The Future of Christian Hedonism

Panel Discussion

Bethlehem College & Seminary | Minneapolis

Ryan Griffith: All right, we’d like to welcome you back for this final session. We have a number of fantastic questions that you all have submitted, and others that have been submitted to us, so we’re going to try to get through as many of them as we can. I think the place that I’d like for us to begin is connected to the messages.

I’m trying to connect some of the facets of the messages last night with what Joe just spoke on. We live in a culture that is, in some ways, obsessed with beauty and pleasure. How is Christian Hedonism uniquely suited to speak to these appetites, and what are some of the dangers that we need to be aware of in doing so? I don’t know if John, maybe you want to start, and anybody else can pitch in.

John Piper: I’ll just mention one. It’s uniquely situated, structured, and present to address a culture bent on satisfaction. Precisely because it conceives of Christianity that way. That’s what we think about all the time. We’re not walking into strange territory when we hear somebody say, “I live for pleasure.” That’s no surprise to us. We’re not panicking at that moment, saying, “Oh, how can I help them to stop that,” or whatever.

So that’s my first answer. To be a Christian Hedonist fills your mind with the kinds of thoughts that went through all these men’s heads, that suit them to be sitting in a coffee shop where somebody is an out-and-out carnal hedonist, that we’re not alien to that mentality. So that’s the first thing I’d say.

Sam Storms: I think Christian Hedonism helps because the perception outside of the church that the church has largely projected is that we are anti-pleasure. Obviously, nothing could be farther from the truth in terms of what we have heard here and what we see in Scripture. I don’t know where that has come from. I don’t know if it’s kind of the residue of fundamentalism in America, but it’s not just fundamentalist America. It’s been in the history of the churches. That self-denial is basically denying myself any sense of fulfillment and the impulse that I feel for pleasure, the longing, the yearning, the desire, the sense of satisfaction.

It’s like as soon as somebody has that, “Oh, put it down. That’s wrong. Just think about God. Just go through the motions. Just do the duty. Don’t come into a worship service hungry to be filled and to be captivated by something glorious and beautiful. Just come in and mute your emotions, mute your feelings, and sing a song.” The very thing that Jesus said to the Pharisees: “You’re singing the words — you’re saying it all — but your heart is far from me. Your worship is vain.” But the church has for so long, and this is why, I think this is one of the reasons we were talking a little bit last night about the future of Christian Hedonism.

We’re pushing back against a long history of misperception, and the church living in constant fear that my desire for rapture is going to end up leading me into adultery, and my desire for joy is going to end up leading me into theft. And so, therefore, the problem is the desire for joy.

And so it’s whatever we can do to mute it, to suppress it, to redirect it, to convince you that it’s your sin, it’s demonic, whatever. “You have a desire for joy, let’s cast it out,” rather than trying to understand where that came from and what God is doing in the midst of it. But the church has created two thousand years of an incredible problem that makes Christian Hedonism difficult. But at the same time, when people finally come to understand it, they go, “Oh yeah, that makes perfectly good sense. Of course, yes.”

Joe Rigney: I think the thing that occurs to me just in relation to kind of the stuff I was talking about is the difference between Christian self-denial and how that’s often perceived by the outside world as a straight and just no period or a no because even if the unbelieving world grasps that we’re putting God on one side and saying God’s better than all of these earthly things, there’s a way that they can hear that to mean, “God seems awfully cruel then to have created a world filled with so many good things, and then to constantly be slapping our hands every time as we want to enjoy them.”

And so to be able to have a view of God, a view of life, a view of reality that says God created a world filled with pleasures and invited Adam and Eve to enjoy every last one with one no. So we’ve just been preaching through Genesis 1–11 at my church, and I got Genesis 2–3. There’s one no in a world full of yes. There’s one no in a world full of yes, and the one no is meant to guard the noes of God guard the yeses. God is a God of yes — he wants to say yes, and the no’s — all the prohibitions — are meant to guide, steer, govern, and keep our hearts loving things in proportion to their value. But we’re affirming both: you should love God above everything, and then because you love God above everything, everything else can fall into place.

And so that there’s no ultimate, even if there’s no ultimate self-denial, and there’s no ultimate even denial of earthly goods because even if we have to deny them here, which God may call us to, he’s going to give them all back. Right? “How will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

If he didn’t spare his Son, he’s going to give you everything, including all of those earthly joys that right now pull you away from God, then rightly ordered, glorified, perfected. You’ll enjoy them in God and enjoy God in them in ways you can’t even imagine yet. And so we can go to the world and say every time that you’re tempted, every time you’re pulled off the path, it’s a path that was set by God to lead you to himself.

Ryan Griffith: To switch gears a little bit, so we have in Lewis and Edwards, two men who have differing views on the idea of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. One of the questions that came to us, which is I think a good one is, “Is it possible to be a Christian Hedonist without first embracing the doctrines of grace?” Maybe better we would ask, “Can someone be a consistent Arminian and a Christian Hedonist?” How do we think about that?

John Piper: You can define Christian Hedonism with increasing rigor and detail, drawing out its consistencies and implications to the point where the answer to that would be, “No, you can’t be a consistent Arminian and a Christian Hedonist,” or you can leave the definitions higher up, so that you leave undefined some of its more particular radical implications, in which the answer would be yes. So I like to push all the pieces to their consistent limits, and therefore draw people into the full-blown enjoyment of a Reformed Christian Hedonism because I think that’s the consistent one.

But if somebody wanted to articulate, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him as an Arminian,” and they love that sentence, I wouldn’t write any article to say, “You can’t do that. That’s my sentence.” I would never ever do that. I would rejoice, and I would pray that over time the implications, the full implications of that sentence would seep down.

Here’s the way it would existentially work if my prayers were answered, they would realize that that fullness of satisfaction, they cannot find. They get up in the morning and their hearts are going after the stock market quotations, and they’re going after some kind of lustful pornographic thing, and their hearts are going, and they’re not able to bring themselves into that full enjoyment.

And that inability should provoke them to cry out, which it does in every born-again Arminian, they all pray like Calvinists. It would provoke them to cry out, “God, I can’t, help me, restore to me the joy of my salvation. And climb the heart of your testimony, satisfy me in the morning.” These are all witnesses to inability. And then they might think that through to the end to, “Okay, if I am utterly unable to do the thing I’m called to do, then I must be dependent on sovereign grace.” And they might wind up a full-blown Reformed Christian Hedonist.

Sam Storms: If I can ask the follow-up question to you in light of what I was talking about: Would a consistent Arminian be able to say that God is infinitely and eternally happy or is not God perpetually frustrated and put off and disillusioned?

John Piper: I don’t know how they’d answer that. I’m sure they could say it and would say it, but then when confronted with my answer to the question of why God is not a frustrated God, in view of the fact that things happen which he hates and disapproves of. My answer to that might not be the same as their answer. I’m not quite sure how to answer that question.

And so ultimate consistency, probably not, but I think if one were here, if you want to talk to us, if you’re here, if an Arminian were here, they’d probably try to answer that question anyway. I’m sure they would say that God is infinitely happy in the fellowship of the Trinity, how they would answer then the difficulties of a world in which things happen that he is disapproving of. I’m not sure.

Sam Storms: We would say, to use the words of John Frame, “God is pleased to ordain his own displeasure.”

John Piper: Yes, he is. And the reason that’s not double-talk is because when he responds to those various sinful things that arouse his displeasure, those responses are more beautiful, glorious demonstrations of who he is, which we would not otherwise know of him without them.

Jason DeRouchie: Every Arminian, at some level is a dualist, because whether you have God and his purposes being thwarted by Satan, or God and the human heart, that God has now empowered to have a will that can turn from him, reject him, without him being the decisive agent, you put yourself in a position when problems rise, if you have a smaller God theology, you put yourself in a position that when problems rise, you can’t necessarily be certain that the purposes of God will not be thwarted.

You can’t have hope when you enter into that hospital room to pass on to this mother whose 20-year-old daughter is having her first leukemia treatment. She says, “What am I supposed to do?” Can I say to her absolutely confidently that the Lord is going to meet you? Can I pray that way if indeed this cancer is itself catching him off-guard in some way? “He doesn’t want this to happen.” And I don’t think I can consistently.

So, I think with respect to the consistency, you can’t be a Christian Hedonist and find ultimate satisfaction in a God who is not in charge of my tomorrow fully. Whether its Satan is able to twist things or simply human rebellion is able to alter things outside of his ultimate sovereignty, because an Arminian doesn’t have that big of a God, and so I can’t find that deep-seated satisfaction, confidence, trust. I don’t think. And remain consistent as an Arminian if I don’t have the God of a fully Reformed Christian Hedonism.

That’s where I can find contentment, stability, balance, when all the storms of life come, because nothing, no thing at all can thwart the purposes of God, when we’re talking about his absolute sovereign will, control of all things. So I can’t understand it all, and why things are going the way they are, but I’m able to find rest, solace, capital “J” joy, because my God is that big and that God is for me.

Ryan Griffith: So if someone was to come to you and say, “I am at a gospel preaching church, and I love being there. The Bible is taught, but there’s an imbalance in that we don’t talk about joy in God. What should I as a congregant do? How should I think if joy in God is a peripheral matter for my church?”

Joe Rigney: I think in general, in places where there’s a disconnect between what a church is doing or pastors are doing or whatever, and what you see in the Bible, the best thing you can do is to try to work from the common agreement outward, as opposed to immediately going into opposition. So if you have a situation where you’ve got a church like that, where are the places where there is no disagreement, where we’re just, you’re at lockstep, they love the Bible, you love the Bible. Maybe they’ve got the Westminster Confession as their statement of faith. Use that. That’s precisely where you go.

Just go to the first question of the catechism. “What’s the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” And you go to the places where there’s already a commitment on the other side. I do the same thing with an Arminian. Where’s the common ground? Where can we meet? We both agree this. Now do what John just said and pray, and persuade that the entailments, that if we say this, we must also say that.

And if we say we love the Bible, then this is part of the Bible. And you work your way out not in a, “You’re wrong. What’s wrong with you? I’m right. Do it my way.” But in a humble, “Let’s together figure out the true and deepest meaning of this thing that we are already both committed to. We’re both committed to the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Let’s explore the implications of that together.” So, it’s a joint quest, not a fight.

Jason DeRouchie: I think that what came up last night regarding the question of faith, hope, and love — even if you’re not hearing the language of Christian Hedonism — one of the statements Pastor John said is, “You can’t be a Christian without being a Christian Hedonist.” But we have the language of “faith, hope, and love,” not “faith, hope, love, and joy.” And yet, both of you are able to say, “When you try to wrestle with what is faith, what is hope, what is love?” You’re going to hear that from most pulpits. I mean, Pastor John, I’ve heard you say, when you chose the language hedonism, you did so in order to arouse, to wake some people up, and it’s worked and some people just don’t like it, and you mentioned that last night in the panel.

But they like faith. It’s the very means by which we are united with Christ. They like hope. It’s the very reality that’s aroused when we put our faith in Christ. All of a sudden, past grace gives rise to the reality that future grace is coming, and I long for it. They love love, they love to receive love. They see those affections growing in their soul. The call to love God, love neighbor — that’s Christian Hedonism. But I guess I would say, don’t feel defensive or even offensive right away.

If you’re in a Christian gospel-loving church, and they’re not using the language of treasuring, satisfaction, passion, but they’re using the language of believe, hope, love, then just pause and say, “That’s the gospel. They are treasuring Christ.” Just because they’re not using the language doesn’t mean that Christ isn’t on their radar, that they don’t have a real big vision of God, and begin to celebrate rather than degrade what’s going on behind the pulpit, and what’s going on in the Sunday school classes. It might alter your heart and your perspective as you serve in this church, as you engage in this church, to be able to get behind and affirm, rather than having immediately a heart that is discouraged, and, “I’m not in a place that treasures Christ,” when actually you may be.

Ryan Griffith: So to go back to you, Jason, on the issue of suffering, Paul can tell the Philippians that it’s been granted to you, not only to believe in the Lord Jesus, but to suffer for his sake. What is the connection? How does joy relate to the call of suffering, and should we think of joy and suffering mainly as a matter of reward, or is there an expectation that we should be happy in the midst of suffering?

Jason DeRouchie: I think that by happy you mean a sense of all is well when it doesn’t feel like all is well. But I think there’s a biblical context for lament, for real grief when times are hard. We can say, “Times are hard.” And that’s why the joy we’re talking about is not a joy that’s connected to life under the sun, in its root. The joy that we’re talking about as a life is a reality that is reaching deep into the past, into the glories of the interrelationship of the Trinity, and far into the future beyond the judgment.

And so we’re living between this past grace and future grace, in reality, and yet recognizing that all these fleeting pleasures, I mean these pleasures are real, but they’re fleeting, like you said to Joe, “And then you die.” And that’s the preacher. He understands that in Ecclesiastes. And so his ability, his joy language is not confined to the parties, it also relates to the problems. Somehow he’s carrying joy, all the years, even into the many days of darkness. So somehow he takes this joy with him into the hospital room, and it fills with hope, it fills with light. And so there’s at a deep level and other worldliness that’s being delighted in when we enjoy the Dr. Pepper, and that’s being delighted in when everything around us is broken.

So that’s where this is deeper than happiness so that we can truly lament well, we can grieve deeply, that we’ve just lost this loved one, that our child has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, that the adoption that we were pursuing has just been canceled. We can grieve deeply and still have joy because there’s this level of contentment, of hope, of confidence in light, that only comes from God, and that only wise people transformed can see. And we’ve tasted it, we’ve seen it, and that’s what’s curing us. So I would separate it from the happiness language, although happiness is part of it in the good times, but it can’t be in and of the definition of what the joy is.

Ryan Griffith: So not this idea of some kind of superficial happiness in the midst of sorrow, but a confidence. It relates to even what you said last night, John, about how these virtues are related to one another, such that we can maybe speak of experiencing that joy as peace in the midst of sorrow and suffering.

Jason DeRouchie: The heartfelt pleasure, in my definition, to rejoice his heartfelt pleasure in God and his gifts, amidst prosperity and adversity — that pleasure takes different forms in different seasons, so you can have a pleasure that’s celebrating, your child just took off on her bike for the first time. And a pleasure, maybe this relates to the different types of pleasures that you were talking about. There is a true pleasure in the midst of suffering when you know that the creator is also my shepherd. That’s a different kind of a pleasure, and yet it’s still joy.

Ryan Griffith: Maybe shifting gears a little bit. So this question’s for you, Joe. How do we guard against promoting unhealthy asceticism on the one hand, or reverting to a self-centered materialism on the other? So must we have to live with the tension between more time simplicity and enjoying God’s gifts? What are some practical steps maybe in thinking through that?

Joe Rigney: That’s what the introduction was about in saying the only safe place to encourage the enjoyment of God’s gifts is in a context where you’ve got self-denial, Jesus’s words about denying yourself and taking up your cross. The ringing in your ears, because if you don’t, then natural human desire for ease will take over.

I’m so grateful to, I mean I feel, and one of the things I think I’ve felt is, and maybe I don’t know, John, you can comment too. It’s great when he gets up there and just says, “Lose it all. Just lose it all.” And then I can come in afterward and say, “And God will give it to you back.”

And there’s a sense in which the freedom to say both things, they need each other, lest in elevating God, we despise what he’s made and given to be enjoyed. There’s a way. So maybe here’s a way to put it. When the psalmist says, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalm 4:7). It’s very a Christian Hedonist kind of text. More joy in my heart. My joy in God is greater than their joy in their parties, their harvests, their celebrations.

But there’s two ways that you could go out of that, one of which would be good and one of which would be harmful. The bad way would be to say, “I’m really enjoying this lemonade, but Jesus is better, and I guess I should probably put some vinegar in it so that I still think that Jesus is better.” In other words, make creation, make the gift stoop so that Jesus can be taller. That would be the wrong way. Suppress the delight in the gift in order that Jesus can still be mediocre but still be on top, or it could mean let him shoot through the roof and then watch him go.

John Piper: Two — if I understood the question right, what are some flags that start waving if you’re veering off to asceticism or libertinism? And I think we live in a day where asceticism is less of a problem, and the two that I would offer are, as I watch young people kind of discovering their freedom in Christ to eat, drink, and be merry, I can detect two kinds of people — one who, as that’s happening, seems not to in any way be ashamed of or lose their saturatedness with God and Christ and the gospel and the church, and the people of God.

And there’s another group where almost necessarily to sustain their engagement with the world, that has to be muted. I see them; I know who they are. I can name people like this. And I think Joe’s a good example of the former when he talks about his burritos, or if you were to go to his house and his wife would make some Texas thing that he loves. I don’t think you would feel awkward praying. I don’t think you’d feel awkward talking about martyrdom. I don’t think you’d feel awkward singing a hymn.

It wouldn’t feel out of place. Whereas you go to another house where millennials are gathered doing their party thing, you’d feel very awkward bringing up anything spiritual at all. They have to mute it. That’s warning number one.

Warning number two is whether you delight in your newfound earthiness is making you more passionate for other people. In other words, is the pleasure rising out of it, making you ache for the nation’s, ache for lost people down the street, so that the exquisiteness of the God you’re discovering in this sexual event with your wife, or this pizza.

You long for that exquisiteness to be shared by the unbelieving nature, so much so that you’ll sacrifice anything to get them in on this. So those are two tests for yourself, of whether or not you’re becoming earthy for its own sake, and things of earth are being cherished in a God-diminishing way, and a mission-diminishing way, or not.

Jason DeRouchie: Just as a case study. I recall so vividly when my family moved toward our first adoption. There was that heightened longing. I mean, it’s amazing how God can expand the heart’s capacity to love someone. I mean, I look at my three biological kids, and I wonder if we bring another child in, am I going to be able to love them still? Oh, no questions at all. God just expands the heart’s capacity to love this new child. And yet, then my wife, what I saw matched with her longing to bring our son home was just this deep, deep grief that our pleasure was matched by a mother’s pain.

That sense of, this is a gift of God, a child is moving from orphan status into a family, and yet it wasn’t absent. That joy wasn’t absent of larger real things, like there’s other people that lack while I am delighting. And I’m not downplaying the fact that this is a gift of God. This child is a gift. I’m not supposed to say, “I don’t really want this child to come.”

“No, I long for this child to come. God has birthed love, deep love in my heart and I need to let those affections fly.” But at the same time, I must not downplay the reality that there are others who are not getting to delight in this. Indeed, in this instance, it was at great cost to a mother for whom poverty was necessitating this brokenness. And we want to be able to somehow in our joy keep both of them there and not diminish one or the other.

Sam Storms: This raises a question, something you just said, and I’d almost want to ask Joe this, maybe you too. I’m thinking back to that discussion of the problem of praise in the Psalms of Lewis, where he talks about how when you have true enjoyment or delight, it’s consummated in praise. Praise, he talks, as he says, “It’s inner health made audible.” But also, he says, “Not only when we enjoy something do we praise it, but we try to enlist others in it as well.”

Like if I’d just seen a beautiful sunset, it’s like I immediately turn to somebody and say, “Can you see that?” Or you just read a book, or you’ve come from a movie that was just absolutely exquisite, and you say, “You’ve got to read this.” Or, “Come, let’s go look at it again.” Or, “Listen to this piece of music.” Or, “Did you see that the guy stole second?” It doesn’t touch you. It touches Joe. Baseball.

Joe Rigney: I did see it. It was a great steal.

Sam Storms: Absolutely. And I’m wondering if—I don’t recall that Lewis describes that as love, but is that not the way we envision love in Christian Hedonism? Is that the joy that I have had in this remarkable encounter or insight or knowledge is in itself again somewhat incomplete until it spills out, and I enlist you into that experience as well. Is that what he’s talking about? Even though he doesn’t use the language of love there, he’s describing it.

Joe Rigney: Right. Yeah, I think what you said is exactly right. And that would be the good test. How easy. So if you’re enjoying things of earth in God, you ought to be able to invite others, not only into your joy in baseball but into your joy in God. And if you can only invite people into your joy in the earthly things that you enjoy for God’s sake in the privacy of your own home, whispering, “Thank you.” If that’s all you can do, then unbelievers can do that part. That terminating in the gift, it’s possible for them to enjoy it, to praise it, to invite others into it.

There’s nothing spiritual about that. What becomes spiritual, what animates, at one level it will look the same. My joy in the Houston Astros will look like somebody else’s joy in the Houston Astros, with the difference that mine’s animated by something else, by gratitude to God and a delight in God, which must show itself someplace, it must come out so that other people are being invited, not just into the earthly enjoyment but into the enjoyment of God.

