I recently finished reading “One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God” by Sam Storms and wanted to include some things from the book here. Storms would be considered a Christian Hedonist, in the same vein that John Piper. In fact, their messages are very similar and Storms uses Pipers tag line a few times in the book: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
The book, if you couldn’t get it from the title, is about pursuing the beauty of God over everything else. This is a message that really transformed the way I approached my growth in Christ when I was in college. If we are truly passionate for the beauty of God, then sin suddenly isn’t as satisfying or appealing. God doesn’t want a bunch of Christians who live life focused on not doing things, but focused on finding pleasure in Him.
Storms premise is that we all find pleasure in something. It is something we naturally do as human beings. He says we all passionately seek pleasure. So the appeal is for the believer to focus that passion on our Lord. His point is this: “that passionate and joyful admiration of God, and not merely intellectual apprehension, is the aim of our existence.” Like I said, very Piper-esque. He even frequently quotes Jonathan Edwards and has Piper’s recommendation on the cover of the book.
Storms does well to provide a Biblical context for his points and writing that “God is His own fan club.” God created creation in order to bring Himself more glory, and we being part of that creation were created to not only find pleasure in God, but enjoy His Creation, which is impart finding pleasure in God. He covers the truth that a Biblical self-denial actually brings more pleasure for the believer, but much of that pleasure, in comparison to what is received in the present, is reserved for eternity.
Storms also shares the testimonies of Edwards, Athanasius (one of my heroes), Augustine, and Handel, and how they were all driven by the idea of a total pursuit and pleasure in the beauty of God. He spends two chapters marveling at God’s creation, setting the earth in the perspective of the universes it is surrounded by. He spends almost 20 pages speaking of the grandeur of creation, and then follows that up with another chapter on breaking creation down to the atom and the amazing detail of God’s creation. The intent of this all is to blown away by the One who created it all.
He spends a chapter using the illustration of Ulysses, also known as Odysseus, and his battle with the Sirens. I’m not going to tell the whole story, but basically these Sirens were crying out from treacherous islands as ship sailed through. They sang beautiful melodies that would draw men in, only to make them crash on the rocks and savagely consume their flesh. They sounded beautiful, but were in reality horribly deadly creatures. Ulysses told his men to block their ears, but to tie him to the mast of his ship because he wanted to hear them. He told them to not listen to him, no matter what. One Siren took on the form of his lovely wife, who he had not been with in years. Storms says, “His ‘no’ was not the fruit of a spontaneous revulsion but the product of an external shackle.”
Like Ulysses, many Christians accept their hearts panting for sin, but resist because “their hands have been shackled by the laws and rues imposed by an oppressive religious atmosphere.” Storms concludes, “Their obedience is not the glad product of a transformed nature, but a reluctant conformity born of fear and shame.”
He offers an opposing illustration of Jason, who also had a run in with the Sirens. With Jason on his voyage was Orpheus, who was an amazing musician, who played music that was more beautiful than anything else. When they came to the Sirens, he did not have his men plug their ears, but told Orpheus to play his most beautiful and alluring songs. Jason and his men were not inclined to give in to the Sirens because they found a more beautiful song to listen to.
The Christian parallel is obvious. The way to resist sin is not in shackling ourselves and forcing ourselves to resist, but to find something that is more pleasurable than the temptation. Something that actually provides a lasting pleasure. Storms says, “Ulysses may have survived the sounds of the Sirens. But only Jason triumphed s over them. Yes, both men ‘obeyed’ (in a manner of speaking). Neither succumbed. Neither indulged their desires. Both men escaped the danger at hand. But only one was changed.”
This is something that I have found my soul frustrated with. I don’t think I abhor sin as I should, and it troubles me that I’m not more insulted by immorality and what God hates. I’ll leave you with a list of challenges Storms lists. This is what you were created for. What would your life look like if the following things were true of you?
- enchanted… enamored… engrossed with God
- enthralled… enraptured… entranced with God
- enravished… excited… enticed with God
- astonished… amazed… awed with God
- astounded… absorbed… agog with God
- beguiled and bedazzled
- startled and staggered
- smitten and stunned
- stupified and spellbound
- charmed and consumed
- thrilled and thunderstruck
- obsessed and preoccupied
- intrigued and impassioned
- overwhelmed and overwrought
- gripped and rapt
- enthused and electrified
- tantalzed, mesmerized, and monopolized
- fascinated, captivated, intoxicated, infatuated, and exhilarated… with God!