Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

by John Piper

Paperback, 2011

Status

Available

Call number

DEV 089 ENG

Publication

Multnomah Books (2011), Edition: Rev Exp, Paperback, 368 pages

Description

Piper reveals that the debate between duty and delight doesn't truly exist: delight is our duty. Join him as he unveils stunning, life-impacting truths that you saw in the Bible but never dared to believe.

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
Desiring God, John Piper's best-loved work on the joy to be found in God, is one of those rare theological works that actually live up to the hype. As a good Calvinist and a member of what has been termed the "young, restless, and reformed" crowd, I decided it was time to find out what all the fuss was about. And I found it to be far more than just a fad and a blog, because the principles Piper expounds are not along the lines of positive thinking or self-help. Nor is he teaching a selfish gospel that relegates God to the role of our cosmic servant. Oh no—the reality is far more exciting than that.

Piper has a very specific goal in this book: to share with other believers why it is okay—and not just okay, but actually commanded—that we seek our own personal joy. (Sounds self centered, doesn't it? But read on.) Real biblical Christianity is not about plowing dutifully through and withstanding temptation as an act of heroic self-denial. Indeed, Piper turns the whole notion of self-denial on its head, arguing that we always renounce a lesser pleasure for a greater. Even in the deepest acts of self-sacrifice, there is some greater joy in view. Our model for this is, of course, Christ Himself, "who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

To be sure, Piper is just one in a long line of Christian preachers and thinkers who have taught some facet of this overarching philosophy. To support his contentions, Piper calls on a whole host of authors from all periods of church history—Augustine, Luther, George Mueller, Jonathan Edwards, and David Livingstone, as well as more contemporary authors like Flannery O'Connor and C. S. Lewis. Indeed, Lewis is credited with sparking the philosophy of Christian hedonism in Piper through his sermon "The Weight of Glory," in which he says our desires are not too strong, but too weak; we are far too easily satisfied with temporal pleasures when all the riches of God are spread before us.

As Lewis points out, the New Testament offers "unblushing promises of reward" to those who are faithful, and it's understood that we will seek righteousness not as an end in itself (for that is legalism), but as a means to real joy, which is in God alone. God insists on being the Giver; we bring nothing to Him, and He gives everything to us. And so He remains in the position that brings Him the most glory and us the greatest joy—He is the benefactor, we are the recipients. When we try to take the joy out of our service, it becomes a dead ritual that brings no happiness either to us or the One to whom we offer it.

As much as I appreciate all the other authors Piper quotes (and this was one of the chief pleasures of the book to me, seeing how these authors intersect with this pervasive idea), Piper's primary source is the Bible, and he soaks his text in it. You can hardly go two sentences before he's quoting more Scripture or supporting a previous point with a list of Scripture references in parentheses. I just love it! Though at times it gets a little ponderous in an audiobook (as I'm sure the narrator would attest), I really appreciate the supremacy of Scripture in this book. This is the reason it's going to endure—not because Piper is a great writer and communicator (though he is), but because the truths presented here are truly biblical.

Of course there are objections to the notion of Christian hedonism (and to the term itself). Readers have pointed out examples of self-chosen, apparent misery in the Bible and in Christian biographies, and Piper includes a chapter on suffering and sacrifice, focusing mostly on martyrs, ancient and modern, who seemed to choose pain instead of joy. But there is a distinction to be made: joy does not equate with fun. Gethsemane was not a fun place, but it was a necessary step in Jesus's pursuit of joy through the cross and ultimately the redemption of God's people. Joy and fun aren't the same.

Initially, I found myself rather resistant to the idea that God created me to seek my own joy. Baldly stated like that, it sounds really selfish. Other readers may have had a similar experience going into this book, even those of us who trust Piper as a preacher and are prepared to seriously consider his words. Lewis, again, diagnoses our problem when he argues that it is the influence of Kant and the Stoics that has taught Christians to think that if we get pleasure out of something, it is not moral or pleasing to God. Lewis is emphatic that "this is no part of Christian doctrine." Why would the Bible hold out promises of incredible eternal rewards if those rewards aren't meant to motivate us? Isn't motivation the whole point of reward?

