Let’s do just a little review so that you can keep in mind how things fit together from session 1 and session 2. God does everything he does from eternity to eternity to uphold, display, and vindicate the worth of his glory. That’s good news, not egomania because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. So our pursuit of his glory and our pursuit of our joy is not an alternative pursuit. They never should compete with each other, but rather the pursuit of our fullest and longest joy is in him and therefore reflects his worth, which means our happiness in him and his glory in us happen together. Therefore, you shouldn’t say that feelings, spiritual affections, or emotions are marginal, or icing on the cake, or cabooses on the train, or anything like that; they are essential to glorifying God.
Love God or Delight in God?
I had a woman ask me about this one time. I love this woman, and if I named her name you would know who she was. In fact, I admire her greatly. We were in a seminar together in England, and we were doing a seminar on missions. I was hammering away at the pursuit of joy being the strength and the motive by which you would be taken to the mission field and sustained there through thick and thin, even if it cost you your life. She’s very uncomfortable with that. She said, “John, don’t you think we should call people to pursue obedience and not to pursue joy?” And I said, “Well, that’s like saying you should pursue fruit, not apples,” because obedience means doing what God says, and what he says is, “Rejoice in the Lord. Delight yourself in the Lord. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come into his presence with singing.” And so, yes, of course, we should tell people to pursue obedience. I’m picking out a part of it that I think a lot of people don’t think is obedience and just hammering on it with all my life because I think the neglect of it kills people, hurts churches, wounds the mission, and dishonors God.
I’ll give another little clarification. One of the reasons I suggested that text be read was because I was up in Katoomba, Australia last weekend and we had a Q&A over lunch. One woman asked a question, and I’ll repeat it because the answering of it I think brought a lot of clarity, at least it helped my brain get clear on some things. She said, “What would you say if I said we should devote ourselves to loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then joy would follow? What would you say to that?” And I said, “Well, that’s a category confusion. That question involves a category confusion. What is loving God with all your heart?” I argued that an essential element of loving God with all your heart is delighting in God, treasuring God, and being satisfied in God. That’s what it means to love God.
So no, joy doesn’t follow it; it is it. A text that points in that direction is John 14:15, where people have often quoted this to me to say that loving God is obeying God, because Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So they will say, “There. Loving God is obedience. And then joy comes if you do that.” And I say that’s not what the text says. It says, “If you love me” — that’s one thing — “There will be a result. You’ll do what I say.” They’re not the same. You can’t use that text to say they’re the same because that text says they’re not the same. And they’re not. Loving God is something you do that yields obedience to lots of other things like laying down life for people. It’s being satisfied in God, delighting in God, enjoying God, and treasuring God — that’s love. And if you do that, you obey because all his commands are good news and they tell you how to maximize love, and how to extend it to other people even if it costs you your life. I’m just clarifying here how important up until this point in these messages affections for God are. They’re not marginal.
Then we argued last night that a pastor who loves his people will pursue his own joy because he can be of no advantage to them if he does his ministry with groaning and not with joy. And you want to be an advantage to your people because that’s what love does. In order to be loving to them, you must seek your own joy in the ministry.
And then we argued that in 2 Corinthians 1:24, we are workers with him for their joy. Every sermon should have that banner over it, even if I have to preach a very hard sermon about repentance, or self-denial, or sacrifice, or whatever; this is aiming at their deepest, longest joy. People should feel that their pastor is after our fullest and eternal joy.
Then we finished last night by pointing out that if this notion, this profound reality, of the centrality of the affections in glorifying God is held, then the evangelical church might be spared some of its pendulum swinging errors into intellectualism and anti-intellectualism, or legalism and antinomianism. I tried to show how that might work. That’s where we’ve come so far.
Reason Exists for Rejoicing
Now my main point is that right thinking about God exists for the sake of right feelings for God. That’s the thesis of this message — right thinking about God and all his works, ways, and person, should happen for the sake of right affections for God. I’ll say it four or five other ways:
Logic exists for the sake of love.
Reasoning exists for the sake of rejoicing.
Doctrine exists for the sake of delight.
Reflection about God exists for the sake of affection for God.
Heads exists for hearts.
Knowing the truth is the basis for admiring the truth.
