The modern revolt against old-fashioned Christian Hedonism has killed the spirit of worship in many churches and many hearts. The widespread notion that high moral acts must be free from self-interest is a great enemy of true worship. 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.
God is not honored when we celebrate the high days of our relationship out of a mere sense of duty. He is honored when those days are our delight! Therefore to honor God in worship we must not seek Him disinterestedly, for fear of gaining some joy in worship and so ruining the moral value of the act. Instead, we must seek Him hedonistically, the way a thirsty deer pants after the stream, precisely for the joy of seeing and savoring God! Worship is nothing less than obedience to the command of God, “Delight yourself in the LORD” (Psalm 37:4).
Misguided virtue smothers the spirit of worship. The person who has the vague notion that it is a virtue to overcome self-interest and that it is a vice to seek pleasure will scarcely be able to worship. For worship is the most hedonistic affair of life and must not be ruined with the least thought of disinterestedness. The great hindrance to worship is not that we are a pleasure-seeking people, but that we are willing to settle for such pitiful pleasures.
Every Sunday at 11 A.M., 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.
Consider three implications for corporate worship.
First, the true diagnosis of weak worship is not that our people are coming to get and not to give. Not a few pastors scold their people that the worship services would be lively if people came to give instead of to get. There is a better diagnosis.
People ought to come to corporate worship services to get. They ought to come starved for God. They ought to come saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1). God is profoundly honored when people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. And it is my job as a preacher to spread a banquet for them. I must show them from Scripture what they are really starving for—God—and then feed them well until they say, “Ahhh.” That is worship.
Second, seeing the essence of worship as satisfaction in God will make corporate worship radically God-centered.
Nothing makes God more supreme and more central than when people are utterly persuaded that nothing—not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends—is going to bring satisfaction to their aching hearts besides God. This conviction breeds people who go hard after God on Sunday morning.
Piper, John. 2001. The Dangerous Duty of Delight. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers.