TOTAL AND PERPETUAL JOY

Ps. 16:11 – You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

David spoke of the resurrection of Christ and its ensuing joy 1000 years before it happened. Death, man’s greatest and final enemy, would be swallowed up in the joy Christ enjoyed at His Father’s right hand. The great mystery that is unfolded here is this; Jesus stepped into this heavenly joy as a man on our behalf. Think about it, He had always enjoyed this heavenly life and privilege as the Son of God. Now it was His by purchase as the Son of Man. He entered into this life of joy for us; now that place at the Father’s right hand is ours. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes it.

“Christ being raised from the dead ascended into glory, to dwell in constant nearness to God, where joy is at its full for ever: the foresight of this urged him onward in his glorious but grievous toil. To bring his chosen to eternal happiness was the high ambition which inspired him, and made him wade through a sea of blood. O God, when a worldling’s mirth has all expired, for ever with Jesus may we dwell “at thy right hand,” where “there are pleasures for evermore;” and meanwhile, may we have an earnest by tasting thy love below. Trappe’s note on the heavenly verse which closes the Psalm is a sweet morsel, which may serve for a contemplation, and yield a foretaste of our inheritance. He writes, “Here is as much said as can be, but words are too weak to utter it. For quality there is in heaven joy and pleasures; for quantity, a fulness, a torrent whereat they drink without let or loathing; for constancy, it is at God’s right hand, who is stronger than all, neither can any take us out of his hand; it is a constant happiness without intermission: and for perpetuity it is for evermore. Heaven’s joys are without measure, mixture, or end.”

I love Trappe’s comments, “heaven’s joys are without measure, mixture, or end”. That is absolutely unthinkably. David saw this by prophesy, Peter and the followers of Jesus tasted the edge of it on the Day of Pentecost. Peter was saying in his sermon that the outpouring of the Spirit is the beginning of this supernatural joy. We can now experience this joy for ourselves.

CHRISTIAN HEDONIST

shane-rounce-378060.jpgPsa. 16:11 ¶ You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

C. S. Lewis, John Piper, and Jonathan Edwards have helped convert me to Christian hedonism. You might not like that term at first but if you stay open and evaluate the facts you too may be converted. First let’s look at the definition of the word hedonism from Webster’s Dictionary:

“the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life”

If hedonism is a philosophy of life that our chief purpose is the pursuit of happiness in this life, a Christian hedonist is someone whose main goal in life is to pursue pleasure in Christ alone. I guess the reason that this sounds strange to many people, including Christians, is that they have not discovered the pleasure that is available to them in Christ. To know Him intimately is a taste of heavenly joy, nothing in this life even comes close. We can taste this joy for ourselves most powerfully in two ways. First we taste this joy in reading the Bible. The Psalmist may have said it best, in Ps.119:103 “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Secondly, we find ourselves caught up in His presence of joy when we press into His presence through worship. Again we look to the Psalmist for springs of joy, in Psa. 63:3 “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You”.

Here are some thoughts from John Piper on Christian hedonism.

“God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. That’s the shortest summary of what we mean by Christian Hedonism. If that is true, then there is no conflict between your greatest exhilaration and God’s greatest glorification. In fact, not only is there no conflict between your happiness and God’s glory, but his glory shines in your happiness, when your happiness is in him. And since God is the source of greatest happiness, and since he is the greatest treasure in the world, and since his glory is the most satisfying gift he could possibly give us, therefore it is the kindest, most loving thing he could possibly do—to reveal himself, and magnify himself and vindicate himself for our everlasting enjoyment.“

So that’s where I am after all these years, enjoying this treasure I have discovered in Christ and using all means possible to share with others this liberating power of joy found only in the Lord. Open your Bible, draw near to the Lord in worship, maybe you too will become a Christian hedonist.

ENJOYING GOD ?

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Psa. 16:11 ¶ You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. It was the fall of 1994 and I was having the time of my life. To say I was surprised has to be a huge understatement. I had been experiencing extreme joy for over a month. Joy was one thing but this was totally out of the box. It was laughing while preaching, when doing office work, during prayer, Bible reading, and church. Especially in church. This joy was of a different nature of anything I had ever known; it was spiritual or supernatural joy. I guess the contrast was what really got me. It was church work and its troubles that had caused me such pain and sorrow. Now I was caught up in extravagant joy. Jonathan Edwards tasted this joy from simply reading a verse of scripture. Listen to his explanation of this heavenly joy.

