Enjoying God for who he is

Recently, I have come to the realisation that for years I have been approaching God wrongly. What I mean by approaching God wrongly is that, through prayer (mainly), I have been treating God as something of a Santa Claus who functions as someone who gives good gifts when he receives requests. Children like Santa because he gives them nice gifts. If Santa didn’t give nice gifts or gave horrible gifts, they wouldn’t like him. They have no relationship with Santa other than sitting on a stranger’s knee at the local Santa’s grotto. Children enjoy what Santa gives, not who he is. He seems like a nice guy not because they know him but because he apparently gives them nice things.

I have very much been treating God like children do Santa: receiving my enjoyment from God not always based on who he is, but too often based on whether he’s been answering my prayers the way I have expected him to, or not. As a result, my prayers have not been enjoyable at all. They are filed with expectation, but not satisfaction. I have only really been satisfied with God when he has answered my prayers. I keep a prayer journal which, when I look back at it, is full of requests rather than praise. I have deceived myself and the evil one has joined in so very carefully and cleverly by twisting biblical meaning with the following couple of statements among others:

1. As long as you ask for good things, God will answer you.

I have convinced myself that as long as my prayers are requests for ministry related concerns and matters that will bless others rather than myself, then surely God will see that I am humble enough and will therefore answer me. After all, the Bible tells me to consider others of greater value than myself (Phil. 2:3-4). As long as I put others before me, then I can ask for the things I want.

Let me use my exchange with Santa to illustrate what I mean: I believed in Santa as a child and wrote letters to him. But in the back of my mind, my approach to writing these letters was, “If I write a letter in a nice and humble manner, Santa will be more likely to give me the things I want because he will see I’m a nice boy.” Basically, being nice to Santa was a ploy for getting what I wanted.

Whilst it’s okay to ask God for things, it’s not right to try and manipulate God by praying the things we ‘should’ pray before getting to what we really want to ask.

2. If God doesn’t answer, keep asking because the more you ask, the more likely you are to get it.

In the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus teaches us esentially to nag God the same way the widow kept nagging the useless judge for justice against her adversary. In the end the judge gave into the widow’s request just so that she would stop nagging. Jesus says, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?” (v. 6-7).

Because of this, I have been asking persistently for things in the hope that the more I ask, the more chance there is for God to answer. While there is some truth in this which I will not discuss here, the real blessing in being persistent is not found in the answer to prayer, but in the enjoyment of depending on God for all things. Let me put it this way: If I knew that God would never answer my persistent prayer, would I keep praying persistantly for that thing? No, I wouldn’t. So, the reason why God doesn’t answer all our prayers immediately is so that we can learn to depend on him and to accept his ways rather than our own regardless of the outcome.

In other words, imagine God wants me to keep nagging him for 10 years and then after 10 years his answer to my prayer is a “No” instead of the “Yes” I expected. How would I feel? “Why, Lord, would you keep me nagging for 10 years if you knew the answer would always be a “No”?”

Asking myself this question and receiving the answer changed my prayer life. The motive for asking anything, wheter it be once, or a thousand times, should not be for the enjoyment of receivng what we asked for, but for the purpose of enjoying God for who he is as an end in itself.

Enjoy God for who he is, not for his usefulness

God, in his graciousness, has exposed the sin of my heart. I have been coming to God primarily because he is useful to me. After all, he is the only one who can answer my prayers and provide me with what I want and need. So, my prayers have been full of demands and requests rather than praise adoration.

My basic confession is this: I have not been enjoying God the way I should or could. Rather, I have been using God and receiving the enjoyment from answered prayers.

Prayer is a gift primarily for communion with the trinitarian God, not for requests. Make your requests known, by all means, but for God’s sake, enjoy him while you’re at it. When I think back to my childhood, which was a happy one, I think about my mother and how much she loved me. But I don’t remember the things she gave me. I think I can remember 2 gifts out of a thousand. Instead, I remember who she was to me and how she was with me. The things I remember most are the words of comfort, her love, her manner, her warmth, and even the songs she sang to me. One song that has stuck with me is a kind of lullaby she composed. Unfortunately, I can’t provide the melody on paper:

Pwy yw cariad gorau’r byd? Gwydion.
Pwy yw cariad gorau’r byd? Gwydion.
Gwydion Rhys yw cariad Mami,
Gwydion Rhys yw cariad fi.
Gwydion Rhys yw cariad Mami,
Cariad gorau’r byd.

It doesn’t translate well into English, especially with the syllables:

Who is the greatest love in the world? Gwydion.
Who is the greatest love in the world? Gwydion.
Gwydion Rhys is Mummy’s love.
Gwydion Rhys is my love.
Gwydion Rhys is Mummy’s love.
The greatest love in the world.

This song was an invitation for me to enjoy her as a mother. She expressedn her love to me by telling me what I meant to her. God is not a distant giver of good gifts, but a God who draws near and loves sinners like me. My Mum didn’t become more wonderful after every passing gift. She became more wonderful every time she drew near.

The more we see the beauty of God, the more we shall enjoy him for who he is rather than what he gives. Don’t misunderstand me, the gifts we receive speaks of his wonderful generosity, but receiving the gifts in and of themselves are not the basis of our enjoyment in him.

