One of the questions in The Westminster Shorter Catechism is this: What is the chief end of man? The answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Once I realized that I could glorify God by enjoying him, I started really, really working on enjoying him, expecting that, in the enjoyment, I would glorify him. It didn’t work. The more I worked at it, the less I enjoyed God. In fact, by trying to enjoy God, I ended up desiring to...well…uh...go to a movie or buy an ice cream cone.
Then I started feeling pretty guilty about the movie, the ice cream and all. It became a spiral of guilt. I decided that I was a “worm” and, after all that Jesus had done for me, I ought to enjoy him more. What kind of Christian was I anyway if I enjoyed a movie and an ice cream cone more than God?
I decided that I probably wasn’t even saved.
That was when I had an attack of sanity.
Have you ever decided to enjoy something by working at it?
For instance, I don’t like okra. I’ve never liked okra, I don’t like okra and I will never like okra. I’ve tried to enjoy it because I have some weird friends and family members who think okra is one of the major food groups and that everybody ought to enjoy it. On the contrary, I think okra is hairy and slimy and, even after one fries it, one can’t get out of one’s mind what it was before it was fried…hairy and slimy.
(Just as an aside, I’ve decided that the forbidden fruit tree in the Garden of Eden was an okra tree. In those days, snakes walked. Why shouldn’t plants be trees? God said, “Don’t eat that stuff. I never meant for you to eat it. It’s hairy and slimy.” Adam and Eve said, “We don’t care. We’re going to eat okra anyway.” And you know all the trouble that caused. Now you know: It started with okra.)
Enjoyment is a hard thing to program.
I figured that maybe enjoying God was an acquired taste. So I stayed with it which led to more guilt…which led to more effort…which led to more guilt…which led to more effort…which…well, you get the picture.
So I went to a movie, and here is the important and surprising thing: God went to the movie with me!
In fact, God was everywhere I was and wouldn’t let me alone. I tried to keep him in “his place” at church but he pursued me…gently, kindly and graciously. God never demanded that I love him or enjoy him the way he loved me and, it had become apparent, enjoyed being with me. He was fond of me and you can’t hang around someone who likes and enjoys you without growing to like and enjoy him or her back.
Do you know the only time I can remember Jesus ever asking anyone if they loved him? It is found in John 21. After breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (vs. 15). Then, two other times, Jesus asked the same question. It was almost as if Jesus wanted to make sure of Peter’s heart…or, better yet, to have Peter sure of his own heart.
Please note three things that had happened before Jesus wanted Peter to understand about how love worked. First, Jesus chose Peter because Jesus liked Peter. Second, Jesus had been hanging out with Peter for three years. And third, Peter had messed up terribly and, each time, had been forgiven and loved. It was then that Peter realized how much he loved Jesus…and enjoyed him. Later, Peter, after talking about the great grace of Christ said, “In this you rejoice!!!” (1 Peter 1:6, exclamation points mine). You can file that under enjoyment.
Let me give you a good quote and some good advice:
The quote: Martin Luther said, “A law driver insists with threats and penalties; a preacher of grace lures and incites with Divine goodness and compassion shown to us, for he wants no unwilling works and reluctant services; he wants joyful and delightful services of God.”
Now the good advice: Quit trying to do and be something you can’t do and obviously can’t be. That’s religion and it will kill you. In order to pull that off, you have to be dishonest with God and with everybody else. Trust me. I’ve been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. It just doesn’t work and it will make you so religious that nobody will be able to stand being around you.
Instead, go to a movie and have an ice cream cone. Invite Jesus to go with you. John the Apostle said this: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us” (1 John 3:16, 4:18-19).
That’s it. Just let God love you and the time will come when—almost without knowing it—you will find that you love him back and, not only that, you enjoy hanging out with him…big time.