Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Christmas Challenge: Day Five

The Challenge

What do people have in their Christmas celebrations, and their lives in general, that is a greater expression of “good news of great joy”[1] than what Jesus the Christ did for us through his coming into the world, laying down his life in love, and securing an eternal victory over sin and death?

I learned a long time ago that the adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” is bogus, perhaps delusional.[2]

Why do I say that? Because the “do it yourself” mindset is bankrupt. It doesn’t work. We are tiny specks of dust in an endless universe. Even the sum of humanity is still nothing more than a cloud of sand blowing in the Sahara wind. The majority of athletes do not win Olympic gold; the majority of sports teams do not win their treasured trophy;[3] and the world is getting worse, not better.[4]

If this is true of life in general (and it is), how much more so when considering issues of our eternal destiny. We had no control over God when he wanted to have children in his own image and likeness.[5] We had no say when Jesus gathered dust together and created man.[6] We weren’t around when our first parents rebelled against our Creator and brought sin and death into the world.[7] We weren’t invited to the meeting where our parents decided to have children.[8] And we have no vote over what happens to people when we die. In so many cases, we don’t even get to choose how long or how well we live.

NONE of those things fit the “just do it yourself” mindset. And, they are the BIGGEST things that affect our lives now and forever.

The fact is that there is only ONE reason I can speak about lasting joy: it is GOD!!!
This is the secret to joy! It does not require joyful children. It does not require us to be unabused, untraumatized, unbroken, unsinful. The “good news of great joy” is all about what God has done. The reason God can return his children to “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” is because of who he is and what he has accomplished. And, since this joy is about him, he is not limited by our joyless starting points.
Those who know God best describe him like this: “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[9]

Why is God’s presence characterized by fullness of joy? Because God is the most joyful person. If it were possible for us to stand in his presence without the judgment and condemnation of sin hanging over our heads, we would see one in whom there is fullness of joy. To stand in his presence would be immersing ourselves in the fullness of joy. It would be our wildest dream of happiness come true with joy that is so unspeakable and full of glory that we would find ourselves totally joyful in God’s joy.
Why are there “pleasures forevermore” at the right hand of God? Because pleasure originates in him.

I grew up with Worldlings accusing God of being a “cosmic kill-joy." Because people knew God condemned sin and commended righteousness, and because their lost minds could neither conceive of life without sin nor of happiness in a life of righteousness, their dead little hearts concluded that God was out to steal their joy. As sin-lovers, they could not comprehend that God had come to deliver us from sin in order to return us to joy.
Because of this false notion that pleasure could only be associated with sin, and misery with righteousness, it was a hard sell to convince Worldlings that they should turn to God. In their minds, they were being asked to give up pleasure for misery. They were being told to accept a life of stoicism as though the admiration for being able to live without pleasure and joy would give greater satisfaction than striving for joyful pleasures.
Behind this deception, people were blinded to the glorious truth that it is at God’s right hand that there are “pleasures forevermore.” It is sin that has brought all the sorrow and misery into the world, and it is the Son of God who leads us back to joy. He left the pleasures that were perfect and complete in his heavenly home in order to come into our broken, sinful, cursed world, so he could save us out of our sin and return us to joy in his own righteousness.

Everything we know about Christmas is that it is one testimony after another that God has initiated something he knew would return people to joy. When he sent the angel with the announcement, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”,[10] he was telling us something wonderful about God: “Great joy” originates in him!

No one invited the announcement. No one asked for a Savior. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way”.[11] As a corpse does not know it is dead, so the lost did not know they were lost. When lost people grow up in a lost world filled with lost hopes and dreams they do not know there is something different. They do not imagine there is such a thing as being not-lost.

The whole idea of returning sinners to joy originates with God because he is so joyful in himself that his desire to have a creature in his own image and likeness is saturated with joy that wants to bring us to joy. This means that he must, by his very nature, infuse us with joy, and to a degree that it is “unspeakable and full of glory”!

God’s Book describes one of the times in history when his people were coming back to him after a season of rebellion and the corresponding discipline. After they began joining God in his work of rebuilding what their sin had broken, it was time to celebrate. Such wonderful things had been accomplished after the most demoralizing grief and heartache, and the return home had everyone delighted with their restored relationship to their heavenly Father, so celebration was in order.

As the people came together, singing and praising God, we are told that they “rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy."

This is what has happened repeatedly when people received the good news of great joy and returned to their Creator. It is what is now eternally possible because of the work of deliverance Jesus accomplished while he was here. It is what will happen to us if we bring all the brokenness and sin in our lives to Jesus Christ for his help and healing. HE will make us to rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.

© 2017 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
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.)

[1] Luke 2:10
[2] It is clearly prideful, conceited, and relationship destroying, especially when angrily shouted by a parent toward his or her children.
[3] I no longer follow hockey like I once did, but I well remember my younger years when the Vancouver Canucks entered the NHL and there was the annual hope that they would win the Stanley Cup. Since the Buffalo Sabres entered at the same time, I, of course, wanted the Canucks to make it to the podium before our rivals. However, at the time of writing, our Vancouver team has yet to win the ultimate hockey prize. Thankfully, neither have the Buffalo Sabres! And, thankfully, I no longer care!
[4] This is not only true morally, but science demonstrates that we are in a constant state of deterioration, a slap in the face to the lies of the evolutionary religion. God’s Book states very clearly that, “evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:13 with II Timothy 3:1-17 as the context).
[5] Genesis 1:26-27 reveals God’s intention in this matter, and Ephesians 1:3-14 shows the wonderful picture of God’s thoughts and plans regarding both wanting and determining that he would have children in his own image and likeness.
[6] Genesis 2
[7] Genesis 3
[8] Even if we were an “accident” by anyone’s definition, we still had nothing to do with our own creation.
[9] Psalm 16:11
[10] Luke 2:10
[11] Isaiah 53:6

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