Topical August 22, 2004
Scripture Reading: Gal. 5:22-24
We have just witnessed and participated in the dedication of Caleb Stephen Jones.
His birth and dedication are a matter of great joy and cause for rejoicing.
We will continue our rejoicing with fellowship in a reception downstairs after the service this morning.
New life should always be cause for joy because in new life is hope.
There should be much joy in our Christianity too since that is the source of our new life and hope in Christ.
Joy is one of the basic human emotions I don’t think I could do very long without.
Indeed, I think sometimes I go too long without it when things “stack up” and I then search desperately for it once again.
Even while on vacation I felt the need for a renewed infusion of Christian joy.
While camping at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center last week we attended the Protestant service at the historic Blue Jackets Chapel. It had been 38 years since I had last attended there. Then, the services were largely stiff and liturgical. But how things have changed. I have often prayed for the Christian witness there over the years. We stepped into a blessed communion of evangelical fervency and expressive worship. It was awesome. Joy was more than renewed.
We are going to look into the topic of Christian joy in our time together this morning.
There are 3 groups of words in the NT which denote human joy and happiness and express its special character, and the OT is similar.
There is the sense of physical comfort and well-being in which people express good wishes and health to others.
There is the subjective feeling of joy that originates from events and situations that give rise to communal rejoicing (like a banquet) that also includes introspective and spiritual joy.
And then there is the outward demonstration of joy and exultation experienced in public worship. This is the basic human emotion of joy which takes possession of the whole person.
We opened our service this morning with a recitation of Gal. 5:22-24 about the fruit of the Spirit. Right up towards the front of that list is joy.
There is something about joy that should characterize us as Christians.
Mel Lawrenz, author of “Patterns: ways to develop a God-filled life” says:
The Bible talks about being filled with joy, and that has so much to do with living a God-filled life. When God helps us realize just how much he has filled our lives, that’s when the real filling of joy comes.
Joy is a sense of glad certitude that comes when we witness something that is very right – the way things are meant to be – or when we have the privilege of making something right happen. Joy is when we say, “Aha! Yes, I see it now,” as if a sufficient number of jigsaw puzzle pieces have come together to reveal the whole picture of what life should be. Joy is when you have a conviction that says, “Yes, this is what it means to be a parent,” or “I know this must have been done directly by God,” or “I am so weary, but I’m glad to have been able to serve today in a way that is really right for who God made me to be.” And then you pause and try to figure out why you have the joy that you do. What have you discovered?
Joy means having settled the accounts of your life with God, realizing what you can do and what you cannot do and coming to believe that the key to life is to open your eyes and watch what God is doing all around you. How else could a man in prison nearing execution say, “Rejoice is the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Php. 4:4). Amazing! Because real joy goes deep, it is beyond the merely sensible: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1Pet. 1:8).
More than happiness, much more than pleasure, joy is a taste of the knowledge of God, and thus it is a kind of longing, a spiritual hunger that is satisfying even in its hunger. That is why Ps. 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” God doesn’t invite us to admire him from afar or to hold him as a set of principles, like a constitution preserved on yellowed parchment. He says, “Taste.” In other words, we are to take in and experience who God is and what he does. That’s also why Jesus said, “Take and eat,” “Take and drink.’ He wants his own goodness to go deeply into us. The biblical word for grace (charis) is closely related to the word for joy (chara). God’s grace in our lives emerges as joy.
Let’s look at what else the Bible has to say about joy:
I. Joy is why God calls us to himself.
You gotta fish – come.
Trees of the field clap – lake surf.
II. Joy is why Jesus spoke to us.
Jn. 15:11, 17:13
Joy is being glad to be together – salvation.
III. Joy is why Jesus said we should pray.
Prayer activates God’s Word.
IV. Joy is why we fellowship.
V. We are each other’s joy.
VI. Joy is the earliest human emotion noted in Scripture.
VII. Joy is our quiet strength.
The ability to quiet oneself is the greatest indicator of mental health.
The ability to handle joy determines how much stress you can handle.
Joy is like Paul Hamm – Olympics.
VIII. Joy is not found in Christian power but in Christian submission.
So how can joy be an often-repeated experience, such that it becomes part of our character?
Let joy happen; don’t seek it for its own sake. It can’t be manufactured. It is a state of one’s heart that develops form many cumulative experiences of the goodness and grace of God.
Receive all gifts of God with gratitude – especially the mundane blessings of life (that are not so mundane if you think about them).
Celebrate? Regularly release joy in enthusiastic public worship. Help others to sense the grace of God in it all.
Enjoy every pleasure that is a gift of God. Be vitally conscious of all the dimensions of his creation and praise him for it.
Take pleasure in the higher things that please God – not just his creation but his moral qualities that he wants to impress upon us (whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable [Php. 4:8]).
Take an accounting of reality when pain and trials come (James 1:2). We are not commanded to be happy. Happiness comes and goes. But stop and take a serious spiritual accounting of all reality when trials come. God is still real. He is still on the throne. Joy in him is the foundation for real life.
Do not sabotage the goodness of God by addictions that mess up perceptions or by material concerns that crowd out the enjoyment of God. Take time for him.
Make Christ the center of your joy. He is the fountainhead of joy in the NT. His presence inspired joy in all who knew and accepted him for who he is and what he had to give them – joy. It was for the joy set before him that he endured the cross. We are his joy as much as he is ours. When we submit to his lordship by receiving his salvation and forgiveness we become part of his eternal kingdom – and this pleases him. Indeed, when we please him we please ourselves.
“He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."” (Lu 10:18-24 NivUS)
That is joy!
Hymn # 411 “The Joy of the Lord”