BOOK REVIEWS

Reading the Bible Supernaturally – John Piper (2017)

piperJohn Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally Wheaton: Crossway, 2017, 430 pp. $25.51

The day I completed John Piper’s newest book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, I was alerted to a shocking and sobering statistic, namely, only forty-five percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Such a statistic should prompt Christians to radically shift their priorities and make Bible reading a normal part of their lives. If less than half of Christian people are reading the Bible on a regular basis, we are not only short-circuiting our joy; we are failing to showcase the glory of God and find satisfaction in his all-sufficient grace.

Part One: The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible Supernaturally, by John Piper is directed at people who regularly feast on the Word of God. My assumption is that if people neglect Bible reading, they will have no interest in reading a book about the Bible. Piper offers a modest proposal in Reading the Bible Supernaturally:

Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.

Six implications flow forth from this proposal:

  1. that the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe;
  2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word;
  3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty;
  4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things;
  5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty,
  6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshipping family of God until the bride of Christ – across all centuries and cultures – is complete in number and beauty.

The proposal and the six implications make up the first part of the book and help set the stage for the remaining sections.

Part Two: The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible

In Part Two, the author argues that reading the Bible in a way that glorifies God is a supernatural act. God expects that his Word is read supernaturally a feat that Piper expounds with skill and persuasiveness.

Part Three: The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Part three may surprise some readers as Piper makes a case for joining the natural efforts of Bible reading with supernatural assistance from God. The aim of the author in this section is to “encourage a deep dependence on God and the fullest use of natural powers in the supernatural act of reading the Bible.” In passage after passage, Piper demonstrates how this view matches the biblical record.

Summary

John Piper succeeds in defending his proposal. In the process, he encourages Christians to read “actively” with “aggressive attentiveness.” His plea is for readers to be rooted in a “deep understanding of the glorious calling to pursue the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally.” Clearly, we are in the midst of a crisis if less than half of Christians are reading their Bibles on a regular basis. Something must change in the days ahead. The best place to begin is by reading the Bible supernaturally.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

The Satisfied Soul – John Piper

piperChristian devotionals are “a dime a dozen” these days. Many of these books are nothing more than warmed over self-help guides that prop up self-esteem and pulverize biblical authority. Like a tasty bowl of sugary cereal, they promise nutrition, but in the final analysis, they neglect the truth and leave readers starving.

John Piper’s devotional, The Satisfied Soul takes a different path. In typical fashion, Piper offers readers 120 daily meditations that strengthen, nourish, and challenge. These meditations are packed with Scriptural imperatives, warnings, and encouragements. Piper never skirts the truth – he celebrates it! Piper has a unique gift of blending pastoral admonition with prophetic proclamation. And at the center of his pastoral pleas is the rich message of the gospel.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Reading the Bible Supernaturally – John Piper (2017)

piperJohn Piper, Reading the Bible Supernaturally Wheaton: Crossway, 2017, 430 pp. $25.51

The day I completed John Piper’s newest book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, I was alerted to a shocking and sobering statistic, namely, only forty-five percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Such a statistic should prompt Christians to radically shift their priorities and make Bible reading a normal part of their lives. If less than half of Christian people are reading the Bible on a regular basis, we are not only short-circuiting our joy; we are failing to showcase the glory of God and find satisfaction in his all-sufficient grace.

Part One: The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible Supernaturally, by John Piper is directed at people who regularly feast on the Word of God. My assumption is that if people neglect Bible reading, they will have no interest in reading a book about the Bible. Piper offers a modest proposal in Reading the Bible Supernaturally:

Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.

Six implications flow forth from this proposal:

  1. that the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe;
  2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word;
  3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty;
  4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things;
  5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty,
  6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshipping family of God until the bride of Christ – across all centuries and cultures – is complete in number and beauty.

The proposal and the six implications make up the first part of the book and help set the stage for the remaining sections.

Part Two: The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible

In Part Two, the author argues that reading the Bible in a way that glorifies God is a supernatural act. God expects that his Word is read supernaturally a feat that Piper expounds with skill and persuasiveness.

Part Three: The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Part three may surprise some readers as Piper makes a case for joining the natural efforts of Bible reading with supernatural assistance from God. The aim of the author in this section is to “encourage a deep dependence on God and the fullest use of natural powers in the supernatural act of reading the Bible.” In passage after passage, Piper demonstrates how this view matches the biblical record.

Summary

John Piper succeeds in defending his proposal. In the process, he encourages Christians to read “actively” with “aggressive attentiveness.” His plea is for readers to be rooted in a “deep understanding of the glorious calling to pursue the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally.” Clearly, we are in the midst of a crisis if less than half of Christians are reading their Bibles on a regular basis. Something must change in the days ahead. The best place to begin is by reading the Bible supernaturally.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

CHRISTIAN LIFE · CULTURE

HERALDING THE TRUTH: PASSING GOD’S WORD TO THE NEXT GENERATION

Psalm 78:4 gives specific marching orders for followers of Christ, namely – we must herald the truth of God’s Word:

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4, ESV).

Instead of “hiding” the truth, we must herald the truth.  Obeying this divine command means we tell people about God; that is to say, we proclaim the Word of God.  The Psalmist proclaims, “Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever” (Psalm 48:12–14, ESV).

Psalm 78:4 lays a heavy burden of responsibility on parents to pass the torch of truth to the next generation.  Exactly what does this proclamation look like?  What are the high points of a faithful herald?

WE TELL THE NEXT GENERATION ABOUT GOD

We tell the next generation about the works of God:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, ESV)

Like our Jewish forefathers, we tell of the greatness of God throughout redemptive history.

Additionally, we tell them about the wonders of God..  We show them how the Redemptive story unfolds in Scripture.  We help establish a strong Christian worldview in our children by marking out the key stages in redemptive history, namely – creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.  And telling our children about the wonders of God involves constantly retelling the gospel story.  J.I. Packer remarks, “God saves sinners” – “By this we mean that, God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of the Father and Son by renewing; saves – does everything first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies; sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot.”

WE TELL THE NEXT GENERATION TO HOPE IN GOD

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;” (Psalm 78:5–7, ESV)

Notice the conscious decision to “arise.”  There is a decisiveness, a resolute spirit that should characterize every parent.  The reason for “rising up” is to tell the next generation to hope in God:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:5–8, ESV)

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” (Psalm 71:14, ESV)

We tell the next generation to hope in God because God calls us to put our hope in him.  John Piper adds, “The beauty of the gospel is that in one simple demand (“Put your hope in God”), we hear good news and God gets the glory … This is the command of the gospel that keeps God at the center – the center of his affection and ours.”  So we commit ourselves to this sober task – we tell the next generation to hope in God!

WE TELL THE NEXT GENERATION NOT TO FORGET THE WORKS AND WONDERS OF GOD

Here is the shocking reality.  We are one generation away from abandoning God entirely.  Judges 2:10 describes the dreadful fate of Israel, “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”  Like Israel, we are on the cusp of losing all we hold dear.  Thankfully, God will always have his remnant.  Despite the apostasy of the nations, God will maintain a faithful band of brothers.  God will as Steve Lawson has described, “have a long line of godly men” who herald the Word of God.

WE TELL THE NEXT GENERATION TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD

Solomon is a man who experienced a life of sin and finally came to his sense at the end of his days.  He says, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14, ESV).  Therefore, in order to be faithful heralds, we must tell the next generation to obey God and his commands.  Greg Gilbert wisely says, “It is through our proclaiming the gospel – whether through preaching or teaching or conversations over meals with friends, family members, and coworkers – that God has determined to save sinners.”

Establishing the next generation in the gospel requires us to herald the Word of God.  We must tell them about God.  We must tell them to hope in God.  We must tell them not to forget the works and wonders of God.  And we must tell the next generation to keep the commandments of God.  May God grant us the heart of King David who instructed Solomon moments before he died:

Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel’” (1 Kings 2:2–4, ESV).