The Greatest Salvation Imaginable

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…” ~ Jeremiah 31:31

God is just and holy and separated from sinners like us. This is our main problem at Christmas and every other season. How shall we get right with a just and holy God?

Nevertheless, God is merciful and has promised in Jeremiah 31 (five hundred years before Christ) that someday he would do something new. He would replace shadows with the Reality of the Messiah. And he would powerfully move into our lives and write His will on our hearts so that we are not constrained from outside but are willing from inside to love Him and trust him and follow Him.

That would be the greatest salvation imaginable–if God should offer us the greatest Reality in the universe to enjoy and then move in us to see to it that we could enjoy it with the greatest freedom and joy possible. That would be a Christmas gift worth singing about.That is, in fact, what he promised. But there was a huge obstacle. Our sin. Our separation from God because of our unrighteousness.

How shall a holy and just God treat us sinners with so much kindness as to give us the greatest Reality in the universe (his Son) to enjoy with the greatest joy possible?

The answer is that God put our sins on His Son, and judged them there, so that He could put them out of His mind, and deal with us mercifully and remain just and holy at the same time. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ was offered once to beat the sins of many.”

Christ bore our sins in His own body when He died. He took our judgment. He canceled our guilt. And that means the sins are gone. They do not remain in God’s mind as a basis for condemnation. In that sense, he “forgets” them. They are consumed in the death of Christ.

Which means that God is now free, in His justice, to lavish us with the new covenant. He gives us Christ, the greatest Reality in the universe, for our enjoyment. And He writes His own will–His own heart–on our hearts so that we can love Christ and trust Christ and follow Christ from the inside out, with freedom and joy.

Excerpted from John Piper’s Advent Devotional “Good News of Great Joy”

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Prepare the Way

“He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16-17)

What John the Baptist did for Israel, Advent can do for us. Don’t let Christmas find you unprepared. I mean spiritually unprepared. Its joy and impact will be so much greater if you are ready!

That you might be prepared…

First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior. Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior. Let these short Advent meditations help awaken in you a bittersweet sense of need for the Savior.

Second, engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24) Let every heart prepare him room… by cleaning house.

Third, build God-centered anticipation and expectancy and excitement into your home–especially for the children. If you are excited about Christ, they will be too. If you can only make Christmas exciting with material things, how will the children get a thirst for God? Bend the efforts of your imagination to make the wonder of the King’s arrival visible for the children.

Fourth, be much in the Scriptures, and memorize the great passages! “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!” (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather ’round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.

This passage is excerpted from John Piper’s Advent Devotional available for free here: http://ow.ly/fLqnw

Praying for Your Straying Soul

Do you pray for your straying soul?

I do. Daily.

The soul is always in motion. If you think yours is motionless, you are probably floating downstream.

Daily the soul is lured to other treasures, other satisfactions, other rewards besides Jesus and his way. Jesus taught us to pray daily, “forgive us for these wanderings and lead us not into, but out of, them.”

So, how do you pray for your straying soul if you believe in God’s sovereign will to bring back his wayward ones? For many years I have taken my cue from Jeremiah 31:18.

You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; cause me to return and I will return, for you are the Lord, my God.

Similarly, Lamentations 5:21.

Cause us to return to yourself, O Lord, and we will return! Renew our days as of old.

These are my translations to make clear that the same Hebrew word is behind both verbs: “Cause me to return.” And “I will return.” The first one is the causal form of the verb, while the second one is the declarative form. If God causes me to return, I will return.

That is the way I believe. And that is the way I pray. I invite you to join me. This is how perseverance happens.

Originally Posted by John Piper here: http://ow.ly/dwWNG

Summers Are For Seeking Christ

Every season is God’s season, but summer has a special power.

Jesus Christ is refreshing, but flight from him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched. At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word, but then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit.

Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel. God made summer as a foretaste of heaven, not a substitute. If the mailman brings you a love letter from your fiancé, don’t fall in love with the mailman. That’s what summer is: God’s messenger with a sun-soaked, tree-green, flower-blooming, lake-glistening letter of love to show us what he is planning for us in the age to come — “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Don’t fall in love with the video preview and find yourself unable to love the coming reality.

Jesus Christ is the refreshing center of summer. He is preeminent in all things (Colossians 1:18), including vacations, picnics, softball, long walks, and cookouts. He invites us in the summer: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This is serious summer refreshment.

Do we want it? That is the question.

Christ gives himself to us in proportion to how much we want his refreshment. “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, RSV). One of the reasons to give the Lord special attention in the summer is to say to him, “We want all your refreshment. We really want it.”

Excerpted from John Piper’s Setting Our Minds on Things Above in Summer” (May 31, 1995)

That I May Know Him

(7) But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (8) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—(10) that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (11) that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

This verse brings me great joy and great confidence. I’m not sure if any other set of verses in the Bible provides much more confidence than this one does for me. The power in which Paul proclaims these truths in these verses is astounding, and the sheer Gospel-centrality of them is enough to bring me to my knees before a Holy God. But not only is He a Holy God, He’s MY God. And Ephesians 1 says that God has chosen me, and all those who profess faith in Him, for adoption as sons. We, an evil (Genesis 6:5), wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), idolatrous (Romans 1:22-25), lying (Romans 3:4), adulterous (James 4:4, Matthew 5:28), greedy (Matthew 23:25) people are brought near to God, through Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16), and proclaimed clean (1 John 1:7), righteous (Romans 3:22), holy (Hebrews 10:10), blameless (Ephesians 1:4), and empowered by God Himself (1 John 4:15).

Romans 3:10-12 says that no one is righteous, and yet Christ died to reconcile us to God (Ephesians 2:16, Colossians 1:20).

Do you feel the weight of this? It’s not that we were so lovable that Christ came and cuddled with us because we were so cute. Christ came to reconcile us, despite us, and this should lead us to deep gratitude and worship.

Paul says above in verse 8 that every gain he had (which, by the way, was a lot) he counted as nothing for the sake of knowing Christ. He even says later in the verse that he considers it rubbish when compared to Christ! Matt Chandler paints this picture well. He talks about how we so eagerly go after the next big thing–that new TV, the new car, the next iPhone–and how all of the things we spend so much time pursuing ends up being “stuff of future garage sales, dumps, and storage units.”

Let us have a unity of focus like Paul does in this passage in Ephesians. Verses 8-10 show the heart of it when it illustrates why he counts all things as loss compared to Christ: “in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… that I may Him and the power of His resurrection.”

At the end of the day we want Christ. Our pursuit is Christ. Our longing is for Christ. And our passions in life should all center back on glorifying, and making much of, Christ. David Platt says that Christians are a people “conquered by a superior affection” and for me, I pray that those words may be said about me. I want to be consumed in the making much of God.

May we all feel the weight of this, and may this be just what we needed to hear tonight. This Gospel is more than any of us deserve, and better than anything we can ever attain, but the glorious truth is that it is freely offered to us. May we praise God with everything within us and have this be the foundation of everything we do. I want to live to make much of God and I pray that you will join me in this.