ATLANTA – John Piper, founder of DesiringGod.org and former senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., told Passion 2013 participants that the foundation of worship is recognizing the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and that believers must embrace present suffering with an eternal perspective.
Introducing his talk with a dramatic recitation of Revelation 4, Piper told the 60,000+ students and ministry leaders gathered at the Georgia Dome Thursday night that "Jesus is the key that unlocks the mystery of history, and when the key unlocks the mystery of history and the story is told, he turns out to be the center."
Piper emphasized that Jesus Christ is the slain lamb and conquering lion who has fulfilled God's redemptive purposes, and that a recognition of Christ's identity and accomplishments should evoke extravagant praise from those who follow Him. "The immensity of His worth is reflected in the intensity of your worship," he said. "We were made for the eternal admiration of the excellence of Jesus."
Piper referenced objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand, who stated that "admiration is the rarest and highest of pleasures," saying that Rand understood the concept of admiration but was unsure about her personal purpose. "She didn't know the ultimate reason why God made her that way," said Piper. "The reason admiration is in fact the greatest pleasure of the human soul is that God made the world so that we would be satisfied in the intensity of our enjoyment and He would be magnified and glorified in our enjoyment of Him."
A magnificent obsession with Jesus, recognizing his beauty and providential control of history, provides "the foundation for our ability to embrace suffering with joy in the cause of liberation," Piper said, contending that suffering is inevitable. "If you follow the path of life in the cause of liberation, you will suffer," he said. "I don't say that because I am a prophet, but because the Bible says that over and over again." The aim of Piper's message, he told the students, was "to put this foundation under your feet and show you how it empowers you to not just endure but embrace suffering in the path of life until you are dead."
Towards that end, Piper presented a three-step pattern to generate this unconventional response to suffering: "A deep present satisfaction in the glorious hope of future reward; the sole satisfaction in your Christ-saturated future to free you from self-protecting fear; and the fruit of fearless love pouring out of your life no matter what the cost."
An overcoming, fearless, mindset is essential to advancing the End It Movement, Passion's campaign to shine light on modern-day slavery, said Piper. He described the universal scope of slavery pervading every social and economic level, including "sex trafficking, sweatshops of greed, boy soldiers forced to fight, and people cut to pieces in their mother's womb," and was particularly passionate in depicting the practice of abortion as an act of enslavement. "In Atlanta yesterday, probably one out of every four pregnancies ended in abortion," he said, contending that we must confront "the slavery of the abortionists and the slavery of those being lied to about what they have inside of them."
"The greatest act of liberation that has ever happened in the history of the world was the Son of God suffering the agony of the cross to deliver us from death and sin and Hell," Piper said. "The greatest act of freeing happened when Jesus died in our place and paid our debt."
He continued, "How did the God-man have the wherewithal to embrace the cross and endure the cross? For the joy of knowing what He was about to achieve." Not only was this sacrificial attitude modeled by Jesus, but the early Christians also joyfully embraced suffering with the promise of eternal reward, Piper added.
Calling Romans 8 "the greatest chapter of the Bible," Piper said the Apostle Paul offers a "truth-laden effort" which helps believers "endure and embrace suffering because of the security of our future joy," and "the indestructible hope that is in Jesus."
Kathryn Aubuchon, 19, of Alpharetta, Ga., who is currently a Junior at Georgia Tech, reflected, "Dr. Piper's message was a refreshing look at what both physical and spiritual slavery actually entail and I'm pretty sure it grabbed every single person's attention."
"The root problem is the lies that trap us, and those lies lead to the bondage of everything from sexual exploitation to abortion." Aubuchon added. "I appreciated Piper's courage to be bold and speak to us in such a direct and different way."
Passion founder Louie Giglio reflected on John Piper's life message of the supremacy of God and his long-standing role in the Passion movement in remarks Friday morning. "We have spent too much time in the youth culture putting the things of God on the lower shelf so that you actually have to lean down rather than reach up," Giglio said, acknowledging that Piper's advanced style can be challenging to grasp. "Whatever you can get your hands on, grab it and thank God that there are things you have to wrestle and grapple with as deep calls to deep for the glory of God." Giglio added that over the years students have responded to Piper with eagerness and engagement. "You didn't just say 'put something down on the lower shelf,' but you've leaned in and said 'we like Passion because you keep putting things on the higher shelf.'"