Daily Light – October 18, 2019

My Joy Rose as Sorrows Fell

REJOICING ALL THE MORE IN SUFFERING

Article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

I used to have a great life. I went on exciting vacations, cooked gourmet meals for my family, and painted everything from dishes to canvas. Sure, I had limitations from my childhood polio, but I was able to do whatever I wanted. Slowly, however, all that changed. Today I use a wheelchair to go where I once walked. I admire art I once created. I need assistance when I once only offered it. My world has grown smaller.

Decades ago, the words from 2 Corinthians 6:10, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,” seemed admirable in theory but impossible in practice. I couldn’t imagine joy and sorrow even coexisting; by definition, having one meant the absence of the other. The only way I could have imagined rejoicing when I was sorrowful was if my temporary sorrow were to be displaced by swift, miraculous deliverance. Then I could rejoice, while everyone marveled at my faith and God’s goodness.

My Unexpected Sorrows

So, when I was unexpectedly diagnosed with post-polio syndrome sixteen years ago, I couldn’t see how I could find joy apart from healing. The doctors said there was no cure for my condition, and I would live with continual loss. To slow down the progression, they advised me to reduce life to a bare minimum and stop overusing my arms. As a wife and mother of young children, I was forced to make difficult choices daily, and new losses cropped up every month. It felt relentless. Honestly, it still does.

Today I can’t even make my own coffee, much less carry it to the table. I deal with ongoing pain that will only intensify. While this may sound depressing, it has surprisingly made me more joyful. I’ve learned to stop fixating on my circumstances and start rejoicing in the God who has drawn closer to me through them.

How I Still Rejoice

As my body weakens, God has become more real and present than ever. I can echo the words of Psalm 46:1, that God is my “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” In all my trials, the Lord has never failed me, never left my side, never let me go.

“As my body weakens, God has become more real and present than ever.”

The Bible has become more precious to me because God’s assurances of comfort, strength, and deliverance are no longer simply words I’ve memorized; now they are promises that sustain me. Because I have to depend on God for even the smallest tasks, I must constantly look to him. It is a conscious decision to stop focusing on what’s around me and start focusing on God. It’s a choice I must make all day, every day.

As I have walked with God through the valley of the shadow of death, I have learned three great lessons for being “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

1. Weep

Before I can rejoice, I need to lament. This step is critical because it is only through acknowledging and grieving my pain that I’ve experienced God’s presence and comfort. Without this step, my words may sound spiritual and even eloquent, but they are disconnected from my life — I’m left feeling empty and alone.

I used to think it was wrong to lament. I would pretend my pain didn’t bother me, silently pulling away from God while outwardly praising him. I didn’t know how else to handle being “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Since then, I’ve learned that God understands our lament. The Bible has given me words to use — God, in his kindness, shows us how to be real with him.

In the Bible, David (Psalm 69:1–3), the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7–9), and even Jesus himself (Mark 14:36) all asked God to take away their suffering, so I boldly ask God for deliverance as well. God doesn’t expect me to stoically approach pain, pretending it doesn’t hurt, but rather invites me to cry out to him and tell him what I long for. It is in this authentic, intimate conversation with God that he changes me. I tell him when I feel abandoned. I ask him for renewed strength. I beg for a reprieve from pain.

David begins Psalm 13 by saying, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1), and yet he ends a few verses later by saying, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5). What caused his new outlook? How could he go from questioning God one moment to rejoicing the next? For me, just as for David, this shift happens when I talk directly to God, expecting him to answer.

“In suffering, I often see God most clearly, perhaps because I am more desperate to find him.”

When I follow David’s example, my perspective changes as David’s did. My circumstances may be unchanged, but what’s happening around me is no longer my focus. Something inside me shifts as I read God’s words and pour out my unedited thoughts to him. God himself meets me, comforting and reviving me. One moment I am overwhelmed by the pain in my life, and the next moment I have renewed hope and perspective. Countless times, I have prayed Psalm 119:25, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” And God has done just that.

2. Look for Him

In sorrow I have learned the joy of God’s presence. God is always with us and there is nowhere we can flee from him, but there are times I am more aware of him. In suffering, I often see God most clearly, perhaps because I am more desperate to find him. As Hosea 6:3 says, “Let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

God comes to us as we look for him. I can echo David’s proclamations in the Psalms — I have found fullness of joy in God’s presence, and I’ve tasted and seen God’s goodness firsthand. This kind of joy is in God alone who comforts me, strengthens me, and assures me that he will never leave me.

3. Trust His Design

I have joy knowing there is a purpose to my suffering. My suffering was designed by God for my good — not to punish me but to bless me. Though I may not readily see or understand what God is doing, I know God is transforming me through my trials. My suffering has produced a resilient joy — one that leads to endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3–5). The things of this world are less appealing, and the things of God are far more precious.

After living through my worst nightmares, I have less fear of the future and more joy in the present. I am confident that God will be with me, even through the valley of the shadow of death, and I know he is working all things for my good. Being “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” doesn’t mean we need to rejoice about our suffering, but that we can rejoice even in the midst of our suffering.

Yes, I used to have a great life, but now my life is even better. My sorrow has produced an overflowing joy that can never be taken away.

Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Desiring God, who blogs at danceintherain.com. She is married to Joel and has two daughters, Katie and Kristi. She and Joel live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Vaneetha is the author of the book The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering.

Daily Light – October 17, 2019

Happy Birthday To Our Precious Nic

How Jesus Secures Your Highest Joy

Article by David Mathis, Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

Christian Hedonists aim to make the pursuit of joy in God our life’s work. Which is not at odds with devoting our lives to God’s glory — because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

But Christian Hedonists must, in time, say more about the object of our joy than simply “in God.” Not any so-called “God” will do. Our souls will not be deeply and enduringly happy, and our purpose in this life (and forever) will not be fulfilled, if we do not find our heart’s satisfaction in the true God, the God who is, the God who has revealed himself as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:62 Corinthians 1:311:31Ephesians 1:317Colossians 1:31 Peter 1:3).

But how do we know this God’s defining features? What is it about the Christian God that distinguishes him from the false gods to which billions globally bow the knee? Does our God, the true God, have a defining mark or a defining moment?

God’s Defining Moment

For Christians, our defining mark is a particular person: Jesus Christ. We believe that God himself, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, lived among us as one of us. He took on our flesh and blood and full humanity. The eternal Word, the second person of the Trinitarian Godhead, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

“The defining moment of Jesus’s life — from Good Friday to Easter Sunday — has become for us God’s defining moment.”

But the true God gives us not only a defining person but also a defining moment. The four Gospel accounts bear witness to a clear climactic moment in the 30-plus-year life of Jesus of Nazareth: he died an excruciating death on the cross for sins not his own and rose three days later vindicated. The defining moment of Jesus’s life — from Good Friday to Easter Sunday — has become for us God’s defining moment. Because in the death and resurrection of his Son, God secured for us at least three priceless realities essential for real, deep, and enduring joy.

Omnipotent Wrath Removed

Without the cross of Christ, there is no Christian Hedonism. Because we are miserable sinners, and God is the indestructibly happy God, we will never taste real joy unless God acts to remove what we cannot: the barrier our sin erects between us and him. The very nature of sin is insurrection against God’s joy and our joy in him. Because the highest and deepest grounds of God’s own joy is himself (he has no other gods before him), sin is not just a barrier; it’s an assault.

So, the first priceless reality that God himself must secure, if he is to make possible for his people their full and lasting joy, is the removal of his righteous wrath against us because of our sin. Which he does through his own Son supplying “the blood of the covenant” (Hebrews 10:29).

On the night Jesus died, he took a cup, gave thanks for it, and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28Mark 14:24; also 1 Corinthians 11:25). In ancient times, formal agreements (covenants) often were ratified by both parties pledging their faithfulness through shedding (animal) blood, and applying it to themselves, to portray the gravity of the arrangement. The ritual communicated, in essence, “May my blood likewise be shed if I do not keep the terms of this covenant.” The Mosaic covenant is Scripture’s signature example of such a two-party covenant, with shed blood sprinkled on both the people and on the altar, to represent God (Exodus 24:3–8).

But not all covenants were inaugurated by both parties shedding (symbolic) blood. When God made a covenant with Abram, for example, God alone took to himself the blood of the covenant as he passed through the sacrificial pieces, while Abram slept (Genesis 15:7–21). In doing so, he said, in effect, “As surely as I am God, my promise to you will come to pass. It is not conditional on you. I will surely do it.”

“At the cross, Christ secured the joy of the new covenant and became the most glorious object of our joy.”

The new covenant, inaugurated by the shedding of Jesus’s blood, is like the covenant with Abram, not like the covenant with Moses. God himself, in the person of his Son incarnate, alone spills the blood of the covenant to remove his righteous wrath against his people and utterly secure, for those who are his, his eternal favor. The blood of the covenant has already been spilled. The removal of God’s wrath against those who are in Christ is certain.

