The Legacy Of Sovereign Joy (book review)

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God uses humans—flawed, imperfect humans—to accomplish His sovereign plan. As we yield to His sovereignty we can discover an unparalleled joy. In The Legacy Of Sovereign Joy, John Piper shows us this principle in the lives of three notable men of church history: Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. 

Although separated by 1000 years, these men are inseparably linked to the beginning of the Reformation. Both Luther and Calvin relied heavily on the writings of Augustine as they called Christians away from the unbiblical teachings and traditions, and back to the pure, freeing truths of the Bible. 

These men are also linked in another way that should be quite encouraging to us. Augustine struggled with his sexual passions, Luther struggled to control his razor-sharp tongue, and Calvin used some rather worldly means to fight for biblical truths. All of them were flawed men, and yet God sovereignly used them. And through all of their struggles, the Holy Spirit brought all three of them into a place where they savored the sovereign joy that only God can give. This should give us great encouragement that God can use us too. 

By themselves, John Piper’s biographies of these men are worth your time to read, but the way Pastor John intertwines their stories to show us how sovereign joy can be our mainstay as well is absolutely brilliant. 

This was the first book Pastor John published in his series “The Swans Are Not Silent.” If you’re interested, I have previously shared reviews on The Hidden Smile Of God and Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully. 

Students of church history and those longing to know the joy of the Lord more deeply will enjoy reading The Legacy Of Sovereign Joy. 

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Everlasting, Unshakable Joy

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The Lord is angry with all nations… (Isaiah 34:2). 

Perhaps that verse surprises you in light of the title of this post, “Everlasting, Unshakable Joy,” but stick with me.

These phrases from Isaiah 34 do sound like terrible news:

  • God is angry with all nations
  • His wrath is on all their armies
  • God will totally destroy them
  • Even all the starry host will fall
  • God Himself says, “My sword has drunk its fill” 
  • All the world’s princes will vanish away 

But please keep in mind that this is only bad news for those who don’t have their sins forgiven through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause” (v. 8). And, “He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you” (35:4). 

So God’s anger is not at those whose sins have been forgiven, but at those who are not only unforgiven but hell-bent on attacking those who are forgiven. 

These words are intended to “strengthen feeble hands, steady the knees that give away,” and to bring strength “to those with fearful hearts” (35:3-4). 

The righteous have nothing to fear when the world is quaking in fear! “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crowned their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (v. 10)! 

This is why Jesus told us, “I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4 NIV), and, “Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in His hands” (Luke 12:5 MSG). And also the apostle Peter reminds us that we do not fear what the world fears (1 Peter 3:14). 

If your sins are forgiven, if you are walking in God’s paths, if you are seeking to savor the glory of God, and desirous that His glory be seen on earth as it is in heaven, there is not only nothing to fear, but you will have an everlasting, unshakable joy! 

Get your eyes off the world’s bad news, and keep your eyes firmly on the Good News that only Jesus has made a reality! 

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Honk Your Thanks

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If anxiety kills joy, what kills anxiety? Anxiety—the joy-killer—is itself killed when joy is expressed.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of what you don’t have.

Being thankful for what you have kills the fear of what you may be missing.

Being grateful for what you have kills the anxiety of the bad stuff that may never even happen.

If joy kills anxiety, how can we develop more of it? Most people would say, “If you’re happy, give thanks” or “If you’re happy, honk.” But really it’s the other way around: “If you want to be happy, honk!”

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Honking your thanks is not only good for you, but it’s good for everyone around you who hears your “honk! honk!” of gratitude. David experienced this in Psalm 34:1-3. Even when he was at a low point, when he started praising God other anxious people began to experience joy as well.

This is a snippet from a longer message, which you can find by clicking here.

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Poetry Saturday—My Heart Is Resting

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My heart is resting, O my God—
I will give thanks and sing;
My heart is at the secret source
Of every precious thing.
Now the frail vessel Thou hast made
No hand but Thine shall fill
For the waters of the Earth have failed,
And I am thirsty still.

