I watched a replay of John Piper’s message at Passion 2011 last week and he began by saying that he wanted to clarify a question he frequently asks:
“Do you feel more loved by God because he makes much of you? Or because He, through Christ, enables you to enjoy making much of Him forever?”
He explained that he’s asked that question “numerous times” and that it has lead to some “significant misunderstandings.” He even said, “I think I’ve misled.” The message he was bringing that day was “designed to bring clarity and precision” to that question. He acknowledged that many people don’t understand what he’s asking.
I admit. I don’t understand. Not because I don’t understand his question, because I get the point behind the question. I don’t understand why he continues to ask the question using language he knows is confusing. But before I get to his choice of language, I’m going to take my own shot at clarifying the question. I don’t have a Piper/Every Man dictionary, but I’m going to try and simplify it (maybe for some, to an unacceptable extreme) and explain it in a fraction of the time it takes him to attempt explain it.
“Do you feel more loved by God because he makes much of you?”
I’ll use the first line of the prayer of Jabez to give my interpretation. When I pray that prayer, I begin with “Lord bless me, indeed.” Years ago, when I first began praying the Prayer of Jabez, I prayed it with the mindset that Piper describes here. I prayed, “Lord bless me with success, with health, and with financial security. Please protect me and my family from harm. Please bless me with a beautiful home, filled with comforts. Bless me with sought after skills and competent abilities. Please bless me with reasonable family members, loyal friends and people who respect and admire me. Bless me with happiness. Please bless me by giving me the desires of my heart.” If God blessed me by giving me what I desired, I felt loved by Him.
Then, I lived about more 5 years, read countless books, had more than a few theological discussions with my husband, children, family and friends, filled 3 or 4 prayer journals while drinking my fair share of coffee and . . . my perspective changed. God used every circumstance in my life to change me and the way I view “the desires of my heart.”
Which leads me to part two of Piper’s question:
“or do you feel more loved by God because He, through Christ, enables you to enjoy making much of Him forever?”
When I pray the prayer of Jabez with the mindset that Piper is talking about now, I pray, “Lord, please bless me with wisdom. Please bless me with discernment. Bless me with compassion and empathy and patience. Show me opportunities to serve you, equip me for service, and bless me with the courage and motivation to be immediately obedient when I come face to face with those opportunities. Please bless me with ideas and inspiration and illuminate my next step as you guide me to follow your will. Please give me desires of my heart.” When God blesses me by giving me desires of my heart – not THE desires of my heart – but when he blesses me by placing HIS desires IN me I feel more loved by God.
In the first question, the desires are mine and God grants them. Like a genie in a lamp, God is the “go-to guy” for me to get what I want “in Jesus name.” In the second question, I ask God what I want and he fills me with that knowledge, thus “giving me desires,” not “giving me MY desires.”
I hope so, or this post is one of those “pot calling the kettle black” kind of things.
So back to the wording of “the question” that Piper has been asking so many years and spent most of his very limited time at Passion 2011 trying to explain. A few days ago one of my blog visitors, Lisa suggested that I discuss theological issues with my husband when I’m working through them (oh, Lisa, you have no idea what can of worms you opened there. But that’s another post.)
So. I ask FirstHusband. But I don’t just ask him the question. I ask him what he thinks about the question. He’s wary. (remember, he’s holding a can of worms) I tell him to go ahead, say whatever comes to mind, whether or not he thinks it might be condescending (that’s a peek inside the can of worms).
He said he was thinking of Mona Lisa Vito’s answer.
And THAT is why he is my density, because I immediately responded with “EXACTLY!” (and no, “density” is not a typo, the link will take you to every post in which I’ve said my husband is my density.)
For those of you who don’t understand this exchange, we’re both referring to a scene from the movie “My Cousin Vinnie.” I asked FirstHusband John Piper’s question and he heard:
“Now, uh, Ms. Vito, being an expert on general automotive knowledge, can you tell me… what would the correct ignition timing be on a 1955 Bel Air Chevrolet, with a 327 cubic-inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor?”
If you’re a My Cousin Vinnie fan, as we are, you know the answer:
“. . . because Chevy didn’t make a 327 in ’55, the 327 didn’t come out till ’62. And it wasn’t offered in the Bel Air with a four-barrel carb till ’64. However, in 1964, the correct ignition timing would be four degrees before top-dead-center.”
Well. That was her FINAL answer. FirstHusband was referring to her initial answer.
(And if you’re a My Cousin Vinnie fan, you know exactly what that was. If you’ve never seen the movie, I’m sorry. I can’t provide you with a youtube link, I looked. Suffice it to say, she didn’t think much of the question.)
So when I say “let go of your darlings, John Piper.” what do I mean? I’m referring to something brave writers do when they self-edit. (They usually use some harsher terminology, like “Kill your darlings.” or “Murder your darlings.”) I love the way it’s explained here:
“I should be taking a good, long look at my “darlings” and analyzing whether their presence . . . was the result of necessity or just my smug enjoyment of my own supposed brilliance.
If this is arguably the most painful lesson an author has to learn, it’s also arguably the most valuable. Self-editing is the keenest blade in a writer’s armory. Too often, we fall so much in love with . . . [our darlings] . . . that we miss the bigger picture. We fail to see that our darlings are actually stumbling blocks, both to our writing of the story and certainly to the reading of it.
K.M. Weiland at WordPlay-kmweiland.blogspot.com
One of the main points John Piper makes as he attempts to explain this question is that true conversion puts GOD at the bottom of your joy. Piper believes that within that conversion, God can “makes much of me.” His personal goal is that “He be made much of.” He even quotes scripture which he believes supports his premise. And here’s the thing:
I agree. I support his premise. I believe it’s critical and at the foundation of my personal, daily walk with the Lord.
It’s the PHRASING of his premise that is SERIOUSLY failing to help OTHER people understand what he is saying.
So I have a question for John Piper. What is more important to you – SENDING your message? Or making sure it is RECEIVED by doing the best you can to help people to understand what you are asking?
Let go of your darlings, John Piper, they do not serve you well and they are a stumbling block.
One thought on “let go of your darlings, John Piper”
To me, I see the original question as getting to the heart of what we see as both the motivation and focus of God’s love. In other words, do I perceive God’s love kind of like that of a Santa Claus? Do I act as if God is there to serve me and meet my needs, i.e. make much of me? Is He a genie in a bottle whose main purpose is to grant my every wish? And do I mark my confidence in His love based on my own wishes being granted? That’s what I see the first question asking.
Contrast that perspective with the focus of the second question: Christ and His glory and my joy found IN HIM and IN SEEKING HIS GLORY. As you’ve delineated here, the difference lies in my desires versus His. The desire being expressed in the second question is fairly singular: making much of Christ and therein finding the only source of true joy. My confidence, then, in God’s love lies only in Him and in the demonstration of His love on the cross of Christ. (While we were yet sinners, Christ died…)
So I think we agree, don’t we?
I do have a question about this statement: “Piper believes that within that conversion, God can “makes much of me.”” I’m not sure exactly what you mean but to borrow the language of the original question, I believe that when God saved me, he did not make much of me; rather, in saving a wretched, rebellious, wicked and depraved sinner (me) who is hopelessly doomed apart from His grace, He makes much of Christ! It is Jesus’ death and resurrection, His grace and His mercy, His redemption and His salvation that are magnified in saving me. I must decrease; He must increase!