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For Your Joy

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John Piper

Desiring God

Minneapolis, Minnesota

4 For Your Joy


Published by Desiring God

© 2005 Desiring God

International Standard Book Number: 0-9773286-0-0

Edited for Desiring God

Cover design by Edd Blott

All scripture quotations are taken from:

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway

Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights


Selections from The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper, © 2004, used

by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News

Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187,


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

How Can God Love Me? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

What If I Don’t Love God? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

How Can I Love a God Who Allows so Much Evil? . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Why Is It All About God? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

What Does All This Mean for Me? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

What Should I Do? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

Recommended Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

About Desiring God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

About the Whatever-You-Can-Afford Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

Table of Contents


TWO thousand years ago, Jesus and his friends

were having a conversation about the rumor mill

of popular opinion. “Who do people say the Son of

Man is?” he asked them. They responded by listing

some common answers they had heard. But then

Jesus changed the stakes. Turning from the informational

to the personal, he looked them in the eye

and asked: “But who do you say that I am?”

It’s easy to answer the what-are-others-saying

question. But there comes a point when we must

face Jesus’ question ourselves. Who do we say that

he is?

The most common answer is that Jesus was

a great moral teacher—an exemplary teacher and

compassionate sage. But C. S. Lewis—the British

author who wrote The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe—insisted that such reductions be off the


I am trying here to prevent anyone

saying the really foolish thing that

people often say about Him: “I’m ready


8 For Your Joy

to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher,

but I don’t accept His claim to be God.”

That is the one thing we must not say. A

man who was merely a man and said the

sort of things Jesus said would not be

a great moral teacher. He would either

be a lunatic—on the level with the man

who says he is a poached egg—or else

he would be the Devil of Hell. You

must make your choice. Either this man

was, and is, the Son of God: or else a

madman or something worse. You can

shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at

Him and kill Him as a demon; or you

can fall at His feet and call Him Lord

and God. But let us not come with any

patronizing nonsense about His being a

great human teacher. He has not left that

open to us. He did not intend to.

This question—who do you say that he is?—

is the most important question you can ask and answer.

In this book John Piper answers some of the

most common and important questions about Jesus:

Introduction 9

who he is, why he came, what he accomplished—

and why we should care.

If you’ve asked some of these same questions

and you’re looking for some answers—based not

on our own thoughts and theories but upon God’s

Word—we invite you to join us. For your joy.

10 For Your Joy


God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by

his blood, to be received by faith. This was to

show God’s righteousness, because in his divine

forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Romans 3:25

In this is love, not that we have loved God but

that he loved us and sent his Son to be the

propitiation for our sins.

I John 4:10

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law

by becoming a curse for us.

Galatians 3:13

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

12 For Your Joy

IF God were not just, there would be no demand

for his Son to suffer and die. And if God were not

loving, there would be no willingness for his Son to

suffer and die. But God is just and loving. Therefore

his love is willing to meet the demands of his


His law demanded, “You shall love the LORD

your God with all your heart and with all your soul

and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). But

we have all loved other things more. This is what

sin is—dishonoring God by preferring other things

over him, and acting on those preferences. Therefore,

the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short

of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We glorify

what we enjoy most. And it isn’t God.

Therefore sin is not small, because it is not

against a small Sovereign. The seriousness of an

insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted.

The Creator of the universe is infinitely worthy of

respect and admiration and loyalty. Therefore,

failure to love him is not trivial—it is treason. It

defames God and destroys human happiness.

Since God is just, he does not sweep these

crimes under the rug of the universe. He feels a

Why Did Jesus Have to Die? 13

holy wrath against them. They deserve to be punished,

and he has made this clear: “For the wages

of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). “The soul who sins

shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).

There is a holy curse hanging over all sin. Not

to punish would be unjust. The demeaning of God

would be upheld. A lie would reign at the core of

reality. Therefore, God says, “Cursed be everyone

who does not abide by all things written in the Book

of the Law, and do them” (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy


But the love of God does not rest with the

curse that hangs over all sinful humanity. He is not

content to show wrath, no matter how holy it is.

