Jonathan Edwards, historically, is the inspiration for this gathering, and I should just tell you that makes being here a double honor not only because it’s an honor to speak to you and be in your land, but Jonathan Edwards (and one book in book in particular) has had a greater influence on me probably than any other dead teacher outside the Bible.
The book I have in mind is called The End For Which God Created the World. If I could choose, I think apart from the Bible, one book that sums up everything I have to say in life, it’s Jonathan Edward’s book The End For Which God Created the World. The messages you’re going to hear from me would be messages that, if Jonathan Edwards were in the room, he would recognize. He would say, “I said that. I didn’t say it that way, but I said that.” I would say, “I know. That’s where I got it after I tested it by the Bible.”
So you should know there’s no accident between the historical inspiration of this conference and my presence here. I consider it amazingly, wonderfully an honor to represent Jonathan Edwards and say to you, I think, what he would have said in this context.
The Reason We Exist
Here’s the way it’s going to go if God wills. I’ll put it in a sentence and it’s the summary of all three messages: the reason you exist is to share in and to share God’s passion for his glory. I say that without any fear of contradiction whatsoever concerning any of you. The reason you exist is to share in and to share God’s passion for God.
Now, there’s a simpler, less controversial, and more acceptable way of saying that, and I’ll say it and then I’ll say why I don’t say it that way. I could say the reason you exist is to love God and love people, and everybody would say, “No controversy, no shock, no emotion, no energy, no wonder, no awe, no anger, no emotional response. That’s just an intellectual agreement and I hope the next speaker says something fresh” — even though saying that you exist to love God and love people is an awesome thing to say, but nobody responds that way anymore.
There are three great realities in either of those sentences, the one that’s uncontroversial and straightforward and acceptable and the one that I said. The three great realities are God, love for God, and love for people. Nobody understands those to very much depth. We just hear those words and think, “Okay, now tell me something practical tomorrow afternoon I can do.” The word God, if you saw the reality behind it, you wouldn’t be sitting here. You would be flat on your face. You would be so stunned, so in awe, so frightened, so amazed.
Love for God, does anybody know what that is? Love for people, does anybody know what that is? We are so infected by the world that we interpret love for God in ways that are unbelievably man-centered, and we interpret love for other people in such a way that God is scarcely on the agenda. It’s just their minds or their bellies.
I don’t think the world, or the church in America, Europe, or Africa, knows much about God. I don’t think I know much about God. But oh, I want to know. I want to know him. I’m so thin, and I want to love him in a way that he recognizes, “That’s what I meant.” Oh, to love people not in a way that gets any worldly attraction, but a way that causes God to say, “That’s what I meant. That’s the kind of love for people that I had in mind.” That’s what I care about, and I feel like a baby. So I want to go behind the words: God, love for God, and love for people. Those are the three messages.
God’s Passion for His Glory
Let me state the first sentence again, the one that I think needs explaining and unpacking. You exist to share in and to share God’s passion for God’s glory. That has three parts. The first message is about God’s passion for the glory of God. The reason I’m using this language is because in my mind if you don’t get God’s passion for the glory of God, you don’t get God. So all talk of loving God and all talk of loving people is meaningless if you don’t get that.
The reason I say you are here to share in God’s passion for God is because that’s the meaning of love for God, and if you don’t get that, you don’t love him. You do it already even though you may not use that language. If you’re a Christian, you love him this way. You share in his enjoyment of himself. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. God comes in and the Holy Spirit is the Trinitarian love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, and that carries so much of the Father and so much of the Son that he stands forth as a third person.
When He comes as the love of the Father for the Son and the love of the Son for the Father into your life and fills you, what do you do but love the Father and love the Son with the energy of God who is the Holy Spirit? This is what love is. This is God enjoying God in you and through you.
Then, if you ask what love for God is, it’s your heart entering into that, saying, “Yes, Father, you are magnificent. Yes, Son, you are magnificent. You are my treasure. You are supremely satisfying to me.” That’s the Holy Spirit’s work in your life.
Then the question is, all right, now what does it mean to love people? And to love people is to take that and do whatever you can at the cost of your life to get it into other people’s hearts so that they are satisfied in God now and forever. That’s why you’re on the planet.
So there are three messages: God, love for God, and love for people. So tonight’s message is about God. That is, it’s about God’s zeal for God and God’s love for the glory of God. That’s where we’re going.
Just try to hear it, even though, for some of you anyway, this is going to sound so new and so different from some of what you’ve been taught about the nature of God that your first reaction is going to be, “That is weird.” I’m just pleading with you, test it by the Bible. I’m going to give you a lot of Bible. I don’t give a rip about what I think and you shouldn’t either. I care very deeply about what this Book says. God speaks; I learn. If I don’t get it, it’s not his problem; it’s my problem. And it’s the same with you. So if it’s here, believe it and spend the rest of your life trying to understand and grow into it.
A Test of Our God-Centeredness
Let me give you a quiz. You shouldn’t answer out loud though. After the first question you’ll get them all right because they’re all the same question expressed in different ways. So here’s my quiz. There are five questions. Just answer in your head. Number one: who is the most God-centered person in the universe? Answer: God is.
Second question: who is the uppermost in God’s affections? Answer: God is.
Third question: is God an idolater? Answer: no, he has no other God besides himself.
Fourth question: what is God’s chief jealousy? Answer: to be known and admired and trusted and enjoyed and obeyed and treasured above all.
Fifth question: what is the chief end of God? Answer: the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever. That’s tonight’s message.
Now, if you ask, “Why in the world do you mess with the Westminster Catechism? I mean, it’s a good catechism and it begins, ‘What is the chief end of man?’ and it answers, ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.’ You mess with it and say, ‘What is the chief end of God?’ Why do you do that? They didn’t do that. Are you smarter than the Westminster divines?”
Here’s the reason: they could take something for granted in the 1600s that we cannot take for granted, something I cannot take for granted. In fact, for most human beings on planet Earth today, it is incomprehensible, not merely just to be taken for granted — namely, that God is more valuable than man. They took that for granted in the 1600s. They didn’t have to draw that out. I do because very few of you feel that. We are, for the last 200 years at least, taught from every angle on the planet that we are center and God better shape up. We think, “What are all these avalanches and hurricanes and floods and famines? He better get his act together because we don’t like what he’s doing.”
We are central in our affections. Man is supreme. Man is the central value in the universe for 99 percent of human beings. Therefore, I can’t assume the truth that man is not the center. Man is not more valuable than God. God is 10 million times more valuable than all men put together in all of history. If you put God on this side of the scales and six billion times 10,000 human beings on this side of the scale, it goes down. Humans are like dust on the scales, Isaiah says.
It’s like drops from a bucket compared to the glory of Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, who’s been here forever and ever and ever and created us by the snap of his finger, and could put us out of existence by the snap of his finger. Until we have a sense that God is supreme, that God is infinitely valuable, and that compared to him, we are nothing. He is everything. Until you bring that to the Westminster Catechism, you’re going to need another starting place and I’m trying to give it to you tonight. Until our deepest joy becomes participation in God’s God-centeredness, we will remain in bondage to self.
What’s at the Bottom of Your Joy?
Here’s a sixth test question: do you feel more loved by God because he makes much of you or do you feel more loved by God because he, at great cost to himself, frees you to make much of him? The world divides on that question. The church divides on that question.
Make no mistake, believer, God makes much of you. Oh, if I had another sermon, a fourth sermon, that’s what it would be about.
Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:30).
Do you know what that means? He will make you glorious. He’s doing it right now. It’s called sanctification. That’s why sanctification isn’t in the list. Did you ever ask that question? Why doesn’t it say, “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also sanctified, and those whom he sanctified he also glorified?” Why doesn’t it say that? Because glorification has begun and it’s called sanctification now and glorification when it’s finished, and it means you’re going to shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father, and you will be tempted to bow down and worship one another because you will be so magnificent.
So make no mistake: God makes much of his children. But you will not understand the meaning of what it is to be glorious as a human nor will you be able to enter into what it is to be gloriously human until that is not your chief delight, but rather being enabled by that glorification to see him for who he is and find him to be your supreme treasure and your heart’s satisfaction. God knows he is that for you and therefore, he constantly, without fail, holds up his glory as the supreme value in the universe.
God Does All Things for His Glory
So what should we do next in this message? We should open our Bibles. I’m going to spend all the rest of our time, except for a brief summary, going from text to text to hammer you with this truth, or better, pour this blessed truth over your head. I don’t know what it’s going to feel like to you. It feels to me like a waterfall of grace. I do believe that God’s all-sufficient, totally satisfied joy in himself is the fountain of grace. Until we see it that way, we will be resisting grace. So let’s walk through the Bible.
Now, I don’t think I’m going to leave you enough time to look them all up. I’m going to say them, read them, and comment on them. You can write them down, or you can look them up. I’ve put this list in I don’t know how many books. This list is not new. So they’re out there and I’m going to just choose what we have time for.
This is a preface to the list. When I was growing up, one of the most common texts that I heard come out of my wonderful, godly father’s mouth toward me or in counseling our family was, “Johnny, whatever you do, son, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” My father loved the glory of God. He never said sentences like this. He never preached a sermon like this, but I think the roots were all there. I think that’s why I preach this way.
But I never heard him say, “The reason, son, that you should do all for the glory of God is that God does all for the glory of God.” I never heard him say that. That’s what I say all the time because it’s the only thing I know to do to shake you out of your slumbers of man-centeredness. It rustles the feathers. It sounds like God’s a megalomaniac. It does.
I’ve seen it written in the London Financial Times. People are saying it on the university campuses. Don Carson says in his typical question that he gets is, “What kind of God do you have that has to get praised all the time, demanding people to worship him all the time? Does he have some need? Is he on some ego trip?” So I’m pushing this. That’s the kind of text we’re bumping into. So let’s look at them.
I’m just going to walk you right through redemptive history, and here’s what I’m after. I want you to answer whether these texts are pointing to what I have said in the last 10 or 15 minutes. Is God radically God-centered? Is God in love with the glory of God? Is God passionate for his perfections in these texts? Here we go.
Before creation, let’s start in eternity, there was this reality of election or predestination. It’s already been read. I’m going to read it again from Ephesians 1:4–6. It says:
[God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace . . .
Do you see where it was all leading? Why were we chosen? Why were we predestined? Why were we adopted? Why does he have the purpose of his will doing all of that? Why? Ephesians 1:6 says, “Unto the praise of the glory of his grace.” He chose me for the praise of the glory of his grace. He adopted me for the praise of the glory of his grace. He predestined me for the praise of the glory of his grace. He is doing it all that he be praised, that he be praised. This is God acting. This is not my father saying, “John, make sure you do that.” This is God doing that.
Then he created the world and everything in it. Isaiah 43:6–7 says:
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.
God made you for God’s glory. Now, that’s an ambiguous statement. It does not mean God made you so that he would become more glorious. It means God made you so that you would reflect back to him and display to the world how glorious he already is. Have you ever asked — I’m sure you have — what does it mean in Genesis 1:27 that God created them, male and female, in his own image? What does that mean?
We wrestle and argue, saying, “Well it means that we have morality and animals don’t; we have rationality and animals don’t; we have relational capacities and animals don’t,” and things like that. Well that’s probably all true. There’s a simpler and more important answer: images are created to image.
God is saying, “I’m making you in my image, so do that.” Are you doing that? Do people look at your life and read, “God is great. Jesus is all-satisfying. Jesus is worth living and dying for”? Is that the message? Are you imaging that? That’s what you exist for. Images exist to image. So predestination is for his glory and creation for his glory.
Then God calls a people to himself called Israel. He calls Abraham, and he works with him for 2,000 years. Why did he do it that way? Well there are so many answers to that question. When you read Romans 9–11, you say, “You are a complex God. You are a God who doesn’t believe in straight lines at all. You are taking detours all over the place. You’re going round in circles and they’re going in and out and up and down. Where are you heading?”
There are sentences that clarify it all like this one. This would be Isaiah 49:3. He says:
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
Or consider Jeremiah 13:11, which says:
I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory . . .
That’s why he chose Israel. That makes sense of all the pieces. Everything that happened to Israel happened because he chose them to be a name and a praise and a glory for God in the earth. He did it for himself.
One of the great acts in saving Israel was the exodus. Jews celebrate the exodus more than they celebrate anything, and rightly so. It was meant to be an occasion of worship. Why did he do it? Why did he go down into Egypt and do that, not with one plague or two plagues or three plagues, but 10 plagues? He could have started with number 10. He could have. Why did he do it, and why did he do it that way?
Here’s Psalm 106:7–8:
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
God is getting a name for himself at the Red Sea. Here’s another one. This one is Romans 9:17:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
God is saying, “I want my name known.” This is God talking. He’s not just Johnny listening to daddy, saying, “Make his name known, son.” This is God making his name known.
Just to give you a little window of where I’m going, how did Rehab the harlot in Jericho get saved? Because God did this. She said, “We have heard of him and how he dried up the sea, and I want to know this God and I don’t want to be judged.” And evangelism happened as God magnified his name in the earth. Salvation came to a prostitute and her family. I’m going towards good news, folks. I’m going towards the deepest ground of the gospel you’ve ever seen in your life. That’s what I’m trying to do here.
They went into the wilderness and man, did they make a mess of it. Over and over again, they grumbled. He would do a great and glorious thing for them and then they would grumble, just filled with doubt and unbelief and irreverence and desire to throw the gift back in his face and go back to Egypt. What did he do? He should have just wiped them out, right? He was going to wipe them out. Why didn’t he wipe them out? Ezekiel 20:14 says:
I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.
They deserved to be wiped out, and God’s name deserves to be exalted. He says, “I’m not wiping my people out. I’m magnifying my name, even in patience and forgiveness.”
Conquest of the Nations
They came into the promised land and conquered it. Why? Why did God do that? Second Samuel 7:23 says:
And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?
Making a name for himself, that’s why he took them into the land. These people, just like us, eventually decided they wanted to be like the nations and have a king. Remember that story? They said, “We want a king.” “I’m your king,” God says. Samuel has to deliver this message to God. He says, “They want a king,” and God says, “I know they want a king. It’s not against you they rebel. They rebelled against me. I’m going to give them a king. You go tell them.”
Listen to this amazing passage from 1 Samuel 12:20–22 about why the Lord did this amazing work of not destroying these people. He says:
Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil.
Does that sound strange to you? That’s backwards. It should be, “Fear, you have done all this evil,” but this is the gospel coming into being. This is the introduction of grace all through the Bible and what’s underneath grace. What is underneath grace? You tell me what’s underneath grace in this verse. He says:
And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord . . . For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake . . .
He is saying, “I’m not going to wipe them out for my namesake even though they’ve asked for a king.” Here’s just a little parenthesis here. The messiah came from these kings. The messiah, who would save the world, came from the sinful installation of a king. There are many stories in your life like that, are there not? God is turning the mess you made into hope. The very mess, the very mess becomes a place of hope. That’s a parenthesis.
They come back from Babylon. I’m jumping forward. They’ve been sent in judgment into Babylon. They come back. Why? Why does he spare them and bring them back? I’m going to read for you now, I think, the three most densely God-centered verses in the Bible. Here they go. This is Isaiah 48:9–11:
For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
That’s six times in those three verses. That’s why I think these are the most densely God-exalting verses in the Bible. He says, “For my name’s sake . . . for the sake of my praise . . . for my own sake . . . for my own sake . . . how should my name be profaned? . . . My glory I will not give to another.” You can’t miss that point. God is passionate for God’s glory.
Jesus now appears in the world. Oh my, why did he come? Luke says:
Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:10–14).
He doesn’t say, “What a treasure man must be that God would come to save him like this.” When you are saved, angels say, “Glory to God.” When a savior comes into the world like a little baby lying in a manger and lives a perfect life and dies a horrid death to save sinners, angels say, “Glory to God.” Shouldn’t we? Should we find in Jesus an echo of our inestimable worth? Don’t forget what I said about him making much of you. Just get it right. Get it in order.
At the end of the age he’s coming again. Why? Why is he coming? I’ll read it to you. This is 2 Thessalonians 1:9–10. This is the end of history. This is the goal of it all. Paul is describing what happens to unbelievers and believers as the great king returns. Maybe he’ll land in South Africa. I suspect somehow if you’re his, you’ll see it, and maybe in our lifetime. Wouldn’t that be breathtaking? Here’s what it says is going to happen:
They (unbelievers) will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
He’s coming for two reasons: to be glorified and to be marveled at. So if you interviewed Jesus in the clouds, saying, “Why are you here?” he would say, “I’m here to get praise. I’m here to get glory. I’m here to be marveled at,” which is why the world stumbles on university campuses. Who talks like that?
Now, discerning people among you are uncomfortable with an omission in my trek through history, and you should be very uncomfortable and say, “I can’t believe he’s finished.” Well I’m not. What have I left out in my trek through history? The most important event that has happened and will ever happen: Christ died for sinners. Why?
Now, if you have a Bible, I do want you to open them. We are going to look at Romans 3, the most important paragraph in the Bible, just briefly. Conrad Mbewe, if you want to unpack this in one of your messages, that would be glorious, but you have your plan. I have no idea what it is. So I’m going to be light on this because I’d be happy for you to take it. Here we are in Romans 3. I know it’s kind of the middle of a verse, but let’s start in the middle of verse 22:
There is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified (that is, declared righteous and just in God’s eyes) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (that means he removed God’s wrath against our sin and against us) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness (that’s why he died), because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:22–26).
Now, here are just a very few clarifying comments. It starts with, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I think when you take those two together, “sin” and “fall short of the glory of God,” what you get is a definition of sin. “Fall short of” may not be the right or best or clearest translation. The word is lack. All have sinned and lack the glory of God. Well, in what sense? I think it’s in the sense of Romans 1:23. Romans 3:23 is explained by Romans 1:23, and what Romans 1:23 says is that human beings have exchanged the glory of God for the glory of images, especially the one in the mirror.
When you exchange God’s glory, which is given to you as your highest treasure and deepest satisfaction, for another one, whether it’s an idol out here or the idol in the mirror, you sin. All sinning is feeling, thinking, speaking, and doing that flows from that exchange, from not treasuring God supremely over all. Another way to say it is that all sin flows from idolatry.
So when sin happens, God is defamed. God creates you to be satisfied with his glory, love his glory, treasure his glory, reflect his glory, and when we all sin — and we all have — we blackball God, we spurn God, we refuse God, and we turn around and we dig empty cisterns, broken cisterns that can haul no water, and we try to satisfy ourselves with other things. What could be more defaming to the name of God than to prefer anything to God? Every time we prefer something to God, we defame God’s glory and we belittle God’s glory.
Acting to Reflect What Is Infinitely Valuable
Here’s a second observation: God’s righteousness, if you really think it to the bottom, is his doing what’s right. If you say, “Well what’s right for God? He has no book to obey. He writes the book,” the answer is that he should do all things so as to reflect that he values what is infinitely valuable.
