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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:Live the Joyful Life of a Sanctified Christian
Text:Galatians 5:22a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Enjoying Life
 
Preached:2008-11-02
Added:2009-04-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing: Psalm 149: 1
Sing: Psalm 19: 3,4
Sing: Psalm 111: 1, 5
Sing: Hymn 54: 1, 3, 5
Sing: Hymn 60: 2, 4, 5

Read: John 15: 1-17; Galatians 5: 15-26

Text: Galatians 5: 22a
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters:

Paul tells us in this letter to the Galatians that the fruit of the Spirit is, among other things, ‘joy’. Having been anointed with the Holy Spirit, Paul reminds us that we have certain characteristics that are unique to us as Christians. We have characteristics that only a Christian has and an unbeliever does not have. In the first place, only a Christian knows how to truly experience and express true love. That’s what Paul mentions first. And now in the second place, only a true Christian knows how to experience joy and how to express that joy.

Perhaps you are surprised to hear that. For that does not always appear to be the case, does it? There are lots of people who call themselves Christians – perhaps you are one of them – who are often not very joyful. Much of the time they feel somewhat depressed. They wake up every morning feeling down. Such people are often grumpy and difficult to live with. There are a lot of things going on in their lives that rob them of their joy. They don’t feel good about themselves or about the world they live in. As far as they are concerned, there is not all that much to be joyful about.

And yet, brothers and sisters, Paul tells us that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy. In other words, joy is one of the things that characterizes a Christian.

What exactly does Paul mean? Am I a bad Christian when I am not joyful all the time? Does a Christian always have to be joyous; happy? What kind of joy is he talking about? That’s what we will deal with as we listen to the preaching of God’s word. The theme is as follows:

Live the Joyful Life of a Sanctified Christian.

1. Experience the joy of earthly life;

2. Experience the joy of eternal life.

 

1. The Lord God created us to be joyful creatures. Just watch babies. When they are fed and clean they are constantly joyful. They coo and they smile and they make joyful noises. Why are they such joyful creatures? Well, they are joyful because of the love that they feel. They experience the wonderful relationship with their mother and with every person they come into contact. A baby doesn’t have a care in the world. A baby doesn’t know what it is to worry. A baby doesn’t worry about food or drink or clothing or what it looks like. It doesn’t worry about what other people think of him or her. A baby has no fears and anxieties. A baby is a bundle of joy.

In this way they are quite different from you and from me. Because of sin, the joy is often drained from our lives. We worry about what people think of us. We worry about our relationships, about money, about our health and about the silliest of things. We worry about things that other people do and matters that really do not affect us. It’s hard for us as sinful people to be truly joyful.

This is especially true of an unbeliever. That is what the Galatians were when Paul first met them. It was not Paul’s intent to come to the province of Galatia. As we know from Chapter 4:13, he stayed with the Galatians because he became ill on his way elsewhere. While he was recuperating from his illness, the Holy Spirit led things in such a way that he could preach the gospel to them.

What a wonderful blessing that was to the Galatians. Before Paul came to them with the good news of salvation, they were enslaved by their many fears and anxieties. They practiced all kinds of false man-made religions which preyed upon their insecurities. They believed that there were gods out there who controlled their destiny and who needed to be catered to through all kinds of rules and rituals and sacrifices. If you offended one of the gods then you would become ill, or your crop would fail, or he would send a severe hailstorm or harm you in some other way.

The gospel that Paul came with was totally different. Paul taught about the God of love. He told the Galatians about a God whom you did not have to appease or placate; about a God who loves you for who you are; about a God who does not make you cringe and squirm, but a God who welcomes you with open arms. As long as you believe in him and as long as you acknowledge him as the Almighty creator, as long as you want to give glory to his name, Paul taught that the Galatians could have a relationship with this God. He taught them not to be anxious about this life or the life to come. Through faith, no matter what happens here on earth, you can be assured that in all circumstances you are a child of God.

Initially the Galatians embraced that gospel. But then what happened? After Paul left, false prophets came into their midst. These people were jealous of Paul and they did not like the influence that he had on the Galatians. The Judaizers were instruments of the devil and they made personal attacks against the apostle Paul. They said that Paul was not a true apostle and that he did not come to them with a complete gospel of salvation. They said that there’s a lot more to it than Paul claimed.

You can well imagine that such talk caused Paul a lot of grief. For Paul cared about the Galatians. They had shown great love to him when he first came to them, taking care of him during his illness as if he was one of their own. But now these false prophets robbed the people of their newfound joy. It didn’t matter so much to Paul that they tried to tell the Galatians that he was not a true apostle. Paul was not interested in his own honour. As a preacher he knew that the opinions of men ultimately do not matter. He was upset however because the Judaizers wanted the people to go back to their former way of life. Although they also came with teachings about Christ, they treated him like the gods of the heathens. They said that you must serve Christ by rules and regulations. They said, for example, that circumcision was necessary for salvation. They also believed that you still had to keep the Old Testament feasts in order to be saved. They taught that you can have a relationship with God through the rules that you keep.

So when Paul writes to the Galatians in chapter 4:15 he says, “What has happened to all your joy?” And in verse 17, “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.” He says “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.” But what was the purpose of these false prophets? It was to earn a place with God; to earn God’s favour through their good works. And there you are, right back to slavery. Then you are right back to feelings of insecurity for you can’t earn a spot with God through your own works.

Brothers and sisters, and that includes you boys and girls, please listen carefully to this. For that’s also what we want to do, don’t we? We don’t feel joyful because we know that there are lots of things wrong in our lives. We don’t live our lives as we are supposed to. We don’t work hard enough. We don’t love our children, our parents, or our friends enough. We eat too much and drink too much. We are enslaved to all kinds of things and bad habits. We have too many dark thoughts. Therefore we think that somehow we have blown it with God. How can He love a person like me?

And so, we think that we have to do better in order to have a better relationship with God. We try to appease God by praying more, by keeping his commandments better, and by trying to be a better person overall. But somehow it just doesn’t cut it. Somehow we can’t live up to that.

If that is how you are trying to restore joy into your life, then you had better stop it. An adherence to rules and regulations will not give you joy. For do you know what joy is all about? Joy has to do with relationships in which you serve each other out of love and not out of compulsion.

Some people equate joy with happiness. Don’t confuse the two for these are two different things. When we speak about happiness, then we speak about feelings created by things that happen to us. Therefore happiness is not something you feel all the time. You may wake up happy in the morning, but that does not mean that you will feel happy the rest of the day. Joy is different. The Bible mentions the word “joy” or the verb “rejoicing” 330 times whereas it mentions happiness only 26 times.

Do you know why joy is mentioned so many times? Because joy has to do with the covenant relationship between God and us. Joy is an indicator of that relationship. Joy is not an enthusiastic state that you have to work yourself into. Joy does not depend on circumstances. It does not depend on your good works. It doesn’t depend on your possessions. If you think that cars, money, position, or power will make you happy, then you are grossly misled.

The apostle John says in chapter John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” What had he just told them that would make his joy complete? He told them about the wonderful relationship of love that exists between them and the Father. That was the doing of Christ. He had taken them from the hands of the devil and had given them over to the Father. Those who once did not belong to the Father now belong to him, for he grafted them into the vine. Now they may belong to their Father in heaven. Because they belong to the Father they can and they will bear fruit.

Certainly there were still lots of things wrong with them. There are lots of things wrong with us. But don’t let that rob you of the joy that you have because of your relationship with your Father in heaven. For as long as you remain in the vine through faith, you will never be severed from your Father in heaven. You have that relationship with your Father in heaven not because of anything that you do, not because of any rules that you keep, but only because of the love of God.

The rules and regulations and the worship that we do are nothing more than showing our thankfulness to him. Our salvation does not depend on it. Brothers and sisters, boys and girls, if you are trying to earn your joy by making yourself part of the vine then you will never be joyful. For it is impossible to receive joy in that way.

In the Psalms we read about that kind of joy as well. David says in 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.” But when David speaks here about the joy, he speaks about eternal pleasures at God’s right hand. A believer has joy, beloved, because through faith he has taken hold of eternity. That brings us to our second point.

 

2. In John 15 we find the perfect example of joy. It is the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s see what we can learn from it.

The words of the Lord Jesus in John 15 were spoken by him just before the crucifixion. He knows what’s going to happen. Soon he will be arrested and tried and convicted of crimes that he did not commit. Soon they will be ridiculing him. They will put a crown of thorns on his head and mockingly call him “the King of the Jews.” They will slap his face, and spit upon him and whip him. Then they will nail his body to a cross where he will die a horrible death. It will be a horrible death not so much because of the physical pain, but because of the fact that he will be abandoned there, not only by man, but also by God. Not a joyful prospect is it?

But now listen to what he says in John 15:11: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” On the last night of his life, facing the cross, Jesus talks about love and joy. The next day he would go to the cross and die for us. The author of the letter to the Hebrews looks back at that and writes these words in Hebrews12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Why do you think the Scriptures speak about the joy of the cross? Why does the Lord Jesus find it a joy to suffer as he did? Because he is about to restore the relationship between God and man. He is the great Mediator of the covenant. Because of what he is about to do, everyone who believes in him will be in an eternal relationship of love with him. Because of what he is about to do on the cross, man will again be able to live a life to the glory of God.

The Lord Jesus understood that there is no true joy without God. By his great sacrifice, he shows the way of joy to us. The cross was the most unselfish thing you can think of. The Lord Jesus did not just give his life. He gave his life for his enemies so that they could be restored to the right relationship with God. He shows the great joy that there is in establishing and maintaining relationships.

Do you want to have a joyful life, brothers and sisters, boys and girls? Then think about the relationships that you are in. Do you want to spread joy? Then establish relationships with brothers and sisters in the Lord, with your children, with your loved ones, and maintain them. Do away with anything that breaks down those relationships. If there is enmity, jealousy, anger, or resentment in any of your relationships, be done with it; restore joy in your life. Do you want to be joyful? Then don’t be anxious about things. Be comforted that the Lord Jesus provides you with everything that you need and that He has restored your relationship with your Father in heaven.

Do you know what breaks down relationships? Paul writes about that in the verses just prior to the text. He speaks there about those who are sexually immoral and impure. He speaks about those who are full of hate, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, drunkenness and the like. When you conduct yourself in accordance with those qualities, then you break down relationships. You break down, first of all, your relationship with God and in the second place with your neighbor, that is, your loved ones. Christ came in order to restore relationships. That is why we have to remain in the vine.

How do you maintain your relationship with God? We could sing about that this morning after the reading of the law: “The precepts of the Lord, which are his perfect Word, with joy our hearts do brighten.” Joy is found in keeping God’s laws. That is how you maintain joy in your relationships.

But, once again, don’t think that that is how you establish joy. The Lord Jesus Christ has done that for us. He kept the law for us. He not only conducted himself without ever sinning, he also took the penalty of the law upon himself. We keep the law because of the joy we feel that the Lord Jesus Christ has established for us.

Now you also can see that you can be joyful even in the most miserable circumstances. For a Christian knows that no matter what happens nothing can separate him from the love of God. Even in death he will remain a child of God. And that is why we have an eternal joy, an eternal joy that begins already in this life. We have hope.

Brothers and sisters, the Scriptures teach us that there is joy even in suffering. Listen to the words that the Lord Jesus spoke at the very beginning of his ministry in the Sermon on the Mount. He says in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” That is why Christ says to the 70 whom he sent out into the world that they should not be joyous because the demons are subject to the name of Jesus, but they should rejoice because their names are written in heaven.

Paul also reminds the believer that there is joy in suffering because suffering produces character and steadfastness. The great thing about our Christian faith is that the grief we so often have to experience in life is turned into and overcome by joy in the Holy Spirit. In his farewell address the Lord Jesus said to His disciples in John 16:20-22, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

When you believe in the Lord Jesus, then no one can take away your joy no matter what happens. The reason that the Lord Jesus could endure the cross is because he knew that after the cross would be the resurrection. The resurrection refers to the renewal of life. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

The form for the baptism of infants says that this life is nothing but a constant death. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror. You will see scars and wrinkles and deterioration. It is a reminder that you are going to die sooner or later. Take a careful look at all your material possessions. They are not going to last. Even if they do last to the end of your life then somebody else is going to take them over. Here on earth everything is temporary. Nothing here on this earth is going to last.

However, the Scriptures teach us that because of the Holy Spirit we are renewed every day. Isn’t that wonderful? Everything in the earth is going to pass away but we are being renewed. That is happening right now during the preaching. The Holy Spirit gives you a vision of eternity. Therefore don’t look at what you have here on this earth. Don’t look at the things you can see. But look at the things that you can’t see. Look at the things that the Holy Spirit gives you and find your joy in them because those are the things that last forever.

What brings great joy to your earthly life? For many of us our greatest joys are spending time with those we love: with spouses, children, parents, grandchildren or other relatives. When we are apart from our loved ones for a long time, often we can’t wait to be reunited with them.

Now, if that’s the way it is with us in our earthly relationships, how do you think it is with God? His greatest joy is to have all his loved ones, all his children around him forever. There is no greater joy for him, or for us. Can you imagine that? That is what he has in store for you and for me, for us sinners. That is what he is preparing for you now. What a joy to have a relationship with such a wonderful God.

The fruit of the Spirit is joy. When there is joy in life, true heavenly joy, then God’s Holy Spirit is at work in you. Let him continue to work in you. And you will be joyful, not only in this life, but into eternity. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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