Friday, January 18, 2008

Let the Nations Be Glad!

Last week I finished up John Piper’s book Let the Nations Be Glad, a great book on missions!

A couple of things I have learned from this book is the scope of the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) in carrying the Gospel to all "peoples" and what that means exactly. Piper also makes it clear that if you’re going to be obedient to the Great Commission, you’re going to be involved in missions in one way or another, either you “go” or you you “send”!

In Part 1, Piper defines the Purpose, Power and Price of missions, which he describes as Worship, Prayer and Suffering respectively. Here is my favorite quote from this section, the first lines of the book:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. (p 17)"

And Piper isn't talking about worship in terms of corporate Sunday worship alone. He wrote the final chapter to clarify what he meant by worship (see page 226) More on that later.

Part 2 spells out the necessity and nature of the missionary task. In chapter 4 Piper deals with the following important questions:

1. Will anyone experience eternal conscious torment under God's wrath?
2. Is the work of Christ the necessary means provided by God for eternal salvation?
3. Is it necessary for people to hear of Christ in order to be eternally saved?

The answers, of course, are yes, yes, and yes, but Piper answers them masterfully with Biblical authority! Here are some quotes from this section:

Great quote about William Carey:

“Carey was an English Baptist missionary who left for India in 1793. He never came home but persevered for forty years in the gospel ministry.

"Once he was talking with a Brahman in 1797. The Brahman was defending idol worship, and Carey cited Acts 14:16 and 17:30. God formerly 'suffered all nations to walk in their own ways,' said Carey, 'but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.'

"'Indeed', said the native, 'I think God ought to repent for not sending the Gospel sooner to us.' Carey was not without an answer. He said:

'Suppose a kingdom had been long overrun by the enemies of its true king, and he though possessed of sufficient power to conquer them, should yet suffer them to prevail, and establish themselves as much as they could desire, would not the valour and wisdom of that king be far more conspicuous in exterminating them, than it would have been if he had opposed them at first, and prevented their entering the country? This by the diffusion of the Gospel light, the wisdom, power, and grace of God will be more conspicuous in overcoming such deep-rooted idolatries, and in destroying all that darkness and vice which have so universally prevailed in this country, than they would have been if all had not been suffered to walk in their own ways for so many ages past.'

"Carey's answer to why God allowed nations to walk in their own ways is that in doing so the final victory of God will be all the more glorious. There is a divine wisdom in the timing of God's deliverances from darkness. We should humble ourselves to see it rather than presume to know better how God should deal with a rebellious world. (p 132)”

"The story of Cornelius the Gentile centurion could lead some to believe that a man can be saved today apart from knowing the gospel and just by fearing God and doing the good that he can." Piper dispels this false teaching on pages 134-140.

Piper goes on to defend the necessity of hearing and embracing the name of Jesus, citing 4:12. He also refutes Clark Pinnock's view that salvation is imparted to those who relate to God properly through general revelation even without a faith in Christ. I'm thankful Piper took the high road and didn't sink to commenting on this creepy picture of Mr. Pinnock...

Unlike me, Piper doesn't have to make fun, but rather sticks to his strength, brilliant biblical exegesis!

"The reason this message [The Gospel, see Acts 11:14] saves is that it proclaims the name that saves--the name of Jesus. Peter said that God visited the Gentiles 'to take from them a people for his name' (Acts 15:14). It stands to reason then that the proclamation by which God takes a people for his name would be a message that hinges on the name of his Son Jesus. This is, in fact, what we saw in Peter's preaching at the house of Cornelius. The sermon comes to its climax with these words about Jesus: 'Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43)'” (p 140)

I love this list of Scriptures describing the condition of those who are without Christ:

"All are under sin with their mouths stopped before God (Rom 3:9-19); they are in the flesh and unable to submit to God or pleas God (Rom 8:7-8); they are natural and not spiritual and therefore unable to receive the things of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14-16); they are dead in trespasses and children of wrath (Eph 2:3-5); and they are darkened and alienated from God and hard in heart (Eph 4:17-18)." (Page 148) For more on universal depravity of mankind, check out Phil Johnson's post: "I'm Fallen, and I can't get up!"

Great quote on God's sovereignty in missions.

"It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:46-48)" "Through Paul's preaching, God is now doing the sovereign work that he had overlooked for so long during the times of ignorance. He is bringing Gentiles to faith according to his preordained plan. He is opening their hearts to the gospel (Acts 16:14), granting them repentance (Acts 11:18) and cleansing their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9)" (Page 149)

Great argument on the necessity of hearing the Gospel for salvation.

