God Is the Gospel, Session 1
Desiring God 2006 Regional Conference
God Is the Gospel
The following is a lightly edited transcript
The highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, of the good news — without which all the other parts of the good news would not be good news and to which all the other parts of the good news are leading — is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ revealed to you for your everlasting enjoyment. All the other things in the gospel are going to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6) revealed to you for your everlasting enjoyment. Nothing in the gospel that you have ever heard would be good news if that were not the goal of them all. That is the thesis. I don’t have much more to say, except to put more Bible underneath it and flesh it out in its implications.
The following reasons are how I have come to discuss this with you today. Containing theological convictions and how I arrived at them through influences in my life.
No Jesus, No Heaven
My son Carsten, the oldest of four sons including one daughter, was doing a year’s worth of masters degree study in poetry writing at the University of Saint Andrews last year and his wife’s grandmother died while they were there. And hoping that they could get home in time, she and our little granddaughter Millie, who was five at the time, got on a plane and came home. And they got here and said their goodbyes. They wanted to be there for the funeral, but it didn’t work out that way.
Here is the point. On the plane coming from London to Minneapolis they were coming in and they looked out the window and it was just a magnificent cloud formation and Shelly, the mom, says to Millie, “Look, Millie, isn’t that beautiful? Sort of like heaven will be where grandma is going.” And Millie, five years old, looked out the window and said, “But Jesus isn’t there.”
Now if you understand that, you get everything I have to say. And I love to ask my church and other churches: If you could go to heaven, have spectacular sunsets, no more disease, no more depression, all the friends that have gone before you, all the toys that you have ever wanted and Jesus not be there, would that be okay? And my fear is that many in our churches are saved on that basis. They love what Jesus has to offer. Hell is hot — nobody wants to go there. Guilt is a bummer of an experience and so I would like not to have guilt feelings. So if you can help me with that, fine. I would like marriage to go better. I would like the kids not to act out. If Christianity can do that for me, bring it on. And you don’t have to be born again to want that. You just have to be born again to want Jesus.
God’s Stuff May Be Taken, But He Remains
Noël and I will have been married thirty-eight years in December. Newly hanging on our bedroom wall after a remodeling that happened while we were away, she put up this new, old plaque which has on it the wedding text that my dad read at our Barnesville, Georgia wedding thirty-eight years ago, almost, which reads, “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the field yield no food, there be no flocks in the stalls and no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” That was our wedding text.
God had given us, at age twenty and twenty-two enough sobriety and enough experience that we knew life would be hard. Marriage would be hard. Childrearing would be hard. One day health would fail. Jobs wouldn’t go the way you want them to. So we just flew this banner over our marriage. If there is no food in the field, if there is no cattle, if there is no sheep, if there is nothing on the vine, we are not going to get in God’s face about that. We are going to bow down and we are going to say, “We still have you. Though you slay me, yet will I trust you.” It hangs on our bedroom wall now and it has flown like a banner over these thirty-eight years.
And so if you understand that text everything else fails, but God never fails. You always have God, then you understand God is the gospel, not the stuff that he gives, the good stuff that he gives, but he himself.
An Illuminating Moment at Stanford University
A moment of illumination at Stanford University, 1982. I had been a pastor for two years and I had been developing for some time this thing called Christian Hedonism which is fleshed out in everything, but especially in Desiring God. And I was working it through, those ideas, trying to figure out whether I should use that term and what I mean by it and how it related to everything in life. *God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him is the key phrase that I have come to use now. But in those days I hadn't hit upon that phrase. That phrase came much later. So I was at Stanford, invited to come talk to InterVarsity students. There was a big, thriving InterVarsity chapter at Stanford in the early eighties. And the leader of it at the time was a Christian Hedonist coming out of the same stock that I had come, and he invited me and Tom Steller to come out there and talk about it.
So I did that. I began to talk about what I was seeing in the Bible as far as our pursuit of our joy in God. And after a session or two, I could see questions on the student’s faces. I thought I was walking into friendly territory here where everybody already understood this and I was just going to unpack it, flesh it out. And then we had a Q&A time and basically they started saying, “That is not the way our leader says it —I am not going to use his name. That this not the way he says it.” I said, “Why not?” And they began to unpack this.
“Well, the way he says it, the way he stresses it is that God — according to Acts 17:25 — is not served by human hands as though he needed anything, but he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.” And so God is the great worker and the great servant. They quoted Isaiah 64:4, “Who has seen a God like you who works for those who wait for him?” 2 Chronicles 16:9, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth seeking to show himself powerful on behalf of those whose heart is whole toward him.” And on and on. These texts of God’s gracious, mighty work on behalf of his people. And that is what we delight in. That is what we rejoice in and you haven't said anything like that yet. You are talking about rejoicing in God, just God, not what he does, not his bearing of his right arm on behalf of us like he Bible says he does so many times. And that is just different.
And I thought to myself: Hmm. It is different. And I didn’t know that stress was different. And in subsequent years I have come to see that that could be a significant difference depending on how those trajectories go, because if students develop a way of thinking about God whereby his mighty work on our behalf becomes what they delight in, they might be their own god. And God is simply the lackey who brings about what they want to happen anyway. If God is willing to work for me and do what I want, who wouldn’t want that? He is pretty strong and he might get it done when I can’t get it done. And that is so close to the truth and yet — maybe — so far.
And so twenty-four years ago I decided that I am holding on this one. I believe all those texts. It thrills me to no end that God works on my behalf. I love to think of God as helping me. “I will help you. I will strengthen you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” But I am always asking: What is the good he is doing for me? See I am pushing on what is the good. When his eyes rove thought the whole world seeking someone to show himself powerful on behalf of, what is he powerfully accomplishing for me? And I am pushing that all the way to the end. And the end is: He is doing everything he does to bring me to the point where I will rejoice in him above all things. That is what he is doing for me. That is bullet point number three, an illuminating moment at Stanford University.
Hoping in God
When I came to Bethlehem in 1980, in my heart I was very insecure about this ministry. I was thirty-four years old and I had never been the pastor of a church before. I had probably preached fifteen times in my life. I had never done a funeral. I had never baptized anybody. I had never done a baby dedication. I had never shepherded anybody through the dying process and on and on and on. I was so green I can’t believe they hired me. And so anxious and nervous and insecure in that, I was throwing myself on God daily. And one of the texts that became so precious to me in those days was: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God. Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
I said that about a hundred times walking to church and home in those days, walking to business meetings, walking to hospitals, doing things I have never done before. Why are you downcast? Why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, not yourself. Hope in God. That is Psalm 42:5 and Psalm 43:5. Those two psalms are very closely connected.
So pretty soon at our church I said, “I want that on the side of the building.” I want, in big — nothing effeminate here, no floozy little script — fat, bold masculine letters: Hope in God. So they put this big wooden sign on the side of the building so that people used to call us the “Hope in God Church.” It was just the hope in God church because that is the way I walked to church. That is the way I walked. I came down Eighth Street, over from 111 Elliot Avenue and there it was: Hope in God.
Joy of All My Joys
In Psalm 43, the psalmist is very anxious because he feels like God has rejected him. He knows he hasn’t. We see that in verse one (“Vindicate me, oh God — I have got enemies), but it sure feels like you are pretty far off. And then he says in verse three, “Send out your light and your truth.” So he is pleading: “Lord, let light go on in my life and in my heart, because I feel very dark right now. I feel like I can’t see very far in front of me and you maybe there, but the dark is keeping you concealed. Would you let light come and let me see truth? Then let them lead me. Let this light and truth lead me and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. Then, if you let light shine on this path and I see you at the end of the path, I am moving.” And then the next place he arrives is the altar. Verse four, “Then I will go to the altar of God.”
Now you know what happens at the altar in the Old Testament. This is not the communion table. That is where sins get taken care of. Animals get their throats slit and blood is poured out there. And so the light goes on: I see my God. I am a sinner. I go to the altar. And then verse four, “To God my exceeding joy.” That is what I came to see is what he means in verse five when he says, “Hope in God, hope in God, for I shall again praise him.”
And, interestingly enough, this phrase, exceeding joy, literally it is the gladness of my rejoicing. It is just two glad words, the gladness of my rejoicing or the rejoicing of my rejoicing, which I take to mean I will come to God who is the joy in all my joys. There are other joys, aren’t there? You have a good supper tonight maybe? Or you will go home and a have a dessert tonight. Or you have somebody you love with you. There are other joys. But I think the biblical point is — and we will talk about this more — that God is the joy of all our joys. All of our joys should have at their bottom, their center, their essence, joy in God the giver. That was the early days at Bethlehem as the Lord was teaching me about resting in him, not just his work or his gifts.
