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

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

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

read more Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection

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

read more How knowledge feeds our delight in God

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

read more God is Happy and Sovereign

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

read more When the Christian Life Becomes Impossible

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

read more The desire for God himself

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

read more What does it mean to ‘glorify’ God?

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

read more Joy Comes to the Rescue

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

read more Look Away from Self to Jesus

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

read more The Heart of Discipleship

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,

read more The Danger of Being Earnest about Being Earnest

Enjoying Jesus….Enjoying Life (in that order!)

I love this from Justin Childers: By God’s grace, I’m learning to enjoy more things by being satisfied in Jesus. The combination of Mark 8-9, Together for the Gospel Conference, and J.D. Greer’s new book, Gospel, have conspired to teach me that, “Learning to be satisfied in Jesus will free you to enjoy everything else.” This is the irony of the Christian life. You can’t enjoy things and people by depending on them for satisfaction. The only way to enjoy “everything else” is by being satisfied in Jesus. Jesus said, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” When we are satisfied with all that Jesus is for us, we can begin to enjoy all the good things we have because of Jesus.

The true feast

Richard Baxter, in A Christian Directory (Ligonier, 1990), page 140, lists seven benefits of delighting ourselves in God.  Updating the language a little: 1.  Delight in God will prove that you know him and love him and that you are prepared for his kingdom, for all who truly delight in him shall enjoy him. 2.  Prosperity, which is merely the small addition of earthly things, will not easily corrupt you or transport you. 3.  Adversity, that is, the withholding of earthly delights, will not much grieve you or easily deject you. 4.  You will receive more profit from a sermon or good book or conversation you delight in, than other people, who don’t delight in them, will receive from many such opportunities. 5.  All your service will be sweet to yourself and acceptable to God; if you delight in him, he certainly delights in you (Psalm 149:4; 147:11; 1 Chronicles 29:17). 6.  You will have a continual feast with you, to sweeten all the

read more The true feast

God has twisted together his glory and our good

Wonderful description of Christian hedonism by Thomas Watson: “We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has twisted together, his glory and our good. We glorify him by promoting our own salvation. It is a glory to God to have multitudes of converts; his design of free grace takes effect, and God has the glory of his mercy; so that, while we are endeavoring our salvation, we are honoring God. What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, “while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory!” Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, “You will honor and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away”? So, for God to say, “Go to

read more God has twisted together his glory and our good

Christian Hedonist Calvinism

  John Piper asks: What would the doctrines of grace sound like if every limb in that tree were coursing with the sap of Augustinian delight. (that is, Christian Hedonism)? Total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to God’s beauty and deadness to the deepest joy. Unconditional election means that the completeness of our joy in Jesus was planned for us before we ever existed as the overflow of God’s joy in the fellowship of the Trinity. Limited atonement is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of the covenant. Irresistible grace is the commitment and power of God’s love to make sure we don’t hold on to suicidal pleasures, and to set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights. Perseverance of the saints is the almighty work of God not to let us fall into the final bondage of inferior pleasures, but to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance

read more Christian Hedonist Calvinism

Pleasure Is the Measure of Your Treasure

From John Bloom: No one puts it as bluntly as Blaise Pascal in his Pensées: All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves. There you are. Warrior, pacifist, suicide, sluggard, workaholic; if you’re a human, you’re a hedonist. You can try to deny it, but you can’t change it. If you want to try your hand at stoicism, forget the Bible. It has little for you. Scripture does not support the idea that our motives are more pure the less we are pursuing our own joy. Nope. In fact, according to the Bible, unless we are pursuing our happiness we cannot

read more Pleasure Is the Measure of Your Treasure

What preaching the gospel to yourself means

From Erik Raymond: There is a lot of (necessary) talk these days about preaching the gospel to yourself. This is truly a great need for every Christian. We all found ourselves slouching back to the self-promoting, self-worshiping default position of our hearts. That is, we forget the gospel. But let’s be very clear about what it means to forget. We are not simply talking about forgetting facts or Bible verses. It is not like we somehow can’t remember the definition of substitutionary atonement or that Jesus came to save sinners. No, no, it is much bigger than this. The Issue is Our Satisfied Delight When we talk about forgetting the gospel we are talking about forgetting to see the glory of Christ in the gospel. That is, we forget to see the infinite value of Jesus as the redeemer. In this we see our infinite sinfulness, hopelessness, idolatry, and separation from God. The only thing we have to do with

read more What preaching the gospel to yourself means