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Distinctives 5

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Today we’re in the last week of our series on our theological distinctives, those points of doctrine which are secondary, but which we affirm because a) we believe they’re true; and b) because they have a significant impact on the life of our church.
We’ve covered a good number of controversial topics, so it might be a relief today to end on our last distinctive, which (in many minds) is a good deal less controversial: the relationship between the glory of God and the joy of man.
But while we wouldn’t imagine this would be the subject of much debate, practically speaking, it is.
It’s a difficult subject because of the way we use both words—“glory” and “joy”—and the way we see them relating to one another.
For example, we can affirm that God is glorified in our joy, thinking that if we pray with faith he will give us what we want, to make us happy—the husband or wife we desired, the kids we’ve always wanted to have, that great promotion we’ve been working for, etc.
That kind of thinking is unbiblical and dangerous in the extreme.
On the other hand, we can also reject the idea that God is glorified in our joy, because joy is self-seeking—and an action is only moral when we don’t act out of self-interest, but out of duty (which is what Immanuel Kant said). We can think that if we really want to please God, we have to serve him without any desire to get anything out of it.
That kind of thinking, perhaps more surprisingly, is also unbiblical and dangerous.
Where we land here depends on the way we understand the meaning of “glory”, and on the source of our joy. So we’re going to need to take time to see how the Bible uses the word “glory,” and where it commands us to seek our joy. So that’s what we’ll be doing today.
Let’s start with glory.

The Glory of God

In 1957 Marcel Pagnol published one of my favorite books, his autobiographical novel La gloire de mon père.
It tells the story of how young Marcel, on vacation with his family, grew to appreciate the simple wisdom of his father, a 25-year-old schoolteacher, who also happens to be a very poor hunter. At the end of the book, his father shoots at a pair of birds, and thinks he has missed. It’s disappointing, because this was the first time his son had come hunting, and saw the whole thing.
Marcel runs into the brush and returns to see his father and uncle discussing the missed shot. We read:
I approached them, and saw poor Joseph [the father]. Cap askew, he chewed nervously on a rosemary branch, and lifted his sad face. So I leapt onto the summet of a rock overlooking the valley and, my body tight as a bow, I cried with all my strength, “He killed them! He killed them both!”
And in my little bloody fists from which hung four golden wings, I lifted the glory of my father toward the sky, in the light of the setting sun.
Je m’étais approché, et je voyais le pauvre Joseph. Sous sa casquette de travers, il mâchonnait nerveusement une tige de romarin, et hochait une triste figure. Alors, je bondis sur la pointe d’un cap de roches, qui s’avançait au-dessus du vallon et, le corps tendu comme un arc, je criai de toutes mes forces : « Il les a tuées ! Toutes les deux ! Il les a tuées ! »
Et dans mes petits poings sanglants d’où pendaient quatre ailes dorées, je haussais vers le ciel la gloire de mon père en face du soleil couchant.
It’s a beautiful book (the sequel, Le château de ma mère, is even better, by the way), and it illustrates well the way we understand the word “glory” today.
“Glory” is, in our minds, recognition of a job well done, or something beautiful that we have seen.
Je m’étais approché, et je voyais le pauvre Joseph. Sous sa casquette de travers, il mâchonnait nerveusement une tige de romarin, et hochait une triste figure. Alors, je bondis sur la pointe d’un cap de roches, qui s’avançait au-dessus du vallon et, le corps tendu comme un arc, je criai de toutes mes forces : « Il les a tuées ! Toutes les deux ! Il les a tuées ! »
Et dans mes petits poings sanglants d’où pendaient quatre ailes dorées, je haussais vers le ciel la gloire de mon père en face du soleil couchant.
And that’s not entirely wrong: when the Bible talks about the glory of God, it isn’t less than that; but it is much, much more.
In the Old Testament, the word for “glory” means “heaviness” or “weight.” A thing’s “glory” is what gives it its mass, its bulk. It is what makes something what it is.
16  Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
17  For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy.
(Of course the lesson there is that some things which make up our “glory” aren’t really that glorious.)
Eli was, as we know, a big man, and his weight lent gravity the extra push it needed to kill him when he fell. It was, at least at that moment, what made him what he was: dead.
In the same way, the glory of God is what makes God who he is. It is all of his splendor, all of his attributes, all of his holy character, put together.
But just saying that isn’t enough, because implicit in the idea of glory is that it has to be seen.
It had already been seen by God himself, for all eternity, in the persons of the Trinity. Now, in the Old Testament, in , we see God give a vision of his glory to his prophet.
And what he saw was so glorious and so wonderful, he wanted others to see it too.
And what they saw was so glorious that God desired for others to see it too.
So all throughout the Old Testament
Ezekiel describes a vision he received of the throne room of God. He writes (v. 26):
26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
So in Ezekiel’s vision, the glory of the Lord has two basic attributes. It looks like brightness, and it looks like a person.
You wouldn’t expect the heaviness of God to be described as “light,” but this is what we see all through the book of Ezekiel: the glory of God is a brilliant, shining light, which radiates out and illuminates everything it touches.
Light, by definition, is something you can’t miss. Not only can you see it, but by it you can see everything else.
“So the glory of God is like radiant light, shining out, enlightening and giving life. And that is what the innermost being and weight of God is like: he is a sun of light, life and warmth, always shining out. As the Father gives out life and being to the Son, as the Father and Son breathe out the Spirit, so the Spirit breathes out life into the world. The glory of this God is radiant and outgoing.”
So there we can get a little closer to what the Bible means when it talks about the glory of God. The glory of God is all of what makes him who he is, made visible. When we see God for who he is and what he is like, we see his glory.
But left alone, that would also be hard to grasp, because you can’t see an attribute. You can’t see holiness. You can’t see omniscience. You can’t see goodness. You can see the effects of these things, but not the things themselves.
That is why the glory of God that Ezekiel saw in the throne room didn’t just look like a light, but also like a person.
In , which is the New Testament counterpart of , John has a vision of the new heavens and the new earth—the final state of the world God will renew. He describes a city which fills the whole earth, in which there is no more corruption or sin or danger or death. And after describing the city itself, he says (v. 23),
23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
This “Lamb”, as we see over and over again in the book of Revelation, is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. Christ is the “lamp” from which the glory of God shines out and gives light to everything.
This could be confusing, because Jesus is a man.
Yes, he is. But he is not an ordinary man. He is God himself, MADE man. The Son took on a human nature, became a human being, to show us who God is and what he is like. The letter to the Hebrews says ():
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature...
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the radiance of the glory of God. If we want to see everything that God is, made visible, we look at Christ. In the person of Jesus Christ we see everything God is, every attribute and all of his character, everything that makes him who he is, made visible for us to see. In the person of Christ, the radiance of the glory of God shines out.

