Jesus Christ is Lord of All

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Joy in His Presence and Sorrow Apart from Him

Dear Father,
      Your joy is our strength. In Your strength we are able to obey. In obeying You we remain in You and our joy is complete. Please open our eyes to know Yous nearness to us so that we may be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Please continue to remove our broken cisterns which can never bring us joy. Teach us to live inside of You and to comprehend Your nearness. Forgive me for not having the joy that You promised no one would take away and grant Your people Spiritual eyes to know this great joy of Yours. 
In Jesus Christ's Name, 

     God's purpose in this letter is to show us that if we remain in Him through obedience to His command of love our joy will be complete. The sorrows of mankind always involve a separation between God and man. Ungodly sorrow involves personal separation from God through idolatry. Godly sorrow involves the temporary loss of acknowledgement of the Presence of God that should result in the Godly sorrow that brings repentance, and sorrow on behalf of other people who are separated from God. Additionally the sorrow that Jesus Christ experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane involved His foreknowledge of the temporary separation from His Father which He was to encounter on the cross. From this time until the resurrection of Christ, the state of sorrow within the hearts of the disciples represents the futile effort of God's people to bring forth the salvation that results in joy. God's promise to us is that if we remain in Him by obeying His command to abide in His love, our joy will be complete.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11  These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15

I. Sorrow Involves Separation from God

     Sorrow is a state of the heart characterized by sadness and grief. Sorrow always involves the separation between God and man. For those who do not trust in Jesus, their sorrows are a result of the idolatry of created things which can never bring joy. For those who believe in Jesus sorrow is a result of temporary idolatry in the heart, the Godly sorrow that brings repentance, or sorrow on behalf of other people who are separated from God. If man is completely aware of his reconciliation to the Father in Christ, He cannot experience ungodly sorrow and will experience the complete joy of the Lord. In the midst of this complete joy he may still have sorrow over lost souls and on behalf of the sufferings of God's people. A Christian may also have temporary sorrow from the Father's discipline for the sins of the flesh.

Ungodly Sorrow

As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
The  sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
Nor will I take their names upon my lips. Ps 16:4

     In the midst of the delights of wickedness, those who remain separated from God experience sorrow in the midst of their pursuit of false gods. This sorrow is a result of the separation of their lives from the Presence of God. They had no knowledge of the "Light of His Presence" which alone brings joy to the souls of mankind (Ps 44:3). Truth is the strong foundation of joy. For much of the essence of joy is rooted in an assurance and hope in a secure future: a joy that is "set before" us (Heb 12:2). For those who pursue false gods, there is an absence of Truth in which case there is never a hope (confidence, expectation) that is rooted and grounded in the immutable character of God. There is no knowledge of the character of God. There is no sense of faithfulness and there is no understanding of any eternal Covenant. Thus, in the absence of Truth, regardless of how strongly the lie of the deceitful promises of sin is believed by the unbeliever, there is an absence of hope. And in the absence of hope, joy has no soil to plant its roots. 

13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Rom. 15

     Furthermore, when the desire of the human heart is misaligned with the will of the Sovereign God, there is a sense of looming judgment as their "sins testify against them" (Is 59:12). The Spirit's work of conviction has made known to them that "the ordinance of God is that those who practice such things are worthy of death" (Rom 1:32). Those who practice idolatry have "exchanged their glory for that which does not profit" (Jer 2:11). And in this notion of the judgement that awaits them, there is no place for joy. With the darkened understanding of the character of God and the absence of a hunger and thirst for His righteousness, they were unable to experience the delights of the exaltation and worship of God. The soul of mankind was meant to find the deepest joy in praising and adoring the revealed glory of God. And in their separation from God, they could not know God or expend their beings in joyous worship of Him. What remained for idolaters to delight in was the temporary satisfaction of their mortal flesh. There was no blessed assurance. There was no removal of the fear of death and the eternal judgment of God. There was no filling of the soul with the living Water and praise of the Trinity. The only happiness that the idolater will ever find is the temporary satisfaction of the mortal flesh: the granted lusts of the flesh, the pride of life, and the boasting of what one has and does. What a wretched prospect. What a miserable slavery and degrading of the spiritual man made in the Image of God!

17 These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 2 Peter 2

    For us who have believed, we ought to "exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool for He is holy" (Ps 99:5). May we "flee from idolatry" (2 Cor 10:14) and "guard ourselves from idols" (I John 5:21). For the moment we resort to idolatry and remain there, we have forgotten the blessed hope and assurance and the removing of the veil that had prevented us from seeing and joyfully worshiping the glorious God, and the fear of death and judgement will surely sweep over us in the midst of our heart's condemnation. 

     How can we know if we harbor idols? Idols are those very things that we hang onto that we would "curse God and die" (Job 2:9) if they were removed. What if we had a time log of the thoughts of our mind and the feelings of our heart? Do we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength? In the face of physical death for Christ's sake, would we hang onto dear life as we shrink back in fear. Or would we have faith even onto death, knowing that Christ will present us holy before the Father and that His will to take us from this world is the best choice and will result in His glorification through some means. Idolatry can be damning, not because our Father has not blotted out our sin and is not working daily to discipline us, but because the continuous idolatry of the heart shows a heart that has discontinued in the belief of the Gospel that accompanies the Spiritual rebirth. In the midst of our sorrow, we must plead with our Father to reveal any evils of our flesh that triggered it. Surely we will be shown many things...

Godly Sorrow that Brings Repentance

10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Cor 7

      The Godly sorrow that brings repentance is a gift of the Spirit that occurs during the time of the conviction of sin prior to the repentance that results in restoration to the joy of salvation. This sorrow is based on a perceived deviance from the previously contemplated glorious Truth. The substance of the glory of God is Truth. We often think of Truth in terms of "right or wrong" or "correct and incorrect". But Truth is the substance that the glory of God consists of. God is glorious because He is the Truth. 

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.
Why should the nations say,
“ Where, now, is their God?” Ps 115:1-2

      There is an opening of the eyes of the heart and mind that occurs as the true sheep see the glory of God. And there is a deep sadness of the heart that will always be present in the sheep who temporarily deviate from the Truth. There is an acknowledgement in the heart of the absence of love apart from obedience to His commands. For the true sheep have come to understand at least in part the benefit and the life-bringing effect of His commands. It is a great pity that mankind in his idolatry has never known the glorious effect of obedience to His commands. And once even a glimpse of this effect is known, there will always be a Godly sorrow that results in repentance when a lie is believed. The sorrow results in repentance because the true sheep know the faithfulness of their God and have built their house on the eternal covenant of the Rock of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29). This work of belief is ongoing for the believer and requires perseverance and faithfulness. The believer must persevere in his worship of God alone and the abstaining from idolatry. The believer must faithfully believe in the faithfulness of God towards His own. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." (I Tim 2:13). Our only work is to believe. Keep on believing "for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). 

Godly Sorrow on Behalf of Others

     Those who walk in the Light of His Presence temporarily experience sorrow for the souls of the lost. We know that at the time when we see Jesus face to face, "He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces" (Is 25:8). Until that day, true believers experience sorrow over the souls of the lost. This type of sorrow may persist in the midst of Godly joy such that believers are "sorrowful yet always rejoicing" (2 Cor 6:10). Paul's conscience testified with himself in the Holy Spirit that he had "great sorrow and unceasing grief" in his heart and wished that he himself "were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren" (Rom 9:1-3). Similarly Paul "grieved over many who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged" (2 Cor 12:21). The sin of those in the church caused him sorrow perhaps for the sake of the true sheep within the church. Jesus Himself wept as the people cried over the death of Lazarus and was  "deeply moved in spirit and was troubled" (John 11:33). He knew that the death of Lazarus was allowed so that the glory of God would be revealed to the people. And yet the unbelief of the Jews caused Jesus to weep at their present separation from the knowledge of the Presence and glory of God. He likely experienced this sorrow at numerous times in His earthy life giving Him the title of the "Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief" (Is 53:3).

    There is a characteristic nature of Godly sorrow that allows it to pave the way for the joy of the Lord. Some of the deepest experiences of true joy follow periods of Godly sorrow. There is a never a removing of the blessed assurance and belief in the eternal Covenant of love in Christ during Godly sorrow. There is a deep peace and stability of the soul during Godly sorrow. Though the sorrow may be deep and ever present, there is a simultaneous vision of the heavenly realms of the Spiritual blessings of Christ. There is an understanding of the eternal judgement of God against wickedness and all who follow its path. There is a certainty in the Sovereignty of God in bringing glory to Himself and in revealing the "full extent of His love" to all His people (John 13:1)

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground; 
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants. 
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
    like poplar trees by flowing streams. 
One will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;
    another will call himself by the name of Jacob;
still another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ 
    and will take the name Israel.Is 44

II. The Sorrow of the Crucifixion

     There is a deep mystery in the events that occurred during the crucifixion of Christ. Christ was sent into the world to lay down His Life unto death only to take it up again so that all who believe in Him may be granted eternal Life and no longer be separated from the Father. During the crucifixion, I sense the Spirit teaching us that something extraordinary occurred that had never occurred prior to or after His work on the cross. Christ was to be separated from His heavenly Father for the first and last time. Similarly, those who were alive who followed Jesus did not understand and remember His promise to rise to Life again until after He had risen (see Luke 24). There is a requirement for Christ Himself to rise to Life in order for the people of God to be raised to Life with Him (Col 3). And if Christ had not been "delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification" (Rom 4:25), our "faith is futile and we still remain in our sins" (I Cor 15:17). Thus, if Christ had not been raised, we would remain separated from God. And we know that there would be only sorrow in the hearts of mankind in the absence of the knowledge of His Presence. Thus the period of time during the crucifixion reveals to the people of God the sense of sorrow and abandonment that would have overtaken them if God had not raised His Son from the dead. 

     As Jesus contemplated the cup of the wrath of His Father that was to be poured out on Him during this temporary separation from His Father, His "soul was deeply grieved to the point of death" (Mark 14:34). Again, in this case His Godly sorrow regarded the future separation from God that He was to experience. However, the separation of God the Father and God the Son during the crucifixion was the only instance in all eternity when a sinless man was separated from God. For the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all those who believe in Him and they are no longer separated from God. But as Christ bore our sin and "became sin for us" (I Cor 5:21) He was separated from His Father and the greatest sorrow befell Him. In the same way Christ told His disciples prior to the crucifixion that they would "weep and lament, but the world will rejoice", they would "grieve but their grief will be tuned to joy" (John 16:20). During this time leading up to and during the crucifixion the disciples were paralyzed with fear, "Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered" (Zech 13). Their temporarily unbelief and misunderstanding of the upcoming resurrection caused them to feel separated from God. In this isolation of the heart the disciples were "filled with grief" but soon they would see Christ again and "rejoice and no one would take away their joy" (John 16:22). In the midst of this sorrow, Jesus likens them to a woman in labor who is temporarily traumatized with pain and anguish. If only she could fully comprehend the live being that was coming into the world!

20 Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. 21  Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.John 16

    The temporarily isolation of the hearts of the disciples reveals the sorrow that would have befallen us if we lost sight of the nearness of our God through the salvation that Christ has purchased for us. Even if we sought God in prayer, in our lack of faith we could only whisper a prayer and we could never bring forth eternal Life and the reconciliation to the Father in Christ which alone could bring us joy. Now that Christ has risen to Life we are granted the Holy Spirit who does not fall short of being the full Presence of God "with us and in us" (John 14:17). When we have the Holy Spirit, we are in the the period of time where Christ's statement "no one will take your joy away from you" applies. “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘ Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. John 16 We ought to deeply understand this. If we truly believe what we claim to have believed, no one should be able to take away our joy. What is our work? Again, our work is to "believe in the One that God has sent". Keep on believing in His grace...

Lord, they sought You in distress;
They could only whisper a prayer,
Your chastening was upon them.
17 As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth,
She writhes and cries out in her labor pains,
Thus were we before You, O Lord.
18 We were pregnant, we writhed in labor,
We gave birth, as it seems, only to wind.
We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth,
Nor were inhabitants of the world born.
19 Your dead will live;
Their corpses will rise.
You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy,
For your dew is as the dew of the dawn,
And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.Is 26:16-19  

     Following the crucifixion when the work of Christ on the cross was finished and He had been raised to Life, the saints who were asleep in the Lord were raised and entered the holy city and appeared to many. At the very least, this is a picture of our resurrection with Christ. Apart from Him finished work, we remained separated from Christ. But all of the saints of all time are raised to Life with Christ to walk in the new unity with God that alone brings true joy. 

52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. Matthew 27

III. Completed Joy in His Presence

     When Jesus died, God did not "abandon His soul to Sheol" or "allowed His Holy One to undergo decay" but rather raised Him from the dead. Because Christ is risen, God has "made known to us the path of life" and "In His Presence is fullness of joy". Christ's resurrection has brought us reconciliation to God and a dispelling of the separation that had excluded us from joy. We are brought into His Presence and given fullness of joy. We will now discuss aspects of the true joy that results from our reconciliation to the Father in Christ by the work of the Spirit in our hearts. These aspects are in a particular sequence which will enable us to understand the development of true joy in our souls.

I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.Ps 16:8-11

1. God's joy brings us strength to obey Him.

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “ This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them. Neh 8

     As we understand the Words of Christ that are spoken to us, we would be sure to weep in conviction. For our lives would never measure up the to righteous law of God. God in His great mercy and compassion comforts us even in the midst of this Godly sorrow telling us not to grieve because the joy of the Lord is our strength. In our grief, the first step in the development of joy is to accept the joy of God as our strength: our sustenance, our anchor, our stronghold. Though we do not feel joy, when we behold the Face of our Redeemer, we will see that He has joy. We may not understand why He has joy because we have likely forgotten the delights of His glory and the great victory that He has already purchased for us. But in faith, in the midst of our sorrow, we must hold onto hope with the strength that God provides. And as we behold His joy, we are granted this strength. In our grief, we may feel helpless, hopeless, despairing...but our first resort is to see the joy of God. This joy may not be implanted inside of us yet, but we must see His joy with the faith that the Spirit gives us when we turn to the Word of God. His Word has pierced our hearts and brought us Godly sorrow, but then we look to His Face and He has joy. Consider a child who realizes that he has disobeyed his father. The child is filled with grief perhaps at his incompetence to please the father. But then the child looks at the father and the father is glad ! ! "Dad, why are you smiling? I have not obeyed you". Our heavenly Father smiles because He has removed the filth of our sin and He foresees His power to enable us to obey.  And as His children, may our hearts rest: "If dad is glad, then everything is going to be okay". This realization will at least bring the strength to stand firm in faith/obedience if not joy itself.

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For You have been my stronghold
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my strength, I will sing praises to You;
For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me loving kindness. Ps 59:16-17

2. God Commands us to Abide in His Love so that our Joy will be Complete

     With the strength that we are granted in the acknowledging of the joy of the Lord, we are able to obey Him. For in our weakness we would not be able to obey Him, but His joy has given us strength to obey. He commands us to abide in His love through keeping His commandments. Jesus Himself gave us the perfect example for us to follow for He has obeyed His Father's Commands and abided in love. He obeyed the Father to death on the cross and showed us the full extent of the love of the Father that He abided in. He tells us to obey Him and remain in His love so that our joy will be complete. There is a bitter deception that we must have all believed at some point that obedience to Christ involves torture and agony. But it is quite the opposite: For in obedience to God's commands we can never resort to the idolatry that results in sorrow. Obedience to God's Commands keeps us aware of His Presence. Every act of disobedience on our part has blocked our view of His glory and inhibited our joy. But in obeying Him we are able to see Him and comprehend His love towards us. He promises that though this remaining in Him, we are able to have completeness of joy.

Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11  These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15

3. The Perfection of Heart by Faith Allows our Desires to Align with God's Will

23  In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24  Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.John 16

     When our hearts are cleansed by the Word of God through our belief in Christ's finished work, our desires will be aligned with the will of God. As we make requests of Him we will not waver in our faith. For the wavering of faith accompanies the heart that is filled with the uncertainty that is a result of a guilty conscience. When we sense that we have idolatry or evil motives in our heart in the midst of our praying, our requests are never made with the faith that God requires when He promises to grant what we have asked for. The pure conscience will not host any evil desire or idolatry of worldly pleasures and thus any desire present in a pure soul will align with God's will. "Without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb 12:14). God "does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). The faith that God requires to fulfill the request of the petitioner will only be present in a petitioner who has a pure heart. That is, God will not give perfect faith to someone to ask for something that is not in accordance to His will. And as we receive the deepest desires of our hearts, would we have anything less than complete joy?

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face—even Jacob. Ps 24:3-6

4. The Knowledge of God's Victory Over the World Grants us Joy in the Midst of Tribulation

33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16

     When our heart's desire and longing is only to know Jesus Christ in the eternal Life that He has given us, when we realize that He has overcome the world, we find that there is nothing quite so disheartening about any earthly trial or trouble. Earthly trials are only as disheartening as our faith in His promised inheritance is imperfect. If we truly comprehended the goodness of this Inheritance in Christ, we would be filled with joyous hope and eager anticipation, "inexpressible and glorious joy", to see Him face to face for each moment of our earthly lives. Persecutions are troubles resulting from obedience and discipline involves trials given to us by the Father because of our disobedience. When our earthly troubles seem to overwhelm us, we have likely lost sight of God's victory over the world that has resulted in our being granted an Inheritance which is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. 

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1

5. Knowledge of God as our Father Grants us Joy

     If we were left as orphans in this world, we would have a good reason to be filled with sorrow, but God has received us as His children and promised to keep us. His eternal covenant of love can never be revoked. We are irrevocably adopted as His children and He promises to "keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (Jude 1). As we acknowledge His faithfulness, we will be filled with joy in His faithfulness and His loving kindness. He guards us so that we can never be lost and we have His promise that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ! Our fellowship is with the Father and in our worship of His goodness, we will find our deepest contentment and satisfaction.      

11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name,the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that theScripture would be fulfilled.13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. John 17

what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. I John 1


Excellent SongsCling to My Hands and Matchless Name by Jonathan Edwards (21st C)

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