Piper #16 - The wrath of God against holding down the truth
Just when I already thought I had a favorite sermon, wow this one. Is. Amazing.
Piper starts off this talk in an amazing way:
Every one of us is a spin doctor by nature. Every one of us is springloaded to put his own failings in the best light and the failings of his adversaries in the worst light. We soften our own sins with mild words and skewer others with hard words. Or worse, we see the sins of others and are blind to our own. And when the truth hunts us down and corners us, we will dodge and distort and evade and mislead and equivocate and lie. And when that doesn’t work to suppress the truth, we will shift to blaming and accusing and deflecting—anything to hold down the truth from having its full effect in our lives. That’s what Romans 1:18b is about. This so relevant it takes your breath away.
So, I have noticed that every message is basically centered around a question from which he spend the message trying to answer. I love that approach.
So here is the question of this message and passage:
What truth is being suppressed? And what does it mean that we suppress it “in unrighteousness”?
The answer is given in the following verses.
[We suppress the truth in unrighteousness], because that which is known about God [first clue: the truth being suppressed is something known about God] is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. (20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes [now he gets specific; here is the truth that is known about God from the created world], His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. [There is the objective truth about God that we suppress—his eternal power and deity—but now he tells us that there is another subjective truth, namely, the response we are supposed to have to this truth about God.] (21) For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him [literally, glorify him] as God or give thanks.
Now, check out how many times he refers to the truth that we suppress:
So here is the truth that we suppress apart from God’s grace in our lives. There is a God. He is the Creator of all things and so not a god but the God. He is powerful—more powerful than all else, because he made all else. He is eternal because there was nothing outside him that could bring him into being. Therefore we must exist to display his glory and not to compete with him for glory. And we must exist in absolute dependence on him. We do not supply him, he supplies us. And therefore we are to live in constant gratitude.
That is the truth that we suppress in unrighteousness. This is confirmed in verses 25 and 28. Verse 25: “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie [notice, the truth that is being exchanged, gotten rid of, suppressed is truth about God], and [they] worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” Which is the same as saying, “they did not glorify him as God or give thanks to him, but instead glorified the creature and took credit for what was owing only to God.” They exchanged God-worship for self-worship. They suppressed the truth that God is infinitely glorious and that we are totally dependent on him.
So let’s sum up what the truth is that we suppress. The truth is that God exists. He is eternal and infinitely powerful. He supplies us with all we have. Therefore he is gloriously self-sufficient with no needs that we can meet. The truth is that our reason for being is to be thankful for all he has given us and to display his glory by the way we think and feel and act (see Psalm 50:23).
In other words, the truth is that the universe is radically God-centered: it comes from him, it exists for the display of his glory. And human life is supposed to be radically God-centered—not by working for God as if he were a needy deity, but by our being thankful to him and exulting in the grace that so much good comes to us, even amid terrible suffering…
Here is the truth: there are two great demands of God on the lives of all humans—1) that we exult in God’s bounty to us (that’s thankfulness), and 2) that we reflect or display his glory. Don’t miss this. It is right there in verse 21: “Even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks.” It means that God has created a universe in which we get the blessings and he gets the glory. And the way God gets the glory is by our exulting in him as the all-sufficient Giver of all things.
So here is the truth: God exists. God is eternal and infinitely powerful. God is the giver of every good gift. And therefore our reason for being—our chief duty, the end for which we were created, and the commandment written on every heart—is to display the glory of this great God every day, hour by hour, as we live in the exultation over his bounty to us.
And that is the truth that we hate and suppress in unrighteousness.
Why did they reject the truth and suppress the truth and not love the truth? Because they “took pleasure in unrighteousness.” When you love sin, you cannot love the truth. The truth is too threatening. It threatens to take away your illicit pleasures. I would venture to say that virtually all falsehood comes from this: a stronger affection for the pleasures of sin. That is what unrighteousness is. Loving sin more than loving God and his truth.
So you see that the issue of truth is an issue of the heart before it is an issue of the head. When the heart is in love with self-exaltation and independence and the pleasures of sin, the mind will inevitably distort the truth or suppress the truth in order to protect the idols of the heart. What is needed is not just new ideas or more information, but a new heart. And a new set of passions and desires and pleasures.
Is there any hope for us? The hope lies in verses 16–17. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.”
The truth is evident… Will we allow the truth to bring us to the light unto glory to God or will we stifle the truth and allow it to bring us to darkness?
Lead us Jesus into the truth…
Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1990-1999). Minneapolis: Desiring God.