Friday, September 4, 2009

God is the Gospel: God-Centered Love

Last time I endeavored, with the help of John Piper, to explode the popular doctrine accepted and propounded by our society that being loved means being made much of. It is the doctrine that says if I want to love someone, I have to make much of them.

And I lamented greatly over the fact that this definition of love has won a prominent place in the minds and hearts of many professing Christians. An overwhelming number of those in the church view the love of God in this natural, fleshly way; that is, that God's loving us means making much of us. And I displayed my utter disgust with the blasphemy that the Cross is a display of our value.

And then I asked, "So what should we see about the love of God when we see the Cross? If this is man's definition of love, and it's wrong, what is God's definition of love?" Well, man's notion of love is man-centered; it terminates on himself. God's own love is God-centered; it terminates on Him. In this post I'll present the God-centeredness of God's own love, and then from that argue that our love of others (and of God!) must be God-centered.

The God-Centered Love of God
The love of God and the gospel of God are radically God-centered. God loves us by giving us Himself to enjoy. (p. 148)
I have argued at length that to love someone is to benefit them (Jas 2:14-17; 1Jn 3:17-18; Lk 10:25-37). And I have argued at length that God Himself is everyone's greatest benefit. Therefore, for God to love us, He must give us our greatest benefit: Himself. That is how God loves: by giving the objects of His love Himself for them to enjoy (Rom 5:8; 1Pet 3:18).

One Scriptural example that Piper gives of this is in John 17, Jesus' high priestly prayer for us.
  • John 17:1-5 - Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Piper assumes, rightly, that Jesus' love for His disciples, then-present and future, causes Him to pray for us. His prayer comes out of love. So consider the content of that prayer:
His love for us spills over in a prayer that He Himself be glorified.

[That] is not strange to those whose veil of man-centeredness has been lifted. This is the very glory for which we were made. Seeing the glory of God in Christ is the highest gift and the greatest pleasure we are capable of. Giving us this is what love is.
(p. 154)
Love is giving us the highest gift we're capable of receiving and the greatest pleasure we're capable of enjoying. The glory of God revealed in Christ is that highest gift and that greatest pleasure. Said another way:
Divine love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying: God in Christ. (p. 155)
Our God-Centered Love

So that's divine love. "Divine love labors and suffers..." What about our love? That's how God loves. How do we love? My answer is: exactly the same way. Read these slowly:
The aim of love -- whether by gospel word or giving up our life -- is to enthrall the beloved with the glory of Christ in the face of God forever. (p. 166)
And again:
Love is doing whatever you need to do to help people see and savor the glory of God in Christ forever and ever. (p. 153)
Let that sink in. Receive that principle, and ask yourself -- better, ask God! -- how in your life you can be doing that more and more. This is what we were called to do: to love God and love our neighbor. It is the fulfillment of the Law to be absolutely satisfied by God and then to benefit others out of that satisfaction.

Don't Get it Twisted

It's important to see that the way our love is exactly like God's love is that it is God-centered, not that we seek to make much of ourselves, like God does.
I am not an all-satisfying treasure. Therefore, if I live or die in order that you may have me as your treasure, I cheat you and deflect your heart from God, your everlasting joy. If I would love you, I must do what Jesus did. I must live and die to give you God. That's what Jesus did. That's what God does. Giving ourselves without giving God looks loving to the world. But it is not. We are a poor substitute for God. (p. 165)
If I would love you, I must do what Jesus did. I must "Love as He has loved me" (Jn 13:34). I can't love you by seeking to make you treasure me.

And in the same way, if I live or die that you may have you as your treasure (that is, if I lay down my life to make much of you), or if I treat you nicely because I want you as my treasure, I -- in the very same way -- cheat us both and deflect both our hearts from God, from our everlasting joy and deepest satisfaction!


And so, dear friends, to love someone is not to make much of them. Let us look not to the television to see what love means. Let us look and see how God has loved us. He has given us our greatest benefit: Christ died to bring us to God (1Pet 3:18)! In the same way, let us seek to love those whom we care for not by making much of them, thus clouding their vision of the glory of God with the false-glory of themselves, but by giving them their greatest benefit: God Himself.

God's highest act of love is giving us Himself to love.

To say it yet another way, love labors and, if need be, suffers to enthrall us with what is supremely and eternally satisfying, namely, God. This is true for Christ's love, and it is true for our love. Christ loves by suffering to give us God. We love by suffering to give God to others.
- John Piper -

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