by Dr. John Yates
Before heading overseas last month I felt quite overwhelmed by the pressures of ministering/fathering to people. I left seeking a greater share in the relationship between the Father and the Son as a source of all spiritual strength. A leading in this direction was to come unexpectedly. Early one morning I found a way onto the hotel roof where we were staying in Kusadasi on the Aegean coast of Turkey. A mosque was on the skyline of the hills on the landward side, whilst several luxury liners were pulling into port. As I was praying I sensed something of the joy between the Father and the Son, and knew this was a source of strength not only for me but for the Church in Perth. The joy of the Father is one of the keys Jesus gives us for the building of his Church today (Matt 16:16-18). The discipling of all nations, including Australia, depends upon a deeper revelation that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is a joyful Father.
Joy Given and Lost
God began everything in joy; “when he marked out the foundations of the earth…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). Our Father “richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Tim 6:17).
Satan hates God’s enjoyment. Knowing the reality of angelic joy (Job 38:7), his goal as a fallen depressed spirit has always been to destroy the God’s joy in creation. In pointing Eve to the forbidden fruit as a “delight to the eyes” (Gen 3:6) he induces her and Adam to enjoy the gifts of God apart from God. Since the Fall in Eden human beings have been driven to enjoy themselves. The devil constantly portrays our Creator Father as a joy reducer rather than a joy increaser. Whenever people want to enjoy themselves apart from the joy of the Lord Satan holds supreme power. This is the state of our society today.
Just as seriously, all religions which emphasise external obedience, such as Islam, rob us of the joy for which we were made. Jesus castigated the misery-making legalistic Pharisees, “you are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). Satan’s corrupting influence has also penetrated deep into much family life. I rarely experienced my father’s joy in ME, rather than what I DID. God’s true nature however is revealed in scripture, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will rest you in his love; he will joy over you with singing.” (Zeph 3:17). Such wonderful promises only come to pass through Christ.
Jesus Restores the Father’s Joy
Jesus was constantly filled with his Father’s joyful presence. At this baptism, before he did any works of ministry, he heard from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22). Upon hearing how the kingdom of God was releasing people from the grasp of Satan, the Lord “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” and spoke of the intimate presence of the Father (Luke 10:19-22 cf. Rom 14:7). The joy Jesus gives is ultimately indestructible, “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22). Nothing in the world can shatter this joy – suffering, sickness, disappointment or death; for the deep mysterious character of Christ’s joy is forged in death and resurrection.
When Jesus cries out, ““My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34), he is taking into himself all our sorrows and sadness’s that under the power of Satan rob us of eternal joy. And he bears them to destruction. Christ’s resurrection fulfils the prophecy of unsurpassable joy, ““You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”” (Heb 1:9 ESV). “Jesus…for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2). Jesus now possesses what humanity has always longed for, an indescribable indestructible JOY (1 Pet 1:9). His greatest delight is bringing us as sons to the Father (Heb 2:10).
Joy in Christ
Encountered by the risen Christ the apostles were overcome by joy, an exhilaration which accompanied them after they saw him ascend to heaven (Luke 24:41, 52). Joy in all circumstances is a potent sign of the resurrection victory of Jesus over the power of sin, Satan and death to spoil our lives. For Christians to have joy is a gospel command; “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” (Phil 4:4). The depths of Christian joy are a revelation of the mystery of who Jesus is. When beaten the apostles were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.” (Acts 5:41 cf. 16:25). James exhorts us, “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).
Unlike Muslims (and others) Christians are not people who merely believe in a future joy in Paradise; Christians are not people who are trying to enjoy themselves; Christians are people who know that suffering entrusted to Christ is the way to a deeper joy in his Father. To rejoice in the Lord in the midst of life’s trials and sorrows is what it means to “reign in life through one Christ Jesus” (Rom 5:17). This is a high kingly calling.
All Christian devotion is to be framed by the prospect of sharing the Lord’s joy. We need the strength of divine joy to empower our witness (Neh 8:10; Rom 14:17); we are called to repent of sin because sin is a joy blocker (2 Cor 7:8-10); joy in one another is the substance of Christian fellowship (Gal 4:15). Joy is a hallmark of what it means to follow Jesus. The deeper our experience of this pure spiritual joy the more we are inwardly motivated to follow Jesus, whatever the cost. Joy is foundational to discipleship.
Preparing this address in Turkey I had to ask myself questions like these, “Do I love the joy of the Lord?”; “What unbelief prevents me from radiating a smile more frequently (Ps 34:5)?” “God is able to bring us into his eternal presence “with great joy” (Jude 24), how does this move me?” I sense that the command of the eternal God (Rom 16:26) is, “There should be more joy in the Church.” This is a great challenge. Seeing it is impossible to manufacture divine joy I must turn to Christ for enjoyment. In him I meet a happy Father who both loves me and likes who he is making me to be. Even if I am very much a work in progress, in prayer this morning I did truly sense I have a happy Father. PTL.