I have often been helped by John Piper’s discussion of duty versus delight in the Christian life. Piper points out that it is more to God’s glory and more to our good when we obey, not out of a sense of obligation, but out of a delight in the glory of our God. It is better for us to seek the joy of honoring the Lord than it is for us to simply obey like a child being forced to eat an unsavory vegetable dish. Of course, Piper does not suggest that disobedience is ever a good option, but obedience out of delight is better.
I thought of this concept as I was reading through the latter chapters of Isaiah.
Isaiah 61:10–11 (ESV)
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.
In this text, the prophet declares in glorious Hebrew poetry that he will rejoice in the Lord. The words used are strong words. He will rejoice. He will exult in God. This is deep, emotional, joy-filled celebration. This is not mere duty. This is the prophet saying that he is going to celebrate God with all he’s got.
Why will he celebrate the Lord? The simple answer is salvation. The prophet will celebrate God because the God he is going to celebrate has robed him with salvation. The Lord has dressed his prophet in righteousness, and Isaiah says that it is like the fine clothes a couple puts on for their wedding day.
Stop and consider what it means, Christian, to be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Compare that to what it would look like to be clothed in the best righteousness you can muster. If we are left to ourselves, our garments would be tattered and filthy. No righteousness of our own would be acceptable to the Lord. And the best metaphors that we have for how nasty our garments would be, well, it is rough to say the least.
But then consider that God gives us a new robe, a clean set of clothes. We cannot appear before God in our righteousness lest we die forever. But God covers us in the righteousness of his Son. Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life as the God-Man. And God the Father will clothe us in that perfect righteousness of Christ, imputing to us a perfection that we have never lived and could never live.
When you take time to consider the gift of salvation and righteousness, it should cause you to celebrate. This is great news! This is glorious stuff! And verse 11 says that, from this concept, the Lord will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up like garden plants. Our salvation will result in sanctification, as we desire to live to please our Lord. Our salvation will also result in praise, as we will joyfully celebrate, we will exult in, the grace and glory of our God.