Last week I wrote about living life daily and the difficulty that entails at times. I brought out the fact that Jesus said that loving God and loving others was essential to living a fulfilled life. As I tried to articulate my thoughts on ways to go about loving God and loving people, I read a devotional by John Piper from his book Life as a Vapor. I concluded that I could not say it any better and shouldn’t try. So the following is from John Piper.

HOW STRANGE AND WONDERFUL IS THE LOVE OF CHRIST

For many years I have sought to understand how the God-centeredness of God relates to His love for sinners like us. Most people do not immediately see God's passion for the glory of God as an act of love. One reason for this is that we have absorbed the world's definition of love. It says: You are loved when you are made much of.

The main problem with this definition of love is that when you try to apply it to God's love for us, it distorts reality. God's love for us is not mainly His making much of us, but His giving us the ability to enjoy making much of Him forever. In other words, God's love for us keeps God at the center. God's love for us exalts His value and our satisfaction in it. If God's love made us central and focused on our value, it would distract us from what is most precious; namely, Himself. Love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying: God. Therefore God's love labors and suffers to break our bondage to the idol of self and focus our affections on the treasure of God.

In a surprising way we can see this in the story of Lazarus' sickness and death. (Read John 11:1-6 now)

Notice these amazing things:

1. Jesus chose to let Lazarus die. There was no hurry. His intention was not to spare the family grief, but to raise Lazarus from the dead. This is true even if Lazarus was already dead when the messengers reached Jesus. Jesus either let him die or remained longer to make plain that He was in no hurry to immediately relieve the grief. Something more was driving Him.

2. He was motivated by a passion for the glory of God displayed in His own glorious power. In verse 4 He says, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

3. Nevertheless both the decision to let Lazarus die and the motivation to magnify God were expressions of love for Mary and Martha and Lazarus. John shows this by the way he connected verse 5 and 6. "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So [not "yet," which the NIV wrongly inserts] ...he stayed two days longer in the place where he was."

Oh, how many people today--even Christians--would murmur at Jesus for callously letting Lazarus die and putting him and Mary and Martha and others through the pain and misery of those days. And if people today saw that this was motivated by Jesus' desire to magnify the glory of God, how many would call this harsh or unloving? What this shows is how far above the glory of God most people value pain-free lives. For most people, love is whatever puts human value and human well-being at the center. So Jesus' behavior is unintelligible to them.

But let us not tell Jesus what love is. Let us not instruct Him how He should love us and make us central. Let us learn from Jesus what love is and what our true well-being is. Love is doing whatever you need to do to help people see and savor the glory of God in Christ forever and ever. Love keeps God central. Because the soul was made for God.

Jesus confirms that we are on the right track here by praying for us in John 17:24, "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world." I assume that this prayer is a loving act of Jesus. But what does He ask? He asks that, in the end, we might see His glory. His love for us makes Himself central. Jesus is the ONE being for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. This is because the most satisfying reality we could ever know is Jesus. So to give us this reality, He must give us Himself. The love of Jesus drives Him to pray for us, and then die for us, not that our value may be central, but that His glory may be central, and we may see it and savor it for all eternity. "Father, I desire that they...be with me...to see my glory." That is what it means for Jesus to love us. Divine love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying: God in Christ. That we might see His glory--for that He let Lazarus die, and for that He went to the cross. (Life as a Vapor, John Piper)

So we should really put some thought into this because it is central to understanding love. Genuine love puts Jesus at the center because He is the only ONE worthy of being at the center. Worthy in the sense that He is truly glorious and that the only place we are truly satisfied is seeing and savoring His glory. If that is true then do you not want those you love to understand this truth? Loving God--Loving people! Significant! Seems to be an ongoing theme! God has impressed upon me the importance of understanding this truth in order to recognize the subtle ways in which we are so vulnerable to succumbing to the need to place ourselves at the center of love. The subtle little lie that life is all about us changes our whole perspective of what’s most important. For example, the lie that the human spirit can accomplish anything we so desire. That the human spirit put us on the moon, discovered and harnessed electricity, invented internet and computer technology, and that generally the human spirit can solve all of humanity's problems. Isn't that the same lie that Satan told Adam and Eve? “You don’t need God.” In reality, life is all about God! Contemplate this for a while. Love that is not God-centered is not love. It is humanism. And humanism is godless. Or I should say it has many gods. Every person becomes his own god.

Paul stated that he was the “chief of sinners.” He was the worst of the worst. But God changed him and he recognized the very truth John Piper described about God-centered love. He stated that “by the grace of God I am what I am.” We need to trust Him that He made us the way we are and that sin (not necessarily our personal sin) but the nature of sin has corrupted (in the way a virus corrupts a computer) His plan for how He created us would function. We need to recognize that it is not supposed to be this way. But sin has corrupted everything including our ability to even recognize sin. But His grace...well His grace...is incredibly amazing. We need to learn about it. We need to live in it. And we need to share it with others. You can't fail to the point that His grace will not overcome it.

Before Jesus went in to bring Lazarus back, he wept. Why? Why? He knew what He was about to do. He knew it was for God's glory and that everyone would be praising God when He walked out with Lazarus. Why then did he weep? I think he wept because He was face to face with what the effects of sin had done to His creation. And He was experiencing it as fully human--the reality of death. Now that gives us some insight into the heart of Jesus and it certainly makes me love Him more. Who...who...could make this up? This is so contrary to our way of thinking and perceiving our environment. These truths blow me away! I try and contemplate the significance of a God-centered love and His commitment to His glory and how it changes the way I interact with God and others. It helps me keep my problems in perspective.

So I challenge you to think about what this means. It means you are loved perfectly by the One who is love, the only One that counts. You are loved enough that He allows you to experience pain so that you will see what is most important--Himself. This is tough love, love that does what is best for us even if it requires us to hurt for a bit. So trust Him because He is the only One that is trustworthy! Trust Him that He knows what He is doing with you even if He doesn't tell you right away. And that what He is doing with you is good for you. Stay focused on these truths. Everything else becomes less significant. This certainly must have been what David knew about God. It is why he was able to say "How long, Oh Lord?" And yet continue to trust Him to follow through with His plan. He never questioned God’s ability, motives, or power because He knew what God was committed to and He knew His character. We have these same truths and more.

Written by Larry Navey, L.C.P.C.