I’m going to try to start giving brief reviews of books after I read them. It’s mostly for my benefit to remember what I read, but nevertheless, I’m sure you might find it helpful. I just finished The Pleasures of God by John Piper.
Piper takes his thesis from Henry Scougal: “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love” (18). And in 340 pages, Piper argues that God’s soul is the most worthy and excellent and therefore God himself is the primary object of his love. Our object of love, therefore, should be ultimately God himself.
Why is this not narcissism on God’s part? Isn’t God selfish to honor himself above, say, people? Well, if he loved us more than himself, God would be breaking the first commandment! Piper writes, “So God’s first love is rooted in the value of his holy name, not the value of a 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. Do you see why the God-centeredness of God is the ground of the gospel? (105).
The ten chapters cover God’s pleasure in: his Son, all that God does, his creation, his fame, election, bruising his Son, those who hope in him, obedience and justice, and concealing himself from the wise and revealing himself to children.
The three most stirring chapters for me were chapters four through six: His Fame, Election, and the Bruising of His Son. In chapter 4, the main thrust is that God works for his name, his reputation, his glory. Piper talks a lot about missions in this chapter, and on page 110, he wrote, “The aim of missions is to bring about the obedience of faith among all the unreached peoples of the world. But that is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal — even of faith and obedience — is ‘for the sake of his name.’ The fame of Christ, the reputation of Christ is what burned in the heart of the apostle Paul.”
Piper includes the chapter on election, he says, because its goal is to magnify God and “take all boasting off of man and focus all boasting on God” (137). In chapter six, on the bruising of Christ, Piper wonderfully lays out the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Most of this chapter discusses George MacDonald’s folly of rejecting our righteousness based on Christ’s suffering. “Why couldn’t God just let bygones be bygones?” Piper asks. “Because God loves the honor of his name. He will not act as though sin, which belittles his glory, didn’t matter (161). Therefore, Christ took the punishment so sinners could be redeemed.
This is one of Piper’s easier reads, perhaps because it is redundant (in a good way). Some parts are heavy, such as the chapters on election and God’s concealing and revealing himself. Still, every word points you to the greatest thing in the universe — God — and all the pleasure he has in his glorious self.