John Piper preached a message entitled, "Don't Waste Your Life" from Galatians 6:14 at the Passion One Day conference in May of 2000. The message was later put into a book with the same title. Here is an excerpt from the book on page 45:
Listen to the "heartbeat" of Piper's book, life, and ministry here:
I love books.
Even as I write this I am surrounded by books. Books on people, God, culture, history, finances, productivity, on and on the list goes. However, I not only love books, I love to read books. I love to learn and discover new things. I love to have my mind stretched and typical thinking challenged over the ideas I consume while reading books. In some ways, reading is intellectual candy to me. The more I read, the more I want to read. Because of this, last year (for the first time ever) I decided to set a "reading goal" — a number of books I would read in one year’s time. I found this incredibly helpful. I became more disciplined in how I used my leisure time and even found creative ways I could read while doing other activities (like listening to audiobooks while driving or working out — and yes, I consider that reading). Overall, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made for my personal development.
Yet perhaps the greatest thing I gained from that endeavor was not something I learned, but something I discovered. While attempting to be a disciplined reader and rigorous academic, I discovered that my affections were changing. Jonathan Edwards defined the affections as "the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul" (see p.96 of The Religious Affections). In other words, the affections are a part of your soul that move you towards or away from something. An example of this would-be music. There are some songs that you hear that leave you indifferent and stagnant while there are other songs that you hear that leave you passionate and moved. The affections are the sails of the soul. They direct and stir your heart to or away from things.
It was while I was striving to reach my reading goal that I discovered my affections, the sails of my soul, had changed. This discovery came late in the year when I had sat down like I had most mornings that year to open my Bible and read. I read my Bible (like any other day), shut my Bible, got up from my chair, and began to get ready for my day. It was shortly after this that it hit me: I just read God's Word like a syllabus.
Over time, without me realizing it, I had developed a greater desire for books than the Bible. I was more excited to sit down and read a book than I was to read the Word of the Living God.
If you have ever read a syllabus before, you know what I mean. When you read a syllabus, you don't read it with high expectations. You aren't expecting to encounter anything that will inevitably transform your life. In fact, most people (I'm guilty) just skim the syllabus for "necessary information" and then put it back in a folder. This was how I was reading the Bible. I wasn't reading the Bible with heart-filled expectancy and longing to see the glory of Christ and be changed, I was reading the Bible to check a box and move on to what I considered practically helpful reading — books. Over time, without me realizing it, I had developed a greater desire for books than the Bible. I was more excited to sit down and read a book than I was to read the Word of the Living God.
It is easy to become well-versed in knowing about the Bible while never actually reading the Bible.
I have a feeling I'm not alone.
This change in affections is a dangerous, subtle slide for all Christians who love the Bible and love reading. It is dangerous because it is easy to become well-versed in knowing about the Bible while never actually reading the Bible. It is subtle because you can deceive yourself into thinking that because you know so much about the Bible it's okay that you never read the Bible. And as we learn from Psalm 1, when you begin to neglect the Bible your soul shrivels. So, what do you we do? How can we change the affections of our hearts so that we love the Bible while we read books? Three things:
1. Remember the gospel.
Have you ever considered that if it weren't for God saving your soul the Bible would be rubbish to you? In fact, without God you can't even read the Bible correctly because "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4). If it weren't for Jesus dying and rising for our soul, you would never be able to say with the Psalmist, "Oh, how I love Your law!" (Psalm 119:97). Remember that God saved your soul, and gave you the Holy Spirit, so that when you read the Bible you "with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18).
2. Understand books to be a tool and the Bible to be a treasure.
The Bible is a treasure. Not because it is an instruction manual that helps us live a better life, but because it shows us the glory of Christ — who He is, what He has done, and what He will do (John 5:39). Books are a gift of God. Even the thought that God created us in such a way that we can formulate thoughts and articulate them so that other people understand them should lead us to worship because we are made in His image (Ge. 1:27). But like any gift of God, they can be turned into an idol when we expect them to give to us what only God can give. When we look to books to change us, comfort us, and give us meaning we will always be left wanting. But if we look to the Bible to change us, comfort us, and give us meaning (ultimately in Christ) we are then freed to enjoy God's gift of books with a right heart framework. Books can be a tool that God uses to instill joy into our hearts, but they will always pale in comparison to the joy-filled, Christ-exalting Holy Scriptures. Never forget that.
When we look to books to change us, comfort us, and give us meaning we will always be left wanting.
3. Remind yourself daily that one day all books but one will cease to exist.
C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.
John Piper's Desiring God.
Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections.
A.W. Tozer's Knowledge of the Holy.
What do these books have in common? All are classics and all will one day cease to exist. The only book that will stand the test of time and will last forever and ever (amen!) is the Bible. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8). When you sit down and open your Bible, silently remind yourself that the Book you are holding will still be around when you, your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren pass. Why? Because the Bible is more than a book. The Bible is the very Word of God. And that, friends, is worth reading and rejoicing in forevermore.
About six months ago I was told about a new little book by Christopher Ash titled Zeal Without Burnout. The book was helpful, practical, and easy to read. Reading the book was like sitting down with a wise counselor applying the truths of God's Word to your own heart. You can purchase the book by clicking here.
Christopher Ash spoke on this topic at the Basics Pastors Conference in 2014 at Parkside Church. Watch it here:
Perhaps you've heard the old adage, "The grass isn't greener on the other side." The point is that things aren't always better somewhere else compared to where you are currently at. I have found that this is true in regards to church.
Many in the church today seem to point a finger at all that is 'wrong' but fail to recognize their own contribution to that wrong (we are all guilty). In fact, I think church members (me included) need to be reminded on a daily basis that the reason their church isn't perfect is because of two reasons:
1. You Go There.
How easy it is to functionally forget this! I say 'functionally' because I think every Christian theologically believes they are a sinner (or at least they should!). Yet, in the moments when we see shortcomings in the church and in the lives of other people, we become theological amnesiacs. We forget what we believe! Self-righteous people have their Ph.D in this. They are quick to point their fingers at others while forgetting what they themselves contribute to the problem! See, self-righteousness begins when we think that the sin outside of us is greater than the sin inside of us. We are all guilty of this and we need to constantly be reminded that our churches are not perfect because we attend!
Self-righteousness begins when we think that the sin outside of us is greater than the sin inside of us.
2. People Like You Go There.
Your church isn't perfect because people just like you attend there: sinners in need of grace. But yet, how easy it is to view others as problems instead of as sinners in need of grace. That problem woman in the church who always gossips can be viewed as a mere problem instead of as a fellow image bearer in desperate need of grace just like you and me. The hyper-critical man who always critiques everything can be viewed as a cancer of the church when in reality he is just a fallen man in need of the rescuing grace of God. Friends, we would do well to remind ourselves that we are not much different from those we look down upon. We are sinners in need of grace who make up an imperfect church. But praise be to God that He readily offers grace to undeserving sinners like you and me.
We would do well to remind ourselves that we are not much different from those we look down upon.
"Healthy relationships have two essential character qualities. First is the humility of approachability. When both people step out from behind protective walls and open up to the perspectives and help of others, each individual, and their relationship, will be given an opportunity to grow and change. The second quality is equally important. In fact, these two qualities cannot live without one another. The second is the courage of loving honesty. Not only do we defend ourselves from the opinion of others, but we avoid uncomfortable moments by failing to say what needs to be said. In the fear of disagreement, tension, and rejection, we choose to be silent about things that, if addressed in love, could be used to bring new insight to one another and a fresh start to the relationship."
-Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (page 77).
Purchase the book here:
"How are you doing?"
"Good! Busy, but good."
Have you had a conversation with someone this week that went something like that? I sure have. I do every week. In fact, now that I think of it, I have never asked someone how they are doing with them replying, "Good! I'm not busy at all!" Let's face it: we live in a busy world made up of busy people with busy lives. Everyday we have lists filled with 'things to do' for the day. We have bills to pay, kids to raise, events to attend, friends to see, and on and on we could go. Our anxieties weigh us down, our minds are always in drive, and we feel as though we are often in a rush.
All of this should lead us to ask ourselves a question: Am I too busy for Jesus?
Finding Rest In A Restless World
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Rest. Not another notch on your to-do list. Jesus pleads not to be on your daily to-do list, he pleads for you to come to Him and find true rest. The problem with many of us is not that Jesus is too busy to minister to us in the midst of our busyness, but that we are too busy to allow Him to give us rest. What does this look like? How can you know if you are too busy for Jesus? There are three characteristics.
1. You Don't Listen To Him
B.B. Warfield is famous for saying, "If you want to hear God's voice read your Bible outloud." The Bible is God's Word, God's voice, to you. Are you listening to His voice? Are you sitting expectantly before His Word each day to hear what He has to say to your weary soul? Or are you rushing through His Word, refusing to listen because you have 'so much to do' for the day?
How many times have you talked about Jesus to others, but have failed to talk to Jesus about others?
2. You Don't Speak To Him
Prayer is the oxygen of the Christian life. It is the truest expression of Biblical spirituality. It is that which flows from a relationship with God. Yet many of us, if we are honest, don't do it. Why? Because we are too busy for Jesus. How many times have you talked about Jesus to others, but have failed to talk to Jesus about others? Did you go through your day with a constant realization that Christ is with you? Or did you go through your day focused on the next thing to do and get done?
Are you rushing through His Word, refusing to listen because you have 'so much to do' for the day?
3. You Don't Rely On Him
It is easy to try and live the Christian life in the flesh. Much of America's Christianity can be described as people striving to serve God. Yet Biblical Christianity is God coming down to man, loving and serving him first, so that people might be enabled to serve Him. One is self-centered, the other theocentric. And the reason self-centered, self-enabled Christianity is so much easier is because there is no one you need to depend on to do it. You can do X, Y, and Z for Jesus all in your own power. How many times have you done ministry this week in your own power? How many times have you failed to recognize you are utterly dependent upon God to enable you and empower you to do ministry and live the Christian life?
Matthew 11:28 forces us to stop and evaluate if we are too busy for Jesus and if we are really resting in Him. The glory of this verse and of the entire Gospel is that if we would repent and turn from our busyness to Christ, He will not reject us. He will instead, with open arms, take us in and give us rest. Will you accept the call? Will you surrender your busyness for Jesus?
I am a Husband to Clarissa, Lead Pastor Resident at College Park Church in Indianapolis, 'Tweeter' at @brad_merchant, and avid reader of books.