Friday, April 2, 2010

A Real Joystick

Ask teenage boys what a joystick is, and you'll hear only one answer: a plastic shaft that interacts with a video gaming device.  Apparently their parents believe them, because Americans shelled out $11.7 billion for computer and video game software in 2008.  But all that this joystick does is temporarily alter blood chemistry with a cheap thrill.

Jesus tells us what a real joystick is:

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23, NIV)

At first the cross doesn't sound like a joystick, but a pain stick.  Is Jesus simply telling us to "suck it up" because following Him is tough? Hebrews 12:2 answers:
"looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (ESV)
But wait!  Doesn't this simply mean that the cross was an obstacle on the path to joy?  No, actually the cross is the path to joy.  See the word "for"?  Jesus endured the cross "for the joy".  The joy was the goal, the cross was the means.  If you want joy (and Jesus did) then you have to endure the cross.

Notice also how the joy far outshines the pain.  He "despised the shame".  In other words, the weight of the shame was trivial compared with the magnitude of the joy.  The joy made the cross seem like a mere stick.

What was the joy that could make such an embarrassing and painful form of execution seem small?  It's at the end of the verse: Jesus is now "seated at the right hand of the throne of God".  As Psalm 16:11 reminds us, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." (NIV)

God's presence is the epicenter of joy.  The cross is the path to get there, because the cross is what strips away the idols that pretend to be joys, but turn out, like salt water, to leave us more thirsty than we started.  So embrace your joystick and follow Jesus!

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