How Do We Praise God?
About the Guest
Renowned author and theologian John Piper talks to Dennis Rainey about the meaning and practice of praise. John considers what it means to worship God instead of focusing on ourselves.
John PiperJohn Piper serves as founder and lead teacher at Desiring God and is chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, Piper served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. He has authored more than 50 books, and more than 30 years of his preaching and writing are available free of charge at desiringGod.org. Piper resides in the Minneapolis area with his wife of 51 years, and has five children and 14 grandchil...more
Pastor John Piper talks to Dennis Rainey about the meaning and practice of praise. John considers what it means to worship God instead of focusing on ourselves.
How Do We Praise God?
Bob: God is not simply pleased when we do the right thing—God’s pleased when we do the right thing with the right motive. God wants our focus to be on His glory. Here’s an illustration from Dr. John Piper.
John: There is a bad way to compliment people—it’s called flattery. What’s the opposite? I think the opposite of flattery is spontaneous enjoyment of everything good you see in your child—makes her first little tree / round with a stick at the bottom—“That’s beautiful!”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. When our lives are focused on and consumed with God being glorified, there’s a lot that changes in how we relate to one another in marriage and in family. John Piper expands on that theme today.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. You know, you stop and think about what it is Jesus prayed for on the night before He was crucified—and when I read John, Chapter 17, and read what it is Jesus was praying for, I think, “I don’t think that’s what I’d have been praying for if I knew what was coming for me the next day.” I think I’d have been praying for: “Get me out of here,” or—
Bob: —“I don’t want it to hurt,” or there would be all kinds of self-oriented kinds of things.
Dennis: But Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him and that, in return, Jesus said, “I’m going to glorify You.” Now, think about that. How much do you, as a person, miss that?
Dennis: How much are you thinking about what the Father / your Heavenly Father would want you to say, want you to do, want you to be about, 60 seconds ago, before we started this conversation?
Bob: And there is a reason why we’re talking today about what Jesus was praying for on the night before He was crucified on FamilyLife Today. One reason is because we are about to hear Part Two of a message from Dr. John Piper on the subject of how we glorify God and how God’s glory should be at the center of our thinking; but the second reason is because we face choices and decisions every day—we are praying for things in our marriage and our family every day. It’s good for us to have as our number one objective that God would be honored and glorified by what happens in our day.
Dennis: Every marriage is going to face some challenging moments. What would happen if, when you started to enter into one of those moments, you said: “Hold it, Sweetheart—let me just take your hand. I want to pray,” and then you prayed for your wife and said: “God, help me to love her, help me to understand her, help us to work through this difficulty.
“As we do that, may how we work it through and may the end result of what we work through honor You / reflect You.” You’re probably least excited about showing God off at that moment.
Dennis: You want to be right / you want to win the argument. We’re very selfish people. Yet, this was the message of Jesus Christ and what He modeled when He came to planet earth and we beheld His glory.
Bob: And today, we’re going to hear reflections on that from Dr. John Piper, who, for years, was the pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis—well-known author and speaker. He spoke to our staff—this was more than a decade ago. We thought this message was just too good to stay on the shelf. So, we have brought it out here so that, together, we can consider Dr. Piper’s words. He’s going to take us to John, Chapter 17, and to what Jesus was praying for on the night before His crucifixion.
Here is Dr. John Piper.
[Previously Recorded Message]
John: I assume that the high priestly prayer of Jesus is a loving prayer. I’m just going to assume that—not a hateful prayer / not a resentful prayer—but a loving prayer. Now, listen, in the first five verses, how Jesus starts a loving prayer. Chapter 17 of John—I’ll start half way through the first verse: “’…Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You….’”
What an odd way to start a prayer for the disciples—if it is loving. And that’s exactly what Jesus—He just stands in front of the crowd and says, “Now, Father, glorify Me, and I, in turn, will glorify You.
