Piper’s sermon was on Romans 5:3-8. “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; (4) and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; (5) and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (6) For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
He explains that
“. . . the Christian life starts with hope through the work of Christ for us and in us and then goes on to more and more hope as we experience more and more of God’s preserving, refining grace through tribulation. Enduring tribulation does not create the first hope, but refines the first hope, and makes that hope abound more and more.
But let’s look at another text that teaches this. Look at Romans 15:13. Watch the spiraling nature of hope. “Now may the God of hope [note this] fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope [note this] by the power of the Holy Spirit.” So how does hope work in the Christian life? We start with the God of hope. He fills us with joy and peace. How? “In believing.” In believing what? In believing all that Christ has done and all he promises to do for us. In other words, our joy and peace rise with what we believe the God of hope is for us in Christ. Joy and peace are sustained by hope. But then the verse says that God fills us with joy and peace “so that you will abound in hope.” So here we have more hope coming from the fruit of hope. Hope brings about our joy and peace. And our joy and peace bring about more and more hope.”
“Now think about this. Is the love of God demonstrated to us historically for us to study and think about and know as objective fact (verse 8)? Or is the love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit for us to feel and be assured of in the face of doubt (verse 5)? Of course, the answer is that Paul will not let us break these things in two. We dare not choose between them or make them antagonistic to each other. The love of God is experienced in the heart. And the love of God is demonstrated in history. There is fact, and there is feeling. There is knowledge in the head and there is affection in the heart. There is truth and there is Spirit.
The key question is: How are they related? On the basis of the relation between verse 5 and verses 6-8 I say, the Holy Spirit takes the historical facts of Christ’s death and opens the eyes of our heart to see the all-satisfying divine beauty of the love of God in it. And thus, by the spiritual sight of God’s love in the work of Christ, He pours that love experientially into our hearts. It is not an experience like electricity. It is a mediated experience. It has factual content. And therefore when it comes, it isn’t like some vague, new age, out-of-body experience, or some hypnotic state, or some ecstatic condition produced by emptying your head. It is being filled with the glory of the love of God demonstrated in the God-man Christ Jesus, who died because of our sins and rose because of our justification.”
“We are lingering for the third week over the conscious experience of being loved by God described in verse 5. What I have been stressing is that this experience is something we feel. Something we know in the heart that is more than a fact that we infer from argument. You can know some things from argument that you don’t experience in your heart. You might argue 1) The Bible says, “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16); 2) I am part of the world; 3) therefore, God loves me. That’s one way of knowing you are loved by God.Or you might go further and say, 1) Christ told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13); 2) I am one of his friends because I follow him and keep his commandments (John 15:14); 3) therefore, Christ loves me with the greatest love.
These are ways of knowing you are loved by the use of argument. And that is important. We need to see these things and use them as part of our arsenal in our fight of faith. But that is not what Romans 5:5 is talking about. Romans 5:5 says that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” This experience of God’s love for us is not mainly a logical inference. It is something poured out. It is something felt in the heart. Known in the way the heart knows.”
Piper explains from scripture why he believes that to be the case and ends with a strong urging to us to be seeking the experience of God’s Spirit
“. . . is it not clear that the experience varies from time to time and from person to person? Otherwise Paul would not pray for it as often as he does.
And, finally, is it not clear then how we should seek the fullness of this experience as a people? First, we do not empty our heads, but fill them with the truth of Christ and the demonstration of his love for us when he came and lived and died and rose. Second, we pray for it. Really pray for it!
These are the two things Paul did again and again. He wrote to his people to direct their minds to the truth of God in Christ. And he prayed that the Holy Spirit would give them eyes to see the glory of what he was writing about.
That is my call to us all. Read the demonstrations of the love of God in Christ. Think of them just that way. And pray with all your heart the prayers of Paul. Like the one in Ephesians 1:18-19: “I pray that t
he eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” When the eyes of our hearts are opened to the greatness of God’s love, the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Seek this. Seek this in its fullness with all your might.”