Full text of Dr. John Piper’s talk titled “Don’t Waste Your Life” which was presented at the 2011 National Conference, Light & Heat: A Passion for the Holiness of God
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
John Piper – Founder, desiringGod.org
God was very kind to me when I was 17 years old in high school. Something came alive. I can almost pinpoint the class. It was Mrs. Clanton’s Class in English. Something came alive that has never died.
I was already walking with Jesus, and so it wasn’t faith that came alive. It was an awakening of the wonder and the weight of having one life to live, and then its outcome for eternity, no second chances, no retakes like when you do a video, no do-overs in a test – one life and then eternity.
In 1964, we had a high school literary magazine called Leaves of Grass, and I published a mediocre poem in it. And the quality of the poem makes no difference to me whatsoever now, but looking back on it, the burden of it is what grips me because it was an evidence of that coming alive of the sense of I’ve got one life — one life, and I can blow it forever or not.
So that poem was published and in it there’s a verse. It’s written from the perspective of being an old man. I’m 17 years old when I’m writing it. It’s called The Lost Years, and in the verse, the last verse goes like this:
“Long I sought for the earth’s hidden meaning. Long as a youth was my search in vain. Now as I approach my last years waning, My search I must begin again.”
And everything in me in those days toward the end of high school was saying, that must never, never, never happen, come to the end of life – 65 right now – and say, I can’t figure it out. I don’t know what it’s about, just coasting, just doing the next thing, just putzing around, desperately trying to be happy while not thinking. Oh, don’t let me think about what this is heading for or how heavy and weighty it is to have one life.
Don’t let me think about that. I just want to do the next thing and hope I don’t sink in guilt and frustration. I don’t want to come to the end that way.
Then that burden and sense of the weight and the wonder of having only one life never left, ever. I still think, “What have I got left?” I don’t know what I’ve got left – a year, a minute. This would be a great place to go. It’s cool.
Twenty years – my dad was 87 when he passed away. That’s 22 more years. I don’t know. I just know one thing. Don’t waste it. This is just all you’ve got and then the outcome. And that’s all you’ve got – just one and then the outcome.
So there arose in me this tremendous sense about PURPOSEFULNESS. A lot of people get worked up with the “where did we come from” question, and that’s important. But to me it’s only important for the “where am I going” question. I want to know purpose. I want to know design. I want to know what am I trying to do. Where I came from, if that’s relevant for that, I want to know about it.
But mainly I just want why. You know, the Germans have woher and wozu. We just have why. Woher is why meaning “why did this happen” looking at the past cause. And wozu is “why, what’s the purpose?” What’s the point of it all? That’s the one.
I’m a wozu guy. I want to know where am I heading and what’s it for. So purpose, I want to know why the universe? Why color, sound, love, hate, evil, good, sports, leisure, work, souls, bodies, government, art, beauty, mosquitoes? Mosquitoes, I want to know why? Laughter, marriage, disease, war, me, you, now, this hour, why?
That’s the biggest question for me. I’ve got an hour with you, why?
Why? What should happen here? I go into the pulpit with that question every Sunday. What should happen here? What’s the big point of this message and this moment? Why are you at this conference? What do you want to happen forever? What ripple effect do you want to come from this moment in your life?
So that burden, that wonder, that weight came on me about age 17, and it just doesn’t go away.
WHY DO I EXIST?
And God was very kind to me, because in the next seven years, so four of them at Wheaton College and three of them at Fuller Seminary, in the next seven years till I was 24 or 25, all the big pieces fell into place, and they’ve never changed.
And I am so fortunate. Some of you need some big pieces put in place now at age 70 and others at age 17. It’s never too late. But for me, God was so kind to me that from 17 to 24 all the big pieces were put in place.
And all I’ve been doing since then is trying to keep my focus narrow, because I’m not a fast reader and I’m not a comprehensive thinker. I’m an analytical guy who can handle the little piece of Scripture and milk it, but I can’t do much else.
So I just want the big questions to stay central. I want to push on them with all my might. I want to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze until the last drop of significance is out of the big things. And that’s what I would commend to all of you average folks.
Let me stress for you what I stressed in the year 2000 when I spoke to the one day crowd. I said to them, “You know,” – these were all college students, and you’re mostly not, same thing applies.
You don’t have to know, I said, and I say to you now, you don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a huge difference. And I’m talking to the older folks, retired, and 20 somethings.
You don’t have to know a lot of things. I don’t know a lot of things. The older I get the less I know, and that’s not just because I’m forgetting. It’s just because I’m aware of more and more things that I don’t know, and I have to work hard not to care about that, lest I try to know them and then lose my grip on what I know.
But you do need to know a few great things that really matter and be willing to live for them with all your might and die for them. The people who make a durable difference, and I choose the word durable significantly, intentionally. I’m thinking of just your average grandmama, say, or mom or dad or just your average person in this room.
You won’t have a famous global difference, but that’s not of the essence. In order to have a durable difference in the world that lasts till eternity, you don’t have to know a lot of things. You have to be mastered by a few things… a few great things.
If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect to go to eternity, then you want to give yourself to a few great things. You don’t have to have a high IQ. You don’t have to have a high EQ. You don’t have to have good looks or riches. In fact, riches will almost certainly get in the way, not necessarily, but almost certainly Jesus said.
You don’t have to come from a fine family. That too can get in the way. You don’t have to go to fine school. You don’t have to go to any school.
But you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, glorious things and be set on fire by them. That’s what makes a life count.
So I’m going to mention three of those things that came clear to me between 17 and 24, and that I’ve just been working on the rest of my life, just trying to discern their depths or to push down, down, down, and their application as widely as I can push it into every avenue of life and culture.
So three discoveries that will define the unwasted life, number one, there is an absolutely sovereign, transcendently pure – those who know R.C. Sproul’s work will know what I’m talking about there – self-existing, self-sustaining, incomparably beautiful, all-knowing, all-wise, all-governing, all-upholding, all-defining, infinitely valuable, all-satisfying God.
There is a God like that – He exists – whose purpose in all creation, in all redemption, in all history, in all culture is to display His glory for the everlasting, ever increasing enjoyment of His redeemed people. That’s discovery number one, a long sentence.
Shorten it down. There is a great holy God, who means to be known and treasured as God.
There is a great holy God, who means to be known truly and treasured duly. Sometimes rhyme helps people remember. He means to be known truly and treasured duly. He means for light to shine and heat to boil in regard to His holy being.
You know I’m sure being at this conference that God’s name, Yahweh, is used over 600 times in the Old Testament, and it comes from the word be, to be.
Exodus 3:14, Moses says to God, “When they ask me, ‘Who sent you?’ what shall I tell them?”
And God says, “Tell them I AM sent you. My name is I AM.”
And I just spent all my life trying to figure that out, just what are the implications that there is a being who identifies Himself as I AM. Deal with it. I simply am. I had no beginning. I will have no ending. You’re not. I depend on nothing. Everything depends on Me.
I AM defined by nothing. I define everything. I AM controlled by nothing. I control everything. I AM EVERYTHING.
You can spend a lifetime just coming to terms with the name of God, who He is, that He is. That He is changes everything, doesn’t it? I mean, just everything changes if you live in the face of a God who is simply God, simply there. And the universe is like a peanut in His pocket. Only that’s way too big of an analogy for the universe.
So I meet this God. He’s just coming alive, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt. I mean some things you just know, right? You know if my life is going to have a purpose that is durable and lasting to eternity and isn’t wasted, He’s got to tell me what it is – period.
He’s got to define it. There’s no way I can come up with this in view of just His existence, just His sheer existence that I’m going to say, “I think I’m going to do this.” You’re kidding.
He’s God. You are absolutely dependent on Him for everything, and you’re going to decide what to do with your life? Wake up. Wake up.
So I with the help of Dan Fuller at Fuller Seminary and Jonathan Edwards in The End for Which God Created the World, one of the top five books of my life, it became crystal clear to me what the purpose of life is.
God designed the universe and created it and controls it, governs it, runs it, will bring it to consummation in order – and I’ll just repeat what I said – so that in all of creation, all redemption, all history, all culture, He might display His glory for the everlasting and ever increasing enjoyment of His people.
So getting God’s purpose right for God became foundational for getting my purpose right for me, and that order is all important – God’s design before my duty.
What’s Your design for the universe? I’m a little part of it. That must be Your design for me.
It has been a life-defining, ministry-defining discovery to see how radically God-exalting God’s purpose is.
I suppose this has emotionally gripped me as much as anything. I don’t know why that is. It’s just the way I’m wired, I suppose. That God’s purpose for the universe is radically God-exalting just holds me like an iron fist. I can’t leave. I can’t escape. And I find it exhilarating.
