The title of one of John Piper’s latest books is direct and confrontational, yet inviting at the same time: just like the man John Piper himself. LiviThe title of one of John Piper’s latest books is direct and confrontational, yet inviting at the same time: just like the man John Piper himself. Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power (The Good Book Company, 2016) comes with a similarly direct yet inviting sub-title: “Making the most of three dangerous opportunities.” The book lives up to its title. It is both warning and invitation, in short it is John Piper challenging us to live to God’s glory in these three areas.
Piper explains that these three areas in themselves are not evil, they are God’s gifts to us. He defines them as follows:
"* Power is a capacity to pursue what you value. * Money is a cultural symbol that can be exchanged in pursuit of what you value. * Sex is one of the pleasures that people value, and the pursuit of it." (Living in the Light, p. 20)
He then looks to Romans 1 and the “great exchange” whereby man in his fallen state turns created things to idols and refuses to worship God. In our fallen state, we pursue sex and other things as means to their own ends – as a worship of self or other created things in opposition to God. Money is a status symbol, and power is self-exaltation. They represent real danger and Piper spares no punches in warning and unpacking the biblical warnings related to the unfettered pursuit of money, sex or power.
In contrast to the worldly way of using these things, redemption puts God in the proper place. Piper uses the analogy of the sun and planets. When the sun is in the proper place, the planets of money, sex and power line up in their proper spheres and complement our lives in ways God intended. When we bring one of those planets into a central place, life is out of order and God is spurned.
Piper does a good job explaining why and how each of these elements are properly to be enjoyed:
"Money exists so that it will be plain by the way we use it that God is more to be desired than money. Sex exists so that it will be plain that God is more to be desired than sex. And power exists so that it will be plain that admiring and dependeing on his power is more to be desired than exalting our own."
In all of this, Piper displays his pastoral burden to rein in Western Christians who are so pulled away from the centrality of the Son, by the gravity of the competing planets: money, sex and power. Yet at times he is too God-focused and too strong in his formulations. As in the quote above, I think sex is more than just something to be partaken of in light of God being better than sex. Same with money. God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17) and Piper’s arguments sometimes seem to downplay the goodness of earthy pleasures. (For a great complement to Piper’s call desire God chiefly, look at Joe Rigney’s The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts, Crossway, 2014).
This quibble aside, this book is a clear and passionate call to live for Christ in today’s sex-crazed and money-obsessed culture. We could all do with a dose of John Piper challenging us to a more Godward focus in this day and age! I highly recommend this short book. It would make for a great small group or Sunday School resource, although it does not come with discussion questions.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by The Good Book Company. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review....more
Most Christians do not realize there is a large gap between Malachi and Matthew. We’ve noticed a blank page or two, but eagerly turn from the Old TestMost Christians do not realize there is a large gap between Malachi and Matthew. We’ve noticed a blank page or two, but eagerly turn from the Old Testament to the New without much thought. Those blank pages hide four hundred years of turbulent history in the life of the people of Israel. Some Bibles even include additional books to fill in the missing details. I’m not advocating a return to the Apocrypha, but every Christian can benefit from an appreciation of the harrowing tale that stands behind the Maccabean revolt. That history stands behind Jesus’ celebration (and endorsement?) of the Feast of Dedication.
The Maccabean history is helpful in today’s world where increasingly Christianity is marginalized and a pressure is building for us to synthesize our faith with the lifestyle of those around us. Just water down our faith, bend a little here and a little there, and we’re sure to increase our cultural status. A similar challenge faced the Jews who would be true to God in the face of the siren call of Hellenization and Greek influence.
This story of heroic resolve to stand for the faith finds new expression in a debut novel from a scholar who specializes in this time period: "Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt" (Kregel, 2015). The characters in this fictitious tale grapple with their changing world in different ways. Some give in and accommodate the Greek way of life, ever giving more and ultimately finding that compromise was too costly. Others try to keep roots in both ways of life and ultimately must choose for whom they will stand. Some resist quietly and others spur on a rebellion. Then there are those who give their all: becoming objects of gruesome persecution at the hands of Antiochus IV himself. There are no easy paths to follow, but those were no simple times.
The tale itself is told masterfully and the reader is slowly drawn into the world of the second century B.C. Historical figures find their way into the tale, Antiochus IV makes several appearances, but only after sufficient time to grasp the setting of Jerusalem at that day. The account is believable and the personal touches are compelling. Detailed account of sacrifices in the Temple and personal prayers are sure to inspire devotion in the reader. Historical details are abundant and the author weaves a picture of life in Jerusalem in full color.
The backstory to the rebellion takes most of the attention, along with the personal challenges to accommodate or persevere. But enough of the action is told to satisfy the curiosity of the reader who may know what is coming. Still it made me want to pick up a copy of I and II Maccabees (or is it III and IV Maccabees?).
One feature of the story deserves special attention. The author appears to describe the book of Daniel (in the form we know it today) being written during the Maccabean period. He still has the prophecy tell the future, but not from Daniel’s hand. “The spirit of Daniel” rests on the book’s author. Since other characters betray knowledge of Daniel’s example of faith in the face of apostasy, not every reader will pick up on this point. But it seemed clear to me the author must hold to a late author for at least the visions of Daniel. This point is not vital to the storyline and the conservative who holds to a sixth century B.C. date for the book of Daniel can easily disregard it.
For a first novel the book does not disappoint. At times there were some artificial elements. The Maccabean rebels at one point sound almost like the Covenanters of Scotland. But on the whole the book does a superb job of telling the Maccabean story in a personal and poignant way. I highly recommend it.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review....more