Be Not Mere Shadows and Echoes: An Excerpt from John Piper’s Latest Book
- 2017 22 Sep
Break Free from the Spirit of the Age
We are not God. So by comparison to ultimate, absolute Reality, we are not much. Our existence is secondary and dependent on the absolute reality of God. He is the only given in the universe. We are derivative. He always was and had no beginning. So he was not given form by another. We were. He simply is. But we become. “I AM WHO I AM” is his name (Exodus 3:14).
Nevertheless, because he made us with the highest creaturely purpose in mind—to enjoy and display the Creator’s glory—we may have a very substantial life that lasts forever. This is why we were made (“All things were created through him and for him,” Colossians 1:16). This is why our sexuality was redeemed (“Flee from sexual immorality…. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body,” [1 Corinthians 6:18, 20]). This is why we eat and drink (“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” [1 Corinthians 10:31]). This is why we pray (“Whatever you ask the Father in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” [John 14:13]). This is why we do all good deeds (“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” [Matthew 5:16]).
That is why we exist—to display the glory of God. Human life is all about God. That is the meaning of being human. It is our created nature to make much of God. It is our glory to worship the glory of God. When we fulfill this reason for being, we have substance. There is weight and significance in our existence. Knowing, enjoying, and thus displaying the glory of God is a sharing in the glory of God. Not that we become God. But something of his greatness and beauty is on us as we realize this purpose for our being—to image-forth his excellence. This is our substance.
Not to fulfill this purpose for human existence is to be a mere shadow of the substance we were created to have. Not to display God’s worth byenjoying him above all things is to be a mere echo of the music we were created to make.
This is a great tragedy. Humans are not made to be mere shadows and echoes. We were made to have Godlike substance and make Godlike music and have Godlike impact. That is what it means to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). But when humans forsake their Maker and love other things more, they become like the things they love—small, insignificant, weightless, inconsequential, and God-diminishing.
Listen to the way the psalmist puts it: “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 135:15–18; see also 115:4–8).
Think and tremble. You become like the man-made things that you trust: mute, blind, deaf. This is a shadow existence. It is an echo of what you were meant to be. It is an empty mime on the stage of history, with much movement and no meaning.
Dear reader, be not shadows and echoes. Break free from the epidemic of the manward spirit of our age. Set your face like flint to see and know and enjoy and live in the light of the Lord. “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD” (Isaiah 2:5). In his light you will see him and all things as they truly are. You will wake up from the slumbers of shadowland existence. You will crave and find substance. You will make Godlike music with your life. Death will but dispatch you to paradise. And what you leave behind will not be a mere shadow or echo but a tribute on earth, written in heaven, to the triumphant grace of God.
*Excerpted from The Satisfied Soul.Copyright © 2017 by John Piper. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
JOHN PIPER is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For thirty-three years, he served as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the contemporary classic Desiring God, and more than thirty years of his sermons and articles are available, free of charge, at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noël, have five children and twelve grandchildren.