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Abundant, overwhelming and overflowing joy in God is normal. Parched, dry, starving souls are abnormal… but our experience and battle with sin leads us to believe it is normal because parched and dry is more our daily experience than abundant and overflowing joy. If your soul is starving, look to see how far you are from the throne of grace. Prayer is the road to a deeply satisfying, drought-resistant joy in God. Listen to Spurgeon:
“Starving souls live at a distance from the mercy-seat and become like parched fields in times of drought. Consistent wrestling in prayer with God is sure to make the believer strong- if not happy. The nearest place to the gate of heaven is the throne of the heavenly grace. Much alone [with Jesus], and you will have much assurance; little alone with Jesus, your religion will be shallow, polluted with many doubts and fears, and not sparkling with the joy of the Lord. Since the soul-enriching path of prayer is open to the very weakest saint; since no high attainments are required; since you are not bidden to come because you are an advanced saint, but freely invited if you be a saint at all; see to it, dear reader, that you are often in the way of private devotion. Be much on your knees…”
~ Charles Spurgeon, Morning By Morning, October 18
There are many voices claiming to know the secret to being effective and fruitful. Out of all of the ones clamoring to be heard, I want to remember the voice of Peter. In 2 Peter 1:5-9, he writes, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
The secret to being effective and fruitful is not some treasure waiting to be unearthed by the next great writer or preacher. It is not about Getting Things Done, becoming better organized, reading many books, getting more degrees, or unleashing my potential. Peter says that effectiveness and fruitfulness come from the qualities of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. These qualities protect us from becoming ineffective and unfruitful followers of Jesus.
But verse 9 is the key… if you lack these qualities, it is not because you do not try hard enough or do not have enough will power. It is because you have forgotten that your sins have been washed away by the blood of the cross. The first step in making these protective qualities a reality in your life is knowing that they have already been given to you by His power (verse 3) and never forgetting the cross (verse 9). The first step is a humble, thankful remembering of the cross.
I have been studying the theology of idolatry for some time now. Greg Beale’s book, We Become What We Worship, is an outstanding and convicting study of the destroying power of idolatry. David Powlison’s article, Idols of the Heart and “Vanity Fair”, was similarly excellent, enlightening and exposing! Tim Keller’s new release, Counterfeit Gods, has been just as helpful. He defines an idol as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give” (p. xvii). Keller goes on to say, “there are personal idols, such as romantic love and family; or money, power, and achievement; or access to particular social circles; or the emotional dependence of others on you; or health, fitness, and physical beauty. Many look to these things for the hope, meaning and fulfillment that only God can provide.”
There are idols everywhere and everything can be turned into one. Our blog is named ‘Pursuing Joy’… we want to encourage you as we labor alongside the body at Five Points as we pursue our joy in God alone! Along the way, everything in Vanity Fair calls out for our attention and entices us to find pleasure in the endless ocean of idols that the human heart can craft.
“The way forward, out of despair, is to discern the idols of our hearts and our culture. But that will not be enough. The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one” (p. xxiv). Keller’s words bring to mind Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” As we pursue joy together, with Vanity Fair crying out to us from the right and the left and our idol-factory hearts crying out to us from within, let us remember that the idols will always lead to destruction, but the One True God gives fullness of joy and everlasting pleasure.
The pastors of Five Points Community Church are now collaborating on a blog called Pursuing Joy. Here is an excerpt from Pastor Brent Nelson’s first post:
Lord-willing, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, new posts will appear by Pastor JJ Sherwood, Pastor Matt Johnson and myself. These will further clarify sermons, express the daily insights of our devotions, or offer the overflow of our study. We’ll include anything that God supplies to us that we believe will serve to enhance your joy in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Join us as we pursue our joy in God alone through Christ!