The Pleasures of God by John Piper (1991) is one of the few books that have aroused my feelings and kindled my critical mind to date. Reading it caused my heart to pound fast and my mind to be hammered many times.
The book builds on the theme of its predecessor book, the Desiring God: “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” The Pleasures of God then adds a fundamental truth, which is also its theme: “The chief end of God, is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The premise of the author is that God’s foremost aim, above all, is to glorify and uphold the grandeur of His Name. It is the passion that drives Him in all of His actions, from before the eternity past until the eternity future.
The order of the chapters of the book is intentional: it starts with God’s enjoyment in Himself, then in His outward actions towards the universe, then finally in His outward actions towards all creation and mankind. In this way, the author believes, the Gospel could be presented to us in the most God-centered and Biblical way.
The first chapter of the book is entitled “The Pleasure of God in His Son.” This is the most appropriate first chapter because this lays out the Biblical foundation that God is supremely efficient in Himself, that He is not coerced by any outside factors in His actions. It is the foundational truth that God is complete in Himself because He is happy and complete in the fellowship of the blessed Trinity.
The second chapter, “The Pleasure in God in Election” deals with the enjoyment that God has in electing certain peoples for the main purpose of bringing glory to His Name.
The third chapter, “The Pleasure of God in All That He Does” is the transitional chapter from entirely God-ward to others-ward. It clearly explains that out of God’s happiness in Himself, He does all things according to His good pleasure. In this part the author discloses the happiness of God in creating the universe.
“The Pleasure of God in Bruising His Son,” the fourth chapter, is the most sensitive part. It tells us Biblically how God could draw joy in His plan and actual implementation of bruising Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. I think this is one great important chapter because it vividly explains how God could be God despite allowing His Son to get killed – or more accurately, to willingly offer His life.
“The Pleasure of God in the Good of His People,” the next chapter, is a result and not the first motive of the former chapter. Because God has freely given His Son for us, how could He withheld anything good for us?
Then begins now the outward actions of God towards the general public, even to those unbelieving people. “The Pleasure of God in Public Justice and Obedience” tells how God takes glory in the obedience of the people. “The Pleasure of God in Public Justice” describes how God demands and enjoys public justice.
Lastly, the chapter “The Pleasure of God to those Who Hope in Him” is the culmination of the book. It passionately explains the hope of heaven – the future place and home for His children. There in heaven all of the negatives consequences of sin has been remedied and removed. God affirms those people who are tirelessly hoping for that future glory.
Overall, the book is not an easy read for the pragmatist; it aims to destroy the philosophy and self-sufficiency of man. It desires to put God at the throne of the human heart as the only source of value, meaning, and enjoyment.
To put the whole story in another way, if the Desiring God says that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” then this book, The Pleasures of God adds an important truth — “We will be most satisfied in God when we know why God himself is most satisfied in God.”