November 20, 2017

The Paradox of Happiness in Christ: Why Jesus is not a Christian Hedonist


Many Christians today are obsessed with the subject of happiness and seeking joy as the top priority in life. Don't get me wrong, being happy and joyful are good things. But when a good thing is made the most important thing, then this is the essence of idolatry. If we were meant to seek our own happiness in God above all things, then the Sermon on the Mount would actually be in reverse order and false. We would be admonished to seek our happiness first above all and to view righteousness and holy behavior as merely a means towards this. But this is not what Jesus taught. Based on a close examination of scripture, Jesus was not a Christian Hedonist and in his first teaching, e warned us of those that would corrupt the commands and priorities of God. After reading this article I hope that you come away with this important truth: Life in Christ is a beautiful paradox. Don't fight it, embrace it.

The very first teaching that Jesus gave has been called the Sermon on the Mount and its content has been called the “Beatitudes.” According to Vines, "In the beatitudes the Lord indicates not only the characters that are "blessed," but the nature of that which is the highest good." The word "blessed" indicates a spiritual state that is associated with happiness but is much more than mere happiness or satisfaction.

What is the Sermon on the Mount mainly about? A deeper revelation of true ethics and discipleship.

Here are the first four points of Christ's first teaching:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
(Matthew5:3-6 NIV)

According to the explicit words of Jesus, we are admonished to mainly hunger and thirst after righteousness, not satisfaction. And the state of satisfaction is a byproduct. As a conclusion to his long teaching, Jesus emphasized that the blessedness of God is not the main goal we are to be seeking, but is a byproduct of seeking the whole of God's kingdom, and all that this means, and living according to God's righteousness:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

These two quotes are bookends that underscore we as Christians are not to seek after happiness directly as our main goal but that we are to understand that our happiness is, in general, a paradox.

Jesus was speaking to the disciples that had forsaken all in their past life to follow him. And he is pretty clear in the body of his teachings that we are to do everything for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of seeking our own happiness through God. Finding deeper joy would be a result of our deeper and more important consecration to God for the Lord's sake:

"For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:25 NIV)

What is the ethical basis of the Christian life? The objective unchanging truth and good nature of God.

Jesus explained later (Matthew 7) that a wise man builds his life on the rock of truth by hearing and doing God's will. The desire to hear God with an open mind and no humanistic bias is an important factor:

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock." (Matthew 7:24 ESV)

The rock in the Sermon on the Mount, as far as hearing and doing God's good will, is to seek and practice specific and basic moral principles and virtues. In his book Desiring God, John Piper advises us to build on a foundation of God's happiness. However, ambiguous and subjective feelings are more like sand than rock. The metaphor of a rock implies objective truth and objective reality, not subjective reality. Jesus never advocated that feelings, or seeking feelings, are a sound foundation for anything. According to Jesus' analogy of the house, a life built on anything but hearing and doing his teachings results in the collapse of the house:

"But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."  (Matthew 7:26 ESV)

The implication of the wise house builder analogy is that applying the words and teachings of Jesus provides a sufficiently strong spiritual foundation and there was no mention of feelings at all.

We cannot fully control how we will feel about our lives, or even about God. But we can control to a greater degree what we choose to put our faith in and what we practice. According to D.A. Carson, the main purpose of God for Christians is not to seek joy but to be gradually transformed into the likeness of Christ:

“God’s purpose for the men and women he redeems is not simply to have them believe certain truths but to transform them in a lifelong process that stretches toward heaven.” (D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers)

If we look at the first point of Jesus' teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and ask: what does it mean to be “poor in spirit” in God? It means “spiritually poor” as a virtue. Matthew Henry's commentary of Matthew 5 describes this quality as "humble and self-denying" and not proud:

“To be poor in spirit, is to think meanly of ourselves, of what we are, and have, and do; the poor are often taken in the Old Testament for the humble and self-denying, as opposed to those that are at ease, and the proud; it is to be as little children in our opinion of ourselves, weak, foolish, and insignificant.”

The subtitle of Timothy Keller's book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, is “The Path to True Christian Joy” and this is not by accident. We tend to find more happiness in life the less we think of ourselves and the more we tend to think of helping and blessing others. Keller's quote highlights the first point of the beatitudes: “...the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” 

What is the essence of being committed to Christ? The essence of dedication to Christ involves both an exchange and a paradox.

Jesus spoke of the paradox of happiness in his first message to his disciples and in his last teaching to his disciples, Jesus suggested that the power to perform his will and fulfill his Great Commission would come from his own presence: "and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20 NIV)

Hudson Taylor had a revelation that the abiding presence of Jesus provides an all-sufficient grace for all our needs and there is no need to strive for anything. His revelation was described in a personal letter that was later titled "The Exchanged Life" and is worth a read:

"I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realise this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient."

In surrendering all for the sake of Christ, the exchanged life is a blessed life. In dying to self and allowing God to live in us and through us, we find rest in our souls, victory over sin, and knowledge of God's will in our lives for God's glory. This same exchange is described in a different manner in Matthew 11:28-30 focusing more on exchanging our personal authority and will for God's. The yoke in Matthew 11:29 underscores that we are to willfully and humbly submit to Christ's complete authority and personal guidance:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

We are called to simply consecrate all of our lives to Christ, to join him, and to follow him as our Lord. As we are yoked to him, he teaches us and transforms us as he leads us wherever he wills and however he wills through his word and through his Spirit. I cannot tell you what your personal calling and mission on this earth is for Christ, only God can show you that through his Spirit. But one thing is certain, and that is that God's true calling will reflect the glory of God's self-giving and perfect nature and not humanistic self-interest.

The Apostle Paul took the idea of the exchanged life even further to say that we have been crucified together with Christ and that Christ lives in us and through us:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 NIV)

When we spiritually die to self in exchange for God's life in us and through us, there is nothing left to obsess about, sin loses its power, and we are better able to understand God's specific will for our lives. This is a bridge to a healthy sense of self-forgetfulness in Christ. A paradox of the exchanged life is that it is more effective to account ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ by faith, as Paul outlined,  rather than to merely strive against sin or to strive for our own joy as a strategy. Romans chapter 6 describes this:

"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11 NIV)

Finding true life as a follower of Christ is based on an exchange and a paradox wherein we exchange our humanistic nature for God's nature. Jesus exchanges our self-centered humanistic longings for his deepest peace and highest purpose. Jesus outlines in the Sermon on the Mount that consecration to God by faith brings a sense of complete trust and rest:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" (Matthew 6:25 NIV)

Because Christ has become for us the all-sufficient "I AM" that we are joined to in life, he also described himself by analogy in John 15:1 as the True Vine that we are to be simply connected to in a sense of self-forgetfulness. It's interesting how the concept of the "exchanged life" was a revelation to Hudson Taylor so long ago and still, it is neglected. A further empowerment to walking in the knowledge of the exchanged life is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Paul outlined in Galatians 5:16. To seek as the highest aim anything other than a deeper relationship with the person of Christ and his will is a counterfeit goal. Counterfeit Christian goals usually appeal to humanistic desires.

It's very important to realize this: Because we find our deepest joy in God, it does not logically follow that the highest purpose of life as a Christian should be to actively seek our own personal joy in God. Our personal thirst for happiness may lead us to God, but then once we receive Christ we are simply joined to him as our all-sufficient source of peace,  joy and all things. We do not need to, and should not, seek emotional highs as a top priority. This may not tingle people's itching ears, but we are to seek God simply for who he is. True and sincere love for God is more based on abiding and following in love than striving for feelings. And so the former is our objective.

1. A state of blessedness is necessarily contingent upon an attitude of consecration to God.
2. An attitude consecration to God is not necessarily contingent upon first feeling a state of blessedness.
3. Therefore, an attitude of consecration to God holds primacy over feeling a state of blessedness.

The question of primacy helps to identify and confirm underlying scriptural values and priorities. According to the above argument, consecration to God holds primacy as a goal without which any kind of lasting spiritual happiness would be limited.

What are God's priorities? Look at God's actual and true commands.

In contrast to Christ's teachings, John Piper's doctrine of Christian Hedonism advises us to reverse the order and seek happiness first: "Did you know that God commands us to be happy?" Piper repeatedly proposes in his false doctrine that the most important command of all by God for us is found in a Psalm:

“The biblical evidence for God's authoritative command to be happy is Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

As it turns out, Piper's article describes how people in his Bethlehem church had not been very interested in evangelism and an actual commission by Jesus, known as the “Great Commission” that Piper acknowledges as an actual command:

“God commanded us to make disciples and to rescue the perishing.” (Matthew 28:19–10; cf. James 1:22 with 5:20).

To the chagrin of the Christian Hedonist, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus did not happen to mention the Psalms as the primary source of law or priorities for believers, let alone as a source of commands at all. As the giver of “the Law,” Jesus affirmed that Moses' Law and the words of Old Testament prophets should be heeded:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17 NIV)

Jesus stated that the greatest and highest commands are to love God and to love others with self-giving agape love:

"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’this is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."" (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)

Scot McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others, affirmed that living out the core creed of Jesus Christ transforms us in the process and focuses on self-giving agape love: "After poring over the Gospels for several years, I became convinced Jesus understood the fully developed follower as someone who loved God and loved others."

What is the motive for loving our enemies? God's example of his loving and perfect nature.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus goes so far as to say that we should love our enemies unconditionally:

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44-45 NIV)

We are encouraged to love our enemies mainly in terms of emulating our loving Father in heaven that gives unconditional love. There is no motive of reward or happiness suggested by Jesus here. We as Christians have the ability to love even our enemies with unconditional love because this agape love was shed abroad in our hearts when we were born again as believers according to Romans 5:5. We take on God's own nature as new creations in Christ according to 2 Corinthians 5:17. And according to the Apostle John, God is basically agape love personified:

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8)

The ultimate paradox is that God is the center of all meaning, purpose, and value, and yet God's nature is not self-centered. God's agape love is mainly a self-giving love. This is the nature of the interrelationship of the Trinity, that sets the standard for the ethics of love. The joy of relationship is simply an effect of the core nature of God and the nature of love.

I'm not endorsing him as a teacher, but it's interesting that there is a list of 50 of Jesus' commands compiled by Bill Gothard and not once is joy referenced as a command of Jesus Christ. The one command by Jesus listed to rejoice is based not on a life practice of seeking joy as the highest aim, rather, it simply outlines how Christians should react in a certain situation when we are persecuted for his name's sake:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-13 NIV)

Many teachers present a false dichotomy that our motive to obey God is either based on a desire for pleasure or a desire to avoid pain and punishment. But the prime authority of Christ and his word are also shown to be the highest motives for obeying God. This is outlined in a formal argument in another article. In his Great Commission, Jesus underscored the importance of his authority as a basis for our obedience:

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples..."" (Matthew 28:18-19a)

What is our power for loving our enemies? God himself.

While we are encouraged that there will be great rewards for those that suffer persecution for Christ, the Lord does not encourage us to go out and seek persecution in order to obtain these rewards. The obvious reason is that the persecution is a by-product of loving and obeying God above all as the highest main motive, not the mere seeking of rewards.

Piper, however, does not teach this. He teaches that treasuring our reward in heaven above all is the prime empowerment for loving our enemies:

"Loving your enemy doesn't earn you the reward of heaven. Treasuring the reward of heaven empowers you to love your enemy."

This is false. Simply knowing God and the power of God's indwelling Spirit of love empowers us to love our enemies. The rewards of heaven are simply an added encouragement. Paul emphasized this:

"I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

Philippians is an excellent epistle describing how to endure a place like a prison with joy and peace. Paul makes it clear that Christianity is more than the power of positive thinking, it is the power of Christ's indwelling:

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7 NIV)

What we have in John Piper's self-described “philosophy” of hedonism is a reversal of Jesus' priorities and a misappropriation of God's commands. The primary message of the Sermon on the Mount is that things such as blessedness, happiness, and satisfaction are in the big picture byproducts of seeking God, living in the knowledge of God, and following God's principles.

Did Jesus live as a Christian Hedonist? No, and apparently his disciples missed the memo also.

When I asked John Piper for a scriptural basis for his claim that we glorify God most when we enjoy God, he changed the subject. And I would challenge any Christian Hedonist to find a body of scripture that with basic exegetical principles shows a message that God is most glorified in us when we are seeking and finding pleasure in him. I don't believe that it exists. The gospels, written by men that lived with Jesus for three years, teach a different gospel than Piper's, one based more on facts than feelings.

Though Jesus was perfectly living and emanating God's agape love, he was not an overly happy person. Though there are many portraits of the “Laughing Jesus” on the Internet and even “Happy Jesus” statues, happiness was actually not a predominant characteristic of Christ.

Any time that Jesus experienced sadness on earth it was not a result of his personal sin, and his holy character was affirmed by his disciples because they lived with him for three years were willing to die based on a confession that he was the perfect and sinless Christ. So why was Christ sad on earth? One could ask: “If Jesus was perfectly fulfilling the will of the Father and sinless, then why would he be known is scripture prophetically and emotionally as the “man of sorrows” in the Old Testament?

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3 NIV)

The key to understanding Jesus' sadness portrayed in Isaiah is to realize that he was not living mainly for his present or future comforts, rather, he was living mainly to obey the perfect will of God by living out the perfect love of God. The perfect love of God "seeks not its own" according to 1 Corinthians 13:5, but exhibits altruism and benevolence.

The sadness of Christ on earth also had to do with his partial detachment from the closer relationship of the Trinity that he enjoyed in heaven and Christ's sincere agape compassion and empathy for others. I could go into many examples of this from the death of Lazarus to Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. The greatest example of Christ's agape love is the cross where he voluntarily sacrificed his own life for others. Scriptures refer to this type of love as the greatest type of love:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 KJV)

Because Jesus was a part of the eternally-loving Trinity, there is no doubt that leaving his heavenly state and coming to earth was in and of itself an act of self-giving and sacrificial agape love. And to further take on the sin of mankind and to feel completely separated relationally from the Father on the cross is beyond our human comprehension. We must fairly take these types of things into consideration when we ask: what was the joy that was set before Christ during the crucifixion? We are called to resolutely fix our eyes on Jesus the "perfecter of faith" as our higher goal:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

What was the joy set before Jesus on the cross?  This represented many, many things. 

The "joy set before him" argument for Christian Hedonism is one of the more popular excuses for promoting it. In this verse, however, we are explicitly encouraged to fix our eyes on the person of Jesus as our main goal and our prize. While Jesus did look forward to the joy of fulfilling the Father's will and many other benefits, to believe that Jesus was more interested in subjective feelings of joy rather than the objective considerations is absurd. According to Matthew Henry, there were many substantial reasons why Christ would anticipate a sense of joy, but the feeling of ultimate joy as an emotion was not considered by Henry to be Christ's reason for enduring the cross:

“(3.) What it was that supported the human soul of Christ under these unparalleled sufferings; and that was the joy that was set before him. He had something in view under all his sufferings, which was pleasant to him; he rejoiced to see that by his sufferings he should make satisfaction to the injured justice of God and give security to his honour and government, that he should make peace between God and man, that he should seal the covenant of grace and be the Mediator of it, that he should open a way of salvation to the chief of sinners, and that he should effectually save all those whom the Father had given him, and himself be the first-born among many brethren. This was the joy that was set before him.”

Piper's summary of his hedonism philosophy requires that our moral motive should mainly be based on our personal seeking of joy in God: "The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed." However, Matthew Henry emphasized that there were more valuable and compelling moral motives for Christ to endure the cross. Not only is Piper's basis of motive unbiblical and heretical, logic dictates that this approach to morality necessarily denies Christ's prime personal authority over our lives, as outlined in another post. There is a fine line between healthy happiness in God and viewing this happiness as the top priority in life. Another article uses logic to clearly show why Piper's position is idolatrous.

According to the body of scripture, Jesus went to the cross not mainly to please himself, but mainly to please the Father: “because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5: 30b KJV). “for I do always those things that please him” (John 8: 29b KJV). And this was his prayer just before the crucifixion: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 33:42 NIV)

Should we mainly seek God for joy and rewards? We are already complete in Christ, the fruit of the spirit does not come by our sheer willpower, and we already have every spiritual blessing in Christ. 

Jesus did not live mainly for his own self-interest, but he lived mainly through his self-giving love for the Father. Romans 5:5 states that we have this same agape love already "shed abroad" in our hearts as Christians. Scripture tells us that we are complete in Christ as the "perfecter of faith" and we do not actually need to constantly seek after and pine for our own joy as our top priority:

"and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;" (Colossians 2:10 NIV)

Simply abiding in Christ allows the fruit of the Spirit to supernaturally come to fruition in our lives without obsessing over the fruit itself. And though we may earnestly desire the best fruit, the first fruit of the spirit is love, not joy:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

Paul told us that we already have every spiritual blessing right now in Christ:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3 NIV)

How do we appropriate these blessings? We do not need to earn them, they are ours simply as we abide with Christ and in Christ. It's not easy to conceptualize, but spiritually we are seated together in Christ right now as Christians:

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus," (Ephesians 2:6 NIV)

What did Jesus say about worship? He emphasized truthful and spiritual worship, as opposed to an unbiblical motive of self-seeking humanistic worship.

Because we already have every spiritual blessing in Christ, including joy, it does not make any sense that we must seek joy as a top priority in worship, as Piper claims: "The pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue."

Unlike Piper, Jesus highlighted that we should worship in spirit and in truth, not through seeking after our own joy:

"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NIV)

What did Jesus say is a key mark of a true believer? He said unconditional love, not happiness, is a key sign.

