Week number 235 begins on the podcast. And the theme of all those weeks of episodes and the theme of everything we do at desiringGod.org is to proclaim the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. And that leads to a lot of questions to work through, like this one from a podcast listener named Amber. “Hello Pastor John! You often talk about the reason for God doing things being ultimately to bring himself more glory or magnify his own glory. But a question that has really been bothering me and on my heart is, would God still have died for me even if it didn’t (hypothetically speaking) bring him any glory?”
Let me give a couple of reasons why if Amber thinks deeply about this question, I don’t think she will want to ask it. I don’t think she would even want to contemplate this possibility if she could. So, here are the reasons I say that. There are two of them.
Stick to the Bible
First, I doubt that anything good can come from trying to hypothesize about possibilities in the New Testament that do not exist and cannot exist. This is especially true of hypotheses that require God to be viewed in a way that doesn’t exist, a way that the New Testament excludes.
“God’s love for us is not compromised or lessened by the fact that he exalts his own glory by loving us.”
It would be like breaking the first commandment, to have no other gods before you (Exodus 20:3). We would be trying to imagine a world in which we have created an idol, that is, a god who is not the true God. So, my first reason for saying I doubt that Amber wants to pursue this question is that no good is going to come from the mental effort to create a world in which your mind is dominated by an idol.
God’s Glory and Our Joy
This is more important, I think. The main reason I think that she would not want to pursue this question if she thought more deeply about it is that her underlying assumption is probably mistaken. Now, I can’t be sure, of course, of what her underlying assumption is, but let me venture.
She can test it. It sounds like she wants to be loved by God — who doesn’t? — and feels that this love from God is somehow compromised or lessened by the fact that in loving her he is exalting or magnifying or displaying his own glory. I think that is the bottom-line issue for Amber.
So, I think she is asking something like this: Would God still want me, value me, or bless me even if his glory was not exalted or magnified or displayed in that kind of love? But right here, it is so crucial that we penetrate to the bottom of what God’s love for Amber and me really is. Amber seems to feel that the essence of God’s love for her will be experienced when she feels wanted by God for who she is. Would he want me even if his glory were not magnified in wanting me?
Now, think about that. What does wanting me mean? Does it mean he wants me in order to use me like a slave to run his errands? Does wanting me mean, because he sees in me so much beauty, that it enriches him to have me? Does it mean it gives him pleasure to bless me and make me happy?
“There is no better love for us than the way God actually loves us.”
Now, I think the answer to that third question — the first two is “no” — and I think the answer to that third question is “yes.” God delights for us to be happy. He calls us a treasure. He wants us not to use us, to meet his needs — he doesn’t have any! — but to make us glad as he meets our needs.
And what are our deepest needs? What would make Amber and John Piper truly happy? God knows what the answer is, and he made us this way. What will make us most happy is being with God, seeing God, the glory of God, enjoying God. But this means that all the greatness and all the goodness and all the truth and justice and wisdom and beauty and glory of God must be preserved and magnified in saving us precisely so that in having us for himself he might be able to satisfy us with himself.
So, I don’t think Amber wants to even contemplate a universe, a world in which there is a different kind of God than this. There is no better love. There is no better love for us than the way God really loves us. He does want us, but he doesn’t want us as slaves to run his errands. He wants us as children who are satisfied in all that their Father is for them in Jesus. “Glory” is the name we put on that.