Dr John Piper is a name that almost all evangelical Christians have come across at some point or another. Whether or not you’re a fan of his work, it would be difficult to deny that he has been one of the most influential voices in modern Christianity. Piper served as Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist for 33 years, until his retirement in 2013. Currently, he is chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary and continues to serve the Christian community at large through Desiring God. Here are my top five reads from the pen of Piper.
This was a formative book for me with respect to a theology of mission. In Let the Nations Be Glad! Piper effectively develops a theology of mission, while at the same time offering a rallying cry for the church, and the individual Christian, to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. No one can consider mission without reading this book and taking on board the huge task that faces us in obeying the Great Commission, but huge resources we possess in Jesus Christ, our glorious Saviour. A worthy compatriot to this book from Piper is Jesus: The only way to God.
I will never forget he picture Piper paints of the elderly couple offering Jesus a handful of sea-shells as the fruit of their retirement! God forbid that any faithful disciple squanders their final years in ‘rest’ before reaching our eternal rest. The honest truth is that this life throws so many distractions at us that living a life fully devoted to Jesus Christ is increasingly difficult. Indeed, this book is probably more pertinent now than when it was first published 13 years ago. If you desire to be chided for your lethargy, but in a gracious and encouraging manner then this book is for you.
This delightful book has thirteen brief studies/meditations on various aspects of the character of Jesus Christ. It is easily accessible, pastorally rich and quite frankly worship inducing! Piper, through this book, aids us in seeing Jesus for who he truly is as presented in Scripture. However, he doesn’t just plant that in our minds, but forces it down into our hearts. Feeling bored or exasperated with Christianity? See and Savour Jesus.
This is effectively the definitive work by John Piper. Why does it come fourth on my list then? Well, that is perhaps a subjective judgement. This book did not captivate me in the same way that other books of Piper’s have done, and this is probably because it wasn’t one of the first Piper books I read. However, it is necessary reading for those who are appreciative of Piper’s work as it lays out the underpinnings for his philosophy of ministry. For that reason, even if it is a little more difficult to get through than some of his other books, this is a must read.
The preacher can never read too many books on preaching, but he can read bad books on preaching. This thankfully is not one of those bad books. Supremacy of God in Preaching is akin to Let the Nations Be Glad in that it offers a lofty theology (albeit briefly) while not neglecting the hugely practical aspects of the task. Lots of this book takes its example from Jonathan Edwards also which is helpful as there is someone to ‘see’ this worked out in.
There should also be honourable mentions for Piper’s writing on gender issues. There is far too much to list here but you’ll find all his books at Desiring God. Perhaps for starters see What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood defined according to the Bible. That would be a good entry point into his work on gender issues – something which is extremely pertinent today. Another group of books which are well worth perusing are his biographical sketches. Books such as Contending for Our All or Filling up the Afflictions of Christ are excellent as they not only introduce to important figures in various ages of church history, but also draw out implications from their lives for ours.
In all of Piper’s writings he reminds us again and again that the only way to enjoy true happiness is to forsake the pursuit of our own joy and give all in the pursuit of God’s glory. No matter what you read of Piper’s you will inevitably be drawn into desiring God.