Thursday, June 17, 2010

Making Our Joy Complete Is Not Found In Substitution

It is interesting and sometimes sad what brings joy to some people's lives. I use the word joy but you know that for every authentic spiritual blessing there is an earthly counterfeit designed to substitute the authentic. It is like junk food. We know that we should be eating things that our body needs to grow and function properly which also satisfies our hunger. Yet, instead of fruits, vegetables and other assorted good stuff, we satisfy our hunger with things that fill the belly but are junk to the body. It is a substitution of the authentic. So what some people consider joy is not joy at all but just a temporary feeling of satisfaction until something comes along that steals it away.

Joy is actually a blessing that finds its source in a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a joy that cannot be taken away by any circumstances of life but that can fade as we allow the relationship to fade. This joy increases as we fulfill our purpose and mission and as we praise and testify about Jesus. The Apostle John ends the introduction to his letter with these words:

We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:4)

Perhaps you have experienced what John means by this, when you have witnessed or spoken of Jesus to someone. Every opportunity I am given to talk about Jesus, what he has done for me and for the world and who he is, brings such an incredible sense of joy as I remind myself who I serve. This is what John wrote of Jesus:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1)

When I speak of Jesus I speak of what I have experienced within myself and the evidence I have seen manifested in situations. When John spoke he spoke of what he had witnessed with his own eyes. He was permitted to hear Jesus' voice, to see first hand, and touch everything that had happened. It was John who helped distribute the bread and fish to the thousands of people and who picked up all that was left over. It was John who was present during the transfiguration, who saw and heard Moses and Elijah, who saw Jesus in his glory. It was John who took part in the casting out of the demons, the healing of the lame, the blind, and the raising of the dead. It was John who leaned against Jesus during the last meal they all had together and, hours later, stood at the foot of the cross, witnessing the suffering of the one who transformed his life by love. He was also the one, along with Peter, who experienced the empty grave and encountered the risen Lord. What John spoke of he spoke with the authority of experience:

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:2-3)

After experiencing Jesus, John would never be able to keep his mouth shut about him. How could he? John experienced real life and it was for the benefit of everyone that John spoke. I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that our testimony is not annoying or even personal. We have a testimony for the purpose of proclaiming Jesus Christ, that others will also experience life and be saved from destruction. We are a very selfish people for keeping this life to ourselves. Not John! He proclaimed this eternal life. He proclaimed what he saw and heard with the purpose that others would also experience Jesus and join the fellowship of believers, who also have fellowship with the life giver and the life himself. This is what made John's joy complete, fulfilling this great purpose we all have of proclaiming Jesus Christ to the world.

Seriously though, what a selfish age in which we live when we have lost sight of the fact that our testimony is not about us but is about Jesus and the world. We have to get over ourselves, lose our insecurities and allow our experience to be as large and as real as John's was. It is only as we allow Jesus to be our focus and purpose that we are able to find this joy and the completeness of it as John had. Anything that is not Jesus is only an unhealthy substitute that will not last. Substitutes will spoil and fade and will leave us disappointed and unsatisfied. You know you authentically have it when you can't stop talking about Jesus and find that your great desire is for everyone to meet him. Go ahead, make your joy complete by proclaiming Jesus to the people you encounter, and do it with urgency; our time is running out.

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