Transformed Into . . . . . JOY!
September 28, 2018
I remember when I first felt – deep in my own heart – the conviction of wanting the words of Psalm 51:10-12 to be my real prayer:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
And do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
And sustain in me a willing spirit.
It convicted me because I was tired and resentful and worried and I was taking it out on everyone around me. And, I really wanted to have “the joy of salvation.” Too many people who identify as followers of Christ are angry, stingy, judgmental and – frankly – the opposite of joyful. When our countenance is not joyful, how can we expect anyone else to believe that Jesus is good news? And when our worship is not filled with joy, why would we expect others to want to join us?
What some Christians call “salvation” doesn’t result in joy, it results in a self-satisfied assurance that they now know the secret handshake and are members of an exclusive club, and are now in a position to judge whether or not others are members of their club. I am worn out with that definition and expression of the Christian faith, and though it will be painful, I am ready to have that expression die out – even if it means that whole churches must close.
If we are not characterized by Joy, then we are not able to be ambassadors for Christ or witnesses to the Good News of the Gospel. That doesn’t mean that we can never be sad, or worried, or angry or depressed. There is much genuine evil and soul crushing suffering in the world for any sane person to be joyful at every moment. I am not talking about Pollyanna faith, I am talking about living our lives – individually and collectively – in a way that is characterized (more often than not) by JOY – when things are good – JOY – and when things are bad – JOY. Joy is not just being happy. In my mind, joy is about having the freedom to celebrate God’s eternal love and plan and know that it applies to me so that I am free from worry and fear and judgment.
How can we free up space, time and energy to engage in joy – to feel joy – to practice joy? Practically, maybe the challenge is to begin to identify what and when we feel Joy – a freedom to rest and enjoy God, the world God has made and others – and figure out how to practice those. I want our worship to be authentic and real. But, sometimes it all falls together wonderfully, and sometimes I worry that I am wasting your perfectly good time. But – over time and over all – it seems to me that worship must be an expression of joy (sometimes quiet and thoughtful and sometimes loud and boisterous – but joyful). How do we do that!? Tell me what you think!
Grace, peace AND JOY!