Summary: A look at the dedication ceremony after the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt. A sermon to remind us that there is a necessary place for joy in the Christian’s life
Introduction: We’ve been taking this trip through the book of Nehemiah, talking about what we’re supposed to do when life gets big – Big Ideas, Big Leaders, Big Strides, and this morning, Big Party. The whole idea comes from Nehemiah ch12, and the massage today is really simple: We ought to have joy in our lives. I knew, scheduling this message for the end, there would be a danger – actually a few:
• There’s a danger that someone might get the wrong impression – that I’ll make it sound like having a relationship with Jesus means it’s not OK to be depressed or to cry.
• There’s a danger of sounding like a bunch of empty clichés, or of sounding too simplistic like the song “Don’t worry; be happy.”
• There’s a danger of fostering the view that Christians are people who try not to admit when they’re sad and they hypocritically try to deny that they have problems too.
There seem to be a lot of outside reasons that might argue against joy this morning. (list number of people in church family facing difficulties)
The list goes on and on. How can we spend much time talking about joy? Big Party? When life is BIG, big party?
I want to tell you, if you’ve been hit hard by life, you have permission to cry. Jesus wept outside the tomb of His friend when He saw the hurt death causes. You’re in good company.
How can we talk about joy, and why should we? Isn’t that out of place?
I want to show there’s a necessary place for joy in the Christian’s life. In fact, this morning I want to cause you not only to feel allowed to have joy, but enabled and obligated to seek it.
One of the ways we big back in life is by BIG joy – joy that is greater than life’s setbacks and hills – not an ignorance or sidestep of real grief. In fact, I think that important healing process we call grief necessarily includes an element of joy.
Joke - A man had just had his annual physical exam and was waiting for the doctor's report. After a few minutes the doctor came in with his charts in his hand and said, "There's no reason why you can't live a completely normal life…as long as you don't try to enjoy it."
I like to make people smile, but Jesus is interested in your joy – your real joy - probably more than you are! He was interested in the joy of His disciples:
(Jn 15:11) I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
(Jn 17:13) I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
(Rom 14:17) “The kingdom of God is . . . a matter of . . . righteousness, peace and joy in the HS”
The Lord is interested in your joy. I didn’t say God wants you happy. He is interested in your genuine joy.
Oswald Chambers in The Shadow of an Agony -- “The Bible nowhere speaks about a "happy" Christian; it talks plentifully of joy. Happiness depends on things that happen, and may sometimes be an insult: joyfulness is never touched by external conditions, and a joyful heart is never an insult.”
I want us to learn about real joy by taking a look at the big party in Neh 12.
This was to be a serious dedication party.
Nehemiah 12:27 (NIV)
At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.
They called in the pros so it would be big!
Nehemiah 12:28-29 (NIV)
The singers also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem--from the villages of the Netophathites, from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem.
Sounds like something was going to happen! So how can reading about a big party help us to better appreciate real joy this morning? This story can help us see what real joy looks like.
First, see that real joy is…
I. Not the Result of Outward Circumstances
Too many are looking at joy as the feeling you have when things are going well in your life. But joy’s much deeper than that. It starts because of something inward.
1. Holiness precedes happiness.
Nehemiah 12:30 (NIV)
When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall.