Sunday, 2 October 2011

Joy on the Journey..

Joy is in short supply nowadays, believe me, I’ve just been reading the weekend papers. So it’s very timely that we have just begun our new preaching series @kingsnorwich entitled ‘Joy on the Journey’. Based on the Book of Philippians, this series seeks to show that living life as a Christian really should affect your demeanor in a very noticeable way, even (or perhaps I should say especially) in challenging circumstances. Ask the apostle Paul; his life was not exactly a tea party, what with the numerous beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, personal setbacks & abandonments, yet he demonstrated that a Christian, living with an ongoing, intimate relationship with Jesus, is able to walk through the severest circumstances and still know joy and peace of mind.

Paul describes this dynamic, life-changing relationship with Jesus as ‘being in Christ’, and not as the pinnacle that super-Christians might one day aspire to, but the fundamental stance of every Christian. Of all the expressions in the New Testament, the phrase ‘in Christ Jesus’ is one of the most difficult to translate well. In union with Christ Jesus is probably the closest in English, but in other languages you have to use expressions like ‘tied to Christ Jesus,’ ‘one with Christ Jesus,’ or ‘standing together with Christ Jesus.’ One writer put it like this: To be in union with the living Christ is to live continually in his presence just as a bird in the air, a fish in the water, or the roots of a tree in the soil”.
You see, there’s no such thing as a ‘nominal’ Christian. In the vocabulary of Paul and the New Testament you are either ‘in Christ’ or you’re still ‘dead in your trespasses and sins’. The problem is that we have often lowered the bar in terms of what it means to be a Christian (“Just believe, give mental assent”) and with it, the expectation of what the Christian life should be like. Gordon Fee puts it like this: Knowing Christ is not some kind of intellectual exercise. Rather it is to live in relationship with him in such a way that one comes to know him intimately. And to know him is to be conformed into his likeness.

I’m not writing this blog to make you feel bad! Quite the opposite. In these uncertain, fear-inducing days I believe that Christians not only have astonishing resources to draw on - if they will start living in Christ, they also have the only real answer for their dismayed neighbors who have no idea what the future holds for them.

I close with a quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: ‘A Christian is not merely one who is a little less miserable than he was. He is one who rejoices.’! And I for one, am very glad about that!


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