Where does the courage come from to be a Christian? That was the question asked in John Piper’s recent sermon, “The Plundering of Your Property and the Power of Hope,” preached at Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia on January 18. The sermon was on Hebrews 10:32–36. Here’s John Piper’s answer:
Where does the courage come from to be a Christian? Compassion and courage and sacrifice and love, when the world is not agreeing with any of that, where does that come from?
Hope Has a Name
And the answer is in Hebrews 10:34:
You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
You joyfully accepted, joyfully accepted, joyfully accepted, and the question is: Where does that come from? Joy is the strength that is carrying the day here. The most important word in that sentence is since. Or it could just read: “knowing that you have,” because it means since. Let me read it again. Put yourself in here now:
You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property . . .
If you ask me, “Where does this joy come from? Where does this strength come from, this courage come from, this sacrifice come from?”
because you knew [Christians know] that you yourselves have a better possession and an abiding one.
Hope has a name. The possession has a name. The better and the eternal has a name. His name is Jesus. We hope in him. We hope for him.
Better Than Life
Paul said in Philippians 1:21–24,
To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . . . I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Do you believe that to die is better than living? Paul did. These people did. That is where the joy came from as they went to prison. That is where the joy came from as they lost their property. “You joyfully accepted the seizure of your property” means that your hope in the better and abiding possession is so real that these aren’t just words for you.
Let me ask you: Are they words for you, or are they realities for you? Is your possession beyond the grave more precious than anything this world offers? If it is not, you won’t live like this. That is what three hundred and fifty years have ruined: it has made us at home here so that this world is more precious to us than that world. “Thank you very much. I don’t want to go yet. Stay away. I am going to go into the prison, and I am not going to say anything or do anything that would make this life — which is my real love — uncomfortable. Nope, not going to do it.”
Full and Forever
Notice two things in Hebrews 10:34. it is an abiding and it is better — abiding and better, abiding and better. Better means this life is inferior, and that life is better. Abiding means this life is temporary; that life is forever. My favorite verse in the psalms is Psalm 16:11.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Do you hear those words? “Fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore.” Does that sound familiar to verse 34? Better and abiding? Better, full; abiding, forever. Let me throw this out: If anybody who can come up to me after the service and authentically, genuinely, truly, offer me anything better than full and abiding joy in Jesus, I will stop being a Christian this morning. I invite you: if you can offer me anything better than full-and-forever pleasure in Jesus that is real and not made up — real — I am done with Christianity. I am done.
The reason I feel so confident and that God is honored by what I just said is that, not only can’t you do that, you can’t even conceive of it. It is inconceivable that there is something fuller than full. And it is inconceivable that there is anything longer than eternal. So I am totally safe; you are not coming up to me afterward.
There are a lot of you, probably, who showed up this morning, and you are not a believer yet in Jesus. You are just searching and wondering what it is all about. You need to hear me say that this hope that Louie is always talking about, and this church believes in, and that can drive your life to be the most compassionate, the most sacrificial, the most risk-taking, the most loving, the most counter-cultural life on the planet — that hope is full and forever, and there is nothing fuller than full.
These people have found what every human being is looking for. I don’t have any doubt that every human being in this room is looking for the very best happiness and the very longest happiness. Happiness that peters out on me after eighty years — no thank you. Happiness that could be improved upon — I want the other one. Everybody on the planet, by God’s design, wants the best happiness and the longest happiness. Only Christians know this. It is Jesus. Jesus died to get that for sinners.
You may sit there saying, “Well, there is no way, knowing what I have done in my life as a sinner, I could ever be the beneficiary of the fullest possible happiness and longest possible happiness in Jesus, because you don’t know the crap that I have done in my life.” And I say, “Oh, yes, he does. Oh, yes, he does! Which is why this church loves to sing about the blood of Jesus. Because it was so infinitely costly that it can cover the very worst of lives and invite people out of the darkness of failing in every one of those five points — failing on every one of those five points — into the light of full and everlasting joy.