However, more is required, and more is included, in Jesus’s costly purchase.

New Heart Given

The cross of Christ, and the shedding of the blood of the covenant, not only purchased the possibility of joy but also the heart of joy. Under the terms of the covenant, a new heart is not only available; it is essential. The problem of our sin is not only external (requiring the removal of God’s wrath), but also internal (requiring in us a new heart). Sin has poisoned our souls. To enjoy God, we need new hearts, which we find to be the explicit promise of the new covenant in Christ. Six hundred years before Christ, God promises, through Jeremiah,

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33)

Then through Ezekiel, he declares,

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

The reality of the cross cannot be peripheral in the pursuit of our joy, because without Christ’s purchase for us of “a new heart” (and the replacing of our “heart of stone” with “a heart of flesh”) we may be saved from eternal misery, but we have not yet been ushered into full and lasting joy.

One more vital reality, beyond our new heart, was also purchased by Christ at the cost of his life.

New Glory Revealed

We need not only a ground of rejoicing (in wrath removed and a new heart given) but also a glory to rejoice in. In the cross, two simultaneous things happened: Christ both secured the joy of the new covenant (by his own blood) and, in the very act of purchasing our joy, he became the most glorious object of our joy.

“Where do we look to see the glory of God? In the crucified (and risen) face of his Son.”

The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that the light to which God opens the eyes of our (new) hearts is “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The Christian gospel — as the gospel of the glory of Christ — is not just the mechanism and means of obtaining our fullest and richest joy, but also the object and focus of it. Christ, the crucified God-man, lifted up in glory as he offered himself for sinners at the cross (John 8:2812:32) is the visible “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

The cross is God’s defining moment, as he puts forward his crucified (and risen) Son to be the conscious focus and object of our everlasting joy. Or, as Paul puts it again, just a sentence later, God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Where do we look to see the glory of God in its climactic expression? In the crucified (and risen) face of his Son. We look to Jesus. We turn our eyes to the one who, in the very act of securing our joy, became our greatest treasure.

Joy of the Cross

To “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2) is to rejoice in the God-man who gave himself to the slaughter to come into his glory. This is what it means to “glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:3). God made the human heart to be satisfied not only in the divine, but in the divine who became human. And not only in the divine-human, but in the God who, as one of us, gave himself for us. The glory of God in which Christian Hedonists rejoice (both now and in the age to come) is the glory of God himself revealed to us in the person and work of his Son.

It is infinitely precious that the costly purchase of the cross includes the removal of God’s righteous wrath and the provision of a new heart capable of deep and enduring joy. But the cross accomplished even more: it brings us to God himself. “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). And as we come, whom do we find “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3)? Whom else but the one God has seated at his right hand, his own glorified Son, who has become for us the object and focus of our everlasting joy.

On its own, the cross was the most horrible, unjust event in the history of the world. But Christian Hedonists, in our unashamed pursuit of joy, do not avoid the cross. We cannot. Rather, we turn precisely to the cross, seeing how fitting it was for God, in the world of sorrow and death we inhabit, to secure our joy through the gruesome death of his own Son.

In the cross, we find God’s defining moment, when he not only removed the ultimate obstacle of our joy and secured for us a new heart of joy, but also when, in the very act of purchasing our joy, he became the most glorious object of our joy. Only in and through Christ can we say with the psalmist, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Daily Light – October 16, 2019

Do You Wish to Be Pure?

Finding Hope in the Fight Against Lust

Article by Bobby Scott, Pastor, Los Angeles, California

Life calls us to do hard things. Athletes push through tremendous pain to gain victories. Doctors perform long, delicate surgeries to save lives. Soldiers overcome insurmountable odds to protect nations. Mothers endure excruciating pain to bring babies into the world.

And Jesus calls us to do even harder things — actually, impossible things. He commanded Peter to step out of the boat, and Peter obeyed and walked on water (Matthew 14:29). Jesus commanded Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, “Come out,” and Lazarus rose and came out, still wrapped in burial clothes (John 11:38–44). When Jesus commands, he also empowers believers to obey.

Now, consider Jesus’s call for you to be pure (Matthew 5:8). At times, does it feel impossible to win the battle for purity? We can feel so discouraged that Jesus’s question to a lame man might be asked of us, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6). Seems like a strange question to ask someone who had been lame for almost forty years, right? But perhaps after waiting all those years, the lame man was losing hope of ever being made well. Jesus asked because he wanted everyone to know that as the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Son of God, he could make anyone well. Jesus could do the impossible. Jesus then commanded the lame man to pick up his pallet and walk, and he did.

The point for us is clear: 

No matter how hard or impossible Jesus’s commands seem to us, Jesus as Lord can empower us to obey.

This is encouraging news. So, if you are struggling to stop looking at porn, to gain victory over the power of lust, to repent of living in an impure relationship, Jesus wants you to honestly answer this question: “Do you want to be pure?” Because he can set you free. As a Christian striving to live purely, arm yourself with the following three biblical admonitions in your war against lust.

1. Hate Your Sin

No one who still loves sin will genuinely ask Jesus to empower him to slay it. And Jesus doesn’t answer double-minded prayers. He hears and answers cries from broken, contrite hearts. So, pray that the Spirit will convict you (John 16:7–8) and show you the depth of your sin (Psalm 139:23–24). Pray that the Spirit will help you grow in hatred of what God hates: “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104).

In his chapter of Secret Sex Wars: A Battle Cry for Purity, H.B. Charles tells the following story:

A little child was playing with a very valuable vase that he should not have even been touching. And, of course, he put his hand into it and could not get it out. His father also tried in vain to get the boy’s hand free. His parents considered breaking the vase until the father said, “Son, let’s try one more time to get you free. On the count of three, open your hand and hold your fingers as straight as you can, and then pull.” To their astonishment the little fellow said, “Oh no, Daddy, I can’t put my fingers out like that. If I do, I’ll drop my pennies!”

The Holy Spirit stirs in the hearts of believers’ hearts to hate our sin so that we renounce it. This hatred is not a hatred that leaves a person self-loathing and longing to do penance. This hatred of sin produced by the Spirit turns us from the grips of sin to the fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins. It is there that Jesus cleanses our hearts and affections so that we lose all our filthy stains.

Spirit-convicted Christians cry out to Jesus, like Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). From that well of despair, we find soul-rejoicing hope in the forgiveness and victory over sin won by Christ. There, we will exclaim with Paul, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25). So, don’t be self-deceived. No one can repent of a sin and cherish it at the same time. That is the eternal, profound difference between worldly sorrow and genuine, life-giving repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).

2. Satisfy Your Soul in Christ

The Spirit makes the good news real to convicted sinners. He convinces us that through Jesus’s death and resurrection, Christ has become our Lord, that he saves broken sinners, that his death atoned for our sin, that he does not cast away bruised reeds and flickering wicks. He convinces his chosen people that Jesus has saved us and that he empowers us to become more like him (Galatians 5:22–25).

“No one who still loves sin will genuinely ask Jesus to empower him to slay it.”

He does this by satisfying us through worship. Jesus saved the immoral Samaritan woman, and in doing so, he gave her the living water that would satisfy her thirst so that she wouldn’t have to yield to the desire for immoral relationships again (John 4:13–14). This same Jesus is alive today. He sits at the right hand of the Father with all authority in heaven and on earth. He still gives his Spirit to all whom he saves (1 Corinthians 12:13) and through the Spirit satisfies the souls of repentant sinners.

Jesus says, “These things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). Therefore, relish and delight your soul in Christ’s gracious, gospel-purchased gifts. If you are a child of God, delight that you have been reconciled to God. You are forgiven. You have eternal life. You have been born again. You have been delivered from the power of the kingdom of darkness. You have overcome the world. You are loved by God. You will never be left alone or separated from his love. You will be made like him when you see him as he is.

And in the meantime, you will be purified by fixing your mind on the hope he offers. “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3 NASB). The Spirit daily wants to fix your hope on Jesus and his gospel. He daily wants to satisfy your soul with the banquet of all these gospel blessings and more. So, eat at the banquet of the redeemed, freely.

3. Put to Death the Deeds of the Flesh

The word of God commands that we “put to death . . . what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). But saying “No!” to sexual temptation might sound as easy as walking on water. So, we must believe that Jesus commands, and empowers, us to do the impossible.

Let the Helper help you. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he started to sink. But dear saint of God, Peter didn’t drown. He cried out to our Lord, “Save me,” and “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him.” Then rebuking him, Jesus said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30–31).

