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A hermitudinal view of...stuff...


God's Excellency: His Love Doesn't Fail intention is for this to be the third part of my thoughts on that little John Piper blurb. What it may end up being, however, is a mishmash of my thoughts on Piper's thoughts and Ryan Fullerton's thoughts combined. Hopefully, this will make more sense at the end.

The following is an excerpt from one of Ryan's sermons from the summer of '06. I quoted it here about a month and a half ago, but for my purposes, Ryan's preaching serves better than anything I might write, so it's here again.

What failure leaves us with is love. What you're left with if you're a Christian after you've failed is love. When we fall, our self-righteousness is shot a deadly blow, right? We love to stroke our own godliness and to notice it, and to stroke our own egos, but when you've fallen in front of everybody your life ends up like a dirty diaper in the middle of the living room floor. You hardly want to pick it up and say, "This mess is my devotion to Jesus." Nobody brags about that, right? Nobody goes around talking about their pure motives when they've just been exposed for having the spirituality of an open diaper. We are laid bare. But for a believer, this is a beautiful thing, because when a believer gets re-exposed as a hollow sinner in need of a Savior, he's back to being himself! There you are with a dirty diaper of an open life, and all of a sudden, love begins to bloom there. 'Cause what are you left being? Just what you always were: a sinner, saved by a Savior; a failure who's found a Champion; someone who has no hope who's found Someone who has hope, and isn't it amazing that Peter, so boastful, so full of self-confidence, is willing to say to the Lord God Almighty, who sees everything, "You know I love you!" And he's willing to say it three times! "If there's one thing I'm sure of, I know You know I love you!" How can he be so confident? Because when you've failed and Jesus keeps coming back for you...when you've failed and fallen, and you've fallen flat on your face, and Jesus goes and dies for you, when right there, He goes and dies for you, and then He comes to bring you breakfast! You don't have anything left of yourself! You're done! But you love love Him. How could you not love Him? You know, it's a good thing to get rid of the pride and the self-reliance and the self-desire, it's a good thing to be done with me. If your failure has taught you that Jesus won't work with you, you have not failed enough! Because your failure is not meant to teach you that Jesus can't do much with you, it's meant to teach you that you can't do anything with you! Your failure isn't meant to lower the bar of your expectations for your Christian discipleship, it's meant to destroy them apart from the power of Jesus Christ. It's a beautiful thing to be brought to nothing, because then you're at a place when you really say, "Apart from You I can do nothing."

In that sermon, Ryan preached to us from the account of Peter's denial of Christ. I quote him here because in looking first at the worth of Christ, then the subsequent command to honor and love God above all else, I must remind myself of a very sobering, incredibly scary truth: I can't love God.

At least, not on my own.

John writes in 1 John, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." I've been staring at that text for the past couple of days, pondering how in the world to convey the depth of wonder my heart feels when considering such an astounding truth. I mean, the God of the universe, the one whom I have warred against, loves me. This isn't the sort of love that comes because I've wooed Him or caught His eye, or because He felt a lack of affection that needed, this is the sort of love that overflows from His abundant glorious grace, the sort of love that comes from a being whose happiness can never be thwarted, whose joy flows from beholding His own perfections.

I actually read that excerpt from Ryan's sermon to Chriyus over the phone earlier today. As I did so, I think we were both shown something that John was getting at: the fact that we fail in loving God is supposed to point us to the fact that God doesn't fail in loving us. Why won't He fail? Because His love is based on Himself, not on us! His love for us flows from His perfection, not ours! This was something that Peter was taught through his failure. Did he know that before he was exposed for what he really was? I'm almost certain that he was aware of it. Still, I'm even more certain that his public failure drove home how much his Lord really did love him, and because of that, how much he really did love his Lord.

If, as John Piper seems to assert, Henry Scougel is indeed right--that the worth and excellency of a soul is measured by the object and intensity of its love--what can be said of sinners saved by grace and filled with a love for the most precious and worthy of all beings that springs not from their own souls? I would, in turn, assert that we ourselves are made excellent by loving God, yet that love comes not from ourselves, but from God who loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

posted by Bolo | 10:32 PM
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