My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, December 14, 2009

"The JOY That Satisfies Us" - (12/13/09)

Note: This is the sermon I was planning to give this past Sunday but we had a change of plans and ended up doing a combined service with the Korean church that meets in our facilities. Pr. Ken Cho gave a fine message but I don't have his manuscript or notes so I'll include this message as a continuation of the Advent Series. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful and encouraging.

We read in Luke 2:8-11: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.'”

Notice the 4 main points of the angel’s message:
  1. Good News = “Gospel”
  2. Great joy = unbounded and glorious
  3. For all people = universal, not just for a few
  4. A Savior = not merely a mentor
Today I want to talk about the things in life that can truly satisfy the human heart, the things that bring genuine joy. For you see, joy goes way beyond mere happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances. But joy can be present and abounding even in the midst of pain, sorrow, and isolation. Happiness, like water, quickly evaporates when the heat is turned up. Yet real joy, like gold in a fire, endures even when times get hard. Happiness is experienced by practically everyone. Genuine joy is a gift from God that unbelievers do not possess.

The Bible has much to teach us about the kind of joy that really satisfies. Moreover, Christian music is filled with references to joy and rejoicing. God’s people discovered long ago the truth expressed by the prophet Nehemiah in Neh. 8:10, “The joy of the LORD is our strength.” It has been that joy that has seen Christians through fiery trials of every sort and description.

In the OT ten different Hebrew terms express the various facets of the word “joy.” In fact, no other language has as many synonyms for joy and rejoicing as Hebrew. One of the most common of these words is gil, which also serves as the root for several of the other words. It means to leap, or spin around with pleasure. It is beautifully illustrated by the story of King David in II Samuel 6:12-16 when he danced with joyful abandon before the Ark of the Covenant as it was carried to Jerusalem through the streets of the city. The most common word for joy in the NT is cara. Closely related to it is the verb chairo, which means, “to rejoice.” Both of these words are found extensively throughout the New Testament.

The concepts tied up in the word joy seem to fall into several distinct categories. These are sometimes summed up by theologians as “natural joy,” or the human side of joy.
  • When joy is moderate it is often called gladness. 
  • When it is intense it is called exultation or transport. 
  • When it is tied to possessions it is termed contentment. 
  • When it relates to high desires accomplished it is satisfaction. 
  • When it refers to vanquished opposition it is called triumph. 
  • When it has permeated into the character we call it cheerfulness.

However, there is another side to joy and that is the spiritual side. The NT regards joy as essentially a divine gift. In Galatians 5:22 joy is listed as a “fruit of the Spirit.” Philippians 1:25 declares it to be a result of faith. Pure joy is joy in God, as both its source and object. Did you get that? It means that God is not only the Giver of joy, but also the One in whom we take the greatest joy. David in Psalm 43:4 says it beautifully, “I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise You with the harp, O God, my God.”

Our God is a God of joy. Psalm 104:31 tells us that He Himself rejoices in His own works. As He viewed His finished creation He said, “It is very good!” You can hear resounding joy in those words.

Believers also find great joy in the promises of God’s Word. In Psalm 19 David says that the Word of God is sweeter to him than honey and more desirable than fine gold. This is the testimony of countless Christians down through the centuries. In John 15 Jesus shared with His disciples the Good News of God’s salvation and then He said in verse 11, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” Two chapters later in His prayer recorded in John 17 He said to the Father in verse 13, “But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.”

As I stated earlier, as a gift of God, joy is unknown to the world, but paradoxically the believer may rejoice in afflictions and sufferings with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Look at Acts 5 for example. Verse 40 says, “And they [the elders of the Sanhedrin] took Gamaliel’s advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

The world cannot comprehend this kind of joy. Obviously no one in his right mind would be happy about being beaten half to death. Paul was no masochist and he is not saying that they were happy to be hurt, but in II Cor. 6:10 he describes their sentiments as “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.”

Some of my favorite verses about joy are found in the book of I Peter and they are all in the context of Christians suffering for the sake of the Gospel.
  • I Peter 4:12-14 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
  • I Peter 1:3-8 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in Heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
Let me ask you today --- have you ever experienced this kind of inexpressible and glorious joy? Would you like to? In Luke 2:10 the angel of the Lord told the shepherds, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”
  • Great joy is not found in Christmas shopping
  • Great joy is not found in family gatherings
  • Great joy is not found in receiving more presents
  • Great joy is not found in cultural and religious holiday traditions
That joy is for all the people, including you! And it is all tied up in the Good News about a Savior who came to be born, to live, to die, and to rise again from the tomb, ALL FOR YOU! Won’t you invite Him into your heart today?

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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