The Satisfied Soul – John Piper

piperChristian devotionals are “a dime a dozen” these days. Many of these books are nothing more than warmed over self-help guides that prop up self-esteem and pulverize biblical authority. Like a tasty bowl of sugary cereal, they promise nutrition, but in the final analysis, they neglect the truth and leave readers starving.

John Piper’s devotional, The Satisfied Soul takes a different path. In typical fashion, Piper offers readers 120 daily meditations that strengthen, nourish, and challenge. These meditations are packed with Scriptural imperatives, warnings, and encouragements. Piper never skirts the truth – he celebrates it! Piper has a unique gift of blending pastoral admonition with prophetic proclamation. And at the center of his pastoral pleas is the rich message of the gospel.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Advertisements

Reading the Bible Supernaturally – John Piper (2017)

piperJohn Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally Wheaton: Crossway, 2017, 430 pp. $25.51

The day I completed John Piper’s newest book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, I was alerted to a shocking and sobering statistic, namely, only forty-five percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Such a statistic should prompt Christians to radically shift their priorities and make Bible reading a normal part of their lives. If less than half of Christian people are reading the Bible on a regular basis, we are not only short-circuiting our joy; we are failing to showcase the glory of God and find satisfaction in his all-sufficient grace.

Part One: The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible Supernaturally, by John Piper is directed at people who regularly feast on the Word of God. My assumption is that if people neglect Bible reading, they will have no interest in reading a book about the Bible. Piper offers a modest proposal in Reading the Bible Supernaturally:

Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.

Six implications flow forth from this proposal:

  1. that the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe;
  2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word;
  3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty;
  4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things;
  5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty,
  6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshipping family of God until the bride of Christ – across all centuries and cultures – is complete in number and beauty.

The proposal and the six implications make up the first part of the book and help set the stage for the remaining sections.

Part Two: The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible

In Part Two, the author argues that reading the Bible in a way that glorifies God is a supernatural act. God expects that his Word is read supernaturally a feat that Piper expounds with skill and persuasiveness.

Part Three: The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Part three may surprise some readers as Piper makes a case for joining the natural efforts of Bible reading with supernatural assistance from God. The aim of the author in this section is to “encourage a deep dependence on God and the fullest use of natural powers in the supernatural act of reading the Bible.” In passage after passage, Piper demonstrates how this view matches the biblical record.

Summary

John Piper succeeds in defending his proposal. In the process, he encourages Christians to read “actively” with “aggressive attentiveness.” His plea is for readers to be rooted in a “deep understanding of the glorious calling to pursue the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally.” Clearly, we are in the midst of a crisis if less than half of Christians are reading their Bibles on a regular basis. Something must change in the days ahead. The best place to begin is by reading the Bible supernaturally.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Living in the Light


aaaJohn Piper. Living in the Light: Money, Sex, & Power. The Good Book Company, 2016. 144 pp. $10.98

Three statements wonderfully capture the essence of this powerful little book:

Money, sex, and power exist for the great aims of God in human history. They are not detours on the path to God-exalting joy. Along with all the rest of God’s good world, they are the path. With them, we can show the supreme worth of God.

Money, sex, and power which began as God’s good gifts to humanity have become dangerous because all human beings have exchanged the glory of God for images.

Money, sex, and power will be restored to their God-glorifying place by the redemption that God brought into the world through Jesus Christ – the great liberation of creation from all sin and sickness and sorrow.

John Piper, in typical fashion, aims for the heart and soul of people in his newest book, Living in the Light: Money, Sex & Power. Piper demonstrates how money, sex, and power were ruined by the fall. “When God is restored as the supreme value of the heart, money, sex, and power begin to find their God-glorifying place in life. Everything hangs on what we value as supreme.”

Living in the Light may come as a surprise for many readers. Piper argues in a way that may appear counterintuitive but is, in the final analysis profoundly biblical and practical: “Money, sex, and power are three good gifts of God. We can either use them to reveal a heart of darkness, or reveal a heart of light. And in doing so, we will reveal the truth of God’s supreme beauty and worth, or we will portray him as inadequate for our soul’s desire.”

So with this context, the author helps readers understand the deep dangers of money, sex, and power when they are not used to glorify God. He helps readers understand the depth of idolatry that occurs when creatures treasure anything apart from the supreme value of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, “If you see anything as more beautiful, more attractive, more desirable than God, you are in the dark. You are not seeing reality for what it is … Living in the light is seeing God as supremely glorious, supremely beautiful, supremely desirable, and supremely satisfying.”

