I bet you thought I was going to talk about my grandsons from the title, right? Sorry to disappoint. This passage of scripture grabbed me this morning.
John starts out with verifying his witness of Christ in a most convincing fashion by testifying of his belief in eternal life through Jesus Christ, the Word of life. Of all the conclusions he could have come to, he concludes that his greatest joy is to share it with others so that they too can experience it and come into the same fellowship that he has with the Father and with Jesus Christ. This is what makes their joy complete. Imagine! It wasn't the experiences, what they had heard, what they had seen and touched with their hands, it wasn't even the current fellowship they have with the Father and the Son or the knowledge of eternal life now theirs, it was having their words received and manifested in the life of another that gave them complete joy!
I had to ask myself a couple of questions after being arrested by this passage:
1. Is my testimony of the Word of Life based on what I know because I have experienced it myself or is it based on what I've been taught? None of us like listening to someone repeating facts they have memorized. We would much rather hear it from the horse's mouth, from someone who has experienced it firsthand for themselves. Do I have those experiences that have convinced me of what I profess to believe? Has that life been manifested to me and in me? If not, I really have little to say.
2. Is it my natural inclination to proclaim what I have seen and heard? Can I honestly say that "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation" and therefore I take every opportunity to share the love and power of Christ with as many people as I can. If I don't speak of Christ when I can, how can I be so selfish as to have experienced the cure to what ails every human being on the earth and leave them bound for hell when it is within my power to offer them hope and healing for their sin-sick lives? Do I operate under the fear of God or the fear of man?
3. Is it my greatest joy to see others receiving salvation as I did? Do I realize the miracle it is every it happens? Am I filled with awe, as the angels are, over the Lord extending salvation to the world? It should never grow old! Or am I just satisfied to have my nice little group of church friends who help the Lord meet all my needs? Am I just satisfied that I'm okay but never really give a thought to the dying that are all around me? Is my heart filled with compassion for even the rankest lost soul? Do I see them the way that God saw me before He saved my soul?
I can have joy over what the Lord has done for me. I can revel in the times when the Lord touches me, speaks to me, and changes me. But according to this scripture, joy is not complete unless this joy that I have is shared with and experienced by others. THIS should be my greatest joy! It's why God left me here after salvation, for heaven's sake!
In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul talks about his ministry to the Thessalonians. How he toiled to deliver to them the Word of Life and they received it. Because of this, he ends his passage with "for you are our glory and joy." His "joy" was in their salvation. Even above his own salvation, it seems.
13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received theword of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and [q]drove us out. [r]They are not pleasing to God, [s]but hostile to all men, 16 hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them [t]to the utmost.
17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a [u]short while—in[v]person, not in [w]spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. 18 [x]For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, [y]more than once—and yetSatan hindered us. 19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His [z]coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy
So I have to ask myself--
4. Is my greatest joy seeing others receive Christ-even above my own joy of having Christ and all the benfits that go along with that? Surely this was the mindset of Christ Himself who laid down His glory to come in human flesh and provide a way for man's salvation. Does scripture not tell us that "but for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross?" He looked past the suffering and saw the joy that comes in the morning. Not His own joy, not His own exaltation-He'd already been there and laid down parts of it He will never get back! I believe He saw our joy when the temple veil was torn and all mankind received a way back to fellowship with God the Father. Am I willing to suffer as John, Paul and Jesus so that others might receive salvation? Do I see myself as expendable for the Kingdom of God? Am I really willing to lay down my life, even to the point of death for the gospel? It's easy to answer yes until God requires some little thing of me and oh, how I can fight it, argue with it or try to justify it. Just how sold out am I to the cause of the gospel?
I have to admit, I have fallen short of this. I need a reality check to remind me that this world, with all it's joys and blessing, is not my home. I am here only as an ambassador, a soldier, a pilgrim. This is not my final destination. I can enjoy the blessings along the way but I must never forget my mission. It must stay always in the forefront of my mind and heart. May God once again remind me what I was saved from and that He saved me from it by sacrificing His own Son "while I was yet a sinner," without hope, lost and dying. May the same mind that was in Christ Jesus be mine when I look at the lost. May the same resolve that was demonstrated by Jesus be mine as I minister to the lost. And may the salvation of souls be what makes my joy, in this life and the next, complete.