Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Only Sure Way to Enjoy God Is by Embracing God's Will

This devotion from March 6 in Tim and Kathy Keller's The Songs of Jesus is a particularly clear summary of why the only way to happiness is to trust God to teach us how to live, rather than dreaming up a good life for ourselves.

One caution first: please, let us resolve to avoid any misunderstanding that would wrongly cause us to think that keeping moral standards or doing good works is what brings God's love to us or gives us our reward with Him. Those who love God do good because it enhances their enjoyment of the love God has already given them, and because it pleases Him. But it is certainly true that if you refuse to do good or live a life of integrity, you will spoil and trample your enjoyment of God. You can't enjoy a relationship with any other human being if you are constantly disappointing that person and treating him or her with contempt. Why should we think it is any different with God?

We are accepted by God completely freely, by believing and trusting in Christ's bearing of our sin and suffering judgment for us. We become fully and completely His children through this, before we ever do a single good work beyond believing. But even though you already have that relationship if you're a Christian, you can certainly deprive yourself of all the joy of it by living a life that disdains God's moral character and ignores His words. Therefore Keller is exactly right in saying that to "enjoy a good life... you must live a good life[.]" (emphasis added)

Psalm 34:11-16
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to blot out their name from the earth.

THE LIE. To enjoy a good life (verse 12) you must live a good life (verses 13-14). This challenges the lie of the serpent in Eden that if we obey God fully we will be miserable, that rich living lies outside God's will, not within it.[29] This lie has passed deeply into every human heart: that we would be happier if we, rather than God, were free to choose how our lives should be lived. But the ultimate good is knowing God personally, and the ultimate punishment is just as personal--to lose the face of God (verse 16), the only source of joy and love, to be "left utterly and absolutely outside--repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored."[30]

Prayer: Father, if I want to love life, I have to love you--and loving you means doing your will with gladness. Shine your face on me--let me know your love--so I can love you for who you are. Remind me that the only loss that is unbearable is to lose you and your presence. Amen.
From The Songs of Jesus (March 6), p. 65.

29 Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, p.158. See also Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance: Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2016).
30 C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory."
[n.b. I edited Keller's footnotes to make the references to the books clear, instead of abbreviations and ibid.]

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