This is a paradigm altering book. I don’t say that about many books. But I’m going to start this review by saying exactly that: this book will change your view of the Christian life and faith. It certainly has mine. Now, I know this sounds rather cheesy–alarming, even. I, too, tend to stay away from descriptions like “revolutionary” and “life changing” because they sound rather gimmicky. But I hope you understand, then, the height of the regard in which I hold this book.
What does one do with verses such as “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps. 34:8a) and “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4)? Surely, having been commanded these things, we ought to do them. But what do these commands really mean? What is it to “rejoice” in the Lord, to take joy and pleasure in Him? These are the kinds of questions John Piper tackles in this book. And if, as Piper claims, “[t]he chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever” (18), then every Christian ought also to know the answer to these questions. To understand these answers is to glorify God on a whole new level, and to live the Christian life in a different–satisfying–manner.
In his introduction to the book, Piper talks about how he became a Christian hedonist, giving readers the same verses and convictions that led him to his current beliefs. In the first chapter, he sets forth the principle that “[t]he chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever” (31). He shows that “God is absolutely sovereign over the world, that He can therefore do anything He pleases, and that He is therefore not a frustrated God, but a deeply happy God, rejoicing in all His works (Psalm 104:31) when He considers them in relation to redemptive history” (41). And then, you see:
God’s ultimate goal therefore is to preserve and display His infinite and awesome greatness and worth, that is, His glory. God has many other goals in what He does. But none of them is more ultimate than this. They are all subordinate. God’s overwhelming passion is to exalt the value of His glory. To that end, He seeks to display it, to oppose those who belittle it, and to vindicate it from all contempt. It is clearly the uppermost reality in His affections. He loves His glory infinitely. This is the same as saying: He loves himself infinitely. Or: He Himself is uppermost in His own affections. (42)
Can you see it? Oh, the beauty! If God always acts for His glory’s sake, then He will seek to glorify Himself in us. And if God loves us, then He will give us that which is best for us, that which we will enjoy most–that is, Himself. He gives us Himself to enjoy as part of a boundless display of His glory and worth. The gift of God of Himself and our enjoyment of God intersects–better to say that it completely overlaps–with His glory! As Piper states, “In view of God’s infinite power and wisdom and beauty, what would His love for a human being involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove Him most loving? There is only one possible answer: Himself!” (47-48). As we enjoy Him and praise Him for giving us this most incredible gift, He is glorified!
There are ten chapters to the revised edition: the first is about the “foundation for Christian Hedonism,” the second is on conversion and “the creation of a Christian Hedonist,” and the eight chapters that follow discuss worship, love, Scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering. Each of the eight body chapters centers the topic in question around Christian Hedonism, how our pursuit or use of the subject matter will satisfy us and glorify God.
John Piper wants you to know that this book is grounded in, and takes its cues from, the truths of Scripture. This book is replete with quotations from the Word, but also from an incredible array of theologians. He quotes Scripture in abundance. When necessary, he defines the original Greek to clarify the meaning. He also quotes from Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, Hudson Taylor, and so many more. One cannot fault John Piper with having groundless claims. One cannot accuse John Piper of not drawing his beliefs from Scripture. As much as this is a helpful and enlightening work, it is also a scholarly work, with all its ideas properly attributed, ultimately for the exposition of Scripture and the glory of God.
This book has been unbelievably helpful in showing me why and how to center my life on God. Since my conversion, He has never merely been an addition to my life; indeed, my pursuit has been to bring His influence into every sphere of my life. “Desiring God” has been indispensible in that regard. Piper has clearly shown how taking joy in God is necessary, is God-glorifying, and inevitably touches every area of life. God has been exalted and made deeply personal. This book has helped me fight sin by showing me the greater pleasures found in God. This book has given me a renewed hunger for God, a desire for undiminishable joy, all to see Him glorified.
I think it will do the same for you, which is why I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It truly has changed the way I view and live my walk, so I wish that you all would read this book to experience likewise. At the same time, I recognize that I cannot force you to read it. If you have personal hesitations, I have tried to respond to those through this review. On the other hand, if you have monetary hesitations, then I might direct you toward the website for Desiring God Ministries, where they have made this book available as a PDF for free. Please, read this book! And as you do, may God be glorified as you strive to derive all the pleasures of your soul from Him!