|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES
|CHILDREN OF GOD
I AM REVEALED
Sep 15 2013
WHEN WE RETURNED HOME from Kazakhstan with Caleb, we quickly learned that people say the strangest things
when they see you with a child who is clearly of another ethnicity.
“He’s so cute,” people remark. “Do you also have children of your own?”
Go ahead and mark that down as phrase number one to never say to a parent who has adopted a child. Every time we’
re asked this, we have an irresistible urge to say, “Come in real close, because we have a secret to share. He’s ours.”
People will also look at Caleb, realize he’s adopted, and then ask, “Have you met his real mother?”
My response to that one is quick and clear. “Well, yes, I’m actually married to her. Her name is Heather.”
They’ll respond, “Well, you know what I mean,” to which I respond, “Yes, and you know what I mean. My precious wife is
not his fake mother; she’s bona fide, real.”
Others assume that Caleb doesn’t know much about his family or cultural background, so they’ll ask Heather and me if
we’re going to be intentional in teaching him about his family or cultural heritage. We tell them, “Absolutely. In fact, we’
ve already begun. It may actually surprise you that Caleb knows a lot about his family background. He knows all about
his granddad, who unfortunately he never had the opportunity to meet because my dad died before Caleb was adopted,
but Caleb has plenty of pictures, he’s heard plenty of stories, and one of his favorite videos to watch has been the
‘Grandpa’ video. In addition, he knows all about his other granddad, his two grandmas, his cousins, his uncles, aunts,
great-aunts, and great-uncles. He has more family heritage than he knows what to do with.”
Caleb has also learned about his cultural heritage. He’s read books like Goodnight Moon and Mr. Brown can Moo! Can
You? He runs around the house saying, “Run, run, fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the…” (If you can finish
that statement, it just may be that you have the same cultural heritage!) Caleb is eating his culture’s foods: Barbecue,
mac and cheese, watermelon, and birthday cake. He even knows the music of his culture. He may not be able to
recognize the Kazakh national anthem, but he loves “Sweet Home Alabama.”
You see, Caleb is our son. He is not an alien or a stranger in our family. He is not somewhat Platt, partly Platt, or kind of
Platt. He’s fully Platt, with all that being a Platt involves (for better or worse).
These kinds of questions and comments from well-meaning people are not just potential annoyances to parents who
have adopted. They are symptoms of something much deeper, for they reflect how little we understand about what it
means to be adopted into a family. And if we don’t understand the concept of adoption at its core, how can we realize
the ramifications of what it means to become a child in the family of God?
Clearly, when Caleb became our son, it was not the end of a story. Instead, it was the beginning of an adventure where
Caleb would live as our son. Today, Caleb knows that I’m his dad and he’s my son – not just because of the love I
showed by traveling to Kazakhstan years ago to adopt him, but because of the love I show him today. Without
questions, while his status in our family is based on what a judge declared years ago, his life is based on our relationship
every day as we play cars, throw the baseball, run around the yard, and sin songs together.
This picture of joy in earthly adoption provides just a small glimpse of a far greater joy found in heavenly adoption.
Without question, our status before God was settled at the moment we turned from our sin and ourselves and trusted in
Jesus as Savior and Lord. But our lives are based on the love relationship we enjoy and experience every moment of
every day as God our Father saturates us as his children with his affection. This is yet one more reason why we must
refuse to settle for a hollow, distant, “I prayed a prayer however many years ago” brand of Christianity. There is so
much more to being a Christian than this. As we follow Jesus as sons and daughters of God, we experience a desire for
him and pleasure in him that totally transforms everything about us.
A SERVANT OR A SON?
Throughout the Old Testament, God is called many magnificent names and given numerous majestic titles, but rarely is
he described as “Father” – only fifteen times, to be exact. However, when we come to the Gospels, the first four books
of the New Testament, we see God described as “Father” 165 different times. All but one of these instances of God as
“Father” occur in situations where Jesus is specifically teaching his disciples.
For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he says, “This, then, is how you
should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven…’” (Matthew 6:9). This is the first time in all of Scripture where anyone is
encouraged to pray to God as “Father.” The significance is astounding. Followers of Jesus have the distinct privilege of
knowing, worshiping, talking to, and relating to God as “our Father.”
J.I. Packer says in his classic book Knowing God that the fatherhood of God is central to understanding the Christian
life. He writes,
What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is
one who has God as Father…If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he
makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and
controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very
well at all (J.I Packer, Knowing God [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973], 200-201).
Or he may not even be a Christian at all. John Wesley was one of the most influential Christian preachers and leaders
of the eighteenth century. He grew up in a Christian home and from all accounts lived what looked like an exemplary
Christian life. Wesley was an honor graduate at Oxford University and an ordained pastor in the Church of England. He
regularly visited prisoners in London and generously gave food and supplies to slum children and orphans. He was an
avid student of the Bible. He prayed regularly throughout the day, fasted for up to forty days at a time, and attended
multiple worship services on Sunday and throughout the week. He even went to the British colony of Georgia as a
missionary to the Native Americans there.
Yet when Wesley returned to England from Georgia, he confessed in his journal that he was not a Christian. He wrote, “I
who went to America to convert others was never myself converted to God.” You might wonder how Wesley could do all
these things and yet not even be a Christian. Listen closely to what he wrote next in his journal: “I had even then the
faith of a servant, though not that of a son.” (John Wesley, The Journal of the Reverend John Wesley, January 29,
Despite everything that John Wesley was doing, he had never entered into a relationship with God as Father.
What about you? Do you know God as Father? Is your faith more like that of a servant or like that of a son? Does the
thought of being God’s child prompt your worship, prayers, and entire outlook on life?
THE FATHER’S DELIGHT
I think about the delight I have in my children and the delight I hope they have in me, their dad. I love being with them,
caring for them, providing for them, and playing with them. When people ask me what I do for fun in my life, I point to my
Periodically I take my sons somewhere for “guys’ night out.” We’ll grab something to eat and then do something simple
together before coming back home. When they were a bit younger, I was helping them get bathed and ready for bed
after one such guys’ night out. I was in Caleb’s room about to get him dressed after his bath when the doorbell rang.
Immediately Caleb, standing there with no clothes on, looked at me and said, “I’ll go get the door.”
Of course, I looked back at him and said, “No, you won’t. Buddy, you don’t answer the door, and I’ll be right back.” He
smiled as I walked away.
I opened the door to find two Mormon girls standing outside our house.
“Good evening, sir,” they said, “we’re from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Oh great, I thought. Whenever I have an opportunity like this, I want to take advantage of it, but the timing was obviously
not conducive to my inviting these girls into our home on this night. As they continued their introductory spiel, I thought
to myself, How can I say something brief yet pointed that communicates in a kind, compassionate, and non-offensive
way, “I long for you to trust in Christ alone and Scripture alone, and I really wish you would stop spreading a false gospel
based on false teachings all throughout my neighborhood and the rest of the world!”
But as they talked and I tried to figure out exactly what to do next, all of a sudden they stopped what they were saying
mid-sentence, and their jaws dropped. As I saw the look on their faces, I knew exactly what was happening. I turned
around to see my son, at the top of the stairs, completely nude, dancing around in circles.
The girls smiled as they quickly figured out that this was probably not the best time for a conversation in our house. And
so they left. Though I was embarrassed at the time, I take some comfort in the fact that nothing I could have said that
night would have been quite as offensive as my son mooning Mormons.
It’s moments like these that I am reminded of the delight that comes in being a dad. Obviously not because of what
Caleb did in this instance, but simply because of the laugher, joy, love, and even challenges that I get to experience with
my kids. One of the best things about being a parent is experiencing pleasure in my children.
Knowing this, then, I am awed when I read I John 3:1. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we
should be called children of God!” John cries, “See it! See the delight the Father has in you and me as his children!”
