Positive Christianity—The Joy of Being A Christian
By: Dr. Steven C. Riser
|By: Dr. Steven Riser; ©2004|
|Dr. Riser wants to make a confession: “When Christ found me, my heart was responsive to God and I had the confidence that He forgave all my sin, adopted me into His family and called me to share His love and grace.” In this article he shares how you, too, can have the joy that this same experience will bring.|
Nahum 1:7a, “The Lord is good.
”Luke 18:19b “No one is good—except God alone.”
Forty years ago, the Good, Great and Gracious Shepherd found this lost sheep; He looked past my faults, saw my needs and showed me two things: He could replace everything that was missing in my life that I needed; and no-thing and no-person could replace Him in my life.
When Calvin was found by the Good shepherd, he said, “I felt my heart strangely warm.” When Christ found me, my heart was responsive to God and I had the confidence that He forgave all my sin, adopted me into His family and called me to share his love and grace.
In this article I want like to share with you:
- my love for Christ and the joy of my salvation through the shed blood of Christ.
- words of hope, power, strength, victory, excitement, comfort and encouragement.
We have good news! We know, love, worship and serve a good, great and gracious God! The secular news media tend to emphasize and focus mostly on negative news stories. We live in an increasingly cynical, skeptical, pessimistic, negative and unbelieving world.
When you hear the word “confession”, what do you think of? Sin? Weakness? Failure? Do you know what the word means in the Greek? “To agree together with God.” When we confess, we are agreeing with God, negatively (1 Jn. 1:9) and positively (Rom. 10:9f).
We agree with God concerning our sins and concerning the truth of His Word. Questions for Consideration:
I’ve got a confession to make: a positive confession, a confession of God’s goodness and grace. Before I confess with you the goodness and grace of God, let me ask a few questions:
- When people observe our attitudes, words, actions and interactions, do they see the real, living, loving, life of Christ inside us? Or…do they see a downcast, non-existent, defeated, pseudo-Jesus?
- Do you know why Jesus taught His disciples to utterly depend on Him (John 15:5, 11)? With Him we can produce much fruit but without Him we can do nothing. But also… “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
- Do you know one of the results of being controlled by the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
- Do you know what Paul proclaimed to the Philippians while spending time in prison (Phil. 4:4)? “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” What does rejoice mean? To find joy again. If you’ve lost it, find it! Where? “In the Lord.” How often? “Always.”
- Do you know what Nehemiah said was the source of our strength (Neh. 8:10b)? Nehemiah said, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
- Do you know the first question and answer to the Westminster Confession of Faith? “What is the chief end of man?” “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
- Would you agree that many Christians and all non-Christians have an incomplete or an inaccurate understanding about what it means to know Christ personally? C. S. Lewis said, “most people don’t reject Christianity, they reject a false caricature of Christianity.” J. G. Machen said, “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel.”
- Do you know what an oxymoron is? Two terms used together that are contradictory—Like 1) a happy thinking pagan or 2) a negative Spirit-filled Christian.
- Why did Jesus say he came? He came for a number of reasons but according to John 10:10b He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”—abundant life. I have some more good news for you: not only do we know, love, worship and serve a good, great and gracious God, but…
God Gives Us Several Realistic Reasons to be Positive:
- God assures us that all our sins are forgiven (Rom. 8: 1)—that takes care of the past.
- God assures us His Spirit will indwell and empower us—that takes care of the present.
- God assures us that we will dwell in His house forever—that takes care of the future.
With the past forgiven, power for the present and the future guaranteed it’s unrealistic to be negative! If we love God and are called according to His purpose we should be positive! After all, didn’t Paul say in Romans 8 that we are more than conquerors through Christ?
I’m not saying that a Christian never has negative thoughts or never gets discouraged. I am saying that since we know, love, worship and serve a living savior we can be realistically optimistic! When we lose our joy we can regain it, we can rejoice—find joy again—if we learn, like David, to encourage our hearts “in the Lord.”
Do you remember what Peter said in 2 Peter 1:3? By His divine power, [He] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Listen to how the Message paraphrases this: “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.”
- I believe that, as Christians, we need to live joyful lives so that when anybody sees us they will say, “I don’t know what that person has, but whatever it is, I want to get some of it.”
