The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.” Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.”
- Deuteronomy 20:5-8
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
- Psalm 16:9-11
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who put their hope in his unfailing love.
- Psalm 147:10-11
“During my first quarter in seminary I was introduced to the argument for Christian Hedonism and one of its great exponents, Blaise Pascal. He wrote,
‘All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves?’
“This statement so fit with my own deep longings and all that I had ever seen in others that I accepted it and have never found any reason to doubt it. What struck me especially here was that Pascal was not making any moral judgment about this fact. As far as he was concerned, seeking one’s own happiness is not a sin; it is a simple given in human nature. It is a law of the human heart as gravity is a law of nature.”
- John Piper, Desiring God
First, the Scriptures. The passage from Deuteronomy is kind of the exclusion from the military draft. It is about how people could be excused for various reasons so that the soldier does not die and someone else enjoys the fruit of the soldier’s efforts.
The second and third Scriptures are opposite ends of the relationship that we have with God. Psalm 16 tells of how we enjoy God and Psalm 147 talks of God enjoying those who fear Him.
I have recently read a couple of books that I became so enthralled that I barely made any notes while going through them. Desiring God is one of those two books. You may see the other quoted tomorrow or the next day. The problem that I have had in the past is that I am always reading books, so if I do not take notes, I tend to write about the books where I have notes. I hope I do not miss out on these treasures.
The one drawback that I have to the John Piper book is that he writes about being a “Christian Hedonist.” I love the concept, but there is such a negative connotation to Hedonism that I find the term cringe-worthy at best. Otherwise, he starts the book by suggesting a change to the very first Catechism answer. I know, heresy! Right? But the change is subtle. The question is something about: What is the chief end of man? The answer is: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Piper suggests: To glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.
The point that he makes is that even in suffering, we can enjoy God and we should strive to do so. If we can have enjoyment even in the worst of times, that would become a strong attraction for others to see how wonderful being a Christian is.
It seems that the way that Rev. Piper put this book together is that he had a ton of devotions and he organized them by topic. To me, it seems that way. It may be, however, that I simply became touched by each little story. Thus, I found the entire book (354 pages) to be quotable from beginning to end. And maybe that is partly why he followed the teaching of Blaise Pascal as quoted above in his quote. When we enjoy God forever, our worship will be that much richer.
The negative is that people think of “Hedonism” as worshipping pleasure for pleasure’s sake. John Piper is not saying that. We are to worship God in such anticipation of future Hope, but with the promise that God grants us strength to enjoy today, regardless of the circumstances.
How does that work? Well, Rev. Piper spends another 300+ pages explaining it.
I have written about it and thought and prayed about it a lot lately. If we do not find enjoyment in seeking out Jesus and becoming more like Jesus, what are we doing calling ourselves Christians? We will spend time with Jesus for eternity. Can we say that we are dedicated to someone that we do not even know? No. If we desire God with every fiber in our bodies, we are going to enjoy our search for Jesus, and we will enjoy the ride while Jesus helps us become more like Him.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.