I had the pleasure of spending some time with my grandsons recently; they’re little guys, just 3 and 1. We took a ride on a local water taxi on the Mississippi River on a bright and sunny afternoon. The wind in our hair, the water sparkling in the sunlight, and those smiles on their faces. The kind of smiles that just glow from the center of the soul. Happiness and joy, their eyes glowing with wonder and excitement. As I recall that day, I find myself smiling too, the joy I have in just being with them is indescribable.
Children truly are amazing. Their curiousity is intriguing and their laughter contagious. Always searching, wondering, learning. Completely without fear, simply at one with their surroundings. We could learn so much from them if we took a moment, shut off the responsibilities of adulthood and just let them take us along on their adventure.
We should look upon our salvation in Christ with this same kind of joy. Searching, wondering, learning with childlike trust. There is a story in the Bible about a time when Jesus was teaching and the parents wanted Him to bless them and pray for them. The Apostles began to send them away, but Jesus stopped them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15 NIV) Jesus wants us to have the excitement and joy of a child when we know God – he wants us to have complete childlike trust in Him.
So often I think we get caught up in our mistakes and earthly problems that we forget the Bible is full of messages about being joyful in our salvation. Of course, we must remember that we are called to obedience to the Scripture and we will be held accountable for our actions. But if we approach obedience as a chore and are constantly critical of ourselves, we end up creating a list of “don’ts” that may actually extend beyond what the Scripture teaches – we create laws unto ourselves and run the risk of placing ourselves ahead of God – of idolizing ourselves. We begin to behave as if our actions lead to our salvation.
We can have joy in our salvation by remembering that it is not of our doing at all. God said “I will cleanse you … I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you… I will save you.” (Ezekiel 36:25-29) He did it. Jesus finished it. We are saved because we believed in Christ and repented of our sins and it is done! John McArthur said, “Salvation and joy belong together. Being made right with God is cause for joy: Joy on the part of God, joy on the part of Christ, joy on the part of the angels, joy on the part of the church and joy on the part of the one who is redeemed.” (sermon titled The Joy of Salvation)
The Bible is filled with messages telling us to be joyful – “Shout with cries of joy,” “you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,” “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Psalm 47:1, 1 Peter 1:8, Nehemiah 8:10) What a blessing is our salvation! What a gift given us when Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins! To know that I am forgiven, to know that if I make a mistake He will show mercy, to know that when I am afraid He will comfort me – to know that Jesus intercedes with God on my behalf – the joy is indeed overwhelming!
When we are joyful despite our circumstances, when we can praise God even through our pain, that joy is a slice of the fruit of the Spirit. That joy stands out to those who don’t know Christ and makes them hungry for what we have. True joy of salvation cannot be hidden – it shines like a beacon in the darkness. It is contagious like the laughter of a small child. I pray that each of us becomes so filled with the joy of Christ that we can’t help but share with others.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV