Strive for Joy

 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:11)

Lately I have been reminded that the Christian walk and the call to ministry is not to be a life begrudging duty, but rather a life of joyful obedience in the promise of the Lord.  Jesus, as we are told in Hebrews, set his eyes on the joy that was before him as he endured the cross.  James tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).

Along these lines, I came across something I read in a book by Martyn Lloyd-Jones called, Joy Unspeakable that I thought I must share.

Now all I am trying to establish is this, this is what the Christian people are meant to be.  This is the whole message of the New Testament, that the Son of God came into this world to deliver us.  It is salvation; he is a Savior who sets us free from the guilt, the power and the pollution of sin.  And no man can be aware of that without really rejoicing.  The Christian is not meant to be a man who is just managing to hold on and who is miserable and unhappy and forcing himself to do these things, dragging himself, as it were, to the house of God, as so many foolish people are saying at the present time.

What an utter denial it is of the whole of the New Testament, this foolish suggestion that one service a Sunday is enough, one that takes place at nine o’clock in the morning, to get rid of it, as it were, in order that you can then really go on and enjoy yourselves and have real happiness in looking at the television or in rushing to the seaside or in playing golf!

But what happens when people are baptized with the Holy Spirit – as you read throughout Acts – is that they want to keep together, to get together as often as they can – the continued daily, steadfastly, talking about these things, singing together, praising God together.  This was the thing that was first above everything else.  Everything else came second; even their work was something they had to do.  It was right that they should do their work, of course, but this was the thing that meant life to them, and joy and salvation.

What I am trying to put to you is this: I am certain that the world outside is not going to pay much attention to all the organized efforts of the Christian church.  The one thing she will pay attention to is a body of people filled with the spirit of rejoicing.  That is how Christianity conquered the ancient world.  It was the amazing joy of these people.  Even when you threw them into prison, or even to death, it did not matter, they went on rejoicing in tribulations.

I am commending this to you, not merely that you may have the experience of the joy of salvation, but also, I hope, as a matter of duty. I am exhorting you in this evil world in which we find ourselves that if you really are concerned about it, if you really do feel what you say about the daily evidence in the newspapers of the moral rot that is setting in in this country, if you feel that we are facing ruin economically and industrially, because people are worshippers and lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of god, if you really believe that and mean it and feel it, then it will be your duty to become a person such as is depicted here, because this is the only thing that is going to persuade men.  They say, ‘Oh we know your teaching and preaching, we have had it all before,’ but when they see it in operation they will listen because they are miserable and unhappy.  When they see this quality they will begin to pay real attention.  So there is nothing more important than for us to understand this teaching and to experience it in our own personal and daily lives.

Llyod-Jones,  Joy Unspeakable (Harold Shaw Pub, Wheaton, IL, 1984) 102-103.

Friends, Christ came for our salvation, and that salvation ought to produce in us great joy.  Have you lost it?  Has it been so long since you’ve tasted that joy that you’ve forgotten it was ever there?  Remember that our calling in life is established in joy – “for we are to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Set your mind on the joy that is set before us, the joy that awaits God’s faithful (Matt 25:21).  Strive for joy, casting off the sin that would hinder, and fighting for the joy of the victor’s crown.  “And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13).

How Can I Glorify One Who is All-Glorious

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!”
(1 Chron. 16:28 (ESV)

Last week’s article entitled “Keep Calm and Glorify God” focused on the idea of giving God glory in all things, inspired by the comments of the Olympic athletes who gave God the glory for their accomplishments, and applying Paul’s exhortation of 1 Cor 10:31.  If you are interested, I’d encourage you to visit Timothy Dalrymple’s blog here and here to read some good commentary on why athletes give God the glory and what’s at the heart of the criticism directed toward young athletes like Gabby Douglas.

But to be honest, last week’s article wasn’t the one I really wanted to write.  I’m glad it’s out there, but when I started writing, there was a more pressing question that I wanted to ask and explore, namely, “How can I give glory to One who is All Glorious?”

This was the prevailing thought during my early morning runs last week.  Every morning at about 5:30 I’m out the door, heading west out of town on the gravel roads, in what I’ve come to call my Run before the Sun.  Usually when I’m running 5 or 6 miles, I can finish just as the sun is coming up.  Because the return portion of every run is eastward, this summer I have been blessed to seen some pretty amazing sunrises.

Yet as I watch the painted majesty of God’s new day, as I hear the birds singing their praises, and watch the deer leap for joy through rows of corn and beans, I wonder, “Have I anything to add to this refrain?”  Knowing that the heavens declare the glory of God, that God in and of himself possesses all glory – enough to outshine the sun – what could I ever “give” that would add to this all-glorious God?

Well, the truth is, nothing.  Nothing I say or do could ever add to the glory of God.  God is, in his very nature, perfect in every way, lacking not in glory, holiness, righteousness, power, etc…  Still, I can, and, in fact am commanded to, give glory to God in my experience of him.

Let’s unpack that a bit.

God, in and of himself, possesses all glory, and his glory is readily manifest.  Psalm 8 says that the Lord has set his glory above the heavens.  In Isaiah 6:3 we hear the seraphim calling, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  God’s work of deliverance in Exodus is said to have revealed his glory (Ex 15:6).  The ultimate end of all creation is that “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).  Great is the glory of the Lord, and His glory will endure forever.  We were created so that we would glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism).

In our sin, however, we have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), and our eyes have turned from his glory to lesser things (Rom 1:23).  We have blinded ourselves to the glory of God, we have made ourselves ignorant of his goodness so that when His glory is revealed, we scurry like rats to the dark corner for safety.  As John’s gospel tells us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), “and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19).

It is, then, the work of the redeemed to give glory to God in the midst of a darkened world.  We are not giving to God anything that he does not already possess.  Instead, our act of “giving God glory” is actually the work of Proclamation and Redirection.

We are to proclaim the glory of God

We are a witness to a fallen world that God is glorious and good, mighty to save, and faithful to his word.  Our lives ought to lift the eyes of the world to the glory of God.  This is the purpose of our salvation: “Your people shall all be righteous… that I might be glorified” (Isa 60:21).  It’s like when we say we are “magnifying God.”  We aren’t actually making God appear bigger than he already is as with a magnifying glass – that would be impossible.  Rather, as with a telescope, we are focusing in on a particular aspect of God to see Him with more clarity and detail.  When we give glory to God, we are acknowledging and affirming the truth: Our God is Glorious!

We are to direct all glory to God

When an athlete gives glory to God, when someone being honored gives all honor to Jesus, they are redirecting the praise and adulation they have received toward God.  This isn’t a false humility, but an act of honest and humble acclamation; attributing glory to the one to whom glory is due.

Here’s a quote from Dalrymple’s blog that really sums it all up, “It’s not merely that God gives Gabby Douglas the victory; it’s that God gives Gabby Douglas life, the breath in her lungs, the lungs to breathe it with, the talent in her body and soul, the strength in her spirit, the family that supports and inspires her, the opportunity to compete on the highest level, and then (when God gives it) the victory.”

Friends, this is why we glorify God.  He has made us.  He has saved us.  He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  May we, with all grace and humility, reflect the glory of God for a world that needs to see it.