Part 2 Episode 211
Knowing that God is our Father is one thing; understanding how we should relate to him as such is another. In this episode of Light + Truth, John Piper opens Malachi 1:6–14 to demonstrate how knowing God as Father should lead us to honor him.
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By Stephen Witmer — 2 months ago
“Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In Luke 10:20, Jesus tells his followers to rejoice that their eternal future with God is assured. It may seem odd that he commands such joy. If someone said he was sending you to a tropical paradise for an all-expenses-paid vacation, wouldn’t you rejoice without being told to do so?
And yet, there are many reasons we may not rejoice frequently or fervently in our salvation. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the glories of heaven because we’ve become absorbed with the joys of this world. Or maybe present anxieties have jostled out future realities. It could be that we’ve been Christians for so long we can hardly remember a time when we weren’t following Jesus. Our salvation feels like a comfortable old T-shirt — safe and familiar, but not a cause for great excitement.
Here’s another possible reason for not rejoicing in our salvation: we think of our personal conversion as a normal and, therefore, boring one, as not a very big deal. I understand the sentiment: I was converted as a little boy. Unlike some of my friends, I wasn’t dramatically delivered from highly visible sins. At four years old, my drink of choice was milk or orange juice, and my most serious habit was overeating Pez. If your story is like mine, you may be tempted to consider your conversion simply as a continuation of the path you were already on, rather than as a dramatic break with your unconverted life.
Whatever the reason, Jesus comes to our aid in Luke 10. He doesn’t just command us to rejoice in our salvation; he himself rejoices over the salvation of souls. And then he provides reasons for his joy — and ours. Jesus says that our salvation is (1) the work of the Father, (2) the choice of the Son, and (3) the climax of the ages. If we press into these three realities, they can fuel our own deep and daily joy.
1. Our salvation is the work of the Father.
Your conversion moment may have looked outwardly humdrum. For me, it was kneeling with my dad and brother on a brown rug in my bedroom on Center Street in Monson, Maine. I heard no voice from heaven. The roof didn’t split open. I didn’t even get to extend my bedtime later than normal that night! Others of us can’t even point to the moment of our conversion, it seemed to happen so gradually. You just know there was a time when you didn’t love Jesus and then a time when you did.
No matter what your conversion looked or felt like, Jesus declares that it was a direct work of God the Father: “In that same hour [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will’” (Luke 10:21).
In the context, “these things” includes the offer of gospel peace and the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus is saying that God has revealed the gospel to some and hidden it from others. He’s referring to an inner revelation from God whereby he causes the gospel not only to make sense to us, but also to be desirable and attractive. The only reason someone comes to faith is because God inwardly opens that person’s mind and heart to the gospel. Our salvation is the result of God’s will: “Yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
Think about what this means. If you’re a Christian, it’s because God the Father willed that you would be. He was directly, personally involved in your conversion. There are no insignificant conversions, because everything God does is highly significant. I experienced a miracle on the brown rug of my childhood bedroom. I prayed to receive Jesus because the God of the universe knew me and drew me.
Notice that Jesus responds to God’s concealing and revealing work with gratitude. He thanks God, calling him “Father” to emphasize his goodness and trustworthiness and “Lord of heaven and earth” to highlight his sovereign authority. Moreover, the very joy Jesus calls for from his disciples in verse 20, he experiences and expresses in verse 21: “He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” This is a remarkable moment of intra-Trinitarian joy: the Son rejoicing in the Holy Spirit and praising the Father.
What began these fireworks of joyful gratitude? It was my prayer on the brown rug, along with every other conversion of ordinary, unimpressive people — “little children.” Jesus joyfully thanks God for your conversion, which is an exquisite miracle wrought by God’s own hand. Your salvation is the will and work of the Father.
2. Our salvation is the choice of the Son.
Jesus then provides another reason for rejoicing in our salvation. He says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father” (Luke 10:22). He then immediately identifies one of the things the Father has given him — the right to reveal God to those whom he chooses: “No one knows . . . who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” We learn three things from this remarkable verse.
First, Jesus says he “reveals” the Father. He makes God known. When we’re saved, we don’t just come to know facts — we come to know God himself. Our salvation isn’t about winning a ticket to heaven. It’s about enjoying an eternal relationship with God.
Second, only Jesus can reveal the Father to us, because only Jesus fully knows the Father. If you want to know God the Father truly and deeply, you must know him through Jesus.
Third, the only way Jesus will reveal the Father to us is if he chooses to do so. We can’t coerce Jesus to reveal the Father to us. It’s his decision.
Again, consider what this means. If you’re saved, it’s because Jesus chose to reveal God the Father to you. There’s nothing normal, boring, or humdrum about that! Your conversion is a supernatural event, a direct result of the Father’s will and the Son’s choice.
3. Our salvation is the climax of the ages.
In Luke 10:23–24, Jesus begins to speak privately to his disciples, helping them to see the extent of their enormous privilege: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” Though the Old Testament prophets and kings enjoyed great access to God and his ways, they longed to see the Messiah and the coming of the kingdom of God. But it’s happening in the disciples’ day — that’s why they’re “blessed” by God.
Like the first disciples, we live after Jesus’s first coming and before his second coming, in the time of God’s inaugurated kingdom. We read in the Bible of Jesus’s words and works. We know the love of God through Jesus’s atoning death on the cross. We know the grace of God through the gospel message of justification by grace alone through faith alone. We know the power of God through Jesus’s resurrection. We know the presence of God because his Holy Spirit lives within us.
As Christians living when we do, we’re nothing special in ourselves, but we are specially blessed.
Every single time the triune God writes someone’s name in heaven, it’s a divine miracle. Your conversion, whatever it looked or felt like to you, was nothing less than supernatural. There are no ordinary conversions.
And this leads us back to Jesus’s command in verse 20: “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” If we understand the miracle of our conversion, then like Jesus himself we’ll respond with exuberant thanks to God. We’ll rejoice in the fatherly love and sovereign goodness of the Lord of heaven and earth.
By John Piper — 10 months ago
Death Can Only Make Me Better: Remembering Tim Keller (1950–2023)
Today Tim Keller entered the reward of his Master. In this special episode of Ask Pastor John, Tony Reinke shares a sermon clip from Dr. Keller on the joy of God in the face of cancer.
By Scott Hubbard — 11 months ago
Say you have a friend whose approach to the Christian life seems somewhat extreme. Too strict. Overly disciplined.
You heard him say something the other day about beating his own body — figuratively (you think), but still. In fact, the way he talks often makes you squirm a little bit. Strain, agonize, struggle, labor, strive — these are common words for him. Maybe too common for someone saved by grace.
Then again, he does regularly celebrate God’s grace — more than you do, actually. He’s a joyful, worshiping man, not gloomy or obsessive in the typical sense. His seriousness is almost always tinged with something merry, and for all his drive he seems marked by unusual peace. He’s warm toward you, friendly.
But still, the man never seems to let up. He reads his Bible, and prays, and speaks of spiritual things with an earnestness that embarrasses you. He talks of fighting sin as if he had a sword strapped to his thigh. He denies himself many innocent pleasures (without expecting you to do so) because, he says, they “slow his pursuit of Christ.” You can’t help but feel a touch kittenish in his presence, your Christianity more purr than roar. So you wonder.
Is this legalism? Asceticism? An attempt to be superhuman?
And then, once again, you remember that this friend is the apostle Paul.
Now, if the apostle himself had overheard our concern, he may have sympathized, at least a little. For Paul had known the dangers of discipline. Hebrew of Hebrews, law-keeping Pharisee, zealous persecutor, Paul ran harder and faster than most (Philippians 3:5–6; Galatians 1:14). Yet his disciplined feet only carried him farther and farther from Christ (1 Timothy 1:13). He was rigorous, precise, self-denying, and lost.
“When Paul lost his legalism, he did not lose his discipline. Not even a little bit.”
Yet, remarkably, when Paul lost his legalism, he did not lose his discipline. Not even a little bit. God transformed him, instead, into a stunning apostolic paradox: He preached justification by faith alone, and he pursued holiness with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12–13). He worshiped God for his grace, and he “worked harder than any” (1 Corinthians 15:10). He boasted of Christ’s sufficiency, and he beat his body lest somehow he should fail to finish the race (1 Corinthians 9:27).
We struggle to live such paradoxes. The grace of God, for many of us, seems to produce a more casual Christianity, a faith without a sweat. But when Paul’s own discipline passed through the fires of grace, it emerged on the other side not consumed but refined — free from the dross of self-righteousness, aglow with the Spirit’s flame.
Mentions of discipline lace Paul’s letters. We could consider his toil in teaching (Colossians 1:29), his striving in prayer (Romans 15:30), his refusal to use his full apostolic rights (1 Corinthians 9:12), or that startling statement already mentioned: “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave” (1 Corinthians 9:27 NIV). But we may hear the heartbeat of Paul’s discipline most clearly in Philippians 3:12–14 and its context:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul the persecutor died on the Damascus road — and in his place arose a man who pressed and strained for Christ. A mighty discipline still drove him forward, but a discipline far different from the one he had known. A new power, new purpose, and new pleasure now gripped him.
Paul had known something of power in his pre-Christian life, but it was power “from a self-strength,” as John Owen puts it (Works, 6:7). The source of Paul’s unredeemed power was Paul; he relied on self, not the Spirit, for his strength. Not only did such power prove powerless against sins of the heart (Romans 7:7–8), but also, being an offspring of the flesh, it could never please God (Romans 8:8).
But then, Paul says, “Christ Jesus . . . made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). And with Christ’s presence came Christ’s power — power from above and beyond him, and yet power now dwelling within him. And so, Paul saw former sins, once unconquerable, fall dead at his feet (Romans 8:13). He “pressed” and “strained” with a new kind of strength (Philippians 3:13–14). And he worked as one who knew “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
With Paul, disciplined Christians do not run on the strength of self-resolve; they know and fear the manufactured power of the flesh. But they also take seriously those four familiar, radical words: “God works in you.” God works in you — and therefore you are not bound to the narrow limits of your self-strength. God works in you — and therefore laziness is not a celebration of his grace but a tacit denial of his presence. God works in you — and therefore every resistance is an opportunity to prove his power.
The power behind Paul’s discipline, then, was decidedly different after Damascus. And so too was the purpose or aim of his discipline. Once, Paul ran to attain “a righteousness of my own that comes from the law” (Philippians 3:9). But then, blinded by the risen Christ, he realized there was only one righteousness worth having, and it was one that discipline could never win: “the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9). So, in a moment, Paul stopped running for righteousness.
But he did not stop running. For though he already wore the robe of Christ’s righteousness, another robe still awaited: the robe of resurrection. “The resurrection from the dead” was the “it” he pressed on to make his own, the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:11–12, 14). By discipline, Paul reached to share his Lord’s undying life.
Paul knew, of course, that discipline could not earn his resurrection — nor was he ultimately uncertain about reaching that land beyond death. He could already feel the hand of Christ upon him; he could already say, “Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). And yet, Paul also knew that God-empowered discipline — pressing on, straining forward — was Christ’s way of bringing his people to glory. In a world where many professing Christians give up after making a good start, discipline keeps the righteous running till resurrection.
By discipline, we throw off every hindrance that slows our pace toward heaven. We shake off every hand that wraps around our ankles. We set our gaze ahead, where Christ himself awaits us. And with holy resolve we say, “By the power of God within me, I won’t allow sin to keep me from him.”
Perhaps Paul once saw discipline as many of us have: as a purse-lipped virtue, a grim necessity, a healthy fruit with sour taste. Discipline is an alarm at 5:00am; it is wind sprints and diets and long hours over dull books. Yes, Paul may have seen discipline as such. But then he saw the face of Jesus, and discipline became filled with new pleasure.
What spark lit the fire of Paul’s resolve? What gunshot sent him racing toward resurrection? This spark, this shot:
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 and be found in him. (Philippians 3:8–9)
“The surpassing worth of Christ has captured our hearts, calling forth our own surpassing work.”
Christian discipline may press and strain. It may rise early to read and pray; it may fast and go willingly without; it may say many a painful no. But not from any barren sense of oughtness. Rather, the surpassing worth of Christ has captured our hearts, calling forth our own surpassing work.
Not that we always feel the same sense of Christ’s worth. Sometimes, discipline is the song of living longing; other times, it is the prayer of longing lost. But whether discipline moves mainly from desire or for desire, its sights remain set on him whose presence is our pleasure. Out, then, with any thoughts of stern and frowning resolve. The only discipline worth the name runs under the banner of delight.
From ‘Done’ to ‘Do’
So, say you have a friend whose approach to the Christian life seems somewhat extreme. Too strict. Overly disciplined. So you wonder. Doesn’t the gospel cry “Done!” rather than “Do!”?
Indeed it does (John 19:30). But as you watch your friend more closely, you realize that on the other side of the gospel’s “done,” there is another kind of “do”: not the doing that strives for God’s favor or adds anything to Christ’s cross, but the doing that rises from fresh power, resurrection purpose, and a new and deep pleasure in God.
So, by grace, you start running harder. You pray and press on; you trust and strain forward. And you begin to discover that God’s grace is a bigger wonder than you once thought. Not only does grace grant our forgiveness and win our worship, but it works — hard. And to top off the paradox, it keeps us happy while we work.