268 pages / 2004
Both my fellow blogger and I have reviewed several really good reads from John Piper (and his son), but for struggling Christians, this is perhaps his best read yet.
Behind this book is the idea of Christian Hedonism. At first glance this may look like a contradiction in terms, but Piper summarizes it as the understanding that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. We are intended to, as the Westminster Catechism puts it, "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Piper makes it clear that the Bible commands us to take joy in God.
But how can God command a feeling? And how can we change our feelings? The answer is that God Himself gives us what He commands. Even before we feel joy, the Spirit gives true believers in Christ the desire for that true joy.
We know that God also uses both methods and means to work in our hearts, after he enables us to recognize the weakness or even absence of that joy in our relationship with Him. Piper shows us those methods and means, so that we can "work out [our] own salvation, ...for it is God who works in us.."
What are the methods? They involve the following:
- fighting for joy at the same time as we depend entirely on God for the ability to fight;
- learning to see the glory of God through enlightened eyes and ears; and
- seeking consciences cleansed by our justification in Christ.
The means should be familiar to Christians, but Piper's discussion of those means shows us both their value and the most effective ways to use the means of
- God's word, the Bible (including proper Scriptural meditation, memorization, and making its meaning clear for our lives);
- prayer (without ceasing, focusing on the Giver rather than His gifts, praying our I.O.U.S.); and
- God's whole creation (using our physical senses to see the glory of God).
What is true Scriptural meditation? What does the formula I.O.U.S. mean, and how does it deepen both our prayer and our reading of God's word? How can we "use" the world properly rather than being tempted by it? You'll need to read the book to find out!
A final question: What if all these means seem fruitless? Piper shows us how to hold on when the darkness persists, when we still live with spiritual depression, and encourages us by showing us the power of a renewed focus on Christ's saving work, as well as how depressed believers in church history have either found relief for their depression or have become a source of relief for others.