Celebration comes so naturally to us because we were created to rejoice as John Piper explained in a 1999 sermon on Romans 5. Here’s a clip from that sermon.
Paul said in Romans 9:23 that the goal of creation and judgment and salvation is “to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” You were made, Christian, to enjoy the glory of God. That is why you were created, to enjoy the ever-flowing, increasing revelation of the glory of God, which is why Paul in that magnificent chapter of Philippians said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
What do you gain if you gain Christ and lose everything else? Well, in 2 Thessalonians 2:14 Paul says it like this: “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is what you gain. You gain the glory of the Maker of the universe and the Redeemer of your souls. Now that just leaves us to talk about our exulting in the hope of the glory of God. If you have seen the glory of the gospel, if you know that it is a million, million times greater than what you have seen and you put your hope in it by faith, what does it mean to exult in that hope? What does that mean?
I am 53 years old. I lived through the Vietnam War. I almost was drafted. I did not go to Canada. It just didn’t fall. But I went and got my physical and got my number. And I can remember some videos from near the end of the war — I will never forget them — those of you who are old enough, maybe even others have seen them. You can’t watch these videos without tears unless you are really, really unemotional.
It is near the end of the war. The POWs, no report, three years, five years, six years and she was faithful. They were faithful. The children grew up. And then came the phone call. He is alive. He is on an aircraft carrier. It will dock in San Diego on such and such a date. We will pay your way. You get your ticket and be there. And the videos of these wives running across the deck of that aircraft carrier into the arms of a dead husband who is alive after six years and having him sweep her off her feet and put his arms around the little ones that he would never be able to recognize moves everybody to tears.
But now go back two weeks. The phone rings. He is alive. Be in San Diego at dock 59 on such and such a date in two weeks. Nothing has changed in those two weeks. Nothing has changed except one thing. News. News. He was always alive. News. And the news produces hope. I am going to touch him. I am going to kiss him. I am going to sleep beside him in two weeks. And he is going to sit at the breakfast table and he is going to know his kids and he is going to be there.
And you don’t need anybody to teach you about what exultation means, do you? You don’t need anybody to teach you or show you or give you a list of things that you would do in those two weeks to exult in hope. It changes everything — this one little thing changes everything.
News, news, news. He is alive. In two weeks you see the glory. And the exultation will be in proportion to the longing and the love that we have for the glory of God. Do you love the glory of God? O, that God would open your eyes so that Jesus would not pronounce over you: Seeing they did not see and hearing they did not hear and perceiving they did not understand. But their hearts were hardened (see Matthew 13:14–15). May it not be so for any of you.