John Piper’s Serious Error on Self-Denial

Here is a portion of John Piper’s article at Desiring God: Deny Yourself for Greater Delight.

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John Piper’s understanding of our Lord’s great statement in Mark 8:34 demonstrates the pervasive misunderstanding among Evangelicals regarding what Jesus meant when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Piper’s view necessarily undermines the most important of doctrines regarding salvation.

His brief treatment of the subject of self-denial at Desiring God is shocking.

His title Deny Yourself for Greater Delight is not based on Jesus’ teaching. Jesus did not say to deny ourselves for our greater delight. He said that we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross in order that we might be saved. Piper is merely operating within his self-made world of the Christian Hedonist and is using the Lord’s teaching in order to justify his weird teaching. Piper is seeking to explain how the Christian Hedonist relates to Jesus’ great statement. It is the solemn duty of any man who speaks God’s Word to make known what the Lord would have for us, not to do our own thing. Ironically, he says, “We’re dealing with Jesus here. You don’t pull Jesus’s words apart and take your little favorite phrase or my little favorite phrase.”

His view necessarily undermines salvation by faith. The article emphasises the point, “We are not all the way saved. We are being saved.” He says regarding himself, “John Piper is not all the way saved. He is being saved. Therefore, every day, there’s stuff in me that needs to be denied for the sake of joy, for the sake of maximizing my satisfaction. Not only eternally, but in a hundred practical ways….” This is shocking! If we are not completely saved we are completely lost. If we are only a little bit not saved we are completely lost. I am not disputing the responsibility of a Christian to abstain from sin, but what Piper is saying is that we are facing this struggle in a state of uncertainty. He undermines the only power we have to then walk by the Spirit. We can only walk by the Spirit with the knowledge that we live by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).

In explaining the verse that says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it”, he says, “I’m telling you how to save your life. I’m telling you how to be a Christian Hedonist. Lose it. Lose it for the sake of the poor. Lose it in missions. Stand up for what is right at work. Lose it.”

We are to save our life, according to Piper, by acts of self-denial and this will give us ‘Greater Delight’. Go and lose your life for the poor, on the mission field, or by getting fired at work!

Do acts of self-denial result in salvation? Is this biblical?

If we give all of our wealth to feed the poor, if we travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, if we give our body to be burned, if we refuse to do any evil thing, will this give us a certain hope of eternal life? Piper says he is telling us how to save our life!

We are not “all the way saved” so long as there is a question regarding what we are to deny.

There will always be something else we could deny for the the sake of Christ. If our salvation depends on this then let us make an order that makes the Jesuits look like the cub scouts!

The problem with Piper’s understanding about denial is that it is merely something a Pharisee can do. In order to come after Jesus we need a denial that a Pharisee does not do!

Piper’s view creates confusion, by recklessly subjecting the hearer to the most vague understanding imaginable. Say hello to the bondage of Pharisiacal legalism, in which we never obtain peace and joy. There is nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to doctrinal error.

There is a reason why men teach such things. By putting people under burdening error the hearers become dependent upon false teachers and will seek them out for the false fulfillment of such errors. As Paul warned, ‘They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.’ [Galatians 4:17].

What is biblical is that the people of God are to know that they are certainly saved and because they are saved they have the power to then walk according to the Spirit.

For more information about a denial that can enable you to come after Jesus read my book, Take Up Your Cross: Our Only Power to Live and Walk by the Spirit.