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(233) Psalms 03_A Primer on Joy

Notes & Transcripts

Stepping into the Psalms

Part III: A Primer on Joy

Psalm 16

March 10, 2013

PREP

* RNX chapter 1

* 174

INTRO

Q WHY did God MAKE us? What is his purpose for us?

This week’s psalm DOESN’T TEACH us the answer, but rather SHOWS us someone who has gotten the answer right.

PRAYER

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 16:1-6 (Eddie)

THE MEANING OF LIFE

Q So what is God’s purpose for us? Joy. He made us to be HAPPY.

Said that way, it sounds like I am agreeing with the mass of POPULAR RELIGION, the idea that God isn’t so much concerned with holiness, he just wants us to be happy.

* Not at all, that is sheer, damnable NONSENSE; but the error of that heresy is not wanting too much joy, but TOO LITTLE.

I’ll explain what I mean by that soon enough, but first I want to show you how Biblical joy is:

As someone of you may remember, I did an EXTENSIVE STUDY of JOY in the Bible. Words like joy and happiness occur about 750 times in the Bible. It is the most common MOTIVATION for OBEDIENCE.

* By contrast, LOVE only occurs about 650 times, GRACE and MERCY 350, OBEDIENCE 250, SUFFERING and SORROW 300.

God is really into joy and in fact COMMANDS us to be HAPPY on many occasions. This is something that C. S. Lewis keenly understood, (in the words of the tempter demon Screwtape):

[God] is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a façade. Or like the foam on the seashore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore.’ [Ps. 16:11]...

Screwtape Letters, letter XXII.

This last phrase is a quote from the end of our psalm:

Psalm 16:11 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.

* Remember that the Psalms are designed to be “STEPPED INTO”; like him we are to delight in delight.

Psalm 16:1-6 Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” 3 As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips. 5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

From this psalm we get to talk about one of God’s FAVORITE TOPICS, one I have not preached on recently enough. In this psalm we will learn 5 LESSONS on joy.

FULLNESS OF JOY

1. God is the source of all joy.

Psalm 16:2 I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

This verse can be MISUNDERSTAND in a DANGEROUS way, as if it says, “If you are a really good Christian God will be your only joy. You will care less and less about the joys of this life.”

* We separate our lives into SPIRITUAL and EARTHLY spheres, and we believe the spiritual sphere is more pleasing to God.

But in my study on joy I was stuck by just how often God speaks of earthly joy, COMMANDING us to ENJOY FOOD, DRINK, NATURE, and RELATIONSHIPS.

BOOK UPDATE

As most of you know, I am writing a book called “Radically Normal.” I just sent off revised sample chapters...

In the process of rewriting them, I was forced to further refine the CENTRAL THEME of the book, “What is your book about?”

* Many Christians feel like they have to CHOOSE between obeying God and being miserable or disobeying him and being happy.

Of course, as soon we say it that way, we know it is not true, but nonetheless, we feel it. They GOAL of my book is to help us understand that FOLLOWING GOD leads to JOY not misery.

Q If you believed you had to make that CHOICE, WHICH would you choose?

THE SOURCE

The point isn’t this verse “only spiritual joy is real joy,” but that God himself is the SOURCE of all joy.

He has filled his world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without his minding in the least – sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it is any use to us. Screwtape Letters, letter XXII.

Anything that is GOOD and PLEASING comes from him, there is no other possible source. The second part of this verse “apart from you I have no good thing” applies EQUALLY to NON-CHRISTIANS.

* What makes the children of God different is not less happiness, but a BETTER CONNECTION to the source of HAPPINESS.

The closer we get to God, the better the PURITY of our JOY, not only spiritual joy, but ALL of his GIFTS.

* Joy leads us back to him, like a HOMING BEACON.

2. Joy in community.

Immediately in the passage we find delight in God’s good gifts:

Psalm 16:3 As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

God’s GREATEST GIFT outside himself, the greatest other joy he can give us, is community, RELATIONSHIPS.

* In the “communion of saints” I find COMFORT, PEACE, CHALLENGE, LAUGHTER, HELP, and CONNECTION that mimics the TRINITY.

But because it is the highest, it is also the MOST DANGEROUS. If relationships can being the greatest joy it can bring the deepest pain:

* Friendships with the UNGODLY can lead to UNGODLINESS.

* A DESTRUCTIVE MARRIAGE is worse than not getting married.

* The PARENTS that are meant to build up can TEAR DOWN.

* And community can be an “IDOL.”

