March 28, 2010

To Live is Christ — the object of God’s delight

John Piper wrote a wonderful book called, The Pleasures of God. In it, he shows that God delights in being God. When we are delighted with ourselves, this seems like vanity, but Piper explains that for God to delight in anything else but Himself would make no sense. Only God is perfect and only God is worthy of honor, glory and praise. Yet He also delights in other things. He is delighted with Jesus Christ and with His people. The Bible says this:
The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
That verse dumbfounds me. Perhaps my mother sang over me when I was a small child, but I don’t remember. Maybe a young girl’s boyfriend would do it, or a romantic husband with a singing voice, but God? Singing over me? With joy in His heart?

The idea is astonishing, but as I think about the delight of God, I also have to remember that He says a broken and contrite heart also please Him. 

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — these, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:16–17)
I’m humbled to realize that I cannot do any good deeds or nice things to warrant God rejoicing over me with singing. I’m saved by grace, not works (Ephesians 2:8–9). He sings over me because He loves His creation and sent Jesus to die for us. If there is anything in me that makes Him happy, it is not me — it is His Son who lives in my heart.

I’m also humbled to realize that Christlike obedience pleases Him, but also one other thing I can do that gives Him joy — I can respond to His Spirit when He shows me my sin. I can embrace the sense of being exposed and crushed. I can let Him break my stubborn will and produce in me a contriteness of heart. I can say yes to conviction and respond to it with repentance.

These things delight God, not in themselves for it never delights a parent to inflict painful discipline on a rebellious child, but He is delighted because discipline “yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

God finds pleasure in His own righteousness, and so He should. However, He also finds pleasure when He sees that righteousness reproduced in His twice-born children. It makes Him sing! But first comes brokenness and a contrite heart — which He also does not despise.

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