“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full…” (John 15:11, ESV)
God loves to celebrate.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to come away from a thorough reading of the Bible- both its Old Testament, and its New- drawing any other conclusion. Consider just a few examples…
- In Genesis 1-2, as God creates the world in which we live, there is a palpable sense of delight in everything He does. He creates the sun, moon, and stars- and calls them “good.” He creates the oceans, mountains, plants, and animals- and calls them “good.” He creates man and woman “in His own image”- and calls them “very good.” He presides over the first wedding celebration in history, between Adam and Eve- an occasion of inexpressible joy.
- Throughout the Old Testament, God prescribes for His people festivals throughout the calendar year, each designed to draw His people’s affection and attention toward who He is and what He has done. Most notable among these is the Passover, the remembrance of God’s radical, rescuing work of His people from slavery in the Exodus from Egypt.
- The Psalms are filled with exuberant expressions of praise and thanksgiving before God. Consider just one, from Psalm 150- “Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary, praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness!”
- In The Gospels, Jesus consistently paints a portrait of a God who throws a party each and every time a sinner turns from his or her rebellion to receive God’s gift of salvation. Parables like that of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son in Luke 15 reveal the heart of God to celebrate in a unique and unhindered way.
- The Revelation looks ahead to a fantastic future in God’s presence for all who have trusted and surrendered to Jesus as Lord. John’s vision in Revelation 21 is nothing short of stunning- “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…”
Now certainly all of life isn’t a party- not in this broken, busted up, sin stained world in which we live. Of course there are many reasons day in, day out to mourn, grieve, and weep. As writer Cornelius Plantinga laments in his classic work on sin, things “aren’t the way they’re supposed to be”- not the way they were when God created them all “good,” and not the way they will be when He one day restores them in full.
That being the case, there is still great value in learning how to celebrate what God does, as God does. The pain wrought by sin is undeniably real, but it doesn’t get the final word in God’s story. The way I see it, there are two primary benefits what we might call the “discipline of celebration…”
1- Celebration helps us to remember what we need to remember. We are a chronically forgetful people- and based on what we read of God’s people in ages past, this is no new phenomenon. Taking time to celebrate God’s great character and good works direct our hearts and minds to that which we are so naturally prone to neglect. It can be so easy to get caught up in everything that is going wrong in our lives and in the lives of those around us. But when we do, we neglect ultimate reality– that there is God in heaven who still reigns in perfect holiness and love, and who has invited us to share in that perfection through His Son, Jesus Christ. What news could be better than that?!
2- Celebration helps us to be renewed where we need to be renewed. Just as we are naturally prone to forget, we are also prone to grow weary. Taking time to celebrate has a motivating effect that reminds us, “It’s worth it to persevere. God hasn’t given up on me, and neither will I give up on Him!” For example, celebrating salvation fuels obedience in evangelism; celebrating transformation fuels investment in discipleship; celebrating impact fuels engagement in mission both near and far; and on and on we could go. The point is this- Celebration isn’t just an end unto itself; when done rightly, it actually leads us into more reasons to celebrate God, and join with Him in His good work!
As you’ve probably heard by now, we are celebrating a major milestone in the life of Fellowship Church this month- 15 years! We are gathering this Sunday afternoon following our Worship Gatherings at both locations to share a celebratory meal together and remember God’s goodness to us over these years. Here’s the message that we want to communicate to you as we share in this celebration- God has been faithful in our past, and we believe that He will continue to show Himself faithful as we seek after Him in our present and future! In other words, the best is yet to come!
It is my hope and prayer that you will make a point to join in the celebration of who God is and all He has done through this faith family over the past 15 years. I am confident it is going to be a special, memorable time for all of us. At the same time, though, I want to challenge you not to let the celebration “terminate” on itself- because I believe God is just getting started in and through the people of Fellowship Church. There is still such deep need in our community and in our world, and God has clearly called and perfectly positioned us “for such a time as this” to “bring (the) real life in Jesus” that those near and far are longing for (even if they don’t know it yet!). Do you want to be a part of His continuing story of faithfulness? Let’s start by doing one of His favorite things to do together- celebrating. See you Sunday!