Piper is very aware that he has to break down his reader's resistance to the idea that pleasure (the real thing, not the substitutes) is good and should be sought. So he repeats himself quite a bit and the material in the appendices is basically covered in the book already. But I see why the repetition is needed. I needed it. Sometimes we don't even realize we are looking at our theology through a particular lens; it takes a lot of pointing for us to notice we have something in front of our noses coloring the world for us.

It was fascinating to see the pieces come together as I walked through this book. Once the idea was planted, I started seeing "the language of hedonism" everywhere in Scripture. It's one thing to listen to someone expound the Bible and make a convincing argument for a particular interpretation, but quite another when you find that truth lurking in passages you've read a hundred times before. For a Christian, there is nothing more convincing than the testimony of Scripture. And this, ultimately, is why I can praise Desiring God so highly.

I listened to this on audiobook read by Grover Gardner. Gardner's voice grated on me somewhat in the beginning, but as I continued to listen, the things I disliked about his tonal quality and enunciation became less noticeable.

I have already been blessed by the biblical principles of this book, and I foresee deeper joy to come as I learn to seek it in God and as He remains what He always has been—the real Joy-Giver who is glorified in the giving. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member andrewlovesoldbooks
Once in a while, a privileged person happens to read a magnificent book at just the right point in their life, and it permanently changes them for the better. In 2005, I was that person, and Desiring God was that book.

In it, Piper plumbs the Bible to find the purpose for which the universe and in particular mankind was created, concluding that "the chief end of man is to glorify God *by* enjoying Him forever," paraphrasing the old Westminster confession. He then develops the philosophical, theological, and practical implications of this stunning phrase.

I cannot recommend any non-canonical book more highly.
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LibraryThing member hanson_trek
Excellent book! Brings home the question and meaning of life. At the end of the day, after all is said and done, you are left with one choice. God wants one thing: for all men to desire Him. Matt. 22:37 - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
LibraryThing member stephendr
John MacArthur calls Desiring God "A soul-stirring celebration of the pleasures of knowing God... A must-read for every Christian and a feast for the spiritually hungry." This book is a tremendously valuable book and a powerful corrective to stoic Christianity. It is not only relevant, it is important. I believe the thoroughly Biblical theology presented here has the potential to transform the mind and the heart. Piper shows how God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him. Saving faith is not a decision. Saving faith is not an intellectual assent to a doctrinal scheme. Saving faith is savouring and embracing the person and work of Jesus Christ. I would encourage all believers (especially but not exclusively) to read this book carefully and then read it again!… (more)
LibraryThing member gosdena
Desiring God by John Piper is probably the most significant book I have read in the past few years, but its subtitle, “Meditations of a Christian Hedonist”, might lead you to wonder what’s coming. Is this a book about the Prosperity Gospel perhaps – if you give to God he will make you rich? Or perhaps Piper is saying that if you have faith all your problems will disappear and you will never be sick or in trouble every again and be happy every day?

Emphatically no! The clue is in the title – Desiring God. This is a book to stop you seeking pleasure anywhere else other than in God Himself. What Piper has discovered is a golden thread that runs through the Bible, through the life of Jesus and St Paul, the great theologians Augustine, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards to C S Lewis and beyond

John Piper is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and has been for almost 30 years. Before that he was a seminary professor, and he holds a PhD from the University of Munich. He is a passionate preacher, pastor and thinker.

But early in his career he was struggling with the fact that “if I did something good because it would make me happy, I would ruin its goodness.” He felt somehow, as C S Lewis explained it, that “there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing…” And yet other Christians across the ages had discovered something different:

Blaise Pascal wrote: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception.”

Jeremy Taylor: “God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy.”

Augustine: “If I were to ask you why you have believed in Christ, why you have become Christians, every man will answer truly, ‘For the sake of happiness.’”

We all desire joy, and happiness but somehow feel that these desires should be suppressed and that “to be motivated by a desire for happiness when [volunteering] for Christian service or [going] to church – that seemed selfish…” However hard we try, though, it seems we have “an overwhelming longing to be happy, a tremendously powerful impulse to seek pleasure.” Through the writings of C S Lewis, Jonathan Edwards and others Piper finally saw that ”I must pursue joy in God if I am to glorify Him as the surpassingly valuable Reality in the universe.”

So through looking at Conversion, Worship, Love, Scripture, Prayer, Money, Marriage, Missions and Suffering, John Piper seeks to show that “the chief end [purpose] of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever” and that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

This brief overview cannot do the book justice. Piper does not avoid the hard questions. The chapter on Suffering is a real challenge to the comfortable Christianity of much of the Western Church. Occasionally Piper seems to stretch a point or over-complicate, and you might need to re-read the odd paragraph to get the argument, but these are small points. Overall the book creates a desire, at least in me, to pursue knowledge of God, delight in God and the glory of God more and more, which leads to the most radical Christian discipleship.

As a musician and “worship leader” (although I think only the Holy Spirit can truly lead us in Worship) I find Piper’s writing always creates excitement in me to see God worshipped and glorified in my life and in the Church. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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LibraryThing member adam3000
If you think this book is boring or mildly interesting, you are a bad reader. This book should NOT be ignored. It is either grade A garbage or a desperately needed kick in the pants to the contemporary Church (at least in North America).

READ THIS BOOK CAREFULLY and then go pursue pleasure (not just will-power religious devotion) in God with all your might!… (more)
LibraryThing member ebnelson
I really like Piper’s focus on Christian hedonism. It’s because of this ideal, which infuses itself in almost all of Piper’s work, that I’ve found this theme come to the fore of my favorite writers: Luther, Bonheoffer, and Augustine. So, the exploration of this idea was something that I was really looking forward to.

The chapter on conversion, however, really disheartened me. Here it became clear that for Piper conversion using traditional Evangelical paradigms is more important to Piper than biblical fidelity. Piper says, “There are other straightforward commands other than “Believe in the Lord, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The reason for introducing the idea of Christian hedonism is to force these commands to our attention” revealing that a large part of his focus on Christian hedonism is not to get people to simply delight in our Creator’s goodness, but rather to get people to raise the level of commitment needed to be present before they can rest on God’s saving goodness.

It's sad to see delight in the Lord being used to undercut the extravagant nature of the Gospel.
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LibraryThing member hoosiers80
As I decided to read Desiring God Revised Edition by John Piper, I was not sure what to expect. This is considered by many a must read book of the modern era. I was greatly blessed by what I read. This book discusses how we are to be as happy as we possibly can in God. It goes into great detail to explain what exactly is what Piper terms a Christian hedonist. Piper then looks at how this applies to many different areas of our lives including worship, marriage, money, missions and many others.

Reading this book was monumental for someone as myself who has struggled to find joy in God at times. The phrase ‘that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him’ really struck home with me. The chapter on suffering was very encouraging and informative. As someone who always put sacrifice and suffering on the opposite end of the spectrum as joy, this chapter completely changed my heart and mind on this topic. This chapter showed me how sacrifice is not the removing of joy from my life to please God, but how suffering and joy go hand in hand. For anyone who believes like I did that seeking joy was somehow worldly or wrong, every chapter in this book will challenge that view in one way or another. I am grateful that God placed this book in my hands at the perfect time in my life. I would recommend this book to all.
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LibraryThing member benseal
All time favorite book - aside from the Bible!
LibraryThing member joannaholbrook
The chapter on worship is amazing! If you only read the first few chapters, you can't escape without benefitting from Piper's impassioned orthodoxy. He fuels the fires of my passion for God every time I read him.
LibraryThing member xuebi
Regardless of how one views Piper's theology, this book is an excellent tool for Christian living: to help the Christian lead a life fulfilled by the true joy of God. Dealing with various aspects of life including prayer, mission, and giving, Piper makes a strong biblical case for, as the Shorter Westminster Confession states, the chief end of Man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.… (more)
LibraryThing member chriskrycho
Piper's magnum opus; it remains one of the most influential books I've ever read, and perhaps his best extended work.
LibraryThing member moses917
For over twenty-seven years now pastor John Piper has been provoking Christians with the simple but paradigm-shifting truth which is not only the theme of this book but is found running through all his ministry the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Piper builds and supports his message upon numerous texts of scripture from the Bible echoing the voices the apostle Paul and Christ Jesus. Along with them one will find the supporting words of influential Christ followers throughout the timeline of history like Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis.
Noted author John Piper uses the term Christian hedonism frequently in this book a term which goes back to a section of the Westminster Catechism. The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes the "chief end of man" as "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Piper has suggested that this would be more correct as "to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." John Piper points to figures such as Blaise Pascal and Jonathan Edwards as exemplars of Christian hedonism from the past, before the term was current.
The question as to what is Christian Hedonism is Piper’s shortest summary is God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. As people we all make into a God that which we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonist though wants to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure which is pleasure in Him.
“The overriding concern of this book is that in all of life God be glorified the way He Himself has appointed. To that end this book aims to persuade you that the chief end of man if to glorify God by enjoying Him forever” (p. 18).
Piper provides a compelling and liberating case where we are finally free to enjoy Christ not only as our Lord and Savior, but also as our all surpassing, supremely soul-satisfying Treasure. He begins his case with the premise that happiness and pleasure are the motivations for everyone. This is illustrated through Pascal in the introduction and that God is the ultimate pleasure available to us. He further provides answers to the questions like, what is the connection between pleasure/happiness and the Christian faith and What should my motivation be for following God? We follow God out of delight not out of mere fear or duty. This delight is found in the deepest pleasure available in God alone. Also that this pursuit of pleasure in God is not only permissible but it is essential.
This is a weighty book with priceless truth in which Piper who admittedly writes with a Calvinistic bent provides a number of important insights into living life with a focus on chasing after the heart of God with the hedonist’s abandon. I can’t overstate the tremendous impact this book has had on the structuring my theological view of God and how it weaves together my happiness and pleasure in God. So this book is a must read in my opinion full of Piper’s gift of meshing logic, theological insight and passion.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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LibraryThing member aevaughn
Before I get into the negatives, I did agree with the main thesis of this work. My reasons for disliking it are four-fold. First, it was overtly Calvinistic in parts (Piper comes out of that tradition) so it is to be expected. Second, he quotes at one point Ayn Rand (she gets on my nerves) and he appears to be addicted to Johnathan Edwards (not a bad thing, but I don't particularly care about him one way or the other). Third, he oftentimes mentions the heaven/hell dichotomy, with the whole fire and brimstone bit. I in contrast hold to something closer to the ideas put forth in Rob Bell's Love Wins. Fourth and most importantly, he typically relies on quotes, stories and a scattering of Scripture verses to make his point. In contrast, I would much prefer it if he utilized large passages from the Bible to draw out his points. Taking selected quotes or scriptures can easily lead to prooftexting.… (more)
LibraryThing member sparkleandchico
I'm going to make myself unpopular and say that I didn't like this book. I actually gave up on it after the first few chapters. I read it because Christian's all around me on Logos Hope (a missionary ship) were raving about it and saying how great it was. After a few chapters I came across a description of a "Christian Hedonist." I had never heard this term used before. The author suggests we should all be aiming for this higher state and that unless we reach it we are not fulfilling God's true potential for us. How do we reach it? By aiming to be 100% satisfied personally in our Christian walk. I found this concept difficult...is OUR OWN personal satisfaction something we should really have as our ultimate goal...seems a bit selfish. What about when we don't feel satisfied ....does that mean we are not fulfilling God's potential for us? Does it mean we aren't saved? Should we base anything on how we feel on a daily basis? It is surely dangerous to rely on certain feelings in connection with our salvation.

What is the evidence that we love/desire God "If you love me, you will OBEY my commands" The Bible doesn't give other requirements and I cannot find Christian Hedonism to be a healthy pursuit. I stopped reading the book as it started to make me feel that if I didn't have certain experiences I wasn't saved. I knew this was a wrong thought pattern so I abandoned the book before it did any more damage.

I would warn Christian readers to be careful with this book...
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LibraryThing member BradKautz
The opening question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: "What is the chief end of man?" The answer is: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." This question-and-answer frames the central thesis that John Piper makes in Desiring God, which is that an essential facet of Christian living is to delight in God, exuberantly so, throughout our walk with him. Piper maintains that one of the core messages of the Bible is that God's people should know His glory and should magnify it as they live for Him in the world. God's glory and the happiness of His people go hand-in-hand with each other.

I have read several of Piper's other books and was familiar with his oft-repeated saying, "God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him." Desiring God is a meditation on God-saturated and God-glorifying living from one who calls himself a Christian Hedonist. He writes "If God were not infinitely devoted to the preservation , display, and enjoyment of His own glory, we could have no hope of finding happiness in Him." (31) I believe that what Piper lays out in this book forms the foundation for everything else that he has done in ministry. In this book he writes most extensively about that which is most dear to him, the glory of God, as seen in God and experienced in those who know Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Piper addresses the delight of God's presence in chapters on conversion, worship, scripture, love, prayer, money, marriage, missions and suffering. There is an introduction, epilogue and several very helpful appendices. His writing is saturated with relevant scripture passages and heavily influenced by his study of the work of Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis and others. This is an excellent and engaging discussion of experiencing God's glory in all of life, and worshipping God as the only proper response. I highly commend it.
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LibraryThing member mejerrymouse
"This book aims to persuade you that The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever" (pg. 18).

Piper explains how he came to this realization and the foundation upon which it stands. He then seeks to demonstrate how various aspects of the Christian life are entwined with our pursuit of pleasure beginning with conversion and covering worship, love for others, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering. This Twenty-fifth Edition also includes a helpful group study guide.

It typically takes me a long time to read books by John Piper, and Desiring God was no exception. I think half of what John Piper communicates may "go over my head". However, I find that wading through the portions of Piper which elude me in order to glean the nuggets of wisdom which God uses to transform my life is beneficial. Piper's work is extremely thought-provoking; one must not read it lightly.

Piper is poetic. He paints helpful word pictures. For example: "If the pump of love runs dry, it is because the pipe of prayer isn't deep enough" and "So we see repeatedly in Scripture that prayer is a walkie-talkie for warfare, not a domestic intercom for increasing our conveniences" (pg. 178). I love how Piper writes with a sense of urgency, reminding us that we are engaged in a life and death war.

Again and again, God uses John Piper's writing to stir my passions afresh to pursue the spiritual disciplines, not out of a sense of duty, but for the sake of my joy and the joy of others. Read Piper carefully, with your Bible in hand, and consider what he has to say. You may not agree with it all, but you will likely come away with some valuable insights as a result.

*Many thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!
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LibraryThing member MandaT
I have heard a lot about John Piper in recent years, but have never had the chance to read any of his books until now. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist will make you think. The book challenged me in the way I think about so many things in life. What is my true purpose or goal? I know that it is to glorify God, but how am I to go about doing that. John Piper changes one word in an old creed to build his case that we are to be Christian Hedonists. The creed says: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." (pg. 17) Piper changes it to: "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever."(pg. 18) After talking about how a Christian Hedonist is created, he then proceeds to present how we are to glorify God by enjoying Him in 8 different topics--worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions and suffering.
Like with any book, I do not agree with him on everything. I wasn't too crazy about using the term Hedonist because of how we use that word in our current culture. But there were many ideas and thoughts that he presented that challenged me. Piper says, " It is better to say that we pursue our joy in God than to simply say that we pursue God. For one can pursue God in ways that do not honor Him:
'What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?' says the LORD; 'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts.' (Isaiah 1:11) (ESV)
Our solemn assemblies may be a stench in God's nose (Amos 5:21-24). It is possible to pursue God without glorifying God. If we want our quest to honor God, we must pursue Him for the joy in fellowship with Him. Consider the Sabbath as an illustration of this. The Lord rebukes His people for seeking 'their own' pleasure on His holy day. But what does He mean? He means they are delighting in their business and not in the beauty of their God. He does not rebuke their hedonism. He rebukes the weakness of it. They have settled for secular interests and thus honor them above the Lord.... [here he quotes Isaiah 58:13-14] Notice that calling the Sabbath a delight is parallel to calling the holy day of the Lord honorable. This simply means you honor what you delight in. Or you glorify what you enjoy." (pgs. 306-307) This is just a taste of the things Piper makes you think through.
There is also a study guide in the back of the book to use for personal use or in a group setting. With some of the questions, I felt as though I was just re-writing what Piper had written in his book. There were other thought questions that were great at making you think through Scripture. I really appreciated that the reader was encouraged to pray using certain Psalms as a guide.

I would recommend this book. While I don't agree with everything, I think it is definitely worth reading and contemplating the issues he brings up. It's definitely worth your time!

**I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.
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Language

Original publication date

1986

Physical description

368 p.; 5.99 inches

ISBN

1601423101 / 9781601423108
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