And with some sorrow we say this is a fault line. It’s a fault line that divides families, churches, cultures, and the world. Either people find God’s God-exalting purpose for the universe exhilarating or they are angered by it. Very few people are neutral once they hear it spelled out.
For me, this has been the central issue theologically and experientially. I was reading an article in First Things this month by Gerald McDermott on evangelicals, and he divides us up into traditionalists and meliorists. I didn’t even know that was a word.
And the meliorists are post-modern, post-conservative, post-propositional, and there are all kinds of names attached to them. And one of the issues, he said, characterizing that movement is rejection of the old, stale Enlightenment bifurcation between the mind and the heart and between thinking and feeling.
And I’m thinking, what! What bifurcation? And of course, I know what he’s talking about. When those things are divided and you become a stale, dead, traditional, doctrinaire, Reformed church, you’re going to lose a generation. There’s just no doubt about it. You’re going to lose me.
This issue of God’s God-centered purpose for the universe has been for me both theologically and emotionally central. It has been the key to the life of the mind and the key to the life of the soul, the all-defining revelation and the all-pervading exhilaration.
To this day, 40 years later since those 17 to 24 years in seminary and college, to this day, God’s God-exalting purpose for the universe causes me to soar.
I love to think about this. I sit at my desk preparing for talks like this. I love it. I just sit there, yes, yes, oh, let me say it again! I just love to think about God’s Godness, God’s being, the point of the universe.
And then you go to the Bible, and you find it everywhere.
“Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone whom I created for My glory.” (Isaiah 43:6-7)
“I made the whole house of Israel cling to Me, that they might be for Me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory.” (Jeremiah 13:11)
“Our fathers rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea, yet He saved them for His name’s sake that He might make known His power.”(Psalm 106:7-8)
“For My name’s sake I defer My anger. For the sake of My praise I restrain it for you. For My own sake, for My own sake I do it. For how should My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:9, 11)
What do you think Isaiah means for us to feel when he writes like that? Uh, that’s boring. That’s a megalomania. – I don’t think so. I think He means us to soar after we’ve repented in dust and ashes.
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee.” (John 17:1)
What a conspiracy of the Son and the Father! I’m going to glorify You now, so that You will be glorified and I will be glorified in You. So glorify Me that I might glorify You. We’ll do it together, Father. We’ll team up and make the universe have its point on Calvary.
“He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all who have believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:10)
So it’s gotten clearer and clearer and clearer as the years have gone by that God creates, redeems, rules in order to put His glory on display, to exalt it, to make much of it.
But in that first discovery, that long sentence that I gave you, we’ve only dealt with half of it.
Why? Maybe we shouldn’t ask it, but that’s my question. Why would You do this, God? Why would You go on display in a created universe? Everywhere the heavens are telling the glory of God, so is everything else. Why would You do that?
And His answer is because I want to be glorified by you. I want to be marveled at by you. I want to have the infinite worth of My all-satisfying beauty reflected back to Me in you.
That’s why. I’m going on display for conscious, rational, in the image-of-God-creatures so that there would be a fullest possible reflection back to Me of all that I am. That’s why I’m going on display in this universe in which I’ve created you in My image.
He displays His glory for, I said, the everlasting, ever-increasing enjoyment of His redeemed people. So this is absolutely massive for me in my 22 to 24 years. This is where this came home to me, massive to me that the value of God’s glory is reflected in how I treasure it.
I’ll say it again. The value, the beauty, the worth of God’s glory is appropriately reflected back to Him in the degree to which I treasure it, enjoy it, embrace, esteem, delight in and am satisfied with it over everything on the planet. And if there is anything that has more of my heart, more of my passion, more of my affections, it is glorified above Him. This was absolutely amazing to me.
The implications take a lifetime to work out. God makes known the riches of His glory for our treasuring, our valuing, our enjoying, and of course to that end, our knowing.
“Think: The Life of the Mind for the Sake of the Love of God” could have been the subtitle. When He reveals His glory to us, He doesn’t get any honor if we find it boring. He doesn’t. I don’t care how much we know. If fact the more we know, the worse it reflects upon Him if we find it boring.
A text, listen carefully, this is an incredibly controversial text, not because it’s vague but because of what it says, but I’m not going to go to the controversial part. I’m just going to go to the really, really, really obvious part.
This is Romans 9:22 and 23.
“God, desiring to show His wrath,” which is part of His glory, “God, desiring to show His wrath and make known His power,” so there’s two aspects of His glory. There’s lots more.
