Enjoying God – Study 4

Enjoying God

Study 4: Enjoy God with all that you are

‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind’ (Luke 10:27, New Living Translation, unless otherwise stated).

True worship involves one’s entire being, and that can jar with a carnal mindset. Judas Iscariot judged Mary’s extravagant personal worship (when she anointed Jesus with her expensive perfume) as wasteful; and Pharaoh condemned Israel’s proposed communal worship beyond Egypt’s borders as idleness. Expressions of true love can seem pointless to detached onlookers.

[] ‘Love the Lord with all your heart– the seat of your motivation and imagination.

Psalm 36:0 (that mentions ‘the river of God’s delights’, Psalm 36:8) actually begins: ‘Sin whispers to the wicked deep within their hearts, and proceeds to tell us how ‘they lie awake at night hatching sinful plots’ (Psalm 36:1,4). By contrast, the psalmist concludes his song by asking the Lord to ‘to give justice to those with honest hearts (see Psalm 36:10-12).

The imagination in a believer’s heart is ignited by considering delights past, present and future.

(i) There’s joy in anticipating future pleasures.

The gospel’s hope of a new heaven and a new earth can inspire us with gladness for which no words are available to describe. ‘Though you do not see . . . Jesus Christ . . . now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy [anticipating] the day when [he] is revealed to the whole world’ (1 Peter 1:7-9; 2 Corinthians 12:4).

(ii) Joy can be triggered by sudden, pleasant surprises today.

Think of William Wordsworth’s excitement

‘When all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils

Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.’

(iii) The joy of memory will revive the sunset glow of past pleasures.

Wordsworth often recalled that those ‘ten thousand’ dancing flowers had given him much joy.

‘For oft, when on my couch I lie, in vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude.

And then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils.’

[] ‘Love the Lord with all your soul – out of which spring such emotions as laughter, tears of joy, music and poetry.

Solomon observed in Proverbs 10:23 that ‘doing wrong is fun for a fool; but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible’; and ultimately, ‘what the righteous desire will be granted’ (24, New International Version).

Contemplating aspects of nature can cause a thrill to bubble up in the human soul. Indeed, God himself enjoys his creation. According to Proverbs 8:22-31, his work in creating the universe was a whole lot of fun! ‘Christ is . . . the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24) ‘through whom [he] created the universe’ (Hebrews 1:2). ‘Wisdom’ (Proverbs 8:1,12) ‘was [God’s] constant delight, rejoicing [Hebrew = ‘playing and dancing with excitement] always in his presence. And how happy I was with the world he created; how I rejoiced with the human family’ (Proverbs 8:30-31). Possibly the Son may have remarked to his Father, ‘Just look how that ostrich runs! What a comedy performance!’ And Father could have responded, ‘Watch that kangaroo as it hops along! How hilarious is that?’ I recall a day spent line-fishing in the North Sea with a couple of Norwegian pastors. We praised the Lord volubly in tongues as we kept hauling in cod and grayling, and then murmured with contentment as later we ate some of our catch freshly grilled on the beach.

[] ‘Love the Lord with all your strength.

When he brought the Ark of the Lord up to Jerusalem, ‘David danced before the Lord with all his might (2 Samuel 6:14). By contrast, because God did not remove obstacles that cause hardship for him, Paul resolved ‘to boast about my weaknesses’, and ‘take pleasure that the power of Christ can work through me.’

[] ‘Love the Lord with all your mind.

Like atomic physicists, we may attempt to debate about the nature of forces that hold the components of matter together, or cause galaxies to cohere. We may puzzle over a possible key to history, and try to explain the mystery of why some good people suffer. Surely the answer was offered by Paul in Colossians 1:15-20, ‘Christ holds all creation together’ (Colossians 1:17), and God ‘reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and in earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross’ (Colossians 1:19-29).

When the Lord appealed to wayward Israel through Isaiah, he expressed himself in rational terms: ‘Come now, let us reason together’ (Colossians 1:18, English Standard Version). And Job, in the thick of debate with his three friends, used that very same verb: ‘God might kill me, but I have no other hope.’ And, having thus affirmed his unwavering trust in God, he added: ‘I am going to argue my case with him’.

In his letter to the Christian in Rome, Paul pleaded with them ‘to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This’, he assured them, is your reasonable (Greek, logikos = rational) service’ (Romans 12:1 margin). Then he urged them to ‘let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (Romans12:2).

1 Peter 2:2 also contains that adjective logikos (from which derives our word logical): ‘Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual [logikos] milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment.’ We could paraphrase that Greek phrase as ‘food for thought’! W E Vine describes this diet as ‘the nourishment [that] develops spiritual growth [by] acting through the regenerate mind‘.

However, mental processes of an unregenerate or carnal mind are often described in the New Testament by the use of similar words that are also compounds of logos (indicating ‘rational’ and ‘reasoned’), such as the carnal arguing‘ of the disciples about ‘the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees’ (Matthew 16:5-8), their discussing about which of them was the greatest’ (Mark 9:33-34), and the questioning of ‘some Pharisees and teachers of the law’ about Jesus’ ability to forgive sin (Luke 8:17-24). How different was the mental processes of the mother of our Lord on hearing of her virginal conception in Luke 1:29: ‘Confused and distressed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean’ (the more familiar translation is ‘pondered them in her heart’). And a similar verb is often used in Acts about Paul’s style of evangelistic dialogue/reasoning in synagogues of the Jews (Acts 17:2,17; 18:4,19; 19:8-9) and even with Gentile listeners (Acts 24:25).

We can conclude from all this study that true worship is more than exuberance and goose-bumps. Let’s also develop sharp intelligence in our walk with God, renewing our minds by the Scriptures, and by the Spirit.

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