How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice by John Piper

1st collector for How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Chr…
Follow my videos on vodpod

from DesiringGod.org

I invite you to look with me at a sequence of six passages in the New Testament book of Hebrews. These six passages contain the answer to the question contained in the title of this message, “How Does the Supremacy of Christ Create Radical Christian Sacrifice?” But for you to see it, you will need to ask: What is the “great reward,” and what is the “better resurrection,” and what is the joy set before us, and what is the “city that is to come”? My answer to all of these questions is the same: Their most ultimate meaning is that they refer to the infinite supremacy of Christ experienced with all-satisfying joy. The sequence begins with Hebrews 10:32-35:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

Hebrews 11:6:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:24-26:

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Hebrews 11:35:

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better resurrection.

Hebrews 12:2:

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 13:12-14:

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

We will come back to this sequence later. But let me put these texts and the question I am posing in a wider context of my hopes for you and for this message and this conference.

Radically Flavored Life and Ministry

My desire and prayer for you is that your life and your ministry have a radical flavor. A risk-taking flavor. A gutsy, counter-cultural, war-time flavor to it that makes the average prosperous Americans in your church feel uncomfortable. A strange mixture of tenderness and toughness that keeps worldly people a little off balance. A pervasive summons to something more and something hazardous and something wonderful. A saltiness and brightness, something like the life of Jesus.

When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth,” and, “You are the light of the world,” in Matthew 5:13-14, I think he was referring to the preceding verses where he had described the most outrageous joy imaginable. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). Be glad when you are persecuted and slandered.

Bright and Salty in Trials

My desire for you is that your life and ministry taste like that. Reviling comes. Persecution comes. Slander comes. And you rejoice that you are counted worthy be shamed for the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 5:41). And you preach and live in such a way that over a decade or two or three your church comes to be bright and salty like that—counting it all joy when they meet various trials, because you have taught them and shown them that they have a great reward in heaven—the all-satisfying, everlasting experience of the supremacy of Christ.

You have lived. You have treasured Christ above the accumulation of stuff. You have laid up treasures in heaven, not on earth. You have not only fled fornication and adultery. You have fled opulence and ostentation and riches. You have remembered the story of the rich young man (Luke 18:18-30). And you have blazoned on the walls of your mind the words of Paul, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). You have eaten the words of Isaiah, and they have become sweet to your soul: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Awakening a Sense of Christ’s Value

My desire and prayer for you is that your life and ministry have a radical flavor. I say that for the glory of Christ. The world does not glorify Jesus as their supreme Treasure because of our health, wealth, and prosperity. Those are the same treasures they live for. The fact that we use Jesus to get what they want makes it clear to them that we have the same treasure as they do—and it is not Jesus. He’s just the ticket. And tickets are thrown away when the show begins.

What the world is waiting to see—what might awaken a sense of Christ’s value— is something radical. Some risk. Some crazy sacrifice. Some extraordinary love. Something salty and bright. They may not like it when they see it. They may crucify it. But they will not be bored. Stephen’s face shown like an angel (Acts 6:15). His wisdom was irresistible (Acts 6:10). So they killed him. But they did not yawn, and they did not go to sleep. And Acts 8 makes clear his death was not in vain.

Where Are God’s Men?

My desire and prayer for you is that your life and ministry have a radical flavor. The flavor of risk, sacrifice, love, simplicity, joy, freedom, and precarious adventure. In 1939, Howard Guinness, one of the early founders of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, wrote a little book called Sacrifice. He was trying to do then what I am trying to do now. He wrote,

Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap, and be faithful even unto death, who will lose their lives for Christ’s, flinging them away for love of him? Where are those who will live dangerously, and be reckless in this service? Where are the men of prayer? Where are the men who count God’s Word of more importance to them than their daily food? Where are the men who, like Moses of old, commune with God face to face as a man speaks with his friend? Where are God’s men in this day of God’s power? 1

Indeed, where are the pastors who say with the apostle Paul, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)?

