Future Grace for Finishing the Task

Part 5

International Missions Week | Ridgecrest, North Carolina


The following is a lightly edited transcript.

My goal is to get as many of you as possible to the mission field, and to help as many of you as possible to stay on the mission field, and to be as satisfied in God on the field as you can be so that the infinite worth and value of God will be plain in your life, and that people will look at him and love him, believe in him through his Son, Jesus Christ.

How to Battle Covetousness

I want to take up covetousness finally and finish off my list of sample sins that we triumph over by means of future grace — that is, faith in future grace: a being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus, such that we are weaned off the breast of the world and thus break the power of sin, which only has power through its compelling promises because we have discovered a superior promise. I just think that’s the simple way to live the supernatural life called Christianity, and after sex and anger, probably money is the big Christianity-killer on the mission field and what keeps people from the mission field.

Christianity-Killer

And so we need to just look at a few passages of Scripture where God shows us how to destroy this Christianity-killing thing called greed and covetousness and the love of money. Oh, how many Christians in America this is killing. America is the worst place to bring up kids. The mission field is the best place to bring up kids, I think. And it’s more dangerous to bring them up in the suburbs than in the city, and more dangerous to bring them up in the city here than in the city where they have very little overseas. Because it isn’t persecution that’s the big danger of kids; it’s money, and having to fit in, and having to have all the styles, having to wear all the expensive clothing, and knowing just the right jargon to use. America is the Disneyland of the universe, and it is unreal and is dangerous, so I want to try to help you be free people.

You know, you are citizens of a kingdom that is not of this world. You are strangers. You are aliens. You are exiles here, and you ought to live like it, and you ought not to be in sync with this world. Paul pleaded that you would not be conformed to this age and this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So that’s what we’re about here.

What is covetousness? I’m not sure I can get a good definition. It’s hard to define, but here’s my effort: desiring something so much, we lose our contentment in God. That’s my definition of covetousness. Desiring something so much that we lose our contentment in God. The reason it’s so hard to define covetousness is that it’s okay to desire breakfast. It’s okay to desire that you have clothing. It’s okay to desire that you have a house. It’s okay to desire a spouse. It’s okay to desire a hundred things. But it might, at any moment, become covetousness. You can covet food, you can covet sex, you can covet anything wrongly. You have to figure out: When does it become covetousness? I have made the effort to say: desiring something so much you lose your contentment in God.

The Idolatry of Covetousness

Now here’s a little clue from a couple of texts why I’ve inclined to define it that way. In Colossians 3:5 Paul says,

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

In Paul’s mind, covetousness is idolatry. I went back to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, and I noticed something. The first commandment is “Thou shall have no other gods before me, and the last commandment is “Thou shall not covet.” Which means the first and the last are the same. Which means that idolatry is huge, and covetousness is huge. If you begin something and end something with a “don’t do it,” and the things in the middle are big, you better believe the first and the last are big. This is probably why Jesus talked more about money than anything except the kingdom of God — more than sex, more than all kinds of other temptations. Money was the biggie for Jesus.

How shall we break the power of the love of money in our lives, which is the root of all evil? That’s another text. It’s just mind-boggling that Paul would say that in 1 Timothy 6:10: that the love of money is the root of all evils. I think what he means is the kind of heart that leans on things you can buy for its satisfaction is the kind of heart that produces every other kind of evil. I think that’s what he means. The kind of heart that is not satisfied in God, but is constantly leaning on things that you can buy for its heart satisfaction, is the heart from which all evil comes. Therefore, we must get rid of — put to death — that kind of heart that leans on the things you can buy with money for its contentment. There is great gain in godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).

You have to fight in life against the love of money, and I’ll tell you it is war and you better put governors on your life, even as a missionary, because expenses will always expand to fill the income. You will always be “just getting by.” It doesn’t matter how much you make, you just get by. So set some governors and get by on less so you can give more. This is the big challenge we need to give to our people over and over again, especially as the baby boomers move into their billions.

Free from the Love of Money

Hebrews 13:5–6 is probably the most important text in my life on money.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
     I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

For is the most important theological word in the Bible. Do you see the foundation that was put under the command there? You have a command, then you have an argument. This is living by faith in future grace because the argument is a promise. It’s about the future, so let’s get it here. The issue of how I am going to keep my life free from the love of money and how I am going to be content with what I have is given clear as day. There is no big theological conundrum here. This is easy. Teenagers can get this. I think eleven-year-olds can get this.

This is fundamental, basic, powerful, supernatural Christianity to figure out: How am I going to keep my life free from the love of money, and how am I going to be content with what I have so that I’m not constantly coveting and craving and being greedy toward that house and those clothes and that much retirement and that big bank account and that car. How am I going to kill that? And the answer is: you kill it with a superior promise, and here it is: “For he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” Therefore or so is the second most important theological word in the Bible: “Therefore, we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper.’” Why do you need help from money? “The Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

I know what some of you are thinking right now because one of you came up to me at the dinner table the other day and said it: Are you’re going to address the issue of retirement funds or health insurance? Is that unbelief? Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is, and Jesus didn’t give you an answer. He gave you warnings and promises, and you’ve got to figure out the answer, and you’ve got freedom to figure out the answer, and that’s why you’re answering it differently all over this room. And some of you are not opting into big fat retirements, and others are. And some aren’t opting all, and the others think you’re a scoundrel to your wife for not doing it. There are a lot of different attitudes in this room right now toward health insurance and retirement and how much you should have in the bank.

And I think what I would say to a bunch of Americans is: you probably have too much. That’s all. That’s all I have to say. There is great gain in godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).

No Place for Him

We are called to follow a Son of man who had no place to lay his head.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:20–22)

There are some radical things here, and so, frankly, I lean toward the crazy people; I do. I want to be more like that. I have a retirement plan. The church does that, and I put as little in it as they let me. I pushed it as low as they will let me. Six percent of my income goes into a retirement fund that the denomination has. It started at ten. I asked, “Is this mandatory?” Well, the four percent above six goes into this supplementary fund. And I said, “Well, is that required?” “No.” “Okay, give me that money because I have things I want to do with it now — namely, send missionaries.” So yeah, I’ve got a retirement account; I don’t want to be unreal here, but there are a lot of other ways I could pad the future and a lot of other ways people do. And you’ve got kids who are going to go to college. What in the world do you do about that? We don’t do much about that. So Hebrews 13:5–6 is the most important verse, I think, for me. There are many, many others.

Free in Christ

Let me take you to one other set. In Philippians 4:11–13 Paul says,

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Now did you notice the context of what the “all things” is? I grew up having that verse recited to me: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” And nobody, for twenty-five years ever showed me the context; namely, “I can be abased. I can go without. I can hunger.” Those are the “all things” I can do through him. I always had the notion it was some triumphalist promise where success is always implied. I thought “I can do all things” meant I’ll get an A on the test, or I’ll do good in my speech, or I’ll win in the ball game, but that’s not the context. “I have learned how to be abased and abound. I have learned how to hunger and have plenty. I can do all those things.”

“We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. [Nevertheless], in all these things we are more than conquerors” (Romans 8:36–37). Had he been executed, he would have been a conqueror. If he gets released, he is a conquer. “I can do all these things through him who strengthens me to die and strengthens me to live — strengthens me to visit in king’s palaces dressed to the hilt, and to visit the poor stripped the almost bare. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

My son, who’s not walking the way I’d like him to walk, I left him behind as I came away for five weeks, pleading with him to read Martin Luther’s “The Freedom of the Christian” because he said to me the other day as I was talking about freedom and pleading with him to get right with God, “Daddy, I’ve never been free.” Now, he knows everything I have to say. He’s heard me preach for twenty years.” When your son has heard you preach for twenty years, and he says that, you want to scream and say, “Listen: ‘For freedom Christ has set us free’ (Galatians 5:1). ‘You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:32) And so I said, “Would you do something for me? Would you just read Luther’s “Freedom of the Christian”?

That has two theses: the Christian is the freest of all beings and subject to none, and the Christian is the slave of all persons and subject to all. That’s the thesis of Luther’s treatise. I don’t know if he’ll read it or not. Pray for him. Ask the Lord that he would read that and that he would see the beauty in it.

We are free to dress well and minister to the rich. We are free to dress down and minister to the poor. You are free to do what your conscience tells you to do about health insurance and retirement. You are free to do nothing about health insurance and retirement in good conscience and in conversation with your wife. We are free.

Every Need Supplied

The other text is Philippians 4:19. We love it. I love it. It’s a great pastor’s text in building programs.

My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

It doesn’t get any better than that. It doesn’t get any more sweeping than that. Although, now in the wider context — I mean, we’re just six verses later here than verse 13. He hasn’t left his thought process here. What are the needs? “My God will supply all your needs.” And he decides what your needs are; you don’t. We think we know what our needs are. That’s why we pray the way we do, and don’t get a lot of answers. God knows what your needs are, and he meets them. Nobody asks his father for what he needs and doesn’t get it (Luke 11:11–13). We just have to adjust our sense of need to what God thinks our sense of need is, and our need often includes the strength to hunger because that’s what verse 12 says. I have learned how to hunger — meaning:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:24–27)

This man suffered. Those were the needs that he had: how to survive the fifth time they ripped his back to shreds. Those are the needs God supplies.

Let’s get it right for our people. Let’s not create some health, wealth, and prosperity thing here so that people think to become a Christian is to prosper. It does not mean that. It means to have your needs met that you will have in order to do the will of God. If you take Matthew 6:33 — “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” — does that mean clothes and food and drink? Romans 8:35 talks about peril, sword, persecution, famine, nakedness. And Romans 8:37 says that through all these things we’re more than conquerors — through and in famine, nakedness.

No, Jesus did not mean that you always have the set of clothing you want. He meant, “You will have the drink, you will have the clothes, and you will have the food that you need to do my glorious will.” Period. And that may mean you’re starving and naked and you die — triumphantly because my God will supply all your needs that you have in that moment in Christ Jesus. You can’t put Paul’s life and Paul’s theology and Jesus’s teachings together, I think, any other way. You can’t turn this into a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, or a success gospel that guarantees those kinds of physical benefits. It makes a mockery of all the martyrs of the world to do that.

Warnings Against Wealth

Well, that’s enough texts on covetousness probably. I’ll close with a list of warnings. You can have positive promises:

  • I’ll meet all your needs.
  • I’ll never leave you.
  • I’ll never forsake you.
  • God is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me? You can only kill me.

Jesus did talk that way: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

I preached a sermon on that one time soon after I came to Bethlehem, and my thesis sentence was: “Fear not, you can only be killed,” which I think is a perfect paraphrase of Matthew 10:28. It did not make some of my people happy. But they got happy because they began to learn how to live by faith in future grace, instead of coveting life. You can covet life. Life is a good thing. In fact, 1 Peter says 3:10 says that it’s good to desire life. It’s okay to desire life, but not if you desire to the point where you’ll disobey to keep it or walk in a path of selfishness in order to preserve the comfort of it.

Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. (Luke 12:15)

Straightforward warning from the Lord Jesus to you this morning: “Be on your guard against all covetousness.”

In Mark 4:19, the third soil of the parable talks about the deceitfulness of riches. They choke out the word. There’s that word again, deceitfulness. Yesterday I said “lusts of deceit. Here we talk about “riches of deceit.” It’s always deceit. Sin is a liar. Sin is a liar. Sin is a liar. Money lies, money lies, money lies to you. You open the stock page and look at all the mutual funds, and they lie. They lie, because what they do is they go right to your flesh and say more, more, more, more, more security, more shrewdness, more savvy — in low, out high. I was into the stock market. I had some Walt Disney stock because my mother died twenty-five years ago and left me $17,000. What do I do with $17,000? I gave away a lot of it, and then I thought, I should invest this money. And so I bought a bunch of stocks.

There was a period of about two years where it almost killed me. I was a teacher at Bethel College then. Every morning I’d open that page. Look at Walt Disney or General Motors or Mobil Oil. Are they up? Good. Happy. Are they down? Oh, sad. I woke up one morning and said, “What is happening to me?” I got rid of it all. I don’t have a single dollar today in the stock market except what that retirement thing does with my money. But that’s no criticism of you who can handle it. You see, I’m just too weak. I can’t even chew gum. I do chew gum every now and then, but Noël has to give it to me a piece at a time because I will eat the whole pack. I guess I have an addictive personality. Eating at all-you-can-eat buffets is just deadly for me because I just think you’ve got to keep going back until you pop.

It began to choke me. That’s what I’m illustrating here, in case you’ve lost the point. Mark 4:19: it begins to choke you and some of you are being choked. Let’s just get real about this and go home, and strip down a little bit here on this. Others of you have stripped plenty. Please don’t kill yourself because of what I’m saying. First Timothy 6:10: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.” I have said that already. First Timothy 6:9: “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Could it be clearer how dangerous the desire to be rich is?

Pastors, if you’re here, preach this: preach the danger of the desire for riches, and put in its place the desire for joy in giving. What does it say it in Ephesians 4:28? “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Do you hear three levels of money-handling there?

  1. You can steal; that’s a level.
  2. You can work to have; that’s a level.
  3. You can work to have to give; that’s the level we want to live at.

Preach that to your people. It’s okay to make a lot of money, like Wesley said, make as much as you can and give as much as you can. Like good old LeTourneau right? I think he gave away ninety percent of his income and lived on ten percent, and that’s the way rich people ought to live. Stay with the Chevy. You don’t need the BMW. It runs just fine. You don’t need a new one either. Why do you have to constantly surround yourself with the accouterments of wealth just because you make a lot of money? You don’t. Keep it simple, and give and give and give because Jesus said, being the good Christian Hedonist that he is: it is more blessed and happy and fulfilling to give than to get (Acts 20:35).

I’m pleading with you to pursue your happiness here by not pursuing riches. That is suicide, this text says. You will pierce your soul with many pains if you desire to be rich. Last warning:

We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. (1 Timothy 6:7)

Which means it won’t help you when you die. I heard a businessman say once, and you’ve probably heard it too, “Nobody ever in their hospital bed, in their last battle with cancer, says, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’” Because relationships of love, a life of love, a life laid down for people will be part of your clean conscience at the last moment. Christ’s righteousness will be your rock, but part of the testimony to your reliance on him will be a conscience that says: You loved people. You gave to people. You gave your life to people. You gave your money to people. You gave just everything you could give. You were a giver and not a getter at the horizontal level. You were a getter from God so that you give to people.

Foundation from Hebrews

Let’s go to the book of Hebrews. And notice, to lay a foundation for the last two messages, some fundamental observations about things. I think we’ve seen at least two of them already.

Assurance of What’s Hoped For

In Hebrews 11:1 it says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” Faith is future oriented, and it is the confidence that God’s going to fulfill his promises and do all these things that we’ve been talking about for us, and that’s faith. Faith is future oriented, and embraces the promises of God — what he’s going to do for us — and has deep, strong, abiding confidence.

And without that, we’re just going to cave on money. We’re going to cave on sex, we’re going to cave on power. We’re going to cave on anger. We’re going to cave into sin over and over again, if we’re not strongly confident that he’s for me so that I can say, “The Lord is for me. The Lord is my helper. What can man do to me?” If we don’t feel that in our bones — “He’s for me, he’s going to work for me” — then we will cave and become sinners over and over again. That’s the first observation to lay a foundation for what we see in Hebrews.

Finished Work of Christ

A second foundation is that that assurance or conviction or substance — that confidence that’s there about the future and God being for us in the future — is based on something. We’re Christians. It’s based on Christ and his work. And there isn’t any more glorious portrait of Christ and his work than the first ten chapters of the book of Hebrews. It’s just glorious. Let me give you a few summary statements.

Christ, according to Hebrews 1:8, is God. If you work among Muslims, or if you work among Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Mormons, or I guess any other religion for that matter, you need to be persuaded of this.

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
     the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
     with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Jesus is God, and the Father is God. That’s the first thing we notice about Jesus in the book of Hebrews.

Second, he takes on human flesh in 2:14 in order that

he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Thirdly, he is the son over the house of God, and therefore superior to Moses and all the law, who isn’t a servant in the house of God — indeed, as it says in Hebrews 3:5–6, he made the house. He made the house, the house of the people of God. He’s greater than all the high priests of Aaron and Levi. That’s why Melchizedek has to be brought into this book. Why? Because Melchizedek, this strange character shows up in Genesis 14 with no beginning that you can see, and no ending that you can see, and to whom Abraham pays tithes, and thus in the loins of Abraham, as it were, the priests pay tithes later — all that strange imagery is pointing to Jesus and Hebrews says that’s an image of Jesus; that’s a type of Jesus. No beginning, no ending, all is worth paying to him. And he holds his priesthood, not like the Aaronic Levitical priests who die (those priests to replace each other); he holds his priesthood forever and ever lives to make intercession for those who belong to him.

What this book does is take everything about the old order and show that Jesus is better. Better everything. Better everything:

  • Better sacrifice because he offers the sacrifice of himself, it says in chapter 7.

  • Better covenant, the new-covenant — law written on the heart now, not on stone. “I will be your God. You will be my people. I will walk among you.”

  • He reigns to put all of his enemies under his feet (Hebrews 10:13).

  • “By a single offering he has perfected [past tense] for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).

That’s a little summary of the Christ who, underneath, guarantees the assurance of things hoped for. That’s the structure of this book. Christ is superior to everything we’ve ever known, in order that by his death and resurrection and righteousness, he might provide for us an assurance of things hoped for. This is a future-oriented book.

Overcome with Joy

And now from chapter 10 to chapter 13 come some of the most radical stories you’ve ever known. First we’ll look at Hebrews 10:32–39. Here’s a picture of what happened when the Hebrews got saved that he’s writing to.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

Now notice that they suffered in two ways: Some of them suffered directly being made a public spectacle, reproaches, and tribulations. Others voluntarily became sharers with them. How did they do that? What’s going on there? Keep reading and you’ll see.

For you had compassion on those in prison . . .

Okay, that’s how it happened: some of them got put in prison. And you know, prison in those days was not posh. Probably you didn’t get food unless your relatives brought you food. But if the relatives bring you food, then they identify with you. And if you’re in jail for an ideological or religious reason, the relatives are going to be in big trouble probably. The other Christians had to decide: Do we go and identify with them? Do we share in their sufferings? Or do we go underground and disappear? And the answer was verse 34:

For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property . . .

Or some translations say “the seizure of your property.” You can’t tell from the Greek here, I don’t think, whether is official confiscation or mob violence of vandalism and throwing the furniture out in the streets and burning it up, writing all over the house, “Christians get out of here” — something like that. They had a little prayer meeting, and they all discussed, “What should we do? Should we have big insurance or no insurance? Should we have big retirement or no retirement? Shall we go to the prison and risk our houses being burned, or shall we stay here and be safe?” And they sang a Martin Luther hymn. I know it’s an anachronism, but they did. They sang, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever. Let’s go to the prison.” And they went, and what happened was their houses got plundered or confiscated.

You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

Key to Love

I’m going to stop there. Have I been successful enough in making living by faith in future grace plain? Do you break the back of the temptations of sin and ease and comfort and safety in your life by the power of a superior promise, so that you are unleashed to love in radical ways on the mission field and at home? Have I made that plain enough that you can see it here, and you could take this text and go back to a Sunday school class, and say everything that I’ve said, just on the basis of this text?

Don’t go back to your church and say, “Oh, Pastor John said this, and John said this, and John . . .” — who cares what John Piper says. Take them to texts. Take them to texts like this one and ask them questions like: Okay, here’s a group of people who showed sympathy for prisoners at great cost to themselves — that is, a price of love was paid, a high price. And then ask them, “Show me from this text” — if you don’t do that in Bible studies, people just start dreaming all over the place: “It says in Genesis,” and “My grandmother said . . .” But you say, “Just come with me to the words of the Bible, and stay in these verses, and answer me from these verses how they got the spiritual wherewithal to leave comfort, move toward need and love.

And hopefully one of the sharp people in your Sunday school class would say, “It looks to me like joy is a key because it says they joyfully accepted the seizure of their property. Something had happened in their mental makeup and in their heart to be very strange people that they would rejoice in what everybody else grumbles about. You lose something, your car breaks you, or somebody steals something, and you grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble. These people didn’t grumble. At least it doesn’t tell us that they grumbled. Maybe they grumbled a minute, but it says they rejoiced.

There’s my Christian Hedonism as the key to love. If we are not the kind of people who can rejoice in the plundering of our property, how will we risk the plundering of our property for the sake of the nations? I’m trying, with all my might, to beget in my church, slowly, slowly after twenty years, and in this assembly, a kind of people who are pursuing joy. I’m not coming and saying, “Forget the pursuit of joy. Forget your own will. Do God’s will.” That’s not the way I’m preaching. I grew up on that, and it didn’t work because it isn’t biblical. This is biblical. This is biblical. Hebrews 10:34 is really in the Bible. These people rejoiced at the plundering of their property, which means something had happened in their joy structure. Something went on in their brain. Something had happened in their heart.

Better Possession

And do you know what it was? Let’s keep reading. That’s what you always say to people. Keep reading, keep reading, because you’ve got a participle now, and adverbial participles function to give different kinds of arguments. And you have to figure out from context what kind of argument it is. You tell me what kind of argument this is.

You had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

Now the ESV interprets that participle for you and, and that’s okay if they get it right, but literally it’s just a participle, and it says “knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one.” I would paraphrase the participle like this: because you know. They joyfully accepted the seizure of their property because they knew that they had for themselves a better possession and an abiding one. And there is what had happened in their heart. They had fallen in love, so deeply, so profoundly, and they had, according to Hebrews 11:1, become so assured of things hoped for, that when they saw what God had promised to be for them in this life and in the next, they said, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. I have a better possession and an abiding one, and do you know what that is? God. Because it says, taking those two words better and abiding, in 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.

That’s abiding and that’s better. That’s abiding and that’s better. God is the reward here. God is the reward. I am on a crusade to become and to beget a people who are radically Christian Hedonistic in that they will not settle for ninety-nine-percent-proof joy. They will have a hundred percent proof or not accept it. And this is where you find it. I have a better possession in God and I’m on a crusade to produce the kind of people who will not settle for joy that peters out in eight hundred years. No, thank you.

I will have a joy that lasts forever, or I’m not interested, and therefore I see what changed about these people: They fell in love with God. They really began to believe in God.

My God Is So Big

I close with a little story from last night. I don’t know why the Lord does this sort of thing, except maybe for you and me. I was thinking about my son again. I think about him all the time. He’s twenty years old. And I had been reading a novel by Randy Alcorn last night for a little while, and it was about gangs and stuff, and it kind of made me churn inside with nervousness and fear because these gangs are awful. I closed the book and I went out on the porch where you’ve put us. (Thank you; we’re just so well cared for here.) And it was probably 10:00 at night. Did you see the moon last night? This big half-moon up there, and just below the moon, right at the tree line, was a little teeny twinkling star, the only one I could see. And I just stared at it, and it was twinkling. That’s how I knew it was a star; planets don’t twinkle.

And I thought, “It’s so little. It’s just so little, and it’s twinkling. The atmosphere is threatening to just put it out in a minute, could disappear just like that with a little teeny cloud.” What’s a cloud? And then my mind ran up a few billion miles to see it for what it is by faith, scientific faith. And I said, “You know what? That’s big. It’s bigger than the moon, and the moon looks big beside it.” Probably the moon was five hundred times bigger in my mind’s eye than this little twinkling thing. I said, “You know what? That star is probably ten million times bigger than the moon. It’s probably ten thousand times bigger than the sun, which is a thousand times bigger than the earth, and I am a speck of dust on the earth, and so are those gangs.”

All that churning inside, that fear that was being created by fiction — I thought, if fiction does this to my soul, what would a real gang do to me? What would a real mob in Saudi Arabia or Yemen or Pakistan or Chicago do to me? And I said, “Lord, you made that star, which is so big, and you flicked it out, and there were ten million others you flicked out. You’re big. Would you never let me be ashamed of your bigness in the face of a gang, or as I deal with my son? Would you never let me begin to sink into self-pity or fear that somehow my little gospel is small, or that my God is small, or that my Christ is small, or that the cross is small, or that I’m surrounded by a billion Hindus or Muslims and I’m so teeny? Would you never let me succumb to that kind of feeling, but rather would you just sweep me up into the promise that I have a better possession than they’ll ever know, and it is lasting, and I will one day judge angels?