As part of the 2014 Linger Conference, Dr. John Piper encouraged Christians to worship the Lord in light of this temporal life and the treasure that is ours in Christ, Whom we will reign with forever and ever in eternity. The conference was centered on lingering with the Lord - abiding in Him and spending extended time with Him over Valentine's Day weekend.
The vision statement for the gathering read, "Our attention span as a culture, even for spiritual matters, is measured in seconds and minutes rather than hours and days. This conference offers the opportunity to be transformed in the presence of God by lingering in worship, prayer, meditation on scripture, and reﬂection ... We pray that this conference will spark a hunger for the presence of God and a lifelong pursuit of beholding His Glory."
John Piper, who has been an active speaker and author since his recent retirement from pastoring Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, centered his message on Hebrews 13:12-16:
"So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood. Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God" (English Standard Version).
"Becoming a Christian makes a person at home in every culture, and at odds with every culture," began Piper, noting the tension that becoming a Christian brings to our everyday life. While we might have what Piper calls a "settler mentality" where we feel at home in Christ no matter where we are, we also develop a "pilgrim mentality," realizing that we don't quite fit in with the culture around us.
God has designed the Gospel to flourish in every culture, as every person on earth has but one hope for reconciliation with God - through the blood of Jesus Christ alone. Because God's gracious offer of forgiveness has nothing to do with our own merit or heritage, the Gospel can penetrate even the direst and most hostile places on earth. Missionaries in particular can rest assured that God will call people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to be His own (see Revelation 7:9-12).
The Holy Spirit begins to sanctify new believers and helps them to expose the sinful practices in their culture. "Every culture puts a Christian at odds with it, because there isn't anything but a fallen culture," Piper says. As the Christian begins to place his identity in Christ, his pilgrim mindset "whispers to him that he has no abiding city, and warns him that to be faithful to Christ will put him out of step with his society ... for that society never existed - east or west, ancient time or modern - which could absorb the word of Christ painlessly into its system."
"It's painful for Christ to enter every culture," says Piper - especially today, when most unreached people groups reside in cultures that are hostile to Christianity. This should not stop the pilgrim Christian from heeding the Great Commission, however - "I think that we will never reach our neighborhoods, we will never reach our networks, we will never reach the nations if we don't call every Christian to a risk-taking, comfort-disturbing, semi-nomadic pilgrim mindset," he says. We ought to keep our eyes on the city that is to come, where God will dwell with His people forever.
Hebrews says that such a pilgrim mindset ought to give rise to a lifestyle of praise and of service. Piper noted four marks of "pilgrim worship," based on the text. First, he says, Jesus Christ is the Mediator of all of our worship. "Our sacrifice of praise goes through Jesus, or doesn't get there," he explains - "Which means only Christianity worships the true God ... No other religion in its worship gets through. Through Him, we get through - or we don't get through."
Second, Piper notes that worship in the Christian heart bears its fruit in the lips - not only through song, but through God-glorifying speech in our everyday lives. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus says that we speak out of the overflow of what is in our hearts. When we love God, we cannot help but talk about Him.
God gives us hope, that we might rejoice always - even in sorrow and in pain. Though Christians will suffer in this life, Piper reminds the church that God is never subject to criticism. "We live with the cards we're dealt because we know Who deals; and He never, ever deals badly - ever," he says. Dr. Piper also made reference to Shane & Shane's "Though You Slay Me," a beautiful song about suffering and joy.
Pilgrim worship gives practical evidences that our treasure is in heaven and not on the earth, Piper says. When we serve others generously and selflessly, this testifies that our desire is for something other than for money or our own comfort - we are hoping in the risen Christ. "I'm hoping in Him," says Piper - "that I've got a treasure just around the corner, so I don't need to fret about treasures now."
Piper noted that the prosperity gospel theology (that God wants Christians to have good health and wealth) is in essence over-realized eschatology. Such people are "Pretending like heaven should be now. It's not what the New Testament says - Heaven is for Heaven. The inheritance is when you die," he said emphatically. Matthew 6:19-21 says, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Finally, Piper closed by noting that pilgrim worship is pleasing to God because He delights in people who delight more in Him than in the world. God is glorified when we recognize our deep and dire need for Him - when we finally see that nothing else can satisfy. "Live in such a way that you make Him look infinitely valuable," he exhorts the church.