The Chief End of Joy

whenidontdesiregod[A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 2 – What is the Difference Between Desire and Delight?]

We come to the second chapter in what I referred to in the last post as John Piper’s “tome of Christ-centered joy.” In this chapter, Piper defines for us desire and delight. He goes on to tell us what is the difference between the two and how the end of both of those things is Christ Himself, not the experience of desire or delight.

We see more imperative without indicative, more admonition to fight for joy without any real application, but the book is still early, and I’m still hopeful. There’s 10 chapters left to go so we’ll see what’s left.

Words, Wordy Words, The Kind of Words That Are… Wordy

Words and their definitions are important so he starts off by telling us that he’ll be interchangeably using words like happiness, delight, pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, desire, longing, thirsting, passion,etc. At first, I was worried because I really like distinctions, but then Piper reminded the reader that the Bible also uses these terms without distinctions.

“I am aware that all of these words carry different connotations for different readers. Some people think of happiness as superficial and joy as deep. Some think of pleasure as physical and delight as aesthetic. Some think of passion as sexual and longing as personal. So I signal from the outset that the Bible does not divide its emotional language that way. The same words (desire, pleasure, happiness, joy, etc.) can be positive sometimes and negative sometimes, physical sometimes and spiritual sometimes. That is the approach I take. Any of these words can be a godly experience of the heart, and any of them can be a worldly experience of the heart. I will try to make plain what way the words should be taken in any given context.”

In layman’s terms “Pay attention, and you shouldn’t get lost.” I’m fine with this.

A Barrage of Scripture and Some Working Definitions

Piper briefly reminds us to desire God and to take delight in God, and then he hits us with about two pages worth of Scriptures that support both ideas. Using Scripture to build your case is never a bad idea, but I think, in this case, a list would’ve been more helpful instead of just a wall. It’s almost as if he was looking for some filler.

After the wall of Scripture we get to where Piper is tells us the difference between delight and desire.

“The first thought that comes to most of our minds (I tried this on my eight-year-old daughter) is that delight (with its synonyms) is what we experience when the thing we enjoy is present, not just future. But desire (with its synonyms) is what we experience when the thing we enjoy is not present but, we hope, coming to us in the future.”

He goes on to say

“Desire is awakened by tastes of pleasure. The taste may be ever so small. But if there is no taste at all of the desirability of something, then there will be no desire for it. In other words, desire is a form of the very pleasure that is anticipated with the arrival of the thing desired. It is, you might say, the pleasure itself experienced in the form of anticipation.”

Again, this is a place where I think doing something different would’ve been more helpful. I think it probably would’ve been better to define our terms and then work from Scripture, but that’s just me. But to Piper’s credit, I think he accurately lays out what the difference desire and delight is and gives us some good working definition. Also to his credit, he admit that there are some scenarios where these definitions may fail because, in some cases, the desire is the delight. But, if you’re one of those people that takes notes when they read a book, then this is where you’ll want to pause write down these definitions so you can keep them in the back of your mind as you trek through the rest of the book.

Desire and Delight Are Not the End Goals

For me, the climax of this chapter is on page 29 under the subheading, “Neither Desire nor Delight Is Finally What We Want.” This is where I perk my ears up. I’ve heard critics of Piper’s idea of Christian Hedonism complain that what Piper is teaching is that joy is the end instead of Jesus, but if you really paid attention to anything that Piper has said or taught over the course of his ministry then you would know that that’s simply not true. John Piper explicitly wants us to see that our desire points us to Jesus as the ultimate source of our delight.

Piper warns us that pursuing joy in and of itself is a ditch that can find ourselves in if we’re not careful.

“Jonathan Edwards warned against [this] by observing that “there are many affections which do not arise from any light in the understanding. And when it is thus, it is a sure evidence that these affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high.” Our goal is not high affections per se. Our goal is to see and savor “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The affections that arise from that light are spiritual. By this Christ-revealing light, we avoid the mistake of simply pursuing joy, not Christ.”

Another Reminder to Fight for Joy

He closes the chapter by reminding us yet again to fight for joy, but this time he’s giving us three reasons we should do so (this is my condensed version):

  1. God has commanded us to do so. (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)
  2. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. (A famous Piper quote)
  3. In his own words: “The third reason we should make much of joy and the pursuit of joy in God is that people do not awaken to how desperate their condition is until they measure their hearts by Christian Hedonism…” (I’m still not sure what this one means.)

Again, if you take notes while you read, write these down.

In conclusion, I think was beneficial and it really did enlighten my understanding of desire and delight. On the rating scale, I give this chapter another 3.5 out of 5 beard strokes.

