Saving Faith that Delights in God

Desiring God, delighting in God, joy in God, and love for God are inter-related heart affections. Delight in God should be derived not only from God and his saving work, but also the created world and his judging work. Delight is wired both to God’s blessed face (what has turn to me for salvation) and cursed face (what has turned to Christ on the cross in my place (1 John 4:10), turned to his and my enemies). I want to propose that these affections can be experienced in ways not typically considered by believers who know of the command to have these affections, and see examples of believers who experience these affections.

Delight is commanded, but the natural man cannot keep this command to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt 22:37). Thus, delight in God must be regenerated, imputed, imparted, expanded from heavenly things to all of life, guarded by self-discipline and part of the believer’s eschatological hope. Since unregenerate man cannot come naturally to delight in God or his character, God must regenerate his elect to new delight in his total character.[1] This may start with awakening delights in mere shadows and types of himself, arousing desire for finding the source of delight.[2] The delight in God is imputed, since the perfect delight of the human Christ in the Triune God is counted to us who believe he was raised from the dead by decree of the Father through the agency of the divine Son in the power of the Spirit (Rom 1:3-4; 4:25; 8:11-13; 10:9-10). Imparted delight in God as righteous law-giver comes as a gift of the new covenant, when the law is written on the heart (Heb. 10:16). By the Spirit, a heart of flesh is transplanted for a heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). Citizenship is granted into a new kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17; Phil. 3:20-21) from where we await a Savior who will renew our mortal bodies to become like his immortal body (1 Cor 15:42-49). This delight must be guarded, for the seed and soils parable in Scripture uses a metaphor of choking thorns to represent the deceitful cares and delight from worldly wealth (Matt. 13:22).

Finding, increasing and guarding joy in God by the sacraments, means of grace and physical things that bring delights as from God’s hand, should lead us to delight in the Giver, more than the gift. It could be sparked by mediating and praying on a Bible text, seeing sights along the northern California coastline, photos of kids and grandkids on the refrigerator, listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major symphony, the smell of a silver spruce Christmas tree next to a warm fireplace on Christmas eve with family, savoring a slice of warm buttered black raspberry jam on wheat toast with a cup of favorite coffee or tea or enjoying the pleasures of sexual intimacy in marriage. God created them all to be enjoyed by mankind, made in his image, as they see and enjoy his eternal power and divine nature reflected in those things, and glorify and give him thanks for those things (1 Tim. 4:3-5; Rom. 1:20-21).

The old delight-circuitry of the sinful nature must be rewired by disconnecting delights in sinful things, and reconnecting them to affections of disgust and distaste. Delights in good things for sinful purposes must be rewired to God-glorifying motives. This happens in many ways within two main categories of life. First, we make sets of active choices which form habits. We count ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God and yield ourselves and instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:11-14). Second, we submit to God’s discipline. For some believers God permits them to experience the natural consequences for sinful choices that reveal sin’s bitterness, and those believers need to submit to that bitterness as a teacher and invest in new life choices that bear new sweet fruits. For other believers, God permits them to experience sickness, suffering and frustration in a fallen world. We know God disciplines those he loves, and his discipline painfully rewires our loves and hates (Heb. 12:6-14; Rom. 8:17-39; Phil. 4:4-13).    

The greater the awareness of how God’s omni-attributes are reflected and experienced in and through the created world, the greater the appreciation and delight that comes from enjoying anything. Our task then, is to seek God’s gift of regenerative rewiring that begins to replicate itself into all areas of life, or to use a medical metaphor, something like a God-delight stem cell transfusion. Though Edwards’ thesis that love for God’s holiness should be our chief delight and the singular proof of true religious affections (see note #1 above), awareness of and delight in seven additional omni-attributes enlarges our capacity for joy and are also chief signs of true religious affections.

Consider how to rewire the savor of a warm, crunchy, buttered slice of black raspberry wheat toast leading to delight in God. Toast is physically present to put in the toaster and hold in the hand acquired by holy means of faithful labor and exchange of goods (God’s reflected omnipresence and omni-holiness) as a provision from God’s hand on the produce of the earth (God’s reflected omni-sufficiency) that requires God’s gifts of knowledge and wisdom (God’s reflected omniscience) giving power to produce creation’s goods and distribute them by unified market services and family cooperation (God’s reflected omnipotence  and omni-harmoniousness) that are faithfully available to be purchased or made by God’s people on six theo-synchronic days of the week (God’s reflected omni-faithfulness and omni-historicity). The rewired preacher can enjoy a piece of breakfast toast while it brings him to delight in God! Of course, you can fill in the blank with your own favorite foods if you are on South Beach diet phase one or on a gluten-free, vegan diet, but hopefully without calling another’s freedom’s evil (Rom. 14:1-15:7).

These wires leading out of nearly anything you enjoy experiencing, tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing, touching (within the bounds of the Ten Commandments and Christian freedom) can be connected to delight in God (who gives and sustains it). Therefore, fundamentalist legalism prohibiting many kinds of Christian freedoms that originate from church or institutional leadership codifying them in statements of faith or covenants of behavior are misguided (prohibiting participation in popular culture such as alcohol, card or mahjong playing, movies, computer games and apps, TV, social media, dancing, certain books, defining acceptable clothing, jewelry or hair styles). In addition to submitting to the Ten Commandments as the control standards for our duties and prohibitions (Westminster Larger Catechism 99-150 gives an excellent summary of the biblical theology of each command), the morality of something we enjoy is more conditioned by whether we can see God’s eternal power and divine nature reflected in it or through it, giving him glory and thanks, than by prohibitions that seem to protect the holiness of God’s people. Don’t handle, taste or touch, as traditional rules developed to restrain the appearance of evil, are of no value in stopping the heart indulgence of the sinful flesh (Col. 2:20-23). 

The rewired preacher needs to enlarge his capacity for joy in the joys of his spouse, family and congregants and connect these multiple circuits of joy to joy in God himself. In his preaching, he will be able to help his hearers rewire connections between the attributes of God and their reflections in Christ, the people of God and in earthly things his people experience. His preaching of delight in God will supply an unlimited capacity of recharging power to energize the daily Christian life.  

Delight in God is always discerned through some created thing. Yes, that’s right! There is no direct pathway to delighting in God. We always get redirected through means of created things to discern God in the created thing. God spoke to the fathers through angels, dreams, visions and pre-incarnate appearances, which were then recorded in the Old Testament by the prophets. God’s grace and truth was revealed through the incarnate Christ. Without going through his created humanity, no one can come to God (John 14:6; 1:14; Heb. 1:1-3; 7:25; Rom 5:17-20; 1 Cor. 15:42-49). Since we are pilgrims living after the New Testament era, we must go through the foundation of the prophetic and apostolic God-breathed, inerrant, created pages of Scripture to discern God, and Christ the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; 2 Pet. 1:3-4, 21; 3:16-18; Rom. 15:4). By reading Scripture, we learn who God is and his providential works in the world in ruling over the created universe, the works he continues to do through his people, and the evil he permits in giving up his enemies to their lusts and conquering them. When looking at the text of Scripture or at people, or observing the interactions of time and space with created beings and objects, we can discern God’s person and work, leading to delight in God who is discerned.[3] Then through Scripture in our hearts as the glasses with which to see the world, we can look at created things and discern God’s eternal power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1-2). When looking at his work, but failing to see God or his work, we go back to Scripture to try to understand more about what we have been missing in our spiritual perceptions of the world. Creation study by itself, without the glasses of Scripture, will reveal some “rebel facts” (it never directly reveals truth) and when interpreted by unregenerate man, will lead to distorted and erroneous ideas.[4] Those facts must submit to the authority and interpretive lens of Scripture to become a source of delight in God himself (2 Cor. 10:4-5).  

This is something like Neo, in the movie the Matrix, when he is enlightened, and starts to discern the matrix into which all things connect, depicted in the movie by his ability to see the zeros and ones (lines of matrix code) as the structure behind all things visible. In the movie, the matrix is an imaginary or surreal world that can only be superseded by those who know the matrix is a digital image, a kind of imaginary lie created to keep people in submission. I’d like to use the matrix of digital-zeros-and-ones-overlaid-on-everything-we-see metaphor for another purpose, not as an imaginary digital lie that needs to be discovered and resisted, but as a way of seeing everything in this world as reflections of God’s attributes, as our minds are renewed by Scripture to know who God is. Suppose we label each of the eight derivative attributes in the buttered toast paragraph above as 1a-8a in a digital matrix. After we are regenerated, we see lines of 1a-8a code reflected in all created things. It could be a piece of buttered wheat toast with jam, sharing intimacy with one’s spouse, enjoying a scenic view, enjoying the social harmony of a system that works from production of goods to roadway distribution to market to functional credit cards and Google or Apple Pay apps that work for purchasing at a local convenience store, driving a well-made car, riding a well-performing bicycle, or seeing the city’s well-built and designed buildings, stores, roads, transportation systems, parks, bike paths and sidewalks. Every created thing has discernable aspects of the derivative glory of God to those regenerated to see those attributes. This is the usual way to delight in God by created things. Another movie metaphor might also combine with the matrix metaphor, the Avatar movie. Selected humans enter a dreamlike trance while they are mentally united with avatar bodies. This enabled the avatar to experience Pandora as a living planet connected to Eywa, the tree of life. Though Christianity would teach us to reject any movie themes involving pantheistic worship of the tree representing Eywa and Pandora’s interconnected biosphere, the idea of biological interconnectivity, a neural network linking all life on the planet, is a useful metaphor. In an analogous way, regenerated believers have new eyes to see how “in [Christ] all things [in the universe] hold together,” (Col. 1:17), how he reflects his eternal power and divine nature to, on, in and by all created things (Rom. 1:20; 11:36; Eph. 1:10), including his Triune (omni-harmonious) all-wise (omniscient), sovereign control (omnipotent) over all the sequencing of all events in time (omni-historical) and space (omnipresence) also sustaining the biodiversity of our planet earth (omni-sufficiency) by the word of his promise (omni-faithfulness) to a holy purpose (omni-holiness), that he alone would be glorified, praised and worshiped (Rom. 1:21; 11:36; Rev. 15:4; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 4:8; 83:18; 86:10; Isa. 37:16; 44:24). The created world is infused with reflections of his glory!  

Delight derived from created things that leads to delight in God as the source, this is the proper use of the temporal delight turned to the eternal source of delight! The sinful side, ignorance and blindness to the derivative attribute “matrix” instead will see in the things themselves some amazing substitutes that seem qualified for worship (Rom. 1:20-25). Much of our super hero movie attraction in the early 21st century (Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four, Captain America, X-Men, Flash, Arrow) seems to be a quest for divine substitutes that seem worthy of worship. Similarly, this blindness is expressed in pantheism, a worldview that supposes everything created is some sort of god. The devil will ever seek to lead men to rejoice in God’s gifts, the created things themselves, or the actions we do, rather than using those things to lead us to delight in God himself.[5] Job worshiped God because God is glorious and worthy of worship, regardless of perceived benefits, unlike Job’s wife, who seemed to expect more benefits from God for all the toil of religion (Job 1:1-2:10). Without delight in God himself, the temporal “believer” will fall away both in times of trouble and times of pleasure (seed on rocky soil and among thorns Matt 13:20-22).

Seeing greater likenesses to God’s omni-attributes and the derivative reflections of those attributes in the created world ought to stir God’s regenerated-delighters to greater delight and attraction, while lesser reflections stir less delight or attraction. Thus, the greatest delight regenerate believers can experience is in knowing, believing in, and communing with Christ himself, the perfect reflection of the derivative attributes of God, and the fulfilment of the moral law as the definition of the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 3:18; Heb. 1:1-3; Matt 5:17; 1 Pet. 3:18; Rom. 8:3-4). All other delights in created things must be derivative subsets of our ultimate delight in Christ himself!

Standards of Delight in God and Peace[6] to Men

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and deathFor God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  Roman 8:2-4

A. Summary Catechism

Q3: Elect believer, what do you believe about the LORD’s glory revealed to you, that his derivative glory might be declared upon you, formed in you and reflected by you?

A3: I believe the Triune LORD has revealed his glory through his persons and works to me by his Word and Spirit, from him (omnipresent, omni-holy, omni-sufficient, omniscient, omni-harmonious, omnipotent, omni-faithful and omni-historical), with both cursed and blessed-faces, with derivative attributes of each of these omni-attributes perfectly fulfilled by Christ in the works of his human nature for me (presence, holiness, provision, knowledge, unity, rule, faithfulness, theosynchrony), the cursed-face of God endured by Christ at the cross for me, so that his derivative glory might be declared on me (propitiation, justification), formed in me (repentance, vivification), [7] and reflected by me (enmity, peacemaking) in realms (heavenly, earthly) and places (assembly, creation, diaspora) by mandates (assembly, commission, investment, culture, frustration, ambassador, emigration, reformation, discipline, warfare).

All that follows below about the glory of the LORD reflected in us draws its power and certainty from elect believers’ faith, which is focused on union with the crucified, resurrected, and glorified Christ.[8]

The basic standards of how to delight in God are shown in obedience to the Ten Commandments. Love for God (defined by the 1st-4th commandments) establishes the patterns of love for our neighbor (5th-10th commandments). The authorities we should honor (5th commandment) will honor of the true King (1st commandment) and his kingdom laws (Rom. 2:10; 13:3-4, 7; Phil. 2:29; Rev. 7:12). Seven-day cycles of labor and worship-thanksgiving-rest are the Lord’s requirement (4th commandment). By these cycles, God gifts and enables mankind to produce personal goods and services, which shall not be coveted or stolen by authorities or neighbors (Deut. 8:18; 10th & 8th commandments). God’s covenant faithfulness is the pattern for marital faithfulness (Ephesians 5:24-33; 7th commandment). The Lord’s name and reputation must be represented with integrity (3rd commandment) even as we truthfully represent our neighbor’s reputation (9th commandment).    

Two Faces of the Derivative Attributes of Christ in Us

Christ’s satisfaction of God’s justice by his propitiating death on the cross and his perfect moral obedience are the foundations for Christian life transformation. God’s glory reflected to, on and by Christ, becomes the pattern for our salvation. Christ reflects God’s glory to, on, in, and by elect believers by the Spirit and the Scriptures.  After explaining justification as a first benefit of union with Christ in the last chapter, this chapter will focus on a second benefit of union with Christ, the LORD’s new covenant promise to form the moral law in elect believers’ minds and hearts.[9] Elect believers’ declared righteousness in justification becomes imparted righteousness in sanctification. This chapter highlights the summary catechism phrase “formed in me” as the enlivening process of vivification The Spirit’s life within the elect enables their obedience to the moral law, both in its inward affections written on the heart and its ethical behaviors practiced in life.

WCF 9:4 states, “[w]hen God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.” According to WCF 10:1, effectual calling is “renewing their wills.” In WCF 13:1, “[t]hey who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified.”[10] The willingness to do spiritual good is related to changed character, a renewal of the heart and spirit into the likeness of these derivative attributes.[11] As our relationship with Christ deepens, we begin to exhibit more of his character traits, or derivative attributes.

As a simple description, derivative attributes include blessed-face, positive traits compiled in biblical lists such as the fruits of the Spirit, attributes of love, character qualities that make election sure, wisdom from above, or elder-deacon qualifications.[12] These lists of specific character qualities belong to a larger category of heart and life character qualities that also include cursed-face, enmity-to-sin qualities such as personal repentance for indwelling sin, church discipline of the unrepentant, and apologetics to expose the evil in the world. This foundations book doesn’t have a separate chapter on the nature of fallen man. It is integrated into sections in nearly every chapter related to the need to share God’s enmity attributes by repentance for sin, enmity to the wicked, and the curse Christ bore for our sins on the cross.  

The Ten Commandments Written in the Heart

Biblical descriptions about the moral law reflect the LORD’s own attributes. His law is perfect, reviving the soul. It is sure, making wise the simple. It is right, rejoicing the heart. The law is pure, enlightening the eyes. It is true and righteous altogether.[13] The law is good, sure, forever fixed, teaching us to hate every false way, wonderful, imparting understanding, enduring forever.[14]   Not only is the moral law a reflection of God’s original attributes, but God’s two faces of blessing and cursing are shown in response to man’s obeying or disobeying the moral law.[15] Though more complex in its development, the Westminster Larger Catechism 91-150 exposition of the Ten Commandments gives parallel lists of attributes that can easily be separated into the blessed-face and cursed-face derivative attribute categories I have proposed. The blessed-face derivative attributes are explicated in the duties entailed for each command, and the cursed-face derivative attributes are explicated in the sins committed against each command. In the New Covenant, the Spirit writes the law on our hearts,[16] and elect disciplers will obey it. They will teach and correct disciples based on these laws which illuminate sin, highlight the need for a Savior, and teach them what to love and hate, what to do, and what is forbidden.

But the Ten Commandments themselves are nearly all prohibitions formulated in the pattern of “you shall not,” except the fourth and fifth commands. Thus, WLC 99-150 must enlarge both the prohibitions and the positive character aspects of the law using a framework for interpreting them, (WLC 99) and for bridging OT-NT expressions of the law in biblical systematic theology. The Westminster Larger Catechism section on the Ten Commandments gives us more thorough definitions of both the positive duties and the negative prohibitions of the Ten Commandments that do include these character qualities or derivative attributes of God written on the heart, as promised in the New Covenant (Heb. 10:16). According to WLC 99, “[the law] is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.” However, a believer has a good bit of reading to do before getting at these themes. WLC teaches the relation of each of the Ten Commandments to righteousness in our will, motives, emotions, reason, and behavior.

First commandment. “You shall have no other gods before me” requires heart changes like “thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him” (WLC 104).

Second commandment. “You shall not make any idols” requires heart changes like “receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word” (WLC 108).

Third commandment. “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain” requires heart changes so “[t]hat the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the Word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and: Whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation . . .” (WLC 112).

Fourth commandment. “You shall remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy and work the six other days” requires heart changes like “making it our delight to spend the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship” (WLC 117).

Fifth commandment. “You shall honor your father and mother” requires heart changes like “[t]he honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart . . .” (WLC 127). “It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors” (WLC 129).

Sixth commandment. “You shall not kill” requires heart changes like “patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; . . . by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil” (WLC 135).

Seventh commandment. “You shall not commit adultery” requires heart changes like “chastity in . . . mind, affections . . . and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance” (WLC 138).

Eighth commandment. “You shall not steal” requires heart changes like “moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods” (WLC 141).

Ninth commandment. “You shall not bear false witness/lie” requires heart changes like “from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things: Whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities” (WLC 144).

Tenth commandment. “You shall not covet” requires heart changes like “such a full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his” (WLC 147).

All the original attributes of God impart specific derivative attributes that make elect believers awaken to the fullness and beauty of the commandments: God’s omni-holiness (gives love for God and man), omniscience (gives knowledge of himself and all the commands), omnipotence (gives power to do all the commands) omni-faithfulness (gives us faithfulness to keep the commands, gives us final resurrection to unchangeable righteousness), omni-historicity (gives us existence within chronological time to obey the law and in then in eternity; shapes our view of time past that he gave the law, present that the moral law is my duty, and future that he will judge law-breakers), omni-harmoniousness (gives us the law to submit for our earthly shalom), omni-sufficiency (gives material, pastoral, and civil-social resources to support obedience to the commands and gives us contentment in keeping all the commands derived from the self-existence of God), and omnipresence (gives us existence in physical space and is with us by the Spirit to apply all his attributes to bless us in fellowship/communion to do the commands with us).

