We all want to be loved by God. But why? Why do you want to be loved by God? Is it to escape eternal judgment? Is it to be freed from the guilt of sin? Is it to have a clean conscience? Or is it because the consequences of sin have made a mess of your life? Why do you want to be loved by God? This was the topic taken up by John Piper in a sermon nearly twenty years ago, a clip sent to us by a listener. Here’s Pastor John preaching in 2001.
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. (John 11:1–2)
So, this is clearly a picture of sweetness and love. Mary loved Jesus, and Jesus loved Mary. Mark that word love. It will show up several more times.
So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:3–4)
Resuscitated to Glory
Now you have two profound realities on the table: love and glory — the love of Christ and the glory of Christ. And my question is, How do they relate to each other?
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:5–6)
Notice three things:
- Jesus chose to let Lazarus die.
- He was motivated in this by his zeal for the glory of God to be manifest.
- This motivation is love.
Do you see the word so or therefore at the beginning of verse 6? Do you see what it’s preceded by and followed by? It’s preceded by “Jesus loved Martha. Jesus loved Mary. Jesus loved the dying man Lazarus.” Therefore, he did not go heal him, but stayed two days longer where he was and saw to it that Lazarus died.
Now, what on earth could possibly turn that into love? Verse 4: This is not going to end in death. This is all about the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified in him.
So, here’s my definition of the love of God based on this text: God’s love is his doing whatever needs to be done, at whatever cost, so that we will see and be satisfied with the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Let me say it again: the love of God is his doing whatever needs to be done, at whatever cost to himself or to us, so that we will see and be satisfied by the love of God in Christ forever and ever.
Let me confirm this with John 17:24. Here’s Jesus praying for us. And he loves us in this prayer — oh, how he loves us in this prayer:
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory.
“Until Christ becomes our treasure, we don’t know what it is to be loved by God.”
If Jesus loves you and prays for you, do you know what he finally asks for you? That you may see him. The ultimate answer to the prayer of love is this: “Show them my glory, Father. Show them my glory, and they will have arrived at ultimate satisfaction.” So, what does love do when we cry out, “Help me; love me; forgive me”? God says, “I will engage all my might and the life of my Son to give you what you need most: me — a fellowship with me, a sight of me, an enjoyment of me.”
To Know and Behold
I said this in Orlando on Friday night to a group called the Ivy Jungle. And a man came up to me afterward, and he said, “Now wait a minute.” He opened his Bible to John 3:16. He said, “This is the verse I know. This is the verse I love. How does what you just said fit into this verse?”
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
And I said, “It fits like this: John 17:3, ‘This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’”
Why do you want to be loved by God? Yes, not to perish. Yes, not to go to hell. Yes, not to have a guilty conscience anymore. Yes, to have the marriage put back together. But if that’s all you want, you don’t know him. You don’t know him.
It’s for life. And what is life? It is to know him and his Son. It’s to fellowship with him. It’s to behold him. It’s to be satisfied with him. It’s to enjoy him. Until Christ becomes our treasure, we don’t know what it is to be loved by God.