise your kids is America, frankly. The Middle East is a family friendly place, and as America goes the way it seems to be going, I worry about my grandchildren here and your children. I mean, there are lots of things about that, but those would be some things I’d want to say right off the bat. Have a marriage-centered family, take risks with your kids, make sure they understand that your calling is their calling.

One of the things that we did in a ministerial home that I think was important was that we were very gentle with them about where they were in Christ. We had a “hallelujah-we’ll-see” sort of response to their spiritual responses to things. And maybe we were overboard on this, but our oldest son didn’t get baptized until he was 17, even though he had come to faith much earlier, just because we were not sure. We wanted to see some fruit of that. We wanted to see him face the world, the flesh, and the devil. And we didn’t do it until he said, “Dad, if you don’t let me get baptized, I am being disobedient to Jesus.” And I was like, “Okay. Yes. Go for it.”

Our youngest son was just baptized a couple years ago. He was 26. And it was the same thing. We wanted to be sure. Again, there are some issues of autism there. And then our youngest was also baptized at about 17 or 18 years old. So those were things that we wanted to see in a ministerial home. And partly because our kids were so sweet and compliant, we just wanted to be gentle and careful about their own spiritual development.

Joe Rigney: Right before this John and I were talking, so I’d like to connect something from his talk and my talk on this question about kids, because kids are an amazing opportunity for our joy and theirs. There’s a really rich thing that happens. John is talking about the more of Jesus we get through loving, and I was talking about the more of Jesus we get through things of earth. And our children are this amazing both-and.

I remember a story that a friend of mine emailed me. One day he’d come home from work and things had been really heavy and dark and he was just feeling it and he was low. And he had just read Live Like a Narnian. In there I talked about how we fight the White Witch through joy and feasting. That’s the way you fight the White Witch. So he had that kind of in the back of his head, but it wasn’t experientially present. But he said, “I’m going to do something.” So he did what John said, and he said, “I’m going to obey first and I’m going to be the smile of God to my children.” So he got his two year old and he grabbed a sheet and threw it over the kitchen table. They got glow sticks, and they went around attacking items in the house for about an hour and a half. And he said, “I went to bed that night full and light.”

Now there are layers of things happening in that moment that are good in every direction because it’s good for that child to know that there is safety and security, and you’re building categories in them of justification by faith. They’re thinking, “I am loved and accepted and delighted in by a happy father.” You are priming them to believe the gospel at two when you create a safe, stable environment like Mack just said.

You’re also increasing your own joy because you’re doing what you’re built for, because you’re calling as a father is to be the smile of God to your children, and you’re doing it communally and then you’re going to bed at night. The anxiety and the pressures are lifted because of it. So there is an amazing thing that God does when he plants Trinitarian joy in your living room with your kids, and you ought to avail yourself of it.

Jason Meyer: And if your kids are experiencing the fallenness of this world, it’s also good not just to say, “Well, let’s have a glow stick fight,” but as part of discipleship, teaching them to lament, teaching them that lament is not a lead balloon where there’s no hope. Rather, we say, “The only hope we have right now is in God.” So there’s an authenticity factor to all of it. And even in the lament, I would argue after lament you’re able to better engage in joy. So that has to be part of it.

Jonathan Bowers: H.B., in light of your message about the parable of the seed yesterday, how would you distinguish between fruitlessness in ministry that is a result of rocky soil and fruitlessness that’s a result of a lazy sower?

H.B. Charles: Well, what first comes to my mind is 2 Timothy 2:15. The command there is to do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, as a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. And from week in to week out in pastoral preaching, that needs to be my target and the gauge by which I measure my faithfulness to the task.

There is this sense of 2 Samuel 24:24 where you want to have the attitude of David about your preaching, about your work of ministry. You don’t want to offer to the Lord something that didn’t cost you something. And in that regard, I don’t want to cheat that process. My sermon preparation is a part of God’s sanctifying process in my life and my shepherding of my congregation. And I just need to be honest with myself about that.

The other fruitfulness are matters that are just beyond my control. I have to faithfully get the word to their ears, but God has to get that word to their hearts. And what was not in the manuscript, the reference to the brother that’s in my church, just kind of came to my mind as I was speaking. Maybe the illustration was a little clumsy, but what I was trying to communicate in a very specific way was the larger truth of that parable that you don’t know what God is doing. Sometimes we presume on that, and we don’t know. So it is just required of stewards that they be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). And I need to be faithful as a steward of the truth, steward of the opportunity that I have. And in that regard, I just have to sleep with confidence that the things beyond that God is able to control, and that he does.

Jonathan Bowers: Thank you. And you mentioned that the harvest comes at the end of the age, not at the end of the sermon. How would you or others encourage somebody that seems to be laboring faithfully and is just not seeing fruit? What would you say?

H.B. Charles: Yeah, there’s a tension there because I want to be clear, you want to be faithful and fruitful. But the challenge is that you have to be faithful when it seems you are not being fruitful. I felt like early in my pastorate, I was always committed to the beginning of 2 Timothy 4:2, which says, “Preach the word.” As I am maturing, I hope, I think I am having a growing commitment to the end of that verse, which says “with complete patience and teaching.” And there, patience is patience with people. I thank God for men like Pastor John. The men who have influenced me by and large have been men who plant their flag in their assignment and hang on till Jesus comes to get them one way or another. Because the real fruit can’t be measured in an annual report or, “How did Sunday go?” And I think the most faithful thing that aids faithfulness is a very long view. And there are times you have to plant your flag and hang in there in the midst of what seems to be dry seasons.

Jason Meyer: And when you see fruit, don’t assume it’s fruit. So you can get a Timothy or a Simeon in Edward’s ministry, who assumed the awakening. They thought, “Oh, this is fruit.” And it turned out that it wasn’t. And when you don’t see fruit, don’t assume there’s no fruit, because you can get somebody like Luke Short in the ministry of John Flavel. Luke Short was there as an 18-year-old and he moved from England to America. Luke Short lived to be 100 years old. So 82 years later after that sermon, he was thinking back on his life and he was thankful that he was in America, and he looked back over all the things he had to be thankful for. And he looked back at John Flavel’s ministry and hated it, and he said, “I hated him saying I was under the wrath of God.” And suddenly he realized he was under the wrath of God. And he remembered enough of the sermon about Christ taking on the curse for us that 82 years later after that sermon, he became saved because the word of God doesn’t return void and doesn’t return empty.

So don’t be arrogant and assume you see everything, that you see all the fruit that could be. We have no idea. Sometimes if you’re not seeing fruit it doesn’t mean you’re not seeing fruit.

Joe Rigney: One practical thing to consider if you’re a pastor in that kind of situation is that you want to know if you’re the guy who is being a lazy sower. Are you doing something wrong, or is this just the hard season of going seven years or 15 years of nothing, like so many of the saints that we love. How do you know which one you are right now? One way to do that or to find out would be to start asking trusted people, like other pastors, and just say, “Would you listen to my sermons?” And what that means is you’re going to have to have enough security in Jesus and his approval of you, and not security in the fact that you’re a pastor or your ministry, to be able to really beg them to say, “Tell me what you really think.”

Because I know if there’s a pastor who’s laboring and struggling and the fruit’s not there and he comes, I don’t want to beat him up. My disposition is not to say, “Well, hey man, your application points were kind of iffy,” or, “That exegesis is off,” or, “That illustration is bad,” or whatever. I don’t want to come down on his preaching. I don’t want to beat him up anymore.

But if you’re there, you’ve got to ask people and say, “No, I need you to do the deep dive and to tell me about my preaching.” Or meet with somebody and say, “Here’s what I’m trying to do with these people. Here’s how I’m trying to visit them,” or, “Here are the things that I’m trying.” And there is an element of experimentation and wisdom, right? There’s certain things that we know have to be there — the preaching of the word, the worship of God, the care of the flock. But in terms of practicalities, it’s an experimental science to figure out these people, these sheep, and ask, “What do they need? How can I meet them where they are?” And if you’re the only one who’s seeing it, you’re going to miss stuff.

So you can say to somebody else, “Hey, would you do a deep dive here and tell me honestly about it, including that you tell me if you don’t think I should be doing this.” Because that’s possible. There are people who went into ministry because they thought God was calling them there and they had a time of thinking that, and then they said, “God revealed that’s not for me.” And then they go and they get a job and they’re unbelievably fruitful outside of pastoral ministry, and there’s no shame in that. But the only way you’re going to know is if you don’t have hurt feelings, or the fear of hurt feelings, but you elicit wise people to do some evaluation of you. That’d be a practical thing I think you could do.

Mack Stiles: I had seven years of dry ministry in our first seven years in the Middle East and then seven fruitful years, so it was the opposite of Joseph and Pharaoh. But one of the things that was really helpful for me in those times was the contrast between Jeremiah and Jonah. Jonah goes to Nineveh with an eight word sermon, and 120,000 people repent in sackcloth and ashes. Dude, he is on the cover of Leadership Magazine. Jeremiah, on the other hand, was in 40 years of faithful, horrible abuse. He was put in stocks. He was thrown in a cistern. If it hadn’t been for an African guy to come rescue him, he would’ve died there. He was dragged off into captivity, put in stocks and spit on and mocked and abused and dragged off to Egypt, the very place he said don’t go at the end of his ministerial career.

And I think sometimes you need to have a better view internally of what success is. When I stand before God, I don’t want a Jonah life, as successful as it was at the end of the ministry. We don’t know what happened to Jonah, but at the end of that time, he’s kicking dirt and telling God he doesn’t like his character. And there’s obviously no joy. Jeremiah was faithful to the end. He persevered and he’s going to stand before God and point to his life as faithful. That’s what we want. That’s the success of life.

Now I understand we want to be fruitful. We long for that, and look at the fruitfulness of Jeremiah’s writing. We have testimony to great fruitfulness over millenniums as a result of Jeremiah’s successful ministry to us. Who knows how God is going to use your faithfulness over time as well. But I found that helpful to me to remind myself of those things in the scripture when we face those periods.

Jason Meyer: So John, you told us before the panel, “If we don’t mix it up, this is going to be boring. We’ll just have five different monologues.” So here’s my best attempt. In your last talk, I appreciated the emphasis on obedience bringing joy. You emphasized that there’s a joy in the hypomonē that happens, the endurance when you pass the test. There’s joy in and after you come into your house. You think, “I’m not greedy. I’m not all these things.” I think that’s right. But I think you missed a main thing that the New Testament says about obedience, that it’s not generic joy. It is joy in those things, but it’s more emphatically a joy in Jesus than I think you said. You did speak of suffering. How do you rejoice in suffering? Well, it is Philippians 3, conformity to Christ. I’m sharing in his suffering. It’s an invitation to intimacy with him. I think almost all commands are that.

So here’s my argument. If you go to Galatians 6:2, which you went to — “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” — in what way, when you bear burdens, does that relate to the law of Christ? Well, I think what he’s saying is that these commandments are being recalibrated around the Christ event so that bearing one another’s burdens now is an invitation to know the one who bore our burdens himself preeminently. So now we’re getting an invitation to intimacy with him as we bear other people’s burdens. It’s the fact that Christ did this for us.

Or consider the tithe command. No longer is it based on the paradigm of the Levitical system, and if the tribes don’t support the Levites, they’ve got to go work in the field. Now Paul can say in terms of why we should give, not just generously but sacrificially, it’s because 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich yet for your sake he became poor so that through his poverty you might become rich.” Now sacrificial giving is actually an invitation into intimacy with the one who himself preeminently gave sacrificially. And I think I could show that in text after text. Was that in your mind at all?

John Piper: Not in those categories. In fact, I would push back on it because it sounds like you feel the need to say that in the act of obedience, tithing or bearing one another’s burdens, the locus of the joy needs to be on imputation.

Jason Meyer: No.

John Piper: It sounds like it. That is, he bore our burdens, and we participate in that. So it draws my attention back to the fact that my burdens have been borne, and therefore, as I bear burdens, I’m participating. If I missed that, then good.

I surely meant to say over and over that the joy of obedience is joy in Christ himself, not a distinct joy from the joy of Christ that you get when you are justified. You have joy in Christ in receiving justification, forgiveness, and acceptance, and then he has more to do for you, and it’s a different taste. And he bought it in the New Covenant. And therefore, when you triumph over selfishness and bear another person’s burdens, what you taste is that Christ just did a work in you which he bought with his blood. That’s my effort to say we don’t have competing joys here, but they are different. So I’m not sure what I didn’t communicate that you want me to.

