Thursday, September 3, 2009

God-exalting Delight

As I write chapters for the Sovereign Grace membership book, "Life at Sovereign Grace," I am posting them here for comment / correction etc. My desire is to see this book become a help to people who are considering covenanting with our church. If you have any comments, changes etc., let me know! Thanks!

We believe God does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3, 135:6) and that He is pleased to exalt Himself in all things (Isaiah 48:9-11). As His people, we seek to exalt Him in all that we do (Psalm 115:1).

Do you ever get asked questions in which you know the agenda of the person asking based on how the question is asked? Ever been asked a question you feel like is a bit of a trap? It is kind of like someone asked you, “Did you stop beating your wife?” Well, I feel a bit like this when I am asked one of the following questions:

1. So, does Sovereign Grace believe in the Holy Spirit? Is the Spirit at work during your worship services?

2. So, is Sovereign Grace’s worship emotional like one of those charismatic churches, or are you more of a Bible teaching church?

I have no desire to answer either of these questions because I fundamentally reject the premise upon which they are founded! Here is the premise:

Biblical worship is defined by the type of music, quality of music, ability of the music leader to draw us in, the overall feeling I derived from the music time, or by orderliness, good theology, and proper decorum.

The fact is you could have the greatest band, a service overflowing with emotion, the highest sense of decorum and orderliness, the best theological instruction, the greatest demonstrations of the miraculous, and still be a congregation full of spiritually dead people whose attempts at worship are nothing more than self-gratification. The reason for this is because biblical worship is not primarily about music style or expressiveness during singing, or even teaching correct doctrine.

Biblical worship is primarily about delighting in God above all else. Your whole life is either one of delighting in God or delighting in something else. Either we live our daily lives rejoicing in and delighting in God above all else, or we live them in idolatry.

So, while worship certainly should express itself musically, in accurate biblical teaching, in Sunday corporate gatherings, communion, offering, and prayer, worship is far more than these individual elements combined. All of these can be practiced as ends in themselves for the gratification of the worshipper in the act of worship rather than as delight in the One who is being worshipped. We can worship during prayer, bible reading, preaching, singing, communion, offering, small groups, serving the children, greeting visitors, and even setting-up and tearing-down, if we do so as an exercise of our delight in God. We can worship while working our jobs, playing with our kids, spending time with our spouse, participating in activities and entertainment, if all of those activities are done as an exercise of delight in God. In all of those activities we are either ascribing ultimate value and worth to God, or to someone or something else. Therefore, we are either worshipping and delighting in God, or committing idolatry.

We commit idolatry when our delight is driven by passion for something or someone created (as an end), rather than delighting in God, the Creator. Let me ask you a few questions that will get at where your delight is:

  • When you are about to lose face for something you have done, do you lie to save your reputation with people? Then, you delight is in your reputation with man, rather than in God.

  • When you are tempted to sexual sin with your girlfriend or boyfriend do you generally give in? Then your delight is in physical gratification, or relational intimacy, rather than in God.

  • When you and your spouse disagree on something, do you generally end up in a fight? Then your delight is in being right or getting your own way, rather than in God.

  • When your children have an important school assignment or sporting event, do you generally prioritize those activities over regularly participating in the corporate worship of God? Then your delight is in your children and their worldly success or happiness, rather than in God.

  • When you have the opportunity to spend money on eating out, entertainment, toys, new furniture, cars, houses etc, do you spend that money even if it means you will not be able to give regularly to the work of ministry or for the needs of others? Then your delight is in worldly wealth and personal pleasure, rather than in God.

  • When your spouse is not honoring God with their life and thus failing to hold up their responsibilities in the marriage, do you begin to let go of your responsibilities, reciprocate with unloving behavior, and complain to others? Then your delight is in security, or feeling loved and respected, or in marriage as an end in itself, rather than in God.

  • When someone at your church mistreats you, or you believe a different decision should have been made about something like buildings or programs, do you generally gossip and complain to others or leave the church? Then your delight is in being respected or being listened to when you have a different opinion, rather than in God.

  • When God’s Word confronts a belief that you hold dear, do you generally reject it because it does not seem right or good to you or because the mystery of it seems too hard to understand? Then your delight is in your own mind, rather than in God.

Are you like me, someone who notices they just answered, “yes” to more than one of these questions? Then, we have similarly discovered that the root cause of our sin is that we worship the creature rather than the Creator. Our delight is in someone or something, rather than in God. So, how do we become a church whose delight is in God and who delight in everything else as a delight in God?

We do so by believing who God is for us through Christ and by the Spirit. It is our trusting and believing who God is for us through Christ that motivates our deepest experience of joy and delight. In Romans 5:11, the Apostle Paul says, “we rejoice in God through Christ…” Paul has already said we rejoice in our hope of glory and in our sufferings, both of which are ultimately rejoicing in God, because they both demonstrate He will be ours.

In verse 11, he comes to a culminating point. He says, “we rejoice in God through Christ.” This means we exult in God, we boast in God, we delight in God, we worship God---we ascribe ultimate worth and value to God. What are we believing that leads to our rejoicing or delighting in God?