Blessed-Face Applications of the Ten Commandments

Here is a simple list providing the most obvious logical links between major omni-attributes, their derivative reflections and each commandment (Deut. 5:7-21).[17] There is overlap, such that we could explore all eight omni-attributes’ blessed faces in relation to each command, but only one is selected for representative purposes.

1st “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Omni-holy: proper love and hate defined by the true God.

2nd “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or . . . bow down to them or serve them.” Omnipresent: proper worship of the invisible, present LORD

3rd “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Omniscient: proper reverence to revealed truth.

4th “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, . . . Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work . . . You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Omni-historical: proper structure of historical memory and routines of time.

5th “Honor your father and your mother.” Omni-harmonious: proper relations of authority and submission.

6th “You shall not murder.” Omnipotent: proper use of power.

7th “You shall not commit adultery.” Omni-faithful: proper fulfillment of promises.

8th “You shall not steal.” Omni-sufficient: proper stewardship of material resources.

9th “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Omniscient: proper witness of reality.

10th “You shall not covet.” Omni-sufficient: proper contentment.

Cursed-Face Applications of The Ten Commandments

All the original attributes of God listed below are turned to reflect God’s cursed face against the moral law-breaker! In other words, all the original attributes of God impart specific derivative attributes that renew us to jealousy for God’s holiness, zeal for God’s house, and hatred for what he hates in all who break these commandments.

All Ten Commandments define the enemies of God as those who oppose his righteous rule. The ones opposing his righteous rule are those who deny the supremacy of his enthroned Son as the only Lord to be worshipped without idolatrous representation, who call on the names of other “gods” in addition to or besides him, who resist authority, who hate and kill humanity, who destroy the marriage bond between one man and one woman, who deny property rights, who present falsehoods as truth, and who are filled with lusts and love for created things rather than the Creator.

The list below gives examples how each omni-attribute gives hatred of some ways sinners disobey each commandment. There is overlap, such that we could explore all eight omni-attributes’ cursed faces in relation to each command, but only one is selected for representative purposes.

1st “You shall have no other gods before me.” Omni-holiness gives hatred for all that resists God worship of the one true God, such as worship of or ascribing power to various gods, religions, fate, geomancy, atheism, or anger at God.

2nd “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or . . . bow down to them or serve them.” Omnipresence gives his presence to commandment breakers to curse, punish, frustrate, limit, and conquer those who value created things above the Creator as source of good, power, and help, or who worship idols and practice superstitions.

3rd “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” Omniscience provides the healthy fear that God knows all sins committed and reveals wisdom to foresee consequences that accompany sinful disobedience, like in Proverbs 5-7, such as consequences of foolish vows, pharisaical or selfish prayers, hypocrisy, or using the LORD’s name as a swear word.

4th “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Omni-historical warns us that the time of his coming is near and that we should not spend our finite amount of time in sinful living, such as time wasted on useless things, laziness, failure to do useful work, or not resting on the Lord’s Day.

5th “Honor your father and your mother.” Omni-harmonious imparts wisdom regarding the disunity, sabotage, double-crossing, and mutiny that accompany the wicked, such as their misuse of authority, the need to dominate, unrighteous anger, ignoring another person for whom they are responsible, or resentment towards authority.

6th “You shall not murder.” Omnipotence imparts power, depending on one’s specific spheres of influence and authority, to promote, praise, and reward good, and resist, outlaw, or even punish evil. The LORD gives temporary authority to those in the world, even though many will use it against him in ways that neglect or abuse the body of one’s self or others, sleeping too much, over working, over use of foods, drinks, exercise, failure to control emotions with the truth, suicidal thoughts or self-injuring behaviors.

7th “You shall not commit adultery.” Omni-faithful gives disgust, grief, and sorrow at all unfaithfulness to the commands, and to all oath breakers, such as lustful thoughts or looks at images or people, ungodly deprivation within marriage[18] and all other types of sexual sin that Scripture forbids.

8th “You shall not steal.” Omni-sufficiency relinquishes sinners to their lusts or, conversely, deprives them of resources, yet patiently bears with sinners in common grace, giving them resources that they use against God’s person, works, law, and people. He gives us hatred to things like dishonest contracts, intentional misuse of property in ways that diminish its value, greed, theft, fraud, bribery, and gambling.

9th “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Omniscience reveals wisdom to foresee consequences that accompany sinful disobedience, like in Proverbs 5-7, and provides the healthy fear that God knows all sins committed, such as dishonest slander, forgery, lying, misleading or manipulative talk, gossip, misinterpreting motives, flattery, and self-deprecation.

10th “You shall not covet.” Omni-sufficiency gives hatred for things like living as a spiritual orphan—living as though our Father in heaven did not know about our needs or care to provide for us, with worry and fear about the future—discontent, envy, and grieving at the due praise and success of others.

Moral Law as Glory Revealer, Standard for Human Comparison & Restoration: See Christ, Know Sin, Learn Duty (WCF 19:5-7 of the Law of God)

V. The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;[8] and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.[9] Neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.[10]

VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;[11] yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as

1)     a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;[12] 

2)    discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives; [13] so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin,[14] 

3)    together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience.[15] 

4)    It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[16] and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.[17] 

5)     The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof:[18] although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.[19] So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace.[20]

VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it;[21] the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done.[22] Heb. 8:10; Ezek. 36:27; Jer. 31:33)

These commandments reveal the glory of God in the face of Christ, the perfect fulfiller of the moral law (Matt. 5:17-18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Tim. 3:16). define the best way to live, while also depicting what is best for discipleship dynamics and environmental stewardship. For instance, the Ten Commandments form the ethical standards of a discipler’s qualifications: it leads them to ask, am I a righteous discipler according to the commands of God? The Ten Commandments also provide a structure to evaluate the details and severity of a disciple’s problems. Those who disobey the commandments reveal what the mind focused on a fleshly life looks like. Recognition of tendencies towards fleshly life requires repentance, both for a discipler’s growth and a disciple’s correction. Disciplers can assess if the disciple has a sin problem according to the Ten Commandments. Sometimes, the disciple has several obvious sins against these moral commandments, so framing the issues within this context gives disciplers an obvious starting point from which they can move forward with Biblical guidance.

Another kind of delight is in seeing and waiting for the justice and wrath of God to be poured out on his and our enemies (Rom. 1:18-32; Rev. 18:20; 1 Pet. 2:23; 4:19). If they will not be converted, we pray that God would “look upon their threats” and intervene with the extension of his kingdom rule as well as his evil-limiting, proud-humiliating, rich-impoverishing, throne-displacing judgments (Psalm 2 as used in the prayer of Acts 4:24-31; Luke 1:51-53; Acts 12:20-23; Dan. 4-5). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” (Heb. 10:31).

[1] See Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, part three, principle two, that the elect are regenerated by a spiritual sight of the glory and beauty of God’s holiness. However, I propose in this book, that regeneration brings a whole new series of delights, for example, delight in God’s eight omni-attributes, not only his omni-holiness, but also his omnipresence, omni-sufficiency, omniscience, omni-harmoniousness, omnipotence, omni-faithfulness, and omni-historical nature.   

[2] This pattern is expressed well in two works by C.S. Lewis, his narrative of his conversion in Surprised by Joy, where he longs for recurring experiences of joy, but realizes that the joy is a fleeting by-product of the thing desired. He also writes a post conversion essay, titled The Weight of Glory, proposing that the temporal pleasures of this life should be seen as diluted flavors of God’s river of pleasures, the torrens voluptatis, flowing from his throne, and these heavenly pleasures of the new earth alone give substantial and enduring joy. We are fools who would be satisfied with the diluted flavors in this old earthly realm, when God has promised joys of drinking at the fountainhead in the new earth.

[3] See John Piper When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy for a wonderful study about how Scripture, prayer and created things are all means to stir up and guard our delight in God.

[4] See Redeeming Sociology: A God-Centered Approach (Crossway 2011) for examples of how unregenerate sociologists leave God out of their sociological analysis, and falsify the data that they “see”. Also available free in PDF form at https://frame-poythress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/PoythressVernRedeemingSociology.pdf

[5] Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, section two lists false signs of conversion and spiritual life as rejoicing in the gifts of God and that they are loved by God and have received justification, rather than rejoicing in God himself. cite source).  David Brainerd’s Journals show a resistance to this temptation in evaluating signs of true assurance of salvation, not satisfied to rejoice in his justification, but through that justification to rejoice in the God who justifies (cite source). C.S. Lewis Screwtape Letters develops a similar theme in the instructions to the junior devil to cause the man to rejoice with pride in his spiritual devotion and the fact that he did his Bible reading and praying, rather than whether these devotions actually caused him to have communion with God. cite source).  

[6] I use this term in a broad sense of shalom, human socio-cultural flourishing, reduction of human conflict, through obedience to the 5th-10 commandments in all human communities (Heb 12:14-15; Rom 2:10; 8:6; 14:17-19; Eph. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 7:15; Luke 1:79; 1 Cor. 14:33; Ps. 1:1-3), but this is also rooted in proper worship of the one true Lord (1st-4th commandments).

[7] Though I use the phrase “formed in me” to develop the theme of heart change in sanctification, there is constant overlap with “reflected by me in places where I live,” such that the attributes formed in us will be reflected by us.

[8] Rom. 6:10-11; 2 Cor. 3:18

[9] For excellent resources on biblical ethics, see John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics, reprint (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), Philip Graham Ryken, Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2010), and the massive tome by John Frame, A Theology of Lordship: The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2008).

[10] Ezek. 36:26-31; Heb. 10:16

[11] Tit. 3:5-7; Rom. 12:1-2

[12] Gal. 5:22-23; 1 Cor. 13:4-8; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; Jas. 3:17-18; 1 Tim. 3:1-12; Tit. 1:5-9

[13] Ps. 19:7-11

[14] Ps. 119:39, 86, 89, 104, 129, 130, 160

[15] Deut. 28-30

[16] Heb. 10:16

[17] In an interesting article related to what he calls the fourth use of the law, David Gill proposes ways each of the first four commandments in relation to God have a reflective function in human relationships. Based on the first commandment (p. 9), “Treat all people as unique, valuable individuals. Never treat anyone as though they are dispensable, without value, or ‘just a number.’ ” Based on the second commandment (p. 10), “Support every individual’s freedom, growth, and development. Never view anyone through stereotypes and images, or as fixed and unchangeable.” Based on the third commandment (p. 12), “Communicate to people by name with respect. Never use or impose demeaning, trivializing, or derogatory names on others.” Based on the fourth commandment (p. 14), “Model and encourage a balanced life of good work and rest. Do not adopt policies or make demands on others that undermine balanced lives.” David W. Gill, “A Fourth Use of the Law? The Decalogue in the Workplace,” Journal of Religion and Business Ethics 2, no. 2 (2011): Art. 4, http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/faith-work/documents/GillD.AFourthUseoftheLaw_2.pdf. Also see his earlier article expanding the use of all Ten Commandments to business ethics in “Ten Principles of Highly Ethical People,” Radix Magazine 29 no. 2 (2002): 4-7, 27-30, http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/faith-work/documents/GillD.TenPrinciples.pdf.

[18] 1 Cor. 7:5

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