Don't Waste Your Life (Part 2) - John Piper

If you really understand and embrace the realities of the Christian faith, it will change your life.
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Don't Waste Your Life
Day 2 of 3
Guest:                          John Piper
From the Series:         Glorifying God From Your Wealth 


Bob:                If you really understand and embrace the realities of the Christian faith, it will change your life.  Here is Dr. John Piper.
John:              It seems to me that in this global village of ours, those who have any sense of reality at all know if Christianity is real, it's worth dying for.  If it's not real, then let's not even talk about it.  So, absolutely, I think we need to be straight up with young people and say, "Look, are you going to give your life and lay it down for Jesus or are you just going to play games?"  And nobody is out there saying, "What I really want to do with my life is play games."
Bob:                This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 27th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Is your Christian faith worth dying for?  Is it worth living for?  Stay with us.
                        And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  A couple of songs I remember from the 1960s.  You know, I always kind of – we talk about a program, and I always think of a song – you remember the song, "Alfie?"  Do you know that song?
Dennis:          Well, I couldn't sing it, but I remember it.
Bob:                "What's it all about, Alfie, is it just for the moment we live?  What's it all about?  Wouldn't you sort it out, Alfie?  Are we meant to take more than we give or are we meant to be kind and if only fools are kind, Alfie" – it keeps going on and on.  That was kind of an existential, philosophical – Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote that.  They were – and then there was this other one – remember Peggy Lee?  She had this song about life, and she'd experienced the house burnt down one time, and she looked at the ashes, and she looked up, and she said, "Is that all there is?"  If that's all there is, my friend, then let's keep dancing.  Let's break out the booze and a have a ball, if that's all. 
                        You know, they were talking about some pretty heavy themes back there in the '60s.  They needed John Piper who could have told them what's it all about and that this is not all there is.
Dennis:          Well, you know, you're going to like John Piper, Bob, because in his book he quotes a Bob Dylan song called "Blowin' in the Wind."  "How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky?  Yes, and how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?  Yes, and how many deaths will it take 'til he knows" …
Bob:                [mimicking Bob Dylan] "that too many people have died?  The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind."
                        I thought I'd throw in a little Bob Dylan.
Dennis:          And those who know him can make their own judgments about that.
John:              It was pretty good.
Dennis:          Was it good, John?  
Bob:                [as Bob Dylan] Thank you.
Dennis:          But as John points out, you know, think about that – the answer is blowing in the wind?  I mean, what a great place to look for a solution to life, huh?
Bob:                In the wind.
John:              Well, there are two ways to take that.  I took it both despairingly and hopefully because he said "the answer."  I mean, today, nobody believes there is such a thing in this post-modern age, there is no "the answer" blowing anywhere – wind or Bible.  And the fact that he would say "the answer is blowin' in the wind," held up to me, as a young person in those days, I'm hungry for the answer.  I'm hungry for the answer.  And so there was at least an echo of confidence, of objectivity there, and in those existentialist days, and our days are not any different, even moreso, anybody that believes in there is "the answer" is in a minority.  He's in a minority, and I want to get around him and say, "I believe that, too."  That's my only hope.  If there is no "the answer" then life really is empty.
Bob:                You don't think he'd been reading John, chapter 3, where Jesus says, "the wind blows wherever it will, and the answer is here, and the spirit moves" …
John:              I would like to think that.
Dennis:          He would love to believe that.  Well, the author of this book, don't waste your life, is John Piper.  He is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and, John, increasingly you are writing for a generation of college students and young professionals, I believe, who drink deeply from your writings because I think they're fed up with the culture of tolerance and political correctness and the lack of absolutes, and you're talking about absolutes here that rock their world in your book, "Don't Waste Your Life."  
                        In fact, in your book, you actually call these young men and women and all of us to be ready to give our lives for our faith.  I mean, that's a radical absolute that we would be willing to give our lives for our faith in Jesus Christ.
John:              You know, it's hard not to issue that call where you read, as I read an article about the Christians in Sudan.  Choose life or choose Christ; that is, you're going to be threatened and perhaps killed for just talking about mobs of people who circulate in Southern Sudan, take people and say, "Are you a Christian or are you not?"  If it's a woman, if she says, "I am," a gang rape happens.  If she says, "I'm not," fine, go on.  
                        And so you know that around the world today the persecuted church is dealing with these things at the cutting-edge level of life and death.  I can't see going around the country today or standing in my pulpit and talking another language and saying, "Well, we really have an easy life, and Christianity doesn't mean the same thing to us here, it's just a nice way to get healthy and wealthy and prosperous," blah-blah-blah.  If I can't call young people to be a Christian in Sudan, I can't call them to Christian anywhere.
Bob:                Well, and here's the challenge, even as I hear you talk about this, because you're absolutely right – to call people even to modern, suburban, evangelical Christianity, that's not a radical call, and yet that's kind of what I'm living, you know?  I mean, that's where I am, and so I read your book and go, "Do I have sell my house and move to the inner city and do I have to do radical things like that?"  Or can I live in the suburbs and still not waste my life?  
John:              My approach in dealing with wealthy Americans, which we all are, is not to dictate the particulars of a lifestyle but to hold up Christ who calls people to follow Him when he has no place to lay his head, who says it's hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom, who says, through John the Baptist, if you have two coats, sell and give to him who has one."  Who says, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven and not on earth."  Through His Apostle Paul, He says, "Those who desire to be rich pierce themselves with many pangs and ruin and destroy their soul."  I just hold up these challenges and say, "You decide whether your house is too exorbitant.  You decide whether you need as many cars as you have.  You decide whether you need a cabin by the lake.  You decide whether you need five suits and 18 ties.  You decide" – and what I want to do is just push us towards a wartime lifestyle.
                        Now, here is the reason I use "wartime" instead of "simple."  Simple lifestyle might mean go live in a cabin in northern Minnesota, plant carrots, eat organic foods, and they are no good for anybody.
Dennis:          Could we go to Montana instead of northern Minnesota?
John:              Yeah, you can go to Montana if you want to do that.
Dennis:          Okay.
John:              But here's the reason I'm not into that – I'm into blessing the world with my life as much as I can with Jesus Christ flowing out from me.  You might need to buy a computer and have e-mail access to be maximally invested for Jesus with your calling.  That's not a simple lifestyle.  It will cost you a couple thousand dollars to get set up with that.  If you want to win a war, you might buy a B-52 or a rocket launcher, but the people back home might be on austerity lifestyle so that the army can have its B-52.  So when I say, "Well, what about the people who are at home in America and the cutting-edge people?"  Well, I'd say probably the people back home need to streamline their life for two reasons at least – one is to maximize their resources for kingdom purposes, and the other is because the world is watching.  
                        It says in 1 Peter 3:15 that they're going to ask you a reason for the hope that is in you.  When was the last time they did?  Not very often.  Why?  Because we look like we're hoping in the same stuff they do – same car, same insurance policy, same retirement plan.  So why would they ask us what are you hoping in?  
                        But if you do something radical with your life, if you take a chance, if you do some risking, if you let your children go, you know, or you go yourself, or you're around someplace where you might get malaria or AIDS from the orphans, then they might say, "Isn't a little bit risky for you and your kids?"  We say, "Yeah."
                        I want to breed a kind of Christian so that the world will look at this life and say what is your hope in?  My hope is in money and good retirement and 911 and health insurance.  What's your hope in?  And I hope the answer can be "Christ."
Dennis:          You know, you can tell how close you are to the battle lines on the basis of what you're complaining about.  The guys who are complaining about the lack of ammo and artillery and air support and fuel and additional troops – those are the guys who are on the front lines.  The guys who are taking the R&R are complaining about how hard the cot is or the bed that they're sleeping in; that their accommodations generally are less than satisfactory.  Those are a long ways from the front line of battle.
                        And what we've sought to be about here on FamilyLife Today is to call the listener to say, "You know what?  I'm not going to live an R&R lifestyle."  Where it's rest and relaxation.  Instead, I'm going to press in to the battle and the cause and the war that is taking place right now, whether you're a part of it or not.  And it is a kingdom war, and the reality is the results, the result of this war are lasting.
John:              They're eternal.
Dennis:          They're eternal, and for most of us I think that war and that battle begins in our marriage and in our family.  That's where it starts, but it wasn't meant to end there.  It was meant to spill over and impact our neighborhoods, our schools, our communities, our states and our nation.
John:              Yes, it is so clearly a family issue, this issue of wartime lifestyle and kingdom orientation and eternal perspective, because your kids are watching big-time what your values are, and if you buy from the finest restaurant and the finest department store and drive the finest car and insist on having the finest cabin, that's exactly what they're going to live for.  But if you buy your clothes at Saver's down the street for 50 cents a bag, and you have a one-car family, and you don't have to have a new car, and if you live in a neighborhood where you choose it for ministry and not for safety, they're going to pick it up.
                        So, for example – I'll give you a concrete example.  We haven't had a television in our house in America for 30 years, and I used to think, "Oh, dear, I'm going to raise these boys, and they're going to be out of it," and yet I was choosing to take that risk because mainly time and banality.  I wasn't worried about sex and violence.  I mean, who cares about sex and violence, the Bible is full of it.  I care about the silliness of it all and dragging the soul down into such small, empty, insignificant junk that fills that screen every day – how can anybody have a capacity for glory and greatness and magnificence and chivalry and beauty?
                        And so we've done this for 30 years.  My boys have never once – they're grown now – and they've never once complained in my hearing that we didn't have a TV because their lives were full.  Instead of saying, "Oh, they've got to see reality, they've got to see suffering, they've got to see life as it really is."  I say, "Look, why don't you just take them and live where life really is."  So we live in the poorest neighborhood in Minneapolis, Phillips Neighborhood.  They've seen people do drugs, they've seen prostitutes, they've seen me pull a guy off of a woman trying to rape her in my front yard, they've heard the gunshots.  They don't need a TV, just go there.  Really, come on, parent, if you're serious about wanting your kids to see life as it really is, do you really think TV is the answer?  It's not the answer, it's an escape hatch when you're tired at night, and you're most vulnerable, and you're letting the world infect your brain.
                        So I've got an orientation on family for wartime lifestyle that I hope embraces and says "Amen" to everything you stand for, because if we don't get it at the home, we won't get it anywhere.
Bob:                John, if the idol of Mammon is the dominant idol in American culture, why has not God stepped in and destroyed it?  Why haven't we had the next great Depression where God says, "I will not allow you to worship lesser things?"
John:              God is always doing more than one thing, and we must be very careful to judge ahead of time what any given season of life in America is.  If things are going really well, it would be a mistake to say, "This is all blessing from the Lord," because it may be judgment.  I mean, the worst judgment America could get would be for all people to become prosperous and forget God.  
                        And when things are going really bad in the culture, we better not jump to the conclusion, "This is all judgment," because what could be better than for a father to discipline his children, including the church?  And so the short answer to your question is grace, sheer, undeserved grace that has been poured out on America.  Not because we have the right governmental system or have the right forefathers or have the right anything, but because God is merciful.
                        I would say, though, that probably the presence of many, many God-exalting, Bible-saturated, Christ-centered Christians, according to that principle in Genesis where Abraham says, "Won't you spare if there are 50, 40, 30?"  And God seems to say, "Yeah, I will."  And so I think there is an element of that as well – that God does spare America because there are such remarkable ministries and churches and Christians of faithfulness here.  But I wouldn't make that absolute, because God could wipe us off the scene in a minute and do us no wrong.
Bob:                Do you think we're seeing a generation emerge that is less materially centered than our own?
John:              It's a mixed bag.  I couldn't say that for sure.  When I watch, say, kids who don't seem to be as bent on dressing up as I was with my bleeding madras shirt and my penny loafers and yellow socks …
Bob:                You were a prepster, weren't you?
John:              Yeah.  I look at them today, I see nothing better because I think they put as much time and thought and effort into their kooky, kinky, twisted, messed up, half-blond hair as I did in my "Kooky, Kooky, lend me your comb hair" back in the '60s.  I don't really see any basic difference.  You can spend as much time and as much money on looking down as you can looking up, and so maybe, maybe not, I'm just not a sharp enough assessor of culture to know what the majority is like right now.
                        What I'm interested in is harnessing the good that I do see and transforming the bad that I see, because I think there are tens of thousands of young people on the edge of their chair saying, "Tell me how to die for Jesus."
Dennis:          Yeah, and, frankly, that's where I'd like to go right now.  Let's harness some of the good who are listening to this broadcast – that person who has listened to you and to us, and they've resonated with what you're saying.  So you know what?  I've had enough of the toys.  I've had enough of the games.  I'm tired of the R&R.  I want a life characterized by being near the front lines of battle, by being in the war about what God's about, which is displaying His glory, changing people's lives, transforming them through the Gospel.  There's a person listening right now, what would you say to them – how can they engage in that battle?
