The Pleasure of Obedience

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“You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.” (Deuteronomy 11:1)

John Piper has done the church a great service by constantly pointing out that our happiness and God’s glory are not at odds – that is really the central idea in his classic book Desiring God.[1] In Desiring God, Piper actually goes further than saying God’s glory and our happiness are not at odds – he claims that being happy in God is glorifying God. We glorify God by being happy and satisfied in God himself; in other words, bringing God glory and being happy in God is the same thing! So the more we are happy in God, the more God is honoured, or as Piper often puts it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

This is a revolutionary truth for the soul. It means that obeying God does not need to be some dreadful drudgery. Obeying God and bringing him glory is our privilege, passion, and pleasure! So Piper calls himself a “Christian Hedonist” because he is into religion for the pleasure! And those who have walked with the Lord will testify to the greatness of this – TV, friends, sports, music, money, and even family can never bring us the same deep-seated pleasure that obeying God can.

America’s greatest theologian and John Piper’s greatest influence was a pastor named Jonathan Edwards who lived in the 1700s. Edwards knew that the glory of God is vitally important in our lives and he knew that our hearts needed to be engaged and affected as we pursue God’s glory. His most famous work, The Religious Affections, is written in part to explain how important it is that our hearts are affected by God. Edwards writes:

The nature of human beings is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection: love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, etc. These affections are the “spring of action,” the things that set us moving in our lives, that move us to engage in activities.

When we look at the world, we see that people are exceedingly busy. It is their affections that keep them busy. If we were to take away their affections, the world would become motionless and dead; there would be no such thing as activity. It is the affection we call covetousness that moves a person to seek worldly profits; it is the affection we call ambition that moves a person to pursue worldly glory; it is the affection we call lust that moves a person to pursue sensual delights. Just as worldly affections are the spring of worldly actions, so the religious affections are the spring of religious actions….

A person who has a knowledge of doctrine and theology only – without religious affection – has never engaged in true religion…. No one ever seeks salvation, no one ever cries for wisdom, no one ever wrestles with God, no one ever kneels in prayer or flees from sin, with a heart that remains unaffected.[2]

So then how can we delight our hearts in God? So how then do we find our happiness is God? This is so important if we desire to glorify God and find our pleasure in God! There is no simple answer – it is a daily battle to engage your heart to behold and enjoy God. In the Psalms, David prayed that his heart might be engaged:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain! (Psalm 119:36)

So prayer then is part of the answer – we should ask God for help in enjoying him. Seeking God in his written word is part of the answer. Spiritual disciplines like fasting and memorizing Scripture are part of the answer. Being aware of physical realities like sleep, nutrition, and exercise is part of the answer. Having a sensitivity and awareness of the person of the Holy Spirit is part of the answer. And simple, self-disciplined, on-the-job, just-do-it obedience is part of the answer – we obey God and then pray for forgiveness for not enjoying it more!


[1] John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 1986).

[2] Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds., Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2005), 20-21.

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