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TEXT: Galatians 1:4
SUBJECT: Passion of Jesus Christ #21: Deliver from Evil Age
Tonight, with God's blessing, we'll move on in our study of John Piper's little book, The Passion of Jesus Christ. By 'passion', he means our Lord's suffering and death. Which are at the heart of the Gospel. The Gospel is not about what the Father did for us in eternity or what the Holy Spirit does for us every day. The Gospel is about what Jesus Christ did for us-once and for all--in the space of three days and three nights.
Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. He was buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures.
This, in summary form, is the Gospel. If you do not believe this, you are not saved and you cannot be! Even if you're a fine person and deeply religious. Salvation is not in morality or religion, it's in Christ and Him crucified. On the other hand, if you believe this Gospel, you are saved, even if there are a lot of rough edges on your life. And-believe me-there are rough edges aplenty in your life, in mine, and in every Christian's life.
What does the passion of our Lord do for us? A great many things. Piper's book names fifty, and they could be multiplied over and over and not get to the bottom of our salvation in Christ.
Tonight, we look at one of the benefits that comes to us because of what our Lord Jesus did for us. Piper says,
Christ suffered and died to deliver us from the present evil age.
Before we get to what Piper says, I want to say a word about the word, 'deliver'. If you grew up in church-as I did-you know the word as well as you know your own name. To 'deliver' means to rescue or to save. The Lord can deliver us in either of two ways.
He can deliver us by making our problems go away or taking us away from them. A demoniac in the Bible was delivered from his demons because Christ cast them out of the poor man. David was delivered from Saul because the Lord enabled him to slip away from the wicked king. This is one way the Lord delivers us.
More often, He delivers us from our problems by giving us what we need to endure them. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into the fiery furnace, and the Lord delivered them by making them fire-proof! Daniel went into the lion's den, and God delivered him by putting the big cats on a diet!
Thus, the Lord can deliver us out of our problems or deliver us in them. The choice is His, and we should be content and thankful whatever He does.
And so, to deliver means to save or rescue. It assumes a bad situation and getting out of it-or through it-by way of the cross.
WHAT THE PRESENT EVIL AGE IS NOT
From what does the death of Christ deliver us? We've looked at several already. He delivers us from our sin, guilt, and helplessness, and from the wrath of God.
He also delivers us from the present evil age. What does this mean? Piper says, negatively,
When the Bible says that Christ gave Himself to deliver us from the present evil age, it does not mean that He will take us out of the world.
The present evil age, therefore, does not mean 'the world' as such. By nature, the world is good and we were made to live in it. When believers die, they go to heaven which is far better than where they are now! But, 'far better' does not mean 'best'. As funny as it sounds, there is something far better than 'far better'! When our bodies are raised and glorified, we will live with the Lord on earth forever and in indescribable happiness. I know the Book of Revelation cannot be read too literally, but the last two chapters don't have earth rising to heaven, but heaven coming down to earth!
The present evil age, therefore, is not life in the world, and being 'delivered' from it does not mean being snatched out of the world.
WHAT THE PRESENT EVIL AGE IS
If this present evil age is not the world, what is it? Piper says, it
Is the power of evil in it. Until we waken to our spiritual condition, we live in sync with the present evil age and the ruler of it. 'You once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). Without knowing it, we were lackeys of the devil. What felt like freedom was bondage.
The present evil age, therefore, refers to the way unsaved people think. Let me give you an example:
Conservative Christians often vilify young women for having abortions. They wonder how a mother can kill her own baby. Just for the record, I'm strongly against abortion for this very reason. But instead of lambasting the girls for their cruelty, we need to understand them. With the premises they're given and working on, aborting their babies makes sense.
In our world, the highest good is personal happiness. Personal happiness depends on the freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it. But, for many women, babies are not compatible with freedom and, therefore, make personal happiness impossible. And so, what do they do with their pregnancies? They terminate them.
Now, go to the doctors who perform abortions. Setting aside the money issue for the moment, how do they think? They also believe that personal happiness is the highest good, and that no one but the woman herself knows what makes her happy. Thus, if she wants a procedure, he will provide it-even if he loves children and has a dozen of his own!
Are the girl and her doctor innocent? No they're not, for the Lord has spoken in their consciences. But, it's hard to hear the Lord's voice in the clamor of a million other voices saying the opposite. It's like reading the Bible in a discotheque!
What the present evil age is for differs from time to time and place to place. On Wall Street, money is the highest good. In Crown Heights, learning is the number one priority. In Los Angeles, it may be thinness and a good tan. In the London of Queen Victoria, it was 'respectability'. Kipling thought it was patriotism. The Grateful Dead said it was music and getting high. The present evil age can be for anything!
Except the Gospel. The present evil age at all times and in every place is against the Gospel. It may be for morality or religion, the Church, even for Christianity. But it's never for the Gospel.
Do you know why? Because Satan is behind every present evil age. And because the Gospel robs him of his servants, he's dead set against it. In 1st Century Israel, in 21st Century America-always and everywhere against it.
What most people call 'freedom' is, in fact, slavery to the devil. What they call 'doing my own thing' is, in fact, doing Satan's thing.
Jesus Christ came to save us from the present evil age. He died to make us quit thinking like everyone else, and to start thinking His way, which is another way of saying, thinking correctly.
When Christ went to the cross, He set millions of captives free. He unmasked the devil's fraud and broke his power.
The Lord did this for both Jews and Gentiles. One of the Jews He did it for was a man named Saul of Tarsus. Saul believed salvation was in the Law of God. That's how he read the Bible, his teachers confirmed his belief, and in an Empire full of idols and man-made religions, what other choice was there?
There was another choice, but for some years Saul couldn't see it. Oh, he knew what it was, but it seemed preposterous and wicked. How can a man who dies under the curse of God's Law be the Messiah? Saul seemed to be on solid ground here. Except for one thing: the Man who died under the curse of God's Law was also raised from the dead. When Saul saw Jesus alive in heaven-and not dead on the cross-he got his head on straight. Satan's misinterpretions of the Bible were exposed. For the first time, he saw what the Law was for-to bring us to Christ. What Israel was for-to bring Christ into the world. And what he was for-to bring the world to Christ.
If the Lord did this for Jews, He also did it for Gentiles. There's a story worth telling, in Acts 19. Paul preaches the Gospel in Ephesus. Not everyone believes, but many do. When they feel the wisdom and power of Jesus Christ, they go to their homes and collect all their books of magic. An hour or two later, they return to the town square and burn the books, which they could have sold for fifty thousands pieces of silver!
Why did they read magic books in the first place? It was to get what they wanted from the gods. But the Gospel told them there was only One God and He would supply all their needs through Jesus Christ. So, they didn't need their books any more!
Why didn't they sell them to their neighbors (who would have paid good money to have them)? Because if the Gospel freed them from slavery to magic, they wanted their neighbors free from it too.
Remember it was not philosophy that turned Saul and the Ephesians around. It was the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. If the cross breaks the power of Satan, it breaks His power to deceive us. The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.but to those who are called, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Wisdom is not enough. Put wisdom on the table and the fool won't pick it up. He needs power to pick it up. And the cross provides that. Both the wisdom we need to think straight and the power to see that wisdom for what it is and to receive it.
John Piper closes the chapter with a couple of exhortations. The first is negative. Speaking of Satan and his 'wisdom', he says,
Don't follow a defeated foe. Follow Christ. It is costly. You will be an exile in this age. But you will be free.
The devil is a great reasoner. In the Garden, he reasoned with Eve and won the argument. In doing that, he ruined her, her husband, and the rest of us too. But in the wilderness he reasoned with our Lord. That argument he lost-lost big time! He was exposed and humiliated. And then the cross showed him for what he really is.
Why would you follow a crooked reasoner? Why would you follow a scholar whose every theory has been refuted? Satan is whipped. Don't follow his reasoning. And, more than don't follow it, don't even listen to it.
On the positive side, Piper says,
The resounding cry of freedom in the Bible is, 'Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds'. In other words, be free! Don't be duped by the gurus of the age. They are here today and gone tomorrow. One enslaving fad will follow another.
We are called to freedom. But freedom isn't free. It takes work to be free in an unfree world. The work starts with your mind. Study the Bible. Compare what men say to what Christ says. Pray for enlightening. Trust the Lord to guide you in the path and to help you when you go astray.
Why did Jesus Christ suffer and die? He suffered and died to deliver us from the thought patterns of the world, to make us what His Father chose us to be long ages ago,
His own peculiar people.
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