October 8, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
At the Together for the Gospel conference, I had the privilege to participate with Mark, Al, and Lig in interviewing John Piper after he presented his message (“How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice”). During the panel discussion, John provided us with some serious provocation and wisdom. Over the next few days I want to focus on three specific excerpts from our conversation.
In this first excerpt from the beginning of the panel discussion, John encourages us to make radical sacrifices right where we are.
: In your message, “How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice,” you have called us to a radical, risk-taking life. However, most of the pastors here are laboring faithfully in preaching and caring for those who have been entrusted to them in their local church. They desire to stay there for years, hopefully to die in their church, and follow the example of men like you who have had a ministry in one church over the decades. So for many of them, if not most of them, they are not going anywhere. For them, what does radical sacrifice look like?
: Well, it will look different for each of them, and one of the reasons it will be different for each is because what is hard for one to do is not hard for another to do that ought to be done.
It is not hard for me to do what I just did. There is so much deep, personal gratification in spending time in the Word and preaching that this is no sacrifice. So I don’t count what I am doing here as “going outside the camp.” It might be for you if you are people person, one of these Myers Briggs “E” people, and you get strength by being with people instead of being with a book. That might mean study more. Go deep. Go against your grain. One reason things look different, circumstances are different.
But the principle is that “the camp” is the place where it is comfortable, it is secure and relatively easy. Outside the camp is Golgotha. And Jesus went outside the camp and then he tells us, “Take your cross and go with me.”
So you all know what is hard for you to do in the cause of love. I am not advocating asceticism in some artificial way like taking a cold shower every morning. I mean you have a neighbor and you are scared to talk to him. You have a colleague and that colleague needs to be confronted about some bad habit. You have a marriage problem and you have been running from it forever and you need to tackle it because it is going to be emotionally exhausting to do it. You read Romans 12 with all the exhortations and you know that some of them are extremely difficult for you to do.
So my prayer is that this message will help me mainly to have more affection for the treasure of Christ so that in the moment—when your will is locked into fear, greed, and self-exaltation—you can see a pathway that is costly but looks biblically right, and have enough motive in the truth that I have seen that the Holy Spirit will take those truths and you will act.
But I really think there are probably in everybody’s circumstances some really risky involvements in some causes that Christ has in the world. I’m thinking mainly evangelism (for myself especially). Pastors run away from evangelism, because we believe it is not our gift and we are to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. And yet we have ringing in our ears the words from Paul to Timothy, a man who did not have the gift of evangelism—he was timid—“Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5, ESV).
So whatever it is, whether it is evangelism or the marriage or your children. You know, some of your kids are tying you around their little finger, and you are afraid to deal with them—especially if they are 14 you are afraid to deal with it because they could run. And they are just tying you up because you don’t have the courage to get on their case and tell them, “You won’t talk to her that way…We don’t tolerate that in this house…You go to your room. I will be there in a minute.” You just let them run over you. You command them five times to do the same thing. Why? Because you are sitting on the couch watching television and it is a pain in the rear end [to] get up and go spank him. [Applause]
Or since I got applause on spanking…some of you are so good at spanking you have never touched your child’s heart—never! You haven’t said anything to them that would open them like a flower because your mother wasn’t that way and you got beat up as a kid and you are not about to change. “Deal with it, kid!” Instead of, “How are you feeling? Talk to me about what is going on inside of you.”
So the whole range of parenting and the whole range of marriage and the whole range of pastoring and the whole range of evangelism—all of it has hard stuff. And so this is a message to say, “Find the hard stuff, get satisfied in Jesus, find him sufficiently motivating and enjoy the fellowship of his sufferings.”
Have you ever heard anybody say, “While walking on the primrose path of sunshine I discovered the deepest and most lasting fellowship with Jesus”?
You come to me after this session if that is you. Always and without exception—and I have never heard anybody gainsay this—human beings say, “I met him most, I went deepest with him, I enjoyed him, I saw more of him on my dark road, on my hard road.” And so why would we not embrace commanded hard roads like evangelism or anything that will stress you?
: I dare anybody to come to you after this session and say to John that your deepest fellowship with Jesus has taken place in the midst of the “primrose path of sunshine.” I want to be there for it. [Laughter] So if you are going to do that, if you would alert me ahead of time I just want to watch what kind of “fellowship” takes place between the two of you.
Listen to Dr. Piper’s T4G message here
and listen to the T4G panel discussion here