Scripture: The Kindling of Christian Hedonism

Plenary 1 — 2014 National Conference

Look at the Book: Reading the Bible for Yourself

My aim in this message is to awaken, and deepen, and intensify your love for the Bible as a divine gift that is absolutely essential and indispensible in accomplishing God’s ultimate aim in the universe, namely, that he be supremely glorified in the white intensity of the everlasting joy of his redeemed people in him through Jesus Christ.

The message is entitled “Scripture: The Kindling of Christian Hedonism,” and it has two parts. Part One answers the question, What is Christian Hedonism? And Part Two answers the question: How is the Bible indispensible in accomplishing the aim of God in creation, which is the aim of Christian Hedonism?

Part One: What Is Christian Hedonism?

Christian Hedonism is a way of life that seeks, at all times, to maximize the intensity and duration of our pleasure in God—a quest that is shaped by and based on two convictions: namely, 1) the conviction that the pleasure of greatest intensity and greatest duration is found only in God through the person and work of Jesus Christ, and 2) the conviction that the reason God designed it this way is because he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Thus through Christ we find maximum joy in God, and God receives maximum glory from us through our joy in him.

Four Points of Clarification

First, let’s clarify the relationship between the experience of pleasure and the object of pleasure.

Notice that I did not say, Christian Hedonism seeks maximum pleasure. I said, It seeks to maximize the intensity and duration of our pleasure in God. It may seem like a small difference, but here’s why it matters: When some people hear the words, “seek maximum pleasure,” they think that pleasure it the object sought, when in fact pleasure is the experience of the object sought. That’s what needs clarifying.

Let’s push into this clarification with a denial and an affirmation: I deny that Christian Hedonism makes a god out of pleasure. I affirm that we all make a god out of what we take most pleasure in.

In other words, Christian Hedonism affirms that there is no enjoyment of something without the something. And the living act of enjoying something is never the something which is being enjoyed. It is not possible to delight in the living act of delighting during that act. It is not possible to take pleasure in the living act of taking pleasure during that act of taking pleasure, any more than it is possible to hear the act of hearing, or taste the act of tasting, or smell the act of smelling, or touch the act of touching.

You can’t enjoy the act of enjoying something while fully enjoying that something. The organ of hearing is not designed to perceive the act of hearing, but to perceive sounds. The organ of joy is not designed to enjoy joy, but objects of joy.

Imagine yourself experiencing authentic pleasure in a piece of music, a favorite song. In that moment of authentic pleasure, you are not thinking about having authentic pleasure. Your mind is focused on the music. In the split second that you become aware of yourself having pleasure, and attempt to take pleasure in your living experience of pleasure, that first experience of pleasure in the music vanishes. In that split second, you have ceased to take pleasure in music, and all that’s left is the memory or the idea of taking pleasure in music.

“If you find anything else to be a greater treasure, you belittle Jesus.”

And yes, you can make a god out of the idea of pleasure. You can make a god out of thoughts and memories of pleasure. You can make a god out of the ideas of Christian Hedonism. Or Calvinism. Or the idea of Christ’s deity, or any other intellectual object.

But in the moment of authentic delight, you are delighting in something other than the living act of that delighting. In the moment of authentic pleasure you are taking pleasure in something other than the living act of that authentic pleasure. In the moment of authentic worship you are worshiping something other than the living act of authentic worship.

That is what I mean when I deny that Christian Hedonism makes a god out of pleasure. It does not. Rather we all make a god out of what we take most pleasure in.

This is what Jesus was saying in Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” The kind of love he has in mind here is not need-meeting love. Jesus did not come to be served and have his needs met. The kind of love he has in mind is cherishing love, treasuring love, desiring love, delighting-in love. He means, “If you want your son or daughter more than me, they are your god and you can’t have me. If you treasure them more, if you desire them more, enjoy them more, you are not worthy of me. I’m not your God.

It’s what Paul was getting at when he said in Philippians 3:8, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” This is Paul’s answer to Jesus’ summons: If you love anything more than me you belittle me. And Paul responds, Compared to you everything — everything — is rubbish and loss. You are, therefore, supreme in my affections. We acknowledge as God what we have most pleasure in.

It’s what God was saying in Jeremiah 9:23–24, “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me.” You can make a god out of wisdom, or might, or riches — or you can make a god out of God. How? What is your supreme boast? What do you exult in above all things? What do you value and treasure and cherish and enjoy above all things? That is your god.

So that’s the first clarification of our definition: Christian Hedonism seeks at all times to maximize the intensity and duration of our pleasure not in pleasure, but in God.

In God Alone

Second, the second thing to clarify is that maximum intensity and maximum duration matters infinitely, and God himself is the only hope of such pleasure. If you could offer me pleasure that is more intense and longer than the pleasure we may have in God, I would take it. I say that before the very face of God, believing that he is smiling on me as I say it. And I believe he is smiling because he sees that this statement is the strongest possible way of saying: He and he alone is the hope of the greatest and longest pleasure. And he is smiling because he loves to see the simplicity and forthrightness of his word exalted, namely, Psalm 16:11. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11).

Not only is there no hope of greater joy or longer joy in anything other than God, but it is inconceivable that there would be. It would be a self-contradiction — to contemplate a joy that is fuller than full and longer than forever. So if you offer me a joy that is 99% of full or lasts 80 million years, then stops, I say, not interested. Not in the least. Rather I say with the psalmist in Psalm 43:4, “I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.”

That’s our second clarification. In all of life we are seeking to maximize the intensity and duration of our pleasure in God alone.

Our Joy and God’s Glory

Third, the third thing to clarify in our definition of Christian Hedonism is the foundational conviction that the reason God designed us to find maximum pleasure in him because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

In other words, God made a world in which our supreme jubilation and his supreme glorification happen in the same experience. They are one. They are not separate. They are not in competition. God did not make a world in which we must choose between our supreme happiness and his supreme glory. In fact, he made a world in which we dare not choose between them. Choosing between them is blasphemy.

Trying to choose my supreme happiness over God’s supreme glory is a blasphemous denial that only in him is my supreme joy found. And trying glorify him without the pursuit of supreme pleasure in him is a blasphemous denial that my heart’s affections are essential to worship — a denial that my affections for God are not essential in making much of God.

“Our main disease is preferring other things to God.”

Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me” (Matthew 15:8–9). “In vain.” In emptiness. In vanity. It is not true worship. Why? Because they think their actions glorify God when their hearts have no affection for God. God was not glorified in the Pharisees as they worshipped, no matter how many true, biblical things they said about him, or prayed, or sang.

God has created a universe in which he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. We need not, we dare not, choose between glorifying God and pursing our own full and eternal happiness in God, because finding our happiness in God glorifies God.

Paul said, “It is my eager hope that Christ will be magnified in my body by my death.” Then added, “For to die is gain.” Then explained, “To depart and be with Christ is far better” (Philippians 1:20–23). Which means Christ will be most magnified in Paul’s death when Paul finds Christ all-satisfying as he dies.

Which leads to one last clarification of our definition of Christian Hedonism.

The Stakes Are High

Fourth, the effort to maximize the intensity and duration of your pleasure in God may cost you your life. Let there be no silly talk of a safe or easy Christian life. There is no such thing. Instead hear Flannery O’Connor: “Picture me with my ground teeth stalking joy—fully armed too as it’s a highly dangerous quest” (The Habit of Being, edited by Sally Fitzgerald [New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1979], 126).

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 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 8:34–35).

“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

“If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25).

“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12).

“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

“What son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7–11).

The point of all this is that our main disease in this world is preferring other things over God. And the way our Great Physician delivers us from this disease is by knocking out from under us every futile pleasure that threatens our eternal joy — a therapy otherwise known as suffering.

“God knows what he’s doing in your losses. Trust him.”

When you come to Christ, the temple of your soul is filled with idols. And the smashing of those idols by the new Lord of the temple will be a life-long experience of happy pain. “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7). God knows what he is doing in your losses. If you turn against him, you turn against your Surgeon, your Savior, the lover of your soul, and the only hope of everlasting joy.

That is what I mean by the vision of God and the way of life called Christian Hedonism. And our holy hope to live this life and attain this goal is the Bible. So we turn now to “Scripture, the Kindling of Christian Hedonism.”

Part Two: Scripture — The Kindling of Christian Hedonism

So the ultimate aim of God in creation is that he would be maximally glorified in the white-hot intensity of the everlasting joy of his people, as they experience him as their supreme treasure in and through a fallen, then perfected, world.

Oh, how many things need expansion and unpacking from that sentence! Volumes could be filled.

For example, we should clarify that this maximum glorification of God in the white-hot intensity of the everlasting joy of his people must be, and will be, from a people with total, global ethnic and racial diversity and unity. It will be a redeemed people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 5:9); because God has ordained that his glory can only receive its fullest display through that kind of unified, joyful diversity. But that’s another conference. I’ve tried to begin that clarification in Bloodlines.

Another clarification needed is this: the fact that God is to be experienced and enjoyed “in and through a fallen, then perfected, world” begs for the vast exploration of how God himself is enjoyed with white-hot intensity through the enjoyment of things he has made in the world — food, sex, music, friends, nature, etc. God did not create the material world merely as potential idols. He created the world to mediate experiences of himself in the things themselves with no idolatry at all. And that too calls for volumes. One of which Joe Rigney has written, called The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying his Gifts (Crossway, 2015).

But what we will tackle in the time remaining is this: This ultimate goal of God in being maximally glorified in the white, hot intensity of the everlasting joy of his people in him has not yet been fulfilled, and cannot be fulfilled if the people who are destined to glorify him by enjoying him forever cannot enjoy him because they are dead in their trespasses and sins and insensible to the sweetness of his glory. This is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of God’s ultimate purpose.

And since nothing takes God by surprise, we know that he saw this obstacle coming and therefore made it part of his plan from the beginning. Which means that our universal human deadness to the glory of God is not merely and obstacle to God’s purpose, but a means to it, because overcoming this obstacle — which is the history of salvation — will reveal more of his glory and will intensify our joy in it as no other way could.

The Role of Scripture

So here is the question for the rest of our time: How do the Scriptures, the Bible — God’s inspired, inerrant word — how do these words, these sentences and paragraphs and arguments and stories and poems and songs in this Book relate to God’s way of overcoming our deadness to his glory so that his purpose to be glorified in our white worship might be fulfilled?

First, let’s be clear that apart from his sovereign work of grace we are all spiritually dead. Which means that we all by nature prefer other things more than God. And this preference is so strong, that we cannot change it ourselves. That’s what it means to be dead spiritually.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

And again in Romans 8:7–8, “The mind of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

And again in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Apart from God’s saving grace we are all unable to see the compelling truth and beauty of the things of the Spirit. We cannot submit to or please God. For we are spiritually and culpably blind to the glory of God in this world and in the gospel.

Luther calls this the bondage of the will. But it is a bondage that is owing to a corruption for which we are truly responsible. We are morally and spiritually unable to prefer the true beauty of God over the deceitful beauty of sin. We love sin. But this is not the kind of inability that takes away our responsibility and our guilt. It is not the kind of inability that says, “I prefer God over all things, but something is stopping me from embracing him as my treasure.” No. It is the kind inability that says: “I don’t do not prefer God over this world and therefore I will not embrace him as my supreme treasure.” People in that condition—namely all of us—have a real inability, a moral and spiritual inability, to embrace God as our supreme Treasure. We cannot because we will not. And we will not because he is not supremely attractive to us.

That’s what it means to be spiritually dead. Morally unable to enjoy God — to treasure God — above all things.

As a result of this condition we are guilty of high treason (attempting to dethrone him from his place as the supreme Treasure of the universe). This is a capital offense against the Creator so that the sentence of eternal condemnation rest on each of us.

That’s what stands between us and the realization of God’s being most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. We do not prefer God, and we are under judgment because of it.

“But God, being rich in mercy,” Paul says in Ephesians 2:4–5, “because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved.”

How did God do this? How is he doing it today? How does he make dead people alive so that they see and prefer and embrace God-in-Christ as their supreme Treasure forever?

The answer is: He does it by the inspired, inerrant scriptures, the words of God that make up the Bible. Therefore, all the God-exalting joy that we hope to experience now and in the age to come hangs on the truth and power of the Bible. And the whole of God’s eternal purpose to be glorified in the white-hot worship of his people hangs on the truth and power of the Scriptures.

I’ll mention five ways that this is so.

Known to Be Enjoyed

First, there can be no fullness in our joy in God where there is no fullness in the revelation of God’s excellencies. And that fullness is in the Bible. You can’t love him if you don’t know him. And the more fully you know him, the more fully you can love him and treasure him and delight in him. And God knows what kind of revelation and what fullness of revelation is needed to ignite and sustain the fullness of joy that glorifies him most. And that fullness of revelation is in the Bible.

The knowledge we have of God in natural revelation is real and wonderful. The heavens are telling the glory of God. But it cannot compare the knowledge we have of God in the history of salvation recorded with truth and fullness and authority only in the Bible. What God says concerning his self-revelation to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:21 is true of all of us: “The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” He revealed himself by the word of the Lord. There are many providences and miracles in history that reveal the Lord. But none of them is self-explanatory. They all have meaning only in relation to the God’s word. The word of God, the Bible, is the only infallible and guide to the meaning of all God’s self-revealing works.

