Letter To A 13-Year Old Asking How To Go Deeper in Bible Study, by John Piper

Dear [Samantha],

I got your note about going deeper with your Bible reading. Thanks for asking.

First, let me say that I am really encouraged that you take the Bible so seriously. Sometimes I hold it in my hand and feel the wonder that it is the very word of the Maker of the universe. Amazing.

You are right to read it every day and seek to let it permeate all your thoughts and feelings. When Paul says it is all inspired by God and that it is profitable so that you will be equipped for every good work, I believe he means that even the parts that are hard to read, or even sometimes confusing, will in the long run have an effect on your mind and your soul that will shape you into the kind of woman who can stand strong all your life for Jesus, and sniff out the errors of the world, and love all that is truly good and beautiful.

Here are a couple ideas for going deeper.

For the rest of this pastoral letter, go here.

8 Great Sermons on True Worship

The last eight sermons (by John Piper, in the months of November-December) on this page at Desiring God have been immensely helpful to me.  I believe they will be to you as well.  For the record, the two entitled “Magnifying God with Money” and “We Have Come to Worship Him” were my favorites.

What is it to glorify God?

Who better to ask than Jonathan Edwards?  Here is his answer:

The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify God.  Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed?

Explain please?

God in seeking his glory seeks the good of his creatures, because the emanation of his glory . . . implies the . . . happiness of his creatures.  And in communicating his fullness for them, he does it for himself, because their good, which he seeks, is so much in union and communion with himself.  God is their good.  Their excellency and happiness is nothing but the emanation and expression of God’s glory.  God, in seeking their glory and happiness, seeks himself, and in seeking himself, i.e., himself diffused . . . he seeks their glory and happiness.

John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 32-33.

Piper’s Personally Convicting Application of Hebrews 6.4-8

What Then Do These Verses Mean for Us?

I’ll be very personal, to give it it’s sharpest point. If in the coming years I commit apostasy and fall away from Christ, it will not be because I have not tasted of the word of God and the Spirit of God and the miracles of God. I have drunk of his word. The Spirit has touched me. I have seen his miracles and I have been his instrument for a few.

But if, over the next ten or twenty years, John Piper begins to cool off spiritually and lose interest in spiritual things and become more fascinated with making money and writing Christless books; and I buy the lie that a new wife would be exhilarating and that the children can fend for themselves and that the church of Christ is a drag and that the incarnation is a myth and that there is one life to live so let us eat drink and be merry—if that happens, then know that the truth is this: John Piper was mightily deceived in the first fifty years of his life. His faith was an alien vestige of his father’s joy. His fidelity to his wife was a temporary passion and compliance with social pressure; his fatherhood the outworking of natural instincts. His preaching was driven by the love of words and crowds. His writing was a love affair with fame. And his praying was the deepest delusion of all—an attempt to get God to supply the resources of his vanity.

If this possibility does not make me serious and vigilant in the pursuit of everlasting joy, what will?

The practical conclusion of this awesome truth is given in next week’s text. In the meantime, I pray that you will not be glib, but serious, about whether Christ is your highest joy. If you really bank your hope on him and in him, he will not let you go.

-John Piper, Sermon on Hebrews 6.4-8

“If You Abide In My Word, You Are Truly My Disciples”

A characteristically helpful sermon by John Piper on John 8.31.

Go here.

The Implications of the Edwardsian Principle for Corporate Worship (Part III in a Series)

What is the Edwardsian principle, that is, the keystone rule of Jonathan Edwards?  If you have paid any attention to John Piper’s ministry over the last thirty years, you know it.  And I would argue that the principle itself is not original to Edwards or Piper, but is in fact derivative.  It is derivative from the Scriptures.  God is the original of it.  But what is it?  Simply this: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Or, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.  Edwards writes, “The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God].  Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at the glory he has displayed,” and elsewhere, “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted,” and it is this magnification of His glory in the happiness of His creatures in that glory that God is committed to with unswerving zeal; thus, again, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.

This morning I simply want to show, by virtue of Piper’s quotes on the matters, what implications this holds for corporate worship.

So — Corporate Worship: The Heart Hunger that Honors God —

The essence of authentic, corporate worship is the collective experience of heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, or a trembling that we do not have it and a great longing for it.  Worship is for the sake of magnifying God, not ourselves, and God is magnified in us when we are satisfied in him.  Therefore, the unchanging essence of worship (not the outward forms which do change) is heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, the trembling when we do not have it and the longing for it.

The basic movement of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with our hands full to give to God, as though he needed anything (Acts 17.25), but to come with our hands empty, to receive from God.  And what we receive in worship is the fullness of God, not the feelings of entertainment.  We ought to come hungry for God.  We should come saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps 42.1-2).  God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God.

Nothing makes God more supreme and more central in worship than when a people are utterly persuaded that nothing — not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends — nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their sinful, guilty, aching hearts besides God.  This conviction breeds a people who go hard after God on Sunday morning.  They are not confused about why they are in a worship service.  They do not view songs and prayers and sermons as mere traditions or mere duties.  They see them as a means of getting to God or God getting to them for more of his fullness — no matter how painful that may be for sinners in the short run.

If the focus in corporate worship shifts onto our giving to God, one result I have seen again and again is that subtly it is not God that remains at the center but the quality of our giving.  Are we singing worthily of the Lord?  Do the instrumentalists play with a quality befitting a gift to the Lord?  Is the preaching a suitable offering to the Lord?  And little by little the focus shifts off the utter indispensability of the Lord himself onto the quality of our performances.  And we even start to define excellence and power in worship in terms of the technical distinction of our artistic acts.  Nothing keeps God at the center of worship like the Biblical conviction that the essence of worship is deep, heartfelt satisfaction in him, and the conviction that the trembling pursuit of that satisfaction is why we are together.

Furthermore, this vision of worship prevents the pragmatic hollowing out of this holy act.  If the essence of worship is satisfaction in God, then worship can’t be a means to anything else.  We simply can’t say to God, “I want to be satisfied in you so that I can have something else.”  For that would mean that we are not really satisfied in God but in that something else.  And that would dishonor God, not worship him.

But, in fact, for thousands of people, and for many pastors, the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship.  We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; to recruit workers; to improve church morale; to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; to teach our children the way of righteousness; to help marriages stay together; to evangelize the lost; to motivate people for service projects; to give our churches a family feeling.

In all of this we bear witness that we do not know what true worship is.  Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves.  I cannot say to my wife: “I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal.”  That is not the way delight works.  It terminates on her.  It does not have a nice meal in view.  I cannot say to my son, “I love playing ball with you — so that you will cut the grass.”  If you heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to getting him to do something.

I do not deny that authentic corporate worship may have a hundred good effects on the life of the church.  It will, just like true affection in marriage, make everything better.  My point is that to the degree that we do “worship” for these reasons, to that degree it ceases to be authentic worship.  Keeping satisfaction in God at the center guards us from that tragedy.

John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 40-42 (emphasis his).

The Implications of the Edwardsian Principle for Evangelism and Preaching (Part II in a Series)

What is the Edwardsian principle, that is, the keystone rule of Jonathan Edwards?  If you have paid any attention to John Piper’s ministry over the last thirty years, you know it.  And I would argue that the principle itself is not original to Edwards or Piper, but is in fact derivative.  It is derivative from the Scriptures.  God is the original of it.  But what is it?  Simply this: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  Or, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.  Edwards writes, “The end of the creation is that the creation might glorify [God].  Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at the glory he has displayed,” and elsewhere, “The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted,” and it is this magnification of His glory in the happiness of His creatures in that glory that God is committed to with unswerving zeal; thus, again, God’s passion for his own glory and his passion for my joy in Him are not at odds.

This morning I simply want to show, by virtue of Piper’s quotes on the matters, what implications this holds for evangelism and preaching.

First, for evangelism, —

If the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing, then evangelism means depicting the beauty of Christ and his saving work with a heartfelt urgency of love that labors to help people find their satisfaction in him.  The most important common ground with unbelievers is not culture but creation, not momentary felt needs but massive real needs.  Augustine’s famous prayer is all important: ‘You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace till they rest in you.’  If a person realizes that the image of God in man is man’s ineffably profound fitness to image forth Christ’s glory through everlasting joy in God, then he will not gut the great gospel of its inner life and power. . . . Our evangelistic task is not to persuade people that the gospel was made for their felt needs, but that they were made  for the soul-satisfying glory of God in the gospel.

Second, what of preaching?

Similarly, Christian preaching, as part of the corporate worship of Christ’s church, is an expository exultation over the glories of God in his word, designed to lure God’s people from the fleeting pleasures of sin into the sacrificial path of obedient satisfaction in him. . . . When Edwards pondered the aims of preaching for the glory of God he said, ‘I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.’  High affections rooted in, and proportioned by, the truth — that is the goal of preaching.

John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 39-40.