Our Passion for Others’ Joy

Rezolution Conference | Johannesburg, South Africa

Thank you, David, and thank you to all of those who’ve been especially at the forefront of leading this event, conceiving it and believing it would be possible, then laboring for years to bring it to pass. It’s been quite an encouragement to me to be a part of it and to see you worshiping the way you do and to see you hungry for the word of God the way you are. May your tribe increase. May your numbers multiply. May South Africa and all the other lands represented here feel the spiritual reverberations out from this place and all of its future manifestations. Thank you for letting me be here.

Pray for the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization that starts tonight in Cape Town. We’ll be going there this afternoon, and there will be 4,500 representatives from 200 countries. It’s the most diverse gathering of believers ever in the history of the world, all with the focus of how to help the global Church keep its focus on evangelizing the unreached peoples of the world and challenging the world with the message of Jesus Christ. As God brings it to your mind, pray that God would do exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we ask or think.

A Passion for God’s Supremacy and a Passion for People

My life’s mission statement and the mission statement of our church is this: I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. It’s on the wall of our church, and I say it everywhere I go. Sometimes people ask, “Don’t you think that since the first commandment is to love God and the second commandment is to love people that love should be in there somewhere?” I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. My answer is that this sentence is the definition of love for people.

Where we’re going now is that I’ve said we all exist to share in and to share God’s passion for his glory. We’re going to the third part now. You exist to share God’s passion for his glory. I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things. That is what I mean by loving people. That’s why I’m here. If God were to show up or an angel were to put a microphone to my mouth and say, “State your mission of love in this hour,” I would say, “I am here to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.” And I think the angel would say, “Proceed.” If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t do it.

Love for people at its apex is doing whatever you can, even at the cost of your life, to bring them with you into the enjoyment of God’s passion for his glory. That’s what love is. All the other things we do for people by way of social service or physical healing is secondary. They will go to hell if we don’t do more than that. People are going to hell because we don’t help them enjoy God’s glory. That’s not love.

The Reason We Exist

The first thing we did, in summary, is to talk about God’s passion for his glory. All over the Bible, God does everything he does to display and uphold his glory. Then we saw that this is not megalomania. This is love toward us, because we are designed by God with hearts made to find fullest pleasure not in ourselves, but in him. If God withholds himself and his infinite glory from us and does not magnify it to us, he does not love us. God is the one being in the universe who must uphold himself and his glory as a way of loving us, because it is the one thing that will bring us everlasting and full joy. If I were to do that, I would be wicked. Only God can do that and be virtuous.

If I said, “Look at me. Be satisfied in me. Worship me,” I would be wicked. But if God says, “Look at me. Be satisfied in me. Enjoy me. Be happy in me. Honor me. Treasure me,” that’s love, because you were made for that. If he were to offer you anything else, like a perfect mirror where you liked everything you saw, he would be cruel to you. The implication we saw is that in this act of enjoying him, being satisfied in him, treasuring him, God is made to look good. God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. We saw it in Philippians 1:21, and you can see it in experience.

The Story of a Rose

I’ll give you my favorite illustration, okay? I told Noël last night I was going to do this. I love to do it in her presence. This is an illustration of the truth that God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. Noël and I have been married for almost 42 years. Let’s suppose that on one of these anniversaries I come home and I do something unusual — I ring the doorbell. I don’t usually ring the doorbell on my own home. I have bought, let’s say, 12 expensive, long-stemmed, red roses. I ring the doorbell. It’s the evening of our anniversary. She comes to the door. She’s surprised. She looks at me with a puzzled face, and I pull the roses out, and I saw, “Happy Anniversary, Noël.” She smiles big and says, “Oh Johnny, why did you?” I say, “It’s my duty.”

