Finding Hope in God’s Unfolding Plan
Today we wrap up our Wednesday series on the real-life implications of providence, the theme of Pastor John’s new book by that title, Providence. The truth that God governs over everything he has made is gloriously true. And when we see it and embrace it as true and glorious, this doctrine can make a very deep and definite impact on how we live our lives. So we are celebrating the implications on Wednesdays here on the podcast. Last time, in episode 1598, we looked at how God’s providence gives us confidence to find purpose and live for purpose. That was implication number nine. Here now with the final implication in the series, number ten, is Pastor John.
It’s fitting that here in this last session on the providence of God we focus on the absolutely ultimate goal of everything. What has all the providence of God from eternity and in history been moving toward?
So I would state our tenth and final and greatest real-life, practical effect of seeing and savoring the all-embracing providence of God like this: it enables us to be assured — as we face all the pleasures and hardships of life, and as we finally face death and eternity — that for all eternity, God’s passion to be glorified and our passion to be satisfied will not be at odds forever, but that, in fact, by the glorious design of providence, God will forever be glorified in us by our forever being satisfied in him. To me, there is nothing greater that I could say to you about the providence of God than that.
“God will forever be glorified in us by our forever being satisfied in him.”
As “the immeasurable riches of [God’s] grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (that’s the phrase that Paul uses in Ephesians 2:7) are poured out over us, measured out to us forever, God will be increasingly glorified in us as we are increasingly satisfied in him, as he is increasingly lavishing on us these immeasurable and inexhaustible, never-able-to-be-boring riches forever and ever.
That is the ultimate goal of providence, and providence sees to it that this goal will come to pass. We can be sure that it will, and we attribute to providence all of that glory.
Beauty of the Bride
Now, I know that there are some who will hear me describe the ultimate goal of providence like that and say, “That’s too personal and individualistic and not corporate enough and not cosmic enough.” Okay, I get that. Let me get at the very same goal another way without contradicting anything I have just said or diminishing the sweetness of the individual experience of God’s delighting in us and our delighting in him. I don’t want to diminish any of that, but let me come at it another way to see if I can help those folks who have this burden for corporate reality and cosmic reality, so that I’m not in any way diminishing that either. Paul says in Ephesians 5:25–27,
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
It is fair to say, therefore, that one of the great aims (you could even include this in the ultimate aim of providence) is that God, by the death of his Son, would create and purify and beautify and present to his Son a stunningly gorgeous bride, the church — not just John Piper as an individual, but the church. This is not just about individuals. This is a corporate reality: individual Christians together making up something new, a corporate bride — a beautiful, gorgeous, spotless, blameless bride for Jesus Christ to enjoy forever.
“As our gladness in God increases, his worth will be seen as a greater and greater treasure reflected in the pleasures of his people.”
But I ask, What is her beauty? What is this process of beautification? And Paul explains in that Ephesians context. It is her sanctification, her holiness. And what is holiness in the bride? It is her joyfully obeying all the word of God. It is most essentially her loving God with all her heart and soul and mind and strength, which overflows in her God-glorifying love for other people. It is her delight in God and her reflection of God.
Therefore, to express it more fully, the ultimate goal of God’s providence is to glorify his grace in the spiritual and moral beauty of Christ’s undeserving, blood-bought bride, as she enjoys, reflects, and thus magnifies his greatness and beauty and worth above everything.
New Dimensions of Glory
But even that corporate expression of God’s ultimate goal needs at least one more expansion in order to have its biblical proportions. To be sure, the ever-increasing joy of the bride in the inexhaustible riches of the glory of her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, will be the essence of how God is glorified in the coming ages. Yes, I believe that, but its essence is not its totality. The totality of how God is glorified is not exhausted by the joy that the bride has in the Bridegroom.
The bride will inhabit a new creation. We’re getting at the cosmic issue now. And this is not incidental; no, it’s not. Because, in that new creation, she will see dimensions of the glory of God as never before.
- The heavens will be glad (1 Chronicles 16:31; Psalm 96:11).
- The sun and moon and shining stars will praise the Lord (Psalm 148:3).
- The earth will rejoice (1 Chronicles 16:31; Psalm 96:11).
- The new kind of seas will roar with praise (1 Chronicles 16:32; Psalm 97:1).
- The rivers will clap their hands (Psalm 98:8).
- The hills will sing for joy (Psalm 98:8).
- The field will exult, and everything in it (1 Chronicles 16:32; Psalm 96:12).
- The trees of the forest will chant their praise (1 Chronicles 16:33; Psalm 96:12).
- The desert will blossom like the crocus (Isaiah 35:1).
The created world, liberated and perfected, will never cease — ever — to declare the glory of God. That will be our dwelling, the dwelling of the bride with Christ.
But the dwelling is not the family. The new cosmos is not the relationship. The beauty of the new world is not the bride. The perfected theater of creation will be glorious, radiant with God. But the drama in the theater, the human experience of God in Christ — not the theater — will be foremost in magnifying the God of all-embracing, all-pervasive providence. And the unparalleled beauty and worth of the reigning Lamb, Jesus Christ, who was slain, will be the main song of eternity (Revelation 5:12). We will sing over the rivers and the mountains and the seas and blossoming desert, but oh, we will sing over our Bridegroom. And the joy of the bride will be the main echo of the excellencies of Christ and of God, and the focus of his eternal delight.
Running through this book like a golden thread, the book on providence, is the truth that God designed the world and performs his providence so that his glory in saving us and our joy in seeing him would be forever united, and not at odds, as each increases in the increase of the other. When the immeasurable riches of God’s glory in saving us through the slaying of the Lamb are forever and continually dispensed from his infinite treasury, our gladness will increase with every fresh sight and taste of his glory. And as our gladness in God increases, his worth will be seen as a greater and greater treasure reflected in the pleasures of his people.
The all-embracing, all-pervasive, unstoppable providence of God is precious to us in proportion as we hope for this day to come — and it will come. God will forever be increasingly glorified as we are increasingly satisfied in him. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 57:5). O Lord, come. Come.