Back in 2008, Dr. Piper said this:
Catch on to the affectional nature of Christianity, conversion. It is not merely a decision to believe a fact. It is a heart treasuring Christ and His glory more than football, sex, money, power, play, toys. You gotta make this an issue Sunday after Sunday so that they feel scared that they're not saved.And as I read the path of destruction at my blog, some parts of the internet sort of lost it over that very transparent statement.
You know, I think some pastors are so afraid that somebody might walk up at the end of the service and say, "you really jostled my assurance this morning." If we don't -jostle- people's assurance when they're not saved, we send them to hell.
We must preach in such a way so that people can test -- Test Yourself! 2 Cor 13:5 says, "test yourself to see if you are in the faith". Well, one of the tests is do you love Football more than you love Jesus? Do you love Golf more than you love Christ? What does your heart say about Christ? Late at night, all alone, in front of an internet screen, mouse ready to click, what does your heart say about Christ over pornography?
What Dr. Piper did not say is that people should walk around the world wondering if they are saved or not – which is the impression one gets when one views that one sentence out of context, and is the impression guys like Sled Dog are giving in the meta.
Dr. Piper's point is the wholly-scriptural point that the believer is called to test himself, and see if the faith which he claims he has is a faith which is changing him. As someone pointed out in the meta, it's a matter of knowing by one's fruits what kind of branch one is.
But apparently that's out of line. Some will call it legalism, and others will call it "works-based faith", and some will simply turn their noses up at the idea that people ought to have a little bit of concern over whether what they say is actually what they mean. You know: when I say that I am a child of the living God, adopted into His Household rather than left for punishment where I belong – and that, bought at the price of the blood of God's one and only son – maybe I should act like that really happened and not like it's a political slogan, a talking point, or a t-shirt.
Maybe I should act like there's a real God who really did this stuff and I'm, at least, grateful.
Moses said it this way:
- And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.[Deu 6, ESV]
It's Moses who starts that crazy idea that men owe their affections to God, and Jesus signs off on it.
So when Dr. Piper said that people who love football more than they love God might not have faith in the savior of men, maybe what he means is that Moses knew something about faith in God which the rest of us would do well to reconsider.
Listen: Hosea knew a little bit about love, and God told him to say this --
- For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
God doesn’t want your penance, or your religious work, or your bulls and sheep and rams: God wants your love, dude. And love, it turns out, is not a fruity emotional cocktale – even in that little snippet from John Piper which is getting so many angry eyebrows this week. Setting our affections on God is not the same thing as sending Him a Valentines Card every day.
But here's the thing: that troublemaker Jesus was also on about how our affections relate to our standing before God. There are a couple of places I think this is demonstrated pretty clearly, but here's one that is simply to obvious to ignore.
- Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. [ESV, Mat 6]
Where your -treasure- is, there your -heart- will be. Jesus' words here say explicitly that your treasure -shows- where your heart is.
Think about this: if Donald Trump, who is a billionaire egoist, drove through your town and stopped at your house because he saw your posts on my blog, and he rang the doorbell, invited himself in, and handed you the closing papers on your house, the title for your car, and receipts for 10 years worth of utilities to your house paid in advance, what kind of person would you be?
That is, what would you feel? You'd feel something – maybe stunned at first, or embarrassed. But my guess is that you'd feel grateful. You'd feel grateful – and then the question is what to do about that.
And what Piper is asking here, exhorting here, is that Christ has done more for you than the billionaire egoist can do for you, and if you don't feel grateful, maybe you haven't really received the gift. It could be other things – maybe you haven’t considered the gift; maybe you haven’t examined the gift. But to do those things, you have to be somehow awakened to the fact that you ought to make sure you received the gift.
You know, I drove my first car for 14 years, and the morning it wouldn’t start anymore I was a little put out, but a couple of weeks later my wife bought me my new car. And you know something? Every time I get in it, I wonder if it's really mine, and if I deserve it, and if I will take care to show that I am grateful. Not to the car: to my wife – even though I'm the breadwinner in the house. And for the record, I thank God for his generosity that I have it.
For a car. How much more should we think that way about our salvation? And why on Earth would anyone think that challenging people to examine whether or not they are still grateful, and whether that gratitude has any spiritual bearing on them, is wrong? It's not hardly wrong.
Think about who you are this weekend. Be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day and let your assurance be challenged – because unless your assurance is changing you, unless it is putting your treasure in things which cannot rust and thieves cannot steal, you have a false assurance.