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Advent 3 - Joy
by Rev. Craig Bard
This week was the Shepherds candle or the candle representing joy. Each candle can have more than one meaning as we have seen. We have given a lot of miles to the Shepherds in the last couple of weeks so I gave them over to the reading. Now let’s talk about joy.
"JESUS WANTS YOU TO HAVE TRUE JOY" If you have your Bibles with you this morning, turn if you will to Psalm 27 and we will read verses 1 through 6 together. This morning we will talk about joy. The presence of Christ, from the very beginning at His birth, till now was meant to bring joy. The truth is the church and the world suffer from a saddening lack of old fashion, simple hearted, over flowing, bubbling Christian joy. Paul said to the church, "Rejoice in the Lord always". Say that with me (repeat) (Philippians 4:4). When you look at the average Christian congregation, they look like an audience of bulldogs baptized in lemon juice, or a merry meeting of morticians, that have come together about a common cause.
It’s a pity that joy isn’t as easy to find as trouble. Some people look for trouble like it was buried treasure. They are ecstatic when they find it. Some wives are so concerned about their husband's joy that they hire private detectives to find out why he is so happy. If you want to be happy, do something every day to make someone else happy, even if it is only by leaving them alone. Jesus wants you to have real joy. Joy that is true joy. Joy that is lasting joy. Joy
that is great joy. Jesus said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you" Matthew 9:2 (NKJV). Matthew 14:27 (NKJV) "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid" Matthew 14:27 (NKJV). "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Proverbs 17:22 says, A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. The Bible says, It is good for you to laugh, it is good for you to have joy. If you are happy, some of you need to inform your face. Would you just turn to the neighbor next to you and smile? See, it won't break. Oh, look at all the smiles.
In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The joy of Jesus Christ is real joy. It's lasting joy. It is joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. It is joy that is unshakable because it is not fragile. It is joy that will endure the storms of life. It is real joy that transforms the sob of the soul into a new song. It is joy that heals the broken heart and gives it new life. It is joy that turns a bitter frown into a radiant smile. It is joy that turns the deepest despair into the greatest delight.
It is joy that cannot be imitated, it cannot be duplicated, it cannot be purchased in a pill, it cannot be bought in a bottle. It is joy that is found in Jesus Christ, for He and He alone is the source of joy.
My next question is, have you lost your joy? Some have. Listen to the Word of God today. Psalm 27:1-6. (Read) Let’s pray: Father, in the blessed name of the Lord Jesus, thank You for Your Word and thank You for the joy of Jesus, that is real, that is lasting and that is eternal, in Jesus name we pray and ask it, and all of God's children said, Praise the Lord.
I want you to know this morning that Joy is not something, it is SOMEONE. Joy is someone. Jesus said in John 15:11, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my JOY might be in you and that your joy might be full." I want you to get 2 phrases there, "My joy" and "your joy". Whose joy is it? It's His joy. The only joy that you can have outside of Jesus Christ, is a synthetic joy. Synthetic joy is destroying America. Drugs represents a synthetic joy. I'm not only talking about the illegal drugs on the street. I'm talking about the legal drugs sold across the pharmacist counter. Many are addicted to legal drugs. They cannot live their lives without running to the bottle for some sort of synthetic assistance.
When things get rough and the crisis of life demand character and strength, we run for a pill and drift to lala land rather than face the problem with Christ. I want to tell you something, Jesus Christ is greater than any problem you may have and He is the answer for any problem you possess. If we will cling to Him instead of the bottle, He will deliver you and give you the answer.
Drinking is synthetic joy. Escapism is an American synthetic joy. We have redefined sin in America, rather than repent of sin so we can have joy. We are no longer sinners, we have illnesses and disease. We have simply redefined the evil in our world.
Whenever we have a national crisis, rather than hold the line in the law, we change the law to include the corruption of the evil. If we continue on this course, as an American society, we'll have to change the national emblem from that of an eagle to that of a buzzard.
We have redefined morality. Rather than denounce homosexuality, we just redefined it. It is now an acceptable lifestyle in our politically correct society. We have redefined murder, so abortion can be accepted. And every doctor who participates in it, can hold his head up high, when he walks down the street.
I want you to know that doctor will stand before God, guilty of murder in the first degree. That's all synthetic joy. Has it produced happiness? Has it produced lasting joy? No way! America is one of the most violent societies on the face of the earth. We are a nation of addicts. Things are going to the sewer. So ladies and gentlemen of Trinity Bible Church I am announcing today, in the name of joy and in the name of goodness and in the name of Jesus Christ, it is time for good people everywhere to stand on their feet and say stop, no more!
Synthetic joy is not real joy. Suicide rates are running off the charts. Satan is out to kill steal and destroy. Jesus Christ can fill an otherwise empty and meaningless life. Without joy there is nothing within your soul that you want to reproduce. If you are looking for joy, you're not looking for a bottle, you are not looking for a new definition for sin. You are looking for Jesus Christ the Son of Glory, the Prince of Peace, the King of Joy, who came into the world to bring victory to every heart and to every life. And I challenge you to pursue the holiness of Jesus, because joy unspeakable, that's full of glory, comes from living right and being right and doing that which is pleasing in the sight of Christ our Lord.
Nowhere in Scripture are we told to pursue joy. Joy is the by-product of the Holy Spirit. Say that with me, JOY IS THE BY-PRODUCT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The Bible says, "The fruit of the Spirit is Joy." The fruit of abiding in the Lord is joy. It's peace, its love. Are you searching for joy? Than be filled with the Spirit. If you claim to be Spirit filled and you have no joy. You are in deception. I understand there are times when we cannot be joyful---in a time of deep sorrow. But, joy is part of the Christian life. You aren’t going to be off the charts, blissful all of the time, but you should be able to find pleasure in the simplest of things.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It took me almost forty years to figure this out. IT'S OK TO BE HAPPY. It's alright to smile. It's alright to laugh. It's okay to be real. It's alright to be normal. It's alright to let the joy of Jesus radiate out of your life. Sing praises to the Lord. Matthew 11:17, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” It doesn't all have to be the funeral dirge. It can and should be joyful, and praiseful.
The joy of Jesus is within us. But it doesn't get there by itself. It comes the day you acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. Many of you have a Savior, but you have no Lord. You are saved and you are on your way to heaven but you are living a hopeless life, as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned. It's time for you to get Jesus Christ into your conduct. It's time for you to get Jesus Christ into your speech. Is your speech filled with criticism? Is your speech filled with fault finding? Is your speech filled with complaining? Then you are not Spirit filled.
When Jesus is the Lord of your life, you will obey Him, you will adore Him, you will serve Him, you will follow Him, and you’ll give of your time and your talent and of your treasure to the Lord. When Jesus is the Lord of your life, you'll praise Him with joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.
BECAUSE JOY WILL MANIFEST ITSELF. If you are joyful, somebody will know it! Won't they? Where do you search for joy? Have you noticed that the people who are searching for joy are those who most desperately don't have it?
People search for joy in marriage. I know that marriage is made in heaven, but so is thunder and lightning. Getting married is easy, staying married is more difficult. If you are not full of joy when you walk down the aisle, you will not be full of joy when you walk back up that aisle. Marriage is wonderful, but it will not make you happy if you are not already happy.
Some people search for joy in materialism. There is a vast difference in making a living and making a life. Many make a fabulous living, but have a pathetic life. And there is a lot of difference. In 1923 eight (8) of the world's wealthiest people gathered for what the press called the most important economic conference of the century. Those 8 men were the president of the largest steel company in America. The head of the largest utility company. The head of the greatest commodities company, the president of the NY stock exchange. A member of the president’s cabinet. The greatest bear on Wall Street, and the head of the world's largest monopoly.
What happened to those 8 powerful men? Rich men whose lives were larger than life, who certainly knew how to make a living. But what kind of a life did they have. 25 years later a press reporter followed up on their lives. And here is what happened to them.
The president of the largest steel company, Charles Swab, died bankrupted. -- The Utility Executive, died a fugitive from justice. Exiled in Greece. His fortune gone. The greatest Commodities speculator, died, absolutely penniless. -- The president of the NY Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, went to the penitentiary, where he died. -- A member of the president’s cabinet, Albert Fall, was released from prison, so he could go home and die. -- The Greatest Bear on Wall Street, Jesse Livermore, committed suicide. -- The head of the world's largest monopoly, Ivan Kruger, committed suicide.
They all knew how to make a living, but they didn't know how to make a life. They did not have joy that made life worth living. If there is no joy in your life, if there's no joy in your home, if there's no joy in your marriage, if there's no joy with your children – if there’s no joy with God -- You are not going to have real joy, lasting joy, meaningful joy, until you make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life.
Some people say, "I'll be happy, I'll be full of joy when I retire." That's an illusion. Retirement is setting on the front porch watching the sun set, if you can stay awake that long. The only thing bad about doing nothing, is that you can never get a day off.
People say, "I'm going to have joy, I'll find it in religion. Religious people are the most unhappy people on the face of the earth. And I want to make a quick distinction between knowing Jesus Christ and being religious. There's a difference between having Jesus as Savior and Lord and being religious. Nothing starts a fight faster than when religious people get together.
Religion will not bring you joy. There are 285 denominations in America and somebody needs to say it, "We can't all be right." And I can tell you that if you don't have joy, you're on the wrong road. Religion is ritual without righteousness. Religion is ceremony that does not demand a change in your conduct. Religion is rich with tradition, but it is starving for joy. Tradition is a rut. A rut is wonderful if all you want to do is to go somewhere someone else has already gone. But when the Lord starts to do a new thing, if you are in the rut of religion, you can't follow it and you can't go with it.
I'll tell you this, those that are in the rut will be unhappy when you come along with a joyful sound. The Pharisees had tradition and they were in a rut and when Jesus came proclaiming the joy of the world, they wanted to kill Him. Because religious people don't like joy. They like to complain they like to criticize, and they like to be right even when they are wrong.
Jesus intended for His followers to be real and to have joy that is unspeakable and unshakable in a world that has gone mad. Jesus said, "I give you My joy and that your joy shall be full" (John 15:11). There is no such thing as a joyless Christian. David said, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12). Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
There is no such thing as a joyless Christian." There are some real sad sacks out there that call themselves Christians, but joy comes with following Jesus. True story. The pastor was preaching on the joy of the Lord, the congregation was laughing and enjoying the presence of the Lord and a sour puss church member got up and rebuked the pastor and the congregation for enjoying the presence of the Lord. And the pastor being wise accommodated this sad sack by saying, "Let's all stand while this brother leads us in a time of weeping and whaling.”
Jesus is here right now and He said "where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I'll be." His presence produces joy. And joy heals. Joy inspires. Joy refreshes. Joy conquerors depression. Joy turns despair into light. Joy puts a song in your heart. Joy refreshes your mind. Joy reduces the size of the giant and the size of the problem. Joy elevates the body and restores it in the presence of the Lord. And you can have it right now. But you have to choose to have it, through Jesus Christ. Matthew 25:23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ You enter into the joy of the Lord by an act of your will. You are just as joyful as you choose to be.
God is not asking you to persist in your circumstances. He is asking you to persist in Him in your circumstances. When you see persistence and perseverance only as disciplines, you become convinced that they are elusive and hard to overcome. There are times when God will give you joy and you will persist in your joy. Because joy will take you above your circumstances. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
When you pray for strength to endure something, don’t be surprised when strength manifest itself as joy. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Miss it and you’ll just thing you’re going insane. You live in Christ with all the blessings and favor that being seated with Him in heavenly places provokes. In the Spirit we do not persist against anyone we persist in Someone and His name is Jesus.
Remain in Joy, because joy is a constant. Your joy is an everlasting joy. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Week after week, month after month, year after year. Joy is an everlasting presence for you. Come into the everlasting joy of the Father and learn the happiness of God. Become as joyful as He is.
God has given us a Kingdom that cannot be shaken. The earth may shake, but you remain unshaken. Consider everything as a joy and that joy will enable you to endure on the battlefield of life. Endure joyfully, because you know the outcome before the battle starts. Perseverance is concerned with how to live life joyfully in Christ above your circumstances. Because joy is your hiding place. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty Psalm 91:1. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; (Galatians 5:22-23). These fruits are what make up the dwelling place of God. Our job is to remain and abide in His presence. God will take care of the rest.