John Piper would have done himself (and all of us) a favor if he tried to separate the deep theological concepts he is trying to explain from the practical application of those concepts, which he only gives a glimpse of here and there in this chapter.

But it is not hard to imagine the practical consequences of this miraculous gift of joy in God, which is, in essence, what he calls “Christian Hedonism,” an expression which makes every hair in my body stand on end every time I hear it. But I can look beyond the expression…

The other day I saw an older couple clearly captivated, mesmerized, enthralled by the very presence of their grandbaby. I couldn’t resist it. I told them I could tell they absolutely adored their grandbaby. They said, “So, you noticed.” I told them, “Isn’t God wonderful to give you such a precious gift?” They said, politely, “Yes, He is.”

I walked away, thinking, how many Christians out there are more enthralled with their grandchildren than with God? How many are get more joy out of their work than communion with Christ and His Spirit? How many can hardly contain themselves with excitement, counting the days when a favorite relative will visit while dreading the arrival of the brief interlude of time they will be one-on-one with God? The list could go on and on.

John Piper pulls no punch in summarizing this: “There are many professing Christians who delight in God’s gifts, but not God. Would you want to go to heaven if God were not there, only His gifts?”  The answer, for the true believer, is a resounding NO, but I fear that many times we live as if it were an unmistakable YES.

It is no mere coincidence that the New Testament uses the imagery of a wedding – the happiest day in a couple’s life – to speak about John, the Baptizer’s joy in seeing Jesus’ ministry blossom and his come to an end. John said, “You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.” (John 3:28-29).

The bridegroom’s best friend and his companions wait until the bridegroom comes for his prized possession. When he announces that he is there to take his bride, the bridegroom’s friend rejoices with great joy because the marriage consummation is at hand and his work is complete. In the same way, we experience joy to the utmost when we come into the full fellowship of the Messiah. The joy, which was only an anticipation of great things to come, now comes into full throttle and turns into a never ending spring of fresh water to cool us from the scorching summer sky.

We cannot, even if we wished, ever turn back to our old worried selves again. This joy, which is contagious, carries us even through sorrow and pain. And when there is no sorrow and pain, the joy should be so bubbly that people around us would be within their rights to question our sanity. That is, I believe, the main mark of a true “Christian Hedonist” – pardon my French!