Now, I have told this story 100 times all over the world. People always laugh when I do that. Why did you laugh? I mean this is really, really deep. Why did you laugh? You should have. I’m not scolding you at all. You should have. I fear the audience that doesn’t. But I just said something wonderful. I said I’m doing my duty. Don’t you think duty is a glorious thing? Soldiers should do their duty. Husbands should do their duty. Pastors should do their duty. Duty is not a laughable thing. But you should’ve laughed, why? Well, the answer will become clear if we do a rerun of the doorbell.

Reel it back in. Ding-dong. She comes to the door. I say, “Happy Anniversary, Noël.” And she says, “Oh Johnny, they’re beautiful. Why did you?” I say, “I couldn’t help myself because nothing makes me happier than to buy roses for you. By the way, why don’t you go get dressed? I’ve arranged for a babysitter. I’ve arranged for an evening. We’re going out, because there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend the evening with you.” Never in a million years would she say, “You are so selfish. All you ever think of is what would make you happy. You’d rather do nothing for you than spend the evening with me. Nothing makes you happier than to be with me. You are so selfish.”

Now, here you are laughing again. Don’t you know that selfishness is a wicked thing? And there you are laughing. I just told her that nothing makes me happier than to be with her. I mean, why are you laughing? This is so selfish of me to talk like that. Or is she glorified by my being satisfied in her? Isn’t the highest compliment you could pay to a wife to say, “Of all the choices, of all the treasures of this evening, you’re best, because you satisfy me”? Do you get it? If you didn’t get it from Philippians 1:21, get it from the rose story, okay? This is just a husband and wife picture of something really big. God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.

How Our Joy in God Affects Others

Do not fear when I tell you — which I now say is the next point in the series — when I say, therefore, you should pursue maximum and eternal satisfaction in God for the rest of your life. Whatever it costs, whether you cut off your hand, gouge out your eye, or lose your life. Whatever it costs, go for broke. Don’t settle for anything less than maximum and eternal pleasure in God. Don’t ever feel like that is selfish.

The word selfish is a bad word, and it should be a bad word, because it ordinarily means exalting your own benefit at the expense of others. That’s the opposite of what we’re doing here. We are seeking our satisfaction, which now in this message is going to be shown to spill over for others. I’m going to argue in this message that you can’t love others if you don’t pursue your own joy in God all the time. You can’t.

I mean I have finished the first two messages I gave and have people be so far from understanding that they will draw the inference, “Well, if God’s seeking his own glory all the time, and you’re seeking your satisfaction in him all the time, where does that leave everybody else? Are they just going to hell and you don’t give a rip because you’re all satisfied in Jesus and he’s all into himself?” I sink my head and think, “Oh my goodness.” That’s where we are right now. What about other people?

My point in this message is you can’t love other people if you are not finding your deepest joy and your highest pleasures and your most eternal satisfaction in God, manifested in Christ crucified and risen.

An Overflow of Joy in God

Let’s try to see that in the Bible. Let’s go to 2 Corinthians 8:1–4 if you have a Bible. What I’m looking for in this text is that I want to know first of all what love for people is. Most people think they know what it is to love other people, and they don’t. Because if you leave God out of the picture, you don’t love people. I don’t care what you do for them. I don’t care if you lay down your life for them. Because that’s what Paul said: “Though I give my body to be burned and give all my goods to the poor and have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). If you give all your goods to the poor and give your body to be burned and have not love, it’s nothing. Is that amazing or what? You can be a martyr and you can be an ascetic and give everything away to the poor and not love people.

Obviously, that requires some thought. Where’s God? If you don’t give people God, you don’t love them. Eighty years is nothing compared to eternity. Without God, without Christ, without the blood, without the gospel, there is no love.

