InTervIew wITh John PIPer - Bible Study Magazine
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InTervIew wITh John PIPer - Bible Study Magazine

Transmittingthe WordAn Interview with John Piperon Consistency and communityRT: @JohnPiper Shocking end to 175verses of love for the law: ‘I have goneastray like a lost sheep; seek your servant’(Ps 119:176).9:15 am Jun 28th from TweetDeckIf you were following John Piper on, you’d bereading messages like this from him on a regular basis.Twitter is a relatively new technology, but to the wellknownpastor and theologian, it’s just one more way toshare what he learns from spending time studying God’sword each morning.8 |Renew Now! D. Barryphotos by Ryan Thompson

Dr. Piper learned how to study the Bible at FullerTheological Seminary. After completing his doctoralwork at the University of Munich, he taught for sixyears at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1980,he took the call as Senior Pastor (now called Pastor forPreaching and Vision) at Bethlehem Baptist Church inMinneapolis.In 1994, fourteen years into his pulpit ministry, Piperunveiled the vision of a resource ministry calledDesiring God. The ministry offers Piper’s sermonsand writings, as well as other resources, free forpersonal use.Dr. Piper’s influence is considerable. With over 30published books, including Desiring God, Don’t WasteYour Life, Spectacular Sins, and Finally Alive, he hasreached countless people through print. After aboutthree months of tweeting, his posts werebeing followed by nearly 18,000 people and growing.Nearly 23,000 readers subscribe to his blog and avideo featuring him on YouTube has been viewed over233,000 times.Piper has transmitted the message of the Bible tocountless people around the world, but how does hepersonally approach the Bible? bsm asked the preacherthat question and others in a recent interview.Renew Now!| 9

BSM: There’s an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”How do you keep your familiarity with the Bible from causingyou to grow indifferent to it?PIPER: I pray Psalm 119:18 each time I go to the Bible: “Open myeyes that I may behold wonders in your law.” I think the point ofthat prayer is that there are wonders everywhere in “the law,” inthe Bible, the instruction of God. And the psalmist is aware that hedoesn’t often feel or see wonderful things as wonderful. So he asksto see. I do as well. I’m asking specifically that I would have spiritualeyes to see what is wonderful as wonderful. And don’t think that itdoesn’t matter that you read glorious things without seeing them asglorious. It matters, and therefore we should plead with God to openour eyes.BSM: How should we approach the Bible when reading it?PIPER: I’m torn as to which approach to take in answering that. I wantto say right off the bat that we should approach the Bible withreverence. And yet I’m aware that there might be people reading thiswho don’t even know enough about the Bible to know whether itshould be revered or not. Maybe they’ve barely even read it. Becauseof the history of the Bible, exerting power in the lives of peoplefor good for over two thousand years, I think I would say to thosepeople, “Come to the Bible with a sense of expectation and opennessthat here you might find something vastly more wise and morepenetrating and more world-shaping than any of the contemporaryideas you are presently dealing with.”And after they come, I think they will discover that this is the veryWord of God and, therefore, it should be approached with a senseof reverence. And it should be approached with a sense of need andwith a sense of expectation that God has given us this Word in orderto meet our needs, to convict us of sin, to bring us to the point offorgiveness, and then to give us hope.Second Timothy 3:16 says that the Scriptures are inspired by Godand are sufficient for sound doctrine and every good work. There’snothing God expects of us that He does not provide in this Word. Hehelps us understand what to do and gives us the motivation to doit. There’s a high-level expectation that I think people ought to havewhen they approach the Bible.BSM: How can we make time for the Bible?PIPER: I don’t think it’s merely a function of time. It’s a function ofearnestness and faith. A person must build into their life a regularencounter with God, personally and quietly meditating on His Word.I think the early morning is the best time, because it sets the tone forthe whole day. If for some reason that time can’t work, then middayor evening.Get the Bible, the time, and the place—make sure it’s planned—andthen meditate on a portion of Scripture: a chapter, verses, or severalchapters, depending on what you can do. Memorize some verse, oreven phrases, that appear especially precious to you.This morning I memorized, “I will put my law withinthem, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:33).That was my little nugget that I took away from thismorning’s devotions so that I could, all day long,reassure myself that God would do that for me.You don’t need hours and hours with God everyday, but you do need to have time with Godorienting your mind, taking something into yourheart, letting your heart express itself to God incommunion—taking faith’s renewal and walkingwith God through the day, reminding yourself ofwhat you saw in the morning.I don’t think you need to be a “professional”preacher like me in order to enjoy deep andglorious things with God. In fact, some of thedeepest saints that I’ve ever met, who outshine me,have not been “professional” Christians.BSM: How do you memorize Scripture?PIPER: First of all, by praying for discipline andsetting aside time.I set aside a block of time in the morning (an houror so) to be with God alone, reading my Bible,praying for my family, praying for the church, andpraying for my soul. And I can generally finishmy four chapters or so of Bible reading in about20 minutes, depending on how long I pause andcontemplate. And my prayers may extend for 20 or30 minutes. So I’ve got at least 5 or 10 minutes forScripture memorization in that hour.If you decide to memorize Scripture for 5 or 10minutes a day, you can memorize a lot of Scripture!Really, it’s incredible! As I’m reading, I put circlesaround the paragraphs or verses that I want tomemorize. I put a little “m” beside the ones thatI have worked on so I can come back and reviewthem in the coming days.I got this idea from a little booklet about howto memorize long passages of Scripture. Itrecommended that you take your first verse, readit 10 times, and then close your eyes or shut yourBible and say it 10 times. I think if you do that, youcan memorize almost any verse in the Bible: 10times read, 10 times said, and then you’ve got it.When you come back the next day, open your Bible,say that verse again 5 or 10 times. Then you do thesame thing with the next verse. Then you do themboth together. Finally, you shut your Bible andleave. Then you come back and do it again.So basically, the answer is repetition and review.John Piper’s sermons, articles, blogs and tweetsare available atDesiringGod.org10 |Renew Now!

