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By John Piper — 4 months ago
We have a big week ahead because today we launch week number five hundred on the podcast. That is incredible. That’s a lot of sustaining grace, and not possible without you. So thanks for your prayers, support, questions, and listens. We don’t take any of this for granted. Thanks for listening while you wait in airport terminals, ride in subways, do your daily mundane chores (dishes, laundry, walking the dog), drive to work, or shuffle your kids around town, or even listen through your iPhone speakers at the end of your day. However and whenever you listen, thank you for making this podcast a part of your busy life — now for five hundred weeks.
We begin week number five hundred with a question from a listener named Joe. “Pastor John, hello and thank you for this podcast. What would you say is the difference between the kind of love that is produced in the Christian’s heart for others through the new birth (1 John 4:7; 1 Peter 1:22–23), compared to the charitable and often self-sacrificial love that we often see demonstrated in the world among non-Christians? How would you explain this difference?”
The difference between secular love and Christian love is that secular love is not rooted in the cross of God’s Son, and is not sustained and shaped by the power of God’s Spirit, and is not acted for the glory of God the Father. So the source of it is different, the sustaining power of it is different, and the goal of it is different. Let’s think about each of these one at a time and see if we can fill it out.
Rooted in the Cross
First, there’s a different source of these two loves. First John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” And how did he first love us? Well, John says in 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” So, Christian love is rooted in Christ’s sacrifice for me and for you.
By this our sins are forgiven. We’re justified, accepted, and loved by God. We have the hope that everything in life will work together for our good and bring us to everlasting joy, so that fear and greed, the great barriers to love, are taken away as we trust what God is for us in Christ. When Paul calls Christians to have compassion in Colossians 3:12, he prefaces that command with three identifiers of who we are. He says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts.”
Now, this is the root of the source of compassion. God chose me. God consecrated me — made me holy, set me apart for himself. God loves me. And all of this is provided for us because of Christ’s death in our place. There is no other way. That death for us provided the hope from which love flows. Colossians 1:4 says, “We heard . . . of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” That hope is purchased by Jesus on the cross.
Christ’s death also provided the joy from which love flows. Second Corinthians 8:2 says, “In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” In other words, joy overflows in love. Christian love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others, and that joy is a blood-bought joy from the death of Jesus.
So, the first difference between secular love and Christian love is that our love is rooted in and is the overflow of the work of Christ and its effects in our lives.
Shaped by the Spirit
Second, Christian love is sustained and shaped by the work of God’s Spirit, where secular love isn’t. Paul calls it the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22. It is the Spirit that takes the death of Christ, causes it to be real for us, and gives us new hearts so that the death of Christ has a love-producing effect on us. First John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” Love in our lives is the evidence that the Spirit of God has brought us from death to life.
“Love in our lives is the evidence that the Spirit of God has brought us from death to life.”
The Spirit not only gives us life at the beginning of our Christian walk (in the new birth), but he sustains our faith and life as we go along, moment by moment depending on his power so that we can make the sacrifices necessary that love demands. It’s the Holy Spirit that sustains our faith so that we can continually lay hold of the promises of God for hope, for joy that frees us for love.
We could go on and on about how the Spirit forms and sustains our capacities to love by overcoming the great love killers of fear and greed and selfishness; by directing our hearts over and over again to the truth of God’s commands and promises, where we get the wisdom and boldness we need to love; and by humbling our pride so that we don’t need to be somebody, and instead, we can take thought for the interests of others and not just our own — and on and on. The work of the Spirit sustains and shapes Christian love, but not the love of the world.
Aimed at Glory
Third and finally, Christian love has a different goal — not an entirely different goal, but a radically different goal. It’s not entirely different from the unbeliever who loves. It’s not entirely different because secular love often aims at the physical and emotional and psychological and relational and economic well-being of other people. And Christians care about these things. There’s overlap. But when Christians ask, “What is good for people in all those areas — what’s really good?” the answer is always essentially different from the answer of secular people, because for Christians what’s good for human beings is always defined so as to include their relationship to God in Christ.
What is good for people is that they trust Christ, depend on his Spirit, walk in obedience, and live for the glory of God. Therefore, when Christians talk about seeking the physical good of a person, for example, we do so in the hope that they will experience this physical good as a gift of God and receive it in the name of Jesus and rely on the Holy Spirit to use it for his glory. If all those Godward dimensions are missing, our love is falling short of its goal, and we grieve.
“Christian love is keenly aware that life on earth is a vapor followed by an eternity.”
Christian love is keenly aware that life on earth is a vapor followed by an eternity either of exquisite happiness in the presence of God or eternal suffering cut off from his presence. And therefore, Christians care about all suffering, but especially eternal suffering. The Bible tells us to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), so we should love people for the glory of God.
Love That Enthralls
And when someone asks, “Is it truly love for a person if we are motivated by the hope that God will be glorified through our love for this person?” I know people ask that question. I’ve heard it recently. And the answer is yes, it is love — the greatest love.
