Meditations on Psalm 97:11
“Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.”
A line of coke and apologizing to a loved one presents two kinds of joy. Joy that characterizes the Christian life is particular and hidden in a field. You don’t find it in the malls, schools or spiritual gurus. For the Christian, true joy is found in obeying the commands of Jesus. (John 15:11)
The first type of joy is in the usual stuff. Drugs and sex are common pathways marketed by the music, film and fashion industries. Lesser known roads include self-righteous spirituality, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do and do-what-I-say pride, fear, stinginess, laziness, busyness and more.
We all know the feeling of getting something for cheap. There’s a strut in your step as you congratulate your grand victory over the system, getting what you wanted and losing less than you should have. I submit to you that all sin is cheap. When we disregard God and follow the flesh’s impulse, we all think we’re going to get a deal. Indeed, sin is deceitful and promises what it can’t deliver. (Heb. 3:13) It is cheap because the cost is low, in a sense. Maybe no one will ever know. Maybe someone else will speak up. Maybe the other person will just forget about what you did. Maybe you can make up for it later.
But the reward always comes with a catch. We’re told that in multiple places. (Prv. 14:12, Is. 48:22) And you can’t refund it either. The Devil will sell you sin so quick that you buy it without considering the fine print. The life characterized by enslavement to sin is always subject to a universal contract: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption…” (Gal. 6:8) Broken families, grudges, addictions, shame, rebellion, obesity, boasting, etc. are the end results of sins multiplied by more sins. So it might feel good for a bit, but it’s transient. You always need another hit, another weekend, another partner, another disagreement, another paycheque, and another deadline. Rushes of dopamine, ego-boosts, and job successes are all transient. And “God is not mocked”, we will reap corruption some way, whether physically, emotionally and/or spiritually.
God’s Law is not cheap. God’s Law is the Whole Foods of behavior (I’m half-joking). It will cost you and you’re going to feel it. We are tempted to think, because of our experience with the flesh, that the desires of the Spirit just don’t compare. We think all the “organic” talk is just fluffy marketing. I can testify firsthand that Christian rap is a developed taste when you move from the mainstream crowd ;). But our experience is so limited. God’s Book says obedience sows light and joy in the upright.(Ps. 97:11) So let’s believe God and pursue the top-shelf life. This includes but is not limited to: humility, submission, acts of mercy, disciplined study and prayer, intentional fellowship with the saints, abstinence, evangelism, etc.
None of them are cheap but that doesn’t preclude a sweet deal. It’s a different kind of deal. We may lose time, ego, money and other leisurely activities that feed our simpler, carnal tastes; but we are rewarded with a life of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23) Indeed the life characterized by freedom in righteousness takes full advantage of the universal contract’s second clause: “…the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”(Gal. 6:8b)
Those who are fit and active love being fit and active. When I began Cross Country practice as a sophomore in High School, I was not giddy at the thought of long distance running. But through an association of like-minded friends, I was able to commit and persevere day by day and month by month. Beloved, take heart. Cast all your evil desires, impurities, failures, distractions, weaknesses and complaints on the Father. (2 Pt. 5:7) Chuck ’em with frustration if you have to. Pursue righteousness. Write down your goals. Right your wrongs. Pray for strength. Be grateful. And soon enough, by grace, we will “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and so “be satisfied” (Mt. 5:8). There will be seasons of failure, obviously, but “let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9)
Christians have a joy that pervades all situations of life. This is brought by a cooperative effort of the Spirit and faith working through love. This life in the Spirit is the good life. Those who don’t know Jesus can have joy, but they don’t have the kind the Gospel gives. They have the same plate of food but a defective palate. Lots understand that, so they pursue religion or spirituality to add some flavor. This too is misleading, like adding rock salt and peppercorns just for texture. When gratitude and glory unto Jesus is missing, true spirituality is missing. What we need is ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to believe. The good news is God gives generously to all who asks. If you repent of trusting yourself and trust in Jesus alone as Lord and Savior, you can have everlasting joy and eternal life now. (Is. 55:11) If you’ve already done that, enjoy what you’ve received. It will cost you, but it’s worth it.