Monday, September 28, 2009

God is the Gospel: A Matter of Life and Death

It's been a while since I've posted on Piper's book God is the Gospel. In fact, it's been two months since my first post on it, shortly after I finished reading it. So perhaps some review is in order.

The crucial post in this series is the first post after the introduction, which discussed the thesis of the book; namely, that God Himself is His greatest gift. In all the wonderful, unspeakable benefits and gifts brought to us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the chief gift that they all point to is God Himself. And none of those gifts are good news at all unless they are received for the sake of enjoying the manifold perfections and beauty of God. Here's a quote from that first post:

All the gifts of God are given for the sake of revealing more of God's glory, so that the proper use of them is to rest our affections not on them but through them on God alone. (p. 116)

I think I read that sentence about 10 times as I was reading through the book. The way we glorify God in His gracious gifts and at the same time not idolize them is, in the moment we receive them, to recognize why God is giving them to us. He is giving us gifts and mercies to reveal His glory, so that we might see Him in them and enjoy and worship and magnify His sweetness. Our affections must not terminate on the gifts. We have to push through the gifts and rest our affections on God alone.
And so that's where we are. Every one of the good things the Gospel brings us is to be desired and received for the sake of what it shows of God (p. 144). And there is a way to receive these gifts and enjoy them as good things in and of themselves, and yet not magnify the Giver above His gifts. Piper writes:
If gratitude for the gospel is not rooted in the glory of God beneath the gift of God, it is disguised idolatry. (p. 138)
It is disguised idolatry. Edwards called it the gratitude of hypocrites (p. 137). These are strong statements. And the subject of this post is that these statements get stronger. There are two particular places in the book where Piper shows the level of importance of these things. And so the question is, "What if some people don't believe this?" What if some people don't buy the whole 'joy-in-Giver-above-gift' thing? Is this just a stylistic thing? Is it just another way of looking at things? Is it just a rhetorical device to arouse people's emotions to worshiping God? What if I love my salvation, my justification, my coming glorification, and want to go to Heaven, but I don't find Piper's thoughts resonating with me?

Get this:
If we believe these things [propitiation, redemption, forgiveness, imputation, sanctification, liberation, healing, heaven] have happened to us, but do not embrace them for the sake of getting to God, they have not happened to us. ... People who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. ... If we don't want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel. (p. 47)
That's an amazing statement. And I agree 100%. Because the fundamental change that happens to us at our conversion is that, by our new birth, we get new eyes to see (John 3:3, 1:4; 2Cor 4:3-6). Our spiritual death is manifested in our ability to stare right at Jesus, right into all of the glory of the Gospel, and be entirely unaffected. We see the claims of the Bible and they're boring, or they're fanciful, or we're just indifferent to the most glorious things in the universe. But when we are regenerated, our eyes are finally opened, and we can see things as they actually are.

And if we, with our new eyes that can actually see, can look at Jesus and prefer anything other than Him, it would mean that He is actually not the most glorious thing in the universe. And so if you believe that you've been regenerated, your sins expiated, the Father's wrath propitiated on your behalf, Christ's righteousness imputed to you -- even if you say believe all of those things, but your eyes don't work, you haven't got new eyes.

"But I want Heaven! I don't want to go to hell! I admit I'm a sinner! And I want to confess my sin and receive forgiveness! I believe the promises of God and want to receive them!" If that sounds like you, Piper responds to your very thoughts:
There is no sure evidence that we have a new heart just because we want to escape hell. That's a perfectly natural desire, not a supernatural one. It doesn't take a new heart to want the psychological relief of forgiveness, or the removal of God's wrath, or the inheritance of God's world. All these things are understandable without any spiritual change. You don't need to be born again to want these things. The devils want them. (p. 121)
The demons want those things (Jas 2:19). You don't need to be born again to want those things. But you do need to be born again to see the glory of Jesus as it is, and treasure Him as He's worthy of being treasured.

All of life is a matter of worship. And only the Triune Godhead of the Bible is worthy of worship. Him. Not even the good gifts He gives are worthy of worship. The kind of worshipers that the Father seeks are those who worship in Spirit and Truth (Jn 4:23). You can be sure that worshipers of anything other than God won't be worshiping in Heaven.

If, like me, this baffled your sensibilities, and challenged you to examine your heart for the idols we are so adept at erecting, confess your idolatry to God in prayer. Repent of treasuring things -- even good things -- more than you treasure Him. Ask Him to forgive you for dishonoring His name. And ask Him to show Himself so clearly to you, so big and magnified and exalted and sweet and desirable, that His beauty would compel true worship and adoration from your heart.

Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you ... I am the bread of Life.
- John 6:26-27, 35 -

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!
- Galatians 1:8 -

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