November 25, 2008 Book Response: “Let the Nations Be Glad”
Book Response: “Let the Nations Be Glad”
John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad more than lives up to its reputation as one of the most important books on missions. It is biblically based and rich in scriptural references with many relevant supporting stories and extensive explanatory foot notes. This book guides the reader through the core issues of missions in seven chapters which are grouped into three parts. In part 1, Piper discusses missions as means of worshipping God (ch.1) followed by the power of prayer and the price of suffering in missions (ch.2 & 3). Part 2 is devoted to answering two very important questions of whether Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation (ch.4) and whether the task of missions is to win as many individuals as possible or win individuals from all people groups of the world (ch.5). In the final part, Piper explores the relationship between the compassion for people and the passion for the glory of God (ch.6), and the true meaning of worship (ch.7). Opening statement of the first chapter contains the central theme of the book, supremacy of God in missions. Piper states that “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is,” because “God is ultimate, not man” and whereas missions is a temporary necessity, “worship abides forever” (p. 17). I believe that the centrality of God emphasized in this opening statement is applicable not only to missions, but also to Christian life. Piper further explains that missions is means for the worship of God, which is “the fuel and goal of missions,” because “all of history is moving toward one great goal, the white-hot worship of God and his Son among all the peoples of the earth” (p.20-21). This is a wake-up call for Christians to break out of simply thinking missions as just saving lost souls and discover the centrality of God in all aspects of missions. As clarified by Piper in the last chapter, meaning of worship in the opening statement and throughout the book is not the ceremonial outward act such as the congregational worship services on Sundays, but an inward spiritual experience, a living sacrifice, and the spiritual act of worship mentioned in Romans 12:1. Piper’s argument is consistent with my view of worship, but it would have been much better for him to briefly mention this point about the meaning of worship in the beginning of chapter one rather than in the last chapter. Then, I believe that the truth of his statement such as “Missions begins and ends in worship” could become readily apparent to readers. Piper shows the passion of God for his own glory in several pages of scriptural references and then explores the question how God can be loving and at the same time seek his own glory in light of 1 Corinthian 13:5, which says “Love … does not seek his own” (p. 29). He finds the answer in the fact that “God is glorified when we are satisfied in him - when we delight in his presence, when we like to be around him, when we treasure his fellowship” (p. 32). This point is well illustrated with a story of pastoral visit to a hospitalized patient. If the visit is made out of pastoral duty the patient will not be honored, but if the visit is made for pleasure of being with the patient he is appreciated and glorified. I believe this has an important implication in our attitudes toward missions. We tend to respond to the Great Commission out of duty or at best out of compassion for the lost, but very seldom out of passion for the glory of God. I totally agree with Piper that strong feeling of love for the lost is very difficult to sustain and compassion for people must not be detached from passion for the glory of God (p. 41). When missionaries experience spiritual fatigue as their initial passion for missions dry out with passage of time, holding onto the passion for the glory of God would lead to their spiritual recovery. When...
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