Monday, February 2, 2009

Sharing our Father's Joy

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7

I love being a dad. Everyday I have the privilege of coming home to two smiling faces who are filled with delight that daddy is home. One of the things I have noticed about my children is that when I am excited and full of joy, they love to share in it with me. I rue the day they will grow out of this delight in the joy of their father. I know that as they grow up our relationship will change and they will not delight in me, and what I delight in, with quite the same vigor. This is just part of what happens as our children mature (It is actually a desirable outcome, if we have helped them grow to set their affection on delighting in the Lord). The same is not supposed to be true of the children of God. We are not supposed to grow out of delighting in our heavenly Father, and what he delights in, as we become more spiritually mature.

As we grow in spiritual maturity, we come to delight in God, and what he delights in, even more. According to Jesus, God delights in saving his lost children. Jesus tells us that there is immense joy in heaven over the repentance of even one sinner. From even a short study of Luke 15, it is clear that the joy in heaven is synonymous with the joy of the Father. God rejoices in seeing the lost saved! Why is this true? Is God motivated by a deep concern for man or a zeal for his own glory? The answer to this question is, “yes.” God has chosen in his own eternal counsel to inextricably weave together the salvation of his people and the glory of his own name. He has chosen to exalt his own glory in the salvation of his people (see Ephesians 1:3-14, esp. v. 6, 12, 14).

God’s joy, and corresponding glory, in the salvation of his people should be our primary motivation for evangelism. We should proclaim the gospel so that men will come to faith in Christ, thus bringing joy and glory to the Lord. Someone might respond that we should be supremely motivated by obedience to the Great Commission, or by broken-heartedness over the lost spending an eternity in Hell. While I do not disagree that these are valid motivations for evangelism, I do not believe they are the supreme motivation. I would suggest that they are subordinate, yet corresponding motivations.

It seems clear that when we are committed to the joy of God, we will correspondingly be broken-hearted over the damnation of the lost. Why? God delights in the repentance of sinners, not in the damnation of them. Scripture never suggests that God damns men to eternal hell because he receives joy in doing so (The objection that Romans 9:22-23 teaches that God does indeed damn men to demonstrate his mercy to the elect, and thus be glorified, is not relevant here. I agree that God is glorified in showing his mercy to the elect by demonstrating his justice to the non-elect (even in eternal damnation). However, Romans 9:22-23 never suggests that God receives joy in damning the “vessels prepared for wrath,” nor that we should receive joy in it. Someone might argue that this is an implicit teaching in Romans 9:22-23, however, the Scripture explicitly declares that God receives no joy in the death of the wicked. We must interpret the implicit by explicit.). In fact, Scripture clearly states that God receives no joy in the death of the wicked, but rather he receives joy when they repent (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11). We, likewise, should not delight in the damnation of our neighbors. We should be broken-hearted over the fact that we are surrounded by thousands of people who are damned. I often walk through my neighborhood, grocery store, or other locales in my city without ever giving a thought to the fact that I am surrounded by people who are without God and hope in the world. I pray the Lord would give me a deep sorrow and compassion for the lost around me. A compassion that rejoices in seeing them saved.

We should also obey the Great Commission out of a desire to bring him joy. God commands us to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). As those who belong to Christ, we should obediently serve our Master. However, we should not serve him out of a belief that this somehow earns us merit with him, nor out of a heart that is just “slavishly obedient.” I am not suggesting that we are not slaves who should be continuously obedient. I am simply saying that it is impossible to truly obey God absent of rejoicing in him (It is also impossible to be truly obedient to God, and thus please Him, without faith (Romans 14:23, Hebrews 11:6). I would suggest that it is only a deep abiding Spirit-wrought faith in Christ, and the unseen benefits that are ours in Him, that can provide us the ability to rejoice always. This kind of continual rejoicing in the Lord is part of the fruit of salvation.). The Scripture commands us to rejoice in the Lord always (Psalm 32:11, Phil. 4:4, 1 Thess. 5:16). We see this truth at work in our own children.

When I command my children to pick up their toys, I expect them to do so with a joyful attitude. When they do it reluctantly and with a poor attitude, I express to them my dissatisfaction. I do this because obedience is not only about external works, but is also a matter of the heart. However, when my children obey me joyfully, I rejoice. Interestingly, they rejoice in my rejoicing over their obedience. Likewise, when we rejoice in obeying the Great Commission, we bring joy to the Father. We have the privilege of rejoicing in our Father’s joy!

So, how do we daily share in our Father’s joy? I want to provide you with two simple applications. First, we share in our Father’s joy through constant prayer for the salvation of the lost. We should pray for God to break our hearts for the lost. We should pray for God to help us open our mouths in speaking the gospel to the lost. We should pray for God to help us live so faithfully among the lost that they would be receptive to the gospel. Second, we share in our Father’s joy through continually living the gospel before and sharing the gospel with men. God has placed us each within a sphere of influence in this world. He has given us each different neighbors, vocations, hobbies etc. We have the great privilege of living the gospel before and teaching the gospel to these people. If we pray and live out of a true desire to share in our Father’s joy, our church will have no need for an “evangelism program.” What a blessing it will be if Sovereign Grace Church is known as a place that delights in the salvation of the lost, because it is a church that passionately longs to share in our Father’s joy!

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