“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). This is my last post on the Desiring God National Conference. Some of you will notice that one message will go without comment (D.A. Carson), and this is simply because Carson’s exposition of John 17 was so brilliant, so complex, and so overwhelming that I still have yet to be able to complete digest all that was said.

John Piper’s topic was the issue of Jesus and joy in the postmodern world. If you know anything about Piper it should come as no surprise that the most public Christian hedonist in the world would talk about the issue of joy in God in a postmodern society. It was beautiful to see how God weaved this message together with D.A. Caron’s, with Piper’s presentation coming the morning following Carson’s thorough handling of John 17.

One of the primary presuppostions from Carson’s message was that Jesus found joy (pleasure) in doing the will of the Father. Jesus’ obedience is sustained by the joy of His relationship with the Father, but His obedience is not equal to the joy. In other words, His joy is the primary motivating factor for His submission and deference to the will of God the Father. His obedience is evidence of His joy.

According to John 17:13, Jesus’ joy is conveyed by Spirit-illumined, Spirit-ignited propositions. Jesus shares propositional truths about the Father (“…these things I speak in the world…”). What precisely does this have to do with the postmodern world and mind? By Jesus’ own admission, joy is doctrinally based if it is going to glorify Christ. This is particularly important because many in the postmodern world and postmodern church find doctrine divisive and counter-productive to “friendship” and “conversation” (key buzz words in the postmodern, emergent church/village world). There is often a suppression of propostional truths because, according to the postmodern worldview, one can not know anything with certainty, and no “truth” is without cultural bias and shaping, and therefore cannot be said to be applicable to all people, in all cultures, at all points in history.

For Jesus, joy is critically connected to propositional truths about the Father. The consequence of living in a world of beliefs about God not rooted in propositional truths is that our joy in God is at stake.

To this point, what you have read is the short-version, the Cliff Notes version of Piper’s message. Here you will find an expansive 10-point commentary on John 17:13.

  1. God is the only being who has no beginning, and therefore, all things are dependent on Him for existence, and therefore, are less valuable than God. Neither of these truths is accepted in the postmodern world (Isa. 40:15-17). Our deepest joys are fulfilled in admiring the superiority of others. This is why our culture is obsessed with celebrities, athletic acccomplishments and the like. Until man grasps that he is inferior to God, and that God has made us children of God according to His own purpose and pleasure, and not because God values us above all things, including the value He places on His own glory, we will not treasure God as we ought;
  2. From eternity God has been supremely joyful and satisfied in the Triune relationship. There is no deficiency in the Trinity that prompted him to create the world (Ps 50:12-15). People have been made out of God’s fullness, not out of His need;
  3. God created humans in His image to be known and enjoyed to display the supreme value of His glory, His manifold perfections (Isa. 43:6-7; Ps 96:3; Col 1:27). The reaches of God’s glory are not outside our finite minds (though postmodernists state they are). Though it is true that we cannot know God’s glory or perfections perfectly, Scripture clearly indicates that we can apprehend God’s glory with our minds and this is the means of joy in our hearts. In other words, knowledge of God fuels the affection for God in our hearts;
  4. Jesus absorbed God’s warth and rose from the dead so that all who believe in Him would be forgiven, counted righteous, and fitted to know and enjoy God forever. In the mind of the postmodern there is no room for God’s wrath, which means there is no place for a wrath-bearing Savior, which means there is no place for the Gospel. The wrath of God is the necessary obstacle to the goal of the Gospel – which is to bring sinners to God (1Pet 3:8);
  5. The enjoyment above God above all other things is the deepest way God’s glory is reflected back to Him. Joy in God is the apex. Joy in God is intended to be at the center of all affections in life, above family, pleasure and leisure. We don’t enjoy God so that we gain anything else. It is the nature of joy to be a spontaneous response to something we value. Our joy reveals what we value. It is unique in its capacity to witness to what we treasure;
  6. The enjoyment of God in Jesus is the spring of all visible acts of self-denying, sacrificial love that displays to others the worth of God in our lives. God wants His glory to be visible to others (2Cor 8:1-2). God’s joy may be hidden in our hearts, but He wants it to be known by others (Matt 5:11-12, 14-16). If we can’t rejoice in the world’s revilings about us, then people can’t see our joy in God;
  7. The only joy that reflects the glory of God is rooted in true knowledge of God (as well as experience; these are not two mutually exclusive ways of knowing God). The only God-glorifying knowledge that flows form what we don’t know about God rises from what we do know. This is a response to the postmodern rejection of propositional truth. Knowledge is imparted through language, and God reveals Himself to us by His word(s). Far too many postmodern confessing believers say that their joy is in the journey toward knowing God. However, all this does is make an idol out of the journey. Jesus is honored by us knowing and treasuring who He is, not who we aren’t sure He is or isn’t. Truly, what we know now is small in comparison to what we will know in eternity. This is the mystery, although most postmoderns believe the mystery is what we don’t know about God. This isn’t true. The mystery is that there is infinitely more to be revealed about God to His sons and daughters through all eternity (Eph 2:7), not that there are things we do not currently know about God;
  8. The right knowledge of God as revealed by Jesus in Scripture is the servant of God-glorifying joy in God and love for people. The leadership at the Emergent Village, the poster-organization for postmodern Christians, says, “We believe in God, beauty, future and hope…We don’t have a problem with faith, but rather, we have a problem with statements. Statements of faith stifle friendships…” Piper posed this question to the Emergents: A) Are there any statements that if your friend really believed them, they would destroy your friend? Wouldn’t denying them in his presence sustain, not stifle your friendship?; B) C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is not face-to-face, but shoulder-to-shoulder – with common interests. The greater the shared vision of God, the deeper the friendship.” Lewis (and the Bible) would say that Emergents cannot have this kind of deep friendship because their friendship is not based on propositional truth. The Emergent ethos uproots friendship from biblical doctrine;
  9. We must not marginalize or minimize healthy biblical doctrine about the nature and work of God in Christ. Biblical doctrine is the basis of deep, biblical friendships;
  10. The Church must become a pillar and buttress of truth, love and the display of the glory of God and supremacy of Jesus in all things, the very reason for one’s existence.
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