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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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20 Quotes from a Profound New Book on Death

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The following quotes caught my attention as I read Matthew McCullough’s thoughtful and profound book Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope (Crossway, 2018).

When the reality of death is far from our minds, the promises of Jesus often seem detached from our lives. (19)

Before you long for a life that is imperishable, you must accept that you are perishing along with everyone you care about. You must recognize that anything you might accomplish or acquire in this world is already fading away. Only then will you crave the unfading glory of what Jesus has accomplished and acquired for you. And you need to recognize you are going to lose everything you love in this world before you will hope in an inheritance kept in heaven for you. (20–21)

When the reality of death is far from our minds, the promises of Jesus often seem detached from our lives.

Once we’ve learned to see the shadow [of death], we’ll be able to apply the light of Christ. (23)

If death tells us we’re not too important to die, the gospel tells us we’re so important that Christ died for us. And not because death’s message about us is wrong. It isn’t. On our own, we are dispensable. But joined to Christ, through our union with him, we are righteous, we are children of God, and God will not let us die any more than he left Jesus in the grave. (24)

Death is not ok. By avoiding the subject of death, we act like that’s not true. And we shrink down the scale of Jesus’s victory to fit the world we live in now. (52)

If death is not a problem, Jesus won’t be much of a solution. The more deeply we feel death’s sting, the more consciously we will feel the gospel’s healing power. The more carefully we number our days, the more joyfully we’ll hear that death’s days are numbered too. (52)

Death makes a statement about each of us: you are not too important to die. . . . o long as death remains someone else’s problem, Jesus will remain someone else’s Savior. (54, 55)

Death is not the natural end to a merely biological life. Death is an intrusion into the perfect world of the Creator designed by that same Creator to make a point. Death is a punishment for human pride. It exposes our foolish confidence in our freedom to be whoever we want to be. (64)

An awareness of death that won’t shrink back from the truth can help us to check our inner narcissism and rest in the promises of God. The gospel, seen in the light of what death means for us, tells us we are important because we are loved, not loved because we’re important. God’s love initiates, marks us off, redefines who we are. (70)

Through death we may as well be nameless. We’re essentially waiting to be forgotten in time. But in Christ we are known, eternally, by the Father with the same intimacy and affection he has for his Son. . . . We wait, still, but not to be forgotten. (76)

For all our time and attention, no matter how carefully we curate our stuff or how much we might enjoy ourselves along the way, we’re all merely stocking and staging someone else’s opportunity for bargain prices. (95)

Behind our experience of life’s futility is the unrecognized and fruitless attempt to overcome death. We experience futility in work or pleasure or wealth or whatever else when these things are not able to do what we’re asking them to do. We’re asking them to protect us from death—to give our lives meaning that death won’t erase. And for this purpose, they are futile. We’re building walls and roofs out of tissue paper and asking them to give us shelter from the rain. (99)

Time and death turn sweet seasons of life into painful memories of what’s been lost. (115)

Death is a biological event—the end of the heart’s beating, the lungs’ breathing, and the brain’s processing—but it is also far more. There’s no confining death to the moment at which your life ends. Its effects are everywhere. Death is not so much an event as a process with a final culmination—a siphoning process that separates us from what we love so that, in the end, everyone loses everything. But when we recognize this truth, when we acknowledge it and don’t shrink back from it, we join the path to deeper, fuller joy in the promise of a deathless world where what we love won’t ever pass away, a world promised to us by the one who is the Resurrection and the Life. (115)

Death spreads its poison through everything we enjoy because nothing we enjoy is ours to keep. Time passes, things change, and eventually everyone loses everything they love. (117)

When we think carefully about death and how it swallows up what we love about life now, we’re prepared to see that what Jesus offers is what we’ve needed all along. Jesus offers eternity, the promise of deathless life, to all who trust in him. And that means he offers joy that won’t be clouded by sorrow. (127)

Jesus offers eternity, the promise of deathless life, to all who trust in him. And that means he offers joy that won’t be clouded by sorrow.

Jesus came to offer what we must have if we’re to know true and lasting joy. He offers what we can’t do without. But what he offers is often far different from what we think we need. We’re often focused on what we want from this life. But Jesus doesn’t promise to give us more of what death will only steal anyway. He wants to give us what death can’t touch. (134)

Embracing death-awareness is how we strip away a heart-breaking attachment to the things of this world. It’s how we’re weaned from the materialistic standards we would naturally use to evaluate Jesus. Otherwise, like those to whom Jesus first spoke, we’ll continue living as if death isn’t a problem, and we’ll resent the fact that Jesus doesn’t offer us more of what we want from life. . . . Jesus came to give us eternal life, not to give us more stuff for death to steal away. (136)

Jesus’s death and resurrection, and his promise that he will give life to us too if we believe in him, reframe how we experience the transient things of this life. The way to fully taste the sweetness of eternal life is not to pull back from enjoying the good things of this life, but to leverage these good and passing pleasures into longing for the endless feast to come. Loving this life and all its goodness, knowing with truth and honesty that we’re going to lose everything, can actually deepen our love for the life to come. (138)

Everything depends on Jesus’s resurrection. We see that truth only when we’ve allowed ourselves to see and to grieve over death. When we’ve recognized our solidarity with Adam in death, we’re ready to recognize our solidarity with Jesus in life. (178)

Previously in the “20 Quotes” series:

Francis Grimké, Meditations on Preaching (Log College Press, 2018) Sam Alberry, Why Bother with Church? (Good Book, 2016) Jen Wilkin, In His Image (Crossway, 2018) Trevor Laurence, The Story of the Word (Wipf and Stock, 2017) Jonathan Leeman, How the Nations Rage (Thomas Nelson, 2018) Andy Johnson, Missions (Crossway, 2017) Alan Jacobs, How to Think (Currency, 2017) Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (Crossway, 2017) Erik Raymond, Chasing Contentment (Crossway, 2017) Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God (Banner of Truth, 2016) Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas (Viking, 2016) Scott Sauls, Befriend (Tyndale House, 2016) Ray Ortlund, Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel (Crossway, 2016) Jen Wilkin, None Like Him (Crossway, 2016) Tim Keller, Making Sense of God (Viking, 2016) Mark Dever, Understanding the Great Commission (B&H, 2016) Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ (Crossway, 2016) Albert Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent (Thomas Nelson, 2015) Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community (Crossway, 2015) Russell Moore, Onward (B&H, 2015) Rosaria Butterfield, Openness Unhindered (Crown & Covenant, 2015) Tim Keller, Preaching (Viking, 2015) Tim Keller, Prayer (Dutton, 2014) Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word (Crossway, 2014) mlo_2erJzmE

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