Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

We love books: reading them, writing them, publishing them, promoting them. And Pastor John, you’ve authored over sixty titles yourself. In light of all those books, though, Steve writes in to ask: “Pastor John, as I view the wonderful books at desiringGod.org, which books would you recommend reading first as a new believer?”

I went to the website and clicked on the Books tab at the top of the website, and counted almost eighty available titles. And I thought to myself, “That is overwhelming!” What would you do if somebody said, “Go check out desiringGod.org and read one of those books?” You would stare at those eighty titles and wonder where in the world to start. So this is a good question.

Let me give two answers: One is for a really happy, normal, ordinary person who wants to grow in his new faith, and who knows little about the Bible. And the other answer is for a non-ordinary person — a deep, critical-thinker type, who asks a lot of questions and likes a lot of systematization and all that stuff.

Six Piper Books for the Everyday Reader

So the first answer, I think, is probably the more important one: What about the ordinary new believer who doesn’t have a lot of Bible knowledge, was recently converted and brought to trust Jesus as his Savior and Lord, and wants to start reading and going deeper in Christ and the Scriptures?

It would be really wrong and dishonoring to the Lord not to say that the Bible is the most important book. Read the Bible every day. Don’t ever let any Piper book replace the Bible. My books are only valuable if they reflect the Bible. Go to the source and get it straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were. So yes, take in the Bible every day. All we try to do at Desiring God is explain and apply parts of the Bible to life. So I am going to give you a package of six books, in the order that I would read them:

  1. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ
  2. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
  3. Finally Alive
  4. Battling Unbelief
  5. The Dangerous Duty of Delight
  6. When I Don’t Desire God

1. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ — this is the one book I intentionally wrote for unbelievers to introduce them to who Jesus is and how faith happens. And even though we are talking right now about a new believer, I think it would be a great starting place for a new believer, because everything hangs on Jesus: Who is he? What did he do? What is he like? Who have I hooked my life to? And of all of my own books, this is the one I would go to most often for a fresh glimpse of who I love.

2. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die — a book of short, two-page chapters on what Christ accomplished for us when he died. The new believer has seen maybe one or two or three things about the death of Christ that has persuaded them that they need him, and that they are going to trust Jesus as their Savior to forgive their sins and to get them to heaven and to get them out of hell and to change their lives. And there are at least fifty things Jesus accomplished for the new believer and, oh, how we need to know these things! So just read two pages a day, and you will better know the glories of what Christ accomplished for you.

3. Finally Alive — this is a book about what it means to be born again. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die describes the objective, historical accomplishment that Christ performed for you as a new believer, all outside of you. Finally Alive focuses on what he did inside you. And new believers need to know both these things: they need to know what God did in history to save them, and they need to know what God did in their souls to save them. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about how God saves people, both externally (what happened at the cross) and internally (what happens in regeneration). So that’s the reason those two books come after Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ: (1) we need to know the cross and what he did there, and (2) we need to know, by the Spirit, What did he do inside of me? How did I come to believe? Why do I love him now when I didn’t before?

4. Battling Unbelief — this is a practical set of chapters pulled out of another book, Future Grace. It is intended to teach you how to fight sin practically. Every new believer has remaining sin, and will have it until the day he dies. And the Christian life is a fight. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). This book is intended to help you know how to fight, so you don’t become a legalist in the fight, or become lackadaisical in the fight. Everybody needs to know how to do Romans 8:13: “by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body.” And that is what this book is intended to do.

5. The Dangerous Duty of Delight — now this takes the turn and gets at the heart of what makes Desiring God who we are. What is this website about? Well, we are about helping new believers simply be Christian. And we are also about pushing on a few special Bible truths to help them be happy in God, because God gets so much glory when his people are happy in him. The Dangerous Duty of Delight is the lightweight version of the main book, Desiring God. So I am putting it here instead of Desiring God because a lot of people tell me that even Desiring God, which I thought was pretty easy to read, is heavy sledding for some.

6. When I Don’t Desire God — the reason I add this to the package of six is because every believer struggles with discouragement. After having read Desiring God or The Dangerous Duty of Delight and knowing that being happy in God gives him glory, leads to the question: What if I am not happy in God? I get up in the morning, and every morning, I am not happy in God. What do I do? I have to work so hard to be happy in God. And this book, When I Don’t Desire God, is all about that, that battle.

Seven Piper Books for Deeper Engagement

So that was my answer to the normal person. Here’s a brief answer to the non-normal person, to someone who likes to go deeper. But I’m still assuming little Bible knowledge at this point For them, here’s the modified list:

  1. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ
  2. Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
  3. Finally Alive
  4. Desiring God
  5. The Pleasures of God
  6. Future Grace
  7. When I Don’t Desire God

The top three stay the same. Then I add a quadrivium, a four-package-book that, in my mind, form one big package for the reader ready to take a challenge: Desiring God, The Pleasures of God, Future Grace, and When I Don’t Desire God.

Desiring God replaces The Dangerous Duty of Delight. I add The Pleasures of God as a deeper foundation for Desiring God at the fifth spot. Future Grace replaces Battling Unbelief, because Battling Unbelief is in Future Grace. But both lists end with When I Don’t Desire God, because we all struggle and we need help. But everyone is different. Read what works for you.