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:
- God is known through the three persons, so we relate to the Father, the Son & the Spirit
- 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.