It is good to end the week by gathering the puzzle pieces of each day’s time with God and consider the picture that has come together. This week the pieces seemed to come through much digging in the quarry, and painful discoveries of heart and soul. As usual, and as promised, God worked it all together for good (Romans 8:28).
Lesson one: Beloved (I John 4:1)
As I read the New Testament letters to the churches, I am to read as one who is beloved, not only to God, but to my elders in the church.
Lesson two: Beloved (I John 4:1)
John was writing as an elder who saw the rest of the church as “beloved." As I grow up, I must open my heart to the beloved identity of my whole family in Jesus Christ.
Lesson three: Our Joy (I John 1:4)
John’s aim in writing his letter was, “to make our joy complete." John’s joy could only be complete as his readers joined in fellowship with God and his people in order to live by the words that God has given us through the writers of Scripture.
Lesson four: Joy-walk (III John 1:3-4)
John explains why his joy is affected by “our joy” when he writes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” When we receive the words of God through John’s letters, and the other writings of the New Testament, and we all walk in the truth together, the leaders who are leading us to walk in the truth share in the fullness of joy that we also experience as we find our joy in walking in the truth.
Lesson five: God-lessons in prayer (Psalm 86:11)
“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” As God stirs our hearts with this hope of completeness of joy through the fellowship of walking in the truth (who doesn’t like a good walk with friends?), he also teaches us how to pray that he would teach us how to walk in his truth. It was of very special interest to me that David asked God to unite his heart to fear God’s name. Our divided hearts need such a prayer, and such a hope.
Lesson six: God-lessons in answered prayer (I John 5:14-15)
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” God teaches us to pray that he would teach us to walk in his truth because he answers such prayers that are so clearly according to his will. And, he does this so that we can know complete joy in fellowship with him and his people.
Lesson seven: Heart-to-heart joy-sharing
Two things happened this week that encouraged me in the practical necessity of seeking out the kind of fellowship that leads to completing our joy.
First, I was encouraged to share with our home church more personally than usual. The result was that others felt a lot of encouragement in knowing how I was doing. It made my processing of God’s word all the more real to them, and had this strange effect of doing something unusual to build up our mutual joy. Hmmm…
Second, on a day when I seemed plagued with a strange degree of negative thoughts (likely something to do with God teaching me that being beloved had nothing to do with good behavior), when I mentioned the troubling thoughts, the response immediately exposed that I didn’t have a clue what I was thinking about. My sark/flesh was busted (once again), and I realized in a far deeper way why we must seek the most honest fellowship with God and his people. Devoting ourselves to this kind of fellowship (Acts 2:42) makes sure that the sarky thoughts have no time to take root in our souls. God has much better things for us to think and do (Philippians 4:8-9).
Conclusion: After a week of prayerful meditation on God’s word, along with the interaction of the church family helping me see how God was doing the things he was speaking about, I found that my joy-levels had gone through a bit of a Beatitudinal journey (Matthew 5:1-12).
First, I had to face the poverty of my spiritual experience of “beloved.” It was bad enough that I found myself mourning whatever was wrong inside me. In short order, I was meekly aware that there was no way I was the one to fix this. And that led to me hungering and thirsting to know the deepest possible experience of what this whole “beloved” relationship is supposed to feel like.
The result was that I could see how the experience of mercy conditioned me to be more merciful. The cleansing of sarky thoughts brought about greater heart-purity. This maturing purity of heart made me want to be a true peacemaker (instead of peacekeeper). And, the desire to bring people to know the kind of peace with God that completes our joy added shape to my increasing freedom to rejoice when fellowship with God and his people brings about unjust and unfair suffering.
It all left me feeling another wave of wonder at the real, daily, transforming, experiences God’s children have in his word and prayer. As Paul said, “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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:18).
This week showed that the journey to Christ-likeness will traverse painful discoveries about ourselves that are necessary to our transformation. Poverty of spirit leads to the hungering for righteousness by faith that God can satisfy. The more we feel the satisfaction of a righteousness that comes by faith, the more we will move closer to God and his people in the kind of fellowship that completes our joy.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)