As you might know, Pastor John has been writing a lot of new books these days, which has been great to see. It’s also a little daunting to know what you’ve written, and why you’ve written these particular books. Today’s question comes from a listener named Derek in Jackson, Mississippi. “Pastor John I just received in the mail a copy of your 13-volume collected works, and I’m blessed by your ministry and I love having your books all together on my shelf. Then of course I recently purchased your two new books: A Peculiar Glory, and Reading the Bible Supernaturally. I have a lot of reading to do! But I would love to hear, in a couple of paragraphs, how these two new books add to your legacy? What are the main points you want readers to take from each of them?”
I’ll go one better, Derek. The two books he’s referring to, A Peculiar Glory and Reading the Bible Supernaturally, are really the first two of three, a kind of trilogy. I just finished writing the third which, Lord willing, will be published in the Spring of 2018.
Piper: “My authority is zero; God’s authority is everything.”
Let me try to give him the big picture of all three rather than just the first two that he asked about. Here I am at 71 years old. When you’re 71, in your eighth decade — that always sounds older: it’s amazing when I think about it — you don’t think about your future productivity the same way you did when you were 35. You’re more keenly aware that you probably won’t get to do all you would like to do. The time that remains is unknown. It always is unknown, but it feels especially unknown when you’re in your eighth decade. You realize you have to make some critical choices and leave out some things, leave some things undone that you might have chosen to do if you could live forever.
As I’ve pondered, now, my life and what I have done so far and what I would like to do, nothing has seemed more important to me than to focus on the authority and the meaning and the heralding of the word of God, the Bible. That’s what these three books are about, those three words: authority, meaning, and heralding.
Before I give what they are in a nutshell, let me say why the Bible seems so crucial to me at this juncture in life. Everything I’ve created — and I’m thinking now mainly of things I’ve written — is either based on the Bible or built on sand.
I don’t expect any of John Piper’s ideas to survive me or be useful when I’m gone if they are not faithful extensions of the meaning of God’s word into life. My authority is zero; God’s authority is everything. Whatever I have said that accords with his truth shares in his authority. It might be useful when I’m gone. I suppose that’s why there’s a collected works. Somebody thinks so. That’s the first reason for wanting to focus on the Bible in this last chapter of my life: namely, to show why I have written the way I have written, basing everything on the Scripture and trying to show that it is based on the Scripture.
Piper: “Everything I’ve written and preached is either based on the Bible or built on sand.”
The second reason for this focus is that I realized that the Scriptures are inexhaustible, and there’s so much more to see in them than I’ve been able to draw out, or that anybody’s been able to draw out. So, I desperately don’t want people to substitute my books or my insights for their own inquiry into the Scriptures. I really believe this. There is so much more divine light and truth ready to break forth from God’s word than I have seen, or others have seen, up until now. Therefore, encouraging people to press on with a life devoted to Scripture is vastly more important than hoping that they’ll press on with what I’ve written. That’s the second reason.
Here’s the third one for this focus on the Bible here in the last chapter of my life: generations to come, until Jesus returns, are going to face new crises, new challenges, new issues that I have not faced and others have not faced. Therefore, if people depend on what I’ve written or what others have written, they’re going to be swept away when the challenges come that we never addressed. But I have total confidence in the Bible for meeting those future challenges.
My confidence for the future of the church and for the future of young pastors, for example, or Christians in general is not that they read twenty years from now what I have written. That’s not my confidence. It is the inspired word of God that equips people for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). I think, in that text, “every good work” means that the Bible will be completely sufficient for every new challenge that the church faces until the trumpet sounds and Jesus Christ appears in the clouds. The Bible will be sufficient, not the writings of John Piper. Those are the reasons that I have put a huge focus on the Bible in the last three years of my life.
The three questions that have driven me in these three books are:
1. Do we have a word from God that is true, reliable, authoritative e, able to meet all our needs for living a life pleasing to God and good for people and saving our souls? And so I wrote the first book, A Peculiar Glory, to give my answer to that question. My answer is, “Yes.” I tried to show that you don’t need formal, theological training in order to discern with complete confidence that the Bible is the very word of God. The answer has to do with, as the title says, the revelation of the glory of God in Scripture.
“The Bible is completely sufficient for every new challenge the church will face until Jesus Christ appears.”
2. The second book is built on the first and asks the question: If the Bible shows itself to be completely true and reliable and authoritative, a word from God by virtue of the revelation of the glory of God through it, how, then, is a person to go about reading this book so as to find God’s intended meaning? The essence of the answer, the essence of the book, is to show the paradoxical intersection of the supernatural dimension of reading and the natural dimension of reading — relying upon the Holy Spirit utterly and relying on our ability to think and construe meaning and clauses and phrases and arguments. That’s the kind of paradox that the book deals with.
3. And then the third book that I just finished raises this question: If the Bible is true and authoritative, and if you can get meaning from it by reading in a natural, supernatural way, how, then, is it to be heralded, proclaimed, preached toward the ultimate goal of the universe; namely, white-hot worship of God’s people now and forever? It’s a book on preaching. I don’t know what the title will be, but my proposed title right now is, Expository Exultation: Text, Reality, and Worship in Preaching Christian Scripture.
I would just say one more thing to Derek. If this sounds like these are only for pastors or preachers, that would be a mistake. I hope that he and others will find them useful, because everybody should be asking these three questions: Can I trust the Bible? Book one. How should I go about reading it to get God’s meaning? Book two. And what should I expect from my church and my pastors when they proclaim this book to me? Book three.
My prayer is that when I’m long gone, these three books will not so much preserve John Piper’s insights from Scripture, though they are some of that, but rather will equip the church to trust the Bible, find her meaning and insight from it, and herald the Scriptures for generations to come.
Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes.