Fresh Joy in the Lord

Paul instructs Christians in Romans 12:3 to consider themselves with sober judgment. “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.” Everyone among us should think this way.

To think of myself with sober judgment means that I need to consider the truth about who I am. Many of us are prone to overestimate ourselves, to think that we’ve arrived, when in fact Scripture reminds me that I still have it within me to lose battles against the flesh, my sin nature, and temptation. What I need to remember each and every day is that indwelling sin and the flesh still wage war against me, and my propensity to lose those battles increases exponentially in direct correlation to thinking more highly of myself than I ought.

On my own, it is true: “when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21–23). When I consider myself with sober judgment, I confess: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18–19). If I think that I am above doing wicked deeds, going along with sin, committing acts of rebellion against God, then I am one step—one significant step—closer to embracing the things which God hates and which seek to destroy both me and others around me.

If I think that I’m above sin, then I’m blind. This is what my sinfulness (my sin nature) does—it blinds me to my own acts of sin and it blinds me to my ongoing need for present-tense grace and reliance on an ever-present Savior. My sin blinds me to that need and it deafens me to the voices all around me that are telling me what is true. But here’s what God does in the gospel: in the gospel, God opens the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind.

There’s a glimpse ahead to the day of Christ and the message of the gospel in Isaiah 29. There, Isaiah writes:

In that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD,
and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:18–19

The book—God’s Word, and specifically the message of the gospel—opens deaf ears and blind eyes. It gives hearing to the spiritually deaf, sight to the spiritually blind, and life to those dead in sin. And it’s not just for those currently apart from Jesus; the words of the book, the gospel, are words that believers themselves need to hear each and every day.

Because of the reality of ongoing sin, I need to remember that apart from Jesus I can do nothing (John 15:5), but also that with him I can do all things (Philippians 4:13). I need to know that as I live in Christ, I am a conqueror (Romans 8:37), that I have been set free from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:7, 14), and that Christ’s Spirit is with me always to guide me (John 16:13).

Scripture therefore leads me to be honest about my state: the flesh wages war against me, and on my own I am prone to give in to its demands; I’m not above giving in to sin. But Christ has opened my eyes and still opens my eyes to the truth that in Him is forgiveness, cleansing, and the grace to change. “Fresh joy” for today is found in the gospel.

Therefore, I need the book. The words of Scripture are not just empty words, but my very lifeblood; they give me life daily (see Deuteronomy 32:47). Each and every day, I battle with ongoing sin, so each and every day I need God’s word to me that opens my eyes and ears to truth. Each and every day I’m prone to giving myself to idolatry, specifically to living for the idol of self, so each and every day I need to be humble before the Lord, hear his word, and let it lead me to exult in Him. Each and every day I’m prone to live like a man blind to spiritual realities and deaf to spiritual truths, so each and every day I need the book to open my eyes and open my ears. Each and every day, I need the book, because each and every day I need who the book points me to, I need my ever-present Savior, I need Jesus. Praise God, he’s given us what we need: Christ as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins, and his Spirit to be with us always. And I find this truth that I need each and every day each and every time I open the book. Praise God!

Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.

Photo by Александр Ляхнович on Unsplash