Welcome back on this Wednesday, a rare Wednesday episode, with Pastor John and myself together. No sermon clip today. We’re both in the studio with an update. This is John Piper’s year-in-review — I guess we could call it that, Pastor John — as we look back at God’s kindness in 2022. It was a busy year for you. We have a lot of ground to cover today. So let’s start with the personal life of John Piper. Don’t go into the books or conferences or ministry memories just yet. Start by giving us highlights from your life. What stands out to you personally?
That’s a trick question in a sense because personal pleasure and pleasure from ministry are really hard to distinguish. So it seems to me like you’re asking the impossible, but I think I get what you’re asking: the joys of the personal dimension of my life, apart from the work I do for Desiring God and Bethlehem College & Seminary. Let me mention maybe two or three things.
Probably the least important thing to mention, but amazingly ever-present in our home life, is that we got a new dog, a goldendoodle. Now, we had a goldendoodle for fourteen years. This dog, however, is more doodle than golden. We’re trying to come to terms with that and having a little bit of a hard time. That’s the least important thing to mention, and yet there she is all the time in the kitchen as part of our lives now.
Far more important was a once-in-a-lifetime fishing trip with all four of my sons and two grandsons at a wilderness lake in Canada where you have to fly in, land on the water, and fish for walleye and northern pike. And these fish were so hungry — they were so hungry! — we were catching them with hooks and pieces of orange duct tape. That’s not an exaggeration. My boys were having a blast experimenting. “What will they bite?” These were big fish — big edible fish. I love the sounds of my sons laughing, and when you get four quick-witted, fast-tongued Piper brothers together in one place, you better be prepared to be knocked over by the verbal rough-and-tumble and laughter. It was a really precious high point, which I pray God will use in their lives for good.
Let me just mention one more. I know it’s cheating because it mingles ministry pleasure and personal, but I can’t help but mention that I get a tremendous personal pleasure from teaching the preaching course at Bethlehem College & Seminary, where I serve as chancellor. The give-and-take with these fourteen guys this fall, for example, in the class about the glories of preaching God’s word is simply too satisfying for me personally to leave out.
Ask Pastor John
I think probably most of us feel the same way you do about ministry joys being some of the best personal joys. But let’s move into your ministry joys or ministry highlights from 2022. The fact that you and I are talking right now, of course, means that in 2022 God enabled us to record another 150 episodes of this podcast, Ask Pastor John. We’re closing in now on 1,900 total episodes as we finish up ten years together on this podcast.
Absolutely amazing. I won’t get to say very often, Tony (in public, at least, though I might say it to you more often), that I am so profoundly thankful for your partnership particularly. I know a lot of people make things happen at Desiring God. But the amount of planning, praying, curating, editing, and hosting that you do for this podcast to make it possible is mostly invisible but absolutely essential to the life of this ministry. I am so thankful.
Wow. That’s very meaningful to me, Pastor John. Thank you. As I’ve told you before, and I’ll say it again, Ask Pastor John is the honor of a lifetime for me. This will be — I am very sure of it — the most impactful ministry I will ever be a part of. You tell me I cannot know that.
Right, you cannot know that.
But I’m saying I know that. And I thank God for APJ, and I thank God for you and your very hard work that is really the engine behind it all. I love building this podcast with you. I enjoy every single week of this work because I know one day our building of it will end. And I do not look forward to that day.
Look at the Book
But APJ is not the only podcast you spent time on this year. Maybe we shouldn’t even classify it as a podcast. You spent a lot of time creating these almost-unique visual online teaching videos called Look at the Book. I think we have almost a thousand of those episodes available now at Desiring God. Anything unusual about this past year on the Look at the Book front?
Well, there is, but let me step back and give the bigger picture, because what’s special won’t make as much sense without that. Several years ago, God, I believe, put it in my heart to try to create a Look at the Book episode — these are about ten-to-fourteen minutes long — on all thirteen of Paul’s letters. The team at Desiring God thought that was an amazing thing and a good idea and got behind it and began to structure my life to that end, weaving Look at the Book creation into my weekly routine.
But we discovered that, at the pace we were going, that probably was not going to happen in my lifetime because that’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of episodes, given all of Paul’s letters and how long some of them are. So we decided to experiment last summer — so just a few months ago — with what we call a “lab blitz.” Desiring God sends me away for about seven weeks where that’s all I do. And bless their hearts, 9Marks and Capitol Hill Baptist Church provided Noël and me with a nice secluded place to stay, and the guys from Desiring God set up a studio in a bedroom. And so, for nine hours a day, five days a week, for seven weeks, all I did was Look at the Book creation. We did about 150 episodes in that time and did all of 1 and 2 Timothy.
If we now take that model of these blitzes and do that for the next two or three years, the goal actually looks doable. It looks doable. We could drop dead any time, no matter how old we are. But if I stay healthy, if my mind stays clear for the next two or three years, then it actually looks doable. I love doing it this way. I am so thankful. Staying really focused day in and day out is so much more efficient than fitting in those efforts at Look at the Book to a day here and there during my other responsibilities. We’ll probably be doing both, and I’m excited that it looks like, if God gives me life, I could do Look at the Book on all of Paul’s letters.
‘Come, Lord Jesus’
Wonderful. Any special takeaways from seven weeks of your attention being riveted on Paul’s letters?
Yes, but we don’t have time to talk about them. They’re so good, so deep, so many. You can’t look at God’s book as long as I have looked at it and not be amazed — at least I can’t. My prayer every time I start one of those days of focusing all day long on looking at God’s book is, “Lord, open my eyes that I may see wonderful things out of your word,” like the psalmist prayed in Psalm 119:18.
But maybe what would be most interesting for folks is to see the connection between doing Look at the Book on 2 Timothy and a new book that will be out in a few weeks — namely, a book on the second coming of Christ, which we’re calling Come, Lord Jesus and that Crossway is publishing.
I’ve wanted to write a book on Christ’s coming for many years. Well, here I was focused. Now this wasn’t last summer, this was earlier, as I was pondering 2 Timothy in preparation. I was focused on 2 Timothy, and I got to the end. This was probably Paul’s last letter, and these are among the last verses that he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7–8:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
All who have loved his appearing. That was it. That’s what it took to get me over the edge to say, “Now I know how I want to write this book on the second coming.” So I wrote a book focused mainly on helping myself, and I hope others, love — not just hope for or understand or think about, but love — the appearing of the Lord Jesus. I finished the editing earlier this year, and it’s scheduled to be out I believe in January sometime.
Learning, Technology, Eldership
Yes, and it’s a great read. And I guess that answers one of my other questions: whether this new Look at the Book blitz that you just mentioned earlier will replace your other writing priorities.
Well, it might. I’m not sure yet about what it will look like over the summers for the next two or three years. In fact, it’s not going to replace writing in the foreseeable future because we’ve set aside some time, just a few weeks from now in January, to team up with Joe Rigney, the president of Bethlehem College & Seminary, to write a short book on how to be a lifelong learner. I know that book is in the planning stages, and the blitzes aren’t going to preempt that one, but I am, as you know, not the only writer of books or articles at DG.
When I look back over this year, what an amazing stream of substantial, insightful, Bible-saturated articles flow out daily at Desiring God. Not to mention in this past year the new books that you and David Mathis published. I mean, Tony, your book God, Technology, and the Christian Life is still, in my mind, in a class by itself. I don’t know anything like it with the combination of rich biblical reflection, a high view of providence, and a fascinating grasp of the present lay of the land of technology. I’ve got juicy favorite quotes. You’re a good writer, and you rise to some sweet levels of quotability. Here’s two of them: “Angels don’t bend down in awe of Silicon Valley. Angels kneel in awe to study the glories and agonies of Jesus Christ” (278). That’s gold. Or, “Obviously, we can escape from God’s providence like a fish can escape water for a life in outer space” (269). That’s great. Your book is worthy of people’s getting just to poke around and find those nuggets like that.
