Brothers, We Are Not Professionals – A Review

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This book review is written on John Piper’s book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.[1]

 

PREFACE

 

John Piper proposes that right now in the world’s history is the best time to be a pastor. The world is full of self, pride, and greed. All religions say they are the way to God. As pastors, we are to preach Christ and Him crucified. We are to preach the Christ that is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Pastors are to shake the cultural view of professionalism. We are to preach with a bold confidence and passion of nothing else than the Gospel of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

 

CHAPTER 1 – BROTHERS, WE ARE NOT PROFESSIONALS

 

Pastors are not professionals. We are aliens and outcasts to this world. We are to daily pick up our blood-stained cross and follow Jesus. A pastor’s agenda is set by God. “The strong wine of Jesus Christ explodes he wineskins of professionalism. There is an infinite difference between the pastor whose heart is set on being a professional and the pastor whose heart is set on being the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of death to some and eternal life to others (2 Cor. 2:15-16).”[2] Piper closes this chapter with a prayer asking God to banish professionalism from our midst. The prayer also mentions a few other things such as, that God should give us a hunger for Him and a rigorous study of holy things and that we should rise as witnesses and partakers of the sufferings of Christ.

 

CHAPTER 2 – BROTHERS, GOD LOVES HIS GLORY

 

This chapter awakened my eyes to something that I had not known before, God loves His glory. God loves His glory more than He loves us. This is important. God is God at all times and He does all things for His own glory. Anything less than that would not allow Him to be God. God loves His glory and the Holy Spirit is on fire with this love. The Holy Spirit puts this same fire to love God’s glory within us that we may too burn with a passion to love and do everything for God’s glory.

 

CHAPTER 3 – BROTHERS, GOD IS LOVE

 

God does everything He does for His own glory. God is not a self-centered egomaniac. God is love. God is Holy. God is worthy. God’s holiness is his immeasurable worth and value. Glory belongs to nothing or no one apart from God. People and things are created and created things or beings do not deserve glory. God is in a place that He does not fit into any category or class. God is God. God’s value is the sum of the total value of all created beings. God cannot deny Himself or His holiness. God is love because God is holy and righteous. Love is at the heart of God’s being. God is love because He is infinitely valuable. We should value God like the treasure that He is. The treasure of God is worth more than anything this world has to offer.

 

CHAPTER 4 – BROTHERS, LIVE AND PREACH JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

 

 

We are justified by faith at the moment of our salvation. There is nothing that we can do to help God out. We cannot work or earn a spot in eternal life. Our faith is not our righteousness. God gives us His righteousness in Christ who is our righteousness. We can not work to earn justification. Our good will never out weigh the bad apart from Christ. However, if it were possible to earn justification and we succeeded, we would not receive grace but a wage. God would owe that to us and that is not what God did. Romans 4:5 says, “And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”[3] It is nothing that we do that gives us justification. It is God and God alone that justifies us and we are considered not guilty at the moment of our salvation.

 

CHAPTER 5 – BROTHERS, BEWARE OF THE DEBTOR’S ETHIC

 

We can never repay God for the gift of Jesus Christ. We will be judged on the motives we have behind the good works that we do. We should strive to do good works with God exalting motives. We should not serve God out of gratitude but out of joy. Piper says, “All joy has in it an impulse to demonstrate the beauty and value of its object.”[4] Our joy in the the value of Jesus Christ should honor God. Our gratitude to God for the gift of Jesus should have as its aim, God’s glory. The reason that we are not in debt to God is because God gave us Jesus as a free gift and any attempt to pay back God would contradict His gift as free and gracious.

 

CHAPTER 6 – BROTHERS, TELL THEM NOT TO SERVE GOD

 

The Bible does tell us to serve the Lord with gladness but is is possible that we might be serving God in the wrong way. We should not serve God in a way that dishonors Him. Acts 17:24-25 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”[5] God is not the beneficiary of anything that we can give. God is always the benefactor. However, God will always receive anything we can give to Him that shows that we are dependent on Him and His all-sufficiency. This would include our cares and worries. God does not want us to serve Him in a way that He is the recipient of anything we have worked for. God wants us to be obedient in being broken vessels that He can work through and use for His glory.

 

CHAPTER 7 – BROTHERS, CONSIDER CHRISTIAN HEDONISM

 

Every person seeks to pursue happiness and we will make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. We should follow Jesus because of the joy that He brings to us. The Bible says that where our treasure is there will our heart also be. We should treasure God more than anything else in this life. We should delight in doing good. We should delight in the law of the Lord. We should rejoice in the Lord always! Piper says that we should proclaim from the pulpit that we are Christian hedonists. We should proclaim that we find God as our treasure and that we seek all pleasure, joy and delight in Him. By doing so, we will also find peace, love, purpose and meaning. Piper closes this chapter by telling us to share with our congregation that delight in God is their highest duty. I agree. It makes no sense claiming to be a Christian and having a miserable outlook on life when we realize the ever abundance of joy that only Christ can give.

 

CHAPTER 8 – BROTHERS, LET US PRAY

 

It is astonishing that God ordains to fulfill His plans by being asked to do so by us. God loves to bless His people in answer to prayer. We should not feel competent enough in our own self to produce eternal fruit. Jesus says that apart from Him we can do nothing. It would benefit us greatly to remember His words. Every pastor longs for spiritual change in his flock. That change can only happen as a sovereign work of grace. Self-reliance must die. We as pastors must fall to our knees can cry out to God in passionate prayer. Anything we do apart from Christ is meaningless and it amounts to nothing. To spend time in prayer goes against everything that our culture teaches. We should take time to pray. Our lives will not change, our churches will not change, the world will not change without prayer.

 

CHAPTER 9 – BROTHERS, BEWARE OF SACRED SUBSTITUTES

 

Pastors must be aware that distractions will come that will try to keep them from a right prayer life. Prayer is so important that even the apostles in Acts 6 gave ministry work to other men so that they may have adequate time for prayer and study of the Word. Prayer must be sought out in solitude and in an uninterrupted amount of time. We should not expect that God will speak to us in a lousy three minute prayer. We should seek God in prayer. We should devote ourselves to prayer. Prayer should be done with persistence and we should work at it so that our prayer time with God is unhindered. Piper says, “The importance of prayer rises in proportion to the importance of the things we should give up in order to pray.”[6] Prayer must consume the heart. It must occupy the whole man. We should pray first thing in the morning and last in the evening. We need to guard our thoughts from putting off prayer to a later time. Pastors, we need to beware anything that will keep us from prayer and the ministry of the Word.

 

CHAPTER 10 – BROTHERS, FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE

 

Pastors should fight for their life. What Piper means by this is that we must discipline ourselves to read. We waste too much time in watching television which is mindless garbage and not enough time in a book that might help to restore our spirit. We are not perfect. We can not put our spirit on self-replenish. We need unhurried time to read and this is in addition to sermon preparation. We say that we do not have time and this is false. We allow unimportant things to take away and waste our time instead of reading. If we read twenty minutes a day, six days a week for a year, we would end up reading 3,900 pages. How much more could we read if we devoted thirty minutes to reading or even an hour? An hour should probably be the bear minimum for a pastor in need of refueling. I do not like reading more than one book at a time. I along with Piper agree with Charles Spurgeon, “A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.”[7] Reading many books is not the point. I personally underline meaningful passages and journal in a notebook what I have learned that I may apply it to my life personally. I hope that I can be the kind of pastor that disciplines himself to read daily instead of wasting precious time on television. We should strive to read old books as well as new. There is a great treasure to be had in writer’s from previous centuries.

CHAPTER 11 – BROTHERS, LET US QUERY THE TEXT

 

Every pastor should be a Biblical theologian. Doing exegesis means querying the text. Jonathan Edwards resolved to study the Scriptures as often as possible so that he might grow. We should have this same goal. We have been taught that we are not to question God or find “problems” in the Bible. Scripture should involve intense meditation that will result in insight and understanding. There is a unified theme of divine truth throughout scripture but if we do not think hard, we will not figure that out. We believe that the Bible is without a doubt God-breathed. However, there are things in the Bible that we do not understand. How can Paul say do not be anxious for anything but also say he has anxiety for all the churches? How can Paul say rejoice always and weep with those who weep? Jesus says when you are struck to turn the other cheek and he says when they persecute you, flee. There are things in the Bible that we should think over and struggle with. It provides greater insight into the mind of God. Query the text because we also have the promise in 2 Timothy 2:7, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”[8]

 

CHAPTER 12 – BROTHERS, BITZER WAS A BANKER

 

Heinrich Bitzer was a banker. He admonished pastors as part of being a shepherd to not forget to seek the original languages of Hebrew and Greek when studying scriptures. Bitzer stated, “The more a theologian detaches himself from the basic Hebrew and Greek text of Holy Scripture, the more he detaches himself from the source of real theology! And real theology is the foundation of a fruitful and blessed ministry.”[9] Most seminaries have concluded that learning Greek and Hebrew is optional for the pastoral ministry. I use the ESV translation as my preaching Bible and my study Bible. I believe it is as accurate as possible more so than the KJV, NIV, or NLT. I also strive to be a good expositor but seminaries are dropping the ball when it comes to expository preaching classes. Knowing Greek and Hebrew give us a better understanding of what the writers of the Bible were trying to convey. To be effective in our preaching, we should study the Greek and Hebrew languages as well as modern translations of the Bible.

 

CHAPTER 13 – BROTHERS, READ CHRISTIAN BIOGRAPHY

 

Hebrews 11 is a biography of those who have gone before us in the faith. We should seek out encouragement and advice from both the living and the dead. We can learn a lot from the biographies of men in whose paths we follow. Men such as Jonathan Edwards, W.A. Criswell, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Charles Spurgeon have a lot to teach us about personal and spiritual life. The Bible calls those wise that seek counsel from others. We may even learn something from these men that will help us in our ministry. These men had intimate relationships with the Lord. Some of them suffered what we would consider great loss. However, my struggles do not even seem great compared to what some of these men went through. I am encouraged to read these biographies. May we strive to learn from others and have our hearts encouraged and our soul refueled by reading Christian biographies.

 

CHAPTER 14 – BROTHERS, SHOW YOUR PEOPLE WHY GOD INSPIRED HARD TEXTS

 

Some parts of the Bible are not easy to understand. Piper says that there are four things to understanding harder to read texts. Desperation – we are to be dependent on God that He will help us to understand what is written. Supplication – We go to God in prayer and cry out to Him in our desperation. We can ask God to show to us meaning in the Scriptures and ask Him to teach it to us. Cogitation – Think hard about the Biblical texts. We are to pray and think upon the Scripture. We should actually labor in our thinking, working to understand. Education – Training young people and adults to pray earnestly, read well, and think hard. Piper says, “Education is helping people understand something that they don’t already understand. Or, more accurately, education is helping people (young or old) learn how to get an understanding that they didn’t already have.”[10] God is love and God is God. Amen. The good thing about the hard texts in the Bible is that God will reveal to us understanding if we seek Him with all our might.

 

CHAPTER 15 – BROTHERS, SAVE THE SAINTS

 

There are many people in our churches that call themselves Christians but they do not show the fruit of salvation. Our preaching is to bring glory to God, edify the saints, and help the saints grow spiritually and persevere and endure in the faith. This will help them grow in their process of sanctification. We must preach to help those in the church come to salvation. This does not mean that a true saint can lose their salvation. It does mean that on the surface, one can be called a “brother” and in the end prove not to be one. The church needs a steady diet of messages that help them grow from the milk of infancy to the meat of adulthood. The Christian life is not lived from a point of standing still. We are either drifting away or advancing in our salvation and living in obedience the process of sanctification.

 

CHAPTER 16 – BROTHERS, WE MUST FEEL THE TRUTH OF HELL

 

Is it possible that some pastors speak truth yet they do not believe the words that come from their own lips? How do we as pastors aspire to win souls if we refrain from speaking on the eternal torment of hell? We were not born into salvation. We were once children of the devil. We did not seek God on our own and we were one heartbeat away from hell. Knowing that we were going to hell before God saved us, should spark a passion in us to see lost people come to Christ. We should weep for lost people and carnal Christians. Piper says, “We do not love as passionately as we ought because our belief in these things is not real. So our pride is not broken and our demeanor not lowly. And we do not look with aching and longing on the crowds that pass us in the airport or the straying members of our flock.”[11] If we as pastors do nothing to warn our people of imminent doom, who else will bring them this news? We must feel the truth of hell and that God was our escape.

 

CHAPTER 17 – BROTHERS, LEAD THEM TO REPENTANCE THROUGH THEIR PLEASURE

 

Repentance is more than just remorse. It is also a change of mind and heart and about sin, righteousness and Christ. The way to get people to come to repentance is to not try and scare them with consequences. We must help our people awaken to the taste for pleasure in God. We must show the awesomeness of God and the joy that is only found in Him. People will be broken when they realize that they lack this joy and they desire to have it. People will repent because they do not have what God wants to give them. We must teach our people to fall head over heels in love with God. We must teach our people to be completely satisfied in God and we teach them this by living our lives in such a way that shows that satisfaction.

 

CHAPTER 18 – BROTHERS, MAGNIFY THE MEANING OF BAPTISM

 

Baptism immediately sparks thoughts of believer baptism, infant baptism, immersion and sprinkling. Peter said that people should repent and be baptized, not the other way around. Baptists baptize by immersion because we were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death and raised to walk in newness of life. Luke shows in Acts 16, that people must first hear the Word of the Lord before being baptized. How can an infant come to realize that it is a sinner and lost without God? It cannot. Throughout Scripture, there is no evidence that any type of baptism occurred outside of immersion. There is also no evidence that any baptism in the Bible took place where infants were baptized. Baptism is an act of faith that takes place after a sinner comes to salvation. That is why we call it believer baptism.

 

CHAPTER 19 – BROTHERS, OUR AFFLICTION IS FOR THEIR COMFORT

 

Pastors and their people will suffer. A lot of people will blame their sufferings on the devil. The devil and his demons cannot do anything that God does not already know about. Nothing catches God off guard. Satan desires to destroy us. God desires the deep cure of our soul. The pastor does not design his own personal afflictions. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that if we are afflicted it is for the flock’s comfort and salvation. This is saying that God designs our afflictions. Our suffering is ordained by God to bring others closer to Jesus Christ. Our sufferings are designed to make us rely on God and not ourselves.

 

CHAPTER 20 – BROTHERS, LET THE RIVER RUN DEEP

 

Where is it written that pastors should not show emotion or passion in the pulpit? If we study Jeremiah, he has all kinds of emotions in Lamentations. This chapter is a call not to read prayers or sermons from notes or books. People need to be preached to, not read to. People need to know that the pastor believes what he is preaching. When we preach about something that we feel strongly about, people should know that it affects us. I have shed a tear preaching about abortion. Sermons should not be “canned.” Sermons and prayers should come from the deepness of our heart.

 

CHAPTER 21 – BROTHERS, DON’T FIGHT FLESH TANKS WITH PEASHOOTER REGULATIONS

 

Legalism is not biblical. One of the ways that Piper describes legalism is this, “The erecting of specific requirements of conduct beyond the teaching of Scripture and making adherence to them the means by which a person is qualified for membership in a local church. This is where unbiblical exclusivism arises. Legalism is a result from trying to use our own power to make ourselves moral and failure to rely on God for the sanctification of ourselves and others. A church that has unbiblical restrictions on its members does not know what it means to die with Christ and be free from the powers of this world.

 

CHAPTER 22 – BROTHERS, DON’T CONFUSE UNCERTAINTY WITH HUMILITY

 

The world despises truth. Because of truth, pastors are thrown into the arena of controversy. Saying that Jesus is the only way to heaven earns us the arrogant label. If we as pastors tell people to repent and turn from evil, we are labeled as judgmental. The fact that we say there is only one God labels us intolerant. These labels do not bother me. I was never called to be a friend of this world. Humility is not proud. Humility knows that it is dependent on grace and that all gifts and talents are bestowed upon us by God. Arrogance is trying to live life without Christ. Humility is living life knowing that God plans our steps. Humility is the fruit of the gospel, knowing and feeling we are desperate sinners and Jesus Christ is a great and undeserved Savior.

 

CHAPTER 23 – BROTHERS, TELL THEM COPPER WILL DO

 

Pastors should be careful not to become like the rich fool. A fool is one that uses the excess of his money to increase his own comforts. We are told many times in the Bible that God is to be our treasure and we are to lay up treasure in heaven. The consumer lifestyle has infected the church. We earn more to get more to keep more. This is not reflective of a wartime lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with earning a lot of money. It is what you do with the money that counts.  Buy clothes for the naked. Build wells so that people may have clean water. Give so that people may eat. Give so that people may have shelter. We are not to be greedy. Pastors should forget about the consumer lifestyle and not build treasures on earth but treasure God and build treasures in heaven.

 

CHAPTER 24 – BROTHERS, HELP YOUR PEOPLE HOLD ON AND MINSITER IN CALAMITY

 

What is a pastor supposed to say when members of the flock or the nation experiences calamity? Two tragic events in the history of our nation were Columbine and the morning of September 11, 2001. However, we respond to such tragedy in such a way that it honors God and ministers to the people. As a guide to help us, Piper lists 21 points that he had written at an earlier date. Fifteen points were a response to Columbine and the other six were written after September 11.

 

CHAPTER 25 – BROTHERS, GIVE THEM GOD’S PASSION FOR MISSIONS

 

If we love Christ we must love others. We are to go to all nations and preach the gospel and make disciples. Nations in the Bible does not mean geographic location on a map. It is a tribe or people group that speaks different languages. Piper says there are three responses to Missions. We can go, we can send, or we can just be disobedient. We must have a passion to see lost people come to Christ even to the point of death. Suffering will happen to some missionaries because of their stance for a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are aliens, we do not belong to this world so we are free to travel throughout the world to share the gospel. We must love God more than we love ourselves. What better way to die than for the gospel of Christ?

 

CHAPTER 26 – BROTHERS, SEVER THE ROOT OF RACISM

 

Racism is a problem that does not belong in our churches. America is known for its years of racism and it is still a problem today. We are uncertain of people that do not act or look like us, so we are taught to hate them. We are to love all people, Mexican, African-American, Chinese, American Indian, German and so on. Racism had to be dealt with in the Bible between Jews and Gentiles. This problem of racism has been ongoing since Bible times. We are called to love others like we love God and we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We need to get over this racism issue and preach the love of Christ. We cannot get rid of these people and we will be living with them and worshiping with them for eternity.

 

CHAPTER 27 – BROTHERS, BLOW THE TRUMPET FOR THE UNBORN

 

God is pro-life and we should also be pro-life. We should preach about the horrible sin and injustice that is abortion. We should not care what the world or even members of our own flock say. Pastors should preach about the sin of abortion to the extent that they may even lose their job over it. Job says that God gives and God takes away. A doctor nor a mother has the right to take the life of an unborn child. The eighth commandment flat out states that we should not murder. We are to love what God loves and hate what God hates. God loves the unborn child and hates the sin of abortion.

 

CHAPTER 28 – BROTHERS, FOCUS ON THE ESSENCE OF WORSHIP, NOT THE FORM

 

Worship is not contained in a place and has no bearing on style of music. Worship can happen while singing or listening to music but it is not the action of either. Worship must come from deep within. We must worship God with all of our heart. This can happen corporately on Sunday and it should happen every day as we live our lives in worship to God. Our lives should be lived in such a way that we understand what Paul means when he says to live is Christ or to die is gain. If we live, Christ is worshiped. If we die, Christ is worshiped. Piper’s maxim rings true here, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”[12] Worship shows that we cherish God, honor God, treasure God, and are being satisfied in Him.

 

CHAPTER 29 – BROTHERS, LOVE YOUR WIVES

 

Pastors love your wives. A woman is a part of man. She is the fit that God gives us. She is a treasure and a gift. We are to love our wives the way that Christ loves the church. We should find joy in her and love her more than our life. We should love her more than breath, fame, money, toys, art and anything this life has to offer. We are called to leave our father and mother and cleave to our wife. We are to lead her spiritually and we are to make wise decisions for our household. Joy with our wife means that our prayers will not be hindered. Our wives come second only to Christ. So, with our whole heart we love our wives more than anything else on this earth and we love them less than we love Christ.

 

CHAPTER 30 – BROTHERS, PRAY FOR THE SEMINARIES

 

Pastors, pray for the seminaries. Pray for the board. Pray for the faculty. Pray for the students that are to become future pastors. Pray that the seminaries will stay true to the Bible and the faculty will desire to seek God with all their heart, soul, and mind as much as they teach it. Pray that future pastors will know that it is God that gives them the ability to preach and that it is nothing they could have ever done on their own. Pray that they will have a fire in their bones that they cannot stop preaching the gospel until Jesus comes back or this life is over.

 


[2]    John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals (Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002) 3.

[3]    Unless otherwise stated, the ESV version of the Bible is used.

[4]    John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals (Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002) 37.

[5]    ESV version.

[6]    John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals (Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002) 62.

[7]    Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, Mich,: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), 177.

[8]    ESV version.

[9]    John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals (Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002) 82.

[10] John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals (Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002) 100.

[11] John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals (Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002) 117.

[12] John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals (Nashville TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002) 235.

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