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I was once an orphan with no hope, no purpose, no aim, but God in his kindness . . .
These words are true for all of us who are now in Jesus by faith. Oh how easy it is to forget it, and shy away from coming to a deep understanding of what it means to be an orphan, and what it means to be adopted, to be rescued, from hopelessness.
Aaron and Jamie Ivey were given a unique perspective on what it means to be adopted by God through their two-and-a-half-year journey to bring home their son. This is Amos’s story.
But God in his kindness brought Amos home and gave him a new name. May this story be a reminder of what a beautiful gospel shadow adoption is and that no matter what your past is, if you are in Jesus by faith, there is a “but God in his kindness” in your story.
But God in his kindness saw me and adopted me into his family, changed my past, changed my future, changed everything about me. We’ve been adopted. –Aaron Ivey
More Video Produced, or Recommended, by Desiring God:
How does an old man obey Hebrews 13:7?
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
At 67, who are my leaders? Who has spoken to me the word of God? Whose faith should I imitate? Whose outcome of life should I consider?
The older I get, the fewer leaders are left who spoke to me the word of God. The fewer faithful men in front of me leading the way. They are dying. The older I get, the more people there are behind me looking to me as a finisher. It’s a trembling place to be. Fewer to look to. More looking on.
What caught my attention in my devotional reading of this verse was the word “outcome.” “Consider the outcome of their way of life.” The Greek word is ekbasin. It is used in one other place in the New Testament:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape (ekbasin), that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
“Escape.” The idea is both “a way out” and the “result of a way.” So I think the idea of Hebrews 13:7 is: the finishing of a way of life that leads out of this life into the next. “Consider the outcome of his way of life,” that is, consider how a leader’s life leads to the completion of his journey.
It’s one thing to live a “way of life.” It is another to live a way of life that proves itself in carrying you over all the final obstacles through death and into heaven. Dying is a hard part of life, and it takes a deep “way of life” to do it well.
So I am commanded to remember my leaders who spoke to me the word of God, and to watch them finish, and then imitate the faith that bore them safely and fruitfully to the “outcome.”
Who are they? For me a good many have died. Some have been dead all my life, and spoke to me from the grave, like the apostle Paul and Jonathan Edwards and John Owen. But I don’t think this is what Hebrews 13:7 meant. That’s what Hebrews 11 was about. Hebrews 13:7 adds the living examples to the dead ones.
So who are they? Here are some of my older leaders who spoke to me the word of God. I have been watching several of them for a long time. Daniel Fuller, George Verwer, Greg Livingstone, Iain Murray, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Larry Agnew.
For all I know, I am closer to heaven than any of them. So if you think of it, pray for me in two respects. Ask the Father to help me keep my eyes on the wise men whose faith carries them home. And ask him to make me worthy of being watched. It is no small thing to be a spokesman of the word of God.
And, lest it go unsaid, thank God with me that when we fail, and when all of our earthly examples fail, we can — we must — look to the flawless author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2).
Recent posts from John Piper:
Suffering has a way of pressing us to go deeper with God.
It’s sadly not the case for all, but many have testified that their embrace of God’s sovereignty and goodness was catalyzed during a season of profound suffering.
Sometimes it’s fresh truths about God intersecting with our lives in the hardest of times. But often suffering becomes a testing ground for what truths we’ve already built into our lives in the easiest of days. Such was my experience.Wrestling with Hard Truths
It took me several years of “normal life” to believe that such truths — like God’s sovereignty, predestination, and election — should be called “truths” at all. I wasn’t sure they were biblical. I wondered, if God desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), then how can he be in control of who is saved and who isn’t? And if God can change his mind (Exodus 32:14; Jeremiah 26:19), then how can he truly be in control of all things?
These are tough questions to wrestle with. But over time, with help from the writings of men like James Montgomery Boice, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper, I came to gladly embrace, as faithful to the Scriptures, the doctrines of grace and the absolute and exhaustive sovereignty of God. These men and others were willing to ask the hard questions I was asking, and they gave compelling answers from the Bible.
As I began embracing such truths, God became bigger and greater in my eyes. We Christians worship a God
who purposes everything throughout all creation, or “who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11);
who decides what happens anytime something as small as dice are rolled: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Proverbs 16:33);
who not only knows, but makes known, the future: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9–10);
who “is in the heavens [and] does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3), so that “whatever the Lᴏʀᴅ pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).
And as I began discovering more about the power and the glory of God, and realized that it was inevitable that I would someday, sooner than later, suffer some kind of affliction in this fallen world (1 Thessalonians 3:3–4; Acts 14:22), I knew I needed to prepare for suffering — so that God’s bigness would not merely be some doctrine that I believed with my mind, but one that would sustain me through life’s pain.Getting Ready for Hardship
With such preparation in mind, I set myself in 2006 to read the book Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. In it, I read life-changing truths like these:
“Scripture is clear that nothing arises, exists, or endures independently of God’s will” (page 41);
“God not merely carries all of the universe’s objects and events to their appointed ends, but he actually brings about all things in accordance with his will. In other words, it isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those who love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects for his glory (see Exodus 9:13–16; John 9:3) and his people’s good (see Hebrews 12:3–11; James 1:2–4)” (42);
“From events as small as the fall of the tiniest sparrow (see Matthew 10:29) to the death, at the hands of lawless men, of his own dear Son (see Acts 2:23 and 4:28), God speaks and then brings his word to pass; he purposes and then does what he has planned (see Isaiah 46:11). Nothing that exists or occurs falls outside God’s ordaining will” (43);
“And so it is not inappropriate to take God to be the creator, the sender, the permitter, and sometimes even the instigator of evil” (44);
“Scripture repudiates the claim that God does evil while at the same time everywhere implying that God ordains any evil there is. To say that God ‘ordains’ something is to say that he has planned and purposed and willed it from before the creation of the world — that is, from before time began” (47).
The authors quoted Bible text after Bible text. I couldn’t escape God’s complete sovereignty — and I didn’t want to!When Tragedy Strikes
The following year, in December of 2007, tragedy struck when my Dad died suddenly at the young age of 44. To this day, the single most terrible memory I have is of my Mom calling me at two in the morning, crying, “They’re losing him, Bryan! They’re losing him!” Not long after, my uncle called to let me know that he died.
What then do you make of God’s sovereignty? Was it tempting to become bitter and angry at God? Perhaps, but only slightly. No, the main comfort for me since Dad’s death has been that God works all things — including that death — according to the counsel of his will, that he does all that he pleases, that he knows all things, including that death, before it happened.Both Sovereign and Good
But the book also taught me about God’s goodness, not just his sovereignty. Picture heaven with me, in the words of Joni Eareckson Tada:
I think at first the shock of the joy that will come from reveling in the waterfall of love and pleasure that is the Trinity may burn with a brilliant newness of being glorified, but in the next instant we will be at peace. We will be drenched with delight. We will feel at home as though it were always this way, as though we were born for such a place — because we were! (202–203)
And so, I commend to you, if these are your easy times before some coming trial, prepare now for the pain. This book — available free of charge in PDF — is one way to start. Learn now that your suffering is not even worth comparing to the glory that will one day be yours (Romans 8:18), and that the suffering indeed produces or works or prepares the weight of glory that you will experience in God’s presence (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Begin preparing now, in the “normal days,” knowing that some portion of suffering is coming, and God has made available the resources to get you ready.
Books from John Piper on the sovereignty and goodness of God:
“What Child Is This?” is no chart-topper among the children. The minor keys and slower pace make it less engaging to little ears. It’s hard to compete with the brightness, cadence, and pep of “Jingle Bells” and “Joy to the World.”
And that repeated rhetorical question is puzzling to a child’s undeveloped sense of artistry. “What child is this?” It’s Jesus, of course. Why do we keep asking that when we all know the answer?Nails, Spear Shall Pierce Him Through
But many of us eventually grew out of our childish disillusionment with the carol. For some, it’s even become a favorite. Especially those steeping their minds in the Scriptures. It’s that powerful couplet in the second verse sounding a note too neglected during the holidays.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The Cross be borne for me, for you.
“But this is Christmas,” someone objects. “Lent has its turn each spring; let Advent have its own spot in December. Don’t crowd out the joy and jingle with such death and violence. Let’s not have Lent and his cross upstage Advent and her manger.”
As comfortable as it might be to parse out our celebrations and keep our holiday sentimentals in their own clearly labeled boxes, we cannot keep Bethlehem and Golgotha apart without losing what Christmas really is. There’s a place for focusing on the stable, the shepherds, and the wonder of the incarnation, but to appreciate the depth of what is happening here, we must keep Calvary’s hill on the horizon.This Is No Circus Act
If we quarantine Jesus’s birth from his death and resurrection, we cut out the heart of what’s so dazzling about Christmas. This shockingly spectacular event — God becoming man, full divinity and full humanity joined in one person — doesn’t just captivate our attention, but captures us for this God-man. We are involved. It is our rescue in view. In the words of the old creed, this incarnation is “for us and for our salvation.”
Christmas is a stunning show. The almighty Ancient of Days is born a frail and fragile babe. But this is not some marvel we watch from a distance, nameless faces in a sea of disconnected spectators. We’re not mere fanatics of the hero, but known and loved by him. And his heroics are not for our entertainment, but our everlasting joy.
At Christmas, we’re not restricted to the upper deck, kept to the bleachers, tucked behind a barrier, but brought onto the field, onto the team of the superstar, given a jersey. The astonishing ontological feat he accomplishes in his incarnation is not a circus act for whomever, but an act of love for us.Born to Bear the Cross
From the very beginning, from Bethlehem and before, Jerusalem’s tree and empty tomb linger in the distance and give meaning to every angel song and magi gift. And not as history’s most mindboggling magic trick — truly dead and then alive again — but as purposive, effective, and designed explicitly for those who receive him.
He didn’t come to be applauded by myriads of unknown onlookers, but “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The incarnation is no marquee act at a variety show; he “came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The eternal Son of God became man not to garner a posse of impressive friends, but to redeem a broken bride — “not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:23).
“The reason the Son of God appeared,” says the apostle John, “was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) — and in particular to free his people from the clutches of Satan. Since we, his people, “share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14–15).For Our Sake
“When the fullness of time had come,” says Paul, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman . . . so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5). He came to make us intimate family, not faraway fanboys.
He didn’t come to collect on autographs, books, singles, or cameos. “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he become poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). For your sake. It is the “for your sake” that a little Lent brings to our Advent. And even better when it’s a lot.
We stand in awe during this Christmas season, not just because the Word became flesh (John 1:14), but because from his fullness we receive such grace (John 1:16). We marvel not just because he is both God and man, but because he is so precisely for us.
Recent posts from David Mathis:
One day we will stand before Jesus.
If we could see through the clutter of our lives now, if we could envision that day when everything is said and done, it’s clear that the enduring mission in and under and beyond every detail of our lives should be about pleasing him. What does he think?
What will he say?
We don’t know the exact words Jesus will speak to us on that Day, though the Bible gives us some ideas (Matthew 25:23). Whatever it is, we can be sure it will be glorious and full of grace. We will hear his voice. It will be amazing.
But what if we turned the question around? Instead of just wondering what Jesus might say to us, what will we say to Jesus? Imagine with me for a moment that you are there with him and he asks you how you made it to heaven.
“How were you saved?” he asks.
Easy, you think. “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in you, Jesus, and so I believed in you in order to be justified by faith” (Galatians 2:16).
“Yes,” he says.
But then imagine he asks a follow-up question. He wants to press deeper. He wants you to see more of his glory. Imagine, as John Piper ponders in chapter four of Five Points: Toward a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace, that Jesus asks you, “Why did you believe on me, when you heard the gospel, but your friends didn’t, when they heard?”
You know that is the case. We all have friends, family, people we know, who have heard the gospel but do not believe. And some, sadly, will refuse Jesus all their lives. And there you are, on that Day, and Jesus is asking you why, why you were one of the ones who believed.
“Why did you trust me but these others didn’t?”
You hear his words. You bow your head. And you do not say it’s because you’re smarter. You don’t begin to explain your faith as the result of your wisdom. “Well, Lord, you see, I was just more spiritual than they were.” “I read more books than they did.” “I always had a way of making good decisions.”
No. You won’t say that.
In that moment — picture it — in that moment you and I and every blood-bought saint will put our hands over our mouths, pointing to him, not us. Grace will stand forth with more vividness than we could have ever dreamed. There will be new dimensions of colors then — depths and wonders that we can’t see through the dim mirror of now.
And then, in that glorious moment, we will say, “You, Jesus. It was all you. We believed in your name, only by your sovereign grace. Jesus, it was all you.”
May I invite you into the life of a Calvinist? It’s probably not what you think. The sovereign God of the Bible is full of surprises. Sermons and essays are good. But sometimes only poems will do. We grope for special words and special forms to catch the radiance of God.
I wrote this poem called “The Calvinist” to capture a glimpse of God’s sovereign intersection with the life of a sinful man. There is no part of life where the greatness of God does not penetrate deeply. I want to help you feel that.
The team at Desiring God was so moved they that they dreamed up a plan to make the poem more memorable and moving by putting it into video.
To my amazement, six friends were willing to be part of this. They joined me in reading the poem. Listen for the voices of D.A. Carson, R.C. Sproul, Alistair Begg, Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, and Sinclair Ferguson. I love these men. And you will hear why in the way they read.
We hope “The Calvinist” is a video-poem you will linger over, reflect upon, re-read, re-watch, and share with friends and family.
My prayer is that this great and glorious sovereign God will stand forth from his word and from our lives with such compelling force, that sooner rather than later, the kingdoms of the earth will become the kingdom of our God through Jesus Christ.
Nobody said it was easy;
No one ever said it would be this hard. (Coldplay, “The Scientist”)
O Christian Hedonism! That ancient, beautiful, biblical truth that our treasure is what most captures our heart (Matthew 6:21), that what measures our treasure is our pleasure, that if God is our “exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4) then God’s pursuit of glory and our pursuit of happiness are one wonderful, wild pursuit! Because God is actually most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
For many of us, putting the scriptural pieces together and seeing this truth was almost like a second conversion. We saw more good in the gospel than we had ever seen before: God doesn’t merely want us holy; he wants us happy! In fact, true happiness is true holiness.
And then Christian Hedonism left us devastated. Not because it was untrue, but because we were. It exposed us. We did not value the Pearl anywhere near his worth (Matthew 13:45–46). We found ourselves still too attracted to mud pies and too neglectful of the Sea.
We had set out to pursue the deepest, purest, most satisfying Joy that exists and found the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1–3) fought us tooth and nail. They yielded no ground without a fight. Instead of experiencing joy, we often felt weary and discouraged.
All we were after was happiness. No one ever said it would be this hard, did they?
Indeed they did. We just hadn’t quite understood the extent before. In fact, the Pearl himself said:
“The way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14);
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23);
In order to have joy we must gouge out our eyes and cut off our hands if we need to (Matthew 5:29–30);
Holy, maximum happiness may cost us our family relationships and we will need to hate our earthly life in many ways to get it (Luke 14:26).
This is why the author of Desiring God wrote the book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. The former helps us understand what “the good fight of the faith” is all about (1 Timothy 6:12) — what is the good we’re fighting for. The latter is a field manual. The former shows us the panoramic view. The latter is for the ground war where we live, in the trenches with snipers shooting and mortar shells exploding. When an enemy attacks or when we’re strategizing to take a hill or when our stubborn darkness just won’t lift, what we need is very practical help.
The way is hard that leads to life. But let’s remember that the emphasis is not on “hard” but on “life.” The eternal (John 3:16), abundant (John 10:10), exceedingly joyful (Psalm 43:4) and forever pleasurable (Psalm 16:11) life is so worth the fight that we will someday look back at the very worst, darkest, horrible battles and see them as “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
And in the meantime, with the fiery darts still flying, let’s keep close at hand the Bible and field manuals such as When I Don’t Desire God to help us keep the shield of faith in place.
“Mom, I need to add something to my Christmas wish list.”
It’s that time of year again. The stores are adorned with all things red and green. Mailboxes and inboxes are filled with ads, sales, and catalogs. Prettily wrapped packages are at the forefront of nearly everyone’s minds — especially kids’.
Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity to pour the truths of the gospel into the hearts of our children. It’s an ideal time to show them the greatest gift they could ever receive, the gift of Jesus Christ.
Below is a list of important truths to teach our children this Christmas:1. The Story of Redemption
During Advent, with the anticipation of the 25th, we can teach and prepare our children for the celebration in Scripture of Jesus’s birth. In our family, we like to begin with the story of Creation and daily walk through the story of redemption until we get to Christ’s birth on Christmas day. We talk about the fall and God’s promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15. We read about his promise to Abraham that he reaffirms throughout the Old Testament. We discuss Moses and the “one greater than Moses” who would come. We read the prophecies in Isaiah. We look at how all of the Bible points to our Redeemer.2. Humility of Christ
For the world, the holiday season is about extravagance, opulence, and making every detail picture-perfect. The story of Jesus, however, is one of humility. Christmastime provides a great opportunity to teach our children about what it means to be greatest in the kingdom (Matthew 20:26–28). His parents, his place of birth, his hometown, and his very act of taking on human flesh were all demonstrations of humility. Most people expected the Messiah to arrive in a castle, not a stable. Most expected him to live a life of royalty, not poverty. Most expected him to conquer the Romans, not be crucified by them. Read through Philippians 2:1–11 and show your children the humility of Christ.3. God Works Through Weakness
In a similar vein, teaching our children how God works through weakness is another topic to teach at Christmas. God often chooses the unlikely and the weak to use in his story of redemption. Mary was a simple, poor girl from an insignificant town. Peter was an uneducated fisherman. God’s glory is displayed when he works through our weaknesses. This is seen most dramatically in Jesus’s death on the cross in our place and his resurrection on the third day, securing our victory over sin and death.4. God Keeps His Promises
Another important truth we can emphasize with our children during this season is that God keeps his promises. We can begin with the promise of a Savior after the fall and go throughout the Old Testament, looking at God’s promise to redeem his people, culminating in the fulfilled promise in Christ.5. The Names of Christ
Last year, my children learned a different name for Jesus each day during Advent. We studied names such as Messiah, Lamb of God, Immanuel, Alpha and Omega, and Prince of Peace. Teaching children the names of Jesus and what they mean helps them know more about Jesus, his character, and what he has done. We made a chain link out of paper with a different name printed out on each one. Another way to learn the names might be to create a Christmas ornament for each one and hang them on a Christmas tree each time you study a name.
Take advantage of this time of year to teach your children about the Christ-child. Spend time in the word, showing them the promised Messiah and how that promise was fulfilled in the baby born in Bethlehem. Help them see that Jesus is the greatest gift they could ever receive and the greatest gift they could share with others.
Finally, the son was born. Generation after generation had anticipated his birth and the world desperately needed him. Desperately.
Each day was a gloomy cloud of night. The darkness of death’s shadow filled the earth. Strife and quarrels multiplied without hindrance. The hearts of all mankind only conceived evil. In fact, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). It actually was so bad that the detoxification of wickedness meant the complete de-creation of the world. God would start all over, if not for this one son.
They called him Noah.The First Remnant
Long before the sons of Adam knew there would be a captive Israel (or even an Israel at all), there was a lonely exile from Eden to mourn. They knew they needed a Savior. And the story in Genesis 5 makes it clear that the birth of Noah was full of this hope.
Beginning in Genesis 3:15, all eyes are on this coming offspring of a woman. This is the one who will crush the serpent and reverse the curse. Then Adam and Eve had two sons and the hope intensifies, until Cain murdered Abel and set off to build a metropolis of wicked progeny (Genesis 4:17–24). But Adam had another son, Seth, which inspired Eve’s significant commenatry: “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him” (Genesis 4:25). Seth then also had a son and “at that time people began to call upon the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Genesis 4:26).
This is a remnant, right here at start.
There is a line from Adam — created in the likeness of God and producing offspring in that likeness — all of which live within a wicked world (Genesis 5:1, 3).This One Shall Bring Relief
If we pay careful attention to the details in Genesis, we see a pattern develop in Adam’s genealogy. Sons are born, live long lives, father more sons, and then die. The rhythm is interrupted only once with the profile of Enoch — who didn’t die because he “walked with God” (Genesis 5:24).
And then, ten generations from Adam, the focus is on a certain son named Noah. His birth, like Seth’s, inspires significant commentary. Lamech said of him, “Out of the ground that the Lᴏʀᴅ has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29).
Don’t miss what’s said here. A son has come to heal the curse. Stephen Dempster says it’s striking, “particularly the link between the birth of a son and relief from the curse of the land (Dominion and Dynasty, 71). Make no mistake about it, Noah is the one first looked to as the Savior promised in Genesis 3:15.
Among all the wickedness, Noah grew to find favor with the Lᴏʀᴅ (Genesis 6:7–8). He was a righteous man, blameless in his generation, and like Enoch, he “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9; 7:1). Also like Enoch, he was spared from death when everything around him wasn’t. The flood destroyed the entire earth, except Noah and those in the ark (Genesis 7:23).
The future of all mankind rested on this one, this blameless son. Finally, he had arrived. Finally, the son had come . . . until he fell, eerily similar to the first Adam, in a garden vineyard (Genesis 9:20). He was given the same commission as the first Adam, like the first creation: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 8:17; 9:1, 7). But also similar to the first Adam, and to the chosen nation after him, Noah crumbled in the face of temptation. Hopes were dashed, and the biblical storyline was just getting started.The Truly Righteous
Years would pass, more sons would be born, and the anticipation would rise and fall from Abraham to his two sons, then one; from Isaac to his two sons, then one; from Jacob to his twelve sons, then one, who was called Judah (Genesis 49:10). And throughout the most unlikely circumstances, against the backdrop of slavery and rescue and idolatry and law and conquest and more idolatry and judgment and monarchy and more idolatry and judgment and exile, the smoldering wick of our hope was never quenched.
Another son like Noah appeared — a son of man in that same lineage, but more, he was also the Son of God. His birth inspired significant commentary as well, not merely from his parents, but from a whole multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14).
They called him Jesus.
But unlike Noah, and the first Adam, and everyone else, this son didn’t fail. He looked the tempter himself in the face and prevailed in faithfulness. He was the truly righteous, the wholly blameless. Here, at last, was the promised offspring of Genesis 3:15 — the Dayspring from on High, the Desire of the nations — who was sent by God to conquer the curse not by escaping death, but by defeating it, which he did not by fleeing the waters of judgment in an arc, but by becoming the arc himself and plunging into the darkness.
He became the curse for us to disperse the clouds of night. He died in our place to put to flight death’s shadow. And on the third day, he was raised from the dead to give us vict’ry o’er the grave. Immanuel has come! God-with-us has come!
So Rejoice! Rejoice!
Advent begins today, and this is what it is all about. We rehearse the ancient anticipation, and we rejoice that the Son has come. Rejoice.
Recent posts from Jonathan Parnell:
Happiness and holiness are inseparable. True holiness is unattainable without true happiness. Happiness is part of holiness — even the essence of holiness.
But there’s an even deeper connection between our happiness and holiness, and it’s rooted in God’s holy character.Holy, Holy, Holy!
Many times, a sermon on the holiness of God will start with Isaiah 6:1–5, with a dramatic recounting of Isaiah, the priest, entering the temple in the presence of God’s flowing holiness. Angels cover their faces as Isaiah falls on his face and the temple shakes and tremors in the presence of the almighty, holy God.
The account is frightening, and the sermon is appropriately solemn and serious. It often ends with a grave prayer and silence. Such a sermon is vital for the health of the Church, and we need more of them.
But it also compels a follow-up sermon.Joy, Joy, Joy!
The awesome holiness of God that put Isaiah on his face becomes the holiness of God that puts the people of God on their feet — with hands raised in joyful praise.