Now, 2 Corinthians 8 is a description of love. Let me give you the context. I’m going to read 2 Corinthians 8:1–4, and then I’m going to drop down and read 2 Corinthians 8:7–8 to show that it’s love. The situation is that Paul is writing to the people in Corinth. Corinth as you know is down at the bottom of the peninsula (Greece). Back then, the lower part was called Achaia and the northern part was called Macedonia. He had already been collecting an offering for the poor saints down in Jerusalem up in Macedonia. That’s Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. Those cities up here. They have experienced something amazing in giving, and he tells that story in the first four verses here, writing to the Corinthians to motivate the Corinthians by what happened among the Macedonians. That’s the context.

He does it in such a way that it is a definition in action of love. I want to know Paul’s definition of love, not mine, not yours. I don’t care about yours. I don’t care about mine. I care about the Bible’s definition of love. So here we go:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints . . .

That’s speaking of the poor saints that Paul is collecting this offering for. It’s amazing what just happened there. It’s rare. Now, why do I say that’s a description of love? Look down at 2 Corinthians 8:7–8:

But as you (Corinthians) excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others (namely, the Macedonians) that your love also is genuine.

Do you get it? They excelled in whatever it was, and then he calls it what it is. He says, “I also want your love to be genuine.” So he’s just defined what happened in 2 Corinthians 8:1–4 as love, so what is it? Let’s take it a piece at the time and put the pieces of love in place so we know what we’re called to be in Johannesburg, South Africa, in America, all over Africa, and around the world. What are we called to be like?

When Grace Comes Down

In 2 Corinthians 8:1, he says:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia . . .

Paul shows up and he preaches in Philippi, preaches in Thessalonica, and as he preaches, the grace of God arrives. The grace of God arrives through the gospel. What did it do in Philippi? We get a bigger glimpse there than in Berea or Thessalonica. It saved Lydia. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to the word. That’s what it means when the grace of God arrives. The grace of God is describing the way the grace was purchased in the cross of Christ. That’s the gospel. The grace was purchased by the blood of Christ. He rose from the dead to vindicate it. All who believe will have their sins forgiven. He’s preaching this to this group of women by the river and the Lord opens Lydia’s heart and she says, “My Lord and my God.” You have as the first member of the church a businesswoman in Philippi.

The second member of the church is a demon possessed young girl. She’s walking around saying, “These people are the spokesmen of the God most high.” She’s getting on Paul’s nerves, even though she’s telling the truth. She’s making money for the people she’s working for because she’s a soothsayer. Paul turns around, rebukes the devil that comes out of her. Bang, she doesn’t make money for them anymore. She’s a believer. You have the second member of the church, a demon possessed girl.

The third member of the church is the jailer, because they throw Paul in prison because he’s making a scene. God shakes the whole prison with an earthquake, another gracious act, and the jailer says, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul says, “Believe in Jesus,” and he’s saved, and he goes and gets baptized in the middle of the night. Now you have three members of a church. What a church, right? It’s a businesswoman, a demon-possessed girl, and a government employee who was about to kill himself, so he has a suicidal tendency. Isn’t the church wonderful? That’s the kind of people that ought to be flowing into your churches, right? That’s the grace of God. It showed up with tremendous power in Macedonia. That’s 2 Corinthians 8:1.

Extreme Poverty, Abundant Joy

Then, in 2 Corinthians 8:2, Paul says:

For in a severe test of affliction (things didn’t go better for them), their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty . . .

Okay, just stop there. Grace showed up and saved people. Affliction began to increase in their life and poverty didn’t go away. It says so right there in that verse. In a severe test of affliction, they had extreme poverty. What good is the gospel for goodness sakes, right? It increases affliction and leaves poverty, short term anyway. The answer is abundant joy. He continues:

for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty . . .

Paul says the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 6:4–6:

We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because . . . you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit . . .

That’s the mark of an elect person. There is increasing joy, like in the parable where you sow the second seed and it sprouts up with joy, and then the sun comes out. Poof, it’s gone. Joy is no proof of election, but joy in the midst of ongoing affliction is a sign that something has happened. Something miraculous has happened, and that’s what we see here. Grace came down. Joy came up. Remember what we’re describing here is love. This is the root and origin and nature of love.

A Wealth of Generosity

Now, here’s the third observation. Let’s finish 2 Corinthians 8:2, which says:

For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

So here’s my answer to the person who says, “Piper, you’ve just told everybody God seeks his own glory. You’ve just told everybody to seek their own happiness in God, and you let the world go to hell.” No, that’s not the way it works. This is the way it works right here. I’ve told them that God comes in his grace and offers himself to them as an all-satisfying treasure through Jesus Christ. They see it. The Holy Spirit opens their eyes. Joy, in spite of affliction and suffering, overflows in a wealth of liberality. And 2 Corinthians 8:8 calls that love.

How shall we define love? Here’s my definition of love on the basis of these verses. You test it. Love for people is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. That’s my definition of love. Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. I think that comes straight out of these verses with hardly any change at all. If you don’t think that’s a good definition of love based on these verses, you catch me on the way out and say, “No, a better one would be this . . .” Because I don’t know a better way to define love, at least on the basis of these verses, than that.

Do you think I’m overstating it to say you can’t have that kind of love without that kind of joy? That’s what I’m arguing for. I’m arguing that the first two messages of this series are necessary for you to be a loving person. If you try to do some kind of self denial thing that says, “I don’t need to be happy in God to love other people,” my question is going to be, what are you going to invite them into? Your gloominess? Your misery? Your depression? Your discouragement? Your finding God boring? Are you going to say, “I have a boring, unsatisfying God. Join me.” I don’t think so.

What About Emotionalism?

Sometimes this objection is raised, “It sounds like you are making love, at least in part, into an emotion or an affection since it’s the overflow of joy drawing other people into it, even if it costs you your life to do that. Are you sure you want to define love so that this big component of it is an emotion like joy?” My answer is yes, but the objection is sophisticated. It came to me as a junior in college in an apologetics class in this form in a book called Situation Ethics by Joseph Fletcher, which is a very bad book. His argument was that love cannot be an emotion because love in the Bible is commanded, so it must be a decision and an act of will that you can obey when it’s commanded even when you don’t have any feelings. Just let that sit on you for a minute. That’s the argument.

Now, I was 20 years old, and I was brought up in a Christian home. I didn’t know a lot except the fact that my mom and my dad read the Bible to me every day for 18 years. Therefore, I had a sniffer. I call it a theological sniffer. I didn’t have a theological brain yet, because I hadn’t studied in any kind of formal way, but I had a sniffer. Falsehood smelled bad. I couldn’t explain why it was false at the moment, but I could tell something was wrong with that. That argument smelled to me.

It’s an incredibly valuable gift to have a theological sniffer. Most of you Bible saturated, older, non-formally educated people probably have very good sniffers. You’re better detectors of error in a preacher than a PhD who has all this education and his sniffer is dead. I was smelling this and saying, “Something’s wrong with this argument.” He said, “Love cannot be an emotion because you cannot command the emotions. Love is commanded, therefore love can’t be an emotion. Case closed. Love is a decision.” I just saw the people in my class saying, “Oh man, that’s great!” I said, “What’s wrong with this?”

Well, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. This premise right there in the middle that emotions can’t be commanded is crazy. It’s all over the Bible. Emotions are commanded all over the Bible. You don’t look like you believe that.

  • Gratitude is commanded (Psalm 100:1–2).
  • Hope is commanded (1 Peter 1:13).
  • Joy is commanded (Philippians 4:4).
  • Sorrow is commanded (Romans 12:15).
  • Compassion is commanded (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Fear is commanded (Romans 11:20).
  • Contentment is commanded (Hebrews 13:5).

And on and on and on it goes. The Bible is filled with the commandments of God for us to have emotions we cannot turn on like a spigot. The premise is wrong, Joseph Fletcher. Therefore, the conclusion is wrong. At least, the conclusion is illogical. I would say there’s plenty of evidence that love includes the emotion of passion to spread the joy of God’s grace into the lives of others.

When Our Hearts Lag Behind

But here’s a question, a very practical question. Suppose there is something you’re commanded to do and you’re to do it with joy — an act of love — and you don’t feel the joy. Should you do it? Let’s be specific. It would be an act of love if all were in place for you on a Sunday morning, say in your local church, to give money during the offering. You have this strong desire to get a new MacBook Pro, or iPad, or iPhone 4, or whatever is cool and hip here. It’s going to cost you $500 to give, and you’ve been saving. There’s this special plea being made at church for this mission and this project and the regular ongoing ministry. You’re sitting there with your checkbook in your hand not wanting to give to the church because it delays the iPad.

You don’t want to. There’s no joy in this at all. Here comes the offering plate. You’ve got about a minute and a half to decide what to do here. What should you do? Now, there are hundreds of such things in life, are there not? My solution is this. Here’s what you do, and this is a very different strategy than the person who says, “Emotions don’t matter. Write the check. Duty is what matters. I bought the roses.” God is watching, and Scripture says, “Do not give reluctantly or under compulsion, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). You’re not feeling any cheer at all in this. Should you give?

My advice is very different from, “Write the check. It doesn’t matter what you feel. It’s the right thing to do.” I don’t ever talk like that. I don’t ever say to my people, “Just do it.” I don’t like that phrase. I don’t care if Nike has it or anybody has it. I just don’t like it. The just is all wrong. There’s a theology before do it, and if you don’t get the theology before do it, and the repentance before do it, and the joy before do it, you’re a legalist.

Here’s what you do. Number one, you see the offering plate coming, you look at your heart and there’s no joy, and you repent. That’s the first thing you do. You say, “I am so sorry, God, that my heart is not here. I don’t have any desire to give. There’s no cheer or no joy in it. I am sorry.” That’s what you do first.

The second thing you do is you pray. You say, “God, restore to me the joy of love, the joy of giving. Bring the cheer that’s commanded of me in 2 Corinthians 9:7. I don’t have it. I can’t make it. I can’t do it like a water spigot. I can write the check, but I can’t make the joy. You have to give it. Would you please give it, oh God?” That’s what I do all the time. I’m praying for God to work on me. Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. You can’t make it happen, but you ask for the fruit.

The third thing you do is you trust a promise in the word of God. What promise would you use at this point? You would use something like Philippians 4:19, which says, “My God will supply all your needs according to his riches and glory in Christ Jesus.” You let the promise grip you. Or maybe you use the promise, “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11), or, “Goodness and mercy will pursue you all your days” (Psalm 23:6), or, “All things work together for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), or, “Seek the kingdom first and everything you need will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

You just pile up promises in your heart, and the Holy Spirit sets the match of his flame to the kindling of the word. If he answers your prayer, joy begins to happen through faith in the promises of God.

The fourth thing you do is write the check. Either because the joy is there in glimmer or with this attitude, “Father, it’s not here yet, but I believe that it’s right to do. I’m sorry that my heart is not here yet. In the writing of it, would you grant me this joy?” You write the check. Then you thank God. That’s very different than, “It’s my duty. I brought the roses. I brought the check. I write my check. I’ve done my duty. I’ve done the worship, because worship is doing the right thing for God.” It’s so different from that.

When God Meets Us in our Need

I’ll give you another illustration. This is just so, so right on the ground. I’m a pastor. I get called to go to crises. Let’s say I get a phone call about a woman named Mildred. She’s old. Mildred is in the hospital. She had a heart attack. They don’t know if she’ll live. I get a call at home. I didn’t want this call. I’m tired. It’s the middle of playtime with my kids or whatever, and I have to go.

I’m in my car driving, and I’m not loving it. There’s no joy going to overflow here. I’m just doing my duty. It’s what pastors have to do. I’m on my way. I’m walking through this process, praying, “God, please. She needs more than my physical presence.” I testify before God. I can’t tell you how many times I get off on the fourth floor of Abbott and start walking down the hall, not knowing what I’m going to find in the room. I enter the room, and she’s lying there with her eyes closed. I go over and I put my hand on her arm.

Now, it’s okay to laugh here, but don’t feel obliged at all, because this is the rose story in another form. I put my hand on her arm and she opens her eyes. Now, she’s old. Old people always say this. Young people never say this, but old people always say this. This is just so great. She says, “Oh pastor, you shouldn’t have come. You’re so busy. You didn’t need to come.” Younger people say, “You should’ve been here a long time ago.” But old people are humble. Then she asks what my wife does. She says, “Oh pastor, why did you do this?” What if I said to her, “I didn’t want to, but I have to. It’s my duty to be here. I’m a pastor”? Now, the first illustration with the roses was meant to illustrate what love towards God is. This is meant to illustrate love toward people.

I’m going to ask it this way. If you were Mildred, would you feel more loved if I said, “I didn’t want to be here, but I’m your pastor and I have to be here. It’s my duty,” or if I said, “Mildred, can I be honest with you?” — this has happened so many times — “I got the phone call, and I didn’t want to come, but you know what, Mildred? As I was coming over here, I was praying and thinking about you and your ministry at the church. As I walked in here and saw you and put my hand on your arm, there welled up in me a sense that there’s not a place on the planet I’d rather be than sharing some hope with you right now from my devotions this morning,” something like that. There’s not a place I’d rather be. See, there it is again, my selfishness.

I think in order to love people authentically, you can’t love them begrudgingly. If they sense in you that this is begrudging, it doesn’t help them. Instead, I think what genuine love requires is that your heart arrives, joy comes up, and it begins to expand itself to draw her in so that you can honestly say to her, “My joy is increasing, Mildred, as I draw you into it. It’s an honor to be here. It’s a joy to be here. It’s an expansive feeling of soul to be with you, as grace comes out of my heart and joy comes out of my heart. Can I just share a promise or two with you?” Then the Lord brings to mind things that he thinks she needs. I don’t buy it, Joseph Fletcher. I don’t buy it that love does not require a dimension of emotion — namely, the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.

Suffering Hardships and Rejoicing in God

Suffering for others is going to be necessary, so don’t hear me saying you have to be happy with no down feelings and no pain in order to love people. It’ll almost always be the opposite. It’ll be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Most acts of love are painful. You have to drive to the hospital. You have to go to a hard place. You’ve got to deal with a hard person. Most acts of love are painful. That’s not a contradiction of saying love is the overflow of joy in God.

I think I need to show you that, and the way I’ll do it is to take you to Hebrews. Let’s go to Hebrews 10 and we’ll look at a few verses here and wrap it up. I think this sequence of verses in Hebrews is simply amazing, because most of us think of Hebrews as a book about Melchizedek, and it’s hard to understand, and it’s just so full of the Old Testament and complicated in its understanding of the atonement and the New Covenant. We think, “Oh, what are we going to do with this book practically?” Well, in the next seven or eight minutes as we close, you will see what to do with this book.

Let’s start in Hebrews 10, and here’s what I’m after. I want to see in Hebrews a biblical way of understanding how joy in God produces suffering love for other people — suffering love — because almost all of it is suffering.

A Hard Struggle with Sufferings

Hebrews 10:32 says:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings . . .

Okay, so the first thing that happened when you got saved, or enlightened, is that you suffered. Don’t pitch Christianity the way the prosperity gospel people do. Pitch it with honesty. It will cause trouble in your life. It continues:

You endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated (Hebrews 10:32–33).

Do you get the picture? In the early days here, they became Christians. Some of them were reproached and persecuted, and others were partners with them. Now, in what sense were they partners with them? He tells us. Hebrews 10:34 says:

For you (partners with them) had compassion on those in prison . . .

Some of the group had been put in prison already because they had become Christians, and some hadn’t. Those who hadn’t had to decide, “Shall we go underground and disappear and let them rot in the prison, or shall we identify with them and show compassion?” They faced the question, “If we do that, they’ll know that we’re Christians and we may get thrown in prison, and what about our kids and what about our witness outside and the spread of the gospel?” A lot of arguments would come up about why they shouldn’t do it. Well, here’s what they did. It says:

For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property . . . (Hebrews 10:34).

That might’ve been official plundering or it might’ve been mob violence, like graffiti on your walls and stones through your window, or whatever. We don’t know for sure from the language here whether it’s official confiscation or whether it’s just mob devastation. But whatever it was, it was painful, and you wouldn’t want your house wrecked. Then it says:

For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one (Hebrews 10:34).

The Ground for Joy in Affliction

There are two things to observe: the word joyfully and its ground. I confess before you that perhaps my most frequent sin is grumbling, which is the opposite of this verse. If my house was trashed because I went to visit somebody in the prison, this would be hard, right? It says they joyfully accepted the plundering of their property, joyfully. Let’s picture it. They head to the prison. People see what they’re doing, and where they came from, and what house they’ve gone out of, and they torch it and it goes up in flames. As you’re going to the hospital, you’re looking over your shoulder and you’re watching your house burn. What do they do? They sing:

Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever.

They say, “We’re going to the prison.” That’s Christianity, being joyful that they were counted worthy to suffer shame and persecution. It is so radical, it seems beyond the ability to do it. Where did they get the wherewithal to do it? It says:

Since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

That’s what I mean by joy in God. When they contemplated what was being lost here, they realized that they had something that’s going to restore and be better later, namely, they’re going to be with God. He’s going to meet every need, and every loss will be restored. I was working on this in my devotions in my heart the other morning. I believe that if I could trust God for this truth, that every single loss I experience will be repaid to me 100 fold in the kingdom of God, I would stop grumbling about my losses. By losses, I mean things like when your wife says something hurtful to you, or your colleague criticizes you publicly, or your husband puts you down. What I mean by loss is anything that frustrates you, anything that disappoints you.

That’s where grumbling comes from, right? My will and my desire gets crossed. I get frustrated, and I’m responding, whether it’s with words, or face, or tone, or shrug, or something. My whole being is attacked. That’s the opposite of this. These people aren’t attacking. They’re singing, because they knew that they had a better possession and an abiding one. The practical thing would be to take all the messages that you’ve heard here, all the glorious things we’ve sung here, and say, “God, help me moment by moment.” This is why Paul Tripp is going to be so helpful to you next year. Moment by moment in the present believe the promises of God. Right now, in this moment where this little annoyance happened and you’re about to grumble about it, believe this loss will be paid back 100 fold by Jesus, who meets all your needs in the kingdom. We’ll have an eternity to be repaid for every single loss that we’ve experienced here.

Greater Riches Than Egypt

Now we can go to chapter 11 and try to move toward a conclusion. Watch Moses say the same thing. Hebrews 11:24–26 says:

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin (choosing it). He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt . . .

That’s weird. He considered the pain, the suffering, and the reproach with the Messiah in loving Israel by leading them greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. Why? It continues:

For he was looking to the reward.

It’s exactly the same argument. You have a choice. You can stay in Egypt and have all the worldly comforts and pleasures for 80 or 120 years, and then hell, or you can suffer these grumbling people in the wilderness and die on the mountain and not get to see the promised land just because you count suffering with the people of God and with the Christ greater wealth than all that. How can he do that? Because he looked to the reward.

I know there are more than young people here, but older people already know this. Young people, living for the reward of the presence of Christ and his friendship with you in his presence forever should be cultivated now. Pie in the sky by and by makes you radical in the present. I hate it when people talk about the hope of glory as lifting people out of this world and making them so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good. It’s the opposite. If you really saw what was coming your way in 50 years, if you could just see it, you would be the most sacrificial, risk taking, lay-your-life-down lover on the planet. You wouldn’t go sit under a tree and wait. That would be proof of unbelief. Oh, get the reward in your head. Get it in your heart. Be stunned by its infinite value. Realize how short life is, and how great it’s going to be on the new heavens and the new earth.

Motivated by the Reward

Let’s look at Hebrews 12:2. It says:

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross . . .

How did Jesus perform the greatest act of love that has ever been performed for human beings? How did he do it? The text tells us. Anybody want to say it back to me? It says, “For the joy that was set before him.” I could just close the Bible and say let’s go home.

If anybody ever tells you being motivated to love for the increase of your future joy is selfish, you should get a really serious look on your face and say, “Don’t talk that way about my Lord Jesus.” That’s what you should do, because they’re going to say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m not talking about Jesus. I’m talking about you, not Jesus.” You can say, “No, you’re not. You’re talking about Hebrews 12:2. It says of my Lord Jesus that for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, and that’s what I’m doing right now in talking to you, because you’re hard to talk to. But I know that in my talking to you, my joy is going to increase as I draw you into my experience of God. I do invite you in. I want everybody to have this experience of joy in God.”

As Jesus wrestled in Gethsemane and as he hung on the cross and could’ve pulled his hands off and called 12 legions of angels and wiped out all of his mocking persecutors, I think what kept him there was, “God, I love your people, and I can hardly wait till I am surrounded by millions and millions of them worshiping me, and magnifying me, and glorifying me. I can’t wait until I reach the consummation of all my loving and saving work by having the joy of their praises ascend in your presence.” It was something like that. I’m sure it was deeper and more wonderful, but that word means something. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross.

Outside the Camp

We’ll close with Hebrews 13:12–13. I hope what you’re seeing is a pattern. We’ve been in Hebrews 10:34, Hebrews 11:24, Hebrews 12:2, and Hebrews 13:13 10:32, and it’s exactly the same argument. This is what Hebrews is written for. All the theology, all the Melchizedek, all the New Covenant, and all the atonement is written to make this kind of people. I’m ending in the next minute or two and our whole longing, Conrad and I, is for you to be this kind of person. You would rock your land. Don’t be run-of-the-mill, middle-class, ordinary Christians that look just like the world. Be this way. Here it is again. Hebrews 13:12–13 says:

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

Do you get that? Come on. We’re going to walk out of here in five minutes. Come on. Let’s go outside the camp, outside the gate. That’s Golgotha, right? Let’s join Jesus. He’s out there suffering for us. Let’s go with him. Now, how are you going to do that? Hebrews 13:14 says:

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Don’t we? What do we care about whether Johannesburg praises us? It crucified Jesus. Minneapolis crucified Jesus. New York, Cape Town, and London all crucified Jesus. What do we care about those cities as to whether they accept us? What we want is the city that is to come. If we are confident in the city that is to come, we’ll have an amazing courage and wherewithal to go into the urban centers of the cities that crucified Jesus. Outside the gate is any place where it’s dangerous, any place where it’s uncomfortable, any place where it’s hard, any place where you might get crucified. Let us go with him outside the gate.

Here’s just a word of summary. You exist to share in — and now I’ve tried to persuade you — and to share your joy in God being God, in God’s passion for his own glory. Jesus Christ paid an infinite price for you to enjoy this and to empower you to increase your joy by including others in it at great cost to yourself. With Conrad Mbewe, I say that I beseech you by the mercies of God, lay your life down, your whole life as a spiritual act of worship, treasuring him, valuing him, being satisfied in him so deeply — with the reward so firm, the city so secure and so beautiful — that here you are the most dangerous, radical, free, fearless, sacrificial, risk-taking lover in your city.