T4G Reflections: John Piper

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Together for the Gospel 2016. I have also enjoyed reflecting upon some of the messages I heard over those three days, and I have posted some brief articles on a number of them (see my “T4G Reflections” articles).

John Piper spoke about the bondage of the human will in sin and the perfect freedom the Gospel provides. Below is a recap and my own considerations concerning the speaker and the topic.

I have a sort of love/hate connection to John Piper. Much of what I hear or read from him is inspiring, challenging, and solid. Piper is truly a man who has been gripped and gifted by God. On the other hand, some of what I hear and read from Piper is frustrating, confusing, and seemingly incongruent with the afore mentioned good stuff.

One cannot overestimate John Piper’s influence upon the “Reformed Resurgence” we are experiencing in American Christianity today, but I have actually had a limited exposure to John Piper over the years. Still, there is much to be thankful for and much to celebrate about John Piper, his ministry, and his contribution to Christ’s Church in our day. Piper’s address at T4G 2016 was on a subject that played to his strengths, and for that I am supremely grateful. When Piper is strong, he is uniquely gifted and powerful.

Piper’s talk on the bondage of the will of fallen man was powerful indeed. He began by pointing out five pictures of bondage in Scripture, and he explained each one from at least one passage.

First, Piper mentioned the bondage of “Legal guilt and Divine condemnation” (Rom. 3:9-10; Jn. 3:36). This is the condemnation that comes from Adam to all his posterity; God places legal guilt upon all in Adam.

Second, Piper pointed out the bondage of “Love of Darkness and Self-Glorification” (Jn. 3:19-20, 5:43-44). Humanity, he explained, is in bondage to his own affections for that which binds him/her. The chains remain because the sinner loves them and takes pride in them.

Third, Piper spoke of the bondage of “the Hatred for the Supremacy of God” (Rom. 8:6-8). Not only does the sinner fancy himself as god, he hates the notion of any other beside him. The venom of a sinner only increases when God almighty asserts His throne over that of the fallen man.

Fourth, Piper pointed out the bondage of “Spiritual Death” (Eph. 2:1-3). This bondage might be said to be the summation of the first three, but the distinction is worthy of note. This state of death, in which sinners now live, is the direct result of Adam’s sin. God promised that this would be the consequence of disobedience in the Garden, and Adam disobeyed anyway. This spiritual death is the classification under which we find such damnable things as divine condemnation, love for darkness, consuming pride, and hatred for the supremacy of God.

Fifth and finally, Piper spoke of the bondage of “Blindness to the Glory of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:13-14; 2 Cor. 4:4). Each of these taken by themselves are tragic beyond words, but this one is truly heart-rending. Not only is the sinner in bondage to so many things that will utterly destroy him by self-inflicted torments; here we see that he is utterly blind to the one and only hope that he might have for reprieve, joy, peace, freedom, and life. Even the beauty of Christ is veiled to the sinner who remains in bondage under sin.

And yet, as Piper went on to explain, the Gospel of Christ looses each of these binding chords with supernatural power and effectiveness.

Christ bore our sins and guilt upon the cross (1 Pet. 2:24; Is. 53:6)! God gives sinners the gift of repentance (2 Tim. 5:22-26), and His Spirit empowers the sinner to declare “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3)! God makes dead sinners alive (Eph. 2:4-8); and He shines the light of the glory of Christ into the sinner’s heart (2 Cor. 4:6)!

With the Apostle Paul, we may proclaim with utter joy and heart-felt wonder:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33–36).”

T4G Reflections: David Platt – Martyrdom & Mission

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Together for the Gospel 2016. I have also enjoyed reflecting upon some of the messages I heard over those three days, and I have posted some brief articles on a number of them (see my “T4G Reflections” articles).

In a general session address, David Platt spoke about martyrdom and the lessons we can learn from some Protestant Reformation era martyrs about mission. Below is a recap and my own considerations concerning the speaker and the topic.

As I mentioned in another “T4G Reflections” post, I do enjoy the ministry and focus of David Platt. His intense approach suites him well to address the topic of Martyrdom and Mission. While Platt has not experienced martyrdom (I thank God that he is still alive as I write these words), it seems that his Christ-exalting commitment and intensity is just the right recipe for him to exhibit the kind of faithfulness that remains – even unto death. I pray that he is able to avoid such an end, but more conscientiously I pray that Platt will remain faithful.

In a way that only David Platt can, he asked two questions, one for Protestant Reformation martyrs and another for us today.

First, “Why were they willing to die?”

Men like John Rogers and Rolland Taylor went to their death reciting the 51st Psalm. While there might be many other ways to assess their motivated resolve to maintain their commitment to Reformation beliefs, such a specific and recurring recitation is and was fascinating. Platt suggested that this similar performance for many of the martyrs is indicative of their frame of mind, both prior to and during their own executions. From this passage, Platt surmised that these men and women believed at least three things that motivated their willingness to die for what they believed.

One, they believed their depravity deserved damnation. This, at first, seemed an odd place to begin. However, it quickly became apparent that this was exactly the right place to begin. For such a beginning would afford these martyrs the proper perspective as they faced such dreadful opposition. One is very often disappointed and frustrated by adverse circumstances, but these men and women were able to face them with steeled conviction and transcendent contentment because they knew that anything less than eternal hell was gracious on the part of God.

Two, they believed their salvation was found solely in God’s mercy, and separate from their merit. This may also be a less than immediately recognizable motivation for death-defying resolve, but here we may see the humble unwillingness for these martyrs to take any glory for themselves. Not only would they refuse to raise their own merits to God as justification for themselves, but they even refused to acknowledge any contribution among others who may demand such an admission. God alone is worthy of glory, and Christ alone saves guilty sinners apart from any effort or work they have done.

Three, they believed that love like this was worth losing their lives to proclaim. Platt was adamant to remind us that a silent message is no message at all. These martyrs could have avoided their untimely demise by simply believing truth and keeping quiet about it. None of them died for simply believing that salvation is exclusively through Christ and apart from any merit of their own. They died because they proclaimed this Gospel of grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. This lesson is certainly a potent one for us today.

Second, Platt asked, “How shall we live?”

Again, he listed three principles we might implement, based on the convictions of those who have gone before us. One, Platt argued for prioritizing theological precision among God’s people. He pointed out that several of those Reformers who were martyred went to their death over a disagreement with the doctrine of transubstantiation (the teaching that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, though there is no observable change to the elements). Such theological precision is hardly common among many church leaders today, and rare indeed among the laity. While secondary and tertiary doctrines may be handled with grace, charity, and some liberty; no doctrine of Scripture is unimportant.

Two, Platt argued for the mobilization of God’s people for sacrificial mission among all people groups. Because faith alone in Christ alone is the exclusive Gospel that saves, then it is imperative that Christians proclaim that good news to all peoples everywhere. Platt (in his characteristic exasperation) lamented, “When will ‘unengaged people groups’ be an intolerable category for us?” To this I say, Oh, God help us! God forgive us for tolerating such a thing, and God help us to remedy this unbearable reality.

Three, Platt challenged us all to live, lead, and long for the day when “reformation” will be “consummation.” The Church must continually reform, regularly going back to the Scriptures for recalibration, but one day it will not be so. Church leaders, and Christians everywhere, may and should live in such a way that this posture is made visible. We are truly looking for a better country, with those listed in Hebrews 11. Pastors ought to be those who lead on this front by exemplary lives in pursuit of Christ and the spread of His Kingdom – through the Gospel. Finally, all Christians can demonstrate a longing for that day when our faith shall be sight. To this I say, Come quickly Lord Jesus!

T4G Reflections: Mark Dever

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Together for the Gospel 2016. I have also enjoyed reflecting upon some of the messages I heard over those three days, and I have posted some brief articles on a number of them (see my “T4G Reflections” posts).

In a general session address, Mark Dever spoke about the endurance needed for quality pastoral ministry. Below is a recap and my own considerations concerning the speaker and the topic.

Mark Dever is a favorite pastor, author, and speaker of mine. His talks are not always the most thrilling, since he can sometimes sound quite dry and stiff in his delivery (a style I prefer over sappy emotionalism). That said, his content is always very weighty and thoughtful, and his messages are, therefore, quite powerful. After I hear him speak, I always come away sensing that he prepared intentionally and thoroughly. Because of his attentive preparation, he will often have at least a few pithy zingers in his messages. In his message at T4G, on the great need for pastoral patience and endurance, Dever came out with this one early. He said, “We are told that numbers never lie. Brothers, numbers lie all the time.”

Because numbers, therefore, cannot be our measurement for success or failure, we must look to something else. Dever spoke of the general difficulty of quantifying success in pastoral ministry. It is quite unusual for any pastor to feel successful, because spiritual growth is often not perceived quickly enough to observe the progress that does occur (either in himself or in his congregation). Dever went on to explain how there can be great joy experienced in the pastorate if one will maintain proper perspective.

Dever contrasted “spotlight joys” with “elder-chair joys.” The spotlight joys, Dever described, are fleeting and unreasonable expectations. Numeric results are up to God, important stuff takes time in Scripture, and the Great Commission has been in force for 2,000 years. These were among the statements Dever made in order to bring clarity to perspective and to detract emphasis from “spotlight joys.”

He went on to lay out several, more meaningful joys, which he called “joys of the elder-chair.”  Dever spoke of the joy of resting in the sufficiency of Scripture. This joy emphasized the need of every pastor to find ultimate rest and trust in the power and competence of God’s Word. The pastoral responsibility is too great to bear upon natural shoulders; a pastor must lean himself on God’s Word and trust that it will uphold all who do the same.

He also spoke of the joy of seeing people converted and the joy of knowing congregation well enough to see them grow, and each of these emphasized the pastoral relationship with others. Dever offered heartfelt examples of his own joys in watching the assembly sing the praises of Christ, hearing others preach better than himself, and waiting together on the promises of God. In an uncharacteristic show of deep emotion, Dever recounted what great joys he has known in these ways.

There were a few other elder-chair joys mentioned, but I found the whole presentation to be extremely helpful. While I know these things, and had considered them at various times before that day, it was refreshing and inspiring to hear them arranged in this way. The systematic account of these joys was a help as I considered where my own ministerial joy is being found.

Assessing my current ministry, I am regularly leaning on God’s Word as a sufficient foundation and structure for all of ministry and life. I am also engaging with at least some in my congregation on a level that does afford me the opportunity to watch them grow, and they are able to do the same with me. At the moment, I am investing myself into some men who may be able to preach alongside me (or even better than me), but we have yet to arrange for or overtly encourage that platform.

However, I do notice a tendency in my own heart to want to measure success by worldly and/or tangible standards. Yet, I pray that God will help me possess a proper perspective in my everyday ministry so that I will be able to count these joys articulated by Mark Dever as my own over time.

T4G Reflections: Kevin DeYoung

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Together for the Gospel 2016. I have also enjoyed reflecting upon some of the messages I heard over those three days, and I have posted some brief articles on a number of them (see my “T4G Reflections” articles.

In a general session address, Kevin DeYoung spoke about sanctification and the assurance a believer should enjoy. Below is a recap and my own considerations concerning the speaker and the topic.

Keven DeYoung is a newer voice of influence upon me. I first heard him speak several years ago at a Ligonier conference, and I was impressed then, but I simply did not pursue him any further at that time. More recently, I have read three of his books, including one children’s book that has become my most frequent give-away resource to others in my church family. I believe the kind of ability DeYoung has to understand deep and significant subjects so well that he is able to communicate them on the level of a child is rare indeed. RC Sproul is one that I have marveled at for years in this regard. At any rate, DeYoung is a quality voice, and the subject he tackled at T4G was appropriate as well as timely.

RC Sproul, John MacArthur, and others have distinguished themselves as leaders of the “Lordship Salvation” camp within Evangelical Christianity. DeYoung has likely taken his place among them before T4G 2016, but he effectively carved his name into the roster that day. Lordship Salvation is the idea that Christ is only Savior to those for whom He is also Lord. That is, those who will be saved by Christ are only those who demonstrate a genuine desire to love and obey Him now. DeYoung was clear to distinguish between justification and sanctification, but he was emphatic that we should not separate the two. One is justified by faith alone, but that faith through which one is justified is never without the accompaniment of obedient works (i.e. progressive sanctification).

There are several objections that have been raised against such assertions, and DeYoung addressed some of them.

Objection: “We should never look at ourselves for assurance.”

Some have said that looking at ourselves for assurance of salvation is no beneficial endeavor. Yet, DeYoung pointed out that the Scripture intends for Christians to do just that. For instance, 1 John 2:4-6 says,

“Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

It would seem quite clear that John is telling professing Christians to inspect themselves. The logic of this passage, DeYoung argued, appears to be: “Do you want to know if you are actually in Christ? Well, do you walk as Christ walked – obediently before God? If so, then you may rest assured that you are in Christ; if not, then you are merely lying to yourself and others.” Similar passages are 1 John 3:10, 14, 16, 19; 4:2, 13; 5:2; and 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Objection: “None of us really loves God or our neighbor.”