- I believe that God wants us to have a contagious faith so people will “catch” Jesus’ love!
- I believe that our Lord expects us to experience and demonstrate His joy to others.
Again—I’m not suggesting everything that happens is good or we put a forced smile on our face. I am saying that since all things work together for good for those who love God, we should cultivate an attitude of gratitude by thanking God for what He permits to come our way.
An Appeal to Common Sense:
Let me ask you… as an individual…
- Do you enjoy being around a cheerful, optimistic, kind and loving person? … or
- Do you enjoy being around the person who brightens up a room—just by leaving it?
If an unbeliever perceives us as harsh, stern-faced, never-smiling, joyless person, he will, in most cases, want no part of our kind of Christianity. And why should he? How shall unbelievers know that we are Christ’s disciples? If we have love! (Jn. 13:34-5)
What do you think is one of Satan’s most effective tools in deceiving people? (Hint: Genesis 3.) Satan has been successful in selling the idea that to have fun you can’t trust or obey God.
- God says, if you want to experience the best possible life, leave the choice with me.
- Satan says, if you want to act in your best interests, go your own way, do your own thing!
Forty years ago, God showed me a truth that helped me to avoid a lot of unnecessary pain: There is no conflict between what pleases God and what is best for us. If we ever think differently, we either misunderstand what pleases God or we are wrong in our thinking.
We have been talking about living a joy-filled life, but what exactly is joy? It is the exaltation of my inward being that comes from genuine harmony with God, others and ourselves. That genuine harmony results from God’s grace—gaining and maintaining a clear conscience. Paul said in Acts 24:16 “...I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”
“Joy is the flag we fly from the castletower of our hearts when the King is residing there.” Summarizing Some of God’s Good Gifts:
God, our heavenly father, loves to give good gifts to His children (Mt. 7:11). What are some of those gifts?
- God has given us an ability to love others that we wouldn’t have without His Spirit.
- God fills us with gratitude in response to His grace and gives us a desire to please Him.
- God has given us purpose and significance in having the joy of faithfully serving Him.
- God has given us His precious promises that we might partake of His divine nature.
- God has invited us to cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).
- God has given us the privilege of faithfully serving as His ambassadors and stewards.
- God has given us His inspired and Holy Word in order to grow in knowledge and grace.
- God has given us the joy of sharing our lives with Him and relating everything to Him.
- God has promised: nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ!
Jesus said in Matthew 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
I don’t know about you but I never had it so good!… so much love, peace, joy, happiness, security, contentment, along with better physical, mental and spiritual health. We can never out give God. All that we are, all that we have, and all that we ever hope to be, we owe it all to the grace and goodness of God! How can we respond other than in gratitude?
Cultivating the Attitude of Gratitude:
- In corporate worship we sing the Doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessing flow…”
- James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (1:17)
- The Psalmist invites us in Psalm 34:8a to, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”
- Paul says that when we become transformed by the renewing of our minds, we will be able to…Test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:1-2)
God has not only given us many eternal and spiritual benefits; He has also given us many temporal benefits as well. For example, according to the insurance companies, the person who goes to church regularly will live 5.7 years longer than a non-church goer. This is consistent with God’s word (Prov. 3:2; 9:11). We also have about 60% less chance of a heart attack and a 55% less chance of a one-car accident if we attend church regularly.
Time doesn’t permit me to share all of these benefits but you can check out my article on this subject on this web site. It summarizes some of these benefits which are available for you. More than 300 empirical studies have found that people with strong religious faith are far healthier, in every way, than non-believers. Do many non-Christians know this information? Very, very few.
Two of the most basic sins mentioned by Paul in Romans 1:21 are: not honoring or glorifying God as God and not giving thanks to him. If we would live joy-filled lives we must learn to honor God as God (give Him His rightful place in our lives) and give thanks to Him. The more that you thank God for what you have, the more you will have to thank God for.
Thirty-three years ago, I had a godly seminary professor by the name of Dr. Paul Little. In a question and answer session I asked, “What is your secret for maintaining your love for God?” He said, “Never take the grace of God for granted, but give thanks to God every day!” I took Dr. Little’s advice and I have never lost my sense of need for God or my love for God!
I leave that challenge with you: Give thanks to God for His grace, every day!