Twenty-Five Years of Desiring God

Ligonier Ministries National Conference | Orlando

Desiring God, the book and the vision was borne out of a perceived tension in my teenage heart between God’s passion to be glorified and my passion to be happy. For whatever reason as a youth, I didn’t feel like those meshed very well. In fact, I felt not all together comfortable with my desire to be happy. That is not a good thing, because you really need to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus, which was communicated or, at least, I heard it communicated in such a way that it really did mean you need to be unhappy to be obedient, because if you were happy, you clearly weren’t denying yourself.

And that seemed like a really bad deal to me, that I had to choose between me being happy and God being glorified in my life. It just seemed like: Isn’t there a third way? So from my perspective right now that is really idiotic and unfortunate that I felt that way, but God lets us go through these tensions, I think, in order to bring us out into light that we should have had to start with. It probably wasn’t any preacher’s fault. It wasn’t any parent’s fault. It was just my sinfulness. And he brings us through the season of darkness into light so that we will be able to — at age 65 — say things like this. So I don’t know if that is the providence of God in it, but that is the origin of it.

I wanted to be happy. To this day I want to be happy. I can’t not want to be happy. I can no more not want to be happy than I cannot get hungry after eight or nine hours of not eating. It is not a choice. It is the way you are wired in the image of God. God made you to be a longing being, a yearning being, a craving being. Our hearts are desire factories, because God made them that way. You don’t have any choice in this. You cannot choose not to want to be happy. You cannot, which means there has to be a solution to your quest for joy being right and God’s passion to be glorified being right. And it was the discovery of how those came together which was the emergence of Desiring God.

Part of what I have been saying over the years is not just that I desire to be happy, but when I went to my Bible I found it became a duty to pursue happiness. The little baby version of the book Desiring God is called The Dangerous Duty of Delight. It is a biblical duty. So let me take some time to make sure you feel the biblical force of that, so that the issue between desire for happiness and God’s desire to be made much of. This is not a tension merely between me and Bible, but between Bible and Bible.

Commanded to Be Happy

We are commanded to pursue joy. And, by the way, just as far as terminology goes — joy, pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, contentment — I don’t distinguish those. Like R.C. in his book The Holiness of God talks about joy versus pleasure. And in his mind pleasure is defined as natural. It is carnal. It is what the world can give you and then joy would be what God can give you. And if those are your definitions, fine. Just know I am not operating with those definitions. And the reason I am not is not because it is bad to, just because the Bible doesn’t: “In your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

I mean all of them in God. When I am using them positively I mean happiness in God, joy in God, pleasures in God, delight in God, satisfaction in God. And when I say it that way they are all gloriously right. They are right and to be pursued with all your might.

Biblical Foundations

1. We are commanded to be glad.

“Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:1). It is a command. “Rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4). It is a command. “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4). It is a command. This is not an option. We are commanded to be happy.

2. We are threatened if we don’t.

“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and with a glad heart, you will serve your enemies” (Deuteronomy 28:47). That is a threat I don't want. So yes I want to be happy, not just because I want to be happy, because God says he is going to send me to hell if I am not happy. This is serious. “God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy,” Jeremy Taylor said.

3. The nature of faith teaches the pursuit of joy in God.

Listen to this definition from Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” We heard that from Robert Godfrey: Hearing, listening, believing is pleasing to God. “Without faith it is impossible to please him for — now watch this — he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is the rewarder of those who seek him.” You can’t please God if you don’t go to God for gladness. You can’t. You must believe that he is the rewarder or you are not believing in him.

4. The nature of evil teaches that we must pursue our satisfaction.

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this. Be shocked. Be utterly desolate, declares the Lord. For my people have committed two great evils. [So what is evil?] They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters. And they have hewn out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” That is evil. Evil is leaving a spring and eating dirt. That is evil.

It is evil not to pursue your joy in God. Of course, eating dirt, since it is so tasty, with sex and alcohol and drugs and esteem and success and power and it tastes good. It is just not God. It is not the fountain and it is evil to leave the everlasting joys of God and start to hew out broken cisterns for ourselves. That is the nature of evil to abandon your pursuit of joy in God.

Pursue Joy in God

The nature of conversion teaches that we should pursue our joy in God. Shortest parable, Matthew 13:44: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which a man finds and goes and in his joy sells all that he has and buys that field.” So what is it to be converted? It is to find a treasure and to open it up. And evidently in that culture if you owned a field where you found a treasure, the treasure was yours. So he is going to close it up. Cover it over and he is going to go and sell everything: your computer, your books, your library, your house, your wedding ring, your grandfather’s clock. It is gone, because I have found Jesus. That is what it means. And what is that? You think that is self-denial? Yes, that is exactly what Jesus meant by self-denial. Sell it off.

I think that’s what he meant: “If you would come after me you must renounce all that you have” (Luke 14:33) period — all of it goes. And you must love me more than you love your mother and your father and your sister and your brother and your son and your daughter. In fact, you have got to feel for me is going to make what you feel for them look like hate. You have got to be so happy in me, so satisfied in me like a big treasure, billions of dollars I have got now in Jesus. Nobody inherits a million dollars begrudgingly. Nobody. This is hedonism talk in the gospels.

The demand for love teaches the pursuit of joy. A little more complex. I mean love for people. An example of this: “For the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). I get really tight about this when people start dumping on the pursuit of joy as though it didn’t produce love. I am going to ask you: What was it that sustained Jesus in the hour of performing the greatest act of sacrifice to bring about the greatest act of love that ever was? And the answer is joy. Joy for the joy that was set before him. In other words, he is on a quest to maximize divine pleasure. He will have a people for his name from all the peoples of the world. And when they are gathered with that innumerable throng saying, “Holy, holy, holy is God and the Lamb,” his joy will be complete. And that is why he died and he was sustained by that vision. And you are, woe to you if you are presume to be motivated by something higher than the Son of God.

I texted my wife this morning because I read Ephesians five this morning and it said, “Be imitators of God as loved children and love one another as Christ loved you.” And I texted her: You, daughter of the Creator, are going to inherit the world, period. So that is what my wife woke up to this morning, because if you are a child of the owner and maker of the universe, that is your inheritance. Blessed are the meek for they will what? Are you blown away by your inheritance or what? We Christians we have in our hands everything and we will not be happy as we die for Jesus like he was happy when he died for us.

Happiness and Glory Together

How did this duty to be happy and God’s design to be glorified come together for me? They came together in Philippians 1:20 and in Jonathan Edwards, in that order and in that priority. Philippians 1:20 goes like this:

It is my eager expectation and hope that Christ will be glorified [or magnified, megaluno in the Greek] in my body whether by life or by death, for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” And what does that mean?

Let’s put the logic together. Paul says, “My zeal, passion is that Christ be magnified in my body.” That is, in all my physical life on earth whether I am living or dying, I want Christ to look great in my life. And then he says: For — and he picks those two pieces, live and die — for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Now you see how that works? You see how the logic works? I want Christ to be magnified in my body as I die. And how does it work? For dying to me is gain. Magnify Christ in death by counting death gain. Make sense? That was the answer for me. Paul is saying, “All right. I may go to the lions. I may be burned. I may be left to rot in a prison. I may have ship wreck and not even make it to Rome. I don’t know how I am going to die. But if I die, when I die, O God, I want Jesus to look great in the way I die.” And he knew the answer to how that would be: I will count death gain.

What does that mean? That means I get the treasure. I get the joy. Now. So he looks at everything. He looks at all of his friends. He looks at all of the ministry possibilities. He looks at the possibility of a retirement in who knows where and he says: Lose all that and get Christ — gain! Now that is the essence of Christian Hedonism. I lose everything on the planet, gain one thing, Christ, and I call it gain. This is all rubbish by comparison and the key is that is the way Christ looks magnificent in his dying. So I am finished. My quest is over. Now I see it. Christ is most magnified in me when I am most satisfied in him at the moment of my greatest loss. That is the end of my quest right there.

And, bless his heart, Jonathan Edwards said, “God glorifies himself toward the creatures in two ways: by appearing to their understanding and communicating himself to their hearts. God is glorified not only by his glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.” God is glorified by being rejoiced in.

I have never said anything new, you know. If I say anything new, you should be suspicious. There is no new truth. Truth is just there and people have seen it long before we came on the scene. So here is the problem. That is the end of my summary of what I have been trying to say for all these years.

Misunderstanding the Message

That message has been misunderstood in numerous ways and one is that it runs the risk of sounding like man-centered prosperity teaching that makes God a means to my end. And people will scoff at Christian Hedonism that way. And I have been jealous to avoid that misunderstanding. And the way I have tried to avoid it is by getting really offensive, intentionally, in the way I talk about God-centeredness.

So I ask this question. I have asked this question for a decade in audiences all over the country. I say, “Do you feel more loved by God when he makes much of you or when at great cost to himself he enables you to enjoy making much of him.” Which is it? And it is intended to be a very offensive and provocative question, because I know that everybody loves to be made much of. Nobody in this room doesn’t feel good when you are made much of. To have a complement given to you — nice sermon or nice dress or good job or whatever — we love it. It tastes delicious to our souls to be made much of. And so I make that the alternative it sounds like in that question to enjoying making much of God.

Does God Make Much of Us?

So that is the question I have been using to get in people’s face who say I am man-centered. No, I am not. How could you ever think such a thing? Now I have got a new misunderstanding on my hands: “Don’t you believe, John, that God makes much of us?”

When I wrote the book God is the Gospel, that was my main issue at the end of that book. So that is what I am going to spend the rest of our time talking about. I want to help you get as far down the road as I have come. And here I am. I am 65. If I were to come back here in five years I might have another clarification. So don’t think Piper’s theology is perfect. There isn’t any perfect theology. There is a perfect book. And the rest of us, seeing through a glass dimly, are trying to put it all together.

So you don’t believe God makes much of us? And my answer is No. I can see how you would think that. But no, no, no. I do believe God makes much of us. Oh, really? Well, how does that fit with your God-centeredness? That is the question. I want clarity on this. I don’t want to be misunderstood. So I don’t want to try to be excessively provocative here. I want to bring clarity to this issue. So when I ask: Do you feel more loved by God when he makes much of you or when he enables you to make much of him?, I am not saying you have to choose between those two. I am saying you need to rank them. And that is huge to me. I want to help you relocate God at the bottom of your joy. I want God to move to the very bottom — foundational bottom, spring-like bottom — of your joy. So there is nothing underneath it helping it or sustaining it or feeding it. That is it. It is just down as low as it can go. I want God to be there in your joy structure.

God at the Bottom of It All

Now let me try to explain the bottom image, how it works in my mind. All of your sources of satisfaction have a foundation except one, the one at the bottom. Does that make sense?

Here’s an example: Suppose you make an A on a test and it makes you really happy, let’s say a test in psychology. And somebody says: Why are you so happy with an A on a test? Your answer — because there is something deeper than As on tests. There is a foundation for that happiness. Because I want to go to grad school in psychology and this is key. Ok, now you have moved down a level. Somebody says to you: Now, why do you want to go to graduate school in psychology? Why does that make you happy? And there is a reason. He says: Because I want to be a clinical psychologist some day. So now we got a little lower level. He has got your sights on a thing that would make you happy. I want to be a clinical psychologist someday. And so making the *A was good, because it helps me into school and now I can be what I really want to be*. And then somebody asks you: But why do you want to be a clinical psychologist? And you say: Because I would really love to help people. I want to help people. Been through some hard times. I got some help. I would like to help people. It would make me glad to help people. Now you are down getting lower in your structures of happiness here of what makes you happy.

And somebody says: Why do you love to make people well? There the world views are going to go apart, aren’t they? And either God is going to wind up down there at the bottom or you are going to wind up down there at the bottom. God-exaltation or self-exaltation are going to be at the bottom. And my jealousy for Christian Hedonism, for Desiring God, for this conference, for my life is that we all get God at the bottom of our tree of happiness, of our structures. The last answer to every happiness question is: Because I will magnify God more by enjoying him more that way.

The Urgency of Christian Hedonism

Now before I defend the fact that God makes much of us in a certain way, I want to tell you why this matters so much to me, why going here and thinking about this matters to me. Millions of people in the church of Christ around the world are not born again. And they believe that God loves them and they are going to hell. So feeling loved by God when you are not savingly loved by God is very dangerous. And I care a lot about that. To hear the words at the last day, “I never knew you. Depart from me.” After they had said, “Did we not prophesy in your name and do many mighty works in your name?” And he will say, “I don’t know who you are.” That will be a terrifying moment.

Servants of Christ in his name prophesying, in his name doing miracles and not being born of God. I care about that. Number one, I don’t want to be one of those. And I would like you not to be. I don’t even want to watch that happen. There are millions of nominal Christians who have never experienced a fundamental alteration in the foundation of their happiness. Instead, they have absorbed the notion of becoming a Christian like this: Turning to Jesus to get what you most deeply wanted before you were regenerate. And if that is the way you come, you won’t be born again.

