Why God is the Gospel, For Me- Book Review: John Piper, Part 2
I have confessed, gladly confessed, elsewhere that John Piper’s book God is the Gospel brought me to God. That is, in reading that book, God brought me back to God. I give humble thanks to read the single Bible verse that Piper printed on the page before the introduction to God is the Gospel: “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). God brought me back to God, and back to joy. Back to joy, because I have realized that the very hope that I had, about the nature of God, has been revealed to me in Jesus Christ. The nature of God is revealed in Jesus Christ’s words, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:3). His desire to have his people back, and with Him, made it necessary for Christ “the righteous” to suffer for “the unrighteous.” In God is the Gospel Piper asks,
If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?
And now that we are jewelers, staring with endless fascination at the worth of everything about God, and now that we know that God wants us back, then when Piper asks whether we could be satisfied in heaven if Jesus Christ were not there, we say, “God, no!” For “as a deer pants for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). A believer wrote that, but in the deepest places of the heart, unbelievers are holding out for God in all that they do and think. [Now we can understand what G. K. Chesterton meant when he daringly wrote, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”] So in turning from a heaven where Christ is not, we push back temptation, saying aloud that we have “had done with lesser things.”
And turn to pages 100-101 in God is the Gospel to look over Piper’s shoulder at the reference he makes to God’s happiness, a reference found in Paul’s first letter to Timothy. Paul has just told us the nature of people who do ungodly things—“those who strike their fathers and mothers, murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine. And then Paul writes that sound doctrine “accords with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted” (1:9-11).
After showing the reader that the Greek word “blessed” is makarios, which means happy, we learn, Piper writes, “that a great part of God’s glory is his happiness. God’s glory consists much in the fact that he is happy beyond all our imagination.” No one, Piper continues, “would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God. If God were unhappy, then the goal of the gospel would not be a happy goal, and that means it would be no gospel at all.” Just as I thought, and so did you. All the so-called deities that men or women have conjured in their minds disgrace themselves with their ungodly misbehavior, and read what they are like: read what Vishnu is like, or Zeus, or Baal, or the Allah of Islam, the fact is that they are not glad. They are not glad and they horrible to be around.
Jesus Christ is different. “Jesus invites us,” Piper writes, “to spend eternity with a supremely joyful God when he says to us—what he will say at the end of the age—‘Enter into the joy of your master’ (Matthew 25:23). Jesus lived and died that his joy—God’s joy—might be in us and our joy might be full (John 15:11). Therefore,” Piper says in summary, “the gospel is the gospel of the glory of the happy God.”
Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.