It is Christ we worship. It is Christ we long to see. It is He who animates a believer’s life and generates his strongest passions. And if that is not the case, well . . .
“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven,
with no sickness,
and with all the friends you ever had on earth,
and all the food you ever liked,
and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed,
and all the natural beauties you ever saw,
all the physical pleasures you ever tasted,
and no human conflict
or any natural disasters,
could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?
John Piper, God is the Gospel, p. 15
In the early second century, perhaps as early as A.D. 130, an anonymous disciple penned these words:
“When our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward—punishment and death—was impending over us . . . God Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities. He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal.
For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God?
O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”
There is great beauty in this early Christian’s words. You can sense both his passion for Christ and the humility of his own heart as he writes about the great exchange of our wickedness for the righteousness of Christ. He is intoxicated with Christ and the beauty of the love expressed in cross of Christ.
I remember as a young boy, sitting in the Latin mass of the Catholic Church of my early years. My mind would wander to the images of Christ hanging from a cross on the wall. I knew. I knew as I gazed at those images that no one would endure such pain and suffering for anything other than love.
And that is the challenge to preachers in our day. Do we preach clearly enough that heaven would not be heaven if Jesus was not there. Piper’s next paragraph begins with these words . . .
“And the question for Christian leaders is:
Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding No?
That question in the gray box above. Read it again. And pray that your soul would resonate with that question with a resounding No.