Trading ‘J’ for ‘H’ (Part 1)

Rejoice In Christ

A woman was Christmas shopping at a crowded mall.

She was tired of fighting the crowds, standing in line, looking for a gift that sold out days ago.

Her arms were full of packages when the Elevator door opened. Of course, it was full.

The occupants grudgingly tightened ranks to make space. As the doors closed, she blurted out,

“Whoever’s responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be killed!”

From somewhere in the back came a voice:

“Don’t worry, Lady. They already crucified Him.”

Isaac Watts wrote “Joy to the World” almost 300 years ago. It’s inspired by Psalm 98:4–8.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; 5 make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, 6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King. 7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy…

Psalm 98:4–8

We need to remember who is responsible for this whole “Christmas thing.”

It’s all about how

God so loved the world that he gave his special, one–of–a–kind Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life

(John 3:16).

Instead of looking to Jesus for JOY, people look for HAPPINESS in all the wrong places.

A reporter once asked Madonna: “Are you a happy person?”

She replied: “I am a tormented person. I’m wrestling a lot of demons. But I want to be happy. I have moments of happiness. I am working towards knowing myself … and I assume that will bring me happiness.”

She also said, “I won’t be happy until I’m as famous as God.”

She might ask, how did that work out for John Lennon?

Most people are driven by the need to be happy.

The people we looks up to, those we figure must be happy — look at all the stuff or the fame they have.

Some of them are among the unhappiest people on earth.

We buy things we think will give happiness, we look for it in entertainment, hobbies, sports, passions, maybe even addictions.

Or, like Madonna, we look deep within, hoping that’s where elusive happiness is hiding.

If happiness is the main goal, why doesn’t the Bible talk more about it?

But it does say a lot about something often confused with HAPPINESS. The Bible says a lot about JOY.

It talks about JOY that goes much deeper than mere happiness, which deals with what’s happening and depends on circumstance.

For most, happiness is nothing more than a temporary interruption in the boring, ho–hum existence of everyday life.

Genuine JOY, on the other hand doesn’t depend on what’s happening. Joy is an inner sense of well–being that has nothing to do with circumstances.

The kind of JOY the Bible describes can’t be found in possessions or entertainments or even in looking deeply into our “inner self.”

If we trust Christ as Savior, He makes a gift of Joy.

Just as bodies crave food, exercise and rest, the spirit craves a relationship with God.

Without that relationship, our soul is famished and restless, thirsting for happiness but finding only the momentary, elusive pleasure that never really satisfies.

There is indeed a God–shaped hole in every life. Looking deep within won’t reveal happiness, but we will find that space only God can fill.

If we try to fill it with anything besides God, we’ll be forever unsatisfied.

Moment of Truth: Happiness pales in comparison to the joy available from Christ. We can have this joy because “the Lord is come!”

NEXT TIME we’ll examine Isaac Watts’ famous song, “Joy to the World” to see what it teaches us about Christmas.

The Benefits Of Being A Jesus Thinker

We benefit when confusion becomes order.

Confusion reigns in secular thinking because the sense of right and wrong, good and bad, useful and useless, appropriate and inappropriate rotate around self.

We’re shaped by the world around us instead of by God’s Word. With Jesus thinking we gain a sense of empowerment.

Whereas we thought that Christian values were out–of–date, we now see that God still honors and blesses people who think like Jesus.

We benefit from increased meaning and enjoyment in life.

When we think like Jesus, being transformed by God, life has a new sense of meaning and value it never had before; because of our biblical worldview, we can enjoy life as we never have before.

We benefit from fulfilling relationships.

Aristotle described three levels of friendship: personal usefulness, selfish pleasure, and mutual benefit. Thinking like Jesus makes mutually beneficial relationships reachable.

We benefit from more meaningful vocation.

Thinking like Jesus integrates our faith into every area of life, including our work, and gives it new meaning, purpose and satisfaction.

We benefit from enhanced capacity to cope with life’s ups–and–downs.

Those who think like Jesus know what’s truly important and what’s not.

They’re not driven to measure up to the world’s twisted ideas of value or worth. So, they cope with life’s ups–and–downs as temporary impediments to eternal joy and peace.

There are many reasons to think like Jesus, not the least of which is, bearing the name Christian implies that we pattern our lives after Christ.

No wonder Christ has a bad reputation in western society. For many people, the only visible evidence of Him is US. And when we think like the world, we will speak and act like the world. And no one will be impressed nor attracted by that.

Keep this in mind: Transformed minds will equip us to live successful, godly lives by helping us think about life and make decisions the way Jesus would.

Change the way you think . . . “Think like Jesus!”

Bankrupt modern secular thinking

Francis Schaeffer, in his classic, How Should We Then Live? says there are two impoverished values that permeate the secular mind –

1) Personal peace – to be left alone, not bothered by other people’s problems and troubles. Schaeffer explained it as ‘to live one’s life with the minimal possibility of being personally disturbed’.

2) Overwhelming, ever–increasing Affluence – continuously growing prosperity, more material stuff, leisure, pleasure and comfort.

A majority of secular thinkers’ decisions are based on what will most contribute to our own personal space and our accumulation of ever more stuff and pleasure.

Patrick Morley adds a third penurious value –

3) The comfort of religion without the demands of commitment, sacrifice or service to anyone but ourselves. I constantly wrestle against letting this worldview dominate my decisions! Contrasted to this are people who Think Like Jesus.

What are the signs of a Jesus thinker?

Jeff Foxworthy might put it this way:

“You know you’re a Jesus thinker if you . . .”

  • acknowledge the supernatural – the eternity perspective.
  • have a holistic view of self and service – our Christianity isn’t just a minor part of life, it permeates everything we do.
  • affirm the reality of absolute truth – not whatever you want to believe, but what God says is true.
  • are aware of evil in the world – acknowledge the fall of humanity into sin and the ongoing struggle against evil in our personal lives.
  • have a high regard for the person, created in God’s image (including the unborn).

These are all things that the secular worldview denies or is confused about.

The making of a Jesus thinker

Start with prayer – this is foundational in our attempts to become Jesus thinkers.

Examine your life – constantly asking, “Am I thinking like Jesus would?”

Read the Bible – looking for new insights that you haven’t noticed before.

Develop new habits – less TV, more exercise, intellectual challenges, read through the Bible. Memorize Proverbs 14:12, Isaiah 55:8–11, and so on.

Set biblical goals – grow closer to God.

Read books on Christlike thinking by Francis Schaeffer, R. Zacharias, Josh McDowell, Chuck Colson, Philip Yancey, Philip Keller;

Take a Bible seminar or class—I know a good seminary, willing and able to help.

Subscribe to Books & Culture or World magazine or Christianity Today.

Next time: The benefits of being a Jesus Thinker . . .