Where are the pastors who say with Joab to his brother Abishai, when surrounded by Syrians and Ammonites, “Be of good courage, and let us play the man for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him” (2 Samuel 10:12)?

Where are the young women—single and married—who say with Esther, when the life of her people hung in the balance and Mordecai asked her to risk her life, “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16)?

The Certainty of Suffering

I ask you this not just because the world desperately needs to see that kind of pastor, but also because Jesus makes it crystal clear that if you take him seriously, you are going to suffer. In other words, radical willingness to risk and sacrifice and suffer is the only authentic ministry there is. The Lord has made it very plain:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:25)

A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:20)

They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. . . . You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:12-19)

The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. (John 16:1)

God Promises Trials

And after Jesus, Paul made this teaching the bedrock of his counsel to new believers. On his way back from the first missionary journey, he was teaching the new disciples in every church “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). And he adds in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Then he poses the question in Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Of course, the answer is no. But is the answer no because God spares us these things? Or because he ordains these things for us and keeps us in them? The next verse gives the answer: “As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35-37). God does not spare his people these trials. He promises them.

“Why Not Me?”

So does Hebrews 12:8: “If we are left without divine discipline we are illegitimate children and not sons.” Suffering for followers of Christ is a sign of God’s merciful Fatherhood. And it includes all the pains of the world in general. That’s what Romans 8:23 makes plain: “Not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Sir Norman Anderson, former Professor and Director of the Advanced Legal Institute at London University, supported International Fellowship of Evangelical Students for sixty years. He had lost all three of his children in their early adulthood and his wife was so senile she could not recognize him. At one of the last public events where he spoke he was asked, “When you look back over your life and reflect on the fact that you have lost all your three children, and how your wife of sixty years no longer recognizes you, do you ever ask the question, “Why me?” . . . “No, I’ve never asked that question, ‘Why me?’ but I have asked the question, ‘Why not me?’ I am not promised as a Christian that I will escape the problems encountered by others; we all live in a fallen world. . . . I am however, promised that in the midst of difficulties, God through Christ will be present with me, and will give his grace to help me cope with the difficulties and bear witness to him.”2

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Jesus, Paul, Peter, Hebrews—they all bear witness: Followers of Jesus will suffer. I do not want to be excluded from that number.

Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?

My desire and prayer for you is that you will not even try to be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, but that there will be a radical, risk-taking, sacrificial flavor to your life and ministry.

What Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice?

My question is: What creates such a life and ministry? What creates radical Christian sacrifice? And how is it created? There is more than one biblical answer to this question. So please don’t take this as exhaustive.

To answer the question, let’s turn back now to the book of Hebrews where we began. What I hope you will see is that the aim of the book of Hebrews is precisely the same as my aim this morning—a life and ministry of radical risk and sacrificial love, all for the glory of Christ. And the way the writer creates that radical risk and sacrifice is by giving some of the most elaborate and magnificent glimpses of the supremacy of Christ in all the Bible.

Hebrews: A Word of Exhortation

We know that Hebrews is one of the most doctrinally sophisticated books in the Bible. What we don’t realize as often is that it is probably the only instance in the New Testament of a sermon delivered to Christians3—as opposed to the sermons in Acts directed mainly to unbelievers. And this sermon (he calls it a “word of exhortation,” Hebrews 13:22) was delivered in the hope of creating in the Christian hearers a commitment to radical, joyful, risk-taking sacrifices of love that make Christ look as great as he really is. And the vision of Christ’s supremacy that runs though the book is there to serve this radical, practical, public aim.

So consider the sequence of texts we looked at earlier, only notice very carefully now how radical, joyful, risk-taking, sacrificial love is created.

Joyfully Accepting Plundered Possessions

Hebrews 10:32-35:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

Some believers had been imprisoned. Others had suffered by standing with them. What created the radical, sacrificial love of standing with the prisoners and paying the price of having your property plundered? The answer is in the middle of verse 34: “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew (ginoskontes) that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” Verse 35 calls this “better possession and abiding one” a “great reward.”

What created this radical, sacrificial act of love toward imprisoned saints was the superior Treasure they were banking on in the future. This confidence of heavenly reward made them joyful in earthly loss. They joyfully accepted the plundering of their property. That is what I am saying is needed in your life and ministry—and then in your people. Hold your possessions so loosely that when they are lost in the sacrifices of love, your confidence in a supreme Treasure in heaven will fill you with joy. I am going to argue in a moment that the Treasure is the supremacy of Christ.4

Looking to the Reward

Hebrews 11:24-26:

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

How was Moses’ radical, loving sacrifice created? Verse 26: “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Present sacrifice is sustained by the hope of future reward. And again I will argue that the reward is finally Christ himself in all his glory.

Enduring the Cross for the Joy Set Before Him

Hebrews 12:2:

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

How was Jesus’ radical, loving sacrifice sustained? It was sustained “by the joy that was set before him.” That’s how he endured the cross. He looked forward to the triumphant experience of being exalted as the Savior and Lord and Treasure of an innumerable people beyond the grave and beyond this age. Even as he suffers for us, he shows us how to suffer with him. He models the very motive that we see in the other texts of this sequence. Indestructible joy breaking into present suffering from the assurance of future joy.

Seeking the City That Is to Come

Hebrews 13:12-14:

Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Now in the end comes the summons that I have been issuing all along—the radical call. This is why I said the book of Hebrews is aiming at the very thing I am aiming at in this message—that your life and ministry will have a radical, risk-taking, sacrificial flavor. Hebrews bids us do something like that, something outlandish: “Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” What does that mean for you? It means something radical. Something risk-taking. Something sacrificial. God will make it plain if you will say to him: Anything Lord. Any time. Anywhere. If your heart is yielded, he will make it plain.

But again I ask: How is this radical, risk-taking, sacrificial life created and sustained?
The answer is in verse 14, and it is the same answer we have seen in chapters 10, 11, and 12: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Radical, risk-taking, sacrificial acts of love “outside the camp” are created and sustained by treasuring the final city of God more than the present city of man, no matter how rich this present city seems.

What Is the Reward?

So at least part of the structure of how radical sacrifice is created is clear: It is created when we treasure our future reward vastly more than we treasure the comforts and securities of ordinary earthly life. Really believing . . . really treasuring . . . really cherishing and valuing—what in the future? What Treasure, what Reward, is the key to creating and sustaining a life and ministry of radical, risk-taking, sacrificial love?

My answer is that all of the book of Hebrews is about the supremacy of Jesus Christ as the Treasure to be trusted in, hoped for, banked on, cherished, and valued beyond everything this present life can offer.

But really? Isn’t Jesus Christ presented in the book of Hebrews as the means to our salvation? Is he the end? Is he the Reward? Or is he the means to obtaining the reward? Isn’t he presented as making purification for sins (1:3; 2:9; 2:17; 9:24; 10:12) and interceding as our High Priest (4:14; 2:17; 7:17) and becoming the “founder of salvation” (2:10) and the perfecter of our faith (12:2)? Yes.

The Glory of Jesus’ Person Displayed in His Saving Work

But here is what I have been learning in the last several years as never before. The supreme greatness and majesty and glory of the Son of God fits him to be the saving means our justification and forgiveness and propitiation and sanctification and eternal life. But in that very means-work on the cross, the apex of his glory in then is displayed in the freedom of grace. And in the very moment of becoming the perfect means of our redemption, Christ becomes the supremely valuable, all glorious end of our redemption (John 17:24). The glory that we will see and savor forever and ever will be the glory of the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:9, 12-13). That is the song of eternity. The final beauty that will satisfy our souls forever is the beauty most fully displayed in the rescue of sinners to see that beauty.

