Piper is on familiar territory tonight with the talk titled “Don’t Waste Your Life” – which, if you’ve come in late, is the title of one of his most popular books. There are 3,300 people in da house.
Colin Buchanan kicks off proceedings with a little bit of 10,9,8, the Isaiah 53:6 Sheep Rap, the song Be Strong and Courageous, and Real Hope. Which is a sensational song. He closes with a sing along to There is A Redeemer.
John opens in prayer. Pleads that none of us will waste our lives, which are rushing away. We only have one.
In seventeen days we mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. 157 people died on the two planes that crashed into the towers. 2595 people died when the towers collapsed. The third plane killed almost two hundred people at the Pentagon.
2986 people died in a matter of hours. Two years later there was an earthquake in Iraq and ten times that number died in one night. And then there was a tsunami that killed ten times that ten times in one night. Two weeks ago a helicopter with 31 soldiers on it was shot down by a “lucky shot” in Afganistan. Yesterday 11 people burned to death in an incredibly painful and tragic house fire. We would be stunned speechless if we were made to watch the car accidents that kill 50,000 people every year in America. Lest we think these are unusual statistics, 50 million people die every year in the world. 100 every minute. What does Jesus want us to learn about our lives from that?
Particularly from yesterday’s fire. What is Brisbane supposed to hear from that?
Jesus answer to that question is found in Luke 13. If a news reporter was to ask Jesus as one asked John “where was God” as they did after a bridge collapse a couple of years ago, this is what Jesus would say…
” 1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.””
The key is that last bit. We know that Jesus feels pain, and weeps, with compassion. You’re in trouble if your first answer is analytical. But after a few days sympathy won’t cut it anymore and we want answers. We need something concrete to stand on.
The astonishment we feel in the face of calamity is astonishment about the wrong thing. We should be astonished that we live while others die. The astonishing thing isn’t that people die from horrible stuff, that’s not the astonishing thing in a world of hell deserving sinners. The astonishing thing is that the roof in our building hasn’t collapsed.
Until we are amazed that we are alive. And breathing. Until that’s our paradigm, we won’t comprehend the gospel. We won’t understand what life is about.
God is setting the stage in these things to make sense out of life. All life hangs by a thread of grace. We have no control about whether our heart keeps beating. None. God does. He wants us to feel utterly and totally dependant on him and his grace. God owns us. We are not our own, we belong to him by virtue of him having brought us into being. We know we’re more than chemicals and matter and energy. There’s something more that chemicals. Love. Hate. Deep sacrifice. We know that these things are more than chemicals. It’s an awesome thing to be a human being. An unspeakably great thing. To be a human being. And God owns us and decides what the wasted and unwasted life is.
Job had ten children. It wasn’t a fire, but it might as well have been. It wasn’t 11. There were 10. And they were precious. And a wind came, and they were all dead.
John talks about a sudden wind at a sports event.
He plugs his son’s blog. Where he saw it. John tweeted “save your OMGs for the brink of eternity.” In a situation where an incredible burst of God’s power occurs it’s an appropriate response.
Job acknowledges that in God’s hand is life. The life of every living thing. The breath of all mankind.
We belong to God by right of creation. He made us. We hang by a thread of grace. Whether we live through hearing this message will depend entirely on God. James 4 – our lives are vapour, our plans are not our own – we should rather say “if the Lord wills” – it is arrogant to speak otherwise. It is arrogant to say “I’m going to Sydney tomorrow morning”… unless implicit in our thoughts/soul is “if the Lord wills it”.
If this ceiling collapsed and we all perished – God has done nobody wrong. He owns our lives totally. He can take our lives any time he pleases. If we take one another’s lives the injustice isn’t that we’ve taken life from each other, but that God has rights over our lives and we dare not touch it. God decides. Abortion is wrong. He just threw that in there.
If God sends his son into the world to die, to rise again – what’s it for – we don’t want to waste it. We don’t want to throw it away. Jesus is jealous that we not waste our one life. Our lives that are going very fast. The older you get the faster it rushes by. John says he “joins Jesus in not wanting to waste his life” – our lives don’t consist in the abundance of our possessions. It’s really not about what we own and what we strive to own.
The pursuit of possessions ends in frustration because of the impending reality of death. Laying up treasure for ourselves, without being rich towards God, is foolishness. John thinks this means you’re a fool if you treasure up the world and don’t count God as your riches, as your treasures.
Our foolishness, twin foolishness, is forsaking God (one) and his provision of life, for our own creation (two) that doesn’t compare or bring life.
“If anyone would come to me let him deny himself and take up his cross”
We might gain the whole world. But in the end, it’s over.
