Desiring God (Session 3)

Desiring God 2011 Regional Conference

Desiring God

Good morning. My question is more of a pastoral one than a theological one. Believing what you’ve said is true, and that’s what the Bible teaches, what do I do when I can count all things lost compared to the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ except for my relationship with my child? And though I can think in my head that God is more delightful and valuable, just in my heart and in my emotions, I delight my son, and I don’t know how to let God supersede that.

There are two questions that I hear in that, and they’re different and related, and both are very, very good questions. One is, what if you lost your son, child? And the other is, how do you properly non-idolatrously delight in his ongoing flourishing, without it competing with God?

So let me just say a word about the first one. I just think every parent, when they get a child by adoption or by birth, they hold that little child or older child, they need to offer that child up, like Hannah, to the Lord and say, “God, I love this gift. I would lay my life down for this gift in a minute. And yet, I’m not the owner. You’re the owner, and you are my supreme treasure, and this child is not. And therefore I ask for a life of great usefulness, but if you should take him or her, I will, like Job who lost ten children, fall on my face, pull out my hair, throw dust on my back, tear my clothing, weep for days and say the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I think you need to come to that. When we dedicate children in our church, which we do, I put my hand on the child and I say, “Together with your parents who love you dearly, and this people who care about the outcome of your faith, I dedicate you to God, surrendering together with them all worldly claim upon your life in the hope that you will belong wholly to God forever.” And those words, “surrendering together with them all worldly claim on your life,” means every parent is saying, “You belong to God, not me. And he can take you when he wills.” So that’s my response to the first question of loving God more than your child in the prospect of losing your child.

But most of you will have the opportunity, if you have children, to watch the child grow and to delight in every stage of development along the way. How can that delight? Now, that question is part of a much larger question of how can you enjoy a blue sky to the glory of God? How can you anticipate lunch to the glory of God? And how can you have sex with your spouse to the glory of God so that those pleasures do not become supreme, but appropriate?

And they have to be appropriate because Paul said in 1 Timothy 4 — this really, really important verse, even though I stressed selling everything, losing everything for Christ, this has to be said. This is 1 Timothy 4:4, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4–5). So you’ve been given a child now, and you say, “It does not become idolatry if these things happen.” You say, “God, it’s from you. This child is from you. I thank you.” And the child becomes a springboard of gratitude.

And then all the delights that you see are delights in God’s grace. These are evidences of grace, evidences of common grace. “You’ve made this child, you’ve made an amazing personality here, or you made the problems for me, for me and for my sanctification, to test me and prove me and grow me up. So I credit you in anything gracious that comes in the child’s life.” You praise God. So, if it’s possible, as Paul said, whether you eat or drink, eat pizza, drink pop soda, whatever you call it, if it’s possible to eat and drink to the glory of God, it’s possible to love a child to the glory of God.

And so, maybe one last sentence, this sentence from St. Augustine has been the most helpful sentence in enjoying the world non-idolatrously. It’s a prayer. “He loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for thy sake.” That was so helpful to me. “He loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for thy sake.”

So, it is possible to love a person, a child, food, sex, nature. It is possible to love them for Christ’s sake. Learn to do that. Go deep with that. My chapter on prayer in Desiring God is where I talked about that. It’s kind of a funny place for it maybe, but just go to the chapter on prayer. Go back to the middle of the chapter. You got about three or four pages on that issue.

Hi. Thank you, Dr. Piper. I just want to say first of all, you’ve been like a father to me and you’ve helped me to know God in more ways than anyone I could speak of. And I just want to say I have great love for you and I come with this question. Would the greatest joy and love — and it’s two-part question, so take some time — be shedding your blood for the sake of the gospel for others? And in this age of celebrity pastors, who sometimes can get worshiped and exalted more than God himself, would the greatest joy be in the sense the leaders and the people shedding their blood for the sake of the gospel?

And I just look at passages like John 12:24: “A grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Hebrews 12:2: “Jesus for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And I’m not saying going out and shedding your blood recklessly, but would that be the greatest joy? And truly losing our life, not just spiritual life, but I mean physical life. And has God called you in that direction at all? Because I know if I go there, I’m a youth pastor, I’ll have maybe one or two people, they’ll go, but if you go there and if you shed your blood for the joy of Christ, how many would follow?

There’s just so many different questions bound up in that. Let me give several and try to decide which ones to answer. Is giving your life for Christ actually being martyred the pathway to greatest joy?

Now that can have two questions in it. One is, is dying your greatest joy? And the answer is obviously yes, because you get Jesus. Paul said it is better to depart and be with Jesus. So every time a Christian dies, they get more joy than they had here. So that’s easy to answer that question. I don’t think that’s what you’re asking.

The other way to take that question would be is actually being martyred resulting in greater joy on the other side? Is there a special reward for martyrs? I don’t know if that’s what you’re asking, but that’s a way to take your question. I suspect there is. When Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11–12).

Some people take that to mean you simply get the generic Christian reward of heaven. Others, and I would tend to be in this category, say, “No, there is a proportionality to the heavenly blessing and the earthly suffering.” There’s a proportionality, so that the more you suffer here, I think the Lord will take that into account later as he blesses you in ways in the kingdom that would be beyond what say I would get blessed, because I haven’t suffered all that much and frankly I would be very happy about that.

If I stand beside the apostle Paul and get exactly the same reward, I would feel like Paul got not the best deal. Now, I know the parable, you go to work in the morning, you get a dollar for 12 hours of work. You sign up at five in the afternoon, you work an hour, you get a dollar. I know that parable is in the Bible and I got to be very careful, because that’s saying Paul at least shouldn’t resent it if I get the same reward he does.

But I’m talking about how I feel when Paul doesn’t get the reward I think he should get. So I don’t think that parable means there’s no place for diverse rewards, because there’s another parable about ten talents and five talents and two talents, and you take your five and turn it into ten, you’re going to get ten cities. And you take your two and you turn it into five, you’re going to get five cities. Well, five cities and ten cities aren’t the same number of cities. And so my answer is probably yes, there is a greater joy.

Now you said, is it the greatest? I don’t know how to answer that. I wouldn’t want to judge the pathway to the greatest joy. If God calls you to go to a risky place, go to a risky place and lay down your life, you should know he’s taking note. He’s taking note. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just, profoundly. And he’s probably trying to give a clarification, maybe find me or write me afterwards if I didn’t hit where you were going. With regard to celebrity pastors, that’s a whole nother issue. I’m not sure why you brought it up and how it relates, and it’s a big messy thing and there are people writing good blogs about it, so I won’t go there. It’s all kinds of danger.

How you doing Pastor John? First off, I just want to say thank you, and I think on my part, for the most, the greatest contribution I think of all that you’ve done for me came last year when you stepped aside for eight months on the sabbatical for your marriage, that was the most impacting thing. Especially for me being a young man, being married, that was just a blessing. So thank you so much for that.

My question, in regards to years of studying, years of reading the Bible from cover to cover, because on my journey I’ve been experiencing this lately, how do you continue in private devotions of continuing to be wowed by familiar stories or deep theological truths that you just become so familiar with after so many years of learning them? For you, how have you, for private devotions and that wow with Jesus alone, how do you keep that going and keep that flame alive?

That’s so, so, so crucial to ask that question. I will tell you what I do, and I don’t always succeed. That is the right goal. You want to read and rejoice over what you read, feel amazing responses. And I say that, because Jesus said in John 15:11, “I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Well, that’s clear. That’s really clear. The Bible is for your joy. So if you come here and you go away not being moved by it, it hasn’t achieved its purpose. And the question is, so how do you do that? Because we all come to the Bible from time to time, bored and lifeless. So I have a little acronym I-O-U-S, I-O-U-S, that I use, and I say it pretty much every day. Here’s the way it goes, and I’ll say this and we’ll go into another question.

They all have Bible verses with them. I, they’re all prayers, incline. There’s a word for every letter. I, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (Psalm 119:36). That’s so encouraging, because if the psalmist is praying, I don’t want to, make me want to. Isn’t that a wonderful encouragement that the Psalmist have to pray to want to go to the Bible? “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!.” Like, “I love money. Don’t let me love money so much. Make me love your word more.” Let’s love it, so I pray that. I pray it. I get up in the morning, don’t feel like reading the Bible, “God help me. I’m a pastor for goodness’ sakes. If I die, so many people are going to die. I can’t stop loving your word. Don’t let me wander. Chain me like a feather.”

O, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). So here I am. “You’ve inclined me to come. I’m reading, nothing’s happening. I’m not seeing anything wonderful here.” What do you do? You plead. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things.”

Paul prayed the same thing in Ephesians 1:17. Grant them that “the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power” (Ephesians 1:18–19). See, see, because we all have scales that grow over our eyes. We got to rip them off with prayer. So, “Open my eyes to see wonderful things.”

I-O-U. “Unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). What does that mean? “Unite my heart.” Unite my heart, because my heart’s just going in a thousand directions right now. I’m thinking about money. I’m thinking about a bill I can’t pay. I’m thinking about my car that’s broken. I’m thinking about marriage problems, my kid problems, my church problems, and this Word is just going through one ear and out the other and nothing’s happening, because my heart is so fragmented. “So God please, get it together for this moment, for this moment, these five minutes, ten minutes, half hour, hour. Please. One unified focus on you and your word.”

I-O-U-S. The key one. Psalm 90:14: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” So here’s a psalmist who’s not satisfied and he asks, “God, please satisfy me with your love.”

Now, that’s the acronym and I would simply add: Be assiduous, rigorous in your meditation, and attention to the words. Go slow, memorize, say it over and over. The way to memorize a verse, to read it ten times, then quote it ten times in your head and you’ll probably have it for a day, then lose it. Then you have to do it again. Memorizing is so important, because we tend to be 747s flying over the orchard of the word. Say, “Whoa, I think that’s a fruit tree down there. A very attractive orchard.” That’s the way we read our Bibles.

You should just get out of the plane, not while it’s flying, before it takes off. And then walk into the orchard and say, “That’s a peach.” And don’t just say, “That’s a peach.” Reach for the peach. And don’t just reach for the peach, bite into the peach. And don’t just bite into the peach, chew the peach. And don’t just chew the peach, swallow the peach. That’s meditation. It takes a long time. You won’t get through the Bible quick that way. But oh, what you see and what you taste. Taste and see that the Lord is good. You can’t taste on the fly. You can’t.

First, I thank God for, who posts virtually almost everything for free and has paved the way for many other ministries to follow that example. And I praise God for you, for also being an example in transparency, in humility, and just boasting in your weakness. And I thank you for that. My question is, since we have a lot of youth here, and though there are some people who are suffering here, there’s also in Southern California, a lot of affluence.

So my question is pertaining to Desiring God, chapter 7, with money and stewardship and under an overarching umbrella of comfort, where you have many people driving expensive cars, wearing expensive clothes, playing with expensive toys, living in expensive houses, and yet the average tithing is 2.5 percent. And if you were to ask them, they would say, “Well, I cherish God. I’m just enjoying the blessings that he’s given me.” Please expound and encourage these people. Thanks.

Well, let’s clarify that everybody in America is wealthy, not just Southern California. Everybody, people on welfare, are wealthy. Okay? Let’s get real. Eighty million people in America and in the world are on the brink of starvation. So if you have food on the table and a roof over your head, even if it’s a borrowed roof, you’re wealthy. And Paul himself said, “If I have food and drink, with these I will be content.”

So I want to say to every church, not just this church and Southern California prosperity, but Minneapolis, Phillips neighborhood prosperity. It’s a poorer neighborhood where I live, but good grief, it’s become gentrified now. Could sell my house. Bought the house for $65,000. I don’t know what I could sell it for now, a couple hundred thousand probably. I was just wealthy. I’m wealthy. I have a car, for goodness sakes. It works. Tires break, I can fix them. Have a wreck, insurance covers it. Goodnight.

So we need to help our people feel this. We live in the Disneyland of the world called America. Just help people feel that. And then we go to the Bible and we see “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” That’s 1 Timothy 6:6 and following. The warnings against desiring to be rich should be preached from the housetops.

There’s nothing wrong with making a lot of money. There’s a lot wrong with keeping a lot of money. Should make as much as you can, set a realistic lifestyle. Copper will do. You don’t need to line the pipe with gold in order to get the blessing to the world. There’s so much talk about if you earn it, have the accoutrements of wealth, symbols, the watch, the suit, the car, the neighborhood, because that’s your station. Baloney. I say baloney, I would say to that executive, baloney.

You don’t have to drive that kind of car. You could take that extra 10 or $20,000 that bought that kind of car, buy a brand new Chevy if you want. I’ve never had a new car in my life. It seems like a stupid investment. Don’t get in my case, I know some people got this all figured out, how it works. It’s really a better investment. Okay, great. If you’ve got that figured out, I’ve never been able to figure it out. So, I get a $4,000 car, lasts me seven or eight years, get another one.

It’s just smart. Just seems smart, because it enables you just to keep a cap on your life. So, then if you write a book that sells 40 million copies or 500,000 copies or whatever, you know, “I’m not keeping that.” How do you know you’re not keeping it? Because I’m already living fine. I’m living fine. I don’t need any more money, which means you’re free. You’re just so free to give and give and give.

So Rick and Kay, they created this foundation. They created this foundation. I created a foundation, so all my royalties go smack into a foundation, never touch them, not a penny of it, but I’m on the foundation board. I can tell them where to send it. We give it here and we give it there and it’s more blessed that we give. I’m just, “Yes, I want to be happy.” Why would I want to take that money, buy me a brand new car, brand new house, brand new whatever, new neighborhood?

Just the main thing we need to teach is heaven can wait. I just wrote an article for World Magazine, called “What Happens When You Turn 65?” And you know what happens when you turn 65? You realize you’re old and as you realize you’re old and you’re running your race, you’re getting really close to the finish line. Guess what? You can see Jesus more clearly, because he’s standing there. When you’re young, the finish line looks so far out, Jesus must be a haze. You can say, “He’s up, not out.” But as I’m running, I’m thinking, “There he is and he’s getting closer and closer.” What’s that make me want to do? Like stop and build a house? Stop and get a new coat? What?

Just one more story. One more story to illustrate. This comes from John Newton and he told it about New York for some reason. He said, “Christian, you are like a man who is going to New York.” Now this is the 1800s, so it’s worth more than a million dollars. He’s going to get a million dollars in New York, an inheritance. It’s waiting for him and he’s in his chariot, his carriage. There weren’t any cars back then.

So he’s in his carriage with his horse and riding along, going to get his million dollars. This is life. This is an image of life. Every Christian is on their way to get a million dollars, only we get the world. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the,” what? The whole thing. Or 1 Corinthians 3:21, “Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23). I own the universe. It’s just a matter of time.

So I’m undercarriage, riding to get the universe or the million dollars, and the wheel falls off. And you get off. And he says in this story that he’s telling, the guy looks at it. Said, “Crummy, lousy, no good carriage. Now, I got to walk the last mile to New York to get my million dollars.” And all the way to New York, he said, “My carriage is broken. My carriage is broken.” That’s the way Christians live. It’s one mile to the finish line, one mile or two seconds the Bible says, a vapor’s breath and you’re there. And when you get there, you own everything. And I do believe we’re going to be on the earth. New heavens and new earth, I’m here. So I own this place.

Frankly it’s not impressive because I would take the Grand Canyon, thank you very much. And maybe I’ll be mayor of San Francisco to clean it up. Oh well, I hope that helps. Sell your possessions, give on, provide for yourself. You just need to read the Bible on money. Read Randy Alcorn. Nobody says it better than Randy. Just get Randy.

Excuse me, I have a colon. As a United States chaplain in the Navy, I’ve had very little chance to secure participants of congregations all around the different assignments I go to. I’ve come up with a segue, particularly with counseling premarital couples in premarital counseling. And one of them, the tremendous portion of that pie has come from you in the premise of your story with Noël and the roses at the door and so on. John, where I’m coming from, let me make this lightning fast, is based on several Scriptures, of course. One of them most importantly has been 1 Timothy 2:14, which launches us into the mystery being revealed, as in Ephesians 5 and so on about the church being Christ and so on.

Just to advance that just a little further and to help give me some little confidence as I’m preparing the continued preaching this message I believe God’s put on my heart is, as I tell the young man sitting before me, he said, “She is not just to be loved for what you love her as or for. Do you not know that she is your gift from God?” Instead of going the old rugged road of, “Don’t have sex before marriage,” when I put it in that mindset, it tends to be very effective. And when they, “You realize that she currently is God’s gift to you. How do you think he feels about you stealing his gift?”

And I go with that premise. But on another bound, on the other rebound, is the sovereign, providential plan of God to give his son, God the Father, to give his son Jesus Christ a bride. And all the way from Genesis protoevangelium, the plan was set before even the first written of Scripture was set, that God would say, “That bride is going to be yours. She’s going to be as beautiful as you, as splendid you, as glorious as you.” And Jesus says, “Well what’s the plan?” “And here’s the plan. You’re going to go there and become like one of those creatures.

So I need a question. I need a question.

The question is, how far off is that premise? And is it really within the biblical framework of what we, I think, are on the same track as? So could you expound and tell me if that’s about right?

Totally. Totally. How can it not be right that she’s God’s gift to you? And then the analogy of the church, we were just talking about this the other day of how husbands should key off of Ephesians 5: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). So don’t stop there. But he also went on and he washed her with the Word and he sanctified her and he beautified her because he intends to have a glorious, beautiful bride.

So, nothing you said concerns me at all. It just sounds absolutely right to do. Add every motive we can to an engaged couple to keep each other pure, not just for self-restraint reasons, but for glorious gift reasons as well. She’s God’s gift. You want her to be pure and lovely and holy and godly. You don’t want to drag her into sin, called fornication. She shouldn’t want to entice you in. And so, I think that picture there in Ephesians of how to love our wives and wives how to love their husbands through enthusiastically supporting their leadership is just a glorious thing. I hope all of you enjoy it someday.

How you doing?

Pretty good. I’m hungry, and I thank God for hunger.

It seems that Christian Hedonism is very prevalent in your ministry, which I would believe to be the revelation that the Scriptures produce. My question would be, why does it not seem as prevalent in the church, in the broader sense of the church of the world? Why it seems that? I don’t see anyone else having conferences on God is most glorified in you and you’re most satisfied in him. Just some thoughts on, your thoughts on, why it’s not really prevalent. I know it’s broad, but for what it’s worth.

It may be more prevalent than you think. I don’t want to create the impression that unless somebody has my little catchy ways of saying things, they’re not believing what I believe. When I read history, for example, I’m always looking for what I believe because I don’t want to be new. I don’t want to be clever, I don’t want to be novel; I want to be historic.

So I’m just clawing through authors 2, 3, 4, 500 years ago saying, “You see what I see?” And it’s all over the place, especially in the Puritans. It’s just all over the place. But none of them ever has said, that I know of, “God is most glorified in you when you’re most satisfied in him.” That’s my little clever rhyme that probably does as much bad as good.

I was talking with Rick last night about catchy phrases because he’s the master. He created all kinds of catchy phrases, and my sense is that the benefit of a catchy phrase is that it helps you remember. The downside of a catchy phrase is it does tend to trivialize great things. Rhyming and cleverness can create just a breezy sense of a truth which has a weight to it that no little rhyme, by Piper or Warren, could ever satisfy, would ever be appropriate. So I want to be so careful that we don’t say, “The truth isn’t there when the words aren’t.”

However, I think you’re right. I don’t think Christian Hedonism is prevalent, and there are reasons for it, and there are good reasons for people being afraid. Like I’m a reformed guy, I’m a Calvinist, one of those guys. And that whole movement, historically, wider than my little teeny Christian Hedonist thing, some of those guys are really suspicious of emotion. And because emotion has taken people to wacko extremes. And if you get up and you try to push emotion, they’re going to say, “Look, I’ve seen emotion. I’ve seen emotion. It is so destructive in what it can do to people.” And I just think the pendulum can swing way on the intellectual side and you say, “Okay, we are the reformed non-emotional types,” that’s just unbiblical.

And so the fear of emotion would be the only reason why it’s not pushed, and then that would be a positive reason. And the negative reason would just, people want to keep their idols of other things besides Jesus. They’re just afraid of having to say, “All the good things that I’m enjoying should be really, really secondary to Jesus.” It’s very threatening to say that faith is coming to Jesus as your treasure because then somebody who says, “I’m not sure he’s my treasure,” might have to say, “I’m not sure I’m a believer.” And that’s scary, and people don’t want to go there.

Yesterday, as you were referencing Jonathan Edwards, you mentioned that God reveals himself and glorifies himself among us through knowledge manifested in the idea of the Son and through the emotion manifested in the love of the Spirit. Which of these expressions of the glory of God is the most difficult for the secular postmodern mind to accept and believe in, so that they find their complete joy in God? And how does that affect our evangelistic efforts as we try to promote and share the gospel through the mentality of the Christian Hedonist?

Now, I missed the middle part, right after the Holy Spirit in the postmodern. So try me again.

Okay. Which of these expressions of the glory of God is the most difficult for the secular postmodern mind to accept and believe in, so that they find their complete joy in God? And how does that affect our evangelistic efforts as we try to promote the gospel through the mentality of the Christian Hedonist?

I think I get it. So, since the Trinity, if Edwards is right, is the prime unoriginated fatherhood of God, knowing himself and loving himself. Having an idea of himself and having a delight in himself; Son, Holy Spirit. I’m doing it like a triangle and that’s not helpful because the Holy Spirit flows, the Bible says, and historically creeds have said, “It flows from the Father and the Son.” So the Holy Spirit is the person connecting the Father and the Son and embodying — wrong word, but you grope — the love that they have for each other, so that when the Holy Spirit comes into me, he brings the passion that God has for God.

Now your question is, given that structure and God glorifying himself through being rejoiced in and being known, which would be the most compelling, perhaps to our day and postmodern people? And if I’m tracking with you, you’re probably already thinking what the answer to that is because postmodernism as it’s been typically understood is resistant to propositional truth and much more into holistic life. And you might be leaning then to say, “If they knew that at the heart of God is a passion of Father for Son and Son for Father, standing forth as a person and for the Holy Spirit to be filling us is to be filling us with all the fullness of the Father’s passion for the Son and the Son’s passion for the Father, they might give an ear.” And I think that’s right.

I’m very slow; however, to type any generation. I wouldn’t look out on you, most of you millennials as they call you, and think I know you at all. I wouldn’t. I think of humans as humans. I’m always trying to penetrate, not to the last decade’s need, but the human need that’s always been there. Because then no matter what group I’m in front of, if I can push down deep enough into what every human heart was made for, then I don’t have to worry that I haven’t read the latest book on the millennials.

Like, “Oh, what do millennials want?” I don’t know what they want. I know what humans need. I know what humans at root are aching for. And so whether postmodern or not, let’s take the whole God, as he reveals himself, and the whole passion thing and the whole knowledge thing, and let’s not let propositional truth go, and let’s not let passion and emotion go, and not let community go, which is in the Trinity. Let’s just take the whole thing, and then whatever’s on somebody’s front burner just might kick in with that.

Thank you very much. I’m trying to resolve maybe a tension in my own heart of friends. One is God’s glory, worship, joy in God, and the command to make disciples, the Great Commission. It seems either they’re friends, they’re the same thing, or one flows from another. Or maybe the Great Commission is the means that we enjoy God. Can you help me reconcile maybe these friends that sometimes churches seem to say, “Well, we’re here. We’re Great Commission Christians,” and they don’t seem to be God-centered in that.

Okay. I think Christian Hedonism is the answer to God-centered mission. My book on missions begins with the only sentence that people remember from the book. Namely, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” That’s the thesis of the book, which means the goal of the Great Commission, in making disciples of all nations, is to make worshipers. John 4:23 — Jesus is seeking people to worship him “in spirit and in truth.” He’s seeking.

“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). So, missions is displaying the superior worth of Jesus among unreached people groups, so that they recognize that Islam is false and Hinduism is false and Buddhism is false and Zoroastrianism is false and secularism is false and secular humanism is false and Jesus is true. That’s what proclamation is for, and we want to see him lifted up centrally, see central. To make a disciple is to make a God-centered person, to make a Christ-centered person.

So it has to be a Christ-centered, God-centered task. And I find speaking of worship helps do that because in worship everybody knows; what’s the focus? God is the focus, at least he ought to be. So, I feel zero enmity between the Great Commission over here and the pursuit of my joy in God over here, or the pursuit of God in worship over here. A person who’s authentically worshiping the living God, who has said, “All the families of the peoples will return and rejoice in the Lord,” has to care about expanding his joy into the nation.

So I’m thrilled that Rick here, in the future, he said, “Okay, we’ve reached all the nations now,” meaning the 195 political entities, and now they’re going to get biblical and go after the 6,000 people groups. He said, “Now we know we can do this and we’re going to partner with all kinds of networks and make sure all those 6,000 unreached people groups are targeted here in the next 10 years.” I can’t imagine a more fitting, biblical, God-centered thing to do than to do that.

Okay. Thanks for being here John. I have a question about the phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in him.” I’m just clarifying that, particularly the word glorified in the first half of the sentence for me. So is the glory God gets from me dependent or contingent in some way upon my satisfaction in him? Are you saying glorified more in the sense of God’s glory being displayed through me is contingent upon satisfaction?

Yes, I am. And that sounds threatening as though God were dependent on you, I know, but the key that makes that not demeaning to God or diminishing to God, as though God is less if you don’t worship him, is the word in. God is most glorified in me when I’m most satisfied in him. If I opt out on God, he is not glorified in me. I go to hell and he isn’t glorified in me. He’s glorified with respect to me because his wrath and power are glorified in my damnation. I don’t diminish God by going to hell. I diminish me and my positive glorifying of him in me. So, I’ve chosen these words pretty carefully. I might not get it just right, but I don’t mean that God becomes less if you pull your satisfaction away from him. You suffer, he doesn’t.

What you get in receiving God is the capacity in you to magnify his grace. Now if you say, “I don’t want him,” you’re like Jeremiah 2:13; that fountain is distasteful to me. I’m going to spend the rest of my life carving cisterns in the dirt, then you will go to hell. And all of that sin which he passed over for 70 or 80 years will now come crashing down on your head, and God will be seen gloriously just in the sun having risen on your head every day of your life, if you live in Southern California, and other good things if you live in Seattle.

Day by day the rain is falling on the just and the unjust, and God is loving his enemies, and day by day the sun is rising on the evil and the good, and he’s loving his enemies, and those enemies are throwing it right back in his face. That will last 80 years, and then it will be over, and justice will be done, and God will shine as a magnificently, perfectly, holy, just judge, throwing people into the lake of fire.

So, we don’t diminish God at all. We either can magnify his grace and glorify him in us by being satisfied in him, or we can be used by God to magnify his justice by resisting him all our lives and then paying for eternity.

John, this will be our last question for this morning.

Oh, sorry about that line.

Hi. Approximately six months or so ago, I came upon your teaching and such of Christian Hedonism, and in one of the things that I heard you teaching, you were talking about praying that God would do supernatural work in your heart, removing the deadness, apathy and things of that. And where my question is coming from is in seeking diligently in prayer daily, earnestly all throughout the day that Christ would be my greatest treasure. I’m finding I’m confused in two camps. One, I’m hearing things like, “You need the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” which I really don’t know what that means. And then the other, you alluded to it in one of your answers, and that is, even though I know and have seen radical change in my life since God saved me I believe, if I’m not treasuring Christ correctly, should I be concerned if I’m really saved?

Absolutely. Spectacular question. Let me say a word about the baptism of the Holy Spirit then a word about the assurance of salvation and we’ll be done. The Pentecostal, charismatic, evangelical, cessationist spectrum is wide, and people fall on different places in how they understand the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So let me tell you where I am and why, and then you can do with it what you want. I don’t think that either in 1 Corinthians 12:13, or in Acts 1:8, or in Luke 24 at the end of the chapter, the baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to a single one-time, second event after conversion. I don’t think that’s what it refers to. I think in Paul’s language, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what happens at conversion, and it means to be given the Holy Spirit. You drink of one Spirit. You’re made to drink of one Spirit, and you are baptized into Christ and become a Christian.

So if you’re a Christian in that sense, you’re all baptized in the Holy Spirit. However, I don’t deny the reality of subsequent, now here, choose your language. Puritans said baptisms, plural. So what I’m resisting is just a definition of the baptism as the single, second thing that after you get converted, you got to have this, and usually marked by speaking in tongues, if you’re a classical Pentecostal.

I think that’s very destructive and unhelpful, even though I’m not opposed to the reality of tongues and I’m not opposed to second, third, and fourth blessings from the Holy Spirit. It’s just that if you chop the Christian life up to; you got your beginning with faith in Jesus, now you really could go to truly treasuring Jesus if you got the baptism, especially with tongues. I think that’s not accurate. Not everybody is called to speak in tongues. That’s so clear from 1 Corinthians 12.

Do all speak in tongues? Do all prophesy? Are all teachers? No. But let him who is hungry seek the greater gifts, prophecy, love, especially in the whole chapter on love. So my understanding is that what happened at Pentecost was decisive in the preparing of that church. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

I think they were already saved and already born again, those 120 people, because of John three. He said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” And that’s before the resurrection. And I think what happened there can happen again and again. If you read the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit fills Peter to speak with power. The Holy Spirit comes and fills Paul on the island of Cyprus.

So, I would just commend all of you — if you feel like you’re living at a very low level of treasuring Jesus — that it would be very appropriate to say, “Fill me.” Or if you want to use the word baptism, “Baptize me afresh, afresh with the Holy Spirit.” Or Ephesians 3:19, “That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Paul is praying, “That you would be filled with all the fullness of God.”

I think that’s the same as being filled with the Holy Spirit. Ask him for it and who knows what he may do. I was talking with one brother yesterday who said he’s been a Christian 18 years, and just a year and a half ago this book took on power in his life. Isn’t that amazing? I said, “What do you think made the difference?” And he just said, “My prayers were finally answered.” Like 16.5 years of praying before the book exploded. Be patient. Be patient. I think that’s probably true.

Now, should you doubt your Salvation if you’re not, how do you say it, not treasuring Jesus? And my answer is not necessarily, because not treasuring him may be the experience of a season and you can look back and say, “I knew him. I know him. I have tasted his goodness. I have trusted his grace and there was a season in which I loved him. I don’t know what’s happened. It feels like a wasteland for the last three weeks, for the last three years. It’s just so dark. I’m just hanging on by my fingernails.”

I don’t think that person should jump to the conclusion, “I’m probably not saved.” You might not be. Nobody who’s distant from Jesus should be comfortable with that. If you start feeling comfortable at a distance from Jesus, increasingly the evidence is you don’t know him. You don’t know him. Instead, what you should cry out with David is, “God restore to me the joy of my salvation.”

So, we’re going to end on this note of war and fight. Fight the good fight of faith, Southern California. This is what Paul said to Timothy. “Timothy, fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of life, which is life, indeed.” And he said to himself, “I have fought the good fight. I’ve finished the race. I’ve kept the faith,” which means he had to get up every day and fight for joy. Imagine being thrown into prison as often as he was. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one,” he said (2 Corinthians 11:24). I can imagine what his back looked like with five times it happened. And you watched the passion of Christ happen once.

What a battle he must have had to keep trusting God’s goodness, sitting in a jail saying, “God, I’m trying to obey you. It gets me thrown in jail over and over. I get beaten with rods, I get shipwrecked, I get enemies all around me.” This is a battle, folks. This is a battle to the end. And I want to encourage you. I don’t want to leave you fearful. I want to leave you that God is so totally eager to give himself to you and you want to come to him. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke,” what? Easy. “And my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30). And the war is to rest. It’s paradoxical. I got to strive to rest.

Don’t strive to get on his good side, you’re on his side in Jesus, but strive to rest there, which means you’re not letting certain movies hold you sway. You’re not letting certain computer programs hold you sway. You’re not letting pornography hold you bondage. You’re just restful and he’s your treasure.