Becoming a Christian Hedonist

// July 20th, 2020 // Sermons

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Christian Hedonism

Last Sunday I started this new sermon series… You can listen online or download it and listen later…Becoming a Christian Hedonist  Use this link to watch the whole service on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BrtR3RCj2Uo…using Pastor John Piper’s phrase Christian Hedonism, which came out of his Desiring God book.  The main thought behind this is “God is most glorified in and through us when we are most satisfied in Him – based on the key verse of this study, Ps. 37:4:  “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

In speaking with some of our people this week, it was suggested that the word “hedonism” is possibly not the best word to use in connection with the word “Christian” – because hedonism is a negative word.  And, having thought about it, I agree…this sermon series is not about hedonism as such, but about what I believe is a needed teaching in Christian circles today.  It is not about the pursuit of happiness and personal pleasure, but about the sheer delight of obedience to God.

Last week, we looked at God’s infinite and overflowing happiness because He takes perfect pleasure in the excellence of His own glory, particularly as it is revealed in His own Son.  God is happy because He is sovereign and also, because through His sovereignty He can overcome every obstacle to His joy.  And, His happiness causes His mercy to overflow into our lives….we experience His mercy because our God is happy.  When God calls men and women to Himself, it is not because He is lacking anything.

There is a popular Christian song today that says, “God didn’t want heaven without us…”  Almost like He sent Jesus because He needed us in Heaven – we have to understand – He does not need us, there is nothing we can bring Him that could possibly make God more complete…make Him perfect and happy.

I ended last week’s sermon with the reminder that there is a condition that we must meet.  The condition is that we obey the command in Ps. 37:4 – to delight yourself in the Lord.  And this, typically is where things break down for most people.

We are inclined to take more delight in wealth, possessions, people, playing with our toys and even in seeking revenge for injustice than taking delight in God.  What we need to understand is that, if we don’t delight in the Lord…essentially, we have no share in God’s saving mercy.  If God is not #1 in our lives, Biblically speaking we have become idol-worshippers…we are spiritually lost!  We desperately need to be born-again – converted.  That’s what I want to talk about this morning.

You might be thinking, “If our objective is for people to be saved, why not just say, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved?’”  That is a good question.

My response:  We live in a society where many lost people have convinced themselves that because they grew up in rural Canada they are automatically Christian…of course they believe in Jesus.

I believe that many of the people around us, would find the command, “Believe in Jesus and you shall be saved,” as virtually meaningless.  A drunk or drug addict would say they believe; unmarried couples sleeping together would say they believe; it is common for gays and lesbians today to profess to be Christians; and, there are people of all ages, who have no visible relationship with Jesus still say they believe.  There are people in churches today that cheat and manipulate to get ahead and still profess to believe in Jesus.  And, it is my experience that there are many world-loving church attendees who say they believe in Jesus.

Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  And we have to understand that this “born-again” is not just a one-time experience that gives us a ticket that allows us entrance into heaven.  Being born-again involves much more – a life set apart for Him.

I feel that is my responsibility as a preacher of the gospel, a teacher of the Word to the people of God – my job is not just to repeat precious biblical sentences, but to speak the truth of those sentences in a way that will prick the conscience of the hearer and help each one of us feel a desperate need for Christ.

Like a “warning poke” to the frog in the proverbial pot of boiling water, I am trying to take a neglected and essential teaching of Scripture and make it as direct as I can in the hope that some will be “cut to the heart” and moved to act.

Just like a new believer should automatically desire to be baptized after coming to faith in Christ, in the same way, a new believer should become a Christian Hedonist.  For this morning, it is my hope to explore this from Scripture.

To help us understand the need for genuine conversion, I want us to look at some essential truths.  #1…

  1. Our Creator Deserves Our Gratitude

Consider this:  When we do something nice for somebody else we expect them to be grateful…why is that?  It wouldn’t really help us to say that we feel this way because as children we were always taught to say thank you.  This only causes us to be quick to judge an inconsiderate person as being an evil ingrate.

The real reason for why we respond the way we do, is that we are created in God’s image.  There is an aspect of the image of God in you that causes you to hold people accountable for ingratitude.  All of us, deep down know that there is a God to whom we owe genuine gratitude.

