Yesterday I shook John Piper’s hand for the first time. It was a big moment for me. There are many things I could say here about what Piper’s books and sermons and articles have meant for me over the past 10 years or so, but I’ll try to summarize it like this:

At 21 years old and a sophomore in Bible college, I ended a lifelong self-deception and a years-long secret love affair with sin and selfishness, and trusted Christ for the first time. This happened in part because for years leading up to that I had absorbed, even in an unwittingly unregenerate state, the ideas of John Piper. Piper’s books about the joy of knowing God had made me miserable…not because I disliked them (on the contrary, I relished them), but because in the years leading up to the crisis that turned into conversion, they confronted me with the fact that I had no such joy. For a long time I was the most miserable of creatures, doing neither what I ought nor what I liked (to borrow Screwtape’s epitaph for his patient). The idea of delighting in God drove me to simultaneous tears and rage.

The evening when I heard the voice of God telling me, almost audibly, in my bedroom that he had died the death I should die, the possibility of unashamed joy in Christ exploded onto my heart.  God used those tears and rage to save my life. Which means God used John Piper to save my life.

It was a good handshake.

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Posted by Samuel James

Samuel D. James is associate acquisitions editor for Crossway Books.