Three Levels of God-Glorifying Emotion
Pastor John, in light of our previous podcasts, especially episodes 19 and 21, there’s a question about whether or not we can glorify God in our desire to enjoy him even when we do not feel the joy? Or do I bring glory to God only when I experience the joy? In other words, maybe this is the best way to ask the question: When you say God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him, would it be more accurate to say God is most glorified in me when I look to be most satisfied in him?
My initial answer is no, we shouldn’t change the wording, but it is way more complicated than that. So let me back up and say yes to the first part. The first part was: Can I glorify God in my desire to enjoy him even when I don’t feel joy? Now the answer to that is yes. This might seem to contradict Christian Hedonism, but it doesn’t.
Three Levels of Worship
That’s because there are levels of worship. There are levels of how we honor God with our emotions. The top level is when were are just “all there,” when we are white hot for God. We are free, we are unhindered, we are rooted in the truth, and our emotions are free. We are able to sing and obey and bless — we are just all there and we love him and we are totally serving him, and clearly God is honored when that is the case. Our emotions are all there and we are enjoying him.
Sorrow for not enjoying God can be honoring to him — the sorrow is an echo of the joy we still feel somewhere in us.
A level down from that, where we live most of our life, is when we lack that kind of intensity, which we do most of the time. We feel sorrow for the fact that we don't feel in a way that honors God. Now, sorrow and regret that I am not where I ought to be is a way of honoring God, but that is because the sorrow is an echo of the joy, the seed of which is still in us. In other words, we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. That taste has become temporarily dull. It is not having its effect on the tongue of our soul, and we know it.
The only reason we feel any regret, the only reason we desire more is that we have tasted it and the remnant is there in us. And so when I say there needs to be joy, I mean that the kind of “leftover” of what was there before is enough to make us regret that it is not there now and long for it and pray that it be there again. That is joy too, and that honors God.
And then there are seasons — this would be the third level, way down — when we are so numb that we scarcely have any memory. We can’t even function. This is depression at its worst. And I think God is honored even there if we wait for him and don’t curse him and don’t turn aside to idols — if we are just waiting because that ability to wait for him, feeling virtually nothing but numbness in our soul, is rooted in something real and authentic that God has done in us. So that is why I say yes to the first question.
God Commands Maximum Satisfaction
The second question was, shouldn’t we revise the mantra — God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him — to say, “God is most glorified in us when we desire to be most satisfied in him”? My answer is no, because, yes, God is glorified when we look to him to be most satisfied in him. But no, not most satisfied.
In other words, the word “most” there is not to deny what they are affirming. I am affirming with them that looking to him to be satisfied in him honors him, because we have tasted the satisfaction and the seed of it remains in us. But I am saying don’t ever, ever stop there.
God wants us to be hot, not lukewarm. And so God is more glorified by a person who sees enough of Christ’s beauty that his whole soul is engaged. Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul” (Matthew 22:37), and therefore, saying, “God is most glorified when we look to him to produce that kind of love rather than experiencing that kind of love,” would, I think, undermine the very commandment itself.
Heaven is Level One Worship
So we glorify God in sorrow, and we glorify God in waiting in the dark seasons, but God is most glorified in us when we experience wholesale — mind, body, soul — joy.
Yes, and I assume that this is the case because God does away with depression in heaven. If he were most glorified by us hanging on by our fingernails while we are in a season of darkness, I would think heaven would be a season of darkness, and we would all be hanging on by our fingernails in heaven, because that is the way God gets most glory for eternity. But that is not the case.
We are headed to an experience of perfection where God will be most glorified in our being totally satisfied in him.
Now if somebody wants to really press on this and say all of the universe and all of history is the way God gets the most glory, namely, when the totality of everybody’s experience is folded in and the tapestry is seen as a whole, then I say, ok. If that is what you mean, yes.
But that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about where we are going. Where are we going so that God gets most glory? Not the totality of the tapestry, but rather where are we going? And where we are going is into an experience of perfection where God will at that moment be most glorified in us and that will be a moment of total satisfaction in him.