During his recent sabbatical in Cambridge, John Piper wrote a new book entitled What Jesus Demands from the World. He spent almost three months huddling under the interrogating light of Jesus’ commands in the gospels, and then wrote what he learned. This past Friday night at the DesiringGod National Conference, he was asked how this process affected him (the complete Q&A session is here). I’ve transcribed the interchange:
Justin Taylor to John Piper: Pastor John, I wanted to start with you… You spent two months this summer looking at the commands of Jesus in the gospels and poring over every word that Jesus said, and I want to ask you: In this postmodern climate, in today’s culture, what did that do for your own soul, spending that much time with the words of Christ; anything personally that you learned, that you took away from that time, or were you changed by doing that exercise?
John Piper: It’s a devastating thing, first, to expose yourself to five hundred imperatives in the gospels and dozens and dozens of demands from the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth, because His standards are so radical, meaning they go to the root of all your behaviors. He’s not concerned primarily with what’s on the outside, but He’s always pressing down into the bottom—“unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” (and their problem was that they were whitewashed tombs). And so, it was always going deep. So it was eleven weeks or so of having my heart exposed to its anger or its impatience or its unforgiveness, and clamoring then for the second impression, namely, “the Son of Man came into the world not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many;” “I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” So you have this radical demand running side by side with these spectacular offers of mercy for those who will be the publican and despair of [their] own righteousness instead of the Pharisee who’s thanking God that he’s worked any righteousness and is going to bank on it in the judgment day. So there was hope and there was desolation, and if I understand the gospels right, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen.
I think the personal effect was to intensify my desire to be in the face of a pluralistic world and say as publicly and as provocatively as I can that all authority in the universe belongs to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t belong to Mohammed and it doesn’t belong to any Hindu god and it doesn’t belong to Moses. It belongs to Jesus Christ, and if you don’t bow the knee to Him, you will perish. And so we need to proclaim that God is angry at the whole world—if you don’t obey the Son, the wrath of God rests on you. And so there was just a sense that there’s so much mealy-mouthed hesitancy to talk about the most important things in the world, namely, getting right with a holy God who will crush you forever if you don’t go to the Son that He provided.
I just came away feeling like I just don’t want to play games anymore. Life is short; I don’t know how long I have.
Jesus, as He stands forth in the gospels, is spectacularly supreme and beautiful and glorious and tough and tender and worthy and attractive and satisfying—why wouldn’t you want to give your life to this?
Quotes are from Matthew 5:20, 20:28, and 9:13.