I’ll say it again. This is a little bit anthropomorphic, but deal with it. When God faces the question, “What is right for me to do,” the bottom answer is to act according to his infinite worth. If he acts as though he is not infinitely valuable, he tells a lie and it’s wrong to lie.
He thinks, “That’s all right. That’s what I’ll do.” God does what’s right, and what’s right is what magnifies the infinite worth of God, which means sin belittles God. How will God magnify God over against man who does nothing but belittle him? Answer: hell or Christ. That’s what this text says. Let’s read it.
This is from Romans 3:25, near the end. It says, “This (bloodshedding, horrible killing of the pure, infinite, all-glorious Son of the living God) was to show God’s righteousness,” which means he upholds the worth of his glory. We all trample it. We have had millennia after millennia of his creatures trampling his glory in almost every act of their lives. How shall any of them not go to hell to pay eternally for that infinite outrage? Answer: Christ’s blood settles the issue for all who are in him.
God’s glory is worth this much. You will either pay in hell or be in Christ who paid it at Calvary. God’s righteousness will be vindicated in unbelievers suffering forever and in believers benefiting from the infinitely loss of glory in the cross.
Why did he come to die? He came to die so that God’s righteousness might be vindicated. This is said explicitly in the phrase, “This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance, he passed over former sins” (Romans 3:25).
There are people today all over the world who would say, “This is crazy. The God I have doesn’t need to prove his righteousness because he passed over sins.” Passing over sins is what God is supposed to do. We get mad at him if he doesn’t. That’s the opposite of the problem Paul is solving here. Paul is solving the problem, “How can God be righteous and save you? How can God be righteous and pass over David’s sin?”
King David’s Sin
Think about David. When it says, “he passed over former sins,” he’s thinking about Abraham and David. I think of David mainly. So David, when he’s supposed to be out fighting the battle with Uriah, is horny on his roof and he sees this naked woman next door. He’s the king. He can do whatever he wants, so he sends for her and sleeps with her and sends her home and then she’s pregnant. He thinks, “Oh, my. Now, I have a problem.” You have a problem? You already had a problem, but now he has another problem. So he sends for her husband who’s valiantly fighting for the king. I mean this is a horrible story. I hate David at this point.
Of course, I’m not God. God didn’t get rid of him, though I would have. Obviously, you shouldn’t follow me. So Uriah comes and David sends him home to sleep with his wife so everybody will think it’s his baby. He won’t go in and sleep with her because his comrades are on the battlefield and he’s going to be a valiant lover of the king. So he gets him drunk, but it doesn’t even work. So David says to Joab, “Look, make sure he gets killed when you attack the next city.” Joab does what the king says. He gets killed, and David marries Bathsheba.
Nathan the prophet is then sent to David, right? He comes and tells him a little parable. This man had lots of sheep and he had a guest. Instead of killing one of his sheep to feed him, he went to his poor neighbor next door. Do you hear the analogy? He took the one sheep the guy had, killed the sheep, and fed his guest. He was telling David this story, and David said, “That man is guilty. That man should be punished.” Nathan, taking his life in his hands — this is what prophets do all the time — points his finger right in David’s face and says, “You’re the man.”
By grace, David confessed his sin. Do you know what the next thing was out of Nathan’s mouth? He said, “God has taken away your sin.” Just like that? Come on. What if you were Uriah’s dad? What if you were Bathsheba’s mom? You just couldn’t have let this off? What kind of a judge is that? That is one unjust, evil judge.
The Problem with Forgiveness
That’s the problem Paul is solving in Romans 3, and you all have it because if you went before a judge in Johannesburg and somebody had raped your daughter and killed someone and the judge said, “We’ll just let it go,” every moral fiber in your being would say, “No! What kind of a judge are you?” That’s God they’re talking to. He passed over former sins. The reason you are breathing is because he’s that kind of God. You would have been in hell a long time ago if he weren’t that kind of God.
How can he be that way? How can God be just and just pass over all your sins? Just believe what’s in the Bible. This bloodshedding of the Son of God was to show that God is righteous, and he had to show it because in divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It’s to show his righteousness at the present time when he justifies the ungodly by faith alone.
I tell you, we have the best news in all the world, that God justifies the ungodly by faith alone. All I’m trying to do is put power underneath it and make it absolutely unshakeable. It is not based on your worth. It’s based on God’s worth, and that cannot be shaken. You’ll doubt yours all the time. You won’t ever have to doubt God’s infinite worth. When you see that all grace and all salvation and all God’s patience and all of his kindness and all of his tenderness and all of his friendliness is based on his massive commitment to his name and his glory, you have a foundation that cannot be shaken.
That’s all I’m trying to do. I want to help you love, which is what tomorrow is about. I want you to love God and love people. I think you should be the most radical lovers of people, the most sacrificial, most risk-taking lovers of people on the planet. That comes from the gospel, and the gospel I’m trying to show tonight has a foundation under it that is deeper than you ever dreamed, broader than you ever dreamed, higher than you ever dreamed, and more unshakeable than you ever dreamed — namely, God’s commitment to God.
If you’ve never heard that before, just spend the rest of your life thinking about it. That’s all I do. I just think about it. I told Matt when we were walking out the door tonight, “Matt, I’ve given this kind of message 50 times and I see new things. I’m going to say it in some new ways. I love this truth.”
God Exalted for Our Everlasting Enjoyment
Well let me close like this. Why isn’t God a megalomaniac in relentlessly magnifying his own perfections and lifting them up? The answer is that this is not megalomania; this is love because you were made to be infinitely happy in God, in the beauty of God, in the perfections of God, in the attributes of God. If God doesn’t preserve the worth, preserve the honor, and uphold all of that, he will rob you of what alone can give you everlasting joy. God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the highest virtue and the clearest manifestation of love because you were made to be satisfied in him.
He must be infinitely valuable for your soul to be satisfied in him. He cannot, in some kind of mock humility, deny that he is infinitely delightful. You would be robbed of what your soul was made to enjoy and treasure.
I’ve been saying this in the last two years a little differently. I’m going to close by giving you my new angle on this that I hope removes some obstacles and helps some of you. It goes something like this. I now ask this question, why does God, who loves us so much and will one day make so much of us — he created us, died for us, adopted us, gave us life, and one day will make us so glorious that we will shine like the sun — perform all of his acts of love for us in such a way as to make much of him?
Right here, the difference between the non-born-again person in this room and the born-again person in this room is right here. The ways are going to divide. If you feel really glad he did it that way, saying, “Yes, he loved me for his sake, he loved me for his name, he loved me for his glory,” then you are very likely born again. If you say, “I don’t like that. I want to be central. I want to be the endpoint,” you have a very, very deep problem.
Why does he do it this way? The answer is this: loving you in such a way as to make much of him is greater love than if he loved you to make much of you. It’s greater love than if he made you your end rather than making him your end. Why is that? Because this self that he would then be making much of, this you that he would make the ultimate treasure of your life so that your salvation was to finally love with perfect love what you see in the mirror, if that were your salvation, you would not be loved and you would not be happy because the self, no matter how glorious it is forever, can never satisfy a heart made for God. God loves you too much to make you the end of you.
Of course, you have to be okay with being given an infinite treasure rather than having the paltry one in the mirror. You have to be okay with that, but many rebel because self is all and they won’t have a sovereign all-satisfying, infinitely glorious God as their treasure above all things. So take heart in this, rejoice in this, and be strengthened by this. I speak to believers and those I would love to be believers. You are precious to God, and he loves you so much that he will do everything from predestination to consummation to keep you from making your preciousness your treasure. He will do everything to make himself your treasure.