The following is a lightly edited transcript.
As you can see in the title of the message, we’re going to focus on a spectacular and scary promise, namely Romans 8:17. It’s spectacular because it says that all the children of God inherit from God his inheritance, as if God were to die and leave behind his estate. Only he doesn’t die, he just gives you the estate. What is God’s estate? Everything. He owns everything. So this is a big inheritance. This is a spectacular promise. And it’s scary because it says that you will not inherit it without suffering.
So those are the two halves of the verse, the spectacular half and the scary half, and I think almost all spectacular things come with scary parts, and so it doesn’t surprise me that that’s part of Romans 8:17. However, this is a promise made to the children of God, and I don’t know that you are one, and you may not know for sure that you are one.
In other words, you may be struggling with assurance this morning: “Am I a child of God?” This promise is made to children of God. It’s not made to everyone. Everyone won’t inherit the world. So, it is fitting therefore that we back up a couple of verses and settle that — because Paul cares about you in this regard. He really wants you to enjoy this promise. He wants you to know that you’re a child of God.
I don’t think he means for Christians to walk through life uncertain of what’s going to happen when they die or in the age to come. Some of you come out of religious traditions where that uncertainty is built in, and this church doesn’t believe that, and I don’t think the Bible teaches that. The Bible wants you to know that this promise is yours, so we’re going to back up a few verses and talk about what the previous verses mean.
How the Spirit Assures Us
Look at Romans 8:16: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” So, when you get to Romans 8:17, you can know if it’s yours or not. If you belong to Jesus, Romans 8:9 says that you have the Spirit. If you’re a Christian, if you have embraced Jesus as Savior and Lord, the Spirit has come to you. He dwells in you.
Romans 8:13–14: “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” Now, what Paul is doing is telling us that the Holy Spirit is the key to knowing that you’re a child of God, and he does it by bearing witness. He does things in you that enable you to know you’re a child of God. Look also at Romans 8:16: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” which means he has a way of testifying with our spirits that we cannot. He has a way of doing that.
Waging War on Sin
And there are a couple of pointers to how he does it, and we just read one of them: “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). That is, if — when — temptation starts to come, and your body is inclined to do something sinful, you kill it by the Spirit, so that the Spirit is enabling you to fight temptation, “for all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
“The Holy Spirit is the key to knowing that you’re a child of God.”
So, one of the ways that he helps you know you are a child of God is by leading you, and the leadership in Romans 8:13–14 draws you into warfare with your sin. I don’t think it’s mainly leading you to the right school or right spouse. That’s true, but that’s not what’s going on here.
“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For” — that word shows you’re being led — “all who are led by the Spirit . . .” (Romans 8:13–14). The leadership of the Spirit is leading you into warfare with all your temptations, and he is the instrument by which you are going to kill those temptations, and thus you know — by that work of the Spirit in you — that you’re a child of God. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
So, one of the ways the Spirit is testifying, bearing witness, is by his activity in you, leading you into successful warfare with sin. And I don’t mean perfect success. I just mean that you hate it, and you make war on it. The good sign that you are not a Christian is that you make peace with sin, and the good sign that you are a Christian is that you make war on sin, and you get some success along the way. Not perfect success.
Crying Out to the Father
There’s another pointer of how he bears witness, back in Romans 8:15: “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry” — by the Spirit of sonship, we cry — “Abba! Father!” That’s a different kind of testimony. When you have the Holy Spirit in you, one of the ways he manifests himself is that he causes there to well up within you a cry: “Father. God, you’re my Father. Daddy, help me. Daddy, Father, help me.”
There’s this spirit of childlike dependence and confidence welling up in you, that you look to God not any longer as an angry judge — which he was, and now he’s not anymore — because he has given you his Spirit and he has covered your sins with his Son’s blood, and the Spirit is now rising up and saying, “Father.” That’s not your doing.