“The first that I remember that ever I found anything of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, 1 Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen.” As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the divine being; a new sense, quite different from anything I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was; and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be wrapt up to God in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him. I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of Scripture to myself; and went to prayer, to pray to God that I might enjoy him; and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do; with a new sort of affection.”
Did you catch that? He said he had lived in this joy since it began. This is true spirituality. Not a new code or plan for success, but rather being filled with the extravagant love and joy of the Lord. This is my life, to spend my days in the pursuit of joy in God alone.

WHY DO I WORSHIP ?

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Psa. 16:11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Praise and worship is spontaneous, it is what we do when we see greatness. Take sporting events for example, great accomplishments are followed by exorbitant accolades. I think of greatness and I think of Usain Bolt or Carl Lewis in the Olympics, or Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes, and for New Orleanians nothing tops the Saints winning the Super Bowl. I will never forget that night, the city was in an uproar and I was receiving phone calls from Africa, Australia, and Asia within seconds of the victory. Greatness absolutely demands a response. The moment is completed in sharing our response to greatness with our friends. We want to share those special moments with others. That brings us back to worship. One moment in the greatness of God’s presence absolutely demands a response. Seeing Him as He is causes us to magnify the greatest of all beings. That’s how you know for certain that someone has the real thing, worship is the unquestionable characteristic of the redeemed. Here are some thoughts from C.S. Lewis on the subject of praise.

“But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. . . . The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians and scholars. My whole, more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of complement that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are, the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”
So when you see Him for yourself let it out. Responding to His love and mercy is what our praise is all about. No wonder Jesus said if you won’t praise Him even the rocks will cry out.

HEAVEN BREAKING IN

Psa. 16:11 ¶ You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasure forevermore.

Do you ever think about heaven? Do you wonder what it is like? What stands out to you; the gold streets, the emerald rainbow, the thousands of angels, family reunion, or maybe the crystal sea. All of those things will be more amazing than anything we have seen in this world yet they will all pale in comparison to the main attraction. Christ Himself will demand our attention just because of Who He is. When we see Him, then we will understand. That day will be more amazing than anything we can even imagine.We will feel waves of love and joy more powerful than we have ever known. This is what heaven is, to know Christ without any barriers to our affection. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon and Rutherford, get ready for a taste of heaven right now.

“Christian, here is joy for thee; thou hast looked, and thou hast seen the Lamb. Through thy tears thine eyes have seen the Lamb of God taking away thy sins. Rejoice, then. In a little while, when thine eyes shall have been wiped from tears, thou wilt see the same Lamb exalted on His throne. It is the joy of thy heart to hold daily fellowship with Jesus; thou shalt have the same joy to a higher degree in heaven; thou shalt enjoy the constant vision of His presence; thou shalt dwell with Him for ever. “I looked, and, lo, a Lamb!” Why, that Lamb is heaven itself; for as good Rutherford says, “Heaven and Christ are the same thing;” to be with Christ is to be in heaven, and to be in heaven is to be with Christ. That prisoner of the Lord very sweetly writes in one of his glowing letters—“O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have thee still, it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.” It is true, is it not, Christian? Does not thy soul say so?”

So, are you ready to go? How do you know if your ready? You are only ready when you look with joyful anticipation for that day. The day of the Lord draws near, heaven is about to break into our world.

THE POWERFUL PLEASURES OF GOD

Psa. 16:11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Ever feel like you are swimming against the current? Ministry can sometimes feel like that. The people of the world are so consumed with their pleasures of the flesh that the message of purity or holiness is perceived as irrelevant. Often churches will lower their standards or expectations and alter their message in order to placate the people who are set on worldly pursuits. That is actually totally unnecessary. Could it be that us Christians have not gone too far but actually have not gone far enough? Could it be that the only way to defeat the alluring promise of pleasure that this world offers is not to forbid converts from participating in fleshly pleasures but to offer a superior pleasure? Actually, the pleasures of God are what holds the key to our freedom. Its finding and pursuing pleasure in Christ that liberates our souls from the bondages that the world uses to ensnare us. Sam Storms brings this truth out powerfully in his book Pleasures Evermore. Check out this thought from his book.

“Here’s my point. How do you fight the pleasure of sin? I’ll tell you: with another pleasure. Holiness is not attained, at least not in any lasting, life-changing way, merely through prohibitions, threats, fear, or shame-based appeals. Holiness is attained by believing in, trusting, banking on, resting in, savoring, and cherishing God’s promise of a superior happiness that comes only by falling in love with Jesus. The power that the pleasures of sin exert on the human soul will ultimately be overcome only by the superior power of the pleasures of knowing”
“and being known, loving and being loved by God in Christ. Or again, the only way to conquer one pleasure is with another, superior, more pleasing pleasure!”

That’s incredible! The way to be freed from the trap that we fall into following the promises of pleasure in the lifestyle of sin is actually a full on pursuit of another kind of pleasure. At the expense of offending someone let me give you an example. I started smoking pot at a young age because someone gave me some and I liked it. As a matter of fact I loved it and couldn’t get enough. As a matter of fact I could never imagine not smoking weed until that fateful day when I was born again. Suddenly and without expectation I was caught by the pleasures of God. I had no idea that I would want to follow Christ and His plan but once I tasted His love I was done. The drugs no longer held sway over me, my soul was free, I had been born again. From that day until this (forty years ago at this writing) I have been caught up in the pursuit of God and His plan for my life. If you are trapped by sinful pleasure, there is a way out. The way out is to discover the more powerful pleasures of God.

STRANGE ENCOUNTER

A strange encounter while brushing my teeth!
Merry Friday by Parris Bailey

“The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.” Ps.16:6

Frank and I have a lot of good memories back at our Bible School in the 70’s. When our school begin to face financial difficulties, the director of the school found a way to raise money and to “equip and train” the students. It appears he was able to ‘kill two birds with one stone” by forming a tree reforestation team that would have to live in tents way up in the mountains for months at a time. On paper the idea looked pretty good. I guess you could say God has a funny way to make sure you happen to be just where He wants you. Frank and I became the likely candidates that would be on these reforestation teams. Yes, we lived in tents for months at a time with our first son, Jeremy either in Washington or Oregon. The perfect temperature to plant trees was always between 38-45 degrees with rain. Once a week, I would be able to go down in the town, take a shower, wash our clothes and get the team’s groceries for the week. The menu was rocket science- oatmeal for breakfast, 3 sandwiches for lunch (the guys called a pj, “painted bread”) and “tuna glom” for dinner. If it wasn’t tuna it would be ground meat or chicken with a lot and I mean a lot of pasta.
Although Frank had the harder job of planting these little “seedlings” into the worst environment possible, I would many times find myself freezing back at camp and fighting depression. Yes, we were cold. I do remember the absolute beauty we were surrounded in and I would spend moments by the river with my little son, contemplating our future. Deep within I know that God was building in us character and courage.
One particular night I went with my kerosene lamp down to the bubbling brook to brush my teeth. While brushing I began to see fish gather all around me. Within minutes I called out to the team to come see and before you know it, we had caught, with our hands, dozens of fresh salmon. We had the best grilled salmon ever! All of us went to sleep with full bellies only to find in the morning that it was spawning season and it was against the law to catch them. I still laugh at our ignorance!
A lot of people would leave the school after their stint up in the mountains. One trip I had breakfast duty which meant waking up early to turn on the oatmeal water. It was always a little eerie to walk in the pitch black of night with your lantern to the food tent. This particular morning after having a bad rain all night, as I made my way to the food tent I heard a unusual roaring from the river. The nearer I got I realized that instead of the usual 100 ft drop the water was level to our camp. By daybreak we had broken camp and left immediately taking different routes because of roads that were washed out.
Each step of our lives, God has been there. The lines have fallen out beautifully. I can only pray that as you look back at the bad, that you always can see the silver lining.

THE JOY OF HEAVEN

THE JOY OF HEAVEN

Psa. 16:11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

There is no way for us to fully comprehend what heaven is really going to be like. C.S. Lewis made an incredible attempt at describing heaven in his book “The Great Divorce”. He painted a picture of a place of incredible substance or density with an extreme heightened awareness of our senses. David said it was a place with fullness of joy. What did he mean by fullness? Actually that describes something that is infinite because fullness of joy implies no boundaries. Heaven is a place of intense, extreme, overflowing joy that will increase throughout all eternity. There is no end to a “fullness of joy”. Jonathan Edwards describes the believer receiving the input of God’s joy in heaven. Listen to his wonderful description.

“What joy may we conclude springs up in the hearts of the saints after they have passed their wearisome pilgrimage to be brought to such a paradise? Here is joy unspeakable indeed; here is humble, holy, divine joy in its perfection. It is a spring of sweetness. But here the spring shall become a river, and an ocean. All shall stand about the God of glory, the fountain of love, as it were opening their bosoms to be filled with those effusions of love which are poured forth from thence, as the flowers on the earth in a pleasant spring day open their bosoms to the sun to be filled with his warmth and light, and to flourish in beauty and fragrancy by his rays. Every saint is as a flower in the garden of God, and holy love is the fragrancy and sweet odor which they all send forth, and with which they fill that paradise. Every saint there is as a note in a concert of music which sweetly harmonizes with every other note, and all together employed wholly in praising God and the Lamb; and so all helping one another to their utmost to express their love of the whole society to the glorious Father and Head of it, and [[to pour back]] love into the fountain of love, whence they are supplied and filled with love and with glory.”

You see, part of being created in the image of God carries an incredible, insatiable desire for pleasure. In our fallen state we try, quite unsuccessfully, to find some satisfaction in all of our natural pursuits. It can never do. We were made for so much greater than anything creation offers. Eternity is in our hearts and we all cry out for fullness, fullness that can only be found in the Lord. When we meet Christ in this life, we taste the edge of this satisfaction. Knowing the reality of His love guarantees us that there is more. This taste of heaven deposits a craving for heaven inside of us. Now we long for the day when we will stand (or lay prostrate) in the glory of His presence drinking in this fullness of joy. I can’t wait!!!

RICHLY TO ENJOY

RICHLY TO ENJOY

Psa. 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

This is the very essence of life! We were created to enjoy God. We were also created to glorify God. These two statements are not in conflict. We actually glorify God by enjoying Him. The happiness that shines out of the faces of His sons and daughters tell the whole story. When we are happy, I mean really happy, just because God is God and we are His, God is glorified. If that is true I have an easy job as a Christian. My highest goal in life is to bring glory to God simply by being happy, by being happy in Him. Charles Spurgeon was often called the Prince of preachers, maybe you will understand why by his comments on the enjoyment of God.

“The whole of Christ, in his adorable character as the Son of God, is by himself made over to us most richly to enjoy. His wisdom is our direction, his knowledge our instruction, his power our protection, his justice our surety, his love our comfort, his mercy our solace, and his immutability our trust. He makes no reserve, but opens the recesses of the Mount of God and bids us dig in its mines for the hidden treasures. All, all, all are yours, saith he, be ye satisfied with favor and full of the goodness of the Lord.”

At the end of the day, Christ is more than enough in every circumstance or arena we find ourselves in. If Spurgeon is right, I have no problems. He is my guidance, my teacher, my defender, my advocate, my comforter, my source of provision, in short, He is more than enough!! What an amazing truth, I seek after Him and I am satisfied. As lagniappe ( if your not from Louisiana that means a little bit extra) He throws in all of my needs that pertain to life in this world. Like Jesus taught, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you”. What Jesus meant was to seek the Lord, to drink deeply and daily from the fountain of Living Waters. When you do that, you are filled with joy and everything else just seems to work out.

My favorite non-Bible quote of all time is this one by Jonathan Edwards. This quote began a new hunger and thirst for God in my life about eighteen years ago. I hope it creates that same hunger in you.

“God is the highest good of the reasonable creature; and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.–To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean.”

GOD CAME DOWN

GOD CAME DOWN

Psa. 16:11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Have you ever experienced God for yourself? Before you stop reading, I am not talking about just repeating a prayer or following some church formula for being a Christian, I am talking about experiencing the Almighty for yourself. Many people have an idea about God and even an idea about knowing Him, but really, is He real to you? Jonathan Edwards had been raised in church. His dad was a pastor and church was all he had known throughout his life. He had prepared and studied to enter the ministry himself and was pastoring a church when God came down in his life. Here is Edwards’ account of one of those first times the Lord began to reveal Himself to Edwards.

“Once as I rode out into the woods for my health in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view, that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love and meek, gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency, great enough to swallow up all thought and conception—which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud.”

It seems Jonathan had a visitation in the woods. It was a God encounter that left him undone and effected the rest of his life dramatically. He could never just view the Lord or spiritual things as a technician any more. The Lord had become real to him and was now incredibly real in his life. His prayer life changed, his view of nature changed, his preaching changed. His whole world was being impacted by the reality of God in his soul.
So, I want to ask you again, have you experienced God for yourself? Is He just an idea that you have or are you really walking with Him on a daily basis. You see the Lord is not a religion, a philosophy, an errand boy or a code of ethics. He is a most awesome person. He is the GREAT I AM. He is all powerful, all knowing, omnipresent, and the sovereign God. The most incredible thing of all that He is, He is approachable. He longs for fellowship and intimacy with His sons and daughters.
Each one of us can have a God encounter like Jonathan Edwards had. It may happen when you are on a walk, or maybe reading your Bible, or worshipping in private or at church. It may even happen right now. Maybe that is what this devotion has been about, He is nearer than you can imagine, He is here right now.