You Might also like
By Jon Bloom — 1 month ago
A late middle-aged father is standing next to his boat and a pile of partly mended fishing nets, watching his two sons. He has always assumed that his sons would someday take over his fishing business and help provide for him and his wife when they grew too old to work. But now he watches them do something he never expected: they walk down the shoreline with a young rabbi who has called them to leave their fishing vocation — and their father — in order to follow him.
Suddenly, his envisioned future for him and his sons has become a swirl of uncertainty. What is he feeling? What are his sons feeling?
You may recognize this scene. It comes from Matthew 4:21–22:
Going on from there [Jesus] saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
When I read this story as a younger man, I didn’t give much thought to Zebedee. I tended to put myself in the place of James and John, following Jesus into a future of fishing for men. The uncertainty of it all felt adventurous and exciting. But now, as a late middle-aged father of adult children, I can’t help but put myself in Zebedee’s place.
Recently, I was discussing with my twentysomething son and daughter-in-law the possible call they’re discerning to follow Jesus to another country for the sake of the gospel. I do feel excited for them, but it’s significantly different when the cost is not leaving to follow Jesus, but being left as my son follows Jesus. I find myself wanting to talk to Zebedee about his experience and get his counsel.
Unless You Hate Your Father
Zebedee’s experience casts these words of Jesus in a whole different light:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26–27)
As a younger man, I mainly heard these words pertaining to my father and mother and siblings and friends. Now, I hear them significantly pertaining to me as a father. In order to follow Jesus faithfully, my children must “hate” me for his sake.
Of course, when Jesus says “hate” here, he’s not talking about the kind of affectional hatred we usually mean when we use that word. He’s talking about treasuring, as he does in this text:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
Jesus doesn’t mean here that we should feel revulsive animosity toward money. He’s saying we can’t treasure God and treasure money, because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). The hatred Jesus is talking about looks like this:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)
The man in this parable doesn’t feel revulsive animosity toward “all that he has.” He just values the treasure he’s found more than all that he has. So, he “hates” his former possessions by selling them. He knows what’s most valuable and important.
To be a Christian father or mother means not only that we must treasure Jesus more than we treasure our earthly loved ones; it means we must joyfully accept being the object of our Christian child’s “hatred” in this sense. We are part of the “all” that our child is willing to “sell” for the joy of discovering the treasure that is Jesus.
Willing to Be ‘Hated’
As you probably know, we at Desiring God want you (and everyone) to be a Christian Hedonist. We believe the Bible clearly teaches that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. But there’s another side to Christian Hedonism. As we pursue our highest joy in God, we also help others pursue their highest joy in God. Which naturally means we want them to treasure God far above the way they treasure us.
The rubber meets the road most when it comes to fathers and mothers and other dear loved ones. There’s a real felt cost when we actively make difficult, even painful choices to treasure Jesus and his call on our lives more than those precious relationships.
But there’s also a real felt cost when we are on the passive side of such an equation — when we are the father or mother or loved one whom a Christian must “hate” (in the treasuring sense) in order to follow Jesus’s call on their lives. It’s a different experience to count ourselves among the earthly treasures someone must “sell” in order to pursue the joy of the supreme Treasure. It’s a different experience to be sacrificed than it is to sacrifice.
But it’s not any less Christian Hedonistic — not when we truly treasure our children’s pursuit of the greatest Treasure. As Jesus’s disciples, we too must “hate” lesser treasures we truly love (like our children’s nearness) in order to have him. Our willingness to be sacrificed is what this paradoxical hatred looks like from the passive side of the call, when we are not the ones leaving, but the ones who are left. At such a moment, we must keep in mind the whole nature of Jesus’s call:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate . . . even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26–27)
Fellowship of the Left Behind
Releasing our children to follow Jesus’s kingdom call is part of how we, as parents, hate our own lives and bear our own cross for Jesus’s sake. And part of what makes his call paradoxical is that this “hating” is not affectional hatred at all. In fact, it’s what love looks like. For as my friend John Piper says,
Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. The overflow is experienced consciously as the pursuit of our joy in the joy of another. (Desiring God, 141)
So, in being left by our children as they pursue their highest joy in the greatest Treasure, we pursue the same prize by hating our own lives in this earthly age. It’s one way we join Jesus on the Calvary road of self-sacrifice for the joy set before us (Hebrews 12:2).
The Calvary road is not an easy road. Jesus told us that “the way is hard that leads to life” (Matthew 7:14). And one of the hard moments on this road is when we’re called to join Zebedee in the fellowship of the left behind, the lesser treasures who release loved ones to pursue their highest joy in the greatest Treasure.
But as it turns out, being left behind isn’t merely, or even mainly, passive — not when we turn this painful experience into an active pursuit of our own highest joy in our greatest Treasure.
By John Piper — 4 months ago
Heavy topic today. Can we lie to women who are seeking abortions, if by lying we increase the likelihood of saving the baby’s life? When this question came in, it immediately grabbed my attention. It’s a question from an anonymous woman. “Pastor John, hello and thank you for this podcast! I work in a crisis pregnancy center in a small community in the Bible Belt, helping meet the needs of pregnant women and single mothers. Along with providing access to clothing and parenting classes, we also share the glorious message of Christ’s work on the cross for sinners. It is our desire that expecting mothers make the right choice. I know God is sovereign, and only the Holy Spirit can make dead hearts come alive to make those right decisions. And this leads to my question.
“Our clinic has experienced pressure from volunteers and leaders, supported by local pastors, to pressure women and couples to ‘save the baby,’ or else the mother and father will be condemning their child to an eternal hell for withholding from them a chance to be born, live, and accept Christ as their Savior. You have made a strong case that babies who die or who are killed are saved. I’m thinking of APJs 514 and 684. The theology I hear in the clinic is wrong. And I think others in the clinic know it’s wrong too. I have come to now believe that this is an intentionally manipulative scare tactic, an ‘anything goes’ approach to the goal of saving lives. And that’s my question for you. Is it permissible to intentionally scare and manipulate mothers with untrue doctrine if it increases the likelihood that a baby will live?”
If this question were simply a yes-or-no question with no other implications, I’d probably skip it. I’d say, “Tony, let’s just move on because nobody wants to listen to an episode where I say, ‘No. Next question.’” But that is my short answer — namely, no, it’s not permissible. From a biblical point of view, from a Christian point of view, it is not permissible to intentionally scare and manipulate mothers with untrue doctrine in order to increase the likelihood that a baby will live. No.
And I’m not just focusing on the “scare and manipulate” part — that’s bad enough. When I say no, I’m mainly focusing on the use of untrue doctrine — doctrinal falsehoods, lies — in the service of a guess as to whether a child’s life will be saved. In other words, I’m saying no to making a practice of lying about sacred things in order to increase — according to our own human guesswork — the possibility that a child would not be aborted. I’m saying no to that.
But the reason I’m willing to say more about this question (rather than just no) is that there are wider cultural implications behind that question as I hear it. This practice of bending or marginalizing or flatly contradicting serious, biblical, moral considerations in a human-invented so-called “life-saving strategy” has taken root in American Christianity in recent years with harmful effects that we have scarcely seen the end of. In other words, I don’t think this particular practice of compromising moral means to accomplish hoped-for good ends is the only case we’re facing.
Workers for the Truth
So, let me try to say something about this kind of strategy against that wider cultural situation. The biblical reality at stake — the biblical reality at the root of the issue — is that God is a God of truth “who never lies” (Titus 1:2). “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4).
And consequentially, his people are people of truth. We are “fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 8). We “speak the truth with [our] neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25). “For we cannot do anything against the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8). We “do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3:9). We do not join the devil in his nature, for “when he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
“To think we can borrow the devil’s strategy of deception to save life is going to backfire.”
Truth is at the heart of who God is and at the heart of who we are as his people. So, a so-called “life-saving strategy” built on regular deception is utterly contrary to who God is and who we are as his people. It aligns us with the devil, who is not only a deceiver from the beginning but also a murderer. So, to think we can borrow the devil’s strategy of deception to save life is going to backfire, and we are going to be found serving his purposes, not God’s.
Against Every Evil
Now add to this basic truth about God and his people the biblical abhorrence of doing evil that good may come — in other words, coming up with human strategies that involve moral compromise in order to pursue human guesses that more good will come in that way. The Bible opposes that presumption.
For example, the apostle Paul defends himself against that very accusation in Romans 3:5–8:
If our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come? — as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
Wow. When people accuse Paul of teaching that we may do evil so that good may come, he’s angry. And he says, “Let them be condemned.” That’s serious.
Forsake the World’s Weapons
Later in Romans 6:1, he asks, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” And his answer is not just no. His answer is that it contradicts the very nature of who we are as new creatures in Christ. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2). In other words, new creatures in Christ trust God with the outcomes of walking in Christian integrity and holiness. We trust God with the outcomes. Christians should not do evil that good may come. It’s a lack of faith. We should not embrace evil practices or evil people in the vain hope that such compromises will advance human-created strategies for doing good.
It is virtually certain that our duplicity will be exposed — indeed shouted from the housetops. And when it is, the undermining of Christian integrity may send more people to hell and more babies to the dumpsters than if we had spoken the whole truth, lived consistent lives of radical Christian integrity, loved others, made sacrifices, been willing to suffer, and prayed earnestly.
I think that one of the great needs of the hour is for Christians to stop compromising our biblical faithfulness by using the weapons of the world in the service of strategies that we think are more likely to do good because we have calculated that compromise will work.
Here’s a closing admonition from Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:3–4: “Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” God is able to make consistent, humble, trusting, sacrificial obedience have vast, soul-saving, life-giving effects beyond all our human calculations of what good may come through compromise.
By John Piper — 9 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.