"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, April 22, 2013

Safeguard Your Joy

So much of my life I spent waiting for joy. I thought that when I achieved that next degree, accomplished that milestone, moved to the right place, met the right woman, found the perfect church or landed the ideal job that I would find joy. In reality, while those things have all been blessings, other problems still remain. No matter what circumstances change for the better, I still live in a fallen world of broken people. My own broken nature accompanies me wherever I go, whatever I do....

In our pursuit of joy, we sometimes lose sight of reality. We are not in heaven yet. One of our confusions about joy is that we think it means a lack of suffering, a lack of problems, or a lack of conflict. So it may sound odd to us that Paul so easily ties an admonition for joy to a conflictual situation:

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh--though I myself have reasons for such confidence. Philippians 3:1-4a

There are layers of principles to observe here. Paul first reminds them that the joy of the Lord is theirs, even though some problems persist. Secondly, he exhorts them to guard the source and foundation of their joy--truth of the gospel. Thirdly, he openly expresses godly anger at those who distort the gospel (here by their insistence on fulfillment of a particular old covenant law about circumcision). Lastly he reminds them of their true qualifications before God: they worship by the Spirit of God, they glory in Jesus Christ, and they put no confidence in the flesh (though if anyone could have such confidence in the flesh, he could).

Please, take my advice, as one who wasted far too much time waiting for joy. Claim your joy now! Cling to the gospel of salvation by union with Jesus Christ. Guard the truth for yourselves and for future generations of believers (if the Lord tarries). Get indignant about those who would distort the gospel that Jesus bought at so great a price, the truth he came to declare. Experience the full joy of relationship with God, through Jesus and empowered by the Spirit. Forget yourself, putting no confidence in the flesh (human effort to reach God by our own goodness). This joy is a circular dance. Embrace it, own it, guard it, worship in it, and rejoice in it!


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