Seminar TULIP – Part 1 – John Piper (fragment)
“Tozer was a pastor in the middle of the last century who wrote quite a few books and almost all of them about God and he had a very huge passion to reorient the American church on a bigger God. He lived at the same time that J. B. Philips was living and if you are my age or round about, you can remember what J. B. Philips contributed to the church in the 60’s. He contributed a paraphrase of the New Testament and he contributed a little book called, “Your God is too Small.” So you had J. B. Philips and A. W. Tozer and there have always been others helping the church wakeup to the American minimization of God. We Americans are so amazingly self-sufficient and self-determining and self almost everything that for Americans to hold a high view of the greatness of God is more difficult than some. So, here are a few quotes that resonate with me this very day. This was written 60 years ago, but they are still true.
It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God current in these middle years of the twentieth century is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity.
All the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him. The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems . . . .”
That is an amazing statement. One of my philosophies of ministry, if you want to call it like that, of preaching, is that even though I don’t know in this room here how many of the two or three thousand problems you are facing right now corporately and collectively and summing up all the problems, I don’t know what they are, so how am I suppose to address them? How am I supposed to say anything is helpful to you on Sunday morning or in this seminar? Being a pastor and looking out on several thousand folks week after week and thinking, “You’ve got to be relevant by addressing each problem specifically?” You’re not. They are going to bring, people are going to bring to the church and to this room issues I never even dreamed that you are facing. Does that mean that I cannot say anything that God would be pleased to use for that very thing that I have never heard of? And the answer for me is, if I keep God, Himself, central and lift Him up week after week, and do everything that I can to make Him look and feel magnificent, that very issue will solve a hundred problems in your life that you do not even know is the solution to the problems. We are made for God, we are made to see Him and know Him and tremble in His presence and be awed by Him. And if we are seeing Him as He is and responding as we ought, there are a hundred things that get worked out in our brains and in our hearts and in our circumstances that would not have gotten worked out had we been presented with a lesser God.
So when he said that, I think he is right.
The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing than all the woes of the world piled one upon another.
In other words, if we could solve that issue, understand that issue, get that settled, i.e., who is God, what is happening to me in eternity, how do I relate to Him? Continuing down the page a little bit.
Let us beware less we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consist only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration and civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.
I think that is a very penetrating and indicting definition of idolatry.
It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow, they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and then acts as if they were true.
In other words, according to that definition of idolatry you must think rightly about God in order to not be an idolater. Because if you entertain thoughts about Him that are untrue about Him or unworthy of Him, those very thoughts your affections are responding to and that is not the way He is. One more section.
The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God. Before the Christian church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her basic Christian theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” And goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound, nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherence come to believe that God is different from what He actually is and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him.
Seminar resource: TULIP, Part 1, John Piper, Desiring God – http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Seminars/1727_TULIP/