Welcome back to the podcast, to episode number 1700, as we approach the end of our ninth year. Amazing. We talk a lot about joy in God. And when John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” he put the motto in the plural — “us,” “we.” And this is intentional. Christian Hedonism is not a me-and-God spiritual nirvana. To be sure, we experience amazing things alone with God. But divine joy is always meant to expand, and to expand by being shared. Back in the fall of 2019, Pastor John traveled to Holland to share his life, his passions, and what drives him theologically. And the result was a fascinating testimonial, part of which I want to share with you today. Here’s Pastor John in Holland in 2019 explaining how we can increase our joy in God, and why we need each other to do it.
God is most glorified, most praised, in you when you are most satisfied in him. So praising is the consummation of joy. It’s the completion of joy. But joy is the essence of praising.
Prizing and Praising
The way I like to say it in English, because it sounds so good, is this: prizing is the essence of praising. You prize something. You value it. You are satisfied with it, and that is the heart and the essence of praising. Otherwise, praising is hypocritical. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). “They don’t prize me; they’re just singing songs on Sunday morning because that’s what you’re supposed to do.” So that was another huge part.
And Jonathan Edwards is the one who gave me the key to that because he said that God glorifies himself not only by communicating himself to our minds, but by communicating himself to our hearts, and is glorified by our rejoicing in him. And I thought, I’ve never heard anybody say that. So all this happened in these three years — these thoughts, these discoveries were happening. And I’ve just never been the same since those three years.
Lay Yourself Down
So let me end with just one more illustration. So the last argument this morning was that God is most glorified in you when you’re most satisfied in him. So the glory of God depends upon your pursuing pleasure in God. It’s the essence of it. The argument just before that was that you can’t love people if you don’t pursue your joy in God, because loving people is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.
So let me end like this. That was the last piece that I couldn’t figure out. I saw that God is glorified when I’m satisfied in him — like my wife hearing from me, “I want to be with you, Noël.” That honors her. “I want to be with you, God. You make me glad more than anybody.” God is honored when I say that and feel that.
“Do you want more joy? Then die for others. Live for others.”
I could not, for the life of me, figure out how that vertical satisfaction made me a loving person horizontally. I knew that there were other religions that had pictures of people sitting with their arms folded and their legs crossed under a tree, experiencing a kind of karma, while just letting the world go to hell — “Who cares? I’m happy. I’m happy in God. I don’t care if people are dying or suffering.” I knew that couldn’t be. That’s not the Bible. That cannot be. But what’s the link?
In Acts 20, Paul was talking to the elders of Ephesus. And at the end of this talk, he said, “Remember . . .” There it is: remember. He didn’t say “forget.” Some people say, “You shouldn’t have this motive — to be blessed.” And I say, “If that were true, he’d say forget.”
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Is he really saying that it is more blessed, more happy, more satisfying, more contenting, more joyful to give my life away — to die for others, suffer for others, sacrifice for others? Yes. Do you want more joy? Then die for others. Live for others. That’s what it says. It is more blessed, more happy, more content, if you will give yourself away. Don’t just fold your arms and sit under a tree and say, “Me and you God, we’re happy. I don’t care about other people.” You won’t be happy — not for long. That’s not joy in God.
So I discovered that joy in God is a peculiar kind of thing. It not only honors God, but it also is a kind of pressure inside of me. It wants to be out. It wants to draw you in. The way it works is that joy in God gets bigger if I can include you in it, so that your joy in God becomes part of my joy in God.
“Joy in God gets bigger if I can include you in it, so that your joy in God becomes part of my joy in God.”
So, that’s why I came to Holland. I want to be happier. And it would make me very happy — I mean, it is making me happy; I’m very happy right now just to talk to you about these things. But if I heard that God took these few words and drew you into more joy in him that caused you to lay down your life for the people in your country who don’t know him — if I heard that about a half dozen of you out of the five thousand that have been here — my joy would be greater. That’s what John said: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). And you’re not my children, but kind of. I mean, some of you are older than I am, but not many.
So I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again on earth, but if God preserves me, if he holds me fast, and he works in you to bring you into a deeper, sweeter enjoyment of himself for the sake of the world and his glory, I will not have come to Holland in vain.