This is an important connection to see as Isaiah unfolds, and Isaiah 12:6 is one good example: “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
The majestic holiness of God evokes in God’s people a holy fear, yes. But it also evokes joy and happy confidence in God to overcome the greatest challenges of this world, a theme that echoes throughout the rest of the book (Isaiah 29:19, 41:14–16, 56:7).Exceeding Joy in the Holy One
The holiness of God generates happiness in God’s people, and this point echoes beyond Isaiah and throughout the Old Testament. Psalm 96 is entirely devoted to making this point, as are passages like 1 Chronicles 16:25–33, 1 Samuel 2:1–2, Nehemiah 8:10, Psalms 30:4–5, 33:21, 43:3–4, 46:4, 48:1–2, 65:4, 68:1–6, 71:22–23, 89:15–18, 97:12.
Here are a couple of brief examples:
“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!” (Psalm 97:12)
“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” (Psalm 33:20–21)
God’s holiness is his awesome strength and his unique beauty, his unwavering dependability and his reigning power. Only a holy God like this can ensure the safety of his people. Only a holy God can promise that all things will be put in order. Only a holy God can assure us every evil and sadness will be defeated in the end.
And so the people of God are glad and filled with exceeding joy, in the Holy One.From Great Fear to Great Joy
Succinctly put, here’s the point. The vision of God’s majestic holiness in Isaiah 6 provides the foundation for the happiness of believers in Isaiah 12:6 and elsewhere. The tremors of God’s holiness shake us to the core to unsettle everything false and fake and trivial in our lives in order for us to find genuine gladness in God’s Holy Name.
We do live in holy fear, but we don’t live facedown in the temple. We fear God in a way that leads us to raise our hands in joyful praise and glad confidence.Holiness Made Human
And yet just when we think we have a grasp of God’s holiness in the Old Testament, something stunning happens on the opening pages of the New Testament.
The Holy One emerges from the temple, implants in a virgin’s womb, and surfaces one dark night in history as an infant.
A child, called “holy,” the Son of God, is born in a dirty Bethlehem barn (Luke 1:35).
Immanuel — Holy God with us — an infant, a child, and later a man, of infinite holiness — has tabernacled among us (John 1:14).
The “Holy One of God” draws close, and brings with himself joy to the world.
Recent posts from Tony Reinke —
Union with Christ. We couldn’t be any more excited about taking up this theme at our upcoming conference for pastors.
Whether this doctrine is an old friend or one you haven’t heard much about, it will be greatly enriching to give three days to basking in the theology and everyday implications with Michael Horton, Sinclair Ferguson, and John Piper. (Full schedule below.)
Whether or not it’s a live option for you to join us, we invite you into the 2-minute video below, narrated by John Piper. Our prayer is that you might pick up something fresh about this important doctrine and be inspired for a lifetime of diving deeper into its bottomless sea.
Register by January 1 to receive a $15 discount on the conference rate.The Pastor, the Vine, and the Branches The Remarkable Reality of Union with Christ Desiring God 2014 Conference for Pastors February 3–5, Minneapolis, Minnesota
John Piper, Glorifying God by Bearing Fruit in Union with Christ (John 15:1–11)
Sinclair Ferguson, Union with Christ: Mind-Renewing Foundations (Romans 6:1–14)
Michael Horton, John Calvin on Union with Christ
Sinclair Ferguson, Union with Christ: Life-Transforming Implications (Colossians 3:1–17)
Michael Horton, Union with Christ and the Communion of Saints
John Piper, The Ministry of Hudson Taylor as Life in Christ
Pre-Conference and Seminars
Paul David Tripp, Preaching the Gospel to Yourself
Paul David Tripp, Living the Gospel That You Preach
Jared Wilson, The Promise in Pastoral Weakness
Kempton Turner, The Pastor’s Purity and Pleasure
Rick Gamache, Pastoring Your Wife and Kids
David Mathis & Jonathan Parnell, How to Stay Christian in Seminary – And Any Season of Waiting
Plus seven 10-minute “small talks” from Horton, Ferguson, Tripp, Wilson, Sam Crabtree, Jason DeRouchie, and Andy Naselli. More information at the event page.