“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit” – Romans 14:17
The Christian life can be summed up in 3 words, one of which is joy. This means joy is no frivolous thing for which we should wish. Rather, it is an essential part of our experience with Christ. Joy is an emotion, but it’s no ordinary one. This is an emotion that is produced in your human spirit and is produced by the Holy Spirit. Being full of joy is a byproduct of being indwelled with the Spirit.
Christmas is supposed to be a time where our joy intensifies. Unfortunately, our modern version of Christmas often brings anything but comfort and joy. We run ourselves into the ground with the endless calendar commitments and gifts to buy. As we try to fill in the space under our tree we inevitably end up with an empty space in our hearts. Something is missing; Joy.
This Christmas I invite you to look beyond the lights and trees and instead look upon ancient texts. The Gospel of Luke records that angels appeared to a group of shepherds in a field and proclaimed GOOD NEWS that would lead to GREAT JOY. You see, true joy isn’t found in a mall but in a message. This message of good news was what we know as the Gospel. The message of the person and work of Jesus Christ leads us to great joy.
The Holy Spirit constantly points us to the Gospel with all of its earth shaking implications because it is there we find what our hearts so desperately long to have. As broken human beings our hearts have appetites for true joy but we have no idea where to find it. This leads us to walk an endless array of dead end roads in our frantic pursuit. Thankfully, Jesus came and shined light on the dark path and it led straight to Himself.
This Christmas, allow and even ask God to give you a new appetite for Him and His ways. He will give your soul a new set of taste buds!! He loves you so much that He will break your old tastes while giving you new ones. Instead of letting another December slip into the murky fog of materialism, stress, and exhaustion turn to your Heavenly Father and find righteousness, peace, and JOY.
Questions are powerful. The right question can lead to the right answers. As busy people living busy lives, we have a tendency to become insanely over busy. It is into this insanity that I would like to offer a couple of powerful questions that hopefully will help us all get to the heart of our issues with busyness. Now, as a warning, these are questions that will be hard for you to answer honestly, but I urge you to do so.
You see, unhealthy busyness isn’t just an exterior behavior to be managed or modified, but it is a symptom of deeper issues of the heart. That’s the point of the questions……to bore down through the layers of your image, walls, and veneer. It would seem that the fix to crazy busyness would be to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and change. This, unfortunately, is just a band aid for what is often a gaping wound. Human issues are rarely just skin deep. We are deeply complex creatures with deeply complex problems and tendencies. So, crank up the drill and start drilling. Here are the questions.
First, who are you serving with your serving? Are you truly serving people or God for His glory and their good? Or, are you really ultimately looking for your own glory. Before you blow this off, allow it to really sink in. As broken people, we tend to dress up our hidden narcissism with selflessness. We are masters at making caring about what people think about us look like we are really caring for them.
Secondly, are you doing good or trying to look good? Yeah, I know, it’s painful….very painful. I know how you feel. You see, I’m pretty good at doing things that look outwardly like they are for God’s glory and people’s good, but they are ultimately for my glory and for my good. I’m broken just like you. I’m not who I used to be….but I’m also not who I’m going to be!! I, like you, am a work in progress.
Here’s the deal. If you will allow these penetrating questions to shine light into the jagged crevices of your heart, the healing process can begin. If you live in denial, it will just get worse. If you are super busy because you’re trying to prove yourself and have a good looking outward image, you will walk this demanding trail to a potentially destructive end. It will wear you out and leave you insecure and empty. You will use people for your own good under the disguise of doing what’s best for them. It’s an issue of WHY instead of WHAT. It’s not just the things you’re doing, but it is the reason you are doing them in the first place. So, why are you so busy? What are you trying to prove?
The only answer to this issue is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He called us to “come to Him and find rest.” We must rest in the finished work of Jesus. The only way we can serve God for His glory and people for their good is to be complete and secure in Jesus. It is in and through Him that I find that I have nothing left to prove. My identity is nailed down in Jesus. It is a daily process of doing what we do underneath the shadow of the cross. It is in that shadow that the purest light can actually begin to shine out from our lives.
Hopefully these questions will lead you to where they’ve led me…….to a statement. I do what I do because of my identity in Jesus, not to find it. This has set me free. I hope it will for you.
“What is your name?” This was the question God asked Jacob after they wrestled all night long in the desert in Genesis 32. Jacob had been living in the middle of an identity crisis since the day he was born with his tiny infant fingers latched tightly onto the foot of his firstborn twin brother, Esau. His parents gave him the name “Jacob” which meant “schemer or deceiver.” As he grew up, his life was shoved tightly into a mold like beach sand into a cup. The problem was that mold wasn’t the one his Creator had in mind.
Jacob slipped further and further into a false identity as he grew. While Esau lived out his interests in the outdoors hunting and working, Jacob spent the majority of his time becoming a great cook at the side of his mother. She eventually became a huge negative influence in his life. This culminated with Jacob tricking his elderly blind father into giving him the firstborn rights and blessing. He spent the next few decades on the run from Esau while having several misadventures, including a 14 year job trying to get the woman he wanted as a wife.
Jacob’s lack of a God given identity led to an exhausting life of insecurity and mistakes. It was at this point in his life that Jacob got the wrestling match of a lifetime with his God, and got the penetrating question that all of us need to answer: who are you?
God wanted Jacob, and us, to answer this question. We must admit that we’ve created false identities so that He can give us the true one. Only God can tell us who we really are. He created us. He knit us together in our mother’s wombs. He alone can speak to our deepest needs, and there are few deeper than that of knowing who we are.
As people, we chase the answer to this question like gold at the end of a rainbow. We chase it in places where the answer can never be found. Our spouses, careers, net worths and hobbies can’t fix this crisis. Our souls long to be defined by the One who called them to be in the first place. The destruction that results in avoiding His answer to our longing can be devastating.
Jacob answered that he was simply “Jacob,” the schemer and deciever who lived up to his name. He had allowed his past to define him. God, however, had a different plan. God changed Jacob’s identity that night in the deepest way. He named him Israel, which meant overcomer and son/child of God. What a difference hearing the truth from God can make!!
Jacob walked with the physical scars from that fight the rest of his life, but he never had to doubt his identity again. He belonged to God. He had a heavenly father who loved him enough to wrestle him down. He had a God who was willing to wound him so He could name him. God wants to do the same for you. Through the finished work of Jesus on the cross, we can find our deepest identity and security.
The message of the Gospel is one of reconciliation. Through Jesus we are made RIGHT with God. Through Jesus our identity becomes children of the Most High. God wounded Jesus so He could name you! Stop looking for it where it can’t be found. Turn to God and hear His voice. Hear Him tell you who you really are. He’s the only one who can.