Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: When I Don't Desire God

John Piper founded Desiring God and served for 33 years as the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. He is the author or contributor to more than 50 books (woah!) and has preached thousands of sermons. There are few men who have been more influential in this generation, bringing a BIG vision of the glory of God and stirring hearts to love Christ.

Piper is probably best known for his book Desiring God, the same title as the organization that he founded. Arguing from Scripture and theologians through the ages, the thesis of the book is summarized in, "God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him." This simple yet powerful mind-set has changed the lives of so many, igniting a passion in them to find their supreme joy in God and devote themselves to "Christian Hedonism". As folks applied this new perspective, many started approaching John Piper with this type of problem, "I totally agree with everything you said in Desiring God, but here's my problem: I don't. I WANT to love God like you say, like the Bible commands, but I don't. And I'm scared. What do I do?"

That's what prompted Piper to write When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. This book is being featured here on The Relentless Fight because of how it encourages and equips Christians to make God their treasure, inspiring them to FIGHT the great fight of faith: the fight for JOY in God!

Here's just a few highlights from the book to get you excited. It's worth the read!

  • Why does joy in God matter?: First because God commands it (Psalm 100:2, and hundreds of other verses). Second, because nothing proves quicker where someone is at spiritually than focusing on desires. It brings conviction against our preference for God-substitutes. Do you LOVE and treasure Jesus? "Esteeming God less than anything is the essence of evil." (page 34) and Piper draws this from Jeremiah 2:12f.
  • Only God can create joy in God: Joy in God is a gift from God. As fallen sinful people, even when we're saved, we cannot MAKE ourselves feel joy in God. It is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. But that doesn't leave us off the hook. God has appointed MEANS to cultivate joy. He has given us tools and methods and strategies. 
  • The Christian life is WAR: Piper seeks to rouse us from our passive slumber and to take up arms against Satan and our sin, to FIGHT hard against our smaller pleasures so that our highest affections are for Christ alone. "Far too many Christians are passive in their fight for joy.... the central strategy is to preach the gospel to yourself. This is war. Satan is preaching for sure. If we remain passive, we surrender the field to him." (page 81) "Christianity is war. It is a declaration of all-out combat against our own sinful impulses." (page 103) and "The Word of God is the instrument for killing sin." (page 106)
  • It's a fight to SEE: We primarily fight to SEE the glory of Jesus in the gospel. That is what awakens joy. Example: You may fight to get up to SEE the sunrise, but you can't fight to MAKE the sunrise make you happy. Joy is a spontaneous gift. But you can fight to put yourself in the God-ordained path of blessing. And then wait for God to give the gift. 
  • PRAY for God to give joy: PRAY for God to give you the joy. Many of the prayers in the Psalms assume we are unable to make ourselves satisfied in God. Piper gives four prayers he asks of God when he opens up the Bible, through the acronym IOUS on page 151f. You can listen to a 5-minute explanation of IOUS on an #AskPastorJohn episode titled I'm Bored With The Bible.
  • Tons of practical tips: Piper gives a boatload of practical tips for engaging our heart and fueling our passion for God. His highest recommendation is simply prayer and Scripture. He highlights making a PLAN to read the Bible (page 116), and taking it to the next level through memorizing it, journaling your thoughts on it, and meditating (chapter 8). He recommends solid books on doctrine. He stresses the importance of being committed to a local church (page 130ff) and the encouragement found in reading Christian biography. You can fight for joy through music, art, the commonplace, bodily health, suffering, exercise, and rest (chapter 11). Food & sex are occasions for gratitude to the Giver through the Word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4f). Choosing to thank God may even cause our hearts to be moved to gratitude (for more on this, see the TRF post Fighting for Gratitude).
  • Fight in community"The fight for joy is a battle to be fought alongside comrades. We do not fight alone. To be a Christian is to be a part of the Body of Christ. We are meant to help each other fight for joy." (page 173). For more, see the TRF post Brothers in Arms

In summary, every one of us should be loving and treasuring God more than we already are. He is worthy of our highest affection! Piper's book will spur you on to pursue God and will give you practical strategies to fight for joy in Him. You can get the FREE pdf of When I Don't Desire God here, or purchase a hard copy from Amazon. But if you prefer watching instead of reading, you can buy the DVD series of Piper himself teaching a conference on When I Don't Desire God.

Fighting for joy,
The Relentless Fight