This brief series of posts is connected to my favorite message moments from this year’s gathering. I might have missed your favorite, but these are the pieces still pinball-ing around my heart. Glory to God for His mercy and kindness in meeting us for those special days!
Part Three – more from John Piper [Click here for my reflections on the first part of Dr. Piper’s message.]
The second question Dr. Piper posed was this: “Is enjoying God my highest duty?” He reminded us of the first and greatest commandment, to love God with all that we have, loving Him more than anyone or anything else. (Mark 12:30)
“The essence of loving is not doing, it is delighting, when God is the object.” (John Piper)
Anticipating objections, Dr. Piper helped us view John 14:15 (“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – ESV) as different from the first commandment. They are linked but they are not the same. If we do the first one, we will do the other. “One is root, one is fruit.” (John Piper)
Enjoying God leads to obeying God. Working “for God” cannot bypass our principal duty of loving Him.
Affection for God—enjoying Him and loving him with heart and emotion—is a challenge for many Christ-followers. They measure their personal worth in terms of role and performance so that their relationship with the Almighty subsists on approval for good actions. Projecting this spiritually, what they feel about God flows from presuming how He grades their daily performance. If they have done things on the good list and avoided things on the bad list, then God must be happy with them—so they can for the moment look Him in the eye without shame and feel good about Him. Is this something with which you struggle? This is a long way from delight. It is self-centered and theologically inaccurate; feeling something far beneath love from a sense of keeping God happy.
Adoption through Christ brings us into a relationship as God’s sons and daughters—not just His workers. Adoption through Christ enables full and free access beyond the veil to the very heart of God. Jesus worked—in sacrifice and resurrection—to enable our justification by faith. He finished that work. In Christ, we are clean, forgiven, adopted, and free.
Your behavior today (list-keeping) has no effect on God’s love for you. His love is not based on rose-colored optimism about your holiness. He knows who you were. He knows who you are. The game-changer is that He made you holy through Jesus. He loves you because you are His own—reconciled, accepted, brought home.
Live in the joys of the relationship Christ came to make possible. Enjoy God because He forgives and rescues and redeems. Enjoy God because He is light and nothing dark or sinister lurks within Him. Enjoy God because He is glorious—His extended majesty has no edge. Enjoy God because the creation—in beauty and power and complexity—shouts that He is beautiful, powerful, and sovereign. Enjoy God because He is your guiding shepherd. Enjoy Him as the capable warrior fighting for you. Enjoy God as the one restoring what sin has stolen. Enjoy God as the one inviting you to heave your cares onto His back. Enjoy God as you remember all the times He came through in your life—with provision for a need and mercy for a transgression. Delight in knowing He rejoices over you with singing. Let your enjoyment and delight swell into pure affection.
Express that affection as worship, both loud and quiet. Express it in the stillness of your soul—at rest in the permanent favor of your Father. You are His. Stop working for what is already yours. Stop projecting your own sense of spiritual inadequacy onto a relationship not at all based on your ability to measure-up.
Learning to delight in God—deepening that root—will most certainly result in your increased obedience and effectiveness in bringing Him glory. Loving Him and knowing Him leads to greater trust in Him and deeper desire to honor Him in all things. “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.” (John Piper)
If you want the fruit of a productive faith, you must cultivate the root of delighting in God, who is no longer your far-off enemy. Tend to your own soul. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate Christ’s beauty. Marinate in the eternal promises of your good God. This time of quiet study, contemplative prayer, and worshipful reflection is not wasted.
When at last I stand before the Lord I hope to hear Him say, “Well done.” I want it to be in recognition of loving Him, of delighting in Him with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength—which is after all, my first duty.
Here are a couple of books to inspire you toward affection for God above anyone or anything else: