Monday, September 23, 2013

Jesus: The Object of Joy

The self-pleasing spirit in our culture is visible everywhere, and it would be laughable if it didn't reveal the bondage so many are in. People are yearning for happiness, joy, peace, and contentment; likewise promises of fulfillment are everywhere, from soap commercials to political agendas. I find this to be true even in Christian circles, no matter how much we 'preach' being detached from the world, we are not satisfied unless our lives match our desire. Ultimately this reveals how unsatisfied we are with Jesus, that may sound a bit harsh, but it's true. 

Here is the truth, it is possible to be so satisfied in Jesus that everything else ceases to matter. I don't mean to say this as a pat or surface answer.  I mean deeply satisfied, overflowing with love, peace, and joy; an actual experience of fulfillment. That just like in Psalm 23 you can say, 'I don't need anything'. The Apostle Paul lived in this reality; where no trivial circumstance could kill his joy or contentment (Philippians 4:11-13).  He was lost in the bliss of a heavenly reality, claiming to know only one thing, Christ and Him Crucified.  It was this revelation that seemed to push Paul in his efforts for the kingdom, and he continually proclaimed that 'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  'The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

Why was this revelation so powerful? How did it produce such life, vitality, and source of fulfillment in Paul? Paul realized that he had died with Jesus on the cross, and the Gospel took away his independent, striving, works based self.  At the same time it threw him into a reality of being transformed from the inside out as he experienced heavenly realities through his union with God through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the end all, he completed the job, finished the task, dotted the i's and crossed the t's. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). 

Our fulfillment comes at the revelation of the cross, where our works based, striving, mentality is forced to stop, and where we find rest in a God who works on our behalf. Our bliss is sourced in the mystical exchange that took place on the cross. "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:13-14)."

So, if you are not satisfied in your present circumstances we can derive two things. 1, a change of your circumstances will not change your attitude or experience; and 2, you probably don't have a full revelation of the Gospel, otherwise you would be without lack.  Neither of these things should bring about condemnation but excitement.  For they reveal an opportunity to grow in the knowledge of Christ. After all, if we, in recognizing lack of faith or insecurity, feel ashamed or indignant, are in that moment struggling to produce a certain outcome out of works.  However, if we recognize that it isn't about us at all, and that we never had any chance of attaining to the standard set by God, we can humbly be excited for what God has in store, joyfully expressing our insecurities and failures.  Condemnation cannot co-exist with a revelation of the Gospel, and the Gospel will always bring about transformation, they are all entwined together.

The cultural initiative to find fulfillment, joy, and peace, fails to deliver before it ever began because it is based on a works based mentality.  It is counter-grace and anti-Christ.  The focus is on the product, or on the individual experience, and therefore is incapable of delivering because it is self-centeredness. When we turn to Jesus, we lose sight of ourselves in the euphoria of His love and mercy.  Paradoxically we fully become ourselves as we are released from struggle, torment, and insecurity in one fell swoop. 

Jesus, the person, is the source of all joy, wisdom, and glorious bliss.  When we focus on Him, believe in Him, and revel in Him, we begin to experience heavenly realities.  However, if we focus or thirst for the joy rather than the person of joy, we fall into idolatry and seek to manifest or fake a similar experience through other means.  Sometimes, people's desire to be 'wacky', or to experience things of God, cause an awkward scene as they try to replicate fulfillment in their own power.  Look at Jesus, and you lose sight of everything else. 

The battle ground in our lives primarily takes place in our minds.  Our flesh was taken care of on the cross with Jesus, He circumcised it away (Colossians ). Now we take every thought captive, and are transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We are learning, growing in our understanding of what Jesus accomplished.  Through the lens of the cross, we begin to understand the mystery that is Jesus Himself. 

Do you want to be overwhelmed by joy? To have revelatory experiences and supernatural encounters? Do you want to be fully satisfied no matter your current circumstances? I do! We need to grow in our understanding of Christ crucified; for it is a revealed mystery, a truth so good, so unbelievable, in such stark contrast t our experience, that it thrusts us into unbridled joy.  We come to recognize and believe the inconceivable, foolish reality, that we have died and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.  The cross is the point where we lose ourselves and our striving, and in their place we have trust that manifests God's strength, peace, and joy in our lives.