True Joy

by Mike Ratliff

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? ’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. ’ 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Matthew 7:21-25 ESV)

Genuine Christians should be seeking the joy of the Lord and are, perhaps, perplexed because their circumstances are anything but joyful. Our Lord gave us the example through the way He walked throughout His earthly ministry in which we are given what true joy is and how we must live in order to obtain it. The following passage is right in the middle of that part of John’s Gospel dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well. 

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps. ’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:31-38 ESV)

Biblical joy is both a benefit and part of the process God uses to energize His people in order for them to obey Him, live for His glory, and walk through this life in victory. What Christian does not want that? In this post, I would like to concentrate on the one thing that is the source of all of our joy and so we must never neglect rejoicing over it nor allow our circumstances to distract us and thereby cause us to lose our joy. This one thing, our salvation, is the most profound thing for those truly in Christ. This must remain so throughout our lives in this fallen world. It will certainly be in eternity as we read in the eschatological books in God’s Word. When we have our salvation held in the proper light in our hearts we will also, as Christ showed us throughout his earthly ministry, walk in obedience to God. We will pray, worship, fellowship, and serve our Lord as He directs. Our food becomes to do the will of Him who owns us because He has bought us with His blood. In this, we rejoice. Yes, God will use us in the Kingdom. He may use us in ways would never dream of. He may very well allow us to suffer for the Name, however, through it all we must never lose sight of the truth that our names are written in Heaven.

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy- two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house! ’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you. ’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near. ’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. 16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:1-16 ESV)

Here we read of our Lord sending out the seventy-two disciples on a missionary work. He tells them plainly that they may indeed be persecuted or demeaned or rejected by those they have been sent to serve. However, they are to remain focused on their obedience to their mission. Here we also see the exigency of the situation. Those who do not believe and obey the Gospel are doomed to eternal judgment. Therefore, our mission is urgent and this requires our obedience. When we do obey our Lord, we are often taken off-guard by how He works through us in this Kingdom work. We can make the mistake of seeking joy through this and nothing else.

17 The seventy- two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20 ESV)

17 Ὑπέστρεψαν δὲ οἱ ἑβδομήκοντα [δύο] μετὰ χαρᾶς λέγοντες· κύριε, καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια ὑποτάσσεται ἡμῖν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου. 18 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς· ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν ὡς ἀστραπὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεσόντα. 19 ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ὑμῖν τὴν ἐξουσίαν τοῦ πατεῖν ἐπάνω ὄφεων καὶ σκορπίων, καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ ἐχθροῦ, καὶ οὐδὲν ὑμᾶς οὐ μὴ ἀδικήσῃ. 20 πλὴν ἐν τούτῳ μὴ χαίρετε ὅτι τὰ πνεύματα ὑμῖν ὑποτάσσεται, χαίρετε δὲ ὅτι τὰ ὀνόματα ὑμῶν ἐγγέγραπται ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. (Luke 10:17-20 NA28)

I remember when I was asked to preach a sermon in a church in another state that first time. I remember when I was thrust into a teaching position in church to lead adults into a difficult study, et cetera. These times were extremely stressful to me because I want so much to do well and not let my Lord down. Each time, as I surrendered my will to His and obeyed Him in these things, He gave me what I needed to do His will. As I ministered, I could tell that God was working through me. Afterwards, it never failed that God would use someone else to let me know that He was pleased with my obedience as He worked in their hearts for His own purposes for His eternal glory. I have always been in awe of this. However, just as our Lord told the εβδομηκοντα δυο to ‘not rejoice,’ μη χαιρετε, in this, we must always seek our joy to come from the ultimate miracle. By the way, the word used here for “rejoice,” χαιρετε, is related to the word from which we get the English word “grace.” This word, χαιρετε, refers to believers obtaining joy (χαραν) as a direct result of God’s grace. In this joy, we rejoice and are glad.

From what does our Lord command us to seek this joy? He lets us know plainly that the miracle of God using us to defeat evil may very well be extraordinary manifestations of His power, however, it pales in comparison to the greatest wonder of them all, which is the reality of our salvation. This is why we must never give up the fight for the Gospel. We must emulate the real Jesus in this. We must never allow our enemy’s pawns to so water down the Gospel that it can be found only in dark corners. God has allowed religious systems in the past to do this, but through it all, He had His obedient δουλους (slaves) keep the flame of the Gospel alive even if it cost them everything including their lives. Let us not back down from this my brethren.

Our joy, our χαραν, must have as its main focus the fact that we are forgiven because of God’s good work. He has redeemed us and there is not one thing we have done to earn or deserve it (Ephesians 2:1-10). In this χαραν we obey our Lord and He is glorified in us and through this, lives are changed eternally. This increases our χαραν as we reflect on God using us despite our complete lack of worth in and of ourselves that He would do this. Isn’t it an awesome thing to rejoice in your salvation, obey God, and watch Him work through you for His eternal purposes?

Soli Deo Gloria!

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