This blog post was first written on the 19th of September 2014. I had been reflecting on Piper’s words in Desiring God and the implications of Christian hedonism. What follows details my thoughts on that matter, in finding our supreme and ultimate joy in Christ.
In my incredibly long post on the solae of Protestantism, I made the point of ending it with some words by John Piper.
God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him.
To fully understand the extent and meaning of this, we need to understand a certain philosophical term called hedonism. The word hedonism, should you know what it means, would naturally be throwing up warning bells.
Hedonism itself is the thought that the pursuit of pleasure is the highest good and most proper aim of human life. It is defined as the pursuit of pleasure or sensual self-indulgence. Hedonism is very much a worldly philosophy and his been around for a few millennia.
We can still the warning bells, because of concern here is not worldly philosophical hedonism but this concept of Christian hedonism. This concept is in fact one of the many things unpacked by John Piper in his book “Desiring God”, all about the joy, delight and pleasure of we Christians being found wholly and ultimately in God. A claim such as the above is phenomenal in what it could mean for us in our walk with our Creator. So, allow me to explain further what Christian hedonism is, and why it is good and proper to be mindful of it.
Christian hedonism can be defined like this; our greatest pleasure can be found in the pursuit of God! Unlike normal hedonism, the proper aim of Christian hedonism is not the pursuit of our joy, pleasure or happiness, but the proper aim of Christian hedonism is first and foremost the pursuit of God – and only then will we find our greatest pleasure, joy and treasure. Our pleasure, as hedonism would suppose, is not our highest good. It is in pursuing our highest good, God, that we will ultimately find our pleasure.
How does this all tie in with “God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him“? The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines “the chief end of man” is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. John Piper says that a more correct way of putting it would be “the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever”. When your ultimate pleasure and joy is found in the pursuit of God, you will begin to glorify God all the more! If our greatest joy is to be found in God alone, and this enjoyment of God causes us in all facets of our life to shine His glory all the brighter.
Should we aim for joy then? Should our pursuit of God be purposed by our desire to enjoy Him?
As long as we don’t make a counterfeit god out of pleasure itself, then this is an amazing concept. If in fact, God is going to be most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, then we should actively be seeking joy in God in our pursuit of Him, as the ultimate source of all pleasure, and thus glorify God in all of it.
Of course, it is always necessary to examine some bible verses and see what the Word has to say on the topic.
“Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart”.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
~ Psalm 16:11
Here we have two verses from the Psalms – one, seemingly, a command: Delight yourself in the LORD. The second tells us in the presence of God there is fullness of joy and at His right hand pleasures forevermore. If there is fullness of joy in the presence of God, doesn’t it make sense to pursue Him and His presence?
Jonathan Edwards, an 18th century theologian, said this;
God glorifies Himself toward the creatures . . . in two ways:
1. By appearing to . . . their understanding.
2. In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the manifestations which He makes of Himself. . . . God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. . . . He that testifies his idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.
When we delight ourselves in the glory of God and in His manifestations of Himself to us, we are glorifying God much more highly then when we simply see and take note of His glory. This means that the pursuit of pleasure in God Himself and in His glory will ultimately bring satisfaction in Him and will thus ensure that God is glorified all the more.
This is an incredibly important distinction to make; we are not making a god out of pleasure, but we are making God the height of all pleasure.
God, the highest good and the most proper aim for all pleasure, joy and satisfaction in our lives. He whose presence there is fullness of joy, He at whose right hand there are pleasure forevermore.