Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Day Thirty-Seven: Joy, Idolatry, and Eternal Life

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Jesus is so wise—he knows how to turn the hearts of his children away from idolatry. He loves to save and send his disciples into the world to bear fruit, but he knows with utter clarity the difference between the fruit and the root. In Luke 10, after his disciples returned from a mission with reports of the fruit they had borne, Jesus said this: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:19-20). In other words, do not rejoice in the fruit, rejoice in the root. Do not rejoice in the benefits afforded you as a child of God, but rejoice in the fact that, by grace, you are a child of God. Do not rejoice that you have power, rejoice that you have life in the Son!

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44). This man sold everything for the joy that was set before him, and the joy that was set before him was the treasure, not the field. The field was a fringe benefit, but the treasure was the prize. And so the question arises, what exactly was the treasure?

In Luke 10 Jesus instructed his disciples to rejoice in the fact that their names are written in heaven. What else can this mean but that they have eternal life? And what is eternal life? Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). To have your name written in heaven means you have eternal life, and to have eternal life means you know God the Father and God the Son. Therefore, to rejoice that your name is written in heaven is to rejoice in God himself. God himself is the treasure of the field. And the heart of the true child of God cries out, “Oh Father, do what you will with the field, I must have the treasure! Bear fruit through me as you will, I must have you!”

We are so prone to worship the created thing rather than the creator. We are so prone to take joy in the benefits of our salvation rather than the author of our salvation. We are so prone to rejoice in the fruit rather than the root. And so Jesus, in loving-kindness, warns us away from such idolatry and points us toward eternal life. “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Prayer Focus: Pray that as the Father causes us to bear much fruit, he will keep us from idolatry. Pray that we will ever take our joy in him and not in any external thing.

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