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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Is God a Megalomaniac?

Sam Storms: I’m currently reading through John Piper’s most recent book (and so should you!), Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017). I’ll have a more complete review of it when I’m done, but I can assure you that it will most definitely be on my list of Top Ten Best Books of 2017. Early on in the book Piper picks up the objection that C. S. Lewis voiced concerning the way in which God constantly demanded praise of himself (especially as we see this in the Psalms). Lewis struggled to understand how God could be loving towards us at the same time he seemed so obsessed with his own praise. In other words, how does God escape the charge of being a megalomaniac? Shouldn’t God “humble” himself by seeking our good above and prior to his own glory? Piper’s answer follows: “If God demeaned his supreme worth in the name of

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Build Your Life on the Mercies of God

John Piper: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. My aim in this message is that you would be encouraged by God and enabled by his Spirit to build your life on the mercies of God revealed in Jesus Christ. There are two parts to this aim: that you would build your life on something, and that you would build it on the mercies of God revealed in Christ. I see those two things in the first half of verse 1 of Romans 12. It says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God.” 1. Build Your Life on Something

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What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

John Piper’s reply to a letter from a 12-year-old about heaven and hell: You asked what happens to people who live far away from the gospel and have never heard about Jesus and die without faith in him. Here is what I think the Bible teaches. God always punishes people because of what they know and fail to believe. In other words, no one will be condemned for not believing in Jesus who has never heard of Jesus. Does that mean that people will be saved and go to heaven if they have never heard of Jesus? No, that is not what God tells us in the Bible. The main passage in the Bible that talks about this is Romans 1:18–23. Here is what it says. Then I’ll make a comment or two. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be

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Bible Reading That Satan Leaves Alone

This post is adapted from Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture by John Piper. The Blinding Enemy Outside Satan is real. His main identity is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). His way of lying is more by deception than bold-face falsehoods. He “is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). Therefore, he hates “the Spirit of truth” (John 15:26). He hates God the Father from whom the Spirit proceeds (John 15:26). He hates the Son of God, who is truth (John 14:6). And he hates the word of God because God’s “word is truth” (John 17:17). Therefore, he will do his best to take away the word, if he can, and twist it, if he can’t—the way he did in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1) and in the temptations of Jesus (Matt. 4:6). Jesus described how Satan takes away the word: “When anyone

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Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture – What It Does and Doesn’t Mean

John Piper: My biographical message at the pastors’ conference this year was on Athanasius who was born in A. D. 298. So I spent a good bit of time studying the doctrinal disputes of the fourth century. The main dispute was over the deity of Christ. Arius (and the Arians) said that the Son of God was a creature and did not always exist. Athanasius defended the eternal deity of the Son and helped win that battle with the wording of the Council of Nicaea: “We believe in . . . the Son of God . . . of the essence of the Father, God of God, and Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” One surprising fact that I did not expect to find was that the heretics protested most loudly over the non-scriptural language of the orthodox creed. They pointed out that the phrases, “of one essence

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What Advent Is All About

From The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper: The Coming of Christ Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) Christmas is about the coming of Christ into the world. It’s about the Son of God, who existed eternally with the Father as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” taking on human nature and becoming man (Heb. 1:3). It’s about the virgin birth of a child conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit so that he is the Son of God, not the way you and I are sons of God, but in an utterly unique way (Luke 1:35). It’s about the coming of a man named Jesus in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). It’s about the coming of the “fullness of time” that had been prophesied

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The All-Satisfying Object

John Piper: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) The quest for pleasure is not even optional, but commanded (in the Psalms): “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). The psalmists sought to do just this: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1–2). “My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). The motif of thirsting has its satisfying counterpart when the psalmist says that men “drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights” (Psalm 36:8, NASB). I found that the goodness of God, the very foundation of worship, is not a thing

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Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, and World Missions

This post is adapted from Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission by John Piper. Natural Inability and Moral Inability In his most famous work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Andrew Fuller piles text upon text in which unbelievers are addressed with the duty to believe.[1] These are his final court of appeal against the High Calvinists, who use their professed logic to move from biblical premises to unbiblical conclusions. But he finds Jonathan Edwards very helpful in answering the High Calvinist objection on another level. Remember, the objection is that “it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what is beyond his power to perform.” In other words, a man’s inability to believe removes his responsibility to believe (and our duty to command people to believe). In response to this objection, Fuller brings forward the distinction between moral inability and natural inability. This was the key insight which he learned from Jonathan Edwards, and he

