Jesus Wins!

At Christmastime, we often hear the reminder that Jesus was “born to die.”  And that is mostly true. Of course, he came to die (John 3:14-16).  But He died so that He might live.

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. (John 10:17)

Jesus died so that He could rise from the dead.  And though we could point to several purposes for His resurrection, the one that fits with our theme is His triumph.  Jesus rose from the dead so He could trounce Satan, who for thousands of years wielded the power of death against humanity. 

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Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

In the resurrection, God brought an abrupt end to Satan’s winning record.  Having defeated every man in death, Satan thought He could triumph over the Son of God as well.  And that was his fatal mistake.  Because when Jesus broke the power of death, Satan not only lost that battle, but he also lost the war.  In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, death lost its power over mankind. 

We can delight in Christ if we consider the nature of His triumph.  Notice how Jesus trounced the devil:

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The Lord’s Table As the Central Act of Enjoying God

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (I Corinthians 10:16)

Neglect of the Lord’s Supper is one of the great neglects of our age.  I don’t believe we can rightly estimate the damage it does, both to churches and to individual Christians, that we neglect the Lord’s Table.  Since we have been discussing off and on the subject of enjoying God, I thought it would be helpful to point out that God has ordained a very specific way believers are to enjoy Him – and that is through the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.

Before I dig into the topic, let me acknowledge that in general, Christians don’t have control over the frequency of their Lord’s Supper celebrations.  That is a church decision.  And, as Paul says, it is the “communion of the body of Christ.”  Thus, a believer’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper will depend on his church’s celebration of it.  

Paul speaks of the Lord’s Supper as “the communion of the blood and body of Christ.” I believe Paul intentionally leads off with the communion of the blood of Christ as a reference to the saving act that brings a believer into communion with Christ.  The communion of the blood of Christ refers to our salvation; the communion of the body of Christ refers to our position in our local church.  Believers partake of communion as members of their local church, and I do not see any place in Scripture that would allow for extending the Lord’s Supper to those who are not in a covenant relationship with the visible body of Christ.   If you are not in the body of Christ, you have no communion with the body of Christ.

Our culture has awakened to the fact that the absence of a loving father in the home does a great deal of damage to the family unit as well as to the fatherless children. We cannot put a true estimate on the amount of damage fatherlessness creates in our culture.  In every case when I have tried to help a young person who struggles with suicide, they have also had a struggle with dad.  Either he isn’t there, or else he is there and they wish he wasn’t.  I mention this as an example of the way we might overlook a neglect and not realize the damage it is doing.

In our spiritual lives, I believe that neglect of the Lord’s Supper causes unspeakable damage. There are a handful of ways we might neglect the Lord’s Supper.  Not observing it at all would be the most obvious neglect.  Abusing it as the Corinthians did would be another – making it about self instead of about communion with Christ.  Observing it without celebrating it – turning the Lord’s Table into a place of mourning instead of a place of rejoicing – makes the Lord’s Supper oppressive.  And, celebrating the Lord’s Supper on Sunday and then forgetting to live in reference to it throughout the week would be a great neglect as well.  Perhaps the greatest.

The Lord’s Supper is more than a custom in the church, tacked on at the end of the occasional church service.  Our text refers to it as blessing – “the cup of blessing which we bless.”  In the next chapter, Paul reminds us of the words of Jesus: “this do in remembrance of me.”  The Lord’s Supper is not a formality, it is a remembrance.  When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, as Paul reminds us, “Ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” 

The Lord’s Table is rich with meaning and importance to the believer.  It is the central practice of the church – remembering Christ’s self-sacrifice and showing His death.  I hope you will hear me on this — everything we do during the week should be preparation for the time when we will gather as a church to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  Our walk with the Lord during the week, our efforts to confess sin and keep short accounts with God, the way we bear one another’s burdens and care for one another, our efforts to reach the lost… all the effort of daily Christian living prepares us for the time when we gather around the Table and enjoy communion with Christ and His people.  I believe God intended this for His Supper.

And when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, that should prepare us for everything we do during the week.  It should remind us that we are God’s people, bought and paid for with the blood of Christ.  It should set the Lord before our eyes, not only at the table but throughout the week.  It should motivate us for our work and service to God.  And it should cheer us and warm our hearts throughout the week.

The Lord’s Supper is the foundation of our church and worship, even of our daily lives.  Our concern in this little series has been with our joy and delight in the Lord.  We have been striving to answer the question, “Why don’t I enjoy God?”  So far, we have looked at a variety of reasons, including our salvation, sin, knowledge of God, and unscriptural expectations. Now, I want to zero in on the way a neglect of the Lord’s Supper impacts our joy.