All God-exalting joy is based on God revealed knowledge of God. And the fullness of God-exalting joy is possible only because of the fullness of God-revealed knowledge of God in the fullness of scripture. Without it God’s purpose of being glorified in the white-hot worship of his people would fail.

God Chose a Book

Second, the story of how God acted in history to purchase our release from spiritual deadness, and the bondage of the will, and the wrath of God is only known because of the inspired record of it in the Bible. The power that this story has is possible only because God ordained that it be preserved by his inspired spokesmen in the Bible. We will see in just a minute that this history of God’s work to save us from our deadness and from his wrath would be utterly ineffective today without the utterly reliable record of it in the Bible.

We may speculate why God didn’t preserve this history of redemption with photographs and videos and audio recordings, or oral testimony from generation to generation through 2000 years. He could have. He didn’t. He chose holy writings which Paul says are “able to make you wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). He chose a book. He chose writing and reading and preaching and telling what is written.

So without the book the true and full story of our salvation would be inaccessible. And without that readable, preachable story, there would be no deliverance today from spiritual deadness and the bondage of the will and the wrath of God, which we will see now. Why that is we will see now in the third reason the Bible is indispensible for our joy and God’s purpose.

Made Alive to Read

Third, God has ordained that the miracle of new birth, by which we are made alive from our spiritual deadness happens through hearing the word of God. The new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit sovereignly making the dead live, giving sight to the blind, so that we see the glory of Christ in the word.

So neither the Spirit alone or the word alone bring about this miracle. The Spirit, through the mentally-apprehended word of God causes the dead heart to live and see in the word — in the story of our redemption — a glorious all-desirable, all-satisfying, supremely valuable Savior, and King, and Friend.

First Peter 1:23–25:

You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Notice two things. The word that he is speaking about is the narration, the story, of the good news, the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the meaning that all of God’s word attaches to it. He said (v. 25), “This word is the good news that was preached to you” — that Christ died for us, that he paid our debt, that he bore the wrath of God in our place, that he provided God’s righteousness for our clothing, that he purchased our forgiveness and our new hearts.

And then notice, second, that this word is the instrument through which the Spirit of God brings about the new birth: “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” Not the Spirit alone. Or the word alone. But the Spirit through the word.

You had heard the word maybe a hundred times. Nothing. Boring. Confusing. Silly. Mythological. Can’t compare with the pleasures of sin. Then, that word, that same truth, looks beautiful! Glorious. Needed. Precious. To be treasured above every other word. Because in it now there is shining a glorious Savior. An all-satisfying spring of living water.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray — 
 I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; 
 My chains fell off, my heart was free, 
 I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
(Charles Wesley)

I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see. (John Newton)

Only by the Spirit, through the word. James put is like this: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18). You are a new creation. And just like God created light at the beginning by his word, so he did it again in you. 2 Corinthians 4:6, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’”

He shone in your heart. He overcame your blindness. He caused you to see the glory of God in the face of Christ. That means when the word was preached to you or taught to you or read by you, God said, “Let there be light.” And the self-authenticating glory of God in the person of Christ shone in your heart, as the broad day sun. You were born again. No more deadness. No more bondage. No more guilt. No more wrath.

All of it because of the God’s word by the Spirit (see 2 Corinthians 4:5).

So we have now see three of the five ways our eternal joy hangs on the Scriptures:

  • First, the fullness of our joy in God depends on the fullness of the revelation of God’s excellencies in the scriptures.

  • Second, the story of God’s deliverance of his people from their deadness is only known from the scriptures; and must be known.

  • Third, that historical account of God’s saving work in Christ is the instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit by which he makes us alive to the all-satisfying glory of God.

And now, fourth, by that word the joy of faith is created, and, fifth, by that word the joy of faith is sustained and brought to completion.

Created by the Word

Fourth, the joy of faith is created by the word of God.

The key passage is Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” This is simultaneous with the new birth. When the child of God is created by the Spirit through the word of God, his first consciousness is believing the word. So that John says in 1 John 5:1, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” Not will be but has been — because the new birth is the cause of believing and believing is the evidence of new birth. So everyone who is believing has been born of God. And this new birth and therefore this faith is through the word of God.

You were born again. No more deadness. No more bondage. No more guilt. No more wrath.

The reason there can be no saving faith apart from the Scriptures is they are the only reliable portrait of the Christ of faith. Saving faith is faith in Christ, and Christ is only known through the inspired Scriptures. If we try to reconstruct an object of faith that does not rely on the truth of scripture we will not create saving faith.

And the connection with joy is this: Enjoying Christ — being satisfied in all that God is for us in Jesus — is an essential element of saving faith. There is no genuine saving faith that is not a treasuring of Christ as supreme. And to treasure something is to find pleasure in it. In other words, believing in Christ is receiving him not only as true, and authoritative and needed, but also as supremely valuable and treasured and enjoyed (John 1:12).

This is why in 2 Corinthians 1:24 Paul uses the word joy as virtually interchangeable with faith. “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24). When he says he works with them for their faith, he means that he labors for their joy-permeated faith.

He calls this the “joy of faith” in Philippians 1:25. “I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy of faith.” I work for your joy. And I remain on the earth for your joy of faith.

The Gospel of John made it plain that enjoying Jesus and believing Jesus are part of each other. In John 6:35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” These are parallel: coming to him and believing in him. And both are for the same thing: the relief of soul-hunger, and the relief of soul-thirst. “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Which is why I say that an essential part of saving faith is finding in Jesus the satisfaction of our souls. Faith means being satisfied in all that God is for us in Jesus. And therefore, since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, all our joy as Christians hangs on the reliable portrait of God and Christ in the inspired scriptures.

Until the Day of Christ

Fifth, which leaves one last point: this joy is attacked and embattled everyday of our lives, until we die or until Christ comes, and its endurance — its perseverance — is only possible because of the Scriptures. We owe not only the creation of the joy of faith to the word, but also its daily survival.

If you are true Christian why will you wake up tomorrow morning with the joy of faith? What guarantees that you will be a believer when you wake up in the morning?

The biblical answer is: God will keep you. “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jeremiah 32:40). “He is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24). “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6). “He will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8). “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

How will he do it? He will do it by inclining your heart to his testimonies (Psalm 119:36) and then making sure that you hear the faith-sustaining word of God. “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). He has given us his word to create and sustain the joy of faith. “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). We endure in hope by the encouragement of the scriptures.

The joy of faith is sustained by the daily application of the blood-bought promises of God. All the promises of God in the Bible are yes in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). They belong to all who are in Christ. And they are the daily food of faith. Without this food, faith dies.

You can see the daily work of the word in securing out joy if you think about the necessity of holiness. “Strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). No holiness, no heaven. Which means our everlasting joy in God hangs on our holiness.

And how does God provide this holiness infallibly to his covenant people? He does it by the word. Jesus prayed that he would do this: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Make them holy by the truth. What truth do I mean? The glorious truth of God’s word, God’s Scriptures.

And again in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” — free from the bondage of sinning. Free in holiness for everlasting joy. It comes by the truth, by the word.

Or again in 2 Peter 1:4, “He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world.” We share God’s character, and overcome worldliness by precious and very great promises. They awaken faith. They enliven joy in God. And by that joy of faith we nullify the lies of sin with the promise of a superior pleasure.

The holiness we need comes from feasting our eyes on the superior beauty and worth of Jesus and all that God is for us in him. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). And how do behold the glory of the Lord? “The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:21). We see him in the word. And by seeing him we become like him. We become holy. And are kept on the narrow road that leads to life, and everlasting joy. No everlasting joy without the reliable word!

Bigger Than the Universe

So the ultimate purpose of God is that he would be maximally glorified in the white-hot intensity of the everlasting joy of his people, as they experience him as their supreme treasure.

And the fullness of this joy depends on the fullness of the revelation of God’s excellencies in the Scriptures.

And the fullness of this joy depends on the story of God’s deliverance of his people from their deadness and this story is only known from the scriptures; and must be known.

And the fullness of this joy depends on the actual, individual experience of the new birth which the Holy Spirit gives only through the living and abide word of God in the Scriptures.

And the fullness of this joy depends on saving faith — the joy of faith, being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus, and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word.

And the fullness of this joy depends on the perseverance of faith and the holiness without which we will not see the Lord, and this faith-sustained holiness happens only by the precious and very great promises of God in the Bible.

Therefore, the entire purpose of God for this universe hangs on inspiration and authority and truthfulness of the Bible. These have been spoken that the joy of Jesus in his Father may be in us, and our joy in him may be full (John 15:11) — that all the redeemed might be fully satisfied in God, and thus God be fully gloried in them. This is the goal of all things.

I pray that from now on you will feel something of the weight of these words about the scriptures: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalms 19:10).