Of all the contemporary theological writers I have read, John Piper is very close to being my favorite. He is theologically sound, steeped in the Scriptures, always insightful, and a good writer. I have learned so much from his books, articles, and sermons. Piper, born in 1946, is the founder and senior teacher of desiringGod.org, and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Piper served as Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for 33 years.
Piper is perhaps most famous for “Christian hedonism.” He emphasizes that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” and that God’s highest pursuit (“his glory”) and man’s deepest and most durable happiness come together in one pursuit—namely, the pursuit of joy in God.
In many of his books Piper explores in depth what God has done for us in Christ. Soteriology seems to be a favorite theme, but this book is a bit different. What Jesus Demands from the World reflects on our Lord’s authoritative commands. The author groups numerous verses on each subject into fifty “demands.” All fifty demands or chapters (usually about 6 to 10 pages long) are based on solid exegesis and include perceptions that most of us would be incapable of seeing. In my opinion every chapter could be used as the basis of a Bible study or a sermon.
Piper takes a strong stance against divorce and remarriage, but I believe his view, controversial and different from what we usually hear, is based on solid exegesis. The author devotes three chapters to “What God Has Joined Together.” He gives these chapters the following subtitles: (1) “let no man separate for marriage mirrors God’s covenant with us,” (2) “for whoever divorces and marries another commits adultery,” and (3) “one man, one woman, by grace, till death.”
I’ll end with a lengthy extract from the book. It is taken from Demand #3 “COME TO ME” where Piper looks at verses in which Jesus invites people to come to Him (Matt. 11:28, John 7:17, John 6:35, John 5:40, and John 11:43-44.) After examining in some details these invitations by Jesus, he writes as follows about John 5:40, “You refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
But the personal tragedy of sin and spiritual blindness is that people do not come. Jesus grieved over his people. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not come! (Matthew 23:37). “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that they bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40).
Why don’t people come to Jesus? At one level the answer is because they “REFUSE to come” In other words, people do not want to come. Some call this the choice of free will. Jesus would probably call this the choice of a will enslaved to sin. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Jesus would say that people do not come to him because they are enslaved to their supreme preference for other things. “The light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than light … everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light” (John 3:19-20).
How then has anyone ever come, since we are all enslaved to sin and spiritually dead? Jesus’ answer was that God, in His great mercy, overcomes our resistance and draws us. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65). God grants the gift of new birth and repentance, which opens the eyes of the spiritually blind to the truth and beauty of Jesus. When this happens, all suicidal objections fall. We are finally free. And, finally free from slavery, we come.
I truly believe this is a great book, one that you need to read, but don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Dr. Andreas J. Kostenberger, Editor of The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and Professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, says about it.
“This is now my favorite book by John Piper. In the best tradition of Adolf Schlatter’s DO WE KNOW JESUS? and his “hermeneutic of perception,” WHAT JESUS DEMANDS FROM THE WORLD has changed my life and it will certainly change yours because it is based on the pure words of Jesus as revealed in the four Gospels. A must read for every true follower of Christ.”
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