Dear Friends,

Last month I mentioned John Piper’s book, Desiring God. Piper
calls himself a “Christian hedonist” using a purposely radical term
to describe a Christian who seeks pleasure (hedonism) and finds pleasure in
God, not from God’s gifts to him but in his intimate relationship with
the Lord. (Philippians 3:10) Even though this may involve sacrificial suffering
for the short run there is both the hope of long-term gain as well as a deep
abiding joy even in the midst of trials and suffering. Piper discusses various
aspects of the Christian life using this term “Christian hedonism”
and I found the book and his perspective greatly edifying in my walk with the

Piper calls Scripture –the kindling of a Christian hedonist, meaning
the fuel we put in our furnace or fireplace (man’s born-again spirit –
1 Corinthians 2:11-14) that is ignited by the fire of God’s Holy Spirit
and then expressed (like heat) through our worship. Worship is an all-encompassing
term that includes our response to God’s love, truth, holiness, etc.,
involving all of our vital affections from contrition and repentance to joyful
praise to humble obedience. From the analogy of the furnace, we can see that
there can be no worshipful response without the fuel/kindling of God’s
word. Jesus put it this way as He quoted the Scriptures to Satan in the wilderness
temptation: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes
from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) As we’ll see the
word of God is our life.

“Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day,
so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this
law. They are not just idle words (vain, useless, trivial words) for you –
they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing
the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 32:46-47) God’s word is our
source for physical life, spiritual life, faith, hope, freedom, wisdom, comfort
and assurance, and victory over Satan.

Physical life: “God said, Let Us make man in Our image according to Our
likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) “He Himself gives all men life and breath
and everything else. For in Him we live and move and have our being.”
(Acts 17: 25, 28) Jesus “sustains all things by His powerful word”
(Hebrews 1:3) God, through His word, created and sustains our physical life
even giving us the very breath we breathe.

Spiritual life: “For you have been born again… through the living
and enduring word of God.” ( 1 Peter 1:23; Also see James 1:18) The Holy
Spirit and spiritual power are received by the hearing of God’s word.
“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what
you heard? Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because
you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians
3:2, 5) When Paul says “believe what you heard” he is referring
to hearing God’s word.

Faith: “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.”
(Romans 10:17) Both saving faith and faith for spiritual growth come from hearing
God’s word through personal devotions, preaching and teaching, fellowship
groups, etc.

Hope: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our
instruction so that through perseverance and encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) There have been countless times in
my life that I went from being discouraged to being encouraged by spending time
with the Lord in His word.

Freedom: “If you hold to My teaching (obedience) then “you will
know the truth (God’s word) and the truth will make you free.” (John
8:31,32) “So if the Son makes you free you will be free indeed.”
(John 8:36) “And I will walk at liberty, for I seek your precepts.”
(Psalm 119:45) God’s word has power to free us from the pull of the world,
the devil and the flesh so we can obey Him and walk in His truth.

Wisdom: “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
(Psalm 19:7) “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they
are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies
are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed
(obeyed) your precepts.” (Psalm 119:98-100) God’s wisdom is especially
needed in relating to others in love and truth rather than some form of attack
or withdrawal. James 3:13-18 reveals the drastic difference in natural (“unspiritual”)
wisdom and wisdom from God. The former lacks humility, is envious, selfish,
and even demonic and damages relationships. God’s wisdom is pure, peace-loving,
considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere
and brings peace and righteousness in relationships.

Comfort and assurance: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your
word has revived me.” (Psalm 119:50) “I have remembered Your ordinances
from of old O Lord, and comfort myself.” (Psalm 119:52) “Who will
separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am convinced that neither
death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things
to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will
be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(Romans 8:35, 38, 39) “I write these things to you who believe in the
name of the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life.” (1
John 5:13)

Victory over Satan: “I have written to you, because you are strong, and
the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the evil one.” (1
John 2:14) In order to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil”,
we need to “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
and defeat his lies and accusations (which discourage our faith) with God’s
truth. (Ephesians 6:11, 17). Jesus demonstrated this in the wilderness temptation
as He defeated Satan’s lies and schemes with God’s word. (Matthew
4:1-10) But as Piper says, “we can’t wield God’s word unless
we wear it. If the word of God does not abide in us we will reach for it in
vain when the enemy strikes.”

The Bible says that sin, the world and the devil have distorted and deformed
the image of God in us and that we fall short of His glorious image (Romans
3:23), the image that Jesus perfectly revealed as a human being. Only God’s
word can transform us and conform us to the image of Jesus (Romans 12:2; 8:29)
by reading, studying, obeying, living and sharing it with others. “Ezra
had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach
His statutes and ordinances of Israel.” (Ezra 7:10) Like the psalmist
in Psalm 119, may we too love God’s word even as they are the words of
our Lover and King speaking to us His beloved. “Your words were found
and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;
For I have been called by Your name.” (Jeremiah 15:16)

Yours in Christ,

Len and Kristen

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