Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on Mary 10, 2015.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians 4:4-7. We will spend two weeks in these verses because I think they are extremely important for your Christian walk. Let us get right to work by reading our text, pray that God would open our hearts and then will we work through what God has revealed to us in His Holy Word.
Blaise Pascal, a French Mathmetician, in the 17th century said this:
“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”
Do you agree with this? Our Founding Fathers did. In the Declaration of Independence are the famous words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
It is not only 17th century mathematicians and historical statesmen, but it is modern day therapy. Perhaps the most common question for social workers, psychiatrists, psychologist, and coffee shop counselors is “Are you happy?”
There is something hardwired in every human being that craves for happiness. Every decision we make is oriented to what we believe will achieve greater happiness. Even the decisions that are difficult, are still made with the hope that when all is said and done things will be better then if we hadn’t made that decision.
Unfortunately, because of sin, we seek happiness in things that will not ultimately produce happiness. I believe the parable of the prodigal son is a good illustration of this fact. The youngest Son requested his share of the inheritance and off he want into the world and “squandered his property in reckless living” until one day he found himself so broken to the point that he was coveting the food for the pigs. The youngest son’s pursuit of happiness independent of his Father left him ultimately broken and unsatisfied. This is a picture of all humanity in eyes of God. We are wired to seek joy, and absent Christ, we seek it in the troughs of pigs.
Chief End of Man
Changing gears, If I were to ask, according to God’s Word, what is the Chief end of man, what would you say? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism the answer to that question is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.” Do you agree with this? Do you agree that, not only are you wired for joy, but God designed you to enjoy Him? Do you agree that you exist to have joy in God?
When we hear of read statement like the Westminster Catechism, or some creed, we should always ask, what is the scripture behind it? We don’t just want to accept this comment wholesale just because some theologians in 1647 said it was so. We should be like the Bereans in the book of Acts who searched the scriptures to compare what is said to what we know to be true, namely, the Bible. So let us look at some text.
For those who see a relationship with God as being joyless, I say this, you don't know my God, and I would encourage you to take a good long look in the Spiritual mirror and ask some difficult questions about your salvation. For true joy is only found in God, all other joys are counterfeit.
However, having said this, fullness of joy in God is not easy. Joy does not just show in at your doorstep with a little pink bow on it upon your conversion. To use a phrase from John Piper, we must fight for you, and you can see this in our text today.
Command for Joy
Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” First we must recognize that this is a command. Paul is commanding the Philippian Church to rejoice. If joy came naturally for all Christians, a command would be unnecessary. Paul's command for us to rejoice tells us that joy is something that must be intentionally chosen.
I wonder how often we think this way. Do you wake up each morning intentionally choosing to have joy in God. Do you implement practical things into your life that will produce joy in God? If not, why not? Most likely it is because you have never thought about it. You have never thought about Joy in God as something you work at. Most likely, you have wrongly believed that joy is based on circumstances, and you are just a passive in experiencing it. You see yourself as a victim of joy or joylessness. This is not how the Bible speaks of joy. Joy in God is something we must pursue.
Second, we must recognize that joy is not optional. As I said, this is a command. Paul is commanding that early Church to rejoice. In fact we find this command of rejoice in the Lord in the midst of other commands: stand firm in the Lord, agree in the Lord, rejoice in the Lord, do not be anxious. A Christian life that does not have joy is a Christian life outside the will of God. Once again, let that sink in. Having no joy in the Lord is disobedience. We are commanded to love God. We are command to have joy in God.
So this leads us to how, how do we have joy in the Lord? This morning I want to suggest five ways to pursue joy. First, we must recognize that apart from the Spirit of God in our lives, we have no hope for joy.
For those who are Christians, we must recognize that but for the Spirit of God dwelling inside us, we will never bear the fruit of joy. We cannot capture joy in our flesh, only by the Spirit of Christ that dwells in us. Therefore, step one is that we ask for joy in God. James 4:2 says, “ You do not have, because you do not ask.” We need to ask for joy, not in this world, but in the Creator of the world. Having said that, once again, this does not mean that joy will be produced in us in a passive way. Each fruit of the Spirit must be pruned to produce more.
Second, we must have eyes to see Christ for who He truly is. Think about what produces happieness in your life. Is it not the value you see in something. I have happiness when I look upon my wife, for I see great value in her. I have happiness when I look upon my children, because I see great value in them. Likewise, we must see that true value of Christ. As we saw in chapter 3 of Philippians, we must see the surpassing worth of Jesus. We must stare into the face of Christ and be overwhelmed by the image of the almighty Sovereign God who hung the stars staring back at us.
Third, we must recognize what Christ has done for us. Some of you may have heard this story, but several years ago I prosecuted a vehicular homicide case. It is a charge that carries 25 years in prison. The case was somewhat complicated, but like all cases that go to a jury trial, there were issues. There a few moments in life when time seems to freeze. Jury verdicts are one of those times, especially when 25 years of liberty on on the table. I still recall the look on the defendant's face when the verdict came in saying “We the jury find the defendant...not guilty.” In that moment there was nothing that could steal his happiness. I could have burned down his house, and he would have cared less. Why? Because he escaped punishment. He was free. This pales in comparison to what Christ has achieved for us of the cross. We deserve, not 25 years in prison, we deserve eternity in Hell. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we escape eternal torment. We escape weeping and gnashing of teeth. We escape the unquenchable fire. We escape the out darkness. We escape the wrath of God. When we forget this, we undermine our joy.
Fourth, we must see what is waiting for us. In Luke 10:20, Jesus said this to his disciples he had just sent out to do expand the Kingdom, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Our joy is not built upon our circumstances, it is built upon our destiny. These names are written, past tense, in this book. This book of life will be opened on the last day, the day of judgment. And all those whose names are in the book, we be ushered into the presence of God.
So to summarize today. We are designed for joy. The source of of this joy is found only in God. As Christians we must not assume that this is automatic. We must fight for joy. WE must therefore, pray that God would help us see Christ for who he is, what he saved us from and what he saved us to. If we do this, I promise you that joy awaits.