The Dangerous Duty of Delight, Epilogue

A Final Call

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read the Epilogue here. 

Piper’s epilogue to The Dangerous Duty of Delight sums up his main point and urges us to embrace the idea of finding our greatest joy in God. This is not a book about doing the right thing, about obeying the commandments, because we ought. Instead it is a book about finding our deepest satisfaction, fulfilment and happiness in the person and ways of God– through humble obedience, suffering and self-denial– knowing all the time that this is the way in which God is most glorified.

For your consideration:

  1. In just a few sentences, how would you sum up this book to an interested friend? What do you think is its main message and how should we live it?
  2. How might you pray the message of this book for yourself? Now give it a go!

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 9

What does it mean for Missions?

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 9 here. 

There was a time when Missionaries packed their belongings and left for their mission assignment, with the expectation being that they would most likely die (whether sooner or later) on location. The idea that a Missionary might return home on ‘furlough’ every 4 years, or perhaps to attend to some urgent ‘home matters’, seems to be a recent innovation. Regardless of the comparative ‘comforts’ of missionary life in the 21st Century, the sacrifices made by those going on Mission service are still considerable. They might be different in nature, but their personal cost is still great. Family, security, familiarity, and comfort are still left behind.

In chapter 9, Piper considers the sacrifices that are made by those giving themselves to Missionary service. His comments, however, also seem pertinent to anyone giving themselves to Christian ministry of all kinds, whether paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time. Only the degree is different. He writes:

“Missionaries are not heroes who can boast in great sacrifice for God. They are the true Christian Hedonists. They know that the battle cry of Christian Hedonism is missions. They have discovered a hundred times more joy and satisfaction in a life devoted to Christ and the gospel than in a life devoted to frivolous comforts and pleasures and worldly advancements. Suffering, disappointment, loss—yes. But all outweighed by the superior promise of all that God is for them in Jesus. ”

For your consideration:

  • Do you think Christian Hedonism (the desire to find our richest joy in God) could spur you to engage more in Christian ministry– whether missionary or another kind? Could the satisfaction and delight found in God be sufficient to offset the personal costs (time, energy, wages foregone, etc) of committing yourself to some kind of ministry?
  • What might you be prepared to forego in order to discover delight in God?
  • As you ponder these rather searching questions, you might like to consider the following scriptures:

34    Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:34-38

7    But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him,… 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:7-10

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 8 (part 2)

What does it mean for Money?

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 8 here. 

Piper concludes chapter 8 by suggesting the Christian adopt a war-time view of money. For those who have lived through wars, this analogy resonates deeply. During time of war, many material sacrifices are made for the ‘war effort’. Self-interest is set aside for the shared purpose and common good: defending the enemy aggression. Wealth and resources are gladly given over to protect the nation. Money per se is not despised, but it is valued according to what it can achieve in terms of the war. On the other hand, money that is held back from the war effort could be viewed as a betrayal of fellow-citizens and soldiers.

This Christian attitude towards money and wealth sits somewhat comfortably with us while ever it remains an analogy. But Piper’s point is no illustrative comparison. The Christian really is ‘at war’. He writes:

“Life is war. The casualties are millions, and the stakes are eternal. What we need today is not a call to simplicity, but a call to war. We need to think in terms of a ‘wartime lifestyle’ rather than a ‘simple lifestyle’… Life is war. All talk of a Christian’s right to live luxuriously “as a child of the King” in this atmosphere sounds hollow—especially since the King Himself stripped for battle.”

The reality of the spiritual war in which we find ourselves brings Jesus’ own teaching on wealth into sharper focus:

32  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:32-34)

For your prayerful consideration:

  1. Where might your next-door neighbour think that your treasure is?
  2. If you wanted to re-invest your wealth into an ‘investment’ that paid dividends in eternity, what would you do?
  3. What will you do?

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 8 (part 1)

What does it mean for Money?

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 8 here. 

Piper begins chapter 8 by arguing that ‘Money is the currency of Christian Hedonism.’ That is to say, it is the thing that Christians most tend to ‘worship’ instead of God. Hence, what we do with our money can most readily make or break our happiness forever. While this may be true for many, I wondered whether or not ‘Time’ might be the currency of Christian Hedonism– at least for some. Perhaps our Time is prized above all other things, and our use of our time might clearly reveal the orientation of hearts?

As Piper examines 1 Timothy 6:5-10, if you are in this latter group, you might find yourself substituting ‘the love of my time’ for ‘the love of money’; working out what it might mean to be content with the time you have been given. However, if you are in the former group– the money group– then grappling with ‘contentment with what you have’ remains the central issue.

Piper’s key assertion in this chapter is derived from the point made earlier in the book, that we are too easily satisfied with less. We are likely to settle for ‘fleeting money-bought pleasures that do not satisfy our deepest longings, but in the end destroy our souls.’ For now, consider how this principle is related to the ‘gain’ described in 1 Timothy 6:2-10

2b …These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1 Timothy 6:2-10

For your consideration: How might you seek ‘godliness WITH contentment’, the great gain? What might need to change?

Make your response to these questions the ‘springboard’ for your prayers now.

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 7

What does it mean for Marriage?

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 7 here. 

In many Christian circles, Ephesians 5 and Paul’s teaching there is an instant ‘turn off’. For some, talk of ‘marriage’ is hard to hear because of personal circumstances or history. And then, making such conversation even more difficult, is Paul’s mention of the word ‘submission’, which in our contemporary culture seems immediately oppressive– and so the passage is quickly discounted as culturally bound and irrelevant. BUT WAIT! Don’t switch off, because: (i) the passage is primarily about God’s relationship with his people, the church; and (ii) the passage reveals the true nature of love– love in all kinds of relationships. So, if you haven’t already, read chapter 7 of The Dangerous Duty of Delight (link above).

In chapter 7, Piper’s description of ‘Love that includes self-interest’ calls us to allow the bible to define love, based on the example of Christ’s love for his people, the church. He loves his church such that she is ultimately presented before him as pure and blameless, spotless in holy beauty, thus bringing him great joy. Consequently, this love leads him to the cross. What is the highest possible good and greatest joy for the church? To be presented pure and blameless as a bride for Christ, having been made holy by her saviour. And so, concludes Piper:

“Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved in order that its joy might be full in the life and purity of the beloved.”

Pondering this quality of love– the love of Christ for us– we might prayerfully consider the following questions:

  • Are you willing to seek your happiness in the happiness of Jesus Christ? What difference will that make?
  • If you are married, what difference will this understanding of ‘self-interested’ love make to your marriage?
  • If you are not married, what difference will this understanding of ‘self-interested’ love make to your relationships at church?

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 6

What does it mean for Worship?

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 6 here. 

When was the last time you worshipped God? It might have been when you last joined in a church meeting. Or perhaps not. Mere attendance at a church service does not constitute worship. Much of our church services are given to education, with the ‘worship’ left to the attendee’s own personal thought-world.

Some ‘acts of service’ are constructed as worship. Cleaning up after others. Looking after the kids. Looking after someone else’s kids. But was it actually worship, or merely duty?

So, when was the last time you worshipped God? What form did your worship take? How did you feel as you worshipped God?

In Chapter 6 of The Dangerous Duty of Delight John Piper argues that:

“Worship is the highest moral act a human can perform; so the only basis and motivation for it that many people can conceive is the moral notion of disinterested performance of duty. But when worship is reduced to disinterested duty, it ceases to be worship. For worship is a feast of the glorious perfections of God in Christ.”

But in Piper’s thinking, what actually is worship? He provides a definition of sorts in the following paragraph:

“… Hebrews 11:6 enters combat with popular conceptions of selfless virtue. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” You cannot please God if you do not come to Him for reward! Therefore, worship that pleases God is the hedonistic pursuit of God. He is our exceedingly great reward! In His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Being satisfied with all God is for us in Jesus is the essence of the authentic experience of worship. Worship is the feast of Christian Hedonism.”

So Piper frames worship as a ‘pursuit’ of God. It is finding a satisfaction in God. It is a desire to ‘have’ God. It is not what we bring to God– our singing, our giving or our quality of preaching. Instead it is our contented pleasure in God. Ultimately, Piper argues that worship is not a means to any other end than satisfaction in God. “Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves.”

As you reflect on these comments, what further questions do you have? Is Piper’s definition of worship sufficient? Is it too narrow? How might you define worship?

Here are some further passages from the bible that might assist you in your exploration of worship.

23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

John 4:23-34

1    Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 5 (part 2)

Pursue your Joy in the Joy of the Beloved

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 5 here. 

A lifetime of finding joy in God sounds like one of mystical serenity; unmoved by the pain, tragedy, loss and suffering of others. The second half of chapter 5 explains how seeking our highest pleasures in God does not insulate and isolate us from pain here and now. Instead, our joy in God is pursued through the challenges and hurt of a fallen world and broken people.

Piper directs our attention to Jesus, and his motivation as he anticipate the horrors of the cross.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:1b-3

The greatest labour of love that ever happened was possible because Jesus pursued the greatest imaginable joy, namely, the joy of being exalted to God’s right hand in the assembly of a redeemed people. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross!

Christian Hedonism is utterly committed to loving like Jesus. We do not presume to live by motives greater than the ones he lived by. What hinders love in the world today? Is it that we are all trying to please ourselves? No! It is because we are all too easily pleased.

John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, p45

For your consideration and prayer

  • In the midst of the challenges of your current situation (whatever you perceive them to be), what is the joy that has been set before you?
  • If you find yourself in a particularly difficult situation, take some time to write out the content of that ‘joy set before you’ in your journal.
  • How might that joy sustain and motivate you through your current situation?

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 5 (part 1)

Pursue your Joy in the Joy of the Beloved

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 5 here. 

The beautiful thing about pursuing our joy in God is that it propels our love for others. Our love is directed both vertically (for God) and horizontally (for others). While the first part of chapter 5 might seem overly academic– do we really need to be persuaded that loving God necessarily involves loving others?– and yet when such objections are addressed we are free to abandon ourselves to pursuing our joy in God.

All this matters because, instead of relegating joy to a by-product of obedience in service to others, joy is found in the action of love itself. Piper’s quotation of Jonathon Edwards helps us see this with clarity:

In some sense the most benevolent, generous person in the world seeks his own happiness in doing good to others, because he places his happiness in their good. His mind is so enlarged as to take them, as it were, into himself. Thus when they are happy, he feels it; he partakes with them, and is happy in their happiness.

And so a genuine love for others is actually born of our love for God. In Piper’s words, “Love is the overflow and expansion of joy in God, which gladly meets the needs of others.” And this is not merely an accidental by-product, but grounded in the nature of love for God itself. In this light, the apostle John’s words are worthy of our re-reading:

1John 3:16    This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1John 4:7    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

For your reflection and prayer

  • Loving the lovely is almost intuitive– it just happens. Loving family is easy (sometimes!). But what is it really that motivates your love for the people at your church?
  • How might things be different if you located your ‘happiness’ in the happiness of the members of your church or your small group?

Bring this to God in prayer now.

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 4

Pursuing Pleasure Undermines Pride and Self-Pity

If you've not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 4 here. 

Piper tells us that human pride and self-pity share the same root. Either we boast, saying ‘I deserve admiration because I have achieved much’, or we exult in our self-pity, saying ‘I deserve admiration because I have suffered so much.’ Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak.

Our current experiences of natural disasters, wars and pandemic have taken a toll on many in our world– even among those not directly or materially impacted. And yet, no matter our circumstances, pride continues to produce both boasting (I survived because I am strong) and self-pity (woe is me, my holidays/travel/goods suffered loss). Even those experiencing the grief of very personal and costly losses, those who really do deserve and need our practical care and support– all of us– can be drawn into the vortex of pride and self-pity.

In response, pursuing our greatest joy in God keeps us from both vices. When we are ’empty vessels beneath the fountain of God’, pride is overthrown. When the suffering Christian does not summon up their own resources like a hero, but instead trusts God like a small child, self-pity is consumed by loving trust in God. Freely finding our satisfaction in our greatest treasure– God himself– therefore deserves no special credit but is instead its own reward.

For Consideration and Prayer:

When is ‘pride’ your weakness? When is ‘self-pity’ your weakness? How might the following scriptures form your response?

Philippians 2:14    Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

1Peter 4:12    Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

James 1:2    Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

Matthew 5:11    “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 3

Affections are not Optional

If you’ve not yet been able to get a copy of the book (eBook available here for $7), then you can read chapter 3 here.

Our ‘affections’ — that complex of feelings, will, emotions, and motivations which reside metaphorically in our hearts– matter to God. Our culture likes to paint us as victims of our own affections, suggesting we cannot change them or shape them. Instead we are bound only to instinctively obey them and serve them. Our affections have become confused with our identity: we are what we feel.

