John Piper's "longing for our day"
What stood out to me about this conference is that it will not be remembered for any particular person. I don't know that anyone will look back and remember the words or message of one speaker far above the others. What people will remember is the collective passion for the gospel, a passion that existed not only in the hearts of the seven men who spoke, but in the 3000 who sat and listened and participated. Truly God was exalted (and exulted in) from beginning to end.Now I must humbly voice a mild disagreement with Challies. While I agree with the last half of the above statement, I do think that the message of one speaker in particular impacted those of us at the conference in an even more intense fashion than that of the other fine sermons and lectures.
The message that I am referring to is that given by John Piper on Thursday, April 27, "Preaching as Expository Exultation for the Glory of God". Previous to hearing this message, I have always been more attracted to Piper's writings (such as his books Counted Righteous in Christ and God is the Gospel, which were given away to everyone at the conference) than to his preaching. But from the very beginning of his sermon on Thursday night, Piper spoke with an obvious, intense unction from the Holy Spirit. Piper's sermon hit like a tidal wave. It was indescribable. After about ten minutes of listening open-mouthed to the onslaught, I was able to catch my breath and glance at those sitting around me. At that time I noticed all the pastors in my proximity- these men of God who had been carefully taking notes over what every speaker said in the previous sessions- had not written down a single thing Piper said. No one to that point in the sermon could think to write. We had all been sitting in near-shock at the power of the clear, forceful, passionate call to seriously magnify the glory of God through the exposition of His Word. To give a sample of the content found in Piper's sermon, I offer the following section in which Piper shares his longing for those at the conference to seriously meditate on the glory of God.
That is my longing for our day—and for you. That God would raise up thousands of broken-hearted, Bible-saturated preachers who are dominated by a sense of the greatness and the majesty and the holiness of God, revealed in the gospel of Christ crucified and risen and reigning with absolute authority over every nation and every army and every false religion and every terrorist and every tsunami and every cancer cell, and every galaxy in the universe.
God did not ordain the cross of Christ or create the lake of fire3 in order to communicate the insignificance of belittling his glory. The death of the Son of God and the damnation of unrepentant human beings are the loudest shouts under heaven that God is infinitely holy, and sin is infinitely offensive, and wrath is infinitely just, and grace is infinitely precious, and our brief life—and the life of every person in your church and in your community—leads to everlasting joy or everlasting suffering. If our preaching does not carry the weight of these things to our people, what will? Veggie Tales? Radio? Television? Discussion groups? Emergent conversations?
God planned for his Son to be crucified (Revelation 13:8; 2 Timothy 1:9) and for hell to be terrible (Matthew 25:41) so that we would have the clearest witnesses possible to what is at stake when we preach. What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of the preacher is soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed with fire of hell. That’s the mantle that turns mere talkers into preachers. Yet tragically some of the most prominent evangelical voices today diminish the horror of the cross and the horror of hell—the one stripped of its power to bear our punishment, and the other demythologized into self-dehumanization and the social miseries of this world.4
Oh that the rising generations would see that the world is not overrun with a sense of seriousness about God. There is no surplus in the church of a sense of God’s glory. There is no excess of earnestness in the church about heaven and hell and sin and salvation. And therefore the joy of many Christians is paper thin. By the millions people are amusing themselves to death with DVDs, and 107-inch TV screens, and games on their cell phones, and slapstick worship, while the spokesmen of a massive world religion write letters to the West in major publications saying, “The first thing we are calling you to is Islam . . . It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. It is the religion of jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme.”5 And then these spokesmen publicly bless suicide bombers who blow up children in front of Falafel shops and call it the way to paradise. This is the world in which we preach.
And yet incomprehensibly, in this Christ-diminishing, soul-destroying age, books and seminars and divinity schools and church growth specialists are bent on saying to young pastors, “Lighten up.” “Get funny.” “Do something amusing.” To this I ask, Where is the spirit of Jesus? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:44). “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “Some of you they will put to death . . . But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:16-19).
Would the church growth counsel to Jesus be, “Lighten up, Jesus. Do something amusing.” And to the young pastor: “Whatever you do, young pastor, don’t be like the Jesus of the Gospels. Lighten up.” From my perspective, which feels very close to eternity these days, that message to pastors sounds increasingly insane.
I encourage anyone reading this to listen to the MP3 of Piper's sermon.