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Why Won’t You Dance? Following Christ in an Unappeasable WorldBy Greg Morse — 2 years ago
When Jesus analyzed his times, he did not flatter his generation. We can paraphrase him as saying, “Your generation is like a group of spoiled children, expecting the other kids — and their God — to do as they command.”
His actual words:
To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” (Matthew 11:16–17)
That generation played happy music and sad music, and expected the Messiah and John the Baptist to respond appropriately. If the children played the flute, John must tighten his leather belt and dance. If they played a sad song, the Son of God must mourn. They expected compliance to their tune.
More than that, Jesus depicts the people of his day as children who change the rules and move the goalposts. When John did not come eating and drinking, they said he had a demon (Matthew 11:18). When Jesus did come eating and drinking, they called him a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19). Drink or not drink, eat or not eat, those children would not be appeased with anything less than full allegiance.
Is our generation much different today?
Get to Dancing
Today the children still play their music and expect Christ’s people to respond appropriately. “The course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2) still runs against Christ and his gospel, as it has since Adam and Eve first played the serpent’s song in Eden. This generation promotes its own ideals and often is not satisfied until Christians love what it loves and hate what it hates.
The “gender” song plays throughout society:
Boys can be girls, and girls can be boys;We are our maker — our bodies, our toys.
The flute celebrates homosexuality:
It’s brave to be different; it’s okay to be you.Boy and boy, girl and girl? — it’s called “marriage” too.
A dirge plays at the gravesite of masculinity:
While forever grateful, we’ve no need to pretendThat Eve still needs Adam or this world needs men.
Meanwhile, the lament of self-proclaimed victimhood sounds forth:
Racism, sexism, and hidden aggression,Turn left or turn right, all I see is oppression!
And of course, they softly play the soothing abortion lullaby:
It is not a baby — don’t feel any shame.It hasn’t a voice or a smile or a name.
Why So Serious?
The point is not that this world is unbroken by sin — including actual racism, sexism, injustice, and more. Rather, the point is that this generation, in total rebellion to the kingship of Jesus Christ, arrogantly seeks to enforce its view of right and wrong upon his people. The world desires, as it did with the Baptist and the Messiah, our allegiance.
“The children of this generation will not agree to disagree — you must dance; you must mourn.”
The children of this generation will not agree to disagree — you must dance; you must mourn. They check your face for tears and your feet for proper rhythm. If you cry during their cheerful song, you have a demon. If your feet dance to another tune, you are a drunkard, sinner, and glutton. Refuse to consent, and the new powers try to cancel you as a champion of hate. Nonconformity to the world is met with consequences.
Not of this World
Some of us dance and cry with the world too long, it seems to me, out of a mistaken assumption. When they slander and dislike us for following Christ, tender consciences might assume that we are to blame. We weren’t winsome enough when sharing the gospel. It must be our fault somehow. What could we have done differently?
Do we consider that the petulant child will wag its finger, name call, and worse, not necessarily because of a bad decision we made but because of a gracious decision made about us? “If you were of the world,” our Lord tells us, “the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).
Our winsomeness, our cultural relevance, and our trying to disclaim everything to the point of non-offense can’t substitute for dancing. The world will still hate us — or should hate us (John 15:20) — because we aren’t the decisive reason for their hatred; Jesus is. His choosing us out of the world — not our inability to tastefully decline this world — is fundamentally what makes the Christian hated in this life.
Will You Dance?
They will dislike us not fundamentally because of a choice Jesus made, but because of Jesus himself. When we notice the world against us, Jesus would have us know something: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
“A moment will come — if it hasn’t already — where we must decide whom to displease: Christ or this generation.”
The children dislike you because the children dislike Christ. They hate that the King, now risen from the dead, still will not dance or weep on cue. While we continue to grow in our ability to faithfully engage unbelievers, Jesus would have us realize that their frowns and scowls and slanders are strikes at a Christ they can no longer crucify.
Decide now. A moment will come — if it hasn’t already — where we must decide whom to displease: Christ or this generation. Perhaps you’ve already started to nod your head, rock, and sway to the beat.
Listen instead to Christ’s voice. Hear his gospel song calling you home through the wilderness of this world. Resist being swept away with this world: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). And who knows if one of these children might see that piercing light in you (that they’ve been trying to extinguish) and turn in repentance to Christ.
Is God Above Being Grieved? Ephesians 4:30–32, Part 1By John Piper — 1 year ago
John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence.
The Spiritual Power of Staying Put: Why Christians Are Slow to LeaveBy Scott Hubbard — 2 months ago
A friend recently asked whether I saw myself still living in Minneapolis five years from now. I had no compelling reason to say no: no alluring job prospects, no deep stirrings for change, no clear path from here to elsewhere. I had several significant reasons to say yes: we own a home here; our children were born here; I work and pastor here. Still, I hesitated.
Others in my generation probably resonate. Unlike our grandparents (or even our parents), we grew up breathing the air of transience. As young adults, we dwell in tents, not houses, always ready to pull up the stakes, often feeling we are on our way to somewhere that is not here. The idea of settling down for fifty years in the same neighborhood, job, or church can make our clothes feel scratchy. We move among our elders as tumbleweeds through redwoods.
No doubt, there are good and godly reasons to live lightly upon the earth, prepared for God to send us elsewhere. But I wonder how often we are blown less by the wind of the Spirit and more by the wind of our endlessly unsettled age. I wonder too how a renewed mind, rooted more deeply in God’s word, might discern the spiritual wisdom of staying put.
Tumbleweeds and Trees
As we consider what Scripture has to say to our more mobile age, we do well to remember that its books were not written to people who owned cars, who bought plane tickets, who crossed countries and continents with ease. Most ancient Jews and early Christians stayed put because they had to. That’s simply what (almost) everyone did.
We also do well to recognize that Scripture often holds in high regard those who do leave home. The word go marks two of the most momentous turning points in redemptive history: the calling of Abram and the sending of the church (Genesis 12:1; Matthew 28:19). We might also recall Moses, that cross-country prophet; Paul, the hither-and-thither missionary; or our Lord himself, who traveled from city to city to teach, heal, and usher in a new age.
Yet even still, we can’t escape God’s love for local places and the people who stay there. Moses uprooted Israel from Egypt, but only so he could plant them in Canaan (Psalm 80:8), where everyone might sit under his own vine and fig tree (Micah 4:4). Paul tumbled around the Mediterranean, but building and strengthening local churches was the labor of his life (Acts 14:23; 2 Timothy 2:2). And Jesus, as much as he moved through all Galilee and Judah, was still known as “Jesus of Nazareth” (Luke 4:34; 18:37; Acts 2:22; 3:6). The incarnate Son did not consider three decades in the same quiet town a waste of time.
“Lasting fruit usually comes from lasting presence.”
Moses could have kept Israel on a constant sojourn. Paul could have called every convert to come with him. Jesus could have left Nazareth long before thirty. But trees grow shade, bushes bear fruit, and vines become beautiful only after patient years of staying put. And so with us, lasting fruit usually comes from lasting presence.
Roots for Restless Souls
Perhaps the Bible’s most explicit teaching about staying and going appears in 1 Corinthians 7:17–24, where Paul three times counsels the Corinthian believers to remain where they are:
Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. (verse 17)
Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. (verse 20)
So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. (verse 24)
Now, Paul wrote these words into a context quite different from our own. Some Corinthian believers, it seems, wondered if becoming a Christian necessitated a change in life status. Does Christian faithfulness require the uncircumcised to receive circumcision, or bondservants to seek freedom? Paul, while endorsing helpful life changes (1 Corinthians 7:21), nevertheless reassures the church that they can serve Jesus fruitfully wherever they’re found. So, three times he says, “Stay.”
Our own impulses toward moving or changing may come from different motives, but the principles Paul uses still apply. Consider, then, three steps the apostle might counsel us to take before uprooting from job, home, church, or other life situations.
1. Pay attention to providence.
In an individualistic society, we are prone to lean almost entirely on the subjective when making decisions. Do I like this job? Are we still happy in this home? Is this church still a good fit for me? Alongside these important subjective questions, however, Paul adds the objective fact of God’s providence: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17). We are who we are and where we are not by chance, but by the Lord’s assignment and calling. And therefore, factors beyond our feelings are at play.
John Calvin draws out the merciful purpose of God’s providence:
[God] knows with what great restlessness human nature flames, with what fickleness it is borne hither and thither, how its ambition longs to embrace various things at once. . . . Therefore each individual has his own kind of living assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life. (Institutes, 3.10.6)
To be sure, the doctrine of providence, rightly grasped, does not produce passive, inert, immobile people who endure misery with a sigh of que sera sera. Calvin himself left his native France for Geneva. And Paul, after mentioning God’s assignment, still tells bondservants, “If you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity” (1 Corinthians 7:21). God in his providence not only plants us where we are, but sometimes opens pathways elsewhere.
Nevertheless, those who pay attention to providence will not be quick to abandon their present place, even under the sway of strong feeling. They will pray to the God of providence, and seek counsel from his people — so often the agents of his providence — wary all the while of their tendency to leave the Lord’s sentry posts for a life of heedless wandering.
2. See the potential in your present place.
Not only has God, in his providence, brought us to our present place, but he likely sees far more potential in it than we do. We may look at our life situation and see little more than a barren field, a fruitless tree, a dry and dusty Nazareth. But God sees more.
Surely, some of the bondservants in Corinth struggled to see potential in their present station. Theirs was not an enviable position. Yet Paul writes, “He who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ” (1 Corinthians 7:22). Paul is quite happy for bondservants to find freedom if they can (1 Corinthians 7:21). At the same time, he wants them to see that even bondservice can say something beautiful about Christ: Men may call me a servant, but in Christ, God calls me a son.
Our own situations are likely far better than a bondservant’s. Yet what potential in your present place might you have a hard time noticing? Living in an inner-city neighborhood brings some level of danger, but it also brings opportunity to give the gospel to the poor. A church in conflict may not feed your soul as another would, but it can also become ground zero for a new work of the Spirit, more beautiful than what came before. The mission field may seem like a waste of gifts once used, but it can also become soil for the seed of your fallen life, precious in God’s sight and poised for much fruit (John 12:24).
Who, if not Christians, will look upon the mustard seed of our present circumstances and see the coming tree (Matthew 13:31–32)? Who will recognize in the small stone a future mountain (Daniel 2:31–35), or the age of great things in the day of small (Zechariah 4:10)? Who will behold twelve common men as the beginning of a global movement (Matthew 16:18)? Who will stand upon an apparently godforsaken place and know that here, even here, Jesus holds all authority (Matthew 28:18)?
The humblest faith can transfigure the world, turning tumbleweeds into rooted trees, content to grow in the same ground for far longer than we thought possible.
3. Live where you are with God.
That kind of contentment, however, comes not only (and not mainly) from seeing the potential in our present place, but from seeing God in our present place. “So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God” (1 Corinthians 7:24). Don’t simply stay put; don’t merely remain. Wherever you are, live there with God.
“Don’t simply stay put; don’t merely remain. Wherever you are, live there with God.”
If you are in Christ, then you have already found your true and eternal Home, your best and final resting place. Another job may make better use of your skills, another city may better serve your family, another church may better profit from your presence — but no new job, city, or church can give you something better than the God who is already yours (1 Corinthians 3:22–23). Those who feel as much may still decide to leave their present place, yet they will do so as Abram left Ur, or Peter left Capernaum, or Paul left Antioch: not searching for contentment, but satisfied with God.
John Piper, preaching on Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well, notes that “one of the evidences of not drinking deeply from Jesus is the instability of constantly moving from one thing to the next, seeking to fill the void.” Those who don’t have a well of living water within will seek some water without (John 4:13–14) — and when that spring dries up, on they go to the next relationship, the next job, the next hobby, the next car, the next home. But those who have drunk deeply from Jesus, those who live where they are with God, are free to stay and be satisfied.
If we take the time and spiritual energy to pay attention to providence, see the potential in our present place, and live where we are with God, we may still decide against staying put. We may discern that wisdom would have us lift these roots and plant them elsewhere. One of the defining marks of our process, however, will be that we decide slowly.
Sometimes, opportunities will come that call for quick decisions. But most of the time, we can take some weeks, months, or even years to linger where we are, living there with God, while we consider the benefits of staying or going. And if we feel we cannot take such time, we probably should slow down all the more. Quick decisions often show we want to move without thinking, praying, or hearing counsel that might contradict what we have already decided to do.
Just as men in midlife crisis should beware of buying boats, and those in spiritual darkness should hesitate to pronounce their own doom, so those who feel an urge to move, change, leave would do well to let time do its wise and patient work. If the move really is in line with heavenly wisdom, we have nothing to fear from slowness. And we have good reason to hope we will become more like trees firmly rooted, our branches rising and shade growing for the good of our present place, and any place God may plant us next.