The psalmist wrote, in Ps. 107:1 – “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good:  his mercy endures forever.”  Piper wrote, “The fact that we are quick to judge ungratefulness in others should be clear proof that God’s basic law has been written on our heart – a law that says, ‘…a creature owes his Creator the affection of gratitude in proportion to his dependence and God’s goodness.’”  The 2nd truth…

  1. We Are All Guilty of Ingratitude

We know that Rom. 3:23 speaks in absolute truth when it says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We don’t have to stand in front of a judge and be read the verdict of “Guilty”.

We know that we have not given God even as much as we would expect from another person.  We know very well, that according to our own standard, we are guilty of ingratitude.  And if that is not enough, if we are familiar with Rom. 1 – we would know what it says in v. 18 that we suppress the truth; v. 19 – God has made himself known; v. 20 – man is without excuse; and, v. 21 – people did not honor him or give him thanks…because their foolish hearts were darkened.

There will come a time when every human being will have to give an account of his/her life.  At that moment, there will be no need of explanation of the judgment we receive:

  1. We will fully know that everything we have is a gift from Him – that we are utterly dependent on Him for life and breath and everything.
  2. We will recognize that the standard of judgment that we have used proves that we are fit to be judged for our lives.
  3. In an instant we will recognize how hypocritical we have been – expecting a standard from others that we didn’t live by ourselves.

And then, thirdly…

III. God’s Wrath is related to our Ingratitude

We hear the phrase, “What goes around, comes around!”  Or, “There will come a day when all the scales will be balanced!”  Generally speaking we have a sense that there is coming a day when all the moral accounts of the universe will be settled.

If we feel that we should receive fair treatment, then what about how we treat God?  God’s righteousness means that He is obligated to uphold the value of His glory.

When we lack gratefulness it is like we are trying to diminish the worth of God’s glory – that isn’t right.  Most people would believe that man’s life is worth more than a cat’s life.  Unfortunately in our day, in some people’s minds, even that point might come into question.

You could go to jail for defaming a person’s character…I have never heard of anyone being convicted of libel against a cat.  And because God is worth more than a man — infinitely more — therefore attempting to defame His character through our ingratitude, we would assume would result in a sentence of eternal destruction.  Rom. 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is (eternal) death…”

But, that is not the end of the story – Praise God!  Because that would be the most terrifying news in the world.  To face the condemnation of our Creator, the One who is bound by his own righteous character that He will always preserve the worth of His glory by pouring out His wrath on the sin of man’s ingratitude.

The story does not end there…“God has made a way so that His love could deliver us from His wrath without compromising His righteousness.”  We call it Mercy and Grace!  And then, truth #4…

  1. God’s Propitiation is amazing

Part of the good news message that we have to share is that God made a way to satisfy the demands of His righteousness without condemning the whole human race.

The word “propitiation” from the Greek word hilasterion – it means the appeasement of God’s rightful anger at sin, making it possible for our sins to be forgiven.  While on longer drives, Ruth and I will often listen to podcasts from a variety of preachers.  Before our most recent trip, I found a short 5-minute podcast on the word “propitiation” by Barry Cooper from an online discipleship ministry called Christianity Explored.  In that podcast, he says that about 700 years ago, because there was no word for hilasterion, a word was created – “propitiation”.

The understanding is that God brought His Son to this world to be a hilasterion or propitiation so that God’s anger against man’s sin could be satisfied.  God has taken it upon Himself apart from any merit in us to accomplish our salvation.  The wisdom of God has ordained a way for the love of God to deliver us from the wrath of God without compromising the righteousness of God.

1 Cor. 1:23-24 says, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God crucified, is the Wisdom of God, by which the love of God can save sinners from the wrath of God, and all the while uphold and demonstrate the righteousness of God.

So, God put Christ forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  In the greatest act of God’s mercy and grace, through the death of His Son, He passed over our former sins.  He did this to prove that He Himself is righteous and that He justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

This begs the question – how can God forgive sinners who are ungrateful for His glory and still maintain His righteous commitment to His glory?

