Monday, June 04, 2007

Why I Love John Piper

I love Mark Dever's tribute to Dr John Piper in their recent book, "Preaching the Cross". He wrote;

"While too many of us are saying a lot of things quickly and running onto the next, John stops and stands and stays and stares at God's Word. Sometimes he stares at something that seems so obvious, but he keeps staring until it begins to expand and fill the horizon of his sight. It becomes rich and detailed and luscious and intricate and full and demanding and hope-giving and life-affirming and sin-denying and sacrifice-requiring ... John prays and thinks until a part of God's Word which seemed simple and obvious becomes fresh and powerful".

I've witnessed that become true again in the videoclip that I have successfully (I hope!) posted from the mind-boggling You-Tube below. Like Luke and others, I was touched by Terry Virgo's recent blog post, "Amazing Grace". It is incredibly powerful to read of insights and personal stories of a man that is my biggest living hero and fathers the family I am so proud to be part of. However I must be honest. Part of me sighed deeply when I got to the bit where Terry wrote, "let me recommend marriage to you".

It sounds so simple doesn't it? I can imagine Terry saying it and I know the love and affection in his heart as he wrote it. However I've heard quite a lot of encouragements to just "go out and do it". Maybe it is that simple. But I've always had the suspicion and fear that marriage is being exalted beyond a station it was never meant to be exalted - hence my persistence in the whole Song of Solomon debate. Therefore I was thrilled to hear John Piper say this in the video clip;

"Do not elevate natural processes like procreation and childbearing and marriage to anything bigger than what they are - temporal, physical means of keeping the world going and illustrations of Christ and the Church - which when He comes will fade away".

Don't get me wrong. I love weddings and I love reading about them. I rejoice whenever a Christian wedding happens because it is another step towards stemming the tide in the godless age when marriage is seen as irrelevant. But let's heed John Piper's "cosmic vision" (which so reminds me of Ern Baxter by the way). Marriage is a sign - a symbol of a greater, more wonderful thing. Christ and His Bride! Let's allow every wedding to indeed make us ponder on the amazing grace that He would chose a Bride for Himself who will one day be glorious and spotless - ready to be presented to Him.

So over to John Piper:


Dan Bowen said...

Horray!! I've done it! My first video clip posted from You-Tube! Feel quite wobbly and shakey - I think I had better go lie down!! ;)

Peter Day said...

That's outstanding! God's grace is sufficient even over technophobia! It's an excellent clip, BTW.

Luke Wood said...

I think you're right Dan, we often see marrigae being elevated beyond its Biblical position - but then at the same time we constantly see it devalued in the culture too. My feeling is that Terry was writing primarily about a lifestyle choice - that in as far as it depends on us to choose, marriage is recommended by him. In the same way that healing (which we pursue earnestly) is a sign, so is marriage - why would we pursue it any less than the signs and wonders we often pray for?

Whereas I guess John Piper was basically talking about idolatry and pointing out that we shouldn't make an idol out of marriage.

That doesn't mean that by recommending marriage that singleness is devalued - and when we elevate the benefits of singleness that doesn't detract from the glorious, Christ-exalting sign that marriage is.

I reckon if we get it the right way round as Piper says, we will be so thrilled with the prospect of Christ and His church as a primary passion that when we hear there is a sign of this amazing truth which is expressed in a relationship called marriage, we'll be keen to pursue it.

The right way round is for us to be thrilled about Jesus and the church. And want to exhaust every last drop of truth contained in that relationship. And then when we read this: " 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church" (Eph 5:31-32) What can we take away from that if not that in some mirculous amazing way, marriage is a sign and limited experience of the relationship between Christ and the church? Perhaps we even have grounds to pursue marriage on the basis of a passion for the church alone!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the fact the marriage is 'only' a sign should be a red rag to a bull for those of us in love with the church - if there's another way I can experience this glorious truth about Christ and the church I want to take it!

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks for comments Luke and Pete. These comments are excellent proof as to why I appreciate this facility on blogging so much. I feel like I'm sitting around a table with you and I have made this comment on the attitudes to marriage and you are both coming back to me. A sort of on-line theological college!!

Now onto your comments Luke: I really like your paralell between healing and marriage. It's an excellent example and I've not really looked at it like that before. If I'm honest, I guess part of my upbringing does have a sort-of passive approach to marriage. We were often told from the pulpit - "Stay out of marriage until you can't possibly resist it". I wonder if the same passivity came through with regards to healing as well. The danger of charismatic Calvinism once more!!

I really like this comment:

"Perhaps we even have grounds to pursue marriage on the basis of a passion for the church alone!"

So I guess what you're saying is that there is an element of experiencing and understanding the relationship between Christ and the Church that maybe can only be experienced in marriage alone!! Exactly as you put it.

I love the comment Piper makes at the end about the Church replacing the human family. "Do you want mothers? ... Join the family of God". It reminded me so much of Terry's recent sermons that you've done such a good job of transcribing. A passion for the Church!

Thanks again to you both guys - I really appreciate you!!

Anonymous said...

I think Luke's comment is very wise. Don't set John Piper against Terry Virgo or worry that Terry is going down the C J Mahaney route! Both Piper and Terry Virgo are right. It's surely the various ways of admiring a beautiful tree. Piper tends to take a step back and admire the whole thing from roots to branches whereas in this comment in particular Terry is focusing on one aspect that has occured to his fatherly mind. A gentle encouragement to go for marriage - it's a good thing!!

So take them both - enjoy them both - appreciate them both - learn from them both.

But like Peter - congratulations on posting this videoclip. I wouldn't have a clue on how to start!

DR S A J Burgess

James B said...

I agree, I do think Piper's comments are vital for putting the Song of Solomon debate into context. I don't want to stir the whole thing up again but Piper spoke of marriage as something that will ultimately fade away upon the return of Jesus Christ, so why would God allow a book of the Bible to be devoted to something that is purely an illustration of a greater, more glorious thing? Sure we can learn from it and apply it to marriage but ultimately when I open the Song of Solomon I want to see how to relate to the Bridegroom and how much He loves His Church!!

V v helpful clip.