I thirst for springs of heavenly life,
And here all day they rise—
I seek the treasure of Thy love,
And close at hand it lies.
And a new song is in my mouth
To long-loved music set
Glory to Thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet.

Glory to Thee for strength withheld,
For want and weakness known—
And the fear that sends me to Thy breast
For what is most my own.
I have a heritage of joy
That yet I must not see;
But the hand that bled to make it mine
Is keeping it for me.

There is a certainty of love
That sets my heart at rest—
A calm assurance for today
That to be poor is best—
A prayer reposing on His truth
Who hath made all things mine,
That draws my captive will to Him,
And makes it one with Thine.

I will give thanks for suffering now,
For want and toil and loss—
For the death that sin makes hard and slow,
Upon my Savior’s Cross—
Thanks for the little spring of love
That gives me strength to say,
If they will leave me part in Him,
Let all things pass away.

Sometimes I long for promised bliss,
But it will not come too late—
And the songs of patient spirits rise
From the place wherein I wait;
While in the faith that makes no haste
My soul has time to see
A kneeling host of Thy redeemed,
In fellowship with me.

There is a multitude around
Responsive to my prayer;
I hear the voice of my desire
Resounding everywhere.
But the earnest of eternal joy,
In every prayer I trace;
I see the glory of the Lord:
On every chastened face.

How oft, in still communion known,
Those spirits have been sent
To share the travail of my soul,
Or show me what it meant!
And I long to do some work of love
No spoiling hand could touch,
For the poor and suffering of Thy flock
Who comfort me so much.

But the yearning thought is mingled now
With the thankful song I sing;
For Thy people know the secret source
Of every precious thing.
The heart that ministers for Thee
In Thy own work will rest;
And the subject spirit of a child
Can serve Thy children best.

Mine be the reverent, listening love,
That waits all day on Thee,
With the service of a watchful heart
Which no one else can see—
The faith that, in a hidden way
No other eye may know,
Finds all its daily work prepared,
And loves to have it so.

My heart is resting, O my God,
My heart is in Thy care
I hear the voice of joy and health
Resounding everywhere.
“Thou art my portion,” saith my soul,
Ten thousand voices say,
And the music of their glad Amen,
Will never die away. —Anna Laetitia Waring


Podcast: Greed Vs. Contentment

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • most people don’t think this leadership killer impacts them [0:30] 
  • we share our personal experiences of leaders placing “me” in front of “we” [2:06] 
  • here’s what this killer does to our teammates [2:58] 
  • sharing is better than taking—this is a key part of an abundance mindset [3:53] 
  • discontentment and low self-esteem lead to feelings of greed [5:14] 
  • what squashes greed? what is our leadership builder? [5:20] 
  • discontentment is the path of least resistance, so we have to choose to be contented leaders [6:43] 
  • Greg shares a contentment lesson he learned while on a missions trip [9:11]
  • how the senior leader should address discontentment or greed in other team members [10:56] 
  • leaders are the thermostat for their team [13:20] 
  • where does work fit into the overall scheme of life? [14:14] 
  • Greg gives us a leadership challenge to help us win the battle against greed [15:40]

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Poetry Saturday—In The Crucible

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Out from the mine and the darkness,
Out from the damp and the mold,
Out from the fiery furnace,
Cometh each grain of gold.
Crushed into atoms and leveled
Down to the humblest dust
With never a heart to pity,
With never a hand to trust.
Molten and hammered and beaten
Seemeth it ne’er to be done.
Oh, for such fiery trial,
What hath the poor gold done?
Oh, ‘twere a mercy to leave it
Down in the damp and the mold.
If this is the glory of living,
Then better to be dross than gold.
Under the press and the roller,
Into the jaws of the mint,
Stamped with the emblem of freedom,
With never a flaw or a dint.
Oh, what a joy, the refining,
Out of the damp and the mold.
And stamped with the glorious image,
Oh beautiful coin of gold! —Anonymous

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An Unmistakable Response

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

When something goes wrong, the response from most people is pretty predictable, isn’t it? Some try to ignore the problem, some complain about it, many get quite angry, and most people try to find someone or something to blame. 

