HPC – Advent JOY 012/12/18
Reading John 15:9 – 17As the Father has loved me, so have I love you . Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my JOY may be in you and that your JOY may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one that this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made know to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.
Woody Alan said this – To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; and to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy, one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness.
I would expect the world to be so confused – but is life really about happiness?
How awesome that today we start our Advent to Christmas. Advent – the leading up to a special event. This year we are celebrating a truly Zimbabwe Christmas. No snowflakes and reindeer for us! Look, we have pine trees that were made into crates – now made into pine trees again. We have warthogs and giraffe. We have so much to be proud of as Zimbabweans. There is so much for us to truly appreciate and enJOY in this special land. Everything you will see this Christmas is Zimbabweans expressing their creativity, their hearts of JOY right here, right now. There is so much we can do with so little with the right heart – is that not the heart of Christmas. There will be more each week – so you have to come each week to see.
How many of you are looking forward to next year? That’s quite a question isn’t it? But I can’t wait to see next year – the many things that God will do. The opportunities of every single day. I have determined in my heart – to look for the JOY in everything I do – to look for God in everything – will you do the same?
Next year’s one thing, but we still have the whole of the rest of this year to know God. But we have to live this day first.
It matters not where or how we live – what matters is what the Psalms tell us;
Ps 118:24This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Of course there are days when the last thing we want to do is rejoice. Our mood is down, our situation is out of control, maybe our sorrow or guilt is overwhelming. No matter how low the Psalmists felt, they were always honest with God. And as they talked to God, their prayers ended in praise – they took their eyes off themselves and their circumstances – and looked to God. When you do not feel like rejoicing, tell God how you feel and why – then look to Him and He will give you a reason to rejoice. God has given you this day – to live, to know Him and be known – so be glad. God holds this day and every day. God holds you every secondof every day.
Our theme for this Christmas is JOY! JOY, rejoice, be glad! These words are used well over 600 times in the Bible. Most of them written during times far worse than anything we’ve ever experienced in our lifetimes.
So what really is JOY? How do we get it?
JOY to the world, the Lord has come! Let Earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room. And Heaven and nature sing.
JOY to the World, the Saviour reigns! Let men their songs employ. While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains. Repeat the sounding JOY.
He rules the world with truth and grace. And makes the nations prove. The glories of His righteousness. And wonders of His love.
We sing it. Do we believe it? Is this really, truly where our hearts are – fully focused on God and His Truth and Grace and Righteousness and Love! JOY to the world, hearts open to God, singing, Heaven and nature joining in – singing of the wonders of God!
Our God is the God of JOY! We would declare that in order to have all JOY, you need God – for God is JOY. You need to prepare room in your heart for Him. To know JOY you need to know Him. You need to receive Him. That is what this Advent is – to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus, to receive JOY.
Just before Jesus was born, John the Baptist came teaching – repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near.
The first thing we need to do to receive Jesus is repent.
Ps 51:10 – 12Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the JOY of your salvation and grant a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Because we are born sinners, our natural inclination is to please ourselves rather than God – and when we sin we know there is this terrible gap between us and God. We need to repent and ask God to cleanse us from within, clearing our hearts and spirits for new thoughts and new desires. Right conduct can come only from a clean heart and spirit. And so on this first Advent to receive JOY, we ask God to create a pure heart and spirit in us.
Has sin ever driven a wedge between you and God, making Him seem distant? David felt this way after his sin with Bathsheba – and he cried out – restore to me the JOY of your salvation. God wants us to be close to Him and to experience full and complete life, and the fullness of JOY in Him and His salvation. But sin that remains unconfessed makes such intimacy impossible. Confess your sin to God, that He may give back the JOY of your relationship with Him.
The wise men came looking for the promised King. They had followed a star that had appeared in the sky and that led them to Bethlehem.
Matt 2:10When they saw the star, they were overJOYed.
Because receiving this King was everything they lived for. What do you live for?
A mighty Angel appeared to some Shepherds, they were terrified;
Luke 2:10 – 11But the Angel said to them – do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great JOY that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.
The greatest event in history had just happened. The Messiah had been born. For centuries the Jews had waited for this, and when it finally occurred, the announcement came to humble shepherds out in the hills at night. The Good News about Jesus is that He comes for all and everyone. He comes to anyone with a heart humble enough to accept Him. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you can have Jesus in your life. Do not think you need extraordinary qualifications – He accepts you as you are. This is indeed Good News of Great JOY!
Ps 4:6- 8Many are asking – who can show us any good? Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater JOY than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Two kinds of JOY are contrasted here – inward JOY that comes from knowing and trusting God and happiness that comes as a result of pleasant circumstances – like good food and wine. Inward JOY is steady as long as we trust God – happiness is unpredictable. Inward JOY defeats discouragement; happiness covers it up for a while. Inward JOY is lasting; happiness is temporary. JOY is found in the heart, in God.
Ps 16:8 – 9I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.
David’s heart was glad – he had found the secret of JOY. True JOY is far deeper than happiness; we can feel JOY in spite of our deepest troubles. Happiness is temporary because it is based on external circumstances, but JOY is lasting because it is based on God’s presence within us. As we consider His daily presence, we will find contentment. As we understand and live for the future He has for us, we will know JOY.
If you want a book to study this Christmas period, then read Philippians – it is all about JOY.
Phil 4:4 – 7Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice. Let you gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This was written by Paul while in prison. It seems strange that a man in prison would be telling the Church to rejoice – but he was. Paul’s attitude teaches us an important lesson; our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances. Paul was full of JOY because he knew that no matter what happened to him, Jesus Christ was with him. Several times in this letter, Paul urges the Church to be JOYful, because they were not. It’s easy to get discouraged or to take unimportant events too seriously – compare any event in your life – to the God of all Creation and His Kingdom and Eternity with Him. If you haven’t been JOYful lately, you may not be looking at life from the right perspective.
Our inner JOY has so much to do with what we spend our time dwelling on. That is why Paul goes on to say;
Phil 4:8 – 9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace [JOY] will be with you.
Believers can have profound contentment, serenity, peace and JOY no matter what happens. This JOY comes from knowing Christ personally and from depending on Him and His strength, rather than our own.
In Philippians we find – JOY in suffering. JOY in serving. JOY in believing. JOY in giving. JOY in Christ.
But let’s get back to happiness – this word evokes visions of unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, strolling hand in hand with the one you love, being surprised on your birthday, an awesome travel adventure discovering new things, responding with unbridled laughter to something funny – when last did you guffaw, when last were you tickled pink. Everyone wants to be happy; we make chasing this elusive ideal a lifelong pursuit: spending money, collecting things, and searching for new experiences. But if happiness depends on our circumstances, what happens when the toys rust, loved ones die, health deteriorates, money is stolen, the party’s over? Often happiness flees and despair sets in.
In contrast to happiness stands JOY. Running deeper and stronger, JOY is the quiet, confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives – that He will be there no matter what. Happiness depends on happenings, but JOY depends on Christ.
As we begin this Advent on JOY it seems good to me that we should probably find the right definition of JOY. The best definition I’ve found so far is from John Piper;
Christian JOY is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world – [and in you]. (John Piper).
I want to add – as you see the beauty of Jesus in you.
Christian JOY is a good feeling in the soul. The body may feel the effects of that JOY. I may get butterflies in the stomach – a fresh bounce in by bungie. None of those effects in my body, is itself JOY. They spring from the JOY in my Soul.
This JOY in my Soul is produced by the Holy Spirit . In Galatians we learn the fruit of the Holy Spirit – is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control (Gal 5:22 – 23). Therefore, the JOY in my soul overflowing towards God is coming from the work of the Holy Spirit in me.
The Holy Spirit does this work by helping me to see the Glory and Beauty of Jesus.
Phil 3:1Rejoice in the Lord.
How do you rejoice in the Lord if you don’t know anything about the Lord? How do you rejoice in the Lord if you are not seeing things about the Lord that cause JOY to rise up in your heart? How do you rejoice in true JOY if you do not have the Holy Spirit – if you do not see just how beautiful Jesus is, in the Word, in the world, and in you? You need to know Him, you need to Encounter Him, you need to receive Him.
Which brings us at last to our reading;
John 15:11I have told you this so that my JOY may be in you and that your JOY may be complete.
How will your JOY be complete? By knowing Jesus loves you. By obey his commands – which is to love each other. By believing Jesus when He says – you are my friend – I have told you everything you need to know from the Father – I chose you – I appointed you.
But here’s the beautiful truth for us today – we’ve seen how our JOY is only true JOY in God. Well, Jesus’ JOY is in you. He is a God of JOY, and His greatest JOY is you! We are preparing to receive Him. He longs to receive you!
- Rom 15:13May the God of Hope fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.