«Desiring God DESIRING GOD JOHN PIPER DESIRING GOD published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc. © 1986, 1996, 2003 by Desiring God Foundation ...»
Read these sentences in reverse order and notice the logic. First, being born of God gives a power that conquers the world. This is given as the ground or basis (“For”) for the statement that the commandments of God are not burdensome. So being born of God gives a power that conquers our worldly aversion to the will of God. Now His commandments are not “burdensome,” but are the desire and delight of our heart. This is the love of God: not just that we do His commandments, but also that they are not burdensome.
Then in verse 2 the evidence of the genuineness of our love for the children of God is said to be the love of God. What does this teach us about our love for the children of God? Since love for God is doing His will gladly rather than with a sense of burden, and since love for God is the measure of the genuineness of our love for the children of God, therefore our love for the children of God must also be done gladly rather than begrudgingly. Christian Hedonism stands squarely in the service of love, for it presses us on to glad obedience.
Jesus was big on giving to the needy. How did He motivate giving? He said, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail” (Luke 12:33). In other words, stop craving two-bit possessions on earth when you can have endless treasures in heaven by giving alms! (Remember Hudson Taylor: “Giving up is inevitably receiving.”) Or, a bit differently, but basically the same, He said, “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3–4). In other words, stop being motivated by the praises of men, and let the thought of God’s reward move you to love.
Yes, it is real love when our giving is motivated by the heavenly treasure. It is not exploitation, because the loving almsgiver aims for His alms to rescue the beggar for that same reward. A Christian Hedonist is always aware that his own enjoyment of the Father’s reward will be even greater when shared with the ones He has drawn into the heavenly fellowship.
My point is this: If Jesus thought it wise to motivate acts of love with promises of reward (Matthew 6:4) and treasures in heaven (Luke 12:33), it
accords with His teaching to say that Christian Hedonism promotes genuine love for people.
Consider another illustration. Hebrews 13:17 gives the following counsel to
every local church:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Now, if it is not profitable for pastors to do their oversight sadly instead of joyfully, then a pastor who does not seek to do his work with joy does not care for his flock. Not to pursue our joy in ministry is not to pursue the profit of our people. This is why Paul admonished those who do acts of mercy to do them “with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:8), and why God loves a “cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Begrudging service does not qualify as genuine love.
The pursuit of joy through mercy is what makes love real. And that is one of the reasons I have written this book.
REASON SEVEN: CHRISTIAN HEDONISM GLORIFIES GODWe have come back to where we began. And this is as it should be: “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36).
Does Christian Hedonism put man’s pleasure above God’s glory? No. It puts man’s pleasure in God’s glory. Our quest is not merely joy. It is joy in God.
And there is no way for a creature to consciously manifest the infinite worth and beauty of God without delighting in Him. It is better to say that we pursue our joy in God than to simply say that we pursue God. For one can pursue God in
ways that do not honor Him:
Our solemn assemblies may be a stench in God’s nose (Amos 5:21–24). It is possible to pursue God without glorifying God. If we want our quest to honor God, we must pursue Him for the joy in fellowship with Him.
Consider the Sabbath as an illustration of this. The Lord rebukes His people for seeking “their own” pleasure on His holy day. But what does He mean? He means they are delighting in their business and not in the beauty of their God. He does not rebuke their hedonism. He rebukes the weakness of it.
They have settled for secular interests and thus honor them above the Lord.
If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13–14) Notice that calling the Sabbath a delight is parallel to calling the holy day of the Lord honorable. This simply means you honor what you delight in. Or you glorify what you enjoy.
The enjoyment and the glorification of God are one. His eternal purpose and our eternal pleasure unite. To magnify His name and multiply your joy is
the reason I have written this book, for:
I n chapter 1, I said that God’s ultimate goal in all He does it to preserve and display His glory. I inferred from this that He is uppermost in His own affections. He prizes and delights in His own glory above all things. This appendix presents the biblical evidence for this statement. First, a comment about terminology.
The term glory of God in the Bible generally refers to the visible splendor or moral beauty of God’s manifold perfections. It is an attempt to put into words what cannot be contained in words—what God is like in His unveiled magnificence and excellence.
Another term that can signify much the same thing is the name of God.
When Scripture speaks of doing something “for God’s name’s sake,” it means virtually the same as doing it “for His glory.” The “name” of God is not merely His label, but a reference to His character. The term glory simply makes more explicit that the character of God is indeed magnificent and excellent. This is implicit in the term name when it refers to God.
What follows is an overview of some of the high points of redemptive history where Scripture makes clear the purpose of God. The aim is to discover the unifying goal of God in all that He does.
T H E G OA L O F G O D I N R E D E M P T I V E H I S TO RY
OLD TESTAMENTCreation Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26–27) The biblical story of creation reaches its climax with the creation of man (male and female) in God’s image. Four things should be noted about this climactic act: (1) Man is created as the last of all God’s works and thus is the highest creature. (2) Only man is said to be in the image of God. (3) Only now that man is on the scene in the image of God does the writer describe the work of creation as being very good (1:31). (4) Man is given dominion and commanded to subdue and fill the earth (1:28).
What is man’s purpose here? According to the text, creation exists for man.
But since God made man like Himself, man’s dominion over the world and his filling the world is a display—an imaging forth—of God. God’s aim, therefore, was that man would so act that he would mirror forth God, who has ultimate dominion. Man is given the exalted status of image-bearer not so he would become arrogant and autonomous (as he tried to do in the Fall), but so he would reflect the glory of his Maker, whose image he bears. God’s purpose in creation, therefore, was to fill the earth with His own glory. This is made clear, for example, in Numbers 14:21, where the Lord says, “All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,” and in Isaiah 43:7, where the Lord refers to His people as those “whom I created for my glory.” The Tower of Babel Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar
and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:1–4) The point of this story is to show how fallen man thought, and how he still thinks. By contrast, it also shows God’s purpose for man. The key phrase is “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed.” (v. 4). The instinct of selfpreservation in fallen man seeks fulfillment not by trusting God, and thereby exalting His name, but by employing his own human genius, thereby making a name for himself.
This was contrary to God’s purpose for man, and so God frustrated the effort—and He has been frustrating it more or less ever since. God’s purpose was that He be given credit for man’s greatness and that man depend on Him.
This will be even more evident when we look at what God did next in redemptive history.
The Call of Abram Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1–2) At this major turning point in God’s dealings with mankind, He calls Abram and begins His dealings with the people of Israel. There is a clear contrast between what God says here and what happened at the Tower of Babel.
God says that He will make Abram’s name great, in explicit contrast to Genesis 11:4, where man wanted to make his own name great.
The key difference is this: When man undertakes to make his own name great, he takes credit for his own accomplishments and does not give glory to
T H E G OA L O F G O D I N R E D E M P T I V E H I S TO RYGod. But when God undertakes to make a person great, the only proper response is trust and gratitude on the part of man, which gives all glory back to God, where it belongs. Abram proved himself to be very different from the builders of the Tower of Babel because (as we see in Genesis 15:6) Abram trusted God.
In Romans 4:20–21, the apostle Paul shows us the link between Abram’s faith and God’s glory: “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” So, in contrast to the builders of the Tower of Babel, the children of Abram were chosen by God to be a people
who trust Him and thus give Him glory. This is what God says in Isaiah 49:3:
“You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” The Exodus After the period of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), which is recorded in the rest of the book of Genesis, the people of Israel spent several hundred years expanding in the land of Egypt, and then became slaves there. They cried to God for mercy. In response, God undertook to deliver them through the hand of Moses and then to bring them through the wilderness to the promised land of Canaan. God’s purpose in this deliverance from Egypt is recorded several
places besides in Exodus—for example, in Ezekiel and the Psalms:
Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob, making myself known to them in the land of Egypt; I swore to them, saying, I am the LORD your God.
On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.
Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt.” (Ezekiel 20:5–9) Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the Sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. (Psalm 106:6–8) It is clear that the deliverance from Egypt is not due to the worth of the Israelites, but to the worth of God’s name. He acted “for the sake of his name.” This is also made clear in the story of the Exodus itself in Exodus 14.