“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20 ESV)
It shouldn’t surprise us that joy is an integral part of a God-controlled Christian because, after all, God is the most joyous person of all. God is a glad God. Is that your view of God—joy? “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
At 5:30 this past Friday, 50 years ago, one of my heroes died, C.S. Lewis. Jennifer and I did a “babymoon” trip and one of the goals was to see where C.S. Lewis was buried. It’s a funny story and involved a pregnant woman running through the rain and the mud…but I digress. He is buried in the graveyard next to a little church, Holy Trinity Church. Here’s a picture we took quickly because a cab was waiting.
I love C.S. Lewis and part of what I love is his writings about joy. He had it right when he said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” And elsewhere he said, “We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, pp. 3-4)
What does he mean by that? The joy we derive from anything other than God is like the child enjoying the mud pie in the slum. If that’s all you know, the happiness is a good as it gets. Talk to that child and describe what it’s like to make a sand castle by an ocean or to run down the boardwalk, or to splash in the waves—he can’t even conceive of it.
The God of the Bible is a God of joy, who through Christ, offers real and lasting joy that is not dependent on the provisions of this world because its source is not in this world. There is more joy in God through Christ than drink, sex, power, success, houses, car, name, fame, or anything else apart from God can provide. God is a God of joy. From this fountain of joy flows a deep and abiding thanksgiving. Look at how Ephesians 5:20 describes it, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Don’t misread that. We don’t give praise for anything God doesn’t praise. God doesn’t praise evil. God doesn’t delight in sin or human misery. Neither should we. The devastation and loss of life from the Washington, Illinois tornadoes last Sunday are not an occasion for thanksgiving. The thousands dead in the Philippines’ cyclone are not occasion to give thanksgiving. Don’t force superficial thanksgiving on tragedy.
But the Christian has an ongoing thanksgiving, a “radical gratitude” (R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, p. 176). Thanksgiving. The word is self-defining. “Thanks-giving” is giving thanks. New Covenant Christian thanksgiving looks to the cross as a source of joy. The cross reminds me of God’s amazing love. How could he love somebody like me? It reminds me of Jesus’ obedience to the Father and his love for sinners. When I find my identity and hope in the cross, from that flows an ongoing radical gratitude. Thanksgiving. A joy that the world didn’t give and the world can’t take away.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2013 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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