Well I’m sitting in Sydney airport about to board a plane for Melbourne. It’s been a grand few days. The ‘One’ event at the Sydney Entertainment Centre was a great night. Very challenges talks from Lennox and Piper, including Piper’s classic ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ sermon. I’ll write up my thoughts from that later, along with the rest of my musings on the conference. In the meantime, here is Lennox’s talk from Day 2, continuing his journey through Acts 1. Especially watch out for his point about the fulfillment of the Jewish festival calendar. Very interesting stuff! (thanks to Steph Mcardle for letting me copy her notes from the first part of this talk since I was busy editing my last post)
Session 5 – John Lennox
The world associates Christianity with the absence of thinking.
Faith from hearing from the word of God
The ascension: how can you believe the defying of the law of gravity? But Luke was a scientist, the only scientist who writes in the Bible
People hate the supernaturalism of Christianity.
Luke speaks of angel coming to Zechariah to foretell the birth of John the Baptist. Zechariah was a senior religious leader. Believes in God, spoke with the angel but cannot believe he could have a son at this ages. Couldn’t believe that science would be defied.
It is people in holy religious office that can’t believe in the supernatural dimension.
Luke is aware of what the challenges for Christians are, and yet starts his gospel with this
We don’t just face atheists who don’t’ believe in the supernatural
Ascension – he was taken up and he disappeared in a cloud
Luke stresses that it is visible
“saw” – he was actual and visible
Deliberately visual b/c it was the same way as he’s going to return. We can’t forget this, it is essential to gospel.
1 thess 1
Conversion is turning to God and wait for his return.
Need a well-balanced view of eschatology: wait for return & be involved in gospel work. What a contrast to atheism: the hope that we will one day be with Jesus. Acts starts by telling us he is returning. There will be judgment.
How will you give an account of yourself?
How you measure other ppl you will be measured.
The non-believer says to us:
‘Your Jesus never saved anyone’
Jesus rose from the dead. His power was demonstrated and the disciples realized that he is invincible. Because he used the ultimate weapon of the enemy against him and reversed it!
So the disciples think: ‘surely he will now take over!’
This raises lots of problems for us
Why didn’t he deal with pain and death right there and then?
Why are the nations still battling and tearing each other to pieces?
Disciples focused on outward and physical and missed the spiritual.
For us we can go the other way. We can focus on the spiritual and miss Luke 17:23-24. When he comes it will be utterly visible.
The very thing the atheists accuse Christians of – fermenting violence – is the same thing that Jesus was accused of and vindicated.
So the disciples ask the question.
And Jesus gives them the most powerful answer.
He left them.
So begs the question, where do we stand in history? What do we expect to happen?
We are to get on with the gospel, in the power of the HS.
But there’s more to be said. When Peter stood up he mentioned restoration. (3:19ff)
Calendar of Jewish festivals
Passover, First fruits, Pentecost, trumpets, yom kippur, tabernacles
Passover – found fulfillment in Christ’s death
First fruits – Resurrection: First fruits of them that slept (+ Col. 1:15)
Pentecost – coming of the Spirit
Still three to go! Yom Kippur, Trumpets, Tabernacles
Tabernacles – Is 25 – messianic banquet
Why should we trust God?
There is a space between when Jesus came in the incarnation and when he will return
The existence of that space is going to raise many questions in our hearts that’s why Acts takes it so seriously.
The reality is that we live in a ragged and painful world that’s not yet restored. Is there any reason to trust the whole thing to God?
The biggest reason is the cross.
The world has got a rottenness at its core.
If there wasn’t an interval between the first and the second we wouldn’t have got saved.
So no simple answer, but a window.
If that is God on the cross, it shows me that at the very least God has not remained distant from this question but has become part of it. The festivals that have been fulfilled (Passover, First Fruits, Pentecost) become powerful evidence that the other will be fulfilled.
Monday night session up now. This is Piper getting into the ‘affections’. Starting to realize that a lot of people really push up against his whole ‘are ultimate goal is God’s glory’ thing. Last night someone asked the question about whether or not the cross or God’s glory is the centre of the New Testament (and the whole Bible). I was surprised, since it seems quite obvious that the cross is the centre of history, but that God’s glory is most evident in the cross. And Piper even explained that quite clearly in the first session. Perhaps, as I’ve heard before, us evangelicals really do sometimes start worshipping the cross instead of the one that hangs on it?
Thesis: My delight is not just a response to his glory but is an essential way that his glory is magnified, that he is glorified.
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
4 clarifying statements.
