Monday, February 9, 2009

Spectacular Sins - Chapter 3

Better late than never, I guess, as I am screeching in late on Monday night with my two-cents worth for the Spectacular Sins book club! Having my sister here has thrown my schedule all out of whack!

As we continue our way through John Piper's book, this week we read chapter 3, The Fall of Satan and the Victory of Christ. Wow, this is some deep stuff. Missy leads the discussion this week and her questions and my answers are below.

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, these are great verses here! There is NO CONDEMNATION when we are in Christ. Similarly, John 3:17 tells us that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. So when we feel those accusations coming at us (and I, like Missy, find that the middle of the night seems to be a ripe time for that!) we can know that the condemnation and accusation is from Satan, not Christ. What to do when this happens? Well, in the armor of God listed in Ephesians 6, the one offensive weapon we have is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. As we quote Scriptures such as those listed above, we counter the accusations with Truth. Ephesians 6 also says that we extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one with the shield of faith. Holding on to our faith in Christ and in what we know to be true about Him and about our standing in Him as He as promised in Scripture will enable us to recognize and defeat Satan's lies.

The difference between Satan's condemnation and the Holy Spirit's conviction is shame. The Holy Spirit's conviction is specific to the sin; however, He does not attack us personally, nor does He bring up past sins. Satan condemnation immediately brings shame and the sense of "you are awful and a complete failure" and he piles it on by dredging up every other time we have failed. Also, the aim of Satan's condemnation is defeat, and the aim of the Holy Spirit's conviction is victory.

2. How does God allowing Satan to live bring glory to Christ? The greater the evil, the greater the glory when it is overcome. Piper says:

A single, sudden, and infinitely holy display of power to destroy Satan immediately after his fall would have been a glorious display of power and righteousness. But it would not have been the fullest possible display of all the glories in the Son and the Father. God chose an infinitely wise way of displaying the full array of divine glories in letting Satan fall and do his work for millennia....We would not know Christ in the fullness of his glory if he had not defeated Satan in the way he did.
I have one caveat about this, and I will preface it by saying that I am certainly no theologian and do not have strings of initials after my name. I think Piper makes a very good point. However, Isaiah 40:13 says Who has known the mind of the LORD, or instructed Him as His counselor? Also, God clearly tells us "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9). I do think we need to be very, very careful in declaring why God did something that is not fully explained in Scripture. Especially areas such as this when our finite minds can barely grasp the "what", much less the "why". God is perfectly capable of glorifying Himself in His total fullness even if He had defeated Satan instantaneously. God is not limited. He may choose to work a certain way. But that is certainly not because His glory won't be seen if He doesn't. Omnipotent and Almighty mean just that!

Again, I'm not necessarily disputing Piper's conclusion, just reminding us all that it is one man's interpretation and conclusion, not an absolute.

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?

I guess I struggle the most with the last one - "never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. Evil that happens to me is not "God's punishment in wrath." It may be "fatherly discipline" or refinement. I don't struggle with it mentally but practically, primarily due to the way I was raised. Because my dad was very strict and legalistic, it is much easier for me to see the parts of God's character that are related to justice than those that extend grace and mercy.

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?

There is a world beyond what we experience. Not just heaven, although If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (I Corinthians 15:19) But God is working in ways that cannot be seen - both in the invisible world as well as in this world - for His glory. Martha and her family will likely never know this side of heaven all the ways their situation was used for God's glory and to witness of His saving grace and power. Only God knows the impact they are having on others who hear their story, who witness their faithfulness, and who are changed eternally. And while evil may think it is triumphing over good right now in this situation, God's glory will burst forth at just the right time and overcome all the forces of evil - decisively, completely, and eternally.

Be sure to hop over to The Preacher's Wife and check out the other responses! It's still not too late to join us!


View blog reactions


Mel said...

Ok you are not late you are right on time at least for me as I am finally getting to sit down to read all of my favorite blogs.

I found your answer to question 2 intriguing because I do think we often jump to the conclusions of knowing what God is thinking or why he does something.

As always your answers are thought provoking and indepth and suck me right in.

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

Although I LOVE John Piper, I appreciate your willingness to point out that Christian theologians are simply men with opinions. Informed opinions, and opinions formed with much prayer and study but opinion nonetheless.