Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Delight

Joy Invites Others In

Chasing Fish

Maybe it’s just because I’m a very simple man, but I find it astounding how much there is to be learned just from watching children. Just today I overheard my four year old rejoicing with her mother that she had completed her writing assignment for her ‘reading lesson.’ Stacey was excited with her, but that wasn’t enough. I heard the overjoyed little voice: ‘Can I go show Daddy?’ She received approval from her mother and came bounding up the stairs to my office.

That made me think. Why did she want to come show me? What did she stand to gain by showing me her lines of k’s, f’s, h’s, and m’s repeated over and over? She came to me because she was full of joy and wanted me share in it and to rejoice with her. There is something intuitive about joy that even a four year old understands: joy is never more wonderful than when shared. There’s something overflowing about true joy that compels us to invite others to join with us in our joy.

Which again made me think. Why am I so slow to evangelize? Why does it seem so forced? Why does corporate worship sometimes seem like a chore? Biblically speaking, I think it’s because I am not consistently finding my fullest joy in my God. If I was, my natural impulse would be to speak of it and to invite others to join in my joy.

Isn’t this what we see in Psalm 34?

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!

Do you see it? He calls on others to join in his joy! Then he testifies to how he found his joy:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

There it is! I sought the Lord, I cried to him, and he has heard me, answered me, protected me, kept me! He is good! And then again is a call to participate:

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!

And then the pattern repeats through the Psalm. What David is getting at there is the principle my four year old daughter showed me this morning. When we find true delight for our souls in something, we impulsively call on others to join in our joy.

So if I’m finding that evangelism seems a burden and worship seems a chore, perhaps I don’t need to think first about technique. Perhaps my first question should be, ‘Am I delighting in God? Is my joy really in him?’ Then I need to read the word, preach the gospel to my own heart, remind myself of how he has heard this poor man when I have cried to him.

If I am faithful to find my joy in him, I will speak to others, because joy invites others in. And do you know what? That kind of authentic overflow might just be the most effective technique out there for stirring the hearts of others.

My Kids

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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I love my children. I absolutely delight in them. There are so many reasons why; I thought I’d list just a few.

1. They Reflect Me

Okay, this sounds really bad. But I see myself in my kids, and that makes me love them. That’s natural. That’s what all parents love to see. To be honest, I think that’s why parents often think their own kids are the cutest… because they look like the parents! I’ve always thought to myself, ‘How narcissistic is that!

But then I got to thinking about that. Why do parents take so much delight in having children who look like them? Because our heavenly Father delights in having children who look like him. And because we bear his image (even now in a distorted way) we have his heart-impulses. When I see myself in my kids or my wife in my kids and my heart warms toward them, now it doesn’t make me think I’m narcissistic so much as it turns my mind to my God who created me in his image and who finds delight in me resembling him (really, this is at the heart of the gospel!). And it makes me hope I can train my kids to reflect their heavenly Father… not just their earthly one.

2. They Don’t Reflect Me

Here’s the funny thing about kids. Even though they’re fallen and depraved, there is still a sense of innocence and purity about them; they are willing to receive and believe what they hear with all their hearts. They trust. They forgive. They are willing to be comforted by words of truth. They believe the best about people and love with all their unbroken hearts. That doesn’t reflect me. I’m stubborn and heart-hearted, slow to forgive, slow to believe, slow to respond to truth. I’m jaded when it comes to people; it is easier to look at other people as ‘sinners’ than it is ‘image-bearers.’ Jesus commended children as those to whom we should look to know how to receive his kingdom. It’s not hard to see why. My kids are not perfect — far from it. But they do show me how I should love and trust my God and love and trust others.

3. They Give Me An Excuse to Be a Kid

I often ‘joke’ about this, but it’s true. I love being a kid. Playing, running, climbing trees, telling crazy imaginary stories… I love it! But if I did that on my own, people would think I’m weird — even more so than they already do! So I’m glad my kids give me an excuse to still be a kid. I love playing with them.

4. They Show Me My Weaknesses

Inasmuch as God calls me to father like he is a father to me, my children provide me with ample opportunities to show the world that I am not my heavenly Father. I fall so far short. He is so patient with me; my impulse is to chastise right away. He is so loving with me; my impulse is to be harsh with them. He is so wise in the dispensations of his providence, leading me in ways that I will grow; I give so little foresight to the ways I lead my children. He sacrificed his most treasured possession for me; I ask my four year-old when she’ll get a job and start helping to pay some bills. He is endlessly kind; I get grouchy at the drop of a hat when my kids won’t eat, sleep, or jump right when I say. He is always available; I’m so often distracted. There is no doubt about it: my kids show me my need for grace every single day.

5. They Are Ever-Present Accountability

And not just because they’ll point out every single thing you do that they’re not allowed to do (‘Daddy, “stupid” is a bad word!’; ‘Daddy, how come you are having two bowls of ice cream?’ ‘Daddy, we’re not allowed to climb up there like that!’). They’re also a source of accountability because everything I do and say now is filtered through the grid of, ‘What example am I setting for them?’ and ‘Is this the kind of husband I want my girls to look for?’ That little check keeps me on the straight-and-narrow many times.

6. They Make Me Laugh Like Crazy

People have actually commented to me that being in my house is like living in a sitcom. A lot of days I can’t disagree. I laugh pretty hard in my home. It is full of joy and I have my children to thank for that.

7. They Help Me Understand Women

I had no sisters growing up. As a young man I clearly had no idea how to understand the first thing about women. So God made me live with four of them. One of the things I’ve learned about girls is that they’re definitely female from the time they’re born on up. I’ve had to grow in my understanding of how the fairer sex thinks, learns, interacts, expresses love, receives love, hears correction, processes reality, experiences the world… the list goes on and on. My girls have (I think) helped me to understand women better. I love them for that.

8. They Bring Me to My Knees

They make me pray. My heart is immediately broken before my God when I think of those three tender little souls. I am quickly moved to pray, casting all my cares on my Father, casting all my hope for their protection, for their future, for their little hearts on him. They make me desperate, which makes me pray, which makes me love them more.

9. They Make Me Love More

I could go on all day, but I’ll end here. They make me love my them: their smiles, their joys, the way they look to me for care and guidance, their little quirks. They make me love my wife: as I watch her care for them and treasure them and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, I grow in my love for her. They make me love my God: Who am I that I should be blessed with such wonderful little blessings as them? I am a man too blessed for words. They increase my love a hundredfold.

Sermons on Friendship

I have had the privelege over the past four weeks of preaching a mini-series at GFC on the topic of friendship.

Below are the individual sermons. I came at the sermons with a bit of a different approach. Since we, as elders, had wanted to address the core values of our church again, we thought it would be best to address the topic of friendship under the five headings of our core values.

So the first message was basically answering the question, ‘Why prioritize friendship?’ After that we thought through what truth, authority, humility, freedom, and delight have to do with friendships.

Over the course of the series we offered the following definition of Christian friendship: Two souls knit together as one in the pursuit of God through commitment to ongoing fellowship.

Delight and the Word of God

Warning: If you look down at the text below, you may see sheer volume and be tempted to not bother reading this post. The point of blogs is to appeal to people with short attention spans–this I know. But, let me urge you to read on through the end of this post.

Any post I would write that’s this long probably isn’t worth your time. But this is merely a collection of verses from Psalm 119. These are words that God himself has spoken; they are worth your time.

In thinking about delight this week, I came to read Psalm 119, and was amazed by what I saw. 

Have you ever considered the relationship between the Word of God (your Bible) and delight? David did. At length.

Read the verses below and watch how his affections (his emotions, his passions) are stirred by the Scriptures. Does this reflect your heart? I know I’ve got a long way to go. But man, was this a blessing to think about!

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Ps 119 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.

Ps 119  16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Ps 119  20 My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

Ps 119  24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.

Ps 119  35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Ps 119  40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

Ps 119  43 And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules.

Ps 119  46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,  47 for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.  48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

Ps 119  49 Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.  50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

Ps 119  52 When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.

Ps 119  69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;  70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.  71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.  72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Ps 119  74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.

Ps 119  81 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.  82 My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”

Ps 119  92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.

Ps 119  97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Ps 119  103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Ps 119  111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.

Ps 119  113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.  114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

Ps 119  119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.

Ps 119  123 My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.

Ps 119  127 Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.

Ps 119  131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.

Ps 119  136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.

Ps 119  139 My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.  140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.

Ps 119  143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.

Ps 119  147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.  148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.

Ps 119  158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.

Ps 119  161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words.  162 I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.  163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.

Ps 119  165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.  166 I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.  167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.

Ps 119  171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.  172 My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right.

Ps 119  174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.

Some More Thoughts on Delight, Part 2

This, of course, is following up on yeterday’s post, and continues where it left off.

Delight Drives Obedience

The heart which is converted is a heart that God has changed, so that is enabled to see that supreme delight is found only in God. This is why Jesus could say in John 14.15, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’ He is not speaking of love as a feeling of guilt that compels us to obey when we really don’t want to; rather, he’s speaking of love as the will-directing affection of the converted heart, whose desires conform to the desires of Christ himself.

In other words, I obey because my delight is in God. Therefore, my obedience is my joy, because the commandments he gives are the very things I want to do. Of course, we must not discount the battle of the affections spoken of in places like Romans 7 and Galatians 5, but nevertheless, the inclination of the Christian’s heart is to obey, because we acknowledge that the commands are good, life-giving, and delight-giving (Ps 19.7-10)!

The heart that delights in God is the heart that obeys God’s commands.

Delight Displays God’s Love

Augustine, again, reflected on this great truth. He put it in the form of a question:

‘Why do I mean so much to you, that you should command me to love you? And if I fail to love you, you are angry and threaten me with great sorrow, as if not to love you were not sorrow enough in itself.’

To not love God is to have sorrow. It is to be ever pursuing joy in what can never give it. You are the proverbial hamster, endlessly running in your little wheel hoping that someday, somehow, you’ll finally get where you want to be. But you won’t. That is a great sorrow!

But here is a marvellous thought: The greatest command of God is to love him. To love him is to have delight in him. To have delight in him is to have the very thing we’ve been looking for our whole lives! God commands what we already desire–even though we didn’t know how to get it!

God’s love is displayed in his command to delight in him (cf. Ps 37.4), because this alone is where we will find true joy. What love! He could have demanded anything at all of us, but he commands this: Get great delight in me.

Some More Thoughts on Delight

Over the next couple of days, I’m hoping to toss out some snippets of thoughts that I’ve been reflecting on lately. I’d been hoping to develop each of them more, but time has not allowed. If any of them seem interesting to you, you can develop them on your own a little more.

Our pastor has been preaching on delight as a core value of our church these past two weeks. Last night at TAG I heard from several of our people again, just how revolutionary this has been to them, to think about delighting in God–and how important that it be a core value for us! 

Here are some of the things that stuck out to me as I’ve reflected on the sermons these past few weeks. I’ll give the first two today and then hopefully follow up with some more tomorrow.

 

Delight is Central to Conversion
Here’s how Augustine described his conversion experience:

During all those years [of rebellion], where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to your easy yoke? … How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! … You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honour, though not in the eyes of men who see all honour in themselves…. O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation’ (Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin, 181; emphasis my own).

For Augustine, delight was the essence of God’s converting grace. Which means, then, that…

 

Delight Displays Grace
Augustine wrote: ‘Without exception we all long for happiness. … All agree that they want to be happy, just as, if they were asked, they would all agree that they desired joy.’ Augustine knew that the will was free–but free only insofar as it would pursue what would bring it joy. In other words, the will is bound only by this rule: it will always seek its pleasure. We all desire true happiness (which is found only in God), but our wills are unable to choose to delight in God, because that would require a change of nature; that is, a change in the object of our heart’s affections.

How can any man’s heart change? Only by God’s grace, changing his nature. Hence, ‘[s]aving grace, converting grace, in Augustine’s view, is God’s giving us a sovereign joy in God that triumphs over all other joys and therefore sways the will’ (John Piper, Legacy of Sovereign Joy, 59; emphasis original). Grace, then, is God’s active changing of our heart’s desires so that we can truly desire him above all else, freely choose him, and as we love him, find in him our true soul’s joy. Our wills are always free to choose to do those things in which we delight, but they are never free to choose what our wills will delight in. That is why we need God’s grace; and that is why delighting in God displays God’s grace. 

The heart that delights in God is not a natural heart–it is a heart that has been supernaturally transformed.

Augustine and Delighting in the Love of God

I was away from GFC this week, preaching at another church. That meant that I had to wait till this afternoon to hear Paul’s sermon on delight in God. It caused me to think hard again about the presence and / or absence of delight in God in my heart and in my life. I highly recommend it to you.

As I was listening, my thoughts went back to Augustine (as they just about always do). Here’s a passage from Augustine, where he thinks about the delight in God that is ours in Christ. Imagine: God commands us to delight in him, because he knows that’s where we will find the greatest delight! That’s amazing!

Who will grant me to rest content in you? To whom shall I turn for the gift of your coming into my heart and filling it to the brim, so that I may forget all the wrong I have done and embrace you alone, my only source of good?

Why do you mean so much to me? Help me to find words to ex­plain. Why do I mean so much to you, that you should command me to love you? And if I fail to love you, you are angry and threaten me with great sorrow, as if not to love you were not sorrow enough in itself. Have pity on me and help me, O Lord my God. Tell me why you mean so much to me. Whisper in my heart, I am here to save you (Ps 35.3). Speak so that I may hear your words. My heart has ears ready to listen to you, Lord. Open them wide and whisper in my heart, I am here to save you. I shall hear your voice and make haste to clasp you to myself. Do not hide your face away from me, for I would gladly meet my death to see it, since not to see it would be death indeed. 

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Taken from Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin (Penguin Classics ed.), 24.

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