This is certainly my favourite Piper book and I highly recommend it. It defines the Gospel in the context of a culture obsessed with self -- a fixation I have not been immune to. Even my Christian theology has been decorated with the fragile ornaments of self, leaving my view of the Gospel often more about me than about Jesus: about MY sins being forgiven, about ME being a new creation, about MY purpose in life, about ME going to heaven. But as I’ve focused on me and mine, it has never left me satisfied for long.
As Piper combats this self-absorption that has greatly affected many people's theology, he focuses the spotlight of the Gospel directly on God Himself. John Piper calls this “biblical God-centeredness” and he describes “the acid test of the biblical God-centeredness” as this: “Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of his Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever?” (p.11)
John Piper begins this book at full throttle and never lets up in his attack against our “man-centered view of love” and our idolatry of heaven. Piper stresses that “The Gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel” (p.47). Wow. It’s a hard-hitting book, but it’s the kind of hurt that feel good, like a massage that pounds the aching knots from our weary souls. Piper’s point in this small but powerful book is that “Propitiation, redemption, forgiveness, imputation, sanctification, liberation, healing, heaven – none of these is good news except for one reason: they bring us to God for our everlasting enjoyment of him” (p.47). All these gifts are wonderful and are not to be minimized, for Christ paid for them with his life, but “not one Gospel blessing will be enjoyed by anyone for whom the gospel’s greatest gift was not the Lord himself” (p.12).
When Piper says that “God is the Gospel", he means “that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gifts would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment” (p.13).
This book is not an easy devotional read, though it’s highly satisfying for those who are unsatisfied and weary with the shallowness of a self-centered Gospel. Piper digs deep into various passages that revolve around what salvation and grace and suffering and missions and the glory of God really mean in the context of a God-centered Gospel. It’s as though John Piper wants to analyze the gospel from as many angles as possible, each time coming to the same conclusion, each time putting a nail in the reader’s self-centered gospel.
But as deeply theological as this book is, Piper’s writing style is personally engaging and at times, richly poetic. One can’t help but be stirred by the following description: “But the climax of the glory of his [Jesus’] life on earth was the way it ended. It was as if all the darker colors in the spectrum of glory came together in the most beautiful sunset on Good Friday, with the crucified Christ as the blood-red sun in the crimson sky. And it was as if all the brighter colors in the spectrum of glory came together in the most beautiful sunrise on Easter morning, with the risen Christ as the golden sun shining in full strength. Both the glory of the sunset and the glory of the sunrise shone on the horizon of a lifetime of incomparably beautiful love” (p.65).
John Piper’s goal in writing this book was certainly that his readers would find deep and lasting satisfaction in a life focused on Jesus Christ. But his heart is obviously also for those not ready to pick up such a book as he writes, “The world needs nothing more than to see the worth of Christ in the work ands words of his God-besotted people. This will come to pass when the church awakens to the truth that the saving love of God is the gift of himself, and that God himself is the gospel” (p.17).
Click here to view the text of this entire book online!
© 2008 by Ken Peters