I don’t blog often – I prefer to write when I have a message which I believe should remain in print. No doubt, the best thing I could do would be to just post Scripture, since the Word of God is characterized as dynamite (“power” in Romans 1:16), a sledgehammer and a blast furnace (Jeremiah 23:29), a floodlight (Psalm 119:105) and the cycle of rainfall on the earth (Isaiah 55:10-11).
In fact, I was meditating on the former passage when it set my mind to working…
Isaiah 55:8-11, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
God doesn’t think like us, and most of the time, unfortunately, we don’t think like Him. This is what has been troubling me lately as I have seen quotes like this repeated in various forms from many believers:
“The Westminster Shorter Catechism says: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ John Piper says it might be more accurate to say: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.’”
I am unclear whether Mr. Piper actually places the same application to his statement which the multitudes do. This statement, though, has led to such absurd conclusions that our enjoyment is more important than God’s glory – or at least the misconception that my enjoyment and God’s glory are actually intertwined and inseparable. "I should not be concerned about God," I am basically told, "I should be concerned about myself enjoying Christ. Since every good gift comes from God, when I am enjoying myself, I am actually glorifying God." What a sad perversion of Holy Writ!
I am greatly troubled by statements like this because it is not thinking biblically. In reading my Bible, I find some defining and fundamental passages about man and God. Yes, I will enjoy being with Christ forever and having the privilege and joy to serve Him the way He deserves – in a completely sinless body and with superhuman effort. It’s just I don’t find in Scripture where my enjoyment brings God glory. The glory of God is one thing and my enjoyment is an entirely different one.
Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
Matthew 22:35-40, “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Colossians 3:1-5, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:”
I wish to be the first one in line to say that the entrance of Christ into the soul of man definitely brings joy. We rejoice because we are no longer enemies and strangers to God but are adopted into His family. Our sins are washed away by the precious blood of Christ and we have been made righteous in the sight of God. The Psalmist reminds us that He has put a new song in our mouths and taken us out of the miry clay and set our feet upon a rock. I am a generally happy person because I am saved.
However, and I don’t wish to be overly critical, having joy because of Christ’s presence, His active work in our lives and the confidence of experiencing His Word to be true is quite a different thing than “glorifying God by enjoying Christ.” It is not our enjoyment which brings God glory. It is a changed life through yielding to the authority of Christ and His Word along with giving a verbal testimony of what He has done for us that brings glory to God.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying Christ, enjoying a church, enjoying a family or even, as we are told in Ecclesiastes, enjoying the result of hard work. However, when enjoyment becomes the focus of “Christian” living - when it becomes the engine which runs our life with Christ – we have exchanged a life of gold, silver and precious stones for wood, hay and stubble. Living for enjoyment basically erases the “Christian” part out of Christian living. Teaching like this substitutes doctrine for experience, holiness for happiness and conformity to the image of Christ for the “freedom” of the serpent’s lie in the Garden.
The disciples enjoyed the fact that God gave them power when they went out preaching, and our Lord told them when they returned that they should rather glory that their names are written in Heaven. Their enjoyment in the gifts given to them by our Lord Himself was misdirected and corrected by Him. In Galatians we are reminded that we should not glory in any fleshly activity – or in the abstention of that activity – but we should glory only in the cross of Jesus Christ. The church at Corinth was reminded that if this life alone was the main focus of enjoyment – then we should be miserable and not happy. The motivational truth which prompts us to declare the Gospel to others is that I will enjoy myself in Heaven one day – even if I cannot live in enjoyment today.
It is a shame to see the effect of this pseudo-spirituality fulfilling itself in the lives of the modern believer. Since the platform of service has been erected on this rotten wood of selfishness, it’s little wonder that there is a spirit of agitation and even hostility in most “modern” churches with “progressive” Christians against archaic notions like duty and holiness. Those characteristics don’t mesh with enjoyment. Of course not, our ways are not God’s ways. His ways demand abasement of self and obedience to His Word. Or, put another way, Galatians reminds us the the spirit and the flesh are always contrary to each other.
Can you see how this false concept pleases us, but doesn’t really please God? This whole train of thought is running down the wrong track and will eventually cause derailment from serving Him or a terrible collision of fundamental ideals in one’s life. Living a life where “personal enjoyment” equals “glorifying God” is an oxymoron like “Bible Humanism” and is devilish in its conception.
Peter recoiled when the Lord told him exactly how his martyrdom would bring glory to God – and when he asked what would happen to John he was simply told, “What is that to thee? Follow thou me.” Jesus didn’t placate him with the idea that he would enjoy his Christian walk, tantalize him with the love of his family or encourage him with prospect of material goods he would enjoy. He simply told him, “Follow me.” When he was in prison, I don’t believe he “enjoyed Christ” but he obeyed Him. When the disciples were beaten for their testimony, they didn’t enjoy it; rather they thanked God that they were counted worthy to suffer for the sake of His name – His glory vs. our enjoyment.
Lazarus died – just so he could bring glory to God. I don’t know how he died, just that he was gravely ill. Was he “enjoying Christ” as he struggled for those last breaths, most likely unable to eat or drink much? His body may have even been wracked with pain as he slipped into unconsciousness. Jesus allowed him to die so his resurrection would bring glory to God. John’s Gospel does not record that Jesus was concerned for Lazarus’ enjoyment.
Our brother, Paul, recorded he was given 39 stripes five times, often in prison, beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, spent a day and night floating on the sea, lived a life constantly in peril, went hungry and thirsty, was cold and underdressed and on top of all that he was in constant care and personal distress for the spiritual welfare of a multitude of churches. That doesn’t sound like “enjoying Christ” to me. It does sound like faithfulness to Christ and his calling, though.
The very testimony of Jesus Christ is amplified throughout the New Testament which gives us the model for living. It encourages us through suffering, not enjoyment. The hallmark of popular passages resounds the opposite of what Mr. Piper declares.
1 Peter 2:18-21, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:”
The life of a true disciple of Christ in the Bible is commonly associated with suffering – not enjoyment. This gives a whole different perspective on all the WWJD bracelets, charms and T-shirts. Christ suffered, and we will, too. We are reminded that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution – not live a life full of enjoyment.
His ways are not our ways, neither is the way God thinks the same as we often think. The Bible gives the necessary perspective in this upside-down world. What would have happened if Moses would have lived his life based on this principle? Rather than choosing affliction, he would have stayed in Pharaoh’s courts and cloaked himself with the fallacy that his enjoyment was actually glorifying God better than identifying himself with the bondage of slavery.
Jude 1:3-4, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Lasciviousness is a compound word carrying with it the context of vulgarity, wantonness, abandonment of restraint (generally in immorality) – really just a general and complete filthiness. Since Mr. Piper uses the ESV, even that translation labels this word “sensuality,” which the dictionary defines as “the gratification of the senses or indulgence of the appetite, a preoccupation with the senses or appetites.” Would it be too much of a generalization to say that this word could be defined as “fully pleasing yourself instead of God?” God's grace was not given just for us to please our senses, simply for our enjoyment. Romans Chapter Six reminds us that we should no longer continue in sin - because it is the antithesis of what Christ expects from us as believers.
The hypocritical notion that our enjoyment equals God’s glory will eventually bring forth an ugly harvest after these corrupt trees have been planted and germinate. Already the average “evangelical” refuses to endure hardship, changes churches based on comfort level instead of dedication to God’s Word and seeks after music which pleases the flesh instead of music which exalts Christ. This is why churches “need” Starbucks, movie screens, and a “come-as-you-are” mentality. Most of the dialogue from the pastors has become so softened and bereft of the mention of judgment that the messages are appropriately not labeled preaching any longer. Thanks, in part, to this new hybrid God/self theology, progressive churches avoid the topics of Hell, the Judgment Seat of Christ, Apostasy, Worldliness and Obedience to the Word. These “dark” topics are not enjoyable, so they are ignored while popular themes like, “The Gospel According to The Beatles,” and “God Wants You To Have Great Sex” are promoted. These are the definitive results of “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.”
While we do not deserve God’s grace, and we never will, God does deserve our glory. And not on our terms – on His. The glory of God is never compatible with the sinfulness of man.
So, thank you to Mark Driscoll, John Piper, C. J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Joshua Harris, Al Mohler and all of their followers. They have helped to illustrate the Bible. Unfortunately it is Philippians 2:20-21.
“For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.”
With one exception, however. They are teaching others to seek their own and call it enjoying Christ. What a shame.