When I say the word, joy, what comes to mind? For many, thoughts of childhood memories flood the mind. For others, it may be their wedding day, or the birth of their children or grandchildren. A vast majority of our society may move beyond experiences with loved ones and gravitate towards material things, picturing a car, an investment portfolio or a career they have dreamt about for years.
Some people may grow anxious, or sad when they hear the word joy. Why is this? Becoming widely accepted is the belief that joy is found in the absence of problems, the accumulation of things, the achievement of dreams, or the experience of a lifetime. While these things can make you temporarily happy, it does not stem from true inner joy.
What this world defines as joy and what the Bible describes as joy is diametrically opposed. This world promises that joy is found in stuff, things, people, positions, etc... all material things that will pass away, while our joy is found in the finished work of Christ. We are New Creations in Christ Jesus. Because we are in Christ, we don't have to find our joy in circumstances, other people and their opinions, or things. Because we have Christ, we are being made new daily and have everything we need for life and godliness.
For the Christian who is living under the lie that they can hide their sin, and be joyful, please remember the Gospel which frees us from sin. Running to sex alcohol, pills, or food will not mask the pain of unacknowledged brokeness. The Gospel makes all things new. So when we sin, we have the gift of honest self examination. We can go before the throne of God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit and cry out for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). It is not until we are completely honest with God and ourselves that we can experience the joy of the Lord. The pathway to joy is celebrating authenticity.
"Very simply—I want honesty. I am not, as some well-intentioned people … have wanted to represent me, I am not Christian stringency in contrast to a given Christian leniency.
Certainly not, I am neither leniency nor stringency—I am human honesty.
I want to have the mitigation that is the current Christianity here in this country set alongside the New Testament in order to see how these two relate to each other...
But one thing I do not want at any price: I do not want to create, by suppression or artifice, the appearance that the current Christianity in this country and the Christianity of the New Testament resemble each other." Søren Kierkegaard, The Moment and Late Writings, p. 46
Being honest with ourselves (and with the current state of the universal church) is one of the hardest things we can ever do, but it is one of the most important aspects of Christianity. Without honest evaluation, Christianity cannot take place. Being honest with ourselves is more difficult than pulling out someone else's speck (Matthew 7:3). We can be far more critical with others than with ourselves. It takes a huge dose of humility to be honest in our self-self-assesment, but this is the pathway to Life.
Indeed, the process of walking from guilt to grace is easier said than done. For many, the change happens instantaneously, as if being hit by a Mack truck. Many speak of radical change where the deep, inward struggles of life are lifted immediately upon a point of decision. Never again do they struggle with whatever it was that was burying them into deep anxiety, depression or sin. One woman speaks of coming to grips with deep sin committed against her as she was able to forgive the perpetrator for the deep harm. While this is highly commendable and a work of grace in her life, another woman struggles with years to forgive the sin done against her. Does one experience more grace than the other just because one case had grace poured out more quickly than the other? Does the rate at which grace is applied have anything to do with how much grace is applied? At the same time, we can see that one is more quickly coming to grips with her authenticity while the realization is coming a bit more slowly for the other.
We can speak of authenticity not only for those who have been harmed by the sins of others, but we must also realize that sin is most harmful when it comes from within oneself. Just as we have spoken about the variable rates at which people come to terms with sins committed against them, there are variable rates at which people confess their sins. Some are quick to confess their sins and others slowly awaken to the depth of their sins and their need for grace. For some, their sin smacks them in the face immediately, and certainly this is grace! But for others, God may be doing a deep, inner work that may be going on for years! Is this any less grace, because it is being applied over a long period of time?
We see this taking place in Israel's history. God would, at times, do instantaneous work in the life of His beloved nation, Israel. At other times, He would seemingly take great patience as He was applying His grace towards them for long periods. Should we expect God to be any different today?
Maybe you are crying out for God to do an instantaneous work of grace. You might be sick and tired of fighting and the battles you face might be wearing you thin. Your resolve might be ready to give way. But authenticity and coming face to face with our inner beings is often a work that takes time and patience. We must be ready to walk at the pace of the Spirit and work towards the honesty that God requires. He requires a broken and contrite heart. This is pleasing to God, and a Christian who is experiencing real reformation will learn the beauty of brokenness and the power of confession. He will also learn that this is worship and worship does not concern itself with a calendar or a clock. When we are in the presence of the King, we stand in the presence of the timeless one. May we not rush the process of the Spirit's workings, but learn to own up to every minute of coming clean.
God help us learn the beauty and the attitudes required to be honest with the reality of our hearts.
In our rushed society, not enough time is given to honest self-reflection, true confession and self-evaluation in light of the real God of the Bible. Regarding the opening quote, I find that Kierkegaard was greatly disturbed by "cultural Christianity" as it did not match the Christianity of the New Testament, which requires a truly broken and contrite Spirit (Ps. 51:17). The issues Kierkegaard faced is where we find ourselves again today. Let us reform our hearts to the attitudes and the virtues of the True and Living Way - Jesus Christ, as found in the Living Scriptures. God help us to submit ourselves to Biblical evaluation and reformation of our hearts, no matter how painful it might be and how much time it may require.
I am a great sinner saved by far greater grace. God has blessed me with a wonderful family and a beautiful Gospel congregation at Twin Lakes Bible Church.