This objection is raised in an effort to minimize the weight of responsibility since our ability is so diminished by sin. It might be otherwise said, “If we are not able to love as we should, then we should not feel too much pressure to judge ourselves by how much we do or do not love.” However, DeYoung again confronted us with Scripture’s teaching that seems to contradict such thinking. 1 John 5:2 plainly says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”

This passage speaks of obedience as well as love, but willful blindness would be necessary to overlook the application of this verse to the objection raised above. As DeYoung argued, love for God (which would necessarily display itself in love for neighbor as well) is clearly an expectation of the Christian experience. To admit that we do not love as we should is one thing, but to disavow the obligation or genuine ability (empowered by God’s Spirit) to love meaningfully is a contradiction of Scripture. Additional passages on this aspect of the topic are 1 John 2:15-17 and Is. 64:5-6.

Objection: “This makes me doubt my salvation.”

Here, in this final objection, we may find the summary of all objections to Lordship Salvation. DeYoung pinpoints the impulse which underlies many (maybe all) of the objections to this kind of thinking. If Christians are to evidence such changed hearts and lives, then they will inevitably feel precarious and not assured when they take a hard and critical look at themselves. Yet, DeYoung encouraged the audience by reminding us of the general intention of God to stir up joy in us and not fear. His exact wording escapes me, but DeYoung essentially prompted us to remember that God does all that He does for our joy (those who are numbered among His children) and for His glory. These threats and warnings we find in Scripture, if heeded by us, will lead to our joy. God has, after all, designed it this way.

More could be said on this, but my heart and mind were challenged and encouraged by this address. DeYoung articulated some of my own thoughts, and he challenged me to consider the implications of the theological truths I believe. The issue of Lordship Salvation is one of the most practical, relevant, and pressing issues in American churches today. There is not a single week that goes by that I am not deeply involved in conversations with some member(s) of my congregation about the serious need to see fruit in the life of one who professes love for Christ. Thinking through this extremely practical issue was beneficial on that day, and it is still a benefit to me as I continue the external discussions and the internal procession of my own thoughts.

T4G Reflections: John MacArthur

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Together for the Gospel 2016. I have also enjoyed reflecting upon some of the messages I heard over those three days, and I have posted some brief articles on a number of them (see my “T4G Reflections” articles).

In a general session address, John MacArthur spoke about Christ’s call to Reformation in our day. Below is a recap and my own considerations concerning the speaker and the topic.

One of the most notable things about John MacArthur is that he is a polarizing preacher, author, and speaker. In my estimation, this is one of the reasons why he is such a good speaker. His direct approach and candid delivery are always quite engaging. While I have some areas of disagreement, on the whole I believe MacArthur is a strong theologian. Moreover, his four decades of pastoral ministry in one local church speaks of the seriousness with which he regards such an office. During his time in ministry, MacArthur has been an ever-sounding reformation alarm to American Christianity. It was appropriate that he address the topic of “Christ’s call to Reformation” among churches and pastors.

MacArthur asked an interesting question at the outset, “Have you ever heard of a church that repented?” MacArthur went on to say, “Churches needs to repent before they can call the nation to repent.” This was MacArthur’s way of setting the stage for what was to come. Essentially, he went on to explain that repentance and reformation are necessary among our churches today.

From chapters two and three of Revelation, MacArthur walked through the progression of sin and the need for reformation in the churches listed among the seven. He noted at the outset that there is no commendation in this passage for making sinners feel welcome among the church. No stranger to lashing out against the “seeker-sensitive” movement, MacArthur pointed to the reality that the church is not actually supposed to feel overly welcoming to those who oppose Christ and remain in sin.

Observing the exclusions of Smyrna and Philadelphia (these churches were not chastised, but only commended by Christ), MacArthur showed how each church among the seven went from bad to worse. He argued that the number of genuine believers among each congregation decreased as the passage continued. If the passage can be understood as an exemplary pattern of the slippery slide into apostasy, MacArthur contended, then we may be served well by examining the initial misstep.

The first church mentioned is that of Ephesus, and the repentance and reformation needed there is a reacquisition of the “first love.” It is instructive, then, that we consider the object of appropriate affection and devotion. Of course, the love that every Christian and every congregation must have (first and foremost) is love for Jesus Christ. MacArthur said, “Your people cannot love Christ fully if they don’t know Him fully.” Then he challenged pastors when he said, “They cannot know Him fully unless you preach Him fully.” MacArthur’s charge was straightforward, as usual. He proclaimed that pastors ought to teach the fullness of God’s Word, and pastors ought not shy away from any doctrines of Scripture. The local church is intended to be a Christ-loving and disciple-making family.

