John Piper’s latest book is out, and we recently finished reading our review copy. Entitled Spectacular Sins, the book looks at the Sovereignty of God against the backdrop of massive sin. Even though it’s a thin book by most standards, the content is powerful and it is written in a conversational, easy-to-read manner similar to Don’t Waste Your Life. This may not be a thick, academic treatise but it is concise, sobering, and encouraging, easily read on an airline flight or during evening reading time over the span of a week or two.Why write this book? Piper explains:
“I am writing this book because I think the days that are coming will demand from the followers of Christ this change in the way we look at the world. It seems to me that Christians in the West are being coddled. We suffer little in the name of Christ. Therefore, we read the Bible not with a desperate hunger for the evidences of God’s triumph in pain, but with a view to improving our private pleasures.
Therefore we read the Bible selectively. We pick a text here and there to fit our felt needs. This is like a doctor who forgets how to write prescriptions for the best antibiotics because everybody seems healthy, and he ahs spent the last decades tweaking good health with hip-hop exercise videos, unaware that pestilence is at the door. It’s like the soldier who forgets how to use his weapons because the times seem peaceful, and he has spent the last decades doing relief work and teaching the children how to play games…
People who don’t like Christians are all around us. Only a strange providence keeps out churches from being bombed. It is only a matter of time till the reality of the rest of the world comes home. And all the while we are called by Christ to go to them, love them, sacrifice for them, bring the gospel to them. The Great Commission is not child’s play. It is costly. Very costly.
The coddled Western world will sooner or later give way to great affliction. And when it does, whose vision of God will hold? Where are Christians being prepared for great global sorrows? Where is the Christian mind and soul being prepared for the horrors to come? Christians in the West are weakened by wimpy worldviews. And wimpy worldivews make wimpy Christians. God is weightless in our lives. He is not terrifyingly magnificient. His sovereignty is secondary (at best) to his sensitivity.”
Piper knows history teaches us, and the Bible warns us, that the good times we as Americans have enjoyed are not our rights as Christians or human beings. At some point the prosperity will diminish. And this isn’t based on sensationalized, name-that-antichrist, make-it-fit rapture theory we’ve all been hearing since the early 1970’s. It’s life in most of the world and life throughout most of history. Writes Piper:
“I am writing this book to build a vision of God into our lives that will not let us down in the worst of times. I mean really bad times. Horrific times. Who is prepared to meet the Agony that is coming?
Our worship services and our preaching too often pamper us. They coddle. I am not opposed to friends helping us with the daily frustrations that make us unhappy. There is plenty of proverbial wisdom in the Bible to warrant this. It is good. Love does this. I need this help. I want it. There is a time for everything under heaven, even pampering. But surely the preaching of God’s word must aim for more than this.”
Piper notes that our felt needs are the result of our surroundings. Most of us in the west have felt needs that do not center around survival. They center around a soft life becoming less soft, to paraphrase, not a difficult life becoming nearly impossible. That will change when our surroundings change. Piper continues:
“These horrors are in the Bible. God’s word. Where is the shepherd who is preparing the saints for this kind of future? What answer could he give to our questions? What answer woudl fit with the upbeat entertainment mood? Where in the west do we hear the answer: “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11)?
The fact that people do not feel a need for this kind of food in their spiritual diet shoud not silence the wise and loving shepherd. Our felt needs are about to change dramatically. Pastors will be glad if they are ahead of the curve. Otherwise, it may be too late. Coddled people will not be good listeners when their world collapses. They will be numb with confusion and rage at the God who wasn’t supposed to allow this. “If this is the way God is, why didn’t you tell us?””
The aim of this book is not to meet felt needs, but to awaken needs that will soon be felt, and then to save your faith and strengthen your courage when evil prevails. These are big, deep, weighty, strong truths. Truths for pestilence and war and personal calamity.”
The chapters that follow look at various spectacular sins and how they served God’s overall purposes when on the surface it would appear to have thwarted them. The rebellion of Satan; the fall of Adam; the pride of Babel; the sale of Joseph; the sinful origin of the Son of David; and, Judas Iscariot.
Spectacular Sins is a powerful and encouraging book that will prepare you for uncertain and difficult times, presenting a gritty and powerful gospel that stands in stark opposition to the sugary, fattening self-promoting versions peddled by late night television preachers.
Endorsements include Randy Pope, Chris Tomlin, Matt Chandler, Joni Eareckson Tada, Rick Holland, Miles V. Van Pelt, Darrin Patrick and Steven Childers.
ht: Worship Blog
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