Why Bridgeway Church Exists1
We recently revised our Mission Statement at Bridgeway Church, expanding it by adding a simple but spiritually profound phrase. Previously our statement said: “We exist to exalt Christ in the City.” We still do! But now it reads: “We exist to exalt Christ in the City through joyful satisfaction in Him!”
Every Christian, wherever they may live, believes that our ultimate aim should be to exalt and glorify God. But not everyone agrees on the most biblical and effective way to accomplish this goal. Here at Bridgeway we believe the most biblical and effective way to exalt Christ is by finding our “joyful satisfaction in Him.” In other words, we are Christian Hedonists! We believe that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. God is most highly and clearly praised when we find our greatest and most lasting pleasure in him. Our gladness in God is what shines a light most clearly on his greatness and glory.
We must never forget that the Bible commands us to pursue joy in God. I emphasize the word “commands.” The Bible doesn’t merely suggest that pursuing joy in God is a good idea or one of many options available to us. No. It commands us to find our joy in God. For example:
“Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4).
“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11).
“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth” (Psalm 67:4).
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:1-2).
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
“Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:12,15).
Although it isn’t explicitly a command, we must also consider what David said in Psalm 16:11.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
This is more than a description of God. It is the primary incentive for us to pursue him. Come to God, for in doing so you will find what you cannot find anywhere else or in anyone else. And what might that be? Not merely joy, but fullness of joy; a joy that is comprehensive, complete, exhaustive, and sufficient for your soul. Come to God for pleasures. Not merely pleasure, but pleasures forevermore; pleasures that never cease or lose their capacity to enthrall, excite, and satisfy.
As you know, no one has defined Christian Hedonism as well or as accurately as John Piper. Here is what he said:
“We glorify God most when he satisfies us most. By enjoying God supremely as our supreme treasure, we glorify his worth, his beauty, his desirability. And if we don’t enjoy him, we make him look defective. This is how we glorify Christ: by treasuring him above all that life can give, and all that death can take. We glorify Christ by experiencing him as more precious, more beautiful, more satisfying than anything else.”
But why joy? Why do the biblical authors, such as David, make delight or joy in God so central to our relationship with him? Is it not enough simply to obey God or fear God or worship God or believe in God? Why joy? Why delight? Why does it matter so much?
Not long ago a blogger criticized Christian Hedonism for insisting that we come to God and praise God for the joy to be found in him. He said that we should worship God simply because God deserves to be worshiped. Well, of course he does. No one disputes that point. But Christian Hedonism directs our attention to the how of worship. How is God most glorified in his people? And I would insist that God is most glorified in his people when they experience in themselves, by God’s saving and sanctifying grace, the affections of joy, delight, and satisfaction that God himself experiences in God himself. So there is obviously something special about joy.
Joy in God clearly and thoroughly reveals the worth and value and splendor of whatever it is that evokes it. When you experience and express joy in God, perhaps in the midst of indescribable suffering or hardship or loss, others stop and ask: “What must this God be like that he is deemed worthy not simply of acknowledgement but delight, not simply recognition but rejoicing?” In other words, “Joy is the clearest witness to the worth of what we enjoy. It is the deepest reverberation in the heart of man of the value of God’s glory” (Piper).
So, let’s resist any temptation to relegate joy and delight to a place of secondary importance. We must also resist the tendency among many to describe joy as little more than the unintended effect or result or inadvertent fruit of some other Christian duty. Instead, let joy in God, delight in God, not in his gifts but in God himself, be the focus of our efforts through the power of the Holy Spirit. For in our delight and joy in God is God most gloriously glorified in us.