Joy in God Changes Everything (Psalm 37:[1-2] 3-4)
[Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! 2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.] 3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. —Psalm 37: [1-2] 3-4
Psalm 37:4 commands us to delight in God. The foundation to this command is that God is the most desirable being in the universe. Real, lasting joy is found in him alone. And when his creatures realize that, when we find our greatest delight in him, he is maximally glorified. His worth shines the brightest in the lives of his people when they declare in word and deed that he is better than everything else.
This is what John Piper calls “Christian Hedonism,” which he summarizes in the phrase: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” It is a truth that changes everything.
Joy in God Changes Everything: 11 Illustrations
In 2012 sermon, Piper highlights 11 illustrations of how this joy looks:
1. … If you want to make Christ look great in your dying, there is no big performance or achievement or heroic sacrifice. There is simply a child-like laying yourself into the arms of the one who makes the loss of everything gain.
2. Christian Hedonism changes how we think about conversion. Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Becoming a Christian not only means believing truth. It means finding a treasure. So evangelism becomes not only persuasion about truth but pointing people to a Treasure—that is more valuable than everything they have.
The Fight of Faith
3. Christian Hedonism changes “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). John says in John 1:12, “To all who received Jesus, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Believing Jesus is receiving him. As what? As the infinitely valuable Treasure that he is. Faith is seeing and savoring this Treasure. And so the fight of faith is a fight for joy in Jesus. A fight to see and savor Jesus is more precious than anything in the world. Because this savoring shows him to be supremely valuable.
4. Christian Hedonism changes how we combat evil in our lives. Jeremiah 2:13 gives the Christian Hedonist definition of evil: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Evil is the suicidal preference for the empty wells of the world over the living waters of God’s fellowship. We fight evil by the pursuit of the fullest satisfaction in the river of God’s delights (Psalm 36:8).
What Hell Is
5. Christian Hedonism changes how we think of hell. Since the way to be saved and go to heaven is to embrace Jesus as your source of greatest joy, hell is a place of suffering, a place of eternal unhappiness, prepared for people who refuse to be happy in the triune God.
6. Christian Hedonism changes the way we think about self-denial. Oh, it is really there in the teachings of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). But now the meaning becomes,
Deny yourself the wealth of the world so you can have the wealth of being with Christ. Deny yourself the fame of the world to have the joy of God’s approval. Deny yourself the security and safety of the world to have the solid, secure fellowship of Jesus. Deny yourself the short, unsatisfying pleasures of the world so that you can have fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at God’s right hand. Which means there is no such thing as ultimate self-denial, because to live is Christ and to die is gain.
7. Christian Hedonism changes the way we think about handling our money and the act of giving. Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The motive to be a generous person, is that it expresses and expands our joy in God. And the pursuit of deepest joy is the pursuit of giving not getting.
8. Christian Hedonism changes the way we do corporate worship. Corporate worship is the collective act of glorifying God. But God is glorified in that service when the people are satisfied in him. Therefore, the worship leaders—musicians and preachers—see their task primarily as breaking open a fountain of living water and spreading a feast of rich food. The task of the worshippers is to drink and eat and say a satisfied “Ahhh.” Because God is most glorified in those worshippers when they are most satisfied in him.
Disability and Weakness
9. Christian Hedonism changes the way we experience disability and weakness. Stunningly, paradoxically, Jesus says to the weak and thorn-pierced Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” To which Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly [yes this is the voice of the thorn-pierced Christian Hedonist] of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
10. Christian Hedonism changes the meaning of love. Paul describes the love of the Macedonians like this: “In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (2 Corinthians 8:2). In verse 8, Paul calls this “love.” “Abundant joy” in “severe affliction” and “extreme poverty” overflowed in loving generosity. Still poor. Still afflicted. But so full of joy it overflowed in love. So Christian Hedonism defines love as the overflow (or the expansion) of joy in God that meets the needs of others.
11. Christian Hedonism changes the meaning of ministry. What is the ministry aim of the great apostle Paul? 2 Corinthians 1:24, “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.” All ministry should be one way or the other a working with others for their joy.
That’s why God created you. That’s why Christ died for you. That’s why we serve you as your pastors. And that is why I have preached this message. We are workers with you for your joy in God. Because God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.
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