The rest of the New Testament beckons disciples of Jesus to see that God our Father delights in forgiving us. Providing
for us, leading us, protecting us, sustaining us, comforting us, directing us, purifying us, disciplining us, giving to us,
calling us, and promising us his inheritance. God on high experiences pleasure in doing all these things for us as his
children (Matthew 6:11-15; Matthew 6:25-33; Romans 8:14; Romans 8:15; I Corinthians 8:6; II Corinthians 1:3; I
Thessalonians 3:11; I Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 12:5-11; James 1:17; Jude 1:1; Colossians 1:12).
For a time, Caleb and I were doing this thing where I would point at him across the room and yell, “I love Caleb!” Then
he would look back at me and yell, “I love Daddy!”
One day we were doing this, and Caleb was laughing until all of a sudden he stopped, looked at me, and said, “You love
I said “Yeah, buddy, I do.” And then he asked what seems to be his favorite question: Why?”
“Because you’re my son,” I said.
So he asked the question again: “Why?”
This time I thought to myself, Now that’s a good question. Out of all the children in the world, why is this precious little
boy standing in front of me my son? I thought about all the factors that had come together to lead Heather and me to
Kazakhstan and all the ups and downs we experienced in the process. There were times when we wondered if we were
ever going to have kids. I teared up, and I could tell Caleb was confused, wondering if he should ever ask his daddy why
again. But I looked back at him and said, “You’re our son because we wanted you. And we came to get you so that you
might have a mommy and a daddy.”
Doesn’t it take your breath away for a moment to hear God say, “I love you”? To which we, in our sinfulness, must
certainly respond, “Why?” And then to hear him answer, “Because you’re my child.” To which we ask the obvious
question, “Why would I, a hopeless sinner, now be called your cherished child?” Only to hear him say, “Because I
wanted you, and I came to get you so that you might know me as Father.”
FAITH AND FEELING
Surely this delight is not designed to be one-sided, though. While I find great joy in my children, I trust that my children
find great joy in their dad, as well. Whether it’s the smile on their faces when I throw them up in the air or the speed of
their feet when they run into my arms, their pleasure in me is palpable and their enjoyment of me, I trust, is evident.
Shouldn’t the same be said of a disciple’s relationship with God? If you are a disciple of Jesus, is there a sense of
delight that characterizes not only God’s attention toward you, but also your affection toward him? Is your pleasure in
him palpable, and is your enjoyment of him evident?
We have already seen that when Jesus makes us his disciples, he transforms our minds to be like his. As followers of
Jesus, we believe his truth and embrace his thoughts without exception. Being a disciple, however, involves much more
than mere mental assent to Christ. Being a disciple involves emotional affection for Christ.
It is impossible to separate faith in Christ from feelings for Christ. Jonathan Edwards clearly points this out in his classic
book Religious Affections. Edwards lived during a time when the church was divided between those who prioritized
emotion over truth and those who prioritized truth over emotion. Various Christians and churches seemed to be getting
carried away in highly emotional worship services that were devoid of the Word of God. In response, other Christians
and churches claimed to hold tight to the Word of God while their worship was devoid of virtually any emotion.
Edwards, however, claimed that it was impossible to have one without the other. He writes:
are eager, our appetites strong, our love warm and affectionate, our zeal ardent. Our hearts are tender and
sensitive when it comes to these things, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, and greatly engaged.
We are depressed at our losses and excited and joyful about our worldly successes and prosperity. But when it
comes to spiritual matters, how dull we feel! How heavy and hard our hearts! We can sit and hear of the infinite
height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of his giving his infinitely dear Son –
and yet be cold and unmoved!...If we are going to be emotional about anything, shouldn’t it be our spiritual lives?
Is anything more inspiring, more exciting, more loveable and desirable in heaven or earth than the gospel of Jesus
Christ?...The gospel story is designed to affect us emotionally – and our emotions are designed to be affected by
its beauty and glory. It touches our hearts at their tenderest parts, shaking us deeply to the core. We should be
utterly humbled that we are not more emotionally affected than we are (Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections,
abridged and updated by Ellyn Sanna [Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 1999], 46-48).
According to Edwards, faith fuels feeling. True intellectual knowledge of God naturally and necessarily involves deep
emotional desire for God.
THE BREAD OF LIFE
But Jonathan Edwards was not the first person to point this out. The relationship between faith and feeling, intellect and
emotion, attention and affection is clear throughout the Bible, and it’s particularly poignant in Jesus’ teaching in the
Gospels. Consider his words to the crowds after he fed over five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two
fish. Naturally, the multitudes around him grew even more massive (Who doesn’t like free food?), and as they asked him
questions, Jesus transitioned their thoughts from food for their stomachs to food for their souls. His conversation with
the crowds that day led to a triumphant claim as Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will
never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35).
In these words, Jesus capitalized on the cravings of the crowds to help them understand who he was and what it meant
to follow him.
We’ve all been created with cravings – cravings for things like air, food, water, and companionship. God told Adam in
the Garden of Eden, “You are free to eat and enjoy!” (See Genesis 2:16). This garden paradise where Adam and Eve
lived was not a place where all of their needs and desires were met by the God who created them.
The same is true in our lives. You and I have cravings that are designed to be satisfied by our Creator. God has
hardwired us with desires for water, food, friends, meaning, and purpose, and each of these cravings is intended to drive
us to God as the giver of all good gifts and the sole source of all satisfaction.
Yet in Genesis 3, the cravings of humanity drove them away from God. Consider the anatomy of that first sin, and
realize how much the initial sin in the world revolved around cravings, or desires. Listen to the story: “When the woman
saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took
some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6). Notice that the
trigger of sin involved the man and woman looking to the things of this world to satisfy them apart from their Creator. For
the first time in the world, the desires of humanity drove them to fulfill those desires apart from God. Tragically, in Adam
and Eve’s quest to feed their stomachs, they ran away from the only one who could fulfill their souls.
Centuries later, God would once again teach his people to look to him as the sole source of satisfaction for their
cravings. As they wandered through the wilderness, they longed for food. In his mercy, God sent bread from heaven –
miraculous manna – to satisfy his people’s hunger. Each day, they had sufficient food to fill their stomachs, and in the
process they were reminded that God faithfully provides for the fundamental cravings of their lives. (See Exodus 16;
With this background, Jesus talked with the crowds in John 6 who were craving more bread. They recounted how Moses
had given them bread from heaven, and they asked what kind of bread Jesus could bring to them. Jesus’ response was
pointed. He said, “It is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true
bread from heaven.” (John 6:32). In these words, Jesus made clear that the bread that comes from God is far superior
to the manna that came through Moses. Naturally, the crowds demanded, “Give us this bread,” (John 6:34) and the
stage was thus set for Jesus’ startling declaration.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared. “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never
be thirsty.” (John 6:35, emphasis mine). In one sweeping statement, Jesus communicated to the crowds that he himself
was the provision of God sent to satisfy their souls. Jesus said to the crowds, “If you want to be fulfilled, put your faith in
This declaration carries huge implications for understanding what it means to become and to be a disciple of Jesus. To
come to Jesus, or to believe in Jesus, is to look to him to satisfy your soul forever. To come to Jesus is to taste and see
that he is good and to find in him the end of all your desires. To believe in Jesus is to experience an eternal pleasure
that far outweighs and outlasts the temporal pleasures of this world.
In Christ, our Creator has come to us to satisfy our desires in a way that nothing in this world can ever compare to. Now
certainly this doesn’t mean that every pleasure in this world is wrong. I’ve shared about the pleasures I experience with
my family, and moments like the ones I’ve described are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the things God
has given us to enjoy in this world. Our taste buds are formed to find pleasure in good food. Our eyes are made to find
pleasure in beautiful music. Our bodies are designed to find pleasure in physical intimacy with a spouse.
But amid all these pleasures we are wired to pursue, we must always remember that our deepest craving is not for
something but for Someone. Our ultimate satisfaction is found not in the gifts we enjoy but in the Giver who provides
them, “for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33).
Followers of Christ are tempted to miss this altogether. We view Jesus as the only one who can save us from our sins,
but we forget that he is also the only one who can satisfy our souls. As a result, we put our faith in Jesus and trust in his
forgiveness, yet we lack the feeling for Jesus that comes through fulfillment in him.
So many professing Christians think that coming to Christ involves letting go of the things in the world that we love in
order to embrace things that, if we’re really honest, we loathe. We may be willing to “make a decision for Christ” in order
to save our skin for eternity, but truth be told, we really like the ways of this world and really want the things of this world.
So we’re caught in the middle. We think that we’re supposed to try hard to follow Christ. Yet deep down inside, the
pleasures, pursuits, plaudits, and possessions of this world seem far more enticing. Consequently, as we’ve already
seen, the lives of professing Christians are oftentimes virtually indistinguishable from the lives of non-Christians. We
claim faith in Christ, yet we are just as sensual, just as humanistic, and just as materialistic as the world around us.
But this is not the way it’s supposed to be. When we truly come to Christ, our thirst is quenched by the fountain of life
and our hunger is filled with the bread of heaven. We discover that Jesus is the supreme source of satisfaction, and we
want nothing apart from him. We realize that he is better than all the pleasures, pursuits, plaudits, and possessions of
this world combined. As we trust in Christ, he transforms our tastes in such a way that we begin to love the things of
God that we once hated, and we begin to hate the things of this world that we once loved.
Consider how this plays out in every disciple’s struggle against sin. Even though the Christian has tasted of the
goodness of God, the lure of sin is still strong in the world. So how does the disciple of Jesus overcome the promised
pleasures of sin? For the new Christian who has struggled with pornography, how does he now fight the lure of enticing
images on a computer screen? For the prosperous Christian who has enough money to buy the bigger house and the
sleeker car and the nicer clothes and the finer food, how does she resist the temptation to indulge herself while ignoring
urgent spiritual and physical needs around her?
Such questions lead us to one of two answers. The more common yet most unsuccessful answer is to try to conquer sin
by working hard to change our actions. Much like superficial religion, we often seek to tame our desires with a list of dos
and don’ts. We do what people in every other religion in the world do, going through certain motions and concentrating
on certain disciplines in an attempt to conquer sin from the outside in.
But there is another way. Instead of trying to conquer sin by working hard to change our actions, we can conquer sin by
trusting Christ to change our affections. Remember the words of Jesus in John 6: “He who comes to me will never go
hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” This is how we overcome the pleasures of sin: by letting Christ
overcome us with the power of his satisfaction. When lust, lying, greed, possessions, or pornography promise pleasure,
we fight their appeal with fulfillment in Christ. We know, believe, and trust that Jesus is better, and we refuse to give in to
that sin because we have found greater gratification in our Savior. The way to conquer sin is not by working hard to
change our deeds, but by trusting Jesus to change our desires.
And he does. Jesus promises abiding fulfillment to all who follow him. C.S. Lewis writes:
enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the
Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the
rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We
are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an
ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the
offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased (C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” in The Weight of
Glory: And Other Addresses [New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 26)
When Jesus transforms our desires, we realize that the problems we have with sin in this world are not because we want
pleasure too much; our problems are that we want pleasure too little. It is tragic when so-called Christians live just like
non-Christians, running endlessly after the next temptation, the bigger house, the nicer possession, the new pursuit, the
greater notoriety, the higher success, and the more comfortable lifestyle. Such a quest for pleasure in this world reflects
a lack of contentment in Christ. Deep down inside, people seem to be afraid that if they let go of the stuff of this world,
they will miss out on satisfaction in this world. But disciples of Jesus gladly leave behind the trinkets this world offers
because they have found surpassing treasure in Christ. The passionate pursuit of true, deep, and lasting satisfaction
always leads to Jesus.
The more Christ fulfills the cravings of our souls, the more he changes our taste capacities from the inside out. The
more we walk with him, the more we want him. The more we taste of him, the more we enjoy him. And this transforms
every single fact of the Christian life.
DESIRING GOD’S WORD
Consider the central role of desire in the disciple’s life. Why does the disciple of Jesus read the Bible? Because the
disciple of Jesus wants the Word of God.
I remember when Heather moved off to college while I was still in high school. We were technically just friends at the
time, but I missed her a lot more than my other friends who had graduated ahead of me. I decided to write a letter to her
a few days after she left. I am humbled as I look back at what I wrote her (for reasons you will soon see), but this is what
the letter said (with a little bit of commentary in the parentheses from me as I look back at my former self):
word. I have no clue what compelled me to think that the first word out of the chute would be dude. Apparently we
had just talked, so I continued…)
I’ll go ahead and jump to the end…)
I wish this letter were a fabrication, but unfortunately it’s not. I had completely forgotten about writing it (some memories
are meant to be forgotten), and the only reason I have it is because my precious wife brought it out to show me on our
tenth anniversary. With tears, she thanked me for passionately pursuing her and faithfully loving her all those years
before and since our wedding. These words that seem ridiculous to everyone else are priceless to her, for they reflect
the intimate relationship that we share with each other.
To people who have not been born again, the words of Scripture seem tedious and dull; some, maybe most, would even
call them ridiculous. But to those who are followers of Jesus, to men and women whose hearts have been transformed
by the passionate pursuit and faithful love of Christ, his words are priceless. They are not merely read; they are
reflected upon. They are not merely examined; they are enjoyed. They are not merely analyzed; they are applied. For
the words of Jesus reflect the intimate relationship that disciples have with him.
This is how people in the Bible talk about God’s Word. The psalmist David writes, “The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart…They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than
honey from the comb…In keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:8, 10:11)
Similarly, the author of Psalm 119 says to God:
So what about you? Do you love God’s Word greatly? When you open it up, is it like you have discovered valuable
treasure? Are the words on the page the joy of your heart? The Bible is designed to be the disciple’s daily bread. More
important, more valuable, more treasured, and more desired than breakfast, lunch, or dinner is “every word that comes
from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3).
Similarly, why does the disciple of Jesus pray? Because the disciple of Jesus craves communion with God.
Yet we are prone to miss this. Most of us have learned to pray and think about prayer as simply asking for things.
“Bless me, help me, protect me, and provide for me” – these are often the only words out of our mouths when we bow
our heads. Our prayers are filled with a list of the things we need and the stuff we want. Consequently, in prayer, we’re
pleased when God responds like we’ve asked and perplexed when he doesn’t.
But what if prayer isn’t primarily about giving God a to-do list? After all, Jesus tells his disciples that their “Father knows
what [they] need before [they] ask him.” (Matthew 6:8). Apparently, God is not up in heaven with a pen and paper
waiting for us to pray so that he can find out what our needs are. Clearly, prayer involves something far deeper – and
far more wonderful – than simply informing God of what he already knows.
The purpose of prayer is not for the disciple to bring information to God; the purpose of prayer is for the disciple to
experience intimacy with God. That’s why Jesus says to his disciples, “Go into your room, close the door and pray to
your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6). Find a place. Jesus says. Set aside a time. Get alone with God. This one
practice will utterly revolutionize your life – not just your prayer life, but your entire life. For something happens that
cannot be described in words when the disciple is alone with God. In a quiet place, behind closed doors, when you or I
commune with the infinitely great, indescribably good God of the universe, we experience a joy that no one or nothing in
this world can even begin to compare to.
Jesus promised this would be the case: “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6).
This reward is deeply emotional. We express prayerful adoration to God as we experience profound affection from
God. In prayer, the disciple of Jesus finds himself or herself singing with the psalmist,
O God, you are my God,
My soul thirsts for you,
In a dry and weary land
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
On my bed I remember you;
Psalm 63:1, 5-6
Such joyful adoration of God then yields to profound sorrow over any remaining sin in the disciple’s heart. No matter
how small a sin may seem, we know that our Father is perfectly holy and infinitely worthy of absolute obedience, and we
shudder at any way we have disobeyed his will or dishonored his name in our lives. We can identify with Ezra, who cried,
“I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our
guilt has reached to the heavens.” (Ezra 9:6).
