God Is the Gospel

Resolved Conference | Long Beach, California

I preached this morning on marriage from Colossians 3, and I came within a hair of chucking this message tonight and preaching that message because I enjoyed it so much. My son called me on my cell phone as I was going to the airport and he said, “Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you go ahead and preach that sermon tonight?” And so on the airplane I sought the Lord earnestly. “Should I do that? It would be so easy. No preparation on the plane, just sit back and pray and enjoy you.” But I decided not to do that.

I’m going to do what they told me to do. I’m going to talk about my favorite topic, not marriage. Marriage is not my favorite topic because you know marriage is very temporary, it’s pointing to something great, and then it vanishes at the resurrection into what it’s pointing to.

In the resurrection, Bill Piper will not be a bigamist. My mom was married to him for 36 years, then she died. Then Levonne was married to him, a stepmom, for 25 years, and then she died. The Saducees say, “Which one will be his wife?” Then Jesus says, “You don’t know your Bible. In the resurrection they neither marry nor are giving in marriage” (Matthew 22:28–30).

So, marriage is not my favorite topic. It’s way too small, way too little, way too short-term, pointing towards something else. It’s the “something else” that I care about in life, and that’s Christ and his relationship to the church, which is what marriage is supposed to point to. So there, I preached it after all.

God Is the Gospel

My topic is God is the gospel. Let me say what I mean by that right away, and then I’ll try to unpack it for the time we have.

What I mean when I say that God is the gospel is that the highest, best, final, decisive, benefit in the gospel, without which all other benefits are no benefits, and to which all other benefits are pointing, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed to us for our everlasting enjoyment. That’s what I mean by God is the gospel. God himself, revealed in the face of Christ, for our everlasting enjoyment, is the highest, best, final, decisive good that makes the gospel good news. You take it away, there’s no no gospel. I don’t care what else is true about the gospel, without that there’s no gospel. That’s what I want to try and unpack for the time that we have together.

Theological Roots

The roots of it, I’m sure, go back in my life to my dad, but let me just take you back to December 21, 1968 — my wedding day. It was a very small wedding in little, teeny church in Barnesville, Georgia. It was called Midway Baptist Church. There was one best man and one matron of honor, nobody else. There were 60 people in the room, and history was in the making because I love Noelle 38 years later.

There was one text I wanted my dad to read and it goes like this:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17–18).

That was our wedding text. I don’t know why at age 22 the Lord had so sobered me that I knew life would be very difficult, and that there might not be food on the table and no animals in the field and everything devastated, yet if that happened, joy would not be destroyed, because God is God when everything else fails.

Though all around my soul give way, he then is all my hope and stay.

That text (Habakkuk 3:17–18) captures the idea that God is the gospel. Food may go, prosperity may go, but God never goes and that’s all I need. God is the gospel.

Then there was an occasion at Stanford University in 1982 that began to really clarify the issues for me. A few of you might remember that Christian Hedonism was causing little explosions of controversy throughout California’s InterVarsity in the early 80s. People were saying, “What is this? Is it bad? Is it good?” And there was a strong spokesman for Christian Hedonism at Stanford. I won’t tell you his name because he’s totally abandoned the faith, which relates to what I’m about to say, probably.

I came to Stanford to speak with my friend Tom Stellar, who’s still with me in ministry, and we were supposed to talk about Christian Hedonism and try to bring clarity to this chapter of InterVarsity at Stanford. I began to talk, and a few talks into it I could see on their faces, “That’s not what we’ve been hearing Christian Hedonism is.”

Before that conference was over, here’s where the division lay. It’s very subtle. They were quoting texts like:

Acts 17:25 says:

[God is not] served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

So, rejoice. God serves us. We don’t have to be his servant.

Or Mark 10:45, which says:

…The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

So don’t serve him; he serves you.

Or 2 Chronicles 16:9, which says:

…The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

Or Isaiah 64:4, which says:

…[There is no] God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

I love those texts. I love the fact that I don’t work for God, but he works for me. He lifts my burdens, I don’t lift his burdens. That’s what they were hearing and that’s what they were, in their Christian Hedonism. They were rejoicing in the reality that God blesses us, God helps us, and God works to turn all things for our good. And to all that I say amen.

And that’s not what they heard me say. Here’s the problem: My mind for the last 30 to 35 years, because of Jonathan Edwards, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit, is always pushing on almost every sentence I hear toward ultimate implications. So I want to ask, if God serves me, if he does good for me, what’s the good? What is the ultimate thing he does for me? Am I supposed to just feel really excited that God’s on my side, or do I need to ask another question? When he’s on my side, what does he do? What kinds of good things does he do?

…We are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered (Romans 8:36).

So, what’s to rejoice in?

And what they heard me say is, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), because the desires of your heart will be the Lord.

They heard me say, “I will go to the altar of God, to God; to God, my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4).

They came up to me afterwards and said, “Your emphasis seems to be that God himself is our joy, not that he works for us.” And I said, “Well, yeah.” That leader is gone. He’s gone from the faith. It is very subtle. That event, that crisis moment in Stanford to clarify what Christian Hedonism is, what it is saying, was very, very important to me.

Six Questions about God Is the Gospel

Over the years, I’ve been trying to understand the meaning of God is the gospel. This is driven so largely by Jonathan Edwards. Nobody wrestled more, I don’t think, with trying to get at what the nature of the gospel is, or what is it to believe the gospel authentically in a revival situation where everybody is electric. Who’s really believing the gospel and who’s believing a substitute, subtle difference from the gospel? That’s my burden here, because all kinds of gospels are being preached in your church. Notes are being struck that are just a quarter of an inch off and then 80 miles out they’re a quarter of a mile off.

So here are the questions that I’ve tried to answer for myself, and I’ll try to answer for you now:

  1. What’s the relationship between God is the gospel, as I defined it earlier, and the glory of God?

  2. What’s the relationship between God is the gospel and the love of God for me?

  3. What’s the relationship between God is the gospel and the event of conversion?

  4. What’s the relationship between God is the gospel and the gospel as it’s usually preached rightly?

  5. What’s the relationship between God is the gospel and you being the salt and light of the world, that California or wherever you come from, is so needy of?

  6. What’s the relationship between God is the gospel and evangelism and missions, which moves us toward tomorrow morning?

Question 1 — What’s the relationship between God is the gospel and the glory of God?

The answer that I’ve been putting into this rhyming sentence for 20 years is: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, meaning that when you find God to be your supreme treasure, pleasure, delight, you magnify him in that act.

The key text there is Philippians 1:20–21:

My eager expectation and hope is that I might not at all be ashamed, but with all courage, now as always, Christ might be magnified in my body, whether in life or in death, for me to live as Christ and to die is gain.

Now, that text is absolutely system-shaping for me. The sentence, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him,” is rooted there in the Bible.

Here’s the way it goes. This was my sermon that I preached in February of 1980 as a candidating sermon at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

My desire is to magnify Christ (make him look good), whether I live or whether I die (Philippians 1:20).

And the question I ask is, “How do you do it by death? How do you make Christ look great in dying?” Because that’s what he says: “My passion is that Christ would look terrific as I die, in my body. I want that to be true of me.”

It’s like R.C. Sproul used to say, “No, I’m not afraid of death. I’m afraid of dying.” I know exactly what he means. I’ve seen so many tubes, so many gasps, so many blackened tongues and dry mouths and gaspings, just saying, “Let me die.” That is a fearful prospect.

So, how do you make Christ look great as you die? Verse 21 is the ground clause.

For to me to live as Christ and to die is gain.

Just put the logic together. I want Christ to be magnified in my body, in my death, for to die is gain. Do you see?

I take it to mean that the magnification of Christ shines most brightly when I am able to experience death as the loss of absolutely everything but Christ, and call it gain.

If I can do that, if God grants me the sovereign grace at that moment to look into the eyes of my family and just get out one more word, “Gain,” you know who’s going to look great at that moment? Christ will look great at that moment. Because Verse 23 says to depart is far and away better because it’s to be with Christ. That’s why death is gain. So, the logic of Verse 20 and 21 demand that Christ is most glorified in my dying when in my dying I am more satisfied in him than wife, child, retirement, or another year without pain. That’s what I learn from Philippians 1.

So my answer to the question, “How does God is the gospel relate to the glory of God?” is this: God is the gospel says the supreme, ultimate, highest, final, decisive good of the gospel is God revealed in Christ for my everlasting enjoyment, and now I learn when I do that God is glorified. So, his glory is magnified in my being satisfied in him as the gospel.

Question 2 — What’s the relationship between God is the gospel and the love of God for me?

Now, here, if you have a Bible, I invite you to open it and go to John chapter 11. This is the text in recent years that has helped me get more clear the relationship between the love of God and God is the gospel.

This is the story of Lazarus, Mary, Martha. John 11:1–3

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. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

Don’t miss that. This is about love. This is about loving someone, and that’s going to be repeated.

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 11:4).

Now we have the two issues that I’m concerned about: love for Lazarus and glory of God, and I want to know how they relate.

Then he repeats:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (John 11:5).

So, two times he is saying, “I love you, Lazarus.”

Then comes this paradigm-shattering conjunction at the beginning of Verse 6. In my ESV it says so, which could be translated therefore. It’s the Greek oun. If you don’t have a conjunction, get another version.

Therefore, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was (John 11:6).

And we could add, “And let him die.” He knew exactly what he was doing. He let him die, because he loved him. That’s a very strange way to love people.

So, I’ve been preaching a sermon for about six years: The Strange and Wonderful Love of Christ. This is a five-minute version of that sermon. How is it love for Lazarus to let him walk up to and through the horrors of death? He gave the answer in Verse 4: “It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

It is more loving to Lazarus and his sisters, and the onlooking Jewish people, and you and I reading this, that Lazarus die, if God will be displayed as more glorious than if he lived and God not be displayed as more glorious. Which means that the essence and the heart of loving humans is exalting the glory of God for their enjoyment. That’s what love is ultimately.

You can define love in all kinds of lesser ways. It’s doing good things for people; it’s laying down your life for people; it’s meeting the needs of people. And if you don’t get to the point it is aiming at, though it may not always hit it — namely, seeing and savoring the glory of God – then you don’t love them. If you don’t want the people to whom you do good to see more of God, enjoy more of God, and live forever in the enjoyment of more of God, you don’t love them. The world will say you do, but you don’t, because you don’t care about the ultimate satisfaction of their souls forever in God.

So, my answer to the second question is that the love of God toward us is not his making much of us, but his, at the cost of his son’s life, enabling us to enjoy making much of him forever. And to that end, he must reveal himself to us in all the ways that we can enjoy him forever. That’s what love means. It is a very God-centered definition of love.

Question 3 — How does God is the gospel relate to your conversion to Christ?

Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 4:4–6. Alongside Philippians 1, John 11, this passage has become almost without peer in importance to me for understanding the gospel. I’ll read it with you. It says:

In their case the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

What’s the gospel? The gospel is the gospel of the glory of Christ, the image of God. It’s the gospel that displays the glory of Christ.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord with ourselves as your servants, for Jesus’s sake. For…

Here’s what happens in conversion. We saw the downside and the need for conversion in Verse 4. We’re blind. And what are we blind to? We’re blind to glory. If you’re not a believer in this room, you do not see Christ as magnificent — so magnificent that it puts all the pornography, all the money, all the applause, all the toys, wife, girlfriend, sex, and everything in the shadow by its supreme value. That’s what it means to get saved. Your heart changes and you see for a change. For the first time in your life, all the blinders go off, and all the junk in your life that looked like treasure becomes refuse and Christ becomes infinitely valuable.

Now, that was not happening in Verse 4. They were blind. Some of you are blind in this room, and may God open your eyes even as I read Verse 6. Here’s what happens in conversion.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

I believe he is referring back to creation, in order to make the connection between the first creation and the second creation — new creation in Christ. That’s the creation that might happen in your heart tonight, and you would become a new person. It’s exactly parallel with Verse 4, only now we’re not blind to it. By God’s supreme, sovereign, creative power, he looks into your dead, blind, spiritually-disinterested heart and he says, “Lazarus, live.”

And you wake up and say, “Why do I feel a desire to read my Bible? Why do I feel a desire to go to this conference? Why? What is going on in my life? This used to be absolutely boring to me and now I’m finding myself drawn, hungry, open, and eager. I want to know more.”

I’ll tell you what’s happened. Verse 6 has happened. And may it happen for many. You don’t just decide to be a Christian, you know that. This happens and you become a Christian.

Now, the question then is: how does God is the gospel relate to conversion? God is the gospel says the highest, best, final, decisive good that makes the gospel good news is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for your everlasting enjoyment. And there it is. It is the gospel of the glory of Christ.

If you don’t see, savor, and be satisfied with Christ, glorious in his crucifixion and resurrection and reign and coming, you’re not a believer. To be saved is to have that happen to us. That’s the answer to question number three.

Question 4 — What does God is the gospel have to do with the gospel as it is usually preached rightly?

I say rightly because I’m not talking mainly about all the distortions, although I do have a thing or two to say about one or two distortions. But mainly, I want evangelicals to take the gospel all the way to the ultimate good in the gospel. What does the gospel in the New Testament include? This is a conference on the gospel itself. Every message you’ve heard has been opening what I’m about to talk about.

There are five elements to the gospel. Now, when I say five elements, I know that if you broaden out the term you could say the gospel of the kingdom and move away from the center of Christ crucified and risen. I’m staying at the center and treating that as the gospel, and in that I’m saying there are five things:

1. An event.

As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:3:

I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins.

That’s a historical event. With no event, there’s no gospel. There must have been an event that happened in history on a dateable moment, not that you have to know the date, it just has to have been on a date. So, the first essential element in the gospel is Jesus Christ, outside of you, independent of you, long before you existed, died and rose again.

2. The achievement of his death, objectively outside of us.

For example, the wrath of God was absorbed for all the elect.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3).

Whose flesh? Jesus. Whose sin? Mine. He was condemned. Anger and punishment was poured out on Christ’s flesh. The nails went through his hands, not mine. So, the accomplishment of wrath averted, absorbed, or sins covered, as it says in Colossians 2:14:

[He forgave our sins] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

That happened 2,000 years ago before you were born. Our sins were covered. Also, righteousness was provided and consummated in this event.

He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

That righteousness was secured and fulfilled before you ever existed. It’s the achievement of the cross in these things, including the purchase of eternal life and so on. So we have the event and the achievement.

3. The free offer.

If there’s no event, there’s no gospel. If nothing was achieved to remove the wrath of God and cover my sins, there’s no gospel. And if it is offered to me on the basis of works, there’s no gospel.

It’s offered to me freely by faith alone. By faith alone, I am justified. By faith alone, I get eternal life. By faith alone, my sins are covered. By faith alone, the wrath against me is removed. We could go into so much detail here about how faith does have in it holiness. It is a good thing. But you are not justified with respect to faith as a good thing. You are justified with respect to faith as that which cleaves to the good thing — Christ alone.

Faith, insofar as it is an abandonment of any claim to be a good thing and cleaves only to the good thing (the righteous one), justifies, obtains forgiveness, and has the removal of wrath. Therefore, we have three elements that are absolutely indispensable. There must be an event, there must be an achievement, and there must be a free offer for faith alone, not works, or there’s no gospel.

4. The application of all this in your experience — reconciled, forgiven, justified, having eternal life.

You must experience this or there’s no gospel. If it only happens to other people and doesn’t happen to you, not good news for you. For the gospel to be gospel to you, you must experience forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, and the inheritance of eternal life.

5. God-centeredness.

Now, right at this point the question is raised, which many pastors, I don’t think, raise. I put it like this: Who cares about being forgiven? Which usually causes people to say, “I do. Why do you ask that?” I ask it not because you don’t care, but because so many people don’t know why they do. Why do you care about being forgiving? Now, be careful here, because here’s some sample answers: “If I’m not forgiven, I feel crummy all the time. I don’t like to feel guilty.” Another answer would be, “If my sins don’t get forgiven, I’m going to go to hell. I don’t want to go to hell. So, I like being forgiven.”

Those are very inadequate answers. What’s the right answer? Let’s pretend you’re married, and your wife is mad at you, and rightly so, because you just said something totally demeaning out of your carnality, and there’s ice in the kitchen air, and her back is to you at the sink, manifestly and intentionally. You need forgiveness. Why? Because at work you really don’t like feeling bad about things you said? Or there won’t be any sex tonight?

I tell you the right answer as to why you should want to be forgiven is because you want her back. And I don’t mean her back. I used to say, “I like being against you, but not against you.”

You want her to turn around and you say, “I’m sorry, I did it again. I really am sorry. I don’t want to go to work with our relationship like this. I want you back.” You want her face to change, her countenance to change, you want an embrace, and you want forgiveness. Why? Because of her. I want her. That’s the answer. I want God. Forgiveness just gets stuff out of the way between me and God. Forgiveness has value for one reason, it brings me home to God, reconciled.

That’s what I want pastors to get to. I want you to get there. I don’t want you to stop at justification; I don’t want you to stop at forgiveness; I don’t want you to stop merely at objective reconciliation; I don’t want you to stop at eternal life; I want you to push through all four of those, because the Bible does.

I’ll give you the texts. What about reconciliation?

We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

The point is we finally have gotten to the end and we rejoice in God, so reconciliation is a means to the end of making God the gospel. We rejoice in him.

Or what about forgiveness? I’ve already illustrated that from Colossians 1:14. We get everything out of the way that is an obstacle to enjoying God when we’re forgiven.

What about justification? Romans 5:1–2 says:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

That’s the point of justification. Who cares if we’re righteous? You want to be God? Is that why you want to be righteous? Do you want to boast in your righteousness? Why do you want to be righteous? I’ll tell you why, because when you’re righteous you get God. You don’t get put in hell. You get God. You can reflect God, enjoy God, and be like God.

And eternal life, what is it? John 17:3 says:

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

So all of the things that we usually terminate on in preaching the gospel, we terminate one step early. We need in America, again, a great awakening of radical God-centeredness, although that word God-centeredness, which I love and use all the time, is spatially not right. It’s glorious, and he is at the center of everything, but you can hear I’ve got him as the ultimate end. I don’t know how to make that a phrase. You make one and come and tell me about how you develop a church so that everything terminates on God, everything is from him and through him and to him.

We just need a church, millions and millions of believers, that are so oriented on God being the gospel that they break through forgiveness to God, and through justification to God, and through reconciliation to God, and through eternal life to God. That’s my answer to question number four. I think I’ll make these last ones shorter if I can.

Question 5 — How does God is the gospel relate to us being salt and light?

Here I’m upset about the prosperity Gospel because of an article in the Minneapolis Tribune about one of the big churches that has 10,000 members, and the pastor has a jet and two big condos worth $3 million in Florida with real estate everywhere. He gets breaks from his church, so he’s in trouble with the IRS. It’s a mess and I am really upset about it because in the article, one of the leaders was quoted about being the salt of the earth, and I just hit the roof. I just went ballistic.

What do you think the salt of the earth is (Matthew 5:13)? Well, you are the salt of the earth, but how? Let’s go to Matthew 5 quickly. I’m going to experiment with you here. This is my exegetical conviction and you test it. I’m going to define for you the salt of the earth in terms of God is the gospel, because I see that in this text. Matthew 5:11–13 says:

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…

Now, I believe that the reward there is Christ, ultimately God. I do believe in degrees of rewards in heaven, but ultimately every reward is leading to God and he is the final reward. So because we have an all-satisfying, glorious, final, high treasure called Jesus Christ, or the Father in Heaven, we can rejoice in the midst of persecution.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth…

Now, what do you think the salt is if you just let it flow? I’ll tell you what it’s not: wealth. The prosperity gospel is no gospel because what it does is offer to people what they want as natural people. You don’t have to be born again to want to be wealthy, and therefore you don’t have to be converted to be saved by the prosperity gospel.

When you appeal to people to come to Christ on the basis of what they already want, 1 Corinthians 2:14 makes no sense:

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him.

Therefore, if you offer to people what they do not consider foolish in the natural man, you’re not preaching the gospel. The prosperity gospel offers to people what they desperately want as fallen people, gives it to them, grows huge churches, and then we export it to Africa and the Philippines, flying it in with our jets, bilking up their money, and then go back to our condos worth $3 million. It is horrific what we export as Americans. I can’t believe what we tolerate in the church.

I’m on a crusade to crucify the prosperity gospel. I hate the prosperity gospel because I love the glory of God. I want America to be salted with you. This is called Resolved here. We could call it Salted. I want you to go out of here salting. What will that mean? Here’s what I think it means. The salt of the earth are people that are so satisfied with their reward in heaven, namely God, that they joyfully endure pain in the service of Jesus. I think that was preached on earlier today.

Because the world is simply not going to be impressed with a church that is motivated by what they’re motivated by. This is not rocket science. A church that is motivated by money is just like the world. I don’t care if Jesus is the means to get it, or whether the stock market is the means to get it. It doesn’t matter who’s the means to get it, we would be driven by the same thing.

However, if churches can rise up where it could be said, “Blessed are you when men persecute you and revile you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely. Rejoice in that day and be glad because God is the gospel. God is the gospel, not money, not health, not family. God is the gospel.” When that happens, you will be the salt of the earth. You will taste so different. You will taste so attractive. Something will lodge in people and they’ll say, “I hate that and I love that. I hate it because it indicts me. I love it because God might be shedding abroad some truth in my heart.”

Question 6 — How does God is the gospel relate to evangelism?

I have stressed, perhaps overstressed, that if you preach what appeals to the natural man, you’re not preaching the gospel, because the Bible says that the natural man regards the gospel as foolishness. That sounds logically right, it just overlooks the work of the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit, as he broods, especially under the preaching of the gospel, can take natural people like those in this room who came in here not awake, not alive to the spiritual reality of Christ, and he can be at work in you to quicken and awaken.

And beyond that, I think there is natural revelation and a law written on the natural man’s heart which, if God is merciful, could recognize some aspects of the gospel as overlapping with their desires. I’m just going to give you three examples. This is my attempt to make what I’ve just said here to mostly believers overlap with the heart of an unbeliever. I have three illustrations and then we’ll close.

The first illustration is one I’ve used for years, and I’ll just mention it here because you may have heard it already. Nobody goes to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem. So why do they go? Why will people pay money to go there and feel fragile and small? I’ll tell you why, and you can tell people this. You should ask them, “Why do you go there?” Even if people can’t go there, they buy these big $50 glossy books and put them on our coffee table with pictures of big mountains, rivers, and valleys. Why? What’s going on there? You don’t stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon to feel like somebody, yet you go there.

The reason is because deeply written on the human soul is the truth that we were made, not to be made much of, but to make much of God. That’s what is written on your heart. Every human soul has a writing on their heart that says, “You’re made for God. You’re made to see him and savor him and admire him.”

I went to an In-N-Out Burger today. About two hours ago I had my first In-N-Out Burger, and I walked into the restroom and then I came out and said to Rick, “There’s a relationship between the restroom and heaven.” And he said, “How’s that?” I said, “There’s no mirror in the restroom.” I believe with all my heart heaven will not be a hall of mirrors where we like what we see, which is what many people think it’s going to be, as if to say, “Finally, I like me.”

I don’t think there are going to be any mirrors in heaven at all. I think you’re going to be the mirror in heaven. That’s written on your heart. Your highest joy does not come from standing in front of a mirror, liking what you see. I don’t care how many psychologists tell you that it is, that’s not your highest joy. Your highest joy will be becoming a mirror off of which Christ shines, as you behold him and are satisfied in him.

The second illustration is a cartoon called Arlo and Janis. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Arlo and Janis. I don’t read cartoons. These were sent to me and I love it.

Here’s the frame. Arlo and Janis are these two old people, like me and Noelle, standing out in the snow under a tree and he says to her, “It’s so quiet.” And she says, “Yes.” And then he says, “Hey,” and they walk away into the dark, “Ever notice the best moments make you feel insignificant?” That’s in the newspaper. That’s not in the Bible. What’s that? “The best moments make you feel insignificant.” Explain that. It’s because you’re made for God, as the gospel. You go down, he goes up, your joy expands, he enlarges in being satisfied in him.

Here is the third illustration, and I cannot believe this happened. You know speakers, when they go to hotel rooms, they get baskets of food given to them. Here’s the ad that I brought with me for Nature Valley Trail Mix, Fruit and Nut, which I tore out of a National Geographic sub magazine to illustrate the gospel. So now we have a prophetic affirmation of this illustration.

Now, here’s the picture. In it, there is this magnificent scene — a lake, distant hills, and a peak. And then there are two little human beings at the top of this mountain with their arms stretched like this, with ropes hanging over their arms. They climbed this thing and they’re standing up there. I’ll read what the ad says: “You’ve never felt more alive, you’ve never felt more insignificant.”

Isn’t this amazing? My point is it’s written on their hearts. It’s written on their hearts that they’re made for God. There is an overlap. You can find a way to talk to your friends at school about God being the gospel. You can find overlaps in the things they long for, and yearn for, and how things go bankrupt in their lives when they set their affections on small things.

I’ll read Jonathan Edwards in closing. This is one of the best quotes from Edwards on God is the gospel. I’ll read it, I’ll pray, and then we’ll come back and talk about missions, God willing, tomorrow morning.

The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest good and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints. He is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament, their diadem, and their everlasting honor and glory. They have none in heaven but God. He is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world.

The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem and is the river of the water of life that runs, and is the tree of life that grows in the midst of the paradise of God. The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things. They will enjoy angels and will enjoy one another. But that which they shall enjoy in the angels or in each other, or in anything whatsoever that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them.