Don’t doubt that the Spirit empowers you to do what he calls you to do, and don’t believe he will reject you when you need his help. Fighting for your purity isn’t supposed to be easy; it is war. Picking up your cross and dying daily (Luke 9:23) is a slow, painful process. Yet born-again believers can (and will) because Jesus died our death for us (Romans 6:6–7) and gave us his Spirit to empower us (Romans 8:13).

Our War Is Winnable

Let’s end by asking our opening question in a slightly different way: Do you believe that Jesus’s death and resurrection and the gift of his Spirit can make you pure? I pray that you do. In an infinitely greater way than D-Day, Jesus’s cross turned the tide for every believer in our war against sin. This is a winnable war — not perfectly winnable, but truly winnable — because of Jesus.

Therefore, seek to live by the power of the Spirit today, get accountability, and put to death the deeds of the flesh. Then bask again in Jesus’s gospel-grace tomorrow, and fight for your purity again and for every tomorrow that he gives you. You can win the war for sexual purity.

Bobby Scott (@pastorbscott) pastors Community of Faith Bible Church in the Los Angeles area. He cherishes his devoted wife, Naomi, and his six children. It is his consuming desire to be used by God to strengthen the urban church, and he believes this objective will be best met by building families and developing a ministry upon the teaching of the word of God.

Daily Light – October 15, 2019

The Only Joy We Never Lose

WHY HAPPINESS IS NOT OPTIONAL

Article by Marshall Segal, Staff Writer, desiringGod.org

If you only experience joy on your best days, you have not yet tasted the best joy. We tend to think of joy as a light and fleeting feeling that comes and goes as life allows. But the best joy is strong enough for the realities of life — all of life.

We also tend to think of joy as optional, as icing on the cake of following Christ. Some Christians get to be happy, we think, wishing we were one of the handful who do. Yet the apostle Paul says, plainly and unapologetically,

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Oh, that always — all at once so awe-inspiring, and so haunting. Awe-inspiring because that means always must be possible. What news! In Christ, we never have to be without genuine happiness. And yet also so haunting because of how often we lose our sense of joy — the joy that God, throughout the Scriptures, commands of his people.

Why would Paul repeat himself? “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” He knew how hard such always-joy would often be. He wrote these words, as he often did, from prison (Philippians 1:13). Yet even in the loneliness and uncertainty of captivity, he had found real felicity. He could say always because he had suffered so much, and rejoiced even in those dark, lonely, and painful places.

Never settle for a god who cannot satisfy you in a prison cell.

If you only enjoy God when life seems good, follow Paul’s joy with me through Philippians to something more precious than gold, even much fine gold, something sweeter than honey — and anything else you might enjoy in this life.

Better Even Than Life

If our joy is rooted in how well life seems to be going, our joy will falter and fade when trials come. More often than we want to admit, our joy is rooted in our feeling secure, comfortable, successful, liked — and so real joy, the always-joy Paul writes about, can feel foreign and distant.

“If you only experience joy on your best days, you have not yet tasted the best joy.”

When his enemies preached Christ out of envy and rivalry, wanting to wound Paul and undermine his ministry (Philippians 1:15–17), he welled up not with anger, bitterness, or resentment, but with joy. “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). It takes more than human courage to rejoice when you’re mistreated, especially when you’re in prison where you can’t defend yourself.

Where was this courageous joy anchored? He writes in the next verses,

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20–21)

He could have joy in life or death because he lived and died for Christ — and nothing and no one could take Christ from him. Because his faith, hope, and joy were firmly rooted in the honor and glory of Christ, the worst things that might happen to him could only ultimately serve him (Romans 8:37). Knowing Christ had made a friend even out of death.

Prisons may have kept him from speaking to crowds, but they only amplified the joy that he preached. Adversaries could make his circumstances miserable, but his gladness in God engulfed any short-lived misery. Satan threw everything imaginable at him — beaten with rods, stoned almost to death, shipwrecked and stranded, attacked by robbers, left without food and shelter, suffering danger from every direction (2 Corinthians 11:25–27) — and yet he rejoiced. Few have suffered like this man, and few have suffered with more joy.

Better Than Any Other Joy

To have more joy in suffering than in peace and comfort, we have to want Jesus more than anything else, including peace and comfort.

Paul didn’t choose joy in Christ because he couldn’t find joy anywhere else. He had tasted and enjoyed the glory of success and popularity — the Hebrew of Hebrews, the Pharisee of Pharisees, the most zealous, the most blameless, the most recognized (Philippians 3:5–6). When he chose to follow Jesus, he surrendered the kind of life others would die for — and he surrendered that life for more happiness, not less.

After listing all that he had earned and accomplished, he says,

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7–8)

When Paul found the treasure hidden in the fields of Scripture, his pearl of great price, all the other pearls had suddenly faded in color. He quickly sold them all to have just one. His love for worldly success and attention withered and fell away to make way for a new, more vibrant love. He wrote, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

In the end, we do not forfeit happiness to have Christ. Whatever we trade away (and we do trade away real joys to follow Christ), we receive back a hundredfold now, “and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30). Joy in Christ is far better than any other pleasure, achievement, or prize. We are fools to ever prefer what we enjoyed before him.

How to Guard Your Joy

How do we guard the joy we’ve found in God? We can’t, and won’t, on our own. Two verses after saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice,” Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything,” — anything that might hinder or compromise your joy in the Lord — “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).

We preserve the joy we have in God by asking God to guard it. We pray. Any joy we have in Christ will be perpetually under assault — by Satan, by sin and temptation, by suffering, by life in a world still enslaved to corruption (Romans 8:21). We need someone stronger than all those forces combined to guard what we have found in God. We need God himself to guard our happiness in God.

“We never forfeit happiness to have Christ. Whatever we trade away, we receive back a hundredfold.”

We pray, but not just any prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The kind of prayer that thwarts anxiety and strengthens joy presses on in gratitude. Paul brings these three — joy, thanksgiving, and prayer — together again in another letter: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). A sure way to combat the enemies of our joy is to relentlessly give thanks to God for all the graces, large and small, in our lives.

When the devil conspires to spoil your joy — and he will in more ways than you can predict or imagine — remember this: “The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5). He is near to those who rejoice in him, supplying indescribable peace to us in the midst of whatever trials we face. His return is also at hand, when he will deliver all his children from every form of pain and suffering, and when he will punish everyone who rejected his Son and afflicted his followers. On that day, everything and everyone who made Christians miserable will come to an awful end.

So, take heart, wait yet a little longer, give thanks for the good you can see now, and pray for God to keep you until joy finally comes in full (Psalm 16:11).

Finding Always-Joy

For the Christian, joy in God is not optional. It’s not icing for some to savor. It is central, and essential. We cannot glorify God as we ought unless our souls are satisfied in him. But we all have to learn the secret to always-joy. None of us is born, or even reborn, with this wisdom.

The apostle himself says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Joy in God is not simply a switch that’s flipped the moment we first trust in Jesus; joy in God is a lifelong pursuit and discipline. We learn, over months and years and decades, how to rejoice in the Lord. The flower sprouts when we are saved, but it matures, grows, and blossoms over time, while its roots grow deeper, wider, and stronger.

“Do not believe the lie that joy will only come when the clouds in your life finally clear.”

“I know how to be brought low,” Paul continues, “and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12–13). The secret to his contentment was his relentless always-joy in Christ (Philippians 3:84:410). And it wasn’t only his secret to contentment in hunger and need, but also in plenty and abundance. 

John Piper says about these verses:

When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.

So, rejoice always in the Lord. Again, I say rejoice. Do not believe the lie that joy will only come when the clouds in your life finally clear, and the sun shines through. Don’t settle for a religion or god that cannot promise joy even in the darkest, most difficult days. If you rejoice in the Lord, you never have to be without real happiness again.

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis.

Daily Light – October 14, 2019

The Stains That No One Sees

How Jesus Removes Our Shame

Article by Sam Allberry

In 1966, England charged to glory by winning the football World Cup. It fell on the captain, Bobby Moore, to have the honor of walking up the steps of Wembley Stadium to receive the trophy from the queen.

Asked afterward how he felt during that historic moment, Moore admitted that he was terrified. The queen, he’d noticed, was wearing pristine white gloves. His hands were covered in dirt from the match, and he was going to have to shake her hand. And so, as he walked up those steps, he frantically tried to wipe his hands clean.

Most of us have had some experience of being unclean. But of course, there is more than one kind of being dirty. We can feel desperately unclean on the inside too.

How Shame Feels

Mark’s Gospel introduces us to someone who knew all too well what it meant to feel unclean. In Mark 1:40–45, Jesus encounters a leper, someone whose skin condition left him ceremonially unclean according to Old Testament law. Leprosy was a particularly cruel condition. It was regarded as incurable and highly contagious. Those afflicted with it endured both physical discomfort and social isolation, and for something they did not do or bring on themselves. They were considered a spiritual, as well as a physical, contagion.

“At the cross Jesus took the full extent of my (and your) uncleanness onto himself.”

That might be how you feel: toxic, radioactive — a contagion.

It might be because of something you’ve done. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth had been complicit in the murder of King Duncan, and it weighed so heavily on her that we hear of her trying to rub the blood off her hands in her sleep. “Will these hands ne’er be clean!” she cries. Shakespeare, it turns out, had incredible insight into the workings of a guilty subconscious.

Ashamed to Be Assaulted

It is not just our own actions that can leave us feeling unclean, though. Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of human evil, and it has left you with a deep sense of being unclean. One victim of sexual assault describes why she never opened up about it for so many years:

I told no one. In my mind, it was not an example of male aggression used against a girl to extract sex from her. In my mind, it was an example of how undesirable I was. It was proof that I was not the kind of girl you took to parties, or the kind of girl you wanted to get to know. I was the kind of girl you took to a deserted parking lot and tried to make give you sex. Telling someone would not be revealing what he had done; it would be revealing how deserving I was of that kind of treatment.

In her mind, this assault did not leave her with a feeling of her assailant’s dirtiness; it made her feel dirty.

‘You Can Make Me Clean’

So, we need to pay close attention to this encounter in Mark.

A leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40)

Again, his leprosy, as far as we know, was not a result of any sin he committed, but according to the law, he was not supposed to approach anyone. He knows, however, that Jesus has unique power — power to restore him, to cleanse him. “If you will” may indicate he knows he has no right to such healing. He does not presume that he deserves it.

Jesus is moved deeply by this man’s plight. He’s not indifferent. Jesus doesn’t back away in revulsion. He feels for this man. Jesus touches him. This may be the first time in decades this man had been touched by anyone.

“There is always more that’s right in Jesus than there is what’s wrong in us.”

This is what Jesus does with the uncleanness of those who come to him as this leper did. Rather than withdrawing in disgust, he draws near and reaches out to us. He moves toward us, not away from us. “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean’” (Mark 1:41). Jesus is willing. And the effect is immediate and dramatic. “Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean” (Mark 1:42).

More Grace in Christ

Lepers were to be separated from people because they were seen as a danger, a contaminant. When it comes to Jesus, however, it turns out the leprosy was the one at risk.

Jesus’s cleanness is a far more powerful contagion than any dirt we can bring to him. There is always more that’s right in Jesus than there is what’s wrong in us, more grace in him than offense in us, more forgiveness in him than sin in us. The very worst in us cannot compete with the best in Christ. We can’t sully him. He can only purify us. However deep our mess goes, his holiness goes deeper. We will never exhaust it.

I don’t find this easy to believe. I think I must be the exception — that my toxicity is too much for Jesus to contain. Sometimes this thinking looks like self-deprecation. People mistake it for humility. Actually, it is a form of pride — I am so significant that not even Jesus can contend with me. So, I need to believe what I see in Mark.

All Our Sin and Shame

After his healing, the cleansed man is told in the strongest terms not to tell anyone what has happened (except for a priest, so that he can be certified as ceremonially clean and rejoin society). Jesus is not ready for this to go public. And yet the man does the exact opposite, and the news rapidly spreads widely. The result?

He went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:45)

The two have swapped places. Previously the leper had been unable to enter towns and had to live in desolation. Now he is back in the community, and Jesus is forced to the desolate places. The outsider and the insider have reversed roles. In a sense, Jesus has become contaminated by this man. And it is key for us all.

How Christ Removes Shame

How can I know I really have cleansing in Christ from all my sin and shame? Because at the cross he took the full extent of my (and your) uncleanness onto himself. Every sin, every wound, every piece of brokenness and shame.

Jesus went through ultimate exclusion — not just from people, but also from his Father (Mark 15:34). He was made toxic so I can be made fragrant. He was shut out so I could be beckoned in. That doesn’t mean I never feel unclean. There is the ongoing attack of the accuser. Satan’s gonna Satan. But I have a place to look in my war against sin and shame.

Bobby Moore was left to ineffectively wipe his hands on his shorts, but Christ wipes us utterly clean of all that has made us most dirty.

Sam Allberry (@SamAllberry) is an apologist and writer for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and a consulting editor for The Gospel Coalition, and is based in Maidenhead, UK. He is the author of 7 Myths about Singleness.

