If you have 40 minutes, please listen to this sermon by my friend and colleague Joe Rigney from this weekend at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
“This sermon might be thought of as an extension and filling-out of last week’s sermon. I want to ask the same question, “Why did God create this world?” But I want to ask why God made this world filled as it is with good friends, chicken manicotti, the laughter of children, West Texas sunsets, Dr. Pepper, marital love, and the warmth of wool socks? In other words, why did God make this world for the glory of his grace displayed in the cross, and then fill it to the brim with all of these other pleasures—sensible pleasures, physical pleasures, emotional pleasures, relational pleasures? If God made the world for his infinite glory, then what’s with all of the stuff? A related question is the practical one: How do we live in this world, created for the glory of God, and filled with wonderful and fantastic realities that have the potential to be competitors with him?
This problem is particularly acute for those of us who have embraced a passion for God’s supremacy in all things. We feel the tension between “the supremacy of God” and the ‘all things,’ resulting in a web of practical and pastoral challenges in how we live and function in this world. Let me describe this web of struggles and challenges:
- I mean the low-grade guilt that we feel because we aren’t loving and enjoying God ‘enough,’ or because we are loving and enjoying the gifts ‘too much.’
- I mean the attempt detach from God’s gifts out of fear of idolatry, lest our love for them surpass our affection for God. Or perhaps instead of detachment, we are simply suspicious of created things, warily looking at our delight and pleasure in hot dish and ice cream and softball and hugs from our loved ones, lest they become too precious to us.
- I mean the sense that we have that as we progress in holiness, our enjoyment of fresh raspberries and driving along the St. Croix River and an evening of games and laughter with old friends ought to diminish, because we are becoming increasingly satisfied in God alone.
We feel the tension between our love for God and our love for his gifts experientially. We want to be faithful Christians: God-centered, Christ-exalting, cross-focused, gospel-driven, and yet we live in a world that is inundated with potent gifts that can distract us from these glorious realities. We know that God is infinitely valuable, that our family and friends and food are finite, and therefore, we feel that there ought to be a larger gap between our love for them and our love for him. So we can attempt to suppress our joy in created things so that they don’t compete and get in the way of our love for God.”