So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go out 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. – Hebrews 13:12-14

This past April at the T4G Conference in Louisville, KY, John Piper preached on “How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice“. It was, by far, one of the most challenging and encouraging messages at the conference. Almost as encouraging was the Q&A that followed the message with Piper and CJ Mahaney, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler.  I came across the transcript of the Q&A again today and was reminded of how helpful it was to me.

I suspect that any true believer wants their lives to be characterized by a radical devotion to Christ. However, most of us live within a culture filled with quasi-benign (I say “quasi-benign” because every good and perfect gift can become an idol) distractions that have the potential to numb our affections for Christ depending upon the way our flesh responds to these things. Sports. Entertainment. Advertisements. Family responsibilities. Sex. Employment issues. The list could go on. This is just a sampling. Our world is also filled with much more sinister distractions with deliberate designs to “steal, kill and destroy” our joy. Pornography. The idolatry of sports entertainment. Over-realized infatuation with self. The love of money. These things rob us of both the ability and opportunity to live life with a radical flavor when they become our source of joy rather than Christ.

I suspect, as well, that these are also the things that keep us from doing the hard things in ministry. These are the things that we run to when we are running away from doing what is hard in life. In other words, we all have shameful comfort sins or distractions that cripple our ability to live as zealots for Jesus.

The “camp” is the place where we feel secure and comfortable, where we accomplish tasks with ease. While ministry is never easy, ministry is manageable and sustainable from the safety and security found inside the walls of the camp, walls often stabilized and erected by our own sense of competency in our giftedness. And here is the sobering truth: We are capable of doing ministry without love. But Christ was always motivated by love – particulary when he went outside the camp in obedience to the will of the Father for the sake of love. I think it is our lack of love that keeps us from radical Christian sacrifice. Lack of love for Jesus. Lack of love for others.

In the Q&A Piper reminds us that we all know what is hard for us to do for the cause of love. He reminds us that life is easy inside the camp, but outside the camp is Golgotha. Outside the camp is where our love for the Gospel is really put to the test.

So you all know what is hard for you to do in the cause of love. I am not advocating asceticism in some artificial way like taking a cold shower every morning. I mean you have a neighbor and you are scared to talk to him. You have a colleague and that colleague needs to be confronted about some bad habit. You have a marriage problem and you have been running from it forever and you need to tackle it because it is going to be emotionally exhausting to do it. You read Romans 12 with all the exhortations and you know that some of them are extremely difficult for you to do.

So my prayer is that this message will help me mainly to have more affection for the treasure of Christ so that in the moment—when your will is locked into fear, greed, and self-exaltation—you can see a pathway that is costly but looks biblically right, and have enough motive in the truth that I have seen that the Holy Spirit will take those truths and you will act.

Piper goes on to talk specifically about the hard path of following Jesus in relationship to evangelism, our spouse and our children. The motive for us to pursue a life of radical Christian service is the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf and the promise of the eternal city that is to come. This will spur on the kind of sacrificial love for Jesus and others that will cause the world to one day say that we are men and women of whom the world was not worthy (Heb 11:38). And this kind of proclamation would serve God’s glory, not our own.