Christ + Something = Insult

The following excerpt is transcribed from handwritten sermon notes by John Piper from a message he preached at Perlacher Chapel in Munich, Germany on June 24, 1973. Before digging into Ephesians 1–2, he opened with these words:

The plight of us finite, sinful human beings is seen not merely in the fact that we have so many unanswered questions, but also in the fact that we often don't even know the right question to ask. The Bible is a Book full of right answers — but only to the right questions. I want to think together this morning about a question of Christian experience which, I think, is often asked in an unanswerable form, but for which there is a correct, and answerable form.

But for the right question Paul offers an answer in his letter to the Ephesians. The question runs something like this — see if it sounds familiar — "I'm a Christian, I'm saved, Christ is in my heart, the Holy Spirit has been given to me, I'm going to Heaven, but something is wrong: I don't have the joy in the Lord some others seem to have, my heart doesn't seem to be full of praise like it should, I don't honor God with my actions as consistently as I ought to. What do I lack, what more do I need to get?"

I think this is a fairly common question of Christian experience. But if we go to the Scriptures or to God with this question, I don't think we will get an answer, because the question is wrong.

Christ is the image of the invisible God, through whom, and for whom, all things were created (Colossians 1:15ff), who took on human form, who humbled himself freely for our sake even to the death of the cross, who has been raised by God to sit at His right hand in Heaven, who is sovereign over every ruler and authority and power and dominion in the universe, who will come again as victorious King to complete his work of redemption and receive his people to himself. If we have this Christ there is no more to get besides.

Picture yourself asking this question to the Lord face-to-face: "Jesus, I know I've got you, but surely there's got to be more! I mean, no offenses, Lord . . . but . . ."

No offense!! There is no greater offense! What could Jesus answer if you tell him face to face he's not enough?

The question is all wrong. The one who has Christ, the Lord, does not ask, "What more can I add to Him?" He asks instead, "How can I enjoy, appreciate, and act according to what I already have in Him?" For this kind of question the apostle Paul offers an answer, because it is the very thing he wrestled with in the care of his young churches.

Tony Reinke is a content strategist and staff writer for Desiring God and the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011) and John Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (2015). He hosts the Ask Pastor John and Authors on the Line podcasts, and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and their three children. He also blogs at tonyreinke.com.