John:              The number-one issue is treasuring Christ above all things.  Before you do anything you must be a lover of Jesus, which means you must see – I've got this book called "Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ."  We must see Him.  So I would say to the person, labor to see Jesus for the glorious person that He is.  Which probably will boil down to some pretty basic and simple things.  Get your Bible, get a pad of paper, get alone with God, open it up, and pray that He would open your eyes to see wonderful things.  In other words, mull the Bible, meditate over the Bible, read the Gospels over and over until you see Christ as inimitably and self-authenticatingly glorious, worth dying for, because until you see Him, your lifestyle is not going to change except legalistically.  But once you see Him, and He is your treasure, then things will start peeling away, and there will be a straight-arrow kind of living for Him.
                        So I think the real battle is fought in what do we see and what do we savor?
Dennis:          But after we've seen him, there needs to be that fruit in our lives, where there is that peeling away, as you described. 
John:              Right, and I think it helps tremendously at that point to get alongside other believers and help each other in churches, small groups, recognize the challenges before us, the sins remaining in our lives, so that we can renounce the sins and embrace the challenges, and I think reading some good missions literature would be great, because most young people are so insular in America, we don't even know what's going on in the rest of the world, especially we don't know what's going on at the kingdom level.
Dennis:          And I think today, as Jesus said, "The fields are white into harvest."  These are days to engage in the battle, and if what John has been saying here resonates with you, I want to give you a challenge.  Either right after this broadcast is over, or tonight before you lay your head down to go to sleep, I want you to pull out a sheet of paper, and I want you to sign over the very title deed of your life to Jesus Christ.  Barbara and I did this our first Christmas together in 1972.  
                        Now, I'm not saying there hasn't been struggles since then, because there has.  But you know what?  It's one thing to operate from a commitment where you have said, "I will pursue you and your agenda for my life."  It's one thing to operate from that, it's another thing to have never done that.
Bob:                And here is what's happening – you are essentially trading in your cubic zirconia for diamonds.  You may look at your cubic zirconia and go, "But it's so pretty.  I don't want to let lose of this cut glass, it's so beautiful."  And that's only because you haven't seen the diamonds.  That's the essence of what John is saying in the book, "Don't Waste Your Life," and not only do we need the message, but we know people who need this message.  I'm going to ask John to sign a copy of this book for my kids, because they need this message but so do their parents, you know?
Dennis:          I agree.
Bob:                In fact, when the book first came out, my son, Jimmy, went through this book with a group of his fellow classmates, and we were thrilled that he was reading John's strong exhortation to make your life count.
                        We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  If you'd like to get a copy for yourself or for someone you know who could profit from reading this book, go to our website,, and in the center of the home page you'll see a red button that says "Go."  You click that button, it will take you right to a page where you can get information about this book.  You can order online, if you'd like.  Again, our website is or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team can let you know how you can have a copy of John's book sent out to you.
                        You can also order a copy of the CD of our conversation with John Piper, or if you're interested in it as an MP3 file, that's available on our website as well.  Once again, our website is, and the toll-free number is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
                        My daughter, Amy, has had the opportunity to hear you speak on this subject, John.  She attended the Passion Conference back – I think it was in 1999 and maybe again in 2000, and both times Beth Moore was speaking at that conference with you, and I think both of you were really pouring out your hearts to students on the same issue, and that is making Christ central to everything you do, having Him be the consuming center of your life.
                        Not long ago, Dennis and I had the opportunity to sit down with Beth and to talk with her about her 25-year marriage to her husband, Keith; about some of the challenges they've experienced.  She was very open, and she spoke with us during that interview, and many of our listeners contacted us asking for a copy of that CD.  In fact, many of our listeners who have gone through Beth's studies were very interested to hear what she had to share about her marriage and her family. 
                        This month and next month, we are making that CD of the interview with Beth Moore available as our way of saying thank you to any of our listeners who can make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We're listener-supported, and those donations are what keep this ministry on the air, and if you can help with a donation this month, we want you to feel free to request a copy of the CD from Beth Moore. 
                        You can donate online, if you'd like, and if you do that, as you're filling out the donation form, you'll come to a keycode box – just type the word "free" in the keycode box, and we'll know that you'd like the CD from Beth Moore sent to you.  Or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone.  Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and just mention that you're interested in the CD with Beth Moore, and we'll be happy to send that out to you as well.  Again, it's our way of saying thank you for your financial support of this ministry, which we not only need, but we very much appreciate your partnership.
                        Well, tomorrow Dr. John Piper is going to be back with us, and we're going to focus our hearts and our minds where they ought to be focused – on the cross of Christ.  I hope you can be with us for that conversation.
                        I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today. 
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