February 24, 2010
JOY – I would say that the marks of a Christian are captured best in the list of nine qualities found in the Scriptures called the Fruit of the Spirit. Joy is the second fruit listed. The basic premise is that when a person hears the message of the gospel, that is the good news about Jesus Christ, upon believing, they become a new creation and are given the Holy Spirit as the indwelling presence of God. The role of the Holy Spirit is varied–helping, convicting, comforting, and giving assurance that we belong to God. But we are told that the Spirit also produces all that is good in us–the fruit that flows out of our experience of abiding in him and him abiding in us.
Let’s turn our attention to the worship service. Joy is the overwhelming experience and expression of praise that results when we are in the presence of God together. The Psalms probably mention the word joy more than any other.
“You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalms 16:11 NIV)
And so as I make a plan for leading a “Service of Joy” for an upcoming conference, where shall I begin? What brings me most joy in the corporate worship service?
Answer: Rallying around the gospel! When the spotlight is on Christ, my joy is two fold. First of all, there is the reality of who I am in Christ – the object of his love and delight. Second, there is the unparalleled experience of God with other believers – worship within the community of faith, and it is the gospel of Christ Jesus that brings us together. Both experiences cause my heart to fill and overflow with joy – with resounding joy, I sing. The experience of worshiping the Lord together with the body of Christ parallels and surpasses that of any sporting event or musical concert–at least it should. I live for Sundays!
The truth of the depth of the Father’s love for me produces joy. When I delight in my wife or my kids, I can see the joy on their faces. In the same way, we are told that our Father delights in us.
“The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)
There is something about the Father’s Love that makes my heart rejoice. It is the realization that I am his adopted child–the object of his love and affection. Two songs come to mind: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us and How He Loves. The first song lays out the deep theology of the Father’s love and it is wonderful to sing of this truth. But the second, while not theologically deep and a bit quirky, lets me soak in the simplicity of my Father’s love. In other words, I find myself just resting in his loving embrace. Our experience of joy as we realize and rest in the Father’s love for us is in itself a beautiful expression of worship! However, words are appropriate too, “Your Love O Lord” not only declares God’s love for us, but responds with words of worship. “I will lift my voice to worship you my King. And I will find my strength in the shadow of your wings.”
Another theme in the gospel that brings joy is the beauty of grace displayed in our redemption – the prisoner has been set free. Our God is Mighty to Save! Is there any greater thing than that? “I once was blind but now I see…my chains are gone! I’ve been set free!” Our freedom as declared in such great songs as I Am Free, Happy Day, Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone), Your Grace Still Amazes Me, Hallelujah What A Savior, Mighty to Save, and In Christ Alone, to name a few songs. The second part of our service will focus in on the redemption and grace of God, shown to us through Christ our Savior.
Joy is also captured in declaring the works of the Lord on our behalf and aligning ourselves with his mission. This all happens within the context of fellowship – the unity of believers in heart, mind and purpose! The third and final component of our Service of Joy will focus on our corporate experience. While we’ve been experiencing it all along, now we turn the lights up and look around and realize that the icing on the cake, so to speak, is the people in front of us, beside us and behind us. Our experience of joy is incomplete if it is not experienced within the context of the unity of believers who are joined together in Christ, loving one another like Christ, and carrying on his work together.
“then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love,
being one in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:2 NIV)
This Scripture is laid out in the context of Christ’s attitude of humility with the charge that we are to follow in the same manner. Beneath the Cross will be our theme song for the week and it captures joy in the 3rd verse, declaring, “How great the joy before us to be his perfect bride. Beneath the cross of Jesus we will gladly live our lives.” This song brings it all together!
I would like to include some media, corporate readings, Scripture reading, and songs in our celebration of Joy. Father, help me to put this together in a cohesive way that leads us into the fullness of joy that comes from you. And may both our experience of joy and our expression of joy bring you great glory. And may you be blessed as you watch your children delight in you! Amen.