Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Above All? Really?

Crucified, laid behind a stone
You lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose; trampled on the ground
You took the fall, and thought of me
Above all.

As much as I love the song Above All, that last line has long been disturbing to me as evidence of sinful human egotism. Let me clarify by rewriting the end of this popular song:

You took the fall, and thought of God
Above all.

Don’t get me wrong. Christ did die for a lost humanity. Let us never forsake this beautiful truth. But did He do so primarily for our sake? No. The end goal of God’s redemption of mankind is not merely our happiness.

Our supreme happiness, though, is a key element of the fulfillment of God’s purpose in redemption. On the cross, Christ freed us that we may delight not in self-centered sin, but that we may delight only in the Lord. And herein rests the answer. God’s ultimate display of love in the cross was that we might be led to the only lasting joy: namely, that we are free to delight in, and participate in, the eternal glorification of God.

God’s glory is the greatest good. Period. This being the case, for God to do anything for any other reason would mean for Him to place created thing over Himself. He would be guilty of idolatry, and therefore cease to be God. This is what is meant by the jealousy of God. He cannot be perfect and not seek His own glory above all. He values Himself over all else and is infinitely right in doing so.

John Piper puts it this way: “God’s love is penultimate; God’s glory is ultimate.” God’s love is the platform by which He is glorified. It only follows, then, that the greatest love He could show us is by allowing us to enjoy His glory the way He does. If Christ had died for any other reason God’s love would have been shown to be far too small. Ephesians 1:4-6 says this:

“…In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given in the One He loves.”

I am reminded of the old question of the catechism: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer, simply stated, is this: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Or again as John Piper has rewritten it in his book Desiring God, “To glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”

Christ did not redeem us to give us grounds for reveling in a sense of self-worth. Christ redeemed us that we might find the supreme satisfaction in valuing God the way He values Himself. And this, my friends, truly is fullness of joy.

“In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
-Psalm 16:11


BigE said...

Ian, you are an amazing thinker and writer. Thank you for this post! I too have long been troubled by that song. I think too many of us just sing the words without actually thinking through what we're saying.

Bruce said...

Nicely done, I'll make this point to the congregation next time we sing this song. Thanks for sharing it. Your boys are doing great. Praise the Lord!

Chris said...

Wow! What great thoughts Ian. Thanks for sharing them with me. I needed to hear this.
A. Chris

Jan said...

Excellent! Good stuff!!! Amazing how we can so easily think we are a part of the equation! It is ALL about God!! Amen!
Have you read Piper's Future Grace? More good stuff - similar to Desiring God. Both great!

Kelly said...

I'm wondering if that is why we don't sing it in church anymore,hmmmm.. will have to ask Perry about that one!! Actually I got a new camera ;-)

Ian said...

Hi guys!

Thanks so much for all of your comments. I was getting a little discouraged this morning about my blogging in general, but you all have inspired me to keep going! Thanks for reading.

Uncle Bruce and Mrs. Bowland -
our church actually continues to use this song but has changed the ending to:

You took the fall
And now You reign
Above all

Maybe you could suggest this to Perry, Mrs. Bowland (becacuse this is still a beautiful song).