Isn’t it true—we really don’t know someone until we understand what makes that person happy? And so it is with God!
What does bring delight to the happiest Being in the universe? John Piper writes, that it’s only when we know what makes God glad that we’ll know the greatness of His glory. Therefore, we must comprehend “the pleasures of God.”
Unlike so much of what is written today, this is not a book about us. It is about the One we were made for—God Himself. In this theological masterpiece—chosen by World Magazine as one of the 20th Century’s top 100 books, John Piper reveals the biblical evidence to help us see and savor what the pleasures of God show us about Him. Then we will be able to drink deeply—and satisfyingly—from the only well that offers living water.
What followers of Jesus need now, more than anything else, is to know and love—behold and embrace—the great, glorious, sovereign, happy God of the Bible.
“This is a unique and precious book that everybody should read more than once.”
—J.I. PACKER, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
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About the Author
JOHN PIPER is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For thirty-three years, he served as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the contemporary classic Desiring God, and more than thirty years of his sermons and articles are available, free of charge, at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noël, have five children and twelve grandchildren.
Read an Excerpt
It is therefore astonishing how little effort is put into knowing God. It’s as though the president of the United States came to live with you for a month, and you only said hello in passing every day or so. Or as if you were flown at the speed of light for a couple of hours around the sun and the solar system, and instead of looking out the window, you played a computer game. Or as if you were invited to watch the best actors, singers, athletes, inventors, and scholars perform their best, but you declined to go so you could watch the TV season’s final soap. If you have even picked up this book and read three paragraphs, it is a sign that you want more. God is at work stirring you to know him. Something is wakening. You sense that you are missing something. And it must have to do with God.
Or you may have gone deep with him for years. You may be a veteran flier. Your eyes are glued to the window of the spaceship. You take every evening to ply the president with questions. You sit, leaning forward on the front row of the theater. You want more. You have climbed to the top and looked over the ridge of your knowledge, and the endless mountain ranges of God have taken your breath away.
If I can be of any help, it may simply be that I started climbing before you. I love to search into God’s self-revelation. Just this morning I marked again in my Bible, “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (Psalm 105:4, ESV). This is what I love to do. Seek him. Know him. And show him.
Where is he to be found and known? He tells us: “The LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD” (1 Samuel 3:21, ESV). God reveals himself by his Word. Himself by his Word. If we want him, we go through hisWord. So I spend most of my time seeking the Lord by searching hisWord.
If I can be of any help in showing you more of God, it will be only through what he has said in his Word. It will not be by ingenuity but faithfulness. Knowing the wonders of God happens by knowing the wonders of theWord.
The Pleasures of God is built on the truth that “the worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” That’s a quote from Henry Scougal. You will meet him in the Introduction.
What he means is that the worth and excellence of a soul is measured by the worth and excellence of what the soul enjoys most. So if I enjoy the sin of boasting most, I am a small, pitiful, sinful soul. But if I enjoy the greatness of God most, my soul has been rescued and is being made magnificent.
So I turned the whole thing around and asked, How worthy and excellent is God’s soul? And to find out I asked, What is the object of his love? Not: What does he pity most or have compassion on most? (That would be us.) But: What does he enjoy most? What does he delight in? If Henry Scougal’s principle holds, this question will reveal the worth and excellency of God. For “the worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.”
So my aim is to scour the Scriptures to find what God delights in. What are his pleasures? Not for curiosity, but for the sake of knowing the greatness of his worth and excellency. I want to peer with you into the mountain ranges of God’s perfections as far as I can see. So I put this particular telescope to my eye: the perfections of God revealed through his pleasures.
I have been astonished at how much of God’s glory is revealed through this telescope. I thank God for the day I read Henry Scougal’s sentence: “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” Few lenses have proved to be more powerful for seeing the greatness of God’s perfections.
The benefits of knowing God more fully and deeply in this way are many. This is what our minds and hearts are made for—to know and love God. Nothing compares to the mind’s illumination and the heart’s awakening to the realization: This is why I exist. Seeing God like this with my mind, and savoring God like this with my heart, is like no other experience. All others are leading here.
And it gets very practical. Seeing and savoring the glory of God like this changes us profoundly. And when we are changed like this, all our attitudes and actions are affected. Here’s the way the New Testament says it: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV). Beholding glory we are being transformed. That is what I pray will happen as you read this book. I don’t recommend that you read it quickly. Beholding glory begs for lingering.
The modern, fast-paced world will tempt you to rush and skim. This kind of life will make you shallow. The world does not need more widely read, shallow people. It needs deep people. I don’t mean complex. I don’t mean highly educated. I don’t mean you know big words. I don’t mean you know historical background. I mean you have seen glory—the glory of God in his Word. You have pondered it and felt its relation to all the parts of your life. You have been steadied and satisfied by it. You have come home. You are not frantic anymore. You are at peace in the presence of God. This is what I mean by deep. This is what the world needs.
It has been just over twenty years since the first edition of The Pleasures of God appeared. I am deeply thankful to God that he has mercifully made it helpful to many. And I am thankful to Multnomah Books that they still believe in the value of this book and are willing to give it new life. I have tried to bring any dated material up to date or rewrite things so they are less dependent on temporal change. I have removed chapter 10 of the second edition because it grew to be an entire book: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Crossway, 2010). And I have removed the Appendix from the second edition (“Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved”) with the intention of making it a stand-alone booklet. These changes make the book shorter and more focused, as in the original 1991 edition.
I owe more to my wife, Noël, for what I am able to write than anyone knows (but God). There are ways a wife sustains and shapes a man that even he does not realize. This is one of God’s mercies in marriage. Forty-three years has been a good season for shaping me deeply. I am thankful. Eternity will reveal the debt I owe her.
Thank you, Noël, for the early morning walks down Atlanta Street in the summer of 1990 as this book was being written. And thanks for standing by me in the multiple revisions, including this one. I love you and say again that these lines are as true today as when I wrote them on our twentieth anniversary:
Although the fig tree blossom not,
And all the vines of our small plot
Be barren, and the olive fail,
The sheep grow weak and heifers frail,
We will rejoice in God, my love,
And take our pleasures from above:
The Lord, our God, shall be our strength
And give us life, whatever length
On earth he please, and make our feet
Like mountain deer, to rise and cleat
The narrow path for man and wife
That rises steep and leads to life.
Finally, a word to my sons. The book is dedicated to you, Karsten and Benjamin and Abraham and Barnabas. Things have changed since 1991. None of you was married then. Now you are all married and have children. And all of you have a sister now, Talitha Ruth, a remarkable gift of God to our family.
My goal for you all has not changed in these twenty years. If there is any legacy I want to leave you, it is not money nor house nor land; it is a vision of God—as great and glorious a God as one could ever see. But more than that, I want to leave the legacy of passion for this God. He bought you with a great price. You are precious to him. And to me. I pray that your passion for him will be a passion far beyond what any human can produce—a passion for God flowing from the very heart of God. Never forget that God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. But even more—and this is my prayer for you—in God’s time, may your satisfaction in him be without measure, as it becomes the very pleasure of God in God.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've read this book several times. Next to the Bible, this is the book I go to when I need to be reminded that God is in control of all things, that God loves us more than we can imagine, and that God desires for us to love Him completely.
I read it mostly while teaching in India. Piper gives careful attention to supporting his ideas with scripture, or perhaps I should say that he mines the scriptures for his ideas. The book has inspired me to read Jonathan Edwards.
Delighting Myself in the Lord The Pleasures of God is a wonderful book in explaining the love and deep intimacy God has and want to have with us. This book is compelling us to delight in every aspect of God’s presence and the blessings God has for us. It speaks on touching the heart of God through a personal relationship with Him. It is indeed a pleasure in having a close relationship with the Heavenly Father. You must understand that no earthly possessions can bring True Satisfaction, except time spent with God. In meditating on God’s word helps us in understanding our true destiny and purpose for which we were made for, knowing what true love is and how it really feels. We gain understanding in the importance of trusting God in every area of our lives, no matter what. This book brings a refreshing way to spend intimate personal time with God. The author did a wonderful job in creating a written atmosphere of pleasing God with our presence daily seeking Him. “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”.
¿The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of it¿s love.¿ This quote by a young Puritan named Henry Scougal stuck to the forefront of my mind for weeks. It¿s the opening quote to the first chapter of Pipers book. It¿s a good summation of the substance of this wonderfully powerful book.Piper writes the way I feel on my best days. I once thought the guy was a veritable Superman of the faith till I heard an interview of him talking to Mark Dever of 9 Marks Ministries. Piper commented that his most popular work, Desiring God, was so entitled because it was so often how he felt, he desired God because he didn¿t feel he had enough of Him. His writings are his deepest longings. They are ours as well, weather we know it or not.Piper oozes passion, but it¿s a focused passion. He¿s got only one thing in mind that has overtaken all his writing and preaching, it¿s the essence of his life and its summed up in his paraphrase of something Jonathan Edwards once said, that being `God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him¿. The glory of God for God is his passion; his deepest desire is for us to have the same.This book, possibly his best yet, deals with those things that God has most pleasure in. Be forewarned, this book is not for lightweights. I felt myself humbled and broken reading Piper¿s insights on the heart of God. The book didn¿t rock my concept of God, but each time I picked it up I couldn¿t put it down, I was captivated. Piper has a way of clearing some of the clouds of mystery that often surround our understanding of God, and in this book he does it in grand style.The first six chapters have little to do with us, and much to do with Him and Him alone. Piper deals with weighty issues, such as election and God¿s sovereignty, in grand style. If you aren¿t a Calvinist beware, this book could totally shake your foundations (i.e. make you biblical (tongue in cheek). In these chapters Gods glory is on display as the great ¿I AM¿, everything there is.The last four chapters deal with Gods pleasure in us. After reading the first chapters, these last ones break your heart and build you up knowing your utter depravity and the greatness of God overcoming it.Get this book, read it and then read it again. It includes a great question section at the back for small group study or personal reflection.Favorite quotes: ¿The original, the primal, the deepest, the foundational joy of God is the joy he has in his own perfections as he sees them reflected in the glory of his Son.¿¿Gods first love is rooted in the value of his holy name, not the value of sinful people. And because it is, there is hope for the sinful people¿since they are not the ground of their salvation, God¿s name is.¿¿God does not take pleasure merely in being known and loved in an abstract way disconnected from his work in creation and redemptive history, God created the world and has worked in history not so that creation and history would be ignored. Christ did not become man so that the story of his life and work recorded in a bookwould be disregarded in favor of a mystical bypass to God. This would not honor the Christ of history.¿
My favorite Piper book, by far. I have not been able to get excited about any of his other works. This one seems to be his best
This is considered Piper's greatest work. I disagree - half of its content is unrelated (directly) to the thesis of the book, making it confusing and uninteresting at times. However, even in its off-topic discussions, this text is filled with the God of the Bible - a God who seeks His own Glory with great pleasure, making Him the only God that could make the Gospel Good News. Much is to be gained from this book, especially the last two chapters and the appendix.
The book that helped transform my view of God, Christianity, ministry, and life. Probably the most transforming book I have read in my life. A classic of 20th century devotional theology. Aside from the book that helped convert me - Mere Christianity - this is the most important book I have read that is not named The Bible.
Is the Christian God happy?This is the question John Piper poses in The Pleasures of God, and I found it a fascinating one with rich theological implications. We are used to the idea of God as the angry Judge, the distant Creator, or the weeping, suffering Christ. And while there are facets of biblical truth in all these, they are not the sum total of God's character. Where is the joyful God?Surprisingly (at least to me), there is quite a lot of biblical support for the notion of a happy God. God does what He pleases; He takes pleasure in His will and actions. And He is completely self-sufficient in the beautiful relationship among the Godhead. He doesn't need us to complete Him and He is not desperate to get our attention or love. One of Piper's main ideas is a quote from Henry Scougal, who wrote, "The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by object of its love." Apply this to God and wow ¿ God has to be self-centered because He is the highest being in the universe. If He were to put us, His creation, before Himself, He would be guilty of idolatry. Whoa! And so it is only right for God's highest priority to be His glory.And we as His children are to share in the Father's joy in His glory. Again and again Piper drives home his point: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. It is a simple but life-changing truth.Alongside the happier descriptions, Scripture does portray God as the judge and ruler of the earth, a holy God who is deeply affronted by our sin against Him. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, just as God bemoans the unfaithfulness of His people Israel in the Old Testament. And how can God take pleasure in everything He does? Did He enjoy crushing His Son for the sin of ungrateful people? Does He enjoy punishing sinners? Piper doesn't shy away from these questions and his answers are firmly biblical. Most of the time the apparent contradiction is because we are focusing on the wrong thing. God does not delight in punishing sinners, but He does delight in exalting His holiness. God did not enjoy watching His Son suffer, but He does rejoice the Son's perfect obedience and powerful, God-glorifying work of salvation. There are many things we don't understand about God, but we can be assured that any contradictions are on our side, not His.I'm still processing the theological ramifications of a joyful God. This means that God is not acting under constraint when I ask Him for forgiveness ¿ no, He delights in forgiving me and covering my sin! God does not get tired of my repetitious, needy prayers ¿ no, He truly enjoys listening to me and fulfilling my needs. God does not weary of His work or regret His decisions; He is not like us.I enjoyed the lengthy notes at the end of each chapter; Piper's not afraid to go intellectual on his reader. The discussion of hard questions, especially the Father's seemingly paradoxical traits, is excellent. Piper has a gift for vivid metaphors, like the false idea of God as a trough we have to keep filling up with praise and prayer so that He will be able to fulfill our needs. But God is not a trough; He doesn't need a bucket brigade. He is a river inviting thirsty souls to drink, and there is nothing we can do to sustain or complete Him. We are the needy ones, not Him.This was my first book by Piper and I will certainly be returning to his work. Excellent.