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.

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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 not Christians, I believe that he’s under the impression that those who say that they don’t desire God with tears in their eyes and say that they don’t have “that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God” are not saved. However, I believe the whole reason those people have tears in their eyes is because they are believers, and it hurts them that they don’t desire God more. The unregenerate man 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 he 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.

A Mental Buffet // 15 July 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul. This week’s mental buffet includes articles from Jim Elliff, Chad Bird, Steve Brown, and Jeff Mallinson.

What Should You Look for in a Church? – Jim Elliff

“All leaders cast vision, but few labor to know just what God wants by tenaciously pursuing the truth from the Scriptures where Christ’s will is to be found, and by praying for the Spirit’s wisdom and power. This doesn’t mean any team of leaders has it all figured out at any given time. It’s a process. Old practices have to be thought through again in the light of the New Testament—even basic practices like baptism, the Lord’s supper, music, money, leadership, and evangelism.”

 

When Denominations Think They’re God’s Chosen Group – Chad Bird

“…whatever Christian stripe you may be—Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, Lutheran, Whatever—fight against collective egotism. Develop friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ outside your group. Purposely read books and articles that challenge your thinking instead of merely confirming what you assume you already know. Cultivate an openness to new, fresh ways of expressing the faith as well to ancient, patristic ways of doing the same.

You may be surprised to discover that, rather than changing your theology, these other voices deepen and expand it in ways that never would have happened if you listened only to the “approved” voices.”

 

Being Right Can Make Us Weird – Steve Brown 

“My friend, Kent Keller (pastor of Kendall Presbyterian Church in Miami), not too long ago preached a sermon on 2 Peter 1:16 where Peter wrote that Christians don’t follow “cleverly devised myths.” Kent said, “This isn’t Hollywood. Christianity is an historical faith, grounded in acts and facts: real people, real events, real time, real places. That’s the story the Bible gives us. Take it or leave it. Love it or hate it. Accept it or reject it. But you don’t get to mess around with it, edit it or rearrange it so that it’s more to your liking. It’s not a majority thing. Truth stands on its own.”

 

The Holy Plumb Line – Jeff Mallinson

“When we are made aware of God’s Holy plumb line, we have a tendency to lose our focus, our joy, and our effectiveness within society. Why? Because we are utopians by nature. We want a perfect marriage, a perfect congregation, and perfect America. But when we chase after utopias, we underestimate the Fall and forget our pilgrim status in this life.”

Until He returns,
Logan

Likely Conversations in Heaven

ConvHeaven

[Our scene opens up with a few select saints know from both the Old and New Testaments including, but not limited to, Paul and Jonah. They are observing an American pastor named Chris Chambers as he ‘preaches’ in the ‘pulpit’ of his church, Radiant Life Fellowship* on an average Sunday morning.]

Modern Pastor: God will never force you to do anything. God loves you so much that He would never force His will on you.

Paul: Hey Jonah, are listening to this?

Jonah: Did that guy just-

Paul: Yep.

Jonah: He’s obviously never been caught in the belly of a whale.

Paul: Nor has he been knocked off his horse by the Son of God personally.

[scene cuts back to pastor]

Modern Pastor: You must invite Jesus to live in your heart to be saved!

[scene cuts back to Heaven]

Paul: You’ve got to be kidding me, right!?

Jonah: Wow… just.. wow…. we never told anyone to do that in my day, did you?

Paul: No way! We also told people to repent and believe the Gospel. Maybe one of the guys wasn’t clear about it. Let me check.

*yells behind him down a hallway*

Hey, did you guys never told anyone-

Barnabas, Silas, and John Mark: *in unison from the hallway* NOPE.

Paul: Yeah, that’s what I thought. This guy’s a loon. I don’t know where he got that.

*These names are made up. Feel free to replace them in your mind with any actual pastors and churches that come to mind.

A Mental Buffet // 23 Mar 2017

Mental Buffet
Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul.
7 Reasons Your Church Should have a Front Porch – Patrick Scriven
“Where there is a challenge for society, there is also an opportunity for the church to step in and help neighborhoods to build real community. But we don’t get to contribute without doing the hard work of reorienting our ministry outward.”
Preaching the Ten Commandments – Ray Ortlund
“When I preach through the Ten Commandments, each sermon has four points, because each commandment does four things at once.”
God is Enough – Jonathan Bradley
“God is enough for the thousands of persecuted Christians all over the world that face imprisonment and death as you read this very sentence.Is He enough for you?”

Shakespeare vs. Puritanism – Ryan Reeves

“The devil a puritan that he is, or anything constantly, but a time-pleaser; an affectioned ass that cons state without book and utters it by great swarths; the best persuaded of himself, so crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies, that it is his grounds of faith that all that look on him love him. And on that vice in him will my revenge find notable cause to work.” – Shakespeare

(Just a personal note, I’m fairly okay with anyone who calls Puritans asses. LAWL.)

Against Truth – Chad West

“When I was young, I didn’t understand how a person with a lot of knowledge about the bible could also be a jerk.”

Truth, Love, Discernment: My Thoughts on Philippians 1:1-11

If you love people then you will want them to know the truth because it’s the truth that sets us free according to John 8:32.

looking_back_ii_by_georgiedeeart-d9w0ce5
Image Credit: Georgie Dee

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. – [Philippians 1:1-11 NRSV]

At my church, I am preparing to preach through the book of Philippians on Wednesday nights. Studying for this has been a daunting task filled with prayer, Scripture reading, and a good soak in dead commentators of days gone by.

As I contemplate on this epistle as a whole and particularly on these opening 11 verses, I can’t help but see Paul sitting in his home under house arrest and letting the thought of this congregation’s progress in their corporate walk with God fill him with joy.

What we see here is a pastor resting in the work that Christ has accomplished through His death, burial, and resurrection, is accomplishing through the Holy Spirit that’s dwelling in them, and will accomplish at the last day. I believe all of this is captured in Philippians 1:6, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

In verses 9-11, we see this deep, heartfelt, pastoral prayer. And what is it that Paul is praying for? He’s praying, first of all, for them to have love and discernment. I would like to point out that I believe that real discernment comes from love – both a love for God and a love for people. First of all, if you love God then you will love the truth because you understand that He is the ultimate source of truth, and you understand that God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6, KJV). If you love people then you will want them to know the truth because it’s the truth that sets us free according to John 8:32. I think Penn Jillette, a famous magician and confessed atheist, illustrates this well in the following statement:

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

Basically, I think he’s saying that if you know there to be such a thing as absolute truth in this relativistic culture, and you’re refraining from speaking that truth to someone, then you cannot claim to love them. So, in the context of love and discernment, what this means is that if you love God and love you neighbor, then you will discern the truth and defend the truth from those that would try to distort to their own advantage.

In conclusion, I think we need to take this text to heart and understand that Jesus is working in by the Holy Spirit to cultivate our love for the Father, and out of that love for the Father, we have desire to display, discern, and defend the truth.