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6 Truths that Will Lead You to True Joy

This post is adapted from Quest for Joy, a short-form tract by John Piper: 1. God created us for his glory. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth . . . whom I created for my glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7) God made us to magnify his greatness—the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God’s glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure. God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. 2. Every human should live for God’s glory. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) If God made us for his glory, clearly we should live for his

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The Essential Warfare for Holiness

One of the great points the Puritans saw in Scripture is the connection between happiness and holiness. For them, to be perfectly holy would be to be perfectly happy. Pastor John, how would you articulate this connection between happiness and holiness? John Piper: My approach will be slightly different, because the more I think about Christian Hedonism, the more careful I am in phrasing this connection. Happiness is part of holiness, so that if you tried to describe what it means to be a holy person and left out happiness in God, you couldn’t do it. There is no such thing as holiness minus happiness in God. Happiness in God is the essence of holiness. God’s holiness is God’s being supremely valuable. That is his holiness. God infinitely delights in his infinite delightfulness because otherwise he would be a liar. He would be unrighteous. And so his holiness is being infinitely delightful and delighting infinitely in his infinite delightfulness. Our holiness

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A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Free Will’

John Piper: Before the fall of Adam, man was sinless and able not to sin. For God “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). But he was also able to sin. For God had said, “In the day that you eat of it [the tree] you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). As soon as Adam fell into sin, human nature was profoundly altered. Now man was not able not to sin. In the fall, human nature lost its freedom not to sin. Why is man not able not to sin? Because on this side of the fall “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6), and “the mind of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8, my translation). Or, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural

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Preach to Yourself

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11) John Piper: We must learn to fight despondency. The fight is a fight of faith in future grace. It is fought by preaching truth to ourselves about God and his promised future. This is what the psalmist does in Psalm 42. The psalmist preaches to his troubled soul. He scolds himself and argues with himself. And his main argument is future grace: “Hope in God! — Trust in what God will be for you in the future. A day of praise is coming. The presence of the Lord will be all the help you need. And he has promised to be with us forever.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones believes this issue of preaching truth to ourselves about God’s future grace is all-important in overcoming spiritual depression. Have you realized that

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We Experience the Spirit Through Faith

John Piper: If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) The Spirit came to you the first time when you believed in the blood-bought promises of God. And the Spirit keeps on coming, and keeps on working, by this same means. So Paul asks, rhetorically, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:5). Answer: “By hearing with faith.” Therefore, the Spirit came the first time, and the Spirit keeps on being supplied, through the channel of faith. What he accomplishes in us is through faith. If you are like me, you may have strong longings from time to time for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in your life. Perhaps you cry out to God for the outpouring of the Spirit in your life or in your family or church or

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10 Reasons Jesus Came to Die

  John Piper: 1. To destroy hostility between races. The suspicion, prejudice, and demeaning attitudes between Jews and non-Jews in Bible times were as serious as the racial, ethnic, and national hostilities today. Yet Jesus “has broken down . . . the dividing wall of hostility . . . making peace . . . through the cross” (Ephesians 2:14–16). God sent his Son into the world as the only means of saving sinners and reconciling races. 2. To give marriage its deepest meaning. God’s design was never for marriages to be miserable, yet many are. That’s what sin does . . . it makes us treat each other badly. Jesus died to change that. He knew that his suffering would make the deepest meaning of marriage plain. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). God’s design for marriage is for a husband to love his

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What You Admire Is What You’re Becoming

It is one of the most fundamental dynamics of our lives: We are always becoming like what we most adore. And yet when we look at ourselves, what we adore so often fluctuates in intensity all throughout the day, and yet, in Christ, we are progressing toward maturity in him. John Piper explains how all this dynamic works together from 2 Corinthians 3:18 in a recent sermon. Here’s what he said. John Piper: This is so variable, I am tempted to say it is just incalculably variable; meaning, the morning and the mid-morning and noon and the afternoon and the night are all different. Your heart for God is different at 10:00 a.m., and noon, and 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. It is different. Your emotions are just like this. Nobody lives like this. Nobody. And from week to week and month to month and year to year — and saints are allowed to move into seasons of great darkness,

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