John Piper & Me (#2)

A few months ago, John Piper marked his 30th anniversary in the pulpit of Bethlehem Baptist Church, where I was once a member and a pastoral intern (we were called “apprentices” in those days). As I mentioned this relationship here in The Breadline, I was asked by a blog reader:

What was John Piper like on a personal level, how did he influence or change your perspective on ministry, and what would you say is the most important thing he taught you?

My first answer had to do with John’s vibrant model of a ministry driven by reformed theology. Let me follow up that post with this (and hopefully one more).

Second: I came to know about passionate, biblical worship by attending BBC, led by Pastor John Piper. I first went to hear the preacher, but then was awe-struck by the dynamic, reverent and God-centered worship in that place. Words are hard to come by to adequately describe how significant an impact those worship services made upon me. My very definition of worship is built upon one that John taught —

WORSHIP IS FOCUSING YOUR MIND’S ATTENTION AND YOUR HEART’S AFFECTION ON THE GLORY AND GRACE OF GOD.”

You can read about John’s theology of worship in his book DESIRING GOD, MEDITATIONS OF A CHRISTIAN HEDONIST [his website allows you to read the book for free online, or to download a PDF copy for free].

There John describes worship with a wonderful word-picture:

The fuel of worship is the truth of God, the furnace of worship is the spirit of man, and the heat of worship is the vital affections of reverence, contrition, trust, gratitude and joy. …

The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands and obedient lives.

Preaching sound, biblical theology fuels the passionate worship of a great God! I discovered that thanks to the ministry of John Piper (and Tom Steller and several other dear people at BBC).

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[the first post with this same title was in October 2009]

Manton on “desiring God” (long before John Piper)

Careful reading of the following quotation will yield much reward. Here, puritan Thomas Manton reminds us that God is content and happy in Himself, and the one who comes to know God (and love what He loves) will share in this great happiness. Manton, and all the puritans really, were “Christian hedonists” long before John Piper smartly coined the phrase. Manton also takes a poke at those who think (wrongly) that the way of holiness is an unhappy path (far from the truth!) — so if that’s you, read this twice and reconsider!
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Manton

“God loves Himself, and acts for Himself, and pursueth His own glory. Now when the word of God breaks in upon the heart, we pursue the same design with God. Men are prejudiced against a course of holiness; it seems to look upon them with a sour and austere face. Surely God loves a pleasant life; whoever is miserable, He hath a full contentment. Doth He that made all thinks want [lack] true joy and contentment? Who should have happiness if God hath not? Now when we learn God’s statutes, we come to be conformed to the nature of God; we love what He loves, and hate what He hates, and then we begin to live the life of God. The happiness of God lieth in loving Himself, enjoying Himself, and acting for His own glory; and this is the fruit of grace, to teach us to live as God lives, to do as God doth; to love Him and enjoy Him as our chiefest good; and to glorify Him as our utmost end.”
— Sermon on Psalm 119:12 (I:99; emphasis added).

Worship at the center…

A great comment was made by someone at CPCC the other day, reminding us that whatever we do as a church — including evangelism and outreach — must flow out of worship. He had just read the following (from an OPC publication, available online), where author Larry Wilson quotes John Piper. It is one of my favorite points made by Piper, and its significance is worth digesting…

But our Lord Jesus declares that God is seeking worshipers (John 4:23–24)! As we grow in our love for God, we will, like John Calvin, grow in our zeal that God be truly worshiped, as well as truly known. If our Lord grants such zeal, it will drive reformation and renewal in every aspect of the church’s life. It will even renew our evangelistic and missionary zeal. John Piper helpfully exhorts:

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man…. Worship… is the fuel and goal of missions…. When the flame of worship burns with the heat of God’s true worth, the light of missions will shine to the most remote peoples on earth…. Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervent desire to “declare his glory among the nations” (Ps. 96:3). Even outsiders feel the disparity between the boldness of our claim upon the nations and the blandness of our engagement with God. (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad [Baker, 1993], pp. 11–12)

It is of the utmost importance, then, that our hearts be gripped by the real point of worship.

Amen! The whole of Larry Wilson’s article, THE REAL POINT OF WORSHIP, can be found here.
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Nine ways to pray for your soul

Earlier this year, John Piper posted this brief list of nine biblical ways to “pray for yourself so that you’re praying in sync with the way God works.” Note the Scripture attached to each item. Don’t just read the list — pray it!

1. For the desire of my heart to be toward God and his Word.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to gain. (Psalm 119:36)

2. For the eyes of my heart to be opened.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Psalm 119:18)

chp_shadow3. For my heart to be enlightened with these “wonders.”
[I pray] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened. (Ephesians 1:18)

4. For my heart to be united, not divided, for God.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)

5. For my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

6. For strength in this joy, and endurance during the dark seasons.
[I pray that God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. (Ephesians 3:16)

7. For visible good deeds and works of love to others.
[I pray that you] will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10)

8. For God to be glorified.
Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6:9)

9. In Jesus’ name.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? (Romans 8:32)

AMEN!
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ESV Study Bible video clips

The English Standard Version of the Bible is a fine translation, even one of the best to use. Soon its publisher, Crossway Books, will issue an ESV Study Bible. In advance of its release, they have made available a few online video clips HERE. It is a great opportunity to hear Dr. J. I. Packer and other speak about the Bible in general, and the ESV-SB in particular.”

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PIPER: Gratitude for Power-Restraint

Here is a short and helpful insight to current political events (with greater ramifications in our world), found in a commentary by John Piper on June 16, 2008

The Supreme Court rendered a decision last week concerning Guantanamo Bay. Unlawful combatants there now have constitutional habeas rights (protection from unlawful detention). The decision was considered a rebuke to the Bush administration and the way the armed services are doing their work under his leadership.

Here is what amazes me and awakens thankfulness in my heart to God. I heard the president from Rome speak these words: “We will abide by the Court’s decision. That doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it.”

Don’t let this go by without wonder and gratitude. Here is the most powerful leader in the world standing in public in the middle of Europe and saying for the whole world to hear that some of his decisions are nullified and his authority is curtailed and that he will submit to it.

Imagine such a thing in Myanmar or North Korea or China or Vietnam or in a half a dozen African regimes. Unthinkable.

What an incredible privilege we have to live in a land where human power is checked.

I believe in the wisdom of this kind of democracy because I believe in the almost unbounded potential of the human heart for evil. Power corrupts. It is biblically wise that there are checks and balances in the American system.

Another reason I believe in the wisdom of such a democracy is that Christian faith cannot be coerced by force, and unbelievers cannot be executed for their unbelief by anyone but the returning King of kings. Therefore, governance that limits the power of men to force faith or kill the faithless is a good thing.

I am thanking God today for the freedoms and the power-restraints of America.

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Don’t waste your cancer


How are you doing this fine spring evening? I hope this post finds you satisfied after a good day’s work, and fed, and well.

But how is our attitude when things are not well, or when you’ve just received seriously bad news — possibly about yourself?

At the beginning of 2006 Pastor John Piper of Minneapolis was diagnosed with prostrate cancer (a very early stage of it). On Feb 14th, he underwent successful surgery, and is well recovered. In the midst of that trial, he wrote about “not wasting” his cancer — a strange expression to our ears.

Just the other day the major newspaper of the Twin Cities metro area ran the essence of his writing on this subject. The web link below should take you there. I suggest you read it. You do NOT need to have cancer to profit from such thinking. Perhaps something else is shaking you and your world. The principles transfer well.

Let’s learn to think and act ‘christianly’ in this broken old world — to the praise and glory of our heavenly Father!
Yours by divine mercy,
Pastor David

Here’s the link to the newspaper article:
StarTribune Piper article

More Piper info from his ministry website…
Desiring God