Tuesday, March 20, 2012

God's Self-Centeredness is Righteousness

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I've been reading and studying John Piper's The Pleasures of God with my small group. When Desiring God recently closed up their store and offloaded their inventory for cheap, we each picked up a package of the book, 10-session DVD, and DVD study guide. As a group for the past 4 weeks we've been reading the book (independently), watching the DVD together, and discussing each session from the study guide. Even though I haven't yet finished the book (I'm almost there) and our group is only halfway through the DVD sessions, this is one book that already becoming a book that is radically shaping my mind and relationship with God.

In last week's lesson, Piper discussed God's Delight in His Glory. He explained how one of God's greatest delights is to make His character public - that is, for the world to see and experience Him. This public display of God's name is how Piper describes "glory" in this study. Specifically, Piper talked about how God goes about achieving this public display of His worth, and how He could never do it any other way or for any other purpose because that would be contrary to His nature and ultimately give glory to another (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11).

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The example He concluded this session with was regarding salvation. He argued that God chose to save us in order to maintain a pure reputation ("name"), and that in doing this He seeks His own glory. By dying Himself for our sins, God does several important things:

He satisfies His justice. We all know this one. Our sins are deserving of death but God, in His mercy and patience, has not given us what we deserve. Instead, He has laid all His wrath on His own Son who the punishment on our behalf. Jesus' sinless life was undeserving of death, but He willingly took the blame to satisfy God's wrath in executing justice. As a result, the scales have been balanced once again and God remains sovereign.

He expresses His love. This one is not new, either. In satisfying justice, God also expressed His great love for us by sending His Son to die on our behalf so that we would not (for we could not live His perfect life). Not only did God avert justice from us (mercy), but He imputed to us Jesus' righteousness (grace), an expression of His great love. Through Christ's life, death, and resurrection, He was motivated by the Father's love and directs us to do the same.

He displays His glory. This public process of incarnation, justice, and redemption puts God's character on display as worthy of our trust, praise, and greatest worship. This is what God was ultimately seeking - for us to see, know, experience, and live in His glory. He founded it in the events surrounding the cross, and invites us to never leave them until He returns once for all to satisfy complete restoration - eternal glory.

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He secures our hope. Because God redeemed us, He deserves high praise. But Piper takes it further. Because God did so to protect His own reputation and not for us, that redemption and salvation is built upon an unshakable foundation. Think about it! If He had done it for us, He would be saying we were worthy of such action, in essence giving His glory away. Glory to God that He did not! By doing it for His own name's sake, He upheld His character and secured for us a hope that cannot be deterred. Therefore, it is righteous that God is self-centered (though not in the fallible way we are).

So there it is. I've felt this in my deepest heart and in my soul, but never had words to pinpoint or express it until now. John Piper illuminated this great truth, communicating clearly that the story of the earth and all its history is not about people but about God; we simply get to experience His glory and participate in the joy of His salvation. In a sense, we are merely hired actors in God's great stageplay to act out His love that overflows like a fountain. And yet I still find myself surprised, as if God could do it any other way (I guess that's the difference between God and people, and why He is holy - set apart in a category all on His own). No, He assuredly cannot. He can only be who He is, act only within His character, and do it all only to pursue His own glory. He is the most fitting beloved we could ever imagine or desire, and He is readily available to all.

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