Yesterday was the first Sunday of the season of Lent. Epiphany began with Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, Lent begins with Jesus’ baptism in suffering. What kind of solace does the Apostle Peter give to Christians around 64AD who were being persecuted and killed at the hands of the wicked Caesar Nero?

1Peter 3.18-22

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Wherever there is suffering for the Gospel, the beauty of the Gospel is proclaimed.

The Nature of Suffering

We could deny that it exists, like some Eastern religions do. We could try and reinterpret it, that suffering is actually good, like popular psychology does. The short answer in the Judeo-Christian worldview is that suffering and pain are a result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Given the choice to live life under God’s rule or under their own rule, suffering and pain resulted from choosing to throw off God’s rule and opt for our own.

But the suffering we experience isn’t by our decisions all the time, are they? And on a macro-level, the answer is still the same. The suffering we experience is because people choose to live their lives in reference to themselves and their kingdom. But that merely answers the question in the abstract.

I do want to put our suffering in perspective to our brothers and sisters around the globe. And specifically during this first 300 years of the church’s existence.

If you haven’t heard of it, there is a ministry called Voice of the Martyrs. It is a ministry that intercedes and seeks to relieve the suffering of our brothers and sisters all over the world. I went on the webpage on Friday to see about any news. These three stories were just posted on Friday:

Five Khmu believers in Laos were arrested and fined for holding a Christmas celebration on Dec. 15. The Christians had received permission from village authorities, but district officials arrested them after learning they had invited a pastor from a neighboring village. The five believers were held in prison for a few nights and fined about $600 before being released.

Christian widows whose husbands were killed in Islamist attacks are gradually returning to their coastal Kenyan homes. After an attack in June 2014 in which Islamists went door to door killing Christians, Naomi and her four children fled to her parents’ home in another village.

After focusing on an unreached area for the past 11 months, an evangelist has seen hundreds of Muslims come to faith in Christ. As a result, some have experienced persecution. A young married couple took shelter in a VOM-supported safe house for several months when they were kicked out of their family because of their Christian faith.

 

This is not about guilt, friends, this is about putting our lives in perspective. Putting our coconut milk latte with extra foam on notice.

Not only now, but the situation into which Peter was writing was even more tenuous. This epistle was written during the time of Nero’s reign (54-68). He was notorious for his extravagance and evil. He killed his own mother. And he accused the Christians for a fire that decimated Rome in 64. So Peter is writing to a group of believers wrongly accused of arson and being killed to rescue the skin of a wicked emperor. What comfort does he afford them?

The verses right before our passage tell us…and they really put into perspective how we ought to view suffering and pain.

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

Peter says you have one job: Honor Christ. Don’t try to figure out what God is doing. Just know he is pleased with you when you honor him.

And we come to our passage today that provides the support for suffering for doing good. For Christ suffered for sin. If it is God’s will for you to suffer unjustly, for doing good!…it is better. Because Christ suffered.

Our suffering is derivative of Christ’s suffering. He was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for sins. We often can think of how thankful we are for being saved from our sins, but we forget the injustice at which it came. No cursing was found on his lips. He blessed those who scourged him. He forgave those who killed him. He loved to the uttermost. He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

He suffered on account of sin. The Righteous One for those who are Unrighteous. While we were still enemies, Christ died for us. While we were still reviling and cursing, he bid us to come to him. When we were still kicking, he opened our eyes. So that we could see. So that we could be brought to God. He suffered not merely at the hands of others. He suffered in order to bring those very ones to God.

Jesus died. He actually died. His body got cold. A body in a morgue. But he was resurrected by the Spirit. The next layer of suffering Peter draws out is how God uses it to proclaim to those who are in prison to sin. Verse 19 has been a hot topic of debate. Who are these spirits in prison? The early church believed them to be the spirits in the realm of the dead. Scholars today believe them to be the angels that rebelled against God and God declared himself powerful over death in the Resurrection. The third option is the one the Protestant Reformers held. Through Noah’s faithfulness and suffering in the face of persecution, the Gospel of Grace and Judgment was preached. But there is a fourth option! My answer to this is that it is a little bit of all three. When Jesus was resurrected in the Spirit, he proclaimed his victory over demons and death. This victory was proclaimed to all things in heaven and under the earth. This victory was the final and full proclamation of God’s victory over principalities and powers (look at V.22!). Before Jesus came God had been whispering this truth of his victory through installments–Abel, Noah, Abraham, David. All those who had been vindicated through their suffering to declare God’s power and love were foretastes and preachers of this same victorious message Jesus proclaims in his resurrection.

But this is the tree branch. The great oak tree of Peter’s argument is that suffering proclaims the Gospel to a watching world. Noah is merely one example of the Gospel being proclaimed that God is King over all. And just as Jesus, through the Spirit was proclaiming the Gospel through Noah’s suffering…so also, the suffering the Christians are unjustly going through proclaims the Gospel in Rome. We see this in Acts 5 and 6 where the Apostles were beaten in (5.40) and “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus” and then a few verses later we see that “the Word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly” (6.7).

Suffering demonstrates the worth of another. Not just enduring suffering, but embracing it as God’s means of sanctifying you and changing you and helping you see that he is more valuable than the comfort you seek.

The Nature of Baptism

This suffering is what is symbolized through baptism. Our second sentence and point. When we baptize someone, we submerse them under water. We don’t sprinkle. Why? It symbolizes the death they have undergone the Flood as it were. And then the believer is raised to life in the Spirit.

This has been a contentious issue for the last 500 years. I want to first remind us that the early church practiced both modes of baptism—baptism for infants and baptism after conversion. They allowed the parents to make the decision up as to what they would allow them to do. We see this in the life of St. Augustine—who his mother Monica deferred his baptism and he would be baptized as an adult.

But before that, we believe the first believers practiced baptism following conversion to Christ and it wasn’t until after the church became the state religion under Constantine that baptism became a rite for infants.

What is more, the witness of Scripture compels me in this direction.

I have many friends who are in other denominations and we disagree on this passage, but let me lay out for you a couple issues that make it impossible for me to baptize babies.

First, the issue of “baptism saving you.” If we stopped there, then we could say that baptism is salvific. But Peter doesn’t stop there, does he. Remember, there are a several layers to Peter’s sentence: V.21 Baptism, which corresponds to this [that is, Noah passing through the waters], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The text literally reads: “A good conscience in answer unto God.” And so, baptism is for those who answer God’s call to them.

This is why Baptism happens after someone has made a decision to follow Christ. This is his or her answer to God stemming from a good conscious decision to submit the life to Jesus.

Secondly, take into consideration the parallel itself. Those eight people on the boat with Noah had to decide to get on the boat. They weren’t coerced. They weren’t carried. They were told of the impending destruction, and they followed Noah onto the boat.

But this is also a branch on the tree of Peter’s argument, isn’t it? The Nature of Baptism is that we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord over all facets of my life. Jesus commands my destiny.

The point of the Flood was to wash the earth of its wickedness. The point of baptism is to show that we have been washed clean by the Spirit. Our soiled souls have been dipped in blood. They have been dipped in the ever-flowing river of God’s forgiveness.

At every baptism, the heavens open up. There’s a bow in the clouds reminding us that God has not and will not deal with us as our sins deserve. The clouds open up and declare you a child of God. Never to be orphaned. The heavens open up and proclaim that even your suffering proclaims the value and worth of your Savior. You may suffer for doing good, but God would remind you to flee to him and know that your one job. Your one job is not merely to do the right thing. It is to find your delight and satisfaction in Another—namely, Jesus, so that when you suffer, you will be counted worthy to suffer for that great name.

 

Questions to Consider:

Take time to pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering and being persecuted around the world.

How does Jesus’ preeminent baptism in suffering bring solace and comfort in the midst of ours?

What’s the difference between suffering and suffering for the Gospel?

What steps of faith might God be calling you to take that you have been afraid to take because you do not want to suffer for the Gospel (loss of friends, notoriety, comfort)?

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Sanitized Christianity

Below is a letter I just sent out to our church. I believe it might encourage and enliven your own faith, and share it with you to that end.

Redeemer,

What a gift yesterday was as we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. As I shared in my opening comments, it is a sad state when the Church doesn’t even know about the glorious celebration of the Spirit’s filling of believers. This is not to chastise other churches. Rather, it is a stiff reminder of why we do what we do when it comes to the church calendar and liturgy. It roots us deep in the rich history of the church. While so many believe they are searching for the new and fresh, it is actually the firm and tried forms the church has been practicing for millennia. Surely, there are dead expressions of this beautiful liturgy. Therefore, we want to know what and why we are doing what we do to safeguard from form without substance. We want to have the skeletal work of the liturgy with the breath of life (read “Spirit”) and muscular reflex (read “walking in the light”).
With that said, as I was preaching I was struck by the beauty of considering the utter power and creative work of the Spirit. As I looked out on our fledgling congregation, it was as if I could see the small band of disciples at Pentecost—only eleven. Yet, being filled with the same Spirit who created the world. The same Spirit who filled the Apostles to speak fervently and with full conviction. This same Spirit lives within us! Have you considered the sheer magnitude of that? Your life is not a mere appendix to the story of redemption. It is a continuation of this magnificent work to go and tell other to come and see. Every conversation you have is alive with opportunity and grace. Every glance. Every moment is resplendent with the glory and presence of God. What would our lives and our world look like with a band of disciples whose lives and decisions revolve around Jesus? Not around vacations and job promotions and being thought highly of by those we so diligently seek approval from.
So much of our Christianity in Greenville is sanitized. That is, we put the Spirit’s work in a box or in a moment. We minimize him. We relegate him to private moments. In fact, he is constantly at work. He gives us every breath we have (remember Psalm 104.29-30?). What our city needs is less concern for our preening and being made much of in the eyes of others. What our city. What our world needs is Christians who really believe, and who live in accord with that belief, that Jesus is always enough. He’s enough for our pain and suffering. He’s enough for our excitement and comfort. He’s enough for my job. He’s enough for my neighbors. He’s enough for my family. He’s enough for me.
May God fill our church with his Spirit so that the watching world will indeed say, “See what way they love one another!”
May the Lord open your eyes to the beauty of his work this week,
Matt

Abiding in Christ?

How do you abide in someone you can’t see or touch or audibly listen to? When Jesus told his disciples to abide in him, was it merely for them or is it something we are called to emulate?

To the first question, Jesus most certainly expected his disciples to abide in him despite not being able to touch him and hear him and see him. After all, John 15 (where the speech comes from) is right before his crucifixion. Too often our faith is wedded to too much wooden-ness in understanding. We veer toward, “Yes, but…” Like Thomas who would not believe unless he put his hand in Jesus’ side, so also our faith is not expansive enough. Blessed are those that have not seen and yet believe–which leads to the second question.

Jesus prayed not only for his disciples in the Garden, but for all those who would hear the Good News from his disciples testimony. When he responded to Thomas that those who have not seen and yet believe are makarios (“blessed”), he had you and me in mind. What we see unfold in Scripture after the Resurrection is the kind of effulgent life he wants us to live…and abiding life.

So how do we abide?

I would suggest three ways.

Keeping His Word

Throughout John’s Gospel and his epistles, Jesus tells us that if we love him we will keep his commands. Like a father who loves his child, like an older brother looking out for his younger brother, Jesus tells us how to navigate God’s world. Do we trust him enough to actually follow his steps?

This explicit teaching is what is called the Revealed Will of God. While God is constantly working in his world for his own purposes, part of that working is his condescension to tell us how to understand his world. That is, unlike the gods of the Ancient Near East, Yahweh determined to tell his people how to live. His Law is gracious and kind to reveal his ways to us.

All the Law hangs on Jesus’ admonition to love God and people.

Throughout the New Testament we see what it looks like to abide in Christ when we hear the Apostles telling people to put others before their own whims and preferences. We see this worked out as the Spirit comes at Pentecost and the Church extends to the uttermost parts of the world.

Led By the Spirit

It is no accident that John 16’s (continued) discourse on the preferment of the Spirit’s coming follows on the heels of Jesus’ command to abide in him. While the Law is gracious and good, we botch it up with our self-seeking and short-sightedness. We need the Spirit of God to guide us into all truth.

As I shared in my sermon on Sunday, there are three witnesses: water, blood, and Spirit. The first two speak to the doctrinal clarity and objective reality of who Jesus is. The third is the subjective application of these truths into the life of the believer.

Unfortunately the Spirit is equated with emotionalism and awkward and outlandish activity by those claiming to be Spirit-led. This is an unfortunate state of affairs, indeed. While the Spirit blows where he will, and does things outside our meager understanding, this does not necessarily mean that his working in incomprehensible or outlandish or alien (more on this in the third point).

What are some ways we can be led by the Spirit?

Well, he inspired the text of Scripture and has clearly spoken there. Go there.

In Ephesians 5.18, we are told to be filled with the Spirit. How? The participles that follow this command tell us how: Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. The Spirit is guiding and directing God’s people. Go there.

It would be good to reflect on each of these four participles and consider how you might be filled with the Spirit in ever-increasing measure. Are you speaking God’s songs over people? Are you singing to soothe the angst in your own heart? Are you grateful? Are you putting others’ needs before your own–considering them more significant than yourself?

Being Attune to God’s Working

One of my charges as a pastor is to help us see God’s continual work in the world. It is easy to wax on about God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence but to deny his power and that this means right here right now. He is not all these characteristics merely in heaven. While you may say, “Obviously!” In fact, many of us affirm these aspects of God yet we live life as though he is not at work in the mundane stuff of life. We talk about him and his superintendent work int he world…but we fail to see his work in my making coffee or standing in line or talking to a stranger.

The shift in our lives happens when we see him always at work. Always. In the mundane. In the suffering and pain. In the exciting. That is God working and shaping you.

Every conversation. Every. Conversation. Is opportunity to hear God speak to you. For him to shape you. Every appointment is a “divine appointment.” He graciously guides our footsteps. The person in the checkout line needs to hear of God’s grace. Your co-worker needs to know that God loves him. The annoying neighbor needs to see God’s mercy. Your family needs to experience peace in your words and actions. These are all God’s ever-present work. His beckoning us to abide in his word and his world.

Seen and Heard and Manifest – 1John 1


We start a five-week walk through the Beloved Apostle John’s first letter. As you may have noticed, there was no OT reading in our service today. This is due to the emphasis in the church calendar to consider what the resurrection of Jesus means for the Church. That is, we read from Acts instead of the OT during this season right after the Resurrection—a forty-day period that ends on Pentecost Sunday. 

You’re going to notice several aspects in this letter that I want you to be aware of before I read our passage today. Each of these elements should be read as a continuation of John’s Gospel. As we work through it together, I will reference some of these elements from John’s Gospel, but of course will not be able to mention all of them.

The earthiness of the Christian faith

Light and Darkness

Love and Obedience

Abiding in God

Singular devotion

It would be beneficial to read John’s Gospel in one hand and 1John in the other. 

1John 1

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

5   This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Eternal life is about life right now…on earth. John 17.3: “This is eternal life…they know you God.” It is, of course, life with God in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. But that life is a fulfillment of and a continuation of the eternal life that we start to live here on earth. Have you considered that the new eyes and new heart and new life you have received by the Spirit of God when you first came to know God is the heart, mind, and life you will enjoy God forever? 

We see this earthiness of the life we have from the beginning of John’s letter. Verses 1-3. Note the senses involved in what John conveys to his readers: Heard. Seen with our eyes. Touched with our hands. That which we have seen and heard we proclaim. 

At the time John was writing this letter, there were the beginnings of a heresy going around called Docetism. It comes from the Greek word dokeo, which means “to see.” This teaching taught that God did not really and truly become human, but that he only appeared to do so. This is the easy way to reconcile really hard teaching in the Christian life. We try to make it palatable and understandable—confining it to our finite mind. How can the Infinite become finite? Well, it can’t therefore it only appears to be finite. He’s a mirage. BUT this is not the Christian way. Earth is not bad. Soil is not unclean. The entire Creation is resplendent with Christ’s glory. The Creator. 

This is why John tells us that the Resurrected Jesus ate fish for breakfast with his disciples. And this is why he is at pains to show us that the very same eternal Word of God from the first chapter of his Gospel—“In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.” This self-same God blessed bread and ate it. He was baptized. He took baths. He changed clothes. He cried real tears and laughed real laughter. “That which was from the beginning”  was made manifest—he not only appeared…he ate and drank and sang.

If we’re not careful, we can make our faith very ephemeral. Disconnected from the stuff of life. We can fool ourselves into thinking that we are meant to float on clouds above the cares of the world. But the beauty of the Gospel is that it redeems men and women. It manifests itself by clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving sight to the blind. 

The Christian faith is not one disconnected from reality. The physical manifests the spiritual. The spiritual necessarily works itself out in flesh and blood. The very story of all of our salvation comes through the hearing of the proclaimed message. Without the hammer, anvil, and stirrup of the ear, there can be no confessing with the tongue. Embracing this reality helps us to see the utterly practical nature of the Gospel. The Christian life is not merely about ideas and knowledge…it is about life. Yes, eternal life. 

Verse 5 serves as the banner over the rest of the chapter. This is the message we have…

This earthiness works itself out with the conditions John walks through in the second half of our text. A list of five (5) conditional statements show the importance of what we do with our hands and mouths and eyes. 

Verse 6: If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, [then] we lie and do not practice the truth.

John is at pains to show that allegiances are black and white. To use his terminology—light and darkness. You cannot live in the shadows and say you are in the light. This is a HUGE tendency here in our culture where people walked down and aisle or raised a hand or even led a Bible Study for some time. As time goes on, the true allegiances of the heart are brought to the light. When this happens that person has to reckon with their true allegiance. Will they bring it out into the light or will they retreat into the dark and keep their sin safe and secure. 

As God invites us to deeper intimacy, he’s beckoning us into more light. To be closer to him. This oftentimes comes through adversity. 

By virtue of living and breathing you are doing. We are constantly doing something. Either we are lying or we are, literally, “doing the truth”. The truth of the Christian life is lived out. It is acted upon, not merely a truth to be ascended to. It is a truth that grabs you and moves you.

We will see next that abiding in Christ (in the light) means abiding in his community. 

Verse 7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

This is the converse of the previous verse. We see that living the Christian life is a perpetual walking and breathing. It is much like what we will be seeing this summer. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a pretty pasty white guy. When Ashley and I first got married, I learned just how much of a sun baby she was. We went to the beach with her family one July 4th week and I wanted to show her that I could hang with her and all the other sun worshipers, so I laid on the beach for several hours. My prior length of time in the sun was about 30 minutes. That night, I couldn’t hold any food down. I had sun poisoning. You go to the beach and you can tell those who have been in the sun longer than those who haven’t. The Christian life is one of living in the light and being changed from one shade of glory to another. 

Verse 8: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

To guard us from pride and from thinking that walking in the light means we are without sin, John reminds us that the emphasis of the Christian life is the sun that shines on us. We do not produce the light. We walk in the light. God is not expecting you to manufacture some kind of inherent goodness within you. You have, indeed, been made in the image of God…but the life we are called to live is one of enjoying and basking in the glory of Another. In this way we see that the light is a safe place to show that we have blemishes. We have imperfections. We have sin. This is one of the purposes of the light. 

To take the previous illustration a little further, but hopefully not too far!, when I get in my bathing suit this summer, those around me will see my imperfections. More specifically, they will see moles on my skin. This could be an embarrassing thing, or it could be a protection for me. Imagine that my dear wife sees a mole on my back that I cannot see. She sees it in May at the beginning of the summer and then she notices in August that that mole has changed shape. It’s grown! “Hey Babe, you probably need to go to a dermatologist.” Not merely to change the way we look as we walk in the Light, but it points out things that can be detrimental to us. 

The light is a place we can be healed. It shows us our imperfections and it overwhelms us by Jesus’ perfection and love for us in light of that sin. This is the point of the next verse! The point of being brought to the light is to be healed. To be cleansed. To be set free. Not to condemn.

Verse 9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

But the ability to confess is often avoided because we don’t like to admit how messed up we are. You and I can hear this beautiful news this morning, that we are loved and accepted and welcomed by God and yet run away from the very place he wants to do his work of surgery. 

Verse 10: If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

If we lie and say we don’t have sin, then we make him a liar. Takes our lives up a notch. God wants to live his life through you. The Christian life is meant to be a life of congruence. One of integrity. One of honesty. There is safety here. There is healing here. The sooner and the more frequent we make these confessions, the more opportunity we have for healing. Instead of wishing the mole would go away or simply because we can’t see it we claim that it doesn’t exist. The Gospel gives us the courage and confidence to confess and come to the only place that it can be healed.

But we have to ask why does John speak so candidly and directly about living in the light and a life of integrity? Why? He gives three reasons in this text. And we’ll work backward.

Verse 9 is so that, quite simply, we will be cleansed and be forgiven. God is standing at the ready to forgive even the most heinous sin in your life. He is faithful when you have been faithless. Maybe you have been walking in dark. He standing ready to receive you! He will make good on his word to forgive you. He is just. What he says, he will surely do. He split the Red Sea. He resurrected his Crucified Son. Will he not surely receive you and wash you?

John has a second reason in Verse 4. It’s a self-serving reason in some respects. He proclaims the glory of the Gospel so that his joy may be complete…brought to its fullness. Have you considered that the folks you and I interact with everyday can bring you joy? They are not meant to merely be hindrances to your joy. Even though you may think so many days. They are God’s means to bring you even more joy. Every time you draw near to that one who is unlovely or annoying, seeking to enjoy the Light with them, your joy is magnified. Like a magnifying glass on an ant, the joy burns up those tiny annoyances in our lives. 

John gives one more reason in Verse 3. It’s not just about bringing someone to the Light, as in a “See, I told you so!” Rather, this magnification of our joy, the bringing to its fullness is when we are changed and fellowship with one another. As each of us is along the way we are being changed, shade by shade…and the beauty and sufficiency and glory of the sun helps us enjoy all that he has for us even more!

The Christian life is meant to be lived in community with others. We shortchange our joy when our faith is merely about me and Jesus.