Daily Light – October 1, 2019

Friends:   I will be taking a ‘Fall’ break until October 14th.  DL will return October 14.  dh

Remembering Is the First Step

Article by Jared C. Wilson

I recall Paul Tripp speaking on Psalm 27 once, and as he was emphasizing how important it was for David to “remember” in times of trouble, my mind went—as it often does in such scenarios—to another psalm, one that has been profoundly important to me in my Christian life.

I once went through a period of serious depression, laid low by the consequences of my sin and by the specific pains of my life circumstances. I was broken, weary, and frequently willing to simply “check out.” In my lowest moments of despair, I often thought of even taking my own life. I think the spirit of Psalm 42 speaks directly to such despair. At least, it certainly seemed that way to me at the time, and it does to me still today.

It strikes me as I read through Psalm 42 how crucial memory is to the process of faith in the midst of difficulty or depression:

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. (v.4)

One thing that is brought to mind is previous times of joy. In this case, the psalmist is remembering times of worship with his fellow saints. This may not “do the trick” of warding off present affliction, of course, but it at least reminds us that joy can be had. If could be had in the past, we should take care to anticipate that it can be had in the future. Joy is not impossible, in other words, and that glimmer of hope can be a consolation in times of pain. This is why he says in verse 5, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.”

But there is a deeper reflection, a more historic remembrance the psalmist goes to, as well:

. . . My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. (v.6)

The psalmist is here recalling mighty deeds of God, the milestones of God’s intervening redemption in Israel’s history. These geographic locations are signposts for his memory, places and times where God came through for his people big time.

When God allows affliction, it is important to remember his historic faithfulness. There is a reason the Israelites filled the ark of the covenant with mementos of God’s faithfulness, and it’s not because they were magic talismans. It was because they wanted to carry before them tangible reminders of God’s love and care and redemptive interruption of their troubles, lest they forget when they had to face trouble again.

When you are stuck, deep, despondent, or in despair, think back to what God has delivered you from in difficult times past. Remember how he has never really failed you. In fact, remember your way all the way back to Mount Calvary and the empty tomb.

Remembering God’s historic faithfulness is the first step in enjoying his present faithfulness to you, even if you don’t feel it.

“We are simple people,” David Powlison says, “You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just one true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. Bible ‘verses’ aren’t magic. But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.”

Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and author of more than ten books, including Gospel WakefulnessThe Pastor’s Justification, and The Prodigal Church.

Daily Light – Sept 30, 2019

Doctrine of Trinity (Triunity)

Part II

Study provided by David Niednagel, Pastor/Teacher, Evansville, IN.  David uses the S.O.A.P method of study in his morning devotional time (study, observe, apply, pray)

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all equally and eternally God, and they are all “persons”. They are “equal in being, but subordinate in role”, though this subordination implies no inferiority at all. Many people refer to the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) not as a person, but as a force, or an “it”. But when Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit He said, “HE will be with you forever”. A force cannot love or comfort us, but a person can. (We will look at this more when we study the Holy Spirit). Some mainline protestants teach that Jesus is a good teacher, or prophet, or even “the son of God” but they deny that He is God the Son. Jehovah’s Witnesses say He is “a mighty God” but not Jehovah/Yahweh. Mormons say Jesus is God, but He was a man who became a God, and we can too. One key element of all cults, is that they in some way deny or distort the Triunity. 

Islam denies the Trinity, thinking it means three gods, so their concept of God is not one of relationships as much as it is a concept of power. If “God wills it” anything can happen and He can do anything He wants, without being bound by His character. Power and will are God’s most significant attributes.

But the Bible teaches that in the Triunity all three persons love one another. They had a perfect relationship for all eternity and had no needs for anything else. When God created humans in His image, it was not because He was lonely or that we could give Him anything that He didn’t have. (So there is no reason to bargain with God – “If You do such and such, I will promise You ……) He created us so He could share Himself with us, so we could share in the relationship the members of the Triunity have with one another. In John 14:20 Jesus said when the Holy Spirit came to live in us we would “realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” We are included in the same relationship Jesus and the Father have with one  another!!!

Triune God, I praise You for the perfect  relationship You have with Yourself, and that You have created us and redeemed us so we could join in that amazing relationship. You not only teach, but You demonstrate what we are made for. Thank You so much that You desire to share Your relationship and glory with us, even though you don’t need to at all. Help us relate to one another the way You relate to One Another! Help me consciously love all three of You, and out of the overflow of that relationship, help me love people better than ever before. Amen