1Tim 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Christ is our righteousness. I am justified fully and completely before God by faith alone in Christ alone. I am righteous because Christ’s righteousness has been credited to me, and my sins credited to Him and fully paid for at the cross. Justice has been served, and God remains just. This is the good news of the gospel. If anyone is still thinking that it is by their performance that they will be accepted by God, then they are still approaching God by the Law, and the only result of the Law is condemnation, death, and hell. Christ justifies the UN-godly. Christ came into this world to save SINNERS. God’s love is such that it is not a matter of US loving Him first, but of HIM loving us while we were still sinners. If you would be just before God and be forgiven your sins, then you must cease all efforts from trying to make yourself “holy” enough so that God is somehow put into your debt and owes you that forgiveness. It won’t work.
And then we might mention a word here to anyone who might think that they are so miserable of a sinner that God would never forgive and accept them. Hear Christ’s own words, then read those of the Apostle Paul (above) once again:
Mar 2:15-17 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requires
Is to feel your need of Him.
We are grateful and honored to have permission to publish Bekah Mason’s post (originally published on www.giveherwings.com). Bekah and Kat are two women who were more than happy to dedicate a few days to aid in the rescue of “Overcoming” (alias) and her daughter from an oppressive family. Overcoming had left an abusive marriage 3 years before but then found herself in another abusive situation with an dictatorial, cult-like church that, in no way, represents God’s people. As we, on the sidelines, “watched” how the story unfolded . . . how God used these incredible women to show His love to Overcoming . . . we wept, laughed, prayed . . . and, oh! What a privilege! Thank you, Bekah and Kat and all those who helped. And, thank you, Bekah for writing it all down. It is a great encouragement to all of us to hear and know about a victory. During the month of March, Give Her Wings is striving to help Overcoming and her daughter get back on their feet. We (at GHW) would like to be able to raise enough money to pay one or two months rent for an apartment to help them launch. If you are interested in taking part in our raffle or giving donations, please visit the website at http://www.giveherwings.com. Also, feel free to share this with anyone you know who may have a heart for helping “spiritual widows and orphans”. We had full permission from Barb & Jeff to post this. Meg
Here is the story of the miraculous rescue:
Ministry runs in the blood of my family. My grandfather, my uncle, and my father were or are involved in full time ministry. I’ve worked in church and counseling environments and currently teach in a local Christian school. In three generations of full time ministry, we’ve seen a lot of pain, a lot of heartache, a lot of failure and disappoint, horror and sheer disbelief.
Ministry often centers around helping the hurting, the broken, the forgotten. Give Her Wings is a ministry created to provide “gifts and money for mothers who have left abusive situations. Oftentimes, when a woman leaves an abusive marriage, she narrowly escapes with little more than her children and the clothes on her back. Give Her Wings desires to do all they can to help specific mothers who are living in very poor conditions presently.” Through monthly fundraisers, GHW gives love, support, and financial assistance to mothers who often feel alone, hopeless, forgotten.
But every once in a while, God places His children in a situation in which we get to physically step in and become the hands and feet of Jesus. We get to be a part of the rescue process, literally snatching someone from the flames of oppression and abuse. This is the situation in which I was blessed to find myself in the last couple of weeks.
This journey began nearly a month ago when Megan contacted me about a woman who lived within driving distance of me who had contacted her about her current living situation. Hoping to provide some support and encouragement, we exchanged emails, offered prayed, let her talk and process her experiences and current situation, and through the course of our conversations, I told Megan that I would just drive down and meet with her in person. Sometimes, people just need to know that they are seen and heard, and as invaluable as technology is to this ministry, you just can’t really provide that via social media.
So I hopped in the car with a fellow women’s ministry team member from my church, and we met “Overcoming” for dinner. We left broken hearted and convinced that this was a unique situation into which God had dropped Give Her Wings to be of special assistance to a woman and her daughter who had no where to go and no one to turn to for help.
From the stories we had heard, we had no idea what to expect. The family they had been staying with are members of a cult-like church, a group which emphasizes extreme patriarchy and teaches that men are not just the providers and protectors for their families, but are the priests (spiritual authority) and kings (total authority) of their homes and everyone living in them. This includes guests, and “Overcoming” and her daughter were increasingly expected to submit to his direction over their lives. Their movements were limited and monitored, they were expected to conform their lives to the habits and schedules of the family. They were told that they needed to submit their wills and their entire lives to the instruction and leading of the “Patriarch.” It appears the family hoped they would help with the house work and care of the family’s six children, and when it became apparent they would not, their connection to the internet was removed and a meeting with the church elders was demanded. At this point, “Overcoming” and her daughter left the home with a few belongings and headed to a hotel and we began planning to get down there to help them leave the house in which they were trapped. After long nights of prayer, longer days of phone calls, logistics, volunteer gathering, and number crunching, nearly a dozen people in 6 states had put together a plan.
This past Saturday, GHW ministry team member Kat, my friend Angela, and myself met at a local Starbucks and headed south, having no idea what we would encounter when we got there. Kat and I had never met, Kat and Angela had never met “Overcoming,” and the two men who were meeting us to load the moving truck were friends of a friend of another ministry team member. None of us had met the other team member or the two men. The miracle of technology brought together people united through the common bond of the Holy Spirit to do a work otherwise impossible to achieve.
Before long, we received a message from Kelley that said there was a problem with the moving truck. The one we had rented had been double booked, was I comfortable driving a 26’ truck instead? I called the rental company and told them that was fine, and we continued on our way.
When we arrived in the Home Depot parking lot, this greeted us:
I had seriously underestimated what 26’ looked like. And it’s diesel. I’d never driven a diesel. It had a power lift loading ramp. None of us had used one. But we laughed, prayed, and pulled out of the parking lot.
When we met “Overcoming” at the local grocery store, her daughter and our two “heavy lifters,” John and Brandon met us, too.
We did introductions, hugged, prayed, and headed to the house to begin gathering their belongings.
As soon as we arrived, “Patriarch” cooly took over. Without even a greeting or introduction, he asked us to turn the moving truck around by backing it down their curving driveway and backing it back up the driveway. When we struggled to do so, he did it himself. After opening the garage and showing John where the rest of the furniture was in the house, he left us to get to work.
Empty boxes were divided between “Patriarch’s” family and those belonging to “Overcoming.” When we ran out of boxes, we began using garbage bags. When time and space drew short, we asked “Overcoming” and her daughter to make the impossible decision of what was essential and what could stay here and potentially be replaced. His older daughters closely followed us, second guessing what belonged to whom and running back and forth into the house to report what we were doing.
When “Patriarch” came out to check progress, he asked questions of the entire group, I would answer, and he would direct his answers to John. It became quickly obvious that he was unwilling to converse with a woman, so we complied and John spoke with him from that point.
“Patriarch” did help John and Brandon move the largest and heaviest furniture downstairs, which was much appreciated. After that he was polite when he interacted with us, but kept his distance.
We quickly realized that there was much more to move than we had originally anticipated; our “wrong” moving truck was exactly what God knew we needed to accomplish the task He set before us that day.
As we sorted, packed, and loaded, the work became more oppressive. Trips inside the home revealed a cluttered, depressed building, full of children, but devoid of laughter, play, or joy. As the older girls followed us around, they asked piercingly honest questions of a child: “Are you glad you’re leaving? We’re glad you’re leaving because now we get our room back.” While “Overcoming” and her daughter had been sharing a bed in one room, four of the children had been sharing another room upstairs.
Around lunch time, “Patriarch” and his daughters offered us pizza and drinks to take a break from our work. Angela and Kat had an opportunity to talk with the wife. Please pray for her and their children, as their spirits seem crushed by the oppression in which they live.
At the same time, three teenage boys and two younger boys showed up at the house. We thought they were friends of “Overcoming” who had come to help, because they were very friendly and began carrying boxes without even being asked. When “Overcoming” came outside, however, they said hello and she asked them if they had talked to “Patriarch” yet. They went inside and never came back out. The next time I went inside, they were sitting around the kitchen table, Patriarch at the head of the table, sharing some sort of instructional time.
I will not forget the anger I felt flood over me as I watched a man train the manhood out of those boys. They inherently knew they needed to be helping us work, but instead, they repressed that urge and mindlessly obeyed the command of the man in authority over them. When they left about an hour later, they passed by the truck, heads dropped and silent.
While they were having their study time, I took a break from packing the truck and looked into the window of the kitchen. My mind flooded with memories of a friend who had escaped across an ocean to save her family from abuse and oppression. I thought about those young men, and “Patriarch’s” young children and wife. I thought about how unimaginable it was that Kat and I had just had to ask “Overcoming” to go through her belongings and decide what she was willing to leave behind.
I was done at that moment. And at that same moment, one of the young girls who had been wandering back and forth, chatting with us and helping as she could, came up to the truck and said, “This is for you.” I looked down and saw this:
Rev. 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ Whispers of mercy and reminders that He is here.
In the pain, oppression, anger. He was there. He is there still, with those kids. With their mother. With “Patriarch.” He is there, and He brings freedom. And that is my prayer.
My reaction to stress and trauma is to put my head down and get to work. I was feverishly focused on getting the truck safely packed. Two times that I distinctly remember, I stopped working and looked up to see Kat holding “Overcoming” in a tight hug, whispering prayers and words of hope in her ear as she wept under the weight of what was taking place. I was again reminded that God had assembled a random group of total strangers, each uniquely equipped to complete part of the task He had before us.
As the hours passed, we began to be concerned about the emotional toll this was taking on all of us, but especially our sweet mother and daughter. To help them prepare to walk away, we asked them again to seriously consider what they were willing to leave behind, and we moved only the items that were essential or particularly sentimental. We were unsure that a return trip would be possible, and if it were, we were fairly convinced that none of her belongings would be there when she returned.
Once the furniture was loaded, John and Brandon left, and we began praying that God would provide kind people at the storage unit to help us unload the things the men had loaded for us. Between heavy furniture, a freezer and a refrigerator, and an upright piano, we had no idea how were were going to get it into the storage unit.
The trip to the storage unit was light and uneventful. The relief felt by us all was tangible. The weight lifted from “Overcoming” and her daughter was physically seen. In just one week, there was a transformation in their body language, in their communication. There was light and hope in their eyes as we sat around a table at a fast food restaurant and listened to them continue to share.
We thought we were home free, but there were more surprises in store. While we were eating, God answered another prayer. Another family had heard that
“Overcoming” was moving her belongings and called to see if they could help. “YES!” was the answer they had received, and when we arrived at the storage unit, they were waiting for us!
Immediately issues began. As the sun began setting and a 9 pm deadline staring us down, we struggled to open the gate to the storage facility. Once it was opened, we hit a huge wall: the key “Overcoming” had been given on Thursday did not open the door to the climate control unit she had rented. After making multiple phone calls, getting disconnected from one person (we later found out that he had dropped his phone in toilet in the middle of the call!), and being unable to reach anyone else, we began to get desperate. Fatigue and frustration set in. “Overcoming” went to the facility across the street, hoping someone might be there who would rent one of their units to her.
There was no one on duty.
The gentleman who met us there attempted to jimmy the door to the unit open. It wouldn’t budge. We considered taking the door off the hinges, but decided that was a bit extreme. When we had run out of options, someone suggested that find some basic storage units and empty the truck into them until they could reach someone about the rented unit.
At that point, the tangible oppression we had felt only a few hours earlier was replaced by an equally tangible peace and joy that was inexpressible. We hugged “Overcoming” and her daughter, as well as our new friends who had come to save the day at the storage unit.und ourselves lifted out spirits, re-energized us, and we had the truck unloaded in less than an hour.
Kat, Angela and I left while we watched the rest of our little group continue to laugh and fellowship in the parking lot.
Before we even got back to the truck drop off center, I had received a call from “Overcoming,” and I nearly didn’t recognize her voice in the message. She was joyful, laughing, chatting freely. She saw a victory won. She had hope. She’d been given wings and had taken flight.
John Piper’s Works Righteousness “Gospel” (Part 4) — Work Hard Enough and You Might Just Maybe, Perhaps Squeeze Through that Narrow Way
Joshua 24:19-22 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”
Mr. Piper, you who would have us be justified by the Law — do you not hear the Law?
Once again, we want our readers to understand why we continue to go after John Piper. Piper teaches abuse victims that they cannot divorce their abuser no matter how severe the abuse. No matter if the husband sexually molests the children. No matter if a wife drowns the children in the bathtub. And, he says, if you do divorce for ANY reason and remarry while that abuser is still alive, you are guilty of adultery. There it is. That is what he teaches. He may was well have entitled his permanence view book, This Momentary Hell From Which there is No Escape.
We are hitting Piper at the very foundation of his error. Namely, his false gospel of justification by works. We conclude that all the rest of his legalistic teachings rise out of this bad root. As we showed last time, Piper says we must pass a future justification which is based on our works. With this in mind, Piper does not actually teach Future Grace, but Future Judgment. His Christian Hedonism has become the grid through which he interprets Scripture, and though he describes it as “enjoying God/desiring God,” we suggest that it is more properly called “Christian Asceticism” the goal of which is to earn God’s favor.
Alright then, let’s turn to his three chapters (22-24) in his book What Jesus Demands From the World, and see another example of Piper’s misapplication of Law to Christ’s people. In other words, his false gospel of justification by works. Actually in this post we will only look at chapter 22, and only part of that because really, to point out the errors in this one book would require a veritable encyclopedia of volumes. Piper opens this chapter with a quotation of the following Scripture:
Luke 13:23-24 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
We recognize right away that some very similar words are recorded by Matthew:
Matthew 7:13-14 ”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Now, I suspect that it has been debated if these two accounts are describing one and the same event, or if they refer to two different times that Jesus said virtually the same words. So we will deal with both cases. Piper also refers to Matthew’s account. Let’s ask then a basic, fundamental interpretive question that any Bible student with even rather elementary competence would ask right off before trying to interpret these verses: To Whom is Jesus Speaking?
Answer: Jesus is addressing crowds of unregenerate Jews with some of His disciples present. (Not all of His disciples were necessarily genuine believers, as time would tell). In other words, Jesus is addressing people who were the people of the Old Covenant. The physical circumcision. People who, through wrong teaching and a wrong understanding of the Law of God, felt that they were a shoe in for God’s Kingdom. It is Jesus’ purpose here to teach them the real nature of God’s kingdom, and to show them that the Law of God required far more than they could ever hope to perform. In other words, Jesus was using the Law of God to “kill” their self righteousness and show them their desperate need for a Savior.
In support of this answer, consider the following verses:
Luke 13:22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.
Luke 13:26-30 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Matthew 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matthew 7:28-29 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Alright. I trust that these verses adequately support the conclusion stated above — that Jesus was addressing crowds of unregenerate Jews with the purpose of making them despair of their so-called legal righteousness. Jesus was showing them the impossibility of keeping the Law of God and thereby making themselves righteous. Jesus is not preaching gospel here. He is laying down the demands and condemnation of the Law.
With this all in mind, I believe the most effective thing for me to do at this point is to simply give you a quote of the first couple of pages of Piper’s 22nd chapter which is entitled, Strive to Enter Through the Narrow Door, For All of Life is War. As you read, keep asking yourself, “who is Piper addressing here? Who is the “us” and the “we”? And then honestly deal with this question: Is John Piper teaching salvation by works? I insist that his own words prove that he is:
Jesus taught us that life is war. When he said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24), the Greek word behind the English strive is recognizable in English transliteration: agnizesthe . You can see the word agonize in that Greek word. The implication is that we must struggle, wrestle, and exert ourselves. But the most important fact about the word “strive” is that the one other place where we find it on Jesus’ lips is John 18:36, where he says his disciples would be “fighting” if his kingdom were of this world. “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.” So here the phrase “strive to enter” means that entering is a battle.
STRIVE TO ENTER WHAT?
Entering what? The kingdom of God. This is plain from the following context. After saying that we should “strive to enter through the narrow door,” he refers to a master of a house who rises and shuts the door so that no one else can enter (Luke 13:25). Those outside knock and say, “Lord, open to us,” but the master says, “I do not know where you come from.” Then they say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” But he responds, “Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” (Luke 13:25-27). Then Jesus applies this picture to the real situation of some who will be excluded from the kingdom of God while Gentiles from all over the world will “recline at table in the kingdom of God.” “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:28-29). So the “narrow door” through which we must “strive” to enter is the door to the kingdom of God. Outside there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28). This is one of the ways Jesus refers to hell: “Throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:50). The alternative to entering by the narrow gate is destruction. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7:13). In other words, what is at stake when Jesus demands that we “strive to enter” is heaven and hell. It is an ultimate issue.
THE GREATEST THREAT IS OUR OWN SIN EVERY DAY
But what does Jesus want us to strive against so that we can enter through the narrow door? What are the obstacles? If life is war, who is the enemy? In our striving, the aim is not to hurt anyone. Jesus is clear that we are to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27). Saying that life is war does not mean that we make war on people, but on sin, especially our own. In fact, it is only our own sin that can keep us from entering the kingdom, not anyone else’s. The sin of others can hurt us, even kill us. But that does not keep us from entering the kingdom of God. Our own sin is the greatest threat to entering the kingdom of God. But temptation to sin comes from an amazing variety of sources. Jesus is demanding serious personal vigilance. The command to “watch” is one of his most frequent commands. The idea is that we must be awake and alert and ready, lest the temptations of life take us off guard and we be overcome and ruined. Jesus said to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
This command is relevant to all of life. Temptations abound, and Jesus does not take them lightly. The watchword of all of life is, watch, be alert. I say all of life because Jesus warned that the days just before his second coming would be in many ways very normal. It will be, Jesus says, like the days of Noah before the flood came and swept people away who were utterly unsuspecting. They were not watchful. Life seemed too normal, so they were not vigilant. “As in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark . . . so will be the coming of the Son of Man. . . . Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:38-39, 42). Nothing is more normal than eating and drinking and marrying. The point is that we must be vigilant all the time, not just when the times feel perilous. They are always perilous. Soul-destroying temptations to unbelief and sin are present in everyday, normal life. Striving to enter through the narrow door is a lifelong, all-day, every-day calling.
Piper, John (2006-09-30). What Jesus Demands from the World (Kindle Locations 2550-2589). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
In our next post in this series we will continue to examine how Piper deals with and applies these words of Christ about entering by the narrow way. We will see that he consistently applies the Law of God, meant to convict unbelievers of their condemnation and need for Christ, to people who have already been freely justified by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. In other words, he continues to teach a false gospel of justification by works.
Note: Here is a link to what R. Scott Clark, professor at Westminster Seminary, California, has to say about this notion of a supposed two-stage justification (which Piper does indeed teach). Thanks to Barbara for finding this link. R. Scott Clark 2-Stage
It was the message that touched me the most. Pastor Jeff had ‘called my name’ as we say back home. For the first time a Pastor I knew said out loud “what your husband has done to you is wrong; Abuse is sin”. He validated my pain and showed me from the word of God that I was right to leave my abuser. He told the story of how he once saw a mom with her two sons at a store or some place. He could tell she was abused by the way the boys openly disrespected her, ignored her in public and just made a nuisance of themselves. That woman was me. Today, and for the past five years.
Today I took my sons to church — again. It’s the only place I ever take them now. It’s their only hope. Or rather the House of the Lord is. I want them to be godly men. But they will not listen to me. It’s a 2-hour battle every Sunday to get to the 1-hour church service. It’s only seven min by subway, yet we are always late. Have always been. Even in our former church where all they did was watch cartoons and played with friends during the adult service, yet I would spend hours looking for one child. Just so we could go to church. Yes, I know. They are out of control.
They would refuse to get dressed, argue about what to wear, run off and hide, start fighting. I am ashamed. How could I have done this to myself? I thought I married a godly man, but my sons have an inherent negative bent. I see it, I know it. It is not normal. And I was losing what little was left of my mind from my abuser.
