WORDS OF SALVATION
© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2002
STUDY TWELVE: JOY
We now have come full circle in our studies on Words of Salvation. In the first study we saw that salvation is about incarnation: that great and incredible act in which the almighty, eternal God, stepped into time and space clothed in human flesh, revealing himself to us in a way that we can see and understand. If he had not done this we would still be in the darkness, ignorant of his true nature, worshipping, serving and fearing gods created by our own minds.
That point in time, that point at which God came to us, was a cause of joy:
Here is a twofold cause of joy: firstly, that God has come to us and made himself known, and secondly, that he has come to us as the one who saves us. These two foundations of our faith: true knowledge of God and the accompanying knowledge of salvation are historically linked in the Bible as the basis of true joy.
David experienced this joy:
Isaiah knew this joy:
Habakkuk, surrounded by every reason to despair, stated:
Grounded in knowing God and knowing his salvation Christian joy is an eternal joy. Isaiah told of 'everlasting joy' (Isaiah 35:10; 61:7) and Jesus promised 'you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy' (John 16:22). Paul calls us to centre our joy exclusively on the Lord: 'finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! ... Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!' (Philippians 3:1; 4:4). The Lord is the source, the cause and the focus of Christian joy; because he does not change, neither does the cause of Christian joy change.
There are things that change:
It is good to enjoy any good gift that God gives us and to thank him for it with joy, but it is wrong to make them the source, cause and focus of joy. Such joy is temporary and insecure. It is interesting that one of the New Testament verbs for 'rejoice' is also the word for 'glory' or 'boast'. This raises the question: what do we rejoice in? What do we glory in, or boast about?
Is the source, cause and focus of our rejoicing, our glorying, our boasting human (our possessions, our relationships, our abilities, our religious performance) or divine (God and our salvation in Jesus Christ)?
Jeremiah expressed it this way:
The joy that Jesus both promised and prayed for - 'that they may have the full measure of my joy within them' (John 17:13), this fullness of joy, this everlasting joy promised by the prophets, is ours. It is part of the salvation we have in Christ Jesus. It is 'an inexpressible and glorious joy' (1 Peter 1:9). It is a grand, confident joy, too great for words.
Why then ... behind their sometimes smiling faces and joyous expressions of worship ... do so many of today's Christians live with deep inner fears and insecurities, spiritual despair and depression, condemnation and guilt, and joyless disillusionment?
Why this despairing lack of true joy that permeates the lives of so many Christians? Why has this fear supplanted the joy promised by the angels?
Is salvation just 'pie in the sky' after all, with no present cause for joy? Does Jesus Christ have no relevance to our relationship to God here and now, but merely a rain-check hope to be cashed in at some distant and currently irrelevant future date?
Well might Isaiah cry out to this generation of the people of God:
And then remind us
Nehemiah said it well:
There is another, unexpected, aspect to joy: God himself rejoices in us:
The Lord rejoices in us: for this reason he endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Let us then rejoice in him, with hearts full of joy and gratitude let us exult with David:
For your study: check out the words 'joy', 'joyful' and 'rejoice' in a concordance and identify the cause of joy.
Personal task: when you notice your deep, inner joy disappearing, try to identify what is occupying your thoughts. Are you focusing on yourself or on the Lord and his salvation?
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