The Most Important Lessons John Piper Learned from His Dad
Satisfied with Christ
Where did I learn that delight in God is our highest duty? Before I encountered Jonathan Edwards and C. S. Lewis and Daniel Fuller, there was Bill Piper, unsystematically, unapologetically, and almost unwittingly saying, God’s only requirement is that you be satisfied with Christ.
Long before I read C. S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory and learned about the folly of making mud pies in the slums because one can’t imagine a holiday at the sea—long before that—I was hearing my father talk about the cow and the barbed-wire fence by the road.
I have often seen a cow stick her head through a barbed wire fence to chew the stubby grass bordering a highway, when behind her lay a whole pasture of grass. I have always been reminded of Christians who have not learned to completely trust Christ, reaching out to the world for sensual pleasure when rivers of pleasure were at their disposal in Christ.1
No, no one is denying that there are pleasures to be had in this world. . . . That is not the point. The point is that there are other pleasures to be had in this life. Pleasures so great in depth, significance, satisfaction and duration, that they far exceed the pleasures of sin. They are the pleasures to be found in the knowledge and service of Christ.2
27 Servants of Sovereign Joy
In this book, John Piper celebrates the lives and ministries of 27 leaders from church history, offering a close look at their perseverance amidst opposition, weakness, and suffering—inspiring readers toward a life of Christ-exalting courage, passion, and joy.
“Everyone Wants to Be Happy”
Long before I ever read, “All men seek happiness”3 in Pascal’s Pensées, I was absorbing from my father these very truths. This from a sermon in the 1940s: “Everyone wants to be happy. Sinners seek it in pleasure, fame, wealth and unbelief, but they seek in vain. Christians have found the answer to happiness in Christ.”4
And what are these pleasures that this fundamentalist is so ravished by? Like Lewis, my father answered: They are everywhere.
The devil never made a rain drop or a snow flake. He never made a baby smile or a nightingale sing. He never placed a golden sun in a western sky or filled the night with stars. Why? Because these things were not his to give. God is the creator and the possessor of them all and he lovingly shares these things with us.5
Christ Himself, the Supreme Delight
Is it any wonder my father was a poet? Poets are people who see the indescribable glory everywhere and will not be daunted in their passion to make language serve its revelation. My father found reason to rejoice everywhere he looked. He had an invincible faith that all things serve God’s wise purpose to reveal his glory. Even in his final years of dementia, he rejoiced. In the last month that he was able to keep a journal (April 2004), he wrote, “I’ll soon be 86 but I feel strong and my health is good. God has been exceedingly gracious, and I am most unworthy of His matchless grace and patience. The Lord is more precious to me the older I get.”
Not the pleasures that lie strewn everywhere in life, but the pleasures of Christ himself are the supreme delight.
In other words, not the pleasures that lie strewn everywhere in life, but the pleasures of Christ himself are the supreme delight. “Every believer has in Christ all the fullness the world longs for. Christianity, therefore, far from being dull and dreary or a harsh system of rules and regulations, is a gloriously free, real, victorious and happy life.”6 And, my father adds, it never ends: His grace is infinite. It is fathomless as the sea. In glory, throughout the ages to come, we who are saved will behold an endless display of these riches which we now have in Christ Jesus. [Then, always the evangelist, he says, and I say] I trust that you all are sharing this wealth. If not, you may. Simply place your faith in Christ and start reveling in the riches of God’s grace.7
“Fully Satisfied with Him Alone”
One last thing, lest he fail to get all the credit that he should: Bill Piper preached a very provocative message once called “Sanctifying God” from Isaiah 8:13 (“Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” KJV). What was his answer to the question “How do we ‘sanctify’ God—how do we esteem him and honor him and set him apart as the supremely valuable Treasure of our lives?” He gives his answer in the form of a very personal discovery: “I knew . . . that God was sufficient, abundantly able to supply my every need and the need of all who would trust Him. But to sanctify Him as such, I realized that day that I must live a contented life, a life fully satisfied with Him alone.”8 Or to quote the echo of the father in the son: God is most sanctified in us when we are most satisfied in him. What an evangelist! What a fundamentalist! What a soul full of grace and joy!
Thank you, Daddy. Thank you. Under God, I owe you everything.
- Bill Piper, A Good Time and How to Have It (Greenville, SC: Piper’s Publications, 1964),48.
- Bill Piper, The Greatest Menace to Modern Youth (Greenville, SC: Piper’s Evangelistic Publications, 1980), 22
- Blaise Pascal, Pensées (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1958), 113.
- Bill Piper, Dead Men Made Alive (Greenville, SC: Piper’s Publications, 1949),30.
- Piper, Greatest Menace, 39.
- Piper, Good Time, 70.
- Piper, Dead Men Made Alive, 62.
- Piper, Good Time, 17.
This article is adapted from 27 Servants of Sovereign Joy: Faithful, Flawed, and Fruitful by John Piper.
Podcast: Complementarianism Is Not about Competency (John Piper)
John Piper discusses complementarianism, with both personal and practical implications, and how we should think about it in the #MeToo era.
Podcast: Verses That Changed My Life (John Piper)
John Piper reflects on key verses that have had a huge impact on his life and helped him grasp the connection between our joy and God’s glory.
Is Joy in Christ Possible When All I See Is My Sin?
We think that somehow we have exceeded God’s capacity to forgive. We deceive ourselves to think that our sin is greater than his grace.
Podcast: Can Affectionless Faith Be Genuine? (John Piper)
John Piper discusses how he came to saving faith in Jesus and how his view of that faith has changed over the years.