Ch.2 Conversion: The Creation of a Christian Hedonist

Desiring God by John Piper

“THE GATE IS NARROW”

If everyone were bound to enter the kingdom of heaven, we might not have to speak of conversion. But not everyone is bound to enter: “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14).

Chapter 1 ended with the discovery that God’s pursuit of praise from us
and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are one and the same pursuit. God’s quest to
be glorified and our quest to be satisfied reach their goal in this one experience:
our delight in God, which overflows in praise. For God, praise is the sweet echo
of His own excellence in the hearts of His people. For us, praise is the summit of
satisfaction that comes from living in fellowship with God.

The stunning implication of this discovery is that all the omnipotent energy
that drives the heart of God to pursue His own glory also drives Him to satisfy
the hearts of those who seek their joy in Him. The good news of the Bible is
that God is not at all disinclined to satisfy the hearts of those who hope in Him.
Just the opposite: The very thing that can make us happiest is what God
delights in with all His heart and with all His soul:

“I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn
away from doing good to them.… I will rejoice in doing them
good…with all my heart and all my soul.” (Jeremiah 32:40–41)
53

With all His heart and with all His soul, God joins us in the pursuit of our
everlasting joy because the consummation of that joy in Him redounds to the
glory of His own infinite worth. All who cast themselves on God find that they
are carried into endless joy by God’s omnipotent commitment to His own glory:

“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name
be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:11)

Yes, Omnipotent Joy pursues the good of all who cast themselves on God!
“The LORD takes pleasure in those who…hope in his steadfast love (Psalm
147:11). But this is not everyone.

“For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are
called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)—but not for everyone. There
are sheep and there are goats (Matthew 25:32). There are wise and there are
foolish (Matthew 25:2). There are those who are being saved and those who are
perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). And the difference is that one group has been
converted and the other hasn’t.

The aim of this chapter is to show the necessity of conversion and to argue
that it is nothing less than the creation of a Christian Hedonist. I don’t mean
you have to use this phrase, or even like this phrase. I mean that no one is a
Christian who does not embrace Jesus gladly as his most valued treasure, and
then pursue the fullness of that joy in Christ that honors Him.

WHY NOT JUST SAY, “BELIEVE”?

Someone may ask, “If your aim is conversion, why don’t you just use the straightforward, biblical command ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31)? Why bring in this new terminology of Christian Hedonism?”

My answer has two parts. First, we are surrounded by unconverted people
who think they do believe in Jesus. Drunks on the street say they believe.
Unmarried couples sleeping together say they believe. Elderly people who
haven’t sought worship or fellowship for forty years say they believe. All kinds
of lukewarm, world-loving church attenders say they believe. The world
54
abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus.

It does no good to tell these people to believe in the Lord Jesus. The phrase
is empty. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher in the
church is not to preserve and repeat cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce
the heart with biblical truth. In my neighborhood, every drunk on the street
“believes” in Jesus. Drug dealers “believe” in Jesus. Panhandlers who haven’t
been to church in forty years “believe” in Jesus. So I use different words to
unpack what believe means. In recent years I have asked, “Do you receive Jesus
as your Treasure?” Not just Savior (everybody wants out of hell, but not to be
with Jesus). Not just Lord (they might submit begrudgingly). The key is: Do
you treasure Him more than everything? Converts to Christian Hedonism say
with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

This leads to the second part of my answer. There are other straightforward
biblical commands besides “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
The reason for introducing the idea of Christian Hedonism is to force these
commands to our attention.

Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion
is not, “Believe in the Lord,” but, “Delight yourself in the LORD”? And
might not many slumbering hearts be stabbed broad awake by the words
“Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom
of God”?

SIX CRUCIAL TRUTHS TO SUMMARIZE OUR NEED AND GOD’S PROVISION1

Why is conversion so crucial? What is there about God and man that makes it
necessary? And what has God done to meet our desperate need? And what must
we do to enjoy the benefits of His provision? These are huge questions. I
attempt a summary answer with the following six truths from Scripture.
55
1. If this summary of the gospel would be helpful in your own relationships with others, it is available in an attractive tract format entitled “Quest for Joy” from Desiring God Ministries, 2601 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55406; phone: 1-888-346-4700 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-346-4700 end_of_the_skype_highlighting; fax: 612-338-4372; e-mail: mail@desiringGOD.org.

HOW HAVE WE FAILED?

1. God created us for His glory.

“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the
earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my
glory.” (Isaiah 43:6–7)

The proper understanding of everything in life begins with God. No one
will ever understand the necessity of conversion who does not know why God
created us. He created us “in His image” so that we would image forth His glory
in the world. We were made to be prisms refracting the light of God’s glory into
all of life. Why God should want to give us a share in shining with His glory is a
great mystery. Call it grace or mercy or love—it is an unspeakable wonder. Once
we were not. Then we existed—for the glory of God!

2. Therefore, it is the duty of every person to live for the glory of
God.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the
glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

If God made us for His glory, it is clear that we should live for His glory.
Our duty comes from God’s design.

What does it mean to glorify God?

It does not mean to make Him more glorious. It means to acknowledge His
glory, to value it above all things, and to make it known. It implies heartfelt
gratitude: “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Psalm
50:23). It also implies trust: Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory
to God” (Romans 4:20).

Glorifying God is the duty not only of those who have heard the preaching
of the gospel, but also of peoples who have only the witness of nature and their
own conscience:
56

His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the
things that have been made. So they ar