"Eternal life, therefore, comes only to those who hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow him. 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life' (John 10:27-28). This hearing is through the messengers of the Shepherd. This is what Jesus means in John 14:6 when he says, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' 'Through me' does not mean that people in other religions can get to God because Jesus died for them, though they don't know about it. The 'through me' must be defined in the context of John's Gospel as believing in Jesus through the word of his disciples (John 6:35; 7:38; 11:25; 12:46: 17:20). (Page 151)"

Lest anyone accuse Evangelicals of being “intolerant”, Piper’s recognition of God’s love of ethnic diversity shines forth here:The diversity of the nations has its creation and consummation in the will of God. Its origin was neither accidental nor evil. And its future is eternal: The diversity will never be replaced by uniformity. The evidence for this is found in Acts 17:26 and Revelation 21:3 (which Piper explains should be translated: “He will dwell with them, and they will be His peoples.”) Beginning on page 198, Piper gives four of the answers to the question of how diversity magnifies the glory of God.

Part 3 of LNBG is called "The Practical Outworking of Compassion and Worship". In Chapter 6 Piper deals with compassion towards the soul of man, with a little help from Jonathan Edwards (What's this? Piper quotes Edwards?!?) Chapter 7 was written to clarify what Piper meant by "worship" in the fist paragraph of the book.

Christ is our treasure and should be worshiped not for what we can get out of Him. Ponder this quote, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart:

“Until your soul has a thirst for Christ as the bread of life and the living water, you will use Christ for what your soul thirsts after. Many people who claim to have saving faith simply use Christ to get what they really want, which is not Christ but his gifts (escape from hell, peace of mind, health of body, a better marriage, a social network, etc.). We are saved by coming to Christ not only as our deliverer but also as our treasure--coming for all that God is for us in Jesus. Test yourself: Would you want to go to heaven if Christ were not there? Is he or his gifts your treasure? (p 211)”

Here is a long quote but very true. Our delight in something is incomplete unless we can express it in praise. So, please indulge me in a rare instance of Bonham quoting Piper quoting CS Lewis:

"[Lewis] was bothered by the commands of God to praise God. They seemed in vain. But then he discovered why this is not vain but profoundly loving of God to do. Here is his all-important insight: 'The most obvious fact about praise…strangely escaped me … I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. … The world rings with praise--lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, … My whole, more general difficulty about praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are, the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.' In other words, genuine heartfelt praise is not artificially tacked on to joy. It is the consummation of joy. Joy in some beauty or some value is not complete until it is expressed in a kind of praise. (p 224)"

Piper on worship:

"the essential, vital, indispensable, defining heart of worship is the experience of being satisfied with God in Christ. This experience magnifies his worth, and such magnifying is what worship is…Without the experience of heartfelt satisfaction in God, praises are vain. If genuine praise can flow from a heart without satisfaction in God, then the word "hypocrisy" has no meaning, and Jesus' words are pointless when he says, "This people honors me with their lips [that is, with verbal praises], but their heart [that is, their heartfelt treasuring and satisfaction] is far from me" (Matt 15:8) … [worship services and worship singing] are part of the expression of the essence of worship, but those things can happen and not be worship. Worship is not first an outward act; it is an inner spiritual treasuring of the character and the ways of God in Christ. It is a cherishing of Christ, a being satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ. When these things are missing there is no worship, no matter what forms or expressions are present. (p 226)"

Classic Piper, this quote kicks off a very rich and power-packed Conclusion:

“The ultimate goal of God in all of history is to uphold and display his glory for the enjoyment of the redeemed from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. His goal is the gladness of his people, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Delight is a higher tribute than duty. The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy his glory forever. Since his glory is magnified most in the God-centered passions of his joyful people, God's self-exaltation and our jubilation are one. The greatest news in all the world is that God's ultimate aim to be glorified and man's aim to be satisfied are not at odds. (p 231)”

I'm new at writing book reviews. In fact, this really isn't one. Just a collection of good quotes from this fantastic book. I can't seem to write a conclusion to this review without sounding like an 8-year-old reviewing his or her favorite book on Reading Rainbow.

I think the best thing to do is to just ask you to read Let the Nations Be Glad for yourself. ... at least the four pages I didn't quote verbatim in this post!

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