Well, girls. After a bit of a delayed journey, we have finally come to the last chapter of Spectacular Sins.
I can't even begin to express how slowly digesting this book together with you has bolstered my faith in our sovereign and trustworthy God. To use Piper's terms, the weighty doctrine presented in this smallish volume has been steel to my spine and silk to my soul. May God give us wisdom to discern where on the spectrum of hard and soft, of cunning and innocence, of strength and vulnerability we should situate ourselves in every single circumstance we face.
Today's chapter deals with the murder of Jesus - the most spectacular sin of all. I've decided in ending our discussion to note a few of my favorite quotes and let you remark on those.
I'm sad to see this end, but it's unavoidable so let's get to it!
1. Quote: "My prayer is that as these great historical vistas of God's sovereignty over sin take their place in your mind they would have a profoundly practical effect in making you strong in the face of breath-stopping sorrows and making you bold for Christ in the face of dangerous opposition - Christ-exalting strength in calamity and Christ-exalting courage in conflict." (p. 98)
Question: What practical ways have the truths of this book strengthened your own faith? Can you describe any situations which have brought SS to mind as you've dealt with them?
2. "Satan does not take innocent people captive. There are no innocent people. Satan has power where sinful passions hold sway. Judas was a lover of money, and he covered it with a phony, external relationship with Jesus. And then he sold him for thirty pieces of silver. How many of his ilk are still around today! Don't be one. And don't be duped by one." (p.100)
Question: Can you pinpoint a time in your life when you've fallen prey to a Judas - or worse - when you've been a Judas yourself?
3. "His [Jesus'] face was set like flint to die, and Satan concluded that there was no stopping him. Therefore, he resolved that if he couldn't stop it, he would at least make it as ugly and painful and as heartbreaking as possible. Not just death, but death by betrayal. Death by abandonment. Death by denial. Death by torture. If he could not stop it, he would drag others into it and do as much damage as he could. It was a spectacular sequence of sins that brought Jesus to the cross."
Question: Understanding first of all that I am in no way saying anyone could ever suffer the agony Jesus suffered, can you describe either a personal experience or one of which you are aware that could qualify as an ugly death? I'm asking this question symbolically though I realize some of you may have been touched by this literally. If the death was symbolic, have you yet seen the resurrection? If the death was literal, what strength do you gather from knowing a resurrection is coming?
(I hope that question makes sense. My Boy Two often says, "Can I buy a vowel?" when I ask ambiguous questions during our nightly devotions. Yes, my poor kids have to suffer me, too.)
4. .."if God were not the main Actor in the death of Christ then the death of Christ could not save us from our sins, and we would perish in hell forever. The reason the death of Christ is the heart of the gospel - the heart of the good news - is that God was doing it. Romans 5:8: "God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." If you separate God's activity from the death of Jesus, you lose the gospel."
Question: Describe any fresh insights you've gained on God's involvement in Jesus' death.
5. "The most spectacular sins are not signs of ultimate absurdity. Satan is the ultimately irrational being. And much of what he is allowed to do will have the mark of senselessness on it." (p. 107 - Closing Prayer)
Question: This statement makes me think of Heath Ledger's Joker in the last Batman movie. A mind set on madness. And not because he is delusional enough to believe he can ultimately win, but because as he unravels, he wants to take as many with him as possible.
How can viewing Satan from this perspective open our eyes to whose side we are on when we grumble against God? Have you ever blamed the wrong person for your misery?
I would like to leave you with a portion of Piper's closing prayer for us, the readers. Because I can't say it any more beautifully, I'll hope he won't mind if I adopt to pray it for you as well. Blessings on each of you who participated and thank you for seeing this Book Club through to completion! Also, many thanks to Missy without whose partnership I wouldn't have dared attempted such a thing. I love you, friend!
"Grant to our minds and hearts
new and deeper capacities to see and savor
the glories of Jesus Christ.
With every new glimpse of his glory in your word,
let there awaken new affections in our hearts.
Ignite our souls to treasure Christ in a way that
destroys our sinful lusts
and delights the deepest recesses of our being
and displays his truth and beauty
to a world that does not know
that this is what it needs more than anything.
And from this all-satisfying treasuring of Christ
may there flow a liberation from selfishness,
and a triumph over bitterness and anger,
and a freedom from worry and fear,
and victory over depression and discouragement,
and the severing of ever root of sensual lust,
All this freedom, Lord, we see for the sake of love.
Monday, March 30, 2009