John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad! Michigan: Baker Academic, 2010. 280 pp. $10.32
Born on January 11, 1946, to Bill and Ruth Piper in Chattanooga, Tennesse; John Piper attended to the Weather College(1964-68) where he received his majority in literature and minority in philosophy. In ۱۹۷۱ pursued his master in divinity in Fuller Theological Seminary in California and completed his doctrinal degree with the University of Munich in ۱۹۷۴٫ His dissertation, Love Your Enemy, published by Cambridge University Press and Baker Book House. He is the founder and teacher of desiring God and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more than 30 years he is the pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in the same city as Bethel College located.
He is the writer of many books and articles. So much so, in 2009 his name was among the winner of Christian Book Award, from the Evangelical Christians Publishing Association for the writings of, What Jesus Demands From the World, Pierced by the Word, God’s Passion for His Glory and also his bestselling books, Don’t Waste Your Life and The Passion of Jesus Christ. Many of his books already translated into hundred languages around the world. Including, Let the Nations be Glad, The Passion of Jesus Christ. This last book also been known as, ۵۰ Reasons Why Christ Suffered and Died, has been translated into Farsi Language by the writer of this paper, published by PersianWorld Outreach in 2010 and distributed around the world among the Farsi speaking people( Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan) as a textbook for new converts who are mainly coming from Islamic background to Christianity.
Perhaps if we ask ourselves why we should let nations be glad? John Piper has a valid and experiential point. Pondering on this point that he makes not only should not withdraw us from the nations but should put a compassion and zeal for us to make ourselves available in God’s hand to do what He intend us to do: make the nations glad for their loving, holy and righteous God. John Piper gives us a great reason why should we have such a desire and compassion for the nations. The nations who worship other gods beside the God of Bible. Piper explains,
“the different between the true God and the gods of other nations is that the true God carries and the other gods must be carried. God serves; they must be served. God glorifies his might by showing mercy. They glorify this by gathering slaves. So the vision of God as one whose passion for his glory moves him to mercy implies missions because he is utterly unique among all the gods” (۵۶).
John Piper highlighting from the very first page of his book about his desire and passion for seeing the people and churches and Christians become, “God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-powered, soul-satisfied, Bible-saturated, missions-mobilizing, soul-wining, and justice-pursuing” (۹). And he goes on to express his personal feeling and passion for this task. He continues, “The supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ (emphasize is mine,) is the central, driving, the all-unifying commitment of my life” (۹). But how can the world know and recognize this supremacy? And why is this so important?
In his book, John Piper challenges us, as followers of Christ or as a church to see this supremacy of our God in everything we do. For his supremacy ultimately will bring glory to his name, and we will be obedient servants of him: in our teaching and missions.
In the introduction of his book, third edition, interestingly, John Piper is raising serious concern about new realities that the world of Christianity is facing, especially in Africa and the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity. Why Piper should dedicate almost nine pages about this concern, the prosperity preaching? Because, Christ did not achieve the victory through preaching wealth, and prosperity of His followers, but by sacrificing. He writes, “the fuel of that sacrifice will not be the love of money or a passion for prosperity; it will be a love for Christ and a passion for his glory” (۳۲).
If we ask John Piper to summarize for us the way we can glorify God. He would explain that he learned that true and pure love is a unity between, self-denials(ourselves) and ultimate joy (bringing others to His kingdom). Then he argues that these two efforts will satisfy us if we satisfied in God and at the end, this is the way that will glorify God (130).
In following three chapters Piper arguing regarding how, missionaries and churches can make the nations glad, and the reason for such a gladness, of course for Piper is in God’s glorification. For doing so, he divides his book into three distinctive sections and gives them a common title, “Making God supreme in Missions.” In my understanding of this book, Piper sees the accomplishment of such a task in three broad areas in our Christian life, as an individual or as a congregation and those will apply: inwardly, outwardly and practically.
Inwardly by worship, prayers and suffering (35-130). When comes to worshiping God, Piper strongly suggests that “ultimate goal” of the church is not missions but to worship her creator, her king, and savior (35). For him, although prayers are crucial but we cannot “overstating the role of prayers in relation to the word of God and the preaching of the gospel” (۸۴٫) And suffering for the sake of the gospel as he rightly states is the cause of advances of the gospel but not by shedding the blood of others, “by suffering to bring life, not suffering to cause death” (۹۷).
Outwardly, our efforts and goal to see the nations before us as God’s calling and commanding it is not a choice of a denomination or doctrine (۱۳۳-۲۲۴). Piper believes there is a movement within the gospel of Christ. who is the chief agent of this movement? “God himself is the chief agent in this new movement, and he will take out a people for his name among the nations” (۱۷۲). what is the goal? “the goal of Christ’s mission and ours is that God might be glorified by the nations as they experience his mercy” (۲۲۰).
And third, practically in the sense of we must have the compassion and burning desire to see people current conditions and their final destiny in God’s judgment (227- 254). Influenced by Jonathan Edwards, Piper diagnosis this compassion. which is not just in our words but, “pursues the rescue of perishing sinners,” because we know that, “fear of hell by itself saves nobody,” therefore we just not warn people about the hell but guiding, “people to the pleasures of knowing Christ” (۲۳۵-۲۳۶).
By far and in comparison, with many other books regarding work and purpose of missions and missionaries, this book gives a right and convincing arguments about the ultimate purpose of any missions in the name of Christ and His gospel: glorifying the name of our God in our worship. This book opens our eyes to a fresh and uplifting reason behind of our efforts and works in God’s kingdom on earth. We should be appreciated of Piper for opening our eyes and hearts to see that the great joy and gladness of other nations is in the heart of our Lord God and we have called to go out and preach such a gladness among every nation.
However, Piper repeatedly mentions that “the one who gives the strength gets the glory” (۶۵, ۷۷). Based on this argument, one subject missing among Piper’s powerful and convincing argument of worshiping and glorifying our God in our missional living. And that is: the one who also gives the weakness gets the glory. The key biblical point is this: God will be glorified, and His name will be exalted among the nations even with our failures and defeat. We shouldn’t celebrate and be joyful when we have a great harvest. If we work and serve diligently and compassionately and yet, we have no harvest; yet, we should glorify God and worship His name joyfully. We all know that famous words of our Lord Jesus to Apostle Paul that His grace is sufficient for him because His strength is perfected in his weakness (2Cor. 12:9).
Moreover, this is a fundamental and a biblical truth that we should let nations be glad, even though they bring tears and sorrow to our hearts for their disbelief and harden the heart. Yet, we joyfully sing with Isaiah, “for you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel do not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is your name” (Isa. 63:16).
However, the key objection to this book is, there are nations who hate Christian faith, they persecute Christians, burn the bible, rape and kill the Christian girls and women, and I need to make them glad? How should I make them glad, by telling them the good news of heaven and not the bad news of hell? In the difficult road of making the nations glad, we will pass with our tears and suffer for the gospel, and there are, and there should be a point that we need to make nations not glad but to cry for their sins to God and disobedient to the gospel of His Son.
Moreover, there is no place in this book for such an argument and finding a place of the prophets who cried out for the judgment against their own nation and ask God to bring their wicked and sinful people to His wrath. Are we ready to ask God to bring His judgment against this nation or not?