Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Responsibility to Delight in God

Our Responsibility to Delight

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

--Westminster Shorter Catechism

During my second year as a youth pastor I was confronted with one of the most stunning biblical truths I had ever heard. It was a truth I should have known from the beginning of my Christian life. It was certainly a truth I should have known prior to becoming a pastor. This truth radically altered the way I see my walk with Jesus and my ministry as a pastor.

For many years I believed God’s glory and my happiness were competing purposes in my life. I believed my life was supposed to be lived for God’s glory and not my happiness. I believed my desire to be happy was a sin which stood in the way of my pursuit of God’s glory.

I still remember when I first discovered my misunderstanding. I was challenged by a friend to read a book by John Piper. I remember reading the first several pages in which Piper challenged his readers to rethink their view of happiness and God’s glory.[1] He claimed that God commands our happiness to be in him and that we can’t really glorify God if we are not happy in him. He made this statement: “God is most glorified in us when we are most delighted in him.” He pointed out that enjoying God and glorifying God were not two competing goals, but one complimentary goal.

When I caught hold of this truth my view of everything was changed. I suddenly saw I should encourage people to pursue happiness, as long as it is in God. For example, I used to counsel couples that marriage is not for their happiness but for their holiness. However, I could no longer tell them that marriage is not for their happiness, but for their holiness, because they can’t grow in holiness if they are not growing in happiness in God. In fact, marriage is for their happiness if their happiness is in God. The problem is not that people pursue happiness; the problem is that too many people seek happiness, joy, delight, satisfaction, or pleasure in something or someone other than God.

Sovereign Grace believes we should be a people who pursue our delight in God. We are to rejoice or be happy in God. We believe pursuing delight in God in all things is what brings him the most glory. Therefore, we encourage our church to sing, pray, study the bible, receive communion, and give offerings as a joyful response to God. We exhort our people to see their marriages, families, careers, ministries, and free time as a pursuit of delight in God. We remind our people to see their suffering, persecution, and loss as an occasion for rejoicing in God. We delight in God in all these things because his hand has provided all of them for our good and his glory.

Delighting in God is a work he does in us and is a command we are responsible to obey. Delighting in God is mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally ascribing ultimate value and worth to God.


Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 that transformation of our lives happens through renewing our minds. He makes it clear that we will avoid being conformed to the pattern of this world through having our minds renewed. If we do not know the truth, we can’t love the truth, and we can’t behave in accordance with the truth. You can’t love what you don’t know.

Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well that believers must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4). When Jesus was praying he asked God to sanctify his disciples by the truth (John 17:17). We can only really worship God and become like God if we know the truth of who God is and what he has done. If we are delighting in some unbiblical idea of God or his work, we are not delighting in God and are giving his glory to another.

This is why our church has a doctrinal statement for members and a more exhaustive one for elders / pastors. We do so because we believe we must agree on the God in whom we delight and in the work he has done to bring about that delight! We must agree on the One in whom we delight if we are to have true unity in the church. If I allow you to delight in the wrong understanding of God and his work, I am doing you the disservice of depriving you of the truths which will bring you the most joy and God the most glory. This is why Paul tells us to speak the truth in love to one another in Ephesians 4:15. Paul desires us to keep one another from falling prey to false doctrine because he wants to prevent our growth in holiness from being stunted---which simultaneously robs us of joy, and God of glory.

We believe it is necessary to require our members to affirm a congregational doctrinal statement. We believe holding fast the truths of the faith is essential to a common understanding of God and his work, as well as, to true unity in mind, heart, and mission in Christ’s church. Any teaching that contradicts what is affirmed in this body only serves to promote division and factions. We desire to have a body that is of one mind, maturing in Christ, and pursuing mission together. God’s word is clear that truth is the basis of unity (John 17:17-21; Romans 15:4-6; Ephesians 4:11-6; 1 Timothy 4:6, 16; 2 Timothy 2:1-2, 3:14-4:8) and error is the basis of division in God’s church (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:14-19; Titus 1:9-14, 3:8-11). Therefore, Sovereign Grace has a basic doctrinal statement that we ask all members to affirm as a basis for our unity and mission as a church. We believe this doctrinal statement affirms doctrines that are necessary to be considered a Christian church. [2]

We require an even more expansive doctrinal agreement among our elders and deacons at Sovereign Grace than we do of our members. We do not believe it is healthy or productive for our leaders to hold to a theological position that only includes what is necessary to be a Christian church. We believe it is necessary for the leaders of the church to be in agreement on issues that will effect the teaching, practices, and policies of our church specifically. Therefore, we have an expanded set of doctrinal commitments for the following reasons:[3]

1. For the purpose of maintaining unity in ministry philosophy and direction.

2. For the purpose of keeping our pastors on mission, rather than being bogged down in endless debates about doctrines that effect the operation of the church.

3. For the purpose of giving our body confidence as to what the broader doctrinal convictions of the church are.

4. For the purpose of honoring Christ in consistently teaching what we believe is biblically true and profitable for the body.


You can know the truth about God and not love God. In his classic book, Knowing God, JI Packer started by arguing we can know about God without knowing God. Sovereign Grace believes we need to know God with our affections and not just our minds. What I am referring to here are your desires, motivations, or feelings. Our desires need to be for all God is for us through Christ. We should love nothing more. We should be daily rejoicing in God! This is a biblical command.

When our minds are meditating on the truths of who God is for us through Christ, our affections or feelings for God will follow. This is difficult because many people struggle with the idea that God commands our emotions. We don’t want to believe God commands our emotions because we cannot always control them. It is true! We cannot always control our emotions! Yet, God still commands them. He tells us in Phil. 4:4, “rejoice always.” We are continually commanded to rejoice. This should drive us to thankfulness for grace, and dependence upon the Holy Spirit in our obedience. If I cannot always control the way I feel yet I am commanded to rejoice in God always, I am always radically dependent on the grace of God in Christ. I am continually reminded I need the Holy Spirit to engender this in me. Therefore, Sovereign Grace encourages our church not only to read Scripture, but to meditate on the Word. We encourage our church to sing with exuberance and be constantly telling one another what we are thankful for as God’s children.


Out of our right thinking and right emotions, we behave in a manner that demonstrates our love for all God is for us through Christ. For example, when we know people in sexual sin we often tell them to repent of their sexual immorality without addressing the heart issues behind it. When we do this we fail to deal with the issue of where their delight or worship is. Instead of dealing with the real issue, we are dealing with a symptom of the underlying problem. We are neglecting to deal with the delight or worship problem. Our sin demonstrates what we delight in.

Sovereign Grace believes we need to be a church that does not just help one another overcome sinful behavior but that we need to challenge one another to assess what the worship problem is that is driving our behavior. Our primary vehicle through which we encourage one another in these ways is small groups. Our goal in small groups is to help one another examine ourselves without excessive introspection, to rejoice in the grace and love of God without underestimating our own sin, and to help one another approach our lives with the understanding that God is for us! Therefore, in the context of our small groups we ask each other 3 questions:

1. What are the evidences of grace you see in your life? What is God doing in your life, your family, or in the church that you are thankful for?

2. What sins do you have to confess? What behaviors or attitudes have you been struggling with that are sinful?

3. What counsel do you need in your life? Is there any area of your life in which we can counsel you with the Word?

What’s Next?

In the next 2 sections we will focus on developing in holiness and declaring God’s glorious gospel. Develop and Declare really spring from our responsibility to Delight. We are going to explore each in some depth. For now, we want you to understand that develop is the means by which we grow in our delight in God and declare is the end toward which our growth in delight is moving.

Recommended Books:

Knowing God, by JI Packer

The Christian Life, Sinclair Ferguson

[1] First I read, “Let the Nations be Glad” which caused me to pick up “Desiring God.”

[2] We divide doctrines into 3 categories:

Primary: What we believe is necessary to be a Christian church. These doctrines are included in our membership statement of faith.

Secondary: What we believe is necessary to maintain unity in leadership in a local church. We require our leaders to subscribe to the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (with minor annotations and revisions) and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. We may require additional secondary doctrines for leaders as we encounter new error or doctrinal winds that create disunity in our leadership team.

Tertiary: What we believe can be disagreed upon in the local church and yet mission not be hindered and unity not be threatened.

[3] Please see our elder doctrinal commitments at

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