As I was studying Galatians 4 the other day, I could not seem to get past this verse. Though Paul was talking to the Galatian believers who had evidently lost their joy in the Lord, because they had enslaved themselves to following Jewish laws. It seemed as if God was asking me the question.
And I couldn’t help but remember the prayer David prayed… “Lord, restore unto me the joy of my salvation.”
For the church in Galatia, they had started out good,but somewhere along the way had bought into the lies that they had to do certain things to please God, and were so busy keeping the law, that they forgot about the grace.
I think this is often true of us as believers as well. Oh we start off well, we are on fire for Jesus. We can’t wait to tell anyone who will listen about our amazing God. We long to serve and do any and everything we can to honor God…..
But then time passes, the newness of life in Christ passes and before long if we are not careful, we have become just like the Galatians. Oh we still do what is right, what we are “suppose” to do. We go to church, we read our Bibles and even teach others… but we often do it because we somehow think we have to.
And we lose our joy.
In all other religions, the followers must do certain things, follow certain rules, work their way up the mountain to God. But with Christianity, God came down the mountain and He completed everything for us. All we must do is believe!
Yet many times, I meet people who are struggling to read their Bibles, struggling to spend time in prayer… are just burned out in their ministry (myself included). And I think it is first and foremost because we have enslaved ourselves to these things. And we do them not out of our overwhelming love for God. We do them because it’s what is expected of us and we feel we have to.
But there’s more…
Paul says you were enslaved to other things, things that weren’t gods at all.
And I’m reminded that one of the biggest stealers of the Christian’s joy is idols.
Now, living in Nepal, I see idols daily. I can go to the market and buy as many as I’d like. And many here worship these daily.
But for the Christian, this is not the idol I’m talking about.
The idols in the Christian’s life are the things that you and I put before God. The things we love more than Him. The things that when threatened we react to. Which is why John ends I John by saying, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
Idols replace God.
Idols steal our joy.
And though we may not bow to them and worship them, they are sin against our God, who is a jealous God, who will not share His glory with anyone.
So let me ask you as the Lord has asked me… what has happened to your joy?
Have you forgotten your great salvation, forgotten who you are in Christ. Left the grace and begun to do only because you think you have to?
Are you putting anything before the Lord? I’m convinced that the believer’s number one idol is themselves.
We follow what we want to do, we go where we want to go, we allow our feelings to dictate our response, why because we love us more than we love God.
This was a hard lesson, hard to hear and much harder indeed to live.
Yet, I challenge you as the Lord has challenged me to remember your first love. Remember who you are in Christ (read Ephesians 1), dwell on the greatness and glory of God, know that you did nothing to deserve this great salvation and yet God has opened your eyes, though many others still do not know.
And second, ask God to reveal any idols in your life. Ask Him to show you what things you put before Him (even good things). Then pray and ask that He will help you to cast them aside.
Then I am convinced that the joy that is missing in your life, will return full and overflowing in the Lord!
Blessings from Nepal!