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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

John Piper and the New Birth

One of the benefits of living in the Twin Cities is living in close proximity to John Piper and his Bethlehem Baptist Church. Many of my friends have been very excited for us to go see him. We did some research and found one of the 3 campuses is very close to where we are staying. It was in a high school auditorium, so that was a different atmosphere from what we expected. Because of the three campuses, Piper rotates and speaks live at a different one each week while the others receive a live video feed. We were pleased to actually attend a service he was speaking at in person!

It was a little interesting that we had a conversation on the way to church about Calvinism and Armenianism. We both grew up in Armenian background churches and the message we heard from Piper was quite strongly Calvinistic. I am by no means a theologian so I sometimes miss the subtle nuances, but this was pretty clear about pre-destination and the new birth. You can hear the podcast version or see the full text.

The main text of the message was 1 Peter 1:13-25. I won't go through the whole sermon but here are some of the highlights:

Imperishable was a big word that Piper spent some time unpacking. It is used three times in the text and refers to our inheritance, value, and seed.
Inheritance - We are “born again to a living hope.” So the emphasis falls on the hope of our new life. It lives—and will not die. It inherits an imperishable inheritance. That’s the emphasis. Our new life in the new birth is forever. We will never die.
Value - The blood of Christ is of infinite value, and therefore its value never runs out. It is an imperishable value. That is how we are ransomed. That’s the price of the new life we receive in new birth. And Jesus paid it for us.
Seed - The seed that comes through the word of God is imperishable, and therefore the life that it generates and sustains is imperishable.

Piper also spent some time unpacking his thoughts about salvation. He says that the Holy Spirit calls us to salvation. We can reject or accept this salvation, but ultimately if God has called us into heaven He will make Himself so irresistible that we can't reject salvation. This is where Calvin really shines through. It lead to some interesting discussions afterwards!!

I really liked what Piper had to say about the Living Christ is our Living Hope to carry us through each day.

Finally Piper talked about the role God plays and we play in our new birth. He focused only a little time as these are topics for future sermons. Here is the excerpt:
1) He ransomed us from sin and wrath by the blood of Christ and paid the debt for sinners to have eternal life. 2) He raised Jesus from the dead so that union with Jesus gives eternal life that never fades away. 3) And He called us from darkness to light and from death to life through the gospel and gave us eyes to see and hears to hear. He made the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ shine in our hearts through the gospel. And we believed. We embraced Christ for the treasure that he is.
We like much of Piper's writings so we are going to check out the downtown church to see what the atmosphere is like and see how it compares to other churches we've experienced in the Twin Cities. We'll keep you posted!

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