Category Archives: John Piper

“Seeing is a gift” by John Piper

“No one decides to see glory. And no one merely decides to experience the Christian Scriptures as the all-compelling, all-satisfying truth of one’s life.

In the end, seeing is a gift. And so the free embrace of God’s word is a gift.

God’s Spirit opens the eyes of our heart, and what was once boring, or absurd, or foolish, or mythical is now self-evidently real.

You can pray and ask God for that miracle. I ask daily for fresh eyes for His glory.”

–John Piper, A Peculiar Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 283.

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“He gives rain on the earth” by John Piper

“‘God does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth.’ (Job 5:8-10) In Job’s mind rain really is one of the great, unsearchable wonders that God does. So when I read this a few weeks ago, I resolved not to treat it as meaningless pop musical lyrics. I decided to have a conversation with myself (which is what I mean by meditation).

Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come from another source on the fields. From where?

Well, the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea over several hundred miles, and then be poured out on the fields from the sky. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 2,323,200 cubic feet of water, which is 17,377,536 gallons, which is 144,735,360 pounds of water.

That’s heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it’s so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? That’s a nice word. What’s it mean? It means that the water stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What’s that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles between .00001 and .0001 centimeters wide. That’s small.

What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is saltwater. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So the sky picks up millions of pounds of water from the sea, takes out the salt, carries the water (or whatever it is, when it is not water) for three hundred miles, and then dumps it (now turned into water again) on the farm?

Well, it doesn’t dump it. If it dumped millions of pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the millions of pounds of water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.

How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh millions of pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that’s the way to ask the question)? Well, it’s called coalescence. What’s that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger, and when they are big enough, they fall.

Just like that? Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up if there were no electric field present. What? Never mind. Take my word for it.

I think, instead, I will just take Job’s word for it.”

–John Piper, Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2005), 24–26.

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“A freshness of vision” by John Piper

“One of the tragedies of growing up is that we get used to things. It has its good side of course, since irritations may cease to be irritations.

But there is immense loss when we get used to the redness of the rising sun,

and the roundness of the moon,

and the whiteness of the snow,

the wetness of rain,

the blueness of the sky,

the buzzing of bumble bees,

the stitching of crickets,

the invisibility of wind,

the unconscious constancy of heart and diaphragm,

the weirdness of noses and ears,

the number of the grains of sand on a thousand beaches,

the never-ceasing crash crash crash of countless waves,

and ten million kingly-clad flowers flourishing and withering in woods and mountain valleys where no one sees but God.

I invite you, with Clyde Kilby, to seek a ‘freshness of vision,’ to look, as though it were the first time, not at the empty product of accumulated millennia of aimless evolutionary accidents (which no child ever dreamed of), but at the personal handiwork of an infinitely strong, creative, and exuberant Artist who made the earth and the sea and everything in them.

I invite you to believe (like the children believe) ‘that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course you shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the Architect who calls Himself Alpha and Omega’ (note 11, resolution 10).”

–John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Portland, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1991), 95-96.

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“Slow down, query, ponder and chew” by John Piper

“We will never think hard about Biblical truth until we are troubled by our faltering efforts to grasp its complexity.

We must form the habit of being systematically disturbed by things that at first glance don’t make sense. Or to put it a different way, we must relentlessly query the text.

One of the greatest honors I received while teaching Biblical studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, was when the teaching assistants in the Bible department gave me a T-shirt which had the initials of Jonathan Edwards on the front and on the back the words: ‘Asking questions is the key to understanding.’

But several strong forces oppose our relentless and systematic interrogating of Biblical texts. One is that it consumes a great deal of time and energy on one small portion of Scripture.

We have been schooled (quite erroneously) that there is a direct correlation between reading a lot and gaining insight.

But, in fact, there is no positive correlation at all between the quantity of pages read and the quality of insight gained. Just the reverse for most of us. Insight diminishes as we try to read more and more.

Insight or understanding is the product of intensive, headache-producing meditation on two or three propositions and how they fit together. This kind of reflection and rumination is provoked by asking questions of the text.

And you cannot do it if you hurry. Therefore, we must resist the deceptive urge to carve notches in our bibliographic gun.