Piper’s Hyphenated Words, Christian Hedonism, and the Constant Reminders of Missions and Martyrdom

whenidontdesiregod [A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 1 – Why I Wrote the Book]

My cohort and partner in crime on the Late Night Theology podcast, Tom, has accused John Piper many times of simply telling us to desire God without giving us real applicable steps to do so. Let me just say that I love John Piper and that his ministry has been a real influence on my ministry for the last 7 years, but (and this is a big ‘but’ *gigglesnort*) if I’m being honest, I feel that those accusations are a little more than justified. So, for the new few weeks (months, maybe? A year if I get lazy or busy), I’ll be reading a chapter at a time of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper and I hope to either confirm these accusations against Piper or deny them.

This is my review of Chapter 1.

This chapter is mostly information about the concept of Christian Hedonism and why it’s important. Like the beginning of most books, Piper is just giving us some introductory information to work with and keep in the back of our minds as we trek through the rest of this tome of Christ-centered joy.

There are two things I really appreciated in this chapter and I want to take the time to address each of them individually. First, I think, and I could be wrong, but I think John Piper acknowledges that there are Christians who do not desire God, and secondly he supports that the doctrine of Christian Hedonism is not something that he just came up with out of thin air, but rather is something that has been taught all through Church History.

The Christians That Don’t Desire God

Here’s a lengthy quote from the top of page 15 under a section titled, ‘The Most Common Question I’ve Received.’

“This is why the most common and desperate question I have received over the last three decades is: What can I do? How can I become the kind of person the Bible is calling me to be? … Many are persuaded. They see that the truth and beauty and worth of God shine best from the lives of saints who are so satisfied in God they can suffer in the cause of love without murmuring. But then they say, “That’s not who I am. I don’t have that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God. I desire comfort and security more than God.” Many say it with tears and trembling.”

Even though Piper does not come right out and say that these people are Christians, I believe that he’s under the impression that those who say that they don’t desire with tears in their eyes that they don’t have “that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God.” I believe the whole reason those people have tears in their eyes is because they are believers it hurts them that they don’t desire God more. The unregenerate man doesn’t either believes that he desires God adequately or doesn’t care that he doesn’t desire God on this level. I don’t believe any regenerate person looks at how their living out their religion and says, “what I’m doing is good enough.”

Piper will go on to imply that the answer is conversion as stated under a heading in the chapter that he has titled, “Conversion is the Creation of New Desires.” In this theologian’s opinion, conversion might be needed, but not in every situation. What is most definitely needed is a revival of the soul. If we reach this place where we don’t desire God as we once did, then we need a baptism of joy. We need to cry out with the Psalmist, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12a, NKJV)

A Historical Legacy of Christian Hedonism

One of things that I really appreciate about this chapter is that Piper isn’t just pulling this Christian Hedonism thing out of the air. He feels that this is something that Puritans, Reformers and Patristics all taught and goes out of his way to prove that by giving us quotes from Saint Augustine, John Calvin, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, and others.

Concluding Remarks

In the final paragraphs of the chapter, Piper tells us that the fight for joy is not easy, but if we stay in the fight Christ will be glorified. Now, to tell us how Christ will be glorified he brings up missions and martyrdom… because it’s not a John Piper book if he doesn’t bring up missions and martyrdom… Don’t misunderstand me, I think missions and martyrdoms can and should be talked about, but as someone who has read many a John Piper book and livestreamed many a CROSS conference, I can tell you that a lot of these Reformed guys use missions and martyrdoms as a battering ram on the conscience, and quite frankly, it’s annoying.

Missions are important; martyrdoms are bad, but I don’t have to be reminded about it every five minutes to have a healthy relationship with God. As long as Piper keeps these references to minimum, I think the rest of the book will be okay.

On the rating scale, I’ll give this chapter a 3.5 out of 5 beard strokes.

John’s Love Letters, Part 1: For Your Joy

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17). And so in the first place the apostles heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.” – F.B. Hole

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. -1 John 1:1-4 ESV

 As we read the beginning of this letter we learn something about John. John is after our joy. That’s what he wants. He wants to complete our joy. He’s not just focused on his joy, and he’s not just focused on our joy, but he’s focused on our joy and his joy corporately. His joy is found in writing us this letter, and it is implied that our joy will be found in reading it.

Now, there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness fluctuates like a fair weather friend. Joy is a constant rock in times of sorrow that aids us and comforts us through the fiercest of storms. John desires that we know this kind of joy and he’s persistent that the thing he’s writing about cannot only bring us joy, but can make our joy complete.

So, what’s he writing about? In verse 1, John says, “…we have heard…we have seen with our eyes…we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”

A Plymouth Brethren theologian from the 19th Century offers these words concerning this particular passage.

“By the fact of His becoming flesh He placed Himself within the reach of three out of the five senses or faculties with which man is endowed. He could be heard, seen and felt. Hearing comes first, for in our fallen condition it is to that faculty that God specially addresses Himself. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17). And so in the first place the apostles heard the Word of life, and thus were able to apprehend Him.

But then they also saw Him with their eyes, and even “looked upon,” or “contemplated” Him. There had been in earlier days fleeting manifestations of this great Person as “the Angel of the Lord,” only then it was impossible to contemplate Him for He was seen but for a moment. Now, come in flesh, all was different. The apostles spent years with Him, and could scrutinize Him with attention. They gazed at Him long and earnestly, even though they did not properly understand all that they observed until they had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Also they came into physical contact with Him. Their hands actually handled Him. This guaranteed that He was no mere Spirit manifestation. He was amongst them in a real human body of flesh and blood. After His resurrection He sojourned among them in His risen body of flesh and bones, and we may remember how He specifically enjoined them to handle Him and see He was not a Spirit after His resurrection.

All this establishes then beyond a doubt that there had been this real manifestation of eternal life before them.” – F.B. Hole

John is describing to us his testimony of the risen savior, Jesus. John had an intimate knowledge of who Jesus is. Matthew and Luke start their gospels with the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, and Mark starts his gospel with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s interesting to note that John makes shows us that Jesus has no origin, but always been.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. -John 1:1-3 ESV

 John shows us in his Gospel that God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). This holy, untouchable, unseeable, magnificent God became lowly flesh because He was on a mission to bring us the ultimate joy, Himself. He knew that only He could fill the vacancy in our souls. Jesus is the only one that can fill the God-sized hole in our hearts.

In the words to ‘O Holy Night,’ the hymn writer says, “Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth!” Only Jesus can bring that feeling, the feeling of joy made complete.

Joy To The World: A Christmas Homily

This post was inspired by a Christmas post I read from John Piper entitled, “World, Get With the Program: Joy! Joy! Joy!”

Issac Watts was a theologian, a logician, and a writer. On his headstone it will read “July 17, 1674 – November 25, 1748”. Within the dash between his birthdate and his death date, he penned a book about logic and over 750 hymns, many of which we still use today.

“That’s my kind of person! Lucid logic for seeing truth, and a living soul for feeling it and singing it. This is what we were created to be.” – John Piper’s Description of Issac Watts

One of the hymns that Watts wrote was “Joy To The World”. It was based off of his own personal meditation of Psalm 98 and most agree that the psalm and the hymn are vivid descriptions of Christ’s Second Coming. Pay attention to the very last verse.

“O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. 2The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”
– [Psalm 98:1-9 NRSV]

This psalm gives us two clear reasons for us to have joy this Christmas season: Christ loves the world (verse 3) and Christ will judge the world (verse 9).

CHRIST LOVES THE WORLD

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. – [John 3:16-17 KJV]

“The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands”
― Martin Luther

Satan wants to make us blind to any evidence of God’s love toward us. If he can convince us that we’re not loved by Almighty God then we’ll believe that God left us with no way out of our sin and no where to turn in times of temptation, but that’s not the truth. God has provided a way of escape from our sin.

A little over 2,000 years ago, a baby was born into this world that would forever shake history, and change the course of humanity. That baby’s name was Jesus. He was the Son of God. He grew up like you and I did, had to eat, drink, and breathe just like the rest of us, but He was entirely sinless. He lived a perfect life that couldn’t have lived and died the death that we deserved to die, but the story doesn’t end there, he rose again to proclaim victory over sin.

Now that sounds like a happy ending, right?
It gets even better…

CHRIST WILL JUDGE THE WORLD

“Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy 9at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” – [Psalm 98:8-9 NRSV]

One day Jesus will come back to judge the world. Everyone that has received the grace and forgiveness of the Lord will be taken to live with Him for eternity. All those that rejected the love of the savior will be thrown into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. In judgement all things will be made right. Things will once again be complete peace and rest, just as they were before the Fall.

As you celebrate your Christmas with your friends and loved ones this holiday season, be thankful for every moment you have and keep in mind that it’s only a foreshadow of the wonderful fellowship we’ll experience in Heaven together.

Jesus Is After Your Joy

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you…I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
– John 15:1-7, 11 (NRSV)

Jesus is after your joy. Think about that. He always wants us to have joy. But, how can we take joy in being pruned? Hoe can we take joy in knowing that we must always depend on Him? As human beings, we are so independently minded that we often forget that we need Jesus just to breathe.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” – Acts 17:24, 25 (NRSV)

Personally, I’m glad to know that I don’t have depend on myself. It’s comforting for me to know that I am not the culmination of my human experience. In John 17, Jesus shows us that we must be connected to him if we are ever going to bear fruit for His kingdom. He first shows us that if we are not bearing adequate fruit then God prunes us that we will bear more fruit. Sometimes God has to take away things from our lives to show us that He is more precious than anything else. He has to show that we must enjoy Him above everything else. Enjoying God above everything else is what caused David to exclaim

“Because your steadfast love is better than life,  my lips will praise you.” – Psalm 63:3 (ESV)

Understanding that God is be valued more than life itself should motivate us in such a way that bears fruit. When we consider all this we must ask ourselves, “Are we bearing fruit for the kingdom?”, “Do we really value God more than life itself?” As I finish up this post, consider the words of Paul:

 “If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else in the world.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:19 (NCV)

We have a hope beyond this meager human experience, let’s pursue that hope together!