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Martin Luther on the Cross

The news that brings joy–the Gospel–is out of this world, because, the more you explore it, the more you are simultaneously taken in two directions:

1. Into the knowledge of how loved you are by God.

2. Into the knowledge of how terrible you are.

I want you to know that both of those things are equally important in the Gospel. However, since our culture tends to major on how loved we are and minor on how bad we are, I thought these words from Martin Luther might be helpful:

You must be overwhelmed by the frightful wrath of God who so hated sin that he spared not his only begotten Son…. Take this to heart and doubt not that you are the one who killed Christ. Your sins certainly did, and when you see the nails driven through his hands, be sure that you are pounding, and when the thorns pierce his brow, know that they are your evil thoughts.

–Martin Luther

(I came across this quote in Tim Chester’s book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free, which I would highly recommend to everyone and anyone as the best book I’ve yet read on the topic)

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How the Gospel Makes Any Job a Joy-filled One

One day as I was walking to my car after a long day of work, I smiled and thanked God. It had been a good day. Despite the challenges and frustrations that had inevitably come, God had given me the grace to talk problems through with Him, to seek Him for help, and to pray for students. Because of the closeness that this gave me with Him, my day was exciting–not because of the content of my work (for example, I spent nearly an hour filling in bubbles on Scantrons)–but because of the One with whom I shared it.

This isn’t a pat on the back anecdote. During the day, I sinned repeatedly–I harbored anger against students, avoided numerous unpleasant tasks, complained in my heart, wasted countless minutes on worrying or inbox-tidying… and that was before lunch! No, the fellowship I enjoyed with God at work had nothing to do with me. Were it up to my performance, I would be alone at my job completely, and I would only be able to find satisfaction in my work when everything was going my way. As a public school teacher, that would mean I would almost never find satisfaction in my work! I’m sure you can relate regardless of your occupation.

So why do I get unlimited access to my Maker, whom I habitually turn away from in my heart? Why am I able to be filled with joy in my job, no matter how bad it gets?

There was once a man–Jesus–who did his job in perfect obedience to God. He held a secular job as a carpenter and a service-oriented job as a travelling teacher and healer. Despite the constant temptations each day to ignore God, this worker never forgot about Him. But then, at the pinnacle of his career, this worker was given an impossible assignment. It meant losing his reputation, his friends, his family, his comfort, and his body–and, worst of all, it meant losing his connection to God.

Ever obedient, Jesus took the assignment. On the cross, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46), because he was literally being cut off from God–his connection with God was being severed; his ability to be filled with joy was smashed; the eternal joy of being a part of the Trinity was being torn from Him.

Because of this, no matter how bad my job gets–if they take away my benefits, take away my raises, cut my salary, give me the worst classes filled with the most unruly students for the rest of my career, move me to the basement, sue me, accuse me, slander me, spite me, betray me–God will never leave me. Because Jesus lost him, I will never lose access to Him. Because Jesus was cast out of His presence, He will always be present for me.

This is one way that the Gospel completely changes how we look at our work. This is why we can no longer partake in idle complaining about our jobs. We should always seek to improve the places at which we work, but never with complaining hearts. The Lord we follow got the worst work assignment in the world, and he took it for us. Now we can go to our jobs with an unshakable joy that no circumstances can touch.

John Piper on Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions

In Don’t Waste Your Life, Piper lists several of Edwards’ resolutions, which were written while Edwards was in his “early twenties to intensify his life for the glory of God.”

  • Resolution #5: “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.”
  • Resolution #6: “Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.”
  • Resolution #17: “Resolved, that I will love so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”
  • Resolution #22: “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.”

This last resolution (#22) may strike us as blatantly self-centered, even dangerous, if we do not understand the deep connection in Edwards’s mind between the glory of God and the happiness of Christians. The violence he had in mind was what Jesus meant when he said in essence, “Better to gouge out your eye to kill lust and go to heaven than to make peace with sin and go to hell” (Matthew 5:29). And with regard to seeking his own happiness, keep in mind that Edwards was absolutely convinced that being happy in God was the way we glorify him. This was the reason we were created. Delighting in God was not a mere preference or option in life; it was our joyful duty and should be the single passion of our lives. Therefore to resolve to maximize his happiness in God was to resolve to show him more glorious than all other sources of happiness. Seeking happiness in God and glorifying God were the same.

–John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, p. 29-30

(For a complete list of Edwards’ resolutions, check out A Puritan’s Mind.)

John Piper on Why God Created Us

God created me–and you–to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion–namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. Enjoying and displaying are both crucial. If we try to display the excellence of God without joy in it, we will display a shell of hypocrisy and create scorn or legalism. But if we claim to enjoy his excellence and do not display it for others to see and admire, we deceive ourselves, because the mark of God-enthralled joy is to overflow and expand by extending itself into the hearts of others. The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.

–John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, p. 31