The Essential Warfare for Holiness

One of the great points the Puritans saw in Scripture is the connection between happiness and holiness. For them, to be perfectly holy would be to be perfectly happy. Pastor John, how would you articulate this connection between happiness and holiness? John Piper: My approach will be slightly different, because the more I think about Christian Hedonism, the more careful I am in phrasing this connection. Happiness is part of holiness, so that if you tried to describe what it means to be a holy person and left out happiness in God, you couldn’t do it. There is no such thing as holiness minus happiness in God. Happiness in God is the essence of holiness. God’s holiness is God’s being supremely valuable. That is his holiness. God infinitely delights in his infinite delightfulness because otherwise he would be a liar. He would be unrighteous. And so his holiness is being infinitely delightful and delighting infinitely in his infinite delightfulness. Our holiness

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What Is Christian Hedonism?

John Piper: Over the years the name that I have given to my understanding of the massive role joy plays not only in the Christian life, but in all of creation and God’s purposes in it — is Christian Hedonism. And the shortest description of Christian Hedonism is God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. My pathway into this understanding over the last thirty years or so is mainly affected by Jonathan Edwards, C. S. Lewis, and the apostle Paul, but it does reach back to my father. My father was probably the happiest man I have ever known, and yet he was filled and consumed with the glory of God. So there was this both-and in my father’s life that had to have a resolution or explanation some day. Abundant joy and total commitment to the glory of God had to go together in some way. Small Desires for Big Things After my

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One Anthem

  Tony Reinke: This may be my favourite quote from the pen of Hannah More (1745–1833), the poet, reformer, and abolitionist, as published in The Works of Hannah More (New York; Harper & Bros., 1846), 1:434: What a triumph for the humble Christian to be assured, that ‘the high and lofty One which inhabiteth eternity,’ condescends at the same time to dwell in the heart of the contrite — in his heart! To know that God is the God of his life, to know that he is even invited to take the Lord for his God. To close with God’s offers, to accept his invitations, to receive God as his portion, must surely be more pleasing to our heavenly Father, than separating our happiness from his glory. To disconnect our interests from his goodness, is at once to detract from his perfections, and to obscure the brightness of our own hopes. The declarations of inspired writers are confirmed by the

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God Wants Us To Want

  Darryl Dash: I used to think that God was happy with our grudging obedience. Do the right thing, grit your teeth, and everything is good with God. I’ve been increasingly learning that God doesn’t want us to do the right thing so much as he wants us to want to do the right thing. Big difference. Two examples: Peter writes to elders in churches that are experiencing some suffering. “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,” he writes, “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2). There’s a world of difference between elders who serve because they have to, and elders who serve because they want to. God, Peter says, desires the latter. God wants elders who want to serve him, even under the pressure of suffering. Paul writes to the Corinthians to ask for money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He doesn’t tell them to dig deep until

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Christian Hedonism

  Sam Storms: It should come as no surprise that among the ten theological trademarks of John Piper’s ministry we find an emphasis on Christian Hedonism. As we continue to focus attention on his book, Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks from a Lifetime of Preaching (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2014), this controversial subject is next in line. Perhaps more than anything else John Piper is known for the declaration that “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.” If this statement is true, there is no inconsistency between your greatest gladness and God’s greatest glorification. In fact, God’s glory “shines in your happiness, when your happiness is in him” (42). People often push back against Christian Hedonism because the idea that God seeks his own glory above all else strikes them as egotistical and selfish. But as Piper points out, “since God is the source of greatest happiness, and since he is the greatest treasure in the

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Worship Like a Hedonist

  David Mathis: Let me encourage you to take a very hedonistic approach to worship this weekend, and to every corporate worship gathering. A hedonist is someone who thinks of pleasure as the highest good and tries, in everything, to maximize pleasure. We Christians don’t believe that human pleasure in itself is the highest good, but we should believe that finding our pleasure in God is essential in our participating in the highest good — the glory of God. As we love to celebrate here at Desiring God, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Since the glory of God is the highest good, and the way in which we glorify him most is by being satisfied in him — enjoying him or maximizing our pleasure in him — then the most important approach for us to take together in our weekly worship gatherings is to seek him hedonistically. To aim together at maximizing

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The highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel

“When I say that God is the Gospel I mean that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gifts would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment. The saving love of God is God’s commitment to do everything necessary to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying, namely himself. Since we are sinners and have no right and no desire to be enthralled with God, therefore God’s love enacted a plan of redemption to provide that right and that desire. The supreme demonstration of God’s love was the sending of his Son to die for our sins and to rise again so that sinners might have the right to approach God and might have the pleasure of his presence forever.” — John Piper God is the Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 13-14 (via: Of First Importance)

The key to the Christian life comes not from trying harder but from enjoying more

Sam Storms: I have a simple but profound philosophy when it comes to the Christian life. When it is fully understood it can be revolutionary. By that I mean it can take a self-absorbed, idolatrous rebel and empower him to pursue a life that truly honors God. It can take a hopelessly depressed, self-loathing woman and restore meaning and value and joy to her lowly life. I’ve said this before, so I doubt if it will strike you as novel or unique. But here it is again: The key to the Christian life comes not from trying harder but from enjoying more. Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, let me explain. I’m not saying you can experience success in Christian living without trying harder. I’m not at all suggesting that the Christian life isn’t hard work. It’s a war, a daily conflict, a moment-by-moment challenge that stretches us often beyond our limits. What I am saying is that pleasure

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Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection

Sinclair Ferguson: Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was one of the most remarkable men of his time—a mathematician, evangelical theologian, economist, ecclesiastical, political, and social reformer all in one.  His most famous sermon was published under the unlikely title: “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” In it he expounded an insight of permanent importance for Christian living: you cannot destroy love for the world merely by showing its emptiness. Even if we could do so, that would lead only to despair. The first world–centered love of our hearts can be expelled only by a new love and affection—for God and from God. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot dwell together in the same heart. But the love of the world can be driven out only by the love of the Father. Hence Chalmers’ sermon title. True Christian living, holy and right living, requires a new affection for the Father as its dynamic. Such new affection

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How knowledge feeds our delight in God

Jennifer Wilkin: A few mornings ago, my son queued up Handel’s Messiah on his iPod and began playing it through the stereo. It was a day of cancelled school, so I sat, coffee in hand, with all four kids – some of us working, some of us reading the paper, all of us periodically humming or singing the parts we loved best – for the full two hours and 47 minutes of the recording. Hard to believe, since two years ago I couldn’t get them to suffer through a single track. What had changed? How had they grown to take pleasure in something they once found boring and pointless? The answer is one that is common to all humans, according to Paul Bloom, a Yale professor with a PhD in Cognitive Psychology. Dr. Bloom’s area of specialty is in pleasure research – how we as humans develop the ability to derive pleasure from people, experiences and things. He has discovered through his research

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God is Happy and Sovereign

John Piper: Can you imagine what it would be like if the God who ruled the world were not happy? What if God were given to grumbling and pouting and depression, like some Jack-and-the-beanstalk giant in the sky? What if God were frustrated and despondent and gloomy and dismal and discontented and dejected? Could we join David and say, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)? I don’t think so. We would all relate to God like little children who have a frustrated, gloomy, dismal, discontented father. They can’t enjoy him. They can only try not to bother him, or maybe try to work for him to earn some little favor. Therefore if God is not a happy God, Christian Hedonism has no foundation. For the aim of the Christian Hedonist is to

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When the Christian Life Becomes Impossible

Jonathan Parnell: “Christian Hedonism is a liberating and devastating doctrine,” John Piper writes. It teaches that the value of God shines more brightly in the soul that finds deepest satisfaction in him. Therefore it is liberating because it endorses our inborn desire for joy. And it is devastating because it reveals that no one desires God with the passion he demands. Paradoxically, many people experience both of these truths. That certainly is my own experience. So begins his book When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. I’ve hardly read anything that resonates with my soul the way this book does. The command to enjoy God — as right and central as it is biblically — is beyond our ability to perform. Piper explains what that discovery is like: “The Christian life became impossible. That is, it became supernatural.” We simply can’t flip a switch to make our hearts love God the way he deserves. Our only hope of

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Godly Sorrow and Delight in God

From Puritan Richard Baxter, Practical Works (London, 1830), 2:420-21: Penitent sorrow is only a purge to cast out those corruptions which hinder you from relishing your spiritual delights. Use it therefore as physic [medicine], only when there is need; and not for itself, but only to this end; and turn it not into your ordinary food. Delight in God is the health of your souls. … So take up no sorrow against your delight in God, or instead of it, but for it, and so much as promoteth it. (HT: Tony Reinke)    

The desire for God himself

J. Gresham Machen: Many men … make shipwreck of their faith. They think of God only as one who can direct the course of nature for their benefit; they value Him only for the things that He can give. We are subject to many pressing needs, and we are too much inclined to value God, not for His own sake, but only because He can satisfy those needs. There is the need of food and clothing, for ourselves and for our loved ones, and we value God because He can answer the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” There is the need of companionship; we shrink from loneliness; we would be surrounded by those who love us and those whom we can love. And we value God as one who can satisfy that need by giving us family and friends. There is the need of inspiring labor; we would be delivered from an aimless life; we desire opportunities for noble

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What does it mean to ‘glorify’ God?

