To delight in God is to enjoy God from the heart. Many Christians today take that to mean we occasionally experience warm feelings toward God or the idea of God. Their idea of delighting in God is a sort of romanticized mysticism that cannot be defined or confined by biblical vocabulary. Perhaps it is most akin to two lovers enjoying one another, that they cannot put words to the affections they feel. However, to enjoy God from the heart is not anywhere near that way of thinking. When Scripture speaks of our hearts, it does not refer to our emotional lives but to the things we do earnestly and genuinely—the things for which we give our entire lives.
The foundation for genuine enjoyment in God is the avenue through which we come to God. What I mean by that is if we don’t go to God in the right manner, it will not be God we enjoy, but only a figment of our imagination. How can a person genuinely enjoy God if it is not God they enjoy?
In the Old Testament, the Levitical priests served the people of God as the mediator between them and God. The priests would sacrifice the animal for the people, and they would enter the Holy of Holies to meet with God and plead their own case and the people’s case. While the Levites performed these external and tangible rituals, the Israelites were prone to live as though external rituals and good works were enough. However, God expressed His concern for their hearts throughout the Old Covenant, desiring for His people to live for Him from their hearts.
Today, our present avenue to God is Christ. He is our High Priest before God (Hebrews 3:1)—our sacrifice, our advocate, our mediator, our righteousness—and He is the exclusive avenue to the Father (John 14:6). Without Him, we cannot delight in God.
Delight can be broken into two parts: the act of delight and the experience of delight. The act of delight or the genuineness of our hearts for God begins when God gives us a new heart. Ezekiel prophesied twice about God taking out the heart of stone and placing a heart of flesh within us. To animate the new heart, God promised to put His Spirit within us. Both the heart of flesh and the Holy Spirit join forces to cause our hearts to delight in God.
What is it to delight in God? It is to obey God’s commands with joy. Notice the connection when God says through Ezekiel, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:27). The Holy Spirit works in us to obey God’s commands. It is incorrect for us to assume that God forces us to obey Him because the context of the passage assumes that we cannot obey God with our hearts of stone. When the Holy Spirit causes us to obey, it is such a way that delightfully agrees with the core of our beings.
Although it is the Holy Spirit at work in us, showing delight in God only comes through Jesus Christ. There is no direct route to the Spirit’s work apart from the atoning work of Christ; Jesus’s work reconciles and redeems, the Holy Spirit’s work renovates and renews. Each person in the Trinity works in us to cause delight.
Delight in God is part of the Christian experience. We tangibly feel it. The fruit of the Spirit, as summarized by Paul to the Galatians, is a summary of delight in God and the change delighting in God brings. Delight is a combination of love, joy, peace, rest, confidence, hope, and thanksgiving for and in God’s character and works. The point is delight is a combination of experiences, and because of that, we experience it in degrees and waves. At times we feel like we have reached the pinnacle of delight while at other times, we feel like we have sunk into the deepest valley. Our experience, therefore, must have power, or perhaps fuel, from outside itself to consistently reach new heights. We cannot survive on experience alone.
Here again we need God to cause us to delight in Him. He does this through His Word and His Spirit, working alongside each other to conform us into the image of Christ. This change happens deep within our beings and works its way out into the menial tasks of life so that our delight in God becomes consistent. When we are changed, and when we rely on God’s power, our delight cannot be snuffed out as easily by the cares of this world or the sinfulness of our flesh.
Jesus Christ is the only avenue to God, and consequently, the only avenue to delighting in God. Through Him, we come to the true and living God, and we come to experience the Holy Spirit. Our triune God works together to produce a delight in God from our hearts that is not quickly extinguished.