They have no regard for me, or for other adults. They have no fear. Except when they want something. How do I live like this? How do I go on with this shame? Today, they ran between the pews during the sermon. Boy 1 walked into the sanctuary from the toilet clowning and talking to himself at the top of his voice. Boy 2 would not stop running and then crawling from pew to pew, ignoring me completely. I should go home… I should stay…I should not let them make me miss worship – again… I should change church… I should keep coming. They need to be exposed to the word and people of God…I should pick a larger church…, But I am so tired all the time. But you can’t be tired you’re a Mom! Moms never get tired. And I still have to be careful about where we go. I wonder, does one ever truly leave the abuse behind? Will we ever be free, safe?
Their (mis)behavior shows the world what they’ve witnessed. It’s how they’ve seen their father treat me. How they’ve seen my colleagues, their teachers, the agency support staff treat me and talk about me in the boys’ presence. Each time we walk the streets I hear their misbehavior say to the world: “She is an abused woman. A single mother. That’s how sons of single moms (mis)behave. She’s codependent”.
What else do they say? “She’s crazy, did you know she has PTSD? How sad”. Or “She’s too hard on them, she should be kinder”. “She has no right to insist that they be good children, boys will be boys”. They’ve said that to my face. They’ve said it to the boys. The boys have said it to me. And I see it in the boys’ actions. My gut is not wrong. It’s the same way their father treated me. People around me treated me. Those helping me/us did it. On the other hand, I have been told it’s because I tolerate it. I let them. So it’s my fault. Yet every boundary I put up the boys defy. Every consequence I impose is defiantly resisted.
I deign to spank them because they have witnessed and experienced violence in the home. I have withheld privileges, imposed consequences, and been told it’s abuse. I teach my children about manners and respect and courtesy. We read the Bible and pray, I try to get each boy to do his devotions each morning. I ensure that we go to church every Sunday. It’s rare to find a church like this, where moms like me are accepted. So am I this control freak who wants to direct the course of her sons’ lives? Yet I want them to walk a more honorable path than their father. I pray for them to be good husbands and fathers. I have been told it is impossible. Each time I reached out for help in our community (and I received tons of it believe me) I was told that as long as they only did that to me at home, it was OK. This is my cross and to bear it and hope that they out grow it. They probably will…
I refused to believe that and kept reaching out for help. One day I knelt in tears huddled in my room, my 5 and 7 year old calling me names and trashing stuff in the next room. As the labels flashed through my mind, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder…I “stumbled”, as the Lord led me, upon this site. This Bible based parenting coach has been working with our family for over a year now. I have seen great improvement, yet the people around me at the time continuously and deliberately, undermined my role as a mother and we would lose whatever progress we had made just from one contact. Sending the boys notes, talking to them behind my back. Telling them they have the right to choose what they want to do and no one, not even their mother should tell them otherwise. I have sat them down and talked with them. I have explained that my sons need tough love and discipline. I have requested and then insisted that they clear things with me first before talking with my sons. I have been ignored.
And so, thirsty, worn out and afraid, I up and moved towards the scent of water. I saw a glimmer of light and rushed toward it. I moved us to “The Big City”. And the Lord met me more than halfway.
Today as they shouted and screamed and jumped and ran on the streets of “The Big City”, I tried to restrain one boy. They both shoved me. In the middle of the street Boy 2 then calmly lay down on the road yelling ‘I want to die’. It’s his favorite act when he doesn’t get his way. It was a side street usually not busy, so I turned and walked off. They just carried on playing and yelling at each other as though nothing happened.
Just like Pastor Jeff’s sermons, my Parenting Coach empowered me from God’s word to stay the course and discipline my sons. I will keep going to church with both boys. I will keep disciplining them as best I can. I will not stay in shame. This is not whom I am. It is what was done to me.
Today, I sat in church struggling to hear, straining to catch the message. Truth is I have loved the habitation of His house, and the place where His honor dwells. From my youth. And I haven’t been to church in English for 4 years.
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We are immensely grateful to the reader who wrote this post for our blog. Jeff C and I know that this woman has been through almost unspeakable abuse. May God reward her with showers of blessing for sharing her heart and struggles with our readers. Please pray for her and her boys and their ongoing safety.
After being in an abusive marriage for a long time, we women often believe that we cannot possibly get out. It is irrational, when I think back now, but I truly believed there was no out. And that brought a hopelessness and despair that was unbearable. Indeed, it brought death to my soul. I wanted to die. Many of us understand this. And, now, when I think about the reasons that kept me in for way too long, I just can hardly comprehend the craziness of it all. But, such was my world — crazy. And the reasons I stayed — the spiritual, fear-filled reasons — were not particularly noble. But, they were very much my reality. And, now, when I talk with other women who are in abusive relationships, I never ever tell them to go. That is their decision. But, I do try to uncover the reasons behind the reasons . . . the fear-based reasons. Everything in me wants to physically go over to where these precious daughters of the King are staying, pick them up out of the rubble and bring them to safety. We all want that. Everyone on the team struggles with this same dynamic. But . . . you all have free will. And we would never, ever do what your abuser does — control you. (If you were in physical danger, I think we would all agree that something must be said or done. But, even then, we cannot force. All we can do is warn and offer aid).
But . . . without saying too much, having come through it all . . . not that I have “arrived” . . . but knowing what it was like at the beginning, middle and then . . . freedom, I do want to say this: If you are staying because you think your husband will change, good. If you are staying because the abuse seems fixable, good. If you are staying because God has not, yet, released you, then stay. If you are staying because God has empowered you to do so, then stay. There are many, many good reasons to stay. Sometimes, we just see snippets of abuse. We all get a little sinful now and then. Sometimes, we are just in a “difficult marriage” that can be worked on and made beautiful. But, other times, we stay in a consistently abusive death-bringing relationship/marriage because:
- We think no one will want us (damaged goods)
- We think that God will no longer be with us
- We think we cannot handle life alone
- We think we cannot raise the children alone
- We think no one would want someone with a gaggle of kids
- We think our life will be over
- We think this is as good as it will get
- We think we cannot provide for ourselves or that God will not provide for us
Now . . . just look at that list of lies. Just look. I haven’t seen so many lies in one place in all my life. Every single one of these statements is exactly the opposite of victorious Christian living. And all of these lies claim that we are living this life alone and apart from God’s power. All of these bullet points say, “God does not and will not take care of me.” Oh, how it must break His heart! God cares so incredibly deeply about your situation . . . more than we can fathom. Early on, a friend gave me this verse:
And the people trusted and listened believingly that God was concerned with what was going on with the Israelites and knew all about their affliction. They bowed low and they worshiped. (Ex. 4:31, The Message)
God knows . . . He knows. And he is concerned. If we think that God’s love for us is conditioned on whether or not we stay with an abuser, then we need to better understand who God is. Working at staying with an abuser is work. Christ’s love for us is not determined by our works. He goes with us everywhere, if we have surrendered our lives to Him.
If you, or someone you know, is staying in an abusive relationship for all the lies . . . please help counter-act this with truth. Or, allow the truth to be a louder voice in your heart than any other voice. It is not easy. But . . . we believe in you! And we believe in the God that you serve!
Literary flourishes and Christian Hedonism: the pretty ribbon round John Piper’s pietistic asceticism (part 2)
there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:1-2)
Yesterday’s post included a quote from John Piper where he used the expression “conquests of joy”. Those who are familiar with Piper’s work will recognize that the expression “conquests of joy” is an allusion to Piper’s favorite topic, Christian Hedonism, in which the catch phrase is God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
Here’s an example of Piper enthusing about Christian Hedonism [link]:
Do you want to glorify God the most with your life and experience his glory the most? Then the answer is: Pursue maximum satisfaction in him. That’s what so many Christians have never heard, and they have a hard time believing.
And I’m devoting my life to try and make it look biblical—like it is—and to help people overcome the obstacles that are in the way, such as “Duty is more noble than hedonism.” Some say that it’s more noble to do something because you have to do it than it is because you delight to do it. It’s more noble to worship God out of some sense that he deserves it than out of the fact that he is so magnificent and glorious that I can’t help it. And I disagree with all of that!
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
Hmm. I am not sure why Piper thinks he has to make something look biblical if he knows it already is, but I for one do not see that it is biblical no matter how much he tries to make it look that way.
Since 2010 I have been trying to alert John Piper, or if not him, at least the staff at Desiring God, to my concerns. I notified John Piper, via firstname.lastname@example.org, about my Critique of CBMW’s Statement on Abuse when it was first published in 2010 (we republished it at this blog here). This is the only communication I’ve made to DG for which I’ve received a reply and I only got that reply after I sent a second email asking them to confirm that they had forwarded my message to Piper. Their email reply said “We have received your email and it has been forwarded on to Pastor John’s assistant.” Lest anyone excuse Desiring God by thinking that they could not possibly be expected to have enough staff to read all the emails and letters they must get, let me remind you that Piper does not personally get any of the royalties from his books, he has arranged his affairs so that all the profits from his books go to a Desiring God Trust Fund which can distribute the funds to worthy causes. That means that there would be plenty of money available to employ enough staff, should they wish, to read all the correspondence they receive and respond appropriately and thoughtfully.
I have contacted John Piper/Desiring God a number of times since, expressing my concerns about Piper’s teaching and inviting him to join us in the Cry For Justice. I politely snail mailed Piper a copy of this post, I’ve provided him with feedback from our readers (here) and at times I’ve been challenging (here) but never rude. With only one form letter reply to me over this time, it looks like I’m being ignored. Of course I’m “just a woman”.
But Peter Masters, author of the article Christian Hedonism — Is it Right? published in Sword and Trowel in 2002 is a Reformed Baptist — which Piper supposedly is too — and Masters is the senior pastor at Metropolitan Tabernacle, the church Spurgeon pastored for years, and also the editor of Sword and Trowel. Surely Peter Masters’ voice should be heard, even if mine or Jeff Crippen’s are not. Sword and Trowel is a magazine which “enjoys an extensive readership throughout the world, particularly among ministers and church leaders and which has by far the largest circulation of any magazine (world-wide) adhering to reformed and Baptist distinctive” [source]. Surely more academics in seminaries across America should be disquieted about Piper, but they seemingly are not; in fact, he is being given more and more clout, for example, he has been invited to give a special lecture this March at Westminster Seminary Philadelphia.
Here is another quote from Piper. It shows (1) the arresting use of language: he changes the wording of the Westminster Shorter Catechism by switching one word for another, and (2) the legalistic twist giving a sting in the tail. It’s from a sermon by Piper titled Worship, the Feast of Christian Hedonism. The words in bold were emphasized in the original transcript at the Desiring God website.
The chief end of man is not just to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. And if we don’t enjoy him, we don’t glorify him.
That sting in the tail — If we don’t enjoy him, we don’t glorify him — is an inevitable consequence of Piper’s theology because he makes enjoying God the most important virtue and the unifying principle which holds all the Christian life together. I opened yesterday’s post with a short quote from Christian Hedonism — Is it Right? by Peter Masters. Here is a lot more from that article:
Christian Hedonism says that the pursuit of happiness in God is the overruling source of power and energy for the life of the Christian. The proposer, Dr John Piper, is a prominent evangelical preacher in the United States, who began to popularise his views in 1986 with the publication of his book, Desiring God. In this he maintains that delighting in God is the pivotal issue in the Christian walk; the central and the most important part of the life of faith.
Dr Piper makes much use of the little sentence, ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.’ Indeed, the pursuit of joy in God is held as being one and the same thing as glorifying God.
Why should this article set out to assess this teaching? The answer is that many pastors and people are being influenced by it, but very serious cautions need to be sounded.
It is not surprising that believers find Christian Hedonism or ‘delighting in God’ interesting and attractive. To delight in the Lord is a magnificent and biblical exercise. But Dr Piper’s formula for its use undoubtedly alters the understanding of sanctification long held by believers in the Reformation tradition, because it elevates one Christian duty above all others.
Delighting in God, we repeat, is made the organising principle for every other spiritual experience and duty. It becomes the key formula for all spiritual vigour and development. Every other Christian duty is thought to depend on how well we obey this central duty of delighting in the Lord. The entire Christian life is simplified to rest upon a single quest, which is bound to distort one’s perception of the Christian life and how it must be lived.
Whatever the strengths of Dr Piper’s ministry, and there are many, his attempt to oversimplify biblical sanctification is doomed to failure because the biblical method for sanctification and spiritual advance consists of a number of strands or pathways of action, and all must receive individual attention. As soon as you substitute a single ‘big idea’ or organising principle, and bundle all the strands into one, you alter God’s design and method. Vital aspects of Truth and conduct will go by the board to receive little or no attention.
. . . You cannot reorganise the Lord’s way of accomplishing the fruits of godliness without many duties being swept out of view. ‘Single-principle’ systems do not intend to cause harm, but, inevitably, they do. To borrow a piece of modern scientific jargon, biblical sanctification is a system of irreducible complexity. Not that it is too complicated – having only seven or eight well-known component virtues which must all be kept to the fore in ministry.
. . . Dr Piper’s main proposition – that we must delight in the Lord – commends itself to us all. It touches every conscience. It is scriptural. It is necessary. It is neglected. Accordingly this scheme for Christian living will naturally seize our attention and challenge us. The great problem arises from it being made the supreme issue of life, and the core of our obedience to God. Is the key aim to delight in God? Is the root of all righteousness to delight in God? Is delight in God the only true and worthy motivation for good deeds? In Dr Piper’s scheme, every other Christian virtue, from love to temperance, is dependent on this. We cannot have either motivation or energy for the life of faith unless our prime aim is to be delighting in God. This, in a nutshell, is the method which is proposed.
Dr Piper’s publisher calls his book a ‘paradigm-shattering work’, and bids the reader join Dr Piper ‘as he stuns you again and again with life impacting truths you saw in the Bible, but never dared to believe.’ The reality is that no one ever saw them like this in the Bible until Dr Piper pointed them out in the 1980s.
A special matter for concern is Dr Piper’s use of Scripture, because his books appear to establish every point with a host of relevant quotations. He takes the reader through every step with biblical validation. This obviously commends his viewpoint to readers, but the Scriptures quoted never actually support the thesis Dr Piper presents. . . .
There is no adequate and balanced view of trials and heartaches in Dr Piper’s system. In fact, as far as I can see, the only way he addresses spiritual heaviness is to urge repentance for coldness of heart. This is the kind of shallowness even a brilliant man will stumble into once he subsumes the whole range of biblical principles and virtues under one.
. . . At times Dr Piper reflects a fear that his teaching could lead to a mystical serenity. His fear is well grounded, and this writer is sure that it does lead to this. He frequently uses the language of direct mystical communion. Although the joy pursued is derived from reflecting on the Lord, the end is still subjective, and this will lead to a self-conscious nurturing of happiness. This will become for many an unhealthy preoccupation, emotions being artificially ‘cranked up’ (a feature of other single-dominant-issue movements).
