Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't Waste Your Christmas Presents

With Christmas comes presents. And presents can be both precious and precarious, both delightful and dangerous. It reminded me of this post that I wrote a while back, as I responded to some of John Piper's thoughts in God Is the Gospel.

God is the Giver of all good things (James 1:17). And yet those good things often times entice us to love them over and above the God who gives them. And that is idolatry. So at Christmas time, how are we to glorify God and enjoy the good gifts that come from Him? In other words:
All the enticements to God that are not God are precious and precarious. They can lead us to God or lure us to themselves. They may be food or marriage or church or miracles. All of these blessings bring love letters from God. But unless we stress continually that God Himself is the gospel, people will fall in love with the mailman -- whether his name is forgiveness of sins or eternal life or heaven or ministry or miracles or family or food. (p. 143)
Or laptops, or cameras, or external hard drives, or books... even theological books!
All the gifts of God are given for the sake of revealing more of God's glory, so that the proper use of them is to rest our affections not on them but through them on God alone. (p. 116)
I think I read that sentence about 10 times as I was reading through the book. The way we glorify God in His gracious gifts and at the same time not make idols out of them is, in the moment we receive them, to recognize why God is giving them to us. He is giving us gifts and mercies to reveal His glory, so that we might see Him in them and enjoy and worship and magnify His sweetness. Our affections must not terminate on the gifts. We have to push through the gifts and rest our affections on God alone.

So when I unwrap a Christmas present, I have to push through my affections of, "Wow, this is so cool! I really wanted this!" to "From the bottom of my heart, thank You, Father, for having compassion on me, and giving me the grace to enjoy this good gift. May it be that it only points to the gift of eternal life that You give in Christ. Grant that having this gift causes me to see You, in the beauty of Your fullness and beneficence. Cause me to worship."

Here's another quote:
"Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" (1Tim 4:4). Yes, if the thanksgiving is rooted in the sight of the glory of the Giver who is more to be admired than all His gifts, and supremely to be enjoyed in all His gifts. (p. 138)
That was another ~10-timer. We must root our thanksgiving in the sight of the glory of the Giver. We are to admire Him more than His gifts, but also we are to enjoy Him in all His gifts.

Love your Christmas gifts. And more importantly, love the people who gave them to you. But most importantly, love your Christmas presents as gifts from God that were designed for you to receive them and see the glory of God in the face of Christ that they're pointing to.

I want to worship God in the good gifts that He gives. Here's more of Piper explaining how that happens:
When the gospel of Jesus Christ frees us to see and savor the glory of God above all things, the way is opened for us to experience seamless joy in God and His gifts. We are able to see every gift as a beam from the sun of God's glory. Every joy in the beam runs up to the fountain of light and ends there. No created thing becomes a rival but only a revelation of God. Therefore we can say that, for the gospel-liberated mind, all joy in created things is seamless with joy in God. (p. 141)
Man I want that! I want a gospel-liberated mind! I want to be so freed from my idolatry and my sin that I can enjoy everything as a gift from my Father, and have none of it be a competition for my worship, but a catalyst for my worship of the Giver.

He goes on, paraphrasing Psalm 73:24-26:
There is nothing in heaven or on earth that I desire besides you, O God. That must mean ... that in and through all the other good things on earth and in heaven, Asaph sees God and loves Him. Everything is desired for what it shows of God. Augustine put it like this: "He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee which he loves not for Thy sake." (p. 144)
Everything is desired for what it shows of God. I want everything that God gives me because it shows me more of Him. Even in gifts that are not God, I want to cherish the Giver as His Greatest Gift.

If I don't, I will waste my Christmas presents.

Don't you do that. Don't waste your Christmas presents.

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