When I get pregnant, I’ll have joy.
When I _________, I’ll have joy.
What’s your fill in the blank “if x, then joy” formula? Mine was a baby. Before that it was a house. Before that it was marriage. Before that it was engagement. Before that it was graduation. Before that it was college. Before that it was a volleyball championship. Before that it was a relationship, a friend, a car, new school clothes, a vacation. My synthetic joy factory has been a bustling business. Lights were always on, steam was always blowing out of the smoke stacks, the hum of the machinery heard in the distance.
I’m shutting my factory down. There’s been a whole lot of layoffs. Faint is the hum of the machinery. There’s no more smoke billowing into the sky. Windows and doors are being boarded up. My synthetic joy factory is closing for business. I’m shutting down shop.
I’ve found something better. I bet you can guess what it is. Or, more appropriately, “who” it is.
Yup, my triune Dad. God the Father. Christ the Son. Holy Spirit. Three in one. They’ve got the inside information on real joy. No synthetics, no artificial flavors, no preservatives. True joy.
“Be joyful in hope.” (Romans 12:12) We are on #9 in Paul’s “Marks of True Christian” from Romans 12:9-21.
I think we’re all pretty good at keeping our synthetic joy factories up and running. We hire the employees, we stock the shelves, and we work extremely hard to keep production at all time highs. But what we do when we’ve got the object of our labor in our hands? Is it fair to say that the joy itself was fleeting? I mean, I’ve found great joy in my marriage. I’ve found great joy in owning dogs. I’ve found great joy in my friends and family. But I still long for something more. So, if you’re anything like me (gosh I hope you’re not), you begin creatively strategizing to produce the next magic bullet.
“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2a)
Over and over again in the Bible the writers focus on one “simple” statement. Rejoice in the Lord. It’s the theme of Philippians 4. It’s a major theme in the OT. It’s a major theme in the NT.
“…you shall rejoice before the Lord your God…” (Leviticus 23:40b)
“…you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 12:7b)
Over and over and over again rejoicing is found in the Psalms.
“The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice…Rejoice in the Lord, O you righetous, and give thanks to his holy name.” (Psalm 97:1a, 12)
Want to know what else is cool? Not only is rejoicing in God a theme in the Bible, but God rejoicing over US is also a major theme. In the OT, we see that God rejoices over the future hope (coming in Jesus) for His children. Here are just two examples:
“…as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5b)
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
Additionally, we’re told in Luke 15:3-10 that there is great rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)
But here’s something really interesting. There is only one place in Scripture where Jesus we have it recorded that Jesus actually rejoices. This is not to say that Jesus was not a man of joy; He was. Jesus absolutely talks about joy: future joy in the Kingdom, joy in heaven, the joy that He had face to face with the Father in eternal glory which one day He will share with those that come to heaven. But only in one place does it say that Jesus rejoiced. We know that Jesus was a man of sorrows. He was hated, He was mocked, He was accused, He was chastised, and eventually He was charged, beaten, whipped, spat upon, crucified and murdered. So if we are shown a moment where He rejoices, you better believe we ought to hone in on it. So what makes Jesus rejoice?
We’re in Luke 10. Jesus appoints seventy two and sends them out ahead of him two-by-two into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Upon their return, they are filled with joy saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17b). Jesus responds: “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. 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. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20)
And then it says,
“In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit…
and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and have revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.’” (Luke 10:21)
Jesus rejoices. What makes Jesus rejoice?
The fulfillment of the Father’s will. God’s plan, come to earth, being fulfilled through Himself, through the Holy Spirit, through the disciples. People responding to Truth. The sovereign, divine, perfect plan of the Father. That’s what brings Jesus joy.
And here, we have Jesus encouraging the disciples to not be caught up primarily in enJOYing results of ministry, but rather in the fact that their names were written in heaven (the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan, His rescue mission to save us from Satan and sin). Jesus wants us to have eternal joy, His joy. As He prepares to face the cross, Jesus is talking to his Dad and regarding joy He says, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:13) He wanted us to have His joy. Not a temporal synthetic factory joy, but an eternal joy.
1 John talks about our joy being complete. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m shutting down shop for. That’s what I need. None of this temporary crap. None of this joy built on circumstances and people junk. None of this here today gone tomorrow joy. Do you know what I’m saying? I want permanent joy. I want joy that trumps sorrow. Joy that trumps stuff. Joy that trumps broken relationships. Joy that trumps this busted, sin-wracked, death and disease filled world.
1 John 1:1-4:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things SO THAT OUR JOY MAY BE COMPLETE.”
Back to Isaiah 55. We talked about bread that isn’t real bread and labor that doesn’t satisfy. Here’s the chapter in its entirety. I love it.
1 ”Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
6 ”Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 ”For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 ”For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Regarding verse twelve, “The prophet concludes both this chapter and all of chapters 40-55 with a vision of the triumph of God’s grace, when the effects of sin and the fall are rectified and ‘the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (ESV Study Bible) Good news should bring great joy.
The bottom line:
Joy comes from the gospel.
Gospel means “good news.” Here’s some good news. Jesus.
Jesus had just been born. An angel appears to the shepherds in the fields saying, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) That’s good news. Very good news.
…the effects of sin and the fall are rectified…
…creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption…
…obtain the freedom and the glory of the children of God…
“I bring you news of GREAT JOY that will be for ALL the people.”
I have some extra boards and a “Closed” sign for your factory if you want to borrow them.