A Sermon Discussion: Did Christ Die For Us Or For God?

I intended to put a lot more time into this post then I have. I was also hoping for some dialog with others pre-writing to get my thoughts stirring, but neither of those two things happened, and I promised you readers I’d get something up, so here goes (how’s that for a lame preface)


Last week, I suggested listening to this sermon, Did Christ Die For Us or for God?, by John Piper. It was one of the foundational sermons in my early faith development and something I had not really gone back to reflect on in several years. Listening to it this past couple weeks I found I could still quote much of it verbatim, which gives you an idea of how much I’ve listened to it. So, for those who have and haven’t here is an ever so brief summary.

SPOILER ALERT: The answer to the sermon title is “for God.”


  • Secular Mindset: Man is at the center of the universe vs. Biblical Mindset: God is the most absolute reality.
  • “Is the basic riddle of the universe how to preserve man’s rights and solve his problems (say, the problem of suffering)?” “How shall God be known in the fullness of his personhood and glory?”
  • Jesus Christ was a sacrifice of atonement to show God’s righteousness, “because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed.” (Romans 3:25)
  • “All sin is a preference for the fleeting pleasures of the world over the everlasting joy of God’s fellowship.”
  • “God would be unrighteous if he passed over sins as though the value of his glory were nothing.”
  • But, how can self-exaltation be an act of love? “God’s self-exaltation is loving, because it preserves for us and offers to us the only all-satisfying Object of desire in the universe – the all-glorious, all-righteous God.”

(quotes pulled from this transcript)

That is an ever so brief summary. Now let me breakdown a couple things that I think have really had an impact on me.


First of all, I really resonated with Piper’s explanation of mindsets, because I don’t think it has to assume you believe in the Bible (the catch 22 of many apologetic arguments). If a creator exist, then it would be fair to argue The Creator has the ultimate rights in the universe, not the creation. That does not, for me, have the terrible implications some people see in believing in God (that of an angry supreme being eager to wreck havoc on the earth for no reason). I think it simply settled in my mind that, if I believe in a Creator (which I do), then that creator should be considered in your worldview (rather bland explanation).


Two, and I think this is the main thing I’d like to get at, I think Christ’s death and sacrifice make sense as a “vindication of God’s righteousness.” The explanation used in the sermon is that say someone tried to assassinate the president, was stopped at the last second, apologized, and where then let go, scot free. What would that say about how much we value our president? God would not be a righteous God if there was not some sort of payment for the wrong doing we humans have done (and continue to do, myself included). See, God was already being a loving God by forgiving wrongdoings (like King David), but, unless there was some form of payment (like a sentence served in the above example), God would be unjust. Thus, Christ life and death was an act to vindicate God’s righteousness.


Now what does that all mean for me? Even after writing it, I’m not totally sure. I didn’t find in revisiting the sermon and the theological points or anything else, that I was uncomfortable with the theology or points put forward. Maybe there are things that should make me uncomfortable, maybe not. I do think my above two paragraph sound a lot more evangelistic and typical “gospel presentation” then I intended.


The reason for doing this though was to allow for dialog. So please, take a minute after reading to lend your insight as well. Push back if you have a thought. Lend an encouraging or corrective word if you have it. Add further insight you came across. I can’t find the second sermon tape, but I’ll do my best to talk about the next topic next week: Christian Hedonism. Peace.

A Sermon and A Discussion

In preparation for a post I intend to write next week, I’ve been listening to one of two John Piper sermons that have been quite foundational in my early formative faith/theology years (sophomore and junior year of high school). The sermons are from a Passion Conference, which was an annual college student conference focused around bringing students together toward a shared evangelistic and missional call (this is my own summary). I did not attend, but received the tapes from a leader in the youth group I was attending. The two Piper sermons resonated with me and I listened to them many times over the next several years. I’ve since lost my copies of the tapes and my search to recover audio from one of the two sermons has been futile. I do have the first sermon though, which I will link to below and ask that you try and find the time to listen to it before the weekend is over.

It’s a 40 minute sermon entitled: Did Christ Die For Us Or For God?

If you’ve listened or read much of John Piper’s theological stances, you might know some of what he talks about in the sermon. Maybe you’ll just need to skim it to get the main points. Anyways, my hope is that you’ll listen to it and provide your input and feedback in the comment section below. My hope is that regardless of how you feel about Piper, you’ll put that aside to simply listen to the sermon and converse with me about it.

I will be posting some of my thoughts and reflections next week, but I want to open up the discussion in hopes of bringing further thoughts out to help me reflect on it and what about this sermons I’ve found so shaping. Please, chime in with questions or comments.

(P.S. This is not an endorsement of John Piper or his theology. This is part of a series of posts of mine reflecting on those sermons, books, etc that were foundational in my early theology and my attempt to revisit those tenants. For better or worse, I credit Piper for impacting much of my foundational theology, I’ve also harshly criticized him on this blog.)

Trying To Follow…Who?

If I did musical intros to my blog posts, the one for this post would be Bob Dylan’s, Gotta Serve Somebody. I’m not quite sure when I chose this title for my blog or mantra for my life, but as time goes on I find myself more and more comfortable with it. I think the question that it immediately evokes is: who? Who am I trying to follow?

Several years ago, that answer would have been staunchly black and white. I am following Jesus, the God of the Bible and no one and nothing else. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…and run with perseverance…” Back then though, I probably wouldn’t have used the word “trying”, it’s too wishy-washy, too uncommitted. The songs sung in church never have the ambiguity of “trying” they are steadfast commitments, battle cries and no compromise allegiances. Most of that’s not bad, positive self-talk certainly has it’s place, but somewhere along the way I found it fairly disingenuous to be singing those types of words. I wasn’t really following Jesus, not most of the time anyways.

Nowadays, I’m quite happy with just trying to follow. I don’t have aspirations to be a leader, I’m going to just stick with doing my best at following. And, I’m going to be honest about my lack of resolve and commitment, I’m gonna “try” that’s the most I can offer and I’m okay with that.

As to the who, I still use this line sometimes:  “I once read the words of a man who said, “Follow me,” and I’ve been on that journey ever since.” That is definitely a reference to Jesus and his teachings, which I’d still consider the primary path I’m trying to follow. I’ve found nothing more fascinating and life-changingly radical then the philosophies and teachings I’ve seen in Jesus’ words, that’s just the honest truth. At the same time, along my journey there have been other mentors whose wisdom and lives I’ve found inspiring, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, MLK, Dorothy Day. I’ve also found I don’t need to completely agree with someone to find wisdom and encouragement in their teachings. Greg Boyd and John Piper have both been largely influential in my theology and yet they appear to be each others archnemesis.

Trying to follow means taking this humble journey one step at a time. Being okay with making mistakes, being wrong, needing to turn around, or seeking further wisdom on the path. It means no one person might have all the answers, that maybe there is kernels of truth lying in many. And it means not being too stubborn to think your going to lead the way on your own. We all know, you’ve gotta serve somebody.

Revisiting What I Believe

A series of occurrences recently have caused me to really want to revisit some of my basic beliefs that probably formed sometime in high school and beginning of college. It’s interesting that much of my spiritual growth and understanding of my faith came about over 10 years ago when I was in high school. And it was during that time that I think I formed some of the sort of root theological views that I had and have continued to hold or ascribe to for several years. What’s interesting is that much of it hasn’t been called into question or changed despite many of my changing beliefs on social issues, politics, daily lifestyle choices, etc.

So, I’d like to start writing about these things and share them with you here. I’m not sure if these old beliefs I’ll dig up from the back of my brain have simply line dormant and unused or if they silently serve as the very foundation upon which much of my other thoughts are formed. We’ll find out. I might even get around to writing a post explaining the long held title of this blog.

I ask this of you in return, if you are going to come back and read what I write. Be gracious, but feel free to critique or call out what you see as off or misguided. I might very well share things I believe, that I’ll decide shortly after I don’t really believe at all, please give me room to grow and change and make mistakes. And I ask if you do read, please don’t be a silent participant. Dialog with me, be willing to share your own thoughts, be open to your own mistakes. Not sure this final disclaimer was necessary, my post might end up being underwhelming, but at least we prepared for something potentially bigger.

This Is Not A Political Post

With the hallabaloo last week of Obama speaking to school children and then the Health Care debates and townhall’s and speeches, it was hard not to get a little caught up in the happenings. The reality is I’ve checked out a bit on the national political ruckus, there just seemed to be too much yelling for me to keep my head on straight.  It struck me that next week will mark 8 months in to the Democrat ruled White House, which seems like a relatively short amount of time to form such a strong opinion of folks. It took me a good 3 1/2 years to go from a Bush supporter to a governmental dissenter.

I don’t think political maneuvering and government are the way to get things done, though I do think are collective organizing and resources (i.e. government) for all it’s flaws can definitely be a tool to address community needs. I do find it useful when the fire department shows up to put our a fire, and when I check out books from my local library, and when we bike on the paths all over the city. I don’t like it when our collective funds are used to purchase weapons of war and kill women and children.

That’s really the end of my train of thought here. I think there are plenty of reasons to engage in politics and write your congress (here’s one). The reason I didn’t want this to be a political post is that I’d love to see those who trumpet their religious values (on both sides of the aisle) to start presenting real non-governmental solutions and ideas that uphold and live out the values they (we) claim.

A Birthday Banquet?

banquetMy birthday is coming up in less then a month. I don’t often make much of my birthday. I don’t really like getting gifts and have for years (without much success) asked those who wanted to get me something to donate to a cause instead. If I ask anything, it’s been for others to share with me how I’ve had a positive impact on their lives, that’s about it.

I’m not sure I’ll change that routine, but I’ve had an idea brewing for about a year and figured I’d just share it here. Thanks to Facebook and other social sites, I’ve had close friends and mere acquaintances use their birthday’s as a chance to fundraise for a cause of their choice. It’s been fun to see that and I’d like to encourage it to continue as an alternative to further consumption.

My idea is a bit different, and it’s inspired by this passage:

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. (Luke 14:12-14)

Though I’m not positive what to make of Jesus’ statement or following parable, I do think he meant it more literally then figuratively. And so I find it quite sad that 2000 years later, many “christ-followers” (myself included) seem far from following anything close to that statement of Jesus.

What if my birthday was a big banquet with those who couldn’t repay me? What if my birthday wish was for others to consider Christ words and hold their own banquets? Maybe it’s a reservation at a restaurant, maybe a meal at your home, or a party in the park. I’m not quite sure, I’d just think a great birthday wish would be for us to take Jesus’ words and “crazy ideas” a little more seriously. That’s my birthday wish.

[photo credit]

YouTubesday: Know Who You Are

I’m planning on posting just one video on YouTubesday, sometimes writing a brief thought of my own in response to the video, and encouraging others to do the same. I’ve found YouTubesday is one of my most popular series (and only really ongoing one) on the blog, but it’s often the least commented on. Here’s to opening the Conversation.

Know Who You Are (2 minutes long) via

This is the line that struck me the most:

“If I have a missionary who comes to me and says, ‘I have no culture,’ I’m terrified of him because they’re going to think that the way they do things is the Christian way.”

This hints at the reason that discussing race (and racism) in the church is so important. If we act like race and culture is a non-issue, then we are most likely maintaining the dominate race and culture as the norm, and there is a great danger in that.

What struck you?

