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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

He Loved Me and Gave Himself for Me

by John Piper | July 30, 2013

I want believers in Christ to enjoy being loved by God to the greatest degree possible. 

And I want God to be magnified to the greatest degree possible for loving us the way he does. This is why it matters to me what Jesus really accomplished for us when he died.

There is a common way of thinking about Christ’s death that diminishes our experience of his love. 
It involves thinking that the death of Christ expressed no more love for me than for anyone else in the human race. 
If that’s the way you think about God’s love for you in the death of Jesus, you will not enjoy being loved by God as greatly as you really are.

Feeling Specially Loved by God

I wonder if you have ever felt especially loved by God because of Ephesians 2:4–5? “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
Six things stand out here in Ephesians 2:4–5.

1. The phrase “great love.”

“Because of the great love with which he loved us.” That phrase is used only here in the New Testament. Let it sink in. God loves his own with a “great love.” Surely Paul writes this so that we will enjoy being greatly loved.

2. The peculiar greatness of this love that moves God to “make us alive.”

Because of the great love with which he loved us, God made us alive.” His great love is the cause of our life. Our life did not cause the greatness of his love for us. It’s the other way around. The greatness of his love made us alive.

3. Before he made us alive, we were “dead.”

“Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive.” 
There is such a thing as the living dead. Jesus said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60). 
Before God made us alive, we were the living dead.

We could breathe and think and feel and will. But we were spiritually dead
We were blind to the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3–4); we were stone-hearted to his law and could not submit to him (Ephesians 4:18; Romans 8:7–8); and we were not able to discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14). 
Only God could overcome this deadness so that we could see the glory of Christ and believe (2 Corinthians 4:6). 
That’s what he did when he “made us alive” (Ephesians 2:5).

4. God does not make everyone alive.

What happened to you, to bring you to faith, has not happened to everyone. 
And remember, you don’t deserve to be made alive. 
You were dead. You were “by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). 
You did not do anything to move God to make you alive. That’s what it means to be dead.

5. Therefore, God’s great love for you is really for you, particularly for you.

It is not a general love for everyone. 
Otherwise, everyone would be spiritually alive. 
He chose specifically to make you alive. 
You did not deserve this any more than anyone else. 
But for unfathomable reasons, he set his great love particularly on you.

6. He has wronged no one. For no one deserves to be saved.

No one deserves to be made alive. We have all sinned and deserve death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). He could have left all of us in the deadness of our rebellion, and done no wrong.

But if you have seen the wisdom of his cross, and trusted his promise, and treasured his glory, he has made you alive. 
Unlike many others, no more dead than you, you have been greatly loved.

The Special Love of the New Covenant

Now here is the connection with the death of Christ. 
When Jesus died, he secured for us the removal of our deadness, and purchased for us the gift of life and faith. 
In other words, God’s “great love” could make us alive, because in Christ that same great love had provided the punishment of all our sins and the provision of all our righteousness.

We know this because Jesus said at the Last Supper, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). 
The blood of Jesus is the price God paid to establish the new covenant. 
And the new covenant, at its heart, is God’s securing, by the blood of Jesus, living hearts for dead sinners.

“I will make a new covenant. . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31, 34). 
“I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
 “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezekiel 36:27).

Jesus Purchased the Activation

This is what Jesus bought for us when he died. 
And this is what the great love of God did for us when he made us alive in Christ Jesus. 
Therefore, God’s specific purpose in the death of Jesus was not the same for everyone. 
The great love of God, shown for you in the death of Jesus, was the purchase of your faith when you were dead.

He did not merely purchase the possibility of your life that you then would activate. 
Dead people don’t activate. 
What he purchased was the activation. 
Christ did not purchase the possibility for you to raise yourself from the dead. 
He purchased your resurrection. 
Because of a great love for you in particular.

Feel the Greatness of His Love for You

So when Ephesians 2:4–5 says, “Because of the great love with which he loved us, God made us alive,” and Luke 22:20 says, the blood of Jesus establishes the new covenant, and Ezekiel 11:19 says that in the new covenant God gives us living hearts, we know that the blood-shedding of Jesus was an expression of the great love that made us alive.

Whatever else the death of Christ does or is, it is not less than this. 
And this is what I want every believer to enjoy. 
The great love of God for you is not the same as the love he has for the whole human race. 
The love God has for you moved him to make you alive when you could do nothing to make yourself alive. 
And that same love moved him to purchase your life by the death of his Son.

So when you say with the apostle Paul, “He loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20), feel the greatness of the words, “He loved me.” 

He loved me.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Your Hope Is As Alive As Jesus


Hope can be a very dangerous thing. Your greatest wounds may be tied to unrealized dreams or unexpected disappointments. 
Unfortunately, the daily and worldly hopes we know in this life create some category confusion when it comes to our hope in Christ.

Peter’s first letter is written to Christians in conflict. Since following Jesus, they have not found the peace or safety or prosperity or relief that they might have expected. 
This world and their lives continue to be marred by inconvenience, disease, disappointment, persecution and even death.

They’re experiencing trials of every kind (1 Peter 1:6). Some are enduring sorrow, while suffering unjustly (2:19). 
They are receiving evil, being reviled (3:9) and slandered (3:16). They were maligned (4:4) and insulted (4:14). 
And these sufferings were common “throughout the world” (5:9). 
There’s suffering on every page of the book, and that is the scary, uncertain, painful context into which Peter speaks hope.

Hope for the Heartbreaks

As a follower of Christ, this life will not be easy or comfortable, but it will be real and full and lasting. 
Jesus says follow me and you will find inexpressible and glorious joy despite and even in really hard, bitter, heart-breaking, even excruciating moments and realities in your life.

The letter begins, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3–5).

The first note Peter strikes is one of praise. Blessed be the life-giving, death-defying, overpowering God of absolutely miraculous mercy. 
If you believe and follow Jesus, you will face really difficult — maybe even more difficult — things in this life, but the God who raises the dead is your God and he’s with you. 
God has given you a new, true, full life through his Son, Jesus. And the life he gives is filled with an unconquerable, unquenchable hope.

A Hope That Always Comes True

God has caused us to be born again to a living hope, a hope which Peter makes deliberately distinct from a lot of the other hopes we’ve known. We hope all the time, and we’re often disappointed. 
I hope I get an A on that test. I hope they hire me. I hope she says yes. I hope we can get a new car. I hope he remembers our anniversary. Our hopes don’t always come true.

This is not the kind of hope we have in God. 
Our hope in God is unlike any we’ve ever had, and that is because there is a moment in history that sets this hope apart from any other.

Peter writes, “…he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” The tomb could not hold the living, breathing, scarred, but victorious body of our Jesus. 
The man who claimed to be God, who committed no sin (2:22), and who died before hostile crowds, appeared again, just days later, before crowds bearing the wounds of the cross, but demonstrating a power and victory over it. He is alive.

And here in verse 3, Peter connects this life, the God-man’s life after death, witnessed by hundreds, celebrated at Easter, with your hope. 
Believer, if Jesus lives, you will live. God established and secured your hope when he raised his Son. Therefore, your hope is as alive as Jesus.

A Test You Can Trust

You’re going to be tempted to assess God’s faithfulness to deliver you by your circumstance, but the better test is the man standing beside the rolled away boulder, a place where angels say, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? … Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen.”

When everyone who had followed Jesus watched him suffer and die, they thought their hope had been crucified with him. 
But our hope did not die at Calvary. No, at the darkest moment of all, when defeat seemed certain, God was sealing our hope, enthroning it for all eternity in his Son.

As painful and heartbreaking as some of our days have been and will be, none will come close to the day we crucified the Lord. 
And yet even in that scene, God was big and strong and wise and merciful and present — he was there — bringing about his plan to save us and secure our hope forever.

When Our Flesh Fails, We Won’t

So when our flesh finally succumbs to death, when our body ultimately fails us by whatever means and at whatever age, the living Jesus assures us that we will live — and that we’ll live like never before. 
Our lives then and there with Jesus will be more full, more glorious — complete.

When life gives you pause about God’s goodness and faithfulness — when people fail and hurt you, when work oppresses you, when finances plague you, when you are rejected or offended because of your faith, when tornadoes tear through a town… more than once — we have a picture, better, a person, a living Jesus, who can still our hearts and instill trust and courage where fear, and doubt, and confusion have crept in. 

As long as Jesus lives — and he will never die again — and our hope is in him, our hope lives with him.

by Marshall Segal  | July 8, 2013

Marshall Segal (@MarshallSegal) is executive assistant to John Piper, a recent graduate of Bethlehem Seminary in Minneapolis, and author of  Single, Satisfied, and Sent: Mission for the Not-Yet Married.