desires (not just decisions) really matter

our quest to live an unstained and unwasted life is ultimately about our desires, not merely our decisions. it is ultimately about the disposition of our hearts, not a duty-driven, decision-oriented approach. that might come as a surprise since a main focus of this blog has been some of the life decisions we have made as individuals and as a family unit.

our decisions so far have included the following:

making these kinds of decisions is not bad. and sticking with them is not bad. but reducing the unstained and unwasted life down to being merely a list of manageable, willpower-driven decisions to which we adhere is a huge mistake. and i want to make sure that i don’t do that and that you don’t intepret me as doing that. making and maintaining decisions like these is ultimately not what will sustain the unstained and unwasted life. we have to go much deeper – beyond our decisions to our desires.

john piper captures this so well when he writes (regarding how conversion is the creation of new desires):

“I am not interested in superficial, external behavior changes, which the Pharisees were so good at. ‘You cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness’ (Luke 11:39). These external changes are doable without divine grace.”

indeed they are. every decision we have chronicled so far in this blog is doable without divine grace. the hard work – i.e., the heart work that only christ can do to enable us to desire him more than money, to prefer him over the praise of men, to cherish him more than comfort, to want him more than the world and everything in it, to love him more than life itself – this is what is of paramount importance in our quest to live an unstained and unwasted life. and it is a devastating discovery to learn that we don’t desire god as we ought to and, furthermore, to learn that only god can make our depraved hearts desire god. to live the unstained and unwasted life requires “new desires, not just new duties; new delights, not just new deeds; new treasures, not just new tasks” (piper). 

we have to get beyond the surface level and go deep. beyond decisions to desires.

“Spiritual desires and delights are not commodities to be bought and sold. They are not objects to be handled. They are events in the soul. They are experiences of the heart” (John Piper).

how does this happen? how do we get a desire that we don’t have? how do i awaken these kinds of spiritual affections for christ? these are big questions that i hope to address in future posts. in the meantime, i would point you to a book that was written to address these very questions – “When I Don’t Desire God,” by john piper. (this is one of the books that i am re-reading as part of my “bus riding and book reading” campaign!) if you can’t get the book right away, you can actually read the book on-line for free thanks to desiring god ministry’s commitment to make it available to as many people as possible.  

for now, i want to be clear that i am not making the kinds of decisions that i have been chronicling in this blog simply as a practical, pragmatic, “life-tips” kind of add-on to an already superficial christianity that is so commonplace, particularly in well-to-do western christian culture. what this blog is about and what my decisions are about is much deeper. it is about desiring christ and being satisfied in him above all things – more satisfied in him than the possessions that so often possess me; more satisfied in him than the security i often seek at all costs; more satisfied in him than the comforts i cherish; and on and on.

living the unstained and unwasted life will ultimately happen not as a result of dutifully doing the decisions that i am chronicling in this blog. living the unstained and unwasted life will ultimately not happen as a result of anything i write or say about the all-satisfying value of christ. rather, this kind of life will be lived for you and for me only insofar as we “truly experience in [our] hearts the unsurpassed worth of Jesus with so much joy that we can say, ‘I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Philippians 3:8). Christ will be glorified in the world when [we] are so satisfied in him that [we] let goods and kindred go and lay down [our] lives for others…He will be magnified most…when, at the moment [we] lose everything on earth, [we] say, ‘To live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21).” (piper)

the struggle to live the unstained and unwasted life is the struggle to desire christ above all things, not merely to decide things. there is no more important struggle in the universe.

interesting quotations and/or references

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist,” by John Piper

The Dangerous Duty of Delight: The Glorified God and the Satisfied Soul,” by John Piper (you can read chapters 1-3 on-line for free)

When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God – and Joy,” by John Piper (you can read this entire book on-line for free)

The Blazing Center: The Soul-Satisfying Supremacy of God in All Things” (DVD with study guide), by John Piper



~ by david on June 26, 2008.

One Response to “desires (not just decisions) really matter”

  1. […] piper, “when i don’t desire god: how fight for joy” (see related post, “desires (not just decisions) really matter“), and i caught my son, griffin, checking it out as well. he flipped through the book over […]

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