25 years ago. In 1986 Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist was published. God has used (and is still using) that book and John Piper to reorient and reshape me into his image and likeness.
Back in the fall of 1985 through the spring of 1986 I was taking “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” at Bethlehem Baptist Church. I had taken a semester of college off to work a couple of years prior to that, so I was putting courses together to finish my last semester in my 5th year of college. This was one of those classes.
I still have my notes from the class on March 3, 1986, in which John Piper taught our last course session before the final the following Monday evening. John essentially taught us from the introduction to Desiring God, which he said he was in the process of writing at that time. Here is what I wrote that still awakens me and gives me joy.
- longing to be happy is universal and good, not sinful
- never try to resist the longing to be happy, cultivate and deepen it
- deepest and most enduring [happiness is] in God
- happiness reaches consumation in sharing with others
- to the extent we try to abandon pursuit of pleasure – to that extent we will fail to honor God; pursuit of pleasure is necessary part
- Makes him happy to write (2 Cor. 2:3; 2 Kings 7:9; 1 John 1:4 “full joy”)
- “God is breathtaking” Ecc. 3:11 -one breathtaking reality that satisfies
- Word of God commands us to pursue our joy (Ps. 37:3; Dt. 28:47; Ph. 4:4)
- Affections/Emotions are essential to the Christian life, they are not optional -Jonathan Edwards Religious Affections 1 Pet. 1:8 -true religion consists in affections
- Christian Hedonism combats pride and self-pity -boasting and self-pity are two forms of pride (Mt. 5:11-12) -everything should be done for the joy in it -it is an axe laid to the root of pride
- Chr. Hed. promotes genuine love for people
- Christian Hedonism glorifies God -we don’t help God, God helps us
Growing up as a person convinced that I should live by duty, but being frustrated and guilt-ridden by it, this revolutionized my thinking. I wrote on the side of my notes from that day “wife analogy.” I still know exactly what that means. On pages 72-73 in the chapter on worship (original edition) John writes what I say in the margin is the “best analogy.”
Consider the analogy of a wedding anniversary. Mine is on December 21. Suppose on this day I bring home a dozen long-stemmed red roses for Noel. When she meets me at the door I hold out the roses, and she says, “O Johnny, they’re beautiful, thank you,” and gives me a big hug. Then suppose I hold up my hand and say matter-of-factly, “Don’t mention it; it’s my duty.”
What happens? Is not the exercise of duty a noble thing? Do not we honor those we dutifully serve? Not much. Not if there’s no heart in it. Dutiful roses are a contradiction in terms. If I am not moved by a spontaneous affection for her as a person, the roses do not honor her. In fact they belittle her. They are a thin covering for the fact that she does not have the worth and beauty in my eyes to kindle affection. All I can muster is a calculated expression of marital duty.
God desires our joy, in Him! Hearing these truths from God’s Word, learning about Jonathan Edwards and his thinking, anticipating that a book on this subject would be coming out, excited me. “I need to think this way and believe this way,” I thought, because I didn’t at the time. I wanted to be happy, to be motivated by joy, to cultivate joy, and now I understood that I could do that in God!
So I thank God for John Piper, for the original hardback copy of Desiring God that I still have (it makes book-lovers jealous!), and that opportunity 25 years ago to be that class and hear John Piper’s passion for desiring God.