Saturday, December 30, 2006

Desiring God

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This is a sermon I did a few month ago on what it means to desire God. And I must give credit where credit is due; everything I said was borrowed from the book Desiring God by John Piper. If you could read one book that will change your life and your relationship with God more than any other Christian "inspirational" book ever could, this would be the one. Everything I say here is an extremely condensed version of the amazing depth Piper goes into in his book. Hope you enjoy!

In my first year of college, I decided to major in music. Did I choose music because my parents wanted me to? Did I choose it to make money? No. I chose music because I love music! I lived and breathed music! In high school I would spend hours upon hours practicing guitar. But when I went to college I didn’t find that everyone else had that same passion. And these were from people who had devoted their entire lives to music!

For instance, I loved my music theory classes. But all the other music majors hated it. At the very least you would think that they at least liked to practice their instruments. But no! They hated practicing! In fact, I couldn’t figure out if they even liked music at all! Were they in it because their parents made them? Surely not. What parent wants their kid to be a professional trumpet player? But maybe they were doing it for the money? Definitely not.

All I knew was that these people were pursuing music for the wrong reasons. Think of it like this; you and a friend are going to an art gallery to check out some of your favorite paintings. You notice that your friend is going from room to room paying very careful attention to each painting. This stirs your curiosity, so you ask, “What do you like so much about these paintings?” Your friend answers, “I’m trying to see how much money I could make off these if I were to buy and sell them.” So what’s wrong with this?

Your friend is looking at these paintings for the wrong reasons; he knows he can make a profit off them. But this was not the purpose of these paintings, is it? These paintings are be enjoyed aren't they? Or in other words, should we not pursue art for art’s sake, which in turn would be honoring it? But how do you honor art: you honor it by experiencing an appropriate emotion when you look at it.

And for some of us, we’ve been looking at God in a very similar way that the friend did in the art Gallery. We don’t give money to the church because we delight in it; we give money because it’s our duty. Its just something that we’re supposed to do. We don’t serve others because we delight in it; we serve others because it’s our duty. We sometimes don’t even worship God because we delight in it; we worship God because it’s our duty. Do you want to know what I think? I believe that delight is our duty! Therefore, if you are doing your duty, such as giving, and not gaining any pleasure from it, then you really aren’t doing your duty! In fact, I believe that the most important part of our very existence is to delight and enjoy God while seeking the pleasures that He offers us!

But what does it mean to enjoy God? Does this mean that we are to actually enjoy the things he has given us? And if so, does this mean that anything we enjoy must be good? These, as well as several other questions, I intend to get through tonight. And if you leave with one thing tonight and forget anything else I say, please remember this,

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

And I believe that if we, as Christians, abandon the pursuit of joy in the Creator of the Universe, we cannot do the will of God. I’ll repeat that again; if we, as Christians, abandon the pursuit of joy in the Creator of the Universe, we cannot do the will of God.

For too long, we have seen joy and delight as being mere icing on the cake. “As long as we serve God and perform our duties, then that’s enough!” But guys, if this is how we are living our lives then we are not doing what God intended us to do! God demands joy from us. He demands that we delight in Him. He demands that we seek pleasure in him. Or in other words, delight in God is not optional; it is essential!

So for the next few minutes, I want to share with you a truth that sets the foundation for the ultimate purpose of our existence, and that is the happiness of God. Have you ever wondered why God is happy? I believe that God is happy because he delights in Himself. And this is just the way it has to be. If God delighted in anything less than His own infinite glory, then that would make God imperfect would it not. In order for God to be God, he must be supremely delighted in Himself.

Another reason why God is happy is because of his sovereignty. Or in other words, God is supremely happy because He is completely in control. Psalm 115:3 says,

"Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

Can you imagine what it would be like if God’s plan could be altered by human hands? First of all, if man could alter God’s ultimate plan, this verse would be not be true. And secondly, if man could alter God’s ultimate plan, then would this not make God unhappy? And that’s a very valid question to ask. We live in a sick and evil world! There is disease, war, and starvation! How could God possibly be happy in the midst of all this crap that goes on in the world?

Well, there are two things that help me with this. First, it doesn’t help to say that God is not really in control of what goes on in the world. For instance, if someone tried to comfort me after 9/11 by saying, “Mike, God didn’t will for this to happen. But you can still trust Him,” I would have responded by saying, “my comfort does not come from thinking that God is so weak that He couldn’t divert a few airplanes away from the twin towers.” You see, my God is completely sovereign and in control. He allowed all those people to die at His appointed time; and I believe that one day God will show me that His purpose in this was good.

So what do we do with this problem? I believe there are many solutions, but I will focus in on one that makes sense to me, although there are many other perspectives out there on this issue. God doesn’t delight in these evil events in and of themselves. I call this the narrow lens of God, where he focuses on these events that brings Him great grief and sorrow. But when God widens the lens, he sees these events through an eternal perspective.

A good example of this would be the story of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. Was the crucifixion an evil event? Well, considering the fact that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh who lived a perfect life and was sentenced to the most torturous death imaginable, I would suggest this to be the most evil event of all time! But what about God? How did He view this? Think back to the narrow lens view. Was this event, in and of itself, an evil act? Most certainly. Everyone involved in the murder of Jesus was quite evil in their intentions and had no desire to bring glory to God. And not only that, but all those who were involved in this evil act were punished for it. But what about the wide lens, the eternal perspective of God? Was God ultimately happy as a result of what happened? Absolutely! For this was the very means by which God would demonstrate His righteousness and His love for mankind, to live a perfect live and die for their sins!

And certainly, more could be said about this, but I believe that no power or force in this world can alter or frustrate the plan of God because He delights infinitely in his own glory. And because he is in control and always does whatever He pleases, he is ultimately satisfied.

And this brings me to my last point. If what I said about God’s sovereignty weren’t true, then how could God be infinitely happy? Could you imagine what it would be like if the creator of the Universe weren’t happy? God would be distant; he would be frustrated; he could be impatient. And I don’t know about you, but I could not delight in a God who wasn’t infinitely delighted in Himself.

And here’s another way to look at it. In order for a sinner like me to pursue joy in God, I must be confident that He will not shut me out when I come to Him in seeking forgiveness and grace. And if that’s what you believe about God, let me assure you that this isn’t the God of the Bible. God shows love, mercy, and grace to us because He delights in showing love, mercy, and grace. In fact, God is so full of joy and life that it is His pleasure to overflow His joy on to us!

So when you go to work, school, or whatever it is you decide to do this week, remember that it is your duty to delight in God. And if you find yourself doing things out of pure obedience, such as singing worship songs when you don’t feel like worshiping, ask God to bring you joy. Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it. It matters how you feel! I can show you hundreds of Scriptures that speak of us delighting in worship, giving with a cheerful heart, serving with pleasure as our goal. And if you don’t carry these emotions, then ask God to change your heart. Do you really think God is going to reject your request if He is most glorified when you are most delighted in Him? Of course not! God wants your affections. He wants your joy. He wants your happiness.

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