But then, the emotional gamut of prayer swings again to surprising gratitude, for as we confess the gravity of our sin, we
are reminded of the grace of our Savior. As we recall Romans 8:1 – “There is now no condemnation for those who are
in Christ Jesus” – we raise our heads from the shame of our sin and take our places under the umbrella of God’s mercy.
We are warmly overwhelmed to consider how we now rest before almighty God, clothed in the very righteousness of his
Son. Regardless of the circumstances in our lives, our hearts overflow with thanksgiving, for we know where we deserve
to be in our sin and we are confident in where we will one day be because of his sacrifice. So we commune with God as
grateful children who love to be with their Father.
In the context of awe-inspiring adoration and affection, heartbreaking confession and contrition, and breathtaking
gratitude and praise, we then cry out to God to meet our deepest needs. We share the desires of our souls, not
because we’re trying to give him information, but because we trust in his provision. In all of this, we realize that the
discipline of prayer is designed by God for our delight and pleasure.
DELIGHT IN EVERY DISCIPLINE
Similar desires accompany every other discipline in the life of a disciple. Why do we worship God? Because we want
God. We exalt him precisely because we enjoy him. C.S. Lewis expresses this wonderfully when he writes,
When we delight in something, we declare our delight. When we adore someone, we announce our adoration. Isn’t this,
then, the essence of worship – lifting up with our lips and our lives the one we love above everything else?
Why do we fast as disciples of Jesus? Because our souls feast on the glory of God. Fasting is an external expression of
an internal reality. When we fast for a meal or a day or a week, we remind ourselves that more than our stomachs long
for the pleasure of food, our souls long for the presence of God. We are satisfied in him and by him in a way that
nothing in this world can compare to – not even the basic daily necessity of food. Fasting makes sense as a discipline in
the Christian life only if it is connected with desire for Christ. When we fast, we say, “More than we want our hunger to
cease, we want your Kingdom to come!” (see Matthew 6:9-18).
Why do we give as disciples of Jesus? Because we are overwhelmed with gratitude for what we’ve been given by God.
As followers of Jesus, we are not forced by God to give away our resources; we are freed by God to give away our
resources. We know the spiritual treasure that has been given to us in Christ, and so we are compelled to give material
treasure away for the glory of Christ. In the words of Paul, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he
was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (II Corinthians 8:9).
And so, Paul says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians 9:7). A disciple of Jesus does not give because of a feeling of obligation
or guilt; a disciple of Jesus gives because he or she is overwhelmed by grace.
Ultimately, why do we share the gospel? Why do disciples of Jesus make disciples of Jesus? Certainly the answer is not
because we are forced to, nor is it because we are guilted into doing so. The clear and simple motivation is a disciple’s
passionate longing to see more and more people know Jesus. For when our thirst has been eternally quenched by the
infinite goodness, greatness, grace, mercy, majesty, strength, and sufficiency of God in Christ, we will excitedly and
eagerly tell all who are thirsty where they can be satisfied. Making disciples of Jesus is the overflow of our delight in
being disciples of Jesus.
ENJOYING GOD AS FATHER
The central question, then, is clear: Are you delighting in God? Are you emotionally overwhelmed, even at this moment,
by the thought that you are his child? Have you truly tasted his transcendent pleasure in a way that provokes you to
read his Word, pray, worship, fast, give, and share the gospel, all in addition to hosts of other actions that are now
compelled by affection for God?
This is the heart of following Jesus: enjoying God as Father through Christ the Son. And when this is a reality in your
life, then your reason for living is utterly revolutionized.
FOLLOW ME: A CALL TO DIE. A CALL TO LIVE., by David Platt, Copyright 2013, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.