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Sunday, January 02, 2005

What to make of Piper

There's an excellent discussion going on over at Here We Stand ( Justification by Faith) regarding an article written by John Piper, the ever-popular Reformed Baptist pastor and author.

About three years ago, just before me journey into Lutheranism, I was a big fan of Piper's defining work, Desiring God. I've occasionally wondered what to do with his ideas now -- do they make sense with my understanding of scripture?

Piper's thesis in the book modifies the Reformed confession from "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," to read "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." Another way Piper states it: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Piper wants us to realize that pursuit of God should give us joy.

Without laboring over a lengthy disputation of Piper's points, my gut feeling is that, though well intentioned, Piper's work is doomed to remove our eyes from Christ, and place them back on ourselves.

Specifically, Piper does an excellent job of restating the Law for us. He tells us to no longer see obedience to God as an ascetic effort, but as a pursuit that we should take greater and greater pleasure in. Piper is telling us what is demanded of us. But even if the demands give us joy in their fulfillment, sinners will always be discovering that they haven't enjoyed fulfilling them very much, or they haven't fulfilled them at all. After all, we still live on this earth. Christ has not yet taken us to Heaven.

Yes, I do hope we find unfathomable pleasure in obeying God. But unless the cross (an often unpleasurable sight) is placarded before us at every turn, we're doomed to always be kicking ourselves for our lack of enthusiasm.

The truth is that because of our sinful flesh, it's often difficult to feel like obeying God is enjoyable at all. Many times, it feels like suffering -- and not just feels like, it is suffering.

In these moments, I've found that the worst way to find peace is to stare into my own desires, and wrestle to point them toward Godly things. Rather, the only view that makes the yoke of suffering easy, and the burden of the daily cross light, is the brilliant, bloody passion of Christ's desire for me.