Friday, January 18, 2008

Full(er) Joy

There are times in life when we need to make a correction or modification to what we think or how we live. The last few months have been this sort of time for me in an area that I once spoke about boldly. The fact is not that my mind has changed completely, but I believe my thought has been expanded to be richer and more accurate.

There was a time that I would have said that you must want to go to Heaven or experience the New Creation for the singular reason of Jesus Christ being there. For instance, a quote might be, “Can you say that if no one else or nothing else was in Heaven, except Jesus Christ, you would still want to go?” Now, I do not want to change the fact that Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure of eternity. I still believe that the greatest joy we will experience will be seeing Him face to face and learning to love Him more deeply throughout eternity.

However, I now believe this mindset takes away some of the joy that God desires for us in eternity. My point is that I believe our joy will be made richer by being with other people, in addition to Christ, throughout eternity. The first factor that shifted my thinking was passages such as Philippians 2:2 and 1 John 1:4. These passages indicate that Paul’s joy and John’s joy will be fuller if they can have the confidence that the Christians they have been equipping will be faithful, will finish the race of life well, and will join them in the presence of Christ. I understand that. There are plenty of people that I have worked with over the years and I long for them to remain faithful to Christ so that we will be together in the New Creation. Sometimes just the sight of them brings tears to my eyes because I long to be with them in the presence of Christ someday. I can understand how a reunion with them in the New Creation would not take away from my love for Christ, but increase it.

A good example of this is the fact that my love for my wife does not diminish my love for my children; in fact it should cause it to become stronger. I am not filled with a limited supply of love. Really there is a domino effect of loving one person causes me to love someone else more. For instance, when I see a marriage repaired through Biblical counseling I grow to love God more because I have seen more of His grace at work. Please do not get me wrong, there are times when my love has to shift in order to please God. I must love God more and love sin less. Yet, that same equation does not fit when it comes to people that I truly love in life and can bring glory to God by loving. So, my point is that my love for Christ will not be reduced when I rejoice in seeing another person that I have dearly loved when we are reunited in Heaven. In fact, it will be made stronger because I will more fully realize that this is another life that Jesus has shown mercy and has tenderly shepherded into His presence.

Another source that has developed this idea is the book Heaven by Randly Alcorn. One specific quote there really grabbed my attention. It is found on page 329 and it is from Jonathan Edwards. Edwards says,

“Every Christian friend that goes before us from this world is a ransomed spirit waiting to welcome us in heaven. There will be the infant of days that we have lost below, through grace to be found above. There the Christian father, and mother, and wife, and child, and friend, with whom we shall renew the holy fellowship of the saints, which was interrupted by death here, but shall be commenced again in the upper sanctuary, and then shall never end. There we shall have companionship with the patriarchs and fathers and saints of the Old and New Testaments, and those of whom the world was not worthy…And there, above all, we shall enjoy and dwell with God the Father, whom we have loved with all our hearts on earth; and with Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, who has always been to us the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely; and with the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier, and Guide, and Comforter; and shall be filled with all the fullness of the Godhead forever!”

This longing to be with Christ and with those that I have loved only increases my intensity to be faithful to Christ so that I may be with Him (and them) for eternity. I am looking forward to the joy that will flood my heart when I am face to face with Jesus and fully understand the blessing of being reunited with people that have been significant to me and important to Christ. That joy will be even stronger because I will know more truly that these relationships are only possible because the King laid down His life for those of us that love Him.

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