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Peace, Love, & Joy | A Big God for Little People | Christmas Special | Devotional Series | Part 5 of 27 | December 4, 2019

God wields an empire to bless His children” – John Piper (pg. 8)

For Joseph and Mary, to travel while in labour must have caused great inconvenience. But little did they know, beyond this inconvenience – YHWH was moving the entire socio-political system to bring Christ to His people. And YHWH did, exactly what he prophesied through the Prophet Micah – Christ was born in Bethlehem. (Mic 5) Isn’t that interesting, that Caesar Augustus, the authority of that time would be used (without his knowledge) by God, to glorify Him, and bless these unknown commoners that Joseph and Mary were.

Piper writes, “Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a world of seven billion people, where all the news is of big political and economic and social movements and of outstanding people with lots of power and prestige? If you have, don’t let that make you disheartened or unhappy. For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people”. (pg. 8) But why? We find the answer in the Apostle Paul’s writings “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30, ESV) Isn’t that amazing? My heart screams both Hallelujah and Amen when I read this. Indeed, therefore, I find what Piper writes next as incredibly encouraging. He says, “He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.” (pg. 8)

It is true. Life is troublesome. And there are a lot of inconveniences that it throws our way. And it is also true that our natural faculty limits both our sight and our mind, to see only the trouble and nothing beyond it. But let us take heed to Paul’s advice, let us walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7). And let us learn to put our trust in this: “(that the) God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Cor 1:9, BSB) Therefore, “… be content … for he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So, we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:5-6, ESV)

Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy

Read previous entries in this Series:

(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas (ii) December 1: Prepare the Way (iii) December 2: Mary’s Magnificent God (iv) December 3: The Confidence of Redeeming Hope

Eucharisteo: What does ‘being thankful’ mean in our day-to-day life? A Short Study of Biblical Thanksgiving

The New Testament teaching of ‘being thankful’ is derived from the Greek word “Eucharisteo” meaning, ‘to be grateful’. And it was first demonstrated to us by Christ post feeding 5000 with 5 loaves of bread, and 2 fish. Thereon, we continue to find a few more instances where Christ repeats the practice; the same, afterwards, the Apostles (in emulating Christ) taught others of giving thanks as a practice (in the Epistles). Christ’s demonstration taught us how YWHW was/is sufficient for all our needs, and therefore we ought to be always grateful for His providence. The Apostles’ teachings, taught us how Christ was/is sufficient for the salvation of our souls, and therefore we ought to be always grateful for YHWH’s providence. The two, both Christ’s demonstration, and the Apostles’ teachings aren’t separate and different; but they are one. But here, I’ll focus on the Apostles’ teachings.

The word “Eucharisteo” is further derived from another Greek word “charizomai” or “charis” in short. Charizomai means ‘to grant as a favor’, ‘graciously’, ‘pardon, rescue, deliver, forgive’. In short, Charizomai means grace. Eucharisteo therefore means, ‘being grateful for the grace of God, that despite the abhorrent nature of our sinful existence, He chose to sustains us, so that we could Know Him more, Love Him more, and Serve Him more’ (Eph 5:20, 2:5, 1:4, 1:16-18, John 21:15-17, John 12:26).

What this means is that: thanksgiving is not grounded on the condition of our physical existence. So, thanksgiving does not mean, being thankful for good health, good food, good cloths, good education or career, or family, friends, and et cetera. Although yes, these are good things we can be grateful for – if they are an assist in doing His will. But material and physical goodness are neither the subject nor the object of Biblical thanksgiving.

An interesting thing about the Biblical teaching of thanksgiving is that it is not optional.

  1. IT IS A DUTY: Christ came as the life and light of men, (who) the ones in darkness neither understood Him, nor accept Him; but those who received Him, found life. (Jn 1:4-5, 12-13). And so, since He has made us known our path, and since in this path is joy (Ps 16:11), it becomes a duty to rejoice in Him.
  2. IT IS NOT OPTIONAL: It is a duty to rejoice in Christ, because if we are in Him, and in Him is joy, we cannot escape being joyous. And if joy is an inescapable reality for people who are truthfully in Him, thanksgiving, and being grateful becomes non-optional. Hence, the Bible teaches ‘give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you’. (1 Th 5:18).

