by Mike Ratliff
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:21-25 (NASB)
Most Christians are seeking joy 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 were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” 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, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. 36 Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” John 4:31-38 (NASB)
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 we 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 Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. 2 And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. 8 Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.
13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!
16 “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:1-16 (NASB)
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 returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20 (NASB)
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)
17 The seventy-two returned with joy saying, “Master, even the demons are subject to us in your name you.” 18 And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightening.19 Behold, I have given you authority to walk upon snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will harm you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” Luke 10:17-20 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
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 ἑβδομήκοντα δύο to ‘not rejoice,’μὴ χαίρετε, in this, we must always seek our joy to come from the ultimate miracle. By the way, the word used here for “rejoice,” χαίρετε, is related to the word from which we get the English word “grace.” This word, χαίρετε, refers to believers obtaining joy (χαρὰν) 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 δοῦλοι (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 χαρὰν, 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 χαρὰν we obey our Lord and He is glorified in us and through this, lives are changed eternally. This increases our χαρὰν 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!