Dying for the Glory of Christ
- John Piper Desiring God
- 2006 6 Feb
God’s main purpose for our existence is to reflect the glory of Jesus Christ. God gave us life so that with our bodies and minds and hearts we might draw attention to Jesus and make him look as great as he really is. This purpose for our existence does not change at death. It is the purpose of our dying and the purpose of our living after death.
For the Christian, eternal life has already begun and will not be interrupted by death or judgment. Jesus taught this when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Already, by faith in Christ, our judgment is past and our death is past. Death is no longer death for those who are in Christ. The essence of what made it death has changed.
What has changed? “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56). Christ fulfilled the law perfectly. “Jesus answered, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:15). He also took on himself the curse that the law put on us because of our sin. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Therefore, in Christ, the righteousness that the law demanded from me is provided for me, and the curse that the law pronounced over me is removed from me.
Therefore the sting of death is gone. Death is no longer the terror that death used to be. Death is now a transition from life to better life, from faith to seeing, from groaning to glory, from good fellowship with Jesus to far better fellowship with Jesus, from mixtures of pain and pleasure to all pleasure, from struggles with sin to perfect affections for Jesus. We have passed from death to life.
Therefore, the way we show Jesus to be great in our dying is to treasure these things as we die. That is, treasure them more than what we leave behind. This is how we fulfill the God-given purpose of our death as those who cannot die. The purpose of this deathless dying is to glorify Christ. Death is God’s appointed way in this fallen world for Christ to get his last praise from us on earth before we enter into endless praise.
Paul says we do this by counting death as gain: “It is my eager expectation and hope that . . . Christ will be honored in my body . . . by death. For to me to . . . die is gain.” Christ is magnified in our dying when we treasure Christ so much that dying is felt to be gain.
Death is a time for glorifying God. God appoints it for this purpose in his saints. Another example is the death of Peter. Jesus spoke to him about his death, “When you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). Then John interpreted these words for us in his gospel, “This [Jesus] said to show by what kind of death [Peter] was to glorify God” (John 21:19). We all have our appointed time and way of dying. This is our last way on earth of making much of the supreme value of Jesus in our lives. This is the last time on earth for glorifying God. It happens by counting everything on earth as loss (Philippians 3:8) and counting the sight and savoring of Christ in heaven as gain.
Those who remain behind feel the loss here deeply. There are untold tears. This is good. It testifies to the preciousness of a gift enjoyed. But even here, through all the tears, there is a way to magnify Christ. Job showed us how. When the news came that all ten of his children were dead, it says, “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’” (Job 1:20-21). He wept and he worshipped.
Let us pray earnestly for each other, that Christ would be so real to us that we would live and die in a way that shows his supreme preciousness to us. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). This is the great battle of life: to treasure Jesus like that. Please pray for me. I pray for you: O Lord, satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we might live and die to make you look as great as you are.