How do you explain “glorify” to a small child (anyone really!)? Biblical concepts like this pose a particular problem for parents, and author Sally Lloyd-Jones provides us with some help in her wonderful book Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. One story from her book is titled “Glorify!” GLORIFY! God tells us to glorify him. “Glorify” means “to make a big deal of.” When someone makes a big deal of you, it fills up your heart with joy. But why does God need us to make a big deal of him? Why does he need us to get joy? He doesn’t. In the beginning God the Father and Jesus, his Son, together with the Holy Spirit, were already there — a loving family, glorifying each other in this wonderful Dance of Joy. No. God didn’t create us so he could get joy — he already had it. He created us so he could share it. He knows it’s the thing your heart

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Joy Comes to the Rescue

Jonathan Parnell: Your heart matters. It really, really matters. The heart, after all, is the “noble faculty of the soul,” as John Flavel explains in his 1668 publication now titled, Keeping the Heart. Most generally, the heart refers to the inner man, and most importantly, a person’s everlasting state depends upon its condition. Writing in a style more practical than sliced bread, Flavel exhorts Christians to give their hearts upmost attention. Be diligent in heart-work, he says, which eventually translates into two things: 1) preserve the soul from sin; and 2) maintain sweet communion with God (18). Said another way, repent and believe; or mortify and vivify; or put off and put on. This work is “one great business of a Christian’s life.” The Hour of Temptation After stating his case and laying a strong foundation, Flavel rolls up his sleeves to describe specific seasons in life that require our upmost care in this keeping labour. The ninth “season” is the

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The Saddest and Happiest Reality in the Universe

It is the paradox of paradoxes. The cross of Christ is both the most horrific happening in the history of the world, and the most beautiful. The universe’s saddest moment and happiest turn came together one afternoon at Golgotha on a single tree. Even now, those of us with the ears to hear, and eyes to see from God-given new birth, experience at the cross a kind of sadness that is not sad. And all the more, one day when freed from sinning and its ubiquitous effects, will we find our greatest treasure in the great sadness that is not sad. In John Piper’s sermon “Why Did God Create the World?”, he concludes with four important soul-application questions related to the glory of God’s grace and the cross as the universe’s saddest and happiest reality. Here’s the challenging four-minute clip:   From Desiring God blog.  

Look Away from Self to Jesus

Octavius Winslow: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”      Jeremiah 2:13 GOD speaks of it as involving two evils-the evil of forsaking Him, and the evil of substituting a false object of happiness for Him. Dear reader, the true painfulness of this subject consists not in the sorrow which your heart may have felt in seeing your cisterns broken. Ah no! the true agony should be, that you have, in your wanderings and creature idolatry, sinned, deeply sinned, against the Lord your God. This, and not your loss, ought to lay you low before Him. This, and not your broken scheme of earthly happiness, ought to fill you with the bitterness of sorrow, and clothe you with the drapery of woe.  Oh! to have turned your back upon such a God, upon such a Father, upon such

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The Heart of Discipleship

By Jonathan Parnell: Discipleship is about values. This could not be clearer in the Gospels. Jesus’ call is for a double action: leave and follow. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” he first said to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19. And “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Then to James and John. And “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Whether nets or family, the call to follow Jesus is the call to walk away from something else. It is the call to this, not that. Here, not there. The disciples knew this. They knew they were forsaking one thing for another. And they knew pleasure was at the root. That’s why Peter asked what he did in Matthew 19:27. To be sure, he was still putting the pieces together, but he tipped his hand here. He was waiting for the pay off. Jesus had just taught on riches, which I imagine seemed out of the

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The Danger of Being Earnest about Being Earnest

John Piper: Unbroken seriousness of a melodramatic or somber kind will inevitably communicate a sickness of soul to the great mass of people. This is partly because life as God created it is not like that. There are, for example, little babies in the world who are not the least impressed with or in need of our passion and zeal and earnest looks. They are cooing and smiling and calling for their daddies to get down and play with them. The daddy who cannot do this will not understand the true seriousness of sin, because he is not capable of enjoying what God has preserved from its ravages. He is really a sick man and unfit to lead others to health. He is, in the end, earnest about being earnest, not earnest about being joyful. The real battle in life is to be as happy in God as we can be, and that takes a very special kind of earnestness,

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