Paul's Passing Thoughts

Clay Pots Can Know Truth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on February 21, 2017

Originally published April 11, 2016

Even though my wife and I left the institutional church for good almost 2 years ago, there are still times where I must make the obligatory visit. Going in to visit family is one of those times. I am thankful that the church in which my wife grew up is not steeped in the vileness of Calvinism. Nevertheless, Protestant orthodoxy runs far and wide. Needless to say, as a graduate of the Christian school she attended for 13 years she has nurtured many close relationships with those who were her teachers and peers. So for us the visit is merely a social call and not for purposes of “worship”. Not being a particularly “social” person myself (I am an introvert by nature, and social events suck the life force out of me) I suffer the preaching while reminding myself that it will all be over soon.

Such was the case last weekend as I found myself once again sitting in an adult Sunday School class led by a layman of the church who is without a doubt kind-hearted and well-meaning, but who knows no other way to interpret the Scriptures than what he has been taught all his life. This particular class is right now making its way through the book of 2 Corinthians. The week we were there they were up to chapter 4. Take a look particularly at verses 6 and 7.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

If we are good Protestants, we will look at these verses and see that clearly, this passage is drawing a contrast between our weakness as fragile clay pots and the power of God, right? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And if you have been a reader of PPT for any time, what should be obvious to you are the Protestant talking points and root assumptions: man has no ability, even the saints; there is nothing good in us; we are just worthless clay pots; any good we do is simply Christ doing it through us.

Now don’t get me wrong here, aside from the assumptions of total inability and the idea of the subjectivity of objective good works being performed outside of us, we can acknowledge that God does help us through His spirit. That in and of itself would not necessarily be a wrong application to make, but in the context of this passage it is a novice approach at best. The importance of understanding scripture in the correct historical context cannot be over emphasized. And these were my exact thoughts as I sat there squirming in my pew. There is so much richness to this passage that is being lost simply because people are conditioned to faulty interpretive assumptions.

With what premise then should we begin? First, let us understand that the dominant philosophy of the 1st century was a Platonic gnosticism which was nothing more than yet one more manifestation of the dualism that had dominated all philosophy in man’s attempt to explain the world since perhaps the beginning of time (I suggest you read the transcripts from John Immel’s 2013 TANC Conference sessions if you think that’s an over-generalization).

For the most part, Gnosticism can be summed up like this. Spirit is good and flesh (the physical) is evil. Objective truth can only be found in the spiritual realm. Since man is part of the physical realm, he has no access to objective truth (the “gnosis”). The only way that man can know truth is for a select few to bring it to them. These select few are the Philosopher Kings. They are the pre-ordained ones who have been given the “gnosis” by the “divines”. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that these “mediators” then are the only ones who have the right to rule the masses by virtue of the fact that they are the only ones who can know truth. This is the root system of thought behind ALL tyrannical systems, both political AND religious, for centuries!

Having this as a basis for our study, let us now consider chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians. Verses 1 through 7 present an exercise in rhetoric though a series of contrasting hypothetical assumptions for the purpose of presenting an argument. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

This is our first clue that the apostle Paul is offering a refutation of Gnosticism. Key words include “hidden things” and “manifestation of truth”. Understand who the audience is. Paul’s letters to the assemblies were most often written in response to address some issues that had come to his attention. Remember, one tenet of Gnostic philosophy is that truth is hidden and cannot be known. It would appear as if there were false teachers who had brought this Gnostic teaching into the assemblies there in Corinth and were trying to blend it with Christianity. Notice Paul refers to the “hidden things of dishonesty”, “walking in craftiness”, and “handling the word of God dishonestly”. These are all trademarks of Gnosticism. These false teachers were twisting the word of God to fit their Gnostic orthodoxy, all the while stating that the reason it was true was because these things were “hidden” from the masses and only they were qualified to bring it to them, and they used scripture to support their views.

What is Paul’s contrasting argument?

“…commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God…”

He left truth up to their conscience. In other words, he expected his listeners to think. Paul said, I don’t want you people just to believe me because I say so. I don’t want you to believe me because I present myself as an authority. I expect you to use the faculties of reason and come to the conclusion on your own if what I preach is true or not.

