T4G Reflections: “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling…”

I can’t overstate how helped I was by the messages I heard at T4G this week. I already mentioned Kevin DeYoung‘s in my previous post, but I should mention that the other sessions were edifying as well. On the last day, Lig Duncan put on a clinic about how to preach Christ from the Old Testament. John MacArthur had his usual rigorous exposition of the biblical text, this time focusing on John 6 and the nature of false converts. I could go on and on extolling the other talks, but perhaps it would be best just to direct you to the page where you can download and listen to them for yourself. Also, Bob Kauflin leading from the piano. Does it get any better than that?

Without question, the message that landed on me most powerfully was John Piper’s. He closed the conference. Those who left early missed what was probably the weightiest moment of T4G 2014. Piper’s text was Romans 9. I don’t know how else to describe the message except to say that Piper climbed a mountain and took us with him. The title of the sermon was “Persuading, Pleading and Predestination: Human Means in the Miracle of Conversion” (download here, watch here, or listen below).

It was a fantastic exposition. His burden throughout was to show from the Bible that the doctrine of election should be a fuel for evangelism. Why? Because the same Paul who teaches the doctrine of election in Romans 9 also says this in Romans 11:

Rom 11:13-14 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.

Then Piper zeroed in on the word “somehow.” Somehow is a word that implies means. Paul would plan, strategize, pray, preach, plead. He would use whatever means at his disposal to compel sinners—all sinners!—to come to Christ. The doctrine of election didn’t diminish Paul’s commitment to evangelism. It intensified it.

Piper brought the point home at the end by telling a story about his late father Bill Piper. Bill Piper was an old school Southern Baptist evangelist. When you think of Piper’s dad, think of open-air preaching, tent meetings, and week-long revivals. He was like a “mini Billy Graham” travelling from place to place preaching the gospel. Piper described how his dad would finish a sermon and then call sinners to come to Jesus. With arms open wide, he would face the congregation and plead in behalf of Christ, “Would you come? Would you come?” The music would begin, and they’d sing something like “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling.” Piper sang the words:

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Piper said that in town after town and in meeting after meeting, sinners would come forward and fall into his Daddy’s arms as into the arms of Jesus. And they would be saved. After Piper finished his story, he looked at us and said, “Will you be those arms?”

As I was pierced through the heart listening to Piper’s words, I wondered if the message was landing on my brothers and sisters the way it was landing on me. I never met Bill Piper, but I have seen the ministry of many Bill Piper’s in my lifetime. And I have sung “Softly and Tenderly” under the voice of a pleading preacher more times than I can possibly count. I knew what Piper was calling us to—what God was calling us to—and I wanted God to renew in me the tender heart of an evangelist.

I could hardly sing the closing songs because of the tears. I composed myself long enough to say goodbye to friends and get to my car. Then I wept all the way home. It was a good heart-wrending, mouth-closing cry. Take-aways? Preach the gospel. Look into the eyes of sinners with arms wide open. Trust the gospel to do its work. And expect God to do the unexpected in bringing people to faith in Christ. The Lord’s arm is not too short to save (Isaiah 59:1). The time is short.


  • Stephen Burch

    Denny, it was a powerful moment. God’s Presence was thick. Jesus was calling–effectually! When Al Mohler called us to pray, I laid my hand on the shoulder of the man next to man and prayed for the salvation of my brother. The tear filled prayer was intense and Spirit wrought. Oh for more sweet times of brothers fellowshipping around Christ, being filled with the Spirit and singing in the Spirit. Pray for our Easter service next week. Pray the Spirit would call sinners to Christ through me and do the same for all the pastors at T4G on Easter Sunday. Grace, Grace…

  • Kelly Hall

    Congratulations on being moved by the Holy Spirit. Sounds like you received amazing grace on this retreat.

    Denny, I listened to Rev Macarthur on his interpretation of John 6. It’s great that Rev Macarthur encouraged everyone to examine their conscience and live a holy life. He’s right about the supernatural fantasy age all around us and false teachings all around us. He was spot on about people wanting Our Savior to give them something right now. Those followers did not like the gift He was giving, though.

    Sadly, I believe Rev Macarthur missed an important teaching. By reading John 6 out of order and interjecting verses from Matt, Heb, etc., Rev Macarthur missed the very teaching of Our Lord. When read from top to bottom, you see Christ was specifically speaking of Holy Communion and eating His flesh and drinking His blood. He repeated this and summarized it, ensuring they understood He was not speaking figuratively. They were outraged and scandalized by Christ telling them to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Why would Rev Macarthur skip that specific message?

    • Ian Shaw

      So you’re taking the transubstantiation stance on what they were literally doing? Which if he was meaning literal, they would have clearly rejected it as 1st Century Jews eating that kind of flesh and drinking of blood would have violated the law. But they continued with the supper and finished eating/drinking, didn’t they?

      Which basically debunks the RC teaching that it’s literally Christ human blood and human flesh.

      • Kelly Hall

        Hi Ian, yes, I believe. I’m unclear with your comment, “Which if he was meaning literal, they would have clearly rejected it.” Thousands of the disciples heard Christ say this and they walked away–verse 66. Christ could have said, “Hey, come on, I was being literal.” Instead, Christ repeated his teaching here, as well as after His Resurrection. To me, it’s pretty clear He was sending a message about the bread being his body and wine his blood.

        Christ commanded for us to do this in His memory. He taught His Apostles, who in turn taught other Christians leaders to do this. This is where the writings of the early Christians leaders come in to play for us. You can look at Ignatius, Polycarp, John of Chrystostom, Augustine and many others, and you’ll see they unequivocally spoke of the Eucharist. Here are just a few excerpts from Christians writers:

        St. Cyril served as Bishop of Jerusalem in the years 348-378 A.D., “`I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, etc. [1 Cor. 11:23]’. This teaching of the Blessed Paul is alone sufficient to give you a full assurance concerning those Divine Mysteries, which when ye are vouchsafed, ye are of (the same body) [Eph 3:6] and blood with Christ. For he has just distinctly said, (That our Lord Jesus Christ the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks He brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is My Body: and having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, Take, drink, this is My Blood.) [1 Cor. 2:23-25] Since then He Himself has declared and said of the Bread, (This is My Body), who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has affirmed and said, (This is My Blood), who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?” -“Catechetical Lectures [22 (Mystagogic 4), 1]

        “Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.” “Letter to the Smyrnaeans”, paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D., Ignatius of Antioch.

        “This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God’s Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” “First Apology”, Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155 Justin Martyr

        “When the word says, ‘This is My Body,’ be convinced of it and believe it, and look at it with the eyes of the mind. For Christ did not give us something tangible, but even in His tangible things all is intellectual. So too with Baptism: the gift is bestowed through what is a tangible thing, water; but what is accomplished is intellectually perceived: the birth and the renewal. If you were incorporeal He would have given you those incorporeal gifts naked; but since the soul is intertwined with the body, He hands over to you in tangible things that which is perceived intellectually. How many now say, ‘I wish I could see His shape, His appearance, His garments, His sandals.’ Only look! You see Him! You touch Him! You eat Him!” -“Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew” [82,4] 370 A.D. John Chrysostom

        When reading God’s Word, hearing Christ teach, reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, studying the writings of Early Church Leaders, and reading the names of men and women dying to defend this Truth, how can you not believe?

        • Ian Shaw

          Kelly, just so I am clear on your stance, are you saying that when we take the Lord’s Supper, we are literally consuming Christ’s body and blood and having himself sacrificed for us again? Just to be clear I don’t misunderstand your point.

          • Kelly Hall

            Christ Our King…Thy Kingdom Come!

            Good Morning Ian! Did you happen to see my previous questions?
            — Why John 6 was not read top to bottom–after all, the Holy Spirit guided these very words to be recorded in the Word
            — Armed with God’s Word, Christ’s teaching, etc., how can you not believe?

            In regards to your “sacrifice” question, you possibly misunderstand what was taught by Christ and the Apostles. The Catholic Church nicely explains the Living Sacrifice in the Catechism. My less than adequate attempt at summarizing would be: You cannot re-sacrifice Christ, as He has already been sacrificed to save us. We are doing this thanksgiving memorial as Christ commanded us in 1 Cor 11:24-25.

            It would be best for you to read what sacrifice means, according to Catholic doctrine. Once you read that and answer my previous questions, I think we could have a more honest discussion on John 6.

            Here is the link to the actual Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. Once at the link, scroll down and the teaching starts at V. The Sacramental Sacrifice: Thanksgiving, Memorial, and Presence.


            Peace to You!

            • Ian Shaw


              I do not wish to hijack Denny’s thread anymore. I understand what you are saying. I don’t want to misrepresent RC teaching, but CCC 1374 and 1376 is contrary to your statement in the second paragraph.

              I’ll put this issue to bed and say that we disagree on this matter. Enjoy the rest of the week and have a blessed resurrection sunday.

  • Kelly Hall

    Thanks, Ian. I appreciate your openness. Just a quick clarification, you wrote 1374 and 1376 contradicts my statement. Those verses and 1375 talk about transubstantiation and how the Church Fathers strongly affirmed this faith. Think that was a typo and you meant 1364 and 1367, which specifically address the sacrifice. I’m guessing your definition of sacrifice is different from the Church. The are so many words that once had beautiful meanings (sacrifice, chaste, marriage, charity, love) and somehow a negative connotation or incorrect definition (gay “marriage”) became associated with them. A sacrifice is a pure offering–a sign of adoration, gratitude, supplication, and communion. The Eucharistic sacrifice commanded by Christ is a great mystery and one I am so grateful for. Peace to you, brother in Christ!

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