Good day, everyone, and welcome to this sermon clip Wednesday on the podcast. As most of you know, for a few weeks we have been looking at a two-part sermon series Pastor John delivered in the spring of 2010. Historically, the sermons are interesting because they come in the days leading up to his eight-month leave of absence, away from the pulpit, to work some things out in his own heart and in his own family. We talked about this leave itself, and the lessons he took from it, on the podcast, particularly in three episodes: APJs 138, 220, and 1227. It was a defining season for him.
Leading up to his leave, we get these two interesting sermons. In them, Pastor John explained what makes him tick. Why does he do ministry the way he does? Remember that? We heard the answer in APJ 1769. And then we looked at a related theme. God makes much of us. He does. He really makes much of his children. But why? Why does God make so much of us? That was APJ 1772. And then we looked at how God makes much of us. In six or seven profound ways, God makes much of his children, and Pastor John walked us through those points last time, last Wednesday, in APJ 1775.
And now we return to that theme first brought up in APJ 1772. There Pastor John said this: God “makes more of you when he makes much of you for his sake than if he were to make much of you only for your sake.” That’s a profound point worth thinking about deeply. But it also raises a question in a lot of minds, because if God makes much of me, if he saves me, because he is doing it to make much of himself, doesn’t that remove some of the luster of his love? That’s the question on the table today. It will be answered in both sermons, the one on April 18 and the other on April 25, both preached in 2010. I’m going to put two brief clips together here in this episode. To begin, here’s Pastor John, near the end of his first message.
Now, last question. The final, decisive question: Why does God, who loves us so much, who makes much of us so extremely, why does he remind us over and over and over again — when he tells us how much he loves us and how much he’s making of us — why does he keep reminding us that he’s doing it for his glory? To ruin it? No.
Why does God remind us over and over that he makes much of us in a way that is designed to make much of him? The answer is that loving you this way is a greater love. God’s love for you, which makes much of you for his glory, is a greater love for you than if he ended by making much of you. If he just made much of you as your greatest treasure rather than him as your greatest treasure, if he did everything he could do to help you feel like a treasure rather than helping you feel like he’s the greatest treasure, he would not love you so much.
Hearts Made for God
I’ll tell you why. The reason this is a greater love is that self, no matter how glorified, cannot satisfy the heart that is made for God. I’ll say it again — bottom-line answer. The reason it’s a greater love to love you for his sake, and a greater love to make much of you that he might be made much of — the reason that’s greater is that a self, no matter how gloriously it looks in the age to come, cannot satisfy a heart that is made for God.
“Self, no matter how glorified, cannot satisfy the heart that is made for God.”
If he is to satisfy the magnificence of the human heart, which is made for him, he must make much of himself for you in making much of you. He will not let your glory, which he himself creates and delights in, replace his glory as your supreme treasure. If he did, he would not love you so much.
So, Bethlehem, I’ll be away in a little over a week, and I want you to feel this. I want you to feel massively loved while I’m gone. I intend to feel massively loved while I’m away. And I would like to know that here, because the Holy Spirit is coming down, there’s a tide rising on how much we are loved as a people. That’s what I would like to know.
You, Bethlehem, are precious to God. And the greatest gift he has for you is not to let your preciousness become your god. I’ll say it again. You, Bethlehem, are precious to God. I don’t know if it would be theologically overstated to say infinitely precious, since he paid Jesus — but let’s just say, immeasurably, unspeakably, gloriously precious to God. And his great gift to you, which brings his love to its apex, is that he will not let your sense of being precious to him become your god. He will be your God forever.
Amen. So that was near the end of sermon one. But the topic carries over. So I’ll fast-forward one week later and pick up this same discussion in the beginning of his next sermon. That’s where we pick up right now.
To Know the Love of Christ
Here’s a prayer from Ephesians. You don’t need to look it up; just listen carefully. This is Paul now, praying for the Ephesians — and the way I pray for you, for myself, for my family: “[I pray that you] may have strength to comprehend . . . the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18–19). You can’t know it without power. Does that strike you as odd? You should give a lot of thought to that. Why can’t I know what it is to be loved without divine power?
I’ll keep reading that prayer. “[I pray that you] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” — surpasses the powers of the mind to comprehend and the powers of the human heart to experience. It surpasses our fallen capacities to handle with our brain and to experience with our heart. It goes beyond what you’re able to do, which is why Paul is praying — and why I pray for myself this way and for you this way.
May you have strength to comprehend the love of Christ — soul strength, heart strength, mind strength. May God give this to us now. Now, Holy Spirit, come. This is why Paul said in Romans 5:5, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The love of God pours into you, not by any human agency, but by the Holy Spirit. It’s a divine thing to know yourself loved by God. You’re not able to on your own.
Bottom of Our Joy
Now, the question I posed last week was, Why is it that the Bible reveals the love of God for us, including God’s making so much of us, in ways that constantly call attention to his own glory? Why does he do it that way?
And the answer is this: If God didn’t do it that way, if he didn’t love us in a way that constantly called attention back to his glory as the source, as the essence, as the goal, we would be so much more likely to turn the love of God into a subtle means of self-exaltation. We would use his love to make ourselves the deepest foundation of our joy instead of himself. God would become the servant of our slavery to self. We would take our preciousness to God and make that very preciousness to God our god.
“God himself will be the beginning, the middle, and the end in his love for me.”
But, I argued, God loves us so much, we are so precious to him, that he will not let that happen. We are so precious to God that God, in great mercy, will not let our preciousness to him become our god. Hear this carefully: we will indeed, through all eternity, enjoy being made much of by God. That will be a profound ingredient in our joy in God — that he makes so much of his sons and his daughters.
But he will work in us such a holiness, such a sanctification, such a freedom from sin, that he will protect us from making that the bottom of our joy. The bottom of our joy will always be that he’s the kind of God who delights in us. The bottom of our joy will always be that he’s the kind of God who makes much of the likes of me. This grace, this grace, will be the apex of my joy, the apex of my praise forever. It will never terminate here. It will always go back there. “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36). God himself will be the beginning, the middle, and the end in his love for me.