A Simple Bike Project

Last summer, I was walking around the block with my daughter when one of the neighborhood kids came up to me, “do you have a wrench?” I sure did, so I grabbed my wrench and we walked over to see what the fix-it project was. Turns out the kid was swapping some stuff on some bikes so he’d have something to ride. I assessed the situation and said:

“Actually, what you need is a chain tool.” I ran inside and grabbed my small handy little device for removing a bike chain. When I came out and showed the kids how to use it, I was instantly transformed from that random neighbor who walks around with his kid all the time to The Bike Guy (I’d like to think of it as on par with super hero status).  Soon, I had neighborhood kids coming over all the time to make adjustments and patch tires. We’d sit on the porch together and I’d show them some of the basics (I honestly don’t know all that much myself).

Fast forward to this summer, We have a growing pile of dismantled bikes in our backyard, the kids are still knocking on the door daily asking to use tools, I even bought a few thrift store bikes and gave them away, flats are still a regular repair…and then my bike pump broke. I’d had some ideas brewing for a while, but now with the need to dig up some money for some new tools, I decided to put them into action.

I got approval for a neighborhood block grant to organize a community “bike safety” event to give youth bike locks, and then I’ll also use grant money to purchase a set of tools and a whole stockpile of patches, tubes and more. And recently, I’ve been talking about Eli about what a northside bike project might look like.

I have a small vision right now: Ensuring every kid in my neighborhood, that wants one, has a bike and a lock. Hopefully along the way we can teach some basic bike maintenance, build some relationships, and have some fun. Interested in getting involved? Let me know.

You Wouldn’t Believe What I almost Ate

It was a typical afternoon with the kiddos yesterday. I was scrambling to make dinner and clean the house while catering to their every need. Adyra wanted a piece of bread, which promptly meant Bret wanted one too. He remembered our PB&J from lunch and requested it again, which Adyra in turn requested as well. So, I’m smearing the Peanut Butter (creamy, sorry mom & dad), when Adyra comes over, arm outstretched, a little whiny.

Ironically, my children are a bit of clean freaks. Adyra’s never really liked finger painting or anything else that gets your hands icky, like getting peanut butter on them. Occasionally, when they are eating, they’ll stick their grubby hand out and I’ll wipe or grab and sometimes eat the yogurt or kiwi or food in question. So, when she sticks out her fingers yesterday, I naturally lean down to wipe them off, seeing the brown peanut butter substance. I’m getting ready to just lick it off my fingers when in a split second a smell hits my nostrils and I realize, Adyra’s Peanut Butter sandwich is still on the counter.

I almost ate my daughter’s poo! Now that’s disgusting. Apparently, and this is a first for her, she decided to stick her hand in the back of her diaper and check out the results. Why she neglected to tell me that when she innocently stuck them out there is beyond me, but fortunately that creamy nutty-colored poop stunk like the dickens, otherwise this story would have had a much worse ending.

On My Way to 10,000 Hours

Monday’s are my blog reading day, I go through all the posts in my reader and tag ones to come back to, skim most and respond to others. One post mentioned Gladwell’s book, Outliers, which I read last year and his premise that “Becoming a superstar takes about 10,000 hours of hard work.” And just like that, I decided I needed to start blogging again. I took a break earlier this summer to focus on a few other projects. Though I did concentrate my energy elsewhere, I still wasted enough time in the day to day that I could have been writing.

So, here I am, back with some daily posting. The reality is that I enjoy writing, if only because it helps me process my thoughts. I feel I frequently find myself saying that I’m not a very good writer, but that I tend to say things I don’t see being said. So, until someone comes around and starts saying these things more eluquently then I (which wouldn’t be hard), I’m going to keep saying them. And that’s true. At the same time, I find that each day that I write I’m slowly refining my craft and becoming a better writer. Maybe not great, but better.

It might not be till I’m fifty, but if I keep writing on a daily basis, I’ll hit my 10,000 hours of writing in plenty of time to share that skill with others afterward. Here’s to trucking toward 10,000.