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Desiring God, 25th Anniversary Reference Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist Hardcover – January 18, 2011
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"Mind-hammering and heart-warming." – Os Guiness
"A must read for every Christian and a feast for the spiritually hungry." – John MacArthur
About the Author
John Piper is an internationally known pastor and author. He serves as pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a graduate of Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary, and the University of Munich, Germany (Doctor of Theology). Winner of three Gold Medallion book awards, he has written over forty books, including Future Grace, A Godward Life, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, and The Pleasures of God. John and his wife, Noel, have five children and an increasing number of grandchildren.
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What does one do with verses such as "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Ps. 34:8a) and "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice" (Phil. 4:4)? Surely, having been commanded these things, we ought to do them. But what do these commands really mean? What is it to "rejoice" in the Lord, to take joy and pleasure in Him? These are the kinds of questions John Piper tackles in this book. And if, as Piper claims, "[t]he chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever" (18), then every Christian ought also to know the answer to these questions. To understand these answers is to glorify God on a whole new level, and to live the Christian life in a different-satisfying-manner.
In his introduction to the book, Piper talks about how he became a Christian hedonist, giving readers the same verses and convictions that led him to his current beliefs. In the first chapter, he sets forth the principle that "[t]he chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever" (31). He shows that "God is absolutely sovereign over the world, that He can therefore do anything He pleases, and that He is therefore not a frustrated God, but a deeply happy God, rejoicing in all His works (Psalm 104:31) when He considers them in relation to redemptive history" (41). And then, because God's very essence demands that God value Himself, He does. God loves Himself to the utmost and seeks to glorify Himself.
Can you see it? Oh, the beauty! If God always acts for His glory's sake, then He will seek to glorify Himself in us. And if God loves us, then He will give us that which is best for us, that which we will enjoy most-that is, Himself. He gives us Himself to enjoy as part of a boundless display of His glory and worth. The gift of God of Himself and our enjoyment of God intersects-better to say that it completely overlaps-with His glory! As Piper states, "In view of God's infinite power and wisdom and beauty, what would His love for a human being involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself!" (47-48). As we enjoy Him and praise Him for giving us this most incredible gift, He is glorified!
There are ten chapters to the revised edition: the first is about the "foundation for Christian Hedonism," the second is on conversion and "the creation of a Christian Hedonist," and the eight chapters that follow discuss worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering. Each of the eight body chapters centers the topic in question around Christian Hedonism, how our pursuit or use of the subject matter will satisfy us and glorify God.
John Piper wants you to know that this book is grounded in, and takes its cues from, the truths of Scripture. This book is replete with quotations from the Word, but also from an incredible array of theologians. He quotes Scripture in abundance. When necessary, he defines the original Greek to clarify the meaning. He also quotes from Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, Hudson Taylor, and so many more. One cannot fault John Piper with having groundless claims. One cannot accuse John Piper of not drawing his beliefs from Scripture. As much as this is a helpful and enlightening work, it is also a scholarly work, with all its ideas properly attributed, ultimately for the exposition of Scripture and the glory of God.
This book has been unbelievably helpful in showing me why and how to center my life on God. Since my conversion, He has never merely been an addition to my life; indeed, my pursuit has been to bring His influence into every sphere of my life. "Desiring God" has been indispensible in that regard. Piper has clearly shown how taking joy in God is necessary, is God-glorifying, and inevitably touches every area of life. God has been exalted and made deeply personal. This book has helped me fight sin by showing me the greater pleasures found in God. This book has given me a renewed hunger for God, a desire for undiminishable joy, all to see Him glorified.
In order to propose his so-called revolutionary new concept of enjoying God, Piper came up with the name "Christian Hedonist" by changing the most popular and most-recited Westminster Shorter Catechism from "man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever" to "man's chief aim is to glorify God by enjoying him forever." Though the idea sounds worthy and uplifting, the phrase "Christian Hedonism" is nowhere found in Scripture.
The word hedonist or hedonism reeks of self-centeredness and self-absorption and goes completely against what Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 16:24: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Piper overlooks the fact that we demonstrate our desire to follow Jesus, by first denying ourselves, not by finding happiness in Him. Piper, in essence, has gotten it backwards. The truth is we find happiness or enjoyment in Him by first knowing we're right with Him. This means that we recognize that first and foremost we're abject sinners, nothing more than "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) in His eyes. In this book, Piper seems to skip this most basic tenet of our salvation.
Piper speaks of our finding pleasure in God by enjoying Him, because this is what ultimately makes God happy. Whereas what really makes God "happy" is by seeking His forgiveness, repenting of our sins, and following His commandments (John 15:10-11). However, it's Piper's kind of writing, preaching and teaching in our post-modern churches today that leads people to believe that God is some big "sugar-daddy" in the sky who'll love you no matter what. No wonder we're happy!
There's no question that Piper is deeply passionate about God and the things of God. This is confirmed throughout his book. However, I found his writing style to be difficult to absorb as he tends to be "long-winded" before getting to the gist of the points he wants to make. This book could easily be edited down to half its 350 pages and not only be more understandable, but more readable as well. Another issue I had with the book is its constant capitalization of the phrase "Christian Hedonist" or "Christian Hedonism." It's like Piper's glorifying the idea of our being self-indulgent by adding the name "Christian" to it.
On page 28 of this book, Piper writes: "If I cannot show that Christian Hedonism comes from the Bible, I do not expect anyone to be interested, let alone persuaded. There are a thousand man-made philosophies of life. If this is another, let it pass."
For this reader Piper did not show that Christian Hedonism comes from the bible. And, in my opinion, is another man-made philosophy promulgated under the guise of Christianity.
Please note that I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.