Last week we learned that one of the keys to joy is dwelling in God’s presence, allowing him to shelter our hearts from life’s storms. You can read it here if you missed it. Let’s continue on our journey, unlocking the second key to joy.
I love hearing the Christmas story every year, noticing a different detail or perspective! It’s truth is multifaceted, sparkling like a diamond held to the light.
One of my favorite ways to approach the manger is with the shadow of the cross cast over it. We love to think of the baby, sweet and celebrated. But to fully embrace joy it’s important to see, laying in the hay filled feed trough, a lamb. A sacrificial lamb, not born for mommy kisses or to be a friend. Born for a God sized job to meet a man sized problem. Jesus was born as a sacrifice.
The second key to joy:
Forgiveness of sin allows us to live with a pure heart that brings joy.
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Psalm 32:1
Have you noticed that joy evaporates when we harbor a secret sin or carry a grudge over another person’s sin toward us? Struggling with joylessness isn’t always because of sin in your life, but it’s a good place to look.
Embracing the reality that we are sinners, fatally flawed, and in need of salvation is the doorway to joy. When we realize that reality, even for the thousandth time, forgiveness floods in and we rejoice. How often have you hidden from the Holy Spirit’s conviction, fearing judgment, preferring your own way. Protecting our sin only brings misery. The secret is, after the sting of conviction comes the balm of forgiveness. I have rarely worshiped more exuberantly than when I’ve experienced God’s forgiveness and restoration in my life.
In the few decades I’ve been celebrating Christmas I’ve observed something. Life doesn’t stop for the holidays. Maybe you find the holidays to be a bitter sweet time, maybe they bring up memories of a painful past. Just as holding on to our own sin produces misery, and not joy, so does holding tightly to the sins of another.
It took me years to realize that forgiving another person wasn’t saying that what they did was okay but rather releasing them from the payment of their wrong. No one is able to pay off their sin debt, not to Jesus, or to one another. Only Jesus can pay the debt of wrong doing. Forgiveness releases the debt to Jesus, it frees him to deal with that other person’s heart, it removes us from the equation and releases us to love.
Forgiveness of our own sin and the forgiveness of another always produces joy!
Is your heart joyful?
Do you find yourself laboring under the burden of guilt this Christmas? Are you wrestling with wounds you received from another? Jesus came to give us freedom from the burden of sin. He took drastic measures, putting off equality with God and taking up equality with man. His birth cost a great deal and his death cost even more. But Hebrews 12 says that it was for “the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.” The joy of obeying his Father and purchasing your freedom. The joy of seeing you forgiven!
If he was willing to take such drastic measures to set us free from sin don’t you think we should be willing to go to great lengths to embrace and extend forgiveness as well?
Take it to heart
Take some time to meditate on Psalm 32 this week. What did the Psalmist say happened when he refused to confess his sin? When sin was finally confessed what happened? How did God respond to his confession of sin? How will God respond to you? What is the benefit of living with a pure heart that has confessed sin and lives in obedience to God? Why do you think it’s so hard to confess? Do you think it’s worth it?
Let’s ask God to give us hearts of joy:
Father, thank you that you are not only willing to forgive us but longing to. Remind us this Christmas that the sweet baby in the manger came to pay our ransom, to release us from the bondage of sin. We pray that that knowledge would fill our hearts with joy! Search our hearts and show us if there is sin we need to confess, or the sin of another that we need to forgive, and then give us the power to do it. As we confess our sin will you give us the gift of a pure and joyful heart. Fill our hearts with praise this Christmas as we celebrate the gift of the Lamb, come to take away the sin of the world! Amen.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope your heart will drink deeply of God’s presence and gift of joy this season. You can subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss future posts, and if you know someone who is looking for joy share this series with them, the more the merrier!