How Christ Becomes Our Joy – Part 1

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

Psalm 42:7

It always costs us when we choose to listen to, obey, and follow the Lord Jesus. This is just the nature of things. The way God has designed it. In his infinite wisdom and consummate goodness, God has made following Jesus cost everything. Even our lives.

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For many Christians, the process of laying down one’s own life, and taking up the cross given to us by Jesus is a long slow process, taking one’s whole life on this earth to complete. I know this has been true for me.

For me, this process has really consisted of multiple micro processes, each with its own laying down of more of my own life. As soon as I have laid down one thing, the Holy Spirit, in his gracious kindness and patience, points out another facet of myself that is standing in the way of experiencing the life that Christ desires for me to live.

Choosing to die is not an easy task. It’s why Jesus says that if someone desires to follow him, they must make a daily choice to take a daily action (Matthew 16:24). But here’s the truly unimaginably wonderful thing about denying myself and taking up my cross: at the end is joy unspeakable and full of glory. We are, if we belong to Jesus, on a journey toward our greatest joy. John Piper goes so far to say that “God is plotting for [our] joy”. A joy that can only be found in the eternal presence of Jesus.

Breakers, waves, roaring waterfalls, metaphors for the trials and difficult things we each encounter in our lives, are all mechanisms through which we are cleansed, refreshed, baptized and made new. The deep things of God are discovered this way. They are ne’er the water, down in the depths. In the unknown and slightly terrifying. And when Christ steadily, day by day, becomes our greatest joy as we choose to daily go deeper, we can rest assured that troubles and trials mean for us a confirmation that he cares about us, enough to beckon us onward and upward, into the deep things, continually toward himself, as he commands his steadfast love to be ever present with us.

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

Psalm 42:8

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