The Origin of the Unwasted Life

Desiring God 2008 Regional Conference | San Luis Obispo

(The following are notes taken during the session, not a manuscript.)

One of the things I didn't stress from Philippians 1:20 last night is that the glory of Christ reaches its greatest height in the glory of his grace.

Grace is the spillover of the total self-sufficiency of God. You are not meeting any of God's needs when he is being gracious to you.

So if grace is the apex of his glory, what is the apex of his grace? Answer: the cross of Christ. At the cross is the most full display of God's grace and glory.

If God does everything from eternity to eternity for his glory, then the cross is the center of everything. It is why the universe exists.

Was Christ the means to the end of the universe, or is he the end of the universe?

When Christ came into the world he was the fullest manifestation of the glory of God (and he always will be). At the moment of his cry, "It is finished," he reached the peak of his glory and became both the means to the end of the universe and the end of the universe together.

There has never been in God's mind a different plan than this.

[God] saved us and called us to 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. (2 Timothy 1:9)

Nothing ever comes into God's mind. He never learns anything. And so the plan for Christ was always to be magnified as the self-sacrificing fountain of all grace.

From the beginning, the book was a book of the slaughtered Lamb (Revelation 13:8). Jesus Christ from eternity to eternity is the center of God's purpose, because he is the center of God's glory and God's grace, and that glory resides most fully in his death.

We will spend an eternity plumbing the depths of the glory of grace that were manifested at Calvary.

You will never get beyond the blood. We will sing the song of the Lamb, "Worthy art Thou who was slain." Because if we don't we will have no idea who we are or what we owe God forever, namely our lives.

So by becoming the means to the end of the universe, Jesus became the end of the universe. He is who we will praise forever and ever and ever.

The Problem With You and Me

Now the question: If he is magnified in my showing that he is valuable by treasuring him above all things—if that's what the unwasted life is—then something has got to happen to us, because we don't do that by nature.

We have a problem, and it has to be solved if we want to live an unwasted life.

What is the nature of our depravity? Here's my definition of what's wrong with us (you, me, and every human being):

Breaking God's rules is not our main problem. The inner essence of our depravity is our preferring created things over the Creator.

There are several reasons for saying this:

First of all, the first commandment of the law is a command to love. Actions are secondary.

Second, if we do the things God commands but we do so begrudgingly, we are not actually obeying, because his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). It's ridiculous to try and do God's commandments if you hate them. But when you love God his commandments satisfy you!

Third, Jeremiah 2:13 says,

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.

Neither of these evils are actions.

Fourth, John 3:19 says that our hearts are by nature in love with darkness. Light showed up and we didn't like it!

What's the relationship between our depravity and the glory of God that we've been talking about?

All have sinned and fall short of [lack] the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

What does "fall short of" mean?

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:22-23)

We've traded it for images, especially the one in the mirror.

So when I ask the question, "What's wrong with me?" I understand that it's my preference for God's creation over God himself. That's my fallenness. Name your idol. They're all different. I know what mine are, what I have to kill day after day after day. It's a battle, and each day determines whether I'll be an idolator or a true worshiper.

How Serious Is Our Depravity?

Total Depravity. How is it total? Four ways:

1) It refers to every single person. The total number of humanity.

2) We are totally opposed to God (Romans 8:7-9). There are two kinds of minds, that of the spirit and that of the flesh. And the mind of the flesh cannot submit to God's law (Ephesians 2:1,5. John 6:44, 65, 1 Corinthains 2:14). Every Christian you have ever talked to is simply the result of a miracle of God in making them so. Because without that miracle, they cannot come to God.

Does that mean that people aren't responsible because they cannot submit to God?

No. There are two types of cannot: physical and moral inability. You're not responsible for physical inability. You are responsible for moral inability. Physical inability keeps you from doing something whether you want to or not. Moral inability keeps you from submitting to God because you don't want to. You don't want to obey God because you love darkness and cannot come to the light. I cannot prefer God and prefer darkness at the same time. They are mutually exclusive.

Such a depravity leaves me in hell justly.I trample the glory of God every day of even my born-again life, not to mention what happened before my conversion. Every day as a Christian I deserve hell. That's how valuable God's glory is.

We shouldn't judge the justice of eternal hell by the how long the sin lasted that it's punishing. We should judge the seriousness of the crime by the dignity of the one whom we assaulted. And God's dignity is infinite. That's why eternal punishment is the fitting judgment.

What's the Solution?

The gospel is the only solution. 1 Corinthains 15:1-5,

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

What is the gospel?

1) A plan - "in accordance with the Scriptures" (v.3). All of the most important details of the last days of Jesus were written down hundreds of years before in the Old Testament. Jesus' sacrifice for our sins was not an afterthought.

2) An event in history (v.3-5) - If Christ did not physically come and die then there is no gospel. Anybody who tries to make the gospel simply an inspirational story is nullifying it.

3) An accomplishment through the event: Christ died for our sins. (1 Peter 2:24, 2 Cor 5:21, Rom 8:3, Isaiah 53:6, Phil 2:8)

Jesus died to demonstrate God's righteousness because he had passed over former sins (Romans 3:25). But nobody in America has this problem. Nobody wakes up with an all-consummig problem with why God can be so good to them when they don't deserve it.

The most difficult problem in the universe is not the problem of evil but the problem of grace. Unless Christ died for sinners, there is no just way for God to treat them well for eternity. Christ's death is the only way for God to remain both just and loving.

4) A free offer received by faith, not works. If the gospel was a gift given to those who first obeyed God, it would be no gospel at all.

5) An applicaton of what he accomplished to my personal life. When we believe the gospel we get forgiveness, justification, reconciliation, adoption, sanctification, and God himself. God is the gospel.

But there's a problem. We can't believe. We're totally depraved, remember? That's why the new covenent, promised in the Old Testament and enacted through Jesus' blood, is so precious. Not only does it offer forgiveness of sins, it also gives us faith to belive it. It is not a conditional covenant. It creates what it commands. (Jeremiah 31:13, 32:40; Ezekiel 11:19, 36)

6) An eternal and infinitely happy future enjoying the glory of God.