Monday, January 26, 2009

Spectacular Sins - Chapter 1

If it's Monday, then it's time to join Lisa & Missy over at The Preacher's Wife to discuss John Piper's spectacular book Spectacular Sins. This week we're on Chapter 1. Good stuff in ths book - encouraging, mind-stretching, and thought-provoking. Missy leads this week. As I did last week, I list the questions followed by my answers.

1. We'll start with an easy one. What are the four reasons that John Piper gives for writing the book? Which do you look most forward to hearing Piper answer?
  1. Why does God want us to know His Sovereignty over sin?
  2. Why does God not restrain sin more often?
  3. How can we have faith and joy during the severity of the Last Days?
  4. How is Christ glorified in a world of sin?

I think I'd have to say the 3rd one grabs me the most. I think this is crucial for believers today. It very much concerns me the distress that believers express over current world and political events and the sense that "we" have to make things better. While it is certainly important to take action in whatever direction God is leading us, it is clearly spelled out in Scripture that things are just going to deterorate more and more as time gets closer to the end. The early church also lived in a time of persecution, corrupt government, and slavery. Nowhere in the New Testament have I read a charge to change the world system. Rather, as Peter says after he describes events leading up to Christ's return and the destruction of the earth:

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. . . II Peter 3:11-12

Repeatedly, both Paul & Peter tell slaves, wives, and citizens to be submissive to the unbelieving masters, husbands, and government officials as an example and as a witness which is much more likely to win them over than words of condemnation. Much, much easier said than done, but something I think we as believers need to consider in these turbulent times.

Here comes the hard part. I hope you read the footnote on page 24. If you are like me, you read it several times, then out loud, then needed to discuss it with someone. We're loving the Lord with all our minds! Answer these as best you can (it's okay if you are fuzzy - we're only in chapter one):

2. What is God's role in sin:
a. Does he allow you to sin?
Yes. He has given me free will.
b. Does he cause you to sin? No. I can certainly manage to do that on my own!
c. Does he allow temptation to come before you? Yes, in the general sense. The potential for sin is all around us. However, in a specific area that we struggle with, God does not lure us and dangle it in front of us or taunt us with it to see if we will resist. Satan is the one who does that.
d. What resources does he give you to resist it? (quote scripture if possible.)
Prayer. Support of friends. And most importantly, Scripture, which is both offensive and defensive:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. I Corinthians 10:13

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:41

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:10-18

3. Are God's purposes sometimes accomplished through the sinful actions of man? Aside from the Crucifixion, can you think of another biblical example?

If it were required that man's actions be sinless in order for God's purposes to be accomplished, we would be in a sorry state indeed. Many times in the Bible folks either "ran ahead" of God in their attempt to grasp what He had promised them or they just "messed up" and in His grace and mercy He forgave them and used them in spite of. . .and even because of. . .their sins. I think of Jacob cheating Esau out of his birthright, even though it was intended for him. Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery. David, whose sin with Bathsheba cost his first son's life - yet Solomon is listed in the lineage of Jesus. The exile of the Jews to Babylon - to the world it looked as if they had been overtaken by an evil ruler, but this was part of God's plan and purpose. Even in the New Testament, evil such as the persecution of the early Christians and even the disagreement between Paul & Barnabas resulted in the spread of Christianity throughout the world.

4. Piper states that his primary goal is to magnify Christ. What are some ways that a Christian might do that, even under intense suffering? What are some ways that we might do that, during our day-to-day frustrations and disappointments? Have you personally witnessed any examples of either?

First of all, just by acknowledging that this world is not the end game and that God has a greater purpose. Praise Him in the storm. Having an eternal perspective and praying that God will use each situation to glorify Himself rather than just being concerned with our short-term comfort. Remembering past times when the way was dark and He brought us through - and worked things out beyond our comprehension. And yes, I have seen several friends living through unimaginable heartache who brought glory and honor to God even as their hearts were shattered.

5. On page 29 he writes, "We are pushing our way through a blood-spattered life that makes us feel connected to the world yet disconnected at the same time. We are here but not here. Love binds us to the tragic earth, and love binds us to the treasure in heaven." What thoughts does this provoke in you?

God is Love and spreads His love in our hearts to enable to love others, minister to others, and live life abundantly. And yet there is so much more.

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. I Corinthians 15:19

These are all just my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions on what I have read and studied. I urge you to delve into the book and, most importantly, the Bible, and glean the promises of God for yourself. And head over to the Book Club to see what others have to say!


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Mel said...

Wow Linda it seems this study has grabbed ya, your answers are wonderful!!!

Lisa writes... said...

Good stuff!

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

You made some really great points. I especially like the one about Christians not being charged with changing the world system. We are called to stand up for what we believe and to not waver from that standpoint, but having an eternal perspective really changes how we view things in the here and now.

I just LOVE this book!!


Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

First of all, just by acknowledging that this world is not the end game and that God has a greater purpose. Praise Him in the storm.

Amen sister. I especially need to remind myself of that lately.

Thanks Linda!! So much more fun now to read your answers since we met!!