God gave us the Lord’s Supper as a place where we rejoice in the Lord.  We might go so far as to say that it is the official place, formally provided by God Himself, for Christians to enjoy communion with Christ.  Jesus Christ Himself provided this place as the place for us to meet Him.  Certainly, in our communion with Christ, we find our highest purpose and deepest joy and satisfaction in the Lord.  And since the Lord’s Supper is central to the life of the church, we should consider the way its neglect makes it difficult for us to enjoy God.

In their abuse of the Lord’s Table, the Corinthians delighted in self instead of delighting in the Lord.  Whenever we place our own self-interest before God, we will find that we cannot enjoy God.  We need the Lord’s Table because it draws our hearts away from ourselves and teaches us to delight in the crucified Christ.  God established the Lord’s Table for this purpose – to re-focus our hearts and minds on Christ. 

God intended that the Lord’s Table should be central to the life of the church.  It is our place of revival.  Every time we observe the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded to turn our gaze to the Lord – “this do in remembrance of me.” We might call it a revival service – for the Lord’s Supper is meant to renew our focus on and attention to the crucified Christ.  But because our modern churches neglect this God-ordained means of renewal and revival, we have invented all kinds of other means for stirring up the activity and whipping up the emotions of our people. 

In his commentary on the book of Judges, Dale Ralph Davis makes an important observation.  Commenting on Gideon’s homemade ephod, Davis points out the way modern-day churches have adopted their own substitute ephods while neglecting the ephod God provided.

I would even suggest we go ephod-making in the way we ignore God’s provision of the Lord’s covenant meal as the means of Christian renewal.  We plan, organize, and concoct ‘revivals,’ seminars, retreats, or encounters, or we pressure congregations to come forward and rededicate their lives to Christ.  All the while we neglect what God has provided: the Lord’s Supper.

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Unscriptural Expectations Keep Us from Enjoying God

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (Psalm 37:4)

The gross and pervasive abuse of this text has opened up the floodgates of the prosperity gospel – the health, wealth, and happiness gospel. I blame our inability to enjoy God on the unhealthy and unscriptural expectations that have grown out of its misuse.

Because many Christians neglect sound doctrine, we have become susceptible to abuses like this.  When the Bible is misused, when it is used to promote a “name it and claim it” kind of theology, weak Christians with a covetous heart are immediately sucked in.  And frankly, it can be tough to refute the logic of the prosperity preachers.  Because on the surface, the Bible does seem to teach the “name-it-and-claim-it” philosophy.

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To Enjoy God, We Must Know Him

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

We have been answering the question, “why don’t I enjoy God?” Many, many Christians would confess that they don’t enjoy God.  They know that they can enjoy God.  They know that they should enjoy God.  But they don’t enjoy God.

They want to enjoy Him.  They may try to enjoy Him.  But their efforts end in frustration, and soon it is back to the grindstone. I believe this is the case among believers who are faithful to their devotions.  I believe it is the case among believers who are careful in their everyday lives, who strive to honor God and do what is right.

We have observed several hindrances to our delight in the Lord.  So far, we have considered two of the most obvious – you cannot enjoy God until you are born again, and you cannot enjoy God while harboring sin.  I want to tackle yet another hindrance to enjoying God – we cannot enjoy God if we do not know Him.

In His intercessory prayer, Jesus said that knowing God the Father and God the Son “is life eternal.” That is, “eternal life is not so much everlasting life as personal knowledge of the Everlasting One.” (D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, p. 556) This eternal life begins the moment we receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior.  It reaches its summit in the day when we hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”  Between the day we receive Christ and the day we see Him, we can expect to grow into that joy and delight in the Lord Jesus Christ.  But our growth as Christians, as measured by the growing delight we experience in the Lord Jesus, comes as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him. 

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If You Don’t Enjoy God, You May Not Be Saved

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)

The question of why people don’t enjoy God gets at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. What is the good of being reconciled to God if you don’t enjoy Him? What is the good of walking with God if you dread that walk? 

When Christians think of walking with God, of experiencing Him face-to-face and spending significant time alone with Him, far too many feel a paralyzing dread, a choking fear, a painful desire to run and hide from the presence of God.

In our most recent post on this topic, we showed you that the biggest hindrance to our enjoyment of God is our sin.  We must add an element to that.  If sin prevents us from enjoying God, then we can’t enjoy Him until we have been born again.

Our text describes the condition of the unsaved man as “being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart…” Unregenerate man is alienated from God. Such a person can strive to overcome sin all he wants.  He can feel a strong sense of remorse and a strong desire to change his ways because of his sin.  He may even be able to overcome some isolated sins. But he cannot overcome that alienation from God, no matter how much he might “turn over a new leaf” in his life, or how much he tries to reform himself.  So long as a person continues in a state of alienation from God, his sin will stand as a barrier between himself and God.  If he were to attack that barrier with a shovel and a wheelbarrow, he would find that the sins would pile higher even as he carted off loads of former sins. 

