I began the “Theology Matters” series with an introductory article focusing on the importance of studying theology and we will continue this series by focusing on the rejoicing that comes from knowing truth about God.
All of this allows us to conclude that the [believer’s] correct understanding of God’s nature leads to delight in God (rather than merely in the gifts that come from God)…
Theology has a direct impact on our joy. If you have spent much time at all listening to John Piper or reading resources from Desiring God, you will have surely been influenced by Piper’s so-called “Christian Hedonism.” Piper sums up this doctrine with the concise yet profound statement: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
Glorifying God and finding satisfaction in him are intertwined. In the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Piper’s summary of Christian Hedonism parallels the words of Westminster Assembly in 1647. In his statement, Piper argues that man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Essentially, he believes that satisfaction is the inevitable avenue through which we glorify God. When we find our joy and satisfaction in God, we are glorifying Him.
We are caught up in what seems like a never ending battle for our joy. We are constantly offered products and services that promise to bring us the lasting joy that we so earnestly desire. It would be unfair to say that all of these “products” and “services” are evil within themselves; rather, when we treat them as ultimate things and think that they can satisfy us out of them,.
We are called to glorify God by placing our joy and satisfaction in Him and in His truth rather than in the fleeting pleasures of this world. We know from experience that the human heart is like an “idol factory,” as John Calvin puts it, and therefore we must examine ourselves and put our joy and hope in God rather than in created things. Whether it is an idol such as your academic, athletic, social, or financial success or an addiction such as pornography or alcohol, it is dangerous to your soul and it rips away your joy. Thankfully, God has equipped us to fight these temptations by giving us his Word.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the cornerstone of the Biblical case for this fight for joy. In this letter, there are fifteen references to joy with the most famous passage found in Philippians 4.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
We must remember that joy should not be based on our circumstances. True joy is not something that we only put on when everything is going as planned or only when we feel comfortable. True joy is evidence that the Spirit is at work in your heart, but it is also a direct effect of the truth found in the gospel. The truth that reveals our depravity, describes the holiness of God, and reminds us that our salvation is not dependent upon our actions, but on Christ’s action. This is the root of true joy. We are redeemed sinners called to a holy life and our joy is a result of truth.
I leave you with a quote from prolific author and pastor, Tim Keller.
Suppose you had a habit in your old life. Back in the old warfare. And you used to fall into it and you used to get out of it, and you used to be upset and then you would pummel yourself and then you would do better for a while and then you would make resolutions and then you would fall back into it. But now you are a Christian and here’s one of the things that goes wrong: sometimes, as a Christian, you go back into that habit. You fall back into it. It happens. Immediately you are going to say, “nothing has changed, same old thing.” Wrong. It’s a different battle. You are now in a battle you cannot lose, and in the old days, that habit was expressive of your real self. That’s not true. That is no longer you. Try it. You’ll never get the same kind of pleasure. If you’re a real Christian you go back into that sin and say, “Why doesn’t it taste as good as it used to? Why doesn’t it satisfy me the way it used to?” Because it is not expressive of your real self anymore. In my innermost being, I delight in the Law of God. You are now in a battle you cannot lose. You used to be in a battle you cannot win. You make that transition from a battle you cannot win to a battle you cannot lose is when you’re willing to say, “I see what Jesus Christ did for me.