The Joyful Father

by Dr. John Yates

Personal Matters

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.

Conclusion

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.

The Happy Father

Personal Matters

joyby 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”.1)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).

Abiding Joy

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.

Conclusion

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).

References   [ + ]

1. Though not the most accurate definition of the Son and the Father