Jason Meyer: I think what you didn’t communicate is how do Old Testament commands often differ from New Testament commands? And I just want to point out the radical Christocentric nature of New Testament ethics, so that Paul is just so repeatedly bringing us back to what Christ has done. And I wouldn’t limit it to imputation.

Take John’s Gospel. What’s the new commandment in John 13:34? If you look at Leviticus it says, “Love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18). There’s nothing new about loving one another in that sense, but the standard, or the calibration, is different. Rather than now being a matter of self-love — “love your neighbor as you love yourself” — the highest expression now of the love standard is “as I have loved you, love one another.” So I think we just need to keep in our preaching of New Testament ethics this Christ event in all that he’s done. The New Testament commandments are relentless in trying to tie us to a higher glory, a higher standard.

John Piper: What I would say there is that to love as Christ loved me is to pursue a purchase that he purchased for me that was different from any other good deed that’s ever been done for me. When you say “Christ loved me” and that becomes my pattern, what does that mean? What did he do? And then you can start listing off things that he did. What I’m insisting on is that what he did was purchase the connection between Philippians 2:12 and Philippians 2:13, which says, “Work out your salvation, for God is the one who is a work in you.” I want to taste that miracle right there. That was a blood-bought miracle. He is at work in me right now to help me to work out my salvation. And the next thing is, “Don’t murmur about anything.” I would like to have an experience of a murmur-free good deed, a murmur-free hospitality, a murmur-free approach to my wife.

I don’t feel at that moment like the impulse is sending me back, but that it’s pulling from the cross into what it really accomplished in the present. He accomplished a miracle for me by the Holy Spirit. It relates to the article, and it relates to my book on preaching. Do you make a beeline from every text to the cross or do you make a beeline from the cross to every text? My passion is that I fear that if we say that every command is sending us backward instead of pulling the riches of the cross forward, that we’re going to wind up preaching in the wrong way.

Jason Meyer: I agree. I’m not subtracting from what you’re saying. There are definitely New Testament commands that aren’t directly tied to what Christ has done, how Christ has loved, or his sacrifice. I’m just saying I feel like that was underemphasized in your talk. And maybe there’s a reason for it, because you’re reacting to people that want to be too emphatic on that and they’re missing other texts. But that was a note I kept waiting to hear, especially in the movement from Old Testament commands to New Testament commands.

It seems like there is a new relentless emphasis to try to connect these commands to intimacy with Christ, an invitation to the standard of what he’s done. I just didn’t get that note. So I don’t want to subtract from anything you said. I just want to add that.

Joe Rigney: Here’s another place where you have the same theology or the same theological position, and a different theological instinct probably is at play. I’ll just add a different instinct, because along with what Jason is saying, where he wants to stress the radical newness and discontinuity of what Jesus has brought, I worry often that in our desire to stress the newness of the New Covenant, we lose the deep continuity of the way the world is by nature and always has been. That means that the content, the actual moral requirements of what God wants from us, have been the same from the beginning since he made Adam and Eve.

So if you take the 10 Commandments into the New Covenant, what the New Covenant brings is a new motivation, a new power, and a new goal. All of those things are new because of what Jesus has done. But the content of New Testament ethics is the same. There’s a deep continuity. So there’s probably a different instinct maybe in terms of where we were going to want to lean on that continuity discontinuity there. That’s my guess.

I had a question for you too. There’s a word you didn’t use in your talk and it’s a word that you used to jab at, but I heard it in the talk substantively. It’s the word duty. It sounded to me like there was a dangerous duty of delight and it was kind of like there’s this surprising delight of duty. It would be a good book if you want to write it. Y’all will buy it.

So I’m wondering, do you have any fresh thoughts on that? Were you talking about duty, doing my duty and then getting joy on the far side of doing my duty? Or is that a wrong way to think about what you were saying?

John Piper: You asked me that before and I said, yeah, I am talking about duty, but I don’t think I used the word.

Joe Rigney: And I just wondered if you would tell them that.

John Piper: There it is.

Joe Rigney: You’re welcome.

