New Discussion Guide to The Joy Project

Two years back I wrote a little book to tell the story of redemptive history in a way to highlight and feature God’s plan to give us his joy. I titled it: The Joy Project: A True Story of Inescapable Happiness. You can download the entire thing free of charge online (pdf, epub, mobi), or buy a POD paperback from Amazon.

The book was fairly well received, and became surprisingly useful in church discussion groups and in “getting started” classes, as an approachable introduction into the glories of reformed soteriology.

Since the release, readers and pastors have been asking for a study guide to make the book even more useful in a church context, and pastor Benjamin Vrbicek stepped up and delivered, this week publishing God’s Joy Project: A Short Introduction to Reformed Theology & A Discussion Guide to Tony Reinke’s Book The Joy Project.

He’s given me permission to post the digital files online for free (pdf, epub, mobi). And a POD paperback can be purchased through Amazon.

Thank you, Benjamin, for your labors!

 

How Joy Dies

pss-1Psalm 16:4 —

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

James A. Johnston, The Psalms, Volume 1 (Crossway; 2015), page 178 —

Being happy in God starts with saying no. You cannot be happy and satisfied in God if you are riding the fence. Some people wonder why they cannot find joy in Christ, but they have a foot in each world. They want God to bless them, but they are living for themselves too. They hedge their bets.

David knows better. He will have nothing to do with pagan sacrifices. He will not worship by pouring out the blood of their sacrifices, and he will not pray to their gods. Finding joy and satisfaction in God starts by saying no.

The Elephant of Desire in the Kayak of Our Imagination

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (HarperOne; 2001), page 149:

There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.

Peter Kreeft, Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing (Ignatius; 1989), pages 43–44:

Take an hour or so to do this experiment, not just read about it. (The simple act of taking an hour away from external diversions for inner confrontation with your heart, no matter what comes of it, may he the hardest part of the experiment — and also the most valuable and desperately needed in your hectic life.)

Ask your heart what it wants. Make a list. The sky’s the limit.

Now imagine you are God; there is no limit to your power. Design your own heaven and then give it to yourself.

First imagine what you want. Then imagine getting it all. Finally, imagine having it for eternity. How soon do you think you would grow bored or restless?

Suppose your first list wasn’t very profound. Try again. Go deeper this time: not pleasure and power and fame and money and leisure, say, but good friends and good health and intelligence and a good conscience and freedom and peace of mind. That might take a few more millennia to bore you, perhaps. But aren’t all imaginable utopias ultimately boring? In fact, aren’t the most perfect ones the most boring of all? Doesn’t every fairy tale fail at the end to make “they all lived happily ever after” sound half as interesting as the thrills of getting there?

Can you imagine any heaven that would not eventually be a bore? If not, does that mean that every good thing must come to an end, even heaven? After eighty or ninety years most people are ready to die; will we feel the same after eighty or ninety centuries of heaven? Would you have to invent death in your ideal, invented heaven? What a heaven — so wonderful you commit suicide to escape it!

But if we don’t want death and we don’t want boredom in heaven, what do we want? If heaven is real, what real desire does it satisfy? And even if it is unreal, only wishful thinking, what is the wish? What do we want?

We want a heaven without death and without boredom. But we cannot imagine such a heaven. How can we desire something we cannot imagine?

Our desires go far deeper than our imagination or our thought; the heart is deeper than the mind.

Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.