About the Author
JOHN PIPER is pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. He is the author of more than forty books, including Future Grace, A Godward Life, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, Don’t Waste Your Life, and The Pleasures of God. John and his wife, Noel, have five children and an increasing number of grandchildren.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Introduction to This Study Guide
Living a life of hedonism, in most people’s minds, is the furthest thing from Christian obedience. The idea of seeking maximum pleasure in everything you do sounds like the epitome of selfishness and the absence of all self-control. For many, to live like a hedonist means to become an enemy of love and to set yourself in outright opposition to God.
But could this aversion to hedonism be an overreaction? In other words, could it be that we have allowed the concept of pursuing pleasure to be commandeered by the world and thereby lose any healthy sense of the idea for ourselves? After all, was not pleasure God’s intention for man from the very beginning, when he filled Eden with “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9) and gave Adam and Eve sexuality without shame (see Genesis 2:25)?
It is true. God did make us to enjoy pleasure, and not only in the garden. Throughout the Bible, God is calling his people to pursue pleasure and to pursue it in him. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1). “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
The tragedy of sin is that it sidetracks and shortchanges us of the real joy of knowing God. Satan offers stolen goods, which are indeed sweet, but the span is short, and the cost far outweighs the benefits. God, on the other hand, extends far sweeter and infinitely longer-lasting pleasures: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). True hedonism, Christian hedonism, sees God as the source of the best delights and is unashamed to forsake sin and follow hard after him.
The aim of this study guide and its accompanying DVD is to help you see that God-hungry hedonism is biblically acceptable. On top of that, it argues that such hedonism is not merely one more option for how to follow God but must instead be the fuel and fervor that motivates and empowers all of your obedience. Finally, this study seeks to highlight several of the ways laid out in Scripture for cultivating and increasing such desire and delight in God.
This study guide is designed to be used in a twelve-session* guided group study that focuses on the Desiring God DVD set. After an introductory lesson, each subsequent lesson examines one thirty-minute session from the Desiring God DVD set. You the learner are encouraged to prepare for the viewing of each session by reading and reflecting upon Scripture, by considering key quotations, and by asking yourself penetrating questions. Your preparatory work for Lessons 2–11 is marked with the heading “Before You Watch the DVD, Study and Prepare.”
The workload is conveniently divided into five daily, manageable assignments. There is also a section suggesting further study. This work is to be completed individually before the group convenes to view the DVD and discuss the material.
Throughout this study guide, paragraphs printed in a shaded box (like this one) are excerpts from a book written by John Piper or excerpts taken from the Desiring God Web site (www.desiringgod.org). They are included to supplement the study questions and to summarize key or provocative points.
The second section in Lessons 2–11, entitled “Further Up and Further In,” is designed for the learner who wants to explore in greater detail the concepts and ideas introduced in the lesson. This section is not required, but it will deepen your understanding of the material. This section requires that you read online sermons or articles from the Desiring God Web site (www.desiringgod.org) and answer relevant questions. These sermons can be found by performing a title search at the Desiring God Web site.
The third section in Lessons 2–11, entitled “While You Watch the DVD, Take Notes,” is to be completed as the DVD is playing. This section includes fill-in-the-blanks and leaves space for note taking. You are encouraged to engage with the DVD by filling in the appropriate blanks and writing down other notes that will aid you during the group discussion.
The fourth section in each normal lesson is “After You Watch the DVD, Discuss What You’ve Learned.” Three discussion questions are provided to guide and focus the conversation. You may record, in the spaces provided, notes that will help you contribute to the conversation. Or you may use this space to record things from the discussion that you want to remember.
The fifth and final section is an application section: “After You Discuss, Make Application.” You will be challenged to record a takeaway point and to engage in a certain activity that is a fitting response to the content presented in the lesson.
Group leaders will want to peruse the Leader’s Guide, which is included at the conclusion of the study guide.
Life transformation will only occur by the grace of God. Therefore, we highly encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer throughout the learning process. Pray that God would open your eyes to see wonderful things in his Word. Pray that he would grant you the insight and concentration you need in order to get the most from this resource. Pray that God would cause you to not merely understand the truth, but also to rejoice in it. And pray that the discussion in your group would be mutually encouraging and edifying. We’ve included objectives at the beginning of each lesson. These objectives won’t be realized without the gracious work of God through prayer.
*While this study guide is ideally suited for a twelve-session study, it is possible to complete it in six sessions. For instructions on how to use this study guide for a six-session group study, turn to Appendix A: “Six-Session Intensive Option.”
Lesson 1: Introduction to Desiring God
It is our prayer that after you have finished this lesson…
• You will have a better sense of how you and others in your group approach the Christian life.
• Your thoughts on the subject will be stirred, and questions will come to mind.
• You will grow more eager to hear what the Bible says about the essence of following Christ.
1. What is your name?
2. Tell the group something about yourself that they probably don’t already know.
3. What are you hoping to learn from this study?
A Preview of Desiring God
1. In one sentence write your personal mission statement that answers the question, “What is my overarching purpose in life?” Share your statement with the group and explain how you arrived at it.
2. List what you think are the top five virtues in the Christian life and rate them from one to five, with one being the most important. Share your list and ratings with the group and explain your reasoning.