Some of these relationship you cannot choose, but be very careful in the ones you can choose.

* Just as some friendships draw me CLOSER to my WIFE and others pull me away from her, so it is with GOD.

I want us to be a COMMUNITY of SAINTS that pull each other closer to God.

This doesn’t mean that we place a SUPERFICIAL “GOD MASK” on everything we say but that there is an UNDERGIRDING of him in all we say and do where we innately avoid ungodliness.

* Holy behavior is ENCOURAGED; selfishness (etc.) frowned on.

3. Joy in earthly gifts.

* Skipping verse 4 for a moment.

He continues to find joy in God’s blessings:

Psalm 16:5-6 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

This is reference to the LAND being HANDED OUT in the JOSHUA. It’s saying, “I got a nice place on the river, not a shack in the swamp.”

Bu the point is that he found joy in God’s EARTHLY GIFTS. I could go on and on about this because we undervalue earthly things when we should delight in them.

* The Biblical example is God FILLING this world with JOYS and HAPPINESS that he DELIGHTS in us DELIGHTING IN.

This isn’t an ISOLATED example; Scripture is BRIMMING with examples of God wanting us to delight in the things of earth.

4. Misery is in disobedience, joy in obedience

Psalm 16:4 The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.

Back to what I said about not having to CHOOSE BETWEEN obedience and misery or disobedience and happiness:

* Story of MISERABLE MINISTER.

Q According to this passage, which leads to MISERY: OBEDIENCE or DISOBEDIENCE?

Sin is that which DESTROYS US and others and our relationship with God and others. When we obey, we find joy and freedom from misery.

* And to be more specific, WORSHIPING IDOLS brings much misery.

Q How have you in fact CHOSEN SUPPOSED HAPPINESS over obedience?

* When you don’t LOVE your SPOUSE as yourself.

* When you are SELFISH.

* When you choose hours of TV over moments with God.

TOO LITTLE JOY

Maybe you understand why I fault the popular “God wants us to be happy” religion for wanting TOO LITTLE JOY, not too much.

* We spurn WEAK, INSIPID, TAINTED JOY for stronger, vibrant, pure and purifying joy.

But JOY is a SECONDARY EMOTION; it springs best as the natUral RESULT of other things.

* One sure way to be MISERABLE is to PURSUE HAPPINESS.

Think of PARENTING: The good parent has their children’s long-term happiness in mind, so the make them unhappy in the short run – discipline, chores, and vegetables.

* Joy is the PROPER MOTIVATION for OBEDIENCE.

THE BLESSINGS OF THE LAW

The psalm goes on to thank God for TEACHING us, so that he can know HOW to obey.

Psalm 16:7-10 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

* This is why the Bible view the law, properly used, as a GIFT, not a CURSE.

When we know what God REQUIRES and how to AVOID what DESTROYS us, we can find JOY in OBEDIENCE.

5. Foretaste of joy

Psalm 16:11 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.

We end with the reminder that the PROPER RESULT of obedience (“PATH of LIFE”) is joy and that in God’s presence is the fullness of joy.

* Yet this DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK – Psalms is filled with laments, the world with injustice and tragedy.

In fact, NOTHING in this world will TRULY SATISFY, neither earthly nor spiritual things. This world is broken and that brokenness leads us to anticipate eternity.

* Rather than the joys of this life being DISTRACTIONS, they should be FORETASTES, samples of the fullness of joy.

The joys of this life are SIPS of JOY, to die is to drink deeply.

* Please text Sunday School Teachers ; service is almost over

DOUBLE MEANING

Like many of the Psalms, this one has a DOUBLE MEANING. On one hand, it had meaning for original worshipers and continues to have meaning for us.

On the other, it is about Christ, one cited by Peter on the day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:22-28 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’”

In Galatians we have learned that we can never be GOOD ENOUGH to FREE OURSELVES from the MISERY and DESTRUCTION of sin. We can never be good enough to earn God’s APPROVAL and ACCEPTANCE.

* It is only by GRACE that we can “STEP INTO” Psalm 16; grace purchased when JESUS died to bear the MISERY of our sins.

In the same way that the joy of OBEDIENCE is just a FORETASTE of the joy of Heaven, so also the MISERY of disobedience is just a FORETASTE of the miseries of HELL.

* “This is the CLOSEST the believer will come to HELL and the closest the unbeliever will come to Heaven.”

When God implores us to REPENT and call Jesus LORD and SAVIOR, it is NOT a call to misery, but GREATER JOY, to let go of miseries and find fullness.

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