Mark Dever has described John Piper as the single most potent factor in the recent rise of Reformed theology. Few would disagree with Dever's assessment. Piper's theology, writing, and preaching have been of signal importance for many believers, and undoubtedly the chief attribute of his work is his resolute God-centredness. Piper is so singly focussed on the glory of God and the supremacy of Christ that it sometimes hurts one's intrinsically comfort based Western values. He has also come up with the term 'Christian hedonism' to describe his perspective on how all of our joy ought to be located and sought in Christ alone.
Inevitably he has not been without his critics. Many find themselves resistant to Piper's depiction of Christian joy, and even those within the Reformed camp have taken issue with some of his terminology. I have to confess that Piper's God-centredness has never caused me to blink an eyelid - he is so clearly in tune with the message of Scripture on this issue. But Christian hedonism has been a different kettle of fish. I've wrestled with the term, and also with the concepts which it represents, wondering if they truly reflect faithfully what the Scripture reveals of our relationship with God. As I have mulled this over I have come to an increasing conviction that 'Christian hedonism' is absolutely biblical and absolutely crucial to a proper understanding of walking with and serving the Lord.
I've also been finding Christian hedonism in the most unlikely of places. As I read books from historic Christianity I increasingly find that the sentiments articulated by Piper occur and recur with fascinating frequency. I've decided to blog on some of these issues in another ephemeral series entitled 'Headhunting Hedonists'. The first adumbration of Piper's view is taken from Spurgeon's 'Morning and Evening Readings', and packs a real punch in terms of our enjoyment of God.
January 9 - Evening
“Serve the Lord with gladness.”–Psalm 100:2
Delight in divine service is a token of acceptance. Those who serve God with a sad countenance, because they do what is unpleasant to them, are not serving Him at all; they bring the form of homage, but the life is absent. Our God requires no slaves to grace His throne; He is the Lord of the empire of love, and would have His servants dressed in the livery of joy. The angels of God serve Him with songs, not with groans; a murmur or a sigh would be a mutiny in their ranks. That obedience which is not voluntary is disobedience, for the Lord looketh at the heart, and if He seeth that we serve Him from force, and not because we love Him, He will reject our offering. Service coupled with cheerfulness is heart-service, and therefore true. Take away joyful willingness from the Christian, and you have removed the test of his sincerity. If a man be driven to battle, he is no patriot; but he who marches into the fray with flashing eye and beaming face, singing, “It is sweet for one’s country to die,” proves himself to be sincere in his patriotism. Cheerfulness is the support of our strength; in the joy of the Lord are we strong. It acts as the remover of difficulties. It is to our service what oil is to the wheels of a railway carriage. Without oil the axle soon grows hot, and accidents occur; and if there be not a holy cheerfulness to oil our wheels, our spirits will be clogged with weariness. The man who is cheerful in his service of God, proves that obedience is his element; he can sing,
“Make me to walk in Thy commands,
’Tis a delightful road.”
Reader, let us put this question–do you serve the Lord with gladness? Let us show to the people of the world, who think our religion to be slavery, that it is to us a delight and a joy! Let our gladness proclaim that we serve a good Master.