Man Crush Confession #2: John Piper

{This is a blog series coined “Man Crush Confession.” To access my first “man crush” post go here. Please don’t be offended by my tongue in cheek use of “crush.” It is strictly an homage to a godly influence in my life}

I sat in an open cattle field in central Texas with 40,000 other young adults, fasting for the day and pledging Isaiah 26:8 as our life vision and passion. The year was 2003.

An older man, on the back-end of his fifties and sporting glasses, took the stage. He opened his bible and commenced to lay out the greatness of the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. Every word dripped with blood-earnest weight, every truth was exposited in humble boldness. I had never heard preaching quite like that before. He cast a biblical vision of the holiness of God in Jesus Christ that shook me for days after. As a freshmen college student, with nothing more than unguided fervor for my young faith, I was immediately hooked.

There were plenty of other great messages and messengers at that event. But for that particular sermon my thirsty soul felt like it was drinking from a fire hydrant. He offered free copies of his new book “Don’t Waste Your Life” to all in attendance. After I received my copy in the mail I devoured it 3-4 times and was convicted and encouraged by its radical call to know Christ and make Him known more.

More Than Just Tulips

To my surprise, shortly after this, I found out the speaker, John Piper, was a Calvinist (dum da dum dum!). This perturbed me a little because the only Calvinists I knew personally were a bit contentious and parochial about what mattered in the gospel. Every seemingly harmless conversation with them circled back to the topic of predestination. But Piper was different for me. And through reading his books and using his excellent websource, DesiringGod.org, a world much bigger than five points was opened up to me. The writings of dead guys like Johnathan Edwards, George Mueller, John Owen, and Augustine became a vast plateau of gems spread about a rich church

Not West-side fool. "Westminster!"

history I had never cared to discover. And of course all these dead guys pointed back to the inspired text that revealed the Living Word, Jesus, in a fresh and glorious light.

I was passionate about the gospel before, but my understanding lacked theological and historical depth. There was a host of saints, reformers, ministers, and revivalists who had trod the hard gospel road long before me. They had found their satisfaction and delight in the glory of God as revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that was more than enough for them (2 Cor 4:4, 6). I came to a greater appreciation of the denominational stream I was born into (Baptist); and I also discovered a newfound respect for other streams that converged at the same wonderous cross.

God used a little professor from Minneapolis to help open the wide door of Christian heritage to me.

These revelations began a massive paradigm shift within me: The gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t make much of me. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes much of God. The center of the world is not man and his worth. The center of the world is God and His glory. Piper’s missions manifesto “Let the Nations Be Glad” should be a required read for the missions and evangelistically minded. If you doubt a Calvinist can exalt in God’s sovereignty while simultaneously being sold out to the Great Commission then I highly recommend it. Piper has a solid range of works, from the devotional “Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die,” to the scholarly “Justification of God.” The 23% I understood of the latter book helped tie down some loose ends in my thinking about Romans 9 and Predestination (which became a four part blog series).

Your Fav Podcast Pastor Doesn’t Know You

Piper has his faults. He has annoyed many in his own camp with his close associations with Rick Warren or Mark Driscoll. He has annoyed many outside of his camp with his interpretation of biblical masculinity and femininity. But for my readership who don’t know me personally, I am coming clean to you right now about my bromance with John Piper. I’ve never met him but His ministry of the Word has reached me many times when I needed biblical encouragement, conviction, or sometimes just a swift kick in my spiritual butt.

I know there is an unhealthy pedestal e-pastors may be put on in this fast paced information age. So I better stop now before I begin to gush (that would be awkward for everyone). I do want my readers to know how much I appreciate the countless unknown shepherds who tend their small flocks well in relative obscurity. I encourage everyone reading to pray continually for and be complimentary of the man God has entrusted to them to be their pastor. We’re subject to real local elders (Heb 13:17), not rock star international conference speakers.

With that said, I’d like to hear who your longtime Man Crush Confession or secret Bromance may be (I won’t judge, promise : ))

What post-biblical era leader, living or dead, has impacted your life in Christ in a positive permanent way?

