A Spirit of Joy
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. (Luke 1:32)
Is it really possible to be filled with joy at this time of year, especially in light of our economic uncertainty and the constant threat of terrorism? It seems that a dark, foreboding cloud of scepticism and cynicism has grabbed our collective hearts. Will the economy and terrorism further plague us in 2009? Will you have a job next year? Will you have enough money to get you through your retirement years? What does the future hold for our children and grandchildren? As many spend hours awake at night, worrying about these things, the question remains- can you have true joy?
I wonder brother Christian – are you filled with joy? One cannot help but see, in reading the announcement from Gabriel to the virgin Mary in Luke 1:26ff concerning the birth of Jesus the Messiah, the joy such news brings to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. I am sure you agree with me that we live in a world of anger, despair, and hopelessness but Christ has come to bring us great joy. Indeed, he is the Son of the Most High God. Jesus tells us in John’s gospel that to see him is to see the Father for he and the Father are one. He was to be given the throne of David to be a King of his people for eternity. David saw this long before Christ’s incarnation when he said, ‘The Lord says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make thine enemies a footstool for thy feet”‘ (Psa. 110:1).
But do you lack joy? Do your spouse, children, parents, work associates see a person of doom and gloom or of joy? The Christian virtue of joy is not easy to define, especially since we must take into consideration various temperaments. Joy does not mean giddiness. There are genuine times of sorrow and grief. Perhaps the best definition I can give of joy is the feeling one has on his wedding day. He is expectant, happy, apprehensive, perhaps even fearful because he knows this is a huge, irreversible step. Is he ready? Christian joy is marked by deep abiding faith, submission and trust in the loving, sovereign, heavenly Father in every circumstance. There is no room for anger, murmuring, complaining, irritability, or impatience in the joyful Christian.
But how do we get there? There is so much to say about our Saviour’s incarnation which can help us regain or retain our joy, but consider two unfathomable truths. I mention them only briefly. Volumes have been written on each item. Consider, first of all brother Christian, Christ’s person. Theologians love to speak of the glory of his two natures, two states, and three offices. By his two natures we mean that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. Charles Spurgeon said that this does not mean that Jesus was humanized deity or deified humanity. Jesus is, at the very same time, God and man. This is vital, for if he is not man, then he could not die for our sins. Angels do not die. If he is not God then the Father could never accept his death on our behalf. Sinful man cannot die efficaciously for another. There would be, for example, no redeeming value if I died in your place. There is with Jesus’ death, however, because he is the sinless God Man. By his two states we mean his state of humiliation (his birth in a feed bin; his life and consequent rejection in a sin-satiated world; his suffering, death, and hell); and his state of exaltation (his resurrection, ascension, eternal session at the Father’s right hand, and his second coming). Philippians 2:5 is the classic Biblical text which so wonderfully communicates both. Then by his three offices we mean Jesus is our Prophet (he teaches us in his Word by the apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit), Priest (one who intercedes for us, applying to us the very benefits of his redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, justification, adoption, and sanctification), and King (one who provides for, protects, and guides his people).
Brother Christian – I speak from personal experience when I say that our lack of joy, the ubiquitous anxiety, fear, bitterness, resentment, or impatience we exhibit is there simply because we fail to contemplate the glory of Christ’s person. It is also because we fail to consider his work. Think for a moment of what he has done, is doing, and will do. What has he done? He has reconciled us to the Father by his fleshly body through death, causing us who were alienated, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds to be made now the friends of God (Col. 1:21ff). We were enemies of God, rebellious against his cause, and he was perfectly just in casting us into hell forever. Instead he has had mercy. He is now doing at least two things – preparation and intercession. He is preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:1ff). In his Father’s house are many dwelling places. He is also interceding for us, deflecting the accusations of the devil, the accuser of the brethren; and he is, as I have already stated, applying the benefits of his redemptive work to our hearts and souls. He is leading us daily by his nail-scarred hand to the river of grace, a flowing stream filled with blood drawn from his veins. And he will bring glorification to us (Rev. 21:22ff). Picture a huge public square and seated on a throne at one end is the Son of Man, clothed in a white robe, his head and hair are white like wool, like snow. His voice is like the sound of many waters. His face is shining like the sun in all its strength. In his right hand are seven stars and from his mouth comes a sharp, two-edged sword. And streaming into the public square with you are millions of every colour, every ethnic group, every language. There’s Paul, Moses, Abraham, St. Augustine, your parents, your siblings, your friends from church. And while you rejoice at those whom you see, you cannot take your eyes off the risen, glorified Christ and you, with the multitudes of the heavenly host, are giving glory to him by saying, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches, and wisdom and might, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’
Fellow believers – how can you, how can I, allow cynicism, anger, hostility, impatience, depression to dominate us when we have such a Saviour? Think on him. Consider his person and work. Learn to glory in the Lord Jesus Christ. Learn to rejoice in the Lord always.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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