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Archive for May 7th, 2010

A living epistle of Jesus Christ

Every Christian, however limited his sphere of influence, must still, within that sphere, exert the influence which he possesses. He must exhibit truth in its meaning, and evidence, and influence: he must be a living epistle of Jesus Christ, seen and read of all men.

source: John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord

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John Piper has written a book called "Spectacular Sins and their global purpose in the glory of Christ". Chapters include the fall of Satan, Adam’s disobedience, the tower of Babel, the sale of Joseph as a slave in Egypt, Israel’s asking for a king and Judas Iscariot.

The three quotes below aren’t the most important in the book but relate specifically to some of the things I am thinking about at the moment.

Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. If you trust him with your life, you are in Christ. Never doubt that all the evil that befalls you – even if it takes your life – is God’s loving, purifying, saving, fatherly discipline. It is not an expression of his punishment in wrath. That wrath fell on Jesus Christ our substitute (Gal 3:13; Rom 8:3). Only mercy comes to us from God, not wrath, if we are his children through faith in Jesus. "The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives" (Heb 12:6). (page 51)

When Satan aims to destroy Job and prove that God is not his treasure, he must get permission from God before he attacks Job’s possessions and his family with destruction, and before he attacks his body with sickness. In Job 1:12, God says to Satan, “Behold, all that [Job] has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.­ That is, “You have my permission to attack, but you will not go beyond the bounds that I set.­

In Job 2:6 God gives Satan permission to go so far and no farther: “The LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.­ And when the story is complete and the inspired writer is summarizing all that happened, he does not even give Satan so much as a mention. He sees only God’s overarching supreme hand in all that Satan did: “[Job’s brothers and sisters] showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him­ (Job 42:11). Satan’s causality in all Job’s suffering was not ultimate. That is why the writer can simply leave him out of account and say that the Lord was the final and decisive wisdom that ordered these things. Satan was not ultimate. God was.

Satan is the great tempter. He wants us to sin. Luke tells us that Satan was behind Peter’s denials. He tempted him to deny Jesus. But could he do that without God’s permission? Listen to what Jesus says to Simon Peter in Luke 22:31-32. It is very similar to the way Satan and God interact in Job: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to. . . sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.­

Satan could not do what he wished with Peter without God’s permission. And when he had it, just as with Job, God had set him a boundary: “You will not destroy Peter. You will only make him stumble tonight.”­ Which is why Jesus says, “When [not if!] you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”­ Jesus, not Satan, has the upper hand here. And Satan is allowed to go so far and no farther. (pages 46-48)

[Joseph’s brothers] are utterly oblivious to God’s invisible hand in their action. They do not know that in the effort to destroy this dreamer, they are fulfilling Joseph’s dreams. Oh, how often God works in this way! He takes the very sins of the destroyers and makes them the means of the destroyers’ deliverance. (page 78)

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