One thing is becoming increasingly clear to me as I attend Oxygen – God has been very, very good to us in giving us men like John Piper and John Lennox.
Piper's 2 talks today were astoundingly brilliant. Again, there were individual elements that left me unpersuaded but the main thesis is, surely, undeniable – God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. I mean, just think about that for a minute! Not least it means that a healthy pursuit of the doctrine of Justificiation by Faith Alone is not only good for us but it glorifies God by making it obvious that He saves and no-one else. And this kind of pairing of right doctrine and joy in God was at the heart of Piper's first talk.
It must be hard coming to Sydney. We're hard-nosed conservative evangelicals. If someone puts their hands up in a service for any reason at all we're inclined to make them walk the plank as a rabid charismatic. And along comes this American (not an auspicious start) who keeps exhorting us by word and example to be passionate about Jesus! Is it just hyped-up emotionalism? Nothing, as Piper, demonstrated, could be further from the truth. Right-thinking, he argues, exists for the sake of right feeling. Logic leads to love, reasoning to rejoicing. The more we know, and know and understand deeply, at God and His works then the more we praise Him and trust Him and love Him.
What followed was a passionate (as always) defence of deep rigorous theological thinking so that we might rejoice in Christ. And who could deny that Dr John Piper was a deep thinker?
Piper's second talk, in the evening, was an encouragement to preach Christ, but to preach Him as the Bible presents Him – which, of course, for Piper is to glorify God. More than this, this is how Jesus speaks about Himself. And then to prove his point we were taken to John 11 to think a little harder about Jesus' love. Piper has a knack of showing us what we'd already seen but not properly considered – in this case that Jesus' love for Lazarus, Mary and Martha, led Him to allow Lazarus to pass away by actively waiting till he died (John 11:2-6; 36-42). But even more than this, He allowed (in love) Lazarus to die in order that He might be glorified. It's a provoking thought but there it is in the Scriptures – Jesus love is, ultimately, self-glorifying! Of course, in Piper's understanding this is also for our benefit – we see Jesus' glory and take great joy in it.
And this writer is thoroughly persuaded by it.
Lennox was a little harder to follow today. There was good stuff on suffering and the delay in the consumation of the Kingdom until the return of Christ – but it all felt like it dragged a little. There's a little bit of me nagging away on my mind wondering why we're hearing so much exposition from Lennox and not more straight apologetic stuff. Not that the exposition is poor, but surely we want to use him to his fullest?! Here's the man in full flow…
But don't read me incorrectly. Another great day of encouragement – we've looked beyond our two speakers to their and our Lord and been overjoyed by considering Him and how we might help others take joy in Him too. Can't wait for tomorrow morning!