This morning we received the last of the free books. On our seats were copies of Christ & Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson (just printed!), Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin, The Future of Justification by John Piper and one of the smaller editions of the ESV.
The first session of the morning featured John Piper who really needs no introduction. He sought to answer this question: How does the supremacy of Christ create radical Christian sacrifice?
If Piper’s ministry to young people revolves around the message “Don’t Waste Your Life,” this, his message to pastors, seemed to me to be “Don’t Waste Your Ministry.” It was a call to a radical life; a call to put away the complacency and the safeness that plagues so many Christian lives and ministries. Though directed at pastors it was applicable far beyond. And it was powerful. I’m afraid that my notes really do not at all capture the power of the message but I will put a few thoughts out here regardless. But do wait for the MP3 or video and drink it in.
Piper looked to six passages from the book of Hebrews. He said that we would need to ask and answer correctly, what is the great reward? What is the joy set before us? What is the city to come? He looked to Hebrews 10:32-35, 11:6, 11:24-26, 11:35, 12:2, 13:12-14.
The dream for this message is that every person’s life and ministry would have a radical flavor; a gutsy, radical, wartime flavor that makes average people in the church uncomfortable; a mixture of tenderness and toughness; a pervasive summons to something more, something hazardous, something wonderful. The world is not going to glorify Christ because they see that Christians are wealthy and healthy and prosperous because this is what they already live for. We may use Jesus to get it…they use other means to get it. They are not impressed when Jesus is just a ticket because when the show starts you just throw the ticket away.
The message had much to say about suffering. Suffering for the followers of Christ is a sign that God is their Father. Do not think it strange when you come into various trials as though something unusual were happening to you. The followers of Jesus will necessarily suffer. We need to embrace the suffering as this is the only kind of life that the world will regard as anything radical.
All of this begs the question: What creates such a ministry? What creates radical Christian sacrifice? Here Piper turned to just three of the passages outlined earlier.
He shared one of his deepest, sweetest discoveries of the past two or three years. He discovered from Scripture that Christ and His work are a means to something: justification, forgiveness, propitiation, sanctification, eternal life. But here’s the catch. In Paul and in Hebrews and elsewhere, in the very moment of His supreme “means” work, He at that very moment became and displayed the supreme beauty of the glory of the grace of God which the universe was designed to display for our everlasting enjoyment. Christ in His means work becomes, at that moment, the clearest focus of the end for which we are made. We are made to praise the glory of the grace of God. The glory of God reaches its apex in the display of free grace and free grace reaches its apex in the display of the blood of Christ so sinners could be freed from their love affair with the world. This is why we will spend eternity singing about horrible things—slaughter of the Son of God will be our song forever. We won’t put behind us gross horrible events. The worst event of history will be the center of our song forever and the supreme expression of His glory and the supreme experience of satisfaction forever. In Christ’s means work He becomes our end. All of the pictures of the supremacy of Christ in Hebrews are not only to fit Him for His means work but they are also presented so that in the means work we would see our treasure, our reward. The ticket becomes the treasure.
Every glory of the Savior, every facet of His majesty, is poured into the little word “him” in 13:13. “Let us go to him outside the camp.” Jesus is not standing back and saying, “Go back!” He is saying, “I am out here! You are in there where it is so safe. But I am out here. Come to me…” The sweetest fellowship with your Savior and your treasure that you will ever know is the fellowship of His sufferings. It doesn’t get sweeter. The supremacy of Christ is not just His perfect fitness to bear our sins and not just the supremely valuable reward He will be at the end, but it is also present, personal, precious treasure. “Come to me, I’m out here,” he says. He won’t ask us to go where He won’t be with us. We will know Him in depths and ways in radical Christian sacrifice where we would never have known Him any other place.
Piper’s final exhortation was just this: My desire and prayer for you is that there would be a radical flavor about your life.
If you are a pastor, you should hear this message. If you know a pastor, you should hear this message (and so should he!). If you’re not a pastor, you should still give it a listen. This is a powerful call to radical service for God.