A Reflection on the Desiring God National Conference

I say reflection singular, not reflections plural, for this article does not contain room to record all God brought to mind and worked in my heart this past weekend in Minneapolis. The title of the conference was With Calvin in the Theater of God. DG meant to honor the magisterial (of, pertaining to, or befitting a master; authoritative) reformer during this year marking the 500th anniversary of his birth.

My reflection comes from the final message of the conference delivered by Dr. John Piper. He entitled it Jesus Christ as Denouement in the Theater of God: Calvin and the Supremacy of Christ in All Things. Fortunately, he defined denouement for us; I did not have a clue. This comes directly from his message which you can access online here.

The dictionary says that the dénouement is “the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved.” Or: “the climax of a chain of events, usually when something is decided or made clear.”

Piper sought to answer the question, What is the ultimate goal of God in the theater of God? He argued that the answer is to glorify Himself in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He made his case for that with an exposition of Ephesians 1:4-6 and other related passages:

. . . even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

In what he called the ultimate statement in the Bible about the purpose of God in the theater of God, Piper explained from v. 6 that this is why everything exists. God is to be praised by innumerable redeemed beings. Specifically, we are not just to praise His glory but the glory of His grace. The apex of the glory of God is the grace of God. Every other attribute serves the purpose to make the grace of God more plain and precious.

He closed with a series of applications in answer to the question, So what? He called them five ways of believing this denouement.

1. The highest pleasure of the human being is the pleasure of admiration. Seeing it, savoring it, speaking it, is the end — to admire the infinite admirability which is found only in God’s grace in Christ. Make it your life-long, eternity-long vocation to see and know Him so that all else is counted loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ.

2. When the theater of God is renewed the dazzling creation will be as nothing as compared to Christ. Beware to become excessively excited about the new heavens and new earth. It will be as nothing in comparison. We won’t need a sun or moon any more, because the glory of God will be its sun and the Son will be its lamp. Everywhere we look we will see Christ reflected. It will be unlike anything we’ve known. So don’t get excited about eternal golf! Many in our churches will be shocked when denied entrance into heaven when the Lord says to them, All you ever really wanted was my gifts and not me. See Matt. 7:21-23.

3. Now that we understand what it means to be loved by God given the mercies of His grace we must also understand that this love is not in and of ourselves to be made much of but to be rescued from the need to be made much of.

4. To be sure, we ourselves will be glorified. We will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father. We will shine with the glory of Christ, not our own. It will be so stunning that we will be tempted to bow down and worship one another, said C. S. Lewis. But remember the glory will be a reflected glory, the glory of Christ.

5. When God gives us eyes to see His glory in the gospel of Christ, we are gradually being changed into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). This is the most important verse in the Bible on sanctification. Beholding is becoming. Seeing Christ in His glory changes us. Any other way toward change leads to legalism. The role of the pastor is to open eyes to the glory of Christ. Theirs’ is an impossible task. It begins with the pastor seeing Christ for himself and then relentlessly commending Him to others.

This is the legacy of John Calvin. This is the call of the Holy Scriptures. This is the desire of my heart as a pastor. Let us continually stand in awe, amazed at the glory of Christ as the denouement of the theater of God.

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