Enjoying God

‘The happy God’

Twice in his first letter to Timothy, Paul refers to God as ‘blessed’ (1 Timothy 1:11 6:15). A former archbishop of Cyprus made this Greek adjective famous worldwide through his name, makarios’, and Jesus used it nine times at the start of the sermon he delivered on the mount, in those well known Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). It was translated as ‘happy’ by John Piper in an inspiring little book about enjoying God. After all, who could find satisfaction in worshipping a frustrated, dismal, disappointed deity? – of which there were many in the Greek and Roman pantheons in New Testament times.

Piper tweaked the answer to the first question in the shorter catechism of the Church of Scotland: What is man’s chief end? (what’s the purpose of human existence?). ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God [by] enjoying him forever.’ Children of a desperately frustrated father cannot enjoy him – they can only try not to bother him, and hope to get by through earning a few of his favours.

Piper asks a prior question: What is the chief end of God? And answers: ‘The chief end of God is to glorify God and to enjoy himself forever.’ So the ‘Question of questions’ must be: Is the God who has made himself known in Scripture and in his Son truly a fulfilled God? Is God delighted in God? An infinite Creator cannot be completely fulfilled in his finite creation. Only God can ever fulfil the deepest desires of the heart of God. And that is how God is described to us by his own revelation. The Word that John’s Gospel tells us was the Son in the bosom of the Father is described in Proverbs 8:22-31. God was never a lonesome hermit prior to ‘inventing’ creation for his pleasure – though a hermit can achieve tranquil contentment. But the Father delighted fully in the Son and the Son’s delight was complete with the Father’s fellowship ‘in the Holy Spirit’.

Satisfying worship

C S Lewis wrote: ‘We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise completes the enjoyment’ (eg ‘What a gorgeous child!’ ‘Oh, smell this rose!’ ‘Just gaze on that sunset; what a work of art!’) ‘Worship is basically adoration, and we only adore what delights us. There is no such thing as a sad admirer or unhappy praise.’ And Piper adds, with wedding anniversaries and Mother’s Day in mind: ‘Dutiful roses are a contradiction in terms.’

Self esteem Versus self respect

[] Psalm 36:1-4 elaborates on the deadly self esteem of the godless: ‘In their blind conceit, they cannot see how wicked they really are’ (Psalm 36:2, New Living Translation).

[] In Psalm 36:5-9 the godly enjoy the reality that ‘God is love’ (‘steadfast love’, ‘faithfulness’) and ‘God is light’ (‘righteousness’, ‘judgements’), and ‘they drink from the river of your delights’(Psalm 36:8) – they enjoy God enjoying God. The Message expresses this ideally: ‘You fill their tankards with Eden spring water.’ And, adds the psalmist, ‘In your light do we see light’ (Psalm 36:9) – in the radiance of God’s glory we discover what selfish motives lurk in the deep, dark recesses of the human heart.

[] In Psalm 36:10-12 he prays for the continuance of love and light, and protection against the hypocrisy of the godless and potential harm they could cause.

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