Five Strategies for Avoiding Intellectualism Interview with John Piper

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It has always been a struggle for me to move the knowledge of the Scriptures from the head (intellect) to the heart. I want to feel close to God, but there are many times I read the Scriptures and still feel distant. This article has helped me in very practical ways to move towards a deeper relationship with God. Hope this helps you as well.

In Christ,
Brandon H.

Five Strategies for Avoiding Intellectualism
Interview with John Piper Topic: Study & Scholarship

[Audio Transcript]  Pastor John, you have, for years stressed an approach to Reformed theology that is both hard-thinking and deep-feeling. Each of us will tend to fall on one side or the other, either an anti-intellectual feeling, or an anti-feeling intellectualism. Both are to be avoided. In today’s question, a listener wants to know this: “Dear Pastor John, in your 30+ years of ministry, what have you practically done to avoid mere intellectualism — cold academic study — in your Bible reading and in your exposition?”

1) The first thing I would say is that I need to be, we need to be, deeply persuaded that this really, really matters: this non-cold, non-intellectualistic, warm, practical, affectionate relation to the living Christ. We need to be persuaded. This really matters because there are a lot of people out there — I keep bumping into them — there are a lot of people out there who either for personality reasons or sometimes theological reasons think it doesn’t matter what your emotions do. That is, they think emotions are the caboose at the end of the train. They are just not essential at all. And it sounds like the person who wrote this question is persuaded that they matter, and it might be good to ask why. And here is my reason.

The first and greatest commandment is not to know the Lord our God — which is, of course, assumed — but to love the Lord your God. And that includes with all your heart (Matthew 22:36–37). And Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians: If you don’t love the Lord you are accursed (1 Corinthians 16:22). Love the Lord. And Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). In other words, the love that we must have isn’t just a kind of dutiful, commandment-keeping love. That is not what you have for your kids, nor your parents. It is the deepest, heartfelt, affectionate, relative kind of love, the kind we have for mother and father and son and daughter — only more, more for Jesus. And if we don’t have it, we are not worthy of Jesus.

So, this is the first thing I would say. We must be totally, John Piper must be totally persuaded that knowing God truly without loving him duly is eternally deadly, deadly. I must be persuaded of that. So, I am trembling at the thought that I could go about my academic work or my scholarly work or my writing work or preaching work or study work in some kind of cold frame with no awakened love for God, affection for God. So, the quest for overcoming what he is referring to as intellectualism is a life and death battle. That is the first thing.

2) The second thing I would say is that we should therefore read all things — Scripture and everything else, especially the word; the Scripture, but also the world and everything in it — we should read everything on the lookout for evidences of God’s value, not just evidences of his truth. The devil owns that God is true and probably knows more true things about God than we do. But the devil will not own that God is supremely valuable and supremely satisfying. The devil values himself above God. God’s presence gives no joy and no satisfaction to the devil whatsoever.

Therefore, our aim in reading the Bible should not be demonic. We are not aiming to rise just to the level of the devil. Our aim is, of course, to see what is really there, what is true about God — but always more, always more; namely, with a view to feeling what is valuable about God, treasuring the treasure that God is. The aim is to see the millions of reasons why God is a treasure, not just the millions of evidences that God exists or has certain attributes. All of our theological refinement should be for the sake of doxological embrace and enjoyment. This affects the way you read. This is what I try to do. I try to read. You read on the lookout for evidences of value, evidences of preciousness, evidences that he is beautiful and sweet and satisfying.

Peter says in 1 Peter 2:1–3, “Long for the pure, spiritual milk” — and I think he means the milk of the word — “that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” What is the point of that if: if you have tasted? The point is that all the drinking in the world without tasting will not grow us up into salvation. The aim of drinking the word is tasting the Savior. It is the tasting that is the nutritional encounter with the living God that grows us up into salvation. So, that is the second thing I would say. In all of our reading, be on the lookout for evidences of God’s value, not just evidences of his truth.

3) Which leads now to the third thing that I would say, namely, that the goal of valuing or treasuring or feeling the preciousness of or enjoying the beauty of God in all of our reading confronts me immediately with the impossibility on my part of making it happen. You can’t make yourself value God. You can make yourself read. You can make yourself list off attributes of God that you see. You can make yourself list of ways that God behaves. But you can’t make yourself feel how wonderful they are. That is why the psalmist cries: Open my eyes that I may see wonders in your Word (Psalm 119:18).

So, the third point is: Pray, pray, pray. And we pray not only for illumination to see what is really there about God, but to feel. We pray Psalm 90:14, “Satisfy [me] in the morning with your steadfast love.” Why in the world would the psalmist pray that, except that the human heart doesn’t naturally feel it when it hears and sees the beauties of God? God has to work this. We ask God to make us satisfied in God. So, prayer is absolutely essential not only that my eyes would be open, but that my affections would be awakened.

4) The fourth thing I would say is that, beyond the Bible, I read authors who have understood God deeply and felt him mightily and expressed both the understanding and the feeling with clarity and power. For me, that has been mainly Jonathan Edwards and John Owen and C.S. Lewis and the Puritans. You need to find the great seers of God and the great lovers of God and the great expressers of the seeing and the loving, so that they can feed your soul with true and large affections.

I know you, Tony, would put John Newton in that category and so would I — kind of a latter-day Puritan who saw things deeply and expressed things beautifully and felt things deeply. So that is number four.

5) And then, finally, I would say: Open your mouth and bear witness to family and friends and neighbors and colleagues to the beauty of God and your joy in him. It is precisely in giving expression to our joy that intensifies the joy itself. A shared joy is a doubled joy. God loves mission. God loves witness. God loves sharing. God loves loving people. And he does not love hoarding. Therefore, when we turn on our affections and express them to other people, God is pleased and our joy is intensified.

So, those are my five strategies against cold intellectualism. There are lots more strategies, but maybe that is enough to set the trajectory of discovery.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

Copyright © 2016 by John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Find the original article at http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/five-strategies-for-avoiding-intellectualism


Community by Lauren Schaefer

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Lauren Schaefer has been attending Calvary Baptist Church since 2011 and resides in Fort Worth, TX with her son Tevyn. Lauren regularly volunteers in the Boulevard (preschool age) and Park (nursery) areas of Kid City. When she's not cheering on her son's team (Go Eagles!) or serving her church, Lauren enjoys entertaining, game nights with friends, and DIY projects.

Community

In March of 2015 God blessed me with a new home. Before it was even mine I knew I wanted use it to serve Him. I didn't know how I'd do that but I figured I could host an event like the youth during D-now weekend or a life group. It wasn't long before God put it on my heart to foster children and I chose to trust His plan. As I was moving in and getting settled, I hung a sign in the front room with a verse from the book of Joshua that reads "as for me and my house we will serve the Lord". Almost immediately Satan started putting obstacles in the way.

Everything that could go wrong did; plumbing, heating, you name it. Then when I began the process of becoming a foster parent, Satan attacked me even harder. He told me I was crazy. He told me I couldn't do what God was leading me to do. One specific thing Satan said was “You can't even afford to fix your fence. What makes you think you could afford another mouth to feed? How do you think you're going to be able to do this?” I tried my best to ignore him and clung to God's word, hoping He would drown Satan out, but I didn't hear anything.

It was during the prayer request portion of my life group meeting that I found the strength to share what I was going through. This group of ladies, that I believe God stitched together, prayed over me and encouraged me throughout the week.

At the very next life group meeting, one of the men in my life group came up to me and said. "Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. we'll be at your house to fix your fence."

I was taken back,"What?"

He repeated himself.

"I will be at a work conference out of town"

"Well, can we get in the back yard?", he asked.

I replied, "Yes, but..."

"But what?"

"But I don't have any money."

He said "Don't worry about it. We'll figure it out."

I shook my head and said "What do you mean we'll figure it out?"

And he walked away.

Saturday morning came and by the time I got home from my conference they guys were already halfway done. But it wasn't until the next day when the “God moment” came. I was on my way to Church and one of the guys text me and asked "Do you hear God now?" It was like a two-by-four to the head and I broke into tears almost instantly. I had become so focused on trying to hear God through His Word, that I missed Him speaking to me through this group of people!

Community, life groups, are about developing closer connections with people who will circle around you, who know when you're feeling overwhelmed, and they will help you. If you feel like you can’t do something, they'll step in and encourage you.  People to say, “Hey, you might not be able to do that right now, but I will help you! What do you need?” Without a doubt, there's a big reason that community and fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ is important. Just seeing God and hearing God work through this group of people absolutely impacts my walk with Jesus.

Jonah Chapter 3: Reach (Part 4)

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Jonah Chapter 3
Reach Pt. 4

      Jonah 4:1-4 “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ 4 And the Lord said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’”
                 
What is it going take to reach out with forgiveness and love, as discussed in the last article, instead of revenge or retreat?



Read this carefully, Forgiveness is when you get rid of the anger and bitterness before you deal with the wrong doer instead of getting rid of the anger and bitterness by dealing with the wrong doer. Read that again. Let me quickly explain why you need to overcome bitterness and resentment. Do you understand that you are playing into the Devil’s trap when you allow yourself to lose your temper to the point of cussing someone out, fighting them, locking yourself in your room, or getting bitter? If you do not first forgive the wrongdoer, you cannot respond with love.

But here’s the tricky thing. Forgiveness doesn’t feel right. Forgiveness feels more like you are letting somebody off the hook. Like, “I know you lied to me, but lying is OK.” We all feel like we need to bring justice. But forgiveness says, “You know what, I’m guilty too. And I deserve justice too. But I was forgiven by Jesus, therefore I will forgive you too.” Vengeance is the Lord’s and we need to trust that He can deal with the punishment a lot better than we can.

Once forgiveness is dealt with in your heart, you can reach out with love to destroy evil. Here’s how:

First, you need to make sure you deal with the attitude of superiority. Verse four is God’s award-winning response to Jonah’s judgmental pouting. God puts his finger on Jonah’s whole issue and with one question obliterates any reason for his religious and rebellious attitude. He said, “Do you do well to be angry?” Doesn’t seem that extraordinary, right? Were you a little let down at God’s life-changing response? What He is really asking is, “Jonah, what gives you the right to be angry? Who do you think you are?”

You know, we will never have a family bond in Calvary Baptist Church if we can’t trust each other. And we can never trust each other if there is judgment amongst us. And we can never get rid of the judgment if we have an attitude of superiority. Let me ask you, how can we extend anything BUT grace to the evil world after grace has saved us from evil? How could we ever think we are any better when we never earned our own righteousness in the first place?

We’re all dorks. We’re all sinners. None of us deserve God’s salvation. So basically, here’s what the Bible is really saying: Get over yourself. You’re not better than anybody else.

Secondly, to bring about the destruction of evil in your life, you need to keep looking at Jesus. Remember back when Jonah was in the belly of the fish and he was contemplating the Temple where blood was shed? He remembered it wasn’t the guilty who shed his blood but rather it was the blood of innocent animals being shed to cover the sins of the guilty. But somewhere in the middle of getting digested in the fish’s belly and preaching revival at Nineveh he had forgotten that. Apparently, Jesus’ blood was enough for HIS salvation, but not for the Ninevites salvation.

When I say we must keep our eyes on Jesus, I mean we need to remember that our identity is in Jesus Christ and what He did. Never about what we have done. Who we are and what we are is only because of the gospel of Jesus Christ alone. He reached out to us first. Again, the only hope we have of ruining evil is to reach out with the forgiveness and love that Jesus first reached us with!

I once read this moving story from South Africa. When Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, he came into power at the end of a long string of vicious wars, battles, and violence. So there were major efforts made at stopping the violence that had plagued the country for so long. One such attempt was the forming of the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ where people came before the commission to confess to torturing and murdering others. It was horrific as so many people told terrible stories in graphic detail. The horrors of the crimes make one particular story especially moving.

Two people who came before the commission were Mrs. Calata and her daughter. See, Mrs. Calata's husband had been an advocate for black South Africans in rural communities. Because of his work, he'd been arrested, detained, and tortured by the police many times. But one day he simply disappeared and his wife and daughter had no idea what had happened to him. Until, soon after his disappearance, on the front page of the newspaper, Mrs. Calata saw a photograph of her husband's car on fire. That was how she had learned her husband had been killed. She cried so loudly during the hearing at the Commission as she described the autopsy's report about his horrific torture that the Commission had to be dismissed for a while.

When they reconvened, Mrs. Calata's daughter testified. Years had gone by, and she was now a young lady. She pleaded with the commission to discover who had killed her father. But she wasn’t crying out because she wanted vengeance or justice. What she said astounded the hearers, "We want to forgive, but we don't know whom to forgive."

Eventually members of the police confessed to the crime. Rather than continue the endless cycle of hatred, Mrs. Calata and her daughter reached out with forgiveness to the men who tortured and killed their husband and father. And that is how these two amazing ladies ruined the evil in their lives.

Right now, you can radically change our attitude toward those who have hurt you. Right now, you can make the decision to stop trying to get revenge or retreat and start reaching out with forgiveness and love. You can do this if you keep looking to Jesus who loved and forgave you first..

"See Or Stumble" - A Vision for 2017

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See or Stumble: A Vision of 2017




  

"See Or Stumble" - A Vision for 2017 - Brian Loveless Sermon on January 1, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas.

When I tell you that it is a joy to see you, I mean that quite literally. Many of you have been asking about my eye. For those of you didn't know, a few months back I had a little sports injury. I had it for a while and didn't really even know until had started to get darker in my right eye on the periphery. I came in one morning and James, our youth pastor came in, and his face in my right eye was crunched down like a funhouse mirror and I thought something's off. I went into the doctor and they said that I had a completely torn and detached retina. They had to go in and, not trying to gross you out, but take all the fluid out of my eye, pump it full of gas to hold it in the round while it healed. So for the past number of weeks, actually two months, I've had this gas bubble in my eye that's been getting smaller and smaller. It was down to just a little bitty bubble and on Friday disappeared completely. Thank God it's healing up really, really well. I'm very, very grateful that I'm able to read again. It's not perfect but it's almost there.