FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Boasting in the Cross

with John Piper | July 6, 2011
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You've been told not be boastful about yourself but to boast in the Cross. What does that mean? Find out by joining us for today's broadcast when John Piper tells listeners to deny themselves and take up their crosses, just as Jesus did.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • You've been told not be boastful about yourself but to boast in the Cross. What does that mean? Find out by joining us for today's broadcast when John Piper tells listeners to deny themselves and take up their crosses, just as Jesus did.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

You’ve been told not be boastful about yourself but to boast in the Cross.

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Boasting in the Cross

With John Piper
July 06, 2011
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Bob:  Outside of the Easter season, how central is the cross to how you think?  Is it central to your life?  Here’s Dr. John Piper with thoughts about the cross of Christ.

John:  The word "cross" might mean something you're crucified on, or it might mean a piece of jewelry, or it might mean the last name of somebody you know, but in redemptive, historical terms, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world, He lived a perfect life, He laid Himself out voluntarily to be slaughtered on a cross, He breathed His last breath in obedience to the Father so that He was a perfectly righteous substitute, and then He raised Himself from the dead.  He was taken up, sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. 

When I say, "the cross," I mean that great redemptive work from incarnation to the installation at God's right hand.  Yes, that's really crucial to see.

Bob:  This is I for Wednesday, July 6th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today we'll look at the implications of the cross and why it still matters for our lives 2,000 years later.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  You know, Dennis, I don't know that I will ever forget something that I heard our guest today say.  I remember right where I was – I was driving along a highway on my way to Mount Ida, Arkansas.  I was just tooling along, listening to John Piper on a CD, and he was saying that the world is not going to look at Christians in times of prosperity and say, “I want to be a Christian.”  Because, you know what?, when Christians are blessed, they say "praise the Lord."  And when pagans are blessed, all we say is, "Boy, wasn't that lucky." 

He said, "No, the world is going to sit up and take notice when we go through adversity, and we still have confidence in God.  When we go through trials and we live a radical kind of life, that’s when the world will say, 'Where does that come from?'" 

I thought to myself, “You know what? He’s right.  I am too comfortable.  I’m too content.”  In fact, I should say here as we’re about to continue our conversation with Dr. John Piper that today’s program should probably have a surgeon general’s warning on the front.  Today's program will create conviction in your soul and could bring you to a point of personal repentance yourself.

Dennis:  It could you bring you to the conclusion that you are dangerously close - too close - to the world.

Bob: Yes, and it might bring you to the point where you need to get more dangerously involved in the Gospel.  And so, let me introduce the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and the person who has brought me under conviction many times, John Piper, who is back with us for a third day.  Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

John:  Thanks, I'm real glad to be here.

Bob: And this book, Don't Waste Your Life – you felt so strongly about this book that you went to the publisher and said, "I want to give 50,000 copies of this book away." 

John:  Yes, we created a website just to give it away called "Don't Waste Your Life."  You can go there now, but we don't give them away anymore, because people took them, and we got a special deal.  We just wanted to jumpstart the impact of the book and give away as many as we could.  So we raised the money, and people took them.

Bob: Gave away 50,000?  Do you have any idea any of the stories of folks who wrote to get a copy of this book?

John:  Not yet.

Dennis:  John, at the end of the broadcast yesterday, we challenged the listener to consider writing a title deed and transferring ownership over to Jesus Christ—to become a disciple, a learner, a follower, a pursuer of God and His agenda for their lives.  This is really at the core of what Don't Waste Your Life is all about.  In fact, you quote

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 as really one of the seminal passages in the New Testament calling people to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Christ.

John:  Yes, the link that I heard, which you ended the program that way was between signing your life off so that it belongs now to another and the glory of God, which is the ultimate value of the universe and the value that we live to display.  The link is made there in that verse in 1 Corinthians 6, because Paul says, "You are not your own, you were bought with a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your bodies, which are God's." 

So He made the link between being owned by God and glorifying God. 

So I think you are absolutely right – every person should be challenged to sign the title of their lives over to another Who will not then say, "Ah, now I have a slave."  He will say, "No longer do I call you slaves.  I call you friends, and now, come on, let's live together to magnify my glory in the world, thus says the Lord.

So, that was the link I heard, and I thought it was crucial because the cross is right at the center of this book, and that's what I thought it might be helpful to think about a little bit in what way is the cross centered, because this book grew out of the one-day event in Memphis, Tennessee, in the year 2000, I think it was, where I delivered a message called "Boasting Only in the Cross." 

I told the illustration of the shells, and so on, that we talked about a couple of days ago.  That message was taken from Galatians 6:14, which says "God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world was crucified to me and I to the world.”  I raised the question, “Really?  How can you only boast in the cross?  Only glory, only enjoy the cross?  What about your family?  What about your health?  What about your job?  I mean, aren't these good things that the Lord has given us?  Shouldn't we be glad that we have them?”

My answer was, “Yes, you should be glad that you have them, but you should realize that, as a sinner, you only have them to enjoy forever because Christ died to take away the penalty of judgment and to become your righteousness and to become your sacrifice.” 

So the cross is relevant for every single delight in my life.  If it's a beautiful blue-sky day outside, and I have eyes to see it, I should be glad because of the cross, because apart from the cross, I'd be in hell today.  He would snuff me out of existence because I deserve to be judged.  So the cross really is an absolutely central reality in everything I think about and everything we all do. 

Dennis:  And the passage that commands us as followers after Christ, to take up our cross and follow after Him—what do you think He is challenging us to do at that point, John? 

If the cross is to be central, and we're focusing on Christ’s finished work, the love that is poured out there, the grace, forgiveness, the purpose, the peace with God, the relationship with God, all that's found in the cross, and He commands us to pick up our own cross, it seems to me at points it's almost like the fine print in the contract.  It's like, “Now that He's got me – hello – there’s a cross that I must carry.”

John:  Yes, the whole text, in fact, uses the words "deny.” "If anyone would be my disciple and deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."  But the argument that He gives following that verse is, "For he who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will find it," and you do want to find it, don't you?  Therefore, lose it.

So you've got this paradoxical call from the Lord saying, "Look, I have come to give you life.  I will give you everlasting joy in my presence at my Father's right hand if you join me on the Calvary Road of self-denial and love.  Now what does that mean?  I think it means assess all the things that stand in the way of making Jesus look more valuable than life and get rid of them.

In other words, it might be your car, it might be your house, it might be the job you presently have, whatever is standing between you and an effective display of the superior worth of Jesus in your life, let it go.  That's what I think self-denial is.

Dennis:  And what have some of those things been for you?

John:  The biggest threat, I think, to my being with Jesus and my own holiness, is the praise of men.  When I come here to sit in this studio, the thought enters my mind, “I was invited to this studio.”  That’s a very dangerous thought.  It’s a deadly thought.  Or, to be able to speak to your several hundred employees here and to have them like what I say and say nice things about it.  That’s deadly.

So when you ask what that means for self-denial, it means that I must continually, utterly renounce that and where I think I’m being tempted to go someplace for that, don’t go there.  Just don’t go there.  Which is not an easy call to make, because my motives are always mixed, it seems to me.  So that would be one in particular.

Dennis:  Isn't it interesting how we, as believers, can find something or someone or some activity that we enjoy and become enslaved to other than God?  It's as though we're running from the hound of heaven in pursuit of all these different things, even the ministry.  And you've experienced this as a pastor, I'm sure.  Even the ministry can be addictive.

John:  Right, it can be.  And how to move away from that without contradicting the goodness of creation is a challenge, because most of the idols that we have are good, they just shouldn't be idols.  So to move away from them, you can swing to the ascetic side, where you become a creation-denying person.  You know who I got a lot of help from on that?  It is St. Augustine, and it's a prayer that he made. 

He said, "He loves thee too little" – he's talking to God – "He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake."  I found that very helpful, because it's saying anything can be an idol – any good thing can be an idol.  "He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee."  And then he qualifies it by saying, "Which he loves not for Thy sake," which means that any good thing that is an idol can be deposed from its idolatrous position and become an instrument of worship.

So you might be worshiping food, and the solution to that is not to starve yourself to death with an eating disorder, but rather to say it's a precious gift from God to be used in moderation for the joy it brings and the strength it brings, and I will now turn all my eating back in thanks and worship to God and eat in moderation.  That's the kind of thing that He wants the shift to involve.

Bob: We started talking about, not the cross that we pick up and carry, but about the one that He carried for us.  I don't know that I go through the day consciously aware of the cross.  Is that something that comes to mind on a conscious level for you, hour by hour, throughout a day?

John:  I wish it came more often.  I think, to be honest there, I'd have to say no.  But my prayer is that when Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory, exalt, boast, rejoice, save in the cross," he meant, I think, number one, the cross bought all my joys as a believer.  It bought all my joys.  Therefore, as I rejoice in anything, that joy should be attached to the cross.  It doesn't, I'm sure, have to consciously be at every moment, but probably more often than we do. 

If we could realize the magnitude in history, in the universe, of what happened when Christ, the Son of God, died in the place of sinners and provided a righteousness for us ungodly people, I think we would be more ravished with it than we are, and it would be more constant in our thinking than it is.  So, to be honest, no, but to express my longing, I wish it were.

Dennis:  And so, for you, when you say, "I want to glory in the cross.  I want to focus on the cross.  I want to be caught up in the cross."  You are caught up with the presence of God, His righteousness, His incarnation, His death on the cross on behalf of your sins, His burial and resurrection and ascension into heaven. 

Have I done a good job of paraphrasing or describing what you are caught up with as we describe the cross?  Because a lot of people wear it as jewelry and it's an event.  It's not just an event, though, is it, John?

John:  That's a very helpful observation for the radio, especially, because the word "cross" might mean something you're crucified on, or it might mean a piece of jewelry, or it might be the last name of somebody you know, but you summed it up in redemptive historical terms – that's right. 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world.  He lived a perfect life, becoming a holy, perfect lamb of God.  He laid himself out voluntarily to be slaughtered on a cross.  He poured out his forgiveness on us – "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing."  He breathed His last breath in obedience to the Father so that He was a perfectly righteous substitute, and then He raised Himself from the dead.

I say that even though the Father raised Him.  It says in Romans 6, (He said), "Nobody takes my life from me.  I'll lay it down, and if I lay it down, I can take it again."  Jesus Almighty raised Himself from the dead, He was taken up, sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.  When I say, "the cross" I mean that great redemptive work from incarnation to the installation at God's right hand.  Yes, that's really crucial to see.

Dennis:  To that person who is listening to us right now who does not have the awe, who does not have the wonder, who looks at the cross and said, "Yes, that was an event in history," but who doesn't know the Savior, who doesn't know God's forgiveness, the peace with God that passes all understanding, what would you say to that person right now?

John:  Depending on how much they know, I would say get to know Him by looking at the Scriptures, reading the Gospels, and once you see Him crucified, risen, then do what the Bible says – “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."  And if you say, "Believe on Him, what does that mean, what does that involve, believe on Him?" 

I would say take these three words, it means trust Him or accept Him or embrace Him as Savior from your sin and judgment, as Lord of your life, who has the right to dictate what is healthy and good and right for you to do; and the third, and maybe just as important as the other three is embrace Him as your treasure.

But I find that many people today will talk about Jesus as Savior, Jesus as Lord, and it's such worn-out language they don't really realize the impact it must have in the transformation of their values.  But when I say, "Is He your treasure?”  Are you accepting Him as your treasure to as many as received Him?  To them gave you power to become the children of God, receive Him as what?  And I say, "Treasure, the treasure of your life."  Then they say, "Whoa, maybe He's not." 

And so I would say to every listener, get to know him well enough to see that He is a Savior; He is a wonderful Lord; He is not a hard taskmaster, and He is a treasure that is so valuable that you can "Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill, God's truth abideth still," and you can a live a radical, God-glorifying lifestyle because He is the treasure that will never fail.

Dennis:  We have people listening from all types of denominations, and when you just went through what you explained, immediately, they thought, "Well, do I need to pray to be able to move into that right relationship with God?  Do I need to kneel?  Do I need to go to a church or a cathedral?  Where do I need to go?  How do I go about establishing this right relationship with God?"

John:  One of the most beautiful things to me about the coming of Jesus Christ into the world is that he de-localized and de-externalized worship.  Because when He met the woman at the well, and she said, "Well, now, help me to understand this worship issue, Jesus, do we worship in this mountain or do we worship in Jerusalem?"  Jesus said, "The day is coming and now is when you will not worship in this mountain or in Jerusalem, but you will worship in spirit and in truth."  Notice the shift in categories from geography to spirit.  And the reason He shifted from mountain in Jerusalem to truth and spirit, is because truth and spirit can be anywhere, anytime.

In fact, Jesus Himself becomes the new temple.  Christianity is the one religion that has no geographic center.  We have no shrine.  You don't have to go anywhere or move one single muscle to get right with God through Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ is here, now, whenever He is called upon. 

So I would say – "Call upon the name of the Lord, and you will be saved," Romans 10:13.  And you can do that without moving your tongue.  A paralyzed person lying in bed, unable to move eyelash or tongue, can call upon the name of the Lord in their heart, and He promises you, "Call upon Me as Savior, as Lord, as treasure, and you will have all your sins forgiven, and you will have a righteousness imputed to you.  You will have a home in heaven with me forever, because you have just honored me as a great Savior."

Dennis:  What I would say to the listener after the compelling picture you have presented to them of the love of God, poured out in the person of Jesus Christ, after we have spent an entire broadcast describing the cross and how attractive it is:  If right now, that picture, the person of Jesus Christ, and all the cross represents is attractive to you as Savior, Lord, and treasure, right now, don't drive another mile.  Don't do another activity at work or at home or wherever you are listening to this broadcast.  Right now, stop and make it right with God.  Do business with Him.

John:  And, you know, I would just add – when you use the word "attractive," they're going to feel that as yes and no, aren't they?  Because to Christians the cross is horrific, it is ugly. 

In fact, we've seen it in the movie.  It's really ugly.  Mel Gibson's, "The Passion of Christ" portrays Gethsemane and the cross for what it really was, and yet in that very substitutionary ugliness is the attraction.  I mean, my only hope is that that didn't happen to me, it happened to Him for me, and so I am both repulsed by it – I've talked to people who say they can't watch more than a third of that movie, it's so horrible.  And yet others are drawn to that movie, because that it happened is my only hope.

So I hope that my effort to describe the meaning of that suffering will really help people see what that's all about.

Bob: And it’s not just that it’s our only hope for the next life, but it’s also what calibrates our life for this life.  It’s what gives this life its purpose.  What Christ did on the cross to reconcile us to God is what brings significance to how we live today, and you’ve made that so clear not only here as we’ve talked about it this week, but also in the book that you wrote called Don’t Waste Your Life.  I hope our listeners have either read the book by now or have called us to get a copy.

In fact, now the book comes with a DVD of you speaking on this subject.  So if a listener goes to and orders a copy of Dr. John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life, you’ll get both the book and the DVD and this is something that you may want to do in a study group with high school students or with college students or with the adults in your church.

The title of the book, again, is Don’t Waste Your Life.  You can find out more about it online at or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word “TODAY.”

I know that just a couple of years ago, Dr. Piper, you wrote a book on marriage.  In fact, I remember hearing you speak on the subject of marriage in (I think) 2000, when FamilyLife hosted an event called “Building Strong Families in Your Church.”

You spoke at that event on “Marriage Lived to the Glory of God.” 

We thought that message was so profound that we wanted to make it available as a way of saying “thank you” to those folks who are able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation this month.  All you have to do is go to and make a donation online or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation.  When you do, just request a copy either of the audio CD or the DVD of Dr. Piper speaking on marriage, “Marriage Lived to the Glory of God.”

If you make your donation online at and you’d like a copy of the message, then either type the word “GLORYCD” or “GLORYDVD” into the online key code box on the donation form, or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone, just say, “I’d like the CD or the DVD of that message on marriage that they were talking about on the radio.”  They’ll know what you mean, and we’ll send you Dr. Piper’s message on what a marriage looks like lived to the glory of God.  Again, thanks for your support of the ministry.  We do appreciate your financial partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.

Now, tomorrow we want to encourage you to be back with us when we’re going to hear a message from our friend Tommy Nelson.  Tommy’s a pastor in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Denton, Texas.   The message is all about how we can better understand our responsibilities as husbands and as wives in a marriage relationship.  I hope you can tune in for that.


Bob:  I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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