You can be saved and yet have an inadequate understanding of God until you see glimpses of His vision, said Pastor John Piper. He used the late Chuck Colson as an example to make his point.
Several years after his salvation, Chuck Colson, the Prison Fellowship founder who died in April, underwent a period of spiritual dryness, said Piper as he began his talk, titled "In the Throne Room: The God of Holiness and Hope," on Saturday morning at the three-day Gospel Coalition National Women's Convention in Orlando, Fla.
On June 1, 1973, Piper said, Colson heard the Gospel for the first time from Tom Phillips, even as the Watergate scandal was exploding. That night the then aide to former President Richard Nixon said, "I cried out to God and found myself drawn irresistibly into his waiting arms. That was the night I gave my life to Jesus Christ and began the greatest adventure of my life," Piper quoted him as saying.
Colson was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal in 1974. He became a committed Christian while the Watergate charges were still pending against him and after a friend gave him a copy of the C.S. Lewis book Mere Christianity. His conversion led him to plead guilty to obstruction of justice while a judge was considering dismissing the case against him. He served seven months of a one- to three-year prison sentence.
Years later, Colson underwent a period of spiritual dryness, when a friend suggested that he watch a recorded lecture series by R.C. Sproul on the holiness of God, Piper said. "By the end of the sixth lecture I was on my knees, deep in prayer, in awe of God's absolute holiness," he quoted Colson describing his experience in Loving God. "It was a life-changing experience as I gained a completely new understanding of the holy God I believe in and worship."
Piper, who has served as the pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., for over three decades, said that that had happened to many people. "A completely new understanding of God though already saved with an inadequate view of God … It happened to me between the ages of 22 and 25 in the city of California … and my prayer is that God will do it for you."
That happened to Job after he had a vision of God, Piper added. "Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know ... I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:3–6).
Piper shared seven glimpses of God based on Isaiah 6:1–4 to help the thousands of conference attendees have a more adequate understanding of God. The first, he said, is that God is alive.
"God was alive when this universe exploded into existence. He was alive when Socrates drank his poison. He was the living God when William Bradford governed Plymouth Colony. He was the living God in 1966 when Thomas Altizer proclaimed him dead and Time magazine absolutely absurdly put it on the front cover."
God will be alive 10 trillion ages from now when all the puny potshots against His reality will have sunk into oblivion like BB's at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, he added.
God is authoritative, Piper said, sharing the second glimpse. "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne," as Isaiah said.
"No vision of heaven has ever caught a glimpse of God plowing a field, cutting His grass, shining shoes, filling out reports or loading a truck," he added. "And heaven is not coming apart at the seams."
God is never at wits' end with His heavenly realm. "He sits. And he sits on a throne. All is at peace and He has control … The throne signifies His right to rule the world. You don't give God authority over your life. He has it, totally." God, Piper said, "is the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Chief Executive. After Him, no appeal."
Third, he continued, God is omnipotent. "The throne of His authority is not one among many. It is high," Piper explained, quoting Isaiah, "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up." This means God's throne is higher than every other throne, he said.
Fourth, God is resplendent. "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple," as Isaiah described. That God's robe fills the entire heavenly temple means that He is a God of incomparable splendor. God is lavish in splendor. His creative fullness spills over in excessive beauty, Piper said.
God is also revered, the preacher said, sharing the fifth glimpse. "Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew."
Piper asked the audience to imagine the Blue Angels diving in formation before the presidential entourage and cracking the sound barrier just before his face. "There are no puny or silly creatures in heaven. Only magnificent ones."
The Minnesota pastor then stressed the sixth glimpse, "God is holy."
"The root meaning of holy is probably to cut or separate. A holy thing is cut off from and separated from something else and is devoted to something else," he explained.
From what can you separate God to make Him holy? Piper asked. The very god-ness of God means that He is separate from all that is not God. There is an infinite qualitative difference between Creator and creature. God is one of a kind and therefore has infinite value.
"God is infinitely valuable," he stressed. "I can't think of anything that would have a greater impact on your life than for you to believe that.
"The most important value in the universe is not you and not your family and not 7 billion human beings and not billions upon billions of galaxies. We are as nothing a drop in the bucket compared to the value of God. The main problem in the world is the failure to feel that."
Piper also noted that God is not holy because He keeps the rules; He wrote the rules. God is not holy because He keeps the law. The law is holy because it reveals God. "God is absolute."
The seventh glimpse, he went on, is that God is glorious.
The glory of God is the manifestation of His holiness, he explained. His holiness is the incomparable perfection. "God is glorious" means His holiness has gone public. His glory is the open revelation of the secret of His holiness.
He quoted from Leviticus 10:3, where God says, "I will show myself holy among those who are near me, and before all the people I will be glorified."
The holiness of God is His concealed glory. The glory of God is His revealed holiness.
The Women's Conference, which kicked off on Friday and will conclude Sunday, is for women but not all about women. It's about the gospel of Jesus Christ, according to organizers. During the three days, women are being offered Bible expositions from renowned Bible teachers including Tim Keller and Don Carson. Women speakers include Karen Loritts, among others. The theme of the event is "Here Is Our God!"