The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Joy of Knowing (loving ) God ( and each other ! )

I heard an anagram a long time ago, concerning the word 'joy';

According to this anagram JOY stands for Jesus First
Others Second
Yourself Last

I thought it was kind of a neat little anagram, but really, when you meditate upon it; isn't it so true? In 'real' life; when we take the focus off off ourselves, and our wants and 'needs', and focus on the needs of others, aren't we usually happier? This is not only a good idea, but a biblical principle as well: remember Paul's words in Philippians 2:4; 'Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others'. Speaking from personal experience, many of us ( Christians ) have seemingly lost our joy in life; I believe that this is because we have allowed ourselves to become so 'embroiled' in the 'affairs' ( I say that somewhat loosely ) of everyday life that we have lost our focus. I've used this as an illustration before, in one of my 'Focus on the Physical' papers, but remember what started to happen to Peter when he lost His focus on Jesus, in Matthew 13:25-32; he began to sink and to drown, when he saw the tempestuous waters, and began to think of his own safety, his own life, and forgot about Jesus command to 'Come!'. The command that we, as Jesus' disciples in this present, eternal age ( Luke 18:30, I Corinthians 10:11 ( Hebrews 1:2, 6:5 ), Luke 20:34-36 ) have been given is rather to 'Go!' ( Matthew 28:19 ). Yes; this command has been fulfilled in Christ, in the first century, through His disciples ( Matthew 10:23, Mathew 24:14, Colossians 1:23 ( 1:6 ), but we, as His twenty-first century disciples still have a responsibility to 'Go!', whether it be just into our own 'world', or to foreign lands.To get back to our subject, then, of our lost joy; if we would just first obey Jesus' command to 'seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness' ( Matthew 6:33 ), then everything else will 'fall into place'. I know that I've said this before, but, as it is very important ( and this is as much for me as for anybody ); I say it again: Jesus must be our focal point, and with that taken care of, we can be more free to focus on the things of this life, and what we have been given to do; 'Love God................and your neighbor as yourself'! This means taking action, not just saying 'I love you!'. Remember in Philippians 2:12b, when Paul told the church there to 'work out your own salvation with fear and trembling'? He meant, of course, not that our works contribute at all to our salvation; but simply that by doing good works, we show, or prove that we have been saved. James wrote that 'faith without works is dead' ( James 2:14-26 ). I believe that the same holds true of love: we can tell a person that we love them, all we want, but if we don't show them by working it out in our lives, and proving our love to them, what good is it to them?

Let's explore, for a little bit, what Scripture has to say about knowing God, and why it brings joy.

Deuteronomy 8:5
records that Moses, addressing the children of Israel before his 'departure', told them '
You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.' By this; Moses affirmed to these typical covenant 'children' that if they were being chastened, it was a good sign that God loved them as sons. ( Hebrews 12:6 ) In Joshua 3:10, Joshua told these same children the proof of God's love for them, and that they knew Him; 'By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites'. I Kings 8:60 tells us that when Solomon blessed the assembly of the children of Israel, prior to the dedication of the temple; he prefigured the Gospel, saying 'that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other'. Speaking of the blessedness of the covenant people of God; the sons of Korah wrote, in Psalm 48:3, 'God is in her palaces; He is known as her refuge'. Psalm 100 commands us, 'Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!', and to 'Know that the LORD, He is God'. Solomon, King of Israel, wrote, in Ecclesiastes 2:26, 'For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight'. Reminding God's people of the covenant blessings that they enjoy; Isaiah writes, 'But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine'.' ( Isaiah 43:1 ) Again speaking of the blessings of the New Covenant in Christ ( Jeremiah 31:31 ), God says of those that He loves, in Jeremiah 24:7, 'Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart' ( see also Ezekiel 34:25-30 ). Looking forward again, to the Gospel, in Ezekiel 36:23, God reminds His covenant people, 'And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes'. Just prior to His promise of to once again dwell with His people ( John 14:23 ); God spoke, in Joel 2:27, of the blessings of knowing Him; 'Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame'. Jesus said, in John 17:3, speaking of the blessings of knowing God, or rather, being known of Him ( Galatians 4:9 ); 'And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.' Paul, in speaking of the revelation of the Gospel to the Gentiles, told the council at Jerusalem that 'God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us' ( Acts 15:8 ( Acts 28:28 ). In probably my favorite New Testament passage, Romans 8:28, Paul writes 'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose'. Writing of the joy that we as Christians experience and share, Paul writes, in I Corinthians 2:12, 'Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God' ( Romans 8:15, II Timothy 1:7 ). He further writes, in I Corinthians 8:3, 'But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him'. In Ephesians 3:19; Paul prayed that God would gloriously and continually reveal Himself to His people, that they might 'know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God', 'till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ' ( Ephesians 4:13 ). Of the believers in Colosse, Paul prayed ' that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God' ( Colossians 1:10 ). In his first letter to the Thessalonian church; Paul wrote of his joy at 'knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God' ( I Thessalonians 1:4 ). John wrote, in I John 2:3; 'Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments', and later, 'whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him'. In I John 4:7 & 8, he wrote 'Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love'. Finally, in I John 5:20; he wrote, 'And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.' What joy we should have, knowing that through loving God, we have eternal life! Bcause we know, and are known of ( more importantly ) God; we should the more readily ( and easily ) share this knowledge ( and subsequently, love ) with our fellow man!

In the knowledge and love of God,
and thus able to love the brethren,
Charles Shank

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