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  • James Johnson

Light that Won't Go Out


What brings you joy? Your family? A good book? An adventure? Your joy source says something about you. The dictionary will tell you that "joy" means a great feeling of pleasure or happiness. I hate to say it, but the dictionary is shallow. I did a bit of study on joy after reading through Romans 5:1-11. The following is where you will find the idea of "joy" in that passage (in the NLT): 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. "Joy" is certainly at the root of the word "rejoice." I think we may be taking unfortunate liberties when we apply our 21st century English definition to the word, however. I am not an advocate for any one English translation of the Bible. They all have their strengths and flaws. Romans 5:3, 11 are two verses in which I prefer how the King James Version translates this passage: 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience... 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Now, I am not sure why the KJV changed the word to "joy," but what about the word "glory"? The word Paul used that we translate to "joy" or "glory" can be translated as (1) to glory, with or without reason; (2) to glory on account of a thing; or (3) to glory in a thing. "Glory." It means well-lit. The "glory" of the sun lights up our world. When you "glorify God," you are shining the best light possible on Him. So when we "glory" in something, it means that something is shining its best light on us. Now, again, what do we find our greatest joy in? An adventure, a possession, a trip... these have something to "shine" on us that will reveal something about us. But what kind of light? The human view will say that we find joy in our accomplishments, our friendships, our education, our possessions, our influence, or our pleasure. But there is a problem with those things. You have to pursue them. Then they feed your joy. Then it runs out and the joy runs low, so you have to purse them again (kind of sounds like an addiction). Eventually we find ourselves in an endless and exhausting cycle of pursuing what "feeds" us. If you "glory" in--if these things shine the best light on you--your light will grow dim indeed. Jesus did not come to bring a dimming light. Jesus did show us what would build into a light that won't go dim. Justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ... (Romans 5:1).

That means we are made right with God. It only comes by our faith in Jesus Christ, that He really did die for us, and that He lives again. Being so made right gives us an eternal peace with God. That's a light that doesn't go dim!

Privilege.

... by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)

In Jesus, the privilege we have as sons and daughters of God is access straight to God's throne of grace. Undeserved favor and mercy are found there. I love how the New Living Translation puts this one:

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:11)

In Jesus, we have a privilege of friendship with God! That's a light that doesn't go dim (provided we don't turn around and walk away from it ourselves)!

Affliction.

This one is harder. As Paul wrote it, it can mean "pressing together" or "pressure." Think of it like a diamond. A diamond is formed at high pressure and temperature 87-118 miles below the earth's mantle. No one can deny a diamond's beauty. Neither can one deny what it went through to become so beautiful!

Paul speaks of affliction bringing about growth (endurance, strength of character, hope, etc.). This growth steels our hope that Jesus really has paid it all for our sins, and that He will come again, and that we do have access to God through Him even now. Could it be that Paul is telling us that our character--our faith, our child-of-God privilege, our peace, our justification--is much like that diamond?

We may not like it, but that's the idea! Affliction is a thing to glory in, and that glory doesn't go out!

Human light is possessions, accomplishments, and pleasures, things you have to keep pursuing in order to feed the light. One day, we'll wear out, and the light goes out.

But the best light is faith, child-of-God privilege, and affliction. We receive these gratefully. These are the lights that build us. These are the lights that never go out.

What are you glorying in? Have you prayed for the kind of faith that helps you wisely use your privilege, and even change how you view affliction?

May God give you the kind of light that won't go out!


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