Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Competing purposes


Loving God and loving others do not have to be in competition.

Today the famous author and speaker John Piper came to our school to speak in chapel. His emphasis and passions lie on the “supremacy of Christ.” He brought up some interesting questions. “What does it mean to be loved by God?” We usually explain the love of God with Us right in the middle of that. His point was that God’s love for us is not abut us but for Him, “His glory.” I’m still thinking about that one…

Despite the good points and awesome questions he brought up I still found myself exhausted and frustrated, thinking “why do I hate him so much.” There was one thing he said (and never allow one statement to ruin a whole sermon) that really, really bothered me.

Piper asked why we’re sending people to help with Katrina in New Orleans. He said “if you’re sending them to hell, comfortable on the way, you don’t love them.” He said “if you leave them without the “greatest treasure” then you do nothing for them. I hated those statements. Feeding the hungry has no spiritual significance, no eternal weight? Is helping people just some avenue we can use to indoctrinate people? What the hell is the “greatest treasure” anyway? Its Jesus isn’t it? Not dogma or theology. The ultimate treasure is Jesus, right? I thought it ironic that this whole sermon was about Jesus but to him the “greatest treasure” was “eternal life” disguised as Jesus. Something beautiful about Jesus is that He always meets physical needs before spiritual need. I always say if we offer Jesus to a hungry man without offering him bread what kind of Jesus are we offering? What treasure are we giving people in need if we do not meet their need? What kind of Jesus was piper offering?

I remember in a youth group I used to go to we were taught to use food as a way to evangelize, saying “I’ll buy you lunch if you listen to me about Jesus.” Yes, we bribed them. We used to put Bible verses on candy bars and hand them out. Yes, we were desperate to make a point.

If you remember, someone once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment of God was. Now, remember this is in a culture very faithful to many, many commandments. It was in the Region called the Galilee, probably the most religious region in all the land. They understood Torah and revered it. When Jesus answers the question He does more than pick one He tells us what all the other commands are about. He says to love God and love others. These two things go hand in hand. They exist side by side, they’re interdependent. Why do we so often put them in competition? For Jesus how you love God is how you love people and how you love people is how you love God. Also in scripture it says that “God is love.” If God is love than does that mean that people who love are somehow in relationship with Him? Do you have to read the Bible to love or did God create us to do that? One of my professors Steve Gerali said in class the other day that our love for people flows out of our love for God. True. Does it not work the other way too? Does our love for people not flow or convert to love for God in some mysterious way at some point?

For Piper the deeds we do and the actions we live out have no eternal significance. For Piper we are alive to die and all that lasts forever is the decisions we make about Jesus. For piper Jesus is all about Jesus and has nothing to do with our physical wellbeing. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is here and now. Our physical wellbeing and our needs matter to Him, that is love. The way we live and the vigor of our love last forever.

It’s logical isn’t it? Why would something so pure as caring for the oppressed and the orphan and freeing the slave be so in vain? Why should beauty burn?

I realized why I was exhausted during chapel. I am so, so tired… God is so tired of competition between love for him and love for His people.

I refuse to live under a time deadline. I don’t think that it’s my responsibility to covert everyone to my way of thinking. I don’t think that I need to hurry. If anything I need to slow God.

“Be still and know that I am God”

I need to remember that God is God and I am not. I need to remember that God loves people so much more than I do and He wants them to be saved more than I do. The ultimate goal is not some event in the future like “rapture” or death. The goal is designed to be lived out NOW!

The greatest gift you can ever give to a hungry man is food.

14 comments:

Pastor Art said...

Wes

One of the weaknesses (to put it kindly) of the reformed - Calvinistic theological school reveals itself in these situations. There is rejection of “Old Testament” thinking and therefore reveals (I am not sure this is the correct word to us here but I think you get the picture, not the true God) a truncated god. Without the Hebrew foundational aspects of our being made in Yahweh’s image the words of Jesus take on divergent meaning. Caring for Yahweh’s image “man” is central to the community of Israel - of which as believers we are grafted in. the Hebrew knew that to show kindness and provision to “the lest of these” was to be lending to the poor. Jesus made quite evident that this is criteria He will be making eternal judgment upon. James His brother makes it quite clear that “TRUE” religion is defined by caring for the widows and orphans and to have a faith that reflects salvation. When turning away one who asks for assistance is showing “DEMONIC” faith and we would do well to start to tremble for preaching a different Gospel or are we stupider then demons?

Jesus put the two aspects together love Yahweh love man because they are inseparable. Incase anybody might think that only the saved should know and receive mercy remember we should care for our enemies by so doing we heap burning coals upon their heads. But if experience has any truth to it kindness to enemies speaks of Yahweh’s compassion and kindness which leads to salvation. Soooo this is apart of the Euro - centric stuff I complain about the rejection of any thing Jewish ie the anti - Semitic heart, this school of thought festers. (understand I am not saying people holding to this school of thought are anti - Semitic per say, but the “New Testament” Christian mentality is rooted in this 3rd century lie. Subjugating the thinking of the Jews as anti - christ and valueless and salvation by works. )
Pastor Art

Teresa said...

Amen Wes. I've been trying to write some of what you wrote recently, but I have not posted it. It just did not come out right. I have so much more to learn and my human brain is just too small. I just cannot understand why for so long that we have made eternity the "main thing" when Jesus told us what the "main thing" was. I'm also thinking that maybe it is not really important.

Kim said...

I love this post Wes! So well said. Bravo!

Of course in this I hear Jesus saying, "Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, so you do unto Me." I feel like you really nailed it here.

The other side of this, the potential danger if you will, is of course doing the good works in our own strength, or out of our own righteousness (which is just as bad as not doing anything at all). "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" or "without Him we can do nothing" includes loving one another. We have to tap into the Father's love in order to give it away. (it seems when you're tapped in you just HAVE TO give it away -- it cannot be contained...)

Great stuff here, Wes. Keep it coming :).

jamieunited said...

I think what Piper was getting at was the thought that if do nice things for people, but they do not know Christ, then they are still going to Hell. And so with this in mind, I think that helping someone out without introducing them to Christ leaves them sortchanged, as they receive a temporary need, but ultimatly will be left without Christ.
To put it another way, if you see a blind person saying "I'm Hungry, feed me" while he is walking toward the edge of a cliff, is it more loving to give him a cheeseburger, or to usher him away from the cliff. I realize that it always doesn't have to be one or the other, but if you give him that cheeseburger and refrain from telling him he is about to fall to his death, have you really shown him love?

WES ELLIS said...

I agree but we often are so concerned with getiing people out of hell that we never show them heaven. It's our responsebility to bring heaven here. eternity is now, I don't neglect one need for another. Remember God is watching the blind person walk off the cliff even when we don't. God loves them more than we do, slow down forget about how dark the dark is and start shining the light brighter.

Kerry Doyal said...

"For Piper the deeds we do and the actions we live out have no eternal significance. For Piper we are alive to die and all that lasts forever is the decisions we make about Jesus. For piper Jesus is all about Jesus and has nothing to do with our physical well being."


Careful of making Piper a straw man. I do not like some things Piper says at times, but I have to say I am not sure you are being fair towards him (loving this neighbor).

Some do hold to the points you are mad about. No doubt. But, careful of making Piper the whipping boy based on a chapel experience.

Your points are too important to get lost in Piper is / isn't, does / doesn't. Dont' lose your audience making the same mistakes you feel he did.

WES ELLIS said...

sorry I came across that way Kerry. I tried to point out that Piper made good points as well. I realize that people hold to these ideas so I didn't think that this would be offensive. I did like much of what Piper was saying I was just trying to be honest about how some of what he said made me think and feel. I meant no offense.

Kim said...

"...we often are so concerned with getting people out of hell that we never show them heaven."

Amen. :)

I think I might be quoting you for years on this one :).

"...eternity is now,..."

Flip said...

Ahh - I just read your post and loved it. And the idea of "showing them heaven" - so true.

bobbiehelland said...

Our relationships with people are about questions. Everyone asks the same ones: who am I? Where did I come from? What am I doing here? Where am I going?

In an emergency situation, when our worlds are rocked, such as after the hurricane, people's most basic question is 'how will I survive? What is to become of me now?' If we answer: 'Jesus', we are not answering the question they are asking.

It is only after their temporal needs are met, and they are shown that we care about their immediate questions, that we can begin to approach the other questions. 'What is to become of you tomorrow, now that today is taken care of?'

Ultimately, Jesus is the answer to every question. But until those we come in contact with ask the questions, we are shouting into the wind. And when we neglect to answer the questions they are asking, we neglect to build relationship. Jesus met the physical needs of the needy people around him, then spoke to them of their spiritual needs. We can do no more. We should do no less.

sparrow said...

Thanks for the comment...
Honest post you wrote.
When you said that, to Piper, the "greatest treasure" was eternal life, not Jesus, I believe he meant both...maybe to him, eternal life IS Jesus, and Jesus IS eternal life. Maybe in his mind the two concepts(Jesus, eternal life) are one and the same.
Its just a thought.

Pastor Art said...

The issue is not which is true eternal life is Jesus or Jesus is eternal life or if they are one in the same. Argument can be made in many directions upon this use of words. The issue that appears to be at the front in this situation is how do we as followers of Jesus interact with wisdom?

There are a number of illustrations from His life to get a perspective. The man carried by his friends, the blind man born that way, and even the women caught in adultery. In these and other contacts the first action entailed the pressing time confined “emergency”. Then once the time - this life’s, problem was remedied Jesus begin to approach the Eternity issue. In each case those who experienced His compassion concerning temporal deliverance and salvation were able and willing to accept that supernatural and Eternal deliverance and salvation was needed and could be received. They then were faced with the reality and “choice” concerning eternity with hope and evidence that there is grace and compassion because it has been seen through “the Body of Christ” and the workings of "His Holy Spirit" in us His Body and Spirit instrument, 'us men' at this time in this temporal physical world of which they are restricted as natural men to in their understanding, as Paul said.

Wise responsible action comes from us who have the ability to understand on both the natural and supernatural plains. Our hands Samaritan hands…. Is the question Jesus is …? our as His Body we are…?
Pastor Art

Kris said...

"Piper asked why we’re sending people to help with Katrina in New Orleans. He said “if you’re sending them to hell, comfortable on the way, you don’t love them.” He said “if you leave them without the “greatest treasure” then you do nothing for them. I hated those statements. Feeding the hungry has no spiritual significance, no eternal weight? Is helping people just some avenue we can use to indoctrinate people? What the hell is the “greatest treasure” anyway?"

Like you Wes I have a hard accepting some of Mr. Pipers teaching. Maybe he is way over my head, I don't know, but something is not quite right in my spirit after I hear some of his statements. I like alot of his teachings though.

Now about your quote above; If Piper said that we are "sending them to hell" he sure is giving us alot of power that I don't think we have. This is an odd statement coming from a person who believes in "the elect" in the sense that God sends people to hell just because He is God. If he really believes this then that statement of "us" sending them to hell is utter nonsense. This does not mean we don't share our faith either.

I don't think people are very receptive to someone telling them they are hell bound and "I" have good news to tell you while they are starving for lack of food. Are we feeding them just for purpose of bribing them into heaven or are we feeding them because Christ is living in us and thats what He wants to do. I'm like you Wes we share our faith by feeding them, especially without a FEMA tag on our shirt.

I hope Mr. Piper just came across different that what is in his heart. If he really believes in his doctrine of election in the sense that calvinism is taught, then shouldn't we show love to those who may not be "elected" and make their life here on earth a little more comfortable by feeding those that are hungry that can't feed themselves before they die and go to the "pits of hell" without any choice in the matter.

When Jesus was asked who are neighbor was, His story of the good Samaritan said the guy loved his neighbor because he cared for him and fed him and provided him shelter. If sharing the gospel was a requirement every time we helped our neighbor in time of need in order for it to be love according to Piper, then surely the Lord would have included that in His story.

TickTock said...

"he who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous." not; he who tells someone he is unrighteous is righteous.