Therefore he sends his own Son to absorb his wrath

and bear the curse for all who trust him. “Christ

redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming

a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

This is the meaning of the word “propitiation”

in the texts quoted on page 10. It refers to the

removal of God’s wrath by providing a substitute.

The substitute is provided by God himself. The substitute,

Jesus Christ, does not just cancel the wrath;

he absorbs it and diverts it from us to himself. God’s

14 For Your Joy

wrath is just, and it was spent, not withdrawn.

Let us not trifle with God or trivialize his love.

We will never stand in awe of being loved by God

until we reckon with the seriousness of our sin and

the justice of his wrath against us. But when, by

grace, we waken to our unworthiness, then we may

look at the suffering and death of Christ and say, “In

this is love, not that we have loved God but that he

loved us and sent his Son to be the [wrath-absorbing]

propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).


In him we have redemption through his blood,

the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to

the riches of his grace.

Ephesians 1:7

For God so loved the world, that he gave his

only Son, that whoever believes in him should

not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

One will scarcely die for a righteous person—

though perhaps for a good person one would

dare even to die—but God shows his love for us

in that while we were still sinners, Christ died

for us.

Romans 5:7-8

How Can God Love Me?

How Can God Love Me?

16 For Your Joy

THE measure of God’s love for us is shown by two

things. One is the degree of his sacrifice in saving us

from the penalty of our sin. The other is the degree

of unworthiness that we had when he saved us.

We can hear the measure of his sacrifice in the

words, “He gave his only son” (John 3:16). We also

hear it in the word “Christ.” This is a name based

on the Greek title Christos, or “Anointed One,” or

“Messiah.” It is a term of great dignity. The Messiah

was to be the king of Israel. He would conquer

the Romans and bring peace and security to Israel.

In sum, then, the person that God sent to save sinners

was his own divine Son, his only Son, and the

Anointed king of Israel—indeed the king of the

world (Isaiah 9:6-7).

When we add to this consideration the horrific

death by crucifixion that Christ endured, it

becomes clear that the sacrifice the Father and the

Son made was indescribably great—even infinite,

when you consider the distance between the divine

and the human. But God chose to make this sacrifice

to save us.

The measure of his love for us increases still

more when we consider our unworthiness. “Perhaps

How Can God Love Me? 17

for a good person one would dare even to die—but

God shows his love for us in that while we were

still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). We

deserved divine punishment, not divine sacrifice.

I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs.

So he was responding to our value as humans.”

This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than

frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled

and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential

in our lives. God did not have to die for

frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is

so great only divine sacrifice can pay it.

There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice

for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace”

(Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to

our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth.

In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion

to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost,

with what will make us supremely happy forever,

namely, his infinite beauty.

18 For Your Joy


Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;

whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life,

but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 3:36

These will go away into eternal punishment, but

the righteous into eternal life.

Matthew 25:46

They will suffer the punishment of eternal

destruction, away from the presence of the Lord

and from the glory of his might.

II Thessalonians 1:9

What If I Don’t Love God?

What If I Don’t Love God?

20 For Your Joy

IN our happiest times we do not want to die. The

wish for death rises only when our suffering seems

unbearable. What we really want in those times is

not death, but relief. We would love for the good

times to come again. We would like the pain to go

away. We would like to have our loved one back

from the grave. We want life and happiness.

We are kidding ourselves when we romanticize

death as the climax of a life well lived. It is an

enemy. It cuts us off from all the wonderful pleasures

of this world. We call death sweet names only

as the lesser of evils. The executioner that delivers

the coup de grace in our suffering is not the fulfillment

of longing, but the end of hope. The longing

of the human heart is to live and to be happy.

God made us that way. “He has put eternity

into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are created

in God’s image, and God loves life and lives

forever. We were made to live forever. And we will.

The opposite of eternal life is not annihilation. It is

hell. Jesus spoke of it more than anybody, and he

made plain that rejecting the eternal life he offered

would result not in obliteration, but in the misery

of God’s wrath: “Whoever believes in the Son has

What If I Don’t Love God? 21

eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall

not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”

(John 3:36).

And it remains forever. Jesus said, “These

will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous

into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). It is an

unspeakable reality that shows the infinite evil of

treating God with indifference or contempt. So Jesus

warns, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.

