Yesterday, after preaching twice at his church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, John Piper caught a flight down to Los Angeles and preached a different sermon for us. That is dedication. He spoke one what is one of his favorite recent topics: God is the Gospel. I have heard him speak on this a few times now and have also read his book by the same title. And yet, strangely, I still have trouble digesting it all. I hope in the future to read God is the Gospel once more, this time taking for more notes and pausing a lot longer as I make my way through. I know there is a gold mine in there, but I’m having trouble getting some of the initial thoughts to make sense to me. As I’ve said in the past, while I absolutely love Piper’s teaching, I often find it difficult–more so than with most other speakers.
Piper defined “God is the gospel” something like this: “The highest, best, final, decisive and good benefit in the gospel, without which all other benefits are no benefits, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed to us for our everlasting enjoyment.
Based on this definition he asked and answered six questions:
1) What is the relationship between “God is the gospel” and the glory of God? The answer is that God is most glorified in Him when we are most satisfied in Him. When we find God to be the supreme treasure, pleasure and delight, we magnify Him in that act. The key text for this (and for all of Christian Hedonism) is Philippians 1:20-21. From this text Piper wrestled with this question: How do you make Christ look good in dying? The answer? The magnification of Christ shines most brightly when I am able to experience death as the loss of absolutely everything but Christ and call it gain.
God is the gospel says the supreme, ultimate good of the Bible is God revealing Christ for our enjoyment and when we do that He is glorified.
2) What is the relationship between “God is the gospel” and the love of God? He read the story of Lazarus in John 11. From that story we know that Jesus let Lazarus die. Piper has often preached a sermon on this text he calls “The strange and Wonderful Love of Christ.” He had to ask, How does it show love for Lazarus for Jesus to let him walk up and to the horrors of death? The answer is in verse 4 – it is the for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. It is more loving to Lazarus and his sisters and the other people that Lazarus die if God would be displayed as more glorious than if he had lived and God had not been displayed as more glorious. The essence of loving humans is exalting the glory of God for their enjoyment. Love can be defined in all kinds of lesser ways, but if you don’t get to this point it is aiming too low and is not the highest love. If you don’t want the people you love to see more of God and enjoy God, you don’t truly love them because you don’t care about the ultimate satisfaction of their souls forever in God.
The love of God is not His making much of us, but His enabling us to enjoy making much of Him forever.
3) How does “God is the gospel” relate to your conversion? Here he looked at 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 and showed that the gospel is the gospel of the glory of Christ (which, as I recall, is the dominant theme of his book). It is the gospel that displays God’s glory.
God is the gospel says that the best and highest good that makes the gospel good news is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for your everlasting enjoyment. It is the gospel of the glory of Christ.
4) What does “God is the gospel” have to do with the gospel as it is usually preached rightly? He wants evangelicals to take the gospel all the way to the ultimate good of the gospel. There are five elements to the gospel. First, there is an event (1 Corinthians 15:3) – the crucifixion of Christ. There must have happened in history this event for without it there is no gospel. The event is, of course, Jesus’ death and resurrection. Second, the achievement of His death objectively outside of you. For example, the wrath of God absorbed for all the elect. The curse for our sin is averted by Christ. Third, the free offer. With no event and achievement there can be no offer. It is offered freely by faith alone. Fourth, the application of this in your experience. You must experience reconciliation, forgiveness, justification, and so on. For the gospel to be gospel to you, you must experience these things. And fifth? Well, I don’t think he ever got to the fifth.
5) How does “God is the gospel” relate to salt and light? He turned to Matthew 5:11-16 and showed that ultimately, every reward in heaven leads to God. Because we have a treasure in heaven called Jesus Christ, we can rejoice in persecution. We are the salt of the earth. So what is the salt? It is not wealth because prosperity gospel is no gospel. It offers to people what they want as natural people. You don’t have to be born again to be wealthy and therefore you don’t have to be converted to be saved by this false gospel. When you appeal to people to come to Christ on the basis of what they already want, this gospel is unbiblical. The salt of the earth are people that are so satisfied with their reward in heaven that they joyfully endure pain in the service of Jesus. Because the world is not simply not going to be impressed by a church motivated by what they are motivated by.
6) How does “God is the gospel” relate to evangelism? Piper has already stressed that preaching what appeals to the natural man is foolish. He attempted to make this overlap with the heart of an unbeliever and gave three examples of how “God is the gospel” can be used for evangelism. First, nobody goes to the Grand Canyon to improve his self-esteem. Why would they go there? The reason is that deeply written in the human soul is that we were not made to be made much of, but to make much of God. Your highest joy is not standing in front of a mirror liking what you see. The second illustration is a cartoon that says “the best moments make you feel insignificant.” When you go down, He goes up, and your joy expands. Third, he turned to an advertisement that said “You’ve never felt more alive, you’ve never felt more insignificant.” From this he showed that it is written on men’s hearts that they are made for God. And he encouraged us to find ways to evangelize using “God is the gospel,” for it is possible to find a way to talk to friends about God being the gospel. There are overlaps in the things they long for and yearn for.
At the heart of evangelizing through this message is showing unbelievers that we want to feel insignificant–we want to make much of God and be made little of.
This message was another example of Piper’s ultimate thinking. And by that I mean that he is always pushing to the ultimate meaning, the ultimate value, of any doctrine or any passage of Scripture. Exposition is not enough–he will not stop short of application. We will hear Piper again this morning, but first up is C.J. Mahaney.
Desiring God came through already. You can listen to the audio here.