Hands down - these (the swans are not silent series) are my favorite Piper books. 4 books contained 3 biographies each of church father, pastors, authors, theologians, etc who have set the bar high for us doing in ministry in the 21st Century. This is the first one written, but it is the only one I hadn't read in the series. This one is about St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.
St. Augustine - Yes, I love the city - but this is about the church father who lived in the 400s.
"Loving God is being so satisfied in God and so delighted in all that He is for us that His commandments cease to be burdensome. We need...to recover the root of all Christian living in the triumphant joy in God that dethrones the sovereignty of laziness and lust and greed." (58) One can see much of Piper's thoughts in this statement.
"The key to Christian living is a thirst and a hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of sovereign joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is so small." (63) This reminds me of the Lewis quote that goes something like this: we settle for playing in the mud...
"We need to make plain that total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to beauty and deadness to joy." (73) We are sinful - and without the grace found in the cross and blood of Jesus - that God planned before time (Acts) - then we would never be able to see the beauty of God in a special revelation way - that leads to salvation.
"Or are we in bondage to the pleasures of this world so that for all our talk about the glory of God, we love television and food and sleep and sex and money and human praise just like everybody else? If so, let us repent and fix our faces like flint toward the Word of God." (74) - This is a daily thing for me. Continual sanctification.
Martin Luther - one of the leaders of the Reformation in the 1500s.
"A sense of mysterium tremendum, of the holiness of God, was to be characteristic of Luther throughout his life. It prevented pious routine from creeping into his relations with God and kept his Bible studies, prayers, or reading of the mass from declining into a mechanical matter of course: his ultimate concern in all these is the encounter with the living God." (85) Wow - this so isn't true of my life. So many times I come to Scripture because I have to read it - not living out that this WORD is the very Words of God - the breath of the Holy.
I asked a youth pastor one time what he liked to read - who were his favorite authors...he said, I don't really have any favorites because I like to read the Word - once I have read and studied that, I may turn to get more insight from somewhere else. This statement goes well with what Luther did: "to elevate the biblical text itself far above the teachings of commentators or church fathers." (93)
If you (or I) think we already read Scripture enough, here this: "In truth, you cannot read too much in Scripture, and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well." (101)
John Calvin - whoever says they don't want to be "calvinist" - this man in this book is all about the Word of God - do we think we are above the infallible Word of God?
This is what I see happening in a lot of churches (even good ones) today: "I also saw that quite a lot of evangelical Christianity can easily slip, can become centered in me and my need of salvation, and not in the glory of God." (118)