The Lord has used John Piper in significant ways, personally in my life, and in Evangelicalism more broadly. He has been a faithful minister of the Word for many years in the context of the local church. He exemplifies the pastor-theologian model well.
One of the ways the Lord used Piper in my life was through the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. I was privileged to attend one of the early Conferences with Sinclair Ferguson being the keynote speaker. This was the day when it was held in the small chapel in the old facility of Bethlehem Baptist. We filled up with chapel with about 75 people.
This Conference incrementally grew over the years so that they had thousands in attendance. Later they added the Desiring God Conference which focused more on the Christian life more broadly beyond pastoral ministry. This year marked the last Conference. Since Piper has retired from his pastoral ministry in the local church, he determined that he will give himself to a new and focused ministry in this next and last chapter of his life. It is, not surprisingly, a ministry of the Word.
This Conference was a transitional Conference, marking the last of the previous form and the first of this new ministry, Look at the Book. The Conference, held last week, was described in the following manner:
This will be the twelfth and final Desiring God National Conference, at least as we have known them. Unlike past conferences, John Piper will give five sessions himself. In two, he will unfold the biblical foundations for reading your Bible, and in the other three, he will model his method of inductive Bible study, taking Romans 8 — the greatest chapter in the Bible — as his text. After September, we’ll be reinventing our annual National Conference as regional Look at the Book events that focus on learning to read the Bible for yourself in different passages of Scripture. Look at the Book: Reading the Bible for Yourself – Romans 8
In his own words, Piper explains his excitement for and focus of this new ministry, which was written prior to the Conference.
This is not the launch of Look at the Book. It’s a preview. It’s a ten-minute demonstration of the kind of thing I will be doing at our National Conference this September, and then with several texts each week when we launch Look at the Book online this fall.
Some of you may recall from my legacy post that I feel an excited sense of calling for this next chapter of my life to take people with me into the kitchen. That is, the place where sermon-food is prepared. Presentation is one thing; preparation is another.
One of the differences between presentation (preaching) and preparation is that presentation is well-ordered, and preparation is messy. Banquet tables are clean. Kitchens are cluttered. My kitchen gets so messy that sometimes I can hardly find the ingredients. You’ll see what I mean.
But this is real. This is how I do it.
Without circling things, and underlining, and drawing lines, and making notes, and doodling in the margins, and making connections, and marking repetitions, I would be utterly adrift in a biblical text. My mind is a muddle until I make the muddle visible on paper, and then begin to sort it out with the pencil.
So if you ever feel muddle-headed about Bible passages, you might be encouraged to join me in the process of sorting things out.
Here are the links to the five messages given by Piper at last week’s Conference. The first and last also have manuscripts.
Scripture: The Kindling of Christian Hedonism
Free from Judgment, Fighting Sin, Full Assurance (Romans 8:1-8)
Groaning Creation, Groaning Saints, Groaning Spirit (Romans 8:9-25)
Predestination, Justification, No Separation (Romans 8:26-39)
Greatest Book, Greatest Chapter, Greatest Joy
Finally, the ongoing fruit of this new ministry was also released last week, immediately prior to the Conference. A number of videos of Piper going through the process of meditating on a text of Scripture were made available, the first installment of many more to come. Here is how Look at the Book is explained.
Look at the Book is a new online method of teaching the Bible. It’s an ongoing series of 8–12 minute videos in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear John Piper’s voice and watch his pen underline, circle, make connections, and scribble notes — all to help you learn to read God’s word for yourself. His goal is to help you not only see what he sees, but where he sees it and how he found it.
All of the teaching/modelling labs completed thus far have been posted (in order listed on the webpage):
Isaiah 48:9–11: For My Name’s Sake
Luke 12:32: Fear Not, Little Flock
Matthew 28:18–20: I Am with You Always
1 John 5:1–4: The Victory That Overcomes the World
2 Chronicles 16:8–9: The Eyes of the Lord
Romans 11:28–32: Our Disobedience and God’s Mercy
Lamentations 3:31–33: He Will Not Cast Off Forever
2 Peter 1:3–4: Precious and Great Promises
2 Timothy 3:14–17: Breathed Out By God
2 Corinthians 8:1–2: An Abundance of Joy
I plan to use these as a supplement to our family devotions.