Wednesday, July 20, 2016

His Joy....Lingering On

"This is the day which the Lord has made." The words came from the Bible. But that morning in late autumn, I heard them from the lips of my high school senior English teacher. As she closed the door of the classroom, she leaned her back against it, clutching our research papers to her breast, and finished the verse, "Let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118.24) I guess she had reason to rejoice. After the entire class had failed the outlining assignment three times, we'd finally gotten it right. Quoting Scripture was, for Dr. Jordan, a classic way of expressing her delight in our accomplishment.

And isn't that another meaning of real joy? An expression of delight. A response to the Lord whose very presence fills our spirit with joy. Real joy is a deep, abiding sense of the presence of God in your life. But who can keep such an awareness to himself? When we sense His presence, we frequently respond to it with praise and delight. And we frequently share with others that which brings us delight, that which we love with more than a passing devotion. "Joy is not just the experience of God...," Lewis Smedes observed, "though being with Him in the sight of His beauty will be the ultimate joy.... There is an earthly joy, a joy of the outer as well as the inner self." This joy of the outer self is a visible expression of the joy of the inner self. It is the active rejoicing in God's presence and in His creation that we often associate with praise because praise is an expression of our delight in the Lord. "Let us rejoice and be glad!" Or as the Apostle Paul expressed it, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4.4) Or "Let the heart of those who seek the Lord rejoice!" (Psalm 105.3b)

Furthermore, we know joy not only as God's presence and God's praise, but also as God's pleasure. On more than one occasion, God said to Jesus, "This is My Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3.17; 12.18; 17.5). Why was He well pleased with Jesus? For at least two reasons. First, naturally, because Jesus was His Son; and in the very relationship, God found pleasure. Our own joy, the joy of the Christian life flows from our relationship with Jesus, and overflows into our relationships with others in Jesus Christ.

In John 15, Jesus taught the parable of the vine and the branches, stressing that such a relationship with Him is both foundational and vital. Flowing from that relationship, His joy fills our spirit and our life. He said, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15.11). He focused on two necessary features of this relationship: first, we must abide in Him (John 15.4). Basically, this means to take up residence, to continue to be present, or not to depart from Him. If we, as branches, are attached to Him, we must stay there. Second, we must abide in His love (John 15.9); and as a result of abiding in His love, we must "love one another, just as I have loved you" (John 15.12). You see, the dynamic of the relationship is mutual, Christ-like love. In fact, joy, to exist, depends on that love. God delights in His Son because He loves Him. Jesus delights in us because He loves us. We delight in Him and in each other because we love Him and we love one another.

Joy is a flower that grows only in the soil of love. Love gold, and gold will give you joy for a season. Love God, and God will fill you with His joy.

Jesus also found pleasure in His Father's eyes through obedience. And the same applies to us. Jesus said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love" (John 15.10). Obedience to His commandments deepens our love which in turn deepens our experience of His joy. Eric Liddell, winner of the gold medal in the 400 meter race of the 1924 Olympics, told his sister, "I believe that God made me for a purpose. For China. But He also made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure." When we do what God created us to do, we, too, will feel His pleasure; and we will sense His presence. In both, we will know His joy. And remember, it is His presence, His praise, His pleasure.Therefore, His joy! And we will express that joy in praise and rejoicing through His name. "This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it."

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