By: Norm Rasmussen
"These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." ' (John 15:11 NAS)
If you consider yourself to be a Christian and find walking in joy (in the midst of life's sorrows and trials) to be almost foreign to you these days, my prayer is that this writing helps you begin to seek God for greater revelation of walking in Christ's LOVE. It is walking in Christ's LOVE that all else springs forth that God the Father makes available to born again believers in Christ.
Let's examine some foundational truths about God's love. God loves because that is His very essence. It's a divine attribute of His. It's His character and nature. To do otherwise would make Him a God none of us would want to love nor honor, and that would be fully expressed in our increasing rebellion to Him. In our rebellion to Him, it would breed the very opposite of joy and peace: It would breed hate for Him and hate for everything that is important to Him. Truly ' it would make us no different than Satan and the fallen angels who rebelled in heaven against God and now hates everything God loves, especially born again Christians.
Satan hates that you want to operate in love like God does. Fact is, Satan will do everything in his power to try to get you and I NOT to love with God's love ' as God loves.
The very first thing we need to constantly remind ourselves is that the highest expression of God's love is: Love is a DECISION and NOT a feeling. God didn't die on a cross and take full punishment for our sins because He felt like it one day. He did it because he CHOSE to do it. He chose to do it before the foundation of the world for those who are in Christ. Truth be told ' if the highest expression of God's love was a feeling and/or for the "deserving" ' I seriously question whether any of us would ever be saved from our sins against God. Only by the grace of God (Grace = God's love and mercy) are any of us truly saved.
Because love is a divine attribute of His, He wants you and I and others to make it an ever-growing reality in our lives as well. If God knew of a better way for us to know Him and grow in joy, He would want us pursuing something other than love.
You may be very familiar with
Now the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB)
Observe that joy and peace follow love. When we chose to operate in God's agape love, (explained in 1 Corinthians 13), joy and peace will increasingly sprout forth inside us. Our joy and peace will be sustained by what follows after them: Our being increasingly patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled.
Probably the greatest measure of how well we are operating in God's highest love is our willingness to forgive those who have hurt ' offended us (our enemies -, and our willingness to pray as the Holy Spirit leads us for praying for those enemies. Praying for their salvation would be tops on the list, if they are yet not saved. Praying for their deliverance from continuing to operate in evil would run a close second.
Truly ' there will be times when we have been hurt ' offended - so painfully so by someone that we will come up short in being able to love that individual the way God wants us to love them. But it doesn't stop there. Through Christ's ability in us, we can love through HIS ability ' His strength. Everything God asks (or commands) disciples of Jesus Christ to DO, we can do it through Christ's power in and through us. We have no excuses not to appropriate HIS power to do what the Father expects of us. Simply admitting to ourselves we can't live up to what God expects of us and DECIDING to ask and trust Jesus Christ to accomplish it in and through us by HIS ability ' certainly not ours ' is perhaps the wisest thing we can learn. Every time we are hurt and/or offended ' we have the opportunity to let the power of Jesus Christ deal with the offense through HIS ability to deal with it. It's simply a matter of CHOICE on our part, and you can rest assured we certainly won't feel like it. Hurt and pain feels. Being offended feels. (If we felt no pain there would be a lot less willingness on our part to operate in God's love). Operating in love smothers a multitude of the sting of our hurt. Given enough time, the sting of our pain can completely be smothered. Not necessarily the memory ' the sting.
Satan will try to use the cares of this world to rob us of our peace and joy. Constantly ask and trust God to reveal to you if Satan is making some headway by stealing your peace and joy by worry and fear. As evil continues to grow on this planet until Christ's return - for the wise ' worry and fear are to have no say in our thinking. Yes we are to be wise and discerning as the Holy Spirit communicates to us, as evil creeps in all around us, but worry and fear will kill your joy and peace which fosters faith (trust) in God in the very worst of evil that Satan could throw at us.
Operating in sin robs us of our love for God and joy and peace. Operating in one or more on-going sins will drain virtually all spiritual joy and peace from you, and once that happens, you love for God will dry up. Is it any wonder then that Satan works so hard to try to tempt us to sin, and keep on sinning? Joyless Christians are much less of a threat to his kingdom on this planet than those full of joy and passion for Jesus and our heavenly Father.
Before proceeding further ... please don't think I'm insensitive to those of you suffering with physical and emotional afflictions. I've experienced them myself and fully realize that one's joy can be quenched very quickly because of pain. Getting joy and keeping joy is probably the most difficult spiritual endeavor I have personally had to deal with as a born again Christian, and I realize fully just how hard Satan works relentlessly to rob us of any joy we may have. Let no one nor anything (especially this writing) condemn you because you might be in a place at the moment where you are completely void of any spiritual joy. However - please also realize as best as you can that surrendering to indefinite joylessness is a short distance away from dangerous degrees of spiritual suicide.
We may assume that when one
lost soul gives their life to Jesus Christ to let Him be their Savior and
Lord this is the sole reason why angels in heaven rejoice.
Could it also be that they also rejoice when one born again Christian
decides to put to death one or more sin strongholds in their life, because
the angels realize it's the only way for them to walk in sustained love for
God and others, and joy and peace? I lean on that possibility heavily.
However - God's kind of love is not a rug we lay down for evil people to walk over and let them trample us underneath their feet. Rather ' God's love is a protective shield God gives His people to KEEP evil from having it's way with us. The best defense is a strong offense, and vice versa. God's love is both a Christian's strong defense as well as offense ' if we intend to fight for and keep joy and peace.
God's love was and is no rug for Satan and his rebellious angels to trample God with, any more than it is for those who reject the message of the cross and CHOSE to take their chances on the Judgment Day by rejecting having their sins forgiven by God any other way than through the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. God demonstrates His willingness to love the unlovable, by having died in their place on the cross and resurrecting from the dead. If there is no demonstration of appreciation by humans for the love God has already poured out for humanity by taking their punishment on the cross, God has no recourse but to let His justice (another divine attribute of God) prevail and God's justice JUDGES rebellion against Him and others. This is why 'a loving God' not only can ' but MUST ' punish us for our sin (rebellion against Him and others). Either we chose God's way of having the future penalty of our sin-slate be totally removed by what God already accomplished for us on the cross by taking the punishment for our sins ' or we will receive the punishment due us for those sins by spending eternity in joyless hell-prison for them. The choice is ours, and we must make that choice before we die. The sooner the better, because none of us know when our heart will beat its last.
Evil will multiply on this planet before the return of Jesus Christ. However ' love for God and joy and peace will always be available to us in the midst of our evil as we commune with God in prayer ' because we love communing with Him more than we love doing anything else.
We DO love communing with Him in prayer more than anything else, don't we? Afterall, that is the reason God wants us to pray without ceasing. He wants us to constantly to be and remain in communion with Him, and talking to Him is the highest way He has given us to be able to do that. It is impossible to "set your mind on heavenly things; set your mind on things above" and assume you can do that and not passionately pursue staying in communion with God through talking with Him. "Walking fully in the Spirit" cannot be fully attained either by bypassing constant communion with God by making Him your very best friend by constantly talking to Him.
This is fact: If there
was no one else on this planet who passionately pursues learning to stay in
constant dialogue with God ... God would want YOUR affection. Truly -
God longs to have your affection. He longs to see you come to a place
where your highest purpose for living is constantly pursue staying in daily
communion with Him. Staying in daily communion with Him is probably
the most difficult spiritual discipline any of us can keep pursuing, because
Satan's demons so passionately and tirelessly work at trying to keep us from
this special privilege we have with our Creator. They abused this
privilege and have now lost it. If they can't have it, they don't want
YOU engaging in it either. Yet they can't stop you from pursuing it
and staying engaged in it. Greater is He that is in you (Holy Spirit)
to help you obtain daily communion with the Father and Jesus Christ than
anything Satan has to keep you and I from doing so.
If we don't constant daily pursue communion with our Lord, joy and peace and faith in Him will elude us to the degrees it is obtainable, and our love for Him and what He loves will grow colder and colder. Our spiritual flame will nearly go out. If we allow that to happen for any length of time, we are setting ourselves up by opening spiritual doors for Satan to have much greater influence in our lives, and NONE of us want that ' not if we chose to remain wise.
