Don’t Overlook Joy.

There is no greater sorrow, than a non-blogger who hears that it is his week to write the HTC blog post. Such was my fate this morning.  I just completed a couple pages of truly horrid blogging when i asked myself what I actually wanted to talk about. I texted Kate, our amazing HTC Mondovi worship leader, for confirmation and she sent me back a GIF of a girl dancing with “JOY” in big letters. She followed it with, “Did you seriously not think of that? Serena and I both said ‘joy’ at the same time!” Serena is her daughter and is growing into an amazing worship leader in her own right at Catalyst Mondovi. If you attend the Eau Claire campus, this paragraph is probably a throw a way. However, in Mondovi, it is well known that I frequently speak on Joy. It’s all about the joy. Joy in Jesus. Our future joy in heaven gives real life-sustaining joy in our present. Since we are in the midst of the generations series, and I am going through Joy withdrawals this further cemented my blog theme: joy.

Throughout the epistles, joy is listed as THE sustaining force of ministry. Even in the midst of hardship, trials, discipline, persecution, or spiritual attacks we have joy. 1 Peter 1 tells us, in fact, we are to have “pure joy” in the face of any hardship life can throw our way.

When speaking about the Lord “doing it again” we can look at Hebrews 12: 1-2 for reference,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

In this passage, the testimony of the power of God is working through the faith of ordinary men. Chapter 12 was intended to spur on the readers to believe in God for the miraculous, and to do it again in their day. We hold tight to the belief that our God is no respecters of persons, and our great God desires to glorify His name through us if we would only, like those in chapter 12, have faith. This motivation and excitement leads those who grab hold of it, to throw off the world, sin, and distraction, and set off towards advancing the kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 2, explains how: we fix our eyes upon Jesus, right? Don’t we need to hear testimonies of God’s power, but do not model what they did? Or should we try to look for a secret Christian formula? No. We fix our eyes squarely on Christ Jesus, and humbly yet boldly proclaim, “I, too, will be used by you. What do you have for me Lord?”

It is Jesus we examine, and the picture of Him that the inspired author of Hebrews was a… crucified Christ. It was meant to encourage and captivate the newly zealous followers. With Good Friday right around the corner, there could be no better example. What enabled our Lord, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith? What kept Him on the cross? What allowed our glorious King to not just endure the shameful treatment… but actually scorn that shame?

JOY. For the joy set before Him. The knowledge that He would soon return to perfect union and intimacy with His Father and again be seated in glory gave Him joy. The joy was both future, “set before Him”, and I believe streaming back, as it were, to Himself, even on the cross.

As believers, we know that our hope is in heaven. We know that this is not our home, and our reward is not here, but stored up for us in heaven. However, in the past month I have heard dozens of people (pastors, lay ministers, those in ministry, and other Christians) express a distaste for this truth. These various expressions that could be summed up with a, ”that’s not good enough I want the treasures, the blessings, the financial reward, the glory… now!”

We have I think, lost our joy, or perhaps never truly found it. For joy in Christ is supposed to be a vibrant, life giving, trial conquering, hope inspiring, and faith solidifying centrality of our lives.

Where do we find our joy? How is it restored? At the cross. Not a generic, “find it in Jesus.” But a specific, at the cross, as in “a crucified savior.” From Hebrews 12, we fix our eyes on a crucified King.

I would also encourage you to read Psalm 51. Do it. Done? Good. In it we see David discovering the wonder of being forgiven by the Lord. But it took being broken, and truly acknowledging his sin, and its wickedness.

Afterwards, there is a wonder, awe, and gratitude in forgiveness that fills him. He expectantly exclaims, “Return unto me the JOY of my salvation.” With that, he rejoices, he preaches to unbelievers, he offers right sacrifices, and he praises his great God. Joy in the Lord is everything. It gives us strength to persevere through trials, it keeps us from sin because our greatest treasure and pleasure is found in Christ. It gives us the staying power to finish the race, and it gives us effectiveness in witnessing, because we radiate the life giving joy and hope that a dying world is desperate for.

This joy is found at the cross. It is only when we recognize our sin for what it is, do we truly recognize our Savior for who He is, and our salvation for what it is. The gift of salvation is only truly glorious when we humbly admit how truly undeserving of it we are. This is the heart of 1 Peter 1: 8-9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Why are they filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy? Because, they are being saved! To the extent we water down our salvation, or skip the unpleasant stench of our sin, or simply add Christ to a host of hobbies, we miss out on the JOY of our salvation. The Bible reminds us that “those who are forgiven much love much.” This is not to imply that only real bad dudes are forgiven much and so they love God more and have greater passion for His name. No, we are all real bad dudes. We have all been forgiven, both past and present,  far more than we care to admit. And that forgiveness was bought by the life of God’s Son. That truth, if embraced should fill us with inexpressibly and glorious joy. Does it? If it doesn’t we need to return to the cross.

I believe it is only with this attitude will we again, “see it again in our day.” For the gospel requires servants who are willing to serve, sacrifice, endure hardships, pray, intercede, to give above their means, to speak life when they are in crisis, and to in place their Jesus above themselves. Just read the end of Hebrews 11. The only way we can be this kind of serving, persevering and conquering church is to embrace and glory in the truth that we have been given indescribably more than we deserve. The nourishment for such servants, is none other than life giving joy, that springs forth from knowing that we, deserving of death, have been redeemed by a King who chose a cross over a throne in order to bring us to God. That truth MUST fill us will inexpressible and glorious joy.

If you think this is long, you should listen to one of my sermons. :)  Finally. The humble contemplation of the cost of our salvation should give us tremendous hope in the miraculous and lead us to truly believe the cry, “Lord, do it again in our day.” The miracle done to save your soul was far harder, far costlier, and immeasurably greater than moving a mountain or creating a world. And when we internalize this, Romans 8:32 comes alive — “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

He already did the hard thing; the impossible thing, the giving of His beloved Son for the salvation of our souls. Every other promise you are believing for is as nothing compared to that. He gave you a mansion, of course He will give you a coffee, too. Whatever you are believing for, whatever miracle, biblical promise, or move of God, believe for it, faith fueled by Joy that the God who purchased your salvation at the cost of His Son will deliver, because He has already given the literal best thing imaginable.

This resurrection season, I would encourage you to cling to the cross. Do not be to quick to embrace forgiveness without repentance, glory without the shame, or jump from sinner to sonship without a thought. It is only in the realization that we don’t deserve anything, that our salvation becomes truly glorious and life giving. Pursue joy. If you will wage one battle this week, fight for your joy and pleasure in Christ above all else.

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