Thank you, John Piper: 70 reasons on your 70th birthday
Today — January 11, 2016 — John Piper turns 70. I ‘met’ John Piper in 2000 when I was 19 years old and my summer mission trip leader had us read The Pleasures of God together. I was transfixed, and transformed.
Never had I encountered such an explicitly God-centered worldview or such compellingly clear theological prose. My way of seeing the world was revolutionized. Everything else moved to the edges, and God moved to the center.
A year later, in March of my junior year, I attended an evening session of the Shepherds’ Conference at Grace Community Church and heard Pastor Piper preach for the first time. Another worldview explosion went off in my mind and heart as I recognized the radical nature of the Christian life and calling. I can still remember exactly where I was later that night as I recounted to friends what was happening in my heart.
In the years that followed, I read many more books, listened to many more sermons, attended many more conferences, and followed Pastor Piper’s ministry from afar, learning so many important things in so many different ways, having my worldview shaped by someone I came to consider a mentor.
Now, more than 15 years later, I am a 34-year-old husband and father of 4 working at a Bible college. I know so much better than my 19-year-old self just how incredibly hard it is to be faithful, to be consistent, and to keep the glory of God and the kingdom of Christ first in my heart. As I’ve walked the rugged path of Christian discipleship, my appreciation for those who’ve stayed faithful has deepened exponentially.
Still, although my perspective continues to ripen, I’ll always look back with fond memories on those earliest years of my Christian walk as I learned that radical Christianity was normal Christianity and that God and his purposes were so much bigger than I had ever imagined. And I will always remember that by the grace of God and under his sovereign will, much of that learning happened as I listened to the Holy Spirit declare the Word of God through the preaching and writing of John Piper.
Now, if you see a polarized relationship between thanking people and thanking God, or if you tend to look sideways at all famous Christians, or if you think that all extended gratitude for a human being is hagiography no matter their contributions to the kingdom, it might be best to skip the points below. But if you can join me in thanking one of God’s servants for decades of faithfulness that have shaped a generation of Christians, keep reading.
Because like so many others of my generation, when I really stop and reflect on my life as a Christian these past 18 years, I am overcome with gratitude for John Piper’s incalculable influence. Here are 70 reasons why.
Thank You, John Piper
- Thank you for explaining with clarity and proclaiming with passion.
- Thank you for loving Noël publicly.
- Thank you for giving us an entire vocabulary of meaningfully hyphenated words.
- Thank you for always choosing your words carefully, because the truth has edges.
- Thank you for preaching Christian biographies.
- Thank you for sharing your poetry.
- Thank you for keeping dead theologians alive and teaching us to value them.
- Thank you for laboring to write explosive sentences.
- Thank you for preaching on Colossians 1:24 at Shepherds’ Conference 2001 and radicalizing my view of normal Christianity.
- Thank you for writing The Pleasures of God and revolutionizing my 19-year-old worldview.
- Thank you for reading Religious Affections each Sunday night in Germany and teaching what you found for the rest of your life.
- Thank you for explaining and clarifying and debating Christian Hedonism for those of us who questioned it for awhile.
- Thank you for enculturating evangelicalism with your God-besotted Piperian dictionary: desiring, delighting, hungering, treasuring, prizing.
- Thank you for writing books that shape cognition and fuel affection all at once.
- Thank you for preaching “How Few There Are Who Die So Hard” about the life of Adoniram Judson.
- Thank you for preaching “Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain,” and thank you to DesiringGod for the cassette tape I listened to over and over and over again in the early 2000’s.
- Thank you for turning your church over to Jason Meyer so it can flourish without you even before you’re gone.
- Thank you for writing paragraphs with parenthetical Scripture references after every sentence.
- Thank you for talking about your depression.
- Thank you for writing Jeremiah 32:40 in my Bible when I told you I struggled with assurance after chapel at BIOLA.
- Thank you for talking patiently with long lines of people after preaching events, and for letting me be one of them.
- Thank you for leaning into theological controversies with conviction and care.
- Thank you for preaching big happy things with a big happy smile.
- Thank you for preaching big wide things with big wide gestures.
- Thank you for writing the first paragraph of Let the Nations be Glad!
- Thank you for pleading with us not to be professionals.
- Thank you for being a careful continuationist.
- Thank you for the adjective “Godward.”
- Thank you for the unseen years of time spent memorizing and meditating and journaling and writing so that others might understand the things of God more clearly.
- Thank you for never being clever at the expense of being clear.
- Thank you for preaching theologically.
- Thank you for being a happy Calvinist.
- Thank you for being an unashamed Calvinist.
- Thank you for writing and recording The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God.
- Thank you for intentionally and consistently inviting minorities to speak at your conferences.
- Thank you for laboring over words.
- Thank you for taking a long sabbatical when your life wasn’t in order instead of disqualifying yourself and undercutting decades of influence.
- Thank you for reintroducing me to my Savior through Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.
- Thank you for standing for the beautiful biblicity of gender roles.
- Thank you for preaching the same thing in different ways for your whole life.
- Thank you for making your sermons free at DesiringGod.
- Thank you for having a whatever-you-can-afford policy with your books and other resources.
- Thank you for writing A Godward Life and showing a young man how even the smallest things orbit around God and his glory.
- Thank you for writing The Swans are Not Silent and giving us footprints not just footnotes.
- Thank you for preaching every sermon with passion and conviction.
- Thank you for preaching with bold clarity so that no one could debate what you meant even if everyone debated what you said.
- Thank you for always saying that Christians don’t retire from kingdom work.
- Thank you for staying serious when serious went out of style.
- Thank you for keeping your wardrobe and your home simple.
- Thank you for showing me that you can get a Ph.D. without losing your fire.
- Thank you for preaching about Christians like William Cowper, Christians who didn’t just struggle but who are known mainly for their struggle.
- Thank you for knowing the trends but not following the trends.
- Thank you for not going seeker-sensitive, or open-theist, or emergent, or a lot of other things you could’ve gone.
- Thank you for being both profound and practical.
- Thank you for hating sin and loving holiness, and for talking that way.
- Thank you for adopting Talitha and talking about her often.
- Thank you for sharing with me about how you wept over the lostness of a son.
- Thank you for saying that church building projects made you miserable and helping a young man know that it was OK to think that some things about pastoral ministry might be miserable.
- Thank you for announcing your mission statement over and over and over and over again: “We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.”
- Thank you for preaching with a voice that sounds like you believe what you’re saying.
- Thank you for not being a hypocrite, so that when your children write about you or talk about you, they don’t say that you’re a hypocrite.
- Thank you for raising your hands in worship and showing me that it was OK.
- Thank you for being rigorously logical while sticking to the Bible’s logic.
- Thank you for staying at one church for your whole ministry.
- Thank you for telling the story of how and why you left teaching for preaching and the academy for the church.
- Thank you for going to all those morning prayer meetings at Bethlehem.
- Thank you for preaching sovereignty and working hard.
- Thank you for being just the voice I needed throughout my 20’s.
- Thank you for being faithful all these years so that my remembrances of you today are not tinged with suspicion or discounted by scandal.
- Thank you for not wasting your life.
David “Gunner” Gundersen serves as the Director of Student Life and Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
This post originally appeared at Gunner Gundersen’s blog.