This is part of the series Catalyst 2013.
Piper’s message was excellent, and I think it is a fantastic ingredient in the leadership teaching here at the conference. It is critical to not just lead, but to lead in a God-centered way. And that means understanding the centrality of God’s glory to all of life and how, paradoxically, the way to glorify God most is not to just “do your duty,” but to seek your joy in him and in doubling that joy through living a life devoted to the good of others in Christ.
Here are my notes from Piper’s message.
So, the theme this year is known. What, then, is our fundamental identity?
We have been designed by God to consciously display God’s greatness, beauty, and worth. That is our fundamental identity.
Images are designed to image.
Why did God create 7 billion images of himself on this planet? Why did he do that?
Surely the answer is: To get attention! To draw attention to himself. You don’t put an image of somebody up and hope nobody notices it. You are in the image of God in order to image, to display, to point to God. That is your identity.
Why did God do this? It seems to me that he is passionately devoted to filling the earth with himself–with pointers to himself. In every tribe, tongue and nation there are these statutes called human beings, created to image God.
Consider Isaiaih 43:7, where God says of his people “I created them for my glory.” We are created with a nature fitting us to bring God glory.
And this doesn’t mean to improve upon his glory. It doesn’t mean to add to it. It means to put it on display. To show what he is like.
So our first creation in Adam means we have an identity designed by God in order to point to, that is, display, God’s greatness and God’s beauty and God’s worth. That’s your identity.
But we said to God “No.” We said “I don’t see this, I don’t want this as my identity. I will savor and display _my own_ worth and _my own_ beauty.”
And that’s what the whole world does.
UNTIL God, who never fails, sends Jesus into the world, and he dies to pay the penalty for our treason. And he rises from the dead and pours out the Spirit into our lives, and beings a re-creation process.
We are created anew in Christ through faith. What are we re-created for? Ephesians: “you have put on the new self, which is being renewed after the image of its creator.” Which means: we’re getting this back. We’re getting back our nature with an identity designed to display God’s greatness and beauty and worth.
Humans all over the world may embrace the suicidal practice of defacing the iamge of God, but God will have his people. He will have a people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. Thtey will be remade so they are who they were first created to be, namely imagers of God. God will be displayed. That is why he created the world.
What is the NT evidence for this? Eph 1: we were saved “to the glory of his grace.” Or 1 Peter: he saved us “that we may proclaim his excellences.” We are who we are with a design to display his excellencies. Or 1 Cor 10:31: he has given us even the smallest things like food and drink that we might do everything we do “to the glory of God.” This is our nature and identity.
Your identity is to live to display God’s identity as glorious.
Wherever you go in the NT, you see this.
But in order for this to happen, a massive obstacle has to be overcome. We need to ask: Is God a megalamaniac? Is he selfish to seek his own glory and create us to display his beauty?
In other words, if my nature as a human is designed to image forth God, how does it do that? I don’t mean here the endless possibilities of behavior. I mean “what’s the one heart act which turns every other act into a God-glorifying act.”
And the answer to this is: enjoying God above all things. By treasuring him above all rivals.
I found from the Bible that my basic identity is that I have a nature that is designed not simply to glorify God, but to glorify God _by enjoying him_.
We are to make much of God _by_ loving God and finding our supreme _satisfaction_ in him. That’s who you are designed to be most deeply.
So, if God sets up 7 billion images of himself, how is that not megalamania? Or, to ask it differently, did God create e to use me, or to love me?
And the only answer I want from that is what the Bible teaches, which is clear: to love you.
And that is why God seeks his glory in all things: the most loving thing he can do for you is make you an imager of his beauty and glory, because he is the most valuable being in the universe. There is no higher calling than to point to the one who is of greatest possible worth.
God creating you for his glory is not abuse, but love, because he is on a crusade to bring your happiness to the fullest possible expression in him. And this shows how great and precious and beautiful he is.
When God is not delighted in, he is not shown to be great; the thing you are delighting in more is made to look better than God.
It is a liberating truth: God commands you to and wants you to pursue your full and complete happiness, and this is found only in him.
God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him.
Now, is this what the Bible actually teaches, or is this just John Piper talking? He gives two verses that leaped off the page to him when he was learning these things.
Philippians 1:20-21 is the first. You hear Paul’s passion here: “I want Christ to look great in my life. That’s why I exist. I want to magnify him in my living and dying.” OK, now, how do you do this? Paul tells us in the next verse, because the next verse begins with “for.” That’s a ground clause and explains how. Paul says: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The logic of the movement from verse20 to 21 changed everything in my life.
Note: So Paul says “I want Christ to be magnified in my body when I die (v. 20) _for_ …to die is _gain_ (v. 21).” Why is dying gain? Because Paul says a few verses later that to die is to depart and be with Christ. Paul counts dying gain because it means going to be with Christ. Christ is what makes it gain. Thus Christ is what Paul is treasuring and valuing above all things.
When you look at everything being taken away from you but Jesus as _gain_, that glorifies him. And the point is: that’s how Paul said he would magnify Christ in his dying. So Christ is magnified in Paul’s dying when Paul is supremely satisfied in Christ. So what Piper said above, is not just Piper talking; it’s what Paul taught.
Every time the Bible talks about God exalting himself in us, the meaning is: “I am going to satisfy you in me so that your being satisfied and my being glorified happen at the same time. I am glorifed _by_ you finding your ultimate happiness in me.”
For God to pursue his glory in your life is for him to pursue you rmaximimum joy.
And therefore you should maximize your pursuit of joy in God and bring more people into that experience, for joy doubles when shared. God has designed our happiness in him to grow as we share it with others. Which is why love is the overlow of joy in God.
Now, I’ve got 12 minutes left, so I’m just going to blaze through arguments. I’ve said what I want to say. But if you can see this echoed in the Bible, God may be pleased to let his word be rooted in you and transform you. So, here we go, as many as I can fit into 12 minutes.
1. The Bible commands you to delight in God. It’s a command. Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord.”
2. The Bible teaches that pastors should work for the joy of their people in God. 2 Cor 1:24: “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy.” Is this your self-conscious identity, pastor? “I am a working with my people for their joy in God.”
3. The Bible shows the nature of saving faith is the pursuit of your joy in God. John 6:35: “I am the bread of life. He who belives in me shall never hunger, and he who comes to me shall never thirst.” Note the parallelsim. Beliving is coming to Jesus for soul satisfaction. When you are trying to win people to Jesus, you aren’t getting them to sign a statement. You’re trying to get a new creation to come into being that is more satisfied in Jesus than all the things of the world.
4. The nature of evil shows that we should pursue our joy in God all the time. Jeremiah 2:13: “Be appalled o heavens, for my people have committed two great evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have carved out for themselves cisterns that can hold no water.” So what is the definition of evil? Pursuing satisfaction outside of God. God’s people tasted God’s greatness and spit it out, and then they went into the desert and dug pollutted water for themselves. That’s evil. We should stop doing that and run to the fountain. That’s called evangelism to call people to do that. And when they get there, that’s worship.
5. The nature of conversion shows that we should pursue our joy in God all the time. Matthew 13:44: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which a man found and went and sold all that he has and bought that field.” The nature of conversion is: “you just found a treasure that is all satisfying, do whatever you can to have that treasure.”
6. The Bible threatens terrible things if we will not be happy. Deut
7. The doctrine of self denial teaches us to pursue our joy. Very paradoxical. Mark 8:34: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever saves his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake shall save it.” The premise here is: you don’t want to lose your life. Jesus agrees with that. So if you don’t want to lose your life, you have to lose your life. The argument is: “you will be called upon to take some losses in this life percisely to maximize your joy forever.”
8. Love for others flows from the pursuit of your joy in God. Jesus said “blessed are men when men persecute you for great is your reward in heaven.” Now how do you get strength to love your enemies? Jesus says to rejoice when you are mistreated because you have a treasure–him. This gives strength to love your enemies and reject bitterness. From the joy we have in Christ flows power to love your enemies. This is not a self-centered lifestyle to pursue joy in God, because when you are satisfied in God you are empowered to radically pursue the good of others.
9. The rose story. The question: what should motivate you to bring your wife flowers for your anniversary? If I come to my wife on our anniversary and give her roses and she says “they are beautiful, why did you?,” and I say “it’s my duty,” that’s not going to work. Not honoring to her! I’ve told this story a hundred times, and every time people laugh. What’s wrong with duty? What insight does this show? Duty is a good thing, but that is the wrong motivation here. Re-run the film. The better answer is “it’s my pleasure. I couldn’t help myself. Buying flowers for you makes me happy.” Never would she say to this “all you ever think about is your own happiness; all you think about is yourself.” Why wouldn’t she say that? If you get that, you get this message. She wouldn’t say that for this simple reason: when I say the words to her “there is nothing I would rather do than be with you,” she is honored. And so is God when we follow him because there is nothing we would rather have than him.
So I close with this concluding word: Your identity, and my identity, is that we are creatures of God with a nature to image God and display his greatness and beauty and worth, and now we’ve seen that he’s designed us to find that in all we do by finding our supreme satisfaction in him.
You will know you have become whom you’ve been designed to be if you find so much satisfaction in God that as you try to bring other people into it, even in the midst of the greatest sacrifices, you say “gain.”