Such helplessness in the face of our affections is not found in the Bible. Instead, we are called to direct and employ our affections for the glory of God. As much as scripture commands us to reject negative urges and feelings (do not covet, do not bear a grudge), God also calls us to adopt positive affections and choices (be satisfied with what we have, forgive and reconcile).

At the pinnacle of God’s call to engage our affections is the command to love. We are to love the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30-31). We are to love our neighbour; earnestly, and from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).

For consideration and prayer

  • Right now, how might you give expression to your love for God and your neighbour?
  • How might you nurture your love for God and your neighbour today?
  • When you don’t ‘feel the love’ for God or neighbour, what does Piper suggest you do? What will you do?

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 2 (part 2)

Glorifying God by Enjoying Him Forever

Chapter 2 contains the thesis of this book: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him“. Today we are considering the second part of this chapter (pages 15-21), which delves further into the idea that we really are to seek maximum pleasure and our greatest joy; and not settle for anything less.

The book can be purchased here. The first two chapters are available as a free download here:

Put most succinctly, at the heart of this chapter, we glorify God by enjoying Him forever. To diminish either side of the equation diminishes God: we dare not weaken our glorification of God (as though he were not worthy), and we dare not weaken our pursuit of joy in him– such that we settle for anything less than God (and so set up an idol in his place). Hence, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

The apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians from jail and experiencing many trials, seems to have the principle of Christian Hedonism in mind– although he uses different language to express it. He writes:

15    It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.   Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:15-21

As we reflect on Paul’s situation in jail, and his statement of intent in these verses, it is clear that he wants Christ to be glorified in his ‘body’, ie, whether he lives or dies, whether he is set free from jail or executed. Now Paul sees the possibility of his death as ‘gain’ because he will depart to be with Christ. Christ will be a satisfaction so deep that when death takes away everything else Paul loves— but gives him more of Christ— he counts it gain. So also, when we are satisfied with Christ in dying, he is glorified in our dying.

The same is true in ‘life’. When we experience Christ as our all-surpassing treasure here and now, we bring him glory– “For to me, to live is Christ.” And so Piper concludes the chapter:

“The common denominator between living and dying is that Christ is the all-satisfying treasure that we embrace whether we live or die. Christ is praised by being prized. He is magnified as a glorious treasure when He becomes our unrivaled pleasure. So if we are going to praise Him and magnify Him, we dare not be indifferent as to whether we prize Him and find pleasure in Him. If Christ’s honour is our passion, the pursuit of pleasure in Him is our duty.”

John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, p21.

For Reflection

How might you enrich your passion for Jesus Christ’s honour? What nurtures your pleasure in him?

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The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 2

Glorifying God by Enjoying Him Forever

Chapter 2 announces the thesis of John Piper’s book– and pretty much everything else Piper writes. The previous chapter cleared the way for Piper to now argue, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him“. If you don’t read anything else by Piper, read chapter 2 because it is most characteristic of his work. Today we are just considering just the first few pages of the chapter (pages 10-14), with more to come over the next few days.

The book can be purchased here. The first two chapters are available as a free download here:

We remember that the first chapter put forward a case for ‘Christian Hedonism’– the idea that joy and obedience are always found together. By that, Piper means pursuing Christian Pleasure in God is a matter of obedience to the word of God. Flipping that coin over: Obeying God’s word requires pursuing pleasure in God. Chapter 2 now investigates the apparent tension created by ‘pursing our joy in God’ with ‘we exist to glorify God.’ If, as the Westminster Confession states, we have first and foremost been created (and all things have been created) to glorify God– then how can we be Christian Hedonists? Did God create us for His glory or for our joy?

The answer to our question is, ‘yes!’ Piper puts it this way:

“He created you so that you might spend eternity glorifying Him by enjoying Him forever. In other words, you do not have to choose between glorifying God and enjoying God. Indeed you dare not choose. If you forsake one, you lose the other. Edwards is absolutely right: “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.” If we do not rejoice in God, we do not glorify God as we ought… God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, p14.

For Reflection

Beginning on page 11, Piper summarises the whole flow of our salvation: Predestination, Creation, Incarnation, Propitiation, Sanctification and Consummation. For each of these steps, he shows from the bible that God’s process of salvation demonstrates and magnifies his glory. God’s purpose in our salvation was always the promotion and magnification of his greatness, with us as grateful beneficiaries of all that he has done.

As an exercise in prayer, use Piper’s summary as a springboard for a time of personal praise and thanksgiving to God for his greatness in salvation, as demonstrated by these verses.