Monday, September 26

Book Review: God is the Gospel

Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself by John Piper, reviewed as part of a program at The Diet of Bookworms.

The main point John Piper is making in God is the Gospel is that the ultimate purpose of the gospel it to bring us to God. The various gifts of the gospel--like our justification and the gift of the Spirit, among many others--are necessary steps to achieve this overarching goal of bring us to God himself.
Everything else in the gospel is meant to display God's glory and remove every obstacle in him (such as his wrath) and in us (such as our rebellion) so that we can enjoy him forever. God is the gospel. That is, he is what makes good news good.

The first sentence in this quote is an important point. Too often we focus on the gifts of the gospel without putting them in their proper place as things that work toward the ultimate gift of all: God himself. We are a little like children who focus on all of their birthday gifts without seeing beyond the gifts to the people who love them and gave the gifts to them. Of course, we expect our children to mature to the point where they see beyond birthday gifts to the people who gave them; and we ought to expect to grow as believers, too, until the many gifts of the gospel serve most of all to focus our attention on the God who gave them. We want to come to the point where we can say with the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you."

How would you answer this question Piper asks?
If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and with all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven if Christ was not there?
How you answer this question will tell you something about whether the ultimate purpose of the gospel is what you want most from it. As a tool for helping us see this point, and for goading us on to focus on the ultimate purpose of God's work of salvation, God is the Gospel is a valuable book.

That doesn't mean I didn't have a few problems with it. One of those problems is with the title of the book itself. You'll see the reasoning behind the title in the quote in the beginning paragraph of this review, which I'll paraphrase like this: The crowning purpose of the gospel is for us to enjoy God. What makes the gospel good news is that it gives us God himself. Therefore, God is the gospel. Well, not quite. That's a bit like saying the journey is the destination. The journey brings us to the destination, the whole purpose of the journey is to reach the destination, but that doesn't make the journey equal to the destination.

It's little things like this, bits of not-quite-so-clear thinking that made this book rather difficult for me to read. I couldn't always follow the thoughts exactly and sometimes I couldn't understand how certain conclusions were reached. That bothered me. Because of this (and perhaps other things, too), after the first few chapters--throughout the middle of the book until the very last chapter--reading this book was a chore for me.

And I regretted that, because I knew that the overall point of the book was important and one that we all need to grasp. However, if you are a Piper fan, if you've read others of his books and enjoyed them, you will probably enjoy God is the Gospel, too, and find it valuable to you.

You'll find more reviews of this book at the Diet of Bookworms.

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