We have some interesting questions this week. We begin with a question here from a listener named J.T. He asks, “Pastor John, do you ever plan to add a chapter to the book Desiring God called ‘The Camaraderie of Christian Hedonism’?”
It is a fair question because when I wrote Desiring God 28 years ago, I put these words in the preface: “The church that I love and serve has made my writing possible. The partnership that I enjoy with the elders and staff is priceless. There is a chapter yet to be completed. It is called, “The Camaraderie of Christian Hedonism.” May the Spirit himself continue to write it on the tablets of our hearts! So that is where this question is coming from. This person has read the preface, and it is 28 years ago that I wrote it, and I haven’t written that chapter in writing.
Written on the Tablets of Our Hearts
When I wrote those words in the preface, what I meant was that this chapter called, “The Camaraderie of Christian Hedonism,” is a chapter I wanted to be writing by my life for the rest of my life in the fellowship of the church. That was the gist of that. “The Camaraderie of Christian Hedonism” is what I wanted my life to be.
And I have been writing it. To this very day, I would say those same words about the church that I have served and now attend and still love deeply. In fact, I woke up this morning enjoying and praying for my church that I am a part of and the ministries like Desiring God and Bethlehem College and Seminary that have grown out of that church.
My life is so rich with the camaraderie of Christian Hedonism. And, in that sense, I am still writing it in prayer and fellowship. But the question still stands. Will I, or should I, write an actual paper-and-ink chapter called, “The Camaraderie of Christian Hedonism”? And the answer is, I might.
Here is one of the reasons I haven’t felt an urgency to do it yet. It is because there is such a significant overlap between what that chapter would be and what is already there in the chapter on love and the chapter on prayer: “Love: The Labor of Christian Hedonism,” and “Prayer: The Power of Christian Hedonism.” In the love chapter, I talk about how our joy in God is filled to the full when it overflows for others or when it expands like a high-pressure weather zone to draw others into it. And that is the essence of the camaraderie of Christian Hedonism. And in the prayer chapter, I deal with how the enjoyment of God’s gifts relates to the enjoyment of God himself, and that is the essential issue that would have to be dealt with in that chapter.
Joy in the People of God
But if I were to write the chapter — and I might, because it is worthy; it could bear another saying, I think — the texts from which I would work would be these. I will just give you a few:
Philippians 1:4: “In every prayer of mine for you all [I make] my prayer with joy.” Paul is just thrilled to pray for his comrades in arms at Philippi.
Philippians 1:8: “God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” So, Paul delights in the church at Philippi with the very delight of Christ. That is worth a chapter.
First Thessalonians 2:8: “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Or the same thing almost in Philippians 4:1: “Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord.” So, there he is calling them his joy and his crown.
First Thessalonians 2:19–20: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”
So just in those few verses, there is enough to justify a chapter on the camaraderie of Christian Hedonism. So it is clear to me that Paul felt no contradiction between having God as his supreme treasure and counting everything as loss compared to the supreme value of Jesus on the one hand (Philippians 3:8), and on the other hand saying that the church — the people of God — were his joy and crown and boast and glory.
And surely the reason for this is that God raised up these people. God is filling these people with himself. God will keep these people and transform these people into the image of his Son. So these people will be a beautiful witness to the grace and the glory of God. And these people will never compete with Christ for his supreme worth, but will always signal that worth and embody that worth and help Paul and us know that worth more and more. So that would be the gist of my chapter right there. Pray for me, and maybe the Lord will incline me to write “The Camaraderie of Christian Hedonism.”