Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Commands of Christ

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,"
Jesus proclaimed in John chapter 14.

Several years ago my dad obtained a copy of the little book, Commands of Christ. It outlines forty-nine commands given directly from Jesus. It gives you a command, Scripture that supports the command, names of God to pray, questions of reflection and a definition to ponder.

Command Three: Rejoice

Matthew 5:11-12, Luke 10:20
I Peter 4:12-14
I Thessalonians 5:16-19
2 Corinthians 12:9
Philippians 4:4, 6

Praying the Names of God
Jehovah-Nissi: The Lord Your Banner
Exodus 17:8-16, Deuteronomy 20:4
Jesus Christ is Life
John 14:6, 10:10

Examining My Heart
- Do I see trials as God's means of brining me to spiritual maturity?
- Have I found Scriptures to strengthen me in trials?
- How have I overcome reviling with good works?
- Have I thanked God for tirals and persecution?
- Do I keep my eyes on eternity when trials come into my life?
- Am I willing to join in the sufferings of Christ?
- Have I identified benefits in the trials I am facing?
- What qualities are my trials building in me?

Developing Character
Joyfulness vs. Self-Pity
Joyfulness is the bright spirit and radiant countenance that comes by being in full fellowship with the Lord.


There is a complacent tendancy inside me to skim verses that are familiar, scanning the words and skipping true meaning. They are verses and sections that I have read hundreds of times. I memorized them as a child. They are lingos, cliches, token words and pat answers.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

Or maybe Philippians 4:4 is just a catchy song I sing:

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.

Rejoice, rejoice and again I say rejoice!

Through words and actions do I exemplify that there must be external performances of happiness, whether the happiness is real or perceived, in order to be a Christian? So many times I reduce rejoicing in my life to a plastered smile and fake laugh. Maybe to hide inner termoil. Maybe I fear vulnerability.

Or maybe we just don't feel like rejoicing.

We think that life is hard. Time and energy is foolishly spent chasing bigger houses, more money, better possessions and higher status. Bitterness weaves its clever fingers of unforgiveness through our heart suffocating any hint of joy.

We do not know how to rejoice. And we don't know why we would anyway.

We do not know why we would rejoice when evil attacks, disappointment surrounds, pressure weighs and stress creeps into our lives. We thought being a Christian would fix all of these feelings, didn't we? Sunday school teachers told us that "if you believe in Jesus you will be happy and go to heaven when you die."

Maybe we do not know how to rejoice because the object of our affection is self. Woah, harsh statement, I know. Think about it. How do you view your life? How do you view your relationship with God? What is the basis of your theology? Why did you become a Christian in the first place? To escape hell or because God is the only One worthy of worship?

One is self-centered and the other is God-centered. And this affects why and how we rejoice.

But first, what does it mean to rejoice? Truly? I am not talking about pat answers here. What IS hardcore rejoicing? The Greek word for 'rejoice' (used above in Philippians 4) is the primary verb chairo (khah'-ee-ro). It means, well, to rejoice. Webster's dictionary defines rejoice as: to be joyful. The prefix "re" means: to do again, anew. Put them together as rejoice, therefore, and we are commanded to be joyful again. In the context of Philippians 4:4, Paul is exhorting us to be joyful always! We had joy, we have it again- now keep it!

Easier said than done sometimes, right? I do not know about you, but I have a hard time with the commands of Christ because they ALL shatter my comfortable, plastic Christianity that is so easy to display on Sunday morning. But it is a command, directly from the mouth of Jesus and through His servant, Paul. If I love Him, I will obey His commands (John 14) and His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5) because He has given us all we need for godliness (2 Peter 1).

This morning I read Luke 10. Here Jesus sends out 72 disciples and they return eagerly reporting to Jesus (verse 10) that, "even the demons submit to us in Your name." Obviously they were excited for Jesus admonishes them by replying:

"I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Jesus is communicating: "Of course they sumbit to my name, I cast Satan out of heaven for goodness sake! I have given you my authority and power, but this is not why you should rejoice. Rejoice that you have received my salvation!"

Sigh. Isn't it just like us humans? We try to boast and brag to Power Itself (Jesus!) that we are doing wonderful things for Him. We get busy serving Him that we loose much of who He is and what He has done for us. Jesus did not question how many demons they cast out; He did not let them chatter on and on about their "success." He brought their attention back where it needed to be.

On Him. On His position above the enemy, on His power that He gave the disciples and on the salvation that He had given them. The foundation for rejoicing is Him.

There is a sense of happiness that comes from knowing we have been saved from eternal condemnation in hell. It is not joy, though, but relief. Relief is self-focused and a mere feeling. Joy, on the other hand, flows from a heart that has found a treasure outside of self. Would you sell all you have for a glass of water? You may be extremely thirsty, but unless your life depended on that drink, I would guess most might wait for a drink. But, what if you found hidden treasure that was worth more than money could ever buy? Wouldn't you do anything to buy that land? What rejoicing would happen when you finally uncovered the treasure and realized it was yours.! That is the difference between relief and joy.

Jesus is the treasure. In Him is all joy because He is God. In Him is all joy because He took my condemnation and placed it upon Himself. In Him is all joy because I am free. In Him is my joy because He is Good.

So let us rejoice, not because we are "saved from hell," but because we have been given the Treasure of Jesus Christ. Let us teach our children to believe in the Messiah, not because they are miserable little sinners who need a Savior to go to heaven (and they are and do), but because Jesus is the only One worthy of worship, which shows us our sin and need for a Savior. Let us remember that heaven is not a reward for "accepting Jesus as our Savior," but a response of God's grace so that we can praise Him for eternity.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

"...rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:20


No comments: