The Greatest Gift Is God Himself (Reading Notes)

The best and final gift of the gospel is that we gain Christ. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8). This is the all-encompassing gift of God’s love through the gospel – to see and savor the glory of Christ forever.

In place of this, we have turned the love of God and the gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delight in many lesser things, especially the delight in our being made much of. The acid test of biblical God-centeredness – and faithfulness to the gospel – is this: Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of his Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever? Does your happiness hang on seeing the cross of Christ as a witness to your worth, or as a way to enjoy God’s worth forever? Is God’s glory in Christ the foundation of your gladness?

From the first sin in the Garden of Eden to the final judgment of the great white throne, human beings will continue to embrace the love of God as the gift of everything but himself. Indeed there are ten thousand gifts that flow from the love of God. The gospel of Christ proclaims the news that he has purchased by his death ten thousand blessings for his bride. But none of these gifts will lead to final joy if they have not first led to God. And not one gospel blessing will be enjoyed by anyone for whom the gospel’s greatest gift was not the Lord himself. (John Piper in God Is The Gospel)

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God Does Not Need You! (Reading Notes)

“What is the greatness of our God? What is His uniqueness in the world? Isaiah says, ‘From of old no one has heard or perceived by ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him’ (Isa. 64:4). All the other so-called gods make man work for them. Our God will not be put in the position of an employer who must depend on others to make his business go. Instead He magnifies His all-sufficiency by doing the work Himself. Man is the dependent partner in this affair. His job is to wait for the Lord.

What is God looking for in the world? Assistants? No. The gospel is not a help-wanted ad. It is a help-available ad. Nor is the call to Christian service a help-wanted ad. God is not looking for people to work for Him but people who let Him work mightily in and through them: ‘The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him’ (2 Chron. 16:9). God is not a scout looking for the first draft choices to help His team win. He is an unstoppable fullback ready to take the ball and run touchdowns for anyone who trusts Him to win the game.” (John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)

Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here is the original proclamation given by President George Washington which began the first official Thanksgiving celebration in the United States:

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Here are some important things to note:

1. President George Washington believed it was the duty of every nation “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.

2. Congress requested President Washington “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

3. Thanksgiving day is “to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

4. On this day of Thanksgiving we should “unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed.

So, as you celebrate Thanksgiving, be sure to honor the wishes of our first President. Spend time thanking God for his providential care and his blessings. Also, spend time in prayer asking God for his continued protection, blessings, forgiveness, and guidance.

God, give us more men and women in positions of authority throughout our country with this type of perspective!

God Is For God

The title may seem a bit harsh but it is true. God is no sharer of glory, nor should He be. God is for God. His purpose in creation and redemption is ultimately the glory of His name.

Psalm 138 was one of the chapters that I read this morning as I work through the ESV Bible reading program in 2012. I was freshly reminded of the truth that God is for God. He is for the furtherance of His name in this world. Though we are objects of His affection, we are by no means the point – He is.

Consider Psalm 138:1-2:

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

There is no doubt David worshipped God because of His steadfast love and faithfulness. But it is evident David recognized that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness was based on one thing – God is for God. God’s steadfast love and faithfulness did not point to David’s worth but to God’s desire to exalt, above all things, His name and His word.

Here are some things I was reminded of:

  1. My worth is based on Christ. I am a worthy object in the Father’s eyes because of Jesus. In the same way that David recognized he was not the point; I am freshly reminded that I am not the point. Jesus Christ is the point. His saving grace and the glory of his name, proclaimed in this world, is the point. Jesus saved my soul and my greatest privilege in life is praising Him for who He is and what He has done.
  2. My personal kingdom pales to compare. So often I find myself concerned with the furtherance of my kingdom. Will I succeed? Will I be noticed? Will things go well with my ministry? I am freshly reminded that these are the wrong questions. Here are the questions that I need to be asking: Will I be faithful, week in and week out, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ be evident in my daily life? Will Jesus Christ be the point of my ministry and will I be Spirit-led instead of Michael-led? Why would I waste time building my own pitiful kingdom when God allows me to be used by Him as He builds His kingdom?
  3. God’s Word is fresh and His Spirit is active. Even though my heart can be cold and distant in the mornings, I am grateful that God’s Word warms it every time. I am grateful that His Word is fresh. I am grateful that His Spirit is active. I echo with the writer of Hebrews: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).