This is now the third post in a series based on an edited transcript of my recent sermon on the Life of Joy.
Today we ask, where does this joy come from? and how should it be expressed?
1 Thessalonians 1:5 speaks of ‘…joy of the Holy Spirit’. It is joy that is both in the Holy Spirit and it is joy that is from the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, JOY, peace, patience… Those things are indivisible and if you want a life of joy, study Galatians 5 and ask God to help you express all of those things, because you need all of them. In order to be in joy, you need to be at peace with God, with others and, actually, with yourself.
God promises us joy. In Isaiah 51:11, it says: ‘The ransomed of the LORD…’ Did you know that God has paid a ransom for you? Isn’t that wonderful? ‘The ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’ Hallelujah!
Acts 13:52 says of the disciples in New Testament days that they were – get this – ‘continuously filled with joy and the Holy Spirit’. Continuously. Imagine that: continuously to be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. So it is not just Sunday morning, but it is Monday morning. When that alarm goes off and you want to throw it across the room, except you suddenly remember it is rather valuable these days. It is a nice, posh phone usually, isn’t it? Dear oh dear, I think you would be upset if you threw your alarm across the room. Some of you may feel like doing that, but on those mornings, God wants you to be filled with joy.
Our joy comes from God. It is a mutual joy. It is a joy that overflows from our knowledge of God and from our knowledge – get this! – that God rejoices over us. In His presence says this Psalm, is fullness of joy. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore and one of the things that He is rejoicing over is you. Isn’t that wonderful?
The Scripture says that God rejoices over you to do you good (Jeremiah 32:41). That would be a great verse to memorise this term, wouldn’t it? The exact words are this: ‘I will rejoice in doing them good…’ What a wonderful truth. That is surely enough for us to be joyful in and of itself.
It also says in Isaiah that God will rejoice over us as a groom rejoices over his bride.
1 Peter 1:8 promises us, ‘…joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…’ You can see when you start to read some of these verses and understand the breadth of them, the depth of them, the extent of them, that they are big promises. This is why I say we have only dipped our toes into it. Joy inexpressible and full of glory. Full of glory.
In the Old Testament, there is a number of words for joy but all of them have this in common, that they are words which talk about our whole being expressing that joy. So, there are words in the Old Testament that talk about clapping or shouting or dancing, and they are all words that relate to joy. There are some people that say something like this: I am clapping on the inside. You can’t clap on the inside!
Just one of many examples of commands for us to express our joy comes in Psalm 47:1: ‘Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!’ So we don’t clap here because that is what we are used to, or that is just our personal preference or, we have to do something to keep the Africans happy. No! We clap our hands here because it is a sign of rejoicing and we celebrate our God with loud songs of joy because it is commanded to us to do it, and because He is worthy. Amen!
I watched an advert on the television just the other day. It was shot of a football stadium. I can’t remember if it was promoting a specific team or the new season of football, but it was in England, and it was British crowds. Each shot showed the crowd when a goal was scored. There was not a single person who did not respond something like this: YEAH!!!! They were rejoicing. They were cheering. They were clapping. They were jigging. There is something very wrong if, as a Christian, we celebrate more at a football match than here in church. To be honest, those crowds could teach the Africans something about how to worship! Amen? I know some of us find it harder than others, but it is a command. Joy is something that wells up within us and it must be expressed. It must be expressed. A recent article on the Gospel Coalition website speaks more about the correct posture we should have before God.
So that is the sort of joy that we are looking for: a joy that comes from God, a joy that is glorious, abundant, amazing, and a joy that expresses itself.
After the weekend we will continue this series on joy.