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Joy 4 (a)

January 23rd, 2017
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To watch An Experiment in Gratitude | The Science of Happiness please click here.

A culture of thankfulness is a very positive one. But happiness can be very up and down and we can depend too much on what we or other people do or say.

We want happiness to grow in to something much deeper – what the Bible calls joy.

Joe Tkach last year wrote on this subject. Here are some points.

Depending on the translation, the Bible uses the words happy and happiness about 30 times, while joy and rejoice appear more than 300 times. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word śāmâ (translated rejoice, joy and glad) is used to cover a wide range of human experiences: sex, marriage, the birth of children, harvest, victory and drinking wine.

So there is an overlap with joy and happiness. There is joy in the good things associated with human life if we see them in a thankful way.

In the New Testament, the Greek word chara is used primarily for expressing joy in the redemptive works of God, the coming of his Son and the resurrection of Jesus. As we read the New Testament, we see the word joy is more than an emotion; it is a characteristic of a Christian, part of the fruit produced by the inner working of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture also teaches us that true joy is not affected by surrounding circumstances including pain, agony and loss. Joy can be the result of suffering for Christ’s sake. Jesus himself experienced great joy in facing the terrible suffering and shame of crucifixion.

Many of us have felt true joy knowing the reality of eternity, even as we’ve had to say good-bye to a loved one. This is true because there is an unbreakable relationship between love and joy. We see this in Jesus’ words as he summarized his teachings to his disciples:

John15:11-12

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” .

As we grow in God’s love, so does our joy grow. In fact, all the fruit of the Holy Spirit grows in us as we grow in love.

Notice “as I have loved you.” This love and thus joy is not something we create but receive. It is is received by knowing who God is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Paul helps us understand the difference between happiness and joy in his letter to the church in Philippi, which he wrote while imprisoned in Rome. In that letter he used the words joy, rejoice and joyful 16 times. I’ve visited many jails and prisons and you don’t typically find happy people there. Yet Paul found joy while chained in prison, not knowing if he would live or die. Due to his faith in Christ, he was content—through eyes of faith Paul saw his circumstances in an entirely different light than most people would. Note what he wrote:

Philippians 1:12-14

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

These powerful words came from an inner joy that Paul experienced despite his circumstances. He knew who he was in Christ, and who Christ was in him. He wrote:

Philippians 4:11-13

I am not saying this because I am in need. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

We see here that at the centre of Paul’s world was Jesus Christ. Nothing was seen separately from Jesus.

We can summarize the distinction between happiness and joy in many ways. Here are three:

Happiness is temporary—often momentary or the result of short-term contentment. Joy is eternal and spiritual, keying off of who God is and what he has done, is doing and will yet do.

Because happiness is dependent on many factors, it is fleeting and doesn’t deepen or mature. Joy matures as we grow in relationship with God and with each other.

Happiness comes from temporal external events, observations and actions. Joy lies within you and comes from the work of the Holy Spirit.

Because God created us for fellowship with himself, nothing else can satisfy our souls and bring us lasting joy. Through faith, Jesus lives in us and we in him. Because we no longer live for ourselves, we are able to rejoice in all kinds of circumstances—even suffering, through which we join with Jesus who suffered on our behalf. Despite his great suffering in prison, Paul wrote this: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

 As humans, we often go hours or even days without giving much thought to God’s glory, love and holiness. But I’m sure that once we see Christ in his full glory, we will thump our heads and say, “How could I have paid so much attention to other things?”

We do not yet see Christ as clearly as we would like; we live in the slums, so to speak, and find it hard to imagine places we have never been. We are too busy trying to survive the slum to dwell on the glories of God.

One of the most discouraging things to dwell on is ourselves. But one of the most encouraging things to dwell upon is ourselves.
The joy of eternity enables us to see the miseries of this life as opportunities to receive grace and know and trust God more deeply. We learn to appreciate the joys of eternity even more after we have struggled with the shackles of sin and the difficulties in this life.

We will appreciate glorified bodies even more after we experience the pains of our physical bodies. I believe that is why Karl Barth said this: “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” We can be grateful that the joy set before Jesus, which enabled him to endure the cross, has also been set before us.

How is joy expressed?

Ephesians 5:20

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Message for the Day

Insight from Colossians (9)

July 21st, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: Colossians 1:1-14

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

 2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:

   Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel

6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.

 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,

10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,

12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.(NIV)

In these introductory verses to the epistle to the Colossians we see the relationship of the Father and the Son and all their purpose for us centred in Christ. This is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit.

This triune God ,with what we can call their home life, was earthed amongst us in Jesus Christ. When we come to Jesus, we come also to the Father in the Spirit and enjoy and participate together in the life of God.

Message for the Day

Insight from Colossians (8)

July 20th, 2012
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Scripture of the Day: 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (NIV)

There are many different voices that want to add to our completeness in Christ.

They can take many forms:

  •     Unless you understand the keys to Bible prophecy you are lacking in true knowledge. Yet we are told Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.


  •     You are not complete unless you have various gifts of the Spirit. Yet we are told the Spirit will bring glory to Jesus and take what is his and making it known to us.


  •     You are not complete unless you have a rigorous regime of fasting, prayer, self denial of physical pleasures so you can escape the flesh and mystically be open to deeper revelations and union with Christ.

Yet we are told as long as we are at home in this body we will be away from the Lord. It is sufficient that he dwells in us in our present mortal state and thus we have a union that nothing in this world can separate.

 

  •     You are not complete unless you return to the old covenant and live like Jews. Yet we are told that true righteousness comes from believing in Jesus Christ.


  •     You are not complete unless with are blessed with good health and wealth because you must name and claim God’s promises and practices his biblical laws of financial success. Yet we are told that godliness with contentment is great gain. Paul was willing to lose everything to gain Christ.


  •     You are not complete unless you have increasing knowledge of mysteries about angels, speak in tongues and other esoteric matters. Yet we are told that all reality is in Christ and we are not to be disconnected from him as our Head.


And as we said last week that the true image of God, being like Jesus in the world, will fundamentally be shown in our love for others in practical real ways.

Because God:

is patient, is kind, does not envy, does not boast,  is not proud,  does not dishonour others,  is not self-seeking, is not easily angered,  keeps no record of wrongs,

does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

God never fails.

That’s what we saw amongst us in Jesus Christ.

This is what makes us complete. A very real way of life imparted to us by the Spirit of Christ. That’s why Paul gave thanks for the small church in Colosse: because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people. You can’t have one without the other.

Message for the Day