Friday, February 13, 2009

God's Not A Fan Of Our Self-Esteem

He's a fan of our Christ-esteem. There is a way that our self-esteem and our Christ-esteem are mutually exclusive. But, as Piper explains so well, there is a way that they are not. The only way that they are not mutually exclusive is if our hearts sing in tandem with John the Baptist when he cries out "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Romans 12:3

In choosing faith as the measure of the new self, Paul is choosing an absolutely unique act of the new mind. What is the essence of faith? Faith is looking away from ourselves to another. Faith is total dependence on another. When faith stands in front of a mirror, the mirror becomes a window with the glory of Christ on the other side. Faith looks to Christ and enjoys him as the sum and judge of all that is true and good and right and beautiful and valuable and satisfying.

So what Paul is saying is that the essence of the new Christian mind is that we see and savor—we behold and we embrace—Jesus Christ and not ourselves as the supreme truth and supreme treasure in the universe.

Do you see the astonishing thing that Paul is doing here? As he watches people puff themselves up, thinking of themselves too highly, he says, Here is how to think soberly about yourself: Make faith the measure of your mind. Make faith the measure of your heart, your life. And so he turns self-exaltation upside down. He says, Do you want to have significance? Then look to Christ as infinitely significant. Do you want to have value? Then look to Christ as infinitely valuable. Do you want to want to have esteem? Then look to Christ as worthy of infinite esteem.

Don’t make mistake here. I am not saying what so much contemporary Christian Popular Psychology says. I am not saying: Do you want to have significance? Then look to Christ as a means to your significance. I am not saying: Do you want to have value? Then look to Christ as the one who gives you value. I am not saying: Do you want to have esteem? Then look to Christ as the means of your esteem. I am not saying that in the renewed mind Christ is a means to the goal of your significance and esteem and value. I am saying: you were made to embrace him as infinitely significant and infinitely valuable and infinitely worthy of esteem. That is what the renewed mind does and loves to do. That is the deepest identity of the new mind.

I’ll say it again: Do you want to have significance? Then embrace Christ as the one who is infinitely significant to you. Do you want to have value? Then embrace Christ as infinitely valuable. Do you want to want to have esteem? Then embrace Christ as worthy of infinite esteem.

Our faith in Christ is the measure of our significance and value and esteem, because faith means looking away from ourselves to Christ and embracing him as the all-satisfying embodiment of all that is significant and valuable and worthy of esteem. The measure of our new self in Christ—the renewed mind—is the degree to which we look away from ourselves to Christ as our truth and treasure.

If Christ is more to you, you are more. If Christ is less to you, you are less. Your measure rises and falls with your measure of him. Your valuing him is the value that you have. Your esteeming him is the esteem that you have. Your treasuring him is the treasure that you are.

Read/watch/listen to the entire sermon.

Oh the wonders of being "in Christ"! I am learning more and more by experience why the apostle Paul could never grow weary of meditating on this glorious truth. We're one with Him: Sinless! Crucified! Resurrected! Righteous! Beloved! Heirs! Oh that He would be more to us for the sake of our own eternal joy and His everlasting glory! What an irony there is in our quest for self-esteem! The way up is for us to go down.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

John Piper Confesses His Heart ...

... and mine.

I love John Piper. I don't say that lightly like "I love apple pie." There is no other preacher I've ever heard that speaks to my heart more than him. Not even close. And I'm coming to realize that it's because God has built us in so many of the same ways. Intense, earnest, sober, dogmatic, black and white, introverted, introspective, hedonistic, emotional, serious thinker. Just to name a few. So almost every time I read something he writes or hear something he says, my heart is so closely in tune with his. We're on almost exactly the same wavelength. So many of his struggles are exactly my struggles. From the 2009 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, this is perhaps the best ten minutes of Piper I've ever heard. But it's not for any of the reasons you would probably think if I were to tell you that without saying anything else.

Watch or listen to the entire session.

Thank You, Father, for this deeply flawed saint who has been my surest guide, under Jesus, on the narrow path to glory.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Coming Soon: Resolved 2009

Desiring God Conference For Pastors 2009

Last week I had the sweet privilege of attending the Desiring God Conference for Pastors in Minneapolis. I loved every minute of it except for the single degree (and at times sub zero) temperatures. And that's in Fahrenheit! I lived in Massachusetts for two years when I was in high school and it snowed alot there but I don't remember it ever being that cold! Bless your soul, John Piper, and all you Minnesota natives.