If that has happened to you, you didn’t make that happen. God is doing that in you. This is the Spirit of God. Most of the people in Boston do not do that. They don’t do that. They don’t get up in the morning and say, “Daddy, I need you. I don’t have the resources to live my life. I’m a sinner and I’m weak and I’m imperfect and I’m fragile, and I hardly know anything about the universe. You are God, and I need you. You’re my Father.”
Very few people in Boston talk that way, because they don’t have the Holy Spirit. But if you have the Holy Spirit, that’s the way you talk. That’s his testimony that you’re God’s child: you talk to your Father that way. It’s a beautiful thing. It should cause you to feel sweetly assured, when you cry like that to your Father in the morning.
Exalting the Son
There’s another place in the writings of the apostle Paul where he says something similar. Listen to what he says in 1 Corinthians 12:3: “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”
Now, this is very similar — isn’t it? Over in Romans 8:15, Paul says that you can’t cry out to God as your Father in a humble, dependent, childlike way without the Holy Spirit. It’s the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit when you say, “Hey, Father. I need you.” And now, over in 1 Corinthians 12:3, he’s adding that you can’t say to Jesus ‘You are my Lord’ except by the Spirit, which means that there’s another witness inside of us.
When you find yourself not only coming to God as your Father as a dependent child, but coming to Jesus as sovereign Lord, so that you say things like, “You’re my Lord, you’re my Authority, you’re my Power. I’m your slave. I am owned by you. You may do anything you want with my life” — if you talk like that, you’re a Christian. You have the Holy Spirit. Nobody else talks like that. The reason you talk like that is because the Holy Spirit is in you. That’s what he does — he magnifies Jesus as Lord and he magnifies God as your Father.
‘This Is Mine Because I Am His’
So, the Spirit is working in these three ways at least to testify you’re a child of God:
He’s leading you to hate sin and to make war on it.
He’s humbling you to be like a little child before your Father and to cry out to God as your all-supplying, all-need-meeting, all-caring Father.
He’s at work in you to look at Jesus and no longer to see a mythological figure or merely historical teacher, but to say, “My Lord and my God, I submit to you. You’re everything to me. I’m just your slave.”
If you’re talking like that, and making war on sin like that, you should come to Romans 8:17 and say, “This is mine.” And if you don’t, you can’t. You have no business coming to Romans 8:17 and saying that it’s yours if you don’t have Jesus as your Lord and God as your Father, if you don’t hate your sin, because you don’t have the Holy Spirit, which means you’re not united to Christ.
And so that may be true of some of you in this room, and that’s why you’re here. God wants to pour out his Spirit into your life. And the way that happens is by trusting Jesus.
Pause to Pray
That’s my preparation for Romans 8:17, to hopefully help you feel the assurance of your salvation. And it might be good just to pause and to let that sink in — so that you can just yield to the Spirit right now, so that when I get to Romans 8:17 and talk about this spectacular promise, you can enjoy it instead of just hearing the scary part.
Father, I pray that the Holy Spirit would come into this moment in power. As I look around, I see some puzzled faces, like they’ve never heard about the testimony of the Holy Spirit, or maybe the assurance of salvation or the sweetness of having you as their Father, and not just judge, and the glory of having a strong Lord, and the awfulness of sin that we should hate and make war on — not in our strength, but by the power of the Spirit.
“The good sign that you are a Christian is that you make war on sin.”
Maybe all that is new to some people. Let us pray that they would have grace to understand, and that their hearts would just fly wide open and say, “I want that.” May you give it to them right now by faith in Jesus. I ask this in his name. Amen.
Don’t miss that God and Paul, speaking for him, want you to be really, really happy when you read Romans 8:17. You don’t tell people about things you’re going to inherit from God — what God has — in order to make them sad. You don’t do that. You tell people things like this because you would really like them to realize what they have coming to them, so that they are stunned out of their brain with joy over such things.
My prayer before I got here was that God would just help us all, me included, to look at a blue sky like that, on a glorious Boston morning like this, and see it as a poor, dim reflection of what he is going to give us someday. I mean, I really like what’s out there. I love this day. The heavens are telling the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). Someday we will really see it. My prayer is that we would really love what he promises in Romans 8:17 because it will make all the difference in your life.
An Astonishing Inheritance
Look at Romans 8:17: “If children, then heirs . . .” If you, in the first part of this message, have decided, “Yes, the Holy Spirit is in me. I’m making war on my sin, I have God as my Father, Jesus as my Lord” — then you are a child of God. Here’s what follows: “If children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
So, let’s talk about the inheritance and then the suffering. And if you hear the first part, you won’t be daunted by the second. I hope I can leave you glad, not worried, about that second part. What is the inheritance that we are promised here? We are heirs. Heirs inherit things, so what are we going to inherit?
Let’s start in Romans 8:18: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Whatever it is, called glory here, it is so big that it makes the sufferings that we are required to go through in Romans 8:17 negligible by comparison.
That’s what Romans 8:18 contributes to this. If I succeed in unpacking the inheritance properly, you should feel, “Yes, I will have to walk through sufferings on the way to this inheritance, and that’s okay. That’s okay. Because Paul says they’re not worth comparing. They’re not worth comparing to what is coming.” So, I have three answers to the question, more specifically, What is the inheritance?
1. You will inherit the world.
When it says in Romans 8:17 that you’re an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ, it means you’re going to inherit the world. I get that from Romans 4:13, which goes like this: “The promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” And I know from Galatians 3:7 that those who are of faith are the offspring of Abraham.
So, if you are a believer in the Messiah who fulfills Abraham’s faith, you are a child of Abraham. And if you’re a child of Abraham, you are a fellow heir with Abraham, and a fellow heir with Abraham gets the world. That’s one of the meanings of the inheritance in the Book of Romans: the world.
Nations as Estates
Why would you get the world? Because God owns the world. And you’re getting what God owns because you’re his heir. His estate is going to become your estate when you come into your fullness in the age to come, in the resurrection. Look at Psalm 24:1:
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein.
Therefore, since it is his, it will be yours. Look also at Psalm 2:8:
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
He’s talking to the Son of God here. So, the Son of God gets the inheritance of the nations. All the nations will belong to Jesus, and Romans 8:17 says you’re a fellow heir with Jesus, so you get the nations thrown in.
What Else Comes with the World?
I find 1 Corinthians 3:21–23 to be some of the most spectacular, almost unbelievable verses in the Bible with regard to your inheritance and mine.
So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
So, what’s the inheritance? Everything. The world is yours. The earth is yours. Everything in it is yours. The nations are yours. All things are yours. Now, what does that mean? I’m not even sure that’s good news, because he included death: “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world of life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”
Death? Wait a minute, I’m not sure I want that. Why did he include death in the list of all things? He’s trying to make me happy, he’s trying to make me feel like I’m rich with God, and he includes death as part of my inheritance.
Even Death Is Yours
I have a way of understanding that. Let me commend it to you. If you are told that all things are yours, what good is that unless all things will somehow serve your happiness in the long run? So, all things will serve your happiness — not, all things will crush you or all things will make you miserable or all things will belittle you or all things will make you numb.
“You’re getting what God owns because you’re his heir.”
No, the point in saying that you have all things is that they serve you. They make you happy. If I have a car, my car, it gets me where I want to go. It doesn’t run over me. “I have a car for you, it runs over you” — that wouldn’t be good at all. This is so obvious, but it needs to be said.
When he says all things are yours — the world is yours, life is yours, death is yours — they’re yours to make you glad forever. They serve you, which means death is going to serve me, and it will. It’s an enemy. It wasn’t the original design. It was brought in as a part of judgment and curse and the fall. Now in redemption, it becomes my servant. “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Death served the thief on the cross amazingly well.
We Conquer Through Christ
Try this. See if this helps to make sense out of that. Remember Romans 8:35–37?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Have you ever tried to figure out what more than a conqueror is? We all know what a conqueror is. If you have an enemy, and you kill him — you’re a conqueror. He didn’t kill you. You killed him. If you have a war going on between two countries, and you defeat them, they don’t defeat you — you’re a conqueror. What’s more than a conqueror?
It is when that enemy lying dead in front of you gets up and serves you — like death, who is dead. So, I’m willing to let Paul include it in the list of my inheritance. You get death thrown in as your servant. He’s not going to kill you. You have Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26).
Death won’t kill you. There will not be a split-second when you’re out of fellowship with Jesus. Amazing. So, the first thing I want to say about our inheritance is that the world and everything in it serves you, makes you happy. That’s what you’re going to inherit.
2. You will inherit God himself.
Romans 5:2 says, “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” The hope of the glory of God — not just the things that God made and the world, but God himself. We hope in the glory of God. And if you were to think, “Well, you just said the inheritance is God, and now you just read a text that says glory of God,” I want you to know that when I say the glory of God, I mean the God of glory. God in his gloriousness, God in his infinite radiance, God in his manifold perfections and beauties which are reflected all over the world.
Because in Romans 5:11, it says, “More than that,” — not only do we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, not only do we rejoice in our tribulations — “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Part of our hope, summing up all others, is God. Revelation 21:3:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
I want to give you another passage from Psalm 73. Now, keep in mind that in the Old Testament, the Jews knew the inheritance was largely the land, right? We have the Promised Land. Still today, the land is very significant. But, when it really came down to it, they said things like Psalm 73:25–26:
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
They did say things like that. God was their final portion. Yes, the land would be great. Yes, it would be nice to have the world and the nations and all things serving me. But if God is not there, if God is not my final portion and satisfaction, I will remain as unsatisfied with the world as I do with that world out there right now.
God must not be a stranger to you. I think your life right now should be devoted to knowing him and loving him so that when you get your inheritance, it won’t be something strange — namely, him. He should be our chief desire now and our chief treasure then.
3. You will inherit a redeemed, glorified body.
God didn’t create the universe to put it out of existence. It will be in existence forever. He created you with a material body to live in a material universe. He didn’t do that to make you an idolater. He did that so that you would see and know him in and through material things, including your body. If we’re going to enjoy the world, the new world, which would be a physical world, a material world, we need redeemed, glorified bodies.
The body is not an evil thing. Sexual desires are not evil. Hunger for food is not evil. Getting weary at night and wanting to go to sleep is not evil. These are things built into the way God made us before there was any sin. And it will be that way after there is no more sin.
Future Days of No Decay
If I am, therefore, to enjoy the new heavens and the new earth in a way that does not commit idolatry, in a way that fully benefits from the new heavens and the new earth, I need a new body. I need new eyes. I need new ears.
I don’t need new eyes just because of these glasses, and I don’t need new ears just because I’m going to need hearing aids pretty soon. Such things, those normal decayings of the human, are what we’ve got to get rid of — because we won’t be able to enjoy our inheritance if we don’t have the capacity to enjoy it. Look at Romans 8:22–23:
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
What kind of theology of the body and theology of sickness and theology of disability do you have? One of the first five or six sermons I preached when I came to Bethlehem in 1980 was “Christ and Cancer,” taken from this text. Because I wanted, as I looked out at about three hundred people over the age of sixty, maybe over seventy, in this old, downtown, dying church that I had come to — I knew I would do their funerals.
“Death served the thief on the cross amazingly well.”
I did a funeral every three weeks for eighteen months. And I wanted them to know how I felt about them when I came to their hospital bed: “Do I think you wouldn’t be here if you had enough faith? Do I think that? You wouldn’t lay there so sick if you had faith.” Is that my theology?
That’s absolutely not my theology because of Romans 8:23. We groan. We groan waiting for the redemption of our bodies. That’s normal. Dying is normal. Cancer is normal. I don’t mean it is good — just normal. Normal Christian life is arthritis, loss of hearing, cancer. Death is normal. We’re waiting, we’re longing, we’re yearning, we’re aching for our new bodies, the redemption of our bodies. While here, we groan.
One Final Transformation
There’s a reason Paul said it the way he said it in Romans 8:23 — when he said that not only does the creation groan, but we ourselves, even we who have the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit. Do you know why he said it like that? There were already health, wealth, and prosperity teachers. Already they were there, and they were saying that if you are a child of God, if you have the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit, then you will not get sick. Your pigs will have eight piglets every time, and your wife will never miscarry, and you will be a prosperous farmer.
Romans 8:23 is written to undermine that devilish, misleading theology. We groan, and Christ breaks into our lives. Yes, he can heal, and he sometimes does, and I pray for healing for people every Sunday. I stand at the front for forty-five minutes after the service and lay my hands on people and pray for whatever they need, including physical healing. And Jesus heals them sometimes, but not always.
Our inheritance is a new body — not our present possession. Our inheritance is a new body. That’s what Romans 8:23 says, which means that we’ll be given a body that is enough like Jesus’ body. Philippians 3:20–21: “We await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
That’s going to happen at the second coming. We’re going to be raised from the dead, or if we’re still alive, we’re going to change in the twinkling of an eye. We’ll be conformed to Christ not only in moral conditions, but in physical conditions, so that we will run and leap — maybe for the first time in our lives.
And that body will be enough like Jesus so that we can enjoy the gifts of Jesus the way he enjoys them when he was here, without any idolatry at all. We will enjoy food. He ate fish after the resurrection. It says so in Luke 24:42–43, which means that in the resurrection you’re going to eat fish. If you don’t like fish, then pizza. I really believe that, and it won’t be deadly like it is now. It’ll be good for you.
Everything will be good for you. It’s going to be so good. The world, everything good that’s in creation, will be serving you. God himself is the capstone of our inheritance, and then the capacity to enjoy him and the world with a new body.
An Alarming Demand
Let’s read Romans 8:17 again: “If children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” So here, suffering is not just possible — it is necessary. Why?
Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Daily cross-like bearing. And the cross is a deadly instrument of execution and torture.
2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” All will be persecuted.
Hebrews 12:6: “‘For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons.”
1 Peter 4.13: “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
No pain, no gain. No cross, no crown. No suffering, no inheritance. That’s what all those verses and Romans 8:17 say.
Not All Suffering Is Persecution
But here’s a crucial question: What kind of suffering does he have in mind? “. . . provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” — that is, you’ll be given your new body, you’ll have the world, you’ll know God intimately.
“There will not be a split second when you’re out of fellowship with Jesus.”
What kind of suffering does he have in mind? Is it only persecution? People seeing that you’re a Christian and hurting you because of it. Firing you from your job, or mocking you, or wanting nothing to do with you, or imprisoning you. Or is it broader than that — like car accidents and terrorist bombs and cancer?
My answer is that it is bigger than persecution, because when he unpacks it from Romans 8:17–25, he doesn’t even mention persecution. He just mentions that the creation is groaning under its normal brokenness, and we are groaning with it, waiting for new bodies. That’s the context of the suffering, when he says everyone has to suffer. He starts talking about the groaning of creation and the desire for it to have a new body.
So now, I don’t limit this to persecution. I don’t think that’s the point here. I don’t think the point here is to say, “You go to heaven, provided you get persecuted.” You might build that case somewhere else, but I don’t think that’s the point here.
Perseverance in the Pain
I think the point here is that the only path to glory is suffering, because that’s what this world gives you. And the question is, Will you do it well? Or instead, will it make you say, “You’re no longer my Lord, and you’re no longer my Father. Because if that’s the way you treat your kids, I’m out of here”? If that’s your response to suffering, you don’t have the Holy Spirit, and you’re not a Christian.
To say, “I’m out of here. I want nothing to do with this Christianity stuff anymore, because if you won’t heal my dad or heal my wife or heal me, then I’m not interested,” means that you just missed everything. You just missed everything I’ve said.
Why would God make suffering so essential to the inheritance? He builds it right into Romans 8:17 and says you have to do it. Why? Why would he make it so necessary? “. . . provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
And I think we get a clue in Romans 5:3, where it says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” There we get a picture: “I embrace and rejoice in tribulation of any kind.” Why? “Because tribulation is producing in me endurance.” Endurance of what? “Faith.”
How does that work? 2 Corinthians 1:8–9, where Paul says, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” So here you have the glorious apostle Paul. I mean, he’s a great man, a great saint, a lover of Jesus, and he says, “God brought me to the point of death because he thought I needed to rely on him some more.”
If he did that to Paul, I should expect it every day. Little things, big things. Little things to make me know: “You can’t make this on your own, you have to have Jesus.” Big things that are going to make me think, “I’m dying.” And he will say, “Yes, you’re dying. Where will you turn? That’s the point. Now, I may give you a few more days — or not. Because I’ll raise you from the dead. I’m your God, I’m your inheritance. I’m here now, I’ll be there.”
Faith in the Frustration
Death is not the issue here. Faith is the issue here. Endurance is the issue here. Do you know what this says? I think the point of Romans 8:17 and the point of Romans 5:3 is that we are all so fallen. I am so spring-loaded to self-reliance, so spring-loaded to depend on my abilities and my money and my house and my job. And all these things form my contentment and my identity. I’m so spring-loaded to find my satisfaction in the world that he constantly has to take them away from me. That’s called suffering.
“Suffering is not just possible — it is necessary.”
He just constantly has to frustrate me — frustrate me in marriage and frustrate me in my parenting and frustrate me at church. I have frustrations in all those areas right now, in my life, that are breaking my heart:“Why? I’m your child.”
He says, “You are indeed. I love you so much, John. I will take this away, and I will take this away, because I know your heart. It’s mine, but there’s enough sin left there that if I didn’t strategically undo your purposes, you would start to think you’re quite somebody. You would start to rely on your church. You would start to rely on your wife. You’d start to rely on your parenting skills that are so great. I’m not going to let you go there. I love you too much.”
So, I don’t want you to begrudge the seminary of suffering, because you’re on your way to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, kept in heaven for you.
Newton on the Broken Carriage
Seven or eight years ago I did a biography on John Newton. He is the author of “Amazing Grace” and was the counselor of William Wilberforce. He was just one of the sweetest Christians that has ever existed. Sweet is the right word for John Newton. He was a slave trader, and God broke him in half and made him sweet. Here’s the illustration he gave me, and I’ll close with it.
Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate, and his carriage should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way; what a fool we should think him if we saw him wringing his hands and blubbering out during the remaining mile, “My carriage is broken! My carriage is broken!”
We would. He’s going to inherit a million dollars, and he has to walk the last mile. Aww. “My carriage is broken! My carriage!” We would say, “You’re an idiot. You’ve lost touch with reality.” And we would laugh. I laugh, and I say, “That’s just John Piper every day almost.”
Cherishing His Whisper
Why did I get upset so quickly at my wife? Why am I so easily discouraged with my kids? What’s going on? Don’t you realize you’re sixty-six, man? You’re going to inherit the world in less than a generation. I don’t know — this afternoon, maybe? Or, if I live as long as my dad, twenty years from now. I mean, that’s short. “You get everything. Why are you so upset?” Paul is such a rebuke to me, and such an encouragement to me.
So, let’s just make clear something. Yes, our carriages break down — all right? God can heal our carriage, but sometimes he just lets it break down and makes you walk or ride there in a wheelchair. Sometimes our kid gets run over by the broken-down carriage and dies. Sometimes we fall out of the broken carriage and break our neck and are paralyzed like Joni Eareckson Tada for the rest of our lives.
But, as you limp there, or roll there, or are carried to the city of God, I’m pleading with you, I’m praying for you, that you not forget that in the city of God — the world is waiting for you, a new body is waiting for you, and God is waiting for you as your Father. And so, be strong. Don’t let the sufferings of this life turn you on your Savior or turn you on your Father. Keep yielding to the Spirit’s whisperings, “Father, Father. Lord, Lord. I hate sin.”