Joy: Definition, Source, Beauty, Benefits: Part I
Introduction: The Bible is neglected as the source to define joy. This ten-part series Joy: Definition, Source, Beauty, Benefits discusses God’s perspective on joy. A proper understanding of Joy: its definition, source, beauty and benefits is much needed.in our psychologized world. The phrase – rejoice in the Lord – is a common command in the Bible. The command indicates that a person has the capacity to rejoice. Is that biblical truth applicable to everyone? No! Only the believer can and will rejoice in the Lord. Only has had a heart change ad is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Both of those are required to fulfill the command: rejoice in the Lord. It is a major theme in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The command teaches several non-negotiable truths that move to the heart of our subject: joy: definition, source, beauty, benefits. These include: One: a person has the capacity to rejoice independent of circumstances; two: the act of rejoicing is a whole-person response and involves thoughts and desires about self, God, and the circumstances; three: a person can rejoice and trust either in the Lord or in something or someone other than the Lord (Psalm 46:10; Proverbs 3:5-8).
The command recognizes the biblical teaching regarding antithetical thinking and the doctrine of two ways. Throughout Scripture the Holy Spirit uses the motif of contrast: right – wrong; saved – unsaved; light – darkness; truth-falsehood, wisdom – foolishness, clean – unclean, and joy – dissatisfaction and discontent. Among other truths, the Bible teaches that joy is relational – it is dependent on a relationship. It is most closely associated with the believer’s fellowship with God through the Son by the Holy Spirit and his relationship with fellow believers (2 John 12; Philippians 3:1; 4:4, 10). True joy springs forth from a proper relationship to God and to others. Moreover, joy is rational; it is associated with thoughts – a person’s thinking – about God, self, others, and life which is God’s providence.
Inherent in the concept of biblical joy is the idea of enjoyment and most specifically of enjoying God. The concept of joy carries with it an emotive and a subjective aspect. It is associated with the theme of satisfaction and delight. Joy rightly understood begins vertically – toward and with God – and moves horizontally – to others. Specifically, the way one rejoices and enjoys God is by being gripped by Him. Simply defined, gripped by the greatness of God is the growing realization of and the response to the reality of Who God is and what He has done, is doing, and will do (Psalm 34:8; Philippians 3:7-11). It is juxtaposed closely to fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord can be defined as the dominating awareness that this God’s world and that He has something to say and do with how it is run and how I live in it. Joy of the Lord involves losing everything for the surpassing privilege and blessing of knowing the Triune God as the Supreme Being (Philippians 3:7-11). Every believer has the capacity of to rejoice because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Joy is one of His gifts (Galatians 5:22-23).
Joy is radical and supernatural because God has done miraculously remarkable things: redemption accomplished through the active and passive obedience of Christ and redemption applied by the Holy Spirit – salvation which includes regeneration – the new birth – and growth in Christlikeness – sanctification. Joy: definition, source, beauty, and benefits is multifactorial and pushes the believer to reality of the Triune God.
Said another way, joy is a deep-seated satisfaction and inner contentment in the fact that God is God, a Being like no other who creates, controls, sustains, redeems, and brings to consummation His glory and the good of His people. The term deep-seated refers to the capacity of the whole person – the inner man, primarily the heart and the outer-man especially the brain.
God’s agenda is Intratrinitarian (working out the Triune God’s plan) in design, scope, and effectiveness, is being accomplished, and will reach consummation when Jesus returns. Believers are made partakers of these theological truths. As a result, he develops the mindset a biblical mindset about God and His control which is antithetical to the culture’s counterfeit wisdom. Joy involves proper thinking about God and self and the application of biblical truth rightly motivated. Joy flows from and ushers in a humble, confident trust in God and His good control. Joyfully, biblical truth is the believer’s grid for evaluating circumstances not vice versa. A response to the circumstance is a response to God. Therefore the believer responds to his situations and others in a radically different manner than he did as an unbeliever. He does not depend on feelings, experience, or reason divorced from biblical truth as his interpretative grid. Proper knowledge of Joy: its definition, source, beauty, benefits is a necessity for the abundant life (John 10:10-14).
Moreover, joy is an attitude of confidence that is expressed in thoughts, desires, and actions that is based on the non-negotiable truth that God’s plan, promises, purpose, presence, power, and provisions for every believer and His Church are sure and certain. What is best for God is best for the Church and the believer. Joy is a whole-person activity – inner and outer man – that controls and results from one’s thoughts, desires, and actions toward God, others, and circumstances. Therefore, joy is not dependent on people or circumstances but rather on the God of circumstances.
1. According to Psalm 16:5-11, Psalm 33:21, and Nehemiah 8:10, where does joy come from?
2. What characteristics of God did David emphasize in Psalm 16 that led him to be joyful?
3. What does each of these psalms say is the reason for joy and what is the result in the psalmist’s life? Psalm 5:11; 40:16; 51:12; 63:11; 64:10; 86:4; 90:15; and 92:4.
4. How will you apply these truths in your life? Be specific.
Joy: Definition, Source, Beauty, Benefits: Part II
A Whole-Person Activity
In the last blog I defined joy as an attitude of confidence, a deep-seated satisfaction and contentment that God is God; He is trustworthy, and He is working in all things for His glory and the good of the believer. Joy is a whole-person activity – thoughts, desires, and actions.
