Wow! This book is amazingly challenging both in that it is weighty material and in that it really makes me think and evaluate. These sparse comments cannot even begin to touch the amount of spinning my brain is doing. I do hope you can glean something from it.
1. On page 40 Piper tells us that the name Satan means "accuser." Do you ever feel accused? I know I do. Sometimes I lie in bed at night and obsess over all the ways I have failed throughout the day, or I relive all the sins of my past. Turn in your bibles (or click here) to read Romans 8:1-2. What does this verse say? If this is true, from whom are all those accusations of failure? What then should we do when our thoughts go there? What is the difference between condemnation of our sin by the Evil One and conviction of our sin by the Holy Spirit?
Oh how I feel accused at times! Paul states in Romans that there is NO condemnation in Christ Jesus. So those accusations of failure are most certainly Satan and his minions speaking at me. We need to take those thoughts captive and dismiss them (2 Cor 10:4-5) because Satan's accusations should not have any hold over us. Hallelujah for that ! I believe that the difference between condemnation and conviction is purpose. Condemnation is meant to disable my Christian walk and make me ineffective. The Holy Spirit's conviction in my life is to highlight where I need to move forward, give me a pathway back to God and restore that area of my life. It is always meant to make me more effective not less.
2. How does God allowing Satan to live bring glory to Christ?
Piper explains that a single immediate destruction of Satan at the time of his fall would have been a demonstration of power, but does not show the fullness of the glory of Christ. Through the ages since Adam and Eve's fall, Christ has been glorified in the lives that have followed Him, who have chosen not to allow Satan's deception to rule their lives but have chosen to allow Christ to be glorified in them. So He is glorified in the waiting time. But ultimately, no single act could bring more glory to God than the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross--that is the fullness of Christ's glory.
3. Read the 'Eight Things to Do with Evil" and "Four Things to Never Do with Evil" lists on pages 50-51. Which of these do you have the most problem with?
For me, "giving thanks for the refining effect of evil" (#3) while at the same time "hating evil" (#4) are great challenges. I find it a very difficult step of trust to say "God I hate this, I hate everything about it, but I will thank you for the work you are doing here anyway." I would much rather thank him for the good things and for refining work not to coincide with evil things in the world.
4. Recall Piper's introduction, specifically pages 13-16 when he speaks of persecution of the Church. Since December I have been praying for Martha Samuel Makkar. She is an Egyptian sister in Christ who converted from Islam, and has faced persecution ever since. In December, she was arrested at the airport when she tried to emigrate to Russia. Martha was placed in prison, tortured, raped, and her two and four year old sons were denied food in an attempt to cause her to renounce Christ. She was recently released on bail and is awaiting trial. You can read her story here and here (and please join me in praying!)
How might the truths Piper has conveyed in this chapter regarding evil - the "weighty doctrine" - bring comfort to Martha and her family while she undergoes persecution for Christ?
I found comfort in Piper's reminding us that we should "expect evil" but that we should also "pray for an escape." We are not being unspiritual to pray for a way out, and I think sometimes we feel like we must just bear whatever happens. I cannot imagine what this young mother is experiencing. One of my greatest fears is that my children would suffer because of my decisions. But as this book reminds us, we are to "never doubt that God is totally for [us] in Christ," so all we can do is just trust Him and His ultimate control. I realize those are just pithy answers from someone who has never encountered persecution on a minor scale much less that kind of persecution. But that is the best I can do from this point of reference.
Are you intrigued yet? If so, I encourage you to read the book. You will be forced to think in weighty things. Join us at The Preacher's Wife for further discussion.