John Piper: That’s really crucial for the younger generation to hear, really crucial, because most of them don’t agree with that. They think enjoying something with a grateful heart to God is all that’s needed. It does not need to show, to show is legalism, it’s hokey piety, it’s gotto, and it’s artificial.

Ryan Griffith: So last night, well actually I’m going to ask this question first. Related to the cultural moment we find ourselves in: How particularly might our vision of God, our vision of joy in him, speak to the gender controversies of our day?

John Piper: Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is Christian Hedonism is the opposite of the hedonism that says, “I determine what’s right by what pleases me.” Okay. We say, “God decides ultimately as a good God what will please me ultimately, and I labor in my sinful condition to become the kind of person that can be satisfied in what God says will ultimately satisfy me. Now I think that’s probably going to check a transgender operation. It’s going to check it.

Because what’s driving transgender as a manifestation of the larger picture is, “I cannot be satisfied in my present dysphoria about my identity that everybody’s giving me because I’m anatomically a male, and therefore I, in order to be satisfied, must alter that so people will recognize me as different than that anatomical male, and then I will feel happier.” So the whole orientation there about happiness isn’t being drawn from God’s statement of what constitutes your ultimate happiness, but it’s all being drawn out of my inner senses of identity. See, that’s one place.

The intersection will be very clear in conversation with anybody who’s trying to work out what it means to be happy in sexual identity. We will say, all of us are broken. All of us are broken. All of us have more or less happiness in our looks and our capacities as male or female or androgynous. We’re all somewhat frustrated in who we are. And the reason for that is because of sin. And God knows what now and ultimately will make us happy. And therefore instead of trying to do everything you can, including surgery to bring yourself into conformity to your view of what would make you happy, let’s join hands and pursue what God has said would make us happy, and I guess the basic thing we have to contribute.

Joe Rigney: One thing that strikes me too about the — just kind of keying off a little bit of what Sam said in his talk about that God’s inviting us into his own joy. Christian Hedonism wants you to make God the object of your desires, and the model for your desires. Just think about the difference between those. Object is, “He’s what satisfies me.” Model means, “I love what he loves. So I love him and I love what he loves.” Both of those together. He’s inviting me into his joy, and then that gets expressed in the world in the way that he’s made things, in the trajectories and the natures that he’s built, which have been corrupted by sin but which are still identifiable by us.

There’s natures at work. That’s why Paul talks in Romans 1 when he is talking about the sexual identity issues, he talks about, it’s contrary to nature. It’s running the other way from the way the dance wants to go. And so if that’s the case that we should not just love God but love what God loves in the way that God loves it, then it will do two things. One, it will lead us to pray for ourselves and our churches that we will love God’s vision of manhood and womanhood because he designed it to be beautiful, and it will lead us to try to embody it in a way that other people see as beautiful.

So the big thing I think with the masculinity and femininity in our culture is not mainly at this point about arguments. The first step is seeing something that will arrest the attention and that will say, “It’s beautiful.” It’s beautiful when a husband sacrifices for his family. It’s beautiful when a wife submits to her husband. It’s beautiful. And if it’s animated by, “I love God supremely, and I love what God loves,” then there’ll be a quality about it that will be attractive to the world.

It’s the sort of thing that God will say, “It’s such a mess. It’s not just a mess out there, it’s a mess in here.” It’s such a mess when you try to cut against the grain of the way God has made the world, it blows up. You can’t do it. You’re fighting against God and against nature. You can’t do it. And so it’s a train wreck. And so when you see God putting it back to right and a delight and a joy, in not only God but in what God has made and what God loves, there’s something different about that. And I think it’ll be attractive. I think that that’s where we ought to spend a lot of time praying. For me, with my boys, I think about, the way that the things of earth then affect me most nearly every day is, if it’s true that God has made the world to invite people into his own triune life, that’s why he made things.

Everything’s a picture to invite us in. Am I inviting my children into a happy father? When I come home from work, am I coming home tired, wanting to put my feet up, just give me some space? Or do I dance up the sidewalk because I’m happy to be home, and I’m ready when they do what Sam’s girls do and my boys do the same thing, and they get up and they throw their toys down and they want to come hug. Am I picking them and throwing them? And I’m doing it. That’s a very spiritual moment. It’s maybe the most spiritual moment in my household some days because in that moment fatherly delight is being communicated to a son, and that’s the thing that made the universe.

And it’s the thing that saves us. And so it’s a big deal. I feel the weight when I’m driving home from work after a long day of teaching and going, “I got to get my heart right. ‘Lord, help me. I’m tired, and I want to go home and relieve burden from my wife and delight in my children because I want to tell them the truth about what God’s like.’” That’s what we have to. You should feel it. It shouldn’t just be, this is something as John was laying out those fifteen things. Some of us are going to write books and blogs and articles and preach sermons. Some of you are going to do that, and that’s great.

A lot of us, it’s going to be delighting in our kids and delighting in our neighbors, and looking at the guy who nobody will look at and saying, “I love you and God loves you.” And communicating by your smile and by the, I mean it was as significant, I think when John was telling that story last night, that he looked him in the eye. It was the look that mattered, not just the words that came out of his mouth, because the look said, “I’m not looking away because Jesus isn’t looking away.”

Ryan Griffith: So you anticipated where I wanted to end.

Joe Rigney: Awesome.

Ryan Griffith: I wanted to ask that question. Given the fifteen convictions that you gave last night, this is an opportunity for a parting shot to the folks that are here. How would you encourage them, given the things that John said last night, to embody Christian Hedonism? If in fact, many of us are not going to be writing the books that need to be written, but we have all sorts of other contexts in which we live.

Joe Rigney: I did mine. Your turns

Jason DeRouchie: Parting shot. Take time as you’re reading the word to just ask, “What does God take pleasure in? What does God love? Where is God going? What are God’s delights?” In the last two years, what has overcome me that was never part of my world, was a God who cares for the poor, a God who loves the broken and who works justice for the soul journeyer. If that’s where God’s going, do you know any poor? What’s their name? What’s their narrative?

If that’s the heart of God and your desire is to find delight in God, to be with God, to follow God, just read Scripture, asking where he’s going. And that’s the most recent heart-capturing, sin-overcoming area in my own life. God has a heart for the broken. I need to have a heart for the broken. That’s Christian Hedonism. So read the Bible, looking for the character of God, looking for the actions of God, and then pray, “God, I want to follow you, and I want to look like that.”

Sam Storms: My mind turned to Philippians 4, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). I think we really misunderstand that word, content, like no highs, no lows, just kind of a bland, “I’ll take it as it comes existence.” And I don’t think that’s what Paul means. Because he says that this is something that comes as a result of the inner strengthening of Christ in me.

So if I don’t have the things of earth, I’m deprived, I’m in jail, I’m hungry, I’m barely surviving. And I’m living in a palace with feasts of food and drink and pleasure and friends and hobbies. In either case, the centrality of Christ enables me to rejoice in the midst of whether I have no things of earth or whether I have all the things of earth. They are not the determinative factor in the state of my soul. So, I don’t like that word content, but I think I know what Paul means, and I don’t think it’s what we typically mean.

But being able to live that because there are people here today who are saying, “Wow, I know what it means to be brought low. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced what it means to abound.” And others who say, “Gosh, my life, it’s nothing but abundance. I have no idea what these people are going through who are brought low.” But both can experience the same deep abiding satisfaction in Christ, regardless of those circumstances. And I think that’s the blessing and the joy of Christian Hedonism.

John Piper: The first great commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.” And the second is, “You should love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30–31). You can’t do either of those without Christian Hedonism. You can’t. Because the first one is simply a statement. Love him with all your heart, which means treasure him, delight in him, enjoy him, value him above everything. So that’s just a pure and simple definition. Christian Hedonism is the first commandment.

The second commandment is not so obvious, but I would argue, you cannot love your neighbor as yourself until you are completely or supremely happy in God, because that’s the way the Bible describes the origin of love, in their great affliction, their abundance of joy, in much poverty, overflowed in generosity. That’s the picture of where generosity, loving your neighbor, comes from. Abundance of joy in affliction, in the face of poverty, so great it overflows. Therefore, for the sake of the two great commandments in the Bible, loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself, pursue this. Pursue this because without being happy in God, you can’t worship God or love people.