BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · CHRISTIAN LIFE · Theology

RISK IS RIGHT – John Piper (2012)

The very notion of risk is a foreign subject to most Americans.  Yet, anapiper important aspect of the Christian life can be summed up in one word: risk.  John Piper argues that risk is essential.  The title of the book is Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It.

Readers familiar with Dr. Piper’s Christian hedonism will gravitate to this book – for God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.  Piper writes,

This is what we live for, and die for: to make much of Jesus Christ and his glorious, universe-encompassing kingdom.  The heart cry of our lives, young and old, men and women, rich and poor, is the glory of Jesus Christ so that with full courage now as always Christ might be honored in our bodies whether by life or by death.

Such a notion involves risk, which the author defines as  “an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury.”  Most Americans do whatever they can do achieve the opposite.  Yet Piper argues, “It may not be loving to choose comfort or security when something great may be achieved for the cause of Christ and for the good of others.”

Piper urges readers to consider what he has coined, “risk avoidance,” which is in the final analysis, a cowardly act.  Bonhoeffer is cited in what proves to be one of the most moving quotations in the book.  Read the German pastor’s words slowly:

To delay or fail to make decisions may be more sinful than to make wrong decisions out of faith and love.

“Risk avoidance” Piper writes, “may be more sinful – more unloving than taking the risk in faith and love and making a wrong decision.”

The author presents examples of Old Testament and New Testament saints who took risks for the glory of God.

The point that Piper seeks to make is this: If you only live in comfort and refuse to step out in faith and risk, you will waste your life.  When we risk, we will be eternally satisfied in him.  Nothing will have been wasted.”

As usual, Piper always challenges presuppositions, encourages lively and Christ-centered faith and prods Christ-followers in the right direction.  The concluding sentence of the book is revealing:

But at the end of the road of risk, taken in reliance on the blood-bought promises of God, there will be fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

BOOK REVIEWS · Discipleship · Theology

DESIRING GOD – John Piper

Desiring God is a book devoted to helping readers find their happiness in God.  The theme is that “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him.”  Dr. Piper carefully builds his case for this concept and calls it Christian hedonism.  The issue for the Christian is one of desire.  Will one feast on the pleasures of sin or will he run to the streams that God offers and drink from his delights.

Christian hedonism is really a philosophy of life that is driven by five convictions.  1) The longing to be happy is a universal experience, and it is good, not sinful.  2) We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy.  Rather we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.  3) The deepest and most enduring happiness is found in God alone.  4) The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in love.  5) To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people.  Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.  In other words, the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Piper develops the concept of Christian hedonism by applying the principles to the subjects of conversion, worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions and suffering (Suffering has been added to the tenth anniversary edition of the book).

Desiring God is filled to the rim with strengths.  The writing is clear and thought-provoking.  The content is not abstract and unrelated to life.  Rather it hits the reader right between the eyes with the truth of God.  Second, the writer comes to the table with a Reformed worldview which pervades the book [I might add that the writer rejects the Reformed emphasis on the Covenant of works].  Third, this book forces the reader to deal with matters of the heart.  Forth, this book is radically God-centered.  Every subject discussed comes back to the issue of the Lordship of Jesus  and whether or not the reader is finding his complete satisfaction in Him.

Piper has written a tremendous book.  He has the heart of a pastor and the mind of a theologian, a combination difficult to find in twenty-first century pastors.  Desiring God is a passionate book.  The contents will not only bring the reader to tears, but will engage his thinking in ways beyond the scope of his imagination.  Desiring God is a practical book.  It challenges readers to re-examine cherished presuppositions and think biblically about crucial life issues. 

– One of the most important books written in the last 100 years!

5 stars