By Rick Ezell
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
We who claim to have joy often look as if we have been weaned on dill pickles. The “joy, joy, joy, joy way down in the depths of our hearts” has long departed and in its place is some sort of ugliness that emerges like a bad taste in our mouths. What once was a face, shining as bright as the sun, now is a face that is as long as the day.
Many Christians once possessed a vibrant and exciting faith, and an upbeat and positive attitude, and a confident and certain joyfulness. The fullness of their joy has been drained like a swimming pool. While these people had not lost the experience of salvation, they lost the joy of their salvation. Where did the joy go? What caused joy to evaporate from their lives?
Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). This fullness of joy eludes even the most committed Christians. Many Christians have exchanged the experience of joy for the weight of counterfeits.
1. For some Christians, the thief of their joy is legalism.
Legalism is the perverted theology that reduces Christianity to a set of rules. Loaded with guilt-inducing mechanisms it robs the believer of joy. It transforms the relationship with Christ to mere religiosity. It points out how short we fall rather than how far we've come because of what Jesus did for us.
The answer to legalism is a love-relationship with Jesus Christ. God did not create us to follow a set of rules or to teach us a program. His love is not dependent on us doing or not doing certain activities. In fact, lists and activities may come between us and God. God created us for a love relationship with him. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you,” (John 15:9) says Jesus. We will not experience nor express joy until we are engaged in a love relationship with Jesus Christ.
2. For some Christians, the stealer of their joy is sin.
Granted, on this side of heaven we will not be sinless. So sin must be dealt with. We don't deal with sin; Jesus deals with sin. “He [laid] down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). We don't try to muster up enough will power to control it. We confess sin to God. Confession is telling God what He already knows. It is not rationalizing or calling sin something else. It is calling sin and then getting on with our lives.
Sin and joy cannot occupy the same space. And it doesn't take much sin to eradicate a lot of joy. A little sin that remains unconfessed can expand like a little yeast, and squeeze out all of our joy. Allow God to deal with the sin by confessing it to Him.
3. For some Christians, the thief of their joy is practical atheism.
Make no mistake about it, many Christians believe in God but live their lives with little or no confidence that God could and would handle the details of their lives. Practical atheists believe God will save them from hell but have difficulty believing that God will handle the affairs of their day-to-day life. How you and I live is a testimony of what we believe about God.
For the Christian, joy centers on belief. Faith is the confidence that what God has promised or said will come to pass. It trusts Him with the details of our lives. How we live determines what we believe about God, regardless of what we say.
4. For some Christians, the thief of their joy is success.
Nowhere does the Bible say that a Christian can't have money and experience success. The issue is replacing God with success — replacing the Master with money. An unfounded belief is that material things bring joy.
God wants you to succeed. He promised that he would “give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16), but on His terms. His terms are simple: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). Joy comes when we put Christ on the throne of our lives, not money. Joy comes when we allow Christ to possess our lives and not allowing our possessions to possess us.
True joy is a treasure of a soul that puts
Christ in control. An old British educator said, “Joy is the flag
which is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in
residence.” True joy comes in submitting our lives to Christ as king.
Any reservation, any other course of action will rob the believer of
that eternal treasure — joy.
Sermon provided by: Rick Ezell, a pastor and author in Naperville, IL