Living in the Light: Money, Sex, & Power is short in length but packed with Christ-saturated wisdom. This book should be required reading for every Christian. It will no doubt shake many people and alert them to many dangers and awaken many people to many delights. For the chief issue here is this: Is the Lord Jesus Christ our supreme treasure? Read and digest this incredible book. You’ll be changed, challenged, and motivated to pursue the Triune God with passion delight!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

A Peculiar Glory

piperJohn Piper. A Peculiar Glory. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016. 302 pp. $20.98

How is the Bible confirmed by the peculiar glory of God? This critical question is addressed in John Piper’s latest book, A Peculiar Glory. The book is written to nourish and edify followers of Christ and help bring clarity on the matter of biblical authority. Yet, initial reviews are troubling. One critic accuses Piper of “circular reasoning and arrogance.” In a Christianity Today review, Jason Byassee laments a “lack of charity” in Piper’s new book. And while he affirms that liberals and mainline denominations need “Christ-centered, biblically attentive doctrines of Scripture,” he doubles down in his critical review of Piper. “This book doesn’t quite fit that need” argues Byassee. I will argue, much to the contrary that not only does Piper succeed, he does it with grace, unmatched skill. Indeed, this work will leave a significant mark that will be difficult to surpass.

Peculiar Glory gives readers an inside look into the words of the Westminster Larger Catechism (Question 4): “The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God, by … the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God.”

Readers will discover the glory that occupies Piper’s attention (and should occupy ours as well) is the glory of Jesus Christ. Piper argues there is “an essence or a center or a dominant peculiarity in the way God glorifies himself in Scripture.” He observes that God glorifies himself in “working for those who wait for him, through fulfilled prophecy, the miracles of Jesus, and through Scripture-shaped lives of radical love. That dominant peculiarity is the revelation of God’s majesty through meekness.” And in the final analysis, we learn that the most intense aspect of God’s glory shines brightest in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has died for sinners and was raised and seated at the right hand of God the Father.

Piper’s conclusion is simple: “The Bible has final authority over every area of our lives and that we should, therefore, try to bring all our thinking and feeling and acting into line with what the Bible teaches.” He admits this is a massive claim of epic proportions:

The Bible is not the private charter of a faith community among other faith communities. It is a total claim on the whole world. God, the creator owner, and governor of the world, has spoken. His words are valid and binding on all people everywhere. That is what it means to be God. And to our astonishment, his way of speaking with unique, infallible authority in the twenty-first century is through a book. One book. Not many. That is the breathtaking declaration of the Christian Scriptures.

Piper’s concluding argument is laced with precision and resolve:

Only the divine ‘light of the gospel of the glory of Christ’ transforms the soul. Only divine light yields certainty that secures the soul for a life of love through the worst sufferings. Only the sight of God’s glory in his inspired word gives certainty to the simplest and the most educated person.

I commend A Peculiar Glory to followers of Christ who want to gain a deeper understanding of God’s word. This book will no doubt ground many believers in the deep soil of God’s grace and help nourish many souls so that God’s peculiar glory will manifest itself in their lives.

THE MARRIAGE COVENANT – An Indissoluble Union

Books on marriage are a dime-a-dozen these days, even from a Christian perspective.  However, only a handful of books on marriage pass the test of biblical fidelity.  John Piper’s book, This Momentary Marriage passes both tests..  In fact, it ranks among the best books I’ve read on marriage to date.

Readers familiar with Piper will instantly drawn in to his argument for marriage.  Over and over Piper pounds the theme of the book into the ground for maximum effect: The ultimate purpose of marriage is “the display of Christ’s covenant keeping grace.”  To that end, the author develops several items worth mentioning.

1. The author grounds his central argument in rich soil by reiterating that marriage is “the doing of God.”

And in a final sense, “marriage is the display of God.”  He continues, “The ultimate things we can say about marriage is that it exists for God’s glory.  That is, it exists to display God … Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to his redeemed people, the church.  And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display.”  And this is the primary reason why divorce is so odious to God: “Therefore, what makes divorce and remarriage so horrific in God’s eyes is not merely that it involves covenant-breaking to the spouse, but that it involves misrepresenting Christ and his covenant” (emphasis mine).

2. Piper focuses on the priority of covenant love.

Remember the theme of the book that marriage is means to display Christ’s covenant keeping grace.  Therefore, the author argues that “staying married is not mainly about staying in love.  It’s about covenant-keeping.”  The foundation for this covenant-keeping is the rock-solid covenant between people and God.  Therefore, Piper continues, “Marriage exists to display the merciful covenant-keeping love of Christ and the faithfulness of his bride.”

It is here that the book takes an important and decisive turn – for the author shows the relevance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone and how it relates to marriage.  Piper adds, ” God requires two thing of us: punishment for our sins and perfection for our lives.”  He continues to describe how the vertical reality of justification must be “bent horizontally to our spouses if marriage is to display the covenant-making, covenant-keeping grace of God.”  The takeaway is profound: “Let the measure of God’s grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse.”  This is a perfect example of the Christ-saturated wisdom that permeates the book.

Piper continues to give practical advice to husbands and wives throughout the book; advice that is bathed in biblical wisdom; advice that is ultimately rooted in our God who keeps covenant with his people.  Biblical headship is discussed – so husbands are encouraged to lead well: “Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christlike, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.”  The husband’s leadership involves physical and spiritual protection and physical and spiritual provision.Biblical submission is explored: “Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”   What strikes me about the section on headship and submission is this: in a few short pages, Piper delivers an exegetical bombshell that utterly destroys the prevailing notion of egalitarianism.  This God-dishonoring view that sees no distinction between male and female roles is left begging for mercy; tattered and torn in the shadow of Piper’s sound exposition.

The concluding chapters discuss the permanence of the marriage covenant.   In what may be one of the most important statements in the book, Piper suggests that “if Christ ever abandons and discards his church, then a man may divorce his wife.  And if the blood-bought church, under the new covenant, ever ceases to be the bride of Christ, then a wife may legitimately divorce her husband.  But as long as Christ keeps his covenant with the church, by the omnipotent grace of God, remains the chosen people of Christ, then the very meaning of marriage will include: What God has joined, only God can separate.”

The author boldly goes where few pastors dare to go by suggesting that remarriage is prohibited so long as the previous spouse is still alive.  His arguments are exegetically sound and compelling.  Readers who disagree are encouraged to survey the case that Piper presents and prayerfully consider his arguments.

This Momentary Marriage is a landmark book.  It is a theological landmine that will undoubtedly shatter many preconceived notions about marriage.  It is solid food that Christians need to digest.  And it is timely ointment that is designed to heal wounds and promote strong marriages in the difficult days ahead.

Highly recommended!

RISK IS RIGHT – John Piper (2012)

The very notion of risk is a foreign subject to most Americans.  Yet, anapiper important aspect of the Christian life can be summed up in one word: risk.  John Piper argues that risk is essential.  The title of the book is Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It.

Readers familiar with Dr. Piper’s Christian hedonism will gravitate to this book – for God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.  Piper writes,

This is what we live for, and die for: to make much of Jesus Christ and his glorious, universe-encompassing kingdom.  The heart cry of our lives, young and old, men and women, rich and poor, is the glory of Jesus Christ so that with full courage now as always Christ might be honored in our bodies whether by life or by death.

Such a notion involves risk, which the author defines as  “an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury.”  Most Americans do whatever they can do achieve the opposite.  Yet Piper argues, “It may not be loving to choose comfort or security when something great may be achieved for the cause of Christ and for the good of others.”

Piper urges readers to consider what he has coined, “risk avoidance,” which is in the final analysis, a cowardly act.  Bonhoeffer is cited in what proves to be one of the most moving quotations in the book.  Read the German pastor’s words slowly:

To delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful than to make wrong decisions out of faith and love.

“Risk avoidance” Piper writes, “may be more sinful – more unloving than taking the risk in faith and love and making a wrong decision.”

The author presents examples of Old Testament and New Testament saints who took risks for the glory of God.

The point that Piper seeks to make is this: If you only live in comfort and refuse to step out in faith and risk, you will waste your life.  When we risk, we will be eternally satisfied in him.  Nothing will have been wasted.”

As usual, Piper always challenges presuppositions, encourages lively and Christ-centered faith and prods Christ-followers in the right direction.  The concluding sentence of the book is revealing:

But at the end of the road of risk, taken in reliance on the blood-bought promises of God, there will be fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

SEEING BEAUTY AND SAYING BEAUTIFULLY – John Piper (2014)

1433542943_b“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”  So says King Solomon in Proverbs 25:11.  These wise words are the biblical basis for John Piper’s new book, Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully.  Nearly fifteen years ago, Dr. Piper embarked on a series of books called, The Swans Are Not Silent.  The beauty of these books is found in a combination of brevity, historical narrative, and theological depth.  The books set out to introduce key figures in the history of the church – from Augustine, Calvin, and Luther to Bunyan, Wilberforce, and Cowper.  The newest volume introduces readers to George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis.

The author’s aim, as he says, is “to probe the interrelationship between seeing beauty and saying it beautifully.”  And he accomplishes his goal by pointing to Herbert, Whitefield, and Lewis by demonstrating how these men pointed others to see the beauty of Christ.

Piper spends much of his time laboring over the poetic effort of these men: “Poetic effort is the effort to see and savor and speak the wonder – the divine glory – that is present everywhere in the world God made, in the history God guides, and in the Word God inspired.”

This is the sixth volume in the Swans Are Not Silent series.  Each book stands alone and is brimming with joy and hope, which are centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The newest edition is no exception.  John Piper continues to equip and encourage his readers.  Over and over again, he proves, the swans are not silent.

5 stars