John Piper on the “Great Things” that Captivate his HeartAugust 22, 2023 2 Comments
Yesterday, John Piper was interviewed by Matt Tully of Crossway about the significance of his book, Don’t Waste Your life. At the conclusion of their time together, Matt asked John this question: “So John, as you reflect over your seven decades of life and ministry, what would you say are a few great things—the few great things—that have mastered you?”
I was overwhelmed with joy and sheer amazement at his answer. I pray you will be as well.
Number one, the sheer reality of God. I have circled back to Exodus 3:14 so many times over the last decades, when Moses asked God, Who shall I say sent me to the people of Israel? God says, Tell them I AM sent you. I am who I am. That sentence, I am who I am, I think is the clearest biblical capture of God absolutely is. Nobody made God. Nobody brought God into being. Nobody shaped God. If there is ultimate reality, it’s God. And that sheer fact that the God who is just there, he is the given of reality, he’s just there, and the universe is like a peanut that he carries in his pocket. But his absolute reality is the number one great reality of life. Just coming to terms with the fact I’m not God. God is God. God is absolute reality. God is outside the world. God decides everything. He decides right and wrong, up and down, black and white, beauty and ugly. He’s absolute. Nobody influences him. He influences and determines everything. That is just staggeringly important. So that’s number one.
Second, therefore the universe is created and has a purpose, and the purpose is that everything that happens ought to display the greatness, the beauty, the worth of that God through the enjoyment of his people in him. That was the great discovery of my life. You could say it another way, namely, that the enjoyment of the glory of God, the God who is, is the apex of his glorification. That’s my life. My Christian Hedonism. The enjoyment of God above all things is the glorification of God above all things, and that’s why he made the world. So you get the magnifying of God and the enjoyment of God in one great act of worship.
And then the third or fourth thing, depending on how you number these, this God exists in a Trinitarian reality. He has a Son—the Word—and the Son of God became a God-man in order to suffer and die so that undeserving people might have that enjoyment forever and ever. I mean, that’s the center of the gospel, right? Jesus Christ comes into the world, he dies for the sins of his people, he bears their guilt, he carries their punishment, he magnifies God, he rises from the dead, and all who believe in him will have everlasting happiness in his presence forever and ever. That’s worth a hundred years of meditation.
And then I would add two more things that have mastered me. The sheer magnitude of eternity. Just how long that is. And the reason that’s so significant in relation to God is because Ephesians 2:7 says, “In the coming ages, he will show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” In other words, it will take infinite coming ages for God to exhaust the riches of his grace in kindness on us. I really think that’s what Ephesians 2:7 means. We must have eternity. Eternity, never ending. This is just mind boggling for a 9-year-old, a 12-year-old lying on the roof of his house looking up into the sky, being scared to death of eternity because it’s going to be boring. And growing up and to realize, no, no, no, it’s not boring! God is of such an infinite nature that his mercies will be new every morning forever. That’s what infinite means. God is inexhaustible in the treasures of the riches of his kindness in grace, and it will take forever and ever and ever for him to show us all there is about himself to make us happy. It will never be boring, ever.
And then the last thing is, to bring it back down on Earth, is to say life right now is sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. As long as there’s sin in this world, my joy in God will always be painful. It will always be sorrowful. It will always be sad. They asked me this morning when we were talking over at Desiring God about how I felt about some of the stories that were being told about the ripple effect of Desiring God. And I said, frankly, I mainly think about the pain. There are things in my family I wish were different. I think about my marriage. I wish I were a better husband. I’ve got a whole list of things where I feel regret. I’m not measuring up to my own standards, let alone God’s. I don’t ever expect in this life to get beyond that. And yet when this is over, then it won’t be sorrowful yet always rejoicing; it will be only rejoicing. So those are a few of the really big things that have held me over the years.