READ: Jeremiah 30-32
THINK: John Piper, a pastor in Minneapolis, has written extensively on the idea of Christian Hedonism – the notion of finding hope and joy and life amidst the brokenness of our world by totally giving ourselves over to delighting in God. And he uses God’s words in Jeremiah 32 to describe the basis for Christian Hedonism – that we can delight in God because loves and enjoys us so much. Read this selection from one of his sermons:
Two years ago Daniel Yankelovitch published a book entitled New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down. He argues on the basis of extensive interviews and nationwide polls that massive shifts have occurred in our culture and that the widespread search for personal self-fulfillment has created a new set of rules that govern the way we think and feel as Americans. He says, “In their extreme form the new rules simply turn the old ones on their head, and in place of the old self-denial ethic we find people who refuse to deny anything to themselves—not out of bottomless appetite, but on the strange moral principle that ‘I have a duty to myself'” (p. xviii).
He tells of a young woman in her mid-thirties who complained to her psychotherapist that she was becoming nervous and fretful because life had grown so hectic—too many big weekends, too many discos, too many late hours, too much talk, too much wine, too much pot, too much lovemaking. “Why don’t you stop?” asked the therapist mildly. The patient stared blankly for a moment, and then her face lit up, dazzled by an illumination: “You mean I really don’t have to do what I want to?” she burst out in amazement. The trademark of the new self-fulfillment seekers is that “they operate on the premise that emotional cravings are sacred objects and that it is a crime against nature to harbor an unfulfilled emotional need.”
Christian Hedonism teaches that the desire to be happy is God-given and should not be denied or resisted but directed to God for satisfaction. Christian Hedonism does not say that whatever you enjoy is good. It says that God has shown you what is good and doing it ought to bring you joy (Micah 6:8). And since doing the will of God ought to bring you joy, the pursuit of joy is an essential part of all moral effort. If you abandon the pursuit of joy (and thus refuse to be a Hedonist, as I use the term), you cannot fulfill the will of God.
Christian Hedonism affirms that the godliest saints of every age have discovered no contradiction in saying, on the one hand, “We are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Romans 8:36), and on the other hand, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Christian Hedonism does not join the culture of self-gratification that makes you a slave of your sinful impulses. Christian Hedonism commands that we not be conformed to this age but that we be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) so we can delight to do the will of our Father in heaven. According to Christian Hedonism, joy in God is not optional icing on the cake of Christianity. When you think it through, joy in God is an essential part of saving faith.
In order for a sinner to pursue joy in God, he must be confident that God will not shut him out when he comes seeking forgiveness and fellowship. How can we be encouraged that God will treat us with mercy when we repent from our sin and come seeking joy in him? Consider this encouragement from Jeremiah 9:24, “‘I am the Lord who performs mercy and justice and righteousness in the earth, because in these things I delight’ says the Lord.” God shows mercy because he delights in it. God is not constrained to save by some formal principle or rule. He is so full of life and joy in his own glory that the climax of his pleasure is to overflow in mercy to us. The ground of our confidence in the mercy of God is that he is a perfect Christian Hedonist. He delights above all things in his divine excellence, and his happiness is so full that it expresses itself in the pleasure he has in sharing it with others.
Listen to the heartbeat of the perfect heavenly Hedonist in Jeremiah 32:40–41. Why does God do good? How does he go about the business of loving you?
Listen: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.”
God does good to you because he enjoys it so much! He pursues the business of loving you with all his heart and with all his soul. The happiness of God spilling over in joyful love is the foundation and example of Christian Hedonism.
PRAY: Thank God today for doing good to you and treating you with love. Revel in his happiness, and give yourself over today to his love.