The Gospel is not Right Wing or Left Wing

“The Gospel is not Right Wing or Left Wing.” That’s John Piper’s tag-line on page 84 of his eye-opening book, “Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian.” I have read nearly every book that Piper has written but this one truly breaks the mold. If you think that you do not have racist tendencies in your heart, think again; more than you might realize. And if you think that you have a grasp on racism in this country, well . . . he took me to school. His point: any area in your heart and life that you and I are a racist, is an area of sin that has yet to be conquered and changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Piper tells the story of his childhood in a racist baptist church in South Carolina and racism’s effect upon his heart. What follows is a kind of reading that I have not read anywhere in anything. I cannot recommend this book too strongly. Subjects and topics: Bill Cosby, Juan Williams, Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, Anti-Intellectualism, The Audacity of Hope, Martin Luther King, Jr.,Personal Responsibility and Structural Change, Inter-racial marriage, racial diversity, racial harmony, racial prejudice, and the fact that we all came from one man and one woman – the same parents, and the fact that Jesus Christ married a bride who was not of his race, and the fact that the gospel does not take sides in the controversy of racism, and the glorious truth that the gospel accomplishes what is needed, these and many more points of discussion is what makes this book one of Piper’s best.

In his chapter, “Personal Responsibility [advocate Bill Cosby] and Systemic Intervention [advocate Juan Williams],” Piper comes to the conclusion that both sides have merit to be put into action but neither is the full solution to the astounding racism in our hearts, in our churches, in our world, and especially here in America. So what is the solution and how do we apply it? I leave you with a trailer for the book and some of his hope-filled remarks as he glories in the gospel. But buy the book!

“The gospel is not an ideology. It does not come in as one idea alongside some others and make its contribution. The good news that God sent his Son Jesus into the world to die in the place of sinners, and bear their punishment, and become their prefect righteousness, and absorb the wrath of God, and set us right with him through faith alone, and rise from the dead triumphant over every foe – that gospel does not come as an ideology but as supernatural power . . . that creates new people.”                                       pg. 83

“The gospel is not a heavenly demand of what we must do to be saved; it is a heavenly declaration of what God has done to save us. The added good news is that we cannot earn what he has done for us but only receive it as a gift. And even this receiving – this trust – is a gift of God. It is God’s grace and God’s power from start to finish. This is why it is in a class by itself. It does not fit alongside any politics or ideology or philosophy or culture.” pg. 84

“Jesus did not come into the world to endorse anybody’s platform. He doesn’t fit in. He created the world. He holds it in being by his powerful word. He will return someday to judge the living and the dead. And he came the first time to die so that left-wing activists and right-wing talk-show hosts would be broken in pieces for their sin and put back together by the power of grace. He came so that from that day on Jesus himself would be the supreme treasure and authority in our lives. He came so that we would become radically devoted to the glory of God. He came so that the only kind of racial diversity and racial harmony we would pursue is Jesus-exalting, God-glorifying, and gospel-formed.”  pg. 85

From My Online Pastor

Where Was God in All the Goodness of 2012?

byJohn Piper 

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As this year ends, the question I am asking is: Where was God when so many good things happened this past year?

How can God be a God of justice, yet allow so much good to happen to people who dishonor him by disbelieving in him, or giving lip service to his existence, or paying no more attention to him than the carpet in their den, or rejecting the kingship of his Son, or scorning his word, or preferring a hundred pleasures before him?

How can God be righteous and do so much good to us who are so unrighteous?

Where was God in 2012?

  • Where was God when nine million planes landed safely in the United States?
  • Where was God when the world revolved around the sun so accurately that it achieved the Winter solstice perfectly at 5:12 AM December 21 and headed back toward Spring?
  • Where was God when the President was not shot at a thousand public appearances?
  • Where was God when American farms produced ten million bushels of corn, and 2.8 million bushels of soybeans — enough food to sell $100 billions worth to other nations?
  • Where was God when no terrorist plot brought down a single American building or plane or industry?
  • Where was God when the sun maintained its heat and its gravitational pull precisely enough that we were not incinerated or frozen?
  • Where was God when three hundred million Americans drank water in homes and restaurants without getting sick?
  • Where was God when no new plague swept away a third of our race?
  • Where was God when Americans drove three trillion accident free miles?
  • Where was God when over three million healthy babies were born in America?

Here are a few of the answers given by God himself in his word.

1. God was reigning from his throne to do his sovereign will.

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)   “He works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)

2. God was reigning from his throne to prevent much sin and harm in the world.

“God said to [Abimelech, the king of Gerar], it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (Genesis 20:6)   “You know what is restraining [the man of lawlessness] now.” (2 Thessalonians 2:6)

3. God was reigning from his throne to give a witness to his goodness and his patience.

“God did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

4. God was reigning from his throne to summon the world to repentance.

“Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

So as the year ends, I bow my head as an undeserving sinner, amazed that I have not been swept away. And even more, that because of Jesus, I am forgiven, adopted into God’s family, and destined for eternal life.

God has been good to us. And his best gift is the one that will be there when all the others fail. Jesus, crucified, risen, reigning.

A Sleeping Baby vs John Piper

Some things are more powerful, more alluring than others – especially the peaceful slumber of a baby.  Last night during small group, John Piper was shamelessly beaten by a sleeping baby.

There we were, in the middle of a great lesson on The Pleasures of God, a video series by John Piper, when all of a sudden a certain unnamed grandma immediately left her seat, ran into the kitchen to get her camera, and without shame, remorse, or fatigue, came back to her seat and confidently began filling up her 4gig memory card – she didn’t even ask us to put the video on pause – “who cares!?”, her actions clearly exclaimed – “there is something so pleasurable happening just inches away that I must give it all my attention, all my devotion, all my love – I must enjoy it as fully as I can while I can.” I have to admit – I briefly lost my focus on the bible lesson also.

As grandma was regaining her station without a smidgen of embarrassment, I could not help but give that episode some thought: the irony of a lesson on what is most pleasurable and a peaceful baby trumping the pleasure of a lesson on pleasure. So apropos.

If we are constantly trading up for a better pleasure – and you know that all of us do this all the time, then this ought to awaken us to the fact that there is still something better than the best pleasures that this life can produce:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” – Psalm 90:14. “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you” – Psalm 63:3.

The best pleasure that a human can own is the satisfaction in his soul over the steadfast love of the Lord. And if John Piper has to get beat out by a sleeping baby, contended in his mothers arms to prove it – then so be it: we were made to seek that which is most pleasurable of all – we prove this by trading one so-so pleasure for a better one. Truly then, the steadfast love of the Lord must be the best of all pleasures that we could pursue. Which is why we pray and plead that our souls would not be shriveled and satisfied with lesser joys.

The next time you trade up for something more pleasurable, know this: you were made to keep trading up until you find that Jesus Christ was what your soul was looking for the whole time. And once you’re satisfied with him, the search is over!