According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”
My goal in writing this book review is not to advocate for practicing Lent. I have some theological problems with the way it is usually celebrated. However, I’m of the conviction that we evangelicals don’t give full justice to the death and resurrection of Christ in our worship. We allow Good Friday and Easter, the greatest of Christian holy days, to come and go so quickly. We don’t bask in Jesus’ death and resurrection and reflect on their many implications. We don’t take the time to truly appreciate the awesomeness of the truths the apostle Paul called in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 “of first importance.”
Easter this year falls on March 27. That means you and I have enough time to order John Piper’s Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die for ourselves, our family members, and our friends. If you start reading one chapter a day beginning on Sunday, February 7, you’ll be able to finish this wonderful little book by Resurrection Sunday, March 27. Your added understanding and appreciation of why Christ died could make this the most meaningful Easter you’ve ever experienced!
How many reasons can you give off the cuff for Christ’s death? One? Two? Three? Four? John Piper has unveiled 50 of them in his study, and he explains each one in an insightful manner. Though I’ve studied the Bible for years, each time I read this book by Piper, I get new glimpses into the wonder of the gospel. The gospel is simple enough for a six-year-old child to understand and believe, but deep enough for an eighty-year-old mature Christian woman or man to continue to discover deeper truth. And what a joy that is! It’s unfathomable, like a well with no bottom!
Dr. John Piper was pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for 33 years. He’s now the chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. Piper, a prolific author, has a gift for proclaiming the deep truths of the Bible in a clear and God-centered way. His passion is for “the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”
Why do I recommend this book to you and me? Because reading it in a thoughtful manner will:
- broaden and deepen our understanding of the cross of Jesus Christ.
- make us realize how terrible our sins are before a holy God and how great His love is.
- lead us to thanksgiving, praise, and worship to our God of grace.
- give us hope for the future and encouragement in the present.
- help us to understand and apply numerous biblical truths related to our walk with Christ.
- saturate our mind with biblical truth (hundreds of verses are cited and explained).
- ground us in sound doctrine and help us identify false doctrine.
- explain the gospel and invite sinners to faith in Christ.
- increase our passion to do the same with those around us.
I believe this book is primarily for believers who desire to grow deeper in their faith. However, it also could be a great Easter gift to a “religious person” who has not yet put His trust in Christ for salvation.
After fifty, two-page chapters giving biblical reasons for why Jesus came to die, Piper ends with a prayer for the reader of which I’ll share just the last paragraph.
“Would you, then, merciful Father, grant that all who read this book see their need, and see your perfect provision in the death of Jesus and believe? I pray this because of the promise of your Son: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believe in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). In Jesus’ merciful name, I pray, amen.”
Table of contents of Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
- To Absorb the Wrath of God
- To Please His Heavenly Father
- To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected
- To Achieve His Own Resurrection from the Dead
- To Show the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners
- To Show His Own Love for Us
- To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us
- To Become a Ransom for Many
- For the Forgiveness of Our Sins
- To Provide the Basis for Our Justification
- To Complete the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness
- To Take Away Our Condemnation
- To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation
- To Bring Us to Faith and Keep Us Faithful
- To Make Us Holy, Blameless, and Perfect
- To Give Us a Clear Conscience
- To Obtain for Us All Things That Are Good for Us
- To Heal Us from Moral and Physical Sickness
- To Give Eternal Life to All Who Believe on Him
- To Deliver Us from the Present Evil Age
- To Reconcile Us to God
- To Bring Us to God
- So That We Might Belong to Him
- To Give Us Confident Access to the Holiest Place
- To Become for Us the Place Where We Meet God
- To Bring the Old Testament Priesthood to an End and Become the Eternal High Priest
- To Become a Sympathetic and Helpful Priest
- To Free Us from the Futility of Our Ancestry
- To Free Us from the Slavery of Sin
- That We Might Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness
- So That We Would Die to the Law and Bear Fruit for God
- To Enable Us to Live for Christ and Not Ourselves
- To Make His Cross the Ground of All Our Boasting
- To Enable Us to Live by Faith in Him
- To Give Marriage Its Deepest Meaning
- To Create a People Passionate for Good Works
- To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness and Costly Love
- To Create a Band of Crucified Followers
- To Free Us from the Bondage of the Fear of Death
- So That We Would Be with Him Immediately After Death
- To Secure Our Resurrection from the Dead
- To Disarm the Rulers and Authorities
- To Unleash the Power of God in the Gospel
- To Destroy the Hostility Between Races
- To Ransom People from Every Tribe and Language and People and Nation
- To Gather All His Sheep from Around the World
- To Rescue Us from Final Judgment
- To Gain His Joy and Ours
- So That He Would Be Crowned with Glory and Honor
- To Show That the Worse Evil Is Meant by God for Good