 Verse 3 is a critical statement.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:3

This is a profound statement regarding the gospel. God did not reveal himself through His word for the purpose of keeping it hidden, revealing it only to a select few. This is a direct assault on Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that truth is hidden from the physical realm. But God said, no, I want you to know truth because you are lost and I want to you be reconciled to Me! That is the gospel- Be reconciled to God! That means that man CAN know truth and DOES have access to it. Paul said what we preach is not some hidden truth because that would be counter-productive. It would be antithetical to God’s purpose for the doctrine. That is what distinguishes what we preach from those Gnostic false teachers.

Verse 5 brings us to yet one more distinguishing characteristic of Gnosticism, and that is a narcissistic self-promotion.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:5

Remember, only a select few were ordained to have access to the “gnosis”. As a result, these individuals felt that they were superior to the ignorant masses, perceiving themselves as having the right to rule over them. If you want to get to heaven, if you want to have salvation, then you do what I say, or else. Notice how the truth then becomes subordinated to authority. Persuasion is not necessary where power is used. The focus shifts from the message to the one delivering it. But Paul said, I don’t come to you with any desire to promote myself. You don’t get to heaven by doing what I tell you to do. You were saved because you were born again when you believed in Jesus Christ!

And that brings us back to the passage we looked at first.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

This is perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Gnosticism. The fact that believers are referred to as “earthen vessels” is a testament to the metaphysical reality of the New Birth. Now granted, the word “earthen” in the Greek does mean a piece of pottery. But that just makes the argument all that more powerful. A clay pot is made from the “earth”. It is a part of the physical realm. To say that something that is part of the physical realm can know truth is a slap in the face to Gnosticism!

And what is the result of that? Paul uses the word translated “excellency”. In the Greek it is the word υπερβολη (hoo-per-bol-lay) from which we get our English word “hyperbole”. Hyperbole is using extremely outrageous statements to make a point. Paul says that the truth of the gospel sounds outrageous, but it can be known because it is reasonable because physical, frail clay pots have the ability to know it. This serves to demonstrate that its power comes directly from God and not from those who would place themselves as mediators between God and man.

Think about that for a moment. The power of the gospel is in its ability to persuade. It isn’t some self-appointed authority who demands compliance through the use of force. It is God who persuades through the preaching of His word. That means man has the ability to reason and understand it. This can lead a man to be persuaded that God is who He says he is. He can be persuaded to choose to forego his present life and put his faith in God and become a born again new creature who is the righteous offspring of God.   For the apostle Paul to declare that our REAL, righteous new-creaturehood is contained in earthly, physical containers is the antithesis of Gnosticism!

Andy

Clay Pots Can Know Truth

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 11, 2016

Even though my wife and I left the institutional church for good almost 2 years ago, there are still times where I must make the obligatory visit. Going in to visit family is one of those times. I am thankful that the church in which my wife grew up is not steeped in the vileness of Calvinism. Nevertheless, Protestant orthodoxy runs far and wide. Needless to say, as a graduate of the Christian school she attended for 13 years she has nurtured many close relationships with those who were her teachers and peers. So for us the visit is merely a social call and not for purposes of “worship”. Not being a particularly “social” person myself (I am an introvert by nature, and social events suck the life force out of me) I suffer the preaching while reminding myself that it will all be over soon.

Such was the case last weekend as I found myself once again sitting in an adult Sunday School class led by a layman of the church who is without a doubt kind-hearted and well-meaning, but who knows no other way to interpret the Scriptures than what he has been taught all his life. This particular class is right now making its way through the book of 2 Corinthians. The week we were there they were up to chapter 4. Take a look particularly at verses 6 and 7.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

If we are good Protestants, we will look at these verses and see that clearly, this passage is drawing a contrast between our weakness as fragile clay pots and the power of God, right? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And if you have been a reader of PPT for any time, what should be obvious to you are the Protestant talking points and root assumptions: man has no ability, even the saints; there is nothing good in us; we are just worthless clay pots; any good we do is simply Christ doing it through us.

Now don’t get me wrong here, aside from the assumptions of total inability and the idea of the subjectivity of objective good works being performed outside of us, we can acknowledge that God does help us through His spirit. That in and of itself would not necessarily be a wrong application to make, but in the context of this passage it is a novice approach at best. The importance of understanding scripture in the correct historical context cannot be over emphasized. And these were my exact thoughts as I sat there squirming in my pew. There is so much richness to this passage that is being lost simply because people are conditioned to faulty interpretive assumptions.

