John Piper will answer to God for standing before thousands of young people at Passion 2020 and not sharing with them the authentic gospel. He spoke nothing of sin, nothing of God’s demand for perfection, nothing of conviction, confession, repentance, the gift of belief, or salvation. His was a motivational speech offering a false, completely man-centered, man-powered promise of ultimate pleasure achieved via personal effort that he calls “Desiring God”.
His message is that the “name and fame” of God should be the “desire of our souls”. (Isaiah 26:8). He promises that those “humble, broken, lonely” people who “awaken this desire” will realize the “total fulfilment of your joy”, “will not be disappointed”, and will be “happy”. He calls people to “make this desire the force of all” in their lives, to “glut” on this desire. He insists that such desire is a “worthy ally in worship” and not at all a “defective motivation”.
Piper calls on his listeners to do this for themselves, to establish and prioritize this desire in themselves over all other desires. He calls on his listeners to consider God their ‘summum bonum’, that is, their chief source of pleasure and happiness, and to desire Him because He is that for them. Nowhere does he mention that God comes down to us, giving to us agape love for Him and fellow believers, not that we somehow climb up to him establishing in ourselves love for Him and finding pleasure in Him. The love that Piper describes is eros, a love for what pleases us, a love that values something for what joy it can provide us. Piper’s entire “Desiring God” ministry is based on eros not agape, on self-effort, not the sacrifice of Christ. So this 2020 Passion Conference message is thoroughly consistent with the false gospel that he has espoused for several years.
Amazingly, Piper actually tries to justify his false gospel from Scripture! First, he deals with the objection that Scripture (Mark 8:34) says, “Deny self”. Like the serpent of old, he counters, did Jesus really mean “deny self”? Piper says Jesus really meant that “all (Christian) self-denial is and should be for the sake of self-satisfaction”. To deny some comfort or anything to self for any other reason is “blasphemy”. From the next verse he says that to deny anything to our self aside from earning for us “full and everlasting pleasure” (Psalm 16:11) from God is “idolatry”. He says, “Our desires are our worship, not what we worship”.
To a second objection that selfish desire for personal joy should not for a Christian be the “sustaining force in all actions”, Piper offers up Hebrews 12:1-2 which tells us that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him”. As such Piper claims Jesus is and should be our model for placing desire for “the name and fame” of God, the pleasure and joy that God provides above all other desires. He concludes, “the greatest act of love (Jesus’ sacrifice) was sustained by the desire for joy in the presence of God.” He goes even further and defines Jesus’ suffering on the cross as “the greatest act of selfishness”. He narrowly defines for his purposes selfishness as “getting what you want at another’s expense”. He says that Jesus’ act was not selfish in that narrow sense, but “selfish” in the sense that it was done to “include others in the happiness he longed for”. Thus he further explains Mark 8:35 as saying that as a Christian makes sacrifices even to lose his life, he will save it as long as his greatest desire was for the “name and fame” of God and the pleasure that He provides. It is as if Piper wants to redefine “selfishness” as something honourable so as to blunt objections to his false teaching. Woe to him! (Isaiah 5:20).
He concluded praying for his listeners that “you will be satisfied by the miracle of your desire for His name and fame…If so, you will…enter the joy of our master forever.” So there is Piper’s gospel. Manufacture this sort of desire as chief in your life and you will be rewarded with eternal happiness.
Why on earth do not other Christian leaders deal with this man?