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Repentance and Joy

March 6, 2007

One quick thing that I have been reflecting on in working on the second part of the four part We Shall See Him and be Like Him series is this: how does joy relate to repentance. If you did not read part I and you would like to, you can press on this link: Meditations on Jesus and the Defeat of Sin.

I probably will not write a whole section on this in the series that I am working on, so I thought I would share a few thoughts here. Psalm 32:3-5 says:

3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

David expresses emotion here that is because of his silence over his sin; or to put it plainly, he ignored it. It is almost an exhausting set of verses to read. It gives you a tired feeling when you relate to all the ways he expresses his state of mind. This is not an uplifting verse to read at all. David says again, in chapter 31, the previous chapter that,

10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.

The weight of sin on the life of the believer is heavy, especially the believer who takes seriously the glory and honor of God. Joy, at least not real joy, cannot be present. Someone can certainly be happy in sin. Some may even enjoy their sin. Yet, this is not the joy that Paul speaks of when he says, “for we work with you for your joy” (1 Cor. 1:24b). This joy is not the joy of fellowship (though that may bring them joy), but it is in the foundation of what the Corinthians firm faith is found, namely Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:24c).

So how does repentance restore joy? It certainly does not justify us, giving us the assurance of eternal life, for if we are believers we already have that. But repentance restores communion with Christ. No one can meditate fully on the Jesus Christ that is revealed in Scripture without being compelled to repent of any lingering sin. Repentance, therefore, freely allows the believer to grow in the joy of the Lord. Maybe if I give my short (perhaps somewhat superficial) definition of joy in the Lord, then this will be more clear. I believe joy in the Lord is when Jesus Christ becomes our highest treasure, meaning that he is the object that brings us most joy. A litmus test to see if your joy is in the Lord is to think of losing all possessions in this life and still being joyful knowing that your greatest treasure is ahead of you. Or, do you look forward to the next life, where there is no other treasure besides Christ? If this is not entirely true in the life of any believer (which I don’t know of many who has championed this completely), then the practice of consistently meditating on the person of Christ revealed in Scripture is the remedy. Joy in the Lord is a process of growing, as is sanctification.

Let us always be in humble, self-searching repentance in order that we may always be growing in the joy of the Lord.

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