I don’t think you need to be a “professional”preacher like me in order to enjoy deep andglorious things with God. In fact, some ofthe deepest saints that I’ve ever met, whooutshine me, have not been “professional”Christians.Renew Now!| 11

I don’t memorize versesthat don’t help my soul.I’m not into mechanicalmemorizing. I’m intofighting the fight of faith.John Piper’s5 Pointers forApproachingthe Bible:1. Be open to the fact that itis the Word of God.2. Revere the Bible whenyou discover that It'sGod’s Word.3. Have a sense ofconviction that you area sinner in the view ofthis Word.4. Know that the Biblemeets you withforgiveness becauseChrist is at the centerof the book.5. Have hope that you canpress on in life becausethe Bible will give you allthe guidance you need.For more by John Piper,visit’s one other little tip that I use. If I pick a verse,a couple of verses, or a paragraph, I’ll put it on apiece of paper, and I’ll carry it in my pocket for theday. And at times during the day, I’ll pull it out andread it for my soul. I don’t memorize verses thatdon’t help my soul.I’m not into mechanical memorizing. I’m intofighting the fight of faith. I want to memorizeScripture so that I can defeat the devil at 3 o’clockin the afternoon—that’s why I memorize! It’s sothat I can minister to a saint in the hospital at 10o’clock at night if I’ve forgotten my Bible. This is formy soul, and for the souls of others around me. So Icarry it around, and I review it. Review is so crucial.BSM: It seems like the Bible is a lot easier foryou to understand than it is for most people.Is that true?PIPER: I suppose that’s partly accurate and partlyinaccurate. The accurate part is that when you’velived with a book for 50 years and it has been yourmain job to understand it and explain it, you havea head start. It’s not rocket science to understandthat a man who spends his life meditating ona book in order to explain it to other people isprobably going to see connections that others don’tsee. And I think it’s seeing connections that makesthe Bible live.On the other hand, just because you’ve had alifetime of exposure to the Bible doesn’t make younecessarily a better seer of what’s there. There arescholars, no doubt, who study the Bible more thanI do and see less than lay people do of real truth,because they’re not born again.What is inaccurate about the statement is thatI don’t necessarily have a leg up on seeing theglorious truth of the Bible. In fact, there might bepeople who don’t know any Greek or Hebrew andhaven’t spent a lifetime studying this Book who willsee things in texts that I have not seen, because theHoly Spirit has simply attuned them.I’ll give you an example. Psalm 119 talks aboutsuffering as being one of the instruments thatGod uses: “It was good for me that I was afflicted,that I might learn your statutes” (Psa 119:71 esv).There is learning that comes through suffering.Therefore, a person who has walked through deepwaters that I haven’t walked through will probablysee things I don’t see and experience them indepths that I don’t experience.So I don’t want to elevate scholarship, knowledgeof the biblical languages, or even length ofexposure to the Bible as the only or even the mainway by which we see glorious things in this book.God prepares people for seeing things in His Wordin His own way, and there are people who will seethings I’ve never seen.BSM: How would you counsel someone to beginanew who hasn’t read their Bible in a long time?PIPER: I would encourage them to get a freshBible—I’m not too concerned about whatversion—and then begin a reading program in theNew Testament with some passages from the OldTestament. They should also get into a good churchor small group that loves the Bible. And these twothings—your personal encounter with the Bible andexposure to what God is teaching you through otherpeople about the Bible—will cause the Bible tocome alive again as you pray and ask God to makeit come alive.12 |Renew Now!

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