Take two hours to ask ten questions of Galatians 2:20, and you will gain one hundred times the insight you would have attained by quickly reading thirty pages of the New Testament or any other book.

Slow down. Query. Ponder. Chew.”

–John Piper, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville: B&H, 2002), 74-75.

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“Beholding glory begs for lingering” by John Piper

“Beholding glory begs for lingering.

The modern, fast-paced world will tempt you to rush and skim. This kind of life will make you shallow. The world does not need more widely read, shallow people. It needs deep people.

I don’t mean complex. I don’t mean highly educated. I don’t mean you know big words. I don’t mean you know historical background.

I mean you have seen glory— the glory of God in his Word. You have pondered it and felt its relation to all the parts of your life. You have been steadied and satisfied by it.

You have come home. You are not frantic anymore. You are at peace in the presence of God. This is what I mean by deep. This is what the world needs.”

–John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 1991/2012), xviii.

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“There is another kind of reading” by John Piper

“The Bible is a book. Jesus came in the flesh and was called the Word of God. He taught many things, and He did many things. He died for sins, and He rose again. He founded the church and poured out the Holy Spirit.

All that foundational speaking and doing is preserved in a book. My ninth point is this: reading a substantial book well is hard mental work.

You learned your native language when you were very young– before you were five years old. You didn’t know you were working when you did it. And so most of us assume that reading just comes naturally.

But there is more than one kind of reading. One kind of reading is passive and involves very little aggressive effort to understand. We just take what comes and let it happen to us.

But there is another kind of reading that is very active, and digs down into the author’s mind, and wants to understand everything it sees. It may sound strange to say it, but one of the most scholarly things I ever learned was that many parts of the Bible (like Paul’s letters and Jesus’s sermons) are less like a string of pearls and more like chains of steel.

That is, the authors don’t just give a sequence of spiritual gems; they forge a chain of logical argumentation. Their statements hang together. They are linked. One connects to another, and those two connect to another, and those three to another, and so on as the unbreakable argument of glorious truth extends through a passage.

And, when the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds, this chain of argumentation is on fire.

Rigorous reading– scholarly reading– traces these kinds of argumentation. Each proposition begins with a logical connector (‘for,’ ‘that is,’ ‘as,’ ‘because,’ ‘ever since,’ ‘and,’ ‘therefore,’ etc.). These small words are among the most important in the Bible. They tell us how the statements are related to each other…

On and on the chain of argumentation grows. Words become statements, and statements are linked to form larger units. And these larger units are linked to build whole books.

The point here is simply: since much of the Bible is written this way, pastors are called to trace these arguments with active, careful, rigorous reading, and explain statements and the connections and the larger units to their people, and then apply them to their lives. This kind of reading is exceedingly demanding.

All this is involved in the fact that God revealed Himself to the church through the centuries in a book. He did not have to give the church a book. He could have done it in another way. He could have just given daily dreams to His people. He could have caused dramatizations to appear in the sky.

He could have communicated to a select few with secret knowledge and made them memorize everything and pass it on to another select few in each generation. He could have communicated to us any way He wanted to. And He did it in a book.

This is one reason that everywhere the Christian church has spread, there have been not only churches and hospitals, but also schools– places of rudimentary and then advanced scholarship. It’s because we’re dependent on a book. Since our faith is rooted in the understanding of a book, we want people to learn to read, and then to have the Bible in their language, and to learn how to think carefully and doctrinally about the book.

So the very existence of the Bible as a book signals that the pastor is called to read carefully and accurately and thoroughly and honestly.”

–John Piper and D.A. Carson, The Pastor As Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 64-66.

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“Your life depends on the meaning of little words” by John Piper

“Your life depends on the meaning of little words. ‘Soldier get in your foxhole now!’ If you think ‘in’ means ‘out,’ you’re dead!

The stakes are even higher with ‘justified by faith.’ Or, ‘in this hope we were saved.’ Or, ‘created in Christ Jesus for good works.’ Or, ‘On account of these the wrath of God is coming.’

Beale’s Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek is dedicated to the conviction that crucial and glorious things in Scripture come into focus through rightly understanding the relationships signaled by these little words.”

–John Piper, as quoted in G.K. Beale, An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek: Analysis of Prepositions, Adverbs, Particles, Relative Pronouns, and Conjunctions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 1.

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