The Beauty of God

What is the bauty of God for us to be able to enjoy him? Is it his holiness? Is it his purity and righteousness? What is it? David writes of God’s beauty in Psalm 27:4:

One thing have I asked of the Lord,

that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
The beauty of God’s could be gazed upon in the tabernacle/temple, which is where God’s dwelling place was on earth. The Most Holy Place was shut off from the Israelites permanently apart from one day a year where the High Priest could enter to atone for the sin of Israel. The beauty of God was in the blood of the animals being offered in the place of sinful Israelites daily, wekly, seasonally and annually. This work of constant atonement was what gave the Jews access to God through their justification by faith.

When Jesus died on the cross and cried out “It is finished”, the curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the community tore in two. This meant that anyone could now enter into the presence of God—not through priests or sacrifices—but through the Lord Jesus Christ. This means that Jesus Christ is the beauty of God - the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Nothing is more precious or beautiful than Jesus on the cross - where the second member of the triune God offered his body as an acceptable sacrifce in our place. Through his death, our sins are put to death and through his resurrection we are raised to life.

Christ is present with us now on earth through the Church. The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer (1 Cor. 6:19) and the Church which is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23; 5:22-23). Therefore, the beauty of God is found in Christ who is the radicance of the glory of God (Heb. 1:3). His beauty is experienced in 3 primary ways: 1. individually through prayer and meditaion, 2. collectively through fellowship, and 3. collaboratively through the scriptures.

“Is that all?” I hear you ask. The beauty of God is in prayer, fellowship and Bible study? Yes! But done properly, it is the greatest blessing on earth and results in joyful worship and praise. As a pastor, I find that most of people’s spiritual issues and difficulties can be resolved by a proper devotion to one, two or all of those three things where they are lacking. Let’s go back to Psalm 27 and verse 8:

You have said, “Seek my face.”

My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

David was asked by God to chase something that he could never truly see: his face. But in doing so, he did nevertheless see and experience the beauty of God and found satisfaction in his presence. So much so that he ends the psalm by saying (v.13-14):

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

David speaks eschatalogically of a time where he will look at God in the “land of the living”. And the psalm ends by telling the reader to wait for this: “wait for the Lord”.

The Approachable Light

No one has ever seen God and lived. Even though Moses’ own face shone with God’s glory after being with him on Mount Sinai, even he couldn’t see the Lord’s face and live (Ex. 33:20-23). The beauty and glory of God can be enjoyed now by the Spirit and through Christ, but the fullness of his glory is yet to be seen. In Revelation 21-22, the Apostle John receives a vision from the Lord Jesus of the New Heavens and the New Earth and the New Jerusalem—a new city which will come down from heaven—where God’s people shall dwell with him forever. This city will be built in the same cubic shape as the Most Holy Place mentioned earlier (Rev. 21:15-21). More than that, there will be no temple there because God himself will be the temple (21:22). More than that, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev. 22:4). The face of God will be seen by all who dwell in him, for our glory will match his glory. We shall be glorious as Christ is glorious and all that is his will be ours (Rom. 8:32). We shall be seated with him on his throne (Rev. 3:21)

Christ is the light of the world which is so unfathomably glorious that a mere glimpse of it blinded the Apostle Paul on the road to Emmaus. Paul tells us that his light is so glorious that Christ “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16). However, in the New Heavens and New Earth, this unapproachable light in which Christ dwells, we shall also dwell in: “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 22:5).

God’s beauty and presence could be known and experienced by David in the temple, but so much more now through Christ the Word become flesh who dwelt among us and offered his body on the cross. But still more than that, his beauty is yet so be seen in its fullness. This should cause us to look forward with expectation that as we taste the waters of life in this life, we shall fill our bellies with it in the next (Rev. 22:1-2).

The Blessing

Enjoying God is being raised up to the heavenly places with him (Eph. 2:6) and finding pleasure in his being. We are brought into the communion that the Father, Son and Spirit have enjoyed since eternity past. We participate in that communion—in the unfading love, friendship and devotedness —demonstrated through the atoning work of Christ. What makes it stunning is that we are invited into his presence as a people undeserving of such blessing, but a people whom God delights in and desires, not for who we are but for who he is. He removes the dirt and clothes us with his garments. He wipes our tears with his thumb. He keeps his faithfulness to us despite our faithfulness and fornication. The wrath, anger and judgement of God is removed and instead we become the judge (1 Cor. 6:3).

God blesses us with the intelligence to understand and to grasp the mysteries of his will. He blesses us with sight to be able to see the glory of God having the eyes of our hearts opened (Eph. 1:18). He blesses us with pleasures so intense that we delight in him emotionally. He blesses us with a mission so irresistable that we can’t but dedicate ourselves to it fully. Therefore, we no longer keep his commandments as a means to earn God’s acceptance. Rather, we keep his commandments because it is a delight to do so out of thankfulness and gratitude at the fact that he accepts us as we are through Christ who is our righteousness.
Written by: Pastor Gwydion Emlyn

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