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«Desiring God DESIRING GOD JOHN PIPER DESIRING GOD published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc. © 1986, 1996, 2003 by Desiring God Foundation ...»

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Desiring God





published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

© 1986, 1996, 2003 by Desiring God Foundation

International Standard Book Number: 1-59052-119-6

Cover design by David Carlson Design

Cover image by Daryl Benson/Masterfile

Italics in biblical quotes indicate emphasis added.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from:

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Other Scripture quotations are from:

New American Standard Bible ® (NASB) © 1960, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Revised Standard Version Bible (RSV) © 1946, 1952 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America The Holy Bible, King James Version (KJV) Multnomah is a trademark of Multnomah Publishers, Inc., and is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The colophon is a trademark of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

Printed in the United States of America


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission.

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MULTNOMAH PUBLISHERS, INC.•POST OFFICE BOX 1720•SISTERS, OREGON 97759 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Piper, John, 1946Desiring God / revised and expanded by John Piper.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and indexes.

ISBN 1-59052-119-6 (pbk.)

1. God--Worship and love. 2. Desire for God. 3. Happiness--Religious aspects--Christianity.

4. Praise of God. I. Title.

BV4817.P56 2003 248.4--dc19 2002154750 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10—37 36 35 34 33 32 31 To


my father, in whom I have seen the holiness and happiness of God.

Contents What’s New in the 2003 Edition?............................... 8 Preface..

–  –  –

Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained That Evil Be?

Jonathan Edwards on the Divine Decrees How Then Shall We Fight for Joy? An Outline Updated References to Statistics and Literature

–  –  –

T his is a serious book about being happy in God. It’s about happiness because that is what our Creator commands: “Delight yourself in the LORD” (Psalm 37:4). And it is serious because, as Jeremy Taylor said, “God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy.” The heroes of this book are Jesus Christ, who “endured the cross for the joy that was set before him”; and St. Paul, who was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”;

and Jonathan Edwards, who deeply savored the sweet sovereignty of God; and C. S. Lewis, who knew that the Lord “finds our desires not too strong but too weak”; and all the missionaries who have left everything for Christ and in the end said, “I never made a sacrifice.” Seventeen years have passed since Desiring God first appeared. The significance of a truth is judged in part by whether over time it has transforming power in very different circumstances. What about the message of this book? Since its first edition in 1986, my body has passed from a forty-yearold body to a fifty-seven-year-old body. My marriage has advanced from a


seventeen-year-old marriage to a thirty-four-year-old marriage. My pastorate at Bethlehem Baptist Church has persisted from six years to almost twenty-three years. My oldest son has grown from thirteen and single to thirty and married, making me a grandfather twice over. In a few months all of our four sons will be out of the teenage years. In 1986 there were no daughters. Now there is Talitha Ruth, whom we adopted at nine weeks in December of 1995.

In other words, things have changed. But not my commitment to the message of this book. It is my life. That God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him continues to be a spectacular and precious truth in my mind and heart. It has sustained me into my second half-century, and I do not doubt that it will carry me Home.

I have added a chapter called “Suffering: The Sacrifice of Christian Hedonism.” The reason is partly biblical, partly global, and partly autobiographical. Biblically, it is plain that God has appointed suffering for all His children: “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Globally, it is increasingly plain that a bold stand for the uniqueness of Christ crucified, not to mention the finishing of the great commission among hostile peoples, will cost the church suffering and martyrs. The post-9/11 world is marked with terror. If Christian Hedonism is to have any credibility, it must give an account of itself in this world of fear and suffering. Increasingly, I am drawn to the apostle’s experience described in the words “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Autobiographically, the years since the first edition of Desiring God have been the hardest. The body ages and things go wrong. Marriage, we found, passes through deep water as husband and wife pass through midlife. We made it. But we will not diminish the disquietude of those years. We were not ashamed to seek help. God was good to us. Moving through our sixth decade of life and our fourth decade of marriage, the roots are deep, the covenant is solid, the love is sweet. Life is hard and God is good.

The other “marriage” in my life (with Bethlehem Baptist Church) has been P R E FAC E a mingling of heartache and happiness. Can so much devastation and so much delight coexist in one community and one soul? It can. The apostle Paul spoke a deep pastoral reality when he said, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:6). But there is a joy without which pastors cannot profit their people (Hebrews 13:17). Mercifully, God has preserved it for twenty-two years. And the truth of this book has been His means.

During these seventeen years since Desiring God first appeared, I have been testing it and applying its vision in connection with more of life and ministry and God. The more I do so, the more persuaded I become that it will bear all the weight I can put on it.1 The more I reflect and the more I minister and the more I live, the more all-encompassing the vision of God and life in this book becomes.

The older I get, the more I am persuaded that Nehemiah 8:10 is crucial for living and dying well: “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” As we grow older and our bodies weaken, we must learn from the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter (who died in 1691) to redouble our efforts to find strength from spiritual joy, not natural supplies. He prayed, “May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives.” 2 When delighting in God is the work of our lives (which I call Christian Hedonism), there will be an inner strength for ministries of love to the very end.

J. I. Packer described this dynamic in Baxter’s life: “The hope of heaven brought him joy, and joy brought him strength, and so, like John Calvin before him and George Whitefield after him (two verifiable examples) and, it would seem, like the apostle Paul himself…he was astoundingly enabled to labor on, accomplishing more than would ever have seemed possible in a single lifetime.”3

1. If you wish, you can test this for yourself by consulting the books in which I have tried to apply the vision of this book to the nature of God (The Pleasures of God, Multnomah, 2000); the gravity and gladness of preaching (The Supremacy of God in Preaching, Baker, 1990); the power and the price of world evangelization (Let the Nations Be Glad, Baker, 2003); the meaning of marriage (What’s the Difference?

Crossway, 1990); the daily battle against unbelief and sin (The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace, Multnomah, 1995); the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer (A Hunger for God, Crossway, 1997), a hundred practical issues in life and culture (A Godward Life, Books One and Two, Multnomah, 1997, 1999), and the radical call to pastoral ministry (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, Broadman & Holman, 2002).

2. Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1978), 17, emphasis added.

3. J. I. Packer, “Richard Baxter on Heaven, Hope and Holiness,” in Alive to God: Studies in Spirituality, ed.

J. I. Packer and Loren Wilkinson (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1992), 165.


But not only does the pursuit of joy in God give strength to endure; it is the key to breaking the power of sin on our way to heaven. Matthew Henry, another Puritan pastor, put it like this: “The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”4 This is the great business of life—to “put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God. One of the reasons this book is still “working” after seventeen years is that this truth simply does not and will not change. God remains gloriously all-satisfying. The human heart remains a ceaseless factory of desires.

Sin remains powerfully and suicidally appealing. The battle remains: Where will we drink? Where will we feast? Therefore, Desiring God is still a compelling and urgent message: Feast on God.

I never tire of saying and savoring the truth that God’s passion to be glorified and our passion to be satisfied are one experience in the Christ-exalting act of worship—singing in the sanctuary and suffering in the streets. Baxter said it

like this:

[God’s] glorifying himself and the saving of his people are not two decrees with God, but one decree, to glorify his mercy in their salvation, though we may say that one is the end of the other: so I think they should be with us together indeed.5 We get the mercy; He gets the glory. We get the happiness in Him; He gets the honor from us.

If God would be pleased to use this book to raise up one man or woman in this line of serious and happy saints who inspired it, then those of us who have rejoiced in the making of this book would delight all the more in the display of

4. Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, n.d., orig. 1708), 1096.

5. Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, abr. John T. Wilkinson (1650; reprint, London: Epworth, 1962), 31.

–  –  –

God’s grace. It has indeed been a happy work. And my heart overflows to many.

Steve Halliday believed in the book from the beginning. If he hadn’t asked to see the sermons in 1983, there would be no Desiring God.

I remain ever in debt to Daniel Fuller in all I do. It was in his class in 1968 that the seminal discoveries were made. It was from him that I learned how to dig for gold rather than rake for leaves when I take up the Scriptures. He remains a treasured friend and teacher.

Carol Steinbach was willing again to tackle the indexes and give the book her sharp editorial attention. I do not take the constancy of friendships for granted.

The church that I love and serve heard the chapters in sermon form back in

1983. Of course the length has quadrupled since then. And they have not begrudged my labor! The partnership that I enjoy with the elders and staff is priceless. There is a chapter yet to be written. It is called “The Camaraderie of Christian Hedonism.” May the Spirit Himself write it on the tablets of our hearts!

More than anyone else, under God, this new edition is owing to the labor of Justin Taylor, who works side by side with me in Desiring God Ministries.

Justin combed the entire manuscript, making hundreds of suggestions for corrections, updates, additions, subtractions, and clarifications. I could not have done this without his help. And, lest it go unsaid from being obvious, nothing happens without Noël. She supports in so many ways that I lean on her like gravity and oxygen. We should give thanks for these more often.

Finally, a word to my father. The dedicatory words I wrote in 1986 are still true seventeen years later. I look back through forty-five years and see mother at the dinner table, laughing so hard that the tears run down her face. She was a very happy woman. But especially when you came home on Monday. You had been gone two weeks. Or sometimes three or four. She would glow on Monday mornings when you were coming home.

At the dinner table that night (these were the happiest of times in my memory) we would hear about the victories of the gospel. Surely it is more exciting to be the son of an evangelist than to sit with knights and warriors. As I

–  –  –

grew older, I saw more of the wounds. But you spared me most of that until I was mature enough to “count it all joy.” Holy and happy were those Monday meals. Oh, how good it was to have you home!

John Piper Minneapolis, Minnesota

–  –  –

How I Became a Christian Hedonist Y ou might turn the world on its head by changing one word in your

creed. The old tradition says:

–  –  –

And? Like ham and eggs? Sometimes you glorify God and sometimes you enjoy Him? Sometimes He gets glory, sometimes you get joy? And is a very ambiguous word! Just how do these two things relate to each other?

Evidently, the old theologians didn’t think they were talking about two things. They said “chief end,” not “chief ends.” Glorifying God and enjoying Him were one end in their minds, not two. How can that be?

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