The Appearance of the Unwasted Life, Part 2

Desiring God 2008 Regional Conference | San Luis Obispo

(John Piper finishes his list of 20 ways to not waste your life that he began in part 1 of this message.)

5) Don't waste your compassion

The inconsistencies of liberal and conservative compassion do not define the nature of good and evil.

That there are liberals who talk compassion for the weak and oppressed, but support the butchery of the weakest persons (the unborn even to the point of birth) does not make abortion less evil.

That there are conservatives who talk compassion for unborn persons, but feel little interest or compassion for their own neighbors, let alone the sorrows of the countless poor, does not make inattentive heartlessness less evil.

That liberals justify their support for butchery in the name of freedom, and conservatives justify their indifference to the miseries of poverty in the name of freedom, does not conceal the selective nature of the freedoms they want. The one says, Keep your hands off my body. The other says, Keep your hands off my wallet.

Will there ever arise a leader who can articulate a dream for overcoming this divide? There is such a Leader. But he will never be elected. His kingdom is “not of this world.” Therefore, he is both infinitely relevant and intolerably repulsive to the world. When he promotes his Way he gets crucified.

Yet, short of his perfection, let us pray that leaders will arise who labor with heart and hand, through Jesus Christ, to be wisely compassionate and to overcome every contradiction of the compassionate heart.

6) Don't waste your enemies

One of the big obstacles to loving our enemies is that we feel like justice is not done. But Paul says,

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (18) If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (19) Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (20) To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

Justice will be done. God will do it. And this promise that he will do it gives us a wonderful freedom to love.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-46)

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

7) Don't waste your aging

Aging is simply a ripening for the kingdom.

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. (Psalms 71:18)

8) Don't waste your retirement

Ralph Winter has commented that,

Most men don’t die of old age, they die of retirement. I read somewhere that half of the men retiring in the state of New York die within two years. Save your life and you’ll lose it. Just like other drugs, other psychological addictions, retirement is a virulent disease, not a blessing.

Elsewhere he asks,

Where in the Bible do they see that? Did Moses retire? Did Paul retire? Peter? John? Do military officers retire in the middle of a war?

Not wasting your life means taking risks. Listen to it in Joab's words to Abishai:

If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. (12) Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him. (2 Samuel 10:11-12)

And in Esther's words to Mordecai:

Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:15-16).

The great New Testament risk taker was the apostle Paul. Picture him first on his way to Jerusalem after years of suffering for Christ almost everywhere he went. He had bound himself in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:21) to go to Jerusalem. He had collected money for the poor, and he was going to see that it was delivered faithfully.

He got as far as Caesarea and a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea, symbolically bound his own hands and feet with Paul’s belt, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:11).

When the believers hear this they beg Paul not to go to Jerusalem. He responds, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). Then, Luke tells us, his friends relent: “And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done’” (Acts 21:14).

There is no ultimate risk when you risk for Christ.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (33) Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

(37) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, (39) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

9) Don't waste your youth

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

Don't tell yourself that you'll get serious later on in life. Esau sought repentance but couldn't find it. It was too late (Hebrews 12:17).

10) Don't waste your sexuality

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! (16) Or do you not know that he who is joined* to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” (17) But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (18) Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (19) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, (20) for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1Corinthians 6:15-20)

Christ was the fullest and most complete human, and he never had sex. So don't ever entertain the thought that not having sex makes you somehow less human.

Sexual purity means chaste abstinence before marriage and faithfulness to one woman or one man after marriage.

Note that there is a spiral of purity:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8).

And 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. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

11) Don't waste your marriage

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (25) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:24-26)

The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant love between Christ and his church. Don't waste the parable.

12) Don't waste your singleness

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. (33) But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, (34) and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. (35) I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1Corinthians 7:32-35)

Paul loved his singleness. There is a glorious freedom in singleness for Christ. And there is a glorious partnership for Christ in marriage.

13) Don't waste your prayers

You do not have, because you do not ask. (3) You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (4) Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (5) Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (James 4:2-5)

James calls his readers adulteresses because they ask for things in prayer that they wish to use wrongly. Ask God for everything you need and then use it for his glory.

14) Don't waste your prominence

On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. (22) And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” (23) Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. (Acts 12:21-23)

Everybody is prominent with somebody. Ego is more dangerous than money. And the issue isn't really your words but your heart. So don't be like Herod and get eaten by worms.

15) Don't waste your spiritual gifts

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (11) whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Spiritual gifts are when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, fills you, and energizes you so that you are shaped into a kind of prism. And when the light of God shines upon you it refracts a ray that no one else in the world can refract.

Nobody in this room has been created by accident. God only wants your undivided devotion and he will use you in ways that no one else could be used.

And don't worry about trying to name all of your gifts. Just start loving people with all your heart doing what you love to do and you'll see what they are.

16) Don't waste your racial diversity

It's a huge issue in America that never goes away. It is not a social issue, it's a blood of Christ issue.

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (15) by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, (16) and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-17)

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, (10) and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth. (Acts 17:26)

Pastors, never stop working on this. It will be the hardest thing you encounter. Criticism will come from 18 different angles. But you should never go away from it. That's why I adopted an African American little girl. I don't want to get away from it.

17) Don't waste your cultural diversity

Race and culture are not the same thing. There are lots of different white, black and latino cultures.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (6) The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (7) For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. (8) If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (9) For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:5-9)

Paul doesn't assume that all the Romans will ever agree on every detail, nor does he try to conform them. Instead he encourages them to love each other in their diversity and to be fully convinced of it in their own minds before the Lord.

18) Don't waste the call to stay put

Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. (21) Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. (22) For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. (23) You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. (24) So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. (1Corinthians 7:20-24)

Sometimes the call to stay put means that you should not be a missionary. But note the emphasis: it's a call to remain "with God."

19) Don't waste the call to move on

Abraham, Moses, Joshua, the prophets, all the apostles, Paul, and Timothy were all sent workers. And God is calling some in this room to change jobs and to relocate for his name's sake.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (37) Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; (38) therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (15) And how are they to preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15)

20) Don't waste your death

For some of you the application of this point will come this year.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (19) (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19)

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

You are never done living for the glory of God until you die. At the moment of death it is a high calling. And when you experience your death as gain, you will show the world just how precious Jesus is.