“God, desiring to show His wrath and make know His power, endured with much patience,” – there’s another piece of His glory – “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” – and here comes my favorite phrase in all the Bible – “in order to.” And you know what that means?
He’s got a purpose. He’s going to tell me something about a purpose. Why wrath? Why power? Why patience? Oh yes, tell me. This may help me know how to live an unwasted life.
What does He say? God shows His wrath, makes known His power, endures with much patience the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction in order to “make known the riches of His glory for the vessels of mercy.”
What? For them to be bored? I don’t think so. Not the meaning. What? To enjoy, to embrace, to exalt Him, to praise, to honor, to live for, die for.
Surely that’s obvious. The riches of His glory made known for the vessels of mercy.
Two pieces, “make known the riches of His glory for the vessels of mercy.” Get it like this if you’ve got a support under it. For the vessels of mercy to receive with joy, for the vessels of mercy to treasure above all things, for the vessels of mercy to marvel at, for the vessels of mercy to glorify, for the vessels of mercy to reflect as the supremely satisfying treasure of their lives – surely that’s why He does everything from wrath, to power, to patience.
He does it so that the riches – and they are infinite – will come upon the vessels of mercy for them… for them. He’s prepared us for glory. We will spend an eternity, everlasting, ever increasing. Do you know why I used the phrase ever increasing? It might sound a little funny to you that heaven could admit of degrees. It’s because I’m finite.
John Piper has a finite heart and a finite head. God is infinite. The riches of His glory that are meant to be known by my mind and enjoyed by my heart are infinite. I’m finite. What does that mean? It means I can’t take it all at once. In fact, I can’t ever exhaust it, ever.
So my understanding is that I will spend an eternity climbing one mountain range of God’s majesty after another, and in about three billion years, as I pull myself up over the edge of the range that I can see, there will stretch off into the millions of miles of distance, range after range after range of glory yet to be known duly and treasured, known truly and treasured duly.
So He gets the glory in being known truly, and we get the joy in loving Him duly. He is glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. That’s discovery number one. That would be enough for a lifetime.
And the implication for this 24-year-old now passionate for purpose in his life is that I should join Him. I mean, that just seems so obvious to me, like there’s nothing to be thought about here, just I’m on board. If this is your purpose for the universe, I’m there. It’s all I want to do. I want to so live and so die as to make Your glory look supremely valuable. That’s it. That’s the unwasted life.
Stop now. Go home. “Whether you eat or drink,” my dad would write me over and over again in letters, “Son, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,”(1 Corinthians 10:31) which means do everything to make Him look great, which now I understand means, so treasure Him, so value Him, so be satisfied in Him above all human possibilities of happiness that you make Him look more valuable than anything in your life. That’s what it means.
Pray then like this, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by Your name.” (Luke 11:2)
I love the Lord’s Prayer. It’s a prayer. I mean, every one of the sentences is a petition. I used to think it was an acclamation. “Hallowed be Your name,” is like, “You are hallowed.”
Well, He is, but it’s, “Let Your name be hallowed.” And I’m… Every time I pray it – I pray it almost everyday – I start right here, “Oh God, may Your name be hallowed,” here hallowed, hallowed, sanctified, revered as holy, revered as other, transcendently pure – R.C. Sproul’s phrase, a magnificent phrase.
What? And found boring? No way. Revered as infinitely valuable, revered as supremely satisfying, oh, may this happen right here today, and then in Noel, and Talitha, and Karsten, and Ben, and Abraham, and Barnabas, and their wives and twelve children, and now my church and the city and the conferences and ministries like Ligonier, and out to the nations. God, come, cause this valuing of Your name, treasuring of Your name. Come, come, come, do this.
That’s what we pray in the first sentence of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s all about the majesty, glory of His name being embraced and loved and treasured and revered and honored and praised, so that the world will see us and say, “Their God must be awesome.”
Let him who serves — which is what I’m trying to do right now – “serve in the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God may get the glory through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the dominion forever.” (1 Peter 4:11)
So the implication of discovery number one is plain. If God is “is,” I Am. And if He created the universe in order to go on display with the riches of His glory for the vessels of mercy in order that the infinite value of His riches of glory might be obvious in our lives, then my life is defined for me.
You know, don’t you, watching me that there’s a difference between purpose and achievement. You know I’m a sinner. I fail at this. All I’m doing is defining I know what I’m on the earth for. God will judge whether I have come even close.