With what premise then should we begin? First, let us understand that the dominant philosophy of the 1st century was a Platonic gnosticism which was nothing more than yet one more manifestation of the dualism that had dominated all philosophy in man’s attempt to explain the world since perhaps the beginning of time (I suggest you watch all 5 of John Immel’s sessions from last year’s 2015 TANC conference if you think that’s an over-generalization).

For the most part, Gnosticism can be summed up like this. Spirit is good and flesh (the physical) is evil. Objective truth can only be found in the spiritual realm. Since man is part of the physical realm, he has no access to objective truth (the “gnosis”). The only way that man can know truth is for a select few to bring it to them. These select few are the Philosopher Kings. They are the pre-ordained ones who have been given the “gnosis” by the “divines”. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that these “mediators” then are the only ones who have the right to rule the masses by virtue of the fact that they are the only ones who can know truth. This is the root system of thought behind ALL tyrannical systems, both political AND religious, for centuries!

Having this as a basis for our study, let us now consider chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians. Verses 1 through 7 present an exercise in rhetoric though a series of contrasting hypothetical assumptions for the purpose of presenting an argument. Let’s look at verses 1 and 2.

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:1-2

This is our first clue that the apostle Paul is offering a refutation of Gnosticism. Key words include “hidden things” and “manifestation of truth”. Understand who the audience is. Paul’s letters to the assemblies were most often written in response to address some issues that had come to his attention. Remember, one tenet of Gnostic philosophy is that truth is hidden and cannot be known. It would appear as if there were false teachers who had brought this Gnostic teaching into the assemblies there in Corinth and were trying to blend it with Christianity. Notice Paul refers to the “hidden things of dishonesty”, “walking in craftiness”, and “handling the word of God dishonestly”. These are all trademarks of Gnosticism. These false teachers were twisting the word of God to fit their Gnostic orthodoxy, all the while stating that the reason it was true was because these things were “hidden” from the masses and only they were qualified to bring it to them, and they used scripture to support their views.

What is Paul’s contrasting argument?

“…commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God…”

He left truth up to their conscience. In other words, he expected his listeners to think. Paul said, I don’t want you people just to believe me because I say so. I don’t want you to believe me because I present myself as an authority. I expect you to use the faculties of reason and come to the conclusion on your own if what I preach is true or not.

 Verse 3 is a critical statement.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:3

This is a profound statement regarding the gospel. God did not reveal himself through His word for the purpose of keeping it hidden, revealing it only to a select few. This is a direct assault on Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that truth is hidden from the physical realm. But God said, no, I want you to know truth because you are lost and I want to you be reconciled to Me! That is the gospel- Be reconciled to God! That means that man CAN know truth and DOES have access to it. Paul said what we preach is not some hidden truth because that would be counter-productive. It would be antithetical to God’s purpose for the doctrine. That is what distinguishes what we preach from those Gnostic false teachers.

Verse 5 brings us to yet one more distinguishing characteristic of Gnosticism, and that is a narcissistic self-promotion.

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:5

Remember, only a select few were ordained to have access to the “gnosis”. As a result, these individuals felt that they were superior to the ignorant masses, perceiving themselves as having the right to rule over them. If you want to get to heaven, if you want to have salvation, then you do what I say, or else. Notice how the truth then becomes subordinated to authority. Persuasion is not necessary where power is used. The focus shifts from the message to the one delivering it. But Paul said, I don’t come to you with any desire to promote myself. You don’t get to heaven by doing what I tell you to do. You were saved because you were born again when you believed in Jesus Christ!

And that brings us back to the passage we looked at first.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

This is perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Gnosticism. The fact that believers are referred to as “earthen vessels” is a testament to the metaphysical reality of the New Birth. Now granted, the word “earthen” in the Greek does mean a piece of pottery. But that just makes the argument all that more powerful. A clay pot is made from the “earth”. It is a part of the physical realm. To say that something that is part of the physical realm can know truth is a slap in the face to Gnosticism!

And what is the result of that? Paul uses the word translated “excellency”. In the Greek it is the word υπερβολη (hoo-per-bol-lay) from which we get our English word “hyperbole”. Hyperbole is using extremely outrageous statements to make a point. Paul says that the truth of the gospel sounds outrageous, but it can be known because it is reasonable because physical, frail clay pots have the ability to know it. This serves to demonstrate that its power comes directly from God and not from those who would place themselves as mediators between God and man.

