A Life of Joy
I preached the following sermon at the Cornerstone Church on November 19, 2017.
A LIFE OF JOY
Part 2 of The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life
Pop quiz: who is the happiest person in the world? Answer: God is. Theologian Richard Muller - a professor at Calvin College, writes, “God is essentially blessed and happy” (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 3:382).
Do you believe that God is happy and full of joy? His joy is key to our joy. Here are just a few of the Bible passages that describe God as joyful:
1 Timothy 1:11: He is the blessed God. It's legitimate to translate "blessed" as "happy."
Luke 15:7: "There is joy in heaven." Why? God is joyful, so heaven is full of joy.
Romans 14:17: God's Kingdom is "joy in the Holy Spirit." The Spirit is joyful God.
Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy." God, the joy-bringer.
Psalm 45:6-7: A prophetic vision of the risen, reigning Jesus being "anointed with the oil of joy" because he has defeated sin and death and the devil. He is our joyful Lord and Savior.
John 15:11 "I have told you this so that MY JOY may be in you and that YOUR JOY may be complete."
Zephaniah 3:17 "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Do you remember that song we used to sing? "There's no place else I would rather be than dancing with you as you sing over me. There's nothing else I would rather do Lord, than to worship you."
God is joyful and he pours out his joy onto his people. If you are a believer, you are drenched in God's joy. He is joyful about you. That's key to your own joy in life.
TODAY, we're looking at how to live a joyful life. Wondering what joy is? Joy is ... indefinable. indescribable. An inner state of supreme well-being, jubilation, delight, positivity, based on total confidence in God.
Living in joy starts with knowing the joyful God. He is the real joy bringer. Joy happens when we know God and we know who he is and we know what he has done for us in Christ. The more we know this and believe this, and the more we understand it, and the more we see what it means in our lives, the more joy we'll experience.
In a moment, we'll read 1 Peter 1:1-9. But first we need to know the context: A letter written by the apostle Peter to Christians in modern day Turkey. Because they follow Jesus, these people were being persecuted. They were enduring a firestorm of suffering. And Peter writes to tell them to hang in there. He tells them to follow the example of Jesus and stand firm under fire.
Peter uses joy words twice in this passage: verse 6, verse 8. His point is this: joy is based on our choices, not our circumstances. How? By choosing what to focus on. The key to joy is FOCUS.
Now, let's read 1 Peter 1:1-9
We learn from this first chapter that the key to joy is focus. Joy is possible in the hardest times if we get our minds off of the pain and focus on joy-bringing realties.
HOW TO LIVE A LIFE OF JOY
A. FOCUS ON POSSESSIONS - verses 1-6a.
If you want joy in your life, here's how you get it: Focus your mind and heart on your possessions - all you have in Christ. The Lord has poured out so much into our lives - freely, as a gift in Christ. We are a blessed people - every day, it never changes, no matter what.
1 Peter 1:1-9 is a "possessions list," an inventory of what we have been given in Christ:
Verse 2: New life - we've been made fit for God: chosen, set apart, forgiven.
Verse 3: New birth and new hope - eternal, forever, resurrection life.
Verse 4: New wealth - an eternal inheritance - in context, this is salvation.
Verse 5: New power - shielded by God's power so we will stay in faith all the way.
Verse 5: new promise - salvation.
To live a life of joy, focus your mind and heart on what you have in Christ.
Write that "possessions list" down - type it out. Read it, repeat it, remind yourself of it every day. Pin it to a mirror. Put it in your notes app.
Make a playlist of songs that remind you off all you have in Christ. What would be the #1 song: In Christ Alone? 10,000 Reasons? Me: T4G on Youtube.
Life is hard, so its easy to lose focus and get all negative. When you feel that happening, tell yourself: "I am blessed." Then talk through your "possessions list," your inventory of all God has given you in Christ.
Don't let anything distract your focus on your possessions. For example, Kim and I don't watch shows with a sad or negative vibe. If the horse dies, or the kid runs away, or the chainsaw is killing the neighbors, we don't want to watch it. Because we want to be full of joy.
Every time you focus on what you have in Christ, your faith will grow deeper and stronger. The stronger your faith grows, the more intense your joy will be. C. H. Spurgeon said, "Little faith will take your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul." Joy is heaven in your soul.
B. FOCUS ON GLORY - verses 6b-7.
The Bible is realistic about grief: 1 Peter 1:6b "... now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." Life is hard. Don't live in denial.
But the Bible is focused on glory: 1 Peter 1:7 "These trials have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
So ... every day, I have a choice to make: will I focus on grief or glory? Will this be an Eeyore day or a Tigger day? There's no joy in being like Eeyore: ""Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he."
Here's how you get your mind off the grief to focus on the glory. By faith, choose to see God's plan and purpose unfolding in your life:
First, as you endure hard times by staying in faith, God is proving that you are a "genuine" believer. He's giving you assurance: "You're going to make it all the way home to final salvation." Assurance of faith and salvation is so encouraging. It gives us confidence to press on and not give up.
But that's not the whole purpose and plan that God has for you. He is bringing everything to a huge final act: In just "a little while ... Jesus will be revealed. And then you will appear with him (Colossians 3:4: When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory) and you will receive "praise, glory, and honor from him." I sing it to myself: "Just a few more weary days and then ..." "When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, what joy shall fill my heart." "Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King."
Paul was focused on God's plan, on the glory, when he wrote 2 Corinthians:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Do you want a life of joy? Focus on the glory!
C. FOCUS ON RELATIONSHIP - verses 8-9.
The most miserable people in the world are religious. They start wars. They are angry. They judge everyone. They hate themselves because they know they don't measure up and they're hiding it from God (they think). There's absolutely no joy in their lives. Why? Because they have religion, but they don't have a relationship with Jesus.
I love the Cornerstone because I don't know anyone in our church who is like that. This is a house of joy! I feel it every time we're together. Any time we have a guest speaker here - someone who speaks in a new church every week so they know what they're talking about - they tell me: "Peter, you have a great church. It's feels so happy." I agree.
What makes the difference? Why are we so full of joy? It's not that our lives are easy. We have all the normal hard times. This is it: we are not really into religion - we're not into rules and rituals and and guilt and failure and measuring up.
We're into something so much better: Jesus. We have a relationship with Jesus. These verses totally describe us: "We haven't seen him, but we love him." We believe in who he is, what he's done for us, what he's given us. And that fills us with joy! Peter calls it, "an inexpressible and glorious joy" because you can't really analyze it. It's beyond words. It's all about experience, encounter, engagement. It's about connecting to Jesus who is glorious.
If you want joy, focus on your relationship with Jesus. Here's what we've got to do: we've got to learn how to get back to Jesus. To simply live in his presence.
On Friday, I was reading John 13 and I read verse 1 and it body-slammed me:
John 13:1 "It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."
At the worst, most intense moment of his life, Jesus loved his own. If he loved us then, when won't he love us? When I let that soak in, I am filled with joy. Focus on Jesus' love for you. Result - joy!
The deepest joy possible is found in knowing Jesus:
Psalm 16:11 " You will fill me with joy in your presence."
Turn your heart to Jesus now. You know that religion and rules aren't working. You can't live up to your own standards let alone God's. There's a much better way. Instead of trying to climb to God, let him climb down to you in Jesus. He meets all God's standards for you. And he will fill you with joy inexpressible and full of glory. Amen!