I was thinking of a song I sang in congregations while growing up and into my adult life, Jesus Is the Joy of Living. The idea just popped into my head, while considering what to write. I wondered about the song, because the music seemed like it came from a certain revivalist era. I read about the author and composer, Alfred Henry Ackley (1887-1960), who wrote 1500 religious and secular songs in his lifetime, trained at the London Royal Academy of Music, attended Westminster Seminary, a Presbyterian pastor, but had worked with Billy Sunday for his campaigns. His music mainly doesn’t match the content of the old hymns and the psalms. Overall, I don’t like the trajectory his songs took church music with less focus on God and exegetical language. They are not up to that standard, but some of them serve as good hymns and spiritual songs, worthy of being sung. Even as I meditated on the song of which I’m speaking, I loved the biblical truth again, Jesus is the joy of living. It is true. The next line helps tell why, He’s the King of life to me. There is a love and affection that Ackley communicates that represents worship in spirit. The end of the first verse reads, “Ev’ry blessing of His favor fills my heart with hope so bright.”
Does God give us the maximum amount of evidence for believing in Him? In other words, could He give more than what He does? Yes. We don’t know how much more He could do because there is no limit on what He can do, and unlimited manifestations of His power are something that we can’t comprehend. We know that God limits Himself in the amount of evidence He might show, because He says He does that again and again. He has a purpose for discontinuing the revealing of Himself to the same extent. He could do greater and more. Two places that came to mind is the teaching of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, to Isaiah in Isaiah 6, which is then quoted in a few places in the New Testament, Matthew 13 and John 12. At one point Jesus said He wouldn’t show any more signs, except for one, the resurrection. He even stops preaching where people do not want to hear, and does what He calls, dusting His feet. Whatever evidence we have, therefore, is the evidence that God wants us to have. The evidence is limited to that which would require faith, because faith is what is necessary for someone to please God. God withholds some of the evidence He could give, because He wants man to want Him.
A word not found in scripture, but one that could represent some wrong thinking, belief, or practice is “externalism,” which is sometimes mistaken for another non-scriptural word, “legalism.” Legalism, as I understand it, is adding works of any kind to grace, and, therefore, nullifying grace. One could call it peformance-based Christianity, where your salvation and sanctification are dependent on your performance, instead of the grace of God. It’s wrong, and the book of Galatians among other places in the New Testament shoots that down. Externalism is related to legalism, but it also could be different than it. Externalism is where your Christian life is what I have called, “painted on.” You figure out what is a token amount of Christian living or works to represent a Christian life in order to look good enough as a Christian. On the inside, you might be generally ignoring God, thinking about yourself, and mainly worldly things. Your affections are not set on above. You are not seeking first God’s kingdom. You are looking just so-so and just getting by with the least possible. You might just get by with keeping all the rules or the ones that will keep you under the radar of men, but God knows your heart, it’s not close to Him.