April 29, 2013

Joy in heaven

When people talk about their deceased relatives watching down on them, I’ve thought this is a mere fanciful, wishful notion. However, I need to rethink my understanding.
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)

This does not say my mother and father know what is going on here, but Jesus affirms that there is joy before the presence of God’s angels when I turn away from sin. Does that mean my parents also rejoice concerning positive changes in my spiritual life? If angels do, maybe they do also.

Spurgeon writes the devotional for today and suggests this verse is the answer to those times I feel like God does not hear me, that He is far away and I am here alone. Heaven is so much beyond this place, like a great chasm over which my thoughts and prayers cannot leap.

Yet the angels know and are delighted if one person (even me) turns from sin. Spurgeon says that the same great heart that beats in heaven beats on earth and even though the celestial is one and the terrestrial is another, this is only in appearance. I am not a stranger in a strange land shut off from my heavenly Father for even the angels know what goes on in my heart.

The rational side of faith would never suggest that God doesn’t understand, but when I’m overcome with doubt or troubled by sorrows, trials and temptations, I might feel as if God is out of sight and not listening. Spurgeon uses this verse to remind me that God sees, hears, and knows all things. He is not asleep or uncaring. Faith and prayer can motivate Him to stay or move, to wait or act. My name is engraved on His hands and heart. He thought of me before He made the world and thinks of me still.

My brother is there too, the One who became flesh and blood for me. This is the Son of God who is eternal, equal with the Father and who was born, lived, died and rose again, and is now ascended to the right hand of the Father to rule and to intercede for me, an adopted child of His Father — our Father. He remembers me every hour. My sighs are His sighs, my groans are His groans, and my joy is His joy.

There is joy before the angels because they are in the presence of Jesus who is joyful when sinners, myself included, come to their senses and turn from sin to Him. Those angels see and feel and know His joy. They jump up and down in delight as Jesus is filled with delight at our repentance.

Repentance makes my heart full of the joy of Jesus too. This is the same joy that makes the angels laugh, so maybe, just maybe (and I’m not going to write a book about it), my mother and father are smiling when I recognize sin in my life and turn from it to love and serve Jesus Christ.

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