Desiring God - Lesson 3

The Pursuit of Joy (Part 1)

The Bible teaches that we should pursue our joy in God. Christ is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

John Piper
Desiring God
Lesson 3
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The Pursuit of Joy (Part 1)

Defining Leadership

6. The Grand Obligation: The Pursuit of Joy


We are thankful for John Piper's willingness to share these lectures with us. Copyright 2014 by Desiring God Ministries. Used with Permission. For more information, please visit www.DesiringGod.org.


Desiring God

Dr. John Piper


The Pursuit of Joy (Part 1)

Lesson Transcript


The following message is by Pastor John Piper. More information from Desiring God is available at W WW dot desiring God dawg. We're going to do a Calvin John Calvin conference in September because this is his 500th birthday this year. And the theme of it is called With Calvin in the Theater of God. I mentioned it only to put that picture in front of you for him. And I think he's right. The world, the universe is the theater of God. There's where the drama is enacted that's all intended to display the glory of God. And God has two books, therefore two scripts. That's the way I've set up some of the lectures in that this is this is the authoritative one to tell us what we know is true. The rest of the world is another book. It's not the authoritative one because it's ambiguous. We but we can read off of it. A lot of things about God on the way here this morning. I don't know if you saw the Sundogs, this incredible thing. There's the sun coming up, this about 35 minutes ago. And then on either side, these golden parentheses. That happens very rarely. I was only seen it twice in my life. And as Nathan commented that the Lord is bracketing the sites. Like in case you didn't notice, there's the sun in between these two, these two parentheses of gold. Awesome. One of the points that I'm going to make later is that we stir up joy in our lives by attending to the witnesses in the world to God's glory, not just the natural world, but the social, political, human, cultural world. So I wrote a blog a few days ago. No, it's it's it's the taste and C article this week called the president the Plane Crash and the Patients of God or something, because frankly, I cannot get over that plane crash.


I mean, it's just taken me I can't believe that this plane going it two or 300 miles an hour at this angle and these geese flying at this angle should find that exact millisecond where one goes into both engines. That's impossible and shut them down totally. And then the plane lands on the water and floats 77 tons of steel, which is belly full of fuel, floating long enough for every person to get out with a scratch on a few legs. I mean, this is God from beginning to end. God is speaking if you have ears to hear. I can take Jane's planes down and I can belly planes up. I can take you out and I can save you, Mr. President. Wake up, America. Repent while there's time. I'm a god of great mercy and great power. And then this morning, let me give you the illustrations of how I think watching the world stirs you up this morning and what nurse news services you use. But one mind clicked up. Just have a I have a thing where the headlines come up and the headlines come up. And I and I was just so moved by this model in Brazil who died yesterday by Novartis, Marianna, Brady And it's just as well that I don't know her because I'm sure she didn't have her clothes on most of the time. She's 20 years old and she's dead. She got sick in December and they amputated her hands and her feet a few days ago. She went to the hospital in January 3rd. She was a runner up for Miss World from Brazil twice. So you're talking gorgeous body, right? And she's dead after her hands were taken off and her feet were taken off because of a bacterial infection, they couldn't get under control at age 20.


Beauty is vain. But the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. How vain it is to live for external beauty. I mean, it's nice, right? It's nice to have it. It's nice to see it. But it's it's not the point. And it will do you no good when you're 20 and you're taking off your hands. And she probably she would when that happened, she probably just said, I'm out of here. Oh, God, I'm not going to live. So you read the news, you watch the news, you look at the Sun Dogs. You just stay alive to this theater of God. And then we put it all through the sea of this book so that you make sure you're interpreting it correctly and you let it have its appointed effect. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the liar. Oh, God. My God. Not a great phrase. I will go to God. My exceeding joy. That's what I want for you so much. I want you to. When I'm dead and gone. Lot of young people here. You're going to live 50 years after. I do think of it 40, 50 years after I'm in heaven. And my great desire would be if I'm allowed to just peek down and see some of you in 30 years standing in front of somebody or talking to your kids and saying. God is my exceeding joy. Father, I pray now as we move into this session, you would awaken our hearts. But I know that there are people here all over the spiritual map. Some probably not even born again, not quickened to spiritual life. So that a sentence like that does anything for them.


So God do saving work and sanctifying work and joy, giving work and sin defeating work. In this room, I pray. In Jesus name, Amen. Okay, We have two units to move through and we'll do them in three sections, I think, or more, depending on how we cut it up. But number six and number seven in your outline is where we are. The grand obligation, the pursuit of joy argument said is biblical. And how then shall we fight for joy? I don't think in the times I've taught this seminar I've ever finished it and oh, how I'd love to finish. But that's a lot you can see on the sheet there. That's a lot of pieces to get through, and they're all so juicy that it's hard for me to pass over them too quickly. So here we are at number six, the grand obligation. So here's here's the idea. We just made the case partly, or at least we've tried to explain Christian hedonism as the truth, that since God is most glorified in us, when we are deeply satisfied in Him, therefore pursuing satisfaction in him is a duty. It should govern all of our lives, because that's the way he's glorified. Now, we have not looked at very much Bible looked at Edwards and Lewis and and my pilgrimage. But now from here on out, it's all Bible with a few quotes sprinkled in. Because the question is, is all this talk about the pursuit of our joy and God being glorified in our joy? Is that really in the Bible? That's all that matters. In the end, my opinions don't matter. My pilgrimage doesn't matter, but God's word matters infinitely. So what we're going to do is look at a text but can't help but start again with another Lewis quote.


The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and take off our cross crosses and water that we may follow Christ in nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so, contains an appeal to desire. Now, I can remember this is this is taken from the weight of glory and other addresses. Should have brought the book along so you could actually see the the very book. It was 1968, the fall first session of Fuller Seminary. I'm madly in love with Noel Henry and engaged and will be married to her on December 21 of that year. But now it's September and I'm in Pasadena and she's near Chicago and she's finishing school so we can get married and not have school behind us in front of us for her. And I was lonely and moody and walk in car and Colorado Avenue. And I walked into Roman's bookstore. And went to a pile of books from these special fables. And this book, The Weight of Glory, I'd never seen. It was lying there. I knew C.S. Lewis. I'd read your Christianity, and that's about all garbage. And I picked up this blue book and opened it to the first page. That's this page right here. My life has never been the same since this one, he says. I couldn't believe it. If there lurks in most modern minds, the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing. And I certainly felt that way. I like, uh. Self-denial is denying the desire that you have. If there lurks the notion that the to earnestly hope for the enjoyment of our desire or good is a good thing.


I submit this notion crept in from can't. Isn't that interesting? We saw him before and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Whoa. You're kidding. You really believe that? Indeed. If we consider the UN blushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. If we are half hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in this room because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily placed. That was gold. That was gold. Amen. That's Christian hedonism. Is it biblical? That's the question. Is it biblical argument number one? The answer is yes. Arguments matter. Remember Dr. Fuller, who was helping me see these things in those days? You just had a great point. He said, Read commentaries and read books, but don't pay any attention to their conclusions. Only assess their arguments. Anybody can draw a conclusion. True. Crazy. If you just read a book for conclusions, if you collect opinions, what are you going to do? Base opinions on counting noses. Arguments is what matters, not conclusions. So I'm giving you arguments here about 15 of them. I forget how many there are. Number one, there are biblical commands to pursue our joy in God. Delight yourself in the Lord. He'll give you the desires of your heart. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice. You righteous ones. Shout for joy. Some 33. Sing for joy to the Lord or your righteous ones Some 67. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.


Psalm 100 Shout joyfully to the Lord All the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come into his presence with joyful singing. Rejoice Always and again I say, Rejoice. These are not suggestions. These are commands. Which is why Christian hedonism is both liberating and devastating. Number two, there is a biblical threat if we will not pursue our joy in God. Deuteronomy 28 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart for the abundance of all things. Therefore, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. I remember reading, I think it was quoted in Lewis, a quote from Jeremy Taylor. God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy. Yeah, I read that, but that's clever. And it was years before I saw this sentence in the Bible as It's not clever, it's biblical. God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy. And he says to a pastor. You're supposed to serve the Lord with gladness if you go moping through your ministry. Oh, it's hard to be a pastor. Oh, there's so much sacrifice in the ministry. Oh, what a burden I carry for all of you people. Eventually, you're all going to be sick. You can be psychologically sick. That's what pastors who feel like that do. They produce sick churches. If you want a church to be healthy, according to Hebrews 1317, you have to be happy in the ministry. And of course, if you're not happy and you try to look happy, then you produce a hypocritical church, which means reality has to happen. If you fish are cut bait, you're out of here or you love God. Argument number three The essence of evil and sin is to pursue satisfaction outside God.


Jeremiah To be appalled. Oh, heavens at this. Be shudder and be very desolate, declares the Lord. For my people have committed two evils. What are these evils? One, They have forsaken me. The fountain of living waters. Two, they are hewing out for themselves. Cisterns, broken systems that can hold no water. Here's a great definition of evil. Somebody says, okay, you Christians, what do you think evil is? I think homosexuality and, you know, abortion and. That's what they think we should say. No, no. Evil is being offered a fountain to drink from and turning from the fountain and putting your face in the dirt and and licking the dirt. That's evil. That was it. My people have committed two great evils. They have forsaken the fountain and are trying to make broken systems hold water and they want scratch in the dirt. Who was the water? Where's the water? Where's the water? That's the world going after everything. But God, it's got to be here somewhere. Happiness has got to be here somewhere. A lot of money. And there's God holding out his hands full of everlasting, satisfying water of life. So market. The definition of evil in the Bible is to forsake the joy God offers and find it elsewhere. That's the definition of evil. All have sinned and lack the glory of God. It's the literal translation of Romans 323 and I take LAC to be a reference back to Romans 123. We have exchanged the glory of God for the glory of the creature. That's the definition of sin to be offered God. Like Adam and Eve were, and to choose independence and self-assertion over the enjoyment of our fathers provision in the garden. That's sin. So don't differentiate in terms of bunch of do's and don'ts.


Define sin in terms of anything you find pleasure in more than God. And most of them are innocent idols. Most sin is not adultery and drunkenness. Stealing. Most sin is delighting in innocent things more than we delight in God and thus making idols out of them. This is why this is so devastating. Argument number five. The affections, which is the old fashioned 18th century word for the emotions are biblically essential to Christian living. So I'm responding here. Now to those who say this Christian hedonism stuff elevates the affections or the emotions to a place where the Bible doesn't take them. The Bible talks in terms of service and duty and sacrifice and self-denial and obedience. And you're now talking about all these emotions which are neither here nor there. They rise. They fall. They don't count. This stuff really counts. Tell another story. Junior Wheaton College in a class on apologetics with Millard Erickson. MILLER Darius was at Wheaton in those days. It's been the fall of 67 probably. And we've read Joseph Fletcher Situation Ethics. Raise your hand if you've ever heard of that book. It's an old book, not a good book, but we had to read it and then argue with it. And what are the arguments? I can remember in the book was love cannot be an emotion, cannot involve the emotions because it's commanded in the Bible and you can't command the emotions. Therefore, love is willpower. You can command the will, but you can't command the emotions. That was the argument. And I remember at the time, since I didn't have a lot of theological, I just I grew up in a Christian home and I absorbed Bibles. It's just so wonderful to absorb a lot of Bible because if you raise a kid to absorb a lot of Bible and he's not a theologian, he still just oozing Bible things will smell wrong even when he can't articulate why they're wrong, which is very good, because that will help your kids avoid a lot of stuff because he'll just he'll go with his nose if he can't articulate with the smell, the smells wrong, what's wrong with his.


There's something wrong in his argument. I'm not buying this argument. And I couldn't quite figure out what's wrong with this argument. Now I know what's wrong with that argument. One of the premises is false. The argument goes like this Love is commanded. Premise one premise that you can't command the emotions. Conclusion. Aristotelian syllogism. Conclusion. Therefore, love is not an emotion with good logic false premise. The second premise is thoughts. Emotions are commanded all over the Bible, right? Oh, of course. I've been reading this Bible for years and years and this man saying You can't command the emotions. Watch. Don't have any covetousness is right at the heart of the of the law. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. What covetousness bad desire is desiring wrong stuff in the wrong way. Don't have it. Stop having that emotion. That's the law. Contentment. Make sure that your characters free from the love of money. Be content with what you have. You anxious. Discontent. Stop it. Oh, what you mean to stop it? This is a feeling. Contentment is a feeling. How can us stop being discontent? You're telling me to do this? Yep. He's telling us to stop it. Command Fervent brotherly love. Since you have, in obedience to the truth, purified your souls for sincere love, the brethren fervently love one another from the heart. He's not just saying exert the willpower of doing good things to people, and we'll call it love. He's saying fervent from the heart. Beat it. So you see him Hope. Why are you in despair on my soul? Why have you become disturbed with any hope in God? A commanding hope from your soul. Prepare your minds for action. Keep sober. Hope fully in the grace that is to be brought to you.


A command to hope. Hope is an emotion. It's not just a conviction. Like I know Jesus has coming and I feel zero hope for it and zero desire for it and zero expectation of it. But it's a knowledge thing. That's not a hope. The devil knows the Lord is coming. He doesn't open in fear. Luke 1205. But I will warn you. Whom to fear? Fear? The one who, after he is killed, has authority to cancel the hell. So you don't fear God? You better. And that's an emotion. Peace. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. To which, indeed, you recall pieces and emotion. So feel it. Zeal is an emotion. Do not lag behind in diligence. Be fervent in spirit. Serve the Lord. Be fervent in spirit. If your spirit is lukewarm, languishing, stir it up. Start being fervent sorrow. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who may be an empathetic person. If you're a callous person and you get around people who weep and you don't feel any empathy with them, start feeling it. Isn't that amazing? Say I'm scared. I wonder, where did Joseph Fletcher read? What did he read? Well, that there are so many theologians who write books without reading the Bible. They really do. You got to be really careful. I have a friend who got an M.D. that's M div. This is terminal degree. Four pastors got an m div at Yale Divinity School and never took a New Testament course. Not not great. I'm going to talk in a great New Testament course. I'm talking any New Testament course. This is 25 years ago. I don't know what they do today, but I heard that and I thought. Yep. Yep. Desire. Newborn babies. Like newborn babies.


Long for the pure milk of the word. So desires committed to tender heartedness be kind to one another. Tender hearted. Okay, that's a sampling to more gratitude. Speak to one another Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing, always giving thanks for all things in the name and our fight or verse for this week. And I think I've learned in the wrong fighting verse. I'm learning be thankful in all circumstances. Is that our final version this week? It is. It starts up. Okay. I'm learning because on my little missionary calendar it starts at be thankful for all things, at any rate. That's the point. Be thankful in all circumstances is a command. Gratitude is a feeling. You know that would you? I hope. Hope none of you saying these things aren't really emotions. Well, wait a minute. When your grandmother, your mother, gives to your child a gift at Christmas that he doesn't like, it's like socks. She would never do that. But let's just say she does socks and the child opens the box and pulls out the socks. At that moment, the child, having learned duty, will say, Thank you, ma'am. But if it's a firetruck, he will feel Thank you. And there's a difference between the words Thank you and gratitude. Gratitude is commanded and it is felt or it's nonexistent. Loneliness also. Okay, enough. So there's argument number three or whatever it was, namely that Christian hedonism in taking the affections as high as they do in saying that they are mandated and they are what glorifies God, we are not elevating them to a place beyond where the Bible takes them. The Bible commands emotions all over the place, which is why, by the way, the all of these are necessary later on.


How in the world do you pursue that? Because you're sitting there like I did so many times, feeling devastated that half of those emotions that I just listed you aren't feeling right now. When you wonder, will that mean I'm not a Christian? I'm not an emotional person. I'm a minnesotan. You're from South Carolina. Got Latin blood or something. Those are real questions. When you when you read the Bible and you're wired a certain way, you can feel devastated. So we'll get there. I'm just making it hard for you right now. Before. An essential element of saving faith is being satisfied with all that God is for us. An essential element of saving faith. So look at Hebrews. Well, let's just go to to John. Pick one text. Keep moving. Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger. And he believes in me will never thirst. You comes to me, will never hunger. And who believes in me will never thirst. Now notice the parallel Coming to Jesus and believing in Jesus are parallel here. I think they mean the same thing. This doesn't mean you have to traverse some geography. This means right now in your chair, you could come to Jesus. That is, your heart moves toward Jesus. So the question would be, In what way? How? What is what is this believing? It is a coming to him for the satisfaction of your hunger. It is the believing in him for the slaking of your thirst. So my definition of faith is a coming to Christ in my heart for satisfaction, rooted in all that He is and all that he does and want to leave out the cross. And I want to leave out His glory.


Just when I when I when I believe believe in Jesus doesn't mean just believe facts. It means I'm moving to come to him and I'm embracing him as my hunger remover, as my thirst satisfy her. I think that's implied in those words. Hunger and thirst, common belief. So I think if you study the nature of saving faith, you will find that it is not mere cognitive. It is effectual in that it rests in Jesus as our Savior and our treasure. The risks. Argument number six This is all arguments that the pursuit of joy as necessary to glorify God is biblical. Number six The meaning of conversion is the God given awakening of delight in the glory of God. So I'm arguing that conversion in the Bible getting started in the Christian life is the awakening of desire for God above other things. So the key passage I'm just going to skip over those and go straight to the key one right there. Matthew 1344 one verse parable The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which a man found covered up. There is joy, he goes, and he sells all he has and buys that field. Now, the nature of parables, many of you know, is that you don't press every detail to correspond to some reality. You look for the thrust that corresponds to reality. So it would be a terrible mistake to say you buy the kingdom. The point of this parable is when King Jesus shows up, he appears to the converting person as so precious that everything else is worth losing to have him. That's the point of the parable, and that's what conversion means. When that happens to you. You're converted. You become a Christian. We've intellectualized becoming a Christian to the point where the devil can do it.


Decisions, decisions, decisions without heart. Without treasure transfer in the emotions. Everybody has a treasure. If you're an unbeliever, you treasure stuff besides Christ. Hundreds of them. When your eyes are open is called new birth, resulting in conversion. When your eyes are open to see Christ as a treasure hidden in a field. All these other things. Wedding ring. Grandfather's clock that your grandmother left you. Home. Family. Jesus said, Unless you hate your mother and father, you cannot be my disciple. Why would he talk like that? Oh, it's terrible. Terrible to say something like that, isn't it? Well, he's trying to get across that if you don't love me more than you love mother or father, if you don't make some moves in life that are going to be interpreted by the world as though you hated your family, then probably you don't know me. You don't love me. Being a Christian really is radical. Christ really is our supreme treasure. And so I think to try to define Christianity without the pursuit of joy in him is contrary to the nature of conversion. This text. Philippians 119 following is probably the most important text for defending the sentence. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. That's the the banner that flies over the Christian hedonism. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Give me a text. Give me a text. Where do you get that thought? So here's. Here's the text. Let's read it. I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus, according to my earnest expectation and hope. So this is what Paul really, really wants and hopes that I will not be put to shame as a negative side, not be put to shame, but with all boldness.


Christ, even now, as always, will be magnified in my body. That's what he. That's his goal in life. Is it yours that Christ will be magnified? That means made to look magnificent. You look magnificent. He looks magnificent because of the way you live and die. That Christ would be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. So there's the goal set up. I want Christ to be magnified. So we're trying to find the sentence. Christ or God is most magnified in us. When what? That's the goal. I want him to be most magnified, most glorified. And Paul says, That's my desire. I want my life, my body, my whole soul in life and in death to make him look magnificent. For. To me. To live is Christ that corresponds with life. Here. Live. And to die and die corresponds with death. Right. So what he's doing in verse 21 is explaining and supporting that statement that he just made about his passion. I want Christ to be magnified in my body, in my life and in my death. And then he explains how it's going to happen. Cause to live is Christ and to die. And then here's the key. Okay. Now just take the the death payer in re I long for Christ to be magnified in my body when I die for me to die. Okay. That makes sense. Paraphrase Christ will be made to look magnificent in my dying when in my dying. He is experienced as not loss of this world, but gain. That's my basis. You come to die. Hospital. Battlefield. Mission field. Lying on the side of the road after car accident. Whatever. You're going to die some day. You may or may not have any chance to think about it ahead of time.


When it happens, maybe so sudden you're gone. Most people have some time to think about it. Few weeks. Years. Minutes at that moment or in that process for. For Paul. He got his head chopped off by Nero, so he had some time, an hour or two. As he's walking through the process, is going out into the place of execution. He has some time to think about this. What? You look good here. I want you to be seen. Is magnificent here. How do you do that? What would make God look magnificent? He had, sir, experiencing him as gain. So if your whole orientation at that moment is I'm losing my wife, I'm losing my kids, I'm losing my staff, I'm losing my health, I'm losing my retirement, I'm losing my fame of God. I'm losing everything. Where, where, where and when. How's Crash? Look? You're just about to meet him. He looks pretty. Not valuable, not magnificent. But if you're satisfied in here, if you. If you look at all the world, there's my wife and there's my kids. And there's the dream for retirement. It's not going to happen. And there's the stuff that could have been written in the sermons that could have been preached. And it's all gone in an hour. And there's Christ. What will the nurses see? What will the doctors see in you? Will they see you saying I count everything as loss for the surpassing value of going home to. Okay game last game. That's the argument. And so are my paraphrases. Christ is most magnified in my body when I when I come to die. Im most satisfied in this game. And that's what's taught in that text right there. You want Christ to look good in your dying experience.


Dying is gain, not loss. Number eight. Love for people is the overflow and expansion of joy in God. Now, this one is so important and so big. I'm inclined to think we should probably take a little break here, because if I start it, then we might not be able to make the tape switch. So come back to this in just a minute. Thank you for listening to this message by John Piper, Pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Feel free to make copies of this message to give to others, but please do not charge for those copies or alter the content in any way without permission. We invite you to visit desiring God online at w WW dot desiring God dot org. There you'll find hundreds of sermons, articles, radio broadcasts and much more all available to you at no charge. Our online store carries all of Pastor John's books, audio and video resources. You can also stay up to date on what's new at Desiring God. Again, our website is w WW dot desiring God dot org. Or call us toll free at 1888346 4700. Our mailing address is desiring God. 2601 East Franklin Avenue. Minneapolis, Minnesota. 55406. Desiring God exists to help you make God your treasure because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.