Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Review of John Piper's "Finally Alive"

I have yet to put down a book by Pastor John Piper without being built-up in my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This book, I believe his latest, is certainly no exception. If I were a college or seminary professor teaching theology and evangelism, I would have at least one Piper book on required reading lists for preaching classes, theology, and evangelism. This one by itself would be required for each of those subjects.

This work, "Finally Alive," is easy yet profound reading. The chapters are short and packed with great information. It is a skilled communicator who can teach so much truth in a brief space, whether we are talking about a sermon or a book, a spoken word or a written word, and John Piper is a skilled, but more importantly, a God-gifted preacher/teacher of God's word.

The introduction of this book demands one's attention when Piper rightly calls a spade a spade by labelling the abuse of the term "born again" as a "defamation." George Barna's polls and his conclusions resulting from those polls whereby he feels at ease in declaring those living in flagrant violation of God's word as it pertains to those who have been regenerated by the grace of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is indeed a defamation of the Biblical concept of being born again. It is as Piper concludes, "a profound mistake" (pp.12-14). After reading the introduction, one may be more prone to refrain from acknowledging the unrighteous as Christians.

Finally Alive is an in-depth refresher course in the ins and outs of how one is saved and what life is like afterward. And it is unashamedly Reformed in its theology. Salvation, justification, is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, by the hearing of the gospel alone, for God's glory alone. For instance, in chapter 1, p.26, Piper writes, "First, Jesus' teaching about the new birth confronts us with our hopeless spiritual and moral and legal condition apart from God's regenerating grace. Before the new birth happens to us, we are spiritually dead...he is telling us that our present condition is hopelessly unresponsive, corrupt, and guilty."

The Reformed concept of justification by grace alone (the "Biblical concept of justification") runs throughout the entire book, leaving absolutely no room for the dead in sin or true believers to glory in any false notion of "decisional regeneration." Piper continually drives home the Biblical truth that the dead cannot chose to be saved without the intervention of the Holy Spirit by the grace of God first granting them life that they may then gladly choose Christ.

The divisions of the book state the thesis of that section and are answered by solid argumentation from Scripture. "What is the new birth?" "Why must we be born again?" "How does the new birth come about?" "What are the effects of the new birth?' And "How can we help others be born again?" are the main divisions of Piper's book, followed up with his conclusion, "The new birth and the new world."

And the chapter headings should make one eager and hungry to devour the truths contained in them."You are still you, but new." "We are spiritually dead." "Ransomed, raised, and called." "Freedom from the practice of sinning," are just a few of the chapter titles that open up what will possibly be new revelations of God's finished work of justification, sanctification, reconciliation and deliverance for believers of all ages, whether "babes in Christ" (and Piper deals well with that phrase), or the mature Christian.

And if, as I did when beginning my reading, you find yourself a little bit bored, do not stop reading. This is at times "Christianity 101," but re-take Christianity 101 anyway; you will be so glad you did.

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