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Healthy, Growing and Full of Love

Catch up with the latest church news and pastoral reflections in our weekly blog


A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 15:13


Over dinner in City Group recently, we discussed this quote from William Barclay“Jesus promised His disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” We talked about what it may have been that made the disciples this way, as well as why we often don’t reflect any of these…particularly 'absurdly happy’!


Many perceive Christianity as being about tradition, and morality, but not happiness. Obviously, morality isn't a bad thing, but some Christians, in the name of moral obligation, wear frowns, dutifully living a paint-by-numbers religious existence, and proudly refraining from what ‘lesser' people do to be happy. They seem to wear their displeasure as a badge of honour…are you picturing anyone in particular right now?!


Here’s the problem, gloomy Christians don’t win friends or invite gospel curiosity. When gospel realities haven’t penetrated our hearts, it shows on our faces…we need more gospel revelation, not less...the issue isn’t taking the gospel too seriously, but rather not taking the gospel seriously enough!

Not only that, but when people look in at Christianity and see disharmony and discourse, of course that would make them worry that becoming a Christian would lead to their own unhappiness…and unfortunately, grumpy Christians reinforce the stereotype!


The reality is that God created the physical world and happiness, and the devil doesn’t have a single shred of happiness to give…he specialises in rearranging price tags, making the cheap look valuable, and the miserable appear happy.


Throughout history, the Christian worldview has accounted for such happiness-generating developments as hospitals and schools, science and industry, music, drama, and the arts. And on a more local level, nearly every Christian community includes people with quiet confidence in Christ, who gladly give of their time and money to those in need, are extraordinarily loving, kind, helpful, and cheerful (and praise God for the many of those within our ‘church family’). Sadly, however, to many people, these bright lights seem to be the exception rather than the rule.


John Piper says, “If you ask me, ‘Doesn’t the world need to see Christians as happy in order to know the truth of our faith and be drawn to the great Saviour?’ my answer is ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ And they need to see that our happiness is the indomitable work of Christ in the midst of our sorrow.”


How would you describe yourself? Are you completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble (in the right kind of way!)?

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Blessed is the one …whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night …Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Psalm 1:1,2,4


It’s not often that the word ‘chaff’ pops up in conversation, particularly in modern, urban, environments…but the bible talks about it a lot.


When I read Psalm 1 again recently, 4 words stuck out to me…Blessed - Meditate - Chaff - Delight


Blessed - The Hebrew word ‘esher’ is translated Happy almost as often as it is translated Blessed…so is God giving us a secret to happiness here? This word ’esher' is also plural, which means ‘perpetual blessings’. The Psalmist suggests it’s possibly to experience, not just temporary happiness based on circumstance, but a deep and sustained blessedness (or absolute well-being) by following God’s direction in life.


Meditate - Our lives are unbelievably distracted, we are experts at multi-tasking. God calls us to meditate (to patiently ponder), not to empty our minds completely, but to allow God and His word to penetrate our minds, hearts, and wills more deeply...consistently, slowly, carefully — it takes work and involves the will, and is part of the key to blessedness


Chaff - At times living a life ignorant of God appears to be the way to success, acceptance, and prosperity. Trees may be slow growing, and fruit can take some time to grow, but the prosperity of the wicked is fleeting, for they are like chaff blown away by the wind. The Psalmist is encouraging us to be the tree, not the chaff!


Delight - As someone who regularly falls short of it, how can I be someone who ‘delights in God’s law’? Here’s the wonderful thing about God’s law…it’s been fulfilled by Jesus. So when I'm meditating on God’s law, and aware of my constant falling short, I’m drawn again to the wonder of the gospel and the glory of grace - that Jesus fulfilled the whole law when we weren’t able to, and because I am ‘in Christ’, I stand before the Father justified - just-as-if-I’d done nothing at all.


I’d much rather be the deep rooted tree, than the chaff blown by the winds of life. The more I meditate on the wonder of what Jesus achieved on my behalf, the deeper my roots go down, and the more blessedness flows to me.

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When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life … if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:12, 36


The above verses offer us tremendous hope…firstly in God’s promise to be present in the darkness, and secondly in his ultimate victory over it.


When Jesus says He’s the light of the world, He doesn’t mean that we will never experience darkness…sin happens, suffering happens. But the promise is that although these things may happen, you don’t have to walk in darkness.

We all go through times of darkness and ask ourselves “Does God love me? Will God sustain me?” The answer to those questions is “absolutely, yes”

Christianity doesn’t promise that when you come to Christ all your problems will go away. But Christianity does promise that, although there may be dark times in your life, that light is possible and life is possible because Jesus is with you - if Jesus is with you, you have light in your darkness.


And secondly, Jesus promises there will be freedom from darkness, that we can step out of the cave completely!


I remember going to Hoyts in Hornsby to watch a back-to-back run of the Matrix trilogy. In case you haven’t seen it or need a refresher, the Matrix tells the story of a computer programmer named Neo who discovers he is living in a cyber version of Plato’s cave (see image above). A mysterious stranger named Morpheus steps into his world to warn him that all he sees is merely an elaborate computer program through which evil machines keep the human race captive as docile pawns in their power games.

“You are a slave, Neo” he tells him. “Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind"


We step out of the cave, out of the prison, by filling our minds with Jesus’ teaching until we recognise this world’s lies for the shadows that they really are (Ps 119:104-105), and by renewing our minds through God’s word by the power of His Holy Spirit…Jesus promises that the gospel which forgives us from sin’s penalty will also free us from its power (Titus 2:11-12)


So let’s step out of the cave...


Let’s not be like those who refuse to move towards freedom because they're stuck in wrong thinking or because the light is too bright.

Morpheus challenges Neo “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.”

A far better Saviour than Morpheus is calling…it’s time for us to step out of the cave.

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