Think about that for a moment. The power of the gospel is in its ability to persuade. It isn’t some self-appointed authority who demands compliance through the use of force. It is God who persuades through the preaching of His word. That means man has the ability to reason and understand it. This can lead a man to be persuaded that God is who He says he is. He can be persuaded to choose to forego his present life and put his faith in God and become a born again new creature who is the righteous offspring of God.   For the apostle Paul to declare that our REAL, righteous new-creaturehood is contained in earthly, physical containers is the antithesis of Gnosticism!

Andy

Calvinism’s Denial of Scripture, the New Birth, and the Trinity

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on March 4, 2015

PPT HandleOriginally published April 19, 2013

Part and parcel with being a cultist is the ability to communicate your false doctrine in a truthful sounding way. Martin Luther and John Calvin were perhaps the best there has ever been at that.

Volume one of The Truth About New Calvinism sought to primarily do one thing: document the contemporary history of New Calvinism and address some of its doctrinal quirks. New Calvinists claim to have rediscovered the authentic Reformation gospel; I didn’t address that question in volume one because much additional research was required to answer that question. Volume two answers that question, and the answer is “yes.” New Calvinists have the authentic Reformed doctrine down pat, and if not for them, we probably would have never known what the Reformers really believed. I believe John MacArthur has adopted New Calvinism because he was rightfully convinced by John Piper and others that this is what the Reformers believed. In other words, MacArthur’s enamoration with the Reformation motif has led him astray.

What makes Calvinism, the articulation of Lutheranism, so deceptive is the emphasis on two metaphysical realities and the interpretation of all reality through that dualism: our sinfulness and God’s holiness. Much can be written and agreed upon in regard to these two points. So, Sunday after Sunday we hear sermons based on these two biblical concepts only, and probably without much complaint and in many cases much praise.

But this isn’t the full counsel of God, and the overemphasis on these two points and the exclusion of all else eventually leads to the unenviable results. The apostle Paul equated teaching the fullness of God from house to house, night and day with not having the blood of men on his hands.

This brings us to the Emphasis hermeneutic. This is THE Reformation epistemology. This is their key to putting the Bible into use. Luther laid the framework in his Heidelberg Disputation to the Augustine Order and Calvin articulated it in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. In the first sentence of chapter one, Calvin introduces Luther’s dualism, and the rest of the Institutes flow from this concept. All of the Institutes build on the very first sentence that states wisdom is known by knowing us and knowing God more and more. For all practical purposes, the knowledge of good and evil. This is Luther’s Theology of the Cross in his disputation which was written six months after the 95 Theses. The latter was the moral protest; the former is the foundation of Reformation theology. Almost everything that the New Calvinists teach can be found in Luther’s Disputation including John Piper’s Christian Hedonism.

Luther believed that all reality was to be interpreted through the cross story. And by the way, as an aside, this is the first tenet of New Covenant Theology. Luther’s construct was strictly dualist: God’s story, or our story—the cross story or the glory story. A matter of emphasis. Certainly, Luther concurred that many things other than the cross story are TRUE, and to some extent VALUABLE for lesser concerns apart from the Christian faith, but in Luther’s view, any religious matter that distracted from the cross work of Christ diminished God’s glory and in most cases emphasized us instead; i.e., the glory story—our glory, not God’s.

The Emphasis hermeneutic is a Gnostic concept. This shouldn’t surprise us as Augustine’s penchant for Gnosticism is well known and Luther/Calvin were his mentorees. Calvin cites Augustine, on average, every 2.5 pages in the Institutes. Earthly things are a shadow of reality and the “true and the good.” Through education and knowledge one can obtain understanding of the true and the good. In Luther’s construct, Christ was the full representation of the true and the good. Christ is the true and the good; as New Calvinists state it, He is “THE gospel.” The gospel is the true and the good. He is the SUN (Son). The sun/shadows interpretive illustration is key to understanding this Gnostic/Platonist concept.

This interpretive method enables Calvinists to deem many things true, but to the extent that we allow these things to take away from a laser focus on the source of all wisdom and life, THE SUN, sanctification is diminished. Let me repeat that, because it is the crux:

This interpretive method enables Calvinists to deem many things true, but to the extent that we allow these things to take away from a laser focus on the source of all wisdom and life, THE SUN, sanctification is diminished.

The diminishing of sanctification: to the extent that we focus on anything else but Christ and the reason for the cross—our wickedness. The focus must be Christ’s crosswork. EVERYTHING points to Christ and interprets Christ. Anything that is true but doesn’t lead to more understanding of Christ casts a SHADOW on reality and wisdom. It is focusing on the shadow caused by whatever is blocking the Sun/Son. Anything that is not seen in a Chrsitocentric reality “ECLIPSES THE SON/SUN.”

Hence, seeing biblical commands in the Scripture as something we should see and do is the what? The glory story. It’s about “what we do, not what Christ has done”, a favorite New Calvinist truism. Therefore, biblical imperatives are to be seen in their “gospel context” as a standard that Christ kept for us and imputed to our sanctification. The cross story is then lifted up because it shows Christ’s holiness as set against our inability to uphold the law in sanctification.

To do otherwise is to “eclipse the Son.” Once you know how to look for this, you can see it everywhere in the American church. John MacArthur wrote the Forward to the Rick Holland book, “Uneclipsing the Son” in which this Gnostic paradigm is the very theses. In the Forward, MacArthur states in no uncertain terms that to emphasize “ANYTHING” or “ANYONE” other than Christ is to diminish sanctification. “Pastor”  Steve Lawson, in an address at the 2012 Resolved Conference implored young pastors to “come out from the shadows.” Pseudo biblical counselor Michael Emlet framed it as “CrossTalk” in his book that bears that same title. It is a cute play on words that frames any talk other than Christ’s crosswork as crosstalk, a technical communications term that refers to interference from multiple telephone lines transmitting over each other resulting in many jumbled conversations being heard.  In this case, shadows and confusion are the same.

Also, another way that this is framed is in regard to our fruits, or good works. By emphasizing anything we do, we are “making a good thing the best thing” or “making the fruit the root.” In other words, to emphasize fruit obscures the root that gives the tree life: Christ. We should focus on Christ only which results in “transformation.” But “transformation” isn’t personal transformation. If we are transformed, that is the what? Right, the glory story. Here, the Calvinistic lingo is very subtle; instead of us changing via the new creaturehood of the new birth, we are transformed “into the image of Christ.” We don’t change, we experience MANIFESTATIONS.

In the recent 2013 Shepherds’ Conference, MacArthur used John 3:3 to make a case that our good works are like “the wind blowing.” We feel its effects, we see its effects, but of course, we have no control over the wind. Like Luther, and according to authentic Reformed doctrine, MacArthur believes that these experiences of the wind are rebirths experienced by joy. That’s the Reformed definition of the new birth: a joyful experience of the wind accompanied by joy. This is why MacArthur made the absurd statement in the book “Slave” that obedience is never bittersweet, but always sweet. Right, apparently, Abraham was singing praises while on the way to drive a knife through his son.

This doctrine utterly dismisses any and all work, even by Christ, occurring inside the believer. “Faith” is in us, but according to Reformation doctrine, is not a work. Therefore, anything spoken of as being IN US, is actually, BY FAITH. Which is not a work. FAITH is therefore the conduit that makes ALL works taking place outside of us  possible. This is why the doctrine is referred to as “The Centrality of the Objective Gospel Outside of Us.” Anything inside of us is subjective,  or shadowy, because it involves the glory story.

Moreover, the work that we see outside of us is also subjective because it deals with wind-like occurrences. And because we are a “reflector” of the image, it will be difficult to know whether the occurrences are through our “own efforts” or the wind. This is why Luther stated in his Disputation that Christians should not be concerned with works or their manifestations. Even when it is the wind and not us, we “see through a glass dimly” and the wind is using a “dull instrument.” New Calvinists call this, “the subjective power of an objective gospel.” We focus on the objective through gospel contemplationism, and leave the manifestations to Christ. This is why John MacArthur has stated that it is his job to explain the biblical text, and then leave the results to the Spirit.

But even in regard to the Holy Spirit and God the Father, they are seen as members of the Trinity that better define Christ. To do otherwise would be to “eclipse the Son.” Remember, MacArthur said, “anything” or “ANYBODY.” It means just that, and is indicative of a large body of Reformed thought.

This undermines and denies the full counsel of God, the new birth, and the Trinity.

paul

NOTES

Forward to Uneclipsing  the Son by John MacArthur:

As Christians we have one message to declare: “Jesus Christ, and Him  crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). “For we do not preach ourselves but  Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 6:14).

Rick Holland understands that truth. This book is an insightful, convicting reminder that no one and nothing other than Christ deserves to be the central theme of the tidings we as Christians proclaim—not only to one another and to the world, but also in the private meditations of our own hearts.

Christ is the perfect image of God (Hebrews 1); the theme of Scripture (Luke 24); the author of salvation (Hebrews 12:2); the one proper  object of saving faith (Romans 10:9-10); and the goal of our sanctification (Romans 8:2). No wonder Scripture describes the amazing growth-strategy of the early church in these terms: “They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). That is the only blueprint for church ministry that has any sanction from Scripture.

The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock. Second Corinthians 3:18 describes in simple terms how God conforms us to the image of His Son: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (emphasis added). We don’t “see” Christ literally and physically, of course (1 Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.

As believers gaze at the glory of their Lord—looking clearly, enduringly, and deeply into the majesty of His person and work—true sanctification  takes place as the Holy Spirit takes that believer whose heart is fixed on Christ and elevates him from one level of glory to the next. This is the ever-increasing reality of progressive sanctification; it happens not because believers wish it or want it or work for it in their own energy, but because the glory of Christ captures their hearts and minds. We are transformed by that glory and we begin to reflect it more and more brightly the more clearly we see it. That’s why the true heart and soul of every pastor’s duty is pointing the flock to Christ, the Great Shepherd.

After more than four decades of pastoral ministry, I am still constantly amazed at the power of Christ-centered preaching. It’s the reason I love preaching in the gospels. But I discovered long ago that the glory of Christ dominates Romans, Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, Revelation—and the rest of Scripture as well. Focusing on that theme has led my own soul and our congregation to a fuller, richer knowledge of Christ—loving Him, worshipping Him, serving Him and yearning for the day when we shall be like Him, having seen Him in His glory (1 John 3:2).

Our prayer is that of Paul: “that I may know Him!” (Philippians 3:10). The apostle knew Him well as Savior and Lord (having been privileged to be the last person ever to see the resurrected Christ face to face, according to 1 Corinthians 15:8)—but never could Paul plumb the rich, sweet depths of the glories of Christ, the inexhaustible, infinite Treasure. Far from allowing Christ to be eclipsed—even partially—by any other object or affection, every believer should pursue with relentless zeal the “full knowledge of the glory of God” provided by a fervent concentration “on the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The Christian life is Christ—knowing Him in the height and breadth of His revelation, loving Him for the greatness of His grace, obeying Him for the blessing of His promises, worshipping Him for the majesty of His glory, and preaching Him for the honor of His Name: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

No greater subject exists than Jesus Christ—no greater gift can be given than uplifting His glory for another soul to see it and be changed by it. This book will be a wonderful help to anyone who senses the need to orient one’s life and message properly with a Christ-centered focus. It is full of fresh, practical, and memorable spiritual insight that will show you how to remove whatever obstacle is blocking your vision of the Son and allow His light to blind you with joy.

—John MacArthur

Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California

April, 2011

John Piper: Don’t Waste Your Life (pp. 58-59).

The sunbeams of blessing in our lives are bright in and of themselves.  They also give light to the ground where we walk.  But there is a higher purpose for these blessings.  God means for us to do more than stand outside them and admire them for what they are.  Even more, he means for us to walk into them and see the sun from which they come.  If the beams are beautiful, the sun is even more beautiful. God’s aim is not that we merely admire his gifts, but, even more, his glory.

Now the point is that the glory of Christ, manifest especially in his death and resurrection, is the glory above and behind every blessing we enjoy.  He purchased everything that is good for us. His glory is where the quest of our affections must end.  Everything else is a pointer – a parable of this beauty.  When our hearts run back up along the beam of blessing to the source in the blazing glory of the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.

This is no different than the goal of magnifying the glory of God that we saw in Chapter 2. Christ is the glory of God.  His blood-soaked cross is the blazing center of that glory.  By it he bought for us every blessing – temporal an eternal.  And we don’t deserve any.  He bought them all.  Because of Christ’s cross, the wrath of God is taken away.  Because of his cross all guilt is removed, and sins are forgiven, and perfect righteousness is imputed to us, and the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

Therefore every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ – the burning center of the glory of God.  And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life – the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.

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