Articles and thoughts by Steve Green.
Every heart is engaged in an elusive search for true joy and delight. After all, it’s what we were made for. In answer to the first question of the Westminster confession, “What is the chief end of man?”, the answer is given, “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Yet, the great problem of our fallen estate is that we look for happiness in all the wrong places. C. S. Lewis wrote, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.” Romans 1 explains that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and then goes on to clairy. We worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. “Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God,” John Piper writes. “We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness.”
As I look back on my life, I lament the many foolish choices made and the idols I pursued in hopes of satisfying that yearning for joy. No relationship, possession or achievement can fill the void. Only God can bring that deep soul satisfaction that we seek, for He alone is the source of delight. Though the battle for joy continues, and will not be over till we are free from the constraints of this world, it is God’s design that we truly enjoy now. Yet, we all know that delight cannot be forced upon us. We can be exhorted to rejoice in the Lord and to love Him more, but try as we might, if our hearts do not treasure Jesus, it won’t work.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus concluded his teaching on the laying up of treasures by saying that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. What we prize captivates our attention. Several times a year I get to travel overseas to other countries. On many occasions, my brother, David handed me some foreign bills to use for incidentals. Without knowing the exchange rate, I had no idea what each bill was worth. It was just funny-looking paper to me. When I discovered the value, my attitude changed. In the same way, when we get a clearer view of Jesus Christ and begin to see His beauty, goodness and glory, then we will begin to treasure Him.
At a worship conference several years ago, I sat in the audience and listened as each music group seemed to try and get more response out of the people. “Shout louder, jump higher, praise more intensely, sing with more passion.” Toward the end of the night I was exhausted. Then, an artist friend of mine took to the platform. Without demanding anything of the listeners, he took a seat at the piano and began to sing. His songs painted a picture of God’s lavish grace, His surprising mercy and His unfailing love. I looked around me. People were weeping and worshiping. What had happened? The leader was simply pointing to Jesus and describing His greatness and worthiness. As we gazed upon Christ, our hearts began to treasure Him again, and the result was a room full of worshipers, attempting to express sincere thanks to the One who so fully satisfies and fills us with His joy.
After the event I thanked my friend and reminded him about an exchange that C. S. Lewis had with a young, eager author. Lewis said that most writers use too many adjectives, saying, for example, “The woods are frightening.” A good writer, he said, describes the woods in such a way that the reader will come to the conclusion… “My, those woods are terribly frightening.” During the worship service, instead of being told how to feel and how to respond, this artist had described God in such a way that our hearts were drawn to Him.
When I am dull and restless; when I have lost the wonder and begin to feel the allurement of earthly trappings, I need to see Jesus again and be reminded of His worth. That is why He calls us to gather with the community of believers. Through His Word and through expressions of worship, once again, the wonder is restored, the treasure is prized, and delight spills over into an inexpressible and glorious joy.
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