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In This is Joy

Living in the Light

 

 

In This is Joy

Jessalyn Hutto

I don’t know about you, but I have a long list of things I would like to improve upon in the year 2014. When I think about the many areas of my life that need “fixing up” it can be, shall we say, a bit overwhelming. Indeed I am hopelessly imperfect—prone to sin and slow to learn—and thus I am overwhelmingly grateful for the unwavering, gracious, and completely undeserved love of the Lord.

Perhaps you too can relate to this profound sense of gratitude. By the grace of God we are beckoned to take our focus from our own imperfections and instead, be consumed by the beauty of the sinless Son of God—whose righteousness has been credited to us. Undoubtedly, gratitude should be the defining mark of every sinner who’s been washed clean in the blood of Christ.

In this is Joy

If I were to make a list of resolutions for the new year it might look something like this:

  • I resolve to eat healthier.
  • I resolve to work out more (okay, okay, to begin working out!)
  • I resolve to take better care of my family’s finances.
  • I resolve to read more and watch less TV.
  • I resolve to consistently wake up earlier every day.
  • I resolve to spend less time online.
  • I resolve to read my Bible more.
  • I resolve to pray more.

On and on the list would go, but I think you get the idea.

These are all areas of my life I would like to improve upon. Each of them is important and each of them is worthy of pursuing, but can I tell you a secret? I didn’t make any resolutions this year. Don’t get me wrong, I have many goals bouncing around in my head and I pray that the Lord will enable me to make progress toward them in 2014. But honestly, the only “resolution” on my list this year is more of a desperate prayer to God than a personal commitment.

It is simply the earnest desire to lay everything else aside in the hopes of knowing God better.

That’s it. Nothing ground breaking, nothing earth shattering, just the same old prayer that Christians have been sending up to the Father for centuries: to know him.

As A.W. Tozer so eloquently prayed:

O God, the Triune God, I want to want thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed.

I love this quote because it expresses the utter dependence each of us have upon the Lord for the basic desire to desire him. In other words, we can’t even conjure up the desire to know God, without the Spirit himself creating such a desire within us. He alone quickens our hearts to spiritual things; causing us to long for a vibrant relationship with our Holy God. Not only this, but He is also responsible for causing the growth of intimate fellowship between us and the Triune God!

Any true knowledge of the Lord that takes root in our lives is a merciful work of the Spirit of Christ.

And so I find myself begging the Holy Spirit to draw me nearer to the cross and into a deeper fellowship with the Savior. Above all, I desire that this year I would press with all my might into a greater knowledge of him and the resurrection life found in him (Phil. 3:10).

Why?

Because this is where true joy is found.

After describing himself as the vine, the Father as the vine dresser, and believers as the branches, Jesus makes this bold claim:

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

Isn’t this the desire of each of our hearts? Don’t we long to be full of joy? Jesus says the only means of experiencing such joy is by allowing his joy to fill us. As the psalmist testifies, in God’s presencethere is fulness of joy (Ps. 16:11).

Christianity is not a grim religion, it is brimming with joy, celebration, and satisfaction! Not because of the physical circumstances the people of God live in and through, but because of the spiritual realities that have altered their hearts forever. We who were once far from God—enslaved to sin and under condemnation—are now drawn near and given the supreme gift of fellowship with this holy God. We are made his children once again and beckoned to enjoy all of the love that flows freely from his being.

In this, there is joy unspeakable.

Responding to the Grace of God

This Fountain of Love is continually pouring his grace out upon his children, and yet, how often do we—do I—choose other, lesser things to occupy our hearts and minds? As Joseph M. Scriven wrote in the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

In his introduction to John Owen’s Communion With the Triune God, Kelly M. Kapic says this:

Communion with God, however, is distinct from union. Those who are united to Christ are called to respond to God’s loving embrace. While union with Christ is something that does not ebb and flow, one’s experience of communion with Christ can fluctuate.

How desperately I desire to respond to the grace of God. How earnestly I pray that the Spirit would enliven within me a taste for spiritual things and a longing for the love of God to flow more freely down to me. How I beg for the discipline to forsake unnecessary, worthless things for the joy of knowing our God.

Don’t you dear sisters? To us he offers his fellowship.

Cause and Effect

So does this mean that I am giving up on the other goals I have? Am I going to continue on in the bad habits of last year, sit and wait for some miracle if God to get rid of my love handles, or become content in my sinfulness? By no means.

As I seek the fellowship of the one who sanctifies, can I not have confidence that such fellowship will alter my life? Is it possible for the presence of God in my life to not alter it? Such a thought is laughable. Communion with the Holy God is the only catalyst that will bring about lasting change in my life. It is the cause and my sanctification is the effect.

Knowing God will change me.

It is the only thing that can.

Therefore, it is the only thing I resolve to pursue.

For Further Reflection:

What are things that get in the way of your communion with God? How can you purposefully seek a more intimate relationship with him? Share your thoughts in the comments; I’d love to hear from you!

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc