Saturday, September 23, 2006

Above All Earthly Powers

Today, I drove to Bethlehem Baptist North Campus for a combined church service at Bethlehem Baptist - a special "welcome-home!" gathering for John Piper's return from sabbatical in UK! It was under the open sky, a gentle breeze blowing

Piper's sermon was based on Jesus' parable on "The Pharisee and Tax Collector" (Luke 18: 9-14, biblical teaching on justification by faith. One of Piper's upcoming books may be in response of NT Wright's views on the topic...

The Pharisee was not a proto-Pelagian trying to pull himself up by his own moral bootstraps. Instead he attributes his moral achievement (he never robbed, or unfaithful to his wife - quite 'authentic' lifestyle!) and religious accomplishment (fasted twice a week and tithed!) as being enabled by God!

This guy is not a pelagian who thinks he can make it without God's help. He even thanked God for helping him to be different from others.

But his fatal mistake is that he considers that God-enabled righteousness as the GROUND of his standing before God, the Judge.

The tax collector, on the other hand, is a sinner. But he recognizes his own sinfulness and looks to God for mercy. And Jesus says, the tax collector goes home justified (declared as righteous) rather than the pharisee (who stands condemned)

This message is hazardous to popular notions of God works. We like the idea that 'authentic' people who live 'good lives' get saved.

But it is spiritually dangerous to put before the Judge our 'grace-imparted' deeds as the basis for being put right with God. None of us could stand before His holy light. No one.

All of us need to come before God with faith in the blood-bought righteousness of Jesus Christ. And Him alone.

Let our hope and the hope of others be on nothing less than the Christ and His wrath-absorbing work on the cross.

We sang a wonderful hymn as well:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea:
a great High Priest, whose name is Love,
who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on his hands,
my name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see him there
who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God, the Just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me.

Behold him there! the risen Lamb!
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
the great unchangeable I AM,
the King of glory and of grace!

One with himself, I cannot die;
my soul is purchased by his blood;
my life is hid with Christ on high,
with Christ, my Savior and my God.

After waiting in line for 20 minutes or so, I managed to meet Piper himself, shook hands, took photos and chatted for a while. Even passed him a card on The Agora ministry just in case he would like to keep in touch.

Marvin, he also mentioned what a wonderful preacher you are! Wow, that means a lot coming from a master preacher.

Unfortunately i wont be around for the conference in September "The Supremacy of God in a postmodern world". Aiyor.

But the conference theme and speaker line-up sounds extremely promising:

Our aim is to call the church to a radical and very old vision of the Man, Jesus Christ—fully God, fully sovereign, fully redeeming by his substitutionary, wrath-absorbing death, fully alive and reigning, fully revealed for our salvation in the inerrant Holy Bible, and fully committed to being preached with human words and beautifully described with doctrinal propositions based on biblical paragraphs.

We love Dorothy Sayers’ old saying, “The Dogma is the Drama.” We think the post-propositional, post-dogmatic, post-authoritative “conversation” is post-relevant and post-saving.