Enjoying God: week 1

I hope everyone who signed up for Term 1 of SCPC book club has been able to grab a copy of Enjoying God. If not, there are a few still available at the office at Park Ave so drop in and grab one or pick it up on Sunday before you fall behind.

Each week I’ll write a short post here to open up an opportunity for discussion about the chapter/s just read. Join in if you’d like to but its fine if you’d prefer just to chat with a friend or two over a cuppa.

The first installment covered the first 2 chapters, “More” & “Joy” (sorry, it’ll usually be just one).

The first chapter, “More”, is built around 2 principles listed on page 15:

  1. God is known through the three persons, so we relate to the Father, the Son & the Spirit
  2. Our unity with God in Christ is the basis for our community with God in experience

These two principles are really the foundation for the whole book. Get these and you’ll get the whole book. Bed these down and you’ll be well on your way to Enjoying God More.

The point of the first principle is that we can’t actually know “God”. That is, God’s Godness is so different to anything else in our experience that it is beyond our comprehension. But the good news is that the Christian God, the one True God, isn’t just “God”, he is God eternally existing as three distinct persons – God the Father, God the Son & God the Holy Spirit. There is a sense in which this concept of “Trinity” is also beyond our comprehension, but the Persons of God themselves are not. God the Father, because he is a person, is knowable. And the same goes for the Son & the Spirit. This is wonderful news and an amazing gift from God!

So one of the main things Tim is helping us to do in his book is to be more conscious of relating to the Father & the Son and the Spirit AS DISTINCT PERSONS in the normal moments of our everyday lives. This is fundamental to Enjoying God more.

The point of the second principle is that there’s knowing God and then there’s KNOWING God. That is, that maturing in our faith, or as we say at SCPC “growing as followers of Jesus”, is all about enjoying a DEEPER relationship with God. Here Tim is addressing the common tendency, even among Christians, to think of Christianity in black/white, on/off, in/out terms. He points out that thinking of Christianity in these ways is very limited and doesn’t really take into account that Christianity is not just a status, its also a DYNAMIC RELATIONSHIP. He distinguishes between these two aspects of faith by using the words “unity/union” to describe the once for all STATUS God achieves for us through the gospel and “community/communion” to describe the EXPERIENCE of our relationship with God – Father, Son & Spirit – through the gospel. The first is fixed and constant, the second grows (& shrinks) as we invest in (or neglect) our relationship with God.

Tim summarises this very helpfully on page 21 under the heading “Does What We Do Matter?”:

Grasping this distinction between union and communion protects us from thinking our actions make all the difference on the one hand and thinking our actions make no difference on the other hand.

  • our actions don’t make us Christians or make us more of a Christian or keep us as Christians – for our union with God is all his work.
  • our actions do make a difference to our enjoyment of God for our communion with God (our enjoyment of our union with God) involves a two-way relationship.

…[in this book] we’re going to focus on our communion with God – how we can enjoy a living relationship with God. But we must never forget that the foundation of our communion with God is our union with God in Christ.

To kick us off in enjoying our relationship with God more, Tim has provided some homework: to pray each day to the Father, to the Son & to the Holy Spirit. Have you tried this? How did you go with it? If you’ve managed to do it more than once, what was it like? What kind of things did you find yourself praying to the Father, to the Son & to the Spirit? Did you find praying to one more “natural” than praying to the other two? If so, why do you think this is the case? I’d love to hear how you went.

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10 comments on “Enjoying God: week 1
  1. Mark Tirris says:

    Hi all, this book is super exciting me! Just what I needed and I didn’t even know it.
    I found my answer to the question of who I feel closes too being Jesus as I am really aware recently that he walk the path I’ve walked and I find strength knowing that he knows all that I go through as someone who’s ‘been there done that’.

    I have prayed multiple times to each member of God this week. I prayed to the blessed Father about being his child and the comforts that brings and also for guidance with my fatherhood. I prayed to the blessed Son and thanked him for living the life I couldn’t, don’t the death I needed, and giving me salvation and eternal life and for sharing His Dad with me as an ‘adopted brother’. I prayed to the blessed Holy Spirit and asked for more of his fruit to be evident in my life as well as to convict many in the world of sin and salvation in Jesus.

    Really thankful for this book. So encouraging to read material that helps me be way more attracted to God.

  2. Katja says:

    Well after I read the chapters and Pete’s “summary” I felt like I have read the chapters twice. 😉 I’m still a bit uncomfortable praying to Jesus and to the Spirit. I can easily pray acknowledging the work of the Spirit and Jesus (and the chapter has been a good reminder to do this) but I’ve just not been convinced by the few bible verses quoted that we pray to them when Jesus has modeled prayer to the Father.

