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By John Piper — 5 months ago
What is Look at the Book?
You look at a Bible text on the screen. You listen to John Piper. You watch his pen “draw out” meaning. You see for yourself whether the meaning is really there. And (we pray!) all that God is for you in Christ explodes with faith, and joy, and love.
By Kristen Wetherell — 5 months ago
A pyrophobic firefighter. A book-averse librarian. A doctor who is grossed out by germs. We shake our heads at the thought of these living, breathing oxymorons. If such workers exist (and they just well might), we would think them comical at best and hypocritical at worst.
Conceited mothers are no different.
By its very nature, motherhood is humbling work. From the moment of her child’s conception, a woman willingly opens her womb for the ministry of hospitality. She welcomes new life by giving her body as a sacrifice, laying down her comfort and pre-baby body on the maternal altar of love.
After intense pains bring forth her child, a mother’s labor has only just begun. Moment by moment, day by day, over many years, she assumes the role of a servant leader, laying herself down for the good of her kids.
Yes, motherhood is humbling work. And that makes conceited motherhood a sad contradiction.
War Against Conceit
We moms know this, and yet we still wage war against selfishness. Most mornings, I have to verbally remind myself before my two little kids come downstairs, “They are not here to help you. You are here to help them.” For those of us who love Christ and long to be more like him, our struggle with sin remains — but thank God there is a struggle! Our fight against it offers good evidence that we are truly alive in Christ. He has changed our hearts and given us the desire to be humble as he is humble:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3–8)
“To be a humble mom is to look increasingly like Jesus as we look increasingly to Jesus.”
Jesus Christ is the most humble human who has ever lived. So, to be a humble mom — a mom who fights against “selfish ambition or conceit,” and therefore a mom in the truest, God-given sense of the word — is to look increasingly like Jesus as we look increasingly to Jesus. Only as we realize that he lives to serve his people (us!) will we fight the temptation toward selfishness and long for a heart that looks like his.
Because knowing and loving him is more satisfying than anything we could gain by sin.
Three Temptations We Face
Let’s identify now three ways that selfish ambition and conceit tempt mothers like you and me, following Paul’s flow of thought in the passage above. Then we will counter each of these temptations with a lingering look at Jesus, the holy and humble Son of God, who alone can deliver us from self and clothe us in his humility.
Temptation 1: Count Yourself More Significant Than Your Kids
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
You know the thought: This work — whether diaper changing, mess cleaning, snack making, or repeating myself a hundred times — is below me. I am too good for this. We may not say these words, but many of us think or feel them. Motherhood involves repetitive, simple, lowly work toward little ones, and so it’s easy to think we are too important for it.
Eve’s original temptation from the garden is ours: we want to be like God. And yet, in our pride, we don’t realize how low our God has stooped to serve sinners like us.
We may think we have good reasons for struggling to serve, but if anyone actually does, it would be the Son of God. And yet, nothing kept him from stooping to help us:
Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6–7)
This is astounding. The Son of God left his high position in heaven and made his home in the dust of earth. He left his unseen form as God of the universe and confined himself to a human body and soul. He left the glory he had known for all eternity to walk among sinful and murderous people.
“In our motherly pride, we may want to be like God — but the truth is, our God has become like us.”
In our motherly pride, we may want to be like God — but the truth is, our God has become like us. He wrapped himself in human flesh to deliver us from our sinful flesh, from the selfishness and conceit that would keep us from being faithful mothers who willingly lower ourselves to serve our kids, counting it our joy and privilege to do so. Only as we gaze upon the incarnate humility of Jesus will our definition of significance be altered, for his stooping posture of service is the perfect picture of greatness (Matthew 23:11). With all our hearts, we confess our pride and ask him to empty us of our former selves, filling us instead with Spirit-given joy in taking the posture of a servant (John 13:14).
Temptation 2: Look Only to Your Own Interests
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Every mom knows how often plans change. And this is humbling. As we realize that we are not God, that our future is not in our control, and that only he knows what’s next, we are confronted with how tightly we hold to our own interests. We’re made aware of our vice grip on our circumstances. We think, This wasn’t my plan. We need to spend precious naptime minutes disciplining our child instead of resting; we must cancel our long-awaited vacation because everyone has the flu; our dream of motherhood is thwarted by a life-altering diagnosis in one of our children.
The question for us is, How will we respond to God when plans change? In pride, or in humility?