Jesus said that the mark of a true disciple was self-giving agape love, not happiness:

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35 NIV)

In a further attempt to justify his doctrine of pleasure, Piper distorts a parable of Jesus in which a treasure of great price was found and a man sold all he had to obtain the field that had the buried treasure:

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field." (Matthew 13:44 NLT)

From the above parable, Piper draws the following conclusion: “The condition we must meet to benefit from this great salvation is that we be converted to Christ — and conversion to Christ is what happens when Christ becomes for you a treasure chest of holy joy.”

In other words, for Piper the main critical factor in receiving salvation from Christ is supposedly seeing Jesus as our means towards obtaining our own joy. The meaning of the parable is completely distorted. Piper essentially plays a shell game with Jesus' parable such that the treasure of the kingdom of God, and all that this means, is replaced with the thrill of finding the treasure as being the treasure itself. Piper heretically inverts the main focus of the treasure from the manifold kingdom and glory of God to a human feeling. The Apostle Paul described our treasure not as a feeling, but mainly as the revelation of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit:

"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

Even if we were to go along with the idea that we should focus mainly on something extremely valuable found in Christ, Paul does not view this type of treasure as emotional, but mainly as related to wisdom and knowledge:

"resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:2b-3)

E.S. Williams in his book, Christian Hedonism? A biblical examination of John Piper's teaching, points out that key aspects of sin and repentance that make the true gospel offensive are lacking in Piper's version of the gospel.(p66)

The teaching of Christ that happiness is a paradox has been affirmed by secular thinkers. Viktor Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning stated:

"Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself.
If you are a Christian Hedonist, ask yourself: What if personally delighting in God was not actually the highest command of God for me?" How would this change your attitude and approach to life? Would there perhaps be more interest in evangelism and other priorities in scripture? Most likely.

In the same initial sermon that Jesus outlined the paradox of happiness, he warned us about false teachers that would teach men to break the true and actual commands of God, such as John Piper and his false unbiblical command to seek joy above all:

“Whoever … breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called the least [by those] in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

Because of his false foundation of pleasure and unbiblical command to seek pleasure in God above all, Piper's doctrine is heretical. It is an unstable house of cards that he constantly tries to compensate for with his podcasts, blog posts, and other media. For example, in Desiring God, Piper claims: "The pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue." And then on Twitter, he claims that he promotes self-forgetfulness: "The secret of corporate worship is the joy of self-forgetfulness, preoccupied with Jesus--together." So, we are to intentionally and adamantly seek personal joy in worship, but we are supposed to have self-forgetfulness about it. This is one of many illogical self-contradictions that I could point out that span across the legacy of Piper's Christian Hedonism.

The error of CH causes harm in many ways. But one aspect is the denial of the true paradox of happiness. It leaves Christians disillusioned as to why they don't feel happy every time they seek joy in worship. Happiness comes paradoxically by giving of ourselves and by honoring the transcendent person of God. And happiness is actually diminished when we seek it as the prime object of our desires, even if we try to sanctify our desires by saying that we seek our own happiness in God as an end. CH is refuted by the true interpretation of the whole word of God. A foundation of humanism plus of a few cherry-picked misconstrued Bible verses has seen its better days. More people will understand this as time goes by. Hopefully, Piper will repent of his doctrine one day.

Because John Piper is a very charismatic speaker and preaches a gospel of self-gratification and happiness, he has obtained a cult-like following of people that are encouraged by his sermons and podcasts. For the sake of encouragement, it seems many people are not testing his doctrine or his self-contradictions from one teaching to the next. Jesus specifically said that we should follow him for his sake, not for the sake of seeking our joy in him. On the one hand, Jesus was pretty clear. But on the other hand, enticing personality cults can be pretty satisfying.

The more you are willing to look into it, the more you will see that John Piper's false doctrine of Christian Hedonism is not biblical and is harmful to a true and sincere Christian life. Piper's seminal ideas for his doctrine were formed based on humanistic ideas in commentary and were not inspired by scripture. The early false dichotomies that he had proposed help to explain his thinking process.

If there is a desire to truly seek to please God and glorify God in accordance with scripture, Christian Hedonism should be rejected. Jesus is not a Christian Hedonist because feelings do not represent the highest glory of God, the ultimate good or the highest value. Sharing and expressing God's agape love, not merely experiencing feelings, is described in scripture as most glorifying to God. If anyone wishes to challenge what I've written, I would love to discuss or debate this subject with the hopes of reaffirming Christ's supremacy and the true goal of glorifying God in the manner that God describes.

Written by Richard H. Warden (c) 2017 All rights reserved.

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