Skip to content ↓

Does God Want Me to Obey Him Out Of Duty or Joy?

Ask Me Anything, social media, leaving church

It is a question Christians often ask: What is the relationship between obedience and joy? I was asked about this during a recent Ask Me Anything event in Philippines (which followed a sermon I gave that focused on Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”). Here is my answer.


How should Christians strike a balance between obedience out of duty and obedience out of joy in the Christian walk?

Well, Christian hedonism, of course, is the term associated with John Piper and I think if you went around to a hundred different Christians and asked how they would define Christian hedonism, I think you would get a lot of different answers. I’m not sure that people when they use the term, are really often meaning what John Piper means by the term. And frankly, I think not too many others have used it. Not too many people out there are saying he must be a Christian Hedonist. That’s, you know, I think really Piper-esque language that mostly he uses. But I do think he’s on to something, that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. So he wants us to be obeying God, finding great joy in God, great delight in God, not because we have to, but just out of the overflow of our salvation. So yes, I think ultimately what we want is to find great joy and let that joy motivate our godliness, motivate our sanctification, motivate our relationship with the Lord.

However, we’re sinful people. I think there are times where we don’t have the joy we want to have, there’s times when joy is very hard to come by. And that’s why the Christian life is also a disciplined life where I think in moments of our greatest spiritual sanity and spiritual self-control, we kind of look out at life and say, what do I need to do in life, what rules do I need to put in place in my own life? Not to save myself, these laws don’t make me more acceptable to God, but what rules or laws or regulations or something do I need to implement in my life to keep me from sin? Where do I need to impose an obligation on myself? Again, not to save myself, but in order to honor God. Where do I struggle to find such delight in God that I’ll obey Him? And therefore, I think that’s where we really bring self-control to bear. So, people use Covenant Eyes to keep themselves away from looking at pornography, I think is an example of this, right. You’d want the joy in the Lord to be enough, I would never look at pornography. That’s our goal, right, to have such joy that it overflows in obedience. Yet realistically, each of us has those areas where we just don’t have that joy, we’re not far enough down that path of sanctification, we haven’t taken advantage of all that the Spirit offers us yet, we haven’t grown through our own fault. So that’s where there can be times where we can say, okay, I’m putting this in place to guard myself against sin that I know at other times is very, very attractive.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 27)

    A La Carte: God doesn’t owe me kindness / Jordan Peterson’s “We Who Wrestle with God” tour / Does your church have an evangelist? / Putting Jesus first in a world of pleasures / Send help. My husband believes in me / and more.

  • Unite in Prayer with Persecuted Believers

    This week the blog is sponsored by Help The Persecuted. “Can I have a Bible?” The guard studied Qasem. “If you paint the walls of every cell in this prison, I’ll get you a Bible.” “Where is the paint?” And so Qasem, enduring what would ultimately be a three-year sentence for running house churches throughout…

  • Tell Me

    Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

    If you have spent any time at all on YouTube, you have probably seen videos of people hearing for the first time or people seeing color for the first time—videos of people who, through the miracles of modern science, have senses restored that had either been missing altogether or that had become dull through illness…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (February 26)

    A La Carte: How not to apply the Bible / 30 people in the New Testament confirmed / Taylor Swift and Christianity / But I did everything right / 10 reasons the Old Testament matters to Christians / Kindle deals / and more.

  • We All Have To Do With God

    We All Have To Do With God

    Every one of us must deal with God. Every one of us must, at some time, face God. Every one of us must be prepared to give an account to God. For, as Scripture says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (February 24)

    A La Carte: Wherever he leads, he’ll go / Britain’s loneliest sheep / Helping your teen with porn / How do the Arminian and Calvinist views of election differ? / Exposing the good in digital distractions / Kindle deals / and more.