December 17, 2000
Central Church of Christ
THE JOY OF THE LORD
1. Robert Louis Stevenson once entered in his diary what he considered to be an extraordinary thing. He said, "I have been to Church today, and (Surprisingly) I am not depressed." Christians are called to be joyful in all circumstances. Christian concepts of joy are different from the worlds. The Joy of the Lord is the result of God’s work in our hearts (Galatians 5:22). Christ didn’t come that you might have sadness, He came that you might have a full life. (John 10:10)
2. The book of Nehemiah records a time when Israel is coming back into their homeland after spending 70 years in exile. They began to rebuild their home in the ‘land of promise’. Israel is regaining her homeland and returning to faith. The book of the law had been discovered and Nehemiah calls together the people and has Ezra conduct a public reading of God’s law. The Israelites had different stages of reaction to the law: First, they fell into repentant sorrow. Second, they began to praise and worship the Lord. Third, they celebrated the “Feast of Booths” as the law commanded. The result was great joy! Nehemiah told them, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength.”
3. Where can we find the joy of the Lord in our lives, giving us strength?
I. YOU CAN FIND JOY IN THE WORD (8:1-4, 8-12)
A. In the reading of the Word that the people saw two things: Their need for repentance and Their joy at God’s forgiveness
B. We find the same things in the Word.
We find our need for repentance! God blesses the penitent heart – and we need to do some serious introspection! Psalm 51:17 "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me…. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
Repentance doesn’t lead us to depression, but celebration! God forgives, his love causes him to forgive…and we are the beneficiaries of his grace. Romans 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” Repentance is the changing of our mind about sin. We need to keep a humble penitent heart. We cannot celebrate without repentance! When we look at the word we both repent and celebrate!
II. YOU CAN FIND JOY IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD (8:5-6)
A. When Ezra read the word of the Lord there was both: Jubilation (raised hands & Amens!) and Supplication (face down in prayer and reverence)
B. There is a joy in our personal and congregational worship to the Lord
Jubilation. Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 100. James 5:13b “….Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.”
Supplication. James 5:13a “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray….” Our times of worship should involve a bringing of our needs to the Father – this implies trust. Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
C. Joy can be found in the Word and in the Worship of God.
III. YOU CAN FIND JOY IN THE WILL OF GOD (14-18)
A. When Israel learned of the feasts that God commanded, they went right to work!
B. When we are fulfilling the will of God in our lives, that is when we will really find the greatest joy.
*In Salvation. (Romans 14:17; Isaiah 61:10)
*In Suffering (Hebrews 12: 2 ; Luke 6:22-23). If you blow a dog whistle nobody will pay attention. Every dog in the neighborhood will perk up his ears! The dogs are on a different frequency than we are. They hear things we don’t! Christians are on a different frequency from the world. How can we rejoice in suffering? We’re hearing something that they can’t hear. They hear defeat, but we hear VICTORY! They hear condemnation and we hear MERCY! They hear despair and sadness, we hear JOY!
*Soul Winning produces "the joy of the Lord" (Psalm 126:5; Proverbs 11:30; Luke 15). Soul winning produces joy. A lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son – and the joy that follows their discovery is a lesson for us! There is rejoicing, food, music, and dancing! Leading a lost person to Christ produces "great joy" in a Christian’s life, which in turn give him strength. Notice Paul’s joy at those he had converted: (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 ")
1. Joy can be found today for all Christians! It is found in the Word of the Lord, in the Worship of the Lord, and in the Will of the Lord!
2. This joy is a strength for you! Come to the sources that can produce joy in your life so that you will have the strength to fight the good fight, to finish your course and keep the faith! Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Psalm 30:5 “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."