And here is wisdom: As evil continues to grow around this planet, the joy of the Lord operating in and through us will be our greatest hidden spiritual strength. Minus the joy of the Lord operating in us ... fear will replace it, and fear produces only one fruit: Various degrees of cruel, self-inflicted, demonically fueled torment.
Remember however ... our primary audience for this writing is for true Christians. It does not apply to anyone who has yet to truly make Jesus Christ their Savior and Lord. God's love has already been demonstrated to a lost and dying world by what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. For anyone who has yet to reach out and thankfully grab hold of Jesus Christ their life-SAVER, God's WRATH abides on them. Not God's love -- God's WRATH. How so? Read the following scripture passages:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Therefore ... He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does NOT believe is condemned ALREADY, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18 NKJV).
And then there is this scripture passage:
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36 NKJV).
If you do not believe and appreciate the truth of what Jesus Christ the only Son of God the Father accomplished for you by taking the full punishment for all your past, present and future sins on the cross so you can instantly be forgiven for them (RIGHT NOW!) ... here should be some very sobering news to consider: God's WRATH abides on you. God's love does you no good until you have God's wrath removed off your life, and there is only one way to have it removed. Make Jesus Christ your Savior. God so wants you to. God the Father so much wants you to receive His FREE LOVE GIFT to the world. Jesus Christ (Yeshua) the Father's Son is His name.
Seriously and soberingly so - The WRATH of God remains on a person for eternity who hasn't asked Jesus to be their Savior? Oh yeah. There are two extreme sides to God if you will, and surely most of the human race loves to hear only about the love, mercy and forgiveness side of God, and they do NOT like hearing about the opposing wrath side of God, because that makes mankind tremble in fear if they think about it for very long. (Satan and the fallen angels who serve Satan hate being reminded of it even more than us mere humans, by the way, because once God sends them to the Lake Of Fire to suffer eternal torment for their sins against Him and others, any torment and agony they experience at presence is nothing compared to what they are going to experience once they are locked away forever in the Lake Of Fire. And guess what -- human sinners who reject the FREE GIFT OF ETERNAL SALVATION (forgiveness for their sins) prior to their dying will ultimately be locked away in the Lake of Fire as well and suffer unimaginably forever and ever and ever and ...).
Maybe it's news to you, but God doesn't just "tolerate" sin and evil. He HATES sin and evil! Scripture to back that up? Absolutely:
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates. - Psalm 11:5
The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity. - Psalm 5:5
Let those who love the Lord hate evil. - Psalm 97:10
If we will allow some common sense to penetrate our perplexed mind on this matter (if that applies to you) ... God so hates sin that He killed His one and only Son for it on the cross. (Don't think that was an easy decision for God to make. Truth of the matter is ... it was the most difficult decision God has ever had to make, and anyone making small light of this matter has a long way to go yet in appreciating the love and grace and mercy of God). Jesus - the Father's only begotten Son - loves the Father and you and I so much He chose to let the Father kill Him to prove to every person and on this planet (and the fallen angels who despises His love because they must now spend eternity being excluded from it because it held no importance to them when it should have been the most priceless revelation they should have remained focused on when they were in a position to cherish it ... and now doesn't want YOU and ME treasuring it EITHER while we can still DO something about it!) just how much He wants us to love Him back for the sacrifice of death He made to rescue us from the Father's eternal wrath because of our sin (spiritual rebellion) against Him.
If you, dear reader, consider yourself to be wise at all ... reach out and grab the Savior of your eternal soul while your heart is still beating. You have no assurance it will keep on beating. None of us have that assurance. This is not a fear tactic, dear reader, to get you to make a decision. It is a sobering reminder of love to you to make the wisest decision a person could ever make as quickly as they can make it to have God's sentence of wrath removed off their life and have the assurance only the Holy Spirit can give that things are fine between you and God RIGHT NOW and once you die, you are HOME FREE to enjoy God and He can enjoy you and shower you with His loving joyous affection forever and ever and ever and ...
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"And this gospel of
the kingdom [Jesus
died for sinners] shall be preached in all the world for a
witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
(Quote from Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).
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