Justin Taylor links to an excerpt from John Piper that is so helpful, I simply want to reproduce it here. It’s from Piper’s sermon “Do You See the Glory of God in the Sun?“, and you can read it below. I also want to direct readers to Piper’s six strategies for fighting sexual sin: “ANTHEM: Strategies for Fighting Lust.” There is one other sermon that you should take the time to listen to instead of reading: “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, Part 2.” My prayer is that these words will land where they need to.
Do you know why there are no windows on adult bookstores? Or do you know why there are no windows on certain kinds of nightclubs in the city?
I suppose your answer would be, “Well, because they don’t want people looking in and getting a free sight.”
That’s not the only reason.
You know why? Because they don’t want people looking out at the sky.
You know why? The sky is the enemy of lust.
And I just ask youâ€”you think back on your struggles. The sky is a great power against lust.
Pure, lovely, wholesome, beautiful, powerful, large-hearted things cannot abide the soul of a sexual fantasy at the same time.
I remember as I struggled with these things in my teenaged years and in my college years â€”I knew how I could fight most effectively in those days. And I’ve developed other strategies over the years that have proved very effective. And one way of fighting was simply to get out of the dark places, get out of the lonely rooms, get out of the boxed-in places, get out of the places where it’s just small me and my mind and what I can do with it, and get out where I am just surrounded by color and beauty and bigness and loveliness.
And I know that when I used to sit in my front yard at 122 Bradley Boulevard with a notepad in my hand a pen and trying to write a poemâ€”at that moment my heart and my body were light years away from the sexual fantasizing I was tempted by again and again in the late-night, quiet, secluded, in-house moments.
There’s something about bigness, there’s something about beauty, that helps battle against the puny, small, cruddy use of the mind to fantasize about sexual things.
And then turn it around: it works this way too. We know from experience that if we give way to sexual fantasies and yield to lusts and dwelling on unwholesome things, our capacities for seeing the sky are cut in half. And then cut in half again. And then cut in half againâ€”until you’re just a little worm on the ground as your language and your mind is nothing but smut. It can happen to anybody!
And so I just commend to you: don’t let that happen. Battle lustâ€”among all the other weapons that you’re given in Scriptureâ€”battle it with the upward glance of the magnificent blue and the thunder and the lightning and the sunrises and the sunsets and the glory of God. And say to yourself, “If I give way in this hour to that kind of thinking, I won’t enjoy this, I won’t have a large heart, I won’t have a capacious mind, I won’t be a noble personâ€”I’ll just be an old gutter person.” Preach to yourself like that! And then give yourself over to the ministry of the sky. And let it help you free from lust.
I like Piper a lot. I listened to the first sermon and I enjoyed it, but I think there was something lacking to it. In the last point, where Piper noted the healing power of creation to overcome lust he didn’t have any biblical backing for his point at all. What I mean is that I don’t think he is wrong that a right consideration of our place in the universe and taking time to really look at the heavens will help fight lust, he does not give a biblical admonishment in that direction at all. It seems his whole argument is based just off his own experience and opinion, which is a dangerous way for any pastor to make an argument. (In the whole sermon, when he talked about the healing power of nature, he quoted Spurgeon and Chesterton, and others, but there were no quotes from Scripture, or very few. I think there is something wrong when all the support a preacher can support for a point is quotes from wise Christians while having no quotes from Scripture.)
I guess my point is that while it sounds great to say that looking to the heavens can help us battle lust, is it what Scripture says? Isn’t the point of what Paul tells Timothy about Scripture that Scripture contains all we need for living holy lives? If that is the case, and if God’s Word is the means by which he accomplishes his great and wonderful purposes, then shouldn’t every point of application be saturated in the biblical text so that God’s wisdom and power are given credence, and not man’s knowledge and experience?
I do not mean to be too critical of Piper, (for many reasons, including his obvious experience, knowledge, and wisdom which more than outstrips any claims I could make) I think he is right, but I think that our conclusions should be based on what the Bible says about this and every other topic. I think he would have had greater agreement with Scripture if he noted more forcefully that considering the heavens causes us to consider the awesome power and glory of God, and being drawn to God’s presence removes us from our sin because sin cannot exist in the light of God’s radiance. Yes, going out into nature can act as a medicine against our lust, but it is because nature testifies to us about God, not because the sun itself has some mysterious healing power.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m being too critical. Maybe I’m missing something. In Piper’s defense he does say in the sermon he would like to develop this idea more, and he does only go into the point briefly, but I think his focus was too much on the glory of nature, and not enough on the glory of God in this particular point.
Charlton, my friend, good points. Personally, when I listen to Piper on this I am reminded of the psalmist who often turns to nature and the creation as a means of encountering the comforting presence of God. It isn’t that nature and creation take the place of God, they simply are an ever present reminder of God’s grandeur and power. The scriptures record this for us in words, but God has painted it for us in the natural wonders that surround us.
As for a Scriptural basis for Piper’s recommendation to find consolation and inspiration in nature – there is the conflict/contrast set up in Romans chapter one.
A. The creation teaches us about God and His Truth.
B. Those who reject this Truth are released by GOD to follow the lusts of their own heart and to engage in the sexual and other sins listed in Romans 1:18-32.
Pondering Nature is a legitimate and Scriptural way of learning about God…but our meditations must align/agree with Scripture and with the unified and unbroken witness of the Saints of the Ages (on the basic common denominators of the Faith).