In any case, I had hoped to blog each of the sessions but I was only able to do a recap of the first one because, well, I decided not to bring my computer to the sessions and I was too tired on the second day to recap all the messages in any detail. This conference was encouraging and challenging at the same time. I highly recommend Mark Dever's (the keynote speaker, pictured below) first and second messages. Though this was a pastors conference and all the other messages were specifically directed at pastors, I think these messages are highly helpful and relevant for every believer who wants to grow in faithful gospel witness.

I think perhaps the best moment of the conference for me was the Q&A to conclude the conference, which included questions directed at all the speakers. The last question, answered by John Piper, was perhaps the best five minutes of John Piper I've ever heard. But I promise you that it's not for any of the reasons you would think. If I find the footage, I'll post it. Until then, you're going to have to wait. Otherwise go watch the whole Q&A for yourself. =)

Thank you for your prayers!

Session 1: Mark Dever

This conference is about evangelism, which means it’s about sharing the gospel. But before we can talk about sharing the gospel, Dever wants to make sure that we all mean the same thing when we say gospel. So instead of making any assumptions, he began by defining what the gospel is from the Scriptures. We’ve probably all heard it before but if we have been saved by this gospel then we should ever be delighted to be reminded of what God has done for us in Christ. In fact, part of the way that we become more effective in sharing the gospel is by meditating on it again and again, telling ourselves this great story again and again, so that we are increasingly able to draw out how it applies to all the situations of our lives, so that we are increasingly able to relate any conversation we have with non-believers to this glorious gospel of our salvation.

The gospel begins with God as Creator with rights to all of His creation. And we have rebelled against our Creator. When God created us, He had pleasure in us and it was right for Him to have pleasure in us. When we rebelled against Him, God condemned us and it was right for Him to condemn us. God is righteous and holy and everything He does is right.

The gospel is a storyline that’s unfolding in four phases: creation, fall, redemption, consummation. It is global and all-encompassing in its scope. When Adam fell, the whole creation was cursed and subjected to futility. But God is making all things new and when He completes this renewal, there will be a new heaven and earth that has been completely redeemed from the Fall.

But this big picture storyline by itself doesn’t do anyone any good. To tell someone the gospel in that way is to leave them as a small child with his face pressed up against the glass of a candy store. This big picture doesn’t do anyone any good if we don’t tell individuals how it applies to them. We must tell individuals why this gospel is good news for them as individual, and this good news for individuals is that Jesus has come to save individual sinners from the wrath of God that is rightly against them.

We must remember that there is no way to tell the gospel without offending the person we are evangelizing. If there is nothing offensive in what we say, we are doing something wrong. There is no pain-free way to share the gospel, though we aren’t to go around needlessly offending (and there are many ways we can do this). We must emphasize that the gospel isn’t mainly about how there is something wrong with the way they see the world but rather the gospel is mainly about how there is something wrong with the way God sees them and they need to be made right with Him, in His eyes! We are sent as heralds to proclaim a message!

Dever shared three reasons why we should evangelize:

1) We are commanded to. This is clear in the New Testament. This is what the Great Commission is about. It doesn’t matter whether we feel like doing it or not. If we don’t feel like doing it, we should work on our affections. But we shouldn’t wait until we feel like doing evangelism to start doing it. We should obey God, and work on our feelings as we do so.

2) We should do it out of love for the lost. Dever dwelt on this point for a while. Do we really understand what it means that people are lost? I think this was the part of his message that I appreciated most. He spoke at length about hell and how horrible it is, how he can’t even find the words to describe the torment that non-believers will be subjected to apart from embracing Christ in the gospel. We don’t make the gospel more attractive to non-believers by diminishing the painful reality of hell. All we are doing is giving them every reason to persist in their unbelief because we are taking away the very thing that the gospel rescues them from, the very thing that is meant to cause them to flee to the gospel! If we really believe in the God who has saved us through the gospel, then we must believe what His Word teaches about hell and that everyone who doesn’t embrace Christ is going to perish there forever! And if we love people, we will labor tirelessly to rescue them from this end.

3) We should do it out of love for God. Above all, we do evangelism for the glory of God. We do it because we love God and we love to tell the truth about who He truly is so that others can see Him and love Him for who He truly is. This is the one way that we are able to glorify God in this life that we will not be able to glorify God in heaven.