Rejoice in the Lord, Only?

Last month, as we continue to worship our way through the Gospel According to John at Hope of Christ Church, we found ourselves in John 2.13-25 and the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple.  You may listen to that sermon here if you are interested.  In that passage, we were shown that the Old Testament prophesied that Jesus would delight in and be consumed with the worship of God:

“His disciples remembered that is was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” – John 2.17

In an attempt to emphasize the attitude of Christ toward worship, I fear I overstated and went beyond even God’s thoughts on how you ought to view the rest of your life and the gifts of God in your life.

While it is true that we ought to be consumed by God’s love for us, especially as displayed in Christ and on the cross, this does not mean that we cannot or even ought not find joy and delight in other smaller, even temporary gifts from God.

My mother once told me about a woman in the church where I grew up.  Her attitude toward ministry was that it wasn’t serving Christ if you enjoyed it.  You were really only serving and ministering if it was something you didn’t like.  She was my 3-4-year-old Sunday School teacher.  This revelation explained a lot.

Maybe none of us would go this far, but I wonder if this is not our assumption about most of the rest of life – if you are enjoying it, it is probably an idol.  But is this true?  Is this the attitude God wants us to have toward our work, our possessions, our endeavors?  I think not.

God has given to each of us certain abilities, passions, possessions, and opportunities.  If these are all gifts from God, he has not given them so that we despise or ignore them, but that we might enjoy the gifts and even share them with other people.

James 1.17 states, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  This reminder comes right after James has warned believers of the temptations and trials that come our way.  He points out that these temptations don’t come from God but form our own lusts and desires.  The good and perfect gifts are from God.  Our wrong uses and attitudes toward those gifts are from our own lusts and desires.  The answer is not to deny the goodness of the gifts nor to avoid those gifts, but to take those gifts captive for the glory of God.

Psalm 104 is a great celebration of all of creation.  The psalmist celebrates everything from the Sun and moon, the mountains and seas, the forests and pasturelands, the wild beasts and domestic animals, labor and toil and rest, and even oil and wine and bread.  Certainly, none of the pieces of creation are delighted in as an end in themselves, but always as a means to delighting in God.  But the delight is there all the same.

It is good for us, and even an act of worship, when we enjoy the gifts God has given.  You worship God when you enjoy your work and your abilities.  You worship God when you are passionate about aspects of creation and delight to share that passion with others.

Certainly, we each need to know our own hearts, and seek to keep our desires in a healthy God-honoring place and confess our lusts as the Holy Spirit exposes them.  But when we enjoy our work or our hobbies or passions or any other aspect of creation we are enjoying things the way God first intended creation to be before sin affected it and the way things will one day be again when the old is passed away and the new comes.  God is delighted when we find delight in his gifts as any earthly parent is delighted when the gift they give their child is enjoyed and appreciated.

C. S. Lewis describes the difference between looking at a sunbeam and looking along a sunbeam and at the sun. The sunbeam has a beauty and glory in itself, but that beauty and glory are not from itself. The glory of a sunbeam comes from the sun.  the beam cannot exist without the sun.  The sun can easily exist without the beam.  We need not deny the beauty of the beam in order to properly value the sun.

Enjoy the beams of your work, your passions, your abilities, your children, your relationships.  And let those beams of goodness draw your eyes upward to the Son.  Look along the gift to see the Giver.

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