How powerful one word can be.
I was writing a lesson recently on Psalm 51. My attention was drawn to one word at the beginning of verse 13: Then.
The question it raised in my mind was, “When?”
When is “then”?
It is obvious from the context that David did not consider it appropriate to teach transgressors Gods ways until then–until something else happened. He could not teach transgressors God’s ways now; he could only do it then.
When is “then”?
Verse 12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
When is “then”? When the joy of his salvation is restored. When he found the grace to be obedient to the command of God to rejoice in the Lord always. David recognized that it would be premature and ineffective to teach transgressors God’s ways if he had not found the grace to find joy in God. Only people who are happy in God effectively witness for God. Only people who are happy in God effectively serve God. The problem with most evangelism programs is they try to teach people to witness who are not happy in God.
The great problem with the church today is not that we need better methods or programs or strategies. We need to find great joy in God.
Before I get too much further, let me clarify one fine point, quoting from the authority on joy in God, John Piper:
I wanted to be happy. Joy, satisfaction, contentment, call it what you will. If you have your own little category of JOY is what Christians have and HAPPINESS is what the world has, you can scrap that when you come to the Bible. The Bible is indiscriminate in its use of pleasure language. It is lavish in all of them, and none of them is chosen above the other.” -John Piper
I have seen too many Christians hide in their grumpiness behind the excuse that they are joyful deep, deep, deep inside. So deep, apparently, that it is invisible to the watching world.
That was not the happiness of the early church. The early church was so happy that as people looked in they said, “There is just one explanation for this.” The world saw so much happiness and so much laughter and so much back slapping, and so many hugs that they concluded that these people must be drunk. There is a goal for you: seek to be a church that is so happy that people think you are drunk.
Then you will teach transgressors God’s ways.
I am not saying this is easy. It is not each. It is difficult; very difficult. It is difficult because life is difficult. Life is full of death and divorce and disease and financial difficulties and relational conflict and there is plenty is this world to be grumpy about. It is not easy.
I have been meditating on these truths for years and have found six guiding principles that have helped me to be obedient to the command of God to rejoice in the Lord always.
Learn to live the well-lived life. It is easier to enjoy God in the context of a well lived life. We strive to do two things in Christian living. We strive to count in all joy when we face trials of many kinds. That is the pinnacle of spiritual maturity. Until then, we also seek to get out lives together.
Express your joy in God in worship. There is a great controversy today about style of worship. Should we use contemporary worship, traditional worship, or a blend? I say yes, but the key word is not contemporary. The key question is not, “Is it contemporary?” They key question is, “Is it worshipful?”
Attack the enemy. It is often said that Christianity is all about a relationship. This is only half true. It is about a relationship, but it is not all about a relationship. It is also about a cause, a task, a race, a fight. The weapons of our warfare are all offensive weapons. The work as we attack the enemy. One of the best ways to do this is through microcosms of the church doubling every two years or less.
Do the things God has called you to do. We all have a part in this cause. We are to attack the enemy together. We are to do life together and advance the kingdom together. There is great joy in being part of a team and doing our part on that team.
Express your joy in God to others. “Then will I teach transgressors your ways.” Then. When God restores in us the joy of our salvation. When we find the grace to be obedient to the command of God to rejoice in the Lord always we will teach transgressors his ways.
Relate to others in healthy relationships. How good it is when brothers dwell together in unity. Among other things, when brothers dwell together in unity, it is easier to enjoy God. conflict is the great destroyer of joy.
I work full time at teaching groups to double every two years or less. The more I do it, the more I am convinced we are talking to a restaurant about advertising when we ought to be talking about the menu. Show me a people who are deeply happy in God and will show you a people who are turning their world upside down for Him.
I’d love to explore these truths with your people and take a step toward great joy in God.
In the mean time, I recommend you take a peek at John Piper’s web page, http://www.desiringgod.org Click on the resources tab and the essential Piper link.
Or, go to this linkhttp://www.desiringgod.org/Store/MP3CDs/625_Light_and_Heat/ and click on the individual messages. These are MP3 CDs but notices you can get them really cheap to give away to your church. Not a bad idea.
Enjoy. Really. Enjoy.