December 21, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Joy To The World)

Submitted by Kaitlyn L. of Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

The Bible tells the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.  When man sinned, his choice was not made in isolation, affecting only himself.  The Bible describes Adam’s sin as having far-reaching consequences, impacting the very fabric of God’s created order.

Genesis 3:17-19

17To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painful toil you will eat of it

all the days of your life.

18It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field.

19By the sweat of your brow

you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

and to dust you will return.”

What impacts on the natural world flowed from Adam’s sin?

Because of Adam’s sin, the ground itself, which was blessed at Creation and called “good” now becomes cursed.  All of nature starts to unravel from the original design of order and submission to God and Man, to being uncooperative and adversarial to man.  The ground produces thorns and thistles, pain-inflicting and useless plants.  Life becomes something that man has to fight with in order to survive. And even his own body is rebelling against him by moving towards decay and death.    

What does the Bible teach about the relationship between God, life, sin and nature?

The Bible teaches that God is the center, the source and sustainer of life and even with our relationship with nature.  When man sinned against God, we became cut off from the life source and life becomes a journey where we are returning to dust.  Even nature turns hostile and becomes a snare to man, and it becomes something which man has to struggle with to survive.

Sin is like a deadly virus that has ruined all of Creation.  This shows me that God and a proper relationship with God is what holds everything together.  I cannot compartmentalize my “spiritual life” and think that I can be okay even when I am not right with God.  The far-reaching and relentless effects of sin show me that God is the source of a good, harmonious, well-balanced life, instead of the worldly view that I should “balance” my life by not giving God too much of my life.

Also, I see that my sins are never just my private acts, never just something bad but that eventually get neutralized by life somehow.  Instead, because God’s creation is an integral whole, when I reject God, it’s like I started the domino effect of rebellion and perversion through the rest of God’s world.  It doesn’t get neutralized, it leaves a far longer and wider trail of victims than I would have ever imagined.  I can never underestimate the consequences of sin or be cavalier about my sin.  It makes me somber to recognize that if it weren’t for the coming of Christ that reverses this domino effect, there would actually be no end to the damage of my sin.

With this passage in the background, read again the words of the hymn, paying particular attention to the words “nature,” and the various references to the natural world.

Joy To The World
Author: Isaac Watts

Composer: George Frederick Handel

 

Joy to the world! The Lord is come

Let earth receive her King.

Let every heart prepare him room

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

 

Joy to the world! The Savior reigns

Let men their songs employ

While fields and floods

Rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

 

No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground

He comes to make his blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

Far as the curse is found

Far as, Far as the curse is found

The Bible describes all of nature as being under a curse, first in man’s own body’s decay and death (“to dust you will return”), and on a broader scale, “thorns infest[ing] the ground.”

Into this broken world God himself entered as a baby.  As C.S. Lewis says, “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign …”

So the baby Jesus of Christmas is both Savior and Lord, and Christmas marks the beginning of the rightful King’s invasion. Every Christian is summoned to join in the campaign for the rightful King and Savior to reclaim his world.  Have you thought of yourself in these terms?  What must characterize the life of someone who views himself this way?

Too often I don’t see myself as a participant in a campaign.  I get distracted by the “good life” which I think I can live for myself, forgetting that it’s like arranging furniture on a sinking ship.  I forget that there are others who are in this with me, who will help me when I need help or I forget that I have a responsibility to do the same to others.  I also forget that I’m on the winning side so I don’t have to be afraid.  I have a commander who came to the darkest pit to save me and knows my weaknesses, so I don’t have to be afraid of failing yet again or of being so lame.

A person who views his life accurately as being in this kind of campaign would be characterized by a sense of purpose and urgency and would take his life a lot more seriously.  He would not be so easily discouraged by setbacks or failures, would not so easily let success get to his head, would trust and rely on God, and be there for his teammates and would just overall think a lot more about the mission than about himself.

Prayer

Write a prayer of gratitude, affirming the truths in today’s text, and thanking God for reversing the curse of human sin; pray a prayer of commitment to join in the campaign of the true King to “make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found.”

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Your Son Jesus to reverse the effect of sin.  We are the ones who have sinned against You and brought all these upon ourselves, yet You provided a way out for us.  Thank you that I don’t have to bear the brunt of my sin, and my sin will not take me down the relentless downward spiral to utter ruin and despair, because You came and stood in the gap for me, bore my sin for me and You are able to redeem even the most painful and ugly moments in my life.  Please help me to see that I am now a soldier in Your great campaign to reverse the ravage of sin, to properly restore Your role as Ruler over all Creation.  My own battle has been won by You already, and I don’t need to fight for my own ego or defend any turf for myself.  You are all that I need and You will provide for me all that I need, as You have already demonstrated more than abundantly on the cross.  Please help me to let go of my puny concerns, civilian affairs so that I can really be fully available for You, and so that starting in my own life, Your return and Your rightful throne would be whole.

Submitted by John L. of Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

The Bible tells the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.  When man sinned, his choice was not made in isolation, affecting only himself.  The Bible describes Adam’s sin as having far-reaching consequences, impacting the very fabric of God’s created order.

Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV84)

17To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

through painful toil you will eat of it

all the days of your life.

18It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

and you will eat the plants of the field.

19By the sweat of your brow

you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

and to dust you will return.”

What impacts on the natural world flowed from Adam’s sin?

These verses draw the sad picture of how sin reaches far beyond the boundaries of Adam himself and extend into the fabric of God’s creation itself. The earth is caught in the wake of Adam’s sin and consequences as it is “cursed” to produce “thorns and thistles” for Adam, subjecting him to “painful toil” to “eat of it.” The land that God decreed “good” in Genesis 1, the same ground that was perfect according to God’s original plan and intended to richly provide for all man’s nourishment needs becomes the “cursed” land in which Adam must now toil to survive in. In addition, the curse of Adam in verse 19 points to the sad reality of death entering into man’s existence in the world. The body that God created out of dust and infused with life by His breath and called “very good” by God is cursed from that point to return to the dust from which it came from.

What does the Bible teach about the relationship between God, life, sin and nature?

The Bible teaches us that God is sovereign, the source of life and nature. When sin enters into the picture, it mars this relationship between God and man, altering the original plan for nature as intended by God. The perfect order of nature as laid out by God is permanently scarred by man’s sin and we live in a world that is fallen and broken, a world that no longer willingly produces for man and requires him to painfully toil to live upon it. The chilling lines in the end of verse 19 suggest that man’s life itself is affected by this disruption of the created order as the curse of Adam includes this statement regarding the return of man’s body to dust, or the disintegration of what God originally formed from dust back to dust. So we have the introduction of death as a consequence of the sin that disrupts the connection between man and God, who is the source of life itself.

With this passage in the background, read again the words of the hymn, paying particular attention to the words “nature,” and the various references to the natural world.

Joy To The World
Author: Isaac Watts

Composer: George Frederick Handel

 

Joy to the world! The Lord is come

Let earth receive her King.

Let every heart prepare him room

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven and nature sing

And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

 

Joy to the world! The Savior reigns

Let men their songs employ

While fields and floods

Rocks, hills, and plains

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat the sounding joy

Repeat, Repeat the sounding joy

 

No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground

He comes to make his blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

Far as the curse is found

Far as, Far as the curse is found

The Bible describes all of nature as being under a curse, first in man’s own body’s decay and death (“to dust you will return”), and on a broader scale, “thorns infest[ing] the ground.”

Into this broken world God himself entered as a baby.  As C.S. Lewis says, “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign …”

So the baby Jesus of Christmas is both Savior and Lord, and Christmas marks the beginning of the rightful King’s invasion. Every Christian is summoned to join in the campaign for the rightful King and Savior to reclaim his world.  Have you thought of yourself in these terms?  What must characterize the life of someone who views himself this way?

The arrival of baby Jesus marks the return of the rightful King and Savior of the world coming to reclaim what was lost and broken by sin. For all Christians, we are all invited to join with him in his campaign to reclaim the world. Through the great commission, Jesus commands all his disciples to “go make disciples of all nations,” and I have received this same command to share in his work to reclaim his kingdom one disciple at a time. Although I have many flaws and failures, I am nevertheless thankful for the clear identity I have been given to take part in this work of my Savior and Lord. And as this hymn suggests, I can joyfully share in this good news of the return of the rightful king who ends the curse of man and come to “make his blessings flow”.

My whole reason for moving and living here in Minnesota is to be a part of God’s work.  But despite the clear identity and mission that I have to be a minister on our campus, I know I fall well short of the standard of one called into action to help the king reclaim this world for him. The life of a person who views himself this way must be characterized by discipline, purpose, and intentionality. In my view, I think a solider best characterizes the life of someone with a clear mission. A soldier knows the mission given him by his superiors and he is completely committed to carrying that mission out successfully. He is not deterred by difficulties of the mission or by the sacrifices that is demanded of him, because the mission is his primary goal. Therefore, a person who views himself in this way must live a disciplined life characterized by the singular purpose of completing his mission. As a Christian, this involves denying myself every day, engaging with God through prayer, and doing the actual work of sharing the gospel with others.

It’s easy to get caught up with the comforts of life around me, distracted by my fears and anxieties, feeling defeated by my failures, and being distracted by the everyday demands of life. But all of this is incongruous with the identity of a solider of Christ committed to carrying out the mission of his master. But the mission is so clear for me. The curse is found in all corners of the earth, and my corner is the campus here at the University of Minnesota. There are so many who do not know the gospel and I have the privilege of making His blessings flow in their lives as I do my best to share the good news with them. Indeed, the gospel is such wonderful news and I commit once again to being the conduit of your blessings.

Prayer

Write a prayer of gratitude, affirming the truths in today’s text, and thanking God for reversing the curse of human sin; pray a prayer of commitment to join in the campaign of the true King to “make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found.”

Dear heavenly father, thank you for allowing me to experience personally the miracle of Christmas, as I recognize how you reversed the curse of man by redeeming me through your birth and sacrifice on the Cross for me. As I’m reminded of your mission in coming down to earth to reverse the consequences of sin and reclaim this world, I thank you for inviting me share in this same mission to make your blessings flow here at home in Minnesota. My mission field is so abundantly clear and there is much work to do on our campus, and as I celebrate this second Christmas here in Minnesota and anticipate the New Year, I thank you for inviting me to share in your grand campaign and I commit once again to this great work of joyfully sharing the good news with others.

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