The Pleasures of God: A Book Review

The Pleasures of God by John Piper is a stirring book that takes you at the very center of God’s heart.

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.”

Battle for Pleasure

John Piper (theologian)
John Piper tells us: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Everyday life is a battle for Pleasure. It is either we get satisfied in God, or in anything else.

When former pastor and writer John Piper released his book Desiring God, which aims to show the Church that the basic duty of man is to delight in God, he got numerous criticisms from fellow Christians around the world. The most prevalent teaching is that when we love and seek God, we should not be thinking of benefiting ourselves but rather do it sacrificial all for the sake of its own virtue, and for the Glory of God. But for Piper it is different. He sees Scriptures commanding us that at the center of God’s plan is ‘Glorifying Himself by getting people satisfied in Him.’

After much meditation, I agree with Piper. Truly, every moment of each day we find ourselves battling to get ourselves being happy and joyful and satisfied with whatever or whoever we find pleasurable in life. It is either we  glut  on God, or in anything else. And that ‘anything else’ may well include, money, relationships, or sinful acts.

What does the Bible really say then? Is it really wrong to have self-delight as everyday, moment-by-moment duty?

(Ps 16:11) Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

This verse would simply mean that God is leading us to a true kind of life – one that is joyful in His presence.

(Phil 4:4) Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Here Paul exhorts us to rejoice in the Lord always.

There are still many Scriptures that could be said, but I would like to focus now on one thing: God’s determination to Glorify Himself by having people getting satisfied in Him.

Here is a key Scripture passage:

(Jer 2:1) Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

(Jer 2:11) Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.

(Jer 2:12) Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.

(Jer 2:13) For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

The Lord here is speaking, telling Israel her many sins. And on verses 11-13 He nails the point: Israel has forsaken their glory, the God of Israel to many things that does not profit them. Instead of choosing God as the only source of their satisfaction and sustenance, they have chosen other things, like other gods for their objects of pleasure.

Here it is also interesting to note that God sees sins as having pleasure other than in God, and we know that sins are all acts that try to trample on God’s Glory. Thus, Scripture Logic tells us that being satisfied in God brings Glory to God.