Thursday, May 5, 2011

John Piper, dinosaur annoyer: est. 1986

photo: Lucas Madar

John Piper has been annoying dinosaurs since 1986.

As I continue to reflect on the Desiring God 2011 regional conference, it sticks out to me that Piper is still defending his book 25 years later.

I was probably still mastering the art of using toilets in 1986 and reveling in the prospects of wearing "big-boy pants", so I don't really know what the climate surrounding the book's initial launch was.  It seems, however, that he caught a lot of flack for using the phrase "Christian hedonism."

The controversy makes sense.  For centuries, people have been trying to marry following Jesus and pleasure seeking.  These days we call them "prosperity" teachers, but the struggle dates to the origins of Christianity.  A rich young ruler balked at Jesus' command that he sell his possessions and give away the proceeds in order to enter heaven.  Paul warned not to even speak of some of the shameful things others do in secret.

Piper's "Christian hedonism", however, extrapolates Psalm 37:4 to its natural end: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

If this Psalm is true, then the whole point of our existence is to do that which would bring us unending amounts of joy.

A lazy reading of this texts yields that God wants to grant us the desires of our heart, but this could not be further from the truth.

Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that: "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick."  If God were truly a vengeful God, He would just give us what we want.

In order for God to remain a loving God and still give us the desires of our hearts, our hearts must be completely broken from our twisted desires and reformed to match God's character.  Then, God can give us what we want, and it would actually be good for us and pleasing to us.

So the premise of Piper's book/conference/ministry actually boils down to: "Give up everything you want, truly love who God is - which will change everything that you want, and then God will give you everything that you want.  By the way, this might mean wanting to serve God so well that it leads you to a painful and humiliating death, and you will thoroughly enjoy it."  Suddenly, this Jesus brand of hedonism sounds quite dangerous.

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."

Piper said, "God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him."

Both of them sound like, "Hey, want to buy a meteor?  It will kill you, but it will be totally worth it."

What impressed me most about the conference was the idea that if I let God help me desire Him, following Him to the ends of the earth will be the fulfillment of my deepest desires.  That takes a lot of pressure off of me to perform, and it sounds quite freeing.

It also sits down all those martyr-syndrome Christians who believe that serving God well means constantly suffering.  Many of these people are also Jesus Jukers.

While following Jesus means giving up my claim over autonomy and consequently being subject to humbling and difficult personal change in my life, it comforts me to know that I will never find a greater joy, high, relief, or satisfaction than in following Jesus.

Thanks, JP.  Keep on annoying the dinosaurs.

5 comments:

  1. "You've created nothing, that gives me more pleasure than You. And You won't give me something, that gives me more pleasure than You." These are lyrics to one of my favorite Caedmon's Call songs and of course I can't remember the name but I have always loved the idea of those lyrics...and have often prayed for that to be the truth of my life, but in order to be completely transparent, there are some days when I wake up, consider my life, and think, "What in the world have I gotten myself into?" On those days I find that my mindset is usually set upon the "limitations" of Christianity - what God doesn't want me to do and I pout as any self-respecting 26 year old would do.
    I love this post. Articulate, a good amount of pithiness; I wonder if this is how coffee lovers feel after the first cup of the day?

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  2. Love this post. Psalm 37:4 has been one of my life verses, one of the things which always call me back to Him.

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  3. Thanks, friends.

    Haley, I think the song is called "You Created" (by Caedmon's Call).

    Also, from what I hear, coffee lovers also experience other feelings/movements after the first cup of the day. :)

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  4. Dude this one made my day. It made my mind work and really consider my walk. I have been teaching Gia that she can ask God for anything and he will answer yes or no. This changes the game. On a funny note, when I told her about administration.g God for anything she says, "maybe God will change your heart and you'll say yes toetting me have ten pieces of candy at one time"...not gonna happen.

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  5. Just tell her that you would only give her everything she wants if you didn't love her. :)

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