More from New Word Alive, this time from John Piper. His title was ‘Treasuring Christ and the call to suffer.’ As always, Piper made us desire Christ above all – or at least he made us desire to desire Christ above all!
Piper began by spending some time unpacking the title. There is a danger in expounding the gospel is that we make Christ merely the means, but not the end. It is a great dishonour to the Lord when Christ and his cross are just seen as ‘useful’ to get you to heaven. So let’s turn ‘treasure’ into a verb and exhort one another to treasure Christ.
Christ is most honoured when he is treasured in the face of suffering. In Acts 8:4 the gospel spreads when ordinary Christians become refugees, but talk about good news as they go. If you have family, wealth and health and talk about treasuring Christ then people may not believe you. But your testimony is credible if you treasure Christ in the face of suffering.
According to Romans 8:16-17, if you reject the call to suffer then you will not go to heaven (Mark 8:34; 2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 12:8; Acts 14:22). If your goal in life is to escape suffering then your goal in life is hell.
The conditionality of Romans 8:17 is not intended to make you feel insecure (Romans 8:30). The logic is this:
1. All the justified will be glorified (Romans 8:30).
2. Only those who suffer will be glorified (Romans 8:17).
3. God Almighty will ensure the justified come through their suffering like gold.
Perseverance is not an automatic or mechanical process. God himself brings us through.
Verses 18-25 show that suffering is worth it. Our present suffering is not worth comparing that the glory that will be ours. Paul expresses this in a surprising way:
1. All suffering is universal (vv. 20-22). Your suffering should not be thought of in merely private terms. It’s not just about you or yesterday’s sin or even a lifetime of sin.
2. All suffering is historical (v. 18). Suffering had a beginning and it will have an end.
3. All suffering is judicial (v. 20). Who subjected creation to futility in hope? Who disordered the universe? The answer must be God. Neither Adam nor Satan could have subjected ‘in hope’. God judged the whole universe because of sin. This is not moral consequentialism (actions having inevitable moral consequences). Moral consequentialism is functional deism. Our first reaction in the face of the question of suffering is distance God from it. But Paul says God subjected the creation to futility. Moreover, deism never comforted a human soul in the midst of suffering.
This means the meaning of all misery is that sin is horrific. All natural evil (natural disasters) is a statement about the horror of moral evil. God looked on sin and said: ‘Here’s my response to that.’ Until we see human sin and divine holiness in proper perspective then God’s response will seem an overreaction. The reason God subjects the world to futility is to teach you about your sinful heart.
(An interesting aside: Piper said his church building is in a down town area of the Minneapolis and so, since he was to live in walking distance of church, he lives in a relative poor area of the city.)