Whom Have I in Heaven But You?
My prayers included in those days Psalm 73:24–25. I can remember there was a season in the early eighties, actually on into the mid to late eighties, where almost every time it seemed like I had to do a spontaneous prayer in a service or at a meeting or somewhere. Out of my mouth would come: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And on earth there is nothing that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” It is just woven into my mind. Whom have I in heaven but you? And on earth there is nothing I desire besides you.
Whom have I in heaven but you? Answer: nobody. Even though my mother is there. And it would be pleasant and sweet to see her again. Whom have I in heaven but you? And on earth there is nothing that I desire besides you. And you read that and you say: You can’t mean that. You just can’t mean that. What possibly could that mean? Since I have other things here that I enjoy. And so did Jesus. He enjoyed his disciples sometimes, which led me to the sixth bullet point.
Loving Creation for God’s Sake
As I was writing the book Desiring God in the mid-eighties and on into eighty-six when it was published, I was wrestling with how to think of the created world over against God. So you have God the creator who has always existed and is, therefore, of absolute and infinite value and all the universe is of lesser value because he made it. The thing made is always of less value than the maker. And so you and I and everything he made is of a second order and he is of the primary order. And we are to delight in him and love him and treasure him above all that he has made.
Does that mean that the only function of the creation is to tempt us to idolatry? Why did you make a world? Why bodies, metal, paper, light, sound? None of that existed before God created things. Why did you make so much non-God? Was it just to trip us up so that we would make God out of non-God and suffer for it? Why stuff? Why creation, material things? That was just a huge question for me in the mid-eighties as I was wrestling with texts like, “And nothing on earth do I desire besides you.”
Here is where I landed on that. Bread exists so that we would have some inkling of what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the bread of life.” That is why bread exists. Water and thirst exist so that we would have some inkling of what he meant when he said, “Whoever believes in me will never thirst. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” God created the world so he could enter it and say things like that and point us toward himself. Everything on planet earth is to reveal God. The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. And so does bread and water.
Then I read this amazing quote by Augustine which said, “He loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for thy sake.” That helped me so much. God evidently thought that in creating things our love for him would be more varied and more intense and more revelatory of his greatness if they became occasions for our delight in him, which led me now, without leaving the point, to bullet point number seven.
A Hunger for God
I was wrestling with fasting, because fasting is simply a species of self-denial and self-denial seems contradictory to the goodness of creation. In other words, you have texts in the Bible like 1 Timothy 4:4 which says, “Everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for then it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.” Amazing. Everything created by God is good and is not to be rejected.
Or do you remember what Jesus said to John’s disciples in Matthew 9 when they came to him and they said, “We are fasting. The Pharisees fast. Your disciples aren’t fasting.” He said, “The wedding guests don’t fast when the bridegroom is here.” They don’t fast when the bridegroom is here — which is a huge claim. But then he said — and this is relevant for us — “The days are coming when the bridegroom will be taken away. Then they will fast.”
I think what he means is the new Christian fasting, the new wine that goes into new wineskins is not that fasting is done away with, but that it has a new powerful meaning, namely, the bridegroom has come. He has come. We have seen his magnificence, thirty-three years or so, three years of demonstrative glory. Now instead of planting his kingdom then, he leaves. He says, “Go make disciples. I am coming again. There will be a great marriage supper of the lamb. We will celebrate. No more fasting in the kingdom, but for now ...”
Fasting for the Bridegroom
So what is the meaning of fasting? What is the meaning of self-denial? The meaning of fasting is that we want him back. The first Tuesday of every month at Bethlehem, we have what we call the first Tuesday fast. And it is for the second coming. I don’t know if there is another church in the nation who fasts for the second coming. But when I read Matthew 9:15 I said to myself: I have never done that. Never done that. Forty years or plus in my life I have never fasted for the bridegroom to come. And so now we do once a month.
So feasting because everything he gives is good and is not to be rejected if received with thanksgiving that runs up the beam of generosity and gives glory to the giver and fasting. Why fasting? To show that the emblem, food, is not as valuable as the reality, God. You need both in your life. You need world affirmation and world denial. There is a real intention in the New Testament. And some people fall off the log on one side —“I am world affirming person, because God made it. And it is good. Therefore, I am doing everything.” And the world denying, they go towards asceticism — “No, no, no, he is not here. The god of this world is ruling this thing. This is an evil age and so withdraw.” And both are in the Bible. Both are in the Bible. And the way they fit together is intention with sometimes feasting, because he is good and a giver and all of our love for him can ride up the beam of his generosity into his very heart and I am so prone to idolize his gifts, I will do self-denial in my life as well.
The apostle Paul said, “I pummel my body. I do not fight as one beating the air, but I pummel my body lest I should be a castaway.” He knew the dangers of his own body, his own lusts, his own appetites.
So in my wrestling with Psalm 73:24–25, “Whom have I in heaven but you and on earth there is nothing that I desire besides you.” I concluded that by feasting and fasting I want to make sure that if the is something I desire on earth, that desire is a desire for God. If I get hungry for supper, I want to transpose the music of that physical longing into a spiritual hunger. You can do that. That is called transposition. C.S. Lewis wrote a whole sermon about it. You can transpose the music of natural emotions, natural affections and natural appetites into another key of spirituality. You can say, as your stomach is growling and you are hungry for supper: This much, O God, this much my heart longs for you. And to prove it from time to time I will skip supper to show that it is not my god and that you are my God. And other times I will receive it with great gratitude. And in it I will taste more of you because you made that to bear witness to the kind of God you are to satisfy me physically in that way.
Those were huge struggles for me in the eighties. I don’t claim to have all the problems answered. I just knew I wanted God to be the gospel. I wanted God to be the end. I didn’t want anything competing with God in my life. If there is any way I could not be an idolater, I want to avoid being an idolater. From the simplest kind of misuse of the innocent idols to the worst kind of misuse of the wicked idols.
God over Signs and Wonders
Toward the end of the eighties we, as a church, began to wrestle with the issue of signs and wonders — charismatic things. The Vineyard was starting — John Wimber in Anaheim, California. We put fifty people on a bus and sent them to Anaheim — risky stuff. You can lose a lot of friends that way in the reformed community. And I am there big time in the reformed community. I love the doctrines of grace. But I love the Bible more. And the Bible says, “Earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. Earnestly desire the higher gifts, the high way of love.” So we were wrestling. We just said: Lord, we don’t know how all this works out. We just cannot see cessationism in the Bible, can’t see it. And so we don’t know what the experiential alternatives are in our day. So we will simply go around the country and listen. And then we will come back and try to find our way.
Now here is the way it relates to God is the gospel. What I have found while still affirming my wide open eagerness to experience all the fullness of God in all the gifts that he would be pleased to give me for the good of his people and for the reaching of the lost, is that it is possible to love power more than God. And there are biblical examples of it. Do you remember Acts 8? — Simon the magician, Simon Magus? He saw Peter lay his hands on people and they received the Holy Spirit. And his heart immediately believed that that was happening and that God did it. And so he offered Peter money for it. And you remember J.B. Phillips translation of Peter’s response: “To hell with you and your money.” That is in the Bible. Actually it is toned down: “Cursed be you and your money.” So to hell with you and your money. You are in the gall of iniquity. Your heart is not right with God. Wanting power from God for spiritual purposes is no sign of being born of God or walking right with God.
Tested Through Prophecy
Now turn with me to Deuteronomy 13. I will show you something really amazing. It was these kinds of texts that just cautioned me not to be blown away by too many prophetic thing that were going on. I was prophesied over by some pretty big name prophets. And they didn’t get it right, which disillusioned me somewhat with their ministry.
Deuteronomy 13:1–3. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass.” Stop there. Let that sink in. It really happened. The man in the red shirt, back row, you are on your way to Indonesia. You don’t have all the money. I think you are about forty dollars short of what your goal was today and I think somebody in here would like to . . . Those things really happened. I don’t think it takes an earpiece with somebody cheating in the back hall. They really happen.
Now what do you do with it. You say, “Well, if it really happens he must be real.” Wrong. And if it happens and he tells you, the sign and wonder that he tells you comes to pass and he says, “Let’s go after other gods, which you have not known. And let us serve them. [He is calling them away from Yahweh]. You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.” Why not? Listen to this amazing, statement: “For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” God did it to test you.
That God is willing to work through a false prophet to do a sign and a wonder, should make us very sober. The test is not whether you can do a sign and a wonder. The test is: Do you speak the truth about God from his holy Word? And so what I saw over and over again was I just want to know God. I want to walk with God. I want to experience God. I want to love God, treasure God, be faithful to God. I want to see God and I don’t want anything to get in the way, whether it is stuff or power.
That was very big. I think we still can learn things. I learned heaps. I liked and benefited from John Wimber. He is not one of the guys I am talking about. So God is more important than power. God is more important than signs and wonders and more important than spiritual gifts. God is the gospel. None of those things.
Eighteen Weeks in John 1
Now I am jumping back to 1974 to illustrate what I just said, because I realize as I was walking through this I thought about these before. Where have I thought about this? 1973, December, my doktorvater in Munich, Germany dropped dead running to catch a subway. He was 63 years old. His name was Leonard Guppel, and I was on my way through a doctoral program and he died. And in that system, your doktorvater you might as well pack it up. And I had invested three years of my life and I thought: Oh, my, what am I going to do?
Well, I don’t need to give you the details of how God mercifully got me through, but here is the point. In replacing him for the year until they hired a new faculty member in New Testament, they brought in Oscar Cullman from the University of Basel. Now Oscar Cullman was, for me, as I was going through seminary a great name. In those days to read Oscar Cullman was like reading Don Carson in America or some big world class theologian. And they are going to bring him in, and I would get to sit in one of his classes my last semester while I was trying to finish. And his class was the gospel of John.
Now Oscar Cullman was eighty-some years old at the time. He was retired. And I don’t know if you have ever seen a picture of him in from his books, but he always looks like his eyes are falling closed. And I thought: Oh, what is wrong with this guy? And, in fact, he had some condition with his eyelids and he had little built in bridges on his glasses to support his eyelids. And every now and then his glasses would slide down and his eyes would go shut. And so he would lift his eyelids up, push the glasses back up and he would keep lecturing. It was an unforgettable experience.
But that is not the main thing. That is just a little aside. The main thing is that he only got about half-way through chapter one in 18 weeks. And the reason is because the way he was teaching is he would start and he would start unpacking and the he would jump to other places in John and illuminate chapter one. And that is how he is bringing it in. So we only got halfway through chapter one, but the whole thing was being dumped into chapter one. And one of the chapters that I remember was John seven which proved very, very, very determinative for my approach towards some signs and wonders things and the supremacy of God and the nature of faith and God is the gospel.
Believing in Jesus for the Right Thing
So here we are in chapter seven of John. After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of the booths was at hand. So his brothers — his physical, Mary’s-children, brothers — said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea that your disciples also may see the works that you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”
That is a lot of faith, isn’t it? And the next phrase says, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” That is unintelligible, or is it? What in the world does that comment mean? For not even his brothers believed on him? In other words, what was coming out of their mouth when the said, “Go up. Do your works in Jerusalem. Make yourself known. Nobody works in secret if they want to be known openly. Come on. Go up there. Do the works.” They talked like that for not even his brothers believed in him.
So John in analyzing what is going on here is saying that eagerness was purely worldly. That eagerness — come on, brother, you are our brother. Just go up there and do your stuff. Come on. You are the Messiah. For goodness’ sakes, make yourself known. Lay the cards on the table. You are our brother, too. I mean, a lot of good reasons to go up there and they are all wrong. They are all wrong.
So in those days what was forced upon me is: Ok, believing in Jesus doesn’t save you if you are believing in him to do the wrong stuff. Isn’t that shocking? You can’t just talk about believing in Jesus saving you. You have got to talk about believing in Jesus for the right thing. And you see where that is taking me.
What do you believe in Jesus for, to what end? What are you trusting him for? Now tomorrow morning we are going to unpack the gospel as it is usually unpacked with propitiation and justification and redemption. And talk about each of those. But I have found myself over the years pushing through believe him for, God. He died. He came. He lived. He died. He rose to bring me to God. Lots of other things on the way, but ultimately God is the gospel.
Adultery in Prayer
Prayer became a huge issue. When I came to Bethlehem in 1980, we had a prayer week. I preached on prayer. Every year I have preached two sermons on prayer in the first two Sundays of every year for twenty-five years. So that caused me as a young pastor — surely was no prayer warrior, no hero — to just immerse myself in prayer. And since I was asking all these questions like: How is God the end? How is God the goal? And I asked about it in prayer. And you know the text that just jarred me was just a shocking image about the misuse of prayer in the book of James.
In James chapter four you are going to hear a very shocking picture of how to turn God into a cuckold. Nobody knows what cuckolds are. A cuckold is a very old-fashioned English word that means a husband cheated on by a wife. So how do you make God a cuckold? That is in this text. Start maybe around verse two of James four. “You desire and do not have so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you don’t ask.” So now we are talking about prayer. And you ask and here we get down to the deep, nitty gritty of wrong uses of prayer. “You ask [yes you are praying] and you do not receive. [Why?] Because you ask wrongly.” There is a wrong way to pray. I as a pastor, have got to help my people not do this. “You ask wrongly to spend it on your passions.”
Now here comes the image. Now the ESV here says, “You adulterous people.” I know all the guys who worked on the ESV translation. It is just about five years old. Headed by J.I. Packer with Wayne Grudem in the mix. And they turned the RSV into the ESV with long hard work and I love it. But they got this one wrong. And I wrote them right away. I said, “Come on, come on. This is feminine. That is a feminine word. It is adulteresses, plain and simple.” And they wrote back saying, “We will fix it.”
This is adulteresses, which causes you to ask: Why? What is the picture? What has he got in mind when he is accusing these people who are praying wrongly to spend it on their passions. He says, “You are adulteresses,” which raises the question: Who is the husband? God is the husband and you see that in just a minute.
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world [this is a wife falling in love with another man] is enmity with your husband God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world [this other suitor] makes himself an enemy of God, [his husband]? Do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says [this is the word of the husband] I yearn over you jealously for your spirit [small s] that he made to dwell in us?”
He Is a Jealous God
God is like a husband who has got a wife and he yearns over her spirit. I want her. I want her for myself. I am jealous. And I want her sleeping with me in my bedroom and nobody else’s. And what is she doing? She is praying. She is coming into the bedroom, holy of holies, getting down on her knees and saying, “Oh, husband, I need fifty dollars. Would you please in your great mercy give me fifty dollars?” And he gives her fifty dollars and she goes down the hall and pays it to another man so she can sleep with him. That is in this text.
She makes a cuckold out of God. Do you use prayer that way? Do you manipulate him? Do you make God the butler in your life? Turn prayer into a domestic intercom? These is the language we were using in the late eighties. Prayer is a domestic intercom. “Excuse me, Excuse me. I need another pillow down here. We are watching TV which is our God. And we know that you are really helpful with pillows. So bring a pillow please.” That is prayer for a lot of people.
And I said. That is not what prayer is for. You cannot know what prayer is for until you know that life is war, not a domestic situation. Prayer is for calling in firepower on the battlefield: We are under attack here. We need firepower. We need cover. God come through.
Now what is the battle? The battle is to see him, know him, love him, treasure him. It is not to use him. It is not wrong to pray to get well from a sickness. It is not wrong to pray for your kids to go straight. It is not wrong to pray for a new job if you are out of a job. It is not wrong. It is just wrong if you want it more than you want God and you are using him to get it. That is wrong. That is idolatry. That is adultery. That is turning God into a cuckold. And so prayer became a means of seeing more clearly how God is the gospel.
A Clarifying Slogan
In closing, I will just introduce it and we will pick it up here in the morning. Because of all these influences, somewhere along the way — I don't know how long ago it was — five or eight years ago — I began to use this little rhyming phrase. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied when we are most satisfied in him. Not, we are most satisfied in all the mighty deeds he performs for us, which he does, but that is not where our satisfaction is resting. If your satisfaction rests in the gift, the giver does not get the glory. The gift gets the glory. So we don’t say it that way. The text is Philippians 1:21–22. That text and the way Paul thinks about glorifying God in his death is what put solid exegetical foundation under my conviction that delighting in, resting in and treasuring God as the end and goal of the gospel glorifies him more than anything else.