We find the answer in 2 Cor. 5:21 – “God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Also, 1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree”; and 1 Peter 3:18 – “Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”

The worst news ever is to discover that because of our sin we are condemned to a forever judgment by our Creator God who is obligated by His own righteous character to pour out His wrath on the sin of man.  But then, the best news ever (the Gospel!) is that God willingly sentenced His own Son to take this judgment, in our place – this is an amazing demonstration of His righteous pledge to His own glory and yet still be able to save sinners like you and me!  This brings us to truth #5…

  1. Not all sinners understand or want this.

For God so loved the world – but not all sinners are saved from God’s wrath just because Christ died for sinners.  In order to be saved, we need to meet one condition.  And, I believe recognizing the core of this sermon series is part of the condition.

A few different times in Scripture we read where the question was asked, “What must I do to be saved?”  What an important question for a human to ask.

God answers that question in several different ways, in his Word:

  • In Acts 16:31 – Believeon the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”
  • John 1:12 – “To all who receivedhim . . . he gave power to become children of God.”
  • Acts 3:19 – Repenttherefore, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out.”
  • 5:9 – “Jesus became the source of eternal salvation to all who obeyhim.”
  • 18:3 – Jesus himself answered the question – “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Mark 8:34-35 – pointing to self-denial – the willingness to lose your life for Him: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
  • 10:37 – “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” – Love for Jesus above all else!
  • Luke 14:33 – we need to be free from the love of our possessions: “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

These are some of the conditions that the NT says we must meet in order to benefit from the death of Christ and be saved.  We must believe on him, receive him, turn from our sin, obey him, humble ourselves like little children, and love him more than we love our family, our possessions, or our own life.  This is what true conversion to Christ looks like; this is the only way of everlasting life!

There is one little phrase in the parable that Jesus tells in Matt. 13:44 that holds all of this together:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then from his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

This is talking about how a person is converted and brought into the kingdom of heaven.  You discover a treasure and because of the joy you experience, you decide to sell everything so this treasure is yours.

This is the bottom line:  You and I are converted to Christ when Christ becomes for us a treasure chest of immense joy!  We are born again — converted — when Christ becomes a treasure in whom we find so much joy and delight that trusting Him, obeying Him, and turning from that which is not part of Him – this becomes our normal habit.

It is possible to make a decision for Christ without joy!  I must admit, that this is one thing that always bothers me about some people.  They say they are “believers” and “followers of Jesus” but for them this is a private matter – they don’t talk about it and it never shows up on their face.  I know that we don’t all show our emotions in the same way, but when you have won the “spiritual lottery” by believing in Jesus, how could your face not show it?

Pastor Piper’s premise is this:  “Is there any evidence in Scripture that God will accept people who come to him out of any other motive than the desire for joy in him?  Someone will say, “Our aim in life should be to please God and not ourselves.” But what pleases God?”

Heb. 11:6 reads – “Without faith it is impossible to please God. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Notice what Jesus said to Peter when Peter mentioned his sacrificial self-denial – Peter said, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you” (Matt. 19:27).  Jesus recognized that Peter’s response was based on pride; Jesus said, “There is no one who has left anything for my sake who will not receive a hundredfold . . . now, and in the age to come, eternal life.”

It’s like Jesus said, “Peter, I want you to come to me because I am a greater treasure than all those things you have left.  Don’t revel in your own accomplishments and self-sufficiency.  Salvation requires that you come to Christ and find in him a treasure chest of God-filled joy.

Here are the five great truths we looked at this morning:

  1. Our Creator deserves our gratitude
  2. We are all guilty of ingratitude
  3. God’s wrath is related to our ingratitude
  4. God’s propitiation is amazing
  5. Not all sinners, understand or want this

Every Gospel invitation in the Bible is based on the premise that salvation is a rich treasure.  Receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord is worth far more than the amount of our every sacrifice.  Listen to the prophet Isaiah’s Gospel invitation – see in it the roots of Christian Hedonism – Is. 55:1-3:  “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free!  Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.  “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

God gave us free will – we can choose to take His offer and receive freely what He has for us, or we can choose to face the eternal condemnation as a consequence for rejecting His salvation.  We can choose to live in obedience to Him and feel the happiness, joy and contentment that comes with being satisfied with Him or choose to miss out on all of it.  I suggest we choose Jesus and through our obedience live a life of gratitude for all that we have received through Him.

Let’s pray…

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