“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are His.” Psalms 100: 1-3a (NLT)
This week’s memory verse encourages us to rejoice and celebrate with God because we belong to Him. All throughout the Bible, there is celebration and rejoicing for what God has done for us, especially for the salvation of our souls. In the New Testament, Jesus used parables to demonstrate what it means to be lost, how heaven celebrates with joy when the lost are found, and how our loving Father longs for us to join Him in His kingdom.
In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells the story of a man who owns 100 sheep and one of them gets lost. The man leaves the ninety-nine and searches for that one until he finds it and brings the lost sheep home with rejoicing and celebration. Why is this cause for rejoicing? In this story, Jesus is the Shepherd and we are the sheep. When one person repents of their sins and is saved, their sins are forgiven. Jesus sees it as a time to stop and throw a party; it’s cause for all of Heaven to rejoice. Jesus knows the great cost of a person’s redemption because He is the one who paid for our sins with His own precious blood. Luke 15:10 (NLT) tells us, “…There is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
On my husband’s first birthday after his death, my son talked about having a party to celebrate his father’s birthday. He made his father’s favorite cake and invited friends to join us. From the perspective of a 9-year-old, he said, “This party can’t be as big as the party that is taking place in Heaven. Can you imagine all the people who are celebrating his birthday?”
There may not be earthly birthdays celebrated in heaven, but there is no greater miracle than a new spiritual birth and the transformed life of a sinner who is set free. It’s an event the entire spiritual realm recognizes, including mighty angels who stand in the very presence of God. They get so excited when this moment takes place in the life of a human that they stop everything to take note of it and to celebrate! I guess that is like a birthday celebration: accepting salvation and beginning a new life in Jesus Christ. Are you shouting, jumping up and down and yelling with the angels at this miracle in life?
The parable of the Prodigal Son is found in Luke chapter 15 and it’s one of the most well-known stories of Jesus. He uses this story to help describe what it means to be lost. More importantly, Jesus uses this parable to really show us how our Heavenly Father rejoices, celebrates, and throws a party when we return. The story begins with a man who had two sons. The younger son asked for his inheritance and then left the family. He quickly spent all the money and found himself destitute and friendless. It took hitting rock bottom for the son to realize his foolish decisions, and decide to return to his father and ask his forgiveness. The father had been watching, waiting, and hoping every day that his son would return home. When he saw his son coming over the hill, he immediately instructed his servants to prepare and participate in an enormous feast and celebration. The older son becomes angry and jealous that such a party and celebration was prepared for his brother, who in his mind, was undeserving of such a celebration. Who are you in this story? Are you the older brother who has forgotten the significance of reaching that one lost person, no longer capable of rejoicing when a sinner returns to God? Maybe you are the younger son who has hit rock bottom? Are you wondering how the Father could ever forgive you, but desperately want to come home? Or are you one of the servants in the household, rejoicing with the Father and participating in the party?
God is watching and waiting patiently for the return of each of His children who are lost. He wants to open His arms with loving compassion and joyful celebration. He doesn’t dwell on what led us to hit rock bottom. God wants to throw a party for those that are lost and celebrate with those who are already home.
For as far back as my memory can take me, I have always known that I was adopted as an infant. I was proud to share this with others. Every now and then, I am asked what it is like to be adopted. It is amazing! My parents instilled in me that adoption was something special and that I had been chosen to be part of their family. I had a new identity, a new life, and new opportunity.
Being adopted by God and joining His family is infinitely better and is at the heart of the Gospel. He planned it from the beginning and He chose us. “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1: 5-6, NLT). In the New Testament, it is very clear that when you place your faith in Jesus Christ and you repent of your sins and accept salvation, you are adopted and brought into the family of God. You have a new identity, a new life, and a new opportunity which will last for eternity. As Paul writes in Galatians 3:26 (ESV) “…in Christ Jesus you are all sons and daughters of God, through faith.”
Recently my mother and father told me that they were closing their safety deposit box at the bank and wanted me to have the contents. My mother was so proud to hand over one of their most valued possessions, an envelope with my adoption papers inside. These papers consisted of hand-written notes, receipts that said “paid in full,” and the legal papers that sealed my adoption into their family.
Being adopted into God’s family is cause for a celebration, but do we always understand just how valuable and precious our adoption is to God? Our receipt says “paid in full” by His Son Jesus, who hung from a cross so that we could enter God’s family. Our legal papers are our names, written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and our names, engraved on the palm of His hand. We are God’s valuable creation and treasure.
Do you share with others what it is like to be adopted into God’s family? If you haven’t accepted God’s invitation to join His family yet, know that God has chosen you and is anxiously waiting to seal your adoption.
Often, when a great project or building is completed, there is a dedication ceremony. It’s a time to reflect and celebrate the hard work of those involved. Plaques may be placed on the walls, inscribed with the name of the person for whom the project is dedicated or for someone who is given credit for the project.
The book of Nehemiah is the memoir of a man who was heartbroken for his ancestral people in Jerusalem. They lived unprotected and in shame, due to the destruction of the walls of the city by their enemies. He wanted to rebuild the wall, but this was a project that would cause Nehemiah to risk everything. He risked his life by asking King Artaxerxes for money and permission to return to his homeland to rebuild the wall. He walked 500 miles to Jerusalem to lead the people of the city in rebuilding the wall. In an amazing 52 days, the wall was rebuilt, along with the Israelites confidence and reconfirmed faith.
At the end of this project, a big party was planned with music, songs of thanksgiving, and worship. Nehemiah knew It was time to celebrate and he knew to Whom the wall should be dedicated. Nehemiah knew that this rebuilding project came from God, was sustained by God, and was for God’s glory. Nehemiah 6:16b (ESV) says, “They perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.”
We don’t have to wait for a momentous occasion or project to celebrate what God has done in our lives. Everything we do should be dedicated to God and for His glory. Our work, marriage, family, friends, school, serving, and even our eating and drinking should honor God. Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV), “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Only a life that is dedicated to God can truly be a life of celebration and joy. Are you dedicating everything you do to God? What are some areas in your life that you can focus on, that need more dedication and celebration?
I love parties and I am sure I am not alone in this sentiment. From birthdays to holidays, or even parties for no reason, I’m all in. It is a time for people to come together, to laugh, eat and celebrate. All through the Bible, God shows that He loves a good party. Much of the worship in the Old Testament involved feasting. When people were especially thankful to God, they showed that by gathering to celebrate with food and drink. God not only approves; He comes to be a part.
In Jesus’ parable of the great banquet (Luke 14), God is described as the host of a huge dinner party. The host has invited His friends to come and celebrate with Him. When the friends make excuses to not come to the party, He instructs His servant, “Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21, NLT).
God is throwing a party and He is inviting everyone in the world to come join Him. In my mind, I see God firing up the grill and inviting everyone from the block. It doesn’t matter the person’s background; what they have done in the past; if they are rule followers or rule breakers. He invites the good, the bad and the ugly; anyone who will rejoice in His presence and accepts the salvation of Jesus. God’s servants are texting and tweeting how awesome the party is and inviting others to come join them. God wants His house to be full and the more people that come, the bigger His smile grows.
God is also planning the party of all parties, the wedding feast of the Lamb. The book of Revelations describes this feast, where all of God’s children from every nation, every language, from throughout all time, will come to celebrate the final victory over sin. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this great feast prepared by God Himself in Isaiah 25:6: “a wonderful feast for all the people of the world” (NLT). That's a party that I want to go to. How about you?