Our family had the awesome opportunity to see Rend Collective in concert this past Friday night. I have wanted to see them live for some time, so this was a real treat for me! If you are not familiar with Rend, they are a worship band from Ireland; although, on Friday night they actually referred to themselves as a Celebration Band. You wouldn’t have to see them live for very long to agree with that assessment. Their songs are generally upbeat and alive with a joy that’s rooted in gospel truth. As I participated in this concert of celebration with my family, I actually found myself feeling somewhat convicted. Rend collective gave me more than just a good show; they reminded me that because of the gospel, the backdrop of my life should exude celebration.
No matter what happens in this life, celebration should always be present in the life of a believer. This is one of the ways we can describe joy. Now, there certainly is a difference between joy and happiness. I am not saying that believers should always be happy. The world is broken and we all experience that brokenness in our lives from time to time. That brokenness will certainly wreak havoc upon our happiness, and to fake that happiness in the midst of hurt and struggle is certainly not the proper Christian response. At the end of the day happiness merely exists as a feeling, or an emotion. Those come and go like the wind.
Joy, however, exists as a fruit of the Spirit. Circumstances may rob me of my happiness, but joy does not rely on circumstances. Joy finds its root in the reality of who I am because of Jesus. Joy cannot be robbed because that reality cannot change for the one who is truly in Christ! This means that any and every situation can be met with celebration when seen and understood through the lens of the gospel. If nothing else, believers can celebrate the hope that this temporary groaning is not eternal. Our hope is in Jesus and that hope fuels our celebration. After all, God created us to enjoy him in eternal celebration.
Celebration does not mark my life as it should. At least not right now. I began to wonder why that is the case even as I enjoyed the concert. Over the past couple of days I came up with several reasons.
1. Celebration depends on Focus.
I stop celebrating when I take my eyes off of that which is worth celebrating. If the focus of our hearts is taken off of Jesus and his gospel, we will lose our sense of celebration. As I said before, we live in a broken world. If we allow our eyes to be taken off of the “author and perfecter of our faith,” we will become entangled in sin and allow the situations of this life to suck the life right out of us. We will live situation to situation instead of understanding in Christ that we can already begin to experience eternal life in him! Just yesterday morning at Westwood our pastor reminded us that, “Kingdom life is not an after-death state of existence. Kingdom life is eternal life–ongoing, intimate fellowship with God.” Kingdom life is a celebration life! Trying to find life outside of the kingdom will result in a complete lack of celebration.
2. The wages of sin is death.
Sin always exists as a lie. It presents itself as a vehicle to celebration. Scripture, however, rightly teaches us that the wages of sin is always death. I heard John Piper recently say that God is not some big killjoy, but rather sin exists as the greatest killer of joy. Sin may always offer the promise of celebration, but in the end it always fails to follow through on that promise. The gospel promotes celebration because it declares that not only our sin, but every consequence of our sin as well, has been completely eradicated! That’s something to celebrate! Where sin breeds shame, anxiety and death, the gospel produces joy, rest and life. Perhaps a good recipe for celebration is found in 1 John, where we read, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his son cleanses us from all sin” (1:6). What a beautiful picture of celebration!
3. Orthodoxy – Orthopathy = No Celebration
Orthodoxy means right belief, or doctrine. By orthopathy I mean right emotions. If we become strictly intellectual in our theological pursuits, we can become cold toward others, even God. We become critical and exclusive. It is entirely possible to be absolutely doctrinally sound, yet completely void of celebration. Now, don’t misunderstand me, truth is important. Vitally so. But if our theology doesn’t result in worship and celebration, it is ultimately bad theology. I’m afraid I can be so guilty of this sometimes. I can become so passionate about getting the gospel right that I can completely fail to live in its reality. One of the greatest and best challenges with which I came away from seminary is striving to live with a balance between orthodoxy, orthopathy and orthopraxy (right practice/living). I have to believe that synthesis and balance in all three of these areas will result in a life of celebration!
Another point our pastor made yesterday had to do with prayer. “We often think of prayer as something we do; however, prayer is actually who we are as God’s children.” Did you catch that? Prayer is not just an activity we undertake, it helps to shape our identity as believers. Who we are in prayer will ultimate become who we are in life. The object of our celebration will be God, himself, if our celebration endures. We experience him and grow in the knowledge of him through prayer. Therefore, the question becomes, who does your prayer life say you are? If we are out of prayer, we are out of focus, and that will snuff out the flame of celebration.
What keeps your life from being one of celebration? Do any of mine resonate with you?
Perhaps you have never heard of Rend Collective. Feel free to watch one of their videos below. Our family uses these in our Family Nights each week. See if they don’t promote celebration in your life!