It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with

one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,

‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not

quenched’” (Mark 9:47-48).

So eternal life is not merely the extension of

this life with its mix of pain and pleasure. As hell

is the worst outcome of this life, so “eternal life” is

the best. It is supreme and ever-increasing happiness

where all sin and all sadness will be gone. All

that is evil and harmful in this fallen creation will

be removed. All that is good—all that will bring

true and lasting happiness—will be preserved and

purified and intensified.

We will be changed so that we are capable of

dimensions of happiness that were inconceivable to

22 For Your Joy

us in this life. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the heart of man imagined . . . God has prepared

for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

It is true every moment of life, now and always:

for those who trust Christ the best is yet to come.

We will see the all-satisfying glory of God. “This is

eternal life, that they know you the only true God,

and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

For this Christ suffered and died. How shall we not

embrace him as our treasure and live?

How Can I Love a God Who Allows so Much Evil? 23

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God

meant it for good.

Genesis 50:20

In this city there were gathered together against

your holy servant Jesus . . .both Herod and

Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the

peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and

your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

The secret things belong to the Lord our God.

Deuteronomy 29:29

How Can I Love a God Who Allows

so Much Evil?

24 For Your Joy

THE most profound thing we can say about suffering

and evil is that, in Jesus Christ, God entered

into it and turned it for good. The origin of evil is

shrouded in mystery. “Free will” is just a name for

the mystery. It doesn’t explain why a perfect creature

chose to sin. Another name for the mystery is

“the sovereignty of God.” As true and biblical as it

is, this too leaves questions unanswered. The Bible

does not take us as far as we might like to go. Rather

it says, “The secret things belong to . . . God”

(Deuteronomy 29:29).

The heart of the Bible and the heart of Christianity

is not an explanation of where evil came

from, but a demonstration of how God enters into

it and turns it for the very opposite—everlasting

righteousness and joy. There were pointers in the

Scriptures all along the way that it would be like

this for the Messiah. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was

sold into slavery in Egypt. He seemed abandoned

for 17 years. But God was in it and made him ruler

in Egypt, so that in a great famine he could save the

very ones who sold him. The story is summed up

in a word from Joseph to his brothers: “As for you,

you meant evil against me, but God meant it for

How Can I Love a God Who Allows so Much Evil? 25

good” (Genesis 50:20). A foreshadowing of Jesus

Christ, forsaken in order to save.

Or consider Christ’s ancestry. Once God was

the only king in Israel. But the people rebelled and

asked for a human king: “No! But there shall be a

king over us” (1 Samuel 8:19). Later they confessed,

“We have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for

ourselves a king” (1 Samuel 12:19). But God was

in it. From the line of these kings he brought Christ

into the world. The sinless Savior had his origin in

sin as he came to save sinners.

But the most astonishing thing is that evil and

suffering were Christ’s appointed way of victory

over evil and suffering. Every act of treachery and

brutality against Jesus was sinful and evil. But God

was in it. The Bible says, “Jesus [was] delivered up

[to death] according to the definite plan and foreknowledge

of God” (Acts 2:23). The lash on his

back, the thorns on his head, the spit on his cheek,

the bruises on his face, the nails in his hands, the

spear in his side, the scorn of rulers, the betrayal

of his friend, the desertion by his disciples—these

were all the result of sin, and all designed by God to

destroy the power of sin. “Herod and Pontius Pilate,

26 For Your Joy

along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

[did] whatever your hand and your plan had predestined

to take place” (Acts 4:27-28).

There is no greater sin than to hate and kill the

Son of God. There was no greater suffering nor any

greater innocence than the suffering and innocence

of Christ. Yet God was in it all. “It was the will

of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). His aim,

through evil and suffering, was to destroy evil and

suffering. “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah

53:5). Is not then the suffering of Jesus Christ meant

by God to show the world that there is no sin and

no evil too great that God, in Christ, cannot bring

from it everlasting righteousness and joy? The very

suffering that we caused became the hope of our

salvation. “Father, forgive them, for they know not

what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Why Is It All About God? 27

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous

for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to


I Peter 3:18

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far

off have been brought near by the blood of


Ephesians 2:13

I will go to the altar of God, to God my

exceeding joy.

