I called it perfect timing as I finished the last few sentences of “Finally Alive” by John Piper and at the same time pulled into our driveway after another day of work and commuting to Omaha. In the forty-five minite trip each way, God has afforded me the opportunity to read (listen to) some excellent books. I have read seven or eight books since I made the decision to stop listening to so much talk radio. None of those books filled me with as much such joy as “Finally Alive“. I have read several books by John Piper. Some I’ve had difficulty with because of the way they’ve been structured. I’ve had to stop and re-read a chapter in order to fully grasp the concept he presents before I continue through the book. This was not the case with this book. Only once did I stop the audio and re-listen to the few sentences. I did it because the text had brought such a smile to my face that I wanted to experience that emotion again.
The book is wrtten about regeneration, and what it means to be born again. The term born again has been used in such diverse ways it is hard for anyone who does not know scripture to nail it down. It is used by the world to label fundamentalists or evangelicals. I was once asked during a religious discussion if I was “one of those born again Christians”. I replied with a question of my own, “What do you mean by the term “born again”? The word is indeed thrown around and used outside of it’s biblical context. It is used so much it is hard to distinguish those who claim to be born again and live like the world from those who do not. Piper helps the reader to examine this term and it’s meaning as it relates to scripture. He also shows us how to be certain our faith is genuine and our conversion real. Are you truly “born again”?
Piper does this examination in an expository format primarily using the biblical texts where the term “born again” is used. These are found in John chapter 3 where Jesus dialogs with the Jewish leader Nicodemus, and 1 Peter chapter 1 where Peter is addressing the scattered Christians who are being persecuted. Piper also references the text in 1 John. This has become the capstone text believers in Christ return to for self-examination. Like a spiritual litmus test.
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. (1 John 5:13 ESV)
The miracle of regeneration is done by the Holy Spirit of God. Piper explains that we do have a response to this miracle much like the miracle Jesus did with Lazarus while he was laying dead in the tomb. (John 11:43 ) The natural dead man will not respond to a voice to get up no more than a spiritually dead man will respond to a the call for repentance. But Jesus has the power to create life in the dead man Lazarus just as the Holy Spirit has the power to cause new life or rebirth in the life of a sinner. The response of Lazarus to the command of Jesus was to get up and walk. The born again man’s response to regeneration is to walk in newness of life, glorifying God the Father.
I would like to wrap up this book review by borrowing from Thabiti Anyabwile, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and his comments on this book.
Nothing could be more eternally important than Christian people knowing what the Bible teaches about the new birth and knowing that they have experienced it. One wonders why it’s taken so long for a book on the new birth to be written! But now it has and I pray every reader rejoices in God for the rich beauties of Christ Jesus so compellingly shared in its pages.
Amen Pastor Anybwile. What can be more encouraging for a Christ follower than to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is finally alive.
Soli Deo Gloria!