Two years ago Rich and I, as elders of Berean Bible Church, developed a mission statement for our church. We wanted to clarify where we were going as a church so we could take the appropriate steps to get there. We boiled it down to twenty two words.
This morning I want to focus on the word "joy" in this mission statement. The heart of this statement is "knowing the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ," but before we look at that, let's try to clarify some of the other points.
What is spiritual darkness?
We believe that we should be an influence to those who are living in spiritual darkness. What does it mean to live in spiritual darkness? Spiritual darkness is used in the Bible in two ways:
1. Those who don't know God, the unsaved, are in spiritual darkness.
Colossians 1:13 (NKJV) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
The "us" here is Christians. As believers, we have been delivered from the power of darkness. By our faith in Jesus Christ, we have been brought into His Kingdom and given eternal life. We are children of light. So, spiritual darkness is used of those who are lost in sin, the unsaved. Our mission is to share with them the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Spiritual darkness is also used to refer to believers who are walking in ignorance of, or disobedience to God's Word.
Romans 13:11-13 (NKJV) And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
Paul says, "let us cast off the works of darkness...." which would be speaking of believers living in disobedience.
1 John 2:10-11 (NKJV) He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
A Christian, someone who has been delivered from the power of darkness, can walk in darkness by living disobedient to the Word of God.
So, our mission is to take the gospel to the lost, and also to exhort believers to live in obedience to Christ. We are to be involved in calling both the saved and the lost to live in the light of obedience to God's Word.
How do we influence our friends?
Two ways: by how we live, and what we say. What is to come first? Example. People aren't interested in listening to what we have to say about Christ unless they observe attractive and consistent patterns of Christian living in our lives.
Now notice who it is that we are to influence? Or let me put it this way, on whom do you have the greatest influence? Your friends! Aren't you uncomfortable when someone outside your circle of friends tries to influence you in spiritual matters? We naturally gravitate toward people we know and trust. Friends listen to friends. They confide in friends. They let friends influence them.
Now, am I saying that those who aren't our friends - we don't have to worry about? Absolutely Not! What I am saying is - those who aren't our friends, we have to work at making our friends, so we can have an influence on them. We have to work at getting close to people, so they can see that we genuinely care about them, and that we have their best interest in mind. Over time, we will become their friends and thus be able to influence them.
The thing that I want to focus on this morning is that this is the mission statement of those who are"living in the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ." You can't influence others to do something that you are not doing. Are you living in the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ? We are all called to this end.
The key to really having an influence on others is that we do it by example. It's hard to influence some to a life of joy when you have no joy. For example, I wouldn't take investment advice from someone who isn't making money on their investments; I wouldn't take fitness advice from someone who is out of shape; I wouldn't take parenting advice from someone whose children are out of control; and I wouldn't take spiritual advice from someone who seemingly has no joy or peace in their spiritual life.
Albert Schweitzer said, "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." Now, I don't know that example is the only thing, but I do think it is the main thing.
Elisha wanted to be a man of God, so he followed Elijah because Elijah was a man of God. There were hundreds of other prophets living in Israel at the time, but Elisha didn't want what they had to offer. He sought out Elijah because Elijah was the best.
When you seek counsel or direction from someone, remember that that person cannot give you what he or she does not have. The best strategy in seeking someone to be a positive influence is that of Elisha; seek out the best, learn from someone who is where you want to be. If we are going to influence friends to live in the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ, we had better be living in that joy ourselves.
I remember hearing Bill Gothard tell the story of a survey that he gave when he was in high school. He asked the other students what they wanted out of life. The top three answers were: love, joy, peace. How about you, do you want love, joy and peace in your life?
In our day, the search for tranquility is on in a big way. In order to get peace of mind, Americans are swallowing tons of tranquilizers. In addition to the drugs, there are thousands of books telling us how to have tranquility. Isn't it interesting that the world is looking for the very things that God promises to those who love Him?
The world views joy or happiness as an attitude of satisfaction or delight based upon some present circumstance. Now, you don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure out that if your joy or happiness is related to circumstances, that you're going to spend a lot of time without joy or happiness.
The importance of joy.
Joy is not some optional extra that we can take or leave - it is mandated.
In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, and verse 16, we read this very short verse. "Rejoice always." That's it. In fact, in the original language, the adverb comes first, and so it goes like this: "Always rejoice." The command is in the present tense and could be stated, "always continue to rejoice" or "always be rejoicing."
The attitude that that command is calling for is joy. There's plenty of reason in the world in which we live to be sad, distressed, disturbed, upset, concerned, anxious, stressed out, full of fear and doubt, but not for the Christian. We are commanded to rejoice always. And that's not an isolated command.
Philippians 3:1 (NKJV) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
Philippians 4:4 (NKJV) Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
We are commanded to rejoice. We are commanded to have joy. There should be no event, and there should be no circumstances in life that should diminish the Christian's joy. As a matter of fact, bad circumstances are cause for joy. Do you believe that?
James tells us to rejoice in trials.
James 1:2 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
We ought to be happier about our trials than we are about the good times, because the trials are much more refining, aren't they? You might not want to hear this, but the trials are much more spiritually productive than the good times. They're much more likely to strip off your self-centeredness. They're much more likely to convince you that you're not in control of everything and break your pride. They're much more likely to humble you. They're much more likely to make you dependent. They're much more likely to enhance your prayer life. They're much more likely to give you sympathy with the pain of others. And all that is good.
Now, let me give you a definition of this joy just so you know what it is. Joy is the experience of well being that springs from the deep down confidence that God is in perfect control of everything, and is working it all for my good and His glory. It is feeling okay, good, positive, triumphant, victorious, not because of the circumstance, but because of the deep down confidence that God is in charge of everything, and that it is all moving for my good and His glory. All of us can respond to everything in life with joy if we believe that God is effecting His glory and our good out of that. Joy, to be understood in a biblical sense, must be understood to be related to God's sovereignty.
Joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God.
Joy is an act of proper response to the character of God. Joy starts because I know my God is sovereign, gracious, loving, merciful, kind, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and He has my well being in mind. I know my God, and I can rejoice in my God. I can't always rejoice in my circumstances, but I can rejoice in the God who controls my circumstances.
Psalms 16:11 (NKJV) You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalms 4:7 (NKJV) You have put gladness in my heart, More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
God is the source of joy. All men seek to be happy, to have joy, but it is only truly found in the Lord. He is our source of joy. So joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God, and this intimate relationship begins with believing the gospel:
Luke 2:10-11 (NKJV) Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 10:20 (NKJV) "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
This is the foundation of our joy, our names are written in heaven. We can always rejoice in our salvation. The gospel brings joy. Because our salvation is unshakeable, our joy should be unshakeable.
We are to rejoice because God has chosen us in eternity past to be His children. Our names are written in heaven, that should give us joy no matter what our circumstances are.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV) But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,
Joy is a proper act of appreciation for the work of Christ. When I realize that Jesus Christ bore my sins in His own body on the tree; that Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for me; when I realize that God laid on Him the iniquity of us all; when I realize that I was redeemed not with corruptible things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ; when I realize that when I was His enemy, and when I was against Him, and a blasphemer and mocker, God sent His Son to redeem me; when I understand that the cross takes away all my sin; when I understand that His perfect substitutionary atonement covers me with the righteousness of Christ; when I understand that, therefore, heaven is eternally mine; when I understand all that Christ has accomplished, that gives me an abiding joy that any trivial passing circumstance of life should not effect.
Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, and that just keeps going on and on and on and on. God just keeps pouring out spiritual blessing.
You might say, "Well what do you mean by that? I don't feel like my life is really too blessed right now." Let me tell you something. Think about this: Every single time you sin and it is instantaneously forgiven, that is a monumental blessing, the absence of which would catapult you into hell. We all sin, and the wages of sin is death, but God has graciously provided for us through the atonement of Jesus Christ - that is the greatest blessing we could ever receive.
So, joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God, and we develop this intimate relationship with God as we, Receive and obey the Word.
Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV) Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.
John 15:3-4 (NKJV) "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
Jesus tells believers to abide in him. To abide is to know and obey the Word of God. That is discipleship. And joy is a product of discipleship.
John 15:11 (NKJV) "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
Full joy is manifest in the believer when he receives and abides in the Word of God. It is Christ's joy that is in us. His joy is unshakable joy, and it is ours as we abide in Him. As we walk in fellowship with God through obedience, we experience joy. So, joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God, that is developed as we receive and obey the Word.
Nehemiah 8:10 (NKJV) ".....the joy of the LORD is your strength." When we find our delight in God, there will be an inner strength for life and ministries. The pursuit of joy in God will give us strength to endure, and it is the key to breaking the power of sin in our lives. When we find our joy in the Lord, we will learn to hate sin because it robs our joy.
Let me give you four aids to joy:
Psalms 51:12 (NKJV) Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
You can't have joy when living in sin. Sin destroys our joy, it robs us.
Romans 15:13 (NKJV) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Confidence in the promises of God overcomes anxiety, and fills us with peace and joy. God is in control, so don't loose your joy, trust in Him. I believe that one of the greatest needs in Christianity today is the knowledge of God - Theology proper. Christians today don't know who God is. Most Christians have created God in their own image. They have made a god they can control. They have made a god that puts up with their sins. That is not the God of the Bible. If we would get a vision of God from the Scripture, we would know that he is someone we can trust in everything. Our lack of trust displays a lack of understanding of who our God is. The more you grow to know Him, the more you will trust him.
Hebrews 10:34 (NKJV) for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.
This earthly physical life is not all there is. We will someday drop this flesh and move into heaven. Our trials will cease, and we will forever dwell with our God. Don't dwell on the temporal, but on the eternal.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Whatever you are going through is God's will for you, so give thanks for it. Murmuring and complaining is sin, and sin robs our joy.
Let me show you the principle and basis of our thanksgiving:
Psalms 100:3-5 (NKJV) Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
Thanksgiving increases our joy. Have you ever known a thankful person that was miserable? Think about that! As I thought about this, I realized that the people that I know who are thankful people are happy people.
True joy is not a transient emotional feeling that lifts us up one moment and drops us the next, depending on our circumstances. True joy is the experience of well being that springs from the deep down confidence that God is in perfect control of everything for my good and His glory. And it is your nearness to God that determines your level of joy. The closer you walk with the Lord in fellowship, the more you will experience the joy of the Lord.
Joy is a settled state of mind, which is synonymous with peace. It is an attitude that enables you to view the world, with all its ups and downs, with a level-headedness. Joy is not a giddy, bubbly countenance. You don't have to have a smile on your face when your world is falling apart. It is an INNER confidence and peace that God is in control.
The key to Paul's constant attitude of joy was his intimate relationship with God. Paul looked upon all adversities as being divinely sent with a God directed purpose. God is in control, and he gives you your circumstance to help you grow closer to Him. Joy does not come from God giving me what I want, but rather it is my attitude in accepting what God sends.
Paul ended up in prison at least five times, once in Jerusalem, once in Philippi, once in Cesarrea and twice in Rome. When he went into a town, he didn't ask about the hotel, but the jail - he knew he would end up there sooner or later. In spite of all this, he never lost his joy.
When you begin to extract your joy out of your relationship with God, then you will always have joy. Too many of us try to get our joy from our circumstances - this is a fluctuating joy.
If you don't know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ, you can't fulfill this mission statement. You can't influence others to have something that you don't have. If you are a Christian without joy, you are giving the world a wrong impression. What message are you sending by your life?
Cathy Conger shared this story in Reader's Digest: "As the coals from our barbecue burned down, my husband passed out marshmallows and long roasting forks to all our dinner guests. Just then, two fire trucks whizzed past, stopping at a house just down the block. All 12 of us raced down the street, where we found the owners of the blazing house standing by helplessly. They were glaring at us with looks of total disgust. It was then that we realized we were all still holding our marshmallow forks."
They were sending the wrong impression to those poor folks whose house was burning down, and we also send the wrong impression when we, as Christians don't have joy.
So, our mission is: to influence - we do this by how we live and through the proclamation of the gospel message. We are to influence friends - those who know that we love and care about them, those we have spent time with building relationships. Who are living in spiritual darkness- those who don't know Christ, they have never trusted Him for their salvation. And also, those who are Christians but are not living in obedience to the Lord. That they also may know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ - please note that the word "also" implies that you know the joy of loving the Lord Jesus Christ. Everybody wants to be happy. And the only way for man to truly be happy is to live in fellowship with the God who created him. Our happiness and joy comes from God, and God alone.
I pray that each and every one of us would accept this mission statement as our own, and live each day in light of it.