I am joining in with a book club hosted by Missy and Lisa at The Preacher's Wife. The book being discussed is Spectacular Sins (and their global purpose in the glory of Christ) by John Piper. Mr. Piper is a writer/theolgian that I respect immensely and I am looking forward to this study. However, I do not anticipate it being an easy read. In fact, we have only read through the introduction and I'm already hugely challenged! The main discussion between participants will take place within the comments of Lisa's blog. However, I'm going to also post my answers here each time. So feel free to join us there or here. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this challenging subject.
1. Let's ease into this. I'm a huge quote girl so tell us, what is your favorite quote from the Introduction? What about it resonated with you? (Try to keep the quote to two sentences. I only say that because I find myself quoting entire paragraphs!) "The Great Commission is not child's play. It is costly. Very costly." (p. 13) The things in my life that cost a lot, I am more likely to cherish. They are the things that I give the most care. Yet, honestly, I take the privilege of sharing the good news of the gospel for granted. It doesn't cost me much to share. Maybe a little pride or some of my time but not much else. If I could really take to heart that it was and still is COSTLY to give me the good news to share, I would treasure it more, show it to others more and be much more willing to act.
2. Piper opens the book by describing the most spectacular sin ever committed - that of the murder of Jesus Christ. What does he say the commission of this sin actually accomplished? (p.12, paragraph 2) How do you interpret the phrase, "He made evil commit suicide in doing its worse evil"? He says that it actually accomplished the overcoming of evil. His visual that Evil actually committed suicide is strong. Satan was at his most evil in triumph as Jesus hung from the cross. But that very act of putting Jesus on the cross was what would defeat Satan and death forever. Evil destroyed itself (for eternity) when it murdered Jesus. I find the words hard to create, but the imagery of this thought captures and enraptures me.
3. How is evil defined? (p.12, paragraph 3) How does the understanding that "the apex of evil achieved the apex of the glory of Christ" impact your thinking? How will you allow this truth to shape your thinking when you are tempted to ask 'why' in the midst of calamity? Evil is defined as "anything and everything opposed to the fullest display of the glory of Christ." I dichotomize my thinking too much. I tend to think "Death was defeated on the cross," "God was glorified in the Jesus' death and resurrection because that sacrifice defeated my (and everyone else's) sin," and "Satan manipulated to get Jesus crucified." I rarely think that last phrase in conjunction with the first two. However, that is exactly what this book is calling us to do. It calls us to join together Satan's evil manipulation and the glorification of the Father through the circumstances and consequences of the action. I'm finding that difficult to truly wed those thoughts in my head, even when I can see the soundness in the theology. As I learn to wed those together, hopefully I will begin to be able to answer the "why" questions with a definitive "for the glory of God" answer. I'll admit, I'm not there yet!
4. I was stopped cold when I read, "The coddled Western world will sooner or later give way to great affliction. And when it does, whose vision of God will hold? And also, "Christians in the West are weakened by wimpy worldviews. And wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians." (p. 13 paragraph 4). Continuing along that line of thought, what false teachings do you recognize as being popular but unable to prepare us for catastrophe? In what ways have you discovered you've been influenced by those those lies? I just see a generation (or two or three) of church leaders who are timid to speak strongly against behaviors and call sin, sin. There is a sense of "everyone really will be okay in the end" even when the message they say they believe is Jesus is the only way to heaven. We have lost a sense of accountability to one another that will help strengthen us against dangers in times to come. There is, in my own experience (so maybe not generally), less emphasis on bringing your Bible to church and reading the passages for yourself. We allow someone else to read to us, not necessarily noting the words or tone of the written passage ourself. This will so inadequately prepare us to have the Word in our own hearts for the day of trouble to come. (Psalm 119:10-11; John 14:21,30-31; 1 Peter 4:12-19)
5. Piper states that the purpose of Spectacular Sins is not "to meet felt needs, but to awaken needs that will soon be felt, and then to save your faith and strengthen your courage when evil prevails." (p. 16) If you feel compelled, share a time when evil prevailed in your own life. Refer back to Question Two and give God praise if He has revealed how that evil served His glory. Also feel free to note any relevant Scripture God used for your healing. I know this will be a difficult exercise for many. Please know we will be so tender with your responses and will pray with you if you are in a place of suffering. I can see times that God has clearly delivered me from things that were intended as evil, yet I don't feel that those things can be discussed in a public forum. I can say that the reassurance that "Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4) is a tremendous source of comfort during those types of trials.
In closing, Psalm 39 just really spoke to me as I was thinking of living in days of darkness and waiting upon God to show His glory in His church across the globe. Maybe it will speak to you as well:
I said, "I will watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth
as long as the wicked are in my presence."
But when I was silent and still,
not even saying anything good,
my anguish increased.
My heart grew hot within me,
and as I meditated, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
"Show me, O LORD, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath.
Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
"But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
You rebuke and discipline men for their sin;
you consume their wealth like a moth—
each man is but a breath.
"Hear my prayer, O LORD,
listen to my cry for help;
be not deaf to my weeping.
For I dwell with you as an alien,
a stranger, as all my fathers were.
Look away from me, that I may rejoice again
before I depart and am no more."