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CHRISTIANITY - JOYS OF A CHRISTIAN

THE JOYS OF A CHRISTIAN

More than 200 references to JOY appear in the Bible including 53 in Psalms alone--and 650 references if you include the words “rejoice,” “rejoicing, “glad,” “gladness,” and “delight” (Luke 2:10; John 15:11; John 16:22; Acts 13:52; Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 12:2). When it comes to joy and satisfaction, the only life that is available is the Christian life!

A lady was being interviewed for a job. The employer wanted to know more about the applicant. He said, “What do you do for pleasure?” She answered, “I serve the Lord.” The employer was shocked because he had lived all his life in a world that had brainwashed him to believe that the only joy and pleasure in life came from football, baseball, tennis, and other activities and enjoyments.

The things of the world can offer happiness, but they cannot offer joy. Here’s the difference. HAPPINESS AND JOY COME FROM DIFFERENT SOURCES!
•    Happiness comes from OUTSIDE SOURCES, from happenings. We are happy when good things happen to us.
        -    If you get the good job you wanted-
        -    If everyone treats you well-
        -    If your football team wins-
        -    AND everything happens just the way you wanted it to, you have happiness.
        -    If circumstances aren’t favorable–you lose your job, your car is stolen, and your taxes increase--then you’re unhappy.

•    Joy is an inward attitude with God as its OBJECT and its SOURCE.
        -    It is unrelated to circumstances, life events, and daily disasters.
        -    Joy comes from God, and God only.
        -    Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
        -    It doesn’t matter how dark it gets, or what negative things happen to us if we have the joy of the Lord.
        -    Because it doesn’t come from any outside source, nothing can take it away.
        -    We serve God, please Him, AND He gives us more joy.

The Hebrew word means “to leap or spin around with pleasure.” In the New Testament, the word refers to “gladness, bliss and celebration.” It’s not JUST a feeling inside--it’s going to come out!

Here’s just a sampling of what the Bible has to say about joy:
•    In Psalm 5:11, God wants us to shout for joy, not whisper for joy.
•    In the book of Job, with all its sorrows, joy is mentioned five times (Job 8:21).
•    God’s people rejoice according to the joy of the harvest (Isaiah 9:3). When we see people get saved and give their lives to Jesus, that’s joy!
•    When you get saved, when you give your life to Jesus, you should be experiencing joy (Isaiah 12:3).
It’s fun being saved! There is joy in Jesus.

One reason Christians are missing the joy of the LORD is that joy is often misunderstood as meaning happiness, and being happy may usually involve sin. Christians may have the idea that pleasure is sin, and they can’t experience pleasure because pleasure is bad. We think we can’t do anything fun! When we think this, we’ve missed the plan and purpose of God--joy and pleasure. GOD ENCOURAGED PLEASURE (Luke 10:21; Ephesians 1:9). It’s true that the Bible says sin is pleasurable for a season (Hebrews 11:24-25), but it is always with consequences (Romans 6:23).

I have met people in counseling who make no bones about it--they will tell you they are miserable because they detest the joy they have. Then there are others who love their job so much they are almost married to them. They’re loyal to the company, and their biggest thrill is to watch the company expand. They may not be spending enough time with the family or with God. IF A COMPANY OR A JOB CAN MAKE SOMEONE'S LIFE EXCITING, HOW MUCH MORE IS THE JOY OF SERVING CHRIST? CHRISTIANS ALL OVER THE WORLD HAVE DISCOVERED THIS JOY AND HAVE DEDICATED THEIR LIVES TO GOD'S SERVICE. THEIR GREATEST THRILL IS TO WATCH God work and experience Joy more and more! Christians often HAVE NOT DISCOVERED THE JOY OF THEIR OWN SERVICE or USING THEIR OWN SPIRITUAL GIFTS.

They remind me of the story about the little boy whose dad was in the Army, and he was bragging to a friend about his new stripes. He said, “the longer my dad is in the service, the ranker he gets.” SOME CHRISTIANS ARE LIKE THIS. IT SEEMS THAT THE LONGER THEY SERVE, THE "RANKER" THEY BECOME ALSO. BUT OTHERS, AS THE YEARS GO BY, DISCOVER THE GREATEST JOY IN ALL THIS WORLD IS A LIFE OF SERVICE.

The 19th century evangelist Billy Sunday once said,
        “The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable. If there is not joy in religion, you’ve got a leak in your religion.”

God wants to restore our lost joy. He wants us to cultivate things that will build lasting joy into our lives so that we don’t have any leaks in our religion. We turn to God for support, but other support comes from living in a like-minded Biblical community. We can’t do it alone (Romans 12:15). We’re not able to do this unless we’re connected to others. If you’re not in fellowship with believers, your joy will leak out.

It is very important, also, to recognize that God Himself is joyful (Zephaniah 3:17). God delights in you and breaks out into song when He thinks about you! That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? The Living Bible paraphrases this verse:
        “Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song.”
We should be joyful toward Him in return (Psalm 104:31).

God delights in us and finds great joy in His creation (Psalm 66:1-4). When we celebrate His attributes in worship, we allow our joy to flow back to Him. Our collective worship of God on Sundays should be the highlight of our individual and private worship during the week. We make room in our lives for God’s joy through the traditional disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, Scripture memory, meditation, and singing. When you come on Sunday, come ready to revere God and ready to rejoice.

Sadness and grief fill the lives of people of the world today because they are lost. Their condition in life has become a disappointing and hopeless situation. The world does not have joy and peace. If sin could bring it, we would have it, but the world is filled with hate, violence, and misery. Why? Because the world does not know Jesus.

Jesus did not enjoy dying on the cross. He looked beyond the cross, and it brought joy to His heart knowing that His death would be worth it.

IT IS THE QUALITY OF JOY WHICH SHOULD MARK CHRISTIANS. IT IS SOMETIMES HARD TO UNDERSTAND WHY MANY CHRISTIANS ARE GRIM AND JOYLESS.
•    Can you imagine someone with a perpetually long face trying to tell someone the “Good News?”
•    How would others characterize your attitude, your “bearing”?
•    Do they see you living a life of joy, peace, and rest?
•    Or do they see someone who looks like they have no hope for today, much less for eternity?
•    Which attitude do you think will be more likely to attract someone to the Gospel?
A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms. Nothing has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black clothes and long faces.

What causes us to lose the joy we received when we were saved?
•    One reason is unsatisfied expectations, or discontent with the way our lives are progressing: problems in our marriages, misbehaving children, not as many things as others--a bigger house, a nicer car, a better job.
•    Another cause can be unresolved conflict between ourselves and another person. When someone’s offense against us occupies our mental and emotional attention, we have little left over for the Lord. Anger clouds the eyes of our heart and obscures our view of God, draining away our joy.
•    Unconfessed sin and the resulting guilt is perhaps responsible for chasing more joy out of lives than any other cause. GUILT CAN REMOVE JOY. IF GUILT IS NOT DEALT WITH CONSRUCTIVELY, IT CAN TEAR LIFE APART AND COMPLETELY STIFLE ANY REAL JOY. GUILT IS LIKE SOME AWFUL BURDEN THAT INHIBITS ANY GLADNESS OR JOY.

        GUILT CANNOT BE DEALT WITH IN A SUPERFICIAL WAY TO BE PERMANENTLY SUCCESSFUL. TOTAL FAITH THROUGH JESUS CHRIST WILL CAUSE ONE TO RECOGNIZE GUILT IN A FACTUAL WAY TO FIND A GENUINE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM.

        THE FIRST REQUIREMENT IS RECOGNIZING THAT WE ARE SINNERS AND NOT PRETENDING OTHERWISE. CHRISTIANS ARE SINNERS, BUT WE HAVE ACCEPTED FORGIVENESS.

        THE NEW LIfE OF A CHRISTIAN IS ALWAYS FOUND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF REPENTANCE. “REPENT” IS A WORD THAT LITERALLY MEANS “TO TURN AROUND.” WE ARE FORGIVEN. WE NEED NOT CARRY THAT BURDEN OF GUILT AROUND WITH US BECAUSE IT IS TAKEN AWAY WHEN WE ACCEPT CHRIST AS OUR SAVIOR. WE ARE RESTORED IN GOD’S SIGHT. HOW, THEN, CAN WE BE WITHOUT JOY?

TWO OTHER STRONG ENEMIES OF JOY ARE LONELINESS AND AIMLESSNESS. WE ARE NOT ALONE AND SHOULD NOT FEEL LONELY. THE REALITY OF A GOD WHO KNOWS AND CARES ABOUT US IS OUR SOURCE OF JOY. GOD IS NOT SIMPLY CONCERNED WITH MIGHTY EVENTS BUT KNOWS AND CARES ABOUT EACH OF US. THE BIBLE SAYS GOD NOTES A SPARROW'S FALL (Matthew 10:29) AND THAT IN HIS PRESENCE THE VERY HAIRS OF OUR HEAD ARE NUMBERED (MATTHEW 10:30).

        GOD IS OUR RESOURCE FOR EVERYTHING. SOME PEOPLE HAVE A HARD TIME BELIEVING THIS. THEY FEEL THAT GOD CAN'T BE CONCERNED WITH SOMETHING AS SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT AS A SINGLE HUMAN BEING. But we are not alone. He is always with us!

•    MANY PEOPLE CLAIM TO BE BORED. THEY FIND NO JOY BECAUSE THEIR LIVES ARE AIMLESS. THEY LIVE BY RANDOM MOVEMENTS WITHOUT DIRECTION TOWARD A GOAL. NOTHING LIFTS THEM UP OUT OF THE PRISON OF SELF.

        JESUS SAID, "FOLLOW ME." THAT SHOULD LIFT YOU FROM ANY AIMLESSNESS AND INTO A PURPOSE IF YOU OBEY HIM!

        JESUS SHARED THE JOY OF A WEDDING FEAST, WEPT AT THE DEATH OF A FRIEND, AND WEPT OVER A CITY. HE BLENDED THE DEEP QUALITIES OF EXISTENCE IN A WONDROUS WAY. SO COMPLETE WAS THIS FUSION OF ELEMENTS THAT IT WAS SAID OF HIM IN Hebrews 12:2                 “THAT FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM HE ENDURED THE CROSS."

