This was my small group’s fourth book to complete since forming last Spring, and as far as knowledge of God goes, I think John Piper‘s Desiring God has been the most influential (as far as practical living goes, I’ll have to bend towards Kris Lundgaard’s The Enemy Within, though this certainly was a close second). This book has certainly been the most theological book of our experience, as Piper digs deep, chapter by chapter, into the intricate truths of Scripture, all to achieve his goal of proving that “Christian Hedonism” ought to be a driving force of every believer. Turning the Westminster Catechism on its head, he summarizes his Christian Hedonism as this: “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever” (2011, p.18).
It would be difficult to describe everything that this book brought to light for me and my group, so I will focus only on the chapter that I found most effective: Chapter 9 “Missions: The Battle Cry of Christian Hedonism.” Piper challenged my own understanding of missions by offering a varied definition of the the word, one that I have heard before, but never with such clarity. Piper dissects the traditional view of missions into two distinct groups: frontier missions and what he calls “domestic evangelism.” He states that true missions can only be found when the missionary goes to one of the many unreached people groups (that, according to Luis Bush, in 1995 totaled about 2 billion people worldwide [1996, p.194). “In fact,” he writes, “the vast majority of missionaries are working on ‘fields’ where the church has been planted for decades” (1996, p.195). For Paul the Apostle, reaching an unreached people group meant going to Spain. Noting Paul’s own ministry, Piper says the following: “Paul’s missions strategy was to preach where nobody had preached before,” and “Paul’s job of planting was done and would now be followed by someone else’s watering (I Corinthians 3:6)” (2011, p.225). How fully such a definition challenges my own outlook on missions has yet to be seen, though I will say it has certainly forced me to consider more closely how to direct my own missional efforts toward such people groups.
It is no wonder why Desiring God has become such a modern classic, celebrating this year its 25th anniversary. While its reading may be too meaty for most milk-drinking believers, it will certainly prove capable to strengthen their theological teeth at least slightly, if they just give it a chance.
Piper, John. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Sisters, Or: Multnomah Books, 1996.
Piper, John. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Colorado Springs, Colo: Multnomah, 2011.
[I received this book free for review from Waterbrook-Multnomah Press]