Understanding joy

20 Dec

Yesterday in church, it dawned on me that I have been viewing my sins, failures, weaknesses and such as bigger than the Cross. I have been prevented from being joyful because while the gospel indeed is incredible, my sins and failures are still there. And in an effort to maintain mindfulness of my sinfulness, I have been living in light of my pathetic-ness, rather than in the light of the gospel of Christ’s sufficiency.

I had an idea of an illustration for this. I actually drew it and if our printer/scanner was working, I would totally scan it and insert it into this post but alas, I’ll just have to describe it. The first picture is entitled “My perception of my sin” and it’s a giant boulder and peeking around the top and sides, you can vaguely see a cross in the background. The second picture is entitled “Reality of my sin in the gospel” and it’s a giant cross, with a tiny little pebble in front of it. The gospel – Christ’s atoning death and resurrection motivated by love for me – is so much bigger than my sin, shortcomings, and failed attempts at being who God says I am.

When I stop looking at myself, I can see the lie of “You have nothing to be joyful about” for what it is. No, in my sinfulness and failures, I don’t have much to be joyful about. But when I turn and look at Jesus, I see that I have everything in the world to be joyful about. Christ is so much bigger than me! Christ’s sufficiency is enough for all of my lack. I don’t have to go through life bemoaning how much I suck. I can focus on my victorious life in Christ. The hard, tough, icky stuff doesn’t go away overnight but I can view myself as a conqueror of my old nature in Christ.

That’s something else I realized – I have been thinking that sanctification is something I need to do. I need to sanctify myself. That’s part of being a Christian, right – crucifying the old self and its fleshly desires? But 1 Thessalonians 5 says that God is the One who sanctifies us – “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” I have been taking the responsibility of my holiness upon myself. What a task!! No wonder I have felt overwhelmed and completely incapable!! How can one who is unholy make oneself holy? Answer: They can’t. Only Another Who is holy can make me holy.

I still feel slightly confused but I am thrilled that God has shown me that I can be completely, utterly, 110% joyful in Christ, not because I’ve achieved anything or reached my goal, but because of what Christ has done for me. The gospel is the reason for our joy. And even our sin and failures should not take that away from us.

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