Joy is underrated. Most of us think that joy is sort of like the cherry on top of a decadent ice cream sundae that we could do without if needed. It is treated as a luxury instead of a necessity. And the result of this lack of value that we place on joy is many of us living in depression and apathy. Depression is running rampant. Joyless Christianity is not Christianity. Christianity without joy becomes some vacant moral code of excellence that people must strive to achieve in order to receive some token of God’s love and blessing. It is anathema to the gospel. It is contrary to life in the New Covenant. But for many, it has become normal. Marching through life with no smile. No warmth of affection or care for fellow man. This doesn’t have to be the case.
A KINGDOM OF JOY
How did we forsake something that has and always will be so integral to the kingdom of God? In fact, the kingdom of heaven is righteousness, peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit. This description of the kingdom should give us great clarity and passion to seek these things! To seek first the kingdom of God (and his righteousness) is to seek righteousness, peace and JOY! God wants us to experience the joy of his kingdom! And what is that joy? It is the joy of the new covenant. The joy of having our sins forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west. The joy of knowing God as our Father. The joy of belonging to God’s family. The joy of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The joy of seeing God’s spirit flow through us and touch others with the same spirit of love and life that we have received. The joy of seeing the nature of Christ formed in our inmost being. The joy of living a life without fear. Without fear of death, fear of the future or the fear of failure. The joy of living with innocence in a crooked and perverse generation. The joy of knowing Jesus Christ. These are but a few of the sources of joy for the believer.
So if we are not experiencing this joy, what is the problem? Who or what is stealing our joy? If those things should be producing joy in our lives, and they are not, what’s wrong? Something must be taking our attention away from all of this glory! What is that something…? I believe that “something” is what the Scriptures call a “sin conscience”. A conscience that is defiled by sin is a conscience that is more aware of its own weakness, sin and failure than it is the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. Our consciousness of God and his abiding presence is directly affected by the cleanness of our conscience. Our conscience is not the Holy Spirit, but I do believe our conscience can perceive the Holy Spirit. And the quickest way to deaden our senses to God’s spirit and his presence is to allow our conscience to be dominated by an awareness of sin. This awareness of sin is not the same as an acknowledgement and confession of sins.
For the believer, it is important that we live a life of confession and repentance if we stumble and fall. If I DO something that I know is sin, it is our privilege to confess that action of sin and to receive forgiveness. But that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about a consciousness that is defined by sin. This means that deep down you feel that at your core, you are sinful. You may not be actively sinning, but you are aware that at any moment it is possible. You are more aware of Adam than you are of Christ.
I wish I could say it was a light switch moment but it wasn’t. I screwed it up and got my feelings hurt plenty of times. But In order for an expectation to become a desire, we have to stop taking things so personally. That day it wasn’t about me. My desire for those things was trumped by my wife’s reality of having to deal with kids and all the duties of keeping a house. I had to let that desire go to really love my wife and my family. That can be painful but it always produces life.
The difference between a desire and an expectation is this…
A desire is submitted to another person (or God) in love, trust and patience.
An expectation is shared with a demand, a “shot clock” and consequences (if unmet).
In our relationship with God and one another, we must move to living by desire instead of expectations. The reason we place expectations on one another is because we believe that God is placing expectations on us. But I believe, in the New Covenant, God has put his laws into our hearts (see last weeks devotional) and so his laws and commandments become our desires! So God doesn’t demand that we do things, he simply reveals to us what He desires and he trusts that because we now love him, we will obey those commandments. If you really love someone, doing things for them doesn’t feel like obedience, it feels like love!
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered each year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”