During this presentation I was in perfect agreement with Dr. MacArthur, but I did take an honest inventory of my own expectations and what I believe are the general expectations among my congregation. I am still fairly new among my people (not quite 2 years), so I am still able to see a significant distinction between my own posture and perspective and that of my congregation. Of course, there are some in my church family who align with me more than others, but I am thinking on the whole and in general terms.

For my own part, I do notice a desire in me to be liked and admired by the world. I also see a possible shift of emphasis towards acting on behalf of Christ rather than living as Christ lives in me. On the first count, my love for this world must be overshadowed by my love for Christ, and I believe that God is still doing this work in me. On the second count, this perennial struggle (some seasons seem less affectionate than others) is also an ongoing part of my own divinely-empowered sanctification.

For my congregation’s part, it appears that we are likely very similar to many Southern Baptist churches today. We seem very interested in being a welcoming place to all, a well-programed institution, and a service-oriented society. These are not inherently bad, but they can each shift us away from the main thing if we are not careful. Additionally, I am glad to say that we do not seem to have a strong inclination to capitulate to our culture on some socially taboo matters (such as same-sex attraction, transgenderism, and abortion). Yet, we have proven more than willing to accommodate the culture on other matters (such as no-fault divorce, promiscuity, and the idolatry of hobbies and/or family).

There is always room for improvement (at both the personal and congregational levels), and this (I believe) is the meaning of semper reformanda.

May God forgive us where we fail Him, correct us where we disobey, and empower us to serve Him well in our day. To Christ be the glory for all He has done, and to Christ be the glory for what He will do.

T4G Reflections: David Platt – Church & Mission

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Together for the Gospel 2016. I have also enjoyed reflecting upon some of the messages I heard over those three days, and I have posted some brief articles on a number of them (see my “T4G Reflections” articles.

In a breakout session address, David Platt spoke about the local church and its participating in global mission. Below is a recap and my own considerations concerning the speaker and the topic.

My introduction to David Platt was about seven or eight years ago when I read his popular book, Radical. I came away with mixed thoughts about the book, but I was certainly compelled by the author. Any man with such deep convictions must be a man worth watching and hearing (maybe even following). Over the years, I have heard Platt speak a small number of times, and I have appreciated the “Christ-Centered Exposition” commentary series, in which Platt is a contributing author. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of his delivery style (he always seems to be right on the verge of crying), but his content has yet to disappoint me.

In this talk, Platt made an important early statement. He said, “A passion for mission is characteristic of all Christians.” After he said that, he expanded upon it for just a bit and pressed it a little as well. Such a statement has big implications, and Platt directly applied them to the local church context. While some implications are negative (for example: lack of passion signifies an unregenerate heart), his talk was primarily focused upon the things a pastor (or pastors) can do to stimulate missional passion among the local church congregation. Below are some of the stimuli Platt listed as essential.

Platt first talked of presenting God as “God-centered.” The glory of God, the holiness of God, and other attributes which inspire awe, are coming to the forefront in many churches as long-neglected doctrines like these are revived in our day. Whatever one might say about the causes, it is beyond debate that the churches in America have had a very low view of God for some time. God is underwhelming to churchgoers everywhere, and this is simply incompatible with a true (even if only introductory) understanding of God. Platt argued that presenting a man-centered God is much to blame for uncommitted and underwhelming Christianity, but presenting a God-centered God (the God of Scripture) is the antidote.

Platt then argued for a “Word-saturated” ministry. God’s Word is that medium through which God regenerates, renews, and refreshes His people. Since this is true, then all aspects of local church ministry should be saturated with the Word of God. Scripture should permeate everything the local church does. Additionally, Platt contended, we should present a Gospel that is more than mere superstition. Of course, we should expect the Gospel to change lives, but we should not neglect to speak of the Gospel in such a way that we provide sufficient ground for the transformation. If we merely invite people to add Jesus to what they are already doing, then we have left them with no expectation or desire for life-change. But, if we invite people into the Kingdom of Christ, by way of His sacrificial life and death, where they may participate in Kingdom expansion (both personal and communal), then we have opened them up to a whole new world – a “Life-changing” Gospel.

Platt also made things very practical by claiming that pastors are obligated to create and implement a “Disciple-making” strategy. Platt did not seek to reinvent the wheel here, nor did he suggest that any pastor do so. Platt did, however, lay out the simple and biblically-exemplified task of taking others alongside you through spiritual cultivation and growth. The daunting task of discipling others is made more manageable when it is viewed as an ongoing and multiplying process. One man cannot disciple 1,000 others, but he can disciple 5-10, who in turn can disciple 5-10, who in turn disciple 5-10 more, and so on. By the 4th generation removed from the first individual, there would be between 625-10,000 disciples. This kind of discipleship strategy is important to missional living in the local context as well as the cross-cultural context.

I appreciated Platt’s talk tremendously. These overarching principles and practical application were helpful as reminders of what we are truly supposed to be doing on the ground in our local and cross-cultural contexts. I pray that God would bless my own efforts to apply these things, as a Christian and as a local church pastor. I also pray that others among my own congregation will see the tremendous benefit and the biblical mandate to live in this way.

T4G Reflections: Matt Chandler

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Together for the Gospel 2016. I have also enjoyed reflecting upon some of the messages I heard over those three days, and I have posted some brief articles on a number of them (see my “T4G Reflections” articles.

In a general session address, Matt Chandler spoke about encouragement in the midst of persecution. Below is a recap and my own considerations concerning the speaker and the topic.

Matt Chandler has been a joy to me for several years. From podcast listener to infrequent Village Church attender (I attended Saturday night services during a time when I was on staff at another church near by), I have grown in appreciation for what Matt Chandler is and what he does. He is a genuine man and pastor; and this I have learned from personal experience and observation.

Additionally, his public life of suffering and pastoral service has proven to be Christ-honoring indeed. His physical suffering has given him a unique perspective on the kind of teaching and theology that truly brings encouragement during those times of great difficulty. Chandler’s message was a particular challenge to pastors. He implored them to encourage their congregation by way of showing them the depth and riches of God Himself.

Turning to Romans 11:33-36, Chandler sought to emphasize the greatness of God. By way of contrast, he talked about the inadequacies of a thin, flat, or small picture of God. Chandler rightly pointed out the reality that many pastors and (inevitably) their congregations avoid the awe-evoking passages and truths of Scripture. This, however, will only result in Christians being weak and scared among the culture at large. Their fear will be for man, and not God.

In addition to swimming in the depths of God’s greatness, Chandler also beckoned his audience to consider the riches of God. Of course, it is well to remember that God owns everything. The riches of God are immeasurable, and His sovereign ownership extends over those things that are now in the stewardship of evil and malicious men. Chandler coupled this truth with God’s promised inheritance for all who trust and believe, and the combination is spectacularly stabilizing indeed. After all, what should the suffering or persecuted Christian fear if he or she is certain that such an undesirable condition is only temporary and entirely under the sovereign rule of the covenant-making and covenant-keeping King?

Next, Chandler considered the wisdom of God, and this was further steadying still. “Think of all that God knows that I do not,” he quipped. The thought is staggering to be sure! Chandler added, “God is never stressed or is overwhelmed.” This too is an incredible thought, for anxiety and stress are common among modern Americans. It seems that none of us are ever fully free from such things, yet God is always free from them. With each of these, Chandler called our attention to the God of Scripture, the God who is, and the God whose wisdom is majestic beyond measure.

Last, Chandler mentioned one more combination of God’s attributes that is a comfort to any who trust in Him – His timelessness and His aseity. Chandler said, “God doesn’t just know my tomorrow; He is tomorrow.” What a tremendously profound idea is captured here! This denies a common error, that God merely knows or observes whatsoever comes to pass. Many genuine believers have, in his or her own mind, relegated God to a kind of “press box” in the sky. God is only allowed, one might think, to watch the activity from a distance, and maybe occasionally intervene. But, in this way of thinking, God is distant and generally uninvolved at any truly determinant level.

Such thinking is foolish, unbiblical, and destabilizing during those times when God’s personal sovereignty should provide the greatest strength. It is precisely because God is sovereign over whatsoever comes to pass that we may depend upon Him to govern both the means and the ends – for our ultimate good and for His supreme glory.

My own life experience has not been overwhelmingly difficult. I have faced and still walk through the toils and snares that are common among my generation, but I have not yet endured tremendous suffering or persecution. In fact, I often wonder why God has spared me such things, since I know that He has certainly not spared others. Sometimes I think it is because God knows that I am not nearly as capable of enduring as I would like to think I am, but I am sure that time will eventually tell.

In any case, these deeply grounding theological realities are frequent thoughts in my mind. About 13 years ago I was challenged to reconsider the greatness of God, as He had revealed Himself in the Scriptures. Since I began down the rabbit hole those years ago, I have yet to spend much time in the world of big men and a small god – the world in which I once dwelled.