This is it! Today I'll conclude the Wednesday series on the Spiritual Disciplines, as laid out by Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline, ... on a Monday. Tomorrow, the beginning of April, I'll begin a series called "Interrupted by Grace." But more on that later. For now, let's talk about Celebration in the life of the Christian! Here's the quote that Foster has at the beginning of this, the final chapter of his book:
The Christian should be an alleluia from heat to foot!
-Augustine of Hippo
Feeling convicted? Boy, I sure did the first time I read that quote. Yet I agree whole-heartedly! Here's why:
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to [Jesus]. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good new to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
Luke 4:17-19 & Isaiah 61:1-2
Why should God's people be people who celebrate? Because Christ has sent us free, opened our ears and eyes to the good news! God the Father sent the Lord Jesus, and He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2). Jesus fulfilled His earthly mission then sent the Spirit to live in the hearts of His people to sustain and change them.
Foster picked the perfect way to end a book about the Spiritual Disciplines. He says, p 191,
Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every Discipline should be characterized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving. (emphasis mine)
Celebration - rejoicing in the Lord, who He is and what He has done - breeds joy. Joy gives us strength. In fact the Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10, Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
And Paul commands the Philippians, Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, Rejoice!
Rejoicing in the Lord, celebrating because we have been set free from domination by anxiety, fear, sin and death, saves us from many self-inflicted paths of woe and sin! And you know what the path to that joy is? Obedience. The Christian will find his greatest joy when He hears the words of the Lord and heeds them. Our Father does know best, my friends. He created us to walk in His ways. He created us to love Him first, our neighbor second, and ourselves last. He enables His created ones to be restored to joy, out of darkness, by saving us and calling us to obedience.
We can obey the Lord because He is trustworthy, faithful, and true. The Scriptures remind and assure us of this, as do many experiences in our personal histories. We are set free in Him, because we no longer need to be concerned. Foster cites the verse, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, present your requests to God... And he says, The Spirit of celebration will not be in us until we have learned to be "careful for nothing" ... until we trust God. Celebration and joy come out of that freedom of resting in Him and setting our minds (as Paul goes on to say in those verses in Philippians 4) on things that are true, honorable, right, excellent, etc.
And so, Celebration is a discipline. We make a decision to train our will to focus on the higher things in life (p 195). Circumstances can be swirling around us in tornado-strength gusts, but the joy of the Lord is our strength. Celebration in the Lord is our chosen way of living an thinking, because we cast our cares on the Lord and entrust the present and future to Him. Oh the security we have in the arms of our God through the blood of Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit!
Celebration has many benefits. Foster highlights three (p 196-197).
- Celebration saves us from taking ourselves too seriously.
- Celebration is an effective antidote for times of sadness that burden our hearts.
- Celebration gives us perspective on God and ourselves.
Celebration also takes on many forms, such as, shouting, singing, dancing, laughing, imagining, playing, establishing new traditions, reveling in long-observed holidays, and so on and so forth! Let the Lord move in your heart with His joy as you embrace celebration as a way of life, dear Christian. He will set your heart free!
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Friends, I have immensely enjoyed taking the time to read through Fosters book and share summaries with you. Jan, thank you for the suggestion to do so! I pray that, as I have experienced, you've been encouraged to pursue God with more vigor, relying wholly on His loving-kindness given to you in Christ. We are not saved by our pursuit of the Disciplines, the saving has already taken place, but we grow closer to the Father, Son and Spirit in and through such practices. How profound that God wants to be in relationship with us? It gets me every day!
I love at the very end of the book, Foster summarizes the content up in a few succinct paragraphs. So you'll have to get your hands on a copy to see how He does it! In fact, since I got no takers for the book give away, (maybe I summarized too well!!), the first to comment on this post gets a copy from me. :)
Tomorrow I'll begin the third annual April Interrupted by Grace series. Throughout the month I'll share stories from day-to-day life about seeing God's interrupt me with His grace. The point is for you and me to practice being on the look out for God at work in our lives, which I think is a great follow up to studying the Spiritual Disciplines. Cool, how it worked out, huh? God is good.
I hope you'll join me and even share some of your stories throughout the month of April. See you tomorrow!!