It’s audio devo day! Jesus has a new infusion of joy for you, that is your strength for today. Pop in your earbuds and get ready to receive it, as you listen here:
(Blessed by this? Know someone else that needs this encouragement boost today? You can either share today’s blog link with them, or look up my Feeding on Jesus podcast for sharing and subscribing. You’ll find it on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and most other podcast platforms, with episodes identical to these!)
My brother-in-law Pablo, whom some of you know, stands out to me as an exceptional model of joy. The guy is always cheerful. You would be hard-pressed to find him without a genuine smile on his face. He laughs frequently and loves exuberantly. This makes everyone want to be around him… especially my kids. Goodness, how they adore their Tio Pablo! He certainly is a shining example of this spiritual fruit of joy. But you know what? Joy of that caliber is not just a special gift bestowed on only a few select individuals like Pablo. On the contrary, Daddy wants to impart the riches of His joy to all of His children.
As we intentionally yield to Holy Spirit’s working, He plans on making Jesus’ very own joyful nature a part of who we are growing up to become. You see, the ripening of this fruit of joy within us is directly linked to our spiritual maturation process. The more Holy Spirit develops Christlikeness in us, the more His fruit of joy will be on display in our lives. To this end, the Father means for growth in this area to be an actual discipleship goal that we set for ourselves, by His empowering. For joy to thrive, He needs us to actively engage with His initiative to increase its presence in our spirits.
Here’s something else to ponder. Joy goes hand in hand with childlikeness. Isn’t it ironic to think, that the more mature we become, the more childlike we become? But it’s true. The more you grow by getting to know Jesus better, the deeper your trust in Him grows. The deeper you trust Him, the more carefree you become; the more confidence in His flawless care for you takes root in the deepest parts of your heart. Living life in this carefree liberty of trust is exactly what Jesus was referring to when He said, “I can guarantee this truth: Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3, GW).
Do you hear that word “change?” Jesus was spelling out a change process that must take place in each of us. This movement in the direction of childlikeness and carefree joy is one of Holy Spirit’s main aims in sanctifying us. As He makes us more and more like Jesus, we will increasingly resemble the nature of little ones. This happens very slowly and gradually, over time.
So, we change and become like little children. Then what happens? According to this verse, then we enter the kingdom of heaven. Here’s a thought for you. If becoming childlike is a gradual change process, then entering the kingdom of heaven must also be a gradual process. (I am not referring to the gift of salvation, which God instantly bestows on us the moment we put our faith in Jesus. Rather, I am talking about the process of learning to live in the fullness of all that He has made available to us in the heavenly places.) The more Holy Spirit develops the childlike qualities of trust and carefree joy in us, the more completely we enter into the Kingdom realm.
Let me explain further. Do you remember how last week we talked about joy being the atmosphere of heaven? Entering the kingdom of heaven means entering into joy. Allowing Holy Spirit to make us childlike and deeply dependent on our Daddy God will mean experiencing greater and greater depths of real joy. This is what “His Kingdom come,” in our lives as it is in heaven, is meant to look like.
Let’s think about what else Jesus said in this passage about childlikeness. “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4, NKJV). See the key there? Humbling ourselves. Growing up into joy has everything to do with choosing humility. We can’t forget, though, humility is not self-hating nor self-criticism, nor anything at all that causes us to focus on the self. Rather, humility means being completely taken with Jesus, to the point of self-forgetfulness. When He becomes our everything, our gaze is perpetually on Him and we lose the tendency towards obsessive introspection.
Remember this hymn? “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim… in the light of His glory and grace.” These lyrics delightfully describe a fundamental facet of humility: fixation with Jesus. Turning our eyes on His beautiful face, we become consumed with Him. Everything else – including our own strengths, weaknesses, failures, and accomplishments – they all fade away in the light of His loveliness. He, instead of our own selves, becomes our central point of focus. In this context, humility can blossom in our lives.
As we yield to this growth process in genuine humility, something amazing begins to take place. This verse depicts it wonderfully: “At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, ‘O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way’” (Luke 10:21, NLT).
Jesus rejoiced exceedingly at the thought of the Father revealing His truth to the humble and childlike. Do you see why this thought filled our Savior with overflowing joy? He knew this: the more childlike we become, the more we will walk in a spirit of revelation. The result will be coming to know our Father in a way that goes beyond what human words are adequate to describe. We will get to experience His love for us in ways that cause to spring up within us “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8, NKJV). We will begin to truly enter into the atmosphere of the eternal realm, His Kingdom come inside of us just as it is in Heaven.
So I want to encourage you with all my heart, dear one – let’s choose this life that He offers us. Let’s go after it with all that we’ve got. Let’s choose the change process into maturity. Let’s choose self-forgetfulness. Let’s choose fixation with Jesus. Let’s choose the unutterably precious gift of humility, becoming like a child and so entering into all He has for us. Through all of this, let’s choose unspeakable joy.
Why do we humans, apart from Jesus, tend to lose our childlikeness? How does Holy Spirit’s work in us gradually reverse that loss?