This sermon series is in no way original from me. The material is largely based on John Piper’s book and sermon series with the same title, “The Pleasures of God”. My sermon titles will be based on the title of each chapter from the book. However, in order for me to preach without having to just simply parrot Piper, I will be preaching from the relevant passages of Scriptures that deals with the subject. After all, we should preach and believe these things not because Piper says so, but because it is biblical, as I will try to show you in the next few Sundays.
Now, before I continue with the exposition, let’s try to ask the question first; why should SMEC hear a series of sermons about the pleasures of God?
Here are at least five reasons
- The more we get to know what pleases God the most, the more we can see his glory, because as Henry Scougal says, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love.” So you want to measure the excellencies of God, his glory, his greatness? Then, know his delights.
- Studying the pleasures of God will reorient our notion of what is primary and central in the universe.
- It will help us answer the question, “how is God loving if he is for his own pleasure first and foremost?”
- The gospel is at stake here. If the God that one day we will live with for all eternity is ultimately unhappy, then the gospel is not good news at all.
- Sin is displeasing before God and understanding the pleasures of God will help us know how and why God hates sin, and why does he abhor evil. And it will also help us in fighting the temptations of the pleasures of sin.
I’m hoping that as we go through the pleasures of God, we will all get to see the excellencies of God more clearly and that by it, dead people will be raised from their spiritual deadness, and those who are alive will be changed from one degree of glory to another.
God Is Alone But Never Lonely
Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God. We confess with the saints for all time, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” And before creation came to be, there is only God. God simply is. Genesis 1 already assumes the existence of God, “In the beginning God..” Everything else are contingent and dependent on this God for their existence and continuing existence. Now when asked why God created the universe, which includes us, the answer cannot come from us or anything in God’s creatures. The answer is found in another doctrine, namely the Trinity.
This word is not found in the Bible, but the truth that it is trying to point to is biblical, namely that there is only one God subsisting in three persons, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Meaning, God is one in essence and three in person. Here we can find the ultimate answer why God created the universe. It is not because He is lonely, but that because He is so happy, complete and overflowing with joy in the fellowship of the Trinity, He created the universe. Or as Jonathan Edwards said, “Tis no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain that it is inclined to overflow.” Or to borrow from a fourteenth century theologian, out of the laughter of the Trinity the universe came into being. God created the universe, not out of need or lack, but out of his abundance of joy. This leads us to the first and ultimate delight or pleasure of God, namely his Son. The Father has always been with the Son for all eternity, delighting in one another.
God Loves The Son
We can see this truth first in Matthew 17, where Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on what we call now the mount of transfiguration, where the Father reveals the glory of Christ. Matthew 17:2 says, “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” Then right after that in Matthew 17:5 the Father says these words to them, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” In Mark 1:11 and in Luke 3:22, at Jesus’s baptism the Father spoke the same words, but this time it is spoken directly to Jesus, “And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” The first statement, “This is my beloved”, implies the second statement, “with whom I am well pleased”. Or to say it another way, when the Father referred to the Son as his beloved, he meant that he takes delight in or takes pleasure in the Son. We call this love in human terms, fondness. The Father loves, likes and is fond of the Son, not out of pity for him, nor despite of him, but precisely because he, Jesus, is pleasurable. By way of analogy, I love, like or am fond of eating strawberry ice cream, not despite of it, but because I find in the strawberry ice cream pleasure. I don’t begrudgingly or unconditionally, out of mercy for the ice cream eat, I delight eating it. That’s the kind of love or pleasure the Father has for the Son, only that we would raise it to infinity. Jesus is infinitely worthy of the Father’s delight. So when Jesus says in John 3:35 that the Father loves the Son, he meant, that the Father takes pleasure in him. I say this for the following reasons:
- Jesus is without sin, He is righteous and holy (2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, Psalm 1:6)
- Jesus obeyed God in the laying of his life for his people(John 10:17)
- The Father loves Jesus even before the foundation of the world(John 17:24)
It is in this third reason we can see the most foundational reason why God delights in the Son.
God Loves Himself
Though it is true that the man Jesus is worthy of God’s love and delight because of his perfect obedience, however, more than that, it is because in him, dwells the fullness of deity in bodily form. According to Colossians 2:9, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily..” And in Colossians 1:19, it is the pleasure of the fullness of deity to dwell in him. Which means that before taking the form of a human, this fullness of deity already existed as a person for all eternity. In Colossians 1:15 he is called, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth.”
As the firstborn, he is the supreme creator ruling over all things. Firstborn here doesn’t connote chronological order, but of rank. Take note of the last clause of Colossians 1:15, “for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth.”
As the image of the invisible God, according to Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
Now according to Philippians 2:6 before He(the Son) took the form of a servant, he was in the form of God. Or as in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” Then in John 1:14 this word became flesh, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
So in summary the Father delights in the Son, because he reflects the glory of God the Father perfectly, and himself is God. For the Father to have an exact and perfect reflection, representation or image of his nature, that image must be God as well, otherwise it cannot be called an exact imprint or representation of his nature. So when the Father looks at the Son, He is seeing his very nature and glory. Therefore as John Piper rightly concludes, “the original, the primal, the deepest, the foundational joy of God is the joy he has in his own perfections as he sees them reflected in his Son. He loves the Son and delights in the Son and takes pleasure in the Son because the Son is God himself.” So the pleasure of God in the Son is the same as his taking pleasure in himself.
The Essence of Sin
Now at first glance that seems narcissistic, vain, conceited and selfish of God to look at the mirror and admire, take delight in, and love the person in the mirror. After all, we cringe when we see someone doing that right? That’s like congratulating yourself, or in this age of social media, it’s like love reacting to your own Facebook posts or liking your own Youtube videos. How can this be right for God and wrong for us? Here’s the difference, we are not the greatest being in the universe. We are not the most to be desired, nor to be looked at, nor to take pleasure in, God is!
Therefore when we act in such a way that points to our own so called worth, beauty, and righteousness, we are distracting ourselves and others to that which is highest good and most beautiful, that will give us eternal pleasure, namely God. And it is sin to choose anything lower, while God is offering himself to you. That’s the very essence of sin, it is seeking our deepest satisfaction in anything else, like ourselves, than in God. Romans 1:21-23 says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” So when we prefer everything else over God, we are committing idolatry. That is why sin is a falling short of the glory of God according to Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
The Essence of Righteousness
This is true of God as well. If God is righteous, and He is, He will point people to the highest good and most beautiful, namely himself. Therefore it is only right for God to take pleasure in himself, for how else can he point us to the greatest pleasure that would satisfy us, if not by pointing to himself. God cannot and will not deny himself.
The Pleasure of God In Himself: A Problem, And Hope For Us
As mentioned above, when we take pleasure in anything else but God, we sin, and God does not take pleasure in sin, for the only thing that can please God is himself, and sin is basically offering ways of pleasure than God. So Go hates sin, because sin is a slap to his glorious face. Look at this sampling of verses from the Bible, Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence,” Psalm 5:4-5, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” Or in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ” So that’s a problem for all of us. How can this righteous and infinitely glorious God ever set his affection, and delight on sinners like us?
Now, the answer, paradoxical as it may be, is the very pleasure of God in himself, namely his Son. As John Piper states “herein lies also the very foundation of our salvation, for it is precisely the infinite regard that the Father has for the Son which makes it possible for me, a wicked sinner, to be loved and accepted in the Son, because in his death he restored all the insult and injury that I had done to the Father’s glory through my sin.”
The Son’s willingness to die and actually dying on the cross in order to uphold the worth of God, is the greatest display of God’s glory. That is why sinners like us can only be accepted by Him if we are clothed with the very person of his Son through faith, for he alone the Father takes delight in. And as Hebrews 11:6 says, “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Faith unites us to whom God is well pleased, namely Jesus.
So pursue Jesus, cling to him. Let us therefore turn away from all our trivial pursuits, the fleeting pleasures of the world and of sin, but instead seek the pleasure of God in his Son.