These responses don’t sound very Christian-like, do they? What many people think the Christian response should be is something closer to the opening words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem—“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you….” 

And yet, though this sounds Christian-like, it still misses the mark for Spirit-baptized Christians. Remember that a couple of weeks ago I described the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a “distinctive doctrine.” There is nothing distinct about a Christian responding predictably like everyone else does. 

A Spirit-baptized Christian is distinguished by the miraculous ways God confirms His presence in that person’s life. What really honors God is not a predictable response or even a learned response, but an unpredictable, miraculous response: A Spirit-baptized Christian’s response to bad news should be peace and joy. 

I believe the Holy Spirit can so transform our hearts that our response becomes an unmistakable testimony of the power of God. We may experience the initial pang of regret and pain but our next response turns all the focus off of us and on to God.  

The Holy Spirit uses trials to transform our hearts and minds into Christlike thinking and action. 

Our Heavenly Father’s desire is for everyone to come into a close, personal relationship with Him. Before Jesus came this was first pictured for us in the operations of the temple and its sacrifices. Yet man’s attempts to control this hijacked what God intended. This is why we see Jesus acting in righteous anger to clear out the temple of merchants and money-changers (John 2:12-17; Luke 19:45-48). 

Oswald Chambers noted the similarities between what Jesus did in the physical temple and what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: 

“Immediately the Spirit of God comes in we begin to realize what it means—everything that is not of God has to be cleaned out. People are surprised and say, ‘I asked for the Holy Spirit and expected that He would bring me joy and peace, but I have had a terrible time ever since.’ That is the sign He has come, He is turning out the ‘money-changers,’ that is, the things that make the temple into a trafficking place for self-realization.” 

The Holy Spirit has to disturb our man-made peace so that His peace can take its place. Or as Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). 

Jesus told us that the indwelling Holy Spirit would bring about this heart and mind transformation in His followers. The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us how to respond in a learned, predictable way, but He transforms us to respond in an unmistakably unpredictable way (John 16:12-15, 20-22; 14:26-27). 

The transformed response of the Spirit-baptized Christian is joy in place of anger, and peace in place of frustration (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). I like how the Amplified Bible defines “blessed” in the Beatitudes Jesus lists in Matthew 5: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of [the] outward conditions.” 

This transformation brings God glory and is exactly what Jesus prays for us (John 17:13-18), which is why I keep on saying: Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit! 

Your unpredictable, unmistakable peace and joy in the face of trials becomes a testimony to a watching world. 

If you’ve missed any of the posts in our series on the empowerment that comes from being baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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“Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”

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I have some sobering news for you: You are going to die. 

Death is the great equalizer. It comes for the rich and poor, the scholar and the illiterate, all races, all ages, the healthy as well as the sick. Unless you’re still alive when Jesus comes back again, your odds of dying are 1-in-1. 

What happens “on the other side”? What happens after this life is over? Since it seems dark and mysterious to most people, they tend to ignore it until it’s thrust upon them. That’s why I find the dying words of people interesting. Like P.T. Barnum asking, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” or W.C. Fields reading a Bible on his deathbed and telling a friend, “I’m looking for a loophole.” 

Or the very last words of Jesus: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” 

Jesus is steeped in Scripture, so nearly everything He says in His final four declarations come directly from the Psalms, including His final phrase which comes from Psalm 31:5. 

When Jesus broke a three-hour silence with His cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” both Matthew and Mark use the Greek words megas phoné to describe how loudly Jesus spoke. And now with His final words, Luke uses the same megas phoné description. 

Notice in the first megaphone cry Jesus calls on God the All-Powerful Creator. And with His last megaphone declaration, He calls on His Father who is All-Loving. How comforting it is to know that God is both All-Powerful and All-Loving! Not only can He answer our cries, but He delights to answer them! 

The word Jesus uses for “commit” is in the future tense and it means “to entrust as a deposit.” Jesus believed that God was going to do more than just give Him life again, but that He would give life to all who would believe in Him. 

