Death Can Only Make Me Better: Remembering Tim Keller (1950–2023)
Today Tim Keller entered the reward of his Master. In this special episode of Ask Pastor John, Tony Reinke shares a sermon clip from Dr. Keller on the joy of God in the face of cancer.
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Let the Nations Be Glad! — Thirty Years LaterBy John Piper — 7 months ago
It’s Monday on the podcast, but it’s Tuesday in real time for us because we’re in Nashville right now at the Sing! Global 2022 Getty Music Worship Conference, recording this before a live studio audience.
We have been recently on the podcast talking a lot about spiritual gifts. And speaking of spiritual gifts, if anyone here has any inclination whatsoever toward missions, you’ve probably heard about or even read John Piper’s book Let the Nations Be Glad!. That book turns thirty years old this summer, with over 300,000 copies sold. To celebrate, we just released a thirtieth-anniversary edition, an expanded hardcover of that book. For those of you who want to read it again, or maybe you haven’t read it before, this is a good time to do it. Let the Nations be Glad!
Pastor John, looking back now on thirty years of what God has done with that book, what thoughts do you have on that book and missions going forward?
It’s the most surprising book that I’ve written — surprising in its effect, because it has been used to strengthen the hands of veteran missionaries and awaken a desire for missions among aspiring missionaries. And it has been used to clarify what we’re doing among younger missionaries. And so I’ve been amazed. And what’s surprising is that I’ve never been a missionary. I’ve never crossed a culture, learned a new language, embedded myself in a people and given my life to growing Christ’s church there. I’ve never done that. I was a pastor of a local church all those years when that book was coming into being. And so it has stunned me that a person with no missionary experience could write a book that God would use in missions.
So the first thing that strikes me is, Why would that be? I think the answer is that it’s Bible saturated, and Bible has its own power. You don’t have to be anybody if you speak the word of God faithfully. So that’s the first thought.
Gladness and Glory
The second thought is that I was just trying in those early years in the 80s — the book I think came out in ’91 or ’92, since this is thirty years — I was just trying to bring my big-God theology (Calvinism, Reformed theology) to bear on the local church and to be consistent with it in all that we did. And one of the things we wanted to be was a platform for the sending of missionaries. And I had to come to terms with the relationship between being radically God-centered, believing in the absolute sovereignty of God and the saving of sinners, and that missionary launching pad.
“Christian Hedonism simply means that God is most glorified among the nations when the nations are most satisfied in God.”
And it emerged as perfect. The book’s subtitle is The Supremacy of God In Missions. And the title is Let The Nations Be Glad!. So my Reformed theology comes out in the subtitle and my Christian Hedonism comes out in the title. And Christian Hedonism simply means that God is most glorified among the nations when the nations are most satisfied in God. And that’s what Psalm 67 says. “Let the nations be glad. . . . Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” (Psalm 67:4–5). So the gladness of the nations and the glory of God came together perfectly in my theology. And so I thought, “There’s nothing more obvious than that we should be a missionary-sending church and that I should do everything I can to mobilize people for the cause of missions.”
Beginnings of a Book
And during those years of trying to mobilize people, thought after thought after thought came that moved toward a book. Some of those thoughts included, Are people really lost? So many people today are all into other issues besides rescuing lost people from perishing. Are people going to hell? I had to answer that. I had to give good, solid, exegetical foundations for that heartbreaking reality.
Another thought was, Do you have to hear about Jesus in order to be saved? Lots of evangelicals are inclusivist and say, “No, you don’t have to hear about him. He did it, yes, and purchased salvation, but you don’t have to hear about it in order to benefit from it.” So I had to write about that.
“There are thousands of peoples, and the Bible talks about them. And missions is reaching all those peoples.”
And then the last one was about peoples versus people. At the time, that was a red-hot issue that nobody thought about when I was growing up. I never used the word people with an s on the end when I was growing up, ever. I remember using it one time, and a little girl said to me, “People is already plural. You don’t say peoples, you say people.” She corrected me. I said, “That’s very sharp.” But now she needs to be taught missiology because there are thousands of peoples, and the Bible talks about them. And missions is reaching all those peoples, not saving every soul.
Jesus is going to come back when people are not yet saved. But I don’t think he’s coming back until the mission is finished. And the mission includes reaching the peoples. So we had to deal with the whole issue of peoples versus people. So those are the pieces that came together.
Reason for Missions
And the last thing I would say is that this is the only book I have written, I think, from which people remember one sentence: “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” I was just talking to a guy in the restroom twenty minutes ago, and he was asking me a question about my talk yesterday, and he said, “You gave the impression that eternity is going to be an endless worship service.” I said, “Wrong impression. And you’re right. I probably did leave that impression.” I didn’t mean to because I think worship from the heart corporately is more than worship services. It’s all that you do, according to Romans 12:1–2. You lay down your whole life in your vocation and your hobbies and everything when it comes from the heart.
And I said, “Most people, when they read that sentence (“missions exists because worship doesn’t”), misunderstand it by thinking that I mean missions exists because worship services don’t exist.” That’s not what I mean. And so I clarified that in later editions. People are not living out of a supreme valuing of God above all things.
Happy to Be She: My Glad Path to ComplementarityBy Abigail Dodds — 3 months ago
Complementarian is a strange word. I never heard my parents or my pastor use it as I was growing up. I can’t recall the first time I heard it — though it was likely sometime in the early 2000s, as a young married woman, sitting under the teaching of John Piper.