So you wanted to be wealthy. It wasn’t working and somebody said, Trust Jesus and you will be wealthy. So you turn to Jesus and say, Please, I trust you to make me wealthy. So now you are trusting him for what you already wanted as an unregenerate person. Or you wanted to be healthy because you are sick or your wife is sick. So I come to you, Jesus. They tell me that you are a healer. I trust you to make her well or to make me well. And now you are trusting him for what you already wanted as an unregenerate person. You want health and so you go to this bell hop to get it.

Or I don’t want to go to hell. And so I am coming to you, Jesus. I hear that you can get me out of hell. Please don’t let me suffer forever. I don’t want to go to hell. Save me from hell. Well no demon wants to be in hell. Nobody wants to be in hell. You don’t have to be regenerate in order to have the desire not to want to go to hell. There is nothing holy or godly about not wanting to go to hell and be unhappy forever. Nobody wants to go to hell.

Your Life Never Really Changed

In other words, in this way of thinking to become a Christian is to have all the same desires that you had before and just get them from a new place, a new source, namely Jesus. And when you do, it feels wonderfully loving of Jesus. He loves me. I got better. My business prospered. And I am not going to hell. So he loves me. He loves me.

And the bottom of your life has never changed. Never. The bottom is still what it was. At the bottom is still the same desires. You just shop at a new store. The dinner on the table that really makes you glad is the same worldly dinner and you just have a new cook. The bags that you are hauling into the hotel are the same bags and you have a new bellhop. That is not the new birth. This is not the new birth. The new birth changes the bottom. It changes the root, the foundation of what makes us happy. Self, at the bottom, and self-exaltation and the need to be made much of is replaced with Jesus and God themselves. And you are delighting to make much of them. That is at the bottom of the born-again person.

So the question Do you feel more loved by God when you are made much of or when he enables you to make much of him?, is intended to rank things, not cancel either of those two. So here is my question: Why does God say that he loves us over and over and over in the Bible in such a way that his loving us draws all attention to him instead of to us? Is there a reason for that? Is there a reason why God time after time expresses his massive love for you and then gives it a twist that gives him all the credit, draws all glory to him, makes him the point? If you are not born-again you are really bothered by that. It just irks me that God comes to me, pretends like he is really loving me and then says something that makes it look like he is trying to make much of himself. The unregenerate person doesn’t like that.

His Glory, His Praise

Let me give you some examples of what I mean by texts like that. The one I start with is from yesterday,

He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:5–6).

So in love he predestines us, adoption into his family through the cost of his Son’s life. And so far I am saying, “Yes, yes. Me, me. He chose me. He got me into the family. He is loving me.” And then he says, “Unto the praise of the glory of his grace.” I thought it was about me. Why does God talk like that? I mean he wouldn’t have to. He could have stopped before he ruined it.

Or here is another one: He sent us a Savior.

Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you is this day in the city of David is born to you a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you. You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest.”

And we were thinking: Wow. He is sending us a Savior. He is valuing us. He is treasuring us. He is coming for us. And what do the angels say? God is great. Well, I thought we were great. I thought he was coming for us. If you are unregenerate that is the way you feel.

Or a third example,

The love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this, that one has died for all. Therefore all have died. And he died for all that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Couldn’t be more mixed up — wonderfully mingled. He dies for all of his people. They die in him. In order that when they live it won’t ever be about them anymore, but him who for their sakes died and rose again. Well, which is it? Is it for me or you? That kind of tension no longer exists for the regenerate person. It does for the unregenerate. The unregenerate have at the bottom: Make much of me or I am not coming. You turn this back for your glory over and over again, you are just a big-headed megalomaniac that I am just going to stay in my world where I can be God.

A fourth example. How does Jesus pray for us in John 17?

Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me may be with me where I am to see my glory.

So you are inviting me to come to the party so I can admire you. And God responds, Yeah, that is exactly why I am inviting you to the supper. At the supper of the Lamb, I know who will be at the head of the table. And all eyes will be on him. And he is asking the Father to bring us there so that we can see him.

Eric Reese was interviewed in NPR a couple of years ago and he said texts like this drove him away from the faith because Jesus is an egomaniac. He wrote a whole book. I wrote to him. I don’t know if he got the letter. I have written to numerous people that I have read over the years that talk that way, because they are just missing the essence of Christian Hedonism, the essence of the Bible, namely that the egomania of a Christ who says, I want you all to come to heaven so that you can enjoy me — is not an egomaniac. He is infinitely loving, because there isn’t anything more beautiful, anything more satisfying in all the universe than he is. And, therefore, in order to love us, he must welcome us to enjoy him. That is the way God has to talk if he loves us.

So those four examples raise the question that I am raising. Namely: Why does God over and over and over in the Bible tell us in massive and spectacular terms how much he loves us and then gives it a twist that brings all attention back to himself, glory to himself, glory to his name? Why does he do that? Why doesn’t he just make much of us?

Seen Ways God Makes Much of Us

Before I answer it, I want to cancel this misunderstanding that on the way to that John Piper does not believe that God makes much of us, because I can hear why people would think that. I can see why people would say, “So you really don’t think, number one, that he does he make much of us and, number two, if he does that we should enjoy it, because that would be idolatry.” Neither of those is true. He does make much of you and you should enjoy it. Now I am going to show you the biblical foundation for that and then give you the answer to why I think he talks like what we just saw in those four texts.

1. God makes much of us by being pleased with us, like we heard, and commending our lives.

C.S. Lewis, one of the huge influences in my life wrote a book entitled, The Weight of Glory. I recommend it very highly. Get the little book. I don’t think it is blue anymore. It was blue when I bought it in 1969. And “The Weight of Glory” is a sermon about this. The weight of glory is what? I will read it to you.

To please God, to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness, to be loved by God not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son. It seems impossible, a weight, a burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain, but it is so.

That is right. And the text that he gives to defend it is: “We will hear on that day, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” For Lewis, and I think every regenerate person, it just takes your breath away that you mean: After all my imperfect marriage, after all my imperfect parenting, after all my imperfect pastoring I can please God. You sure can. You do, because God is in you. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God is producing the image of Christ in you. Woe to you if you do not see and commend the work of God in the mirror and in your wife and children and colleagues.

My colleague Sam Crabtree has just written a book called Practicing Affirmation. I never thought I would write the forward for a book called Practicing Affirmation. The subtitle is God-Centered Praise for People Who Are Not God. That is really good. So my first point is: God makes much of you by being pleased with you as the Holy Spirit does his incremental transforming work in your life — all too slowly, right?

2. God makes much of us by making us fellow heirs with his Son who owns everything.

Blessed are the meek who, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

So you are going got own the planet someday. (If that sounds off the charts to you, you really need to get on your face before God and ask him to help you believe that. It transforms everything.) The promise to Abraham and his offspring is that he would be an heir of the world. Romans 4:13.

Or here is the one I like best: 1 Corinthians 3:21:

Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Why would you try to bolster your ego by choosing your hero and boasting in him when you own everything? I mean you know a rich person. You are 10,000 times richer than the richest person you know. So why would you boast in a peanut or anything? God makes much of you by making you the heir of everything.

You remember the story about John Newton? John Newton said there was a man in his chariot on the way to New York City and he is on his way to inherit a million dollars. And the check is waiting. The money is waiting. And a mile outside New York a wheel falls off his carriage, breaks. He looks at it and he has to walk the last mile. He has to walk a mile to get a million dollars. And he is grumbling all the way, My chariot is broken. My chariot is broken. That is stupid. That is me. That is me. Like why don’t you pick up your pajamas? What? You are the heir of the world. What are you talking about pajamas? I mean our emotional structure is changed if we believe it.

3. God makes much of us by having us sit at table when he returns serving us.

I mean, my picture of the second coming is he has done serving. He came the first time to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. He is coming the second time on a white horse, sword come out of his mouth. Lord, Lord, Lord of lords on his thighs, shedding blood, flowing at the height of the horse’s bridle for who knows how many kilometers. He is done serving. He is killing and everybody is in hell or in heaven. Come, Lord Jesus.

Well, there is another picture. There is another picture:

Truly I say to you he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table. Then he will come and serve them. (Luke 12:37)

When I think of this Jesus on this horse with this universal power, his face shining like the sun, his hair as white as snow, his feet and legs like brass and commanding millions and millions of angels, binding himself with a towel as the risen, reigning Christ in the age to come, and bringing me some pizza, I will crawl down out of that chair and I will tremble kissing his feet. I will and I know what he will do. He will do just what he did for Peter, when Peter fell down after the catch of fish and said, Depart from me, I am an evil man. He will just say, You must receive this. I am God. This is what I do to the people I love. Sit down and receive your pizza. He will. He will make much of us by having us sit at table and serving us.

4. He will make much of us by appointing us to carry out the judgment of angels.

Do you not know that you are to judge angels? (1 Corinthians 6:3)

5. God makes much of us by ascribing value to us and rejoicing over his treasured possession.

Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:31)

The Lord your God will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with his love. He will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

What will it sound like when God sings? Will he be tenor, bass? How will worlds not come into being when God sings? And what is he singing over? He is singing over you.

6. God makes much of us by giving us a glorious body.

He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.

The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthew 13:43)

You are going to shine so brightly that everyone will have to have new eyes to look at you, because nobody can look at the Son with these eyes. If you look at the Son with these eyes you are blinded. If everybody in this room started shining like the Son, which you will someday if you are born again, we would have to have new eyes, which is why we are given new bodies, so that we can bare the new joys that will come from seeing each other shine like the sun.

7. Perhaps most amazingly and breathtakingly, God makes much of us by granting us to sit with Christ on his throne.

I got to be careful here, because you could go to heresy here so fast. The Bible is a really risky book. It says things that push the limits of heresy often. And the texts I am thinking about are these.

The one who conquers [and that means hold your faith to the end] the one who conquers I will grant him to sit with me on my throne as I conquered and sat with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

It is a big throne. So it must be symbolic for something. I mean, that is kind of strange to have millions and millions of people crowded on a throne. What does it mean? Doesn’t it mean he is in some incredible way going to share his divine ruling authority with us, which is why he put us on the planet to bring it into dominion anyway?

Here is the verse that helps me.

The Church is his body, he fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22)

So we are the Church. We are the fullness of him filling all in all. How was that? What is that? That is so difficult. Here is my effort. This is my effort to grasp that breathtaking statement. I think his filling all in all probably means the extent of his rule becomes complete, full and manifest throughout this new heavens and new earth. That is the fullness of God, extending himself in his rule, completely, fully, manifestly. Everything that is contrary to God goes into the outer darkness and in this new heavens and new earth there is only God ruling everywhere and we are called that fullness, which means you get dispatched to a galaxy to rule it, something like that.

It is good to ponder the breathtaking statements of the Bible. You born again lovers of Jesus are made much of by God beyond your wildest dream.

Greater Love Has No One

Okay. I have just set the record straight and now I close by answering the question that I asked a minute ago. What is the reason God over and over again in the Bible tells us he loves us and then puts a spin on it and a twist to make much of himself? And here is my answer, which will draw us to a close. God loves you this way, by drawing attention to his glory, because it is a greater love. It is a greater love than if he ended by making you your greatest treasure. Making himself your end is a greater love than making you your end.

And the reason is this: Self — no matter how glorified by God — will never, never satisfy a heart made for God. You stand in front of a mirror transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. You will never as yourself be able to be beautiful enough to satisfy what your heart was made for. Your heart was made for God and if God were to make your glorified self the bottom of your joy, he would sell you short. You would not be as happy as you could be and, therefore, he would not be as loving as he could be. He will not let your glory, which he himself creates, he will not let your glory be what you finally bottom delight in. He won’t let your glory replace his glory as your supreme treasure.

So Ligonier, closing exhortation here. And I am speaking to everyone who has Christ at the bottom of your joy. You are precious to God. Do you hear me? Many of us grew up in homes where no parent modeled this for us and we have struggled with it all of our lives. Hundreds of you in this room can hardly say the words I am precious to God. You can hardly say them. All you feel from day to day is: I am a disappointment to God. That is how you feel. I mean feel. You may say in my head: Well, I guess what he said is true. He gave it a lot of texts. I know you are there. And I want you to have it all. I want it to go all the way down.

So, Ligonier, born-again, lovers of Reformed theology and the God of Reformed theology above all theology, you are precious to God. And he loves you so much he will not let your preciousness to him become your God. You got it? That is my last word. You are so precious to him he will not let your preciousness to him replace himself as your God. It is sweet, but it is not at the bottom. He is at the bottom. And we are happy to have him there, are we not?