Joy as the Power to Suffer in the Path of Love for the Sake of Liberation
Passion 2013 | Atlanta
The apostle John lifted up his eyes to heaven and God gave him a glimpse of why the universe exists and he wrote it down so that we could know, so that you could know. He wrote, "I saw in heaven a scroll written within and on the back, and it had seven seals. And I looked and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals," and no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to break its seals. And I began to weep loudly that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to break its seals.
And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; the lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered and he is able to open the scroll and to break its seals." And I looked and I saw between the throne and the living creatures and among the elders a lamb, standing as though it had been slain with seven horns and seven eyes that are the spirits of God sent out into all the world.
And he went and he took the scroll from the hand of him who was seated on the throne and when he took the scroll from the hand of the one who was seated on the throne the living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the lamb each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of all the saints.
And they sang a new song saying, worthy are you, for you were slain and you ransomed people for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation and have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall rein on the earth.
And I looked and I saw around the throne angels numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."
And I heard every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them saying, To Him who sits upon the throne and to the lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever and the living creatures said, "Amen." And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped."
And there are several things that are crystal clear from Revelation 5. Here are a few of them:
Jesus is the key that unlocks the mystery of history. And when the key unlocks the mystery of history and the story is told He turns out to be the main reality in the story. So He unlocks the mystery of history and He is the center of the story of history. That's the first thing that's clear. Here's the second thing.
John tells us that the reason that Jesus is worthy to open the mystery of history is that He was a lamb slain and a lion who conquered. It was the purpose of God that the center of the story of the universe be a lion-like lamb and a lamb-like lion; that's clear.
The achievement of Jesus when He triumphed being slain as a lamb purchased people for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation and made them kings and queens to God and turned them into priests to spend eternity praising the Lord Jesus; that's clear. Here's the fourth thing that's clear.
The upshot of this achievement is that Jesus is infinitely worthy of eternal admiration. From every creature in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, and in the sea because of His infinite glory, worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wisdom, blessing and might, and honor and glory. He's worthy of everlasting honor and praise and admiration.
Here's another way to say it; the universe exists to display the infinite worth of Jesus in the white-hot worship of millions of angels and all the creatures and millions of the ransomed from every people group on the earth. In other words, our worship is the subjective echo of God's objective worth. The immensity of His worth is reflected in the intensity of your worship. We were made for the admiration of the excellence of Jesus and the greater your admiration the greater the revelation of Christ's glorification.
You see the connection between the intensity of your admiration and the display and the clarity of His excellence and His glorification in the world? One of the greatest discoveries I have ever made, and it's a great irony to me that an atheist, novelist, philosopher Ayn Rand spoke it so plainly and truly when she said, "Admiration is the rarest and the highest of pleasures." And she didn't know why; she didn't know the ultimate reason why God made her that way or you that way.
The reason is this; the reason admiration is in fact the greatest pleasure of the human soul is that God made the world and fashioned the human soul so that Jesus would be glorified and we would be satisfied in the very same act of the soul namely glad hearted admiration of the excellence of Jesus.
We satisfied in the intensity of our enjoyment of Him and He magnified and glorified in our being satisfied in Him. That's the way God made the universe and that's why admiration is so rare and why it is the greatest pleasure that the soul was made to experience, which means that in this universe the intensity of our joy in the greatness of Jesus is a demonstration of the immensity of His beauty and worth, or as we love to say, Jesus is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
The universe exists for the glorification of Jesus in the admiration of His people. It exists to display the infinite worth of the lamb in the white- hot worship of His people. And lest that kind of hangs in the air as too ethereal for you to get a handle on, let's say a little more from the Book of Revelation about this future.
In the endless ages of eternity there will be no obstacle to the greatness of our joy in the greatness of God. There are many obstacles now; right now most of you are encountering huge obstacles in this room to the kind of joy that Jesus deserves from you. You meet, I meet daily huge emotional, circumstantial, satanic obstacles.
In the age to come there will be none--no death, no sickness, no pain, no crying, no calamity, and best of all, no sin in here, no sin out there. And not only will there be no obstacles to the fullness and the intensity of your joy in Jesus, but there will be a perfect abundance of new creative outlets for the expression of our joy--new name, new crown, new food from the Tree of Life, new song, new heaven with the glory of God replacing the sun and the moon; new earth, where lion and lamb lie down together, and the wolf and the lamb graze together, new city, where every cultural good that makes people love cities will be there and all the misery and all the sin that makes people hate cities will not be there.
No obstacle to your joy and abundance, a perfect abundance of new creative outlets for the experience of your joy in God. If you are in Christ--that's a big if--if you are in Christ, if you are trusting Christ, that's your future; that's where your going, that's your reward, an everlasting life of joy expressed in 10,000 ways, your admiration of the infinite worth of Jesus, with no hindrance coming from inside you, no hindrance coming from outside you, just maximum joy in the beauty of Christ, an eternal citizenship in a new city, a new paradise with no obstacles and only endless outlets for your joy in the greatness of Jesus.
Now what I've been doing for the last 10, 15 minutes, is laying a foundation for your ability to embrace suffering in the path of love in the cause of liberation. That's what I've been doing. And when I say liberation I mean liberation from the whole scope of Satan's wicked kingdom and thralldom that holds so many people in so many different kinds of bondage.
If you follow the path of love in the cause of liberation from the darkness of the devil in whatever form, you will suffer. And the aim of this message is to put this foundation under your feet and show you from the Bible how this foundation empowers you to not just endure, but embrace suffering in the path of love until you're dead; that's where we're going.
So I'm referring to every form of liberation from Satan's thralldom, liberation for the slaves of the multibillion dollar sex industry, or the sweat shops of greed, or the armies of cruelty where boy soldiers are forced to practice killing on their parents, or the liberation of 125,000 children every day cut to pieces in their mother's womb, in every country of the world, including our so-called civilized America, including this squeaky clean city of Atlanta where yesterday probably one out of every four pregnancies ended in abortion.
I care about that slavery; the slavery of the abortionists and the slavery of those being lied to about what they have inside them, or liberation for the blinded middle class slaves of sin that populate your campuses by the thousands who face an eternal fate 10,000 times worse--anything, any slave will ever experience with any slavery on this planet, that's the people you walk among every day.
I'm talking about every level of slavery sending you to embrace suffering in the path of love, in the cause of liberation. If you follow that path you will suffer, and I don't say that because I'm a prophet. I just say it because the Bible says it over and over again, "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household? If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. Don't be surprised at the fiery ordeal of the trial that comes upon you as though something strange were happening to you. Let no one be moved by these afflictions; you yourselves know we're destined for this.
Many of the afflictions of the righteous, and on and on, the Bible has made it crystal clear that if you walk in the path of righteousness and the path of compassion and the path of love in the cause of liberation, you will suffer. And my purpose in this message is to put such a foundation under your feet so that you will not only endure it, but walk into it and embrace it.
If you follow Jesus in the path of love you will suffer. So here's what we're going to spend the rest of our time doing; we're going to go to the Book of Hebrews; if you can see your Bible, that would be great, if you can't that's all right, just listen. And we're going to look at Chapter 10 a couple of verses, Chapter 11 a couple of verses, and Chapter 12 a couple of versus. And I hope for the rest of your life you will be able to say if you haven't seen it already, I saw a pattern of power to suffer in Hebrews 10, 11, and 12, I'd never seen before and it has served me well in my life of sacrifice ever since 2013 Passion. So that's my goal.
Let me give you the pattern; I'll just describe it and then we're going to go see it in the Bible, because what I think doesn't matter. What this book says matters infinitely. But let me just describe where we're going in three steps and we're going to go to those three passages and see these three steps in every one of them.
This is the pattern of power to embrace suffering in the path of love for the cause of liberation; that's what this is. A heart, your heart joyfully treasuring the promised reward that I just spent fifteen minutes trying to describe--a paradise, a new paradise, a new city, a new crown, a new freedom from sin, and best of all, seeing Christ face to face and expressing in ten thousand fresh ways your admiration of Him. A deep, deep present satisfaction in that future glorious hope; that's number one, first layer.
That soul satisfaction in your Christ-saturated future frees you from self protecting fear. And third . . .
That freedom from self protecting, and self enhancing, self gratifying fear releases you to embrace suffering in the cause of love for others. Those are the three steps, and I'll say them again.
Pervasive, unshakable, soul-satisfaction in the promise of a Christ-filled future. Number two, the affect that has on freeing you from self-protecting fear. And third, the fruit of fearless love pouring out of your life, no matter the cost.
Now that is what I want you to see in the Bible, and it is amazing. These passages in Hebrews have simply stunned me for years, and I want so bad at age 66--I don't know why I'm still here--I want so bad at age 66 to still learn this and be this.
So let's go to Hebrews 10:32. It goes like this. Recall the former days when you were enlightened; that is, brought into the light of Christ, saved, born again. You endured a hard struggle with sufferings. Sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. You had compassion on those in prison, or you could say slavery, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one; therefore, don't throw away your confidence which has great reward.
Okay, now watch this. Verse 34 describes some Christians; some are in prison for their faith, some are not in prison for their faith and those who are not in prison are facing a choice. Will we go to the prison and align ourselves with the ones who are in prison and thus risk our lives and our homes and our property and our children, will we risk it, or will we play it safe and not care about those who are now in prison? That's the choice they had to make, and something not amazing happened when they went to the prison and something utterly amazing happened when they went to the prison.
What happened that was not amazing is that they were persecuted and their property was plundered. And what happened that was amazing is that they rejoiced in the plundering of their property.
So I'll read it to you; this is verse 34: "You had compassion on those in prison and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property." That's the 60,000 I want to send out. When your room is trashed and they write graffiti on your wall about Christians and roll their eyes and lock you in and put you out, I want you to be so rooted in the first 15 minutes of this message that you can rejoice in that; that would be an absolute miracle. That would be a miracle, and that's the miracle Louie is after. That's the miracle I'm after; that's what passion is about--the glorification of the infinite worth of Jesus so that He stays our joy when everything around our soul gives way.
The question is, how did they do that? And the answer is crystal clear; it goes like this. You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property since you knew you, yourselves, had a better possession and abiding one. They had a city; they had a paradise. They had a sinless future on the way.
They had an abundance of outlets for everlasting infinite joy coming their way and it had broken into their lives with such amazing conviction that they did not need to grumble or worry or fret or be angry, or resentful, or bitter about their persecution. They rejoiced and sang all the way to the prison. That's Chapter 10, and it is utterly amazing.
Their foundation was laid in that they had a reward that was better, infinitely better. "In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures for evermore." Nothing the world can offer or take can compare with that, and therefore, I'm free from my self protecting fear. I'm on my way to the prison to the slave camps, and I will love out of this hope.
Now let's go to Chapter 11, verse 24 to 26. "By faith," watch it again; this is the same pattern. Look for it. "By faith Moses, when he was grown up refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing," incredible word, "Choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered reproach of the Christ greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt because he looked to the reward." That's exactly the same, amazing argument, and pattern.
You may be wondering, you're probably not, but I'm going to treat you as though you were wondering. Why have you used the word embrace suffering so often and not just endure suffering? Why do you keep talking about we need to embrace suffering?
And my answer is verse 25. "Moses choosing to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin." I didn't sneak up on him, and then he had to endure it unexpectedly; he looked it square in the face. It was walking right at him. And he walked right into it and embraced it for the next 40 years of his life.
He chose to love his people at huge cost. He could have stayed in Egypt with every possible worldly pleasure for as long as he lived and he said, I'm leaving it, and I'm walking with this people who are going to grieve me over and over again, because I look to the reward and these are fleeting and that's not.
So there's the pattern, Moses soul satisfaction is the Messiah-saturated future, released from self protecting fear to give himself to the reproaches of a people in the name of the Messiah. And thus, he set the slaves free from Egypt in that hope and that satisfaction and walked away from earthly pleasure.
Chapter 12: This is perhaps the most amazing one; the most controversial one, and the most important one. Hebrews Chapter 12, versus 1 and 2: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which cling so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right-hand of the Throne of God."
Now that's the greatest act of liberation that has ever happened in the history of the world; the Son of God suffering the agony and the infamy of the cross in order to bear our sins and deliver us out of the slavery of death and hell and sin.
Revelation 1:5: "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood." So the greatest act of freeing of liberation happened when Jesus died in our place and bore our sins and paid our debt.
And the question is, how did the God-man have the wherewithal to embrace the cross and endure the cross? Where did it come from? It says in Verse 2, "For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross."
This is exactly the same pattern as Moses, and the early Christians. His infinitely holy sinless heart was steadied as satisfied by the joy of knowing what He was about to achieve.
No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again. He's walking into this suffering with His eyes wide open and He says, what is steadying me, what is strengthening me, what is holding me is the joy that is set before me of my triumph over sin and Satan and hell and death and my gathering, an untold number of ransomed who will spend eternity with me, enjoying me, and worshipping me; that prospect strengthens me and gets me through; the same principle as the one that drives you if you get this and live in it.
So let me sum it up; the early Christians joyfully embraced suffering, the suffering of liberation, because they had a better possession and an abiding one. Moses embraced the suffering of liberation because he saw the pleasures of Egypt as fleeting and he looked to the reward. Jesus embraced the suffering of liberation because He was sustained by the joy that was set before Him.
Forty years ago I was studying in Germany and my topic was Jesus command to love our enemies and the motivation that would sustain loving enemies. And I was reading widely in ethical literature, and it seems like everywhere I turned the standard teaching was if you do a good deed for reward you've destroyed its goodness.
And the argument was that if you do a good for some body for your reward you're not loving; you're selfish. It was a watershed moment for me, a kind of test; and it came down to this. You ethical teachers, you're telling me, you're provoking me, you're tempting me to be motivated in my acts of love by a higher motivation than my savior?
That's blasphemy! Will I follow you, or will I follow what I see in these texts? He looked to the reward. I have a better possession and an abiding one for the joy that is set before me. I am driven. Which will I go? Follow your worldly wisdom that seems so right and is so dead wrong? Or will I go with the Bible. You will have these watershed moments in your life; this may be one of them.
All the satisfaction that the early Christians had and that Moses had and that Jesus had as they looked to the reward was the power not to be selfish but to be free from selfishness. It freed them from the self protection of fear. It released them, this focus on our glorious Christ-filled all satisfying future freed them for love.
It didn't make them selfish; it broke the power of selfishness in their lives so that they laid their lives down for people over and over again. And if you ask and you should, so why isn't it selfish to love a person for your own reward? You should ask that.
That's a good question; and here's the answer. It is not selfish to love another person for your reward in Jesus because that reward and your satisfaction in it is the very power that is moving you to lay down your life for them, and you're goal in laying down your life for them is to include them in the very reward that is motivating you. Nobody can call that selfish.
Let me summarize and close. This message began with the exaltation of Jesus and not just Jesus, worthy as the lamb who was slain and the lion of Judah, but the Jesus who promises us a future of a new city and a new paradise and a new crown and a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no obstacles to our joy, and an abundance of outlets for every creative bone in your body to manifest His worth through all the good that He has made. And then we move to say, you're going to suffer if you walk in the path of love in the cause of liberation. The Bible says so, not me.
And then we said that there's a pattern for how to that, and the pattern has three steps: 1) the foundation of soul satisfaction that comes from the streaming into the present of that glorious future with Jesus, 2) releasing you from self-protecting fear into power and 3) the loving acts of sacrifice that liberate the captive.
So let me close like this. It is not an accident that the greatest chapter in the Bible is Paul's effort to help us endure and embrace suffering because of the security of our future joy. That's the way the chapter ends; it's the greatest chapter in the Bible, Romans 8, and it ends with that kind of truth-laden effort of the apostle Paul to help 60,000 people embrace suffering for the sake of love because of an indestructible hope which is God's relation to us in Jesus.
And it goes like this, "What shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us? He who did not spare His own son but gave Him up for us all, will He not with Him freely give us all things? Who can bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
And here it comes; "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written we are being killed all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither in life nor in death, nor things present, or things to come, or angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."