Psalm 43:4

Why Is It All About God?

28 For Your Joy

WHEN all is said and done, God is the gospel.

Gospel means “good news.” Christianity is not first

theology, but news. It is like the prisoners of war

hearing by hidden radio that the allies have landed

and rescue is only a matter of time. The guards

wonder why all the rejoicing.

But what is the ultimate good in the good

news? It all ends in one thing: God himself. All the

words of the gospel lead to him, or they are not gospel.

For example, “salvation” is not good news if

it only saves from hell and not for God. “Forgiveness”

is not good news if it only gives relief from

guilt and doesn’t open the way to God. “Justification”

is not good news if it only makes us legally

acceptable to God, but doesn’t bring fellowship

with God. “Redemption” is not good news if it only

liberates us from bondage, but doesn’t bring us to

God. “Adoption” is not good news if it only puts us

in the Father’s family but not in his arms.

This is crucial. Many people seem to embrace

the good news without embracing God. There

is no sure evidence that we have a new heart just

because we want to escape hell. That’s a perfectly

natural desire, not a supernatural one. It doesn’t

Why Is It All About God? 29

take a new heart to want the psychological relief

of forgiveness, or the removal of God’s wrath, or

the inheritance of God’s world. All these things are

understandable without any spiritual change. You

don’t need to be born again to want these things.

The devils want them.

It is not wrong to want them. Indeed it is folly

not to. But the evidence that we have been changed

is that we want these things because they bring us

to the enjoyment of God. This is the greatest thing

Christ died for. “Christ also suffered once for sins,

the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might

bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Why is this the essence of the good news?

Because we were made to experience full and lasting

happiness from seeing and savoring the glory of

God. If our best joy comes from something less, we

are idolaters and God is dishonored. He created us

in such a way that his glory is displayed through our

joy in it. The gospel of Christ is the good news that

at the cost of his Son’s life, God has done everything

necessary to enthrall us with what will make

us eternally and ever-increasingly happy, namely,


30 For Your Joy

Long before Christ came, God revealed himself

as the source of full and lasting pleasure. “You

make known to me the path of life; in your presence

there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures

forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Then he sent

Christ to suffer “that he might bring us to God.”

This means he sent Christ to bring us to the deepest,

longest joy a human can have. Hear then the

invitation: Turn from “the fleeting pleasures of sin”

(Hebrews 11:25) and come to “pleasures forevermore.”

Come to Christ.

What Does All This Mean for Me? 31

I write these things to you who believe in the

name of the Son of God that you may know that

you have eternal life.

I John 5:13

Whoever hears my word and believes him who

sent me has eternal life. He does not come into

judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 5:24

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins

may be wiped out.

Acts 3:19

Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for

the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to

eternal life.

Jude 1:21

What Does All This Mean for Me?

32 For Your Joy

God created us for his glory.

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the

ends of the earth,...whom I created for my glory.

Isaiah 43:6-7

God made us to magnify his greatness—the way

telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his

goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and

justice on display. The greatest display of God’s

glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This

means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure.

God created us so that he is most glorified in

us when we are most satisfied in him.

Every human should live for God’s glory.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do

it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

If God made us for his glory, it is clear that we

should live for his glory. Our duty comes from his

design. So our first obligation is to show God’s value

by being satisfied with all that he is for us. This

is the essence of loving God (Matthew 22:37) and

trusting him (1 John 5:3-4) and being thankful to

him (Psalm 100:2-4) It is the root of all true obedience,

especially loving others (Colossians 1:4-5).

What Does All This Mean for Me? 33

All of us have failed to glorify God as we


All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

What does it mean to “fall short of the glory of

God”? It means that none of us has trusted and treasured

God the way we should. We have not been

satisfied with his greatness and walked in his ways.

We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and

treated them as more valuable than God, which is

the essence of idolatry (Romans 1:21-23). Since

sin came into the world we have all been deeply

resistant to having God as our all-satisfying treasure

(Ephesians 2:3). This is an appalling offense to

the greatness of God (Jeremiah 2:12-13).

34 For Your Joy

All of us are subject to God’s just


The wages of sin is death...

Romans 6:23

We have all belittled the glory of God. How? By

preferring other things above him. By our ingratitude,

distrust and disobedience. So God is just in

shutting us out from the enjoyment of his glory forever.

“They will suffer the punishment of eternal

destruction and exclusion from the presence of the

Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians


The word “hell” is used in the New Testament

twelve times—eleven times by Jesus himself. It is

not a myth created by dismal and angry preachers.

It is a solemn warning from the Son of God who

died to deliver sinners from its curse. We ignore it

at great risk.

If the Bible stopped here in its analysis of the

human condition, we would be doomed to a hopeless

future. However, this is not where it stops...

What Does All This Mean for Me? 35

God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal

life and joy.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...

1 Timothy 1:15

The good news is that Christ died for sinners like

us. And he rose physically from the dead to validate

the saving power of his death and to open the gates

of eternal life and joy (1 Corinthians 15:20). This

means God can acquit guilty sinners and still be just

(Romans 3:25-26). “For Christ died for sins once

for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring

us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Coming home to God is

where all deep and lasting satisfaction is found.

36 For Your Joy

The benefits purchased by the death of Christ

belong to those who repent and trust him.

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

Acts 16:31

“Repent” means to turn from all the deceitful promises

of sin. “Faith” means being satisfied with all

that God promises to be for us in Jesus. “He who

believes in me,” Jesus says, “shall never thirst”

(John 6:35). We do not earn our salvation. We cannot

merit it (Romans 4:4-5). It is by grace through

faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a free gift (Romans

3:24). We will have it if we cherish it above all

things (Matthew 13:44). When we do that, God’s

aim in creation is accomplished: He is glorified in

us and we are satisfied in him—forever.

What Should I Do? 37

A man ran up and knelt before [Jesus] and

asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to

inherit eternal life?”

Mark 10:17

Trembling with fear he fell down before Paul

and Silas . . . and said, “Sirs, what must I do to

be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord

Jesus, and you will be saved.”

Acts 16:29-30

What Should I Do?

38 For Your Joy

• Turn from the deceitful promises of sin.

• Call upon Jesus to save you from guilt and punishment

and bondage. “All who call upon the name

of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

• Start banking your hope on all that God is for you

in Jesus.

• Break the power of sin’s promises by faith in the

superior satisfaction of God’s promises.

• Begin reading the Bible to find his precious and

very great promises, which can set you free (2 Peter


• Find a Bible-believing church and begin to worship

and grow together with other people who treasure

Christ above all things (Philippians 3:7).

What Should I Do? 39

Did you know that God commands you to be


Serve the LORD with gladness!

Psalm 100:2

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the

desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

The best news in the world is that there is no conflict

between your greatest possible happiness and

God’s perfect holiness. Being satisfied with all that

God is for you in Jesus magnifies him as the greatest

treasure and brings you more joy—eternal, infinite

joy—than any other delight ever could.

40 For Your Joy

You make known to me the path of life; in

your presence there is fullness of joy; at your

right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11


Recommended Reading from John Piper

The Passion of Jesus Christ

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Don’t Waste Your Life

Desiring God

When I Don’t Desire God

Taste and See

God Is the Gospel

Future Grace

For a complete list of available titles, please visit

Crossway Books, a ministry of Good News Publishers, graciously

allowed the use, in this booklet, of selections from The Passion of

Jesus Christ by John Piper. Please visit them at

42 For Your Joy




44 For Your Joy

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policy. We will accept whatever people are able to pay—even if it’s

nothing. It makes us very happy to give freely what has been freely

given to us (Matthew 10:8). And we never want to make cost “an

obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (I Corinthians 9:12). So

if you would like a copy of a book or audio resource we offer, but

your limited cash-flow prevents it, don’t be ashamed! Just contact

us and let us know what you would like, and it will be our pleasure

to fill your request.


46 For Your Joy

John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist

Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South

Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed

God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from

Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich

(D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College

in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as

pastor at Bethlehem. He is the author of numerous books and his

preaching is featured on the daily radio program Desiring God. He

and his wife Noël have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing

number of grandchildren.

The Author

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