O, That Day, When Freed from Sinning

Plenary Session — 2015 Conference for Pastors

Where Sin Increased: The Rebellion of Man and the Abundance of Grace

Thank you John for this incredible opportunity today. It’s good to be with you all this morning. I just want to say right from the start that I am so glad that you all know how to sing “All I Have is Christ.” I tell our people at Bridgeway every time we sing it that this is not a lament. You could come to me and ask me for some money and I could say, “All I’ve got is six bucks.” Or if you sit in front of a meal, you might say, “All I’ve got is a bologna sandwich.” You don’t sing this song, “All I’ve got is Christ,” in that way. It’s a celebration of sufficiency and abundance. And wow, what a glorious song to sing to open this day.

Outside Our Experience

As you have heard, I have been assigned the topic Oh, That Day, When Freed from Sinning, or we might sum it up in one word: the doctrine of glorification. And I have to begin by telling you that I have no idea what I’m talking about. I really don’t. That’s not some veiled attempt to be humble, and it isn’t because I haven’t carefully examined what the biblical texts say about this concept. It isn’t because I haven’t devoted a lot of time to thinking on this topic.

What I mean when I say I have no idea what I’m talking about is that I have absolutely no idea what it feels like not to be able to sin, none. It is a distant dream in my own experience. I know what it feels like to sin. We’ve heard a lot about it this week. Sin is this pernicious energy, this pulsating force. Paul talked about it as a law or a principle in his members that kept him from doing what he wanted to do. I can feel it in me. It pushes. It pulls. It tugs. It tempts. It woos me. It lies to me. It teases me.

But when I see in Scripture that a day is coming, when that power will have been eradicated from my being, I just throw up my hands and say, “I have no idea.” Poof, it’s gone, at the moment of glorification, never to return. I know what it feels like not to sin. I wish I felt that more often than I do, but I don’t know what it feels like not to be able to sin ever again. Simply put, I have no personal experience with this, and my theology tells me that neither do you. We’ve never tasted, we’ve never seen, we’ve never felt, we’ve never experienced what it is like in a real tangible way not to be able to sin.

I know what John the apostle means in 1 John 3. We’ll look at it more in a moment when he says “when we see Christ, we will be made like him.” I know what that means. I don’t know what it feels like. I’ve never met anyone who was like Jesus in that sense, someone utterly devoid of any sinful impulse, entirely capable of resisting every temptation that comes our way. I haven’t tasted it. I haven’t sensed it. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t smelled it.

Saved to Sin No More

Let me explain what I mean by using the words of a hymn I’m sure all of you know quite well — William Cowper’s “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.” I know what verse one means:

There is a fountain filled with blood Drawn from Immanuel’s veins; And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains.

I know what it feels like to be cleansed of my guilt and the stain of sin. I know what verse two means as well:

The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day, And there have I, though vile as he, Washed all my sins away.

I know what that feels like. He’s talking about forgiveness. But I have to tell you, I don’t know what verse three feels like:

Dear dying lamb, thy precious blood Shall never lose its power, ‘Til all the ransomed church of God Be saved, to sin no more.

Now, what does that mean, to be “saved to sin no more”? It’s not to be saved in such a way that I can feel good about myself because my good deeds outweigh my bad ones, but to be saved in such a way that there will be no bad ones at all, ever. Like I said, I know what that means exegetically, I know what it means theologically, I do not know what it means experientially. So what we’re going to do in the next few minutes is, in one sense, very, very easy to understand. We will be unpacking these biblical texts. That’s the easy part. But the extremely difficult, dare I say impossible task, is to try to portray for you and for myself what it means to be saved to sin no more.

One thing I know with absolute unshakable certainty: it will happen. That’s not up for debate this morning. I’m not here to persuade you of the certitude of it. It will happen. But what it will feel like when it does is going to be an interesting journey. So I ask for your indulgence today, because I need some latitude. I’m going to have to speculate a little bit with you. I’m open to correction, but I pray that my speculation is based on what I see in the word of God.

A Theology of Glorification

Now, here’s what we’re going to do first. There are so many texts on this topic. I was stunned to discover, as I went through the New Testament, how many times the doctrine of glorification is mentioned, and yet how few books have ever been written on the subject. If you know of a good one, please tell me, I couldn’t find one. There are books on resurrection. There are paragraphs and theologies on glorification, but no books are devoted to this particular theme. So that you don’t have to be trying to keep up with me and going back and forth in the biblical text, although that’s fine if you want to. We’re going to project on the screen virtually all the passages that I’m going to mention. So I trust that you will follow along with me.

Second Corinthians 3:18, you know it well. Paul says:

We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

The implication there is obvious progressive sanctification will not continue without end. There is a conclusion to our consecration. This progressive transformation from one degree of glory to another will one day reach its consummation. One day we will be fully glorified, forever shaped and fashioned into the likeness of Jesus.

In Romans 7:24, do you remember Paul’s anguished cry? He says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The question in Paul’s heart and on his lips suggests that a day is coming when complete, final deliverance from one’s sinful flesh will actually occur. And Paul evidently knew the answer to his own question, because later he said:

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:16–17).

There is that truth. Then the very next verse, Romans 8:18, says:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Then a little farther down in Romans 8:21, yet again, Paul says:

The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

And yet again in Romans 8:30 — this one you probably know better than all the others — he says:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This theme is pervasive in Romans 8. And by the way, that passage I just read is the reason why I’m so confident in the certainty of glorification. Paul was so confident that he spoke of it in the past tense as if it had already occurred.

We Shall Know Fully

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Think about what he’s saying. When Christ comes, when the perfect comes — which I understand to be, if I can use this phrase, the moral and metaphysical perfection of the new heavens and the new earth — he says, “We will know fully.” Now that doesn’t mean we will be omniscient, but at the very heart of glorification is the utter absence of any false views of God. There will be no heresy in heaven, no misconceptions, no distorted images, no caricatures of God, and no misinterpretations of Scripture.

Now, let me just pause right here and add a little parenthetical comment or two regarding something that John mentioned that I shared at the 2003 national Conference, when I spoke on Jonathan Edwards’s concept of heaven. I entitled that message Joy’s Eternal Increase. Now, this may sound odd to some of you, but bear with me for a moment. Glorification, this glorification that we’ve been hearing about in these texts, never ends. Now, I don’t mean by that that it will never be reversed, although that’s true. There will never be the slightest diminishing or regression or reversal or loss of the purity and holiness and likeness to Jesus that we gain at the resurrection of our bodies. That’s not what I’m talking about.

What I mean is that although glorification will happen in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, it will also grow and expand and increase eternally. At the moment of glorification, when we get our resurrection body — body, soul, spirit, mind, affections, will — everything that we are will be entirely free from sin. It’s a singular event. But that is not the final expression of what you will be for eternity. What you experience at the moment of glorification and bodily resurrection is not what you will be forever.

Increasing Knowledge and Delight in God

I want to argue that there is a very real sense in which glorification is an eternal process — a progressive, never-ending, ever-expansive, incremental growth in our knowledge of God, our experience of God, and therefore our joy and our delight in God. It’s true that when we’re glorified, we will be set free from disease. Those chronic aches you’re feeling right now will be gone forever, and there will be no more death. But that does not mean that everything we could possibly know about God will be imparted to us at the moment of glorification.

I believe we’re going to learn for eternity. At the moment of glorification, all false ideas about God will be eradicated from our minds, but that doesn’t mean that all possible true ideas will be given to us at that very moment. In fact, I would argue that to suggest otherwise is blasphemous. To suggest that at the moment of glorification you and I will forever, at that point, know everything that could be known about God, is to reduce God to the level of the devil. It is to suggest that there is a limit to what is true about God, and thus a limit to what we as creatures can know about him. Now, let me explain to you why I think I’m right. It comes in the form of a question. Is God infinite? Somebody say yes.

Now, what does that mean? It means that there’s no limit to God. Everything else in this universe is quantifiable. Everything that isn’t God is quantifiable. Everything else in the universe can be counted or measured or weighed. Physicists tell us that they believe the quark, at least at this point, is the smallest particle that makes up this universe, even though nobody’s ever seen one. There’s no way to envision in our minds how many quarks there are in the created universe, but there’s a definite number to them.

I don’t know how many grains of sand there are on all the seashores throughout this Earth, a whole lot, but you could count them all if you had enough time. I don’t know how many stars there are in the galaxies — billions and trillions and quintillions — but there’s a finite number. Everything that has been created is finite, but the creator is not. God cannot be quantified.

I know that some of you, maybe a lot like me, get a little overwhelmed when you open up a Systematic Theology, or you get Herman Bavinck’s, The Doctrine of God, or John Frame or Grudem’s Systematic Theology, or even Calvin’s Institutes, and you look at the table of contents under “the Doctrine of God”, and maybe one of them has 15 attributes of God and you say, “Woo.” You open up the next one and it has 20, and then you open up another and it has 25 truths about God. You think, “This is going to blow my mind. There’s no way I can learn all of this.”

The truths about God cannot be counted. They can never be exhaustively known. If this immeasurable universe of ours were just one vast ocean of water, those 25 attributes that feel so overwhelming to you now would be nothing more than a subatomic, minuscule droplet of what can be known about God. He’s infinite. If you have the idea that somehow one day you’re going to be able to go, “Phew, I got Him. It’s right up here, I got him.” That’s not God.

A Being of Which None Greater Can be Conceived

Saint Anselm, that great medieval philosopher and theologian, had what sounds like an impersonal definition of God, but it’s accurate. He said, “God is that than which none greater can be conceived.” But if there is a finite, definitive, limited quantity of truths about God, could we not conceive of something or someone greater, a being of whom even more truths might be discovered? I think so.

You see, not only do we reduce God to our level when we suggest that we will know him exhaustively, but in a sense we raise ourselves up to His level by declaring ourselves omniscient. Omniscience, it’s the capacity to know all that can be known. If you and I might ever reach a point at which we know everything about a God who is infinite, that would require that we ourselves be infinite, at least in terms of our knowledge of him, and that is blasphemous.

Now, think about this, with his infinity and his unending quantity of truths and characteristics and ideas and concepts about who God is, with each new revelation, with each new discovery, with each new disclosure to our hearts and minds, knowledge increases. And every time knowledge increases, joy increases. Genuine joy is always the fruit of knowledge. As our knowledge grows and increases so too does our delight and our fascination and our exhilaration with God. And if that discovery of infinite truths about God never ends, then neither does the growth and the expansion of our joy in who he is.

If we ever arrive at a point in eternity future where there is nothing more to know or learn or discover about God, he’s not God. It would mean that the object of our knowledge, the one we thought was God, is finite, measurable, fathomable, limited, quantifiable, bounded, and exhaustible, but the God of the Bible is infinite, immeasurable, unfathomable, unlimited, unquantifiable, unbounded, and inexhaustible.

That is why I believe that glorification — although it happens at a singular moment in time when all sin will be eradicated from our being — is also incremental and progressive and will never stop. The point at which it stops means that we’re actually in hell rather than heaven, because we’re worshiping a devil rather than the God of the Bible. He is infinitely inexhaustible.

He Will Transform Our Lowly Bodies

All right, close that parenthesis. Come back with me to these texts. We’re still in 1 Corinthians 15:51–52. Paul exuberantly declares:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

And this change is not merely physical, it’s moral as well. Yes, our bodies as Paul says, will be transformed from perishable to imperishable, corruptible to incorruptible, but it’s also our minds and how we think, our will and how we choose, our affections and what we long for, our tongues and what we say, and our hands and what we do.

Maybe the most explicit description of that day when we will be freed from sinning is Philippians 3:20–21, which says:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform (there’s that change again) our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Now, I wasn’t in your hotel room this morning, but I have an idea I know what happened. You got up, you looked at yourself in the mirror, and you said, “Ugh. I’ve got some work to do before I can go out in public.” You see, most of us don’t like our bodies, we don’t like our physical appearance. Some of you stood there, if you’re honest with yourselves, and you said, “My nose is way too big,” or, “My hair is so thin,” or, “My hair is so frizzy,” or, “My hips are too wide,” or, “I’m bowlegged.”

So what you did was you spent a lot of time changing things and altering yourself, and you put on clothes this morning, some of you, precisely either to hide what you don’t like about your body or to accentuate what you do. You think you’re too thin or too fat or too weak or too strong, and you hate what your body does, you hate how it feels — the fatigue and the pain, as well as the lust and the greed and the discomfort. And what the word of God says is, does that cause you to fall into despair and self-contempt? Or does it cause you to set your eyes upon the coming of Christ who will transform this lowly body into conformity with the glory of his own?

Don’t ever forget: you and I are going to live for eternity in a body, a glorified, resurrected body, but a body nonetheless. This idea of spending eternity in some ethereal fog, in this amorphous condition in which we flit from cloud to cloud, it’s not found in Scripture, it’s found in Greek philosophy. We’ll live in a body, a glorified body, on a glorified new Earth.

Continuity and Discontinuity

Now, I don’t think this means we will all have identical bodies. I’m really out in uncharted territory here, so just bear with me. I have to speculate a little bit. There is a measure of continuity between what you and I look like now and what we will look like then. I think that, at least to some extent, to the degree that you will know who I am, what you’re looking at right now is what you will see forever.

I don’t think I’m going to walk up to this man right here in the red sweater and extend my hand and introduce myself and say, “Now, now tell me, who are you?” and he will say, “I’m John Piper,” and I will say, “You don’t look anything like the John Piper I knew on Earth.” And I don’t think he will say, “And who are you?” and I will say, “I’m Sam.” There has to be some measure of continuity. We will appear then, to some degree, as we are now.

But let me assure you this, nothing in your physical form will cause you any degree of dissatisfaction or sorrow. In this experience of glorification, it’s not just that sin will be eradicated from who we are, but our body, soul, mind, spirit, will, and affections will be transformed. We will have new faculties of mind to think of and comprehend God’s majesty. There will be new senses, beyond our five.

You see, some of you have been frustrated ever since you got here, because people on this platform have used some big words and you didn’t know what they meant. And they spoke of some really lofty ideas that just went over the top of your head. And it’s frustrating, but in the new heavens and the new Earth, when you’re glorified, God will grant you whatever faculties are necessary to grasp every truth as it comes to your mind.

It’s just amazing. There will be no bodily lust to defile your heart. There will be no physical fatigue to drag you down and cloud your mind. There will be no wicked impulses against which you’re having to fight. There will be no moment in which you have to turn your eyes so that you don’t behold something that you know if you looked upon would provoke sin within your soul. All of our senses will be heightened and magnified to see and smell and taste and hear and feel and know beyond anything we can imagine now. And I know somebody might say at this point, “Man, come down out of the cloud, Storms. Be practical. Help me.”

In 1 John 3:3, John said:

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

I’ll come back to that in a moment. There’s nothing more practical than what we’re talking about.

When Christ Appears

Let’s come back to Colossians 3:4. Paul assures us:

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

We know this appearing is the second coming. And notice when he appears, then we also will appear with him in glory. Now, let me put that together with a couple of other texts I’ve already mentioned Romans 8:18. Paul says we will see that glory. It will be revealed to us. But in another sense, we will be that glory. We will appear with him in glory. In glory isn’t a reference to a place, but to an experience. It means we’ll share the glorified life of Jesus. I don’t have this text on the screen, but in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 I love the description of the second coming of Jesus. It says:

He comes on that day to be glorified in his saints . . .

What does that mean that he will be glorified in us? I love the way John Stott put it. He said:

So how will the coming Lord Jesus be glorified in relation to his people? Not among them, as if they will be the theater or stadium in which he appears (although that is true) nor by them, as if they will be the spectators, the audience who watch and worship (although that’s true, too), nor through or by means of them, as if they will be mirrors which reflect his image and glory (that’s true too), but rather in them, as if they will be a filament which itself glows with light and heat when the electric current passes through it.

In other words, he’s saying that we’re not going to witness Christ’s glory, we’re going to be enveloped within it, engulfed by it, made experiential participants of its surging splendor. Paul said, in Colossians 3:3, that our lives are now hidden with Christ. Well, a day is coming when they will be disclosed and we will be glorified in him. Maybe this is what Jesus had in mind in one of the most baffling texts in the Bible, Matthew 13:43. Of his second coming, he said:

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

He’s talking about you, if you know Christ. I know some people get up every day and because of sin and shame and failure, they feel like an ugly, dark blot. Jesus says, “You’re going to shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father.”

First Thessalonians 5:23 doesn’t use the word “glory” or “glorification” but it’s talking about it. Paul prays:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When the author of Hebrews says that when Jesus comes, it is to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28), he has to be talking about glorification. How can you save those who are already saved? By eradicating from them forever the last vestige of sin and evil.

The Beatific Vision

That brings us to 1 John 3:2, that passage that we all know so well. It says:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Thank you Lord. You see, just as our spiritual perception of Christ in the present sanctifies us incrementally and progressively, our literal vision of Christ in the future will sanctify us wholly. If progressive assimilation to the likeness of Christ results from our present beholding of him, through a glass darkly, then to behold him face to face — that is, to see him as he is — will result in instantaneous perfection and glorification.

Now, there’s a little bit of debate about the meaning of this word “because” here in 1 John 3:2. The causal relationship between these two is disputed. You can read some commentators who say that “we shall see Christ, because we are like him.” That would be in the sense that in order to see him, you first have to be holy like him, which is similar to Matthew 5:8 — “Blessed of the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. I think more likely his point is that Christ will appear, we’ll see him, and as a result of seeing him we will be transformed. In his presence, sin will be eradicated. It flees when the glory of Christ appears, and in that moment we will forever reflect that glory. And through the majesty of that encounter, we will be made like him.

God’s Luminosity

Now here’s another little parenthesis. As I was preparing for this, I went back and read CS Lewis’s famous essay “The Weight of Glory”. If you haven’t read that, repent in sackcloth and ashes, throw dust up on your head, wail as you walk to the bookstore, buy it, read it, and then go take a shower and get clean.

Lewis speaks in this essay of our eternal future as involving glory. He says, “Either glory means to me fame or it means luminosity.” And he says, “I find neither one appealing.” Now, in my opinion, the most important element of glory is value, worth, weightiness. But I digress. Let me come back to what Lewis is saying. I’m especially intrigued by this word “luminosity”. He says:

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words. We want to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

Now, Lewis is not saying that the distinction between creator and creature is blurred or obliterated. God will forever be God alone. We will forever be his finite creatures. But the glorious luminosity, the majestic brilliance that is God’s will envelop us and permeate us and fill us and flood our hearts and souls and minds. And I have no idea what I’m talking about. What is that going to be like? What will we feel? What will the sensation be in that moment? Jesus says, “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43).

At no time in that experience, either at its inception or in trillions of years into eternity future, will anyone ever think or feel or suggest that that glory is anything other than the luminosity of God that has been by grace and mercy given to us in Christ.

Our Experience of Glorification

Now, I want to kind of turn a corner here and try to set the stage with these many texts about the truth of glorification, that day when we will be freed from sinning. Now comes the hard part. What is it going to feel like?

The only way I know how to explain this is to think with you about what sin feels like now, and then try to project into the future when such passions and impulses will no longer hold sway over us. Like I said, I know what it’s like to experience occasional victories over temptation. I wish I had more. But I have no idea what it would feel like to wake up in the morning and feel no bodily ache and have no fear in my heart, although I don’t think we’re going to sleep in the new Earth, but you get my point. I don’t know what it would feel like to wake up realizing that I didn’t have some perverted sexual dream during the night that makes me feel so dirty, to wake up without the slightest tinge of envy, bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, lust, greed, selfish ambition, or jealousy.

Last night John was talking about the language of fighting in the Christian life. Galatians 5 is so vivid. You know this from Galatians 5: 16–17. Paul says:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Now, here and there, I’m able to do what Paul says now and then I experience the victory of the Spirit over the flesh. But I have no idea what it would feel like never to feel, in the slightest degree, even the most minimal tinge of fleshly desire. To ponder the possibility that one day I will live every moment of my eternal existence and never once gratify a single desire of the flesh, is more than I can fathom.

Now, again, glorification is the eradication of the sinful flesh, but it’s more than that. You see, it’s not just in our resurrected experience that we’ll have more of the Spirit than the flesh, so that we’ll win more victories than we suffer defeats. No, we’ll never suffer defeat again. There will be no flesh susceptible of yielding to temptation, even though there will be no temptation in the eternal state. We will never feel the internal battle that Paul’s describing here. That struggle will be a distant memory. And if we think about it’ll just be to awaken gratitude and thanksgiving in our hearts for which we can give Christ even more praise.

Imagining Our Freedom from the Presence of Sin

Here’s what I’m going to do. In the few remaining moments, I’m going to take four sins that all of us are familiar with. They don’t even need to be defined, but I will define them. And I want you to think about what it’s like now and then try to project what it will be like when they are no longer a factor in our hearts.

Freedom from Lust

Let’s start with lust here, in Galatians 5:10. Paul talks about sexual immorality and impurity and sensuality. You all know what lust is, I don’t have to dwell on that. But can you today envision what life will be like in the utter absence of lust? Can you imagine walking among people like you did today and throughout this week and never once even remotely thinking about looking at another person and fantasizing illicit sex with them, or wondering what they look like without clothes on? Can you imagine that?

In Romans 7:18, Paul lamented the fact that nothing good dwells in his flesh, but in the age to come do you know what he’s going to say, and we’re going to echo it? “Nothing bad dwells in me, because I have no flesh.” In Romans 7:14, he says, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” In Romans 7:15, he says, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” In Romans 7:23, he says, “I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells on my members.”

I know the dispute over Roman 7. I know many of you probably think that Paul is speaking before his conversion as an unregenerate man. I think he’s talking as a mature Christian. I don’t think anybody but a mature Christian could even view sin that way, but don’t want to get into that debate. But glorification is the powerful, omnipotent exertion of Christ by which this principle or law of sin in our members is not simply reduced, not simply minimized, not tamed, not momentarily conquered, but utterly vaporized forever.

Do you ever think about what happened with Jesus in John 4 with the woman at the well? Here’s Jesus alone with a woman. A woman was never supposed to speak in public with a man, but there he engages her in conversation. His eyes looked upon her. He saw the shape of her body. Perhaps she was beautiful. He noticed that. He talked to her about her sex life. He loved her, and yet he did it entirely without the slightest degree of lust or illicit desire. He engaged her from an orientation or predisposition or nature that was devoid of sin, and that will be true of you and me at the moment of glorification.

Provocations to Lust

Now, here’s a strange thing. I thought about this and it struck me that it almost seems that in the new heavens and the new earth that temptation to lust will intensify. Now, I know it won’t, but just follow with me for a moment. You see, in the new heavens and the new earth, the bodies of both male and female will be completely free from everything that in this life causes us not to lust. In other words, there will be no wrinkles, no bulging beer bellies, no liver spots, no cellulite, no crow’s feet around the eyes, no sagging skin, no yellowing of the teeth, no bald heads, no malformed faces, nothing offensive, nothing unattractive that might turn you off.

So in the presence of so much beauty, wouldn’t lust just grow? Wouldn’t it just be magnified? It would seem that the many provocative causes of lust have just been multiplied many times over. Now, let me stop right here. When I first wrote that down, I stopped and I said, “I don’t know that I believe that.” I’m really at a loss here, because Jesus in his glorified body bore the marks of crucifixion, didn’t he? He had nails in his hands and a spear in his side.

Perhaps we too will continue to display marks of aging and the consequences of disease and sin. But if so, it won’t cause distress. It won’t cause sadness. It won’t cause self-contempt but only joy and gratitude as we contemplate the gracious deliverance from it that we have in Christ. You see the difference between Jesus and us is that the problem isn’t on the outside. Jesus saw the same things we saw. He saw palatial homes, he saw what money could buy. He saw people who were in places of power. And yet he never sinned. Why? Because he was different on the inside.

So again, it’s not that we’re going to encounter a temptation and then feel an ungodly impulse rising up in our flesh only then to find, “Oh, thank you God, I’ve got the power to resist it.” That sounds wonderful. No, there will be no temptation. And even if there were, there would be no inward impulse to which it might attach itself.

There will be a permanent disconnect in our souls between sin and desire. Instead of lust, you and I will look upon one another, and again, I have no idea what it will look like. I have no idea how much continuity and discontinuity there will be or how much of the effects of aging or sin there might still be, just so that we can be reminded of God’s gracious forgiveness. I don’t know.

All I know is we’ll look upon one another in what Jonathan Edwards called “our beautified state,” and will feel no illicit desire. We will not look upon anyone with any hankering or yearning to own what isn’t ours, or to abuse or to exploit for some fleshly purpose. We’ll only bless and honor. We’ll recognize physical beauty and find pleasure in one another’s bodies. By the way, glorification does not mean you’re going to be neutered. If you’re a female now, you’re going to be a female for eternity. If you’re a male, you’re going to be a male for eternity. And we will find immeasurable delight in the admiration and the appreciation of one another, so that God is honored for the display of his creative design in making us the way he did.

Freedom from Greed

Let’s talk about greed. Again, it seems to me, will not the potential for greed just be multiplied many times over in the new heavens and the new earth? I’m going to be walking on streets of gold. I think about that now and I think, “Man, give me a jackhammer. I want to bust up this ground and stuff as much of that in my pockets as I can.” I mean we’re going to be in the New Jerusalem, the walls of which are precious stones and jewels. John, in Revelation, says that they’re jasper, sapphires, and emeralds. The gates are priceless pearls. Will we not then yield to the same materialistic tendencies that we have now?

Ladies, when was the last time you browsed in a jewelry store and looked upon the most exquisite of precious gems and didn’t want them for yourself? Maybe it applies to men as well. It almost seems as if God will have constructed the New Jerusalem precisely to entice us and to seduce us with its immeasurable value. It won’t, but if we do find ourselves wanting those things, we’ll only want them for good and godly reasons, to thank God that we can enjoy them, or perhaps we’ll want them so that we can give them away to somebody else, and watch their joy in experiencing their beauty.

And you see, greed now, as you know, is fueled and sustained by lack, but in the new earth there will be no lack. There will only be super abundance. If Paul can say, in 1 Corinthians 3:22–23, that in the present day, right now, all things are ours — “whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life, death, present, or future. All are yours, you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” — then how much more must it be true that all things are ours in the age to come. And if all things are ours to be enjoyed and shared and given away, there’s no place for greed. Now, I still don’t know what that’s going to feel like. But I believe that’s what the word of God is saying.

Freedom from Deceit

Let’s take up the third one, deceit or lying. Why do we lie to one another? John was talking about this, going to the root, going beneath the surface, getting underneath the floorboards, as it were, of the expression of lying and deceit. There are a lot of reasons. One is we don’t trust the truth. We want things and we don’t think the truth is going to get it for us, so we lie in order to gain things that the truth would cause us to forfeit.

Another reason is power. People want authority. Maybe it’s in the church, maybe it’s at work, and this power grab causes us to misrepresent the truth. Because we’ve got this idea that if we don’t get that power, then people won’t value us and love us and respect us and honor us the way that we want. But if our identity is wholly wrapped up in Christ and who we are in him, what does it matter what anybody else thinks? And when we’re finally and fully glorified and beautified in the presence of Christ, the selfish ambition that fuels and drives deception and lying will no longer be a factor. The person who is constantly satisfied in Christ and with Christ has no need for anything or anyone else to invest them with any degree of meaning or value.

Perhaps the most powerful energy behind deceit and lying is pride. I think we lie to protect ourselves from whatever embarrassment the truth might bring. The truth would expose our weakness, our sinfulness, our failures, so we lie to make ourselves appear better than we are because we’re terrified that if those whose respect and acceptance we can’t live without were to see us for who we are, stripped of every facade, they would laugh. They would go, “Yuck.” And we would lose respect and praise and honor.

Of course, there’s the temptation to lie to cover our sin, but once we’re glorified — think about this — once all such self-defensiveness and self-protection is gone, there will be no fear of loss because then we will experience unending gain. Being loved by Christ, loving Christ, knowing him, and being known by him will be enough. There will be no need for deception or deceit.

Freedom from Envy

Finally, fourth, what about envy? Envy is a desire for some privilege, some benefit that belongs to another, kind of coupled with the resentment that they have it and you don’t. And envy is the poisonous fruit of dissatisfaction with God. If God were really enough for us, we wouldn’t feel the need to have what others enjoy. If God were sufficient for your soul, if we really meant it when we sang “All I have is Christ and that’s all I need,” then we wouldn’t be driven to resent people for possessing what we don’t have. And the day is coming when we will be so utterly satisfied with God that there won’t even be the fleeting flicker of a thought that we might enjoy something beyond what Jesus is for us.

There’s so much more I could say. Here’s just a couple of brief comments. Think about how our worship is going to change when we’re glorified and freed from sinning and delivered from these corrupt, disease-ridden bodies. There won’t be the slightest random thought distracting us. You’re singing and all of a sudden, some out of the blue, perverted impulse invades your mind. You think, “Oh, where’d that come from?” That will never happen.

There will be no distractions, no bodily discomfort, no doubts about the identity and truth of what is being sung, because we’ll sing only truth. It reminds me of what AW Tozer is supposed to have said: “Christians don’t tell lies. They just go to church and sing them.” I hope that’s not true of your church. I have to tell you, I’m a physically passionate worshiper. There are only two reasons why my hands aren’t raised all the time: old age and gravity. I have no other excuses. But in the new earth with a new body, can you imagine it? Just close your eyes if you can and just envision for a moment what it will be like never to feel disqualified or inadequate. What is the sensation that we will have in our souls when we are utterly devoid of the fear that we have disappointed God? It will be gone, banished.

Even if you wanted to find it and touch it or taste it, you wouldn’t be able to. You won’t want to. Imagine the sensations in our minds when our thoughts are only accurate and to the point, when what we feel will be devoid of corruption, when what we do will be accomplished without error, when what we say will only be encouraging and uplifting, when what we hear will be melodies of a vast variety of sounds that have such an exalted and godly essence they will elicit only exalted and godly affections, and when what we see and taste will only serve to stimulate gratitude for who God is.

So what does it mean?

Dear dying lamb, thy precious blood Shall never lose its power, ‘Til all the ransomed church of God Be saved to sin no more.