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Posts Tagged ‘Hebrews 12:2’

 

 

Whether I heard it or read it, I don’t remember. But the words caught me by surprise, and I jotted them down:

“What was uppermost in Jesus’ mind as Good Friday approached?  The answer is, Joy.”

Do you find that surprising too?

Yet at least three times on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus spoke about joy (John 15:11; 16:22, 24; 17:13)–a most unexpected topic and completely unnatural.  Who thinks about joy when they know catastrophe is about to strike?

Jesus, that’s who.

Within the next twenty-four hours he would face excruciating pain, total abandonment by his Father, and the most horrific death ever devised.

But his concern was for his disciples, not himself.  Jesus wanted them to remember the important principles of love, obedience, and joy–an empowering joy that no one could take away from them.

Perhaps you remember the scene. Jesus and his disciples had just finished their last Passover supper together. After the meal, he taught his final lesson.

The first mention of joy came near the end of his teaching about the vine and the branches:

 

(“I have told you this

so that my joy may be in you

and that your joy may be complete.”

–John 15:11.)

 

The word, this, refers to the ways Jesus had just mentioned that will contribute to joy:

1.  Live close to him and produce much good in and through your life (vs.4-8).

2.  Live in obedience to Jesus and experience the warmth, peace, and care of His love (vs. 9-10).

 

Note that Jesus wanted his joy to be in the hearts of his disciples. What characterized his joy compared to that of others?

  1. Strong awareness of the Father’s love for him, and his own love for the Father (vs. 9-10).
  1. Absolute surrender to his Father, and the joy of doing what his father had sent him to do. Even during his great travail in the Garden of Gethsemane, his one desire was to do his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

Jesus’ joy coexisted with the profound sorrow of impending suffering, because he was already well-acquainted with the satisfaction and fulfillment of obedience.

  1. The understanding that joy deferred to the future is anticipatory joy in the present. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

 

 

 

And finally, Jesus told his disciples that he desired complete joy for them. What does complete joy look like? It is:

  • Not so much an emotion as it is a conviction (Keith Krell, “Moment by Moment,” http://www.bible.org).
  • Inner contentment, resulting from continually cultivating an intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • Constant, not dependent on circumstances.
  • Enduring, day after day. Indestructible.
  • Perfect—the perfect, joy-filled fulfillment of the destiny for which God created you, even when a portion of that destiny is suffering.

I’m thinking of the martyrs–Stephen, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, John Wycliffe and countless others who demonstrated complete joy even as they died in anguish.

 

 

Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John and Bishop of Smyrna for many years, refused to revile Jesus. For that he was burned at the stake.

But before the flames rose up, Polycarp prayed:

“O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy blessed and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of thyself…I bless thee for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered amongst the martyrs, to share the cup of thine Anointed and to rise again unto life everlasting…”

Such devotion, courage, and supernatural strength are impossible to fathom apart from the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Can you hear the grace in Polycarp’s voice as he blessed God for the privilege of dying a martyr?

That is complete joy, only experienced by those who trust in Jesus implicitly.

Complete joy that Jesus purchased for us at Calvary.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We marvel, Heavenly Father, in the extreme paradox that is the cross. Out of the evil unleashed upon your Son comes your holy, righteous goodness–upon us. Out of the horror of the crucifixion that Jesus endured comes inexpressible and glorious joy, to those who put their faith in him–not a temporary feeling of elation, but deep, abiding, abundant joy. 

All praise to you, our loving, gracious God!       

(Acts 3:13-16, 1 Peter 1:8, John 6:47, John 10:10)

 

 

(Reblogged from April 7, 2015.  The Ruegg family has gathered this week for an overdue reunion.  Art & photo credits:  www.rejesus.co.uk; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org.)

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Three times in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as Author. Peter called him the Author of life (Acts 3:15), and the writer of Hebrews referred to him as the Author of salvation (2:10) as well as the Author and Finisher of our faith (12:2).

As someone who enjoys writing, I’m intrigued by this title for Jesus. How is he like an author? And how should his role as Author impact my life?

Research and ponderings took me down these pathways:

 

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Writers are creators.  Where a character, place, or idea did not exist before, an author brings them to life.  Without C.S. Lewis, for example, we would not know Aslan, the great and noble lion, the land of Narnia, or the concept of a New Narnia with its astounding dimensions: ” The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets.  The inside is larger than the outside” (The Last Battle, Book #7 of the Narnia series, p. 180).

Jesus, the Author of life, participated in the creation of the world, including us.  “By him all things were created in heaven and earth…all things were created by him and for him.”  (See also Note #1.)

Writers animate settings, characters, and ideas with the choicest words they can find. The sentence, “A bird sat on the gate looking over the snowy field,” becomes “A black and white magpie, sitting on the rail of a gate, reigned benevolently over the tranquility of a snowy field” (from Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland, p. 322). Jesus animates our lives with his choicest blessings: purpose, hope, contentment, and joy.

 

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Writers cajole their ideas on the page, striving to form nebulous concepts into clear, solidly built statements. They organize their thoughts, structure sentences, and decide upon word selection. Jesus lovingly coaxes us along, slowly over time sharpening the fuzzy understandings of our faith into solidly built knowledge, wisdom, and conduct.

Writers peel away redundancies, wordiness, and boring details. Jesus peels away our sins, spiritually unhealthy habits, and weighty emotions like discouragement, anxiety, and fear—any excesses that keep us from being our best selves.

According to author, Joan Lowery, writing is “a complicated mixture of art, craft, structure, free-flowing ideas, unleashed imagination, soaring hopes, wondrous insights, giddy joy, deep satisfaction, strong persistence and solid determination” (from The Making of a Writer, pp. 1-2).

 

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As we allow the Author of Life (2) to write upon our souls, he applies these same processes. Persistently and determinedly he:

  • crafts our spirits into works of poetry (Ephesians 2:10) (3),
  • offers us safe structure in which to function (Proverbs 2:6-8),
  • exposes us to ideas of freedom we never knew existed (John 8:31),
  • surprises us with more blessings than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20),
  • fills us to overflowing with hope (Romans 15:13),
  • imparts wondrous insights, especially through his Word (Psalm 119:130),
  • bestows his complete joy upon us (John 15:11), and
  • fills our hearts with deep satisfaction (Luke 6:21, John 10:10).

 

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Joan Lowery’s long list of writing components (above) appears daunting. It’s a wonder anyone puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Yet there are many of us who actually enjoy the process—the discovery of new information and ideas as we research, the development of clearer understanding while wrestling with a concept; the puzzle-assembling of thoughts into organized paragraphs and words into precise sentences; the delight of creating a musical rhythm among the syllables.

In fact, Truman Capote asserted:

 

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(“The greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about,

but the inner music the words make”

–Truman Capote)

Surely Jesus feels the same. His purpose as Author is not to produce best sellers of our life stories. He’s interested in relationship. In collaboration with each of us, Jesus wants to write upon our souls and create inner music together: symphonies of joy, madrigals of peace, and songs of love.

Praise God, he takes great pleasure in the process (Psalm 149:4, Philippians 2:13).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

NOTES:

  1. For the record, Genesis 1:2 and Psalm 104:30 give us glimpses of the Holy Spirit’s role as well.
  2. God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also involved in the process, of course, as three-in-one.
  3. Paul said, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10). That word, workmanship, is translated from the Greek word, poema, from which we derive our English word, poem. Our triune God is making us into heavenly pieces of poetry—“the highest, finest, most beautiful expressions of his thought and purpose!” (Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 330).

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.crosscards.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

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What might have been uppermost in Jesus’ mind the morning after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Surely his thoughts were already swirling around the inevitable suffering just days away.   Perhaps the emotional anguish that peaked in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-44) was already starting to build.

How did he maintain the presence of mind to continue teaching his disciples and the crowds, telling parables, and answering the religious leaders’ trick questions?

 

Scene 07/53 Exterior Galilee Riverside; Jesus (DIOGO MORCALDO) is going to die and tells Peter (DARWIN SHAW) and the other disciples this not the end.

 

Then, as the Last Supper, Judas’ betrayal, and the horrors of the crucifixion took place, how did he endure, much less maintain his calm and resolute demeanor?

The writer to the Hebrews reveals at least part of the answer: Jesus kept his focus on “the joy set before him” (12:2).

What might that joy have included?

  • Returning to heaven. No doubt he could vividly see in his mind the splendor and bliss of his home that he’d given up some thirty-three years before.
  • Returning to his Father. Jesus looked forward to being glorified with God, reveling in the glory he had enjoyed with the Father before the world began (John 17:5).

 

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  • Commanding angels, authorities and powers subjected to him (1 Peter 3:22). This privilege was not a self-aggrandizing end in itself. It was a means of aiding and rescuing his people–us (Acts 5:31).
  • Becoming our mediator and saving us from the natural consequence of our sin: eternal death (Hebrews 7:25).
  • Offering glory to God for the work he had faithfully and perfectly completed on earth (John 17:4).

These joys were set before Jesus. They provided sublime assurance of what was to come.

These joys helped to sustain him through horrific agony—agony that was swallowed up in anticipated and certain victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).

 

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We, too, can fix our attention on the joy set before us. And just what do we have to look forward to?

  • Discovering heaven as our splendorous, blissful home.
  • Residing in the realm of our perfect Heavenly Father, the King of the universe.
  • Ruling with Jesus, at the right hand of God, as joint heirs of the kingdom (Romans 8:17, Revelation 20:6).
  • Offering glory and honor to the Lord (Revelation 4:11). I imagine a grand choir made up of all of us–millions of voices, singing heart-stirring melodies with intricate harmonies.  I see our arms raised toward the throne, reaching out in holy reverence toward our awesome King.

Years ago, a talented singer named Helen Lemmel (1863-1961) enjoyed the fulfilling life of a concert soloist, sharing her faith through song in many churches throughout the Midwest. For a number of years Helen ministered with evangelist, Billy Sunday, singing and song-writing for his crusades. (She composed over 500 poems and hymns in her lifetime.)

Suddenly in midlife Helen began to go blind, her husband left her, and other heartaches enveloped her as well. Through it all, however, the singer/composer maintained her faith and joy—all ninety-seven years of her life.

One of her best-known songs, perhaps, is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (1918), written in the midst of her trials. You might recognize the chorus:

 

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(“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”)

 

Peace, determination, and strength result from focus—focus that’s riveted on Jesus and the joy set before us.

 

(Photo credits:  www.truthforfree.com; http://www.biblepic.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.slideplayer.com.)

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