This morning God showed me something new so I thought I’d share with you what God is showing me.
The Pauline epistles (Paul’s letters) are my favorite books of the whole Bible and I’ve been reading through them again. This morning I was reading and Philippians 3:1-11 really stuck out to me. In verse 1, Paul says the familiar line, “Finally my brethren, rejoice in the Lord”. And it dawned on me that the emphasis of this verse is on the object not the action. We always stumble at the “rejoice” part but what Paul is emphasizing is the object—“in the Lord”. He then goes on to tell them what they are not to rejoice in. And then says, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
To rejoice is to take joy in. Whether we like it or not, our human hearts will always find something to hold on to and take joy in, even if the thing we choose to hold on to is our fears, lies, and our identity of self. We may not see ourselves as “taking joy” in those things but it is what we have chosen to hold on to and comfort ourselves with, take pleasure in, i.e. take joy in. Someone recently quoted again to me, “The human heart is an idol-making factory.” To “take joy” in other than God Himself is to have idols. This is very convicting for me! Paul here is not talking about fabricating joy or telling us to just be joyful but, rather, is directing where that rejoicing that we already do is to find its object—In the Lord.
All throughout Scripture it talks about how important wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are. Many of the prophets wrote “so that they may know” or “that you may remember”. What is this that we are to know and understand? It is God Himself! Check it out for yourself! In every passage where it’s mentioned—to know, knowledge, understand, understanding, wisdom—look and see what that knowledge it to be about, what is it based in. I don’t know how to explain it but all we need is in God Himself. All. Everything. The more I know of God, the more joy-filled, real and true, and worthwhile of a life and heart I have. A.W. Tozer said, “What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.”
Later, in chapter 4 of Philippians, Paul again tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!” It is a command but a command to rejoice “in the Lord” and yes, to rejoice not grumble, complain, withdraw, or dispute with Him. Rejoice! Turn the “taking joy” part of your heart on to Him and find there your rejoicing!
Often in my life, I have found myself clinging to bitter things and holding on to painful things, not because of their content, but simply because they are familiar. I hold on to seeing myself as undeserving of love, as an object to be pitied for the hard things I’ve gone through, as not good enough for Jesus to really make much of, as deserving to be hurt and angry for a while, as “this is who I am” and being unwilling to move from this, as being a humble person that does not accept compliments as true for humility’s sake (pride really!). For a long time now, when most people told me that I am an amazing woman or that they really appreciated something I had done (or especially when they said that they appreciated something about me), I would not take it to heart. I held it as flattery. It felt insincere. And I would simply let it slide off my heart because “I know the real truth.” But a dear friend was finally able to convince my heart that I really am an amazing woman and that I am loved. And allowing that truth in, opened wide a door to finally be convinced of how much God loves me. I am ashamed to say that despite ALL that He has been and done and the bits of Him that I had accepted, this full truth is only now starting to dawn full on my hardened heart. His goodness now overwhelms me. His love behind it all is stunning. This new revelation of God in a new way to my heart, this new knowledge of Him, has set my heart and mind on firmer ground. Right now the emotions that come with this knowledge are high. But He has planted new knowledge of Himself deep in my heart so that when the emotions wear away and change, my heart is now convinced of this truth of Him and will stand more firmly in this point so that when circumstances change (as they most certainly will!) this truth holds firm.
It is a battle certain but the lies of the past can only affect us so long as we give them place. It takes a tremendous effort to leave off something that has brought me comfort for so many years but I am learning to let go of it, that holding on to it is my pride, and to find in God the better comfort and freer life.
To “rejoice in the Lord” is to willfully and humbly let go of my idols and to acknowledge, seek to know, and be fulfilled by my Lord, that is, to “take my joy IN THE LORD”.
A great study I listened to this past year was Chip Ingrim’s “God as He longs for us to see Him.” Very good study! And of course, A.W. Tozer’s “Attributes of God”, “Pursuit of God”, and “God’s Pursuit of Man.” Tozer tends to be a heavy read but I like how plainly and bluntly he puts things. I don’t know if all of this will be as helpful to you as it has been to me but I hope so.