God’s Glory & Our Joy

Note: The following is the last article (#31) in a series reflecting on chapters in John Piper’s book Future Grace. More information on the book from Amazon.com is available here. A list of all the articles in this series is available here.

The last chapter in Future Grace Piper entitled “The Debt I Owe to Jonathan Edwards.” For people unfamiliar with Piper and his ministry, Piper considers the theology and writings of the 18th century pastor philospher and theologian Jonathan Edwards to be a vital, if not central, contributor to his understanding of the nature of God and our relationship with Him.

Piper’s landmark book, Desiring God, brought to the forefront some aspects of Edwards’ understanding of the relationship between God and His children. Foremost is that (as Piper puts it) “God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him.” One of Edwards’ most seminal quotes is at the front of the chapter:

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. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and heart.

Although Piper develops this theology and the reasons behind it in more detail elsewhere, this chapter is a short summary of what he calls Christian hedonism— the belief that not only is it not wrong for us to pursue our own happiness and joy, but that it is commanded by God. The critical proviso, however, is that the highest and truest joy we must pursue is the joy of God Himself, which is the reason for which we were created and the way that we most glorify our Lord. Piper states:

It follows from all this that it is impossible that anyone can pursue happiness with too much passion and zeal and intensity. This pursuit is not sin. Sin is pursuing happiness where it cannot be lastingly found (Jeremiah 2:21), or pursuing it in the right direction, but with lukewarm, halfhearted affections (Revelation 3:16). Therefore, the cultivation of spiritual appetite is a great duty for all the saints… The breadth and depth of our pursuit of joy in God is the measure of his worth in our life.

To pursue God & be delighted with God above and beyond all else… what nobler goal, what richer treasure can there be? As Edwards wrote,

True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures.

And yet it is so hard some days, to lift our eyes beyond our present pleasures and pains, to be truly “satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.” Even so, it must be our aim, for only that pursuit can give us the power and the joy and the peace and the fulfillment to live as Christ would have us to live. Only that pursuit will last eternally, for when this heaven and earth is passed away, we will still have Christ to desire & to love and to be satisfied with.

I end these series of reflections as Dr. Piper ends his book:

“Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4) is not a secondary suggestion. It is a radical call to pursue your fullest satisfaction in all that God promises to be for you in Jesus. It is a call to live in the joyful freedom and sacrificial love that comes from faith in future grace. Then will come to pass the purpose of God who chose us in Christ to live “to the praise of His glory.”

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