Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Christ's happiness is our hope!

As I was working on my sermon for today, I finally came to realize something that I had read before, but had never let sink in.

I was struggling to express hope and grace in the fact that God, at times, plans for evil to happen to us. (If you want a bit more explanation, see the sermon manuscript on the church website). I began with a basic answer - as with Job, God sends trials and struggles to test us and to sharpen and refine our faith and character.

But what makes that a hope and a joy, as opposed to something to which we simply, grudgingly, resign ourselves? Why are trials, and the experience of being on the receiving end of evil and wickedness, something that we should be happy about?

Well, as I meditated on the problem, I framed the issue like this: God sends trials and suffering to glorify Himself. And how does He glorify and exalt Himself in the lives of believers? He conforms them to the image of Christ.

And then it hit me - again, and for the first time. (I probably owe a great debt to John Piper's writings on this one, as he has made this point in many different ways). If we are to be like Christ in every human way, what about the joy of Christ? What about His happiness?

Is Christ joyful? Is He happy? You'd better believe it. He's God - nothing can thwart Him or frustrate Him. He does everything He pleases. He lives to please and glorify His Father, and in His life, death, and resurrection, He did so perfectly. The Father is exalted in Christ, and that makes Christ supremely joyful.

And if we are to be conformed to the image of Christ, that includes - especially - the joy that is so central to His being. In other words, God wants us to be happy because Christ is happy, and He wants us to be like Christ.

That puts suffering in perspective!


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