Our reason to rejoice defines our heart attitude to God. We have only one reason – t is that through the blood of Jesus, our names are written in heaven.
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)
There is something particularly stirring about a sunrise or sunset. Psalm 19:1 tells us that The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Twice a day, we have a reminder of the glory of God etched into the skies in vibrant colour. The most amazing thing about this, if we really think about it, is that no two are alike. The beginning and close of each day bring us a different pageant of God. Today’s verse brought a thought to mind which makes these wonderful reminders even more poignant. I must say that this isn’t in the Bible per se. It’s a thought whispered to me by the Spirit, and it’s a rare and wonderful idea. We are created for God’s glory and thus every believer is part of that glory. When we are in Him, we are woven into the tapestry of His glory.
Today’s verse tells us that our names are written in heaven. It’s logical that our names are part of His glory, too. Which really could beautifully explain why no two sunrises or sunsets can ever be identical. With each new believer added into that glory, the picture presented simply must change. It’s a thought that has wonderfully changed how I look at the heavens in the future. It doesn’t make us more important, but it does remind us that God takes His glory very seriously – including our part in it. It also gives us a reminder of our reason to rejoice.
The wrong reason to rejoice.
Today’s verse adds another reminder. Christ’s gentle rebuke to His disciples is very revealing. He doesn’t question their authority or their responsibility to do His work. Rather, He addresses their response to the work – their reason to rejoice. First, we are expected, as followers of Christ, to faithfully do His work here on earth. We have no excuse or justification to avoid it. If we claim to follow Him, we must evidence this in living as He did and doing ‘these things and greater things.’ His final commandment to His disciples – and hence to us – was to go and spread the Gospel. The works we do have this ultimate purpose. There is no work of Christ that can be separated from the growth of the kingdom of God. There is also no follower of Jesus who is not required to fulfill this purpose to the glory of God.
But the work of Christ we are called to is not our reason to rejoice. Sadly, it’s easy to slide into a place where results move us more than our divine calling. Human nature finds pleasure in visible success. The satisfaction of a job done well is powerful. Nor should we rejoice in the fact that we are called to do His work, because our calling has nothing to do with our abilities or suitability. It’s rather the grace of God who invites us to share His work. This was the error into which these disciples had fallen. They rejoiced in the work and in their apparent ability to do it. Their pride got in the way and they saw the demons submitting to them rather than to the name of Him who sent them. Doing the work joyfully is very different to rejoicing in it or the perceived results.
The spiritual danger of the wrong reason to rejoice.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23). This is a frightening description of the spiritual consequences of the wrong reason to rejoice. Essentially it defines a wrong attitude to Christ’s work to which we are called – an attitude rooted in pride. The people described here are really doing their own work, not that of Jesus. They are using His name to pursue self-aggrandisement – self-glorification. Presumption, when it concerns Gods’ glory, has fearful consequences.
When we lose sight of Christ, or when He becomes less important than the work, we tread a very shaky path. Success and visible results are great seductions. The praise of others can easily draw us into pride. We quickly forget that we are sinners all and have no claim to anything outside of Christ. God will never share His glory, and especially not with those He has created to bring Him glory. The attitude of our heart is open and visible to our omniscient God. We may fool ourselves and we may even fool others around us. But God knows all hearts. He rejoices when we find joy in our work on His behalf. When we begin to imagine, however, that the demons tremble at our authority, we’re in dangerous territory. We have hold of the wrong reason to rejoice, and we’re claiming His glory for our own.
The right reason to rejoice.
Human nature will always look for the ‘warm and fuzzy’ side of Christianity. We’ll remember God’s love, mercy and grace rather than His judgement, wrath, and punishment. Yet these are all parts of a great and glorious God who created the entire universe through His Word. We want to claim the blessings and promises purchased by the Son of God for us on the cross, and we should. But we must also remember that His suffering and death – the measure of which we can never comprehend – was caused by our sin. Rather than lose ourselves in a sense of our own ‘value to God’ and importance, we must always be mindful of our true condition. This does not mean living in condemnation. It means a humble attitude of praise and thanksgiving for the immeasurable privilege Christ has purchased for us. This is the foundation of the right reason to worship.
When we remember this, we can understand the awesome, incomprehensible privilege of being called to continue Christ’s work. It’s not a right, it’s a responsibility we should assume with joy and thanksgiving. We should delight to do His will because inviting weak and fallen creatures to participate in His works is a blessing beyond measure. We have done nothing to deserve it and can do nothing to earn it. Yet almighty God – the great I AM – not only calls us, He sends us and empowers us with the authority of His Son. But this is not the right reason to rejoice. It’s our response to the awesome truth that our names are written in heaven. Jesus lovingly reminds His disciples that heavenly citizenship is what qualifies them for the work. Today’s verse reminds us that eternity with Him is what matters, not what we accomplish here on earth.
Living in the right reason to rejoice.
As followers of Jesus, we must move beyond worldly standards and expectations. Society and worldly philosophies teach us to measure our value by what we have or what we achieve. We’re taught to pursue success and rate ourselves by our accomplishments. This is a universal attitude. These disciples fell into the same trap, so nothing has really changed. We’re still prone to old habits and attitudes that allow pride to sneak in and seduce us from the truth. But our names are written in heaven. Our ‘eternal passports’ are written in the blood of Christ and stamped by the seal of the Holy Spirit. We’re expected to live by eternal values, and that means living in the right reason to rejoice. Our only boast should be in the truth that the Son of God has made it possible for us to be recorded in citizen list of heaven.
There’s nothing exemplary about working for Jesus. It doesn’t distinguish us at all from the rest of humanity. But for the grace of God and the blood of Jesus, our sinful nature would forever separate us from God and from eternal life. Without Christ, we are no different to the world and the unsaved. Doing the work of Jesus is the expected response to the real reason to rejoice. As citizens of heaven and followers of Christ, it’s expected that we serve Him with joy and thanksgiving. It’s a privilege, yes, but it’s also our purpose. As Jesus brought glory to God through His life, so must we. It’s no reason to set ourselves above the world as if we had some kind of ‘inside edge.’ There is no validation for pride. Any authority we wield is that of Christ alone. We work in His name, not ours.
Our reason to rejoice reflects our attitude to God.
It’s the heart that governs our lives, both in word and in action. The heart is the repository of our attitude, which is reflected in what we say and do. Satan and self will both tempt us to replace the right reason to rejoice with the wrong one. They seduce us with the approbation and satisfaction of worldly achievement. Jesus reminded His disciples, with love and understanding, to consider their motives and their response to the work they had been sent to do. It’s a vital message for every believer. Our response to our work for Him defines our reason to rejoice. In turn, this defines our attitude to God. I give thanks for my twice-daily reminder – each sunrise and sunset – to check my attitude. Do I work for my pleasure, satisfaction, or glory, or for the glory of Him who has written my name in heaven?
Gracious Father, we are human and slide so easily into pride and error. Remind us each day that our names are written in heaven, not by our own merit but by the precious blood of Your Son. Thank You for Your grace that has brought us into Your kingdom and which calls us to service with hearts full of joy and thanksgiving. Help us to fulfil Your calling with humility and to do the work allotted to us for Your glory alone.