Joy is the result of proper thinking and wanting. Joy is not simply a feeling. Based on the anatomic fact that the limbic portion of the brain (the so-called emotional seat) and the frontal cortex are connected and thereby linked, it is said that feelings and thoughts are related. Change one’s thoughts and one changes his feelings (often called emotions). Such is the claims of such interventions as mindfulness therapy and cognitive therapy. These facts are correct anatomically. But what does that mean? As stated in science books, these facts leave no room for the whole person. Man is viewed as a material, physical being. It gives credence to the person’s inner-man and God’s creational activity. What science proclaims as something new is not new at all. The Bible teaches that thinking and wanting occur in both the inner man as well as the outer man.
In the Bible, the most common for the inner man is the heart. Therefore the call is to guard your heart and not your brain (Proverbs 4:23). When a person guards his heart/inner man, he guards his brain. There is no word for brain in the Old or New Testaments. God considers the brain as part of the body. The Bible proclaims that changed thinking changes feelings and vice versa (Proverbs 12:25; 14:30; 15:13, 30; 16:24; 17:22). There is nothing new under the sun.
Some call joy an emotion, in part, because it has an affective aspect. Often people including researchers use happiness and joy synonymously. Most often the psychological and cultural worlds, accentuate the affective side of joy. The word happiness is used in the Bible to translate various words but chara the noun and chairo, the verb are most often translated as joy, rejoice and joy. In the Old Testament, God is declared to be the giver of joy (1 Kings 8:56, 66). Taken together its usage points to the future joy of salvation but which begins on the earth.
There is also a link between joy and knowledge. Without a proper understanding of God, self, and others, joy will be counterfeit, temporal, short-lived, and superficial – here today and gone tomorrow. In the New Testament, the noun and verb are used principally in the gospels and the Pauline epistles. Joy in the New Testament centers on an event, a reality – the second coming of Christ and what the believer is in Christ now. One major theme of the gospel of Luke is joy (Luke 1:14, 44, 52; 2:10; 6:23; 8:13; 10:17, 21; 24:41, 52). Joy is centered on the coming, person, and work of Christ. The book of Philippians is another book in which joy is a major them. There joy is pictured as a “nevertheless” (Philippians 1:18; 2:17; 3:1; 4:1, 4-5).
Practically, physiologically, and theologically, joy has a cognitive aspect and often an action side to it. Therefore, it is a whole- person response. Science would have us believe that joy is a matter of the brain. When certain areas of the brain are simulated, people respond “joyfully” or happily. The mantra is: the brain is controlling everything – it is the control center of the body. The question to be asked: what stimulates those areas? Remember that there is no word for brain in the original language Hebrew or Greek for brain. It is included with the body – soma in Greek. If science is true, the Holy Spirit has no place to work!
Joy originates from somewhere. Since it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, it is planted by the Holy Spirit in the heart (inner man) and it is cultivated by the believer (Galatians 5:22). Therefore to describe it as an emotion (however defined – no one agrees on the definition but all do include a cognitive aspect) is improper. Rather it is proper to consider man as a whole person – inner and outer man. He thinks, desires, and actions in both. Feelings follow. When science and scientist acknowledge that thinking and feelings (or emotions) are linked, they are simply describing God’s design of man. Yet they don’t acknowledge this fact as from the Creator and Designer. They are actually attempting to steal from God.
Joy should characterize all believers now as they anticipate the joy of being with Christ forever in heaven (Romans 6:9-10; 1 Peter 1:6-7; (Revelation 19:7). Thus, true joy has an eternal perspective. Joy always looks ahead to the fulfillment of God’s promises with the confident expectation that He is working in all things for His glory. This forward look motivates the believer to vigorously and aggressively pursue growth in Christ on a daily basis (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). Therefore, the believer is never under the circumstances or a victim to them or others.
1. How are you doing in your pursuit of fruit bearing according to Gal. 5:22-23? The Holy Spirit produces His fruit and the believer pursues and grows it.
2. Joy is closely aligned with faith and hope. Read and study Galatians 2:20. What do you learn about the old “I” and the new “I”? How does joy differentiate the old “I” and the new “I”?
3. How does the pursuit of joy help you understand Matthew 7:24-27 and I John 5:3-4?
Joy: Definition, Source, Beauty, Benefits: Part III
Its Beauty and Benefits
In the first two blogs, I defined joy as an inner-man activity of thinking and confidence that focuses on a deep-seated satisfaction and contentment that God is God; He is trustworthy, and He is working in all things for His glory and the good of the believer. Joy is a whole-person activity – thoughts, desires, and actions. Joy is real, rational, and relational and only for the believer. It is given by the Holy Spirit. It is every believer’s gift, pleasure, and blessing,
Joy is the result of proper thinking and wanting about God, self, others, and situations (actually God’s providence). Joy is not simply a feeling or an emotion. It does not develop on its own. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and as such must be cultivated (Galatians 5:22). It should characterize all believers now (1 Peter 1:8) as they anticipate the joy of being with the Triune God forever in heaven (Revelation 19:7). Joy always looks ahead to the fulfillment of God’s promises with the confident expectation that He is working in all things for His glory. This forward look motivates the believer to vigorously and aggressively pursue growth in Christ on a daily basis (1 John 3:1-3). As a result he is joyful in the circumstances. His focus is not s much removing himself from them but pleasing God in the situation God has him. As a result, joy builds
Among other things, joy acts as a buoy that holds up the believer and keeps him afloat God’s way for God’s purpose in all types of situations (1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-8; Romans 5:1-5). Joy results in faithful tenacity, endurance, and courage (Colossians 1:11; Romans 15:13; Hebrews 12:1-3). The believer stays in the race (not the rat race but on the road to becoming more like Christ) God’s way for His glory and the believer’s good (Heb.12:1-3; James 1:12).
Joy flows from a relationship with the Triune God via the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it helps the believer use that proper vertical reference (to God) and maintain an eternal perspective. A proper vertical reference to and in life enables the believer to develop the fruit of joy. As a result, he uses what is unpleasant to become more like Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 8: 28-29; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). The believer does not deny the hard times. He is no masochistic. But his focus is more on God and pleasing Him. That is true freedom.
Joy has an object – God. The believer’s joy is grounded in God’s promises and His trustworthiness. Moreover, joy is commanded (Psalm 16:11; Philippians 1:18; 3:1; 4:4, 10; Romans 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:16). God does not give commands that His people are not able to keep. Those two facts are encouragements in themselves. In 1 Samuel 17, David joyfully took the fight to Goliath because he knew it was God’s fight.
In the letter to the Philippians, Paul calls the congregation to rejoice in the Lord on at least three occasions. Things did not look so great for Paul (1:12-18) and there was division in the Philippian Church (1:18, 4:1-3). Yet he called for the people to rejoice in the Lord. On what basis did he make the call? Paul understood God’s purpose: the advancement of His kingdom by the spread of the gospel and by growth in Christ by each believer. Circumstances which are God’s providence do not negate God’s purpose and plan. Paul understood that God was working and he joyfully submitted to God who bought and brought him out of the pit of hell and set him on firm ground. Viewed from this perspective, Paul could not help but be joyful. Christ had him and he had Christ. The Triune God had work for him to do. Troubles abounded but so did grace. Paul had an eternal vison and he was heavenly-minded. Therefore he was able to be of earthly good. God was glorified and his life was simplified. He looked forward to heaven but in God’s time not his (Philippians 1:19-23).
A joyless Christian is an oxymoron and sad commentary on the cross, the resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Joy is built on truth and it is relational. There is no joy outside of Christ although many may brag about their good feelings. Paul was not after good feelings for himself or his people. He was consumed with pleasing God (Philippians 3:3-6). He knew that truth would set him free. Being in Christ was a cataclysmic event in his life. It was the foundation of so many blessings that occur from being a believer. In Christ means one is in the world but not of the world. It means his focus is on God and pleasing Him. The believer is not perfect in his practice of pleasing God and growing in Christlikeness. Joy is its own desert and points toward perfection; it bodes well as the believer moves along the sanctification path. Yet he is only considered perfect in Christ who as the ultimate joyful Person. Those truths encouraged Paul.
1. How are you doing in your pursuit of fruit bearing according to Galatians 5:22-23? The Holy Spirit produces His fruit and the believer pursues and grows it.
2. Joy is closely aligned with faith and hope and both are linked to knowledge. Read and study Galatians 2:20.
a. What do you learn about the old “I” and the new “I”?
b. How does joy differentiate the old “I” and the new “I”?
3. How does the pursuit of joy help you understand Matthew 7:24-27 and I John 5:4?
Joy: Definition, Source, Beauty, Benefits: Part IV
Its Relational Significance
We continue the series: Joy: Definition Source Benefits Beauty. Joy seems to be a misunderstood term. It is a fruit of the Spirit so it is in the possession of every believer (Gal. 5:22-23). It may be associated with feelings but at its core, it is the response of the believer as a whole –person in terms of thought, desire, and action to God’s work of getting people saved (regeneration) and having people grow in Christlikeness (sanctification). Therefore, God’s providence – His control – is rightly pictured in terms of God’s plan and purpose. God’s providence – bringing people and events into a person’s life – is a demonstration of a good God’s eternal plan and purpose to accomplish His goal.
Joy begins relationally and develops relationally. Once in proper relationship to God, God’s truth becomes for the believer a blessing and not a burden. God’s providential control points to God’s purpose of bringing His people into His presence which begins on this earth with regeneration. Joy develops experientially as the believer experiences the greatness and glory of God (1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4). The growing believer simply can’t get enough of God (Psalm 34:8; Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 3:7-11).
Picture your best ally, your most intimate friend, your most trustworthy person, your greatest warrior and protector, and most supreme of all people. These are relational terms. The object of your joy, awe, respect, understanding, and appreciation is a person who has promised or done something for you. For believers that object is a Person – the Supreme Being – Mover and Shaker – of the whole universe seen and unseen. When you bring God down to mankind’s level, it is easy to consider the Triune God in similar terms as a person does for Santa Claus, Captain America, Superman, or any other super hero. The object of joy is on the receiver and the gift. Only the believer changes his perspective of the Giver and what He gives. The believer’s mindset changes to a perspective that focuses on the eternal, infinite, and spiritual, and infinite as opposed to the now: the finite, the material, the temporal, and the physical.
There is a higher plane of reference for God than mentioned above. He is not simply the best of the best, a good guy, or a person who has super powers. He is the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords. Therefore His Church and individual believers have a much different view of God and His providence. Salvation and the events leading up to the Messiah’s coming are part of redemption accomplished. As a result, there is individual salvation -redemption applied – is by the work of th Holy Spirit. Both redemption accomplish and applied are from the hand of the Triune God. Joy in the Lord is just that: Joy in the Lord Himself (Exodus 15:2; Jonah 2:9). In both situations, Israel, individuals, and an individual were delivered from God’s wrath and fury. The events and the deliverance are all God’s providence. Moses got it but the Israelites and Jonah did not. Sadness and misery prevailed. Yet God remained true to Himself and His people.
If your joy is focused on the gifts of the Giver, your joy will never be complete (John 15:11). In the night before He died, Jesus wanted His apostles to focus on their relationship to Him and His to them. Christ’s joy was the believer’s joy because Christ is united with each believer. Paul especially referred to this concept by the phrase in Christ – union with Christ. What Christ has the believer has. What Christ did the believer is counted has having done. Where Christ is the believer is. There is an already concept – these things have been done in Christ to and for the believer and the Church. But there is the not yet: consummation has not come but will when Jesus returns. In the meantime, joy is one key for the believer. It embraces the already and the not yet. He has only one logical response: Rejoice! Enjoy Christ and the Triune God!
1. Joy is not an option. Describe joy, the object of your joy, and the reasons for joy.
2. Describe your closest personal relationship. What are some terms you use to describe it and why? How does your relationship compare and contrast?
3. Explain how a joyless Christian is an oxymoron.
Joy: Definition, Source, Beauty, Benefits: Part V
From Selective Psalms
We continue the series: Joy: Definition Source Benefits Beauty. In an earlier blog I asked the question: what does each of these psalms say is the reason for joy and what is the result in the psalmist’s life? I referenced eight Psalms: Psalms 5:11; 40:16; 51:12; 63:11; 64:10; 86:4; 90:15; and 92:4. I will now consider the subject of joy from the perspective of the psalter.
• Psalm 5:11-12: But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name, may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
• Palm. 40:16: But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!”
Book I of the Psalter includes Psalm 1-41. David is considered the author of all the psalms in book I except perhaps Psalms 1-2. The major theme is the rise of the Davidic kingdom of peace and righteousness and confrontation as the kingdom is being established. Enemies abounded – from within and without. Yet what was on David’s agenda was a desire to please Yahweh as His representative and agent. Therefore Yahweh’s enemies were David’s enemies. David was confident in God’s trustworthiness in making and keeping promises. As king he sought the Lord’s presence personally (Psalm 5:7). However, the last verse of Psalm 5, his words of comfort, refuge, and joy flow from him and move to all of God’s people, the godly (5:11). David knew he was God’s agent and Israel was God’s people and therefore David’s. David does not take revenge but he does hunger and thirst for God’s righteous judgement (Psalm 5:6-10, Matthew 5:6). In the first book of the Psalter David is on the run. Yet he is joyful and he calls on God’s people to do the same. His joy restrains vengeance and self-absorption. He knows and acts upon the fact that God is King and is in control. He longs to be safe and secure. He knows that will come in due time. Now he continues to practice joy to and in the Lord.
Psalm 40 (also in Book I) is among four psalms that have as their theme a guilty sufferer (Psalms 38-41). All four carry the plea for forgiveness by the penitent sinner. Psalm 40 is one of the psalms that speak well of the Torah – the law of the Lord. David the psalmist opens with the confidence that Yahweh is present and hears and answers prayers (40:1-3). David is in trouble and occasioned by his sin (v.12). David is a Yahweh-seeker and encourages others to seek Him, to rejoice in Him, and rejoice in the activity of seeking of Him. David is confident of God and in his own relationship with Him. Joy is relational and joyful believers express that reality.
• Ps. 51:12: Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Book II of the Psalter includes Psalms 42-72. David is considered the author of Psalms 51-71. Whereas conflict and the rise of the Davidic kingdom is the major theme in Book I, the theme of book II is the glories of the Davidic kingdom and communication to those within and without the kingdom. Conflict is still there but the atmosphere is different than in Book I. In part, Psalm 51 is David’s response to God’s summons given in Psalm 49-50: God summoned the nations in Psalm 49 and His people in Psalm 50. In Psalm 50, the universe is to be God’s witnesses as He judges the people. Psalm 51 records David’s response to God’s summons – confession and repentance. David does not want God’s rejection. The way open to fellowship is the way of purity (see Psalms 15:3; 24:3). David desired the presence of God via the indwelling Holy Spirit (51:10-12).
n the context of the unconfessed sin of self-pleasing (which in David’s case included lack of personal responsibility as commander-in-chief, purity of heart and body, murder, lying, and lack of sorrow and true repentance), David was convicted of his sin and sinfulness (51:1-5). He confessed patterned self-pleasing since his youth. His confession was in the midst of his failure to be God’s kind of commander. He was not with his troops (v.1). David confessed and repented (51:3-5). He prayed for joy and gladness in contrast to the unbearable burden of carrying his own sin (51:8, 12). Joy is linked to a right standing with God and knowledge of being a forgiven child of God.
1. David knew and sought Yahweh. Being in His presence was important to David. Give some reasons.
2. Joy was an expression of union with Yahweh and His ever-presence. David was stripped of many of his resources forcing him to do what/ See 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, 4:8-10, and 12:7-10 for help in answering the question.
3. David failure to confess is pictured in Psalms 32 and 38. In those psalms, God’s presence was a burden. Unconfessed sin carries a burden. David ran as far from Yahweh as he could. The presence of Yahweh and the seeming absence of Yahweh were both burdens. What is God’s answer as given in 1 John 1:7-9?
Joy: Definition, Source, Beauty, Benefits: Part VI
From Selective Psalms, continued
In this blog I continue the survey of joy: its definition, source, beauty, benefits from selective Psalms. Psalms 63-64 are found in book II and Psalm 86 is found in Book III.
Book II (Psalms 42-72):
• Ps. 63:11: But the king will rejoice in the Lord; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
• Ps 64:10: Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him.
Psalms 61-64 represent the cry of the messianic king to Yahweh for His intervention. David is still under attack as he worked to establish the Davidic kingdom of peace and righteousness. He has been banished. Yet his hope is in God (62:2, 4, 6-7). Circumstances don’t determine his motivation. Rather, in them, he thirsts for Him (63:1- also see Psalm 34:8; 42-43). David recalled experiencing God which whetted his desire for God Himself (63:2) and his holding fast to God’s presence, power, and goodness (63:8).
One may ask what it means to experience God. Experiencing God refers to thinking and desiring based on saving faith as a interpretative grid of what a person takes in by his senses – sight, sound, and taste (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is a suprasensual experience in lieu of a sensual one. The interpretative grid has been replaced with saving faith and biblical truth. It is based on a true knowledge of God, self, and the unbreakable relationship between God and the person that God holds dear. It is not some mystical, abstract feeling. David was able recall real truths about God. God will protect His people and their king. David thought corporately. He knew His God and he acted on that knowledge.
He reached a climax as given in verse 11: he will rejoice. David was a man of joy in the midst of trying times and God’s frowning providence. David knew he was a winner because God reigns and he was God’s and God was his and Israel’s God. David spoke for himself and the people. He continued his line of thinking in Psalm 64 (1, 7-10). In Psalm 64, David names all the righteous people as rejoicers. Joy is linked to knowledge.
Book III (Psalm 73-89)
• Psalm 86:4: bring joy to your servant for to you O Lord I lift up my soul.
This psalm is an individualistic psalm of David. It is a prayer of David to Yahweh. David, God’s servant, asks God to bring joy to him (verse 4). David sounded a triumphant note in verse 9: all the nations will worship and bring glory to God. David knew the true source of joy. He was focused and acknowledged the Kingship of God. That fact, not the circumstances brought joy, hope, strength, and comfort to his whole person.
Book IV (90-106):
• Psalm 90:14-15: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days; Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.
Psalm 90 is a prayer of Moses and it opens Book IV of the Psalter (90-106). It is the only psalm authored by him. Book IV celebrates God Himself as the eternal dwelling of His people but at a time when Israel is in exile (90:1-2). The theme of Book IV is life in exile. It was not a joyous time for Israel. They had not learned their true nature – idolaters. They had not learned God’s true nature – holy, majestic, Warrior King, and trustworthy. Moses had encouraged the people who had been in exile in Egypt. Now the organizer of Psalter rightly conjectured that those in exile would benefit from knowing that God was still King and in control. Therefore, Moses in Psalm 90 encouraged the exiles to seek and enjoy God as King of kings and Deliverer (Deuteronomy 32-33). In spite of and because of the circumstances, David knew and trusted that God is alive and well. So rejoice!
• Psalm 92:4: For you make us glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.
Psalms 92-100 are a special collection of psalms termed Yahweh Malak (the Lord Reigns). They reinforce Yahweh’s ongoing and pervasive kingship. The Lord is King (93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1). There is a worship context in Psalm 92:1-4. As these verses show, joy and gladness are linked not only to Yahweh’s Kingship but the acknowledging of it and enjoying it. One of the simplest means for doing that is to remember that circumstances don’t define His Kingship. The exiles had retuned but in small numbers, without many priests and no tabernacle or temple. They had only the Torah. Things did not look well. Yet, they are opportunities to rejoice AND to come to a deeper understanding of the foundation of the believer’s joy – Yahweh Himself. Yahweh, who does all things well, will bring His people to Him for His namesake (Psalms 109:21; 140:12-13; 141:8-9).
1. The Psalter covers some 500 years of redemptive history sometimes known as the promise-plan of God. Joy and ultimate victory is a major theme in God’s plan.
2. Where does the concept of joy fit into your daily life?
3. What would convince you that Christianity is joyful and that the Christian is to be joyful?
4. What is the antithesis of joy? See Philippians 2:14-17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 for help in answering.
Joy: Part VII
The Gospel of Luke
We continue the series: Joy: Definition Source Benefits Beauty. Luke authored the Gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts. They are a unit. The language in Luke’s gospel is that of a well-educated person and student of higher learning. Luke was a medical doctor (Colossians 4:14). Although he does use medical language, this fact is probably not significant. His gospel is the most literary and the most comprehensive. Luke’s gospel includes details of Jesus’s infancy, His childhood; His genealogy; and includes an account of Jesus; post-resurrection days and His Ascension.
Luke states his reason for writing: that Theophilus may know with certainty the historicity, reliability, and infallibility of the Christian truths that he had been taught (Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:2). Luke presents Jesus as the God-man, truly God and truly man. Luke emphasized the humanity of Christ and His movement toward Jerusalem working salvation for the Jew then the Gentile in that order of priority (Luke 9:51). The restoration of Israel was part of God’s sovereign plan and was done via the motif of the 12 apostles centered in Jerusalem. Luke moves Jesus to Jerusalem where Christ, the just Judge, judged Israel, the people, and their system and world view. He found them to be rebellious and ignorant people. Luke announces the arrival and extension of the new age in Christ, the true and greater Messiah and the greater king David (Luke 4:43; 9:1-2; 10:9; 17:21). The expected response is joyful repentance and a turning to the living God and their only hope. The book of Acts continues to describe the announcement of the kingdom but to the Gentiles beginning in Acts 13.
Luke begins and ends with rejoicing (1:47; 24:11, 41, 46-47, 52-53). The words of verses 46-47 are a type of resume or summary of Luke’s teaching. Repentance was preached and will continue to be preached as the logical response to the inauguration of the new age in Christ. Luke as did the other gospel writers emphasized that repentance is based on joy and brings rejoicing (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15).
A major theme of Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts is the restoration of the true Israel which includes Jew and Gentile. Luke presents a salvation story to a beleaguered and rebellious people. The story begins with the birth of a babe and the excitement of shepherds, a prophetess, and a prophet. It continues with the growth and maturity of the child. In Luke 4:18-22, Jesus announced His Messianic ministry in His inaugural sermon at the synagogue. Rightly so, Luke emphasizes joy and also worship. The two are linked. Only Luke includes the songs of joy that accompanied the news of the birth and the coming of the Messiah and the new Kingdom (1:46-55 – Mary’s Magnificat; 1:67-79 – Benedictus; 2:14 – Gloria; 2:29-32 – Nunc Dimitis). These emphasize the twin pillars of joy and worship. More specifically, the birth narrative and its surrounding events emphasized the note of joy and gladness (1:14; 2:15; 1:44).
Moreover, Luke taught that joy had to have a proper object (10:20). The seventy disciples rejoiced at the power to perform miracles, heal the sick, and cast out demons but Jesus saw whoa. Rather, He pointed them to the real and true joy – their names were written in the book of life – salvation is key (10:20). It points to the Triune God’s activity in eternity past eternity and its fulfillment in history. In the context of this teaching, Jesus full of joy and the Holy Spirit prayed to the Father thanking Him for the message of salvation that the disciples had received. He blessed the disciples for they had received and were receiving the fuller revelation of redemption in Christ (10:23-24; 1 Peter 1:10-12).
Joy was an important accompaniment of Jesus’ miracles (13:17). Luke in chapter 15 wrote that true joy is focused on repentance and is the proper response to the lost returning to the Father (10:6-7, 9-10, 23, 32). The theme of joy and rejoicing fits Luke’s purpose in writing: salvation had come first to Israel and then to the Gentiles. Fittingly, Luke emphasized the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit (1:35, 41, 67; 2:25-27; 3:16, 22; 4:14, 18; 10:21; 11:13; 12:10, 12). It was time for joy: joy to the world and glory to God in the highest (2:10, 14). Joy was not simply a good feeling. Joy stemmed only from a correct view of the time – the badness of mankind and the goodness of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit. The birth of Christ and the surrounding events were misinterpreted by Israel who wanted relief, but it was from Rome not from sin, self, and Satan. Rejoicing was the appropriate response to Jesus’ coming. Rather, Israel rejected Jesus and considered Him a liar, loser, and of no account.
Luke seems for the most part to be an evangelistic effort. Therefore, salvation as a new way takes center stage. This does not mean that growth in Christ is not a subject and foundation for joy. That emphasis awaits Paul’s use of the term especially in his letter to the Philippians. The gospels clarify that joy is to accompany being saved. From the epistles we know that joy is a testimony of growth in grace and Christ. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Joy then is not limited to salvation. It is involved in and intimately associated with sanctification.
1. Luke’s gospel has a major theme of joy. What is its source and what does Luke expect?
2. Luke’s emphasis on joy is associated with knowledge and repentance. How do joy and repentance fit together?
3. How does Luke’s emphasis help set the stage for the emphasis in the epistles of joy in the midst of trouble and affliction?
Joy: Part VIII
The Gospel of John
We continue the series: Joy: Definition Source Benefits Beauty. In the New Testament, the noun (chara) occurs some 60 times and the verb some 72 times. Only the believer has and can demonstrate joy. Only he knows that God is in control, up to something, and His control is good. Only he has the desire and capacity to trust. Joy is something the believer does in response to God’s control and in essence to God himself. The believer, and only the believer, knows the truth and acts on God’s truth. Therefore, joy and rejoicing do not depend on circumstances. Rather circumstances (God’s providence) must be interpreted in light of God’s good control and purposes.
Joy is the privilege and blessing of only Christians because joy is not attainable outside of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Joy is a reality for every believer. Therefore every believer in any circumstance has the capacity and the privilege to rejoice.
Joy is linked to faith, hope, and truth. Such was the case in John’s gospel. John was the apostle of love, love being a major theme in his writings. Yet several times John appeals to joy most notably in the upper room discourse: John 3:29; 15:11; 16:20-24; 17:13. His gospel is an excellent source for our subject: joy: definition, source, beauty, benefits. John emphasized the truth that joy, faith and love have an object and are linked with knowledge in regards to God and the rejoicer. Moreover, each are fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
• John 3:29-30: The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waited and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine and is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.
John the Baptist was asked about the seeming rivalry between his ministry including the act of baptizing and that which Jesus was doing. John announced there was no popularity contest. Jesus had received His position from heaven. John was commissioned on earth and he responded with joy. He was content with his position – Jesus’ forerunner and announcer much like the relationship between Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Simply to know that he was accomplishing his task and that Jesus had come brought his joy full circle. He expressed the fullness of his joy in verse 30: I must decrease – he must increase. He had done his job well and he was blessed to see the fruits of his ministry. This understanding of joy: its definition, source, beauty, benefits turns the secular, feeling world upside down.
Consider the following three passages. They help give our subject: joy: definition, source, beauty, and benefits a full-orbed perspective according to Jesus. They include:
• John 15:11: I have told you this so my joy may be in you and that your joy will be made complete.
• John 16:20-22, 24: I tell you the truth you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child has been born into the world….Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be made complete.
• John 17:13: I am coming to you now but I say these things to you while I am still in the world, so that you may have the full measure of my joy with you.
These three passages are found in the upper room discourses (Olivet Discourses). That time was recorded in chapters 13-17, five of John’s 21 chapters, almost 25% of the gospel. Jesus is the Teacher par excellence, but He is more. In chapter 15 Jesus drew an analogy between a vine (Him) and the branches (the apostles and eventually the Church). The good life and fruiting bearing was the key which would only occur only if the branches were properly connected to the vine. In verses 9-10 Jesus drew the connection between love and obedience. In verse 11, Jesus gave an insight into Himself: He has joy and His joy came from pleasing His Father manifested by trust and obedience (John 4:31-34). Imagine: Jesus had humbled Himself when He left and placed Himself into a state of humiliation – born, under the law, subject to it, the cross, separation form the Father, and experiencing the wrath of God such that He went to hell on the cross. Yet joy was a vital part of His existence. How could that be? Joy is rooted in the foundational truths of God’s being and activity and a true knowledge of man as a believer and as an unbeliever. Joy is a reality that becomes more evident as one grows in his relationship to the Triune God. Fruit of that growth is often described as glorifying God through trusting and obeying. Joy, knowledge, trust, and obedience are linked.
The passages in John 16 are quite amazing. To a group of men no less Jesus used the example of the pain and burden of child birth. Trouble (affliction, tough times) is part of childbirth but so is joy – when the mother gives birth. Prior to the birth, the mother looks beyond the pain to the gain – the birth of a baby. Joy and endurance are linked. So, too, Jesus’ mission which included the cross would bring trouble and anguish but this was only a prelude to the joy of the resurrected Christ. Trouble rightly understood and responded to points to an everlasting, non-refundable joy. A resurrected and exalted Christ clarified trouble. Joy was Christ’s as He stayed the course and finished the race of pleasing His Father. The believer’s joy is a byproduct of Christ’s joy. It is to be modeled after Christ’s approach to life – pleasing His Father for the joy of it and the results it would bring for the Triune God, Himself, and His people.
In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father. He looked forward to the Ascension and coming to the Father. Yet He continued to teach so that the apostles would have the full measure of His joy 17:13). His joy was to be the apostles’ joy. Real joy comes as the believer begins to understand Christ’s joy. He prayed that His joy would be completed in the disciples and His joy would be their joy. After His death and before His post-resurrection appearances, the disciples were still joyless (John 14:1-3). The tunnel looked so long, the hill so high, and the hole so deep before and after the crucifixion. Jesus knew the Spirit was coming and told them of His coming (John 14-16). He also prayed for the apostles. They were to stay in the world but not as joyless believers. They had God’s work to do and they needed help and protection – the fullness of the Holy Spirit (17:15). They would accomplish their work through the gift of joy. Their joy would complete them. In this way they modeled Christ Who completed God’s work. Only the believer has joy and only the believer will have that joy completed. Completed joy is a concept that reaches its fulfillment in the second coming. All believers are to know and act on the truth that resurrection life begins at regeneration (Romans 6:9-10).
1. How does John link joy, love, obedience, and knowledge?
2. What do you think about joy and its completion? What your plans in this regard?
3. What do you need to grow in the joy of your salvation? Be specific.
Joy: Part IX
The Letter to the Philippians
We continue the series: Joy: Definition Source Benefits Beauty. The letter to the Philippians is sometimes termed the epistle of joy. It is ready resource for our subject: joy: definition, source, beauty, and benefits. It is a missionary “thank-you” letter. Paul linked thankfulness and joy. There are numerous references to joy throughout the book (1:4, 18, 25, 26; 2:2, 16, 17, 18, 28, 29; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10). Paul’s reference to joy is highly significant since Paul was in bonds and facing the possibility of a death sentence (1:20; 2:17). Notice the subject of Paul’s joy.
Given the circumstances, Paul knew that an active and knowledgeable love for God and the brothers was a key for joyful living. He knew that he and the brothers we victors in Christ and through holding fast to God’s word would bring victory (Romans 8:35-39; Philippians 1:12-18). Preservation in biblical truth would enable perseverance in the face of God’s providence and tough times (2:12-13). Preservation of the saints was necessary, predicted by Christ, and followed Christ’s example (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; John 8:31-36; 15:18-21; Hebrews 12:1-3). A key for Paul and the Philippian Church was the proper teaching and hearing of the Word and the proper application of biblical truth. This would enable perseverance.
At first glance, the circumstances were anything but encouraging. In fact, they were miserable. Paul was in prison, false teachers were on the scene, and there was division in the congregation (1:12-18; 3:1-2; 4:1-2). Paul knew the Philippians wondered how to make sense of and understand God’s providence. Moreover, what was joyful about their situation? Were they to judge God by the circumstances (His providence) or the circumstances by biblical truth? This choice remains for every believer until Christ returns. Paul gave the Holy Spirit’s resounding answer. Joy and its sidekick peace is not dependent on circumstances but on the God of circumstances and the believer’s relationship to and with Him. Joy and peace are linked to proper knowledge.
Paul began his letter by combining joy and thankfulness (1:3-4). The church had entered into gospel ministry with Paul. Paul prayed and thanked joyfully. He appreciated them as fellow believers and for their participation in the fellowship of the gospel – their time, money, and prayers. Paul looked beyond rivalries. Verse 18 of chapter 1 gave his reasoning. No matter the motivation of his rivals, Paul focused on one issue: that Christ is preached. He rejoiced in the fact that no matter the motive of the preachers and false teachers the gospel would be preached (see 3:1-2).
In verses 25-26 of chapter 1, Paul recorded another source of joy: their welfare as measured by their progress in the faith and in their joy. Their joy as growing Christians was one means for the completion of Paul’s joy (2:2). Paul knew of division within the Church. He would address that issue in chapter 4 (4:1-2). Now he was setting the stage for that confrontation by giving them a way to make his joy complete: have the mind of Christ – to think alike and to be bound in mutual love (2:3-5). Paul’s efforts follow Jesus’ teaching on joy in the gospel of John. Paul wanted the Philippians to move to God and others by setting self aside. That activity would make Jesus’ and Paul’s joy complete. So it is for the Church today.
Paul, in Philippians 2:16-17, addressed one aspect of running the race of progressive sanctification: instead of grumbling, complaining, and making life miserable for others, Paul encouraged them to hold to and hold out the Word. He encouraged them to present truth to all involved including themselves. Application of that truth specifically and daily would follow. They would trust God for the results enjoying the time to grow individually and as congregation. Ownership was a major key for victory. They are God’s people then and forever! Paul encouraged the congregation to look around and rejoice with the brothers as faith is lived out. A growing congregation is a blessing to all involved, a source of joy, and a testimony to the Triune God’s faithfulness. Paul closed chapter 2 with the desire to send back to the Philippians faithful Epaphroditus. He was their gift, a blessing to Paul, and healed by God. Paul was joyful for him and for them.
Paul closed the letter with a series of exhortations to rejoice – to be glad (3:1, 4:1, 4, 10). Paul had unpacked joy: definition, source, beauty, benefits and now was making a plea for putting into practice these truths. In chapter 3, Paul gives the simple exhortation without a reason given: rejoice in the Lord (3:1). I suspect Paul was contrasting what he rejoiced in as given in verses 3-6. The point is: rejoice in the Lord and not in self – your self-grasping, self-exaltation, and self- sufficiency. He begins chapter 4 by expressing his affection for the church. Among other things they are his joy, his crown (4:1). Yet he followed in verse 2-3 with the problem of strife and disunity. The very people that were his joy and crown were anything but that. He urged two women and the congregation to close ranks (see 1:27-2:2). He then moved quickly to another exhortation in verse 4: Be glad/rejoice in the Lord and adds always. Wow! Joy is something a believer has and does but only if his perspective is proper: first vertically (to God), second horizontally (to others), and self is last or not at all (see Matt. 22:37-40). He then initiated a short teaching section on contentment (4:10-13). Joy, thankfulness, and contentment are three legs of a footstool that flow from and express satisfaction with God, for who He is and what He does (Psalm 37:3-5; 73:25-26).
1. What is the role of biblical truth in developing joy in your life?
2. What do you need to learn and mediate on in order to b God’s kind of rejoicer?
3. What drove Paul’s joy and how did he manifest his joy?
Conclusion: Christianity is Joyful: Part X
Our subject: Joy: definition, source, beauty benefits can be summarized by the statements: The phrase – “rejoice in the Lord” – is a common command in the Bible. The command suggests that a person can rejoice and trust either in the Lord or in something or someone other than the Lord (see Psalm 3:5-8; 46:10). The command recognizes the biblical teaching regarding antithetical and mutually exclusive thinking such as right – wrong; saved – unsaved; light – darkness; and joy – dissatisfaction/discontent. Among other truths, the Bible teaches that joy is dependent on a relationship. It is most closely associated with fellowship with God through the Son and with fellow believers (2 John 12; Philippians 3:1; 4:4, 10).
Paul had a number of reasons for writing the letter to the Philippians. The letter is personal and emphasizes gospel partnership, prayer, participation and preparation in the ministry including gifts, perseverance and preservation in and with persecutions, and an emphasis of rightly reading God’s providence. It is the epistle of joy and thanksgiving for their friendship and partnership in the gospel ministry (1:4, 18, 25-26; 2:2, 16-17, 28-29; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10). He emphasized that salvation, life after salvation, and continued gospel ministry are not an object to get or have or an abstraction. Rather they are participation in the living Christ who died and went to hell on the cross in their place. He has them and He will not jettison himself from them. So then he encourages them to rejoice and not jettison themselves from Jesus Christ. Joy, satisfaction, and contentment formed a triad that when rightly understood gave life to every believer. They built on themselves.
Inherent in the concept of biblical joy is the idea of enjoyment, and more specifically, enjoying God. It carries with it the theme of satisfaction and delight. One way the believer rejoices and enjoys God is by being gripped by His greatness. Every believer has the capacity of knowing God and enjoying Him. Joy is radical because our God has done remarkable and supernatural things: salvation (regeneration/new birth) and growth in Christlikeness. God has declared Himself to the world, and every believer has a growing knowledge of Who God is and what He has done in Christ.
Joy is a deep-seated satisfaction and inner contentment in the fact that God is God and His agenda is being accomplished. This understanding and response to God and His control is antithetical to the culture’s “wisdom.” Joy involves proper thinking about God and self and biblical application of biblical truth. It flows from trust in a good God and His control. And joy promotes trust in a good God. Joyfully, biblical truth is the believer’s grid for evaluating circumstances not vice versa. Therefore, the believer responds to his situations and others in a radically different manner than he did as an unbeliever.
Moreover, joy is an attitude of confidence that is expressed in thoughts, desires, and actions. It is based on the non-negotiable truth that God’s plan, promises, purpose, presence, power, and provisions for life are sure and certain. What is best for God is best for the believer. Joy is a whole-person activity – inner and outer man. It properly controls one’s thoughts, desires, and actions toward God, others, and circumstances. Therefore, joy is not dependent on people or circumstances but rather on the God of circumstances. Paul’s life and counsel bore out these truths. Understanding joy: its definition, source, beauty, and benefits is vital for the believer to imitate Christ daily.
1. According to Psalm 16:5-11, Psalm 33:21, and Nehemiah 8:10, where does joy come from?
2. What characteristics of God did David emphasize in Psalm 16 that led him to be joyful?
3. What does each of these psalms say is the reason for joy and what is the result in the psalmist’s life? Psalms 5:11; 40:16; 51:12; 63:11; 64:10; 86:4; 90:15; 92:4
4. How will you apply these truths in your life? Be specific.