Delight yourself in the LORD – Psalms 37:4a (NIV)
Even if you are not Presbyterian, which I am not, you’ve likely heard the following statement taken from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, completed in 1647. The catechism is composed of 107 questions and answers. The most famous of these questions is “what is the chief end of man?” and the answer is, “man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” I think most Christians intuitively get that we are to glorify God even we aren’t always quite sure how to go about doing it. Enjoying God? That is another matter. We understand we are to worship, love, praise, obey and pray to God, but when is the last time you heard someone talk or preach about enjoying God?
Perhaps the lack of dialogue on enjoying God in modern western Christendom is an overreaction to popular culture which seems hell-bent on immoral hedonism and pleasure above all. TV shows like MTV’s Jersey Shore and The Real World have given enjoyment and pleasure a bad name. However it was God himself who first remarked after he created and populated the earth that, “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Volumes have been written across the ages to describe God and his attributes including such classics as J.I. Packer’s Knowing God and A. W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy. However instead of attempting to exhaust the boundaries of human vocabulary it was God who simply described himself to Moses with the short phrase, “I AM that I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
When you observe a multi-faceted diamond from a myriad of angles and under various light conditions, you discover new aspects and dimensions of its beauty. As we examine the infinitely faceted God through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we discover new dimensions and aspects of his character for ourselves. I believe sadly the realization that we can enjoy God is one of the last of the discoveries made by many Christians if in fact it is ever made at all.
We forget that the Bible itself uses the term “friend of God” to describe those in communion with the Almighty. This term was ascribed to Abraham (2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23) Moses (Exodus 33:11) and the disciples (John 15:15). Think of your own earthly friendships. Do you have friends that over the long haul, you do not enjoy being in their company? There are many reasons we seek out friendships, but chief among them is enjoyment.
Aside from the world’s corruption of the terms enjoyment and pleasure, I believe another barrier that keeps us from enjoying God is our inability to reconcile friendship with God with some of his attributes such as holiness, righteousness, justice and omnipotence. We recall Isaiah’s vision of God in Isaiah 6:1, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up , and his train filled the temple” and remember that “God dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16).
Let’s be clear. Enjoying God and being a friend a God is not synonymous with hanging out with a drinking buddy. God does not set aside his holiness in the name of friendship and enjoyment. In scripture anytime a person encounters the Almighty that person immediately recognizes his or her own sinfulness and God’s sinless perfection. Let’s look at Isaiah’s encounter with God again in the Isaiah 6:5, “Woe to me!” I [Isaiah] cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah clearly understood his unworthiness to be in the presence of God. However what God does next is remarkable. The Lord instructs one of his heavenly beings to remove a coal from the altar and the being tells Isaiah, “See, this [the coal] has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for”(Isaiah 6:7b). What God did for Isaiah on an individual basis, he has done on behalf of mankind. Jesus’ death on the cross atoned for the sin debt of the human race and makes it possible for us to become a friend of God if we will but take his extended hand.
Perhaps you’re warming to the idea that you can actually enjoy God, but how? For the answer you’ll have to wait for my next post. . . .