The Evangelical Herald
The Joy of the Lord
The Christian story is a story of joy! In Christ's first advent, the angel told the shepherds to rejoice because a Savior was born (Lk 2:10). At the birth of Jesus, all the heavens rejoiced (Isa 44:23). The angels broke into song praising God. Why was there so much rejoicing at the birth of Jesus? It was the fulfillment of God's promise that the Messiah would come bringing life and light. "The people that lived in darkness saw a great light" (Isa 9:2). Jesus brought liberty, truth, and hope to a world that had lost its purpose of existing.
Through the centuries the Christian church has especially rejoiced when it remembers the events of the first Christmas. However, the world too has adopted this event as a special time to have a "merry" and happy time. Does the world experience the same kind of joy as the Christian? Is there any difference between the joy of the unbeliever and the Christian, not only in Christmas, but also throughout the year? What is the difference between the joy as expressed in the Bible and the common understanding of joy?
Jesus told His disciples that He wanted His joy to be in us (John 15:9-14)( John 17:13). The Bible does not describe how Jesus expressed His Joy, but it does give us many reasons why He was joyful. A life of obedience, love, worship and sacrifice brought joy to our Lord. The apostle Paul said that believers and their fruit of the spirit were his joy (Phil 2:2-3). The apostle John said that fellowshipping with each other and with Jesus was his joy (1 John 1:3-4).
In our world where "fun" is pretty much the god of youth, it is important for a young person to come to understand the real joy of life. This joy is not governed by the likes and dislikes of man. It is not about you or me; it's all about Him. The truth is that the joy of the Lord is something that only His true, born-again, followers can experience. This joy does not come through our making -- it comes as a supernatural gift. It is a joy that is not depended upon external factors or during certain times. Unlike the world's "good times" or "happy times", the joy of the Lord can not be manufactured. The unbeliever can not understand the joy of the Lord, to them "joy" needs to be manufactured. They need the tools of "party time" -- noise, dance, releasing the inhibitions through the hypnotic means of drugs, liquor, and loud, deafening rock music. Their joyful time is limited to how long they can sustain the ambience that they have manufactured.
To Christian young persons of today, when they hear the word "joy", they immediately think of music. Strange as it may seem, the New Testament writings do not mention music as a means of joy. In fact, the word "music' only appears once in the NT, whereas the word "joy", or its derivatives, appears about 105 times. Consistent with the idea that joy of the Lord can not be manufactured, the only time in the New Testament that music is mentioned has to do with making music in the heart (Eph 5:19-20). Apparently, music is not a requisite to experience the joy of the Lord. What is a requisite is that we have the nature of God in us. When God's spirit abides in us, we experience the nature of God in our life. The very nature of God in us is what brings us the joy of the Lord. Having His nature in us means that our expressions of joy will be consistent and within His character. We can not use the tools of God's enemy to manufacture a false sense of joy.
When a person comes to understand what the difference is between the "joy of the Lord" and the "joy of the world", that is when he has taken a giant step of faith. When a person understands that there is a difference between how the world expresses its kind of joy and how God wants us to express our joy, that is when he or she has come to a better understanding what holiness is. The things that bring joy to God is the joy of the Lord. Jesus rejoices to see His people live in obedience. Jesus rejoices to see His family in unity. Jesus rejoices to see His people humbly being used to reconcile the world unto Himself. Jesus rejoices to see His Father's Name glorified through service.
The Christian's joy is a sense of real fellowship with God, our Father, as we experience love and peace in our hearts. It is experienced when we are involved in loving service to God. It is best expressed by putting love into action as we worship Him in spirit and in truth. Let us not try to imitate the way the world expresses its joy; let us ask the Lord for His nature to come upon us so that we may indeed have His joy. Let us fulfill Christ's desire to have His joy in us. Let us join with the angels in experiencing the real joy -- truly rejoicing that we have received a Savior that has given us life eternal, a new nature, and His Spirit through the merits of His sacrifice.