Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

I wasn't really looking for this book.  It found me.  I had another title by Piper in mind when I casually strolled into the garage sale that day.  Two dollars?  Really?  At a garage sale?  Oh well, if I were to buy it on Ebay for a quarter, I would at least pay that in shipping.  Why not?

Turns out, it was what I needed. 

I love to think.  That doesn't make me smart.  It is just a natural part of me.  Sometimes I think that I think too much.  I have even had people tell me that I think too much!!  Sometimes it is frustrating because I don't have all of the answers that I THINK I need NOW! 

In the times in which we live, there is often discouragement for the thinking Christian.  I have asked questions to my elders and spiritual superiors only to get a:  you don't need to worry about that-it doesn't matter. That answer is like sandpaper to the thinking soul.  If it doesn't matter, then why doesn't it matter? 

In addition, there can often be resistance to the teaching of doctrine.  Doctrine is said to divide and not really matter.  I appreciate Piper's response to this issue.  He relates that what he has learned by thinking tough issues through is a deeper understanding of who God is, thus cultivating a deeper love for Him.  Just because something doesn't make sense to our human thinking doesn't mean that we should attempt to discard or discredit it. That's what this whole book is about.  Thinking about the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of man.  Discarding the man-made ideas that we have about God and simply believing what He says.

The other important topic that Piper touches on is what it means to "receive Christ."  He insists that we must make clear what that actually means:

There are so many people who say they have received Christ and believed on Christ but give little or no evidence that they are spiritually alive.  They are unresponsive to the spiritual beauty of Jesus.  They are unmoved by the glories of Christ.  They don't have the spirit of the Apostle Paul when he said, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all thinks and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." (Phil 3:8)  This is not their spirit, yet they say they have received Christ.  It looks as though it is possible to "receive Christ" and not have Him for what He is.  

I have the personal opinion that this is a BIG problem in our world today.  We were raised in the church, but have no idea what saving faith really means.  We can go door to door and present facts to people and pray with people, but that doesn't guarantee that that they really get it.  Piper talks about the nature of saving faith as one that demands more than facts as a ground.  He explains it as not merely receiving the facts of the old, old story, but also receiving Christ Himself: the one who died for us and rose again, and is infinitely glorious, wondrously beautiful, and supremely valuable.  Therefore the grounds of such faith must be the spiritual sight of such glory and beauty and value.


Because our hearts now see Christ as infinitely valuable, our resistance to truth is overcome.  Our thinking is no longer the slave of deceitful desires, because our desires are changed.  Christ is now the supreme treasure.

Piper goes on to establish why the relativism of today's religion is absurd.  This is where the ability to think logically becomes of the utmost importance.  It also seems to be the crux of the matter in the book: who are we going to trust in, ourselves or God?  And in the matter of thinking, who does our thinking serve and glorify?  Ourselves or god?  And how did Jesus respond to the relativists of His day?  (Matthew 21:23-27)  In order to not only refute relativism, but also to detect it in our own ideas, thinking deeply about God is imperative.  I loved the visual picture that Piper gave to bring thinking and logic into the process of salvation:

A logical presentation of the gospel of Christ is like wire along which the electricity of spiritual power runs.  Wires do not make the lights go on; electricity does.  But in the providence of God, electricity runs through wires.  And in the design of God, the use of our minds in knowing, ordering, and presenting the truth of Christ is the normal way that the eyes of the blind are opened and belief in Jesus in awakened.  

I can testify in my own life that thinking through hard doctrines and Biblical truths has drawn me closer to Christ.  I can't explain it, especially because I don't understand all of it.  But I know that God's word is so very alive.  And beautiful. Maybe in a way, it has given me the wisdom to simply let go and let God be who He is rather than who I want Him to be, or what seems fair or right to me.  I believe that is what careful study of the word can do for us.  And in the process, it makes us more dependent on Him.  It opens our eyes to the richness, beauty, and worth of Jesus.  I recommend this book for all of you thinkers out there.  It will encourage you to continue to think, but about the wisdom of God, not ourselves.  I recommend it for those who don't like to think deeply.  It can simply give insight and maybe an appreciation for those who do.  

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