Monday, January 31, 2011

Looking for Joy?

A short time ago I started praying for more Joy.  Not the fake joy I can muster from being an overly optimistic person, but true, inner joy that doesn't fade when my kids irritate me or my day doesn't go as planned.  Do you know what I'm talking about?

God has answered my prayer!  I can say with the Psalmist:

Blessed are You, O Lord,
For You have heard the voice of my prayers.
You are my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in You, and I am helped.
My heart greatly rejoices,
And I will give thanks to You in song.
(Psalm 28:6-7, adapted by Face to Face)

I didn't know how God was going to answer me, but He did. As you might know, I'm writing theology essays for NANC Certification.  I've set aside Tuesday mornings as my time to study while the kids are in home school classes. I was studying Justification, about three weeks ago, a subject I thought I knew pretty well, and I read this passage out of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology.

“We have no penalty to pay for sin, including past, present, and future sins... we are not subject to any charge of guilt or condemnation.” (Grudem 724-725)  

Theology might seem dry to you, but after reading that one phrase, the Holy Spirit lit a fire under me!  I was alone in a preschool class at church and wanted to jump and dance.  The truth of my salvation - long understood, but often taken for granted - is that Jesus's righteousness has covered ALL my sins: Everything I've already done, everything I'm doing now, and everything I'll do in the future.  Justification means that by believing in Jesus, He took away all my sins - yes! - and then covered me w/ the righteousness of Christ - Amen!  When God looks at me, He sees the perfect work of His Son.  Do you know that means?

I don't have to be perfect!

God's love is perfect IN CHRIST and not dependent on ME and my own works.

I can't tell you how FREE I felt.  I think I was high for a few days just on that truth.  I was blasting the song "How He Loves Us" loudly from my computer.  The next week, when I moved to study Sanctification, I was a little leary of what I'd find, because I know that Sanctification means growing to look more like Him, and I was a little afraid that my freedom would be a bit quenched by still needing to be good.  But oh my friends, I was wrong about my fire being quenched.

Yes, Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Christ, but He is not expecting us to work this out ALONE.  Jesus is the author of our faith (that's Justification) and the perfecter of our faith - that's Sanctification.  (Hebrews 12:2).  Apart from Him, we can do nothing. 

"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, 'Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.'" (I Cor 1:30-31)

A man named John Hendryx said, "Since all we do has mixed motives and we seldom, if ever, love others as we should, we can confidently say that we do not bring anything of additional worth to our relationship with God.  He is fully satisfied in Christ."

Read slowly and savor this quote:

"We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.
  • If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him’ [I Cor. 1:30].
  • If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing.
  • If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion;
  • if purity, in his conception;
  • if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [compare to Heb. 5:2].
  • If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion;
  • if acquittal, in his condemnation;
  • if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13];
  • if satisfaction, in his sacrifice;
  • if purification, in his blood;
  • if reconciliation, in his descent into hell;
  • if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb;
  • if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same;
  • if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven;
  • if protection, if security if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom;
  • if untroubled expectation of judgment; in the power given to him to judge.
"In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from the fountain, and from no other." (John Calvin, 2.16.18.)

This all means that we are to look to Jesus for help and grace, always full of thanks for who we are in Him. We take our eyes off of our own good works and efforts and check-lists and disciplines, where we get stuck trying to gauge our own progress and how far we’ve come. We instead look to Him until we completely forget ourselves in comparison to His love. We see Him as He is and love Him for it, asking that He will fill us with that love, which spills out on others and results in a life that looks more and more like Him.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

I've been a mess of tears for the last few weeks in church. Yesterday singing "Your Grace is Enough!" caused them to flow again in thankfulness.  Praise to our God! 

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ!
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!

Thoughtfully sing through this song:

And then crank up the volume and enjoy this one!

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