ATLANTA – Preacher and prolific writer John Piper asked a profound question Monday evening: Do you feel more loved by God because He makes much of you or because He enables you to make much of Him?
The purpose of asking such a deep question to 22,000 university-age students at the Passion conference was to get at why they love God. If students respond they love God because He makes much of them, that is idolatry, said Piper. It means that they put themselves as the foundation of their joy.
Every joy has a foundation, a deeper reason why it brings joy, except one, he explained. This exception is the bottom, where there is no more underlying reason.
"Why is getting to the bottom of our joys such a big deal to me?" asked Piper.
"I believe that there are millions of people, many of them professing Christians, who are not born-again, believe God loves them, and are hell-bound," he said bluntly.
"What you mean by being loved by God is that at the bottom He's committed to making much of you; He's not at the bottom; you're at the bottom; myself as the source of all my joy," he said.
To be born-again is to exchange the bottom from self to God, which is fundamental to the new birth, said Piper. A new birth does not mean having all the same desires as before with the only change being expecting God to deliver those wants.
"Did we not do many mighty works in your name? Did we not cast out demons in your name? Did we not prophesize in your name? Did we not heal in your name? He will say to them, 'I never knew you,'" Piper said, citing Matthew 7:22-23.
"You think this is not an important question to ask? What is at the bottom? So much Christian religion with people on their way to destruction."
The preacher, who will return to the pulpit this weekend after an eight-month leave of absence, read scripture verses that showed God performing acts of love designed to put Him at the bottom. One example he gave is Ephesians 1:5-6, which states, "He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves."
Humans were created in a way where they cannot be fully satisfied with anything other than God, Piper stated. Therefore, if people put themselves at the bottom they will never be satisfied.
"God's love for you that makes much of His glory is greater love for you than if He made you your greatest treasure," said Piper. "You will never, ever be beautiful enough, strong enough, wise enough, admirable enough, to be the bottom and to bear the weight of all the joy you want for all eternity. It will not bear that weight. It will give way and you will fall into the pit. Only one thing can bear the weight of all the joy you want to have and that is God."
The Passion 2011 conference in Atlanta ends Tuesday afternoon. Other featured speakers at this year's conference included Francis Chan, Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, and Louie Giglio. Lead worshippers at the event include Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall, Christy Nockels, and Kristian Stanfill.