As if that were not enough for a great year at Desiring God, Mathis — David Mathis, our executive editor — published a book for church leaders. It’s called Workers for Your Joy. I think it’s one-of-a-kind because there are a lot of books on eldership, a lot of books on pastoring — goodness, there are hundreds of them — but there are not a lot built on 2 Corinthians 1:24, with the point that we are workers with our people for their joy. That’s the note of the book. This is Christian Hedonism pressed into the corners of the leader’s life.
It was a great year of publishing, I think.
‘What Is Saving Faith?’
You have not mentioned yet your book: What Is Saving Faith? That was also published in 2022. In fact, just a few weeks ago, at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Denver, a whole three-hour block was devoted to your book. Why was that? That’s never happened before, has it, that one of your books would be part of a debate at ETS.
“True saving faith has in it an affectional or heartfelt dimension, which I call treasuring Christ.”
No, that was a first, I think, and I was really glad for it. I feel privileged that that happened. The book has stirred up some discussion because not everyone agrees with my main point — namely, that true saving faith has in it an affectional or heartfelt dimension, which I call treasuring Christ. Saving faith is a receiving of Christ as a treasured Savior, a treasured Lord. Without that treasuring aspect, I think we may be just using Christ as competent, but not trusting him as an all-satisfying Savior. So I was really glad for the ETS event to try to bring some clarity to the pushback we’ve received, and I hope people will read it for themselves rather than just what others are saying. I think there are not many issues more important than whether we really have true saving faith.
Yes. Well, we need to wrap this up. Any other encouraging things you see at Desiring God, more broadly, that you think our listeners might be interested in?
“It’s simply remarkable what God is doing globally to raise up young leaders with a passion for the glory of God.”
I think what is most exciting and most worthy of thanksgiving to God and to our financial supporters is the incredible expansion of the ministry globally. We now have something like thirty partners worldwide translating Ask Pastor John, books, articles. It’s simply remarkable what God is doing globally to raise up young leaders with a passion for the glory of God and for publishing — and who are amazingly savvy on the Internet — for everywhere in the world. This is invisible to most people. This growth, this exciting dimension of our ministry, is mostly invisible for people, and yet it may be the most important thing we are doing right now at Desiring God — namely, partnering with these brothers and sisters as an increasing part of our annual plan and our annual budget. I think this is a great place to end the year, thanking God for what he’s doing outside of our little sphere called America through this ministry.
Amen. Speaking of God’s work outside America, this year included my first international trip, preaching in Brazil in June, to launch my technology book in Portuguese. It launched there this summer. I got to hold the translation in hand. I met and spent time with the translator there and had lunch with our publishing partner in Brazil. So all this international work you just mentioned became very tangible for me in 2022. Because I think, if all you know of Desiring God is the English website and English resources that we create, there’s a whole other world of labor happening right now that we want to introduce you to. And we are going to introduce you to that work, beginning next time. We have thirty international partners, as you said, Pastor John. And we’re going to hear from seven of them in the next seven APJ episodes — brief updates from leaders reaching the world through the languages of French, Portuguese, Farsi, Dutch, German, Arabic, and Albanian. Each of these seven updates inspires me. And it is my joy to share them with you in these final weeks of the year.
And if you’re hearing all these updates and you want in, you can join us today. We’re looking for new ministry partners like you to come alongside us to support us as we continue to make new resources in English — including our books and articles and Look at the Book videos and this podcast — and as we get these resources translated and distributed across the globe in dozens of languages. We can only do all this with your help. So consider becoming a monthly ministry partner with us today. Much of our financial support comes from friends of ours who give, on average, $30 a month to support all of this work, everything we mentioned today (and more). To set up monthly giving, go to give.desiringGod.org. Very much appreciated.
Pastor John and I are back next time. We’ll see you Friday.