There are cases when a Christian will say, “I don’t enjoy God, I never have enjoyed God, I don’t even know what it would be like to enjoy God, and I don’t even know if I want to.”  There could be a variety of causes for this, but before we consider anything else, we ought to consider this, that you are still in your sins.  Paul describes the condition of every person apart from a supernatural work of grace…

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Sin Keeps Us from Enjoying God

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Genesis 3:7-10)

Far too often, Christians do not enjoy God.  They believe in the Lord.  They are active in church.  In many cases, their life revolves around church.  But they do not enjoy God.  For too many Christians, the life of faith is cloudy and dismal, the duties are heavy and the rewards are light, and the Christian walk is more burden than blessing. We are afraid of God, afraid of messing up, afraid that we are a disappointment to God. We go through the motions of the Christian life. We approach our calling in Christ as if it were a job chart with no reward other than the fire escape at the end. Too many Christians have lost their joy in believing.

In order to understand this dynamic in the Christian life, I want to invite you back to the time in the history of the world when mankind first lost their joy in their walk with God. 

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Four Ways to Enjoy God

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

The most important – and often the most neglected – emphasis of the Christian life is to enjoy God.  The ancients developed what has become a staple of practical Christianity:

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

To glorify God and to enjoy Him… But how many Christians ever think about enjoying God?  To many, the Christian life is all duty and discipline and doing.  We make sure we read our Bible every day.  But we don’t have time (or perhaps, we don’t take time) to enjoy God in what we read.

In a previous post, I pointed out that we relate to God the way one person relates to another – understanding, of course, that God as a Person is on an entirely different level than we are.  Still, it is possible for us to enjoy Him on a personal level because God is a Person.  If we would enjoy God, we must enjoy Him the way one person enjoys another.  That requires attentiveness and affection in our interaction with God.

God made us to enjoy Him.  Certainly then, He wants us to enjoy Him.  That is good, because it would be impossible for us as finite men to enjoy an infinite God otherwise.  God has made it possible for us to relate to Him and to be delighted by Him. 

We love him, because he first loved us. (I John 4:19)

In this, the initiative is not ours, but God’s.  Delight is our right response to God’s loving overtures.  God delights in us, and that is why we can delight in Him.  In fact, the Bible says more about God seeking us and desiring us than it does about us seeking God and desiring Him.  The entire gospel story is the story of God seeking His lost creation in order to restore us to fellowship with Himself.  The groundwork for fellowship with God is laid in Jesus Christ, and through His saving work on the cross it is possible for us to enjoy that fellowship.

I want to make four quick points from Psalm 27:4 that will show us how to enjoy God.

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What It Means to Enjoy God – And Why We Don’t Enjoy Him

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

If I were to describe what I see as the biggest struggle believers have in their Christian walk, near the top would be the struggle to enjoy God. 

This is certainly not our only struggle.  Christians struggle with many things – some common to us all, some unique to the individual.  We struggle with certain besetting sins.  We struggle to rest in the Lord. We struggle to live according to the instructions of God’s Word.  And we could list many other struggles.  But I see this one struggle as perhaps bigger than all the others – the struggle to enjoy God.  Christians may ask, why don’t I enjoy God? 

While many factors may explain why we don’t enjoy Him, our failure to enjoy God cripples our walk with Him. Too many Christians feel this dread of God that goes beyond the “fear of the Lord” taught in Scripture.  In our approach to God, we are plagued with doubts and fears.  Will he accept me?  Is He angry with me?  Some may even wonder, does God really love me? Does He love me as much as He loves someone else?  We know that God loves the world, but in a practical sense, we worry that God overlooks me, that He is displeased with me and disappointed with me.

Where do we begin to overcome our own doubts and fears?  We read our Bibles; we pray.  But for too many Christians, we don’t know how to walk with God beyond that.  To add to our dilemma, personal devotions can have a way of choking the life out of us, especially when they become a task on the to-do list.

More than a few Christians, if they could be completely honest, would say, “I really don’t enjoy God.”  Some don’t enjoy God and don’t want to.  They are angry with God or (more commonly) indifferent towards Him. 

Others don’t enjoy God but want to.  They might not know how to enjoy Him. Maybe they know how to enjoy Him but feel that they are currently hindered from enjoying Him. No doubt some are frustrated that they don’t enjoy Him, or that they don’t enjoy Him the way they once did, or the way they want to. And some Christians enjoy God just about every day. 

I do not write this as one who fits in that last category; I write as one who has had my own share of struggles with this.  In part, my own experience has motivated this topic: I haven’t always found this easy.  I wish it were.  I think it should be.  I wish I could lay aside my sinful nature and win this victory once for all.  But so long as I continue in my sinful flesh, I believe that I will struggle with it.

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