He challenged us to the answer the question: do you make much of God because you focus on that part of God, which makes much of you? If so, he concluded you are making much of God in order to make much of yourself. This is why God must be the bottom of our joy. God has made much of unworthy sinners Piper explained in:
- our predestination (Eph 1:5-6),
- creation (Isa 43:6-7),
- Christ’s incarnation (Luke 2:10),
- our salvation (2 Cor 5:14-15),
- our sanctification (Phil 1:9-11),
- our propagation of the gospel (Rom 1:5), and
- our consummation at Christ’s Second-Coming (2 Thess 1:9-10).
It is a stunning truth to realize how much God has made of us. Piper stirred our passions for God by leading us to feast at the banquet table of what God in His great love has accomplished for us. We have been adopted as God’s very own children and made heirs with Christ (Rev 3:21). God “will exult over us with loud singing” (Zeph 3:17). One day God will have us stand before His throne, and there God will commend saved sinners and declare to them “well done.” Piper said that C.S. Lewis called this marvel “the weight of glory.” I shudder to think how I, Bobby Scott the sinner, will bear up under the weight of that glory. The thought completely captivates my imagination.
In the end when God is through with us, we will radiate more brilliantly with glory than the sun. Yet, Piper charged us that if we stood in the mirror and marveled at our glory, and we will be marvelous, we still could not be the bottom of our joy. For God made our souls to glory in Him, and only in Him can we be fully satisfied. No matter how glorious we will be, our glory will be finite and He forever will be infinitely more glorious and perfectly satisfying. So God’s love for us and the fact that He makes much of us (Piper exhorted us from the Scriptures) must find its bottom in God’s delight in revealing to us His glory. In expressing His love to us for His glory, Piper explains that God guards us from the idolatrous sin of making ourselves the bottom of our worship, which leads us out of a limited source of glory to relish in God’s better and infinite glory.
Now for the disclaimers:
- these are my reflections on what Piper preached, so blame me for any misstatements and credit him for anything that was encouraging.
- My attempt to capture the essence of his sermon can’t begin to replace being there, enjoying the power of God’s Word lifting His saints by His Spirit to the height of heaven to revel in God’s glory. It was as the Bible states, a transforming into another level of glory experience.
Then we got down to the challenge of fleshing out enjoying the love of God for the glory of God during our Q & A time that followed his sermon. Piper opened the discussion time with reflections on a book called Bloodlines (at least for now) about “Race, [the] Cross, and the Christian,” which he might or might not release for publishing. Please pray with me that he does. I have read more than a few books about the plight of racial issues facing our nation and few packed the power of truth to grip both African American and White Christians like the insights that Piper shared with us. As a son of former slaves and oppressed people who lived under the tyranny and shame of Jim Crow laws, I connected with Piper’s biblical perspective about race (a world neither of us like) right down to my soul. I know he gets it, whereas most of my conservative white evangelical brothers (not all, but most) don’t. I could say the same thing on the other side of the aisle. When I hear most of my African American (it would be too long of a discourse for me to explain why I use this term rather than black) Christian brothers don’t get the whole problem of white guilt. It does nothing to help bring about the reconciliation between African American and White Christians by carelessly making sweeping statements that indiscriminately implicate white Christians for the problems of injustices suffered by African Americans and urban plight. Now, those are my thoughts. Again, you would have to have been there to appreciate Piper’s insights and spirit.
He answered a broad range of questions from his “No Mr. President” YouTube hit, to prosperity preachers, and funny anecdotes about the uselessness of practical ministry seminary classes. All in all, his answers were Piperesque: bold, yet humble, truth saturated and digestible, controversial and him.
In closing, I must thank all the servants who made our evening with Piper possible: Lukas Naugle from Desiring God for his vision for urban ministries; the planning committee of Pastors George Hurtt MSMBC, Anthony Kidd WBC, and Carl Hargrove FHBC; Raymond Williams and Jason Love for their tireless effort to make the behind the scene details come together; the administrative support from Scharmaine White, TaVon Morrison, and Renay Thompson; our decorators Crystel Coleman and Wilda Bingham; Bridgett Sullivan and all of the servers and hostesses who labored for Christ’s namesake; all those who attended; and of course Dr. John Piper. And last but not least, our God who loves us much, so much that He made His glory the bottom of our quest for joy.