The Origin of the Unwasted Life

Desiring God 2008 Regional Conference | San Luis Obispo

Just a little review, one of the things I didn’t stress in the focus on Philippians 1:20, which is the key of the whole theories, is that the magnificence of Christ and the glory of God reach their apex in the manifestation of his grace. Didn’t stress that; I want to stress that. That’s very important. It’s okay to speak generically about the glory of God or the majesty of Christ, but it is very good — important — to see that in texts like Ephesians 1:3 following, the glory of grace is the apex, the highest point of glory. Let me read just a couple of verses from Ephesians 1:3 following:

God . . . chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace. (Ephesians 1:3–6)

Now there’s the endpoint. We were predestined for adoption in Christ unto something, and the something here is named unto the praise of the glory of his grace. So that’s the uppermost dimension of glory. Because grace is the spillover of the total self-sufficiency of God. That’s why grace is grace. It is totally free. God is not acting at the moment of grace out of any need whatsoever. You are not meeting any of his needs at the moment where he is being gracious to you. He is totally without any warrant in you, blessing you. And that’s the apex of his glory.

He is gloriously self-sufficient, gloriously free, gloriously overflowing for the good of others, and we call it grace. Now, there’s one more step of clarification that we need to make in order that grace and its apex be rightly understood. So if grace is the apex of his glory, what’s the apex of his grace? And the answer is the cross of Jesus Christ. At the cross, the most vivid, most beautiful, most powerful, most full display of grace was made.

The Apex of Grace

Now, the implications of what I’ve just said in the last three minutes are absolutely staggering because what it means is if I’m right that God does everything from eternity to eternity for his glory, the cross is the center of everything. It’s why the universe exists. Ask this question with me just to bring clarity and point focus to yesterday’s emphasis upon making much of Christ in all we do: Was Christ the means to the end of the universe or is Christ the end of the universe?

Jesus Is the End

When Jesus Christ came into the world, he was the fullest manifestation of the glory of God and he always will be. The fullness of that manifestation reached its climax when we beheld his glory full of grace and truth. And the fullest, highest point of the demonstration of the glory of grace was the moment when he said, “It is finished.” At that moment, he became the end and the fullest display of why the universe was made. Namely, this is the glory of grace at its highest point, and so the whole universe exists for that moment.

Listen, this was planned by God forever. There never was a moment in eternity past when God had not riveted his eternal attention upon that moment in plan. Let me just read you a verse or two in that regard. Second Timothy 1:9, “He saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” That means that his whole mind was consumed forever because nothing ever comes into God’s mind. Nothing. He never learns anything. It’s always there. This plan for Christ to be magnified as the gracious one in whom we would find forgiveness and relief and atoning grace was there in his mind before the ages began.

Here’s another verse that blew me away in recent months because of fresh meditation on it. This is Revelation 13:8: “All who dwell upon the earth will worship [the beast].” This is a picture of the last days. “all who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written” — now listen to these words, read them very carefully, slowly in proper order — “whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” That’s the name of the book, the book of the life of the Lamb that was slain. We who are believers, our names were written there before the world was.

There was a book and it had a name slaughtered Lamb on it. That’s what the word means. Slaughtered. That’s what you do to a lamb. You slit its throat. So from the beginning, slaughter was the name of the book. And then he created a world in which he could do this and then he did it. Jesus Christ from eternity to eternity is the center of God’s purpose and he is the center of God’s purpose because he is the clearest manifestation of his glory and he’s the center of God’s purpose because he’s the clearest manifestation of the glory of his grace. And he’s the clearest manifestation of the glory of his grace at the moment when he died and said for all of you, “It is finished. I have achieved what the universe was created to do.”