Bryan Daniels

And just for kicks:

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

41 thoughts on “Man Crush Confession #2: John Piper”

  1. I liked this post because you were open about your own journey–and b/c you asked us ours. As a side note, I have read the Institutes and, agree with what one theologian said, “Most Calvinists are more Calvinistic than Calvin was.”
    For me: CS Lewis is an all-star, everyman favorite. I prefer Packer over Piper (Piper tends to be repetitive). I love Ravi Zacharias, and his ilk as they speak to both heart and mind. I love the expansive and very thoughtful/philosophical/historical breadth of R.C. Spoul. All of your list is also included–not a fan of the ‘experiential’ books–I prefer firsthand experiences! 🙂 Women: Carolyn Custis James. I am sad to say she’s the only Protestant female theologian who makes my cut. I think Frances Schaeffer is in the big leagues, too, though is thinking is better than his writing (pity)-his best was the “How Shall We Then Live?”
    I read many Catholics (obviously) as they tend to be a bit less embarrassed about Christ than Prostestants, for some reason: Chesterton, Sayers (though she’s more a thinker), and Peter Kreeft (notably, “The God Who Loves You”). Keller’s fine….he’s obviously in the trenches. Don Richardson is a controversial but notable missional thinker.
    As for smaller ‘pastors’ – Stan Key (www.lcchurch.org), John Yates (thefallschurch.org) and Dr. Dennis Kinlaw (once president of Asbury College) – his book on Lectures on the Old Testament.
    This reply is way too long!
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks sundowniest. You’ve hit on a couple more men who will probably round out this “Man Crush series” in the coming weeks (watch out I might even include a Catholic!).

      I agree a bit about Piper. I believe he is intentionally repetitive though. I tell people if they are able to labor through “Desiring God” then they can get the gist of the rest of his books and thinking.
      I’m not sure I understand you when you say Protestants are more embarassed about Christ than Catholics. Maybe some modern evan”jelly”cals are (Osteen, Warren), but the Protestant voices I actually read and listen to are as bold about the person and work of Christ as anyone I know. Peace and grace.

      1. Quite possibly my literary antennae is the thing that compares RCs to Protestants (it’s a inclinational gene, not a judgment). Yet, we are, if we are genuinely Christ’s, in the same boat: Strangers & foreigners, resident aliens.

  2. It is my mother and my aunt. Both opposites; step sisters who came from very hard childhoods but grabbed onto God. I have learned much from both in different areas; my mother is a walking, miracle of healing. My Aunt is the kind of aunt everyone should have. Great post and it shows that we can learn from the most unlikely of sources.

  3. I must say up front that I was offended by your use of the word “crush”. Now look what’s happened to my sanctification… 😉

    Seriously, though – great post. I love listening to Piper teach; last year, I was blessed to attend the Ligonier Conference in Orlando, FL and actually got to see him. It’s impossible to miss the fact that he’s passionate about what he believes.

    Who has impacted my life in Christ in a positive permanent way? My parents, first of all. I’ve also appreciated the influence of men like J.C. Ryle, Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and my own pastor, Thomas Brainerd.

    1. Thanks Slinger and I’m glad you got over it : )

      Man, I’ve been meaning to make a Ligonier Conference some year! Yeah, I agree on all accounts with your list, except for your pastor; whom I’m sure I would include on my list if I knew of him!

  4. …….James White………

    I feel creepy.

    Anyway. R.C. Sproul, John Piper — they’ve all been a huge influence. James White, for all his snarkiness, is my favorite because of his dependability and hyper attention to details. Athanasius is a personal hero. Can’t say I’ve read any of his writings though, just what I’ve read about him in Church History books.

      1. His approach is more gracious than 3/4th of the Arminians who want to debate him. I think it’s probably his personality that puts you off. He doesn’t put up with people who lie and are inconsistent. He isn’t perfect, but he’s far from Martin Luther, and Shabir Ally can have a good old conversation with him.

        I like it when he spanks people, honestly. Church leaders are too weak with people sometimes. Even Al Mohler or Greg Koukl, very gracious and composed individuals, step out and give a good lash here and there. It’s not like Jesus or Paul never did it.

  5. Love Piper, he’s been a great influence me in many ways.

    And my wife has started to listen to him quite a bit when trying to get the babies to sleep. As much as I find his preaching invigorating, the babies find him calming. And there’s nothing like hearing Piper’s voice while preparing a bottle for babies. Even mundane things – taking a bottle, preparing its nipple, filling it with powdered formula and water, shaking it all together, and feeding it to a tired tot – all done for the glory of God.

  6. You can’t go past the man himself ( after Jesus and Paul) – John Calvin. We sometimes forget how radical he was. You never read his works without getting an “ah ha!” moment. He too was imperfect. Which means we all have a responsibility to suck the marrow out of the Word of God for ourselves. (With aid of these imperfect brothers Calvin, Spurgeon, Piper et al.)

    1. I agree on JCalvin. I’ve read a couple biographical works on him…he was a brilliant compelling man and bold reformer who gets a bad rap because the panache of some of his followers.

  7. I must say that I also have a man-crush on John Piper. You can also throw in Matt Chandler as well. I think “Calvinist” and whatnot is just a label because you wouldn’t know what denomination they were by hearing them speak. But what you do know is that they have a great passion for the Lord and the Gospel and that is very important. They bring so much truth and conviction to many a lives.

