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He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7) The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart. (Psalm 19:8) Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16) “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:2–3) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
(Romans 10:17) These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31) Does he who supplies the Spirit to you…do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:5) Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4) Sanctify them in the truth. (John 17:17) You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32) Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17) I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:14) Hudson Taylor (Illustrates Psalm 1:2) It was not easy for Mr. Taylor, in his changeful life, to make time for prayer and Bible study, but he knew that it was vital. Well do the writers remember traveling with him month after month in northern China, by cart and wheelbarrow with the poorest of inns at night.
1. Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (Chicago: Moody, n.d., original 1932), 235.
2. Autobiography of George Müller, comp. Fred Bergen (London: J. Nisbet, 1906), 152–4.
Often with only one large room for coolies and travelers alike, they would screen off a corner for their father and another for themselves, with curtains of some sort; and then, after sleep at last had brought a measure of quiet, they would hear a match struck and see the flicker of candlelight which told that Mr. Taylor, however weary, was pouring over the little Bible in two volumes always at hand. From two to four A.M. was the time he usually gave to prayer; the time he could be most sure of being undisturbed to wait upon God.1
The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.2
7. PRAY EARNESTLY AND CONTINUALLY FOR
OPEN HEART-EYES AND AN INCLINATION FOR GODUntil now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:24) Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14) Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12) Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) [I pray] that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
(Ephesians 1:18) Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalm 119:18) Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! (Psalm 119:36)
Martyn Lloyd-Jones Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?
Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talkMartyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1965), 20.
ing. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”3
9. SPEND TIME WITH GOD-SATURATED PEOPLE
WHO HELP YOU SEE GOD AND FIGHT THE FIGHTAnd Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. (1 Samuel 23:16) Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12–13) Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)
Deep in unfathomable mines of never failing skill,
4. Jonathan Edwards, Memoirs, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1995, orig. 1834), xxxviii.
He treasures up his bright designs and works his sovereign will.
You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds you so much dread Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
11. GET THE REST, EXERCISE, AND PROPER DIET
THAT YOUR BODY WAS DESIGNED BY GOD TO HAVEI once struggled with the truth that “patience” is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) because I knew from experience that it is also a “fruit” of a good night’s rest. In other words, I was crabbier on little rest and less so on good rest. What brought light to this perplexity is that one of the ways the Spirit produces His fruit in our lives is by humbling us enough to believe that we are not God and that God can run the world without our staying up too late and getting up too early. There is a very close connection between what we eat and how we exercise and sleep, on the one hand, and our spiritual experience on the other hand. The command to “glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20) is relevant to more than sexual abstinence.
5. Ibid., xxxv.
6. Ibid., xxi.
7. Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1954), 158.
8. John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville, Tenn.:
Broadman & Holman, 2002), 89–90.
9. It would be impossible for me to list all the biographies that have shaped my life and thought. You can pursue the fruit of my biographical reading by consulting the Swans Are Not Silent series, published by Crossway, in which I give biographical sketches of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Brainerd, Cowper, Bunyan, Simeon, Wilberforce, and Newton. I commend the literature cited in these books. For some contemporary reading lists of theology, see www.desiringGOD.org (found in the Online Library, Theological Q&A, Reading and Bible Study) as well as the reading lists for laymen and pastors at www.churchreform.org. Helpful books on missions have been compiled by Doug Nichols at www.actionintl.org/topbooks.html. Online booksellers that distribute God-centered books include www.cvbbs.org and www.discerningreader.org.
Elijah’s Emotional Need for Sleep and Food:
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. (1 Kings 19:1–8)
Jonathan Edwards on the Use of Food for God’s Sake:
Sereno Dwight tells us that Jonathan Edwards “carefully observed the effects of the different sorts of food, and selected those which best suited his constitution, and rendered him most fit for mental labor.”4 Thus he abstained from every quantity and kind of food that made him sick or sleepy. Edwards had set this pattern when he was twenty-one years old when he wrote in his diary, “By a sparingness in diet, and eating as much as may be what is light and easy of digestion, I shall doubtless be able to think more clearly, and shall gain time; 1. By lengthening out my life; 2. Shall need less time for digestion, after meals; 3. Shall be able to study more closely, without injury to my health; 4. Shall need less
10. J. Campbell White, 1909, secretary of the Laymen’s Missionary Movement.
time for sleep; 5. Shall more seldom be troubled with the head-ache.”5 Hence he was “resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.”6
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26) And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28–29)
He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs our of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is the next best.… The firs and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops—these are the 1 J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1979, orig. 1883), xxix.
best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary. For lack of opportunity, or inclination, these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a selfimmolated victim.7
13. READ GREAT BOOKS ABOUT GOD AND
BIOGRAPHIES OF GREAT SAINTSHebrews 11 is a divine mandate to read Christian biography. The unmistakable implication of the chapter is that if we hear about the faith of our forefathers (and mothers), we will “lay aside every weight and sin” and “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). If we asked the author, “How shall we stir one another up to love and good works?” (10:24) his answer would be: “Through encouragement from the living (10:25) and the dead (11:1–40).” Christian biography is the means by which the “body life” of the church cuts across the centuries.8 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.
Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
(Hebrews 13:7) For the good of your soul, I encourage you to read great books about God and about His people. Books by the Puritans are among the richest ever written, and the church stands in the debt of Banner of Truth and Soli Deo Gloria Publishers for reprinting so many of them.9
14. DO THE HARD AND LOVING THING FOR
THE SAKE OF OTHERS—WITNESS AND MERCYIf you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as
2. See under “Hedonism,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan, 1972 reprint; first published 1967), 3:433.
3. C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1963), 90.
the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
J. Campbell White:
Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives.
Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within his followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world he came to redeem.
Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of his eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards.10
4. V. Eller, The Simple Life (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1973), 12.
6. Ibid., 109.
7. Ibid., 121–2.
Why Call It Christian Hedonism?
I am aware that calling this philosophy of life “Christian Hedonism” runs the risk of ignoring Bishop Ryle’s counsel against “the use of uncouth and newfangled terms and phrases in teaching sanctification.”1 Nevertheless, I stand by the term for at least six reasons.
1. My old Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary of 1961, which has been within arm’s reach since I was in the tenth grade, defines hedonism as “a living for pleasure.” Forty years later, the authoritative American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition has as its first definition: “pursuit of or devotion to pleasure.” That is precisely what I mean by it. If the chief end of man is to enjoy God forever, human life should be a “living for pleasure.”
2. The article on hedonism in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy shows that the term does not refer to a single precise philosophy. It is a general term to cover a wide variety of teachings that have elevated pleasure very high. My use of the term falls inside the tolerance of this general usage.
I would be happy with the following definition as a starting point for my own usage of the word: Hedonism is “a theory according to which a person is motivated to produce one state of affairs in preference to another if, and only if,
8. Quoted in C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald: An Anthology (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1946), 19.
WHY CALL IT CHRISTIAN HEDONISM?
he thinks it will be more pleasant, or less unpleasant for himself.”2 I would only want to add “forever.” For there are deeds God calls us to do that in the short run are painful.
3. Other people, smarter and older than I am, have felt themselves similarly driven to use the term hedonism in reference to the Christian way of life.
For example, C. S. Lewis counsels his friend “Malcolm” to be aware of committing idolatry in his enjoyment of nature. To be sure, he must enjoy the “sunlight in a wood.” But these spontaneous pleasures are “patches of Godlight” and one must let one’s mind “run back up the sunbeam to the sun.” Then Lewis
You notice that I am drawing no distinction between the sensuous and aesthetic pleasures. But why should I? The line is almost impossible to draw and what use would it be if one succeeded in drawing it? If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline.3 We will find that it is indeed an arduous discipline!
In The Simple Life, Vernard Eller delights himself in some of the great parables of Søren Kierkegaard. One of his favorites is the parable of the lighted carriage and starlit night. We could also call it the crisis of Christian Hedonism.
It goes like this:
When the prosperous man on a dark but starlit night drives comfortably in his carriage and has the lanterns lighted, aye, then he is safe, he fears no difficulty, he carries his light with him, and it is not dark close around him. But precisely because he has the lanterns lighted, and has a strong light close to him, precisely for this reason, he cannot see the stars. For his lights obscure the stars, which the poor peasant, driving without lights, can see gloriously in the dark but starry night. So those The publisher and author would love to hear your comments deceived ones live in the this book. Please contact either, occupied with the
about temporal existence: us at:
www.multnomah.net/johnpiper necessities of life, they are too busy to avail themselves of the view, or in their prosperity and good days they have, as it were, lanterns lighted, SCRIPTURE INDEX
word hedista has no special spiritual connotations that would make it fitting for Paul’s use here. He simply chooses an ordinary pleasure word from this culture and shocks us with his use of it in relation to weakness and love.
7. Finally, by attaching the adjective Christian to the word hedonism, I signal loud and clear that this is no ordinary hedonism. For me, the word
Christian carries this implication:
Every claim to truth that flies under the banner of Christian Hedonism must be solidly rooted in the Christian Scriptures, the Bible. And the Bible teaches that man’s chief end is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.
SCRIPTURE INDEX 373
This compact 96-page book, drawn from Piper’s popular Desiring God, emphasizes the importance of strengthening our relationship with our Creator by enjoying Him and His creation. The author’s now classic ideas are presented here in an accessible size that will allow readers to absorb and apply them quickly—leading them to a dramatically different and joyful experience of their faith. Filled with biblical reasons for living a life of celebration, this life-changing read helps people discover not only why but how to delight more fully in the Lord.
Beginning where Desiring God left off—“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”—this expanded rerelease of another classic by John Piper further explores a life-changing essential—“We will be most satisfied in God when we know why God himself is most satisfied in God.” Fully understanding the joy of God will draw the reader into an encounter with His overflowing, self-replenishing, all-encompassing grace—the source of living water that all Christians desire to drink. The Pleasures of God will again put God at the center of Creation and leave the reader very satisfied in Him.
P UT YO UR FAITHI NTO AC TIO N
In Future Grace, author John Piper helps readers discover the key to overcoming sin and living a life that honors God. Many men and women attempt to walk upright out of gratitude for what Christ did in the past, but Piper encourages believers to look ahead to the grace God provides for us on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis—putting faith into action by laying hold of God’s promises for the challenges that we face.
ISBN 1-59052-191-9 ISBN 1-57673-337-8
THE SOUL TASTES TRUTH
LIKE THE LIPS TASTE FOOD.
A Godward Life is the first of three devotional volumes by John Piper, each featuring 120 vignettes that focus on the radical difference it makes when we choose to live with God at the center of all that we do. Scripture-soaked and touching on the issues that most affect our lives today, A Godward Life is a passionate, moving, and articulate call for all believers to live their lives in conscious and glad submission to the sovereignty and glory of God.
This follow-up to the popular A Godward Life is made up of 120 daily meditations that are solid meat and sweet milk from God’s Word. They will brace the mind with truth and nourish the heart with God’s sovereign grace, spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. Readers will discover not only why, but how to more fully delight in the Lord in John Piper’s life-changing devotional.