Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Joy of Advent is Unspeakable and Full of Glory - A Sermon

This is the manuscript of a sermon given at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA, Sunday December 11, 2016.

As I mentioned last week we are in, what the Christian world calls the season of Advent .  Advent looks forward to Christmas, but instead of focusing on buying gifts and trees, it is a season marked by anticipation of the birth of Jesus. For people of faith Advent is a time to pause and reflection, a time of deeper devotion and prayer.   During Advent Christians anticipate the coming of Christ from three different perspectives; in the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts everyday, and in glory when Jesus returns.    In many churches and homes, candles are lit on a wreath often representing hope, love, joy, and peace which are the themes most often used for the four weeks of Advent.  All four of these themes are embodied in Christ Himself.  

He is the Hope of the World

Matthew 12:21 (NLT) And his name will be the hope of all the world.”

He is the Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)  For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

He is the Fullness of Joy

Psalm 16:11 (ASV) Thou wilt show me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; In thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

He Loves Us

Romans 5:8 (NKJV)  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Last week I talked about the Hope of Advent, Jesus Christ the Hope of Glory our main scripture was;

Colossians 1:27 (NKJV)  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory

This week I want us to look at the Joy of Advent.  

It’s a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.  Go to:

1 Peter 1:6-8 (KJV)6  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:7  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:8  Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

In the Bible In Basic English it’s “joy greater and any words”, the New Kings James Version it’s “joy inexpressible”,

It’s clear that the joy that Peter was talking about is so great you can’t express it in words, it is so great that is beyond the human ability to describe.  It is a joy  which is better experienced than expressed because there are no words to describe it.  - Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Our English dictionaries define joy as "the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation."   

With this dictionary definition, we could say that "happiness" and "joy" are interchangeable.  But that’s not the kind of joy that Peter was talking about.  

The Greek word that Peter used for “joy” is chara (khah'ee-ro) which is defined by the Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary as from (chairo); cheerfulness, i.e. calm delight :- gladness, × greatly, (× be exceeding) joy (-ful, -fully, -fulness, -ous). He said that this joy was unspeakable or so great it was beyond the ability to describe.  That’s a lot of joy.

Joy is often defined as, “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Too often we confuse joy with happiness and think that someone must be joyful if they are always walking around happy, but that isn’t really how the Bible defines it.

Joy isn’t so much a feeling as it is an action of us choosing to trust God in our circumstances.

Philippians 4:4-7 (NKJV)4  Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!5  Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Happiness depends on circumstances joy depends on God.  

When we believe God is in control of everything, including all the details of our lives, we can be confident that He is always at work to draw us closer to Him in all situations.That will bring us true joy.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit biologist and philosopher, once wrote, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”   Joy comes upon us unexpectedly. It jumps out at us from behind sunsets, peeks out in the smile of a stranger, and takes hold in a child’s laughter.  That’s the joy that entered the world when when the angel made his announcement to the shepherds.  

Luke 2:10 (NKJV)10  Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

One reason that we don’t always experience the kind of joy Peter was talking about is that we confuse happiness and joy.  We think that both happiness and joy are found in pleasure, security and prosperity, but joy and happiness are not the same.   Happiness vanishes when life turns painful; joy keeps going and may even grow.  When we focus on the love of Jesus and not the circumstance we understand  that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  

Nehemiah 8:9-10 (NKJV)9  And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.10  Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Bold mine).

That’s a reason for unspeakable joy.  

James tells us that we should have this unspeakable joy even at times that the world would tell us are not joyfull.

James 1:2-4 (NKJV)2  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Our joy should rise above circumstances

This joy is not produced by something external that makes us feel happy. It is the result of a  supernatural life filled with the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Romans 14:17 (NKJV)17  for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The Source of Joy

When Jesus came into this world as a human being, just like us, He not only provided a way to God the Father, He was our example of how to experience joy.  Jesus provided the perfect model for us to understand how to find and express real joy, in our relationship with Him and in our relationships with others. Nothing else can even come close to defining joy for us like Jesus can.

He was even joyful as He endured the cross for us.

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

If we understand that Jesus forgave all of our past, present, and future sin by dying on the cross for us, and then rising from the dead, how could we not find joy through Him?

He passed His joy to His followers;

John 17:12-13 (NKJV)12  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.13  But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

Our Joy Should be Contagious

Before Jesus returned to the Father, in heaven, He told His followers to do something.

Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

We call that the Great Commission.  That commission is also for us today.  Many of us don’t become, or are afraid of becoming witnesses for Jesus because we worry that we need exceptional skill or charisma in order to share the good news of the gospel with others, but we don’t need any of that to be a witness for Jesus.  The word witness literally means to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception; to testify; bear witness to; to give evidence of.

When the Apostle John wrote the letter we know today as 1 John, he was sharing what he had experienced first-hand, he was saying, “I am full of joy because of the experience of knowing Jesus, and I want to invite you to share in that joy!”

Here’s what he wrote;

1 John 1:1-4 (NKJV)1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life--2  the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us--3  that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.4  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

Witnessing is not a matter of eloquence or talent. It’s an overflow of the personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is conforming you to His image. As you allow the Holy Spirit to increasingly express His life and power through you.  That joy will become contagious.

Cynicism: A Hindrance To Joy

Though joy is an amazing thing that expresses our trust in The Lord, sometimes our joy is hindered by cynicism. If we are not spending time with God daily through prayer, reading the Bible, or ministering to others, we get caught up in our own world and looking out for only ourselves. When bad things happen to us, we will quickly find a way to complain about it and over time we can become cynical.

Think about it, when you are around someone who is joyful, they can impact you and literally change your day. By the same token,  when you are around someone who is negative, they can have the same impact and crush your attitude for the rest of the day.

As followers of Jesus, we have every reason in the world to be joyful. If we are being cynical at any time, we are not trusting Him

Proverbs 3:5 (NKJV)  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;

Psalm 37:3 (NKJV)3  Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Matthew 6:25-33 (NKJV)25  "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?26  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?28  So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;29  and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31  Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'32  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

How Do We Live Out Unspeakable Joy Personally?

When Jesus was born into this world, it had huge implications. Not only did He come to set the captives free which was fulfillment of a prophecy from Isaiah that we read last week.

Luke 4:18 (NKJV)18  "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;  

He also came to give His followers a brand new identity;

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Have you decided to put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ? If so, your entire identity has changed!  The love of Christ now compels us to live for Him and seek to glorify God in everything we do instead of trying to glorify ourselves. It’s a lifelong process, continuing to learn how to live for Jesus instead of living for ourselves.

Personally, we live out joy in our lives by spending time with God through prayer, reading the Bible, and trusting that the Holy Spirit will lead us out of our old ways and into the newness of life in Christ.

Those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, are the recipients of that joy which is beyond words and is filled with glory or honor.  

The announcement to those shepherds over 2000 years ago brought joy to a people who had been waiting for their Messiah for hundreds of years.  The shepherds when hearing that the One they had been hoping for was here and , after seeing Him, the were filled with joy.

Luke 2:17-20 (NKJV)17  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.18  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.19  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.20  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

That joy wasn’t just for Israel!

Isaiah 42:6 (NKJV)  "I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles,

Romans 3:29 (NKJV)  Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also,

The Gentiles is us.  

Jesus’ birth was then and still is an occasion for joy, the kind of joy that we do our best to express in the familiar Christmas carol “Joy to the World”.

Joy to the World lyrics by Isaac Watts

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

“Joy to the World” was written by Isaac Watts as a hymn glorifying Christ's triumphant return at the end of the age, rather than a song celebrating his first coming.  The nations are called to celebrate because God's faithfulness to the house of Israel has brought salvation to the world.  It is based on the second half of Psalm 98 - Wikipedia
Psalm 98:4-9 (NKJV) 4  Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.5  Sing to the LORD with the harp, With the harp and the sound of a Psalm,6  With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the LORD, the King.7  Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell in it;8  Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD,9  For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity.

We can choose to live in an attitude of resentment, anger and fear or we can choose to pursue the joy of that is unspeakable and full of glory.

Why Joy?

Now that we know what unspeakable joy really is, why is it important?
It's important because as followers of Christ we can and should show those who are not followers that through Him we can have joy in every situation.  
Philippians 4:4 (NKJV) Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Psalm 47:1 (NKJV)  Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!

Psalm 92:4 (NKJV)4  For You, LORD, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands.  

What’s going on at the time may not be what the world thinks is a time for joy, but we can depend on God to deliver us and we can be joyful in the process because of what has been done for us through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

If we don’t choose joy, we are saying that what Jesus did wasn’t enough. That’s why it’s important for us to choose joy everyday. There is nothing we will encounter that Jesus can’t relate with us on and that He will not bring us through.  After all He actually became one of us so that He could deliver us.

Hebrews 2:16-18 (NKJV)16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

We have a choice. God gives us a joy that is impossible to describe.  If you don’t have joy that goes beyond your circumstance, beyond just being happy no matter what’s going on in your life, joy that causes you to rejoice even in sorrow; if you don’t have that joy then you will succumb to every bad thing that you hear on the news, or what someone tells you, or what happens to you.  We Christians aren’t isolated from the things that happen in the world but what we do have is Jesus who overcame the world and because of Him so can we.  Here is what He told his disciples before He was arrested, beaten and crucified;

John 16:33 (NKJV)33  These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

If you don't  have the peace and joy that can only come from a relationship with Jesus, this Christmas season, the time we celebrate His birth, is a perfect time to start that relationship.  

John 1:12 (NKJV)12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

John 3:14-16 (NKJV)14  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,15  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Romans 10:8-11 (NKJV)8  But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11  For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."

Then and only then can you have unspeakable joy.  

If you want that joy Come now.   

Romans 15:13 (NKJV)13  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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