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The Legacy of Sovereign Joy is the first book in John Piper's series The Swans are Not Silent. Each book in the series collects three of the biographical lectures Piper gave at the annual Bethlehem Conference for Pastors over the past two decades. When Augustine resigned as Bishop of Hippo it was said that the "swan is silent." Piper aims to show that the swans (Christian leaders throughout the centuries) are, in fact, not silent.
This book presents the lives and thoughts of Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. It begins with an introduction about "savoring the sovereignty of grace in the lives of flawed saints." Piper explains that each of these men "had this in common: they experienced, and built their lives and ministries on, the reality of God's omnipotent grace." Noting some of the flaws of each of these men, Piper believes that "the glory of God, however dimly, is mirrored in the flawed lives of his faithful servants."
Each chapter is about half biography and half theological survey and averages 34 pages. There is a pattern to each chapter: after a brief introduction John Piper provides a biographical sketch and then brings out a prominent theme from author's theology. For Augustine, the theme is sovereign joy, for Luther it is sacred study, and for Calvin it is the divine majesty of the Word.
After these chapters, Piper concludes with four lessons we can learn from the "flawed saints." "1) Do not be paralyzed by your weaknesses and flaws...2) In the battle against sin and surrender, learn the secret of sovereign joy... 3) Supernatural change comes from seeing Christ in his sacred Word... 4) Therefore, let us exult the exposition of the truth of the Gospel and herald the glory of Christ for the joy of all peoples."
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 and the University of Munich. 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.