Show Christ

Oxygen 11

Sydney, Australia

Let’s cut an arc back to the beginning — peril, privilege, pleasure, and plan. Do you remember those? I still feel a trembling, more now than I did then I think because I’m just aware of how diverse you are, and that I could mislead you, especially after some of those questions that clearly signified I have misled some of you. So I’m trembling that the Lord will say someday, “You really said a stupid thing that wasn’t helpful.” So test all things, hold fast to what is good. Be good Bereans. I still count it an even higher privilege to have been with you, precisely because of the extent of your influence — the thought that you would take away from here something from John, me, and the worship. It’s an amazing privilege.

The pleasure has increased. I love standing here with you. I love what I’m about to talk about. I can’t think of anything I’d rather talk about than showing Christ in this last session. Don’t pity me too much that I had to cross a lot of time zones to get here. I’m loving what I’m doing. I’m happy to do it, and I think we’re on plan. God does everything for his glory. That was number one, and then Feel Christ, Think Christ, Preach Christ, and today is Show Christ. I think we’re where we ought to be. So let me try to sum up where we’ve been and then launch into what we have here in our last hour together.

All Things for the Glory of God

God is radically God-centered. He does everything to uphold and display his magnificence, his beauty, and the panorama of his perfections in the world. He does it through Jesus Christ. The glory of God is the glory of Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

He was with God, so he mediates to God and from God, and he was God, so the glory terminates on him, on them as one. This is the glorious, holy trinity.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace (John 1:14–16).

And the essence of that grace, or maybe I should say the most ultimate experience it, is not that he makes much of me, but that he enables me to enjoy making much of him forever at the cost of his Son’s life. And not only is the ultimate expression of his love the gift of himself enjoyed, but he has set up the universe and the spiritual world such that my enjoyment of him is an essential means by which I make much of him, which I put in this little catchphrase: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. That brings implications galore. But before I mention the implications, the only satisfaction in God that glorifies God is satisfaction rooted in right views of God. And God has given us a brain to find the right views of God in a book.

I was talking with some brothers between the sessions about this issue of theology and passion, how passion should be expressed, and how important the maintenance of good, solid theology is. I just want to say that I think the best protection for the proper expression of passion is to count doctrine high, not low. If I smell in a group that doctrine is minimized, I’m moving back rather than moving in, though I’ll move in if they let me preach. I think rather than the need to pick at particular weaknesses or errors, the big concern should be: Don’t minimize truth in your expressions of or pursuit of pleasures in God. That’s sort of the sum of my life.

The implications of the truth that God is glorified in us when we are satisfied in him are that your people should never be taught to choose between their maximum joy and God’s maximum glory, which I grew up thinking you had to do. I thought I had to choose between God’s will and my happiness, or between God’s glory and my pleasure. You only have to do that if you’re willing to settle for something less than fullest joy and longest joy.

You make known to me the path of life;
   in your presence there is fullness of joy;
   at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

If you can offer me something better than that, I will take it, whatever religion it is. God is best. There isn’t anything better than fullness of joy forever. If someone offered me 99 percent for 80 years, I would say, “No thank you.” Your people don’t ever have to choose, but you have a huge responsibility to wean them off the breast of the world because they’re addicted to that milk, and they can’t even imagine what you’re talking about. They have, many of them, no taste for this pleasure.

Then of course the implication for you is that you seek your joy because Hebrews 13:17 says:

Let them (pastors) do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

You want to love your people, and therefore, you must seek your joy.

Another implication is that you then seek their joy, because 2 Corinthians 1:24 says that we “work with you for your joy,” and don’t “lord it over your faith.” And then you spend the rest of your life preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ that will awaken your people to his glory, and, beholding the glory of the Lord, they will be changed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18) and represent Christ in the world well, which brings us to this message — Show Christ.

Here’s the question I’m trying to answer. I’ll tell you my answer and then we’ll go to the Bible. A lot of people are concerned, and I’m concerned, that a message like the one I’ve been emphasizing — namely, maximize your joy forever — might produce people who are all wrapped up in themselves, their joy, and their satisfaction, and thus think the world can go to hell in a hand basket as far as they’re concerned because they’ve got God, they’ve got joy, they’re going home, and he’s glorified in that, so who cares about the world? That would be a horrible inference from what I’ve said, so what I need to do is give an account of why I believe that embracing the truth that your pursuit of your pleasure in God will not produce indifference to the world, but radical, life-sacrificing risks for the sake of the world. That’s today’s effort.

I invite you to open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 8:1–4. My thesis is that you can’t love other people biblically unless you pursue your maximum joy in God — you can’t. Pursuing and finding your pleasure in all that God is for you in Jesus is the only sufficient biblical power to love people. That’s my thesis. It’s not just that you may love people if you’re happy in God, but that you can’t love people if you’re not. Here we are at 2 Corinthians 8:1–4. Let’s read and then drop down to 2 Corinthians 8:8 to pick up a key word. But first, maybe I better set the geographic stage here because everybody would be a little confused by the words.

Grace Came to Macedonia

Macedonia was a region in northern Greece, and Achaia was further south. Corinth and Athens were east of Achaia. Phillipi, Thessalonica, and Berea were part of Macedonia, and Paul was writing to the Corinthians about what happened up in Macedonia by Philippi. He’s trying to motivate the Corinthians to be generous. All of chapters eight and nine are about an offering being taken up for the poor in Jerusalem. It was about loving the poor in Jerusalem, and the Macedonians really came through. Now Paul is writing about that to the Corinthians. That’s the situation. What I want you to listen for is this: Do these first four verses give us a definition of love? Because if I’m going to talk about loving the world or loving people as something that flows from a heart satisfied in God, we have to get the definition right because the world has different ideas about love than the Bible does. So here we go. Second Corinthians 8:1–4 says:

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 …

They weren’t under any constraint. It was a free offering. They really wanted to do it and it was not forced upon them. Now drop down to 2 Corinthians 8:8, which says:

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Now you can see why I’m picking up verse eight. When he says, “I told you that story so that you’d be motivated to go in that direction, and so I wouldn’t have to twist your arm and be apostolic-authoritative with you on this offering. I want this to be an expression of your love also — that it would be your love just like it was their love.” Are you with me? Now I’ve got a name for what happened in 2 Corinthians 8:1–3. It’s called love.

Let’s go back and see what love looks like, where it comes from, and what it does, and we’ll have an amazing picture for how love happens in the church, for the world, for the poor, for the hurting, or for whoever needs it. Second Corinthians 8:1 says:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God…

So when Paul showed up in Phillipi, Thessalonica, and Berea, he preached and grace came down. Do you remember that? Remember how the Lord opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:14), the demon-possessed, soothsaying girl was freed (Acts 16:16–18), and the jailer was saved (Acts 16:25–34). It was at least those three. What a way to start a church. It was a businesswoman, a slave girl who had been demonized, and a civic employee. Grace came down and people got saved in Phillipi. Paul knows that grace is operating because 2 Corinthians 8:2 says:

for in a severe test of affliction …

Affliction came. They beat Paul with rods and they put him in jail. I don’t know what happened to the rest when he left, but affliction came. When the church is planted, it doesn’t take away affliction, it increases affliction. This is why Jesus taught us to tell people, “Count the cost.” You don’t invite people to an easy life. You invite people to trouble. Trouble goes up, not down, when someone becomes a Christian.

Abundance of Joy

Then it continues:

for in a severe test of affliction their abundance of joy …

The joy became abundant in the hearts of the believers in Macedonia because grace was coming down on them and affliction was going up, which means the joy wasn’t in their circumstances. Do you see that in the next phrase? It says:

their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty …

Afflictions went up and poverty didn’t go away, at least not quickly. Afflictions were increasing, poverty was remaining, and joy was abounding. Where was it rooted? Grace! It was rooted in God. I hate the prosperity gospel because of this text. The glory of Christ is shown when life looks like you shouldn’t be happy, and yet you are. That’s where Christ gets most glory, which is why it’s so hard to be a Christian in America and Australia. We look like we should be happy. We have nice clothing. We drive cars. Food is on our table every day. Do you know that there is a refrigerator in my hotel room? There is a dishwasher in my hotel room. There is a washing machine in my hotel room. I’ve never been in a hotel with a washing machine and a dishwasher. I came to Australia to find prosperity. You are in a deadly land, because here in affliction is where the glory of God really shines.

My word to the prosperity people is this: Getting people to be happy because God gives them what makes the world happy is zero witness. Do you get that? This is not rocket science. The world is happy when they’re prosperous, and now we Christians are happy when we’re prosperous. What? It’s just a different butler to bring us the meal. I get worked up about this. I don’t know all the answers to living in a prosperous land. I just know it’s dangerous and I live in one.

Joy in God, the Root of Love

For the Macedonians, afflictions increased, poverty didn’t go away, and these people were skyrocketing happy. They were so happy…what happened? This is my answer. This is my defense of my thesis. Let’s read 2 Corinthians 8:3 again:

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.

They’re loving people. They’re sacrificing out of their poverty, and they’re loving the poor in Jerusalem. And look how much they’re loving them. Second Corinthians 8:4 says:

begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

These are poor people under affliction pleading that a second offering be taken in the service. That’s what they’re doing. Now that’s crazy, glorious, wonderful Christianity, and when the world sees it, they have to ask, “What’s the reason for the hope within you?” They don’t have to ask that for the prosperity folks because they know what the reason is. They’re prosperous. That’s why they’re happy. But here, there’s no explanation.

They’re under affliction, they’re in poverty, and they are lavishly saying, “We’re so happy.” I’m not making this up. This is really here. Can you see this? This is amazing. Their abundance of joy, which isn’t in the absence of affliction and isn’t in the presence of prosperity, but is in the grace of God, is now overflowing. I could not have asked for a better text to make my point, and I hope you believe I got my point from the text. I mean, I’ve been talking about this for so many years it can look like, “Hey, he’s got a point, now he’s going to go find a text” — not when I was 23 I didn’t have a point. All I had was texts. I was trying to make sense out of texts, and I’m still trying to make sense out of a lot of texts, but this one is glorious.

How would you define love on the basis of those three verses? I’ve got two definitions of love that I’ll give you. One is simple and one is complex. Simple definitions are helpful, but they’re vulnerable to being misused. Here’s my simple one: Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. You can see why I say we better define love from the Bible rather than the world, because the world would never define love that way. God doesn’t even enter in the picture.

Here’s my complex one because the word overflow can sound a little too automatic and a little too passive, like when a spring gets full and it just overflows. That’s here in this passage. That’s the bible word — it’s abounding. When a glass gets full, the next thing it does is spill, and if there are some thirsty people around the bottom, they get helped. And that’s what love is. But love does involve more than passive spilling. It often involves great pursuit, great effort, because it can kill you.

It can keep you up all night. It can take you to a very dangerous place in the world. It can cause you to serve in a trash dump for 25 years, and things like that. My other definition would be to say that love is the grace-based, or God-rooted, effort to expand the joy that we have in God in others. I want it to get bigger. I’m a greedy hedonist. I want fullest possible joy, and I know that if I keep it to myself and that needy person doesn’t get included in it, my joy is going to go rotten like the Dead Sea, so I’m going to push it out and include you in it. When you are happy in God like I’m happy in God, our combined happiness in God is bigger. One plus one equals three. It’s just the way it works. That’s my definition of love.

Testing Definitions

Now, let’s do a little bit of testing to see if we’re on the right track because I could stop here. I think I’ve made my case, though maybe some might not think so. There are lots more texts to throw in here, but the essence has been said — namely, if you ask me what love is, I’m going to say it’s the overflow, or the extension, of my joy in God to other people. If my joy in God is absent, this text malfunctions. It doesn’t happen. Or if it happens, you’d probably call it legalism, as if Paul was saying, “You better give to those poor saints in Jerusalem because God will zap you if you don’t,” or something along that line.

