Anyone who accepts good things from God, must accept them as free, undeserved gifts. It is only by His grace that we have any good thing.
Consequently, we can only have good things according to God's gracious terms. We have joy, for example, either His Way or no way.
For some incomprehensible reason, sinful men would spend their lives striving vainly on their own terms rather than surrender to Christ and freely receive every good and heavenly gift in Him. Natural people are so infatuated with the illusion of control that they'll cling to the stone that sinks them for the sole reason that it's the rock they chose.
However, to know Christ is the beginning and the end of joy and every other blessing from heaven. To draw near to Him is heaven on earth, just as He explicitly promised.
There is every desirable, heavenly asset in Christ, such as freedom, joy, grace, mercy, contentment, salvation, Godliness and love. Every heavenly gift takes root and is best expressed in Christ Himself.
But in order to accept one part of Christ, we have to accept all the rest of Him as well. This requires complete surrender, which sounds scary to fleshly men, but spiritual men know that surrender is a divinely excellent thing.
Heavenly assets must exist beyond our mortal control or else they would cease to be heavenly. And all good things are miraculously good things, because they result from God's miraculous grace.
Therefore, when we think that we have obtained some good thing by ourselves so that there seems to be no greater miracle than our own strength, we deceive ourselves, cheapen the gift and cheat the Giver.
The nature of true joy is similar to other Godly gifts, in that it comes whenever God's Spirit allocates it, however He makes a person able to accept it. Joy is similar to other heavenly qualities because it can only be understood and embraced by a Spirit-anointed heart. So devastatingly thorough is the consumption of God's people in His Spirit that they may or may not get anything from this world and yet this won't affect their joyful outlooks.
Tainted hearts, on the other hand, look with dismay upon God's people, who have found reasons apart from this world for being joyful. It is confusing to fleshly men that another person, also living in a similar shell of flesh, remains joyful regardless of adverse circumstances, even despite an utter lack of shell-comforting devices.
Unassuming innocence is best equipped to embrace God's gifts in general, a fact which is especially obvious in regards to joy. The person whose heart is as pure as the very founts of heaven is probably well-acquainted with a heavenly quality of joy.
However regular people cannot help but spoil the most blatantly joyful scenarios because their own hearts, which are their inward points of reference, are still thoroughly infected by sin. So also the jaundiced eye, which is yellow with infection, looks out and sees everything with a yellow tinge (thank you Alexander Pope).
Natural people store up within themselves an infinitude of factors that prevent them from either enjoying God or accepting any free gift from Him. Such is the tragedy and insanity of sin.
However, Godly joy serves as an unmistakable signature of God's workmanship in the Christ-follower. Such a heart sings out naturally with this divine proof of transformation.
Another surprising aspect of Godly joy is that it consists of letting go of all self-centered concern. Good things such as emotional health and contentedness do not come from seeking these things as ends in themselves.
In this way Godly treasure requires an alarming amount of vulnerability before God. And Godly joy in Christ requires an immensely courageous, self-neglecting leap.
We will enjoy a heavenly fullness in Christ in this life when we give up our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is Spirit-dependent truth.
In return for giving up literally everything, we receive Christ Himself. When we give all of ourselves we get all of Him. And, if we get Christ, then we get Him who embodies all the treasure and precious value of heaven for those who believe in Him. Therefore we still live in this world and yet we have an otherworldly, tenacious joy because Christ teaches us to die to this world.
The dumbfounding secret to embracing joy as well as every heavenly gift is to completely let go and let Christ. The sooner we stop striving by familiar, manly means to obtain joy or contentment or any other Spirit-dependent gift, the closer we will be to every aspect of full, obedient, Godly living.
God only requires this very small thing from us, which is to surrender every last trace of ourselves in favor of gaining Christ instead. Such is the nature of this Living Water, that He cannot resist filling every last space in His people, even to the point of overflowing us. Mere men cannot secure any good thing for themselves, therefore Christ takes it upon Himself to secure Himself in His people's hearts.
The joy of knowing God in Christ is unconditional, no matter how much this word, "unconditional," remains mysterious or even distasteful to most people.
However, the freed, otherworldly quality of God's gifts makes irresistible sense to the soul who is purified in Christ. Not only does Christ freely give, He also teaches us how to restfully accept what He is freely giving so that we don't get more worn out than necessary trying to earn what we could not have earned on our own in any case.
Godly, joyful people are reasonable in God's eyes for taking whatever joy He offers in whatever time that He offers it.
There is also an unreasonable quality in God's joyful people, in that no amount of worldly prodding can convince them to seek a more difficult way to joy. They are a people whose taste for worldly imitation has been spoiled by tasting the Real Thing Himself. Anyone who is innocent enough to accept God's real joy won't waste time questioning or complicating the joy that is already right in front of them. This seems unreasonable to the world, but it is reasonable to Almighty God.
And, as Christ's people watch the world self-destruct around them, they have continual confirmation and they are increasingly thrilled to embrace His otherworldly gifts whenever and however He may give them. It becomes obvious to anyone who spends time with Christ that this decaying world hasn't a clue about heavenly riches (such as Godly contentment or a Spirit-cleansed conscience). Emptiness is self-evident to people who know fullness. This is not to any Christ-follower's credit but all to God's credit.
So it goes that God's people naturally plead and reason with a world thirsting for substantial joy. The mere existence of Christ's church shines a revealing light on counterfeit joys. As we continue to walk after Christ, we will naturally expose the futility of imitation joys, which amount to wandering away from Him who is the exclusive Source of all genuinely good things.
This is an excerpt from To the Church of the West, Scattered Throughout the World. Find this book and similar articles at www.BooksByPatrick.com
Patrick is an average Christ-seeker. His goal is to turn people to Jesus Christ.
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