Piper sermon

[I started this post over a week ago, but haven’t had time finish it off until now…]

Recently I read and then listened to this sermon by John Piper. If you have the time, listen to the message as well – things come across in the audio that aren’t there in the written sermon. (And only the audio mentions Calvinism, Ben 🙂 )

Here’s the text:

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 1 Peter 2:1-3

The sermon is a great encouragement to combat what he calls “spiritual fatalism”:

[T]he belief or feeling that you are stuck with the way you are—”this is all I will ever experience of God—the level of spiritual intensity that I now have is all I can have; others may have strong desires after God and may have deep experiences of personal pleasure in God, but I will never have those because . . . well, just because . . . I am not like that. That’s not me.”

Continuing with a fantastic simile:

Spiritual fatalism is tragic in the church. It leaves people stuck. It takes away hopes and dreams of change and growth. It squashes the excitement of living—which is growth. It’s like saying to a gawky little girl who feels like her body is all out of proportion: well that’s the way you are, and you will always be that way, when in fact she is meant to grow and change. That would be tragic to convince her of a kind of physical fatalism—that her growth is stopped right there at 13. So it is with the spirit. Only spiritual fatalism is much worse. Because greater things are at stake, and because we never do get to a point where we’ve arrived at the final stature like we do in our physical bodies.

He quotes this wonderful poem by John Bunyan:

Run, John, run, the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands,
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

About which he says:

What this says is that just as essential as having the desires for the Word that we are supposed to have is having the trust in God that he gives what he commands. If God says to desire, when we don’t desire, then we trust him that he must know something we don’t know. He must have some power we don’t have. There must be a way. That’s the opposite of spiritual fatalism. God commands it. So there must be a way. I will not settle for less than what God commands, even if it is a command to fly.

Piper goes on to open up the scope of his examination to the context of the text and that it is the *same power* behind the new birth of the believer which is the basis for the creation of desire in the heart of a believer who doesn’t feel that desire. He also covers the “destructive side” of the Word of God, as described in verse 1 of the text – for we must get fight also on the negative side to rid ourselves of malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. We must pursue both in order to “experience all of God”.

I hope you get as much out of the message as I did!

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2 Comments

  1. “Spiritual Fatalism”: there’s a counterpoint to this, though, that Piper and Co. don’t acknowledge.

    1) People do have different personalities, and their relationship with God will be expressed in different ways because of it. These quotes make it sound like Piper wants everyone to be exactly like him: perpetually excited, amped up and energetic about theology. I don’t think that God wants that for everyone; and though in Piper’s case it’s most likely the result of a transformed life, a transformed life does not consist in these things. Just like tongues are secondary to prophecy, Piper’s “spiritual joy / experience” (I don’t think his concept corresponds exactly to the word used in the NT) should be secondary to sanctification, the gradual process of becoming more like Christ.

    2) Being amped up about spirituality and having a deep experience of God is not necessarily normative. Certainly we ought to be experiencing God, but God has a purpose for these experiences beyond “magical zen joy” … He wants to transform us. So, because of this, we face suffering, trials, and discipline which at the time will not seem pleasant. When we are called to “count it all joy” I don’t think this discounts the myriad examples of people of faith recorded in the Bible who at times doubted and questioned where God was going. Even Christ himself does not run to the cross with gleeful abandon, but rather says, “Thy Will be done.”

    Piper seems to be making the assumption that greater maturity in Christ will always result in his style of “Christian hedonism” … in fact, I’ve heard him say as much, literally: “Christian hedonism isn’t just an interesting idea, it’s a command!” I would affirm that all people have the possibility for growth if they will turn their hearts toward God and seek Him while He may be found, but I would guess that will be expressed in many different ways.

  2. Thanks for the heads up Lee. This was a helpful message.


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