So my first answer to the question, “Is he the end or the means of the universe’s goal?” is that he’s the end. At that moment he did and was what will be our praise forever. We will spend an eternity plumbing the depth of the glory of grace manifest most fully at Calvary. We will sing the song of the Lamb forever. You won’t ever get beyond blood. I’ve heard people say, “I think all that ugly, horrible, sinful, terrible day will be gone.” Never! Never will it be gone. We will sing the song of the Lamb worthy art thou who was slain. We will sing “Slaughter!” forever because if we don’t, we will have no idea who we are, how we got there or what we are praising and what we owe God for our life. My first answer is, he’s the end.

Jesus Is the Means

But that’s not the whole answer. Of course, he’s the means, right? Something had to happen for me, a sinner, to participate in the enjoyment of God’s glorious grace in Christ. And what had to happen was my sins had to be covered, my righteousness had to be provided, my guilt had to be taken away, my condemnation had to be removed, hell had to be escaped, new nature had to be imparted. All of that had to happen. And guess who did it? Christ did it, and it was a means to my seeing and savoring what he became as the end.

So here’s my answer. Did he become the end or the means of the universe? And the answer is in the very becoming of the means to the end of the universe, Jesus became the end of the universe. That is what we will praise forever and ever and ever because the riches of his glory and the riches of his grace are summed up there better than anywhere else. So all of that by way of clarifying what I meant by the majesty of Christ, the glory of Christ living in such a way as to show him great from last time.

The Problem With You and Me

Now the question is this: If he is magnified by our — with the apostle Paul saying, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” — that is if he is magnified in my cherishing him and treasuring him and valuing him above all things to show that he is infinitely valuable in all the ways I just described — if that’s what the unwasted life is — something’s got to happen to us because we’re not like that.

We don’t treasure him above all things by nature, do we? What’s the nature of our problem? What’s our problem? It’s got to be solved. We are not going to magnify Jesus like this if there isn’t a profound change. We are not a people who by nature treasure Christ above all things. What’s the nature of our depravity? I don’t know if you use that word: depravity, sin, fallenness, corruption. What is the nature of all of your depravity? What’s the essence of it? Let me give you a sentence that I think is the essence of my depravity and yours, my corruption, my fallenness, my sin that has to be fixed. I can’t fix it, has to be fixed for me.

Here’s my definition of what’s wrong with you and me and everybody in the world. The inner essence of our depravity is our preferring — very important word — our preferring the glory of created things over the glory of God and Christ — our preferring the joy, pleasure, delight, beauty, attractiveness, satisfying nature of created reality over Creator God and his Son. We prefer his gifts over him. That’s the essence of our wickedness.

Now why do I define depravity that way? Why not define depravity in terms of lawbreaking? I sort of grew up this way. “God is a law. Don’t eat this tree. You break the law by eating the tree. God punishes you with judgment. You must find deliverance from that judgment.” That’s kind of the paradigm I grew up with and the reason I’m not talking that way is because it is so non-penetrating to your soul’s need. Lawbreaking is not your main problem. I give you several reasons for that.

The Primacy of Love in God’s Commandments

The first commandment of the law is you shall love, and immediately people get nervous and they reduce it to actions and they say love is obedience. Love is obedience because they don’t want the heart to be impugned at that moment. I’m not mainly interested in whether you break laws. I’m mainly interested in whether you love God or not or love his stuff. Jesus said on this point, John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That does not mean love me equals my keeping my commitments. It emphatically means the opposite.

Namely, love must exist and out of that love will come obedience to my commandments. They’re not the same, otherwise the sentence makes no sense. “If you love me,” that’s one thing, “you will obey me.” That’s a second thing and this is the problem. This is secondary. I want to go to the heart of my problem. I don’t want to dink around out here at the edges where I got to perform better. I want to know what’s wrong in here. Why do I get up leaning away from God in the morning?

Genuine Obedience vs. Begrudging Compliance

Here’s the second reason I talk this way, because laws can be broken by doing them begrudgingly. By doing them. Laws can be broken by doing them. Laws can be broken by doing them begrudgingly. I get that from 1 John 5:3, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments and his commandments are not burdensome.” If you do his commandments, “Oh, I hate these commandments, but you have to do them, and so I’m going to do them because I want to be known as a lover of God,” that’s ridiculous. Loving God is such a profound transformation of what you prefer, that the burden is lifted.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29)

Rest for your souls. The yolk goes on and rest happens because you love him. He satisfies. There’s nothing else you want more than him. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). So I’m not talking about lawbreaking when I define my depravity mainly because I can do these laws begrudgingly and it’s no sign of love to God.

Forsaking God for Broken Cisterns

There’s a third reason. “Be appalled, O heavens, be shocked.” This is Jeremiah 2:12–13:

Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked . . . for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Two evils and neither of them has to do with doing. They forsook a fountain. They tasted God and said, “Not interested.” Television satisfies, internet satisfies, food satisfies, sex satisfies, friends satisfy, marriage satisfy, kids satisfy, money satisfies, esteem in the guild satisfies, climbing the ladder satisfies, surfing satisfies, building a house satisfies, dinking around in the garage with your car satisfies, not God. That’s the nature of my depravity. It doesn’t have to do with doing — that’s overflow, that’s secondary. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

Innate Affinity for Darkness

Here’s one last reason why I’m talking this way. John 3:19, defining depravity: “Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light,” but there’s the issue. It doesn’t say light showed up and we didn’t obey. Well, that’s true. That’s not what it says. It says light showed up and we didn’t like it. We didn’t like it. Like it. We like darkness.

The illustration that I love to use for my own folks back home is I live in this bubble of depraved blindness and darkness and around my neck is a broach. It’s about three inches long, feels kind of hard and smooth, and in the dark, I call it my ebony broach and I feel it and I fondle it every day. And then grace happens and by the power of the Holy Spirit through the gospel, my eyes begin to open to reality and then this bubble is burst and light shines on me and I look down and it’s a roach on a string around my neck. I’ve been fondling it for years thinking it’s just a beautiful, satisfying, smooth ebony broach and it’s a roach. Rip it off. This is called sanctification. You throw it away and there’s no sacrifice, but it would’ve felt that way in the dark.

So when I ask the question: “What’s wrong with me?” Can I answer with that big theological word: “You’re depraved. That’s what’s wrong.” What I mean there is I, by nature, prefer — I mean that is an affectional, emotional, volitional, not just doing kind of thing — I prefer God’s creation to God. That’s my fallenness. You name your idol, they’re all different. We got some big ones in America. You can figure that out. You know what your idols are. I know what mine are. I know what has to be killed over and over again. Count yourself dead daily, take up your cross. This is a battle, folks. We don’t just do this once, got saved and now coast to heaven. No way. Idols are coming at you every day and you will be an idolater or a worshiper of the living God every day.

What’s the relationship between this depravity and the glory of God that we’ve been talking about? Real simple, real immense: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23). All have sinned, all are depraved like this and thus fall short of the glory of God. The word fall short is a funny translation: hustereó. The best exposition of Romans 3:23 is Romans 1:23. It’s easy to remember that way. You remember? “Though they knew God, they did not honor him as God.” This is speaking about man in general.

Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking. . . . Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images. (Romans 1:21–23).

That’s the meaning of lack the glory of God, I think. What do you mean we lack the glory of God, Paul? I mean you’ve traded it and so you don’t have it as your treasure. You have images as your treasure, especially the one in the mirror. If this were a conference on homosexuality, it would be filled with compassion and conviction because the most profound analysis of the origins of homosexual reality flows from Romans 1:23: the exchange profound and deep of God’s glory for God’s images, especially the one in the mirror leads straight to the exchange language of men exchanged women for men and women exchanged men for other women because they were falling in love with that thing in the mirror and it is always the same sex.

But this isn’t a conference on homosexuality and I don’t want to leave you with condemnation. I work with people that I know are homosexually tempted every day of their lives and I love them. I pity them, I get alongside them. It is not the one unforgivable sin. There is hope if you will move beyond, like all of us, your idols. In the next message, we’ll talk about them. I got twenty of them, so I really want to get to that third message, twenty things that work on us.

So what does it have to do with the glory of God? Depravity is a preferring of the glory, the beauty, the satisfying richness, and fullness of creation over the glory, the beauty, the satisfying richness of God. That’s our problem.

How Serious Is Our Depravity?

How serious is it? Reformed people talk about total depravity. Most people talk about total depravity. I’ll tell you what I mean by total depravity. There are two things.

1. It refers to all of us being rebellious, so total in the sense that totally everybody’s included in this depravity.

2. It refers to the total inability to submit to God’s glory and law. This is the controversial one. When I say that I am totally depraved, I mean I can’t change me. My preferences are rooted in my fallen nature so deeply that I am what Paul called a “slave of sin.” This is why I love the gospel so much. It’s why I love grace so much. Just read you a few verses because this is the most important one. We’ve just focused on it for a minute. This is Romans 8:7–8: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

That’s me. There are two kinds of minds: mind of the spirit, mind of the flesh. The mind of the flesh is where we all are by nature. Children of wrath by nature, children of wrath, and we cannot submit to God’s law. We love darkness too much. Or Romans 6:17, “Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” Thanks be to God that slaves cease to be slaves to sin or Ephesians 2:1 and 5, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.”

I was and you were or are. Dead men don’t do anything right. They are spiritually dead. John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father” (cf. John 6:65). One more. First Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man,” that’s who we are by nature, apart from grace, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them.” Cannot, cannot, cannot, cannot. It’s serious. Everybody that you ever talked to either has been the object of a miracle by which the impossible became possible or is still in and cannot prefer God. Cannot. The hearts are too fallen. They love evil too much.

Now, this cannot language really troubles people because they immediately jump to the conclusion because they bring to the Bible presuppositions that aren’t in the Bible. It troubles people that, well, if they cannot, then they can’t be responsible for doing it. It’s got that universal assumption that people bring to the Bible. If the Bible says you cannot submit to God’s law or you cannot come to Christ, then you’re not responsible to come to Christ. That is not an assumption in the Bible. The Bible, in fact, assumes and states often the very opposite.

You are indeed responsible and the way to solve that apparent problem is to realize that there are two kinds of cannot. I’m getting this with a lot of help from Jonathan Edwards from thirty years ago as I was struggling so hard with these things. There is physical cannot and moral cannot: physical inability and moral inability, and here’s the reason for the distinction, and I’ll tell you what the distinction is. If you are physically unable, you’re not responsible. If you’re morally unable, you are responsible. And here’s the difference, a physically unable person cannot, though he would. So you’re chained in a chair and somebody says, get up and you’re physically bound with a chain. You’re not responsible to get up and if they say, “I’m going to kill you if you don’t get up,” they’re acting unjustly. However, if you’re sitting in a chair, maybe make it my sofa and it just feels so good.

And somebody that you don’t particularly care for anyway comes along and says, “Get up,” inside of you there’s a moral thing going on. You weigh motives and if your motive of comfort outweighs your motive of pleasing this person, you’re staying there and you cannot get up. You cannot get up until that motive structure of your mind alters and as a depraved fallen being, it won’t alter without God. You love darkness and cannot come to the light because you love darkness. This is a real cannot which means we are desperate for grace, desperate for sovereign grace, desperate for God’s work in our lives.

So when I talk about total depravity, that’s mainly what I mean. I am totally bound to my corruption and I prefer darkness to light. I prefer God’s creation to God and as long as I do, I cannot prefer God. I cannot prefer God while preferring darkness, they are inimical, they are mutually exclusive. I either get remarkably miraculously changed so that I prefer God or I stay preferring darkness means I stay in chains. Now that leaves me in hell justly. I don’t know if you think much about your future destiny or the future destiny of those around you, but it’s a hard thought.

Jesus talks more about hell than anybody in the Bible. He uses the most terrible images of it, outer darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth, fire, worm that does not die, eternal punishment. These are all words of Jesus, not the harsh apostle Paul. He never uses the word hell. Jesus uses it over and over and over again. I take it very seriously. In fact, I get angry at evangelicals who try to water it down and turn it into some kind of mere, automatic, self-selected hardening of my own heart with no punitive dimension at all when the Bible is shot through with this reality, God punishes in hell.

This is called in Matthew 25 eternal. It may be that, but that’s not what makes it mainly terrible. God sentences people justly to everlasting torments. Revelation 14:11, “The smoke of their torments goes up forever and ever and ever.” The strongest Greek expression for eternity is used in John 14:11 to describe eternal suffering. That’s where I’m going, enslaved by my love affair with creation instead of God because God’s glory is so defamed, demeaned, I trample God’s glory and the infinite worth of his beauty under my feet every single day of my born-again life. Not to mention what I did before I was born again.

Have you ever, on any bright day in your life, loved God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength? I haven’t. Which means every day as a Christian, I deserve hell. That’s how valuable God’s glory is. You don’t measure the justice of eternal hell on the basis of eternal sinning. And if this is seventy years long and this is eternity, that doesn’t correspond and so this is unjust. It doesn’t work like that. The way you measure the seriousness of a crime is by the dignity of the one you assault and that dignity is infinite. So is the punishment for this crime. So there I am, hell-bound, enslaved, freely loving my darkness. It’s just so smooth and so warm and “Ah, it’s just a wonderful broach.” Unless something happens, what’s the solution?

The Gospel Is the Solution

The gospel is the solution. I want to spend the rest of our time in this message celebrating the gospel. If you want to open your Bibles, I’m going to read 1 Corinthians 15:1–5. Let me make sure you see the two things that have to be remedied in my life, in your life. One is my corruption, my love affair with darkness, my preference for the creature, and all the stuff that God has made more than I prefer God, so that every day I’m demeaning him and saying to him by my preferences, “You’re not as valuable as this to me.” That’s one thing that needs to be fixed, and the other one is God’s very angry about that and his wrath and his justice combine to appoint me to everlasting destruction.

So I’ve got an internal problem of corruption, and I’ve got an external problem of God’s wrath and justice and anger. The gospel is my deliverance on both counts. Let’s read 1 Corinthians 15:1–5:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you [here’s the definition of the gospel] as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

The Gospel Defined

The gospel in that little summary has six parts. I’m going to blaze through these.

  1. The gospel is a plan according to the Scriptures, twice.
  2. The gospel is an event in history: Christ died and rose again.
  3. The gospel is an accomplishment through the event. Namely, Christ died for our sins. Something was accomplished with regard to my sins when Christ died.
  4. The gospel is a free offer to faith not works. Second Corinthians 15:2: “If you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.” Belief is the way you get in on this gospel event and accomplishment.
  5. The gospel is an application of what he accomplished to my personal life by which you are being saved.
  6. The gospel is an eternal and infinitely happy future. Enjoying the glory of God implied in the words gospel, saved, and sins born by another. Gospel means good news. Saved means saves from and for something and he’s bearing my sins means I don’t have to, which means I am now free to be with him and enjoy him forever.

Just a word about each of those, a very short word, the gospel is a plan I delivered to you as the first importance.

A Plan

“I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). This is amazing. Detail after detail after detail, from the dice throwing for his clothing to the non-breaking of his legs, to the betrayal of Judas, to the forsaking him of all the apostles — all of them written down hundreds of years earlier. The script for the last days of Jesus was written in the Old Testament, and he was fulfilling it step by step, which has huge implications. God wasn’t taken for granted; sin and death in hell, and Satan are not frustrations of God’s design. They’re part of God’s design. God’s love for us, his willingness to send his Son to die for us, wasn’t an afterthought. It was the plan and on and on. The implications of that go.

An Event

The gospel was an event. If Christ did not die, or if he did not rise, there is no gospel. Don’t let anybody demythologize. That was the language thirty years ago from Rudolf Bultmann when I was in graduate school. Don’t let anybody. It’s still being done. You just have to use new language from age to age so it doesn’t get conservative, because if it’s conservative, of course, liberals can’t believe it. Therefore, liberalism is always correcting itself because liberalism becomes conservative in about twenty years, and you have to do something new, which is a wonderful turn of affairs in providence.

Usually, if you can live long enough, thirty, forty, fifty years out, the old liberalism has become conservative, and now it has to be corrected even by liberals so that they can still be free from any kind of authority. I lost my thought. It’s an event! It’s an event. Anybody that trusts to demythologize the event: “Events don’t matter, just feelings matter. Jesus rose in the sense that he awakens hope in people.” Things like that. That’s not what the Bible means.

An Accomplishment

The gospel is an accomplishment. This is the heart of the gospel and glory in this because this happened before you ever came on the scene of history for you, let me just list them off, what did he accomplish?

1. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). “[God] made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). So the first thing is that in that moment sins, your sins which were going to be performed two thousand years later came down on Jesus.

2. He paid the price for our redemption. Do you not know that you were bought with a price? You weren’t bought with a price when you were saved. You were bought with a price two thousand years ago before you ever came on the scene.

3. He endured God’s wrath in condemnation. Romans 8:3, “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” He condemned sin in the flesh. Whose sin did he condemn in the flesh? Mine. Whose flesh did he condemn it in? Christ’s. This is the glorious truth of substitution and that happened before I was ever born.

This is God looking at all those whom he would save and saying, “Son, bear this now because they’re coming and I mean to save them and forgive all their sins, remove all my wrath and all my condemnation. I’m laying it on you, Son. Will you do that?” It was the will of the Lord to bruise him.

He has borne our griefs
     and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
     smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
     he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
     and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
     we have turned — every one — to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
     the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4–6)

That’s what happened. That was the accomplishment when he died.

4. He completed a life of perfect obedience. Philippians 2:8: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” As though the death on the cross was the climactic moment of a life of total obedience and law, fulfillment and the preferring of God over all other created things. Christ did that perfectly and now he did it so that in him it might be credited to your account. “As I summon you to transformation to begin to prefer God over created things, you may know I have already done it perfectly!” That’s what union with Christ means. But I’m getting ahead of myself because I’m just at the accomplishment point here, not the application point. We’re still in history here. You’re not on the scene yet. You’re not justified yet.

5. Christ is just doing everything it will take to get you there, and he vindicated the worth. He vindicated the worth of God’s glory. When Christ died, it says in Romans 3:25 that he did this to demonstrate God’s righteousness because in former times he had passed over sins. He did it. Christ died to demonstrate God’s righteousness (Romans 3:25). Paul is wrestling with a problem here that nobody in America has in their own mind, and everybody has in reality.

Here’s the problem. Nobody wakes up in the morning tormented by the fact that God is unjust in treating them so well. Raise your hand if you know any American who gets up and day after day their conscience struggling with how can he do this to me? How can he be so kind to me when I’m so wicked and have trampled on his glory and have defamed his righteousness, how can he do this to me? And that’s exactly Paul’s problem.

Christ died to demonstrate God’s righteousness because he passed over sins, and when he passed over sins, your sin, my sin, when he passed over sins, he looks unjust. What does unjust mean? It means he looks like my God. Belittling doesn’t matter and it matters infinitely. Therefore, my life, having God pass over my sins and not hold me to them, not punish me for them looks totally unrighteous. Nobody struggles with that till their mind has changed and they’re reading their Bibles. That is the most difficult problem in the universe for God to solve. It’s not the problem of evil. I promise you, it’s the problem of grace. How can he be one who exalts the glory of his infinite value and bring into heaven people who trample it every day and still be righteous? Can’t, unless the cross happens.

And God in that moment says to the world and the universe, “What I am doing to my Son right now and what he is bearing willingly and voluntarily in love is displaying how much I value my righteousness so that I can be both just and the justifier of sinners who simply trust in my Son.” I love the gospel. Oh, I love the gospel. I could not survive psychologically in my sin without the cross. The gospel is application. When you believe, I better stick that one in before I do application.

A Free Offer

The gospel is a free offer. If the gospel spread throughout the world like this, Christ died for you. You may have it if you will perform works for him, if you will be righteous for him, if you will turn over a new leaf and start living for him, if you will measure up and do performances for him. Zero gospel. It’s over. Paul thought like heaven in the book of Galatians to damn that false gospel.

Let it be accursed, those who bring this gospel that works is what gets you united to Jesus. And in its place, he said, “We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). The gospel is an offer to faith. Will you have it? Will you just have it as your treasure? Will you have him as your Savior? Will you have him as your substitute? Will you have him as your counselor and your Lord and the greatest treasure of your life? If you say, as imperfectly as I am, “Yes, I’ll have it,” you know what you get?

An Application

You get forgiveness. Acts 10:43: “Everyone who believes is forgiven.” You get declared righteous in his presence. Romans 3:28: “Justified by faith.” You get “reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). You get adopted into his family. Romans 8:15–16: “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” You receive sanctification on the way to assured glorification, and the best of all, according to 1 Peter 3:18, you receive God. God is the gospel in the end.

Problem: You won’t believe. You won’t believe. I wouldn’t believe I’m dead in trespasses and sins. I love the glory of my freedom, my vaunted self-sufficiency. I love things rather than loving God. I cannot. A leopard cannot change his spots. I’m depraved. There’s no hope for me. Well, here’s the deal in the last three or four minutes, at the Last Supper, Jesus lifted the cup and he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” There is a world in those words.

You know what the new covenant is? He’s labeling this cup representing his blood as the guarantee, the securing, the obtaining, tomorrow morning at nine o’clock of the new covenant. What’s the new covenant? Jeremiah 31:33; 40; Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26 — it’s this Old Testament promise that says, “At its heart, I will take out of them the heart of stone and I will put into them a heart of flesh and I will write my law upon their heart and I will cause them to walk in my statutes.” That’s sovereign grace. That’s how you get changed.

An Eternal and Infinitely Happy Future

A heart of stone that is dead and unable to love God, delight in God, magnify Christ, and can only waste its life in living for things that heart was purchased at the cross for God’s elect. And he comes to you and he takes your heart through the preaching of the gospel and the power of the spirit. And he takes out the heart of stone, he puts in the heart of flesh, which is a heart now inclined to God as supremely valuable, inclined to believe in Jesus, inclined to treasure Jesus, inclined to enjoy Jesus, inclined to be satisfied with Jesus. That’s what the gospel brings because this is the blood of the new covenant, and the new covenant is not conditional. It creates what it commands.

I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.

That’s Jeremiah 32:39–40. Because of the blood of Christ, our two problems are solved and the wasted life that we would live if we were left in our depravity, our preferring creation over creator, those two things. God’s anger, God’s wrath, God’s justice, totally satisfied by the blood of Jesus and his burying, my condemnation, my corruption, my depravity, my blindness, my deadness, my hardness, my unwillingness, my slavery shattered by the sovereign grace of God through the preaching of the gospel, by the power of the Spirit in the fulfillment of new covenant promises bought by the blood of Jesus. That’s what must happen to us if we are not to waste our lives.

So now in about fifteen minutes, we’re going to launch into what this life looks like. And I’ve got twenty things like don’t waste your singleness and don’t waste your marriage, and don’t waste your robbery, and don’t waste your cancer, and don’t waste your compassion, and don’t waste, well, there are twenty of them.