‘The Expulsive Power of a New Affection’

John Piper: The Life-Changing Insight of Thomas Chalmers Christian Hedonism asserts that the most effective way to kill our own sin is by the power of a superior pleasure. No one sins out of duty. We sin because it is more pleasant or less painful than the way of righteousness. So bondage to sin is broken by a stronger attraction — a more compelling joy. Two hundred years ago, Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847) wrote one of the most famous defenses of this truth. It was called “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” We believe you would profit from knowing the man and this remarkable message. He Created an Era Converted to Christ while already in the pastorate (1810) in Kilmany, Scotland, Chalmers eventually became professor of moral philosophy in the University of St. Andrews, and then professor of theology in the University of Edinburgh. His influence in church and politics in Scotland was so extensive that according to geologist Hugh

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How Jesus Secures Your Highest Joy

  David Mathis: Christian Hedonists aim to make the pursuit of joy in God our life’s work. Which is not at odds with devoting our lives to God’s glory — because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. But Christian Hedonists must, in time, say more about the object of our joy than simply “in God.” Not any so-called “God” will do. Our souls will not be deeply and enduringly happy, and our purpose in this life (and forever) will not be fulfilled, if we do not find our heart’s satisfaction in the true God, the God who is, the God who has revealed himself as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Ephesians 1:3, 17; Colossians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). But how do we know this God’s defining features? What is it about the Christian God that distinguishes him from the false gods to which billions globally bow the knee? Does our God, the true God, have

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God Created Us for “exceeding, inexpressibly great happiness”

Sam Storms: Saturday, October 5th, is the birthday of my theological hero, Jonathan Edwards. He was born in 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut, and his life and words continue to affect me in countless ways. The Edwards home was rather unusual, as Jonathan had 10 sisters and no brothers! But that’s not my focus in this article. I want to briefly reflect on one of the more important truths that occupied his mind. Although what follows is primarily designed for those who, like Edwards, are in pastoral ministry, all of you can benefit greatly from reflecting deeply on what he said. Edwards was just 21 years old when he preached a sermon entitled, “Nothing Upon Earth Can Represent the Glories of Heaven.” It was the first sermon he ever preached based on a text from the book of Revelation (21:18). And it was in this sermon that he articulated one of the most important theological insights he ever had: “God created

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Ten things you should know about Christian Hedonism

Sam Storms: Christian Hedonism often goes misunderstood and thus maligned. Let’s look closely at ten things that bring clarity to what is meant by the label. (1) When it comes to Christian Hedonism, the adjective is everything. Hedonism is itself a godless approach to life that says we should pursue whatever brings us optimum pleasure. Hedonism judges right and wrong on the basis of whether or not an action brings pleasure or pain. But Christian Hedonism is an entirely different thing. The pleasure we seek as Christians is pleasure and satisfaction and delight in God. God is not the means to some other pleasure but the object of it. It is in him, his beauty, power, and presence that we find our deepest delight. (2) Christian Hedonism insists that the most effective way to glorify God is to enjoy God. It was Jonathan Edwards who helped me see that God’s glory and my gladness were not antithetical. He helped me

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God Is the Prize of the Gospel – Explaining a Sixth Sola

John Piper: For five hundred years, Christians in the lineage of the Reformation — that is, Protestant Christians who love the Bible and are bent on seeing the gospel for all that it is — have described the gospel in terms of five solas, which is the Latin word for only or alone — like the English word solo. What I want to do is just put those five together in a gospel definition and add one, which is implicit in the other five. You can decide if it’s eccentric or not: As revealed with final authority in Scripture alone, the gospel is the good news that by faith alone, through grace alone, on the basis of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, sinners are granted to enjoy God alone forever. Enjoying God alone is my own addition, but Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon — all this long line of Reformation lovers of the gospel would hear me say that and respond, Amen. Let me show you how

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Enjoying God Is a Command

Sinclair Ferguson: While shaking hands at the church door, ministers are sometimes greeted with a spontaneous, “I really enjoyed that!”—which is immediately followed by, “Oh! I shouldn’t really say that, should I?” I usually grip tighter, hold the handshake a little longer, and say with a smile, “Doesn’t the catechism’s first question encourage us to do that? If we are to enjoy Him forever, why not begin now?” Of course, we cannot enjoy God apart from glorifying Him. And the Westminster Shorter Catechism wisely goes on to ask, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” But notice that Scripture contains the “rule” for enjoying God as well as glorifying Him. We know it abounds in instructions for glorifying Him, but how does it instruct us to “enjoy him”? Enjoying God is a command, not an optional extra: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). But how? We cannot “rejoice

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Truth Alone Won’t Set You Free

John Piper: The Necessity of Pursuing Joy in God “Why, then,” somebody should ask me, “Why, then, do you insist over and over again in everything you write that we should pursue joy in God? Why don’t you just say, ‘Pursue God’?” And there are three reasons. God’s Own Idea Number one: It isn’t my idea to talk like this. It’s God’s idea. Deuteronomy 28:47–48 is one of the scariest warnings in the Bible. It goes like this: “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, . . . you shall serve your enemies.” God is so bent on having people pursue joy in him that if they try to serve him without that joy, they will serve their enemies. That’s how blood-earnest God gets in this issue of pursuing joy. So it’s not me who made up all the commandments — delight yourself in the Lord; rejoice in the Lord — that’s Bible talk, not

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God’s Delight in Being God: The Foundation of Christian Hedonism

Sam Storms: You are all aware, I’m quite sure, that there is an eternity of difference between saying, “Delight yourself,” and “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4). The former is pagan or secular hedonism. The latter is Christian Hedonism. So let’s unpack this notion that our delight or joy is to be in God. And the question is: Why, and what does that mean? In order to answer that, I want to direct your attention to a footnote. Strange as it may sound, often times the most powerful and transforming of truths can be found in footnotes rather than in the main text of a book. In the 2000 edition of The Pleasures of God, on page 26, footnote 3, John Piper writes this: “The truth that God is infinitely happy in the fellowship of the Trinity is . . . the ground of our ever-increasing happiness, as God grants us the unspeakable privilege of enjoying God with the

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Is God a Megalomaniac?

Sam Storms: I’m currently reading through John Piper’s most recent book (and so should you!), Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017). I’ll have a more complete review of it when I’m done, but I can assure you that it will most definitely be on my list of Top Ten Best Books of 2017. Early on in the book Piper picks up the objection that C. S. Lewis voiced concerning the way in which God constantly demanded praise of himself (especially as we see this in the Psalms). Lewis struggled to understand how God could be loving towards us at the same time he seemed so obsessed with his own praise. In other words, how does God escape the charge of being a megalomaniac? Shouldn’t God “humble” himself by seeking our good above and prior to his own glory? Piper’s answer follows: “If God demeaned his supreme worth in the name of

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Renouncing ‘self’ for the greater blessings of eternal and unending pleasure

Sam Storms: Did Jesus Deny Christian Hedonism when He called on us to Deny Ourselves? When people want to deny Christian Hedonism they often direct our attention to the words of Jesus in Mark 8:34-37. But as you will shortly see, this passage is actually a defense of it. Here is what Jesus said: And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? Our Lord’s appeal that we deny ourselves and take up our cross is actually grounded upon the concern that each person inescapably has for his

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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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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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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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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

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