Unlike atheist Bertrand Russell who said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong,” Jesus DID die for His beliefs, and by rising from the dead proved He was right in trusting God. 

Job saw an inescapable death for all mankind, but he also foresaw the forgiveness of God (Job 14:5, 16-17). Jesus died once for all mankind and was then resurrected, bringing about the death of death by making forgiveness accessible to anyone (Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 Corinthians 15:19-22). 

We can now have the peace that comes from trusting the only One to Whom we can safely entrust our souls. Because Jesus brought death to death, we can have the same peace when we die that Jesus had when He died. 

With faith in Jesus, you can…

…live today knowing you’re invincible until God calls you home 

…live today full of joy because your home in heaven is secure

…live your very last day in peace because you know to Whom your soul is entrusted 

Because Jesus died at peace with God, we can face death triumphantly! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Poetry Saturday—Eternal Spirit

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Eternal Spirit, we confess
And sing the wonders of Your grace!
Your power conveys our blessings down
From God the Father and the Son.
Enlightened by Your heavenly ray,
Our shades and darkness turn to day.
Your inward teachings make us know
Our danger and our refuge, too.
Your power and glory work within,
And break the chains of reigning sin,
Does our imperious lusts subdue,
And forms our wretched hearts anew.
The troubled conscience knows Your voice,
Your cheering words awake our joys;
Your words allay the stormy wind,
And calm the surges of the mind.

*Spurgeon used this poem as a conclusion to his sermon entitled Human Depravity and Divine Mercy. I was unable to find this poem attributed to anyone else, so I am assuming it was written by Spurgeon himself. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Joyful Journey To Realization

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The Joyful Journey To Realization

And [Abram] believed in the Lord, and [God] accounted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) 

     Brothers and sisters, this everyday faith is the faith of God’s elect! There are persons who imagine saving faith to be a barren conviction of the truth of certain abstract propositions, leading only to a quiet contemplation upon certain delightful topics, or separating ourselves from all sympathy with our fellow creatures. But it is not so! Faith, restricted merely to religious exercise, is not Christian faith. It must show itself in everything. … 

     There may be some of you here today who have been called by divine grace from darkness into marvelous light. You have been led to look to Jesus and you believe you have received pardon of your sin, and yet, for lack of knowledge, you know little of the sweet meaning of such words as these: ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6); ‘perfect in Christ Jesus’ (Colossians 1:28); ‘complete in Him’ (Colossians 2:10). You are doubtless justified, though you scarcely understand what justification means. And you are accepted, though you have not realized your acceptance. And you are complete in Jesus Christ, though you have, today, a far deeper sense of your personal incompleteness than of the all-sufficiency of Jesus. … 

     But there will come a time, beloved, when you who are called will clearly realize your justification and will rejoice in it! It will be intelligently understood by you and will become a matter of transporting delight—lifting you to a higher platform of experience and enabling you to walk with a firmer step, sing with a merrier voice, and triumph with an enlarged heart!  

From Justification By Faith

I was once asked, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” After a moment’s thought, I answered, “I’d like the power to just go <poof> for someone and they would be able to fully comprehended God’s love for them, or they would instantly realize how to live out their Christian faith.” 

Alas, there is no such superpower. But you and I have something far, far better: the Holy Spirit! 

Abram (who would later become Abraham) obediently followed God, even though the Bible said he didn’t fully grasp where he was going nor how God was going to give him many descendants. But he followed, and he trusted, and he listened, and slowly God began to reveal more and more to him. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. He didn’t say, “The Holy Spirit will go <poof> and you will immediately and fully understand everything.” Like Abram, we believe what God says about us, we follow, we trust, we listen, we obey, and the Spirit will begin to illuminate God’s Word to us. We’ll discover more each day what He’s asking of us, and we will notice that both our joy in Him and our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God are increasing along the journey! 

Don’t bail out early! Stick with it! I promise you that the joy still to be revealed along this journey is beyond compare with anything which would tempt you to stay behind to acquire.

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