Have you ever known anybody that on their deathbed was heartened and made hopeful by the size of their bank account. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way. It just seems to work that way when you’re healthy. A life devoted to amassing stuff is a life wasted.
“Only one life, twill soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Piper is old and scared of wasting his life. He’s old enough to be our father. He wants us saved, our generation, and he would die for it. Our culture is geared to retirement and play. Buying a comfortable retirement. Collect shells. It’s a waste. He pulls out the “look at my shell collection” line. People laugh.
Fool. Don’t waste your life. Some of us will die young. In this room. And the onus is on us not to waste whatever life we have remaining.
This is the key juncture of this message… what does the unwasted life look like?
What does it mean not to waste our lives?
Philippians 1: The unwasted life is the life devoted to displaying the worth of Jesus in everything we do and say. God created this world in order that we might be so satisfied in him that we display to the world his glory. And our part of the bargain is everlasting joy and satisfaction. Life is about his worth, not our worth. Our life consists of displaying his worth – our created job, as the image of God, is to be the image of the one we’re the image of. We are designed to live so as to be so completely satisfied in who he is that our lives reflect that value. That’s what the unwasted life does. It falls so in love with God, and all that he is in Jesus, that when it lives it magnifies his worth.
Philippians 1:20 – “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. ”
This is a charter for life. John prefers “magnified” to “exalted”… you can magnify something in two ways. With a microscope and a telescope. The question is how we “magnify” Christ. A microscope takes something really small and makes it bigger than it is. To think of Christ that way is blasphemous. We’re doing what telescopes do – telescopes take things, stars or galaxies, things that look tiny to us, but they’re not tiny. A telescope makes these things look much more like they are. Or closer to how they are.
People in our cities give Jesus zero attention. Jesus is tiny in Brisbane. The point of living is to live so that Jesus doesn’t look tiny to people. That’s how we magnify him.
Whatever gain we have we count them as lost, in order that we might gain Christ.
You make Christ look valuable by living in a way that shows you prefer him to everything else. Everything else is rubbish compared to him. That’s how you make him magnificent. By valuing him above all other things.
We eat food in a way that shows Christ is more precious than food.
We use our house, our possessions, our computers, in a way that shows that Christ is more valuable than our stuff.
This is the core principle. We waste our lives if we use our stuff in a way that people would say we value it more than we value Jesus.
Paul says this magnification happens whether by life or by death. Christ can be seen as magnificent if in our dying we are counting it as gain. If we see being with Christ as being better than with our wife, our friends, our retirement. It’s infinitely better to be with Christ.
In death we lose everything in this world. And all we get is Jesus. And if at that moment there is a heart expression, as you’re in the hospital, “gain”… the nurses will know that to you, at least, Christ is magnificent.
That’s what the unwasted life looks like, magnifying the worth of Jesus.
Life and death are given to us.
For the purpose of displaying the supreme value of Christ in life and death.
The supreme value of life is displayed when we treasure Jesus above what life can offer and take. Either we aren’t scared of losing our possessions, or we’re using them for his gain. The challenge of the Christian life is to use our lives for his gain (the meaning of 1 Corinthians 7 might hang on this…). We should work hard at marriage, and at work, but there should be something in the way we hold these things that doesn’t look like the way the world clutches at them.
Treasuring him above all things is most seen when we are seen to be gladly willing to live or die for Jesus.
There’s a contrast in the way Paul approaches the thorn in his flesh and the way the typical secular Australian responds… “your power is shown to be great in my weakness, therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ might rest upon me.”
The point of life is not to be rid of thorns. There’s heaps of thorns in this life. There’ll be more tsunamis. More earthquakes. More death. We don’t live for that. We live for making much of Christ. Magnifying the surpassing power of Christ and his glory in our weakness.
What Australia needs. according to Piper, is 3,000 people whose worlds have seriously been turned upside down by Jesus Christ. So what we’re willing to lose, and striving to gain, has been turned upside down by the gospel.
Australia is a secular land. But a reached land. There are lots of cultures and places that are unreached. Almost all the places left to be reached don’t want us to come. They’re happy in their own religions. And that has zero to do with whether we should go. Paul wasn’t really welcomed anywhere. Paul went anyway. Even when he knew he was going to cop it.
John’s plea is that we see the example of Christ… who came, lived, died and was raised. In an unwasted life.
Jesus claim that he lays down his life, and takes it back up (John 10) is one of John Piper’s favourites, a magnificent thing.
Our aim is that before the judgment throne God doesn’t say “fool” but “well done, good and faithful servant.”
And we’re done.