The reason the answer is yes — it is love when you love someone in order that God would be glorified — goes like this: Love is doing whatever it takes to enthrall the beloved with the greatest and longest happiness, even if it costs you your life. And what will enthrall the beloved with the greatest and longest happiness is the glory of God — all that God is for them in Jesus. Therefore, love for people means doing all we can at whatever cost to ourselves — like Jesus did — to help people be enthralled with the glory of God now and forever.
When they are enthralled with all that God is for them in Jesus, then they are satisfied fully and forever, and God is glorified in their being satisfied in him. That’s what makes us tick at Desiring God — this glorious, profound biblical insight. Therefore, loving people and glorifying God are not alternatives. They’re not at odds. They are profoundly one thing.
So, in those three ways, Christian love is different from secular love. They have a different source (the death and resurrection of Christ), a different sustaining power (the work of the Holy Spirit), and a different goal (full and everlasting joy in God).
By John Piper — 5 months ago
http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/15397780/are-silvanus-and-timothy-apostlesPost Views: 175
By Marshall Segal — 9 months ago
I can remember exactly where I was sitting, wrestling with guilt and shame and regret over failed relationships and sexual sin, wondering if I would ever overcome my broken history, when a friend recited Micah 7:8–9 from memory:
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise;when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him,until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.
God pleads my cause. The one I betrayed kneeled down to appeal for me. His gavel landed, not on me, but on his Son. Having lived and hidden in darkness, I found a home in the light. The purity I thought I had lost was now suddenly and undeservedly possible.
As we raise up younger men in the church, and encourage them toward becoming men of God, how can we call them into the kind of freedom and purity God gave me in Christ?
Set an Example in Purity
Of course, raising up godly men is about far more than sexual purity. A man of God is more than his self-control in dating relationships. He’s more than his last Internet accountability report — far more. When grace grips a man, it more than curbs his lust for porn; it lights fires for good under every area of his life. And so, young men need strong, dynamic, ambitious pictures of what they might become in Christ.
Fortunately, God gives us plenty of great lessons on manhood in his word. First Timothy 4:12 has become one especially concise and compelling picture for me:
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
The apostle Paul gives Timothy, his son in the faith, five cues for spiritual growth and development. The areas are not exclusive to men, but they are each critical for godly men. Each of those five words is a battlefield to be won, and each can become its own stronghold for holiness. Do this man’s conversations consistently say he belongs to God? Does his lifestyle set him apart from the unbelieving? Is he a man of surprising and sacrificial love? Does he fight for faith in the trenches of temptation and doubt? Is he pure?
In previous articles, we looked more closely at the first four — speech, conduct, love, and faith. Here we turn to purity, the area that may receive the most attention in young men’s discipleship (often for good reason), and yet often in ways that miss the heart of Christian purity.
In All Purity
First, what kind of purity did the apostle have in mind? The only other use of this Greek word in the New Testament — agneia — comes just one chapter later in the same letter:
Encourage [an older man] as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1–2)
This suggests the purity Paul had in mind was sexual purity — a broad and consistent holiness that marks all of Timothy’s relationships with his sisters in Christ. Purity is bigger and wider than personal sexual morality, but sex and sexuality (then and certainly now) play a major role in setting followers of Christ apart from the world. Man of God, as you encourage younger women in the church, do so with purity. Don’t talk, behave, or daydream in ways that make them vulnerable to serve your lusts. Put to death sexual immorality within you (Colossians 3:5). Flee from sexual temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18). Treat young women with the respect and concern with which you would treat your own sisters — because they are (Matthew 12:50).
“Be the safest man on earth for a young woman to meet.”
And not just purity, Timothy, but all purity. Don’t treat women just slightly better than men in the world do, but wholly differently. When other men flirt with ambiguous messages and signals, be surprisingly clear and honest. When other men secretly gratify their lusts, make moments alone a training ground for self-control. When other men dishonor themselves and others through sexual sin, be a man who loves to honor and protect women. Don’t look for the lowest bar to crawl over, but be ambitiously pure — love any women God has put in your life with all purity. Be the safest man on earth for a young woman to meet.
‘Husband of One Wife’
Earlier in his letter to the younger Timothy, the apostle gives at least one other glimpse into how godly men relate to sex and sexuality.
When he names qualifications for pastor-elders, the majority of the list simply pictures a normal godly man, whether he ever serves in church office or not. He must be “sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, . . . not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2–3). These qualities mark every mature man who follows Jesus. And according to that same list, such a man is also “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2).
Now, Paul did not mean that an elder could not be single. Paul himself was unmarried, after all, and he was not only an elder, but an apostle. No, more fundamentally, this is a way of saying men of God are to be sexually pure. They are men, whether married or not, who refuse to indulge themselves sexually (in thought or action or suggestion) with any woman but their wife. “The husband of one wife” (literally, “one-woman man”) is a concise way of saying, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4).
So, do our thoughts and hands and clicks honor the spiritual wonder and purity of marriage? Or, when asked by God himself to stand guard along the walls around the marriage bed, have we instead gone missing? Worse, have we turned and fired the arrows he gave us against him and the women he has made? Have we indulged lustful thoughts, lengthy glances, wicked searches, sensual touching, sexual impatience, and self-gratification? Have we used God’s gift of sex to assault the hands that gave it?
Purity Tells the Story
Why would men of God be “the husband of one wife”? Because God has made marriage and sex an unusually compelling way of drawing attention to Christ and his love for his bride, the church.
It’s not the only way, by any means. Jesus himself never married. And single believers in Jesus often experience more of Jesus than married believers do (1 Corinthians 7:35). But from the beginning, God has joined one man with one woman, for one lifetime, to tell the world physically and relationally (though certainly imperfectly) about the depth and duration of his love for us (Ephesians 5:31–32). The fire in a new husband’s eyes is a flicker of the roaring flames in heaven. The brilliance of a bride, wrapped and radiant in white, is a glimmer of what it means for the church to be chosen, wooed, won, and made pure.
And so how men (and women!) treat sex and sexuality, whether married or not, sheds light on Christ for all to see, or obscures and slanders him. The world has found countless ways to distort, abuse, and vandalize God’s masterpiece, but the added darkness has served to make true purity a brighter and clearer picture of reality. Few phenomena are more spiritually revealing and provocative today than a man who consistently denies his sinful flesh and makes war against sexual temptation. It will make him an alien in the eyes of the world — and a king in the eyes that matter most.
Purity for Sexual Failures
What if we’ve already failed sexually? What if we’ve already spurned purity and fired our arrows back at God? Have we been dishonorably discharged and forever branded with our worst thoughts and actions? Is sexual purity possible for sexual failures?
It is — and I should know. Pornography and sexual immorality plagued me for years, even after coming to know Jesus. I know what it looks like to fire arrows at God because I was often pointing the bow. Sexual repentance, to my shame, was a decade-long war. I indulged desires outside of marriage that were meant to lead me to a bride. I flirted and dodged and disappeared in dating. I dishonored sisters in Christ, women whom Jesus had bought with his blood and who had entrusted themselves to me, a brother. With my thoughts and hands and clicks, I slandered the Lion of Judah and concealed his wondrous cross. I squandered opportunity after opportunity to be the man I knew God wanted me to be.
But God pled my cause. He brought me out into the light. After I had fired my arrows against him, he intervened and took my thorns, my nails, my wrath. “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience” (1 Timothy 1:16). By his grace, he forgave what I had done, and by that same grace, he trained my hands, my thoughts, my words for good. He made a once impure man pure — not perfectly, but genuinely.
“Stories of sexual brokenness have their own way of honoring the worth of Christ and his cross.”
Stories of sexual brokenness have their own way of honoring the worth of Christ and his cross. God wired sexual purity and marital fidelity to sing the truth about Jesus — a soaring and mesmerizing melody — but he sings something just as captivating over harlots, like me, who leave our sexual sin for him.
Pure Men Move Toward Women
One more lesson from Paul’s counsel to Timothy: setting an example in sexual purity does not mean avoiding women in the church. Notice the posture in his charge to the younger man: “Encourage . . . younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1–2).
He could have said, “Play it safe and just keep your distance,” but instead he says, “Encourage younger women as sisters” — care for them like you would if they grew up next to you. Move toward them, Timothy. Look for ways to give courage — to strengthen their hearts in the Lord and their resolves to love. The picture here is the opposite of the kind of divide that can emerge between men and women in churches and ministries. To be sure, there may be certain women to avoid (Proverbs 5:3–8). Generally speaking, however, men of God do not sidestep their sisters in Christ, but engage and care for them in all purity. In other words, they treat women like Jesus did.
Safest Man for Women
When you stop to look, Jesus spends a surprising amount of time caring specifically and personally for women — in a day when these kinds of interactions were more socially scandalous. Even the disciples marveled at how he would stop and talk to women (John 4:27).
Listen to the warmth and tenderness in Jesus’s voice when a seriously ill woman grabs the edge of his garment: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (Luke 8:48). When he finds the woman at the well, with her deeply broken and painful history, he doesn’t look the other way or scramble to another well, but offers to refresh and restore her soul: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
When he saw the woman horribly disabled by a demon, he “called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’ And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God” (Luke 13:12–13). He reached out and touched her, in all purity, because that’s what a good brother would have done. When he saw a mother grieving over the death of her son, he drew near to her broken heart. “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’” (Luke 7:13).
And when he rose from the grave, what was the first name on his death-conquering lips? “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’” (John 20:16). This is the truest, most manly picture of purity the world has ever seen — a man abstaining not from his sisters, but from mistreating them or neglecting their needs. A man who consistently and profoundly encouraged women in all purity.