The Greatest Gift God Can Give


John Piper:

If you have something that you know will give others full, lasting pleasure and instead of showing it to them you elevate and exalt yourself, are you a loving person? No. You’re most definitely not a loving person. And so it is with God.

If God has something and he doesn’t show it to us, even though it would bring us full and everlasting pleasure, God’s not loving toward us. And so, he must show us himself. There is no gift that God can give you that would make him a loving person if he withholds himself. All the gifts that you think about — forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation — all the glorious gospel gifts, if God says, “You can have all that, but you can’t have me on the other side,” he’s not loving toward me. Therefore, God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation and self-presentation is synonymous with love.

You may not follow him in this. If you go through the world saying, “I’m going to exalt myself now, like God. We’re supposed to be like God, so I’m going to exalt myself, and that will be loving.” It won’t be loving. It will be distracting. It will be distracting from what will satisfy people’s souls because what will satisfy their souls is God.

So, if you want to imitate God in God’s self-exaltation, then you become God-exalting, not self-exalting, because what will satisfy people’s souls forever and ever and ever is seeing, knowing, loving, fellowshipping with God. Therefore, for God to be loving, he must give us himself. He must exalt himself. He must commend himself. He must call for praise and love. He’s the only being in the universe for whom such behavior is love. It’s the essence of love.

You can’t copy him in this. You’re not God. For you to be loving is to call attention to him. For God to be loving is to call attention to him and, therefore, in God’s case, he’s the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is identical to love.

Here’s the way I would define love to you. If you were to ask me, “Now, okay, in view of that, what does it mean for God to love me? What does it mean for God to love me?” Here would be my answer: God loves you in that he does everything necessary in order that you might be enthralled forever, and increasingly, with what will bring you full and lasting happiness; namely, himself.

Now, that’s a long definition, but it’s worth repeating. For God to love you is for him to do everything — even the death of his Son, even at the cost of his Son’s life, he will do everything — for his own in order that we might be enthralled with what will make us fully and eternally happy; namely, himself. God must be bent on self-exaltation if he loves us.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.