I first discovered John Piper when I was in college and his book, Desiring God had a profound impact on my life. In fact, I read it again this year because it had been so long. I can remember being in my parents basement and waking up in the floor in the middle of the night with Desiring God still open because I had fallen asleep reading so late. The truth that my main purpose was to glorify God and enjoy Him forever captivated me.
I recently saw Tim Challies say in a blog post that if you're going to read one book by Piper, it should be The Pleasures of God. This sparked my attention and since I already had the book on my shelf, I felt like I should pick it up and give it a go. I was not disappointed. I now agree with Challies that The Pleasures of God is Piper's go to book. Below, you'll find my short take on it.
What are the things God takes pleasure in? That is what Piper seeks to answer in this book. He states:
My hope and prayer in writing this book is that more and more people would meditate with me on the pleasures of God; and that in doing so we would focus our attention on his excellency and glory. In this way our souls would be increasingly satisfied with God and changed gradually into his likeness. Thus, more and more, would God's glory be manifest in the world through the mission of his church (7).
In examining what God delights in, we see that He is totally sufficient and satisfied within in Himself and the persons of the trinity. It is only through sheer pleasure that God created the world, humanity, and saves sinners. He then delights in His people making His glory known in the world.
Piper takes each chapter to examine nine different things that God takes pleasure in. What the reader discovers is a confident, powerful God who is not needy, but incredibly gracious and loving. God works all things for good in the lives of Christians for His glory and their joy. We are left confident that we have been saved by a God who is in control and it His pleasure to love us.
Piper has written a lot of books, but if you only want to read one, I recommend this one. Chapter three regarding God's pleasure in creation caused me to marvel. The last three chapters shifted my thinking on the Christian life and obedience. This is a book that I hope to read at least once each year because I need the refreshment that Piper gives through the pages.
It's hard to choose, but here are 10 stand out quotes from The Pleasures of God:
"The infinite regard that the Father has for the Son makes it possible for me, a wicked sinner, to be loved and accepted in the Son, because in His death He vindicated the worth and glory of the Father." (30)
"Who can comprehend that God continually burns with hot anger at the rebellion of the wicked and grieves over the unholy speech of His people (Ephesians 4:29-30), yet takes pleasure in them daily (Psalm 149:4), and ceaselessly makes merry over penitent prodigals who come home?" (56)
"This is the most basic reason that God delights in His creation. In creation He sees the reflection of His own glory." (70).
"The deepest reason given for God's commitment to His people is His prior commitment to His own name." (84).
"Another way of talking about this 'choosing' is to say that God 'knew' Abraham in the sense of setting His special attention on Abraham and acknowledging Him as His own possession." (110).
"And God's righteousness is His unswerving commitment to uphold the worth of His glory and promote its fame in all the world. When sin is treated as though it is inconsequential, then the glory of God is treated as inconsequential." (148)
"Can you feel the wonder that God is doing everything that needs to be done for you to enjoy His own enjoyment of you?" (179)
"And grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God." (184)
"So the prayer of the upright that delights in God comes from a heart that at first feels precarious in the presence of God. It trembles at the hearing of God's Word..." (202)
"Another way to put it would be to say that God is happy with our obedience when our obedience is the overflow of our happiness with God." (238)