During his earthly ministry, Jesus’s posture was to joyfully humble himself to the will of his Father. Even as he sought rest, solitude, and prayer after a busy season of ministering, he found himself confronted by needy crowds (sound familiar?). And what was his response? He was not annoyed or angry, but “he had compassion on them,” for he knew that these people were sent to him straight from his Father (Matthew 14:13–21).
He looked not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others, and ultimately to the interests of his Father.
The ultimate display of his obedience to the Father was the cross: “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). The sinless one took on our sin, bearing the full weight of God’s wrath in our place. What matchless obedience! And this, so we also would joyfully humble ourselves before God and obey his will, looking to his interests and the interests of others above our own.
This is freedom, momma. To be released from the tyranny and fallenness of self into the perfect ways and infinitely wise agenda of God as we serve our kids — this is the truest life, and true, humble motherhood.
Temptation 3: Forget Who You Are in Christ
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
What mind does Paul call us to have? A humble one. A Christlike one. But lest we get discouraged by our remaining selfishness, by how far we still feel from Jesus’s humility, Paul reminds us of a vital reality: our union with Christ. “Which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Mom, you no longer belong to yourself. If you have trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then you have been united to him in saving faith. This means that you have an unshakable security in Christ that no bad day of motherhood can undo. It means you are not left to your own resources as you fight selfishness, but have his Spirit of humility dwelling within you. It means that sin is no longer your master; Jesus is.
So when you are tempted to forget who you are in Christ — when the pull toward lofty pride or your own interests feels too strong; when you would rather scoff at your kid’s mess than clean it up (again); when you “just want to be done,” but the needs keep rolling in — remember that the living Savior lives in you. The exalted one, seated at the Father’s right hand, has made his home within you by his Spirit. You are Christ’s, he is yours, and he joyfully gives himself, without restraint, to you.
You are united to the God of all creation, who emptied himself to serve you to the point of death, and all the way through it to resurrection life. And if this perfectly humble God is on your side, momma, what conceit or selfishness can stand against you?
By Michael A.G. Haykin — 3 months ago
“May these precious seasons make me fruitful.” These words, found in the diary of a certain Isaac Staveley, who worked as a clerk for coal merchants in London during the 1770s, were written after he had celebrated the Lord’s Supper with his church, Eagle Street Baptist Church, in 1771.
In the rest of this diary, Staveley makes it evident that the celebration of the death of the Christ at the Table was a highlight of his Christian life. In the evening of March 3, he recorded that he and fellow members “came around the table of our dear dying Lord to feast on the sacrifice of his offered body, show his death afresh, to claim and recognise our interest therein, to feast on the sacrifice of his offered body as happy members of the same family of faith and love.” How many today view the Table this way?
Packed into these few words, Staveley reveals his conviction that the Lord’s Supper was a place of communion — communion with Christ and with his people. It was a place of spiritual nurture and of witness. And it was a place of rededication, both to Christ and to his church family.1
Unprized Means of Grace
I suspect that Staveley’s words sound strange to the ears of many modern evangelicals, who might think they are reading the diary of a Roman Catholic or High Anglican, not that of a fellow Reformed evangelical from the eighteenth century. Indeed, the oddity of Staveley’s words to the ears of evangelicals today reveals how much we have lost over the last two centuries. We are out of touch with a tradition that highly prized the ordinances as vehicles of spiritual grace.
“We are out of touch with a tradition that highly prized the ordinances as vehicles of spiritual grace.”
It is not simply that we have come to use mainly the word ordinance for the Lord’s Supper and baptism, rather than the word sacrament, whereas many Baptists like Staveley would have been quite comfortable with the latter term in the eighteenth century. Rather, under the impress of the rationalistic mindset of Western culture, we have lost a sense of mystery about the dynamics of the Table.
John Calvin (1509–1564), who stands at the fountainhead of the tradition of which Staveley was a part, was quite content to leave it as a mystery as to how the emblems of bread and wine are employed by the Holy Spirit to make Christ present at the celebration of his Supper. And roughly down until the opening of the nineteenth century, anglophone evangelicals followed in his stead, treasuring the presence of Christ at the Table without feeling pressured to explain exactly how this worked.
Diluting the Wine
How did this understanding of the Lord’s Supper lose its way?
During the nineteenth century, church services became primarily places of evangelism. But the Lord’s Table was not a converting ordinance, and thus great evangelistic preachers like Alexander Maclaren (1826–1910) — though not C.H. Spurgeon (1834–1892), it needs to be noted — came to regard the Table as a rite of little import in the Christian life. The emergence of the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church — with men like John Henry Newman (1801–1890) and John Keble (1792–1866), who revived the doctrine of transubstantiation — also served to push evangelicals toward downplaying the importance of the Lord’s Supper.
Finally, the revivalist nature of much of evangelical life in the nineteenth century, shaped as it was by altar-call preachers like Charles Finney (1792–1875), Phoebe Palmer (1807–1874) and D.L. Moody (1837–1899), served as another key factor that led to the loss of a richer view of the Lord’s Supper. Indeed, for some, the altar call became an alternate ordinance/sacrament (in fact, Finney posited it as such, as part of his so-called “new measures”). Rather than the Table being the place where sinners met with God and heard reassuring words about the saving work of Christ that dealt definitively with their sins (making the Table a place of rededication), it was the altar call that came to function as such.
Retrieving the Old Tradition
These events in the nineteenth century reveal how we came to the point where the Table is no longer a significant part of the spiritual life of many evangelical churches. Yet how desperately we need to confess our sins together with God’s people and hear afresh, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In the busyness of Western culture, and even church life, do we not long for an oasis of quiet, where we can commune with Christ by his Spirit with our brothers and sisters? Indeed, I would say, with Calvin and Spurgeon, that this needs to happen on a weekly basis (but be that as it may).
“Do we not long for an oasis of quiet, where we can commune with Christ by his Spirit with our brothers and sisters?”
One of the richest texts from our past as evangelicals is the Second London Confession of Faith (1677/1688), which was drawn up by the English and Welsh Particular Baptist community and was based on the Presbyterian Westminster Confession (1646) and the Congregationalist Savoy Declaration (1659). This confession not only served as the main confessional text of the Particular Baptists in England, Wales, and Ireland into the nineteenth century, but it was also adopted by the oldest Baptist associations in America, where it became known as the Philadelphia Confession (in the north) and the Charleston Confession (in the south). Indeed, it was the Charleston Confession that was used to draw up the confession of faith — the Abstract of Principles — of the seminary where I serve, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
In Chapter 30.1 of this Baptist confession, it is stated,
The Supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and shewing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe unto him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other.
Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper for five reasons, according to this paragraph. The Supper serves as a vivid reminder of and witness to the sacrificial death of Christ. Then, participation in the Lord’s Supper enables believers to grasp more firmly all that Christ has done for them through his death on the cross. In this way, the Lord’s Supper is a means of spiritual nourishment and growth. Fourth, the Lord’s Supper serves as a time when believers recommit themselves to Christ. Finally, the Lord’s Supper affirms the indissoluble union that exists, on the one hand, between Christ and believers, and, on the other, between individual believers.
Rich Means of Grace
One cannot come away from reading these paragraphs on the Lord’s Supper without the conviction that those who issued this confession were deeply conscious of the importance of the Lord’s Supper for the Christian life.
The London Baptist preacher Benjamin Keach (1640–1704), who signed this confession, speaks for his fellow Baptists when he states, probably with reference to the Quakers, who had discarded the observance of both baptism and the Lord’s Supper,
Some men boast of the Spirit, and conclude they have the Spirit, and none but they, and yet at the same time cry down and vilify his blessed ordinances and institutions, which he hath left in his Word, carefully to be observed and kept. . . . The Spirit hath its bounds, and always run[s] in its spiritual channel, namely the Word and ordinances.2
In other words, the Spirit uses the Scriptures, the word of God, and baptism and the Lord’s Supper to strengthen his people on their spiritual pilgrimage in this world.
In this hearty appreciation of the Lord’s Supper, these early Baptists were firmly in the mainstream of Puritan thought. The Puritans generally regarded the Supper as a vehicle that the Spirit employed as an efficacious means of grace for the believer. The seventeenth-century Baptists and their heirs in the eighteenth century, like Isaac Staveley, would have judged the memorial view of the Lord’s Supper — the dominant view among today’s evangelicals — as far too mean a perspective on what was for them such a rich means of grace.
Indeed, in seeking to articulate a richer and more biblical view of the Lord’s Table, contemporary evangelicals may do no better than to listen afresh to what is written in chapter 30 of the Second London Confession.