Nerds Read the Preface (A Laymen's Guide to Desiring God)

I am a nerd. I read the preface of books. However, I am not a full blown nerd because I went apostate on math. When I declared that I would be a Pastoral Studies major I felt the immediate release from the burden of math. The Bible is full of 3’s, 7’s, and 40’s. You don’t need to take Calculus to preach the Bible, just a little bit of Greek and Hebrew.
What is the place of pleasure in the Christian life? Is it a sin to be very happy? I guess this is why we say chocolate cake can be so good it is sinful. I want to be happy and feel great. Is that wrong? My desire to feel good has often conflicted me and has inevitably led to my being a bit of a hypochondriac. Sometimes I feel so good I worry that I am about to die without symptoms. Last summer went to the cardiologist. They hooked me up to a computer, shot me full of radiation and then challenged me to climb a mountain. I guess they wanted to see if I am prone to have a heart attack on Everest. They kept asking me, as they increased the speed and incline of the treadmill, “Do you feel O.K.?” Now they are literally watching my heart beat. Do they really have to ask how I feel? They should know. So I would answer their question with a question, “Am I O.K.?” “Are you supposed to ask me this question as a hospital policy or am I about 3 seconds from a defibrillator?”
Piper says his book, Desiring God, is, “A serious book about being happy in God (9).” This book is about making the pursuit of pleasure in God one’s utmost concern. Is this the right place to start? Where most ideas/philosophies/theology, etc. go wrong is in the beginning – what is the premise? I do not doubt that God invites us to be delighted, happy, and to find pleasure in Him, but is this the utmost pursuit? It is an interesting premise. I have seen this flick before – the pages are already highlighted, so I know that on page 18 Piper is going to sympathize with my reservations, “I found in myself an overwhelming longing to be happy, a tremendously powerful impulse to seek pleasure, yet at ever point of moral decision I said to myself that this impulse should have no influence.” The desire for pleasure is tough to curtail, hence my question, what is its place in the Christian life? Is it a valid place to start in developing theology, doctrine, and praxis? What will be the logical conclusion, the dangers, if pleasure is the wrong place to start?
Maybe my unease with pleasure is answered in the C.S. Lewis quote on page 9, “Who knew that the Lord ‘finds our desires not too strong but too weak.’” Given the choice between going to the dentist and going fishing –I fish. Given the choice between ice cream and having my head sewn to the carpet I choose ice cream. Given the choice to suffer for Jesus or safety – which would I choose? Sometimes suffering and Jesus hold hands.  Some choose pain because they are satisfied in Christ. Piper drives home this point by directing our attention to, “all the missionaries who have left everything for Christ and in the end said, ‘I never made a sacrifice (9).’” Perhaps my pleasures are too selfish and vain. Perhaps my pleasure is too shallow. Perhaps God has given me a desire that I am satisfying in idolatry instead of in devotion to Him. If my desire for pleasure is of God, maybe pleasure is a good place to start because if I satisfy that desire, God will inevitably be its end.
All of this turmoil over where to start, pleasure, or somewhere else, is challenged on page 12, second paragraph, second sentence, “I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.” If you keep reading this book, get ready for poignant and deep statements like this. Yet to be a discerning reader one has to continually keep the pursuit of truth at the forefront and ask, “Is that true?” Is it true that the only way to triumph long term over sin is to gain a distaste for it “because of a superior satisfaction in God?” Will Piper be able to support his premise Biblically? Is it congruent with the experience of life? When Piper says, “I know of no other way”, does he know this both Biblically and in his own walk? The paradigm of ancient discipleship was to not only listen to the teacher, but to observe him, so with Piper we must not only listen but watch. Will his book not only teach, but also provide a window into his soul? Has he tested his premise? What is his story? From my experience in misguided pleasure and sin, the premise of superior satisfaction in God as a long term triumph over sin sounds valid, and Biblical. It seems like it would work, yet I wonder whether or not I can do such a thing seeing that my pleasures can take me to strange places. I am after all sinful and have yet to be ultimately perfected. This being the case, is pleasure the place to start (an awfully ironic question to ask for a guy whose blog is titled Feel My Faith)?
I look forward to moving ahead, post preface, to higher nerd ground, the introduction. Nerds read intros! You should too, especially this one. I am not sure you could skip this intro and still “get” the book the way it is to be “gotten.” I have a feeling that my question(s) may be further answered there.


Anonymous said…
I like the tough questions you are asking yourself. I hope as you lead Ridgecrest Baptist that we ask ourselves the same questions.

Wayne Atkinson

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