  3. Katja says:

    And Paul’s prayers also model prayer to the Father through Jesus. K

    • Mark Tirris says:

      Hi Katja,
      Thanks for your comments. Apart from the prayer point, what were your thoughts on knowing and relating to the distinct persons of the Trinity?

  4. David Roberts says:

    Hi everyone,

    I’m interested in Pete’s reply to Katja comments above too. Maybe a bit more theology on how we should pray or relate to the Trinity and examples of what these sorts of prayers would look like would be helpful. In the meantime, here are some verses I’ve found helpful in my thinking about how to relate to the Trinity:

    2 Corinthians 13:14
    May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the FELLOWSHIP of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (NIV)

    John 14:15-26
    15 “If you love me, you will keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another COUNSELOR to be with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you.

    18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. 21 The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.”
    22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it you’re going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world? ”
    23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 The one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words. The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.
    25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. (CSB)

    Ephesians 6:17
    Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (NIV)

  5. Pete Thompson says:

    Wow! Three people interacting on a blog post (not counting me) – that’s amazing!

    On the issue of praying to the Son & the Spirit, I have to be honest and say that I too feel awkward about it – both theologically (its not what we see in the Bible) and experientially (i.e. it feels weird).

    I think that the normal model of prayer in the NT is very helpful because it alerts us to the different roles that Father, Son & Spirit play in our prayers but also more broadly in our relationship with God. I love the way that prayer intertwines these roles so that we actually can’t pray without the ministry and the presence of all three.

    But I also want to wrestle with the phenomenon that inspired the book and that I feel in my own life – a sense of relational distance from 1 or more members of the Trinity. For me personally, I feel closest to the Father and I’m pretty sure that’s at least in part because he’s the one I talk to when I pray – i.e. To the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. For many years I’ve been aware of this lopsided experience of my relationship with God and wished it were otherwise but not really known what to do about it.

    Of course, Tim Chester is aware of the normal pattern of prayer in the Bible and isn’t trying to persuade us to step away from this (see p23). He also proposes a helpful “halfway measure” on page 16 which doesn’t involve praying TO the Son or the Spirit but being more conscious of their roles, participation and presence as we pray to the Father.

    But to suggest that we’re allowed to think about the Father and the son but we’re not supposed to talk to them doesn’t sound right to me. There’s certainly nowhere in the Bible that we’re DIScouraged or told NOT to pray to the Son or the Spirit. So to say that we shouldn’t pray to the Son or the Spirit would be what’s known as “an argument from silence” which is never the strongest of cases.

    So all-in-all I think that we should usually pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. But I think also that within those prayers we have opportunity to address the Son & the Spirit personally and thus learn to appreciate and enjoy their ministry in our lives all the more.

    I found this prayer a helpful example: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scotty-smith/resting-prayers-jesus-spirit/

    • David Roberts says:

      Thanks Pete. I think we’re on the same page. The prayer at your link is a good example of including the Spirit and Christ our prayers to the Father

  6. Katja says:

    Thanks Pete. I agree that the chapter was a good reminder not to neglect our relationship any parts of the Trinity. I personally feel a closeness to Jesus because of how well documented His life is in the NT that I feel I know Him and can relate to Him.

    I have recently been challenged by aspects of God’s character in reading Joshua and how whole cities in the Promised Land were wiped out under God’s command – men, women AND children. When I read these things I do find it hard but am committed to wrestling with all the aspects of God revealed to us.

    I also think our style of church neglects the Spirit as we shy away from talking about his work in our lives. It has been a good reminder to identify the work of the Spirit and name it.

    • Mark Tirris says:

      Hi Katja, thanks for your comments. Can I ask out of interest to you or anyone reading, in Joshua that you mentioned, which member of God is this section of the Bible referring to (if we can distinguish)? Maybe more broadly I am asking which member of God is referred to when we see God or LORD in the OT?

      Also, I realise there is diversity in experience of ‘church’s at SCPC so I thought I’d mention that my experience of church is very Spirit-filled. Most if not every time we gather we discuss the Blessed Spirit in our conversation and prayers.

  7. Katja says:

    Mark, good question. As I wrote my post I was aware that I was thinking of God in Joshua as God the Father but since reading the chapter I felt that we should be thinking of God in the OT as Father, Son and Spirit. We know they were all there together in the very beginning!

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