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. Enduring joy

ENDURING JOY

 

Introduction.

Two weeks ago, we started the New Year with a sermon on ‘Enduring Hope’. We saw that we have a hope that is anchored in heaven in the throne room of God where Christ is seated. Our take on it was that ‘hope is our only anchor’ and ‘our only anchor is hope’. You need to read the sermon on the Web to discover my approach on it. Last week we saw that we have an ‘Enduring Word’. All Scripture is God breathed and useful. That is why we stand on the Word of God, Old and New Testament as our only authority for our total faith and conduct. Today I want to remind us again early in the New Year that we have an ‘Enduring Joy.’

Paul says: Philippians 4:4 (ESV) 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

Now, you all know my commitment to expository preaching and handling the Word of God in context, but today I am going to use this verse as a springboard into a totally different pool of information and not focus on Phil 4:4 in context. The reason is that there is so much to steal our joy. So many Christians become despondent because there is not much to rejoice in. At home front we have trials, as a nation we have trials, at work we have trials, in our economy we have trials. So, there is not much to rejoice in.

So, for today I want to give you something solid to hang on to, to hold on to, to be anchored in to. John Piper has this unique way of saying things. I wish I had his giftedness. He makes a super statement on joy which I think is worth pondering on.


"God’s ultimate aim is to glorify himself by redeeming a people whose supreme and eternal joy will be to share in God’s joy in God.”

Think about that statement. If your eternal joy is in politics, it will fail you. If your eternal joy is in your home and money, it will not sustain you. If your eternal joy is in your body, don’t get old. If your eternal joy is living in South Africa, well then move to Australia. If your eternal joy is then found in living in Australia, move to South Africa. If your eternal joy is found in your work, let me remind you that no man has ever been on his death bed saying: “I wish I spent more time at work.”

The only secure place you can find enduring joy is to rejoice in the Lord always, but if God is not a joyful God, but an eternally angry Father, then you have no joy to find in God. So, for me to find joy in God, God must me joyful Himself and rejoice in Himself, as He is the supreme object of joy. So, our ultimate goal in rejoicing in the Lord always is only met if God is a joyful God, and whether we are willing to glorify God as our greatest joy, because then, and only then will we be able to share in His joy.

The question is then this. Is God joyful, and considering our suffering, what has God to teach us regarding being joyful in the face of sin and suffering?

What does God rejoice in that we can share with enduring joy in Him?

Point 1. God rejoices in His creation.

Psalm 104:31 (ESV)31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works,”

It is time that we take our eyes off the concrete jungles and fix our eyes on that which He made. All heavens declare the glory of God, and His glory endures forever, and He rejoices in the work of His hands, and when you and I look up to the stars we are mindful that God’s creation is much bigger than me.

Even the angels rejoice in God’s creation. Job 38:4-7 (ESV) 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

I believe that for His own joy and His own glory, God keeps creation together, and you and I need to rejoice in what He has made, as it reveals Him to us.

2. God rejoices in all his works.

Psalm 135:6 (ESV) 6 Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”

God does things for His pleasure. Another way to say it is God does everything for His joy.

Psalm 115:3 (ESV) 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

Isaiah 46:10 (ESV) 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose (or pleasure),’”

Jeremiah 9:24 (ESV) 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

If you want to know true joy, rejoice in what God rejoices in, what God delights in, and it is amazing the difference it will make in your life. God practices and rejoices or delights in steadfast love, justice and righteousness. When you see a world gone wrong, it is because it is the opposite of God’s desire, and therefore we battle to rejoice in it.

Looking at God, He rejoices in what He does, and He does what He rejoices in. So, to rejoice in the Lord always, will require that we live up to a standard where our joy has a firm foundation in God alone, and that we will be able to rejoice in all that we do, as it is fixated in what is right.

3. God rejoices in the good He does for us.

Listen what God says: Jeremiah 32:41 (ESV) 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” He is talking about Israel here. How much more that we are in Christ will God not do good for us.

James says in James 1:17 (ESV) 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God does not change; He did good to Israel and He does good to us.

One of the greatest gifts we have received we read about in Luke 12:32 (ESV) 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Just think about it. Before you start losing your joy in this physical world, remember that God brought you from darkness to light, from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God, from blindness to sight, and it is with that sight that we see the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Rejoice, Christian rejoice. God for the sake of His own joy, has delivered us from eternal damnation.

