Wednesday, May 23, 2007

An Explosion of Joy

I'm reading The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin (Eerdmans, 1989). Lesslie Newbigin was a British missionary in India. On page 127 of this book, Newbigin says:
The church's mission began as the radioactive fallout from an explosion of joy. When true to its nature, it is so to the end. Mission is an acted out doxology. That is its deepest secret. Its purpose is that God may be glorified.
I love that first sentence! The church's mission is not just a command to be obeyed. The church's mission is the public overflow of joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such life-changing, eternally good news can't be kept private. So missions isn't first about doing - it's about being. There is no such thing as God-glorifying missions without the explosion of gospel-joy that propels it. What are the ramifications of this kind of thinking for marriage?

Paul seems to say in 1 Corinthians 7 that marriage is a "worldly" reality. The church, on the other hand, is eternal. This fact must shape the way we set priorities. Marriage is at its best when it points to the preciousness of the gospel. Marriage should serve missions to far away lands, and missional living in one's own neighborhood. If what Newbigin says is true, the foundation of a missional marriage is the enjoyment of God. Because "mission is an acted out doxology (worship)," missional marriage is also acted out doxology.

So, if you wonder why your marriage seems unsatisfying and falls flat of your expectations, maybe it's because you're not experiencing the explosion of joy in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you wonder why you aren't motivated to let your marriage be a light to your neighborhood, maybe it's because your marriage is acted out doxology to the wrong god.

Let's take the example of Jim and Judy from the previous post. All the buckling down in the world isn't going to make Jim want to show hospitality to his neighbors. Jim can read "the great commission" (see Mat. 28:18-20) every day, feel more guilty for falling short of its call, and still never reach out in love to his neighbors. Why? Because Jim is more concerned about and satisfied in his temporary comfort than he is in the gospel. Where is Jim going to get the motivation to look beyond his own temporary comfort? Not in his ability to buckle down.

Jim needs to experience the radioactive fallout from an explosion of gospel-joy. Remember, doing flows from being. If Jim isn't constantly aware of the joy the gospel brings, then he can pretend to love his neighbors. He can go through the motions of serving his neighbors for awhile. But Jim isn't going to shine the light of the gospel on the face of his neighbors. He can't overflow with something he doesn't have. Jim can only overflow with the joy of the gospel when he is filled with gospel-joy himself.

Moral of the story: Be happy in the gospel. If you're not happy in the gospel, pray that God would give you eyes to see its beauty and value. Pray that God would show you your own sin. Pray that God would show you the precious love of your Savior, overcoming your sin for you. And pray that God would cause the joy of such grace to explode out of you and "fall out" on everyone around you.


Annemarie said...

I loved this post. I also think that gospel-joy comes from dying to self so that the Holy Spirit becomes the dominant part of us shining through.

Interestingly, my marriage was transformed when it became my mission to joyful show the character of Christ to my husband.

I am so glad that you posted on the SL boards! I feel like you are a good friend already just based on your church blog. We live in an area where churches that are right on in doctrine and practice are extremely hard to find! I just began a month long read through of Galatians and I am going to listen to some of the sermons on the website.

I look forward to reading more of your posts!


Annemarie said...

Obviously my brain sort of wandered here. I thought that this was written by you wife...sorry about that!

I still enjoyed the post!