Therefore, I say that all the pictures of the supremacy of Jesus in the book of Hebrews are pictures not only of the perfection of the all-sufficient means of our salvation, but also of the all-satisfying goal or end of our salvation, namely the supremacy of Christ himself experienced with all-satisfying joy. He is the Great Reward. He is the one we know in the “better resurrection.” He is the light of the city to that is to come.

Therefore everything this epistle says about him intensifies our love for him now as our Treasure, and our desire for him later as our final Reward.

He is

  • God’s final revelation (1:2).
  • The heir of all things (1:2).
  • The creator of the world (1:2).
  • The radiance of God’s glory (1:3).
  • The exact imprint of God’s nature (1:3).
  • He upholds the universe by the word of his power (1:3).
  • He made purification for sins (1:3).
  • He sits at the right hand of the Majesty on High (1:4).
  • He is God, enthroned forever, with a scepter of uprightness (1:8).
  • He is worshipped by angels (1:6).
  • His rule will have no end (1:8).
  • His joy is above all other beings in the universe (1:9).
  • He took on human flesh (2:14).
  • He was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering (2:9).
  • He was the founder of our salvation (2:10).
  • He was made perfect in all his obedience by his suffering (2:10).
  • He destroyed the one who has the power of death, the devil (2:15).
  • He delivered us from the bondage of fear (2:15).
  • He is a merciful and faithful high priest (2:17)
  • He made propitiation for sins (2:17).
  • He is sympathetic because of his own trials (4:15).
  • He never sinned (4:15).
  • He offered up loud cries and tears with reverent fear, and God heard him (5:7).
  • He became the source of eternal salvation (5:8)
  • He holds his priesthood by virtue of an indestructible life (7:16).
  • He appears in the presence of God on our behalf (9:24).
  • He will come a second time to save us who are eagerly waiting for him (9:28).
  • He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (13:8)

All of this supremacy of Christ is poured into the word “him” in Hebrews 13:13: “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” To him!

Come to Me—Outside the Camp

When he bids us leave the securities and comforts of life and take up a radical, risk-taking, sacrificial way of love in his service, it is not a path that we take alone. In fact, Jesus is there outside the camp in a way that he is nowhere else. He is not just telling us to go out there. He is inviting us come out here. Here is where I am. Come to me outside the camp.

The supremacy of Christ is not just his perfect fitness to bear our sins, and not just the supremely valuable future Reward that frees us from fear and greed and worldliness, but in his supremacy he is also now our present, personal Treasure.

And there he is outside the camp bidding us come. The sweetest fellowship with Jesus you will ever know is the fellowship of his sufferings.

So I say it one more time: My desire and prayer to God for you is that your life and ministry have a radical, risk-taking, sacrificial flavor.

Let us go to him outside the camp. For here we have no lasting city. But we seek a city which is to come, whose builder is God and whose light is the Lamb.

1 Quoted from Howard Guinness, Sacrifice (1936), in Lindsay Brown, Shining Like Stars: The Power of the Gospel in the World’s Universities (Nottingham: InterVarsity Press, 2006), p. 151.

2 Ibid., pp. 160-161.

3 Compare the uses of the phrase “word of exhortation” in Hebrews 13:22 and in Acts 13:15. Dennis Johnson, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from all the Scriptures (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2007), p. 172.

4 Observe in Hebrews 10:34 that the word translated “property” (huparchonton) has the same Greek root (in the plural) as the word translated “possession” (huparxin). A more literal rendering would read: “You received with joy the plunder of the your possessions (plural), knowing yourselves to have a better and lasting possession (singular).” They joyfully accepted the loss of their earthly, plural possessions because they knew that they had a superior singular possession, namely, Jesus.

© Desiring God

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

 

About these ads

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Desiring God 2011 Regional Conference at Saddleback Church (Sessions 1 – 3) « agnus dei – english + romanian blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Vizite unicate din Martie 6,2011

free counters

Va multumim ca ne-ati vizitat azi!


Zilele trec…

Click pe harta pt ora actuala World Time Click on map for timezone

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,480 other followers

%d bloggers like this: