Christian Hedonism changes the way we think about self-denial. There is a real doctrine and teaching of self-denial in the Bible, right? Mark 8:34, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” So, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me.
So, you should ask, “Okay, Mr. Christian Hedonist, it says you’re supposed to do everything to maximize your pleasure. Deal with that.” My response is always, “Read the next verse. Just read the next verse.” We’re dealing with Jesus here. You don’t pull Jesus’s words apart and take your little favorite phrase or my little favorite phrase.
“We are not all the way saved. We are being saved.”
The next verse says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). “And you do want to save your life, disciples, don’t you?” Isn’t that the argument? “You want to save your life, don’t you? I’m telling you how to save your life. I’m telling you how to be a Christian Hedonist. Lose it. Lose it for the sake of the poor. Lose it in missions. Stand up for what is right at work. Lose it.” Of course, there is enough sin in us that we got to be killing ourselves all day long, right? “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you,” Paul said (Colossians 3:5).
John Piper is not all the way saved. He is being saved. Therefore, every day, there’s stuff in me that needs to be denied for the sake of joy, for the sake of maximizing my satisfaction. Not only eternally, but in a hundred practical ways with my wife, my five kids, my twelve grandchildren.
Repenting, denying myself, acknowledging wrong so that relationships can be healed, restored, preserved, as well as getting to heaven. So yeah, I believe in self-denial. But there is no such thing in the Christian life as ultimate self-denial. That’d be like looking God in the face in heaven when you get there and he says, “Welcome into the joy of your master.” And you say, “I don’t do joy. I’m into self-denial, and I know that’s what honors you most. And I know you’re offering me joy, but I only deny myself, and therefore, I can’t accept the offer.” That’s blasphemous.
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