Pastor John Piper delivered an impassioned sermon to 50,000 college-aged students at Passion 2017, challenging them to look the essence of evil dead in the eye – and fight back.
In the message, Piper spoke about the essence of evil, and asked the audience the question: what’s evilest thing you can do?
Drawing on Jeremiah 2:10-13, Piper then discussed what he termed the most universe-shaking evil of all time: losing a taste for God. In other words, the essence of evil is to prefer anything more than God.
Piper paraphrases what Jeremiah is saying in these verses as follows: ‘My people have changed their Glory (God) for that which does not profit – for worthlessness.
This sin is divided into two:
- Forsaking God – the fountain of living water
- Trying to dig cisterns for themselves that can’t hold water
“These are the essence of all the world’s evil,” Piper said.
Elaborating further, he said that the essence of evil is “I don’t get any pleasure from God. I don’t enjoy him any more. Or maybe I never did. I just want something else.”
In Jeremiah, God laments deeply and indignantly because of this situation. Because people have lost their appetite for God, now they have no fountain, no cistern. Essentially, they’re all going to die of thirst.
Piper takes the word “cistern” that Jeremiah uses to be a symbol for any item or action people use to find pleasure outside of God.
The money cistern is broken. Sex cistern is broken. The family cistern is broken. The political, success cisterns -- all broken, he goes on to say.
The whole universe should be in shock and disgust at this according to Piper. He went on to “test” this sin against original sin – the first sin that humans ever committed, described in Genesis 3:1-6, which Piper paraphrases as follows:
“We will NOT be denied what we desire more than God!”
This was the essence of the fall of humanity and all wickedness, not the physical act of eating and breaking God’s commandment not to eat.
“Was it the actual physical act of eating a forbidden fruit? That could be bad, but that’s not the essence. Losing the appetite for God comes before that,” he explained.
He cautioned the audience that as long as you see ‘commandment breaking’ as the essence of evil, then you know will never know what the glory of the Christian life is all about. Obedience and disobedience are all fruit from the overflow of something deeper.
Said Piper, founder of DesiringGod.org: “I want other things more than God. I want other people more than God -- this is the evil that gives rise to all others.”
Watch more of Piper’s wake-up call to wrestle with the essence of evil here: