Friday, October 13, 2006

Where is your joy?

This is the script from the talk i gave last night at UniSurrey, thanks to those of you who helped me/sat where i could see you and smiled every time i looked at you! it's not totally what i said...i remember one point where i said mans days are like grass, and another where i was hectoring people to go read Romans 9... it's a bit of a blur.

I’ve been asked to speak on the topic of joy this evening. Whilst going through Mark’s gospel this term, every four weeks or so we’ll also be looking at the fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5:22 and 23 throughout the year. I want to say two things before I start. First of all, that when I say ‘joy’, I don’t mean pasted on, ignoring the facts, smiling even though you don’t mean it happiness. The ‘happiness’ that is so often associated with following Jesus. That’s not what Galatians 5:22-23 lists as one of the fruits of the Spirit, so that’s not what I’m going to be talking about! I’m going to talk about joy. And I’m glad we’re doing this series on the fruits of the Spirit, because they’re very important things to get our heads around! Secondly, I just want you to think for a moment about where you joy? What is it you think about when you want to feel joyful? When you want to pick yourself up? What is it that unfailingly makes you feel happy? Maybe it’s someone, and not something. Just think about that as we go through tonight.

So lets look at Luke 10:17-24. and then I’ll pray.

So lets dive into our passage at the beginning, verse 17. Just to put this into some sort of context, from the end of Chapter nine to chapter nineteen Luke’s gospel tells the story of Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. They’re exciting, grace saturated chapters that show Jesus pursuing the end of the mission He was sent to earth to fulfil. Chapter 9:51 shows us this as it says ‘when the days drew near for Him to be taken up, he set His face to go to Jerusalem’ . Jesus is going to Jerusalem. At the start of chapter 10 He sends out 72 of His followers to go and preach that verse 9 ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you’. and that’s where they’re coming back from. It is, if you like, the first short term mission trip.

Verse 17 tells us that the 72 returned with joy. They came back rejoicing and said to the Lord ‘even the demons are subject to us in your name’. Even the demons! They’ve clearly had some pretty intense experiences on the road. No wonder they were joyful. I remember when Drew, one of my best friends became a Christian in January 2005, when I heard I was downstairs in Burger King in Reading. I got a text, and probably made a bit of an idiot of myself rejoicing in that room on a busy Saturday afternoon. I certainly think I embarrassed the guy I was with a bit. But that’s what’s happening here isn’t it? I can imagine the 72 returning and you can almost see them as they turn the corner of the dusty road, two by two, as it tells us in verse 1, meeting each other again, sharing stories, experiences, victories. The nearest thing I can really equate it to is exam results day, lots of loud voices and happy shouts as they return to Jesus.

Lets look at what happens next verse 18 and 19 ‘and Jesus said to them, I saw Satan fall like lightening from Heaven I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing will hurt you. Jesus saw Satan, fall like lightening falls from Heaven. Satan had been dethroned by the work of the 72 here. He had fallen like lightening, and this is Jesus speaking, so we don’t need to worry about hyperbole. Jesus seems just as excited here as the disciples do…and its no wonder really. Jesus has given the disciples all this authority and power over everything. And the disciples have had massive success. I spoke about when Drew became a Christian…well imagine if when the CU runs Christianity Explored this term we see hundreds of people saved, we see people who we’d never imagine coming to Christ becoming members of a local church and active participants in on-campus mission. So is that is? Is that what the Holy Spirit will use to produce joy in us? Is that what we mean by joy being a fruit of the Spirit? Jesus doesn’t seem to think so, and here is, I think, the crux of what produces joy in us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, verse 20 nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in the Kingdom of Heaven

Jesus tells them directly not to rejoice that the spirits are subject to them…not to rejoice that they’ve just had an amazing time of evangelism out on the road, not to rejoice that they’ve seen people saved, not to rejoice that Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven like lightening. It’s interesting that Jesus even mentions this fact then isn’t it? If He wants the disciples not to rejoice in something, why mention it…why make it seem even better? Because, I think, He wants to show Christians the value having our names written in Heaven. Having your name written in Heaven is better than seeing satan fall , better than having hundreds of people come to Christ, better than seeing your best friend saved, better it seems here that anything else. Rejoice, says Jesus, your names are written in Heaven. Is this where your joy is this evening? That your names are written in heaven? Is that where you come back to when everything is going badly? Is that what you focus on when everything is going well? That your names are written in Heaven? And do you see why this joy is so important, so all surpassing, so vital to the Christian life? Because having your name written in Heaven will never change. It is permanent. When Jesus said on the cross that ‘it is finished’ He meant it. All our joy in other things in life is fleeting. Joy in new possessions will fade, joy in good grades will fluctuate and cause you more stress than joy anyway, joy in other people, in relationships is risky and paper thin, because those people could do something tomorrow that God will never do.

They could wake up and change their minds. God will never do that, He is not like that. Our joy in Heaven can be a confident joy, a joy that leads us to live fully and recklessly for the name of Jesus. A joy that will see us give our whole lives to Him knowing that, Romans 8:38 neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor any powers, nor height not depth nor anything else is all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ Isn’t that an awesome promise?

So we need to stop and ask ourselves why. Why is having our names written in Heaven what Jesus offers as our ultimate cause for joy. What, in other words is so great about having yr name in Heaven? What is the greatest thing that the cross achieved? Just think about that for a moment. In his book ‘God is the Gospel’, the author John Piper wrote this ‘the critical question…is this.: if you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict and natural disasters, could you be satisfied in Heaven, if Christ wasn’t there?’