. . . All single-dominant-issue schemes tend to be blind to individual matters of deep concern. Their major preoccupation creates a kind of tunnel vision, and perception fails. Dr Piper concentrates on seeing his delighting system in all the Bible, so that his recognition of the rules and principles which bear on other issues is seriously impaired.
. . . When delight is everything, doctrine suffers a setback. When subjective emotions are unduly elevated, the proving and testing of all things becomes impossible. On charismatic matters, and on modern worship matters also, Dr Piper is – to put it gently – an unsafe shepherd, and the fault lies not in his Bible, nor in his capacities, but in his system. As the better aspects of his ministry earn respect from his readers, so the poor guidance on potentially disastrous issues will mislead them.
God’s Word does not provide a single organising principle to govern and drive all the component duties of the spiritual life. ‘Christian Hedonism’ is not drawn from the teaching of the Lord, nor of Paul. However, the Bible does provide a clear prescription for the Christian life, listing a number of spiritual and moral duties, all of which must be given direct and individual attention. We are given famous lists (such as the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, and the lists of 1 Timothy 6.11-12 and Galatians 5.22-23) and we must set our minds to accepting a multiple-track righteousness. We will pay a high price for any kind of clever system that reduces biblical duties to an artificial formula, however sound and inspiring many of its elements may seem to be.
Dare we question the apostle when we read the list of 1 Timothy 6.11-12 ?
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses’
Will we say, ‘But just a minute Paul, you have left out the organising principle. You have left out any wonderful simplifying factor. You have left off the formula which will make it all come together.’ Of course he has, because there is no such formula. It is multiple-track righteousness. Seeking happiness is certainly not our prime goal. This is the recipe for emotional self-indulgence, subjectivism, and self-centred mystical ‘communion’ with Christ.
Domestic abuse victims who have been ground under Piper’s theology know only too well that in Piper’s system there is no adequate and balanced view of trials and heartaches, and the only way he addresses spiritual heaviness is to urge repentance for coldness of heart. Of course, Piper’s system is not the only system that wounds people, but testimonies* from abuse survivors at this blog show that it’s very oppressive if you’re under it and even if a victim is just exposed to a little of Piper it can send her into a downward spiral. And the exhortation to ‘enjoy God’ make it so much worse when the God you’re being told to enjoy is a God who gives no permission to divorce or to remarry after divorce.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage . . . (1 Tim 4:1-3)
Piper forbids marriage for innocent divorced people, sentencing them to a life of aloneness and celibacy. Yes, we know Piper allows first marriages, and he says that if you’ve remarried after a divorce you can be forgiven, so long as you admit you committed ‘marital sins’ by a) divorcing and b) remarrying. But that’s cold comfort for victims of abuse. The Syrophoenecian woman was given more crumbs from under the table than Piper gives to innocent divorced people. And Piper’s crumbs have fishhooks in them.
Here is part of comment by one of our readers at this blog [emphasis added; full comment here]:
I’m currently separated from my husband due to a long history of abuse (previously, I was separated for a short time due to his adultery). I’m still praying for healing and restoration but, am growing less and less hopeful of my ability to trust him again.
Right now my Church leaders are supportive of me but it hasn’t been easy to gain that support. There are still members that stand with Piper’s teachings and I’m afraid that should this end in divorce there may be issues in the Church.
It makes me feel like a Jonah, although in my conscience before God, I’m pretty sure that I’m NOT in the wrong. Pretty sure is still a scary place to be. I’m still not sure what is the truth. If I divorce do I really have to stay unmarried the rest of my life? I really want to do God’s will. I battle back and forth with asking myself am I using my husband’s sin as a way out of an ugly marriage? Am I supposed to be suffering for righteousness sake in the marriage? Is that really what these scriptures mean? And if I’m supposed to be suffering in this way, who is supposed to stand for the dependent children? Are they being called into this type of suffering too? My conscience is telling me that I’m sinning if I stay and allow them to be harmed.
Knowing of the abuse in our marriage, someone actually said that each day I’m separated from my husband is one more day that God isn’t being glorified in our marriage! So, according to this person, God is glorified when me and our children are being abused! I can’t wrap my head around that!
We hold that Piper and his followers wax lyrical in communion with a god of their own invention while victims of abuse bleed in the puddles of filth at the back of the church. That is why we call Piper’s theology a theology of asceticism. It may be a pleasurable philosophy for Piper and those of his followers who are enjoying the privileges of being relatively high-up in Patriarchal or Leadership status, but for those who are suffering an adversity like domestic abuse, it is a giant’s castle of imprisoning asceticism and there is no escape unless you rebel against Pipers’ theology.
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* Here are posts and comments we have at this blog which testify to the oppression that victims of abuse have experienced when exposed to Piper’s teaching. I’ve given each testimony a number; the posts are listed first, then comments from readers which are in reverse chronological order. The total of 47 does not indicate 47 different individuals, as some people have written several times about how they were impacted by Piper’s teaching.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40,
41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47.
There are five comments from one reader which I have not listed here because I would like to discuss them in a future post.