However, long before I heard the strange word, I had seen the concept. I saw it when my dad’s heart to be generous and hospitable was taken up by my mom and transposed into a welcoming home that operated like a bed-and-breakfast for family, friends, and strangers. I saw it when my dad would take the initiative to warm the car and pull it up to the curb, always hopping out to open the door for my mom — my fearless mom, who wielded chainsaws and rode young green horses, yet gladly welcomed this kindness from her husband. I saw it when my mom helped shoulder my dad’s call to be a physician, making the best of a constantly changing schedule. I saw it in my dad’s hard work and provision for us and in my mom’s labor in the home to turn that provision into something truly wonderful. And I saw it when my dad led us in prayer and gratitude to God for everything, especially God’s Son.
Woven Through All of God’s Word
Yet there was another place I’d seen complementarity: the Scriptures. From the opening pages — the genesis of Adam and Eve — to the final chapters revealing the marriage supper of the Lamb, this concept of part and counterpart; of the distinctiveness of man and woman (in Hebrew, ish and ishah); of the design and order of husband and wife, lord and lady, bridegroom and bride, was everywhere. From Sarah’s willingness to obey Abraham to Boaz’s noble protection of Ruth, the stories of Scripture show us both the beauty of complementarity and the consequences of rejecting God’s design for men and women — as when Adam submitted to Eve rather than to God in the garden.
“The husband is head, and the wife is glory — just as Christ is head, and the church is body.”
Even the gospel itself is intertwined with this foundational reality of creation: the husband is head, and the wife is glory — just as Christ is head, and the church is body (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22–33). The husband loves his wife, and the wife respects her husband — just as Christ lovingly sacrifices, and the church gladly submits and receives (Ephesians 5:22–33; Colossians 3:18–19). I had observed, too, how the Epistles reiterate the distinctions between men and women as they give separate and particular instructions for older women, younger women, older men, younger men, wives, husbands, and widows (Titus 2:1–6; 1 Timothy 2:8–15; 1 Peter 3:1–7).
By the time the strange word complementarian became part of my vocabulary, with its accompanying pushback against the idea that men and women are interchangeable, I didn’t need to be convinced it was true or scriptural. I’d seen it — both in print and in life.
Speed Bumps Along the Way
Of course, seeing a reality and living a reality are two different experiences. I could see the reality of complementarity. I could see the beauty of God’s intent for men and women. But stepping into that reality as a young woman and trying it on was more difficult. From the time I was little, the word equality was a good word. Especially as an American, I was proud to consider everyone equal. I’d heard that egalitarianism was simply that: equality between men and women. Who could be opposed to equality?
Thankfully, a complementarian position was able to account for both the equalities and the inequalities of men and women. To embrace the Bible’s teaching on men and women is to acknowledge an equality of value alongside physical and positional differences.
“What a gift to be a woman! What a gift to be endowed with a woman’s body and to have a woman’s mind and instincts!”
I found over time that, rather than bristling at this reality, there was great relief in stating the obvious. I came to acknowledge that treating men and women as the same was actually an affront to God — and at the same time, I became free to acknowledge that how he designed men and women was truly good and beautiful. Many women are indoctrinated by the world to believe that we will lose something essential in ourselves if we admit that we are physically weaker or inherently different than men. When we acknowledge that we don’t choose what we are but are created to be what we are — man or woman — the world teaches us to shudder and rebel, but God teaches us to say thank you for his good gift. What a gift to be a woman! What a gift to be endowed with a woman’s body and to have a woman’s mind and instincts!
Two Precious Tutors
Two books were especially helpful to me as I began to really practice the complementarity I saw in Scripture, both in my marriage and in how I conceived of myself as a Christian woman in the world. The first was Matthew Henry’s The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, and the second was Jim Wilson’s How to Be Free from Bitterness. Neither book mentions complementarianism, neither is about the differences between men and women, and neither is written particularly for women. But both books helped me gain a frame of mind and heart and soul that served my submission to God and his ways — and helped me flourish as a result.
The books gave me a window into the inner workings of a heart that truly trusts and obeys God. And it just so happens that the kind of heart that trusts and obeys God is the same kind of heart that does not rebel against God-ordained relationships of authority and submission. Whether submitting to the elders of my church or the authorities who make our traffic laws or my own husband as he leads us on a new adventure, my frame of heart and mind must be wholly trusting God. I need a stability of soul born of meekness and a faith-filled heart that is free from bitterness.
Henry and Wilson fanned the flames of my happiness in day-to-day life as they helped me turn from sins of grasping, bitterness, and inward strife and replace them with simple gratitude, peace, and joy in Christ. I commend them to you. My happiness in complementarity was directly tied to my own sanctification and my willingness to bow my knee in submission to King Jesus, no matter what the world or anyone else thought.
To agree with God’s word that a wife ought to submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22), or that woman is the glory of man and man is the glory of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:3), or that God himself ordains who is a man and who is a woman — these positions won’t earn you accolades or applause in many circles. But agreeing with God — even more, loving what God has said and done — will bring you peace and hope and joy, both now and in the age to come. Complementarian is a strange word, but that’s alright. Christians have often been strange to the world.
The Deepest Problem of Humanity: Ephesians 4:17–24, Part 3By John Piper — 2 years ago
John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence.