Blog

Filter By:

Rejoice because of the One who is with us

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).


When I was in college, I sang in the Concert Choir that traveled to churches around the country back in the days when Christian colleges could afford that kind of thing. I don’t remember very many of the songs we sang, but one keeps coming to mind from time to time based on Psalm 118:24. I didn’t think much about the words when we sang it, but I sure think a lot about those words the older I get.


Typically, if I wake up in a good mood, the sun is shining and all seems right with the world, I say, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” But if I wake up in a bad mood, the sky is gray, and nothing seems right with the world, Psalm 118:24 isn’t the first thing that pops into my mind. As I’m getting ready for work, my mind is focused on the negative and what I perceive to be the drudgery of just getting through the day.


This is why the context for Psalm 118:24 is so amazing. The psalmist begins with an expression of gratitude for the goodness of God and His enduring steadfast love. He invites others to join in the celebration—Israel, the house of Aaron, and, to make sure no one is excluded, let everyone who fears the Lord participate in the celebration of God’s goodness and steadfast love (vv. 2-4).


But then the focus shifts from what we tend to think as being causes for gratitude and celebration to causes of ingratitude and depression. The psalmist describes moments of “distress” (v. 5), opportunities for fear (v. 6), and the awareness of those who hate (v. 7). He gives account of how the nations surrounded him (v. 10) on every side (v. 11), like a swarm of bees (v. 12), where he was pushed so hard he was falling (v. 13).


Does this sound like a good day to you? And yet the psalmist responds with joy and gladness (v. 24). He overcomes his fears and struggles because he called on the Lord (v. 5). The Lord was on his side (v. 6). The Lord was his helper (v. 7). The Lord was his refuge (v. 8). The Lord helped him (v. 13). The Lord was his strength, song, and salvation (v. 14). The psalmist was able to rise above his circumstances to see the light in the darkness and trust that the light overcomes.


The same message rings clear today. The reason we can say, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” flows not from the circumstances of the day but from the One who overcomes the day. Our hope rests not in our trials and tribulations but in the One who is brings the victory. “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (v. 23).


Whether you wake up in a good mood or bad, with a sense of refreshment or dread, this is the day the Lord has made. Whether you are facing cancer or have a clean bill of health, this is the day the Lord has made. Whether you are in the midst of a storm or are enjoying a season of calm, this is the day the Lord has made. We rejoice and are glad, not because of what we face each day, but because of the One who is with us. Whatever you are facing, know that the Lord is on your side. So therefore, do not fear, for what can man do to you? (v. 6) “The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us” (v. 27). Thank You, Father, for shining the light of Your Son, Jesus Christ, into our darkness (John 1:4-5).

Fall Down Seven Times - Get Up Eight

In August of 1521 Martin Luther wrote a letter to his friend, Philip Melanchthon, and near the end of the letter he wrote these now famous words: “Pecca Fortiter, sed forties fide et gaude in Christ”—“Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly!”


Luther’s words have often been misunderstood as granting permission to sin or encouraging people to sin, but I’d like to suggest another view which perhaps can help all of us deal with our daily struggles with temptation, failure, disappointment, or despair.


Who hasn’t experienced the disappointment of trying to move forward only to fall back? Of trying to keep a promise only to forget? Of trying to overcome only to give in? Of trying to do what’s right, think what’s right, and follow what’s right only to fail? We all have.


When we experience these disappointments, set backs and failures, we tend to slip into one of two patterns. First, we enter into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called a “cheap grace,” where we dismiss our sin in light of God’s grace with no inner transformation. This is a “boys-will-be-boys” mentality of accepting our sin as an outflow of our human nature. The Apostle Paul described this tolerance of sin in Romans 6 when he wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” And Paul responds with an emphatic, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1). This first pattern is one of flippancy toward sin where we dismiss it and continue to repeat the cycle of sin, brief regret, quick prayer, moving on, back to sin, brief regret, etc. The problem is the cycle goes unbroken, and we do not experience the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


The other pattern is where we are overwhelmed with guilt and shame and withdraw to a defeatist mentality. We either become a legalist where we hide behind a mask of pseudo-righteousness while struggling with guilt underneath, or we develop spiritual stage fright, where we hide behind our anxieties of “what-ifs” and fail to step out with bold obedience. As is the case with those who follow the “cheap grace” pattern, the legalists attempt to overcome their sin patterns by external means rather than the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


I believe the words of Martin Luther are helpful to us in whichever pattern we find ourselves. Following Jesus is a call for us to die to self and be reborn with the power of His indwelling Spirit (Mark 8:34; Romans 8:1-2). We are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18a). In other words, we cannot do it on our own. We cannot overcome our sins in our own strength and power. Therefore, we live our lives boldly in the transforming power of God’s grace. We don’t walk in fear of failure but in the love of Jesus Christ.


Martin Luther’s words are not given as a license to sin but to stop living in the fear of sinning. I’ve never walked a tightrope strung across two high rises, but I imagine that the person doing so must focus on the destination rather than on what lies below. If we live our lives thinking most about not sinning, we most likely find ourselves in the disappointing posture of sinning. It’s when we live our lives thinking most about the love of Jesus Christ that we find ourselves on His path of righteousness.


And when you do fall, because you will fall, get up, turn from sin and shame, live in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and refocus your life on Him. An old proverb says, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” As long as you keep getting up, you’re not failing. Don’t be anxious about sinning, but rejoice in Christ.

12...243244245246247248249250251252 ... 272273