The Gospel Applied: Finding Joy, Part I

Psalm 51 

We are looking at the gospel applied. We have spent a few messages looking at guilt. We are going to begin looking at, this morning and over several weeks together, how for the church that guilt turns to joy. As you are turning to Psalm 51, I want you to think back to the time where you gave your life to Christ and the things we talked about, you found yourself under the guilt and conviction of sin, you repented, and apprehended the mercy that God offers in Jesus and how that for you turned to a released from that burden to this incredible, incredible joy, that was real. The joy of the changed relationship, where before you were the enemy of God and now you have been made his friend through Christ, was real in you. It carried you, kind of like a high for x amount of time, that storyline is true for anyone that I have ever really talked with that knows Jesus. We go through this period where it just overwhelms us. Obviously we know we can’t always live on a high, and then we continue to live in this world, we sin, we sometimes fall apart and various things that happens to us. Joy can be stolen away. What we are actually going to begin to look at today is to define finding joy, and then kind of absorb that and what the bible tells us about joy so that we can maintain it in our lives, each and every day. 

Psalm 51 was written, most of you probably know this, on the heals of David confessing. David knew YHWH, he knew God, and he had fallen into what I guess you would call a grievous sin, right. He had had an affair with Bathsheba and through the story, as it goes in his account, literally had Bathsheba’s husband basically murdered because he put him on the very front lines. We know this that Nathan the prophet confronts David, David is basically hiding this sin. He begins to lie to himself and be deceived, like we all can be in our own flesh and in our own sin, he is under the burden of that sin. He has lost the joy of his relationship to YHWH. The prophet Nathan confronts David, if you know the storyline, and it is here in Psalm 51, which is said to be about a year past that, that David writes some very instructive words that leads us into understanding how do we find joy, and how do we maintain joy. It is a confession that David makes. You even look at the transcription before the verse that David when the prophet went to him after he had gone into Bathsheba. This particular confession has that as its concentration. What had happened to David was that he had lost joy, amongst other things. I want you to think of this, in light of perhaps you struggle with this. Perhaps you struggle with finding joy, or even maintaining joy. I can rest assured for you by the time we get through this, with the amount of bible texts that we will look at, that joy can be something that can be maintained. It is something that we are always striving for because it is a resource that is given to each of us by and through his grace. Notice this with me, David appeals to God to give him his joy back. We are just going to jump through this for times sake. Look at verse 8. He had been broken over his sin and the guilt of his sin, now he is seeking because he had finally repented to have the joy back. He wanted the joy back, he yearned for it. Church, you know what that sense is, you know what that feels like. It is a real emotional state in your inner man and in your mind. He goes on and jump ahead to verse 12. He is wanting his joy back. He wants to know in an experiential way the joy of the relationship he has with God. A part of the application of the gospel to guilt we know this comes to us by grace through faith. That is when you received Jesus, however you were battling your sin as you came under the conviction and acknowledgement of that and the exchange of life when you placed your faith and trust in Christ. God gave you joy. He gave you joy, and that joy amongst other things, the graces that are appropriated, they were things that were real. They were evident to you. Part of maintaining that sense of joy, we have already begun to look at, 2 Corinthians 7:10, repentance. It is godly sorrow that leads to repentance in salvation. 1 John 1:9 confession. If we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us for our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. These things, though we know we are eternally secure, they are a part of the regular appetites and the regular disciplines of being a believer. When guilt comes into our lives, we have kind of strayed into sin, God supplies through his graces of confession and repentance, so that  can come back to joy and not remain under guilt. 

One of the names for Satan is Lucifer, which literally means the accuser of the brethren. He wants you to feel under the attack of guilt. We know that guilt can be a healthy thing if it draws us to Christ, but obviously if we deal with it in a worldly fashion is can lead to despair and even death in some cases. But God wants his church, his people, who do know him to enjoy the grace, peace, repentance, and confession that all lead to joy, to freshness. It allows us to interact in transparency not hiding under a guilt that we have tried to put away that we really haven’t dealt with. Some of the wonderful truths that lead us to joy are confession and repentance. We are not to fight against those things, we are rather to have them free course in our lives so that we can maintain a joy. You recall this, grace cancels the debt of your sin for eternity. Peace has comforted your soul, where you were unstable in your inner man prior to Christ, God brought you peace. Repentance through the acknowledgement of your sin and this desire to turn. Confession brings forgiveness. All of these things are a part of God’s mercy, and at the end of it gives us a tremendous amount of joy. 

Now turn back with me to Psalm 30. I want us to begin to kind of look at how the bible presents joy over against how the world often times looks at joy. Because joy, I want you to know this, appears in the bible over and over again. Just to give you a couple of examples, we saw this with David in chapter 51, but look at chapter 30 verse 5. Joy comes in the morning, in the freshness of a new day. Turn to Psalm 66:1. Shout for joy. When we get into the New Testament, we know that joy is a part of the fruit of the spirit. It is a by product of the relationship that you have with God through Christ that God gives you through his grace the fruit of the spirit, a joy. Yet the bible is consistent to place an emphasis on joy. So what does that mean? The fruit of the spirit to have joy. Let’s be honest, I should say let me be honest with you, sometimes I might struggle with my joy. The bible place so much emphasis on it, I think the first place we need to go is to understand, what is he talking about and what is joy and how do I pursue it. 

Let’s go back to Matthew 5 and we are really going to spend our time just for a moment here in Matthew, we will end up going to Philippians 4. We are going to try and set up some things today for, again, the weeks ahead. How many of you remember in the 90’s there was a really popular tune that came out that Bobby McFerrin wrote, Don’t Worry Be Happy. A lot of you remember that song. It was real catchy. It was a lighthearted tune, catchy lyrics and it stayed number 1 for x amount of weeks, but it was a very popular song. It literally became a hit in America, but it was also a worldwide hit. Don’t worry, be happy. There is a lot of confusion, I want you to know, as we try to establish this, this morning. There is a lot of confusion between happiness and joy. I don’t know what translation you have in your hand, you obviously know that we preach from the ESV. The text that I read from in the scripture reading, Matthew 5:3-11 uses the term blessed, but you may have a translation that says happy. That can be a confusing term, blessed over against happy. So that is what I want to deal with a little bit. Because the scripture says here, Jesus say this at the sermon on the mount, blessed…. To establish this so we can all have a clear understanding, cause I don’t know exactly what God is talking about when he consistently presents, over and over again throughout the bible, what we find is literally a command to have joy. 

So what does he mean? Well happiness, today by and large, is translated in this kind of way, it has to do with sentimental or trivial things. It is getting the warm and fuzzy feelings. Happiness as it was certainly tied to that particular song Don’t Worry Be Happy, had this idea of being carefree and cavelier. It was really a focus on happiness as something that happens to us. From this perspective, we are passive. So I can get, to give you an example of this, I can gain happiness through a job promotion. I could gain happiness through being given a raise. I could find happiness in getting a new home or a new car. Happiness are things that happen to us, where we are really passive but when we get them, we have this sense of feeling. We want to be careful to understand and not overly think that this type of happiness is the biblical concept of joy. Again, you may have this but in the Greek blessed does mean happy. Its referring to though, joy. Now let me say this, joy may include warm feelings of happiness but it is much much more. It runs, for you and I who know Jesus, much much deeper. So it is not so much that we don’t want to have happy feelings, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to have a sense of happiness, but the concept of joy in the bible runs much deeper than that. It may be inclusive in that but sometimes those happy feelings might not be there and there is something greater that is there. Blessed again is translated to happy here, carries the idea of a profound peace, a comfort, a stability. It is a great joy. Notice this with me, Jesus uses these as an imperative over against passive. The imperative means it is a command. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted, and on and on it goes. God is literally giving us a command to be joyful. What does that tell us? Joy is an attitude. Joy is an attitude that we know is given by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). It is driven by the Spirit. God also wants us to know this, you can experience joy in pain and in suffering and in grief. Look at verse 11 again. 

You are probably thinking of moments in your life when you have experienced that type of joy. Let me move past one for you an example in my life, past my salvation experience. It was a time at both of my parents death, as ironic as that may seem, but God provided for me a powerful sense of joy. Going into, my dad passed away before my mom (my mom went about 15 months after my dad), the first time I saw my dad he was already at the funeral. Val and I walked in from driving from Michigan and I couldn’t say a word. I felt like if I had said something I was going to fall apart. Yet for me in that moment, I give you this as a testimony to Jesus, he gave me this profound sense of joy. This incredible sense of stability and comfort and it was real. As I looked at him in the casket and again, as I said I was honored and blessed to preach both of my parents’ funerals, there was a realization for me that everything they had built their home upon, in one part had come to a greater fruition. They were with Jesus. God gave me a sense of incredible joy with that truth. I was truly comforted, past a warm and fuzzy feeling. I will be honest with you, it stunk. Dad was a golf buddy whenever I would go down there. I could get out and do certain things with him. There were going to be things about that relationship that brought me tremendous sorrow yet past the sorrow there was something greater going on within me. I fully understand what David was talking about, restore to me the joy of your salvation. It was there because Jesus was the source of it. It wasn’t something I could muster up, but it was real.

At the very heart of biblical joy, even when you are in deep hurt or pain, there is hope. There is a greater day coming. There is a better day coming. It is the hope of the gospel. Joy is a state of well being. Joy is being in a right relationship with God, so that joy moves beyond things that are happening to you or beyond your temporary circumstance. Joy, when you are experiencing it you want to know this, belongs to those who know Jesus because Jesus is the source of joy. 

Turn with me to Philippians 4. I think this an appropriate example because Paul refers to it. He refers to this example in the middle of dealing with a problem. He is dealing with a problem. Philippians 4:2-8. Paul is in prison when he writes this. He is writing to a church that had brought him a tremendous amount of joy, and as any church filled with fallen people and any home or family filled with fallen people though redeemed by God, there are hiccups. People stumble into sinful things, things happen. That has happened here at this church. He writes this, he is giving them an exhortation but he says some things that, if you considered these definitions I have given you, are pretty remarkable. In the middle of a problem, likely the biggest problem that ever occurred at Philippi this was left in God’s eternal word, he commands them to have joy, just a Jesus did. 

Now jump back up here with me as we use this to lead us to the table. Maybe you are experiencing joy right now, yet it is something you want to maintain. Let's be honest, we all fall in and out of it from time to time. Paul gives this command, I want you to notice this with me because I think it could be helpful for great instructions for all of us. There are two Christian women who are in a fight here. It is clear to us that they are Christian women because Paul tells us in verse 2 and 3, they have helped me in the gospel, and then he says this whose names are written in the book of life. God gave Paul that through revelation through the Spirit so they are Christians. We can’t miss that. It is not one side was wrong because they were lost, they are Christians.  Euodia and Syntyche were not only Christians, but they were ladies who had helped Paul in the service of the gospel and the building of this church plant that happened at Philippi. It appears, and the reason why the text writes this, the problem had festered beyond just Euodia and Syntyche where it appears that groups were taking side. I am either on Euodia’s side of this or Syntyche’s. Yet, it is so trivial that Paul doesn’t even identify to us what they were fighting about. Let’s be honest, most of the things we end up fighting and wrestling about really don’t amount to a hill of beans, in light of the bigger picture. That is exactly what he is doing for them. He says, “Hey these sisters have helped me in the gospel.” He is trying to get this thing calmed down. “These sisters have helped me in the gospel, along with Clement, and they are people whose names are written in the book of life.” Then he gives this imperative, command, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. He starts with “have joy” this attitude of joy. Well what does he mean? He is calling upon them to think about the relationship that they have in the Lord, that Jesus has borne the curse of their sin and not only have Jesus borne the curse of their sin, that Jesus has applied his righteousness to them and they are eternally secure. He gives them big picture so they will see past the trivial nature of whatever it was, and we don’t know what it was. We just know it didn’t amount to a hill of beans. What is Paul saying? He is saying you are in Christ, Christ is in you, you are eternally secure, and you are so secure nothing can change that. Your names are written in the book of life. Please stop fighting. That is exactly the instruction. The first instruction is, “Hey, rejoice in the Lord. Step back from the circumstance you are in and think about Christ.” Christ has taken the curse of my sin, Christ has applied his righteousness to me. Let me tell you something, when that took place (I think that is part of the point of this passage) is that Euodia looked at Syntyche differently. Not only did she consider her own life, she looked at Syntyche differently. Syntyche looked at Euodia and she not only considered her own life, but she looked at Euodia and she began to look at her significantly different. Stop fighting, rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice. Focus your attention on Jesus. Recognize what he has done for you. Take your joy in him. Live to do right before Christ. Then live to do right toward your brothers and sisters. That is the instruction. 

I guess from time to time we can identify, we have all been in a scrap with somebody. At least if we are honest we have. That is part of our instruction. But he doesn’t stop. I want to show you this as well. Look at verse 6. Often times these passages are read and they are thought about in isolation. Don’t worry. But think about what happens when you have a problem with someone else and you get isolated, all of us in our sinfulness speculate about what they are going to do. What they are thinking about doing. What it does, it is creates a fear, a worry, an anxiety on us. We are preparing for greater battle. Paul knowing this, identifies, don’t be anxious. Whatever it is that was bothering you, don’t be anxious. He doesn’t even identify it. The truth is, you know what is going to rob you of joy? Fear, anxiety, and worry. Here is what happens when we lose our joy through fear, anxiety, and worry, we forfeit joy. People begin to get isolated and they move back, and they move back, and they move back. As he is further developing how to have joy, he writes this and look at this (cause all of these are attached to joy), when these things begin to happen to you and you begin to perhaps experience a fear, anxiety, or worry, perhaps you get in a scrap with your spouse, your children, or God forbid someone in this room who are apart of the church. We begin to focus upon, I need to rejoice. I want you to get this, when I read verse 8, this list is not exhaustive. It is not the only things, he is trying to make points. There are more representative of what joy will look like. It thinks about things that are just and pure and lovely and commendable and excellent, things that are worthy of praise. When God tells us to just focus on Jesus, it doesn’t mean we just focus on Jesus but we are going to treat that person bad, when we focus on Jesus we are going to want to be right with that person that is next to us. We are going to want to be right. Peace and joy come to the heart when we think about those things that are joy filled or true and honorable and pure and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy. At the end of the day, you know what those things are? Jesus, the gospel, the things of God, which are inclusive to the people of God, and in doing so God extends and allows us to experience joy in a very real day. Joy is a command, it is a command. Each of us on our own part must nurture so that we can truly live with it, truly have it.