When my kids were growing up, we raised club lambs for them to show in 4-H. It was intentional parenting. Not only did they make enough money to buy their first car, but they learned responsibility and the concept of shepherding (both important skills for leaders in training).
One of the lessons, “What to do with all the manure?” From lambing to fair time, when the pens needed cleaning, we would pile the manure behind the barn. When the barn was cleaned out the final time, we would spread the manure on the recently harvested hayfield.
What does this have to do with joy? If we are to experience joy, we need to know what to do with the crap in our lives! Here is the bad news, the church has been hi-jacked by religion. In Philippians 3:1-14, Paul identifies one of the joy suckers in our life is the tendency to be concerned with controlling things in our lives. It all boils down to our will and ultimately our pride.
In Philippi there were people who wanted to use religion to control the Gentile believers, by making them subject themselves to the Mosaic Law through circumcision. Paul teaches that you don’t need to add anything to the work of Christ and the way of the Kingdom of God.
In Paul’s day, cities didn’t have advanced septic systems. Many would have a window in the back wall where they would throw out their slosh buckets. The human waste would pile up below the window. At one point in his letter, he says that everything that the religious folks would count worthy, he can claim, but doesn’t because he considers it worthy of the manure pile.
Jesus taught that there were two kingdoms. The kingdom of this world. That kingdom is dominated by Satan. It is operated in the flesh. Its foundation is our will. The other kingdom is the Kingdom of God. Christ reigns in this kingdom. It is operated in the spirit. Its foundation is the Father’s will.
Ted Dekker, in his book A.D. 33, gives a beautiful description of the two kingdoms. The heroine, Maviah, has a dream where she is Eve in the garden of Eden. When the serpent offers here the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she picks it up and weighs the choice God’s will or “mine.” She chooses her will. Later she witnesses Jesus in the garden praying before He is arrested and crucified. She is in awe of how stressed He is over what is about to happen and yet He prays, “Not My will but Yours be done.”
Jesus’ way is to deny ourself. It is to set aside the will of our flesh for the will of God. It is to live into the new creation and walk away from our old nature. It is being who we are in Christ, not who the enemy accuses us of being.
The difference between living in God’s joy and living in the chaos of this world is the choice between our will and His. That is the rub isn’t it? In our own power, we cannot consistently choose His will over ours. But Jesus did. That gave Him the right to stand in our place when He sacrificed His life to pay our sin debt. It also gave Him the power to satisfy God’s love debt to us.
Jesus shows us the way of God’s Kingdom and gives us the grace to live into it even when we fail. Even in failure, there is joy.
The good news, living in the Jesus’ way ushers in joy.
Let me give some practical ways to live into Jesus’ way.
- Let go of all the crap in your life! What do you do with all the manure in your life? Let it go! Whether it is religious rules that create shame and not righteousness, or a sin that you struggle with or guilt from one in your past. Let it go. Maybe it is something someone did to hurt you. Let it go. Trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Suffering in this life ends in resurrection (see Philippians 3:7-11).
- See yourself as you are in Jesus – LOVED BY GOD! We can believe our accuser and see ourselves as failures and worthless, or we can believe what God says about us – we are His beloved child. We are a prince or princess. We have grace for when we fail and power to deny our will and choose God’s will.
- Seek God’s will! As we learn to choose God’s will the fruit is joy. Joy in seeing His will done and joy in the grace we receive when we struggle.