Just a post to put two and two together.
A) God does everything in creation and redemption for love – that was my first post.
B) Love in the bible is sacrificial, self-giving, other-centred service. (Think 1 Cor 13)
C) The bible also speaks at times of God being motivated by the display of His glory – this is what Piper highlights so often.
Do we agree to these ABCs?
If these things are true, it seems there can only be three possible conclusions. And two of them are very unlikely:
1) The glory motive is more foundational than the love motive.
2) The love motive is more foundational than the glory motive.
3) God’s glory is His self-giving love.
Now I am not interested in entering a debate between 1) and 2). On this issue, much of what I hear is people falling off either side of the wrong horse.
1) says “Easy-believism takes you to hell. The prosperity gospel takes you to hell. Christ is not your ticket to other stuff – He is the Gospel.” And to all that we say, “Amen!” But then this side continues, “So it’s not about God making much of you. It’s about God freeing you at the infinite cost of His Son to make much of Him.”
Well now, hang on. Why the opposition between God’s making much of us and our making much of Him? Is that really a helpful distinction? And doesn’t it crumble under its own weight the minute you say “at the infinite cost of His Son”? ie Aren’t you admitting that the way you are freed is precisely in God making infinitely much of you?
2) says in opposition: “Dude – read your bible. God is love. God loves the world. Christ is for us. Faith means not offering anything but simply receiving God’s love for us in Christ.” And to all that we must say, “Amen!” But then this side continues, “So I am the point. I am the good news (as Rob Bell has put it). I’m worth it. Let’s focus on me now, after all God does.”
And of course this is horrible and must be rejected.
Now in my Christian experience I don’t think I’ve seen very much 2) at all. I’m surrounded by 1) not 2). John Piper on the other hand feels the problem of 2) very keenly.
From Piper’s most recent sermon entitled “How much does God love this church?” he confesses that:
I am more concerned about nominal hell-bound Christians who feel loved by God, than I am about genuine heaven-bound Christians who don’t feel loved by God.
I understand and sympathise with this concern. And I love the passion of Piper here – you can’t listen to this sermon without loving the guy more.
BUT… is it really the case (as he contends in the sermon) that he has to balance his preaching emphases between these two poles – ie God making much of us and us making much of God? Haven’t things gone astray when those are seen as opposing points of a swinging pendulum?
Why don’t we say 3)? God’s glory is His self-giving love. And so we preach, “Christ is 100% for you. He took your humanity and lived your life and He died for you rather than live without you. He valued you higher than His own life. Isn’t that glory? Isn’t He the Lover who’s captured your gaze? Aren’t you now freed from self-centredness by appreciating His self-abandonment?”
I really do believe we can have our cake and eat it here. But maybe that’s the arrogance and innocence of youth. But for my money, the gospel to the saved and the unsaved is the same. The glorious gospel of the Happy God who loved us more than His own life – this is the power to save the self-absorbed and to comfort the dry believer.
Anyway, listen to Piper’s latest sermon (or read but listening is far better – he’s an incredible preacher). See if you don’t spot that same false distinction. For my money Piper’s opening question simply isn’t the frame in which to have the discussion.
“Do you feel more loved by God because God makes much of you, or because God, at great cost to his Son, frees you to enjoy making much of him forever?”
It’s just not the battle between 1) and 2). Instead God’s grace is His glory. When we preach the true grace of God, this is the power (in fact the only power) to save the nominal Christian. This is the power (the only power) to liberate the self-centred Christ-user. We only ever love because He first loved us.