Monday, April 12, 2010
Beware “prideful sipping from the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety”
John Piper is taking an 8-month leave of absence to fast from book-reading, sermon writing, sermon preaching, blogging, Twittering, article-writing, report-giving, paper-reading, and speaking engagements. Piper's reality check guiding question is: "What will happen in my soul and in my marriage when, to use the phrase of one precious brother on staff, there will be no 'prideful sipping from the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety'?"
Now that is a great question. And, I hope Piper doesn't turn on his laptop to see my affirmation of his choice. "Notoriety" can become addictive. Anyone reading this, who has gained even the slightest bit of public acclaim, should take notice. Public acclaim is like a drug. Ask yourself: who, or what, would I be, if no one paid attention to me? Answer this question, and you begin to get at your real self.
Isn't the biblical idea that all honor and acclaim should go to God, and when this happens we should be very pleased? Therefore beware of preachers or teachers or writers or whatever-ers who become "popular." A drug is being injected into their spiritual veins that will be hard to come off of. I see Piper's spiritual move as God calling him into a detox unit because his spirit has become polluted.
Piper writes of being "famous," and the toll this has taken on his marriage:
"As I have stood back in recent months and looked at my own soul—my own sanctification, my own measures self-denial or self-serving—and my marriage and family and ministry patterns, I have felt an increasing need for a serious assessment—a kind of reality check in the light of God’s word. Am I living in the mindset and the pattern of life that Jesus calls for here in Mark 8:31-38, especially in relation to those I love most?
On the one hand, I love my Lord, Jesus; I love my wife and my five children and their families. These are the supreme treasures of my life—my Lord, my wife, my children. And I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. Indeed, I hope that the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem. That’s my dream. And that’s my plan, if God wills.
But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, even though they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side. But, as I told the elders, “rock solid” is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor, especially to a woman. A rock is not the best image of a woman’s tender companion.
In other words, the precious garden of my home needs tending. I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me. And I believe that at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage together the best way to say it is by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments."
Ironically, when Piper emerges from this hiatus, he may be more popular than ever. The solution to this is found in is own words: "As I have stood back in recent months and looked at my own soul—my own sanctification, my own measures self-denial or self-serving—and my marriage and family and ministry patterns, I have felt an increasing need for a serious assessment—a kind of reality check in the light of God’s word. Am I living in the mindset and the pattern of life that Jesus calls for here in Mark 8:31-38, especially in relation to those I love most?"
What does Mark 8:31-38 say?
"He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life[c] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.""
I have always felt that pastors and preachers and Christian teachers and musicians and artists and creators should have these priorities rock-solid in their pattern of living:
1. Spend much personal time with God, alone on his presence, to be spoken to and shaped by God, and to find one's ultimate trust in God.
2. To spend much time with family - with your spouse and children if married; with family and perhaps just a very few close friends who know you and love you enough to tell you the truth.
For me, if someone is not doing #s 1 and 2, I could care less about how wonderful a speaker or musician or teacher or book-writer they are, because - probably - they are addicted to their own glory, though meager it is.
I am now stopping to pray for John Piper, and that #s 1 and 2 will be regained and secured in his spirit.
As for myself, and for you, beware “prideful sipping from the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety.”