- 1. Definition of feeling, emotion, affections
Spiritual affections are not bodily humours/reactions. By spiritual we mean they are Holy Spirit awakened, Holy Spirit sustained and non-physical.
- 2. Why say that affections are more important than right doctrine?
Right doctrine serves right feelings.
Truth serves heart change.
- 3. Why emphasize affections over behaviour?
Yes and no.
Jesus says make the tree good and the fruit will be good.
Good deeds are public evidence of salvation. God needs to be a public God so that people can see Him. So that when he presents a Christian before angels and devils they can see the fruits of their life as evidence.
So we have to be wary of making behaviour the goal.
Behaviour is not the goal:
Texts – 1 Cor 13, 2 Cor 9:7
- 4. How do the affections relate to the glory of God?
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. (yes I know, get used to it – PG)
‘I want Christ to be magnified in my body, in life and in death’
So how does that happen?
‘God I want to die in a way that makes you look magnificent.’ ‘Here’s how: because for me to die is gain’ because to be with Christ is far better (vs. 23)
‘My passion is for Christ to be shown to be magnificent in my death and the way it will happen is that I will count it gain.’
When this happens who looks good? Jesus!
In that moment Christ is magnified, when you lose everything you’ve known except him.
Implications for our people
The pursuit of maximum joy, and the pursuit of the glory of God are never at odds.
Reasons: Ps 16:11
Your people should pursue max joy all the time without fail. This will cost you your life. It is a costly lifestyle.
Some biblical proofs:
The Bible commands you to be happy.
Ps 100 ‘shout joyfully…’
The nature of faith teaches that we should pursue our satisfaction always.
Jn 6:35 ‘I am the bread of life…’
How would you define faith? A: a coming to Jesus to be satisfied. The affectional embrace of Jesus as our supreme treasure.
If you have faith you come to God for reward.
Evil is tasting the fountain of delights and turning to the desert, sucking on the sand until we go to hell and calling it pleasure.
Evil is forsaking your joy.
So: happiness is to be found in the glory of God.
So we should be leading our people into finding happiness.
Implications for us
Heb 13:17 ‘Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.’
How do our people get no advantage? By our groaning. And how do they get advantage? By our joy. So we can’t love our people unless we pursue our joy.
Joy is the key to your people’s health.
This is liberating because I get permission to get as much happiness as I can seek!
Its devastating because I fail so regularly.
Implications for our preaching
2 Cor 1:24 ‘I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith.’
The apostolic goal was to be a worker with them for their joy.
The only way to help people be happy is with rock-solid theology.
Implications for the wider challenges of the evangelical church
Are their stresses in the church that would be made less bad by embracing the truth that the pursuit of God’s glory is an essential part of life?
Two sets of errors.
- If right thinking is drifting away from this truth, what can happen is that it moves towards dead orthodoxy. Dried up right theology, which looks lifeless.
- The reaction to that is to go ‘yuck!’ – anti-intellect.
These comes from the neglect of the truth ‘GIMGIUWWAMSIH’ (like that? – PG)
Excesses of intellectualism and excesses of emotionalism.
After a break we have the first talk from John Lennox – mathematics professor, super apologist and person voted ‘person most desired as grandfather’. His talks are on ‘The Church in the 21st Century’. The first part contained a big challenge to stay faithful to the Word of God in believing it to be the God-inspired message of salvation.
‘A flame that spreads – the word and the spirit’
Problem: the undermining of faith and confidence in the message, so people are tempted to give up.
Acts is a story of the beginning of what Luke describes as what Jesus continues to do and teach through his spirit.
We see a pattern in the 6 sections of the book.
Luke defines Christianity in the context of opposition.
As Christianity goes out into the Gentile world it faces opposition as it confronts pagan religion, politics, and Christianity insists it’s different from all of it.
However, Christianity gets accused of causing violence and turning the world upside down.
Our world today is not so different from the 1st century Roman Empire.
Rome had a legal system that was not so favourable to Christanity. It got accused of lots of things. The Roman world was very libertarian and Christian ethics clashed with it. That raised many questions then, as it does now.
So why did the apostles insist on saying things that they new would raise criticism? Why do they insist that there is no other name? Only one way? Why couldn’t they just leave people alone? What were the issues that they stood for? Why were they so important?
The simple fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
We need the same courage and the same resource.
The message hasn’t changed, nor the world.
The word of God was the catalyst
The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7
You will not get the church going without the word growing.
Today we are claiming that God has spoken.
But we are tempted to ask, ‘has he really?’
This is where the attack against us is at its worst. If this is shaken, then everything is undermined.
Doubt is sown. The issue at stake in all of our hearts is a matter of certainty. Faith is a dynamic thing. As you look back over your life does certainty increase? Has the word grown?
Luke writes to give evidence on which his faith can rest. The atheist cries ‘where is you evidence?’ We need to get evidence out into society. The world needs to hear that there is evidence.
Richard Dawkins says, ‘The only difference between the Da Vinci and the gospels is that one is ancient, and one is modern.’
But that’s not true! There is evidence! So people need to know about it because people are following Dawkins and Hitchens!
Now Lennox turns to the resurrection account in Acts 1.
Vs. 3 – he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs
The birth of Christianity is an enigma for any historian who doesn’t take seriously Christianity’s own testimony – the resurrection. Either it is the supreme fact of history or a hoax. If it isn’t true then the whole of Christianity is a fraud. Dawkins said in a debate with Lennox about the resurrection, ‘how petty’.
Well it’s only petty if not true.
As Christians we believe it to not only be true, but to be the most significant event in the history of the world. But do we still believe it? Or has our belief been undermined?
Notice what Jesus did. He presented himself alive. That’s not the same as discussing the resurrection. Their experience of Jesus’ teaching over 40 days was an experience of the one standing among them who is the resurrection and the life.
As pastors we get under pressure. The very thing that ought to be a priority, reading the Bible, becomes a bundle of notes for sermons preached, talks given.
But we can’t just study Scripture to do our job, we must study scripture to get to know God. Soak your mind in the word of god until you hear the voice of God.
If God doesn’t speak to authenticate himself what else is going to do it?
Paul constantly reasoned for the gospel but in the end if God doesn’t authenticate himself through his word there’s a problem.
As a young man, Lennox had a problem with the inspiration of scripture.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe it, but that he did.
Technical belief in inspiration is a precarious situation for life.
We must not let the enemies on the inside or the outside shut us up.
We will not get the church growing without the Word growing.
Well first up, Technology Park is a cool place to have a conference. It’s an old factory converted into a top class conference centre, complete with the original machines and cranes hanging from the roof. Cool in an ‘oh what? Concrete floors and rusty machines are super cool? We never realized…’ sort of way.
Piper is up first.
God’s Passion for His Glory in Christ
Piper’s thesis will not surprise you: God is infinitely passionate for his glory.
Firs,t three illustrations of people: Eric Reese, CS Lewis, Michael Prouse, Oprah Winfrey.
All these people struggled with this: that God is a God who demands worship, who demands to be glorified.
Piper argues that God is God-exalting, and passionate for his glory above all things. That is right at the centre of our faith where the cross is. The cross is the intersection of God’s passion for his glory. My hatred of his centrality and his passion for his centrality is in the cross.
Piper’s dad said to him as a kid, ‘Son, do all to the glory of God.’
What he missed was that everything God does is for his glory.
What is required is your whole life centered on him, with him as the supreme value, not yourself.
Of course most of us would say ‘yes and amen’ to this. But here is the test.
If I am only God centered, because God is only centered on me, I am really me-centered.
So it is crucial to be confronted by God and his passion for his glory.
Then we were taken for a journey through redemptive history to see how each step points to God’s glory.
We are predestined for the ‘praise of the glory of his grace
We were created to magnify God.
Magnify – microscope (make something bigger than it is) or telescope (make something look like it really is)
We were created to make God look like he really is.
Created in God’s image so that we would recognize in ourselves whose image we are.
Jesus came to make God trustworthy. To show God as what he really is.
Then Paul says ‘and, for the gentiles, to glorify God’’
So two reasons for the incarnation:
1. Confirm promises for Israel
2. Glorify God for his mercy.
Paul says that God forgiving sins is so massively problematic that Christ had to die. This makes no sense unless sin is a falling short of the glory of God. When you exchange the glory of God for something else you say he’s not worth much, which is an insult to God, and yet he hasn’t thrown us all into hell.
So the cross is the loudest proclamation of God’s passion for his glory.
Paul is praying to God for the Philippians be sanctify so that through Jesus God could be glorified.
Something changed with CS Lewis when he became a Christian. The Psalms no longer sounded defected when God says ‘praise me’.
‘I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. It is its appointed consummation.’- CS Lewis
It’s not egomania, its love!
God is summoning us to see him, know him, praise him – it’s not because he will not be God until his ego is stroked. God is the one being for whom self-exaltation is apt. He gives us the one thing that will make us happy forever, the ability to praise God for his glory. It is not that God is not fully God until he gets glory, but that we are not fully satisfied until we give it.