“And We’ll have this conspiracy to get glory for each other.” [Laughter] It just takes your breath away: “How can that be loving?”
Let’s keep reading. He does this for five verses: “’…since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given to Him. This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.’”
So, the first five verses of this high priestly prayer, on behalf of His disciples, as He gets ready to leave them is: “Glorify Me,” “Glorify Me,” “Show Me to be great,” “Make much of Me,” “Magnify Me,” “Display My excellencies.” How can that be loving? Look at verse 24:
“’Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory,”—that’s why it’s loving.
What is the most loving prayer request that Christ could make for you? Answer: “Father, let them see My glory.” If that’s the most loving request He could make, then, that He be glorious is essential to love—that He be displayed as glorious is essential to an act of love because if, we didn’t have Him to look at—if He was somehow clouded / not on display—we would be the losers!
So, He begins his prayer: “Be sure, Father, that I come through this shining like gold.
“Don’t let Me fail on the cross. Let Me be full and overflowing with faith and love so that when I die, it will have been done—I rise as a respected, honored, praised, admired Savior and Lord. Yes, Lord, glorify Me,”—then, at the end—“Now, gather for Me all of My people from the four corners and let them behold the glory that You have preserved through the cross and resurrection. That will be their satisfaction forever. To love is to do whatever You must do—even at the cost of Your Son’s life—in order to enthrall others with what will satisfy them infinitely—namely, the glory of God in Christ.”
Okay, I want to think about relating this to family and children—marriage.
My aim with Talitha, who is eight, and my four sons is not their self-esteem—my aim is God-esteem. My aim is not that they find most pleasure in being praised but that they find most pleasure in praising God. How do you do that?—because, pretty much, I think, you read books on child rearing and what not—it’ll just be constantly oriented on how to make your child feel like somebody. I just think that’s a mis-emphasis.
So how do we help enthrall our wives and husbands? Me: “How do I help Noël be enthralled with Christ?” and “How do I help my daughter Talitha be enthralled with Christ?” That’s my goal. I wrote down three words—pray, speak, and show.
My little girl is a sinner. She is dead in trespasses and sins unless she’s born again. I don’t know yet whether she is born again at eight years old. I see some evidences, but I see evidences to the contrary. So, my prayer is that God would awaken her from the dead and incline her heart to Christ: “Incline us to Your Word, O God,” “Open our eyes to see wonderful things out of Your law,” “Unite our hearts to fear Your name,” “Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love,”—those four prayers—I.O.U.S. I pray those for myself every day, and I pray them for my little girl. Only a supernatural work can make her be happy in God more than me and her mother—that’s what conversion will mean. That is highly unnatural and, therefore, a miracle—and therefore, to be prayed for.
With regard to speaking—oh my, the tongue—
—oh, the power of the tongue in marriage and child rearing—[in the Book of] James—the power of the tongue for evil and the power of the tongue for good—oh my! Let me just give you a few bullets here of the tongue—maybe, I’ll leave the “show” for later—pray, speak, show. Exult—around your wife / your spouse and your children—spontaneously in all the glories and gifts of Christ. How few homes have exulting parents. Do you know what exult means? “Isn’t it a beautiful day, Talitha? God gave us a beautiful day,”—so exult in the gifts of God and the glories of God. Now, you’ve got to pray like crazy to be that kind of person. This is not artificial.
I asked Noël this morning, “What’s the opposite of flattery?” because I think a lot of parents use flattery to make their kids feel loved. I mean the word, “flattery,” exists in the English language because there is this reality that is bad—
—it’s the use of language and compliment that’s bad. There’s a bad way to compliment people—it’s called flattery. What’s the opposite? There are several opposites, as Noël pointed out this morning, but the one I’m most interested in is—I think the opposite of flattery is spontaneous enjoyment of everything good you see in your child.
[She] makes her first little tree—round with a stick at the bottom: “That’s beautiful!” Now, I could either be a manipulative, self-esteem builder at this point, thinking: “Okay, now. See, good parenting involves making her feel like a good artist. This is really not good art, but I will do what parents are supposed to do and make her feel good about her lousy art.” [Laughter]
Now, that would be flattery or manipulative—artificial use of language to build a feeling into your child. Wouldn’t it be better if you were the kind of person who looked at that and said: “Awesome! I feel so happy about this tree!” Now, you wouldn’t have to use any words like, “You’re a great artist,” which would be a lie. You don’t have to use that because she feels your joy—that’s what we need to be.
We need to be people who are so free from ourselves and so spontaneously delighting in every good and perfect gift from the Father that every little thing she does that has any speck of virtue in it at all causes us to brim with gladness—she’ll feel that. Now, in her sinful nature, she might take it to puff up her pride; but if God grants her a new nature, she will simply know:
“My daddy delights in all that is right and good. So, I should delight in all that is right and good; and God is ultimately right and good.” So, exulting is one.
Giving blessings is another way to use your mouth. When I put Talitha to bed at night, we have the absolutely same tradition every night. I put her to bed almost every night—it’s a privilege. I want you to know, sometimes, I’m dog-tired. I want to just sit on the couch—and no, she wants Daddy to get her on his back—still, at eight years old, on my back—up the steps, down to the stirrups, up to the top bunk, and then, tuck her in:
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you. Look at me, Talitha / look at me—make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace, and joy, and hope, and faith, and courage, and strength, and boldness, and, someday, a godly husband.
She giggles—every night, the same thing. [Laughter] And then:
[Gently singing] Come rest your head, and nestle gently, and do not fear the dark of night. Almighty God—and sometimes, at that point, she says, “Mighty / mighty”—Almighty God keeps watch intently and guards your life with all His might. Doubt not His love nor power to keep. He never fails nor does He sleep. Goodnight.
That is a fixed routine. It is the use of the mouth—it is full of blessing. I believe it is pointing her, every night, to a God who never sleeps and will take care of her when Daddy’s gone.
Laughter—laughter is not language, but it is a form of the mouth. Laughter betokens some measure of mental health that is utterly crucial, I think, if children are to grow up loving the God of their father and their mother.
My father is an evangelist who left home two-thirds of my life. I never resented that, but I loved to have him home. When he came home on Monday afternoons, after having a week-, or two-, or three-week crusade somewhere, we would go get him at the airport. Mommy made the very best supper those nights. We would sit, and we would hear two things—the exploits of the gospel in bringing people to faith and two or three new jokes. [Laughter]
What was best about the jokes is that my father laughed so hard at his own jokes! When he laughed, everybody laughed. My mother would laugh so hard the tears would run down her cheeks. I would sit there, as a little seven-, eight-, ten-, fourteen-year-old boy, looking—at Mother at this end and Daddy at this end, laughing until the tears came—and feeling as happy as a boy could feel because they were free from a kind of self-centeredness and self-consciousness that is unable to spontaneously laugh at funny things. I mean, the world has funny things in it. I think laughter is one of the evidences that we are free in Christ. We’ll signal to our children that we are healthy; and therefore, when they learn of our God, who is at the root of it all, they will be more inclined to embrace Him.
Here’s a fourth thing—I don’t know how many I’ve got—apologies. The use of the language to say, “I’m sorry,” / the use of the mouth to say, “I’m sorry,”—this is between husband and wife—but this is especially between dads and teenagers and moms and teenagers. Too few times do dads come back to a 15-year-old kid and say, “My response was really excessive to your mouthiness, and I’m sorry.” I tell you—the times that I did that when my Benjamin broke a scoff. They need to see that. Now, what that says of God is this—number one: “My daddy knows a God who gives him enough security, and enough comfort, and enough acceptance that he can make himself vulnerable and expose his sin and error in front of me, his son.
“What a God he must have!”—and so, I commend the use of the mouth for apology.