But in reality, this teaching sounds both absurd and impossible. And it is true. It can’t be done. The real life is overwhelmed by problems which runs galore in work, relationships, and what not. But is YHWH mad to burden us with such an impossible task? No. Notice the foundation of thanksgiving being a duty and non-optional, relies on being-in-Christ and obeying-His-Will. Meaning, thanksgiving is not an action-oriented teaching, it is a nature-oriented teaching. The Bible is not teaching, you should be grateful because you’re a Christian. No. The Bible is teaching, you should be grateful because that is the nature of a Christian.

The Biblical teaching of thanksgiving is that: being always thankful of Christ is the character personality of a person who is born-again in Christ.

We learn of this teaching more clearly in Psalm 1. The Psalm demonstrates, how different a blessed person is from the rest. But who is a blessed person? The Apostle Paul teaches: ‘blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin’ (Romans 4:8). So, quintessentially, the blessed person in Psalm 1 is a person who is born-again in Christ. Now, notice the foundation of the nature of his character/personality: he delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night. (Ps 1:2)

Consider how this meets the New Testament teachings of Thanksgiving:

  1. The blessed person from Ps 1, is in Christ. Because he is born-again in Christ. Being in Christ, he is now in the light and now knows and understands the path that YHWH lays down for him. The knowledge of the path, invokes joy and all godly desires in him. And now, he dutifully seeks the Will of God as it grants him great joy
  2. The blessed person from Ps 1, being now given a heart that willfully seeks godliness, is now less bothered by worldly worry. So, even in the midst of great adversities and in all circumstances, he is able to give thanks (without any fail). Because his joy no longer rests in his physical nature, but in seeking the Will of God, by meditating on the Word of God, day and night.

Eucharisteo therefore is not an action, but a personality trait of those born-again in Christ, who joyfully declare their thanksgiving, every second, minute, hour, day, week, and year of their lives. Eucharisteo is not about being grateful for good things; it is about being grateful for the God who alone is good (Mk 10:18). Eucharisteo is not about being grateful for the good gifts alone in life. (Job 2:10) It is about being grateful for our lives that YHWH now considers good because Christ (now) cloths us with His righteousness. (2 Cor 5:21) Eucharisteo is about being grateful to God for not treating us according to what our sin deserves. (Ps 103:10) Eucharisteo is being grateful to God for giving us a heart that is ‘born of the spirit’ without which we would have never know, let alone seek YHWH or His Kingdom. (John 3:3. 3:6)

So … What does being thankful mean, in our day-to-day life?

The blessed person from Psalm 1 is the clear picture of what ‘being thankful’ would practically mean, in our day-to-day life.

  1. You’ll avoid people who aren’t godly, not because you are better than them, but because you find no joy in such company.
  2. You’ll continually seek God, and His will, in prayer and in studying the Bible. Because this is what gives you joy. Because this is what your heart desires. It will further lead you in seeking godly company, and serving the Church (with great integrity) where God has planted you.
  3. You’ll always have a grateful heart for the joy, and for the capacity to be joyful in godliness, that you’ve received from YHWH through Christ.       

But to a majority of us, joy isn’t really the emotion we associate with praying, Bible study, and serving the Church. To a lot many of us, these things comes as a drudgery. And we don’t like hearing about it too, let alone do ourselves or find joy in doing it. We don’t like being told to do these things as well … so, to a lot many of us … this is a task we’d rather skip. And in such circumstances, we’re very colloquially advised: “Oh! Just try harder”. But in doing so, we find ourselves further from joy, and deeper in anxiety.

For the right approach, we’ll look in Psalm 51. David after being convicted of his sin, his next response was not on doing a certain list of things to regain his joy (i.e. trying harder). No. He didn’t do anything, he only prayed. And he prayed right. David’s prayer was one of repentance. He prayed ‘create in me a clean heart’ (Ps 51:10). We see this taught in the New Testament, ‘Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about the things that please the Spirit’ (Rom 8:5, NLT). David prayed for a new heart, a clean heart, a heart, as we have discussed before, that is born of the Spirit. Because from the Godly heart alone comes Godly desires. David prayed to be remade into a new man, made in righteousness and holiness (2 Cor 5:17, Eph 4:24). Why? So that the joy of Salvation could be restored to him. (Ps 51:12) Why? So that he could once again praise and give thanks to God. (Ps 51:15).

Being joyful in God, and living a life of gratitude does include some work, mainly, perseverance in prayer, Bible study, and serving the Church. But most importantly, it takes a heart do be able to do all this. And that heart is not one that we are born with. It is not a heart of strong will, or hard work. But a heart that is born of the Spirit. If we are to secure our joy of Salvation, if we are to live a life of gratitude (which is not dominated by worry or anxiety), we need to have a heart made anew in Christ; we ought to be born-again.

John 4:24 / worship… in spirit and in truth

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:24 (KJV)

Upon bothered with trifling mandates of the carnally informed mind on worshiping God, came this response, wherein Jesus says, “God is a Spirit”. The discourse beforehand with the Samaritan woman, was not of spiritual matters, but what one assumed, what pleases God.1 Herein lies the essence of Jesus’ seemingly odd reply: He is not pleased with your carnal means of adoration, that idolizes self – the affect of one’s cerebral speculations, made sensed with tradition and culture. Therefore, by saying God is a Spirit, He is saying, what pleases God is not the carnally informed mandates of worshiping God, but the submission of the inner-man – the soul, the spirit of a being.

The scripture then further tells us that Jesus Christ, puts these words into action when He searches the depth of the woman’s heart, way passed the facade of her religious ardor, and convicts her of her sins. This conviction opens up her eyes to the reality of Christ; she is made new, and she departs with joy, evangelizing her testimony. We can very well imagine, and infer, that perhaps, from that day onwards, that Samaritan woman might have no longer bothered about place or time to worship her God. Rather, her worship would have been simultaneous to her breathing – a way of life.

In these words, for anyone who inquires the true nature of worship, lies its finitude. How blessed we are of the Samaritan woman to have meddled with the notion of worship, but more so, how blessed we are that Christ went out on a limb, to deliver this message.

We shall now here begin by dwelling briefly on what not is worship

John Calvin aptly answers: everything of the flesh. And I quote: “Since men are flesh, we ought not to wonder, if they take delight in those things which correspond to their own disposition. Hence it arises, that they contrive many things in the worship of God which are full of display, but have no solidity. But they ought first of all to consider that they have to do with God, who can no more agree with the flesh than fire with wateri.

We see instances of carnally informed notions of worship being responded with great disapproval; or even with a punishment in the Bible. We see such instances in the account of Cain, Nadab and Abihu, and Ananias and Sapphira. Because, as Calvin further writes, “God is so far from being like us, that those things which please us most are the objects of his loathing and abhorrenceii. In other words, the scriptures are very strict on how one ought to worship God; and delivers quite a stern warning to not meddle with it. James B. Coffman dwelling on this writes, “God has revealed the manner in which he should be worshiped, and those who hope to have their worship accepted should heed the restrictions. The verse (John 4:24) before us is a powerful prohibition. Also, Jesus said, In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7). An apostle declared that God … dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything (Acts 17:24,25). The author of this gospel wrote, Testify unto every man that heareth the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book (Revelation 22:18). And also, Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God (2 John 1:1:9). Jesus said of the Pharisees, Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition (Matthew 15:6). Paul warned the Corinthians, Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure, transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written (1 Corinthians 4:6). From these specific prohibitions, as well as from the spirit and tenor of the entire Bible, it is clearly impossible for man to approach his Creator in worship, except as God has directed. This was true in the days of Cain and Abel, of Nadab and Abihu, of David and Uzzah, and of the Lord Jesus Christ and ever afterward. It is true now and always.”iii

So what not is worship? It is not the act of displaying imitations of what divinity might be. It is not the act of gathering in a scheduled church service once a week. It is not about where you meet. It is not about singing in unison, or even melodiously. It is not about how you bow down, to the east or west. Everything that is of the flesh is not worship. Everything that is carnally informed, is not worship. For the things of the carnal world has no unity with the spiritual world.

The only acceptable form of worship: Worship Him in Spirit and in Truth

True worship has to be foremost in the spirit, or more appropriately, true worship is initiated by the Spirit of God, in the regenerated hearts of men. A person who is still dead in sin, a person who is dead spiritually, a person who is yet to receive salvation cannot give an acceptable form of worship. Because, he has no spirit in him that would long to worship the Spirit of God. He does not know God, he is not known to God as His own. Note how the Samaritan woman was bothered about carnal means of worshiping, for she was spiritually dead, and knew nothing about what pleases God.

Secondly, once the correct channel of worshiping is formed, comes the subject of worship, i.e. Truth. What is the Truth? Or more appropriate to the scriptures, who is the Truth? Jesus Christ answers this directly when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). One might here, further inquire, how one might worship in Truth? What does it mean on practical terms? The answer to which lies in how Jesus Christ has been referred in the scriptures: i.e. the WORD.

The Apostle John writes, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God (John 1:1)… The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). And also, in Revelation, he writes, “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the word of God (Revelation 19:13).” So, the answer to the question, how should we worship God in Truth lies in studying the Word of God. For Hebrews (4:12) says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart“. Also, the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).” In other words, the once regenerated heart that longs to adore and submit to the one who regenerated it, needs to be informed, the truth of the subject of its adoration and submission. Hence, the only reasonable follow-up to worshiping God in Spirit, eventually is worshiping God in Truth. We should also not forget, that there are many instances, when one might on a sentimental whim cry out the name of the Lord, and believe in himself that he worships the one true living God. But to keep safe, one needs to be confronted by the Word to rectify one’s erroneous believes. Also, for the regenerated souls, the rationale of worshiping in Truth lies in keeping such saints to persevere through the work of redemption. Truly, Christ says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).

A Conclusive description of Worship

Finally, as a way of concluding let us measure these words, one last time against the scriptures. And what more appropriate on the subject of worship than the account of God revealing His majestic Holiness to Isaiah (in Isaiah 6:1-9). These nine verses, when analyzed, gives us the true nature of worship. Coffman puts it in the following four points:

  1. an awareness of the presence of God, (Isaiah 6:1-4)
  2. a consciousness of sin and unworthiness on the part of the worshipper, (Isaiah 6:5)
  3. a sense of cleansing and forgiveness, (Isaiah 6:6-7) and
  4. a response of the soul with reference to doing God’s will: “Here am I, send me!”. (Isaiah 6:8-9)

Consider the similarities with the account of the Samaritan woman. Jesus makes Himself known to her (John 4:14), she is convicted of her sins (John 4:18), and made known, the hope of redemption (4:25). She then finally departs to speak of Him (John 4:28-29). This my fellow brethren, and dear readers, is what conclusively means, to worship God in Spirit and Truth. It is not the songs we sing. It is also not the Church services we attend. Although, both of these be part of it. But in all honest measures, worshiping God is a never ceasing phenomenon, for it is a way of life. It is the humble submission of the inner-man, the soul, the spirit, to the Sovereign Will and authority of the one who saved us, and gave us this heart of worship. It is a response, an involuntary response2 of the spirit upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit, when one receives the Salvation of one’s soul that God freely gives in His Grace. It is the imitation on one’s part to persevere in the Truth, in the Word of God, to continue in reverence of His divinity, (upon the reception of the Holy Spirit). This is what it means to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. But unfortunately, this also means, one who is not yet regenerated, one who is yet to be saved, one who is yet to receive salvation, knows nothing of this. For that person is still dead in his sins. A non-regenerated soul will only think of the carnal means to worship Him; for only carnal things appeal to him, for he knows not of the spirit to know what the spirit desires. And since, so is the case, there is no union between such personhood and Christ, and all means of such worship only remains a meaningless clamor, an object of loathing to God, completely unacceptable.

But dear reader, if you so find yourself, roughen-up by these words, do not despair. For although, our God is just, He is also merciful. And if your soul is roughen-up enough to thirst for Him, don’t be frail, for He makes it accessible His throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16) to all His chosen ones, to come and ask Him (Matthew 7:7) of the Spirit, the heart of repentance, the salvation of your soul, and your body.

1 The Samaritan woman, in greater part of her conversation with Christ was more concerned in the legality of the religion of her time. Her concerns were not spiritual, but worldly, more driven by social maxims and traditions of her time. She was more occupied with what mere mortal men speculated about what pleases God.

2 The phrase “involuntary response” implies, the nature of the regenerated heart that seeks godliness. The word spirit (with lowercase “s”) implies the regenerated individual, that now seeks the supplication of the Holy Spirit.


ii Ibid.

iii Ibid.