Celebration

  • please open your Bibles tonight to Romans 14
  • (Romans 14:17) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
  • (Romans 14:18) because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
  • I want to point out to you how shocking these two verses are
  • to put them in context, Paul has been talking about disputable matters of the faith – specifically, in this passage, the eating of meat offered to idols
  • and in this discussion, Paul points out that the kingdom of God really isn’t about trivial things like what we eat and drink
  • so you say, “Okay, Paul, what exactly is the kingdom of God about?”
  • Paul says, “Three things: righteousness, peace, and joy”
  • I don’t know about you, but I like to consider myself a person of peace
  • I can buy into the kingdom of God being about peace
  • I am seeking after the ethical righteousness referred to in this passage
  • but joy?
  • what Paul is telling us is that God isn’t satisfied with only peace and righteousness in our lives
  • Paul tells us that the kingdom of God is not only about righteousness and peace, but about joy
  • and to go even further, verse 18 says that without joy, my life isn’t very pleasing to God
  • in fact, joy is commanded in the Bible over and over
  • (1 Thessalonians 5:16) Be joyful always.
  • (Philippians 4:4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
  • joy is not an option for those Christians who feel like it: it’s actually commanded
  • every one of God’s children need to exhibit joy in their lives
  • now, work with me on this
  • I don’t think anybody ever taught me this using words, but I seemed to have learned by example that joyfulness was almost sinful
  • I don’t know where I learned this – maybe it was by example
  • maybe it’s because most of the Christians I knew took themselves far too seriously
  • whenever there was any hint of joyfulness shown in church, it was squashed almost immediately
  • and dare I say it – there was precious little joyfulness manifested from the pulpit
  • I remember the first time I heard it said that Jesus had a sense of humor
  • I almost thought that I had just heard one of the most sacrilegious concepts in my entire life
  • I read passages like this one:
  • (John 10:10) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
  • and I asked myself: is this true?
  • is it possible that one of the reasons Jesus came was to give us a more abundant, richer, fuller, more satisfying life?
  • because somehow I seemed to pick up that the Christian life was supposed to be one of heaviness and sorrow, a little persecution, but certainly not joy or laughter
  • certain passages would always give me trouble
  • they didn’t fit my theology
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:18) Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:19) Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:20) He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.
  • I thought, “Well, that’s Solomon, saying that we should be happy in life, to find satisfaction in our food and drink – to be glad in our heart. Solomon certainly wasn’t speaking as a Christian!”
  • I would hear of books like Tony Campolo’s The Kingdom of God is a Party, and think, “Tony Campolo – what a nut!”
  • he talked about celebrations like that prescribed in Deuteronomy 14
  • a tithe of goods was to be used in a feast before the Lord on a vacation trip to Jerusalem
  • if the city was too far to carry their own produce as provision, then the tithe was to be sold, and listen to this:
  • (Deuteronomy 14:26) Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.
  • it certainly didn’t fit into my theology!
  • then I would hear question number one from the catechism we used to use:
  • “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
  • I used to buy into the glorify God part, but what’s this about enjoying God?
  • then, about two years ago, I came across a scholar named John Piper who calls himself a Christian hedonist
  • hedonism, you know, is the pursuit of pleasure
  • it literally shocked me to hear of such a thing as “Christian hedonism”
  • let me share with you what John Piper believes, because I have grown to accept what he says
  • “Christian Hedonism is a philosophy of life built on the following five convictions:

The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.

We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.

The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.

The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.

To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, the chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.” Another way of saying it is, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

  • now here we have it: not only is joy and happiness and pleasure-seeking not sinful, but it’s mandatory for a Christian
  • in fact, to the extent that you’re not a joyful Christian, you’re not pleasing God
  • as Augustine of Hippo said, “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!”
  • to put it another way, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Joy is the serious business of heaven”
  • joy is in the non-optional category
  • and I’m tackling it as the first of nine spiritual disciplines we’re going to look at
  • Richard Foster wrote a book called Celebration of Discipline, and in it he writes:
  • Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every Discipline should be categorized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving.
  • let me give you four reasons why celebration is an important spiritual discipline:
  • REASON ONE: EVERY MOMENT OF LIFE IS A GIFT
  • every once in a while we realize this, but every day is worthy of celebration, simply because we’re alive
  • it’s almost as if a veil needs to be lifted for us to realize this, but every moment is a gift from God
  • I remember when my grandmother passed away
  • I received that phone call as I was shaving
  • I had the entire day planned, and to tell you the truth, I was resentful that the phone disturbed me when I was so busy
  • but all of a sudden, the news I received changed my life forever, and all the important things I had planned all of a sudden became unimportant
  • for the rest of that day and some time afterward, I saw life with new clarity
  • the vision of my soul was sharpened
  • I appreciated being alive
  • life is a gift!
  • we don’t earn it, can’t control it, can’t take a moment of it for granted
  • every tick of the clock is a gift from God
  • every day is a celebration day
  • every day is a birthday – a day to be grateful for life
  • (Psalms 118:24) This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
  • as a poem says, “Enjoy today, it will not come again”
  • REASON NUMBER TWO TO CELEBRATE: CELEBRATION GIVES STRENGTH TO LIFE
  • celebration brings joy to life, and makes us strong
  • (Nehemiah 8:10) Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
  • we can’t continue long in life without joy
  • without joy, life becomes a drudgery
  • somebody has compared joy to the motor that keeps everything going
  • without joyous celebration, what use is there in getting out of bed in the morning?
  • there are going to be days of drudgery, but a priority in our lives should be the maintenance of an attitude that will give us the strength in our lives through the joy of the Lord
  • in the midst of our suffering and even in hard times, we need to cultivate celebration and seasons of enjoyment
  • Dallas Willard writes, “Celebration heartily done makes our deprivations and sorrows seem small, and we find in it great strength to do the will of our God because his goodness becomes so real to us.”
  • one benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously
  • I’m convinced we take ourselves too seriously, and God not seriously enough
  • Richard Foster writes:
  • It is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. This should not be. Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton. Many of us live such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of such things…Our spirit can become weary with straining after God, just as our body can become weary with overwork. Celebration helps us relax and enjoy the good things of the earth.
  • celebration also gives us perspective
  • we can laugh at ourselves
  • we come to see that we and what we think is so important really isn’t
  • we lose an inflated view of our own importance, and become less judgmental
  • others don’t look so awful and unspiritual
  • celebration gives strength to life
  • closely related to this is the next reason
  • REASON NUMBER THREE TO CELEBRATE: CELEBRATION HELPS US RESIST SIN
  • the absence of joy creates weakness
  • in the words of Dallas Willard:
  • failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good. Here lies the strength of temptation…Normally, our success in overcoming temptation will be easier if we are basically happy in our lives. To cut off joys and pleasures associated with our bodily lives and social existence as “unspiritual,” then, can actually have the effect of weakening us in our efforts to do what is right.
  • as I think Joe Stowell has said, we had better make our own fun, because if we don’t, the devil will do it for us
  • we must arrange our lives in such a way that sin no longer looks attractive to us
  • in his fictional book Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has a senior demon giving advice to a nephew demon on how to tempt humans
  • Uncle Screwtape writes:
  • Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and satisfying form we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures; all of our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy [God] has produced, at times, or ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.
  • if we don’t enjoy the pleasures God has created at the times and in the ways which he allows, Satan will tempt us to take these same pleasures at times and in ways in which God forbids
  • we’re all adults here, so let me take an example
  • God has given us the wonderful gift of sexuality
  • within the marriage relationship, Scripture encourages that we enjoy this aspect of creation to the maximum
  • Scripture says to be intoxicated with it – to enjoy it, to be enraptured by it
  • to the extent that we enjoy and thrive upon the sexual relationship as God designed it, we’ll be immune from temptation to enjoy it in ways that he forbids
  • churches feed into this by not talking about it as a wonderful, delightful gift from God – they almost make it sound like it’s a creation of Satan
  • enjoy God’s gifts – revel in them – because if you don’t enjoy them in ways that God designs, Satan will get you to enjoy them in his way
  • REASON NUMBER FOUR TO CELEBRATE: IT’S AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO GOD
  • God’s nature demands that we celebrate his goodness and enjoy the life he has created
  • celebration is the natural result of seeing how great and lovely God is and how good he has been to us
  • when we see what God has done, feasting, dancing, singing, oration – all these become insuppressible reactions
  • it’s noticeable to me that the most godly people are always the most joyful people
  • because in some ways, despite any circumstances that get us down – joy is the end result of getting to know God personally
  • so you weren’t expecting this, were you?
  • our churches don’t teach it enough
  • but if you’re dissatisfied with the Christian life you now lead, and if you want to grow closer to God, become a more joyful person
  • I almost forgot!
  • how do we become more joyful?
  • the first step for pursuing joy is simply to begin now
  • the psalmist says, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it
  • today’s the day
  • we live under the illusion that joy will come someday when conditions change
  • when we graduate, then when we get married, then when we have children, then when the children leave home, then when we retire – then we’ll be happy
  • but today is the day
  • the second step is to find a joy mentor
  • we all know people who are joy-carriers
  • when we’re around them, they breath joy into our souls
  • prize them
  • thank them
  • learn from them
  • don’t be shaped by the joy-robbers in your life – we all know people who drain us of happiness
  • but identify people who are joyful
  • make an appointment to spend some time with them every week
  • find somebody to be a “joy mentor”
  • pray with them that the Spirit will produce more of this fruit of the Spirit in your life
  • the third step is to set aside time to be joyful
  • worship at church should be an ideal time to remind yourself of God’s goodness
  • but if you need more, somebody has even recommended setting aside specific days of celebration, in which you eat foods you love to eat, listen to music that moves your soul, play a sport that challenges you, wear clothes that make you happy, and surround yourself with beauty
  • as you do this, give thanks to God for his wonderful goodness
  • reflect on what a gracious God he is to have thought of these gifts
  • Scripture says that God is the giver of “every good and perfect gift”
  • turn to God in gratitude and delight
  • the last thing I would recommend is to think biblically
  • a large amount of joy comes from thinking the right way
  • think about it – our God reigns
  • no matter what happens, we know everything works together according to his good purpose for us
  • we’ve read the end of the book, and we know who wins
  • we know the future God has prepared for us, that can never be taken away
  • we know that we have an inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled
  • (Philippians 4:8) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
  • if you want to live the Christian life you’ve always wanted, begin by celebrating
  • I think it’s only proper to do some celebrating right now
  • God is so good…
  • He cares for me…
  • He loves me so…
  • God is so good…
  • For the beauty of the earth; for the glory of the skies
  • for the love which from our birth over and around us lies;
  • Lord of all, to Thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.
  • For the wonder of each hour; of the day and of the night,
  • Hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of night
  • For the joy of human love, brother sister, parent, child;
  • Friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild.
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada