Puritan Board Senior
Delight in God
One of the most beautiful, prize flowers of Reformation thought is the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and it distills vast amounts of biblical thought into one gorgeous call and response. Here it is:
Question: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
The glory of God and enjoyment of him: these inseparable twin truths were guiding lights for the Reformation. The Reformers held that through all the doctrines they fought for and upheld, God was glorified, and people were given comfort and joy.
This was a guiding light for the Reformation, and it must be a guiding light for us who minister to others. What is our chief end in all we do? To glorify God, and to enjoy him in our ministry.
Delighting in God is what we were made for. Delighting in God is what we were saved for. Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:18 that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (emphasis added). We are forgiven that we might be brought to know and find our joy in him; we are rescued from death not for some abstract life, but for the only true life of knowing him.
Then—and only then!—do we think and feel straight, when the one preeminent in reality becomes preeminent in our thoughts. He is the treasure and “very great” reward of the gospel (Gen. 15:1), and so our ministry must flow out of an enjoyment of him. It cannot move on from an enjoyment of him. If it does, it becomes dully hollow and hypocritical. That is, if you live and grow in your knowledge about God but do not grow in your delight in God, you are only hardening in sin and hypocrisy. Indeed, this is the ultimate purpose of all theology: not merely to gather information, but to know, love, and enjoy God, the one who is the truth.
And yet this is something theology students and those training in theological colleges always struggle with. Jesus so easily becomes an object for me to dissect under a microscope. The gospel becomes a subject I master rather than a message I am mastered by. Scripture becomes a textbook I work with and plunder for essays and sermons rather than the active Word of the living God.
The Puritan Richard Baxter warned of this Christian professionalism—using Scripture and the knowledge of God simply to get the next essay done, or the next sermon done—with this painful analogy: “Many a tailor goes in rags, that maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes.” Walking this path, we become hollow people, neglecting communion with God, using the knowledge of God for some other end, for some job, not to know God. We use God instead of enjoying God.
And in that prayerless, praiseless place, our lives have turned ugly: cut off from real life, they have actually started to work against what we are made for: to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Sometimes we find ourselves tiring of Jesus, imagining that we have seen all there is to see and used up all the pleasure there is to be had in him. We get spiritually bored. But Jesus has satisfied the mind and heart of the infinite God for eternity. Our boredom is simple blindness. If the Father can be infinitely and eternally satisfied in him, then he must be overwhelmingly all-sufficient for us—in every situation, for all eternity. And that’s why the gospel is not lacking, because he is not lacking.
Now, let me just unpack this briefly, as we need to be thoroughly convinced if this is to make a difference. Our delight in God is so essential because it 1) distinguishes us from demons, 2) is the heartbeat of the saints, 3) is part of entering the true life of God, and 4) is what we were made for.
First, our delight in God distinguishes us from demons. James writes, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (2:19). Even the demons know their Bible and can explain it accurately. What distinguishes them from saints is not their knowledge: it is that where saints delight in God, demons dread him.
Jonathan Edwards once took it further:
The devil once seemed to be religious from fear of torment. Luke 8:28, “When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, ‘What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.’” Here is external worship. The devil is religious; he prays: he prays in a humble posture; he falls down before Christ, he lies prostrate; he prays earnestly, he cries with a loud voice; he uses humble expressions—“I beseech thee, torment me not”—he uses respectful, honorable, adoring expressions—“ Jesus, thou Son of God most high.” Nothing was wanting but love.
Second, delight in God is the heartbeat of the new man, the spiritual nature. Saints love to cry out to their Father and echo David’s desire 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.”
Third, this delight in God we have is a core part of what it means to enter the true life of God. For eternity, God the Father has loved—delighted in—his perfect Son, and the Son has loved and delighted in his Father in the fellowship of the Spirit. We have been created that we might share that (cf. John 17:20–23). And lastly, as we have already been reminded by the Westminster Catechism, delight in God is what we were made for. It is crucial to Christian life, service, fruitfulness, and happiness. Here’s how John Calvin put it:
It will not suffice simply to hold that there is One whom all ought to honor and adore, unless we are also persuaded that he is the fountain of every good, and that we must seek nothing elsewhere than in him. … For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him—they will never yield him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him.
Delighting in God is therefore the root and happy secret behind growing in Christ, serving the church, and blessing the world. It is not something extra that we add on to a list of righteous actions but the very ground and source of righteous living. So, friends, keep making sure of this: that all your ministry and all your life is an act of worship—full of prayer, full of praise, which are fuel for your enjoyment of God.
And for those who are studying for the ministry, this will make your studies that much more enjoyable. As one theologian put it,
The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts, and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science. May God deliver us from what the Catholic Church reckons one of the seven sins of the monk—taedium [weariness]—in respect of the great spiritual truths with which theology has to do. But we must know, of course, that it is only God who can keep us from it.
We were made to enjoy “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). That is the only light in which we can have life. It is the only light in which we can have full hearts. It is the only light in which we can minister to others.
If you try to minister without constantly re-filling your eyes and heart with this light, then in the power of your own adrenaline and wisdom you will go out and you will burn out. But fill your eyes with the glory of Christ; ensure that he is glorious to you—and then, of course, you will not want to proclaim yourself. In his light you see that he is glorious, and you are not. When he is glorious to you, out of a full heart you will want to share him. This is the essence of authentic ministry.
The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is the only light that can overcome darkness. Hold your gaze on nothing less. Settle for nothing less. Herald nothing less.
 Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 54.
 Jonathan Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Sang Hyun Lee, vol. 21, Writings on the Trinity, Faith, and Grace (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 171.
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1.2.1.
 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance, trans. T. H. L. Parker et al., vol. 2, pt. 1, The Doctrine of God (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1957), 656.