Category Archives: Joy

Shaking Off Those Guilty Fears

Guilt is a wonderful thing!

You read that correctly. God created us with the ability to feel guilt so that we would know the discomfort of violating His perfect standards. He then uses that guilt to show us how desperately we need a Savior.

Even  after we become Christians, we often feel guilt when we sin. Again, these feelings can lead us to confession and repentance, thus restoring our fellowship with the Father. So in that sense, we can also praise Him for the capacity to feel guilty. Yes, dear sisters in Christ, guilt can be a wonderful thing!

But guilt can also be a dastardly thing. It can blind us to God’s grace, convincing us that we’ve abused His mercy once too often. It turns our focus away from the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross, pulling us back to the same old lie that our salvation ultimately depends on us.

It’s reassuring,therefore, to look back to Jesus, remembering that His blood completely atoned for our sins if we are believers. We can shake off guilty fears that try to condemn us. Hallelujah!

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“In Heaven I’ll Have All The Ice Cream I Want!”

StainedGlass04I can’t remember what TV show came on after Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights when I was nine, but I definitely remember pouting when my parents firmly enforced the 9:00 bedtime. “When I grow up,” I informed them with just a hint of defiance in my voice, “I’ll stay up as late as I want!”

John and I thought of this common childhood scenario this morning when I told him about a Tweet my friend Jennifer posted on Twitter last night:

Jen's Heaven Tweet

Surely envisioning heaven as a place of eternal self-indulgence is every bit as childish as envisioning adulthood as an existence liberated from rules and regulations. Islam may depict Paradise as a place of unmitigated luxury, and less mature professing Christians might make such an inference by misconstruing Luke 16:19-31 (of course completely missing the point of Jesus’ parable).

In fact, I remember otherwise fairly Bible literate friends telling me, “Heaven will be what each of us wants it to be. If you like ice cream, God will let you have all the ice cream you want. And Deb, your mansion will have an enormous library full of Victorian novels and poetry!”

To quote Jennifer, “What a gross,  man-centric view of the eternal state.”

Even a cursory reading of Revelation will demonstrate that heaven focuses on the Lord. Yes, His redeemed saints will spend eternity rejoicing, but rather than rejoicing in selfish pleasures like fishing, ice cream and libraries, we’ll be rejoicing in the Lord, lost in worship and adoration of Him!

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” ~~Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV)

Those of you who read yesterday’s Bible Study should instantly think of 1 Corinthians 15:28. Once all things are subjected to Christ, He will in turn subject Himself to the Father “that God may be all in all.” In other words, heaven revolves completely around Him, and the pleasure we derive will come as we praise and glorify Him.

Our self-centered fantasies about heaven are just that — self-centered fantasies. They diminish heaven, ignoring its true splendor. It’s one thing for children to idealize adulthood. It’s shameful, however, for Christians to propagate such an immature, self-centered view of God’s throne room.

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According To Scripture: Study #9 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

You’ll probably think I’m off my rocker (if you haven’t thought so already), but I can’t decide whether this week’s study of 1 Corinthians 15:25-20 was difficult and demanding or exhilarating and fun. I can tell you, however, that the Lord used it to give me greater clarity into eschatology. Even better: He left me with a sense of wonder as I anticipate an eternity of worshiping Him!

To give some context, I want to quote today’s verses within their passage. Anyway, a reminder of what we studied last Monday wouldn’t hurt, right?

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-20 (ESV)

As we approach verse 25, we discover that Jesus must reign as mediator of God’s kingdom in accordance with Scripture. Psalm 2:6-10 and Psalm 110:1 clearly show that God commissioned the Messiah with the task of destroying His enemies. Jesus, in fact, quoted the latter in reference to Himself in Matthew 22:44-45. This reign reaches its completion, as Paul just explained in verse 24, when Christ fully dominates His enemies (Ephesians 1:22).

MacArthur explains that conquering kings often put their feet on the necks of enemies they subdued as a symbolic gesture of victory. Paul means, then, that Christ will ultimately show Himself to be victorious over all entities — human and demonic — that dared to rebel against Him. See Hebrews 10:12-13.

Although verse 26 is pretty straightforward, let’s unpack it just a bit. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that, although death exercises power over all creation, the Lord has power over death itself. Therefore, our own resurrection defeats death. In the case of believers, death loses its power because we will enjoy eternal life in His presence, gladly worshiping Him. In that sense, death has, even now, lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Christ will conquer even death itself. In other words, He will do away with it (Revelation 20:14). This final defeat of defeat will take place at the end of Christ’s Millennial reign, as Paul already demonstrated in verse 24.

Commentators offer some fairly complex explanations of verse 27, much of which goes well beyond the limitations of this blog post. But let me offer a couple observations I’ve made from studying this verse.

In declaring that “God has put all things in subjection under His feet,” Paul indicates that its as good as done (see Matthew 28:18, John 17:2 and Ephesians 1:22).

Barnes suggests three possible reasons that Paul might clarify that God the Father will not be in subjection to the Son. Firstly, to distinguish Christian truth from pagan myths of gods overthrowing their fathers. Secondly, to dispel any notions that Jesus is greater than the Father. And thirdly, to exalt God’s absolute dominion. We must remember that the Son has authority because the Father gave it to Him (John 5:26-27).

I love the way Paul ties this passage together in verse 28! The Son, unlike created beings who will bow the knee at that time (Philippians 2:10), voluntarily subjects Himself to the Father. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown correctly point out that in His subjection Christ retains equal honor to the Father (John 5:22-23, Hebrews 1:6). Notice Paul’s reciprocal writing in saying that “the Son Himself will be subjected to Him Who put all things in subjection to Him.”

MacArthur clarifies that Christ will continue His eternal reign (Revelation 11:15) in His place within the Trinity. He will not eclipse either the Father or the Holy Spirit as He will (from our perspective) in the Millennial kingdom. Thus, His subjection to the Father by no means should be conflated as meaning that His reign will end.

Paul reaches the climax of this passage with the idea of God being all in all. Zechariah 14:9 intimates that the Lord has always purposed to reign as one King. I don’t know about you, but this absolutely thrills me! Although my limited human mind can’t quite comprehend an environment totally given over to the undistracted worship of God, I long for that blessing. Don’t you?

Next Monday we’ll attempt to tackle one of the toughest verses in the Bible.  I’ve been dreading this verse until recently, when I bought a commentary that shed light on Paul’s writing. Now I actually look forward to taking you ladies through it. Who would have thought?

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Why Christians Sing About The Cross So Often

Once I read a complaint that Christians sing about the cross too often. What an odd complaint! True Christians understand that Christ’s work on the cross was absolutely pivotal to our salvation.

We sing about the cross because we know how our sins used to dominate our lives, locking us into rebellion agency the holy God Who created us. Those sins kept us hostile to Him, setting us on a path that could only lead to an eternity in hell. No amount of contrition, confession or repentance could atone for our sins. Even or apparent good works were tainted by our sin nature.

We sing about the cross because Jesus, in His mercy, took our vile sins upon Himself, accepting the full force of His Father’s righteous wrath. We deserved that wrath, but our innocent Lord, after living a righteous life, willingly took the punishment on our behalf. He loves us that much!

We sing about the cross because, in taking our sins upon Himself, Jesus assigned His righteousness to us. Consequently, the Father will declare us righteous just as He declared Jesus guilty. We fear no condemnation, but instead eagerly look forward to an eternity in heaven with Jesus, where we’ll forever praise Him as we sing about the cross.

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My Sin, Dwarfed By Grace

Lately, the Lord has allowed me to see the instances when I sin a bit more frequently. Not that I’ve been sinning more frequently. Rather, I’m less blinded to my sin than usual, so I can confess more often and more specifically.

Although I’ve been praying for a greater sensitivity to my sin, I can’t say I exactly enjoy being confronted with my wretchedness. I don’t like knowing that I’ve displeased the Lord or that I’ve acted unbecomingly. I like to maintain a high opinion of myself, and I like others (especially God) to share that high opinion.

But by seeing the ugliness of my sin, I also get to see the astounding beauty of God’s grace. As today’s hymn demonstrates, that grace is ever so much more powerful than any sin I commit. And it’s more powerful than any sin you commit. So, as the Lord faithfully allows us to look at our sins, let’s rejoice in the opportunity to experience His grace to forgive and cleanse us.

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What Writer’s Block Teaches Me About Discipline And Joy

OpenBible John 1My writer’s block continues, tempting me to take a day off from blogging. I do realize that doing so wouldn’t be sinful. Maybe I’d even get some digital art done, which really wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Yet I fear that indulging these feelings of not wanting to blog could put me on a slippery slope.  I know my sinful, lazy self well enough to understand that I need the discipline of performing tasks regardless of how I feel about them. That same commitment to discipline helped me, 40 years ago, to develop the habit of daily Bible reading.

Admittedly, a Christian should approach God’s Word with eager anticipation, knowing that the Lord speaks to us through the pages of Scripture. It shames me that there are days — way too many of them — when I come to my Bible confessing that I’d rather play Solitaire or work on digital art. Interestingly, those are often the days that His Spirit most clearly illumines His Word to me.

Whether we feel the desire for Scripture or not, we need the daily nourishment it gives. Job certainly understood the value of God’s words.

I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. ~~Job 23:12 (ESV)

The fact is, Christians need daily Bible intake even more than we need three square meals a day. Sure, there are days when we can only spend five or ten minutes in the Word, and the Lord understands that. But the discipline of coming to His Word regularly, unless unusual circumstances make doing so impossible, establishes a rhythm that ensures daily communication with our Savior.

I disagree with imposing legalistic rules like “No Bible, no breakfast” or reading a specified amount of chapters a day. However, some sort of general routine helps. It’s only when you turn that general routine into rigid law that you pervert godly discipline into ungodly legalism.

And legalistic Bible reading shifts the focus from hearing the Lord to checking off a religious duty to entering into communion with the Living God. Discipline may bring our feelings under control, but it never blocks us from the joy of hearing God’s voice as He speaks through His Word. We may open our Bibles as an act of discipline, but we’ll close them rejoicing that the Lord has spoken to us.

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Alleluia — The Only Reasonable Thing To Say!

I doubt anyone is surprised that I’ve selected the most popular Easter hymn to feature this week. I’m quite sure other bloggers who post Sunday hymns will also post this one. I’m equally quite sure that you sang it in church this morning.

But please don’t let the familiarity of this hymn dull you to its glorious message. God means for us to see Christ’s resurrection as a joyous promise that, at His return, He will raise our bodies to live eternally with Him. For this reason, Alleluia can be our only response, and we can’t possibly say it enough!

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