Summary: Learn how to experience joy in all that we receive
Two weeks ago, Pastor Winsome Wu taught us how to cultivate joy in life. Last week, I talked about how we can experience joy by choosing the right expectations for each day and for our future. So intentional efforts are required to experience joy.
Joy, we talked about, is more than happiness. Joy is long lasting, even eternal. Joy is a matter of spirit, the part of us that relates with God. Joy results when we think, live and relate the way God intended for us to think, live and relate. So, joy doesn’t come to us by accident; rather, joy comes to us by obedience to God.
Unfortunately, many people think joy automatically comes with the Christmas season. After all, there is a great deal of gift receiving, parties and decorations. But none of these activities ensure joy.
On Friday, Mel and I went out to lunch. And as we headed toward Peking Wok, a homeless person stopped us for money. So we invited him to have lunch at Peking Wok. I talked and prayed with him for a few minutes. He ate his lunch, and then he left.
After lunch, I hurried back to my office to start this morning’s message. As I began to type, I wondered if that homeless person experienced any joy from a free lunch, a listening ear and prayer. We can receive a great deal without ever experiencing joy.
Have you ever received something with suspicion? Maybe your co-worker offers you help only because he needed your help the next minute? Or have you ever received something, and instead of feeling joy and gratitude, you felt indebted to the giver?
Few people are taught in life how to receive gifts or help with joy. Instead of joy, some people experience greed, arrogance, indebtedness or disappointment when they receive gifts from others.
Our Bible passage this morning will teach us how to experience joy from what we receive. The text is John 3:22-36. Let me read it for us.
Before we talk about how to experience the joy of receiving, let me introduce you to John the Baptist. John the Baptist, you need to know, was a distant cousin of Jesus, because their mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, were relatives. You also need to know that John the Baptist did not write the book of John. John, a disciple of Jesus, wrote this book.
John the Baptist and Jesus were both conceived miraculously. The angel, Gabriel, announced the miraculous conception of John the Baptist when his mom and dad were very old. The angel, Gabriel, on the other hand, announced the miraculous conception of Jesus when his mom was still a virgin, not having had intercourse with a man.
Furthermore, John the Baptist was given the charge to prepare people to turn from their sins and turn to the Savior, Who is Jesus. And Jesus was given the charge to save people from their sin by his death on the cross. Both had a clear life purpose.
What we read this morning is a record of John the Baptist experiencing the joy of receiving. If we read carefully, we would know that John’s joy came not from what he received but how he received. Let’s look together.
First, John was full of joy because he received from God without comparison to others. Verses 22-27.
John was performing a symbolic ceremony called baptism for all who want to be cleansed from sins and made ready for the Savior, Jesus Christ. In verse 23, we read that people were constantly coming to John to be baptized. And in verse 26, we read John’s disciples telling John that everyone is going to Jesus to be baptized.
How could everyone be going to Jesus to be baptized, when people were constantly coming to John to be baptized? If verse 23 is true, then verse 26 cannot be true. Was John, the author of this book, contradicting himself?
The answer is "no." What happened was the disciples of John the Baptist began comparing the number of people going to Jesus with the number of people going to John for baptism. Comparison can distort the truth and rob us of the joy of receiving.
Back in 1999, we moved from a one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom apartment, because we were expecting Esther. We were thrilled to have a larger place. A year later, Esther began to sit up and crawl, so we bought some plastic playpen gates to keep her out of trouble. We felt like the luckiest people in the world, until we went to visit some friends out in the East Bay.
They had just bought a house. We were invited to lunch, and when we entered their house, we saw the same playpen gates set up. Except their playpen area seemed much smaller in their living room, which was about three times the size our living room.