That would transform this to just making it happen. You can make social action happen. You can make mercy ministries in your church happen. You can pound on people enough and create enough guilt in rich Australians and Americans that they go out on a weekend and do some good deeds and sleep better that night. You can do it that way. It’s not called love. It’s just not called love. Love is when grace has come down, joy has come up, and love overflows. If this piece is missing — the first four messages in this series — whatever this is, it ain’t love. So you can see how important the order of these messages is. Let’s try to confirm whether or not I’m over-interpreting these three verses or not. I’m always kind of nervous like, “Am I getting too much from just a little text?” This is a big book, right?

Let’s go to 2 Corinthians 9:7. We’ll just stay at verse seven. Paul is still on this motivation thing to get the giving to be what it ought to be.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I think that phrase cheerful giver is a description of 2 Corinthians 8:2, which says, “Their abundance of joy overflowed in a wealth of generosity.” God loves that. How many people over the years have said to me, “John, what matters is the giving, not how you feel about it. It’s about just putting the money in the offering plate.” And I say, “Look, if you teach your people to be indifferent to whether they are glad in their giving, you are teaching your people to sin, because it says, ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’” If you say it doesn’t matter whether you’re cheerful, you’re saying it doesn’t matter whether you please God. I call that sin. This is big.

So I think we’re on the right track, don’t you? There it is in 2 Corinthians 8:1–4, and here it is again in 2 Corinthians 9:7. God wants one kind of giver because the other kind is legal. He wants a happy giver, and happy in what? Happy in God that overflows to meet the needs of others.

Turn to Romans 12:8 so you can see it with your own eyes, or you can just listen. Paul is encouraging people to use their gifts in a proper way:

the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Now, if you say to me, “What matters is just the doing of mercy, not the cheerfulness — that’s it.” You can say that from whatever ethical theory you’re coming from, but biblically God doesn’t like mercy ministries that aren’t flowing from hearts that are happy in him.

Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:2).

Rejoicing, Yet Always Sorrowful

Pause here and I’ll add a little parenthesis. I think we’ve had enough interaction here in the Q&A time and enough qualifications along the way that this might not need saying, but it might need saying. I’m going to say it again. When I say happy in Jesus, I know that you have all kinds of semantic associations in your mind with these words that I’m using that don’t accord with what I mean. So I’m constantly trying to overcome your preconceptions about words like happy, pleasure, and delight. You bring your baggage — we all do — to those words and then you dump it in, so when I use one of them, you say, “Yuck.” Maybe the only thing pleasure means to you is sex or drunkenness, and of course, then we would have a hard time communicating. This is an effort to overcome some of those semantic mistakes to impute to my words your meaning.

When I talk about joy, pleasure, delight, satisfaction, and happiness, they’re all interchangeable for me because they’re all over the Bible. The Bible doesn’t pick and choose about joy being the big, deep thing and happiness being the superficial thing. You cannot prove that from the Bible. The Bible is indiscriminate in its use of happiness language. Pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, delight, and happiness — they’re all in the Bible and they’re all gloriously, spiritually, powerfully God-ward. And if they’re not like that for you, fix it. Really. Get your language sanctified. Get Bible meaning into crappy, old words. Fill it up. Otherwise your vocabulary is going to be stunted, and when your vocabulary is stunted, very often your heart and mind are stunted. So having said that, I now want to say I don’t mean anything silly, light, superficial, and incompatible with pain, sorrow, and weeping.

Here are just a few texts just so you know that I’m aware of this, and I’m not just aware of it because it’s in the Bible. I’m 65 years old. I’m 42 years married. I have five children, from age 38 to 15. I have served a church for 31 years where the sorrows of these past years have been immense. The mid ‘90s were the horror years of zero growth, immorality on the staff, 236 people walking away, and being accused of being the most proud person in the world. So please don’t say, “Oh, here’s an American who flies in here and talks about joy. He’s just another one of those silly guys.”

Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart…for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh (Romans 9:2).

In another place, Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). And he also said, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). And here in Romans 9:2, he says, “I have uneasing anguish,” which means the statement “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) could have been turned around to “rejoicing, yet always sorrowful.” Can you handle that? Does that help you? Does that disabuse you of any kind of superficial, praise-God-anyhow kind of temperament or personality that I’m angling for? When I say grace came down and joy came up and overflowed in love, remember it’s sandwiched between increasing affliction and present poverty.

Second Corinthians 5:7 says:

When we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

Second Corinthians 1:8 says:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.

Second Corinthians 11:28 says:

Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

So please, I’m just pleading with you not to caricature these messages. It will happen, but I’ve done my best.

More Blessed to Give than Receive

My point has been made, and all I’m doing now is pushing it with texts into your heart, because it’s all over the place. Here we go. We use all the time. I’ll just quit when my time’s up. I’ve got about another 18 minutes, and when I’m done, when that’s over, we’re done and that’ll be that. You can spend the rest of your life finding the other texts. This is Acts 20:35, and pastorally, it is so important. Here is Paul talking to the elders on a beach at Miletus. He’s with the elders from Ephesus, and one of the last things he says is in Acts 20:35:

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Jesus says extending yourself, staying up late — for Paul it was staying up late, working to make some tents so he didn’t have to burden the churches — and doing beyond what you think you can do will make you happier. I think that’s what blessedness is. It’s a big word. It’s the wellbeing of your soul, and you all know this, right? You sleep better after a day of loving people than a day of glutting yourself on whatever. You do. It’s short-term and long-term.

There is an ethical theory that says reward comes with acts of kindness, but if you seek the reward, you have undermined the virtue of kindness. That is everywhere in ethical theory. I remember reading book after book like that and article after article back in my graduate days, and I just kept shaking my head and saying, “I can’t find that in the Bible.” And this is a key text where I can’t find it. If that were true, here’s the way the text would have to read: “By working hard in this way, help the weak and forget the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” As soon as you remember them, they contaminate your virtue, don’t they? I mean, you’re just about to do a good deed for somebody selflessly with no view to the reward at all, and Jesus says, “Remember, you’re going to be blessed in this,” and you say, “You just wrecked the whole thing. I was just on a good, selfless track, and now you’ve inserted my happiness in there as a motive.”

That’s pretty profound, I think. Now, my answer to the philosophical and ethical questions, “So how is it love if you’re taking a meal to somebody who’s sick for your happiness? How’s that love for them?” My answer is that my goal in taking the meal to them is that there would be awakened in them a similar joy that I have in God, which has driven me to do this so that their joy and my joy together would be bigger. In other words, the reason it’s love is that my aim is to include them in my reward. Yes, I want reward. Good night, I want reward. I want to be happier for having served you than if I didn’t serve you, and the reason that’s not unloving to you is that I want you in it. I want you in it big time. I want to go to heaven with you, together. I’m not using you to get to heaven, as if to squash you down and say, “Now I’m in heaven.” No, I’m picking you up. I’d die for you to get you with me in heaven.

Duty and Delight

Try this. Let’s say it’s 8:00 pm at night and I’m playing with my daughter, Talitha when she was a little girl. It’s playtime. I always had playtime with my kids after supper. And the phone rings and Helen, an older lady in our church — I’m making this up — has just had a heart attack. She’s very old. They don’t know if she’ll live, and they want to know if I would come. There are a lot of other people on staff, and I’m playing with my girl. I’m not saying this, but I’m thinking this. This is not a good, pastoral way to think. But I say yes and I hang up, and I say, “Sorry, Talitha. I’ve got to run. It’s an emergency.” So I’m on my way to the hospital and I’m thinking, “I don’t want to do this. I’d rather be at home.” This is not the best way. It’s not the overflow of joy. So I’m defective. I’m a defective pastor in duty mode. And I go into the hospital and I know my own theology. I know I’m in a bad way.

So in the elevator, I’m praying, “God, please. Come. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Restore to me the joy of my hope. Restore to me the joy of the gospel. Give me the joy of ministry. Make me useful to this woman.” When I walk in there, he regularly does that. He really does. Often he does it at the moment of touch. So she’s lying there with tubes in her nose, and I don’t know if she’s about gone. She’s got her eyes closed, I put my hand on her arm, and she wakes up and she says, “Oh, pastor. You didn’t need to come.” The older people in my church always say, “You didn’t need to come.” The young people say, “It’s about time.” I just love old people.

How would Helen feel when she says, “Oh, pastor. You didn’t need to come,” if I said, “I know, and I didn’t want to come. Because it’s playtime and I didn’t feel like it”? I don’t think Helen would feel loved by that statement, even though duty brought me there. This is pretty profound when you think it through. Why wouldn’t she feel loved by me saying, “I’m just here out of duty, Helen. Pastors do this sort of thing. This is what we’re supposed to do, and I do what I’m supposed to do. I read it in the Book. We have to do it whether we feel like it or not, and I’m here to pray for you”?

You’re all laughing. It is so healthy that you’re laughing because it means your heart is right. Your heart is right. The reason your heart is right is that you know that the right thing to say at that moment would’ve been something like, “Oh, pastor. You didn’t have to come,” and I say, “Helen, as I walked in the room and put my hand on your arm, the Lord gave me such a sense of joy in him that being here would make me happier than staying at home. Being here to pray for you that God would strengthen your faith would increase my own faith and my joy.” I think if she hears talk like that, she will feel really good. Even though I’m selfish as you can be. I’m making a point.

Saying, “Nothing would make me happier than to be here. My joy is going to increase when I’m here. My hope and faith will be strengthened as yours is strengthened,” goes along with Jesus’s statement that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Because that’s love. I’ll ask you this question: Do you feel more love when people do kind things for you dutifully, and maybe even begrudgingly, or when they do them joyfully? The answer is that you feel more love when they do things for you joyfully. God loves a cheerful pastoral visit, not the other kind. I don’t think we can love Helen if we’re not happy in God. All we have to give her, especially at that moment in her life, is our joy in God. And if she picks up on it, ours increases, which is what we want.

A Better and Abiding Possession

Let’s go to Hebrews. I’ve got nine minutes, and I’m jealous for Hebrews. I’m going to give you a whirlwind tour of something I hope you never forget because I’ve never forgotten it from the first time I saw this. It’s a series of four texts from chapters 10, 11, 12, and 13. It’s the same point each time, and when you see that, you know you’re on to something. You’re really on to something. I’m still trying to prove that you love people empowered by your pursuit of gladness in all that God is for you in Jesus, and that if you abandon your pursuit of the joy that you have in all that God is for you in Jesus, you can’t love people. That’s my thesis. I’m still on it for nine more minutes. Here we go. Hebrews 10:32–33 says:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

This is at the beginning. He is referring to their early Christian days, when their eyes were opened and they were brought to faith. So here we are again, just like the Corinthians. Affliction is going up, not down, and so are sufferings. Some were mistreated and some weren’t, and then the people who weren’t became partners with them and got in trouble by being partners with them because that sure was a loving thing to do, but they got in big trouble for doing it. Then Hebrews 10:34 says:

For you had compassion on those in prison …

Some of their comrades, you’d say mates I suppose, had been thrown in prison. They themselves weren’t in prison, but they believed what those in prison believed and they were faced with a crisis. They could have thought, “If we go visit them, they’re going to know we believe what they believe, and who knows what might happen to our kids or our houses? We better preserve the witness and go underground. We’re not going to visit.” They did the opposite of that. Why did they love them like that? The answer is really clear. Hebrews 10:34 continues on to say:

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.

I’m calling that love. What’s your motive going to be? Where are you going to have the strength to risk your life, your kids’ lives, and your house to do what God calls you to do? Where are you going to get it? The answer is reward. It’s because you have a better possession and an abiding one, and I don’t think that’s stuff, although I totally believe in the physical resurrection and the new heavens and the new earth. All of that will be stuff with which we are able to enjoy more of God. Maybe you heard it in the passage, but it says “a better possession and an abiding one.” Do my gestures here look familiar? This is Psalm 16:11, which says:

You make known to me the path of life;
   in your presence there is fullness of joy;
   at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

“Fullness of joy” goes with better possession and “pleasures forevermore” goes with abiding one. This is God. That’s the reward here, and I’m arguing that if you forsake your pursuit of maximum enjoyment in that, you won’t go to the prison. Or if you do, it will be legal, not love. Because this says you had compassion and you went there, and you joyfully looked over your shoulder as they were painting on your house, “Go home, Christians,” and were throwing bricks through the window. I assume that’s what the plundering of property means here. Or it could have also been an official confiscation. Either way, you lose. And all that loss they counted as gain because they were passionate to pursue their joy in all that God is for them in Jesus — some now, but the maximum later.

Greater Wealth

Let’s go to Hebrews 11. We could look at several in chapter 11, but let’s just go to Hebrews 11:24–26. It’s the same structure of thought, but 1,300 years earlier. It 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 …

That’s exactly the same as going to the prison and having their property plundered. The word fleeting is a very important word. Sin offers pleasures, but for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, who know their Bible, they say, “No way will I be deceived by a pleasure that’s only going to last for 80 years, let alone eight minutes in bed with a prostitute. No deal. That’s such a stupid, asinine trade. It is insane to opt for fleeting pleasures.” Praise God for Moses’s eyes. Hebrews 11:26 continues:

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

That’s exactly the same structure of the argument. That’s the way you’re going to love people. Moses was the meekest man on the planet and he faithfully served this ragtag, rebellious, hard-hearted, stiff-necked people till the day he died, and he couldn’t even go over to the promised land. How did he do that? It says he looked to the reward. This is the way you survive, brothers. This is the way you survive. You’re going to go through really, really hard times. And your people are going to be like that sometimes.

The Joy Set Before Him

Let’s go to Hebrews 12:1–2. Here we are at the center of the cross, which is where we probably should end. It says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross …

Now, I’m going to say something that I just hope rings and stays. Beware of being motivated more nobly than Jesus, as if to act selflessly with no view to the reward — no joy set before you at his right hand. Our Lord Jesus was carried through Gethsemane, through the sweating of blood, and through the cross, which you cannot imagine, by the joy that was set before him, so that as a man he was like these Christians in Hebrews 10:32–34 and like Moses in Hebrews 11:24–26. Love flows over from joy in all that God is for us, and we add, “in Jesus.” The greatest act of love that has ever been performed, namely Calvary, was carried out and sustained by the pursuit of joy. He knew he would be raised from the dead, he would be exalted to the Father’s right hand, he would gather his elect from all the nations of the world, and he would surround himself with a perfect and beautiful and praising people, which would be his joy forever.

The City That Is to Come

One more text. Let’s go to Hebrews 13:12–14, and then we’ll be done. It 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.

This is a perfect text to end Oxygen on because this is a camp. It’s so sweet and easy to be here. When I get on a plane, I have to talk to somebody, which is not easy. When I go back to a church where there are some problems, it’s not easy. Adjust this to your situation. It says, “Let us go with him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” How are we going to do that? Hebrews 13:14 continues:

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

So my thesis is that love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. Love is the effort in the face of the cross, or any other opposition or pain, to push into other people’s lives, to include them in our joy so that ours gets bigger as theirs is included in it.

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:21–25).

That was Paul’s reason for remaining on the earth, it’s my reason for coming to Sydney, and I pray that it will be your reason for going back to your churches — for their advancement and joy of faith. We don’t lord it over their faith. We are workers with them for their joy. You have powerfully ministered to me. Your singing will be what I remember, especially when the instruments dropped out on How Great Thou Art. Thank you for sending me home fuller rather than emptier than when I came.