Therefore, both thinking and feeling are essential to glorifying God, but they are not equally ultimate. Thinking exists for the sake of affection. The devil gets many things intellectually right, but affectionately, he gets none of them right. He thinks many true thoughts, but he feels no right affections about them. So I’m not going to make what the devil can do ultimate, but instead I’ll make ultimate what the devil can’t do. He hates the truth that he knows. So knowing is not ultimate; it’s affections for God, love for God, treasuring God, being satisfied in God, adoring God, praising God, admiring God, being thankful to God, and trusting God. These heart affections are the goal of thinking, and the point today is that thinking is essential and really important for the kinds of affections that honor God.
Let me illustrate with a little made up story here why affections for God that are not based on right thinking about God won’t honor God. I hope this is a big clarification that shows that up until now when I have said God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him, I mean a satisfaction that is based on and rooted in right views of God.
Let’s say a man walks up to you on the street with a sack of $10,000 in cash. You don’t know him. You’ve never seen him. He hands you the sack and he says, “Hi, would you take this down to the bank and deposit it for me? Here’s my account number. Here’s my pin number. Here’s my name. Here’s my address. Here’s all my identification. Thank you.”
And you say, “Whoa, wait a minute. I don’t even know you. Why are you trusting me with this money? I could just walk away.” And he says, “No reason. I just feel like trusting you. I just have this strong sense that you are trustworthy. I have this deep desire in my heart to give this to you and trust you.” My question is, at that moment, in this little story, how do you feel? Do you feel honored? No, you don’t. He’s crazy, meaning his affections are groundless. They’re not based on any knowledge. You should not feel honored. He’s stupid.
Now, here’s the next scene. You’re walking down. Another man walks up to you and he gives you a bag of $10,000 and he gives you his account number, his name, and his pin, and says, “Would you please deposit this for me? I need to be somewhere.” And you say, “Whoa, wait a minute. I don’t even know you. Why are you trusting me?” And he says, “No, you don’t know me, but we work in the same place. I’ve been watching you for a year, studying every move you make, and listening to you talk. I know you. You’re a reliable person. That’s why I’m giving it to you.” And then he walks away. Now, how do you feel? You feel honored big time. Why? Knowledge and truth. He based his decision on truth. He based his decision on thinking about you. He studied you well.
That’s the way it is with God. I am into thinking, big time, because God is not honored by emotions that aren’t rooted in right thinking and right doctrine about the studying of his character and his ways. When you give your life over to him and say, “You are my treasure. You are my all.” And he says, “Why do you say that?” He is honored when you can say, “I know you. I’ve watched you. I’ve studied you. You are reliable. You are beautiful. You are glorious. You are all-satisfying.” God feels really happy about that. He’s very honored by satisfaction that’s rooted in knowledge. So that’s my thesis: Right thinking about God is essential to right affections for God, and God is not honored by any other affections. This is really important. This is lifting thinking and lifting the life of the mind very high, not higher than worship and affections, but really high. What I want to do in the time we have is give you 10 biblical evidences that point in this direction. My guess is that most of you in this room already agree, and I could just quit and you would all say, “Well, yeah, we believe that. We believe that thinking is importanrt.”
But you know what happens, not all of you are wired to be thinkers. Some of you would just love to be with people all the time and you don’t want to study. You don’t want to think. You don’t want to try to figure things out. You’re just not wired that way, and you need help — that is, you need encouragement and incentives. And the Bible does that. If you saw what I just said in the Bible, it might have a lot more help and power than if I just say it. So that’s what we’re going to do.
1. Zeal without Knowledge
Let’s go to Romans 10:1–2. It says:
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
Now this is appalling. They have a zeal for God. They’re John Piper types, right? And they’re lost. This is sobering, really sobering. They have a zeal for God and they’re going to hell. That’s why he’s praying for their salvation. What’s wrong with their zeal? Paul says it doesn’t accord with knowledge. In this case, it’s all about justification. We’ll save that for another time. That’s important. So my first pointer is you can have a zeal for God, or to use John Piper’s word, passion for God’s supremacy, and be lost if it’s not rooted in right thinking about God — not according to knowledge.
2. Human Reason and Divine Illumination
Let’s go to 2 Timothy 2:7. This text has been very significant in my pilgrimage. He’s just finished giving these analogies of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer, and then he says in verse seven:
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
The two errors that this verse prevents us from making are saying, “You have to think because God doesn’t just give you understanding. You have to think your way to understanding.” That won’t work because the text says, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding.” You can’t make thinking replace the illuminating work of God in giving understanding. You can’t do that. This verse won’t let you.
