Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

1 Jesus Joy

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John 15:9-11 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
In a world scarred by sin and shadowed in sorrow, where many groan under the weight of grief, drowning in despair and disappointment, we desperately need genuine joy. God’s desire has always been for His children to experience great joy in this life, that is why He sent His Son. We say we want what He offers, yet God and man have differing ideas about how this is going to be accomplished. Joy is what the human heart really hungers for but rather than satisfying the hunger with the Godly gift of joy, humanity by and large has chosen to chase happiness. It’s about what we can experience and get out of the deal. It’s a John 6 kind of religion, following Jesus for food, we are happy as long as our bellies are being filled, but forsaken at the first hint of hardship. Today we have become derailed by what I call the doctrine of deserving, where we are taught that we deserve to be happy. A permeating philosophy that’s not just contaminating the culture but controlling the church, and because what we believe effects how we behave this deserving belief bleeds over into demanding behavior. Interestingly the word happy comes from the root word “hap” which literally means chance. This is the root of several other words, happen, hapless, and even haphazard. Happiness depends upon what happens to you, based on chance and circumstance. But Christianity is not about circumstantial happiness that comes from chasing chance it’s about change that comes from chasing Christ. Preaching is not a popularity contest it’s a privileged, please don’t water down the Word, the world deserves truth not trash. It’s time to tell the truth that Jesus gave His life so we could have life, He didn’t come so we could be happy, He came so we could be holy. Happiness is at best a byproduct of holiness, what concerns me is we have a whole culture chasing the left overs instead of the Lord. We are called to make followers of Christ not feelers of comfort. The Bible mentions “joy” or “rejoicing” 330 times. But it only mentions “happiness” 26 times. In John 15 we see Jesus the night before the crucifixion in the upper room with His disciples. Soon He will be going to Gethsemane where He will wrestle in prayer over His coming persecution. Soon He will be arrested, tried and convicted of crimes He never committed. Soon He will be spat on, slapped, and scorned, soon He will suffer humiliation and hatred. He will be mocked and murdered, nailed to the cross of crucifixion. Jesus fully conscious of His current circumstances and what is to come said: “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow” This is not what the culture would call a journey of joy, but here we see a significant difference between joy and happiness. Where happiness is based on circumstances, joy is based on Jesus. Unlike happiness that is based on fleeting feelings that ebb and flow on the currents of circumstance and fizzle out at the first turn of the tide, Jesus’ joy is full to overflowing. Jesus joy is not caned and contained by our circumstances, difficulty does not dam our joy, and when trials test and situations squeeze the joy of Jesus should run out. Many Christians today reveal a foggy faith, where you can’t see God for the gloom. Instead of living a life of belief and blessing its burden and bondage. Where is the joy of Jesus today? When situations squeeze us where is the joy juice that should run out, overflowing and overtaking our lives? We act like living for the Lord is a pain instead of a privilege, it’s time for the church to stop making Christianity a chore. In its pursuit of happiness through pleasure the church has crashed into the culture, like a derailed train we have left the tracks of truth. We have a faith that frets instead of following. It seems that the only religious works that are of value are those which are somber, serious and sullen. Today there are those that only appear to be joyful when they are depressed. This is unbiblical behavior, and no I am not suggesting that we be unrealistic about life’s troubles or silly in the face of suffering. But have you listened to the words of Jesus: “As the Father loves me, so I love you.” Could there be three more beautiful words coming from the mouth of God? “I love you.” These are more than just words mouthed by Jesus, these are words that moved Jesus to the cross. Don’t miss the magnitude of his love: “as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” For the Son to love sinners at all overwhelms the imagination, its incomprehensible. We should be content to have a God that tolerates us and yet He treasures us. The magnitude is found in the measure of Christ’s love; He loves us as the Father loves Him, with a divine affection, unrestrained, holding nothing back. First Jesus declares his love, second, he describes his love and third, he demands that we remain under the assurance and influence of his love. On the last night of His life, facing the cross, Jesus chose to talk about joy. The writer of Hebrews looking back at this writes these words in Hebrews 12:2; “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and scorned its shame.” You may ask “How can there be any joy in a cross?” but first we need to ask the question, “How can we experience that kind of joy?” because it is this answer that answers the first. So how can we experience this kind of joy? First we need to respond and rely on His relationship. In John 15:5-6 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire & burned.” Believers are branches that bear fruit only when they are attached to Jesus the vine. This is where the joy begins, when we have accepted and are attached to the Almighty. Joy is an evidence of the presence of God in our life. If God is in your life, if you are filled with the Spirit of God, then the fruit of the Spirit, joy, will be obvious and overflow. Is your joy an overflowing river or has it been reduced to a trickle? Are you doing life with the Lord or are you a loner? Are you living for the Savior or are you self-sufficient? First we need to be secured to the Savior and second, we need to give ourselves in service for others. One of the biggest problems in our world today is that we have become so self-centered that we no longer experience the joy of serving others. We were saved to serve not be selfish. How can there be any joy in a cross? Why did the writer of Hebrews call the cross an object of joy for Jesus, because Jesus didn’t do it for Himself, He did it for us. Have you lost the joy of service, has your joy become dulled by duty? The joy of Jesus cannot be understood unless one is willing to follow the Lord fully, and serve the Savior sacrificially. Joy is only found in Jesus you can’t let people, places, possessions, or position try to be the source of your joy, only the person of Jesus. So today are you chasing chance or Christ, are you relying on luck or the Lord?

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