by Dr. John Yates
Whilst my serious manner has led some people to think that I am not a relational person, Jesus is increasingly making this opinion untrue. Recently he has been communicating an indispensible element of relating.
In a prayer meeting I heard a medley of Bible verses that seemed to come together around a common theme: ““Where you there when I laid the foundation of the earth….and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy”” (Job 38:4, 7); “I will…give them joy in my house of prayer”(Isa 56:7); “when he marked out the foundations of the earth then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” (Prov 8:29-31). Plainly, when God lays a foundation he experiences great joy.
I am increasing inwardly convinced that we have a Father whose happiness is at the foundation of his relationship with us. The substance of this conviction is the life of Christ itself.
Jesus is the Joy (and the cross)
However pleased God was with the first created order his joy was soon spoiled through sin (Gen 6:5-6). For the Lord’s joy in creation to become eternal required the laying of a radically new foundation. The coming of the Word as a human being meant that this new foundation was the Son of God himself (John 1:1, 14). The joyous atmosphere that surrounded Bethlehem at Christ’s birth was a sign of the unfailing ecstasy in the heart of the Father at the coming of a new humanity through whom his pleasure would never fail. Christ’s acclamation “I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me” (John 5:30) reveals that he abided continually in the pleasure of God.
The wonderful words and works of Jesus were the visible radiance of the indwelling joy of the LORD (Matt 21:15).
The sorrowful work of the cross seals this joy in us (John 16:20-22).
Christian martyrs often die with excruciating physical pain but intense inner joy (cf. James 1:2), but Jesus’ anguish as a Son is to suffer on the cross stripped of the joy of the Lord (Mark 15:34). What however is infinite anguish for him is full assurance for us.
The total joylessness of the cross is the sign that our sins in all their potency to strip the Father of his happiness have been fully carried away in Christ (John 1:29).
Resurrection (and the cross)
In the language of the parable of the prodigal son, the resurrection of Jesus is the return from the “far country” of sin into the welcoming bosom of the Father (Luke 15:32).
Resurrection a restored Sonship means unrestrained celebration in heaven (Rom 1:4; Heb 1:6-9). To bring gladness to the Father was always the motivation of the Son of God, “Jesus… For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2).
Jesus died and rose again to bring glory to his Father, and glory always radiates into joy (1Pet 1:8; Jude 24). The most profound definition of happiness is Christ with his “Dad”.Though not the most accurate definition of the Son and the Father The implications for us of these profound realities flows from “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
Jesus promised “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22), for our joy is the expression of his joy in us (John 15:11). The ultimate indestructible quality of Christian joy is our sharing in the oneness of the joy of the Father with the Son (John 10:30).
Language fails in describing the richness of these realities.
The prophetic words “The LORD your God…will rejoice over you with singing”(Zeph 3:17) are true for us because the Father’s heart sings because of Christ living in me. The Father’s joy is full because Jesus has been laid as the eternal for my sonship (1 Cor 3:11). God my Father constantly delights in my life, despite my external circumstances and erratic obedience, because I am once and for all a new creation in his Son (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).
He knows me already as his partner in a new world where sorrow has forever ceased (2 Pet 1:4; Rev 21:4). There is still another dimension of this circle of joy, joy in one another (2 Cor 7:7; Phil 4:10; 2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:3).
Whilst the victories of our brothers and sisters are ongoing causes for celebration, there is a more stable basis for mutual joy. John the Baptist spoke with great excitement at the coming of Christ, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.” (John 3:29).
To recognise that my bother/sister in Christ is a member of his Holy Bride is of itself enough to swell me, a friend of the Groom, with joy (Rev 19:7).
A Diverse Family
I have been wonder-struck in the last week at the incredible diversity of the people the Lord has given me to care for. Not simply in terms of age, gender, class, spirituality or theology, but in mentoring folk from every continent. There is a multicoloured wisdom at work in the rich variety of the children in the Father’s house that is simply incomprehensible (Eph 3:10). Coming away from a predominantly African meeting last Sunday I was overcome with a sense of the Father’s warm loving delight in his multicultural family. I am pleasantly amazed to be a part of it.
Upon visiting Australia a few years ago the Christian sociologist Tony Campolo said, “I know all about your people, ninety five per cent of Australian mothers say their main goal is to make their children happy.” The joy or happiness we know in Christ is not like that brought by Australian mothers. Neither does it conform to the famous ditty, “Happy wife, happy life.” Christian joy comes from sharing in Jesus abiding forever in the Father’s indestructible love. The joy of God’s kingdom is a joy which cannot be shaken (Rom 14:17; Heb 12:28).
May all of us live, grow and radiate such a “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet 1:8).
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