Paul has just said in verse 1-11 that God has justified us, made peace with us, given us access to himself, guaranteed our future glory, given us the gift of suffering to draw us closer to himself, poured out His love in our hearts, and proved his love in sacrificing his Son for His enemies. When we trust in him and meditate on who he is and what he has done we are moved to rejoice in, boast in, exult in, and delight in him. To understand what Paul is saying in Romans 5:11 is to understand what Sovereign Grace means when we say we Delight in God. Our goal in this section of the Life at Sovereign Grace book is to help you understand what biblical Delight in God is.

What is biblical Delight?

First, biblical delight is God’s work. Biblical worship or delight springs from God’s delight or rejoicing in being God. God’s work is to bring glory to Himself through giving His people the gift of delight in Him. Often, people object that it seems selfish for God to delight in being God and to do everything for the purpose of giving us delight in him. We reply that God could delight in nothing greater than himself and could offer us no greater gift than delight in him. For God to work to the end of bringing us delight in some created thing is for God to withhold the greatest possible gift from us!

We believe God’s work is such that our delight is a Trinitarian delight. It is delight directed to the Father, through the Son, and is empowered by the Spirit. We have based our first three core values around these three prepositions “to,” “through,” and “by.” In this chapter we only plan to cover our delight being directed to the Father. We will deal with the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the second and third chapters.

Biblical Delight is directed to the Father

In Romans 5:11, Paul concludes that a Christian who is reflecting on God and His work will direct his delight or rejoicing to the Father; this is why he says we rejoice in God. We know he has distinguished between the Father, Son, Holy Spirit in this text based on his use of “Jesus Christ” in this verse and throughout the passage, and his use of the “Holy Spirit” in verse 5. We must remember that all rejoicing in God is ultimately a rejoicing in the Father. When we delight in Jesus we delight in the Father because Jesus ever lives for the glory of the Father (John 17:1-5). When we delight in the Holy Spirit we delight in both Jesus and the Father because the Spirit was sent to apply the work of Jesus to our hearts, which causes us to delight in the Father (Ephesians 1:3-14; Galatians 4:4-6).

Delight in God is the spontaneous response to all that God is for us through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit! In other words, all our delight is to be God-centered. All our delight is to be in our Father.

You may wonder why I keep talking about our delight in God and not about God being glorified. Doesn’t the idea of us seeking to delight in God seem a bit me-centered and not really God-centered? The answer to this question is that when our delight is turned outward to the Father, it is not seeking happiness, joy, or delight as an end in itself, it is obedience to the command that we delight, rejoice, or be happy in the Lord. It is through our delight in God that he is glorified. Author and Pastor, John Piper has said it this way, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Paul clearly indicates that we are to rejoice. It is good and even biblically commanded to be happy, joyful, or full of delight. However, we are happy in, delighting in, or rejoicing in God the Father. We are not delighting in our feelings, or comforts, or favorable outcomes. We are delighting in God. Our delighting, rejoicing, or boasting is God-exalting![1]

God-exalting

Sovereign Grace believes in missions, evangelism, and service that are supremely interested in God’s glory and not man’s salvation. Although man’s salvation and good is a goal, God’s glory is the goal. Therefore, all of our ministry efforts are centered in the desire to see our church delight in God. So, whether we are discussing corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, small group ministry, children’s ministry, men’s and women’s ministry, or missions, we are focused on and directed to God being exalted through our delight in him.

Further, we believe God has told us how we are to delight in him in corporate worship. He has not only commanded the end of our delight, he has commanded the means. We believe God has commanded us to delight in him through reading, studying, teaching, and meditating on his word. We believe he has commanded us to delight in him through prayer, singing his praises, and through the administration of the ordinances (baptism and communion). We want to honor God by delighting in him in the manner he has commanded and not by creating new ways to delight in him that simply please us and have never been commanded by him. Therefore, we restrict our corporate worship to the means God has commanded.

God has created and redeemed man for the praise of his own Glory! And, we believe for God to receive the glory he must do the work! He is the one who planned everything for his glory and he is the One who does the work so that he is glorified. In the next two chapters, we will look at how God has done, is doing, and will do this work.

Recommended Books:

Desiring God, by John Piper

The Pleasures of God, by John Piper

Children of the Living God, by Sinclair Ferguson



[1] We have created a mission and core values as a church, which are based upon our convictions with regard to delighting in God. Please see Appendix #1 for our Mission and Core Values.

2 comments:

Paula said...

I can't wait to read the rest. Thanks. I know this is strange but who exactly is John Piper, Never mind I will research him online, along with the reform church. I have never been exposed to reform church, except for one that I don't agree with in So.Cal. I have read books by many that I believe are in the reformation chruches, like James McDonald. I really must sound like an idot. Any help would be great.
Thanks

Chad Vegas said...

Paula,

Sorry I have not responded. Life has been crazy for us and I stopped blogging for over 6 weeks. I am getting back to things now. If you need any help with your questions, let me know. Thanks.