Abiding in Joy

Speaking of our life in Christ, and His purposes on earth

Archive for the category “Personal Reflections”

Joy Inexpressible!

Some have asked me why name my blog “Abiding in Joy.”.  That is a fair question.  It was not just an impulsive idea.  My first choice was “Joy Inexpressible” or “Joy Unspeakable” taken from I Peter 1:8.  But these names and almost every variation were taken.  Actually, as I thought about it, perhaps Abiding in Joy actually fits better than the earlier choices.

For a major part of my Christian life, I have felt that one area God was trying to work in me as a life message was that of faith.  I first began sensing this when I was still single.  Reading books like Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler and Dr. Taylor’s biography of Hudson Taylor greatly impacted those earlier days.  Living by faith and walking by faith have remained constant themes in my daily life.  However, about three years ago, I believe God spoke to me that He also  wanted to work deep within me in the area of joy.  Since then I am constantly seeing in the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New Testament, the many references to joy and rejoicing.   A very quick conclusion was that joy is to be a daily part of our Christian life.  And yet, if you are anything like me, it is easy to think of  joy as something that flows from our outer circumstances.

Here are a just a few things I have learned about joy:

1.    Nowhere in the Scriptures do we see joy being dependent upon outward circumstances.  Joy is therefore a quality that is to run deep within us, and should not be likened to happiness. Many times joy is spoken of in the context of difficult times or intense tribulation.  Joy is something that transcends emotions and circumstances.

2.    Biblical  joy is something so deep and so marvelous that the phrase “joy inexpressible” or “joy unspeakable” is used.  It cannot even really be described.  What human words could ever capture a joy that surpasses all tribulation?  I recently read a book about the characteristics of the persecuted Church.  Do you know what was the first quality mentioned?  Joy.  That cannot be explained in human words.  That is the joy He wants us to have.

3.    Joy is something that comes from the Lord.  It is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  As the Spirit controls our life, part of the fruit will be joy.  A careful study of John 15:1-11 will tell us that joy comes as we are truly abiding in Him.  Jesus refers to the joy that is to be in us as “My joy.”  His joy becomes ours, and is full, only as we learn to abide in Him.  That is one reason I like the name “Abiding in Joy.”  It implies that is possible only as we abide in Christ.

4.    Perhaps most sobering to me is to realize that joy is to be a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian.  We often blame our lack of joy on our personality type, or we think of it as something we cannot possess because of our past experience or background.  And so the Church today is filled with people who are gloomy, pessimistic, depressed, filled with heaviness, and certainly lacking in joy.  If we are following Christ, if we are abiding in Him, if we are walking in the Spirit, then we will have joy.

I know we live in a culture where true joy is almost non-existent.  Perhaps as we reject the notion and the excuses that say joy is not possible, then we can begin to be filled with joy.  We can learn to abide in joy.  And the world, who is desperately looking for something different in the Church, will begin to be attracted once more to the message of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 2:14-16 says that as we forsake grumbling and complaining, we will prove ourselves to be children of God.  We will become lights in a world full of darkness.

Personally, I know I have a long way to grow in abiding in this inexpressible joy.  But I do know that this what is God is calling me (and really all of us) to, and I know this is what I want in my life.  Let’s stop making excuses.  Let’s move forward into all that He has for us…….including abiding in joy.

The Word of the Cross

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”   I Corinthians 1:18

I suppose that if I had to restrict myself to only giving one message for the rest of my life, I would have to make it a message on the Cross.  The message of the Cross is certainly that which makes everything about our Christian walk come together.  If we leave out the Cross (which I am afraid we do so often), then our Christianity is immediately reduced to good ideas and nothing more.  But the Scriptures tell us of a life in Christ in which we can live victoriously and joyfully.  They speak of peace that surpasses all understanding, a life filled with purpose and destiny.  Our walk is to be a life in which we have a living relationship with God.  We can hear Him, we can follow Him day by day, and we can be guided by Him.  It is a life that is free from the guilt of sin, the power of sin, and all the ugliness that comes with all that.  Without the Cross, none of this is possible.  None of it.  Maybe this is why so many Christians do not experience all that God has for them.  The power of the Cross has been left out!

Often I get the feeling that some Christians are ashamed of the core message of our Christian faith–the Cross.  Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1 that the word of the cross is foolishness (some translations say scandalous) to many…… to those who have not had their eyes opened.  We should expect that talk about the cross, sin, forgiveness of sins, the powerful blood of Christ will make people uncomfortable.  But that is not a reason to shrink back from speaking.  This is also the message that will powerfully break through to the hearts of men and women.  The world around us is not looking for more good ideas about God.  People are looking for something that has power.  That is the message of the Cross.    We must not be ashamed of the Cross!

We are also told in I Corinthians 1:21-24 that the word of the cross is not just the power of God, but it is also the wisdom of God.  We are talking about, of course, a wisdom much higher and deeper than the greatest wisdom of this world.  Too often, we are seeking the wisdom of this world as if it were the only or best thing out there.  A life centered on the message of the Cross will lead us to that higher wisdom.  Let us not be ashamed of the Cross!

The message of the cross also has powerful implications for our daily walk.  When I begin to understand the meaning of being totally forgiven of all my sin……when I begin to realize that the blood of Jesus gives me access to the very throne of God (His presence)…… when I see that His death and resurrection impart to me a power to live out the Christian life, my life is transformed completely.  I begin to experience the meaning of truly abiding in Him.  I am filled with joy unspeakable (I Peter 1:8).  Let us not be ashamed of the Cross!

I was only nineteen years old when God began to open my eyes to the message of the cross.  I  read Watchman Nee’s Normal Christian Life and soon began to read other books on the subjects of justification, the blood of Jesus, redemption, and sanctification.  I began studying and even memorizing sections of the Scripture describing what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. Throughout the years, I have found myself continually going back over and over to the themes associated with the Cross…….and being refreshed and transformed by them.  Now, almost 40 years later, I am still fascinated by the message of the cross.  More than anything else, it has shaped who I am today.

This coming Sunday is Easter, or what I like to call “Resurrection Sunday”.  It is the day in which we are to remember how Jesus Christ died at the Cross and then was resurrected on our behalf.  Even though I love the idea of calling attention to what He has done for us, and taking a day to celebrate it, I also have sometimes struggled with the idea of Easter.  Why  celebrate this great event only once a year?  It seems like that by taking a “day” to do this, or even a “week”, that we are diminishing its importance or its greatness.  Our lives must be devoted to, and committed to, studying and reflecting on the word of the Cross…… every day of the year.

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