The Joy of Man

So God is glorious—good for him. The question is, what does this have to do with our joy?
Everything. Because if God’s glory is only something to be seen, it is a distant, cold reality. Think of Mount Everest—great to look at, but it’s likely to kill you if you try climbing it.
God’s glory is even worse. Moses couldn’t even look at God’s glory without dying ().
But in the person of Christ, that separation between human beings and the glory of God was taken away.
In the person of Christ, God became a human being, and he radiated his glory for everyone to see. Not only could people see him; they could speak to him. They could listen to his voice, and touch him. For the first time, people could come close to the glory of God.
In the person of Christ, human beings saw for the first time who God is, and what he is like.
Now if I had to take a natural guess as to what “God made man” would look like, I would probably imagine something like an all-powerful emperor who also looked like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—physically imposing, and with the authority to make everyone bow to his will.
But this is not what we saw when Jesus came.
What we saw was someone who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many ().
What we saw was a God who emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant ().
He displayed this humble service all throughout his life and ministry, and he displayed it ultimately in his death on the cross for us. says,
For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
It makes perfect sense that the death of Christ, which displays the glory of God,
So when we find out more about Jesus, we start to see how the unique glory of our unique God is not just a cold and distant reality to be observed (like Everest), but something which actually does bring joy to his people.
When the apostle Paul defi
We as human beings had rejected the glory of God—when the apostle Paul defines sin, he says that sin is exchanging the glory of God for substitutes, exchanging the truth about God for a lie, worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (). That’s what sin is.
So it makes perfect sense that the thing which would do away with our sin is also the thing which would most perfectly display God’s glory.
Jesus Christ took our sin—our rebellion against God—on himself so completely that Paul can say he actually became sin for us. And in exchange for our sin, he gave us his perfect life—so that we might become the righteousness of God.
Through his life, death and resurrection, Christ killed our sin, united us to his Father; and by his Spirit, he glorifies himself even further by transforming us into his image.
We often speak in church about “sanctification,” but we don’t always take time to define what that means. When we say that the Holy Spirit “sanctifies” us, what we mean is that God sets us apart as his people, and progressively, he makes us more and more like Christ.
He changes our hearts, and reshapes our hearts to love what he loves, and hate what he hates, and he helps us to start acting on those new desires. He helps us begin not only to think the way Christ thinks, but to act the way Christ acts—to be like him in both our actions and our motivations.
And the main way he does this is by helping us to know and see the glory of Christ more and more clearly. Paul says in :
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
As we behold the glory of the Lord, we are transformed by what we see. The more we contemplate the glory of Christ, the more we are transformed to be like what we see.
And the result is very simple: the more we see that glory, the happier we are.
Perhaps the easiest place to see this in the Bible is in Jesus’s prayer to his Father in . It’s an incredible passage: Jesus prays to his Father, for his disciples, and for us. He prays in v. 4:
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was writing from prison. Under threat of death.
He’s writing this letter in prison. Under threat of death.
And yet when you read the letter, you have not so much as a hint of sadness or fear on Paul’s part. He speaks of rejoicing, or joy—either his or the Philippians’—fourteen times in this short letter alone.
I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
And yet when you read the letter, you have not so much as a hint of sadness or fear on Paul’s part. He speaks of rejoicing, or joy—either his or the Philippians’—fourteen times in this letter alone.
And in chapter 1, verses 18 to 26, he gives the reason for his joy.
And here he gives the reason for his joy.
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
So he’s saying that in his ministry, he glorified the Father by doing what he was supposed to do: by preaching the kingdom of God, and healing the sick, and living a perfect life. But his work is not finished—he’s about to go to the cross. So he asks God to glorify him in that work. That alone is amazing enough: the fact that at the cross, in this horrific ritual of torture and death, Jesus Christ is glorified—to the point where he can say that the glory he shows us at the cross is the glory he had before he even became a human being.
Paul is honest about the fact that if he had the choice between living or dying, he’s not sure what he would choose. On the one hand, dying would mean going to be with Christ—and that is, as he says, far better. On the other hand, he knows the Philippians need him, and he wants to serve their progress and joy in the faith.
But that’s not all he says. Next he turns to us. V. 20:
His desire is that Christ be honored in his body, whether by life or by death.