John Piper: There’s a section in Desiring God where I try to illustrate how you should give when the offering plate is coming down the row and you don’t feel like it. There’s one group of ethicists that would say, “It doesn’t matter how you feel, do your duty. You’re supposed to tithe, so tithe.” And I say that’s the wrong answer. That’s not my answer. And yet it’s a real thing that you’ve got the money in your pocket and you could get an iPad or you could tithe, and you really, really would like a new iPad and would just pass on God’s gift this week. What should you do with that emotion?

My answer is, number one, you repent that you don’t love him as you ought and you don’t rejoice in him as you ought. That’s very different from saying, “Feelings don’t matter.” You’re repenting. Number two, you plead for him to restore to me your delight in him above iPads. You say, “Oh God, I feel awful right now.” And number three, you give in the anticipation of the promise that he’ll restore the joy, perhaps in the very moment of the giving. So that constellation of approaching duty as “just do it anyway,” and , “emotions don’t matter,” is what I’m rejecting. And I would say this message is a fleshing out of those steps.

Joe Rigney: I just feel like that’s so important because it’s where most of us live. C.S. Lewis always said that the command to love God often means act like you love God in anticipation of the actual. In other words, you may not have the warm-hearted affections for God that you know you ought to have because the Bible says you ought to have them. So what do you do? You don’t sit around and wait for them. Lewis says you should imagine what you would do if that were the case. Imagine you were the kind of person who was filled with a full and increasing love of Jesus. Imagine that version of yourself who’s so filled with the Holy Spirit, so secure in the love of God that you are just full of him. Imagine what you would do. Now go do it. Even if you don’t feel like it. Do the deeds of love, do your duty in anticipation. For me, even daily, that is a profoundly helpful thing to do, to feel that. And it’s there.

John Piper: And it’s extremely dangerous, extremely dangerous.

Joe Rigney: There are the instincts again right there.

John Piper: I know a marriage very close to me that broke because she said, “Fake it till you make it. That’s what Christians are. Fake it till you make it.” That’s a real danger.

Here’s the difference. Would C.S. Lewis say, like I say, “If you don’t have the affections that should be driving this act of obedience, are you broken-hearted?” Because I think a lot of people would say, “Emotions don’t matter, Piper. They don’t matter. You make too much of them and you make people feel awful because they don’t have them.” I would say if you try to fake it till you make it, without that initial brokenness that turns faking into genuine, heartfelt, humble, longing for becoming a kind of person that you’re not, you’re in big trouble without that. So I don’t know what Lewis said on the front end of acting like a Christian.

Joe Rigney: He treats duty like a crutch. He said, “In heaven, nobody’s going to have to make you pray and talk to God. You’re just going to do it. It’s just going to be fruit. It’s just going to overflow. But you’re really broken right now, so you need a crutch. And that crutch is called duty. If you had legs, you wouldn’t need the crutch.” So I think there is a real recognition of the fact that something is wrong with us that we don’t love God as we ought and we don’t love our neighbor ourself, but in the meantime, we lean on the crutch until God gives it. I don’t know that he goes as full in terms of asking for help and fleshing it out, but I think that the recognition of brokenness is there.

Jason Meyer: Tim Keller uses that from Lewis and uses it as an example in his marriage book of not faking it till you make it, though there is that aspect of repentance. He actually uses a story of somebody in his church that he just had a hard time getting along with. We hate to say it, but there are people out there — not in my church, but maybe in some of yours — who are hard to get along with. There was this person that Keller had a hard time getting along with, and he had read Lewis say that. So in a kind of broken-hearted way, he thought, “I’m going to meet with this guy. I’m going to keep meeting with this guy and I’m going to keep asking for this to become a want.”

And he said it surprised him. It was like developmental obedience, like little league and training. He said, “One day Kathy and I had a day off and we found ourselves saying, ‘What should we do?’ And suddenly I said, ‘Let’s go visit so-and-so.’” And they both looked at each other in shock. They thought, “Wow, we really want to.” So I think it’s not either/or. It’s that sense of thinking, “Right now I wish I felt it, but I’m going to move forward in obedience to this and just pray that God would change my heart towards it.”

Jonathan Bowers: Well, speaking of duty, I have a duty to close at 12:15. So thank you brothers. Can you join me in thanking them for serving us so well these past few days?