So, how do you feel about the title of this post?
If you’re not sure, stop. Read the title again. Then stop again and listen to your heart. As you consider the possibility of truly enjoying God, what is your heart telling you?
Does the idea of enjoying God strike you as selfish? Lots of people feel this way. The belief that it is somehow wrong to enjoy God is a major barrier to a truly intimate and satisfying relationship with him. I should know – I struggled with various forms of this lie for years (although, as with all the Devil’s most effective lies, I didn’t always fully recognize the enemy that was lurking in the shadows of my thought life).
In my last post I confessed my addiction to HGP. I coined HGP as an acronym for His Glorious Presence.
Interestingly, several readers took HGP as a reference to Holy Ghost Power (which simply means “the power of the Holy Spirit”). You could read my previous post and substitute either phrase for HGP – either Holy Ghost Power or His Glorious Presence. They pretty much amount to the same thing. Still, there is one subtle but very important difference between the two interpretations.
When we think of the phrase “the power of the Holy Spirit”, we often think of the power to do miraculous works. And of course that is important. When God pours his Holy Spirit into us, we are empowered to do things that we could not otherwise do. The mighty works that are done by the power of the Holy Spirit function as powerful signs of the coming Kingdom of God, and open many hearts to the reality that Jesus is the Risen Messiah.
But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a truly intimate relationship with God. You can learn to have a functional relationship with the Holy Spirit – by which I mean that you are able to operate in a measure of the Holy Spirit’s miraculous power – without being truly intimate with Father God. Lots of people do this. Some, in fact, operate in a significant level of miraculous power for a period of time while living in sexual immorality, although eventually it always catches up with them. Sadly, whenever this happens, it brings great discredit on the gospel of Jesus. While tragic, this shouldn’t really surprise us – Jesus warned that such things would happen (1).
There’s a good reason why those who focus primarily on power often end up shipwrecked. The power to do mighty works, although very important in displaying the victory of Jesus over the powers of darkness, is not the only reason – or even the first reason – why Father God gives his Holy Spirit to his born-again children. First of all, I believe, He pours the Holy Spirit into our hearts simply to demonstrate that He loves us – as a sort of seal of ownership (2), proving that we really do belong to Him. It’s because of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that we can call God Abba (3) – an intimate, affectionate term of endearment. Father wants us to have a close relationship with Him – so close that we can know His thoughts (4,5) and even His affections towards us. Jesus had such a close relationship with his disciple John that John leaned his head on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper (6). Contrary to what some popular authors have written, there is absolutely no basis for the claim that either Jesus or John were gay. John simply had a very warm, secure relationship with Jesus, and was fully confident of Jesus’ affection for him.
Let’s move from the paradigm of friendship to the paradigm of marriage. The Bible frequently uses both these analogies to describe the kind of relationship that Jesus desires to have with those who belong to him. Now, imagine a scenario in which a man married a woman only for what she could do for him. Sadly, this does happen all too often. But what kind of a marriage would it be? There can be no true intimacy when one party is using the other for selfish ends. Jesus, on the other hand, freely laid down his life for his bride (7). In calling himself our bridegroom and calling us his bride, he is telling us that he desires a relationship of free acceptance, deep affection, tenderness and faithfulness. The original lie that the snake planted in Eve’s mind was that God wanted to withhold something from her. Until it is unmasked, this lie – deeply embedded in the thinking of our unredeemed nature, and constantly fed by the Enemy – will always prevent us from truly enjoying God’s love. To truly enjoy God’s presence, you have to trust him enough to believe that he wants only to do you good. Only when you believe this can you truly learn to know his heart and allow him to have unrestricted access to your desires, your deepest motivations, your will and your thoughts.
One of the keys to a good marriage is learning to recognize those things that delight or grieve our partner’s heart, so that we can cultivate the former and avoid the latter. Surely one of the benefits of having the Holy Spirit living in us is so that we can easily and quickly recognize those things that please Jesus’ heart, as well as those things that grieve Him. As we cultivate intimacy with the Holy Spirit, He satisfies us with heaven’s atmosphere of joy and peace, greatly enhancing our desire and ability to please Him. This is where true purity comes from – not from rules, but from a transformed heart that is so full of gratitude to God that it delights to learn what pleases him. Rules and disciplines do have their place in guiding us to the right path, but they cannot produce life. Only the presence of the Holy Spirit living in us – God’s best gift to those who love him – can replace our thoughts and desires with his, so that we increasingly reflect the goodness of Jesus.
I still want to grow in my ability to operate in the gifts, power and boldness of the Holy Spirit. But I am learning to simply enjoy the fact that God enjoys me. This is quite amazing to me, and although I have been on this journey for years, yet I can still sense barriers in my heart coming down that I did not know were there. As I continue to pursue greater intimacy with the Lord – simply because He loves me – I am quite certain that He will find less resistance in me, and a greater level of faith and expectancy, when He wants to do works of power through me. And the more my heart knows how to enjoy his love, the more I will be able to please him and reflect his goodness in the works that I do in His name.