My wife would have a different judgment than you probably. You only know the teacher-preacher guy. My kids know another guy, and my wife knows another guy, and my elders know another guy. And I love Paul saying, “Do not judge before the time. I don’t even judge myself. The Lord will judge on that day when He brings to light the secret things of the heart.”
That’s a trembling day. Do I know my own heart? I don’t. I know some, and I trust my merciful Savior for the rest, which leads now to discovery number two, and these next two are shorter.
What necessitates discovery number two is that there’s a massive obstacle between God’s purpose and my ability to join Him in it. So His purpose is that I would so treasure Him that the way I live and die would reflect how supremely valuable He is, and the obstacle is I hate God. I want to be God. I don’t live for nobody else. For goodness sake, I want to be God.
Self-denial is not in my bones. I don’t want anybody telling me what I can like and not like, do and not do, love and not love. Get out of my face, God. That’s a pretty big obstacle.
And it has another piece to it, namely, He hates me because of that. The wrath of God is on me with such a weight that it should crush me in hell a thousand times yesterday.
So how will God’s purpose then ever be achieved if all human beings are children of wrath, which Paul explicitly says every one of them is in Ephesians 2:3?
And here’s the second discovery. Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, not only becomes the means of my seeing and savoring the glory of God, but in the very act of overcoming these obstacles, becomes Himself the apex of the glory I couldn’t see. Does that make sense?
Jesus Christ enters the world as the God-Man, and He does something that covers and conquers my depravity, absorbs the wrath of God so that I can now see and savor what I was designed to see and savor, and in the very doing of that redeeming, He becomes the apex of the glory I was designed to see. That was discovery number two.
Let me give you three passages of Scripture that shed light on what I’m trying to say, because this… this was there in nugget in the early years but only in recent years has it become clearer. I think I’ve become over the years a more Christocentric person than I was 20 years ago.
I love being theocentric. In a sense, I could argue a long time – maybe R.C. and I will talk about this tonight – why it’s appropriate to exalt God and His holiness as the theme of your ministry rather than Christ. And then He will hand over the kingdom to the Father, and God will be all in all would be a good place to start.
But I think I might not have had the balance where it should. I’m not even sure now I have the balance where it should. Let me give you three texts.
Ephesians 1:5-6, “In love, God predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace.”
So what’s clear there is my predestination, my adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ is designed to bring about praise for the glory of grace.
So now we’ve got a clarification of the apex of glory revelation. It’s grace. And the praise is not boredom. This is exultation. This is exhilaration. You are predestined, you are adopted all through Jesus Christ unto the praise of the glory of grace at the peak.
Text number two, 2 Timothy 1:9, “He saved us,”
2 Timothy 1:9, “He saved us, called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
So now this grace, which is the apex of the glory we are to praise through the redeeming work of Jesus, was given to us before the world existed.
So this is massively clear to me that God’s purpose for creating the universe was to get here, because the grace is given through Jesus Christ before the universe exists.
This is awesome. This is breathtaking. I’m on to…
I’m on to the purpose of the universe with way more clarity than before in the first half of this message – Jesus, central, incarnate, redeeming, through Him grace streaming to me before anything exists.
One more text, this is Revelation 13:8, “The beast will triumph over everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain.”
Before there was a universe, there was a book, and it had a name, and here’s the name, the Book of the Life of the Lamb who was slain.
You couldn’t put a clearer point on the universe – Jesus Christ slain for sinners, the point of the universe – because the universe went on display to show the riches of God’s glory. The apex of the riches of God’s glory are the riches of the glory of His grace. The apex of the riches of the glory of His grace is Jesus Christ crucified for sinners like me to cover the wrath of God, cover my depravity, conquer my sin, and enable me to see the glory He has become – amazing, amazing.
God’s purpose was to display His glory. The apex of that glory is His grace. The apex of the display of grace is Jesus Christ. And the apex, the climactic moment of the revelation of the glory of grace in Christ was His death for sinners like me.
WHAT DID HE DO?
What did He do? Well, others in this conference have and will say it, but I’ll just summarize because how can you not want to say it.
He became a curse for me, Galatians 3:13. He bore the condemnation of my sin, Romans 8:3.
God made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him I might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), so my guilt is credited to Him, and His righteousness is credited to me. I’m free now from the wrath of God and free from the guilt of my sin, and because of all of that, because of all of that cross work, blood work, death work, the sovereignty of God kicks in behind all the promises of the new covenant for me.
And you know what those are?
“I will put the fear of Me in you, and I will not let you turn from Me.” (Jeremiah 32:40)
Faith is freely given. Repentance is freely given, Ephesians 2:8; 2 Timothy 2:25.
Coming to Christ is freely given to me, John 6:44. New birth is freely given to me, John 3:8, which means that my depravity, my deadness, my blindness, my distaste for God and my hatred of Him is gone. I’m born again.
Why else would I be exhilarated by God’s God-centeredness, not having me at the center?
I love God’s God-centeredness. And oh protect me, God, oh protect me from turning right doctrine into a means of boasting. How subtle is sin in the Calvinist heart and every other heart.
What now am I able to see? If He removed all the obstacles of wrath and all the obstacles of guilt and sin, and then has been overcoming my depravity by the gift of faith and the gift of repentance and the gift of new birth, what can I now see?
2 Corinthians 4:4, “The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” I’ll say it again.
This is a summary of discovery number two.
Between God’s purpose to be known and treasured and my treasuring Him is a massive obstacle of depravity and wrath. God sends Jesus Christ into the world, and in His covering and conquering my depravity and absorbing God’s wrath, in doing that He becomes the apex of the glory I am now enabled to see.
Last discovery, number three, and before I say it, let me connect that. I don’t want to jump over this. Let me connect that with my purpose for living.
How does that affect the unwasted life? Well, it just narrows its focus.
Now I live and I die in order to show that God’s glory in Christ crucified for sinners like me is infinitely valuable. The unwasted life is a life lived to show that Jesus is more precious than life.
You know how Paul said it, “For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as refuse in order that I might gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) That’s the longing of my life – to get there, live there, stay there, everything like rubbish compared to knowing Jesus, that I may be found in Him not having a righteousness of my own which comes from law, but the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, that I may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, if by any means possible, I might attain the resurrection of the dead, and spend an eternity with my King, my all-satisfying, all-glorious Jesus.
Discovery number three, the life that most clearly displays the all-satisfying worth and glory of God in Christ is a life of joyful suffering in the service of love. The life that displays the infinite value of the glory of God manifest supremely in Christ crucified for sinners, the life that displays that most clearly is a life of happy suffering in the service of love.
And I’ll just close by giving you a text and making a comment about it.
The Sermon on the Mount, chapter 5 of Matthew, roughly 11 to 16, listen really carefully and see if you put the pieces together before I point them out.
“Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely. Rejoice.” That’s crazy, right?
“Rejoice in that day, be glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. If the salt has lost its flavor, how shall its saltiness be restored? It’s good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You’re the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and up it under a basket but on a lampstand that it may give light to all who are in the house. And so in the same way, let your light shine so that men may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father.”
That’s what the universe is for.
The question is, what’s the light? What’s the salt? You’re the salt. You’re the light. And when people taste it, they say, “Whoa, tangy. Whoa, that’s unusual.”
What’s unusual in this text? What’s unusual? Not good deeds. Good deeds are not unusual. Plenty of pagans full of good deeds, and nobody looks at them and says, “Whoa, God,” nobody.
What’s unusual? What’s really salty? What’s really bright? What’s extraordinary? What’s impossible in this text? One thing, joy in the face of persecution because of a reward in heaven.
The world cannot do it. They’ve got no reward, and they’re not going to be happy if anybody has beaten them up with lies. But you can, and if you do, if you are so satisfied in this reward, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of slanders against you. Rejoice for your reward is great.”
If you are so satisfied in your reward that you really can keep doing good for people who hate you, happily, you’re off the charts salty.
The people will taste you, “Hey, that should be on everything I eat. That’s incredible. That’s awesome.” That just can’t be done unless there’s a great glorious God who satisfies the broken soul of man.
What’s the reward?
Jesus prayed in John 17:24, “Father, I ask that those whom You have given Me may be with Me where I am to see My glory.”
That’s it. If you want a reward beyond that, there isn’t one. You can’t get greater than the glory of the crucified, slain Lamb of God, whose name is over the book from all eternity.
So I plead with you, don’t waste your life. Look to Jesus. Find in Him and in His suffering for you the apex of the glory of God’s grace. Find that in Him. Find it in Him.
Then embrace Him and be so satisfied in Him that you live and die proving that He is your supreme treasure.
For Further Reading:
R.C. Sproul Sermon: Christ Crucified (Transcript)
The Heart of the Gospel: Paul Washer (Full Transcript)
Knowledge of God: Paul Washer (Full Transcript)