Roman Road Less Traveled: Rejoice!

Rejoice.

What does it mean to rejoice? What do you think of when you hear that word?

As I prepared to write, I assumed I would find the “rejoice” I was familiar with when I looked up our verses in the original language–the chairō form of rejoicing from which the word chara was derived, the joy that is one of the fruits of the Spirit. That is not what I found.

In chapter 5 of Romans, every time we see the word “rejoice” or something like it–translations vary on which word is used–the original word is not chairō. It is kauchaomai, a word that is translated “to glory” or “to boast” 33 times in the New Testament, compared with the 4 times it is represented with the English word “rejoice.”

Okay. Well…that changes the direction I thought I was going with this post. When I hear the word rejoice, I do not naturally associate it with boasting, or glorying in something. When I think of rejoicing, I think of joy, of celebration, of re-joying–celebrating again, or remembering the joy of days gone by. But that’s not the kind of rejoicing Paul calls us to in this week’s passage. As I study his words and what they convey, I am finding some relief in being wrong in my original understanding. We’ll discover why together, as we dig in. First, let’s look at our passage, Romans 5:1-11. It’s long, but important to our discussion that we read all of the verses together. For the sake of freshness and our overall understanding, I am combining the verses from different translations:

Since, then, it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future. But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us! Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Verses 1-2, J.B. Phillips; 3-5, TPT; 6-8, MSG; 9, NKJV; 10, MSG; 11, NIV)

Pastor John showed us five reasons for rejoicing–for boasting, glorying–found in this passage. I think you’ll see as we move through them why Paul chose the word he did. From here on, I’ll use the meaning of the word Paul used in place of the word rejoicing.

I am starting with the fifth point first, because it connects us to last week’s message and seems the most appropriate jumping-off point…

We glory and boast in who God is. Last week we discussed Abraham’s faith–his faith was in the person of God, not what God could do, and not in Abraham’s own ability to keep the law perfectly. His faith was rooted in the person of God. Our boast, likewise, is never in ourselves as though we have somehow secured our own salvation. No, we glory in and we boast only of Christ, and him crucified; Christ, and his victory over death and the grave; Christ, and his resurrection life, alive now in us.

Paul writes further on this subject in his letter to the Galatians:

But far be it from me to boast [in anything or anyone], except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, AMP)

And all the way back in Psalms, David, experiencing the rescue of God, sang:

My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. (Psalm 34:2, NASB)

I love that. Our souls boast in our Lord. Those who have ears to hear will rejoice. Beautiful.

So, we glory and boast in who God is. First. His character is unchanging. His posture toward us is love, grace, acceptance. Now we’ll go back to Pastor John’s first and second points, which connect so beautifully to what we’ve just discussed:

We glory and boast in our present position and in the hope of the glory of God. In the translation I used above, J.B. Phillips, verses 1-2 tell us,

Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future. (emphasis mine)

Again, our glory is his glory. We boast in what Jesus has done. He has invited us into peace, into a relationship of grace–and here, we can take our stand in hopecertain of what we hope for, assured of what we don’t yet see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Pastor John’s third point is the one that is most difficult for me, and I assume it will be for you as well. It is why my new understanding of the definition for “rejoicing” in this passage is so important to my own heart. Here it is:

We glory and boast in our sufferings. Umm… ew. No, I don’t think I glory and boast in my suffering. Do you? Maybe rejoice does fit better here after all? I don’t think so. Here’s why…

Paul is not advising us to elevate our suffering, or to glorify the difficulties, pains, and pressures of life. Not at all. He is reminding us of Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “. . .In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” And what does it mean that Jesus has overcome the world? Let’s take another look at verses 3-5 in our passage:

Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us! (emphasis mine)

We can glory and boast in our Lord even in the midst of our sufferings, because Jesus has overcome the world–all of it: sin, pain, death, even the grave itself. And as we patiently endure the pressures of this life, we’ll be led back to the hope we have in the One who has overcome. Tangible hope that lives and breathes in us as a result of “the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Yeah. I can boast and glory in that all day long!

Finally, we can glory and boast in what we have. What do we have? We have identified that we have God on our side because of who he is. We have peace, and a relationship of grace. We have hope. We have the love of God, and we have the Holy Spirit. What else do we have? We have what holds it all together, what delivered God’s love to us: the person of Jesus, and his willingness to die so that we could experience his life. The beginning of verse 6 from The Message paraphrase tells us, Christ arrives right on time…” Pastor John said on Sunday, “At just the right time…Jesus.”

How do those words sit with you? Do they resonate deeply, as you remember when you first encountered the love of Jesus in your own life? Do you feel like you’ve been waiting for him and he still hasn’t come? Have you prayed during a time when you really needed him show up on time… but he didn’t?

At different points in my life, I’ve answered yes to all of these questions–sometimes all in the same day. I know that Jesus is always coming for me, he’s never late or absent. But sometimes, the pressures and sufferings of this life block him from my view. Sometimes, I’ve dammed up the flow of living water and I’m swimming instead in stagnant waters, full of death and disappointment. Maybe that’s you, too. If so, don’t fret. There’s tangible hope, even on the hardest days. His offer to each of us stands, even when we’ve convinced ourselves he’s not there. Sometimes, we only need to be reminded of all we have in him…

On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink! Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (John 7:37, MSG)

The scripture Jesus referenced is Isaiah 55:1:

“Listen! Are you thirsty for more? Come to the refreshing waters and drink. Even if you have no money, come, buy, and eat. Yes, come and buy all the wine and milk you desire— it won’t cost a thing.” (TPT)

