Re-Reading some of my own writing this morning and I came across this post from several years ago.
There is a certain kind of book that I enjoy reading devotionally. Like Forest Gump often said, “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” I enjoy chatting about theology, but I don’t like reading about it. I enjoy the implications found in philosophy, and the intellectual pursuit of that, but reading it takes work and it is not refreshing. What works for me in terms of devotional reading, aside from the Bible itself, are books that point me to the majesty of Christ and the joy of knowing him.
I don’t believe that Christianity is all that complicated. The God of Islam is boring, dull and mean – so undesirable. The Mormon god is so fallible and changing and is unworthy of worship. Jehovah of the Witnesses looks a bit like Allah. The Jewish God, YHWH, is enormous and amazing and holy and awesome and unapproachable – a bit scary, but quick to forgive. The Deuteronomy passage that describes him thus, “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
That same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as viewed in light of the cross, is all that and approachable too. In Hebrews 10 it reminds us in light of the work of our great high priest, “let us draw near with full assurance of faith, having been sprinkled with the blood of Christ.” The OT God from NT vision is so great, the author of life, the source of strength, the judge of all nations, the holy one, the provider of all that we need, the conquering king of the universe, the glorious God who dwells in inapproachable light, the glorious king of kings, holy, righteous, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, full of grace, the source of truth, eternal, unchanging…has made possible for believers today what was impossible for men before the cross.
As clear as that is to me at this moment, it is often a blurry image at the back of my mind. Books like AW Tozer’s “Knowledge of the Holy” bring all this back to the front of my mind – I am able in this atmosphere to pause, take a deep breath of pure unpolluted air and begin to release all the things of this world that have been holding my attention for some reason. So I was looking for that book this morning and as sometimes happens (as cluttered as my mind can become – you should see my office!) I couldn’t find it. So I went scanning through my bookshelves for something that would approach the same devotional quality as that and I ran across a book that I never opened by John Piper, “When I Don’t Desire God.”
Here are a few quotations from the chapter I read this morning:
“Indifference to the pursuit of joy in God would be indifference to the glory of God, and that is sin.” John Piper
“Conversion is the creation of new desires, not just new duties; new delights, not just new deeds; new treasures, not just new tasks.” John Piper
“So for God to say, Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified” Thomas Watson
“It is the stealing of the apples that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is still a beam from the glory…I have tried since…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different…Gratitude exclaims, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that being whose far off and momentary coruscations are like this!’” CS Lewis
Okay, I had to look up the word, “coruscations” but that basically means the glittering or sparklings…I think the point is that God could make wonderful things and pleasurable things in the course of his creation of the universe, holding all things together, and being concerned with stuff like the sun shining and gravity and stuff like that and in the meantime, can create things that are so delightful and minute. Somebody help me if I’m getting this all mixed up. Ultimately, Lewis is saying that pleasures are designed by God and the appropriate response is to not only say thanks, but to worship God for his character and amazing attention to detail resulting in little joys.
“The aim is that Jesus Christ be made known in all the world as the all powerful, all wise, all righteous all merciful, all satisfying treasure of the universe. This will happen when Christians don’t just say that Christ is valuable or sing that Christ is valuable, but truly experience it in their hearts, the unsurpassed worth of Jesus with so much joy that they can say, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Piper
I think what I appreciated about this chapter is the simple premise that God is the most delightful being in the universe. The world will do everything to distract us from this, but to miss this, as Piper says in the first quote is sin. In light of the glory of God, who he is and what he’s done and the reality of who we are and our core needs, there is nothing and no one more worthy of our pursuit. I also appreciate that this isn’t just some idea to make Christians feel better where they are in life, but the reckless pursuit of joy in God, like the pearl of great price, is worth releasing all else – the possessions, the trappings, the sense of entitlement to some American dream, ultimately, even life itself and a comittment to the values of the kingdom. God’s glory throughout the earth. If there is no greater, ore desirable thing in the universe then what better news to proclaim to the lost than that all this can be theirs!