Here’s the other mistake: “Since God is the one who gives understanding, I don’t need to think.” So you can see the two. These are these intellectual and non-intellectual types. One is saying, “Think, think, think, because that’s the way you get understanding and God doesn’t give it.” And the other says, “I don’t need to think because God gives it.” This verse will not let either of those mistakes stand. This verse says the amazing thing, “Think over the apostolic teaching. Think over this paragraph that I just said, Timothy, because,” now I add, “in and through your thinking, God’s illumining work gives you understanding.” He doesn’t circumvent your brain and just plant ideas in your brain without thinking. That’s not the way it works; rather, we think over what he says. In my pastoral life of preaching that whole dimension, that’s mainly what I do.
They ask me, “How long does it take to prepare a sermon?” All I do is think and pray, think and pray, think and pray, with piece of paper, doodling and drawing to help me figure this out. I’m praying about every two minutes, and I’m thinking all the time. That’s my life. And this verse has impacted me in this way. I felt God’s favor. He has said, “Yes, that’s the way I want your Fridays to look. Eight hours, twelve hours, fifteen hours — whatever it takes, I’m with you. I’m right there. I’m blessing that thinking work. I like that. Do that because I told you to.”
3. The Need for Explanation
Let’s go to Acts 17:2–3. Here’s Paul in the synagogue and how he would customarily speak:
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
Those three words are that he reasoned with them, explained things to them, and demonstrated (or proved) things to them about the Christ from the Old Testament. Now here’s what drives this home to me. Paul, of all writers in the Bible, knows that these folks are spiritually dead. They have no spiritual life, and yet he’s reasoning with them. Isn’t that hopeless? Isn’t that pointless? You can’t reason with a dead man.
He knows that the mind of the flesh does not receive the things of the Spirit, and that’s what they have is the mind of the flesh. They’re lost. They’re in the synagogue. They don’t know the Messiah, and he wants them to get saved. They’re dead, they have the mind of the flesh, and he’s reasoning with this mind. Why would you do that? He knows that the God of this age is blinding the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4–6). They’re blind and the devil is in the synagogue blinding them. And Paul is reasoning with them, arguing with them, and trying to persuade them. And he knows from 1 Peter 1:23 — Paul would agree with this — that we are born again through the Spirit, through the living and abiding word of God, the gospel.
So the paradox is that we know the people in Australia, New Zealand, and all the places where you come from who are without Christ are dead. They have the mind of the flesh. They don’t receive the things of the Spirit and human logic would say, “There’s no point talking to them. We should just pray for illumination or something to happen.” But that’s not the way God does it. God does it through preaching — preaching that is full of reasoning, full of explaining, and full of proving. Of course, Paul doesn’t raise anybody from the dead, God does. But God uses intellectual means. If we try to short-circuit that and say, “What we need are some signs and wonders,” or, “What we need is some really enthusiastic worship,” or, “What we need is not reasoning, not explaining, not proving, not proclamation,” then we’re just abandoning what God says. It’s so crucial that we get the Spirit and the mind right here. It’s the Spirit and the truth — the Spirit in the word.
The mind is understanding the word, explaining the word, and reasoning over the word. And God, the Holy Spirit, is coming in there with great power to awaken them like Lydia. He opened her heart to give heed to the word (Acts 16:14). You never know when that might happen, on a train or in a church. You never know when God may bless your simple, verbal, mentally thought through, articulated little statement or argument, and open the eyes of the blind.
4. God-Given Logic
Let’s go to Luke 12:54–57. Jesus assumes that we will use logic, Aristotelian logic, in nature and in spiritual matters. This is kind of a risky thing to say. I remember when I was in seminary that it was real prevalent in those days to distinguish Greek thinking and Hebraic thinking. Anybody that referred to linear logic was accused of being Greek, not Hebraic or biblical. I was listening to that and it didn’t sound right to me. It took me a while to realize why, and this text illustrates why. Here we are at Luke 12:54–57:
He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
What’s going on here? When I said Aristotelian logic, all I mean is a syllogism. You know what a syllogism is?
All men are mortal.
Plato is a man.
Therefore, Plato is mortal.
In my seminary days, that was called Greek, and I said, “Greek? That’s God. That’s just human. That’s the way the brain works.” Of course, how can I say that? I’m not in the head of God. Well, I’ve got his word. It says that Jesus expects them to use this. So premise number one would be:
When a south wind blows, it will be hot.
Premise number two:
A south wind is blowing.
It’s going to be hot.
That’s logic. They’re using it. Jesus expects them to use it, and he says, “Now, why don’t you use that to recognize me?” That’s what he says. He admired the use of their mind to figure out by logic the fact that every day when the wind blows this way, heat comes. Today, wind is blowing this way, so must be that heat will come. That’s logic. It’s Aristotelian. It’s divine. It’s the way God is and the way our brains are. God was very upset with them. He called them hypocrites. Isn’t that amazing? These brilliant scholars who use their minds to figure out amazing things and get us on the moon, or put the Hubble Telescope out there, and discover that Pluto is not a planet and it’s got an extra moon — they don’t know anything. They’re like the blind leading the blind because they won’t use that massive, God-given intellect to draw out the inferences from natural revelation, like:
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1).
When I picture myself at the last judgment, and I don’t know if God will allow us to watch the judgment of the world after we have been ushered in, but it’s going to be really sad when brilliant scholars face God, and God just says, “All those pictures from the Hubble Telescope and you saw nothing? What?” I just think that’ll be the end of the conversation. I think shame will just cover their faces. It will just cover their faces and they’ll be gone. It really is obvious that he’s God. I hope you see the glory. The heavens are telling the glory of God, so are the cliffs up there in Katoomba. That’s the prettiest part of your land I’ve seen so far. I haven’t been to many places, but it’s really pretty and really impressive. I would be happy to just sit there a long time and think about God.
God expects us to use syllogistic reasoning of the ordinary kind that we use every day, when we drive through traffic and conclude that people stop at red lights, in order to know him.
5. Concealing the Truth
In Matthew 21:23–27, Jesus refuses to deal with people who use their reason to conceal truth. This is one of my favorite texts about how I don’t want to be, and how much I see this in politics, whether church politics or national politics. There is this kind of use of the mind, and Jesus won’t talk to these people. Let’s start at verse 23:
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Jesus then will respond to test whether or not they are being intellectually honest.
Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?”
Now watch their brains. They’re very adept here. They’re very intellectually adept, but what do they do with those brains? Here’s what they do. It continues:
And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
I wish I could have watched Jesus’s face during this. That’s what I feel like when political people are asked, “What do you think about so-and-so?” And they start talking. Did you hear the question? It’s just spin, ramble, and evasion. And all of a sudden they get elected. Do Americans have brains when they elect people? There was no connection between what they said and what was asked. This is evasion. Jesus hates that. So do I, and so should you.
In other words, here’s the point. When it comes to thinking and talking, Jesus admires clarity and forthrightness, not coy, maneuvering, spinning, evading, and using your brilliance to not tell the truth. The truth was that they thought, “We know what we think. It was from man. John the Baptist is baloney.” But they answer, “We don’t know.” That’s pure baloney. It’s not true. So don’t be like that. Let me read you the opposite from Paul. This is what pastors want. This is 2 Corinthians 4:2. It says:
We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
It’s just a beautiful breeze of clear air blowing through that. What you see is what you get. He had no hidden agenda. He wasn’t trying to conceal anything from anybody. He told you what he thought, and you knew him when he opened his mouth. That’s what Paul was saying Christians should be like.
This just came to my mind. I think the Lord wants me to say this. I know that it’s hard to preach Romans nine. I wrote a whole book on Romans nine it troubled me so bad. It’s called The Justification of God, and I wrote it a long time ago. It’s foundational to almost everything I think. I was talking to a preacher one time, and he said, “How do you preach it without driving everybody away?” I started talking, and he said, “I was talking to a denominational official and asked him that question,” and he said that the denominational official told him, “I think it’s possible to preach Romans nine without letting the people know what you think.” He said that. May lightning strike him. That is so wicked. It is so undermining to our credibility.
These things keep coming to my mind. I really am upset about this. Can you tell? I watch prominent Christian figures get interviewed after hurricanes, or after riots in London, or whatever, and instead of saying, “That’s God. God reigns. God is wise. God is good. God’s in control,” they don’t say it. They just dance all around. You can hardly tell they’re Christians. You can hardly tell they’re theists, but they only say something like, “We just have compassion and…” They’re so scared of telling the truth.
6. Knowing, Feeling, Doing
There are 13 times where Paul asked the question, “Do you not know?” I’m just going to read a bunch of them to you. Do you remember those, especially in First Corinthians? He repeats the question, “Do you not know?” What is that? What’s going on when he says, “Do you not know?” The rhetorical statement is: If you knew, things would be different. So I’ll give a few examples:
Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Do you not know that we will judge angels? (1 Corinthians 6:3).
Stop there. He’s saying to Corinth, “If you knew, Christians, that you would judge angels, if your mind had heard that message and embraced that truth, you probably wouldn’t be going to secular judges to settle this dispute.” That’s how practical this is. If you knew you will judge angels, do you not know that to lie with a prostitute is to be one body with her?
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (1 Corinthians 5:6).
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of heaven? (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? (1 Corinthians 6:15).
And it goes on and on. He does that 13 times. Why? Because knowing things changes your affections, and affections change life. Our people need to know things, lots of glorious things. This is a very thick book filled with glorious truth. How can one ever be bored by this book or think he has exhausted it? Frankly, I have no understanding of, no comprehension of, and no patience for pastors who get sermons anywhere but in this book. Maybe they read a story or something, and then they spend their whole time talking about this event in society, and I think, “This is God’s word. This is chock-full of mind-blowing, church-transforming, world-changing truth. And you’re going to read the newspaper to get some idea what to preach?” May God open our eyes. Our people need to know things because knowing in our heads and right thinking alters the way they view things, act, and feel.
7. Teachers and Teaching
The Bible tells us that Christ has given pastors and teachers to the church. Ephesians 4:11 says:
He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers …
Pastors and teachers are probably the same, as you know. He’s given pastors and teachers to the church. We also know that when the qualifications are listed for an elder in 1 Timothy 3:2, one of them is didaktikós, which means competent to teach or adept at teaching. So he’s given teachers to the church, which means not everybody is one. He says they must be gifted in explaining things. I just think that’s amazing. God has set up the church in such a way that everybody is not a teacher.
I believe in the priesthood of all believers, and I think we should call no man father, teacher, and all that. I understand that. There’s a marvelous comradery and brotherhood. But there are elders who govern, and there are teachers who are the elders who explain things to the people. God is not into total egalitarianism — not in church structures, not in marriage structures, and not in social structures. God is not into that. He’s into hierarchy, and teachers are responsible to teach the Bible to the vast number of ordinary people who are, by the way, really happy when they do it and explain it to them. And so, since he set it up that way that there are teachers and that there is a gift of teaching, I’m concluding from there that teachers should think about the Bible and explain it to the people. It’s an intellectual process. They can’t just do touchy, feely things and have a church that’s got any substance, depth, or staying power. So the existence of the gift of teaching and the office of the elder is evidence pointing towards the importance of the life of the mind.
8. The Whole Counsel of God
The Bible tells us to declare the whole counsel of God. In Acts 20:26–27, Paul says:
I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
I hope if you’ve been at your church for 10 years or more you could say that. Now, what is the whole counsel of God? I don’t think I could put real clear boundaries around it. I think it’s the gospel at the center, and then it’s the whole cluster of God’s redemptive-historical activity from beginning to end that explains that gospel. It shows the implications of that gospel, protects that gospel, and unfolds that gospel. That would be the whole counsel of God, and it would include a lot more than just the core gospel statements. But when you say whole counsel, it implies there’s some coherence to it.
It’s not just a little Sunday-after-Sunday message where you just kind of throw out diamonds and there’s nothing whole about it. If it’s true that the whole counsel of God implies some measure of unity or coherence, then we have work to do, and it’s our job. It’s not mainly their job. It’s our job to find, discern, and explain it over time. The whole counsel of God is beyond most laypeople, mainly for time, partly for gifts, reason, inclinations, etc, but it’s our job. And it’s hard work. It’s thinking work.
I jotted down another text here on that point. Is that why Paul calls the expositor a workman? Second Timothy 2:15 says:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
To handle the word of God as that text says is to be a workman. Some men take a shovel and they work all day, and that’s our job. This is just as hard.
A lot of people who give their lives to manual labor think pastors don’t do anything. They have never sat over a paragraph for 12 hours, and like Luther said, “I beat upon the apostle Paul. I beat upon him until he yielded the word righteousness to me. I didn’t get it, and I just beat on him.” Well, that’s the way I feel. I think the brain is like a muscle. I’m not a doctor or physiologist. I don’t really know how this works. I just know that at the end of the day, sitting at my desk doing nothing, I’m exhausted. My head won’t do anything. It just won’t do anything. And I’m so thankful that God ordained sleep between Friday and Saturday, because I have to preach Saturday night and I have to get the sermon into my heart Saturday afternoon. So a workman implies, I think, mental labor.
9. God Gave a Book
The Bible is a book. God came in the flesh. Jesus was not a book, but when he had done his work, which had to be done in the flesh, as God incarnate, he left behind apostles and prophets who are the foundation of the church. And they are still the foundation of the church because of this book. It’s a book. Just think how many other ways he could have done it. He could have ordained that way back then there was video or audio. He could have ordained that we all get special revelation. It could have been by a dream that comes every week to the pastor, being told by the Holy Spirit what to say every week. He could have done it in all those ways, yet he chose to do it with a book, which means you don’t have any access to it until you learn how to read, or somebody learns how to read so they can read to you if you’re preliterate.
Learning how to read is an intellectual exercise, and learning how to read well is a real intellectual exercise. I don’t think I learned how to read until I was 23 years old. I could read, but I couldn’t construe. I read the Bible as though it were a string of pearls until I was 22 years old. I would read it and a verse here, like a lozenge, and suck on it all day long. That’s great. At night I’d get another lozenge and pop it in. It was wonderful. I think you can still do that. That’s okay. But it’s a chain. It’s not a string of pearls. It’s a chain. Romans 1:15–18 says:
I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed …
That’s not pearls on a string; that’s links in a chain, and I better get what each one of those fors is for. I wasn’t doing that for 22 years. Somebody showed me that and suddenly I became a workman, not just a reveler who sees pearls everywhere. I really don’t want to minimize that practice. I still do that. I go for a pearl every morning, but now the chain is glorious. Romans 8:29–30 says:
Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What will we say to that chain? It’s an unbreakable chain. I love that text. I’m home and glorified because I’m justified. But I didn’t think that way for years. It’s a book. And isn’t it interesting that Paul said in Ephesians 3:4:
When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ …
Has reading ever been elevated to such a height? Let me read that again. He says:
When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ …
You can’t do an end run around reading. That’s the way into the mystery. It’s a book. That’s why everywhere the church has gone, the first three institutions that arise are churches, schools, and hospitals, it’s just the full-orbed display that we worship, we think, and we care for the body. That’s what happens, it’s just who Christians are. Schools are woven into the fabric of how God reveals himself.
10. The Logic of the Father’s Care
Maybe I’ll close with an example of how thinking in a text ministers affections which change visible behavior for the glory of God. Let’s try to put it all together. I’ll just close with one example. I’ve got two or three written down here, but let’s do this one. This is Matthew 7:7–11. You all know this text. Maybe you know it by heart. It says:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you …
Now, what’s going on here? This is an argument for the probability that God’s going to answer your prayer.
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
And the answer to that is obviously, “No, I wouldn’t.” So the argument is a fortiori. You already know that Latin phrase. It’s from the lesser to the greater. If you would do that, how much more would God? There’s reasoning going on. Jesus is reasoning with us:
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
This is all Aristolean logic. So far in the reasoning we’ve gone from, “Pray to me, ask me for things,” and then the thought is, “But will you answer?” He says, “Well, let me tell you how I’ll answer. You’re an evil father” — Jesus is so blunt — “and when your kid says, ‘Can I have some bread?’ You don’t hand him a stone. Does anybody hand him a stone? And when he asks you for fish, do you give him a snake?”
You can see what he’s doing. He’s saying, “You fathers really care for your children. Guess what? God cares way more for you than you do for your kids.” Well, that boosts prayer expectations higher, and that’s the point. Now I’ve got feelings rising, confidence, hope, and joy. God’s going to hear me. Do you know what the next word is? It’s therefore, or your version might say so. Matthew 7:12 continues:
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Have you ever made that connection before? I hadn’t. For years and years, I never noticed the word so or therefore, because I hadn’t been taught to think. I hadn’t been taught that reading is thinking, that reading is construing, or that reading is seeing links in a chain, and here’s a massive link: If God is the kind of God who is inclined to hear our prayers, provide our needs, and take care of us, therefore, you are free to sacrificially treat others the way you’d like to be treated. And until you have that kind of confidence, that kind of restfulness in God, you’re going to use people to satisfy your soul, to meet your needs, and to protect you. You’re not going to be free to sacrifice for people. You’re going to be responding all the time, protecting yourself, defending yourself, and getting your cut against people instead of saying, “God has totally said, ‘I’m on your side. I’m going to give you bread. I’m going to give you fish. I’m going to take care of you. You’re my child. I love you. Go give yourself to people.’” In that kind of deep, sweet, solid confidence in God, we love others.
I’ve just jumped over to the last message so I’ll stop, but that’s where we’re going to end Wednesday morning, I suppose. That’s the end of my 10 reasons why thinking is important. Here’s the conclusion: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, but the only kind of satisfaction in God that glorifies God is satisfaction that is rooted in right knowing and right thinking about God. Therefore, a life of thinking and a life of feeling are both essential to a life of glorifying God.