Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Christian Hedonism is about finding our joy in God through the person and work of Christ. And Pastor John, you rightly warn us against us finding our joy in our joy, or our loving loving God. We’ve talked about this in episodes 326 and 345. So how does this warning fit with the passages of the Psalmist says he finds delight in God’s commandments and law? How is delight in God’s written word a delight in God himself?

Excellent question. Let me put those texts that were mentioned right in front of us. His delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates. That is Psalm one. Psalm 19. The precepts of the Lord are right rejoicing the heart. Psalm 119:16. I will delight in your statutes. And Psalm 119:111. Your testimonies are my heritage forever for they are the joy of my heart. So from those texts I would say clearly it is a godly and good thing to feel delight in God’s Word.

So if I have said anything that contradicts that like: I don’t want people to be rejoicing in God’s Word, then I have misspoken. Regardless of whatever Piper says, that is clear. So let me clarify my view. I have never intended to say joy in anything but God is sin. I have always mean to say: Having your greatest joy, your ultimate joy in anything but God is sin, is idolatry. And having any joy in anything that is not God for ... that fails to be for God’s sake is sin. In other words, you can have joy in something that is not God if it is for God’s sake and have it not be sin.

So maybe the question that would be helpful to ask is: What does that mean? Joy in something created for the sake of the creator. And here is a couple of ... some pointers that I think help us just experience joy in non God for the sake of God biblically. Psalm 43:4. “I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.” Now literally in the Hebrew God my exceeding joy is: “I will got the altar of God, to God, the joy of my joy.” That is really clear in Hebrew. This points to the way that we can have joy in other things because if God is the joy of our joy then the joy we are having in his Word, say, is not idolatrous. If God is the joy of our joy, if at the heart of our joy in something God made is what we are tasting and seeing of God himself.

In the joy that we experience at God’s altar or Christ’s cross or God’s Word there is an experience of God. That is what is implied there — God is the joy of my joy. These joys come from God. They are something of God’s own goodness. And when we taste them we are tasting something of God. He is the sweetness of all our joys. If you taste honey and you enjoy honey that honey was made sweet for you by God. Therefore it must be something of God and if you don’t taste God in that the you are starting to move towards idolatry in your very eating of a peanut butter honey sandwich.

Here is another pointer from Psalm 40 verse 16. May those who love your salivation say continually: Great is the Lord. Well, those who love your salvation don’t just say: Great is your salvation. They say: Great is the Lord. In other words, the joy of our salvation is the joy in what it reveals about the Lord and the joy that it brings in taking us to the Lord. That is what salvation is. So when I say I love the salvation of God I mean I love the God of salvation, because he wrought it and it is taking me to him and he is the ultimate joy that I have.

Here is another pointer. Isaiah 25:1. Oh, Lord, you are my God. I will exalt you. I will praise your name for you have done wonderful things. So God has done wonderful things, all kinds of things. He split the sea. He fed his people with manna. He defeated the enemies. He made the sun stand still in the sky. He sends them judges and prophets and his Word. And when you look at all those wonderful things you feel delight and wonder. They are wonderful things, but we say... what do we say? I praise your name. That is, I praise your essence, because in all those things that you do that I am enjoying because they are beautiful, they are wonderful, I am looking right in them and through them to all that you are for me in them.

One more example from 1 Thessalonians 2:19. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before the Lord Jesus? Is it not you, Thessalonians? So Paul is saying: My joy, my crown, my boasting before the Lord is the people that God has used me to save. He doesn’t mean that the Lord won’t be his boast or his joy or his crown. He said: Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. The Lord will be his joy and his crown. What he is saying is: Before the Lord the Thessalonians will be the ground and evidence of God’s mighty grace in his life using him to bring them out of darkness into light. The point is not to compare the Thessalonians with the Lord, but to compare them with lesser evidences of God’s power in his life. As I look at my life and I think: What will be the token or the evidence of my joy and my crown and my boasting before the Lord? It is going to be you. You are the trophy of the grace that poured through my life as I trusted in the Lord.

So my answer to the question is that Christians to delight in many things that are not God. So, yes. We delight in many things that are not God. We delight in God’s Word. We delight in God’s works. We delight in God’s people. We delight in the gift of food and marriage and friends. But, we do not delight most in these. We delight most in God. Paul said: I count everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Compared to Christ all these things in which we might boast or delight are as nothing. And all our delight ultimately resides in God. He is the joy of all our joys. There is something of God in every holy joy, because God created the joy and he gives us the joy to show something of himself.

Thank you Pastor John. This reminds me of an old episode we recorded, one of the early ones titled: “How Do I Know If I Love the Gifts More Than the Giver?” (Episode 55). You can check that out in the podcast archive most easily by using the free app for the iPhone and iPad. … A podcast listener writes in to confess: I want sin to bother me more. How can I reclaim my hearts when it seems to be so calloused? That’s tomorrow. I’m your host Tony Reinke, thanks for listening to the Ask Pastor John podcast.