Jesus is the river of life. When we drink of the water he offers, rivers of living water fill and flow from us who believe in what we have–Jesus himself. He is the river of living water, the one that flows from the sanctuary in Ezekiel’s vision: “Wherever the river flows, life will flourish. . . because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. Where the river flows, life abounds.” (Ezekiel 47:9, MSG)

We can glory and boast in who our God is–revealed in Jesus. We can glory and boast in his endless love that positions us in a place of peace and in a new relationship of grace that allows us to stand in hope. That same hope is why we can glory and boast in the midst of our sufferings, as we remember that our hope is secured in the truth that Jesus has overcome the world. And we can glory and boast in the person of Jesus, that we have him as our own, that he lives and breathes within us, and that the river of his life fills us, heals us, and brings our souls to life. So we can say, like David did, My soul will make its boast in the Lord; and as we boast and glory in him, our hope is, The humble will hear it and rejoice.

–Laura

we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts…

we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts…

... we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts…

Ponder the fact that it is God’s desire for us to experience his endless, all encompassing, unconditional, cascading, pouring, shed abroad, filling us to overflowing love flooding into us through the Holy Spirit. (5:5)

It’s God’s desire…to anoint my head with oil (symbol for the the Holy Spirit), (so that) my cup overflows

You all, God is for us! God is for us! God is for us! The good news of God’s love (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is too boundless for us to ever fully comprehend, yet it’s true. Let it cascade over you, and in you, and through you. Be awestruck again.

I love the definition that Laura discovered regarding the word “rejoice” in this passage. She informed us that this “rejoice” is more often translated as “to glory” or “to boast” than “to rejoice”. Knowing that definition gave me the direction I feel led to write this week–and I’m grabbing onto rejoicing as “to glory”.

Some years ago, I was reading a book by Jennifer Kennedy Dean (I can’t remember the title) in which she defined “glory” in a new way for me. She said that “glory” can be translated as “outshining”, and explained it something like this: When we are sitting in a dark room, we can’t see what’s around us, but as soon as someone turns on a light–it all becomes visible. It becomes visible because light rays are bouncing off the surfaces–the objects are “outshining” — reflecting the light. As a result, what was unseen is now seen.

The glory of God is the “outshining” of God. Paul eludes to this in the first portion of his letter to the Romans when he writes, For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities— (Romans 1:20). All of creation brings “glory” to God–it outshines God’s greatness and majesty.

Our lives bring glory to God when they bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit– or “outshine” the fruit of God’s character and heart through us.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). There has never been anyone else in human flesh who outshined the exact representation of God. Jesus IS the glory of God; the full display of the outshining of God. Jesus is the light who shows us who God is, what God’s nature is, what friendship with God looks like, what God’s attitude toward us is. Jesus is the display of God’s full-on, fierce, active, cascading LOVE.

Take a second. Inhale that truth. Feel the cascade. Don’t try to understand it. God’s love is not logical–it just is. Our part? Believe it.

I love Laura’s mashup of different translations above and may write it out in my journal later, but right now, I’m going to go back to the NIV for a minute. It’s the memorized version in my head–and it took me a long time to comprehend what it was saying, so I’m going to try to break it down. The italicized portions belong to either me or Strong’s Concordance…

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith (we believed God and that was enough for us to be rightly and perfectly related to God), we have peace (shalom, flourishing, healing) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith (Jesus is the open gate–everyone is welcome) into this grace (kindness, acceptance, fully embraced, completely loved, holy place) in which we now stand (our position, the place from which we live). And we boast (outshine) in the hope (anticipation) of the glory (outshining) of God (who is transforming us from glory to glory, outshining to outshining).  Not only so, but we also glory (outshine) in our sufferings (pressure, trouble, anguish), because we know that suffering produces perseverance (patient unswerving continuance) perseverance, character (the process/effect of proving–becoming proof); and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love (agape; a feast of charity) has been poured out (cascaded) into our hearts (the center of all physical and spiritual life) through (by, for the sake of) the Holy Spirit (the Breath of God), who has been given (a gift) to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (strengthless, weak), Christ died for the ungodly (all of us-Paul’s bad news). Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, (true) though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die (maybe) But God demonstrates (exhibits, proves, stands with) his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (separated from relationship with God and deserving death-the bad news), Christ died for (the sake of) us. ( making it possible for us to experience the love and acceptance of God–the good, good news!!).

Since we have now been justified (rightly related) by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s (important note–in the original language the word “God” is not in this verse) wrath (punishment–self inflicted by sin) through him (Jesus-hallelujah!)  For if, while we were God’s enemies (opponent; on the other side), we were reconciled (brought into favored relationship) to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved (I love this word: sozo–made whole, made safe, healed) through his life (Zoeabsolute fulness of life; real, genuine life; vitality) Not only is this so (as if that’s not enough!), but we also boast (outshine) in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now (and forever) received reconciliation.

Let me summarize: God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) lavishly loves us. God the Son opened the door to relationship with God the Father; we were given the gift of God the Spirit–the very breath of God–so we can live with the life of Jesus–his energy, his vitality– coursing through our spirits. We have been and are being saved–made whole, healed, safe. We can flourish in wholeness through God’s shalom. We live in the place of God’s full and complete acceptance. We are fully embraced–completely loved and nothing will ever change that. When we truly believe this, how can we help but to outshine God’s love to everyone around us.

You are the light of the world–let your light so shine before all humankind that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Rejoice! Outshine! Let’s light this place up with the cascading love of God!!!

–Luanne

Sunlight Beam Bursting In Erliao by Sunrise@dawn Photography

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