Christian Hedonism

1 John 1:3–4 “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (NIV).

Observation: John the apostle was the writer, the one who referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved (see John 13:23). He began by testifying that he had actually seen and heard the God who had existed from the beginning; he had even touched this pre-eternal God (see 1 John 1:1). Declaring that this “Word of Life” had appeared to him, John then disclosed his motivation for writing: that his readers might connect with the body of Christ in a fellowship of the Spirit. Finally, his motive comes down to this: that his joy may be made complete.

Application: John testified of Christ to make his own joy complete? That carries the distinct ring of self-centeredness. He says his motive is to meet his own need for complete joy. Is John being disgustingly self-serving here, or has he careened headlong into a truth that I would deny in my half-heartedness?

Christ Himself commanded that I am to deny myself to follow Him (see Matt. 16:24). I remember admonitions to lay down my rights, to die to self until filled with Christ alone, but then along comes John, unabashedly trumpeting the most hedonistic of motives: that his joy be made complete. The motivation he confessed is very personal, one that compelled him forward in his own self-interest. This is Christian hedonism in its fullness. How am I to understand this?

C. S. Lewis says it best in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambitions when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The fact is, when I withhold I am miserable and small. When I give, my joy, like John’s, is made complete and I am expanded. My heart grows. What might I withhold? Perhaps money, perhaps testimony to an angry pagan, perhaps time that could be spent in service to others. So I give, that my joy may be made complete. As John Piper writes in Desiring God, “…this persistent and undeniable yearning for happiness (is) not to be suppressed, but to be glutted—on God!”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, all my needs are met in You. In You my deepest longings are not denied, but fulfilled. Help me to live in lavish, passionate, persistent pursuit of You, for in You I lack nothing. My joy is complete!

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