And I hope and pray the answer to that question is a resounding no. The best thing about eternal life, is that it gives us eternal enjoyment of Christ. An eternity to worship by enjoying Him. And eternity to do what we were created to do. Jesus didn’t die to give us an easy life, or joy for its own sake, Jesus was hung on a cross that we might have a relationship with God the Father, that we might have unity with and in God the Son. That’s what the cross achieved. Eternal life is good news because it becomes the everlasting enjoyment of Christ. Revelation 21:23 tells us that the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it for the Glory of God gives its light, and it’s lamp is the Lamb. The glory of God is the light of Heaven, is the sun (s u n) of Heaven. Christ is at the centre of Heaven…there can be no concept of heaven without Him there. This is why it is worth having your names written in the Kingdom of Heaven, Not so that we escape Hell, although that is a very, very good thing, but the ultimate end of the cross is not so we could enjoy ourselves with our friends for an eternity, not so we could have a good time, but so we might enjoy Christ forever. So we might have intense, overwhelming joy in Heaven with Christ. And have that joy increase forever and ever and ever. And until we get this, until we realise what the cross achieved ultimately, and what that means for us…living as a Christian will be such a struggle. Not that it’s not a struggle anyway…but sin looks a whole lot less attractive when you compare it with Christ.

I think joy is vital for Christian perseverance. Vital. The reason why we sin is because we don’t have enough joy in the Lord, because we don’t choose to believe, or that we don’t believe full stop in God’s wonderful promises to us, one of which was mentioned before. Isn’t that the case? That we sin because we think it will make us happy? Because our joy in the Lord is so thin that we think we have to do something other than enjoy Him to make ourselves feel satisfied. The famous Christian author CS Lewis puts it like this at the start of his sermon ‘the weight of glory’: if there lurks in most modern minds a notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics, because it has no place in the Christian faith. Indeed if we consider the unblushing promises of reward found in the Gospel, and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires too weak, not too strong. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slums, because he can’t imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the beach. We are far too easily pleased.’ And that’s true isn’t it? That the reason we mess around with sex and drugs and ambition is because we can’t imagine that there is anything better. We stay in our filthy slums, messing around in the mud because we don’t know what the beach is like. We keep sinning and relying on things apart from the Lord to satisfy us. And actually what we’re doing is driving ourselves further and further from that which will satisfy us…Jesus is all satisfying, all encompassing, He is enough, He will help you to persevere to the end. Look again at verse 20. Jesus is effectively saying rejoice in nothing else…and if Jesus is saying ‘don’t rejoice in people’s salvation’ I think we can take it as read that He is also saying ‘don’t rejoice in possessions, or in other people or sexual activity or in alcohol or in however many of the other things that we all look to for joy and happiness and security. He is saying don’t do it. Have your greatest joy as this: That your names are written in Heaven.

And we’ll need the help of the Holy Spirit in this. In Ephesians 3:17 and 18 Paul prays that his readers might grasp how long and high and wide and deep is the love of Christ. The love of Christ is all satisfyingly glorious. We need to help of the Holy Spirit to enjoy this gift of the Holy Spirit. So we need to pray that our joy in our salvation would increase, and that our fleeting, Christ diminishing gratification in other things, no matter what they are, would decrease.

Verse 21 sees Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. He rejoices because the Father’s gracious will is to reveal Himself to people regardless of social or religious standing…that’s why the gospel is being spread by tax collectors and fishermen, because of the Father’s sovereign will.

But the question is how do you get this joy? Look at verse 21.

In this prayer Jesus thanks the Father that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children. You see? You won’t get your name written in Heaven, with all the joy that goes along with that by being wise, or by understanding things. Who are the wise people? Who has the influence? Gates, Dawkins, Blair, Branson... these people have wealth, power and wisdom. And its the Media that tells us what matters, look at the news for example: nuclear tests in North Korea, important... people being born again – not important... Everyone wants to be wise about something: gamblers want to know how to bet... football managers want to know how to win... but what people really need to know is Jesus – and IQ, money, power or fame can't get you that. Only Jesus can reveal himself to you.

Verse 22 shows us that it is Jesus who is ultimately supreme in this: all things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is, except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. So, as it says in Romans 9:9 it relies on God, not on human effort.

We can only know Jesus as he reveals himself – in His Word and because he dies in our place. Verse 21 and 24 are a tremendously encouraging end to these events:

Jesus says blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
There is nothing better than to have Jesus revealed to you! Nothing. It’s what David and Solomon longed for... its what Isaiah and Ezekiel thirsted for... the disciples get to know what generations longed for... and because of that their names are written in heaven! They have the joy of Jesus forever!!

And how does that joy grow... As we delight in the promises of God in the Word of God – Jesus speaking to us.... 2 Corinthians 3:18 is a precious verse to me – and it says: we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed from one degree of glory to another. And this comes from the Lord, who is Spirit. God's word changes us! God's Spirit grows joy in us! This is the Spirit's fruit in believers! You can't make it happen anymore than you can find Jesus for yourself – Jesus reveals himself to us in his word, and the Holy Spirit grows joy in us – so grasp hold of and delight in the truth that your name is written in heaven! Delight that you'll spend eternity seeing and savouring Jesus - that joy is the mark of authentic Christianity.

1 comment:

Cat said...

It was Awesome!! AWESOME!!

We have the Joy of eternity....eternity WITH God!!! Dwelling in Him, saturated in His Glory.... "Christ is all!" Colossians 3:11!

YES!!!!! glad my smiling helped hehehe!