Thursday, June 04, 2009

Knowing and Enjoying God Part Four (supplemental)

An extended quote from John Piper:
Knowing God and being satisfied in him above all earthly pleasures frees us for the kind of love that will suffer the loss of all things for the sake of every good deed and for the sake of finishing the great commission. The great commission will not be finished without martyrs (Revelation 6:11). And churches will not make God look like our all-sufficient, all-satisfying treasure if pastors and people have all the same values and priorities and lifestyle commitments that everybody around them has. Unless we become a lot more radical in the risks we take and the suffering we embrace, why should anyone believe that our treasure is in heaven - in God - and that he is more valuable than anything here?

The key is being utterly certain and utterly satisfied that "in his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11). Or as Paul said, that "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). This is the key to the sacrifices demanded by love. No sequence of texts in the Bible makes it plainer than Hebrews 10-13. Here is a portrait of the people we need in the pastorate and on the mission field today.

First, the case of the early Christians in Hebrews 10:34, "You had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one." They suffered the loss of their property with joy in order to show compassion to the prisoners. How? What released such love? - "Since you knew that you had a better possession and an abiding one." They treasured God more than anything.

Then the case of Moses in Hebrews 11:24-26, "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward." He suffered the loss of all that Egypt could offer in order to embrace suffering as a leader of the people of God. How? What released such love? - "For he looked to the reward." He treasured God more than anything in Egypt.

Then the case of Jesus Christ himself in Hebrews 12:2, " . . . who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Jesus embraced the suffering of the cross and gave shame no sway in his life so that he might die for his people. How? What released such love? - "For the joy that was set before him."

Finally, the case of the readers - you and me - in Hebrews 13:12-14, "Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come." Here is a call to every Christian, but especially to every pastor and every missionary: Let us go to him outside the securities and comforts of the camp and bear abuse for the sake of his name. How? What will release such love? For "here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city which is to come." The city of this world is not our satisfaction, God is.

Where does the love come from that can suffer the loss of all things and make plain to the world that God is gloriously more to be desired than life itself? It comes from being certain and being satisfied that God is a better possession than all our goods, and that the reward of his presence is vastly better than the fleeting pleasures of Egypt, and that the suffering of our cross is not worth comparing to the joy set before us, and that the city which is to come will last forever and will be the habitation of God.

In other words, the lever that unstops the river of love for pastors and missionaries is knowing God better than you know anything and delighting in God more than you delight in anything. This is the greatest need in the next generation of pastors and missionaries, just as it has always been the greatest need of every generation of pastors and missionaries.


Shan in Japan said...

Oh, I pray that I can delight in God more than anything! Thanks, Ben, for the reminder. I've enjoyed reading this 4 part series.

Chancellor Ben said...

Somehow the copy from the original John Piper talk I am using as a guide got posted.

I updated this post to give credit where it is due. He is a much better writer than I am.

But I too am so taken aback at how much everything (the loss-gain, etc. of Philippians 4:11 f.) seems to be weighed against a delight and satisfaction in God. We have harder jobs that we can possibly imagine. Not because it is hard to love God but because everything in life must be put under a delight in Him lest it pull us away from Him.