      1. I am also constantly watching videos of him and listening to him. It is very contagious. And I agree with what Mr. Peacock said about his dependability and consistency. And what makes Matt Chandler awesome is his amazing story. Going from tumor in his brain to being totally tumor free; and I those times just had complete faith in God and let Him do what he wanted with his life.

  8. Thabiti, Chandler, Ravi, Piper, Horton, Eric Mason, Voddie Bauchman, D.A. Carson, Rob Sturdy, Iain Boyd.

    The last two are my friends and pastors.

  9. Enjoyed your post! John Piper has definitely had a major impact on my understanding of God and the gospel. Other men God has used mightily in my life include Wayne Grudem, John Calvin, DA Carson, Matt Chandler, and others. And thank you for emphasizing the importance of celebrating our local pastors. God bless!

  10. Kyle Griffen turned me on to Matt Chandler. Very solid! Talking about man crush, he is all that Kyle will talk about. Lol

  11. I can totally relate to your commentary on John Piper. I was introduced to his writing in College several years ago. One of his books was on our reading list for a preaching course I was in. I have thoroughly enjoyed your writing as well.

    Back in 1993 I was on my way to work and I found the ministry of Dr. Tony Evans on the radio. The season in which God introduced me to that man of God’s work was loaded with change in my life. I was new to marriage, fatherhood and manhood. I was 26 years old. That day he was preaching on Jonah. The message was so powerful I remember pulling over to the side of the road and allowing God to propel me to “seating in Heavenly places” as he concluded the sermon. I have had the readings, teachings via radio and television and one face to face encounter with Dr. Evans throughout my spiritual development. I thank God for him being a willing vessel who God has mightily used to expose me to priceless Biblical jewels. I pray that I will be able to share my testimony with him one on one before we meet in Glory.
    God bless you brother.

  12. Great words here friend. The contributions God used Calvin to institute (no pun intended) are experienced by every person who worships in a protestant denomination around the globe… they just don’t realize it. Everyone is hung on a tulip that he didn’t grow. A brief study of the man’s life shows he would never have agreed to let anything bring the focus on himself, but only wanted Christ glorified. Was he perfect? I hope not, or else we better get our acts together. None the less, he is one of the heroes of the faith. Thanks for a great post and God bless.

    1. I agree brother; Calvin was a humble man who just wanted to quietly study God’s word, yet he got catapulted into the Reformation by friends (and the Spirit of God) to impact the very fabric of the church.

  13. Haha this is great! I would say my man “crush” would be Francis Chan! He is solid in his theology, a humble public speaker, great author, and he can surf.

  14. One of my all time favorite Reformed writers is Jonathan Edwards. It was his ‘Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God’ that sticks with me, even decades later!

    Another is Martin Luther. I learned so much in ‘Bondage of the Will’.

    I have recently started reading John Owen’s ‘Overcoming Sin and Temptation’. I chose this to help me overcome my sins of a lack of self-discipline towards eating and spending money. So far I have gotten through the introduction (written my John Piper!) and am looking forward to a slow and steady read of the meat of this book.
    Blessings,
    ~Mrs. R

    1. I remember reading J Edwards “Sinner’s” as required reading in HS! I didn’t know what to think of it at the time. Edwards def had a huge impact on the theological thought and life of America. I agree with “Bondage of the Will”; aside from the rich theology and reformed polemic, I enjoyed the playful way Luther interacted with Erasmus….men of God had thicker skin back then…

  15. This is a superb post. I was just wondering about what to read of Piper once I have finished ‘Desiring God’ (so I just about make it onto the approved list then) and I definitely want to read his ‘Let the Nations be Glad’ to complement ‘Christian mission in the modern world’ I am reading by John Stott at the moment.

    I read John Owen’s ‘The Mortification of Sin’ recently and found it amazing. So here is my list (and I’m a Brit):

    Roger Price (founder member of my church, Chichester Christian Fellowship), George Whitefield, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Bill Johnson, James D.G. Dunn, Matthew Henry, Watchman Nee (The Spiritual Man), Greg Haslam, C.S.Lewis, J.O.Fraser and Heidi Baker. Hang on it’s supposed to be a mancrush….

    Is that too eclectic a list? Slightly apprehensive now.

    1. Great list (and eclectic)! Piper’s “Let the Nations Be Glad” is a classic in my book. A couple of the more charismatic types you have are some of my wife’s favorites. God bless you from the other side of the pond!

  16. I owe an incredible debt to John Piper. (Though, don’t let him hear me say that. He’s not much into debtor’s ethic!) It’s like he kicked over the cardboard wall that for so long blocked my view of seeing just how big God really is. God has been so good to me to reveal himself more and more to me as he has, and God has used John Piper to that end in a huge way. Praise God for his mercy!

    Grace and peace to you,
    Eric

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