In a letter to a friend, C.S. Lewis wrote: “It is astonishing that sometimes we believe that we believe what, really, in our heart we do not believe. He went on to explain, “For a long time I believed that I believed in the forgiveness of sins. But suddenly (on St. Mark’s Day) this truth appeared in my mind in so clear a light that I perceived that never before (and that after many confessions and absolutions) had I believed it with my whole heart. So great is the difference between mere affirmation by the intellect and that faith, fixed in the very marrow and as it were palpable, which the Apostle Paul wrote was substance. In my own experience and what I too often observe in other professing Christians, this struggle with not really believing is all too common to the Christian life. We know in our mind what we believe as Christians who profess faith, but we have a less than full appreciation for what is really ours in Christ; which, when it penetrates our thick heart, leaves us dumbstruck (inexpressible) with joy. And it is a joy which retains the vivid colors and beauty of a sunset long after the sun has receded below the horizon.
What an unbelievable contrast in just three days, 72 hours, between the joy at the Red Sea and the bitter waters of Marah. The Israelites escaped Egypt and their cruel taskmasters and led by God in a cloud by day and pillar of fire at night found themselves pinned against the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army bearing down on them to forcibly take them back to Egypt; that is, once his soldiers had brought fierce intimidation down upon their heads through violent and deadly treatment of the men, women, and children of God led by Moses. The miracle which God had planned in leading them as it were into a box canyon was carried out in full view of the million and half Hebrew witnesses standing on the far shore with racing hearts. Those hearts which were experiencing the crushing weight of abject fear were transformed in a triumphant moment into uncontainable joy as they watched their angry, vengeful enemy destroyed by the returning waters of the Red Sea. Saved on the brink of death! Their deliverance celebration gave enthusiastic voice to the miraculous grandeur of the event. Yet in three days it was simply forgotten over the lack of water and food to sustain their physical appetites. Having personally experienced God’s omnipotent hand, there was no longer even the slimmest faith to believe He was still with them. This is what Lewis is referring to; yes, you believe with your mind in the forgiveness of your sins or in the power of God on your behalf, but then you don’t really when the circumstances change and the conditions become bleak, or even repetitively common. Joy has leaked out of your life like water out of a broken cistern.
Teaching a Bible Study this week to the young men at the PAYH, I was struck with the lethargy which puts them to sleep though speaking about those things which should thrill them from the tops of their head to the soles of their feet. But the shoddy substitutes for excitement which the world offers has been the source of their past entertainment (and ruin) and in their eyes far surpasses any talk of eternal salvation. What mesmerizes us into being content with wispy faith and a ho hum spirit concerning the riches that belong to believers in Christ; “that He through His chosen poverty might make you rich? Certainly the Demas Disease of last week’s SFTD is always at work on us. It robs us of joy, yet we keep coming back to it as though it will somehow, sometime provide it. What it provides is temporary, fleeting pleasure, never genuine joy.
Jesus tells us from His own mouth, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11) Joy is found in His words, His commandments. He IS the Word, the logos (word, expression) of the Father. “He who hears my words and puts them into practice (Matthew 7:24), is the recipient of joy. It cannot be denied that consistent, lasting, inexpressible joy is acquired by abiding in the Word. Few do this with discipline. But it is the place in which joy in your life will be generated as you read, believe, do, and trust in that order. I didn’t say it; He did!
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