John Piper Turns 70

12 Jan

Yesterday, John Piper, one of the most influential pastors and theologians of the last 25 years, turned 70. David Gundersen wrote a wonderful tribute to Piper, listing 70 reasons he was thankful for Piper’s ministry. You can read that tribute here: http://davidagundersen.com/2016/01/11/thank-you-john-piper-70-reasons-on-your-70th-birthday/

As I think about Piper, I am mostly filled with thanks for his life and ministry. His preaching at Passion ’99 filled me with a sense of awe for God and showed me the power of deep, emotive and biblical preaching. His books have shaped me in many ways. I believe Piper’s trilogy on Christian living (Desiring God, The Pleasures of God and Future Grace) is must reading for Christians, even if you don’t agree with every conclusion. I have long admired his attitude toward possessions. He could have drawn a huge salary and made loads of money through his books but it seems he has chosen to funnel most of that money back into ministry. He was also a pioneer, through the Desiring God website, of making his content (sermons, e-books and articles) free online.

In our current online environment, Piper is a lightning rod for controversy, simply because he weighs in on so many topics. He should not be treated like an evangelical pope, and I would imagine he does not want to be. Some who disagree with him suggest he be quiet. This I can not imagine him doing, nor would I want it. Even though I have come to weigh Piper’s words more carefully in recent years, and have come to disagree with him more often than I used to, I do not encourage his silence. He is going to get beaten up by all sides. He will be criticized for his associations, for his public statements, and due to his theological convictions by people along the whole theological spectrum. Some will criticize with seething hatred, some with brotherly disappointment, and some to advance their own theological agenda or denigrate his.

As I look at Piper, I realize that anyone who talks as much as he does is bound to say things many will disagree with sometimes. I also realize that anyone who has been in ministry as long as he has will have some friends who will let him down (Mark Driscoll comes to mind).

Piper’s legacy will be sealed by how he runs this final leg of his race. I hope for no great sin, as I would hope for myself. I hope he finishes well. When he goes to be with the Lord, many will give thanks for his life and others will be more skeptical of the value of his ministry. But if he finishes like he has started, I am confident in saying that he will have run his race well and that his life’s purpose of “spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples” will have been accomplished.

 

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