“I Am Who I Am”

John Piper: Why did God identify himself as “I Am Who I Am” — I absolutely am (Exodus 3:14)? Now, if we can take off our clouded spectacles of mere religious jargon, like G-O-D, this should come and will come as a bolt of lightning. God is. That’s staggering. What sentence could be more important in any language than God is? So, what did he mean when he said, “I absolutely am — I Am Who I Am”? What did he mean? No More Tinkering with Religion And I’m going to linger here longer than you think I should, perhaps, because until God becomes dominant in our thinking and in our feeling — until God becomes the blazing sun at the center of the solar system of our daily lives; until God becomes the Mount Everest in the foothills of all our concerns with this world; until God rests on the souls of the saints in Belfast, and on the churches of Northern Ireland;

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Greatest Good of the Gospel

John Piper: What was the most loving thing Jesus could do for us? What was the endpoint, the highest good, of the gospel? Redemption? Forgiveness? Justification? Reconciliation? Sanctification? Adoption? Are not all of these great wonders simply means to something greater? Something final? Something that Jesus asked his Father to give us? “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me” (John 17:24). The Christian gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” because its final aim is that we would see and savor and show the glory of Christ. For this is none other than the glory of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). When the light of the gospel shines in our hearts, it is “the light of

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‘The Expulsive Power of a New Affection’

John Piper: The Life-Changing Insight of Thomas Chalmers Christian Hedonism asserts that the most effective way to kill our own sin is by the power of a superior pleasure. No one sins out of duty. We sin because it is more pleasant or less painful than the way of righteousness. So bondage to sin is broken by a stronger attraction — a more compelling joy. Two hundred years ago, Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847) wrote one of the most famous defenses of this truth. It was called “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” We believe you would profit from knowing the man and this remarkable message. He Created an Era Converted to Christ while already in the pastorate (1810) in Kilmany, Scotland, Chalmers eventually became professor of moral philosophy in the University of St. Andrews, and then professor of theology in the University of Edinburgh. His influence in church and politics in Scotland was so extensive that according to geologist Hugh

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What Is God’s Glory?

John Piper: Defining the Impossible Defining the glory of God is impossible, I say, because it is more like the word beauty than the word basketball. If somebody says that they have never heard of a basketball — they don’t know what a basketball is — and so they say, “Define a basketball,” then that would not be hard for you to do. You would use your hands, and you would say, Well, it is like a round thing made out of leather or rubber and about ten or nine inches in diameter, and you blow it up. You inflate it, so it is pretty hard. Then you can bounce it like this, and you can throw it to people, and you can run while you are bouncing it. Then there is this hoop at the end (but it used to be a basket), and you try to throw the ball through the hoop. That is why it is called a basketball. They

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The Answer to God’s Seeming Megalomania

Sam Storms: I recently returned to reading John Piper’s book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, and was stunned yet again by a truth that has utterly transformed my life. That’s not an overstatement. I can’t think of another theological principle that has meant more to me than what you are about to read. I have often in my books tried to say the same thing, but it always seems to fall short of how John has expressed it. John begins by citing C. S. Lewis and his description of how he struggled with the incessant demand by God that all creation praise him. Lewis confessed that God sounded like “a vain woman who wants compliments.” Then came the discovery that changed Lewis’s life too: “But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.

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The Value of Being Blunt

John Piper: Looking at Harshness and Cheerfulness Most of us know people who are blunt. Sometimes their bluntness morphs into harshness and unkindness. If that happens often enough, we may sense that they have a kind of personality disorder, because they seem unable to express emotions other than frustration and anger. They give little positive affirmation and little praise—of anything. There is little spontaneous expression of the sort of joy that is self-forgetful and simply swept up into some wonderful experience. On the other hand, most of us know people who are always chipper, always smiling, always commending, always gentle and kind. We marvel at this. It seems wonderful and biblical. But then, over time, we may sense that something is amiss. These people never seem to notice the wrongs others do. They seem to never take note of evils and injustices in society. They are silent when others are wrestling with a difficult moral issue. They don’t give their

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The Key to Not Grumbling in Suffering

John Piper: A Rare Trait I am drawn to people who suffer without murmuring. Especially when they believe in God but never get angry with him or criticize him. It seems to me that not murmuring is one of the rarest traits in the world. And when it is combined with a deep faith in God—who could alter our painful circumstances, but doesn’t—it has a beautiful God-trusting, God-honoring quality that makes it all the more attractive. Paul was like that. Brought to the Brink of Death Paul tells of the time when his faith was put to the test in a way that brought him to the brink of despair and death: We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a

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God’s Passion for God at Christmas

For this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. —John 12:27–28 John Piper: Glory to God in the Highest One of the most famous Christmas scenes in the Bible is the announcement to the shepherds by an angel that the Savior is born. And then it says, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:11–14). Glory to God, peace to man. The angels are sent to make something crystal clear: the Son of God has come into his creation to display the glory of God and to reconcile people from alienation to peace with God. To make God look great in salvation and to make man glad in God. So when we come to John 12, there is no surprise when we hear Jesus praying that this would actually happen at

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The Promise-Driven Life

John Piper: So the challenge of the Christian life — and at 66, I am deeply desirous to learn how to do this. Paul did say, “I’ve learned the secret” as though it took some time (see Philippians 4:12 NASB). How many times do I come to the end of a day and I shake my head and say, “It’s been eight hours since I thought about trusting a promise.” I haven’t even thought about it. But do you know what else I’ve had in those eight hours? Anxiety. Murmuring. Where do they come from? Not trusting promises. This takes some of us a lifetime to learn. O you young people, get this now. That’s why I prayed at the beginning, “O God, build habits into our lives.” Habits of trusting promises, habits of hourly going to the Lord and saying, “I need you. I need you. I need you.” And then don’t just go away saying, “Yeah, I need him,” and feeling

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Seven Ways God Reigns over Evil

Satan Always Asks Permission John Piper: What does the Bible present to us, through the whole range of redemptive history — from beginning to end — as the way God relates to Satan’s will? I don’t want to speculate. I want Bible verses. I want Bible statements about how God relates to Satan, and then maybe seeing enough ways that God relates to Satan, I could project back and say, Well, if he relates to him that way here, he related to him that way there. That’s my approach, and you can assess whether you think that’s wise. What I want to do is just give you seven glimpses of how God relates to Satan in the Bible. 1. Satan is just God’s lackey. Satan is called “the ruler of this world” in John 12:31. However, other texts say things like this: “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Daniel 4:17) The Lord

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Freedom from the Self-Focused Life

John Piper: 1. Do you love the thought that you exist to make God look what he really is — glorious? Do you love the thought that you exist to reflect and display the glory of God? Does that bring joy to your heart and make you tingle with awesome historical destiny? I am on planet earth to make God look glorious, because he is. 2. Do you love the thought that all creation exists to display the glory of God? “The heavens are telling the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Are you glad about it? When you see spring just trying to come in Minnesota — soon the branches will get little bulges and you’ll say, “Come on; come on.” When they come in, the heads that you chop back so far, you wonder if it’ll ever come back, it gets the little green things on it and you say, “God is real and living.” Are you glad that it’s about

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God Is the Prize of the Gospel – Explaining a Sixth Sola

John Piper: For five hundred years, Christians in the lineage of the Reformation — that is, Protestant Christians who love the Bible and are bent on seeing the gospel for all that it is — have described the gospel in terms of five solas, which is the Latin word for only or alone — like the English word solo. What I want to do is just put those five together in a gospel definition and add one, which is implicit in the other five. You can decide if it’s eccentric or not: As revealed with final authority in Scripture alone, the gospel is the good news that by faith alone, through grace alone, on the basis of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, sinners are granted to enjoy God alone forever. Enjoying God alone is my own addition, but Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon — all this long line of Reformation lovers of the gospel would hear me say that and respond, Amen. Let me show you how

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How Does God’s Sovereignty Not Violate Our Decision-Making?

John Piper: There aren’t many things more important than the sovereignty of God in our personal lives and how we make choices. The way we think about this does have implications for how we worship and serve and persevere as Christians, so let’s make a stab at it. I’m going to lay out seven points in what I think is a biblical view of the relationship between the human will and God’s sovereignty. Each one could have a book written about it, so these are simply pointers with biblical passages to think about. 1. Devastating Bondage Until someone is born again by the power of God’s Spirit, all human beings, ever since Adam, are spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4). They are darkened in their understanding, hardened in their hearts (Ephesians 4:18). They cannot grasp spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). They are rebellious against God (Romans 8:7), spiritually dead in trespasses (Ephesians 2:1), enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6), and unable to

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Springs of life will flow

Closing thoughts from John Piper’s recent address at T4G’18: New God, New Gospel, New Gladness: How Is Christian Joy Distinct? And on this side of the incarnation and the cross, this new gladness is described with striking relevance to our text like this: The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . [But] God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” [to remedy our blindness] has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6) What was the psalmist crying out for in Psalm 4:6? “Lift up the light of your facr Springs of Life Will Flow And from this new heart of gladness, surpassing all the joys of the world, flow all springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). Out of

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Truth Alone Won’t Set You Free

John Piper: The Necessity of Pursuing Joy in God “Why, then,” somebody should ask me, “Why, then, do you insist over and over again in everything you write that we should pursue joy in God? Why don’t you just say, ‘Pursue God’?” And there are three reasons. God’s Own Idea Number one: It isn’t my idea to talk like this. It’s God’s idea. Deuteronomy 28:47–48 is one of the scariest warnings in the Bible. It goes like this: “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, . . . you shall serve your enemies.” God is so bent on having people pursue joy in him that if they try to serve him without that joy, they will serve their enemies. That’s how blood-earnest God gets in this issue of pursuing joy. So it’s not me who made up all the commandments — delight yourself in the Lord; rejoice in the Lord — that’s Bible talk, not

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The Greatest Gift God Can Give

John Piper: If you have something that you know will give others full, lasting pleasure and instead of showing it to them you elevate and exalt yourself, are you a loving person? No. You’re most definitely not a loving person. And so it is with God. If God has something and he doesn’t show it to us, even though it would bring us full and everlasting pleasure, God’s not loving toward us. And so, he must show us himself. There is no gift that God can give you that would make him a loving person if he withholds himself. All the gifts that you think about — forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation — all the glorious gospel gifts, if God says, “You can have all that, but you can’t have me on the other side,” he’s not loving toward me. Therefore, God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation and self-presentation is synonymous with love. You may not

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How Satan Serves God

John Piper: Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11) Behind all disease and disability is the ultimate will of God. Not that Satan is not involved — he is probably always involved in one way or another with destructive purposes (Acts 10:38). But his power is not decisive. He cannot act without God’s permission. That is one of the points of Job’s sickness. The text makes it plain that when disease came upon Job, “Satan . . . struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). His wife urged him to curse God. But Job said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). And again the inspired author of the book (just as he did in 1:22) commends Job by saying, “In all this Job did not

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Soli Deo Gloria

John Piper: We use the phrase glory of God so often that it tends to lose its biblical force. But this glory, like the sun, is no less blazing— and no less beneficial—because people ignore it. Yet, God hates to be ignored. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!” (Ps. 50:22). So let’s focus again on the glory of God. What is God’s glory, and how important is it? What Is the Glory of God? The glory of God is the holiness of God put on display. That is, it is the infinite worth of God made manifest. Notice how Isaiah shifts from “holy” to “glory”: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3). When the holiness of God fills the earth for people to see, it is called glory. The basic meaning of holy is “separated from the common.” Thus, the

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Does God Really Save Us by Faith Alone?

John Piper: The first great Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli never summed up their teaching with the tidy set of five phrases we now know as the five solas. The solas developed over time as a way of capturing the essence of what the Reformation was mainly about in its dispute with the Roman Catholic Church. Sola is Latin for “alone” or “only.” The five solas are sola gratia (by grace alone), solo Christo (on the basis of Christ alone), sola fide (through the means of faith alone), soli Deo gloria (to the ultimate glory of God alone), sola Scriptura (as taught with the final and decisive authority of Scripture alone). Justification Alone I think these five solas can be preciously illuminating, both for the crux of the Reformation and for the essence of the Christian gospel itself, which of course was central to the dispute. I say they can be helpful because five prepositional phrases hanging in the air with no clause to modify are not helpful in making clear what the great

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5 reasons to embrace unconditional election

John Piper: I use the word embrace because unconditional election is not just true, but precious. Of course, it can’t be precious if it’s not true. So that’s the biggest reason we embrace it. But let’s start with a definition: Unconditional election is God’s free choice before creation, not based on foreseen faith, to which traitors he will grant faith and repentance, pardoning them and adopting them into his everlasting family of joy. 1. We embrace unconditional election because it is true. All my objections to unconditional election collapsed when I could no longer explain away Romans 9. The chapter begins with Paul’s readiness to be cursed and cut off from Christ for his unbelieving Jewish kinsmen (Romans 9:3). This implies that some Jews are perishing. And that raises the question of God’s promise to the Jews. Had it failed? Paul answers, “It is not as though the word of God has failed” (Romans 9:6). Why not? Because “not all

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