In either case, he says, it’s okay—whether he lives or whether he dies, he knows that Christ will be honored in him. It’s a striking thing to hear someone say that they’re okay with the idea of dying or being persecuted as long as they know that Christ will be glorified by whatever happens to them.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word [that’s US], 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
When Jesus has one final request to send to his Father, it is that we might be with him. Why? Not so that he can be loved, as if he were lacking any love before. He wants us to be with him that we might see his glory. The best thing Jesus could possibly wish for us and pray for us is that we might see his glory.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
It’s a striking thing to say that they’re okay with the idea of dying or being persecuted as long as they know that Christ will be glorified by whatever happens to them.
The only explanation he can give for his courage is that Christ is his life. He has seen the glory of Christ, and every other desire he may have had before pales in comparison to the desire to see Christ glorified even more, either by his life or by his death.
So why does he say this? Why did the Spirit inspire John to record these exact words for us to have still today? He explains why in v. 13. Jesus prays to the Father,
13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
The only explanation he can give for his courage is that Christ is his life. Christ is his joy. He has seen the glory of Christ, and every other desire he may have had before pales in comparison to the desire to see Christ glorified even more, either by his life or by his death.
In other words, the end goal of the Christian life is that we might be with Christ and see his glory. Jesus wants us to know that this is the reason for which we were created—seeing his glory is the end result that he intends for his children.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
And knowing that we exist to see his glory, and will one day see that glory completely, with no sin to hide it from our eyes, results in us sharing in Christ’s joy. As he had previously said in ,
He knows that no matter what happens to him, Christ will be glorified, and he’s going to get to see that glory. And that reality makes him abundantly, joyously happy.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
And this is the way all of the authors of the New Testament speak. Even when it doesn’t seem like it.
What about self-denial? What about when Jesus said,
Now at this point, a lot of Christians will have some questions. They’ll ask, “What about ?”
Remember when Jesus said this, in ?
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
That doesn’t seem to be an invitation to seek our own joy. That looks like a command to do whatever God asks you to do, no matter how unhappy it makes you.
But if you read that verse in context, you see why he commands it.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Every time the Bible calls us to deny ourselves, to suffer, to accept persecution or mistreatment or the taking of our property for his sake, that is the motivation the authors give us. Every call for self-sacrifice is anchored in the promise of reward.
That sounds borderline blasphemous to many Christians today. “You mean, I should serve God in order to get stuff from him? How is that any different from those prosperity preachers who promise that if you’ll do the right thing, then God will give you a beautiful wife and 2.5 children and a great home and a jet? How it different from the promises of eternal pleasure that other religions offer?”
It’s different because the reward the Bible promises, the “life” we are called to find, isn’t any thing that God could give us, but God himself.
:
11  You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The joy that we are promised as sons and daughters of God is joy in his presence; the pleasures we are promised are the pleasures of simply being able to be with him, at his right hand. Paul can speak the way he does because the life he is seeking isn’t a comfortable life out of prison, but Jesus Christ himself. For me to live is Christ, he says. And even in prison, he has Christ, so he can be happy.
You see, the Bible calls us to seek our joy, but to seek our joy in the right place. It calls us to behold and contemplate and rejoice in the glory of God, manifested in Jesus Christ.
Why Christ came
To show who God is and what he is like
How he showed it
By taking on the form of a servant and dying for our sins
How that brings us joy
Through his life, death and resurrection, he unites us to God and makes us look like him.
Sanctification is nothing less than seeing and being transformed by the glory of God.
And once we have seen it, we never want anything else. ()
What about self-denial and taking up our cross? What about suffering and persecution?
Why does the Bible call us to go through those things?
Because it promises us eternal joy at his right hand.
Every call for self-sacrifice in the Bible is anchored in the promise of reward.
And the “reward” it promises could not be more different from the promises of reward in other religions.
Our reward is God himself ().
So at Eglise Connexion, we are whole-heartedly committed to both glorifying God and seeking for ourselves as much true joy as possible, because the joy of the Christian IS the glory of God.
A long time ago we went through the Westminster Shorter Catechism with Jack, and he can still remember the answer to the first question (an answer we slightly tweaked).
Question: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
When teaching it to Jack, we took some good advice and ever so slightly tweaked the wording of the answer. Now, when we ask him the question, What is the chief end of man? Jack will respond:
The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.

Implications

Now you might be wondering why this matters enough to call it a theological distinctive. Why does this matter enough to devote an entire week to only speaking about this subject?
It matters because in my experience, there are few theological subjects which have had a greater impact on my own life, on a very ground-level, day-to-day basis, as the relationship between God’s glory and my joy in him.
Now the big question is, what difference does all this make? Let’s assume that it’s true: that God’s glory and our joy are related in this way. What does it change for us?
Well, if you think about the way many—if not most—Christians instinctively live their Christian lives, it changes a great deal. It forces us to realize a certain number of things about our relationship with God that we hadn’t necessarily considered before.
Three things in particular.
Firstly, if you are seeking your ultimate joy anywhere else but in God’s glory, you are seeking a joy which does not exist.
Now of course this doesn’t there is no happiness outside of God. Anyone who says that the only way to be happy is to know Jesus is either lying, or doesn’t know any unbelievers. There are millions of very happy unbelievers out there.
The problem is that their happiness is of a different sort, and it is a happiness that will not last.
The joy we’re talking about here isn’t simply an emotion; it is not a kind of divine protection against sadness. Rather, it is a kind of anchor—no matter what is happening outside the boat, the ocean floor never moves, and we are tied to that. The joy of the Christian is rooted in the glory of God—which has always shone, and will always shine. No matter what is going on in our lives, our reason for joy never changes, never moves, never wavers.
Imagine a boat that throws down its anchor in the sea. What happens if a storm comes up? The waves rise; the boat is tossed around; the water comes in; there are moments when it seems that the boat is in danger of capsizing.
So rather than being joy instead of sadness, ours is a joy that outshines sadness, a joy that outshines devastation, a joy that allows us to persevere when we seem to have every reason to throw in the towel.
This is why Jesus can call us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him (). He can call us to do that because he promises—in the very next verse, no less—that whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (). Even his calls to suffer for him are rooted in the promise of joy in him.
But for all the chaos on the surface of the water, the ocean floor, to which the anchor is fixed, never moves. The boat never leaves its place on the map, because no matter how much it is beaten around by the waves, it is anchored to a solid ground that doesn’t move in the least.
And that joy will not end at our death, but will only increase, steadily and surely, for all eternity, because for all eternity, we’ll see and understand and behold more and more and more of the glory of God.
That is the ultimate joy we’re talking about, and if you are seeking it anywhere else but in his glory, you’re chasing after a shadow—a joy which doesn’t exist, and which you wouldn’t want even if you could get it.
Secondly (kind of a reverse of what I just said), if you aren’t joyful in God, then you aren’t seeing his glory.
If you are seeking your joy anywhere else but in God’s glory, you are seeking a joy which does not exist.
Before Christ, the glory of God was a fearful thing for human beings to contemplate, because it wasn’t just God’s love and mercy and compassion, but also his justice and wrath against sin. To see God’s glory was to be judged by God’s glory, and no one could withstand it.
You can be temporarily happy (anyone who says otherwise is either deluded or lying), but your joy will not be full, and it will not last.
But Jesus withstood that judgment for us. He took it on himself, so we wouldn’t have to. So now, we can simply marvel at that glory, in the face of our Savior.
And if we do that, then necessarily, what happened to Paul will happen to us. If we see God’s glory, then necessarily, we will rejoice in it, because that’s what he created us for: to see his glory.
So if you aren’t joyful in God, then you aren’t seeing his glory. You’re looking everywhere else but where you should be looking.
Thirdly, perhaps the most sobering implication of all: if you are not rejoicing in God, then you are disobeying him.
Joy in God is not a bonus in the Bible; it is not a nice side benefit of salvation. Joy in God is a commandment.
:
Delight yourself in the Lord.
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
It’s not a suggestion, but a commandment. And as with every commandment, there are promises of reward if we obey, and threats of punishment if we do not.
:
47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything.
The Bible takes our joy in the Lord very, very seriously.

Application

So what do we do? How do we respond to the Bible’s call that we glorify God by rejoicing in him?
Again, there are many ways—but today we can content ourselves with three.
If you are not joyful in God, you aren’t seeing his glory.
Firstly, fight for your joy in God.
Because seeing God’s glory necessarily makes us joyful.
Talking about finding our joy in God’s glory is a risky endeavor, because it can give the impression that it should be easy. We’re talking about joy, after all; if you rejoice in something, no one has to pull your arm to make you do it. You do it because you want to.
But Jesus never said any of this would be easy. He was telling the truth when he said that if we wanted to find our lives, we had to lose them. He was telling the truth when he said we had to die to ourselves if we want to follow him. Putting our own selfish desires on the backburner is never easy, and Jesus never said it would be.
He just said what we get when we die to ourselves is better than whatever we keep if we don’t.
Jesus went to the cross, and fought sin and death and hell itself to reconcile us to the Father, for the joy that was set before him ().
And it is there—through that suffering, and TO that joy—that he invites us to follow him.
If you have a hard time finding your joy in Christ, you’re not alone. That is the struggle of every single day of my life. Don’t beat yourself up if this is hard for you.
But don’t put your hands down. FIGHT. Endure whatever you have to endure, give up whatever you have to give up.
And do it for the joy that is set before you—the joy of seeing God’s glory, and delighting in the fellowship of his Son, and being united to him by his Spirit, forever.
The question is, how do we fight for our joy?
Secondly: learn to know your God well.
It is impossible to rejoice in something you don’t know.
If you are not rejoicing in God, you are disobeying God.
God perfectly revealed himself in the person of his Son—and those who were with the Son faithfully transmitted to us everything we need to know about him. In the pages of Scripture, we see God revealed. In the pages of Scripture, we see his glory.
So if we want to rejoice in God’s glory, we have to use the means he has given us to know him.
So if we want to rejoice in God’s glory, we have to use the means he has given us to know him.
Joy in God is not a bonus; it is a commandment.
Read your Bible. Pray your Bible. Memorize your Bible.
It sounds overly simplistic, but if it were really that simple, more Christians would do it.
In the Bible, God has told us everything we need to know about him, and we could never exhaust its revelations, not in a thousand lifetimes. Learn what God has said about himself, and do it for the rest of your life.
Thirdly: let what you see in the Bible shape you into the image of the Son.
Reading the Bible and knowing the Bible is where we start, but it is not where we finish. It is not enough to know the Bible—even by heart—if we do nothing with that knowledge.
As you read the Bible, pray that the Spirit would help you to love what God loves. As you grow in your knowledge of God’s character, pray that the Spirit would shape your character. As you grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ, pray that the Spirit would help you to love what he loves, and hate what he hates.
That process is sometimes impercetibly slow for us; we are always quicker to see our faults than our progress. Most of the time those changes in us take place when we didn’t even realize it. Often, it’s only looking back that we see we did the right thing for the right reason.
So pray that the Spirit would change you, and then while you wait on him, do what he tells you to do, and let him teach you by experience that his ways are better than yours.
Obey God’s commandments. If you obey while praying the Spirit might change you, he will change you. You’ll learn by experience that God knows what he’s talking about when he commands us to do some things, and to not do others. You’ll learn from experience that his way is better.
And that is why God didn’t just give us theology; that is why he didn’t just give us character traits to grow in. That’s why he gave us commandments: concrete and practical commandments, things we can do, and things we can refrain from doing, while we pray that the Spirit changes us.
Any seasoned Christian can testify to the grace God has given us in his commandments. As we grow in his character, we naturally obey his commandments, because that’s what his character looks like.
But it’s a two-way street. Just as our changed hearts produce obedience to God, obedience to God changes our hearts. As we obey God’s commandments, we learn from experience that he knows what he’s talking about when he commandments to do some things, and to not do others. We learn from experience that his way is better.
Obedience to his commandments teaches us to love what we should love. And that love gives us strength to obey his commandments.
If you want to glorify God by rejoicing in him, don’t just know your God; obey your God. Rejoice in what pleases him.
Lastly, fight for your joy in God.
In other words, don’t wait to feel like obeying God’s commandments; obey his commandments, and trust that God is shaping you to desire them.
Talking about finding our joy in God’s glory is a risky endeavor, because it can give the impression that it should be easy. We’re talking about joy, after all; if you rejoice in something, no one has to pull your arm to make you do it. You do it because you want to.
But Jesus never said any of this would be easy. He was telling the truth when he said that if we wanted to find our lives, we had to lose them. He was telling the truth when he said we had to die to ourselves if we want to follow him. Putting our own selfish desires on the backburner is never easy, and Jesus never said it would be.
He just said what we get when we die to ourselves is better than whatever we keep if we don’t.
says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him.
Jesus went to the cross, and fought sin and death and hell itself to reconcile us to the Father, for the joy that was set before him ().
And it is there—through that suffering, and TO that joy—that he invites us to follow him.
If you have a hard time finding your joy in Christ, you’re not alone. That is the struggle of every single day of my life. Don’t beat yourself up if this is hard for you.
But don’t put your hands down. FIGHT. Endure whatever you have to endure, give up whatever you have to give up.
And do it for the joy that is set before you—the joy of seeing God’s glory, and delighting in the fellowship of his Son, and being united to him by his Spirit, forever.
If you are not glorifying God by your joy in him, you will glorify him in his wrath against you.
Should I include this…?
FIGHT for your joy.
Jesus never said this would be easy; tather, he showed you God by showing you himself, and asked you to follow him.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have a hard time with this; fight for it.
Know your God well.
Main way God reveals himself today: his Word.
Read your Bible. Pray your Bible. Memorize your Bible.
In the Bible, contemplate and meditate on your God. See his glory in the person of Christ.
Let what you see in the Bible shape you into the image of the Son.
OBEY HIM—not out of compulsion, but because you believe that seeing God’s glory in Christ, and being like him, is where joy is found. Because you believe that God never commands anything that is not what is best for us.
FIGHT for your joy in God.
Jesus never said this would be easy; tather, he showed you God by showing you himself, and asked you to follow him.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have a hard time with this; fight for it.

Conclusion

Years ago we began taking Jack through the Westminster Shorter Catechism, a summary of the Christian faith written in the 17th century. It has ever since been a reliable teaching tool for children and for new believers.
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
The first question (which Jack can still answer) goes like this:
Question: What is the chief end of man?
UNBELIEVERS....
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
One wise soul suggested a slight alteration to the answer, one which reflects the Bible’s teaching a little more fully. It is this altered version that Jack learned.
What is the chief end of man?
The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.
This is the reason why we exist. This is how we glorify God, and this is how we find our full and eternal joy.
So let’s run hard after our joy in him. Let’s look at the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, as his Spirit has revealed him in Scripture. Let’s pray to be changed by the glory we see, and rejoice in what we see, forever.
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