Category Archives: John Piper

“I’m talking about Charles Haddon Spurgeon” by John Piper

“Mountains are not meant to envy. In fact they are not meant even to be possessed by anyone on earth. They are, as David says, ‘the mountains of God’ (Psalm 36:6).

If you try to make your Minnesota hill imitate a mountain, you will make a fool of your hill.

Hills have their place. So do the plains of Nebraska. If the whole world were mountains, where would we grow bread? Every time you eat bread say, ‘Praise God for Nebraska!’

I’m talking about Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I am warning my wavering self that he is not to be imitated.

Spurgeon preached as a Baptist pastor in London from 1854 until 1891—thirty-eight years of ministry in one place.

He died January 31, 1892, at the age of fifty-seven.

His collected sermons fill sixty-three volumes equivalent to the twenty-seven-volume ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and stand as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.

He read six serious books a week and could remember what was in them and where.

He read Pilgrim’s Progress more than one hundred times.

He added 14,460 people to his church membership and did almost all the membership interviews himself.

He could look out on a congregation of 5,000 and name the members.

He founded a pastors’ college and trained almost 900 men during his pastorate.

Spurgeon once said he had counted as many as eight sets of thoughts that passed through his mind at the same time while he was preaching.

He often prayed for his people during the very sermon he was preaching to them.

He would preach for forty minutes at 140 words a minute from a small sheet of notes that he had worked up the night before.

The result? More than twenty-five thousand copies of his sermons were sold each week in twenty languages, and someone was converted every week through the written sermons.

Spurgeon was married and had two sons who became pastors.

His wife was an invalid most of her life and rarely heard him preach.

He founded an orphanage, edited a magazine, produced more than 140 books, responded to 500 letters a week, and often preached ten times a week in various churches as well as his own.

He suffered from gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease, and in the last twenty years of his ministry he was so sick that he missed a third of the Sundays at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

He was a politically liberal, conservative Calvinistic Baptist who smoked cigars, spoke his mind, believed in hell, and wept over the perishing, tens of thousands of whom were saved through his soul-winning passion.

He was a Christian hedonist, coming closer than anyone I know to my favorite sentence: “’God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.’

Spurgeon said, ‘One thing is past all question; we shall bring our Lord most glory if we get from Him much grace.’

What shall we make of such a man? Neither a god nor a goal. He should not be worshiped or envied.

He is too small for the one and too big for the other. If we worship such men, we are idolaters. If we envy them, we are fools.

Mountains are not meant to be envied. They are meant to be marveled at for the sake of their Maker. They are the mountains of God.

More than that, without envy, we are meant to climb into their minds and hearts and revel in what they saw so clearly and what they felt so deeply.

We are to benefit from them without craving to be like them. When we learn this, we can relax and enjoy them.

Until we learn it, they may make us miserable, because they highlight our weaknesses. Well, we are weak, and to be reminded of it is good.

But we also need to be reminded that, compared with our inferiority to God, the distance between us and Spurgeon is as nothing. We are all utterly dependent on our Father’s grace.

Spurgeon had his sins. That may comfort us in our weak moments.

But let us rather be comforted that his greatness was a free gift of God—to us as well as him. Let us be, by the grace of God, all that we can be for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).

In our smallness, let us not become smaller by envy, but rather larger by humble admiration and gratitude for the gifts of others.

Do not envy the mountain; glory in its Creator.

You’ll find the air up there cool, fresh, and invigorating and the view stunning beyond description.

So don’t envy. Enjoy!”

–John Piper, “Mountains Are Not Meant to Envy: Awed Thoughts on Charles Spurgeon,” A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1997), 263–265.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was born on June 19, 1834.

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“What God tells us about Himself 6,800 times” by John Piper

“God’s name is a message. And the message is about how He intends to be known.

Every time His name appears—all 6,800 times—He means to remind us of His utterly unique being. As I have pondered the meaning of the name Yahweh, built on the phrase “I AM WHO I AM” and pointing to God’s absolute being, I see at least ten dimensions to its meaning:

  1. God’s absolute being means He never had a beginning. This staggers the mind. Every child asks, “Who made God?” And every wise parent says, “Nobody made God. God simply is and always was. No beginning.”
  2. God’s absolute being means God will never end. If He did not come into being, He cannot go out of being, because He is absolute being. He is what is. There is no place to go outside of being. There is only God. Before He creates, that’s all that is: God.
  3. God’s absolute being means God is absolute reality. There is no reality before Him. There is no reality outside of Him unless He wills it and makes it. He is not one of many realities before He creates. He is simply there, as absolute reality. He is all that was, eternally. No space, no universe, no emptiness. Only God, absolutely there, absolutely all.
  4. God’s absolute being means that God is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring Him into being or support Him or counsel Him or make Him what He is. That is what absolute being means.
  5. God’s absolute being means that everything that is not God depends totally on God. All that is not God is secondary and dependent. The entire universe is utterly secondary—not primary. It came into being by God and stays in being moment by moment on God’s decision to keep it in being.
  6. God’s absolute being means all the universe is by comparison to God as nothing. Contingent, dependent reality is to absolute, independent reality as a shadow to its substance, as an echo to a thunderclap, as a bubble to the ocean. All that we see, all that we are amazed by in the world and in the galaxies, is, compared to God, as nothing. “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isa. 40:17).
  7. God’s absolute being means that God is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He cannot be improved. He is not becoming anything. He is who He is. There is no development in God. No progress. Absolute perfection cannot be improved.
  8. God’s absolute being means that He is the absolute standard of truth, goodness, and beauty. There is no law book to which He looks to know what is right. No almanac to establish facts. No guild to determine what is excellent or beautiful. He Himself is the standard of what is right, what is true, what is beautiful.
  9. God’s absolute being means God does whatever He pleases, and it is always right, always beautiful, and always in accord with truth. There are no constraints on Him from outside Him that could hinder Him from doing anything He pleases. All reality that is outside of Him He created and designed and governs. So He is utterly free from any constraints that don’t originate from the counsel of His own will.
  10. God’s absolute being means that He is the most important and most valuable reality and the most important and most valuable person in the universe. He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe.

This is the message of His name. And in the exodus, He establishes a link forever between His name and His mighty rescue of Israel from bondage.

The timing of the revelation of His name is not coincidental. God is coming to save. Israel will want to know who this saving God is.

God says in effect, ‘Tell them that My name is Yahweh, and make clear what this means. I am absolutely free and independent. And I choose freely to save My people. The freedom of My being and the freedom of My love are one.'”

–John Piper, Providence (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 90-92.

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“Jesus’ first act of love in commanding love is to correct a false interpretation of Scripture” by John Piper

“If someone had said to Jesus the words, ‘Love unites; doctrine divides,’ I think Jesus would have looked deep into that person’s soul and said, ‘True doctrine is the root of love. Therefore, whoever opposes it, destroys the root of unity.’

Jesus never opposed truth to love. He did the opposite. He said that He Himself is the embodiment and sum of truth: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Referring to Himself He said, “The one who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and in Him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18).

At the end of His life, what prompted Pilate’s cynical question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) was Jesus’ comprehensive assertion about why He had come into the world: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).

Even His adversaries saw how indifferent Jesus was to people’s opinions and how devoted He seemed to be to truth. “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion” (Mark 12:14).

And when Jesus leaves the world and returns to the Father in heaven, the Spirit He would send in His place would be called “the Spirit of truth.” “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me” (John 15:26).

Therefore, unlike so many who compromise the truth to win a following, Jesus did the opposite. Unbelief in His hearers confirmed that a deep change was needed in them, not in the truth. “Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice” (John 18:38).

“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:47). “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me” (John 8:45).

In other words, when the truth does not produce the response you want—when it does not “work”—you don’t abandon the truth. Jesus is not a pragmatist when it comes to loving people with the truth.

You speak it, and if it does not win belief, you do not consider changing the truth. You pray that your hearers will be awakened and changed by the truth. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus prayed; “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

When Jesus prays that people be “sanctified in the truth,” He reveals the roots of love. Sanctification, or holiness, as Jesus understands it, includes being a loving person. He is praying that we would become loving people and would be merciful and peaceable and forgiving.

That is all included in the prayer, “Sanctify them.” And all this happens in and by the truth, not separate from the truth. The effort to pit love against truth is like pitting fruit against root.

Or like pitting kindling against fire. Or like pitting the foundation of a house against the second-floor bedroom. The house will fall down, and the marriage bed with it, if the foundation crumbles.

Love lives by truth and burns by truth and stands on truth. This is why Jesus’ first act of love in commanding love is to correct a false interpretation of Scripture.

Of course, it is possible to use truth unlovingly. For example, when a village of Samaria would not receive Jesus “because His face was set toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:53), James and John knew this was a truth-insulting response. It was an assault on the truth of Jesus.

So they said to Jesus, in defense of the truth, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). The answer was swift and blunt: “He turned and rebuked them” (Luke 9:55).

But the solution to that unloving response was not to stay in the village and alter the truth to get a better response. He did not say to the Samaritans, “Doctrine divides, love unites, so let’s put our doctrinal differences aside and have relational unity.”

No, the solution was, “And they went on to another village” (Luke 9:56). There are many people yet to be loved with our truth. We will keep offering the saving truth in love wherever we can, and we will not be violent with those who reject us.

But the truth will not be changed. It is the root of love’s life, and the kindling of love’s fire, and the foundation of love’s strength.

When Jesus demanded that we love our enemies by contrasting this with the interpretation that said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” (Matt. 5:43) he was lovingly showing us that correcting false interpretations of the Bible is one crucial way to love our enemy.

The next obvious implication of Jesus’ words for the meaning of love is that it is not unloving to call someone an enemy. We live in an emotionally fragile age. People are easily offended and describe their response to being criticized as being hurt.

In fact, we live in a time when emotional offense, or woundedness, often becomes a criterion for deciding if love has been shown. If a person can claim to have been hurt by what you say, it is assumed by many that you did not act in love.

In other words, love is not defined by the quality of the act and its motives, but by the subjective response of others. In this way of relating, the wounded one has absolute authority.

If he says you hurt him, then you cannot have acted lovingly. You are guilty. Jesus will not allow this way of relating to go unchallenged.

Love is not defined by the response of the loved. A person can be genuinely loved and feel hurt or offended or angered or retaliatory or numb without in any way diminishing the beauty and value of the act of love that hurt him.

We know this most clearly from the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love ever performed, because the responses to it covered the range from affection (John 19:27) to fury (Matt. 27:41–42). That people were broken, wounded, angered, enraged, and cynical in response to Jesus’ death did not alter the fact that what He did was a great act of love.

This truth is shown by the way Jesus lived his life. He loved in a way that was often not felt as love. No one I have ever known in person or in history was as blunt as Jesus in the way he dealt with people.

Evidently His love was so authentic it needed few cushions. It is owing to my living with the Jesus of the Gospels for fifty years that makes me so aware of how emotionally fragile and brittle we are today.

If Jesus were to speak to us the way He typically spoke in His own day, we would be continually offended and hurt. This is true of the way He spoke to his disciples and the way He spoke to His adversaries.

People were offended in His day as well. “Do you know,” His disciples asked Him, “that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (Matt. 15:12).

His response to that information was brief and pointed: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides” (Matt. 15:13–14).

In other words, “They are plants that do not produce the fruit of faith because God has not planted them. They don’t see my behavior as love because they are blind, not because I am unloving.” These and dozens of other things he said to both friend and foe in ways that would rock us back on our emotional heels and make many of us retreat in self-pity.

The point of this is that the genuineness of an act of love is not determined by the subjective feelings of the one being loved. Jesus uses the word “enemies.” That would be offensive to some, especially since he goes on to unpack his point with words like, “And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?” (Matt. 5:47).

He does not fret over the possible criticism that He is not being careful enough to distinguish real enemies from annoying brothers. Jesus seems to expect us to handle tough words like “enemy” mingled with tender family words like “brother.”

I do not mean to say that love is oblivious to the words it uses or the effects they may have on others. Love does care about blessing the loved one. It desires to bring the loved one out of pain and sorrow and into a deeper experience of joy in God—now and forever.

But I am stressing another side of the problem that seems unusually prevalent in our psychologized world. I am simply drawing attention to the fact that feeling unloved is not the same as being unloved.

Jesus is modeling for us in his life the objectivity of love. It has real motives and real actions. And when they are loving, the response of the loved one does not change that fact.

This is good news for the lover, because it means that God is God and the loved one is not God. The judgment of the wounded loved one is not absolute: It may be right, or it may be wrong. But it is not absolute. God is absolute.

We give an account to Him. And He alone knows our hearts. The decisive thing about our love when we stand before God is not what others thought of it, but whether it was real.

That some people may not like the way we love is not decisive. Most people did not recognize Jesus’ love in the end—and still do not today.

What matters is not that we are justified before men, but that God knows our hearts as truly (though not perfectly) loving. And He alone can make that final judgment (Luke 16:15).”

–John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 215–220.

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“The centerpiece of worship in heaven for all eternity” by John Piper

“The hosts of heaven focus their worship not simply on the Lamb, but on the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:9). And they are still singing this song in Revelation 15:3 (“They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb”).

Therefore, we can infer that the centerpiece of worship in heaven for all eternity will be the display of the glory of the grace of God in the slaughtered Lamb.

Angels and all the redeemed will sing of the suffering of the Lamb forever and ever. The suffering of the Son of God will never be forgotten. The greatest suffering that ever was will be at the center of our worship and our wonder forever and ever. This is not an afterthought of God. This is the plan from before the foundation of the world.

Everything else is subordinate to this plan. Everything else is put in place by God’s providence for the sake of this plan.

The display of the glory of God’s grace, especially in the suffering of the Beloved, echoing forever in the all-satisfying praises of the redeemed, is the goal of creation and the ultimate aim of all God’s works of providence.”

–John Piper, Providence (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 173–174.

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“The apex of God’s grace” by John Piper

“The implication of Ephesians 1:4–6 is that the grace of God is the apex of His glory. His goal is not just ‘the praise of His glory.’ It is ‘the praise of the glory of His grace.’

That is, the constellation of excellencies that make up the glory of God reach their most beautiful overflow in the expression of grace for undeserving sinners like us. And what has now become clear in the enactment of the new covenant ‘in His blood’ is that the humble, willing, obedient suffering of Christ for sinners is the apex of God’s grace—the place where that grace is most beautifully on display.

So grace is the consummate expression of God’s glory, and Christ in His suffering is the consummate expression of grace. Three times in Ephesians 1:4–6 Paul clarifies that the aim of praising ‘the glory of God’s grace’ is achieved ‘through Jesus Christ’:

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.

‘In Him.’ ‘Through Jesus Christ.’ ‘In the Beloved.’ We know that these phrases are references to Christ’s work on the cross because in the next verse Paul says, ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace’ (Ephesians 1:7).

Therefore, the ultimate goal of God in His saving providence— namely, the praise of the glory of His grace— was achieved through the suffering of the Son of God, who died to deliver us from eternal suffering (2 Thess. 1:9) and bring us into everlasting enjoyment of His glory (John 17:24).”

–John Piper, Providence (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 170–171.

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“The Lofty Claim” by John Piper

“‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’ (Matthew 28:18) This I call The Lofty Claim. Jesus claims that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.

He has died for sin, to triumph over guilt and condemnation. He has been raised from the dead to triumph over suffering and death. And in triumphing over guilt and condemnation and over suffering and death, He has also triumphed over Satan who can only destroy us with the guilt of sin and torment us with suffering and death.

And because Jesus has triumphed so gloriously over guilt and condemnation and suffering and death and Satan, therefore ‘God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:9–11). Which is just another way of saying: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him].’

All authority.

  • He has authority over Satan and all demons, over all angels—good and evil;
  • authority over the natural universe, natural objects and laws and forces: stars, galaxies, planets, meteorites;
  • authority over all weather systems: winds, rains, lightning, thunder, hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, typhoons, cyclones;
  • authority over all their effects: tidal waves, floods, fires;
  • authority over all molecular and atomic reality: atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, undiscovered subatomic particles, quantum physics, genetic structures, DNA, chromosomes;
  • authority over all plants and animals great and small: whales and redwoods, giant squid and giant oaks, all fish, all wild beasts, all invisible animals and plants: bacteria, viruses, parasites, germs;
  • authority over all the parts and functions of the human body: every beat of the heart, every breath of the diaphragm, every electrical jump across a million synapses in our brains;
  • authority over all nations and governments: congresses and legislatures and presidents and kings and premiers and courts;
  • authority over all armies and weapons and bombs and terrorists;
  • authority over all industry and business and finance and currency;
  • authority over all entertainment and amusement and leisure and media;
  • authority over all education and research and science and discovery;
  • authority over all crime and violence; over all families and neighborhoods;
  • and authority over the church, and over every soul and every moment of every life that has been or ever will be lived.

There is nothing in heaven or on earth over which Jesus does not have authority, that is, does not have the right and the power do with as He pleases. Both the right and the power.

The scope and the magnitude of the authority of Jesus is infinite, because Jesus is one with God the Father. The Father has given him all authority not because the Father can give up being God, but because Jesus is God.

And when deity shares infinite authority with deity, He neither loses nor gains anything, but remains infinitely full and triumphant and all-sufficient.

This is the lofty claim. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has all authority in heaven and on earth, because our Lord Jesus is God.”

–John Piper, “The Lofty Claim, the Last Command, the Loving Comfort,” Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007), 1.

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“Through the window of the Scriptures” by John Piper

“We aim to draw our people’s minds and hearts to the world of glory through the window of the Scriptures. The aim of preaching is that people experience the God-drenched reality perceived through the window of biblical words.”

—John Piper, Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 162.

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