THE FIRST SIGN OF OUR LORD WAS JOY (Luke 2:10), AND WE AS HIS FOLLOWERS NEED THAT SAME QUALITY. JESUS EVEN TALKED TO HIS DISCIPLES ABOUT JOY RIGHT BEFORE GOING TO THE CROSS (John 16:19-24) AND AFTER HIS RESURRECTION (John 17:13).

Someone once said, “some people grow up and spread cheer; others just grow up and spread.” Some of us do both. Cheerfulness is contagious, but it seems that some folks have been vaccinated against the infection.

Seriously, the Bible teaches that the Joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). I would like to share with you things we can do to have this Joy. Joy comes when we walk in his presence (Psalm 16:11). Many today have turned to non-Christian cults OR religions OR tried drugs, alcohol, or other destructive activities not for pleasure, but because they think these things help them cope with life. Why do they need something to help them cope? Because the life of sin is a life of misery and agony.

THOSE OF US WHO KNOW JESUS WANT THIS JOY 0F THE LORD CONSTANTLY IN OUR LIVES. WHEN WE FEEL IT THERE, WE HAVE TO EXPRESS IT IN SOME WAY. WHEN WE HAVE BEEN IN CHURCH REGULARLY, WE BEGIN TO EXPRESS IT IN OUR "CHURCH LANGUAGE." When we hear something that thrills our heart, we say “Amen” or “Praise the Lord.” When new Christians hear something that excites them, they’re liable to say “Whoopee” or “That’s a big 10-4.” Often it is refreshing to hear new converts express joy before they have learned their “church language.”

Joy comes when we learn to rejoice (Philippians 4:4). Notice it does not say, “Rejoice in your wealth, health, friends, or your possessions.” Why? Because these are things you can have one day and not have the next day, but we have the Lord every day. What I have in God today, I can have next week, or next year. God does not change (Psalm 126:5-6).

WE EXPERIENCE JOY AT SALVATION. THE CLOSEST THING TO EXPERIENCING THAT JOY OVER AGAIN COMES AS WE WIN A SINNER TO THE LORD. SHOW ME A PERSON WHO HAS SOUGHT THE LORD FOR LOST SINNERS, AND I WILL SHOW YOU A PERSON WHO "REAPS" WITH JOY WHEN GOD SAVES THE LOST. One of the best ways to build joy into your life is by re-igniting your passion for evangelism, talking to others about Jesus (Philemon 1:6).

Luke chapter 15 records how much rejoicing takes place when the lost are found. When the lost sheep is recovered, verse 5 says that the owner
        “joyfully puts it on his shoulders”
and then goes home and calls his friends and neighbors together and declares in verse 6,
        “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. I tell you in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents….”

Jesus reminds us in John 4:36 that we can be filled with glad joy when we participate in evangelism. An old saying that I like is: Be fishers of men for Jesus. You catch 'em, He'll clean 'em.

PERHAPS SOME DO NOT HAVE JOY BECAUSE THEY ARE LOOKING IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES. BEING IN GOD'S PRESENCE PRODUCES JOY.

Paul told the Galatian church about the Fruit of the Spirit in chapter 5 of his letter, but he asked a very penetrating question in chapter 4 verse 15,         “What has happened to all your joy?”
That question needs to be asked today. What has happened to all my joy? What has happened to all your joy?

Let me share with you ways the Christian life is a life of joy. Christians have at least three areas of joy to maintain and develop.
1. Joy in the Lord.
        •    Focus on Him, then have joy in Him.
        •    Take time to think of all He has done for you: securing your salvation; making and keeping Scripture promises; giving you eternal life in Heaven, a full life here on earth, breath for today, and every spiritual blessing in Christ.

2. Joy in salvation.
        •    When we come to Him for cleansing and forgiveness, He makes us a new creation.
        •    Christ’s death and resurrection give us new life and hope.

3. Joy in living (Psalm 118:24; Philippians 4:4).
        •    This is a basic outlook that says, “I am glad to be alive” even when something stressful happens.
        
When we become saved, we receive at least one spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), are baptized in the Holy Spirit (John 1:33), and are a priest  (Romans 15:16; Revelation 1:5-6) and a saint (Romans 1:7). We are also a minister (1 Timothy 4:6) with a new position as God's child. A life of good works is then started as a new believer, which helps to create joy (Ephesians 2:10). The supreme motive is that His riches of grace may be disclosed to all people. Continued exercise of divine grace toward the Christian is the one and only basis upon which a person may hope to endure.

ASK YOURSELF:
DO I HAVE FAITH THAT JESUS DIED FOR MY SINS?
DO I HAVE INNER PEACE KNOWING THAT I AM GOING TO HEAVEN WHEN I DIE?

THE INVITATION
★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
             Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
             I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
             Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                In Your name I pray, Amen.

    Rev. Dr. Nicholas J. Gray, Pastor  Broadway Baptist Church  Sedalia, Missouri  2015