With regard to our deeds—we serve one another if we have been made happy by God. If God has become our treasure / if God has become our joy, we don’t need to use each other anymore. Oh, this is so powerful! I wish I were better at it. I wish I were so completely content in God that I didn’t need Noël’s approval / need my wife’s approval and, therefore, wouldn’t be tempted to pout if it didn’t come at the moment when I want it.
That dynamic of pouting—men pout—you know that? Men are pouters. I suppose women pout sometimes too. I’m not married to a pouter, but pouting is a very immature way to respond to your expectations not being fulfilled. It’s just kind of a “Poor me,” kind of feeling.
Now, the solution to pouting, I think, is God. If God has become my treasure—if God is my joy / if God is my satisfaction—if God has embraced me, and made me His own, and will cause me to inherit the universe with infinitely increasing joy forever and ever—what am I pouting about here? This is ridiculous. Instead, I would be so filled that I would be able to come her way more often with blessing, and serving, and giving, and helping.
I really think, at the bottom of our marital difficulties and our parenting failures, is a failure to know what it is to be loved by God and be enthralled with Him.
Bob: Well, again, that is Dr. John Piper speaking to our staff, more than a decade ago; but still as crystal clear and true today as it was then. These are eternal truths that we need to be reminding ourselves of and reminding our listeners of regularly, here on FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: I think it’s the thing that makes FamilyLife Today so relevant, Bob, to our listeners.
We’re wanting to help our listeners live life according to the Bible—apply it to where they are facing issues, challenges, struggles—and know how to do it right. And when you fail, we take responsibility for our lives and model what that looks like for our kids.
Bob: And we have some folks who share that desire with us to see marriages and families centered in God and in His Word. Those are the folks who support the ministry—Legacy Partners who give each month to make FamilyLife Today possible.
Dennis: If you are a Legacy Partner, I want you to just think about what you are doing. You are making this broadcast possible in the midst of an array of other radio programs, other podcasts, other messaging on the internet that is anything but God-honoring.
Dennis: And what we are committed to here is to proclaiming the Bible—helping you apply it where you live in an effective way—and pass that onto your kids. The next generation is on the line, folks.
And we cannot afford to lose that battle.
Bob: You know that this month we are hoping that there would be 20 families in every state where FamilyLife Today is heard—20 new families who would step forward and say, “We can help underwrite the cost of FamilyLife Today as Legacy Partners.”
And I want to encourage our listeners—go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “DONATE.” Find out more about becoming a monthly supporter of FamilyLife Today and being part of the team—that makes this daily radio program possible, you make the events that we host possible, you make the resources we create possible, our website and all that we’re doing digitally—you help make this possible when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today as a Legacy Partner. So, again, find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “DONATE”; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I am interested in becoming a Legacy Partner.”
By the way—when you are online—check out information about the book that John Piper has written on marriage called This Momentary Marriage.
It’s a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We love making good resources like this available to our listeners. You can order from us, online, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order your copy of the book, This Momentary Marriage, by John Piper.
And finally, we want to say, “Congratulations!” today to our friends, Robert and Susan Huckleberry. Today, they are celebrating 32 years as husband and wife—it’s their anniversary today. They live in Fox, Arkansas—just around the corner from us here. And we want to say, “Congratulations!” to the Huckleberrys on their wedding anniversary.
We are all about anniversaries, here at FamilyLife Today. We want to see more people celebrating more anniversaries every year as a result of what God is doing through this ministry. And we’d love to help make your anniversary the best one ever this year—we’ve got some ideas and some suggestions.
If you’ll just share with us when your anniversary is, we’ll get in touch with you—oh—about a month ahead of your anniversary with some ideas on how you can have a great celebration together this year. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and share with us your anniversary, and we’ll get back in touch with you as your anniversary date rolls around this year.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to hear from our friend, Dr. Tony Evans, about what it looks like to live a kingdom-focused life. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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