4. God rejoices in our prayers.

Before we pray, God knows what we are going to pray. God does not need our prayers, we need to pray, because it shows our utter awareness of God, our utter dependence on God and our utter celebration of God. Paul reminds us to pray. Let’s start again with Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV) and see how it plays into the hands of prayer. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

There is a direct link between God rejoicing in our prayers, and our rejoicing in God.

Proverbs 15:8 (ESV) 8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.” The NASB says: “the prayer of the upright is His delight.”

Our prayers are a fragrance to God.  Revelation 5:8 (ESV) 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

5. God rejoices in the obedience of his people.

Did you know that God rejoices more in the obedience of His servants than in our sacrifices? 1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

Paul does see the giving to him by the Philippian church so that he can do the work of the ministry in the same light. Philippians 4:18 (ESV) 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.When we give to the work of the Lord, it fills God with joy.

6. God rejoices in His people.

Psalm 147:11 (ESV) 11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) 17 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.”

Church family, before we were formed in our mother’s womb, He knew us. Before the foundation of the world, He chose us in Christ. While we were yet sinners God saved us in Christ. The more we sin, the more His grace becomes. Do we think that God would rejoice over His nation Israel, but not over those who are saved in His Son? This leads us to:

7. God rejoices in his Son.

The deepest root of his delight in his people is his delight in his Son — the image of his own glory, the person with his own name. Because what makes his people delightful as per our previous point is our conformity to the image of his Son. Paul reminds us of that Romans 8:29 (ESV) 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

God sees us as a beautiful bride for His Son. Ephesians 5:27 (ESV) 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Conformity to the glory of the Son is the most splendid beauty the bride could have.

So, God’s joy in the Son is at the root of his joy in the church. And his joy in the Son is the deepest and highest and most original joy in God. Remember the words of God to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew 17:5 (ESV) 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” These are the same words that God uttered at the Baptism of Christ.

Only the Son of God was with God from all eternity. Only He is the deepest, highest, most original joy in the soul of God. All other joys derive from this.

Then we get to our last point. Early on I reminded you that God even rejoices in trials. Here in point 8 we see the complexity of God’s emotional life on full display in the cross of Christ and the foundation of the gospel.

8. God rejoices in the sacrifice of his Son.

Isaiah 53:10 (ESV) 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord [The Lord was pleased]  to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will [or good pleasure] of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”

The Hebrew verb haphaz (“the Lord was pleased”) has the regular meaning of to delight in or to wish or to prefer, not simply to will or purpose. There are other Hebrew words that could be used if that were the only intention. The Lord “was pleased” to crush him (KJV, NASB).

How do we respond to such a joy in God?

Well, Christ shared in that joy. Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And we share that joy. Romans 5:11 (ESV) 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

We need to look at our trials differently, and ask ourselves, what joy can come out of this?

Let’s learn from God. Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV) 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We see this fragrant offering coming through time and again.

There is a mystery in the joy of God sacrificing His Son. Part of what made the death of Jesus pleasing to the Father was Jesus’s willingness to fall under the Father’s infinite displeasure. If Jesus had not willingly endured the forsaking displeasure of his Father, the Father would have taken no pleasure in the death of the Son. The entire saving achievement of the cross demands both.

Here we learn a great mystery about the joy of the Lord for us in our trials. It is not a simple thing — any more than Paul’s was a simple thing. Paul had many trials. But listen what He says in 2 Corinthians 6:10 (ESV) 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

In summary.

Let us learn from God. Though God is grieved every hour of every day by sinning Christians (Ephesians 4:30), and though he is angered every hour of every day by rebellious unbelievers (Psalm 7:11), nevertheless the totality of his infinite joy is not diminished but rather served by the perfection of his responses to all things. And so you and I in a world that does not give us much to rejoice in, should find our joy in the Lord, in our willingness to love Him and serve Him even when we are sorrowful, that we will always be rejoicing. And as we look at the world around us, let us learn to respond right and with joy despite all the reasons thrown at us to lose our joy.

I trust that as we end this sermon today, that you can say with Nehemiah of old after their 6-hour long sermon at the Watergate: Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV) 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 19 January 2020