This is the one many of you have been waiting for. You knew it was coming.
Love Your Enemies, published in 1979 was his dissertation from 5 years earlier. Academically speaking, he's a New Testament scholar. The Justification of God was published in 1983 from his teaching work, in part. Professionally speaking, he had worked as a Biblical Studies professor. But then, in 1986 a [gerund]-God book was published (like Knowing God, Loving God, Trusting God). It was called Desiring God. And with that book, pastor John Piper first put together for the reading public the adjective "Christian" with the noun "Hedonist."
I remember when a friend first asked me about the book. I had not read it. And was both attracted and repelled by the thesis, as my friend enunciated it. As the years have rolled on, and I have read not only it, but most of the books that the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, has written, I find myself repeatedly taken with the power and goodness of God and His Gospel in Piper's words. John has a Puritan-like ability to stare at an idea unflinchingly, watch it, and then watch it some more, interrogate it, and then draw implications out of it that are both convincing and surprising, and maybe even startling!
John has taken his Jonathan Edwards-inspired meditations and published them on many different aspects of life and ministry--preaching, missions, suffering. His books, Desiring God Ministries, the many conferences he speaks at, all have made him probably the single most potent factor in this most recent rise of Reformed theology.
I hesitate to write that.
All the factors that I have mentioned before John and his work I do think are part of the explanation. But they are part of the explanation for how the wave, if you will, became so deep, so large, so overwhelming, but they were happening unnoticed, in the 1960's and 1970's and 1980's--all preparing the ground, shifting the discourse, preparing the men--like John--who would be leaders in this latest resurgence. But it has been John who is the swelling wave hitting the coast. It is John who is the visible expression of many of these earlier men. His Desiring God Ministries is the conduit through whom so many of these others who have preceded him now find their work mediated to the rising generation.
Why John Piper? What explains the power of his ministry? All unction about God's truth comes from God. All fructifying of our labors comes from God. But, in terms of human observations, what sets John's labors off from those of so many others of us? Theological precision meeting up with spiritual, life-consuming passion. A profound hope imparting a serious joy leading to satisfying sacrifice.
The starkness of John's statements, the uncompromising nature of his sermons' calls and claims have captivated this supposedly word-weary generation. John may have turned 60 not too long ago, but his discipleship, his Bible reading, and his preaching and writing have more of the freshness of the young convert's "anything, God, anything you ask of me" than they do of professorial overstuffed leather chairs with a retirement account to protect.
If nothing else, when he preaches, John makes it clear that the sovereignty of God he's talking about is not the sovereignty of some musty philosophical argument. No, it's the kind of dangerous sovereignty that means God may demand anything--or everything--from you at any time. (And God will never demand as much as He's already given.) And it's the kind of comforting sovereignty which points us to God's kind providential care of his own, and which allows the believer to get through some otherwise desperate nights by considering Christ's love at Calvary.
When everyone else has been out polling to see what people want to hear, or at least how they want to hear it, John has been meditating on Romans, and his own heart, and life as he sees and knows it. And he has been unsparing in reporting what he finds, whether it has to do with the greatness of God, or the foolishness of our own tiny goals and ambitions.
When all those seminarians and ministers in their 20's stood up at Together for the Gospel in April of 2006, if I couldn't give a 10-part answer, but if I had to give a 2-word human explanation for their presence there, I know what two words I would utter: "John Piper."